As Crime Goes By
(The Illustrious Crackpot)
Megavolt crossed his arms even more firmly, glowering like a stubborn child. "You can't make me."
The other three villains seated in the circle began to snicker, even as Megavolt's helmet sparked warningly at them. "Too embarrassed, Megsy?" teased Bushroot, ecstatic with finally being the antagonizer instead of the antagonizee. "Awww, c'mon, it's EASY!"
Shoulders hunching, the electrified rodent glared in the opposite direction from his teammates. "No WAY! This's DUMB!"
Quackerjack grabbed his toes and started rocking back and forth, the bells on his hat jingling with every movement. "That's no way to talk, Sparky!" he chuckled, his voice taking on a sing-song tone. "Sounds like someone's craaaan-kyyyy..."
Megavolt shot a bolt of electricity at the villainous jester, but Quackerjack chose that moment to flop onto his back, and the surge whizzed right past him. "DON'T CALL ME SPARKY! And I'm not gonna do it!"
Across the circle, the Liquidator grinned mischievously. "Eight out of ten chiropractors disagree!" he proclaimed in his (literally) bubbly television announcer voice. Part of the puddle that made up his body started inching along the floor towards Megavolt, who gave a terrified yelp, scooting frantically away. "Interested in avoiding a short circuit? We suggest Complying With Our Demands™!"
"That's playin' dirty!" Megavolt protested, but revised his opinion as the water began to advance more rapidly. Squeaking a little, he jumped to his feet, then, with the eyes of all his teammates on him, placed one hand on his hip and stuck the other out to the side.
"I'mALittleTeapotShortAndStout/ThisIsMyHandleThisIsMySpout/WhenIGetAllSteamedUpHearMeShout/TipMeOverAndPourMeOut THE END!"
Grumbling furiously and turning a fine shade of red, Megavolt plopped himself back on the floor and recrossed his arms, making a very pointed show of ignoring the guffaws of laughter erupting around him.
Bushroot wrapped his vinelike arms around his stomach, kicking wildly at the floor in hysteria. "THAT WAS THE BEST DARE I EVER THOUGHT OF! I STILL CAN'T BELIEVE YOU DID IT!"
Quackerjack was almost totally incapacitated, barely even making any sound, seeing as all the air had been squeezed out of his lungs.
The Liquidator merely smiled indulgently, keeping his outward display of mirth to a minimum. "Your turn, Megavolt."
The Liquidator was halfway towards another threat when Quackerjack waved dismissively at him, using his other hand to wipe a tear from the corner of his eye. "Aw, leave 'im alone! Nobody wants to play with a spoilsport anyways!"
Megavolt stuck his tongue out at him, which only made Quackerjack chortle louder. Rocking forwards, the jester pointed at the Liquidator.
"You choose this one, Drippy!"
Crossing his watery arms, the Liquidator surveyed his teammates with an amused air. Then, at length, he shot a spout of water at the plant-duck. "Bushroot! Inquiring minds want to know—TRUTH OR DARE?"
"Eep!" Bushroot squealed, covering his face with his hands and peeping out between the leafy fingers. "Umm...truth! Yeah, definitely truth, yeah..."
The Liquidator pondered for a moment, various sly smiles sliding across his face as his watery form dissolved and re-formed. It was a bit disconcerting to watch, though the other three villains were used to such behavior.
"For those interested in answering our query," the Liquidator began at length, drawing his watery self up to an impressive height and towering over the rest of the villains, "operators are standing by! Act now! We offer this question for a limited time only..."
He glanced from side to side—possibly to elevate the tension, or to actually ensure that the group was alone in the warehouse. Bushroot's shoulders hunched nervously, but he was forced to lean close to hear as the Liquidator lowered his voice.
"What do YOU think is Negaduck's most embarrassing personal secret?"
Quackerjack sucked in an awed breath, and even Megavolt turned to watch.
Bushroot, however, gave a short laugh, slumping backwards in relief. "Awww, that's easy! He wears boxers with skulls on 'em!"
