Summary: As St. Canard recovers from Negaduck's rule, J. Gander Hooter has unexpectedly decided to resign from his position of director of SHUSH, while the Negaverse faces change-of-leadership issues.
Author's Note: Guess who's ba-ack? (It's me.) ;) Because it's been so long since the last chapter, and that due to the details of this chapter's plot not enabling me to take full account of the long gap in time between postings, it would probably be wise for y'all to go back and quickly review the past few chapters. But otherwise, enjoy the new chapter of NADWD. I daresay you've waited long enough for it. :)
Previously, on The New Adventures of Darkwing Duck...
"Just two more months of this, Honk. That's it. In two more months, we graduate, and I'm finally free from school."
"Speaking of which, Crimson...in the event that things go wrong, and we do lose this fight...I want you to know...that...uh...I...uh..."
Crimson finished his sentence by kissing him on the lips. "I know. I wanted to say the same thing as well. And, well, actions speak louder than words, so..."
"Attention citizens of this fine country. For those of you who don't know me, you'll be getting to know me a whole lot better in future weeks. For I have finally succeeded in doing what I have sought to do for untold years. The city of St. Canard, in the state of Calisota, is now under my control. And that is just the beginning. Soon, I intend to conquer this entire planet!"
"No, Bob...It...it...can't be, there must...must be someway...somehow...to...to..."
"Don't bother, he's deader than a doornail now. You can't help him now."
"That means Morgana would be open again for Dad to try and…and…But…he's already got you, Chris!"
"At times I've wondered if that's not enough."
"No lord of the land should go about acting nice, gaining the favors of those he already has power over."
"Does he? I don't know if you remember it, Launchpad, but Negaduck's predecessor wasn't like that."
"Negaduck's father? What does he have to do with anything? Particularly seeing that he's dead?"
"The fact that he was a better ruler than his son is."
"So what happened back there? Why'd you tense up?"
"Because, I just remembered how I died."
"Face it, Negs, you've lost. Your reign on this city has ended."
"You lied about how I died."
"Put the gun down, and come back with me, and I can explain everything you want to know."
"I don't want to hear it from you, I can't trust you! That's what this is about!"
"The device is, in short, an energy amplifier, and as it's powered by a sub-electron amplifier that Negaduck had obtained from the Negaverse, it has enough power to cover the whole globe with a sphere of energy in a matter of minutes."
"What kind of energy are we talking about here?"
"At the moment, this device is calibrated to relay magical energy."
"Gos. I didn't think we'd meet up again so soon."
"You have some crimes to answer for in case you forgot. So who better to take you down, than me?"
"Oh no, I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm all for a little family reunion..."
The blast burst out every window on the top floor of Canard Tower, shattering every one of them in a spray of glass that rained back down on the crowded streets below. The machine hummed for a few moments longer, the ball of energy it had created still shimmering for a moment on the tower's lightning rod, but then the ball suddenly blinked out of existence and an explosion ripped through one of the metal arms that had extended, rendering the device useless.
"You are defeated."
"I suppose I am. So here it ends. Funny, I never imagined I'd go out this way, by the hand of the very person that had once been my daughter."
"Then you're right."
"Darkwing, this is Crimson, I'm happy to report the machine has been safely disabled, and Negaduck is in custody."
In fact, everyone did, even a reluctant but willing Vice President Norrin, until the air around the gathering reverberated with the applause.
All for Darkwing and company.
"I suppose this changes things now. Forever."
"Things are going to change. But for the better."
The city of St. Canard wasn't at its best at the moment. Considering everything that had happened to it as of late, it probably shouldn't be too surprising. Its entire populace had been displaced from their homes and relocated elsewhere as refugees for nearly an entire month. The city's normal activities had all come to a halt. The city itself had been placed under siege by the forces of Negaduck and had been the site of numerous battles big and small. Damage had been done all throughout the city, and lives had been lost in the fight.
But now the populace had returned to the city and occupied it once again, resuming those normal activities that had been suspended for that long month.
The damage that had been done was already well on its way to being repaired, the city restored to its former glory.
Negaduck and his forces have all been defeated and either killed, sent back where they had come from, or taken into custody and thrown into jail.
For the first time in nearly three years, St. Canard's future looked bright and peaceful.
And a large part of it was thanks to Darkwing Duck and company.