...There was an extremely awkward silence.
"Okay, um..." Megavolt ventured, scratching his forehead hesitantly, "hhhhhhow do you know this, exactly...?"
Suddenly aware of what his teammates were getting at, Bushroot blushed furiously, which made for an interesting Christmas-color checkerboard on his green face. "Th-there's a gossipy tree growing outside one of his hideouts, OK?!"
There was another pause.
Then the Liquidator snorted. Soon enough, Quackerjack began to giggle slowly, Megavolt emitted a muffled snigger, and all four of them collapsed back into uncontrollable laughter. Unable to hold it in, they toppled helplessly onto their backs—or, in the Liquidator's case, into a puddle on the floor—and laughed uproariously until they ran out of breath, panting and wheezing and clutching their sides.
"And just what is so amazingly funny?"
The deep, cold voice shocked them all out of their reverie, and the four scrambled to their feet to face the yellow-suited mallard standing in the doorway. "N-Negaduck!" Bushroot gasped, stepping back reflexively and hoping against all hope that their leader hadn't heard the previous conversation. "We were—I mean—um—that is—you see—"
"If you don't have anything to say, shut it!" Negaduck snapped, silencing the plant-duck immediately. He whirled on Quackerjack, who was still chuckling like a madman. "What's your problem, Giggles?"
Quackerjack just shook his head, convulsing silently before pulling out a banana-headed doll and answering through ventriloquism. "Wouldn't YOU like to know, Joe!"
In a flash, Negaduck violently slapped Mr. Banana Brain away from Quackerjack and landed a hard sock on the jester's oversized bill. Quackerjack flew backwards, nearly somersaulting head over heels, and landed dazedly on the floor.
Negaduck glared furiously at the other three villains, almost daring them to speak up. "WHY AREN'T YOU KNOBS OUT COMMITTING CRIMES?!"
The Liquidator shrank back into his puddle sheepishly, then regained enough confidence to glare pointedly at Megavolt. "Crime has gone down fifteen percent in local areas due to a certain power outage at the bank!"
"So there were a couple crossed wires when I was tryin' to hit those stupid telemarketers!" Megavolt protested, then pointed at Quackerjack, who was scrambling to scoop up his doll from where it had landed. "At least I didn't drop EXPLODING TOYS on all the jewelry stores!"
"Don't have a cow, Dow!" returned Mr. Banana Brain, and Quackerjack nodded emphatically as he switched back to his normal voice. "I can't help it if they're shipping that crummy stuff to Duckburg to try and fix it! They just didn't wanna play with 'Bombshell Buddy'!" He affected an injured pout. "'Sides, it's better than flooding the whole business district!"
The Liquidator opened his mouth to argue back, but Negaduck's volume overpowered the conversation. "SHADDUP, ALL OF YOU!" He snarled at the villains, baring his teeth viciously. "You four are just lucky that someone let some stupid plants OVERGROW THE STORAGE ROOM and DESTROY ALL MY WEAPONS!" Pausing to let this statement settle in, Negaduck cracked his knuckles in the direction of the terrified Bushroot. "Though that someone is going to be UNlucky when I get my hands on some more..."
Bushroot cringed, wilting slightly. "...That room's got the best soil, though..."
One of Negaduck's patented Death Glares™ swept across the four, who shuddered convulsively. "You still haven't answered my question. WHY AREN'T YOU COMMITTING CRIMES?! ON THIS DAY, OF ALL DAYS!?"
Megavolt spread his arms helplessly. "But there's no crimes to commit! Everyplace with any money's been wiped out! Honestlyyyyy!"
He was rewarded for this explanation by an excruciatingly painful jab in the nose. "There are always crimes to commit, Dim-watt!" Negaduck snapped. "We're villains!"
"Can't we have a day off?" Quackerjack whined, plopping himself back on the floor. "I haven't been able to make any new toys in weeks!"
Surprisingly, Negaduck laughed—a dark, harsh laugh that generally gives one the impression that they should've called the police when they had the chance. Then he grabbed Quackerjack's bill and tugged sharply, practically slamming the jester's head onto the floor.
"You think that no-good do-gooder Dripwing Dunce takes a day off?" he barked as Quackerjack struggled back to his feet. "What, you want him to think we're soft? Well, if you LADIES want to 'have a break'"—he used finger quotes to emphasize his point—"then you can all just LEAVE!"
Bushroot, Quackerjack, Megavolt and the Liquidator began to inconspicuously shuffle towards the door.
"STOP RIGHT THERE!"
"Listen up, you two-bit blockheads," Negaduck hissed venomously, striding up to glare each of his subordinates in the eyes. "I'm gonna send you out there, and if you haven't done anything evil in an hour..." He trailed off menacingly. "Well, I'll just have to find myself a new Mister Chainsaw then, won't I?"
With a gulp, the lesser villains nodded, then sprinted out of the warehouse as fast as they could.
The fearsome foursome stood hesitantly on the sidewalk, looking up at the house in front of them. Though there were few people out and about in the residential district at this time of day, they were still earning some curious glances—well, it was kind of hard to miss those brightly-colored, oddly-themed costumes. ...Not to mention that two of them weren't fully "human", for lack of a better term.
"Statistics reveal the entertainment value," proclaimed the Liquidator at length, sloshing slightly on the pavement as he pondered Quackerjack's suggestion. "But is it crime?"
The jester just bounced up and down on the tips of his toes, then on the spur of the moment cartwheeled around to the other side of the group. "I'd say that NOT doing it is the crime!" he declared, seemingly oblivious to the paradox in his statement. He wrapped his arms around the shoulders of Bushroot and Megavolt, seeing as they were fully substantial (unlike the Liquidator), and grinned widely. "Whaddaya say, guys?"
Bushroot shrugged and, after a shared glance, both Megavolt and the Liquidator acquiesced as well. After all, when you're essentially given one hour to determine whether you live or die, it's very hard to come up with a lot of ideas before you start pondering on the futility of existence.
Releasing his comrades, Quackerjack bounded up the walkway, the others trailing a bit less enthusiastically behind him. Upon reaching the door, the jester paused, cocking his head as he waited, then stepped aside while Megavolt positioned himself on the landing.
"Well, c'mon, Sparky!" Quackerjack urged excitedly, tugging on the ends of his hat in his impatience.
Megavolt glowered warningly at him. "How many times've I told you—don't CALL me that!"
Nevertheless, he brought his blue-gloved hand up to the doorbell, index finger hovering hesitantly over the buzzer. After a moment, he shot a small bolt of electricity at it, connecting the circuit.
Quick as a flash, the Liquidator dissolved into a puddle, flowing off the doorstep and into the lawn. Bushroot waved a hand at a nearby tree, which swept the remaining villains up in a few of its longer limbs, quickly growing extra foliage to conceal them with. Within seconds, the entire yard seemed empty.
The door swung open a moment later, and a portly duck in a Hawaiian T-shirt strode out. "Hello?" called Herb Muddlefoot, looking from side to side for the mysterious doorbell-ringer. "Anybody there?...Hellooooooooo?"
The silence persisted, and Herb snapped his fingers defeatedly. "Dagnabbit, they got me! Aw, those good-fer-nuttin'..."
He shut the door, and the echoes of his footsteps slowly faded as he retreated further into his home. "Binkums! Call the mayor agi'n! He's GOT ta' do somethin' this time!"
Once certain that they were safe, Bushroot had the tree lower them back to the ground, where the Liquidator flowed out of the soil to rejoin them in his canid shape. All four were snickering quietly, muffling themselves with their hands to avoid spoiling the gag.
"C'mon, guys!!" Quackerjack urged, hopping up and down and pointing to an adjoining house. "Let's go there nex—"
The suggestion died in formation as the jester suddenly found his gaze blocked by a very short mallard in yellow jacket and red fedora, who did not look at ALL pleased.