So that bright morning roughly a week or so since Negaduck's invasion had officially ended found a small parade down main street to celebrate the victory taking place. Crowds of cheering people lined both sides of the street, throwing confetti and streamers into the air as they watched the small progression moving down the street. Leading it was a small SHUSH-issued car. It was escorting and leading the way for a convertible car that trailed behind it, which housed the celebration's guests of honor, Darkwing and the rest of the gang.
And of course Darkwing was eating up all of the attention as his overinflated ego usually did.
But for once, nobody really seemed to mind. Because deep down everybody knew this was finally Darkwing's more-than-well-deserved chance to shine. People had finally come to acknowledge everything Darkwing had done and been doing for St. Canard, and for once in his entire career, the public of St. Canard were proudly showing their support and appreciation for what he did. So if they could all overlook their previous prejudices about him, one could also overlook his ego for once, to let him have his fun.
As for the others, Crimson, Techno, and Launchpad, they rode along more timidly, waving politely to the crowd. They were just as much the center of attention as Darkwing, but they were more modest about it. Besides, they knew how long Darkwing had been waiting for this day to arrive, and there wasn't enough room in the car for all of them to be jumping up and down constantly, waving at everybody and everything and flapping one's cape constantly while striking various dramatic poses for show. Which was actually a kind of comical sight too, when one thought about it. But that was beside the point.
Eventually the small parade pulled into the city's town square, which sat before Canard Tower, still receiving repairs from Negaduck's occupation, but the building still served admirably as the city's most iconic structure next to the Audubon Bay Bridge. Positioned before the front of the building, a small stage had been set up for use. The two cars pulled up to this stage and came to a stop to unload its occupants, those occupants proceeding on up to the stage and taking their seats that had been set up for them. Already on the stage waiting for them, however, was Mayor Kim. He personally greeted them as they took his seats, before stepping up to a small podium overlooking the crowd, and motioned for silence. It took a moment to get it, as the crowd was so busy cheering and yelling for their heroes that Kim was being more overlooked. But finally, sufficient enough silence fell that Kim could speak into the microphone and be heard.
"Ladies and gentlemen of St. Canard!" he proclaimed loudly. "What a joyous occasion this has turned out to be! But of course, I daresay we have a lot to be joyful about, don't we? We faced truly dark times and a deadly enemy, and yet we have pulled through triumphant. Not without costs, of course. It will no doubt be quite a while longer still before the city of St. Canard is restored back to its former glory, and even then, there will be damage that simply cannot be repaired." Kim paused for a moment, to let that sink in for a moment. "When I think of the mastermind behind this plot, Negaduck, I confess I was only somewhat familiar with him. But I knew he was an extremely dangerous villain, bent on changing at the very least our great city so it would bow down to his every whim. We successfully have prevented him from carrying out that plan, but even then I have realized that St. Canard has still changed. But if anything, we're stronger still. St. Canard has beaten its foe, and has come out of it even better than before!"
Cheers broke loose again at Kim's heartening words. The mayor wisely allowed it to continue for a few moments before again motioning for silence.
"There are several parties responsible for this that are deserving of our thanks," he continued. "The various organizations of our federal government, the military, the espionage organization SHUSH, and even our own SCPD." He motioned to representatives from each of these groups, also present on the stage, in turn as he said this. "And certainly they all deserve their own thanks as much as anyone else. But while we do convey our thanks to these organizations and more, we are gathered here today to give a very special thanks to a small party of under recognized people who have actually always been helping our great city for years now, a party that during even the worst times of Negaduck's recent reign over our city continued to work to fight against him, giving everything they had to give us this day, at great personal risk. You all already know who they are. They are Darkwing Duck and his associates, the Crimson Avenger, Techno, and Launchpad McQuack!"
The crowd started cheering jubilantly again at this. From his seat on the stage, one could clearly see Darkwing beaming like there was no tomorrow.
"And to recognize their efforts, I hereby declare today as a city-wide day to recognize Darkwing and his defeat over Negaduck, and we would like to award Darkwing and company this "Outstanding Citizen" award!" Kim concluded.
As the crowd continued to cheer and applaud, Mayor Kim pulled out a golden trophy from under the podium, and turned to present it to Darkwing, who quickly sprang up to accept it. Then Darkwing took a turn at the podium, and listened happily as the applauding and cheering continued for several moments while admiring the award he was just given. Then he began to speak.