"Just what, pray tell, is THIS?!"
The foursome instinctively drew back, afraid that even the slightest movement would set off Negaduck's horrific temper. Well, more than it had already been set off.
"Ummm...we're making mischief?" Bushroot offered timidly.
An unknown passerby stopped and stared at Negaduck, who glared furiously back at him. "Take a picture, it'll outlive ya!"
The passerby quickly found some pressing business a few blocks down.
Returning his attention to his subordinates, Negaduck stepped forwards threateningly. They all backed up two more steps, each scrambling furiously to hide behind the others.
"DING-DONG-DITCH?!" Negaduck exploded, grabbing the sides of his fedora and yanking them down vehemently. "I ASK YOU TO WREAK HAVOC IN THE NAME OF EVIL AND ALL YOU CAN COME UP WITH IS DING-DONG-DITCH?!"
Bushroot, Megavolt and the Liquidator immediately snapped into action, shoving Quackerjack in front of them. "IT WAS HIS IDEA!"
Negaduck was breathing heavily, fists clenched so tightly that they were vibrating. But he forced himself to relax, rubbing his temples and muttering something about rotting skulls in the middle of a war zone. Slowly calmed by this soothing image, Negaduck crossed his arms, taking a deep breath as he began his lecture.
"Okay, okay. Yer all a buncha' rubes. And I have got to teach you to be TOTALLY NASTY"—he glared at all of them at this point—"to restore the foul name of evil." He strode up to the Muddlefoots' door before turning sharply on his heel, gesturing pointedly for the elucidation of his teammates. "Now, if you morons will understand this HIGH CONCEPT, I'm going to ring the bell, wait 'til this crumb-bum answers the door, and rob him blind. Y'GOT THAT?!"
The others nodded fearfully.
"All right then," Negaduck growled, then pressed the buzzer.
Before his finger even left the button, the window by the right of the door suddenly flew open, and Herb—who had evidently been lying in wait—lunged through it and smacked the malevolent mallard over the head with a frying pan, slamming the window shut behind him as Negaduck crumpled to the ground.
"That oughta' teach 'em, by gum!!" declared Mr. Muddlefoot proudly, retreating into the kitchen for a well-earned snack.
The remaining four villains looked at each other nervously, trying to decide whether to help their leader or run while they still had a chance. When Negaduck began to stir, however, they figured that an angry scolding was better than homicidal pursuit, and scurried frantically over to assist him.
"You OK, boss?" Megavolt asked hesitantly as he and Quackerjack lifted the mallard up by the arms. Bushroot coaxed an extremely leafy plant out of the ground and began to fan Negaduck with it, stepping back to allow the Liquidator to sprinkle a little water on the duck.
When he regained his senses, Negaduck growled, shoving his teammates roughly aside. "That clod's lucky I'm outta weapons," he grumbled, glaring daggers at the door. "Ohhhhh, for HIM I'll wait. Yes, I'll wait until I get that shotgun...and those knives...plus that warhead, and the abattoir..."
Behind him, Bushroot was gesturing wildly at his cohorts, pointing out a possible escape route. They were about to make a break for it when Negaduck turned towards them again, and very quickly they pretended to be listening attentively.
"WELL?" Negaduck demanded, brandishing a fist at them before turning on his heel, dark cape swooshing around him. "Crimes ain't gonna commit themselves, y'know! GET MOVIN'!"
Megavolt and Bushroot moaned in harmony, and even Quackerjack's shoulders were slumping. The Liquidator dripped a little on the pavement, looking irritably after their leader.
"How do you spell relief?" quipped the canine in a low voice, so only his teammates could hear. "Use a dictionary!"
Before long, the Fearsome Five were crouched in the shadow of a building near the business district, which was still closed due to the extensive water damage. In fact, they were almost on the Audubon Bay Bridge, where cars were backed up trying to get into the city. The police had marked out an alternate route through the district, mostly made up of back alleys that had been less exposed to the water—however, most of these alleys were only wide enough for one car, and there was traffic headed both ways, so the going was very slow. In fact, it was amazing that Negaduck had brought them there at all, since the place was practically swarming with cops...most of whom harbored murderous intent for the Liquidator for his (unintended) hand in causing the traffic tangles.
"Y'see this place?" Negaduck demanded, sweeping a hand to indicate their surroundings. "This is the perfect place for a crime."
Bushroot gulped, knees knocking together as he watched the squad cars. He was positive that one of them had inched closer to him since the conversation had started. "W-with all these policemen around?"
This insight was met with a kick in the shin. "Of course with all these policemen around, Mulch-head! What ya hafta' do is pull off somethin' in front a' the cops, then beat 'em up!" He chuckled darkly, peeking his head back out from behind the building to survey the scene again. "That way, you show 'em who's boss!"
"But what're we gonna doooo?" Quackerjack griped, already bored with the whole affair.
"Oh! Oh! I know!" Megavolt piped up, hopping from foot to foot in excitement. "We'll go over to the police cars and steal those flashing lights on top! Oooooh, I always wanted one of those!!"
Negaduck rolled his eyes annoyedly, putting both fists on his hips. "Ohhhh, suuuuuuure, Bright Boy! YeeAAAAAAAH, let's go steal those lights! Hey, it's the crime of the century, what're we WAITING for?"
Megavolt began to scamper eagerly towards the cars, but Negaduck caught him by the collar, restraining him extremely easily for a duck his size. "Here's a tip, Sparky: LEARN SARCASM."
Being a bit more practically-minded than his teammates, the Liquidator glanced around the area, looking around for any promising shops they could rob. Unfortunately, most of the wares of all the buildings had been relocated while the premises were restored.
"Well...why go the route of the everyday criminal?" he offered anyways, desperate to come up with a suggestion of some sort. "Why not...ummmm...steal padlocks...?"
Negaduck gave him a withering glare, then swung Megavolt around and shoved him into the Liquidator. Before the canine could duck, water met electricity with a resounding BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZT!!, underscored by extremely painful-sounding cries from both parties involved.
"Why do I even keep you knobs around?" Negaduck muttered as the two villains toppled, panting, onto the curb. He waited until they had managed to push themselves to their feet, then pointed forcibly at the packed bridge before them. "You see that?"
"Ummmmmm...the street or the cars?" Bushroot inquired nervously.
Their leader gritted his teeth, dragging his hand down the length of his face. "Not that, you lunkheads!" His hand shot out again, and he pointed at a little old duck standing on the sidewalk nearby. She looked rather lost, and stared uncertainly at the line of cars passing in front of her. "That!"
Quackerjack pulled Mr. Banana Brain out of a hidden pocket, once more providing it with a high-pitched voice. "What, are we gonna steal her dentures or something?"
It took a lot of self-restraint, but somehow Negaduck managed to avoid decimating him, instead settling for strangling the empty air—he had to keep his minions healthy enough to do the dirty work, you understand. "No, you KNOB! No wonder you're all lousy villains, ya filthy, stinkin'—!"
He continued breathing heavily for another few moments, then he grabbed his teammates by the scruffs of their necks—it was a wonder that he managed to get a hold on the Liquidator, but Negaduck had his ways—and forced their attention towards the old duck lady once more. "You see that old biddy?"
She was still standing hesitantly on the edge of the curb, plain as day.
"Gooooooooood," Negaduck drawled sarcastically, and shoved them forward another inch. "Now, you see that TRUCK?"
It was a bit hard to miss the giant eighteen-wheeler barreling across the bridge, mere seconds away from passing directly in front of the old duck. "Yeaaaaah..."
"So PUSH HER!"
Refusing them time for discussion, Negaduck hurled the four straight at the woman. Not having quite expected this, they were unable to stop in time, instead smashing directly into her and careening the five of them straight into the middle of the street.