"First, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are greatly honored to be given…well…all of this!" Darkwing began, motioning to the crowd. "You know, in the many years that I've been doing this, I have long dreamed about this day coming. Sometimes I admit it was a major factor in what kept me doing this. I love this city, but the lack of support I got at times for doing what I do was…well…not very encouraging. Fortunately, I have good friends to remind me that there's much more to this job than getting adequate moral support. It no doubt makes it quite a bit easier, but it can continue on still without it. And continue on it did. And now this day finally arrives." Darkwing grinned. "And now all of those years of doing this unnoticed have become entirely worth it. And to think it took Negaduck to finally do it."
He sighed, taking on a heavier tone. "Today really shouldn't be all about me, though. This past month has been rough for us all, and we have all lost things dear to us, even some good people. Some of us will no doubt never be the same because of what has happened. But rest assured that the odds of it happening again are not likely. We have learned from our past mistakes, and better still, the mastermind behind all of this, Negaduck, has been defeated and captured, and taken where he can be kept from trying this stunt again, and let me assure you, while I'm not at liberty to say where he is now at this time, know that I can't imagine a more…fitting place for him to be taken to. He'll be hard pressed to get out of there, let me tell you. And with Negaduck gone, that alone brightens St. Canard's future significantly."
Another round of cheering and applause broke loose at this.
"You know, Mayor Kim was right when he said that St. Canard has come out of this for the better," Darkwing continued. "Because it really has. This past month may have been tough, but I think it's made us see that St. Canard works best when we all work together! And together, I hope to see St. Canard continue to become a greater city than it already is!"
Now they cheering reached new levels of extreme as the crowd, spurred on by Darkwing's words, began applauding so enthusiastically that it just wouldn't be possible to get the crowd to calm down again anytime soon. So no one tried to. Darkwing took it as the chance to end his speech, having said pretty much what he wanted to, and with a salute to the crowd, moved to return to his seat. But that only got the crowd applauding even harder and now had gotten others on the stage to join in, including Mayor Kim himself. So, finally, Darkwing stood again, this time joined by Crimson, Techno, and Launchpad, and together they bowed to the crowd's continued applause.
Standing on the stage and also applauding was Director J. Gander Hooter and his second in command, Agent Henry Grant, here so to represent SHUSH. They continued to applaud as they watched Darkwing and the gang acknowledge the crowd's praise for them.
"He's really eating this up," Grant noted discreetly to his superior, nodding his head at Darkwing, who was the most excited person there.
"Can you blame him?" Hooter asked who was overall pleased by what he saw. "He's quite overdue for all of this."
"Yeah," Grant agreed. "Pity it'll all be ruined when you tell him of your plans."
Hooter did not respond, but his expression visibly weakened at the thought, knowing Grant was right.
"When are you going to tell him, sir?" Grant asked next, curious.
Hooter watched Darkwing for a few moments before sighing. "Later," he promised. "For now, let's let Darkwing have his fun. He's earned it."
Like the rest of St. Canard, 537 Avian Way had seen better days. Fortunately, the Mallard family that lived there was already well on their way to restoring the house back to its former glory. Most of the bullet holes had already been filled in and repaired, doors fixed and remounted, even the walls and carpeting restored from the water damage it suffered in the past month, save for the living room, which had suffered the most water damage and needed to be recarpeted. Which everyone found odd, because Launchpad's room had been exposed more to the elements than the living room had. Apparently, though, it happened to sit in a fairly sheltered area, and water damage wrought was minimal.
Which given everything else that bedroom had suffered, was a small blessing, as it meant one could put all the focus on the back wall of the room that had been destroyed, and was now in the process of being rebuilt. A task that was progressing along quite nicely, speeded by the fact that Drake had plenty of help tackling not only that task, but the other repairs needed to be done to the house. Besides himself, he had Gosalyn, Honker, and Christine, who had all graciously pitched in to help. And Drake greatly appreciated it.
It was the other helpers he could do without.
"Drake, dear, come look at these wallpaper samples please," Binkie Muddlefoot urged from where she stood at the coffee table, placed to one side of the living room at the moment so there would be room to work.
"I already told you, Binkie, I'm not interested in changing the wallpaper in this room," Drake grumbled as he worked at nailing a new window for the room in place in the frame of the old one. "Besides, what's wrong with the preexisting wallpaper anyway?"
"It doesn't match the furniture, of course," Binkie replied simply as she held up various samples of possible replacement furniture. "Every homeowner with a lick of fashion sense knows that."
Drake narrowed his eyes at the potentially unintended insult. "Right," he growled as he worked.
"Besides, you have to replace some of it, seeing there are so many of those nasty bullet holes in these walls," Binkie continued with a sweeping motion at the walls before shuddering. "Brr, it unnerves me that such things happened here of all places! It's a good thing you and Gosalyn weren't in here when it happened."
"Yeah, good thing," Drake murmured distractedly.
Of course, both of them actually had been in the house at the time, just under different identities, and of course the Muddlefoots didn't know the full story behind that. As far as Binkie and her husband were concerned, the Mallard home had just gotten the misfortune of getting caught in the crossfire during Negaduck's invasion. And the story seemed to carry enough weight to pass off as truth, despite the fact that of all the houses on Avian Way, the Mallard home was the one that suffered the worse damage, if suffering any noticeable damage at all, as was the case for most of the houses on Avian Way, including the Muddlefoot home, making the damage wrought on the Mallard home seem oddly targeted. Mostly because it was. But thus far none of the neighbors seemed to have thought much of it, including the Muddlefoots.
But then again, it had never been hard to pull the wool over the eyes of the Muddlefoots, save for Honker, who was at times too observant for his own good. Part of the reason why he got mixed up with the likes of Darkwing in the first place, but that was another story.
As for the wallpaper, Binkie did have a point. To cover the holes properly, at least a small bit of the wallpaper would have to be replaced. Fortunately, Drake had several rolls of spare wallpaper in the basement. They were there when he and Gosalyn moved in, presumably left over from when the house got new wallpaper last, and there was plenty. Drake had been routinely using that to do repair work around the house in the years that followed so he wouldn't have to replace all the wallpaper. Furthermore, he didn't see anything wrong with it. So he had every intention of doing that again.
But Binkie had other ideas, as was usually the case when she got involved with these housework affairs such as this. Exactly why he usually resisted her getting involved in the first place, which was frequent, because even in instances where there was nothing wrong with the house, Binkie would take it upon herself to get involved regardless of whether or not Drake actually asked for it, much less want it. As such, Drake had become quite practiced at finding new and original ways to refuse her offers to help. A skill he would have put to practice on this occasion too…if Christine hadn't answered the door first and let them in.
"Look Binkie," Drake continued as he worked. "I don't want to change the wallpaper. I'm quite happy with the wallpaper I've already got, and am more than confident I can arrange everything so I can keep said wallpaper as is, thus removing the need to pay a lot of money to buy new wallpaper I don't really need."
"Oh but Drake," Binkie persisted. "You really ought to consider it. Personally, I think this room would look very nice in a lovely shade of blue…"
Drake didn't hear anymore as he began pounding on the nail before him as loudly as he could, so to drown out Binkie's voice. But that was not enough to drown out the loud cry of pain from upstairs, quickly followed by a thump and a crash. Drake froze for a moment, before letting out a heavy sigh, setting down the hammer.
"Herb," he murmured before rising and heading upstairs to Launchpad's bedroom, Binkie trailing after him.
The destroyed wall in that room was only partially rebuilt at present, and was for the moment only a network of wooden beams with plastic draped over the outside to keep out the weather. Herb and Christine had been working together at putting together the finishing touches so it would be ready for when the electrician came in on Friday to rewire the room. But not to Drake's surprise, they weren't actually working at the moment. Instead, Herb was kneeling on the floor, wearing a pained expression, while Christine examined one of his hands and one-handedly sticking a hammer in the pocket of the work overalls she wore at the same time.
"He hit his finger with the hammer again," Christine announced unceremoniously and without looking up as Drake and Binkie entered the room.
"Again?" Drake exclaimed, frustrated, before turning despairingly to Herb. "Herb…c'mon…that's the fifth time today."
"Sorry Drakester," Herb replied, flinching slightly as Christine prodded the injured digit. "But I guess I just don't have very good…" he chuckled weakly, "…hand-eye coordination."
"This I believe," Drake responded.
Christine finally finished with Herb's hand and turned to Drake. "He'll be okay," she assured them. "Though at this rate, he's not going to be able to hold a hammer before too much longer."
"Well, maybe he can help you hold the nails in place instead," Drake suggested, before turning to exit.