A heartbeat passed...
A long, slow heartbeat...
And they missed the truck by a mere inch, skidding to a halt on the opposite sidewalk. The old duck, arms flailing, landed directly on top of Bushroot, who wheezed painfully at the impact.
Across the street, Negaduck swore under his breath.
Quackerjack was the first to scramble to his feet, bouncing nimbly out of the pile-up. Megavolt followed, practically clawing his way out—being careful to avoid the Liquidator, who was surging through the cracks in the sidewalks until he could regain his canine form. Bushroot remained pinned to the ground by the old woman, who seemed a bit bewildered...but then she began to chuckle indulgently.
"Oh, thank you so much, boys!" she chirped in a thin voice, pushing herself shakingly to her feet. Bushroot sighed with relief as the weight was lifted from his back, then went straight to groaning and stretching and struggling to get upright. "I didn't know how I was ever going to cross that busy street!"
The old woman paused, adjusting her remarkably thick spectacles as she squinted at the villains, all wearing expressions remarkably akin to that of deer in headlights. "Hmmm...strange, I thought the science fiction convention was last week..."
The Liquidator grabbed Bushroot by the arm, forcefully hauling the plant-duck to his feet so they could escape as soon as possible. But, to the villains' utmost horror, the old woman began to wave enthusiastically at a nearby pair of policemen, nearly jumping up and down. "Officers! Oh, officers, DO come here and commend these fine, upstanding citizens! They saved my life!"
The two officers turned towards them, causing the foursome to freeze mid-flee. "Oh yeah, we saw that!" remarked the shorter one, a slightly rotund mouse with a thin black mustache, as he and his partner strolled amiably towards the little group. "It's so rare to see supervillains take time to help the elderly. Outstanding job, boys!"
The taller officer—a dog with a crew cut—clapped Megavolt heartily on the shoulder, the latter shuddering at the contact. "An' those fellas at rehab said you guys were beyond reform! Great work, fellas, I really mean it."
Negaduck, on the opposite sidewalk, was becoming fully fed up by this point. "NOW GET SOMETHIN' THROUGH YER HEADS, COPPERS," he began threateningly, stepping off the curb, "YOU'RE TALKIN' TO THE FEARSOME FIVE HERE, AND IF YOU DON'T—"
The spectators winced, watching the Cadillac take off down the street with Negaduck flattened against a front tire.
The shorter cop shook his head slowly, letting a whistle escape through his lips. "That's gonna hurt in the morning..."
Back in the warehouse (and heavily bruised), the four villains huddled nervously against stacks of cardboard boxes, prepared to hide if necessary. Negaduck was pacing back and forth in front of them, still managing to rant furiously even though he was covered in more bandages than the average mummy.
"—Pathetic, just pathetic! I, NEGADUCK, can't manage to pull off a single successful crime with you four BOZOS? On today, of ALL DAYS? This is just DEGRADING! I, public enemy number one"—he shot a nasty snarl at his teammates in case they were thinking of correcting him—"going even a SINGLE day without robbing a bank, or harassing the elderly, or even just a stupid menial debasing PRANK?!"
"But we egged a fraternity house!" protested the Liquidator.
Negaduck whirled on him with venom in his eyes. "THOSE EGGS WERE HARD-BOILED!"
Bushroot hesitantly raised a leafy hand, cringing reflexively. "But we stole those from those picnickers..."
"THEY GAVE THEM TO US BECAUSE YOU MORONS WERE SHAKING SO BAD THEY THOUGHT YOU WERE UNDERFED!!"
Quackerjack, seemingly unaffected by Negaduck's continuing threat to his welfare, nonchalantly flicked imaginary dust off his sleeve. "I thought it was because they liked our tap-dancing."