Only to find Binkie standing in his way, holding up her wallpaper samples. "Look, Drake, see how pretty this particular shade of blue is?" she said, holding up the sample in question. "It would look gorgeous in your living room."
"I'm not changing the wallpaper, Binkie!" Drake snapped, before sighing and forcing himself to calm down. "Look, Binkie, Herb, I appreciate the fact that you're both trying to help, but…how to put this lightly…you're not. Helping. At all."
"Oh but Drake, we can't just stand to one side and let our favorite neighbor try and get through these trying times by himself, oh no, no, no, no!" Binkie objected.
"Besides, Drakester, think about all the times you helped us out!" Herb pointed out, and a point he had indeed, regardless of whether or not Drake actually liked it. "Remember when you got us that replacement cake for Tank's birthday about ten or so years ago?"
Drake remembered. He also remembered that he only volunteered to get the replacement cake as an excuse to go investigate a case. And he remembered it was actually closer to nine years ago than ten. And that if Herb was going to use the incident like this, he regretted doing it.
Christine however, despite now knowing what the Muddlefoots were like, took sympathy on them. "Oh Drake, they just want to help, like any good neighbor should," she pointed out, taking their side.
Drake looked at her for a moment, but finally caved. "All right fine, but you both need to be actually helpful with what I plan to do to fix repairs, and Binkie needs to stop nagging me to change the wallpaper. Or change anything for that matter! I like the house as it already was, and am perfectly content to keep it that way."
Binkie frowned, and opened her mouth to speak. Judging from her expression, she was about to protest. But Herb, for once, did Drake a favor and cut her off.
"It's a deal Drakester!" he proclaimed enthusiastically. "I'd offer to shake on it but…" he chuckled weakly again as he glanced at his injured hands. "It's not exactly a good idea for me to do that right now."
Drake only rolled his eyes and turned an exited the room so to get back to work. The sooner he got it done, the sooner he could go back to his usual routine of ignoring the Muddlefoots.
But elsewhere in the house there was a Mallard who was doing anything but ignoring a Muddlefoot.
"So you actually applied for MIT?" Gosalyn asked Honker a little incredulously as they both jointly worked to fit a new window in the dining room. "Decided to not settle for anything less, hmm?"
"Har-har," Honker replied to Gosalyn's sarcasm. "It's not like it's the school where all the really smart people go, Gos. That's Harvard. But yes, I did mail an application to MIT. The morning Negaduck's invasion began, actually. Because of said invasion, it getting sent was of course delayed, but I'm expecting a response back from them today."
"Think you'll get accepted?"
"I feel confident of my chances, if that's what you're asking." Honker glanced at his companion. "What about you, Gos? What are your plans for school?"
"Depends on how the school board rules to deal with the missed school time during the invasion," Gosalyn replied as the window slid into place, and she went for a hammer.
"Since you clearly haven't heard, they ruled that the school year would be prolonged for a few weeks to make up for the lost time, save for all the seniors, who will still graduate at the usual day," Honker explained, grabbing some nails. "So for you and me, things continue like nothing had changed."
"So there's that," Gosalyn answered simply, selecting a nail, and moving it into position.
"Yes, but what school will you go to after that?"
"I didn't think I had to. Isn't that kind of the point of graduation?"
Gosalyn raised her hammer to start pounding, but Honker stopped her. "You know what I mean, Gos," he said.
Gosalyn made a frown and gently shrugged him off. "Look, I'm just not worrying about it at the moment," she admitted, pounding the nail into the frame of the new window. "After Negaduck's invasion, I just want to sit back and…and get back into the usual flow of things and relieve some stress. Besides, that invasion robbed a lot of my time too, and there are things I need to get caught up on. Like Jumpgate: Universitas. Heaven knows how many awesome things might have happened on that show that I missed during Negaduck's invasion."
At this, Honker shifted uneasily. "Oh, well, um," he began hesitantly, "that reminds me of something I've been meaning to tell you. See, I looked up the show's status the other day, and…um…it got cancelled."
Gosalyn jumped in surprise. "What?" she exclaimed, spinning around to face him. "Why?"
"Apparently the ratings had gotten really, really, low."
Gosalyn went into a daze for a moment. "It must have been because I wasn't watching," she gaped.
Honker frowned. "I doubt that."
Gosalyn made a disappointed grimace as she slammed the hammer down hard on the nail in frustration. "Well…darn it," she remarked. "Now what am I going to watch? All of the other shows aren't worth watching at all."
"There is more to the world than TV, you know," Honker pointed out.
"Oh, I know, it's just…with my exciting, wild, life, it's hard to find something that'll be more interesting than that."
This seemed to get Honker thinking a little. "Huh," he began, seeming to get an idea. "Well, in that case, I, uh, don't suppose you'd want to…er…I suppose you wouldn't…"
But he never got to finish the statement, as there was a sudden tapping noise at the window. The two turned to look through it and saw a Flashquack hovering outside, wanting in. Normally the sight of a Flashquack was exciting, but on this occasion it wasn't, because they had been seeing a lot of Flashquacks lately. Gosalyn rolled her eyes in exasperation, because to her, it had been for all the wrong reasons the Flashquacks had been turning up lately.
Nonetheless, she walked over to the back door and opened it so to let the Flashquack in. It quickly did so, and started to fly on deeper into the house in search of Drake, but Gosalyn grabbed it before it could get too far and opened it to pull out the message inside herself. As the Flashquack, deciding its mission was complete, flew off again to go home, Gosalyn unrolled the message to read. She sighed at what it read, exchanged a glance with Honker, who had read over her shoulder, then went to the kitchen doorway to call into the next room.
"Daaa-aaad!" she called. "Got something for you!"
Drake strolled in a moment later, looking a little annoyed still. "Now what?" he griped. "At this rate we're never going to get this house fixed back up, not with all of these delays!"
"Oh, but you're going to forget you even said that the moment I tell you a Flashquack just dropped by," Gosalyn replied flatly, and handed him the message.
As predicted, Drake's eyes brightened as he grabbed the message and quickly read through it. "Yes!" he exclaimed excitedly. "Launchpad just met up with the guys for that magazine, Pop. Mechanisms! They want to feature the Thunderquack in their next issue, and want me and LP to participate in a photo-shoot for the cover!"
"I know, I read the message too," Gosalyn replied, feeling that her adopted father's summarization of the note was unnecessary.
But Drake was already moving on, anxious to take advantage of this opportunity as he raced to the stairs. "Christine!" he called upstairs. "I have to head out again and take care of some business! Another event has come up for me to participate in!"
Since the Muddlefoots were in the house, he couldn't get more detailed than that, in case they overheard. But having had heard this cover story a few times already the past couple of days, Christine didn't need to hear more.
"Again?" she said, coming to the top of the stairs. "Well…okay then." She grinned supportively. "Want me to supervise repairs while you're gone, then?"
"Already a step ahead of me," Drake replied, pleased, turning to go.
"Oh, and Drake?" Christine continued, remembering something suddenly. "On your way back, remember to pick up Charlie from Morgana's, could you please?"
"Sure," Drake replied, nodding, and hurried off.
He returned to the kitchen and opened the back door so to use the secondary entrance to Darkwing Tower. "Just keep working on repairs while I'm gone," he told Gosalyn and Honker as he went. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
"We know the drill, Dad," Gosalyn assured him.
"Oh, and Honker?" Drake continued, stopping as he started to close the back door behind him on his way out. "Keep your mother from changing my wallpaper while I'm gone."
Honker grinned a little. "I will."
Drake returned the grin, gave one final farewell, then left. Honker and Gosalyn resumed work on the window in the meantime. Gosalyn did so a little grumpily.
"He's been doing that a lot lately," she remarked to herself as they resumed work. "Gets an invitation from the media to make an appearance, automatically deems it more important than everything else, and drops everything to go do that."
"Well, in your dad's defense, this is the first time they have ever really cared," Honker pointed out. "I mean, before they hardly batted an eye at Darkwing, but now, in the aftermath of Negaduck's invasion, he's St. Canard's top hero."
"I know, and don't get me wrong, it's great that it's happening, and furthermore, it means Crimson and Techno get some of the spotlight too," Gosalyn agreed. "I'm just worried that Dad, as usual, is letting it all go to his head."
And of course, she had a good point. At the Pop. Mechanisms photo-shoot, the photographer's plan had at first been simple; all he was expected to get was a good shot of the Thunderquack with Darkwing and Launchpad posing somewhere in the shot. When Darkwing arrived, he already had things planned out and set up, with the Thunderquack itself in position and was already working at posing Launchpad into the right posture. All he needed was to get Darkwing properly posed and then take the shot. It wasn't expected to take more than fifteen minutes at most.