Negaduck fumed, glaring at the jester, face boiling a deep shade of outraged magenta. But he merely let out a cry of exasperation and turned on his heel. "I just can't do it," he muttered angrily, rubbing his knuckles against his forehead. "I can't commit one lousy misdemeanor with you maroons hangin' off my cape. NOT ONE!!"
Megavolt blinked, cocking his head to the side. "Wellllll..." he started slowly, nervously twiddling his whiskers, terrified that he was going to get rebuked for daring to speak up, "there is one thing we haven't tried yet..."
Negaduck glowered dully at the rodent. "What."
Hesitant, and a little stage-shocked now that everyone's eyes were on him, Megavolt pointed to a wall. Or, more specifically, the thing bolted to it.
"Ooooohhhhhhhh, c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'moooooooooon," Darkwing fretted, pacing swiftly up and down the length of his communications room. He stopped short several times to glance at his watch, then tug impatiently at the ends of his gray fedora, all while shooting pleading glances at a small telephone sitting placidly on a table across from him. "Awwwwww, come onnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!! It's not THAT much to ask, is it?!"
After a few more agonizing seconds of pacing and groaning and hat-pulling, Darkwing flopped into a chair seated at the other end of the table, drumming his fingers restlessly on the armrests as he watched the phone. The rhythm of the tapping became increasingly faster, and soon his legs were jittering as well, until nearly his entire body was vibrating.
Finally unable to take it anymore, Darkwing leaped out of his seat, ripping at the downy white feathers crowning his head. "Oh, come ON already!! If S.H.U.S.H. has some kind of mission so IMPORTANT that they've gotta use a regular phone to divert suspicion, is it SO much to ASK that they make the call as soon as poss—"
Gasping heavily, Darkwing leaped straight towards the phone, tripping on the table that he had evidently forgotten was there and somersaulting straight over the top of it. Somehow or other he managed to snap up the receiver in passing, and within mere moments he was on his feet again, head pressed closely to the phone.
"Hello? Hello?" he demanded anxiously, tapping his feet against the floor in excitement. Barely waiting a moment, he went on, "Well, it took you long enough, I was waiting for like FIVE MINUTES here, I mean—" A pause. "Wait, what? I—" Another pause, and the Masked Mallard's eyebrows rose in alarm. "My gosh, I have absolutely no idea! I'll go check, you just wait right here!!"
With that, Darkwing dropped the receiver where he stood and bolted from the room, cape billowing out behind him. He was only gone for a second, though, before he dashed right back in and grabbed the phone furiously. "Of COURSE it's running,WHAT'RE YOU—"
He thrust the receiver out to arm's length and glared pointedly at it, even though the offending party had clearly hung up.
"To think of people like that walking free in my fair city..." Darkwing muttered angrily, slamming it back onto the hook. "Oughta' be a law against bothering innocent civilians like tha—"
Darkwing whirled around nearly a full three hundred and sixty degrees, eyes wide and nerves taut. "S.H.U.S.H.!! IT'S S.H.U.S.H.!" He dove for the phone like a duck possessed, juggling the receiver with trembling hands. "J. Gander? J. Gander, is that you?" Without waiting for an answer, his voice took on a firm, indignant and slightly sulky tone. "Well, you won't be dealing with The Terror That Flaps In The Night for much longer if you can't make your calls on ti—what was that? My...my cat? I don't have a cat, why would I need to put it ou—HEYYYYY!!"
The line went dead before he could get any further, and, quivering with rage, Darkwing punched the phone once for good measure (then paused to cringe and nurse his aching hand) before hanging up rather forcefully, muttering obscenities under his breath.
Prepared this time, Darkwing snatched up the phone and started yelling into it before the other party could get a word in. "Now listen here, you, I'm watching you! Absolutely NOBODY prank-calls Darkwing Duck and gets away with it, you hear me?! Wherever you are, I'LL FIND YOU, and I'll hunt you down, and then, oh THEN you'll know the meaning of the word 'justice', you low-down, rotten, stinky—"
There was a curt word on the other line, and Darkwing straightened immediately, paling even beneath his downy white feathers. "Director...Director Hooter," he exhaled in shock, hands trembling in horror as he contemplated the repercussions of shouting at one of the most powerful people in the world. "Oh, oh, Director Hooter, I'm so sorry, it's just that I...I thought you were someone else..."