And at first Darkwing was more than willing to let the photographer do exactly that. But no sooner had that first shot been taken, Darkwing suddenly got an idea for an even better shot, quickly followed by several more. Upon suggesting them to the photographer, who liked many of Darkwing's ideas and was impressed by Darkwing's sense of style, the simple fifteen minute photo-shoot suddenly turned into a much more complicated half-hour long photo-shoot as both crime-fighter and photographer got caught up in the heat of the moment.
Darkwing, of course, was eating it all up with perhaps more enthusiasm than was wise, but nobody stopped him. Launchpad, on the other hand, who was never really one who wanted to be in the spotlight that much, eventually started to grow tired of all the posing, and it was thanks to him that the photo-shoot ended at about a half-hour, instead of far longer, as it nearly could have ended up. Even then, though, Darkwing was delayed as he continued to talk with the photographer, as he had ended up taking quite a liking to Darkwing.
Which meant Launchpad was left waiting outside by the Thunderquack, removed from the scene of the photo-shoot now and prepped and ready to go…just as soon as Darkwing arrived. The pilot had been waiting for a while, and was just about to doze off when the Thunderquack's built-in phone system rang.
Startled, Launchpad hurried to answer it. "Hello, you've reached the Thunderquack, Launchpad speaking, how may we be of service?" he answered. He listened to the response he received from the other end for a moment. "Director Hooter! What's up? Trouble afoot? Criminals causing trouble you need us to resolve? Or maybe FOUL is up to something again?…Yeah, I can stop talking and just listen…DW? No, he's not right here at the moment, but if you give him a few moments…no, I certainly can pass a message on to him. What's the message?" A long pause followed in which Launchpad first heard the said message then had to take a few more moments to process what he had just been told. "Say again? Did I really hear that right?"
He was assured that he was.
A few moments later finally saw Darkwing leaving the photo-shoot and arriving in the jet, in an extremely good mood.
"What a great guy, that photographer," he remarked aloud to Launchpad as he strapped himself in. "I hope we get to work with him again sometime soon. Anyway, sorry to keep you waiting, LP."
Launchpad merely nodded, who sat in the pilot's seat, oddly quiet and still.
"So, back to the tower to change, and then we need to stop at Morgana's to pick up Charlie," Darkwing summarized. "After that, hopefully the rest of the day will be free to keep working on…"
"Actually, DW, you're probably going to want to stop at SHUSH HQ first, before all of that," Launchpad remarked, snapping out of his daze suddenly as he went to start up the Thunderquack.
Darkwing frowned. "Any particular reason why?" he asked.
"The director called while I was waiting for you to arrive," the sidekick explained as they took off.
"J. Gander? Why? Does he have a case for us?"
"Unfortunately, no," Launchpad confessed, then sighed. "I'm afraid he had bad news, DW."
Hooter sat calmly at his desk and stared blankly across his office at the door that led out to the adjacent secretary's office. He actually had plenty of work he should be doing, projects that needed his attention. He didn't really have the time to be staring at nothing unproductively like this. But for the moment, he didn't have the drive to do much else, and anyway, he strongly suspected that even if he did settle himself down and dive into that work he needed to do, it was only going to get interrupted, because he fully expected to have a visitor before sooner or later.
And the eventual buzzing of the intercom sitting on his desk told him that he wasn't going to be disappointed.
"Darkwing Duck here to see you, sir," his secretary announced calmly.
Hooter nodded to himself. "Go ahead and send him in, Julie," he replied into the intercom.
A moment later the door opened, and Darkwing calmly stepped into the room. No theatrics. No smoke-and-entrance. No witty catchphrases. He just flatly walked into the room then quietly shut the door behind him before turning to look at Hooter, not taking another step further into the room.
"Darkwing," Hooter greeted calmly.
"J. Gander," Darkwing replied in return.
A long and uneasy silence fell.
"So," Darkwing finally began, folding his arms as he got right to the point, "you're retiring."
Hooter nodded slowly. "Yes."
"And you're set to leave SHUSH before the week is out now."
"And I'm only just now finding out about this?"
"That's never stopped you before."