He fell silent, listening anxiously, and brightened a little, though still noticeably pale. "The mission? You're still going to give me the mission? Oh, oh, thank you, Director Hooter, thank you so much, I mean—could you please hold on a sec while I get something to write this down with?"
Darkwing fumbled for a moment with a pad of paper and a pencil that were lying beside the phone, then grabbed the receiver again, fumbling it for a moment as it slipped through his sweaty fingers. Finally balancing it on his shoulder, Darkwing gripped the pencil like a vise, keeping it poised above the pad. "OK, OK," he muttered for a second, scribbling furiously. "Need to rescue...most esteemed...Prince Albert...from a can—"
"I'M GONNA GET YOU, YOU MALEVOLENTLY MALICIOUS MISCREANTS!!" Darkwing practically shrieked, his voice raising several octaves as he threw the broken pencil to the floor with terrifying ferocity. "IMPERSONATING A S.H.U.S.H. OFFICER IS A CRIMINAL OFFENSE!! YOU'RE GOING TO GET AT LEAST A LIFE SENTENCE FOR THIS ONE IF I HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY ABOU—"
And that was that.
The Masked Mallard fumed for a while longer, groaning, huffing, shouting—and then he stopped, eyes widening. One of those voices...had that been...? No, it couldn't... The others, it might've, but HIM...?
After a moment, he jerked out of his reverie, dropping the phone back onto the dock. What was he thinking? Negaduck was a PROFESSIONAL; and, no matter how annoying it was, crank calls weren't ACTUALLY considered crimes.
Darkwing just sighed, shaking his head disappointedly. Just imagine, after everything he'd done—convincing the cops to keep the roads shut down longer than necessary, getting the major shops to move their merchandise out of town, asking the bank to close down temporarily, sprinkling extra-strength fertilizer all over those weapon storage rooms—after ALL THAT, he hadn't gotten any payoff. No embarrassing challenges from Negaduck, no futile attempts to rob the empty stores...not even any harmless actions from the OTHER members of the Fearsome Five! Absolutely nothing to make the legal finagling it had taken to set it up seem at all worthwhile! It was SO maddening!!
The phone rang again, and Darkwing eyed it warily. But it persisted, and so, still cautiously, he picked it up. "...Hello...?"
He listened for a moment, raising an eyebrow once the other party was finished. "...Director Hooter, eh?" he repeated skeptically. "Oh, I'm sooooooooo sure. If you ARE Director Hooter—tell me what the first three letters in S.H.U.S.H. stand for!!"
There was a pause, and then the mallard blinked. "Really? I had no idea...I always thought it was something different..." Suddenly realizing the flaw in his plan, though, Darkwing's eyes narrowed, and he demanded, "Well, if you're really Director Hooter—tell me something only he and I would know!!"
For a moment the only noise was a slight buzzing from the receiver, which Darkwing listened to with rapt attention, his serious countenance by degrees slipping into an embarrassed sort of chagrin. "...Heh...yeah, you're Director Hooter all right," he admitted with a nervous chuckle, wiping his forehead with the back of a palm. "There is NO WAY that story ever got out of the office..."
Another pause. "The mission? Oh, oh, YES, I've been waiting on edge for—" Darkwing trailed off in confusion. "...what? Y-yes, I'm as close to the phone as physically possible. Why do you—"
All of a sudden, Darkwing was hurled against the wall by the force of sticky yellow goop being propelled out of the earpiece of the telephone. Totally immobilized, the masked mallard could only wheeze in astonishment as the phone swung back and forth on its cord, dangling over the edge of the table as the crinkly sound of a laughing owl emanated from the receiver.
"Got you! April Fools, Darkwing!"