"True." Hooter sighed. "Look, Darkwing, I had a pretty good idea how you were going to react to it, and so…I put it off. Besides, with everything going so well for you as of late…"
"That's entirely beside the point, J. Gander," Darkwing interrupted. "What is the point is that you even felt there was a need to hold off telling me this. In fact, you never did tell me directly, you told Launchpad, and left it to him to tell me the news!"
"You weren't there to tell when I called," Hooter argued in his defense.
"You could have waited! I was there to tell within five minutes of your phone call to Launchpad, not at all an unreasonable amount of time to wait!"
"All right fine, I'll admit it, I didn't want to have to be the one to tell you to news," Hooter finally confessed. "So when I got Mr. McQuack instead of you, I jumped at the chance. Like I said, I knew how you were going to respond, and the fact that you're here now, having this conversation with me, only proves that I was right."
"Which leads me to my next question," Darkwing continued. He looked at Hooter questioningly for a long moment, slowly shaking his head. "Why?"
Hooter sighed. "Because I'm getting old," he confessed. "And I can't ignore it any longer. I've probably already ignored it long enough as is. As much as I hate to admit it, my body can't handle the strain anymore. Negaduck's invasion was especially hard on me, and what was probably what woke me up to what I needed to do." He fidgeted with a paper on his desk for a moment. "Besides that, I feel like I have done my bit for the world. Helping to put an end to Negaduck's attempts to invade feels like a good note to go out on."
Darkwing looked at him for a long moment. "Well…yeah, I guess that makes sense," he confessed. "But…J. Gander…you seem fine. Like you're ready, capable, and above all, willing to keep doing this for years longer."
"Only because I've gotten very good at hiding it," Hooter responded, and to drive his point home, he creakily popped his back in such a way that it made Darkwing realize with a start that he wasn't kidding. "I have so many different aches and pains all over this old body of mine, I can't keep track of them all. And they just aren't going away. Darkwing…it's time for me to throw in the towel. I have enjoyed my work at SHUSH, and am very proud of my accomplishments, and would greatly enjoy it if I could keep doing them, but…reality says otherwise. Anyway, I probably should have retired a decade ago. Did you know that I'll be turning seventy next year?"
"Of course I did," Darkwing replied, still looking a little stunned. "In fact, rumor was that there were plans in the works among your staff of possibly doing something special to celebrate it." He frowned. "I guess that's not happening now." He then blinked as he realized something. "Your staff…did they know of your plans?"
"Just the closest ones at first," Hooter replied. "Agent Grant, for example. The rest are finding out about it about the same time as you, Darkwing. You weren't the only one I neglected to tell straightaway."
Darkwing was silent for another long moment, still trying to process all of this. "But…when you go…" he began, "…who's going to take your place?"
"President Ravenspell has already assured me that a list of possible replacements has already been put together," Hooter replied. "The final decision has not yet been made, though, as not all of the powers that be have agreed on a person as of yet."
"Powers that be…" Darkwing began, then his eyes widened. "J. Gander…what about Vice President Norrin? You know as well as I do that he hasn't been happy with how SHUSH has been getting ran lately, and you retiring would be the best chance he's probably ever going to get to put in one of his minions, or…"
"I've already pulled a few favors with President Ravenspell to insure that Norrin doesn't just replace me with a puppet or worse," Hooter quickly assured him. "That should keep Norrin at bay."
"At bay," Darkwing repeated skeptically.
"I know it doesn't necessarily guarantee that he keeps out of it entirely, but it's the best I can do."
"The best you can do is to not do this at all!" Darkwing argued, then stopped to think, beginning to pace. "Maybe…maybe we can strike some kind of compromise…maybe less hours for you? Less activity in the field?"
"Darkwing, I've technically been kept out of the field for years now," Hooter pointed out. "But as Negaduck's invasion and several other incidents like it proved, that can't guarantee much of anything. Danger still likes to find me. And getting less hours will not change the fact that I'm getting old, Darkwing. The time will come, probably sooner than either of us will care to admit, that I will simply be too old to carry on in the job any further. And it could be disastrous if I put it off until that moment, especially to my own health. It would be better to stop now, well before it reaches that point."
"But…" Darkwing began, still not entirely convinced. "But…"
Hooter sighed again, and looked at his hands. "There is one other reason why I'm doing this too," he said, and picked up a picture that had perpetually stood on his desk for many years. "I believe I haven't ever told you too much about my family, correct?"
"I know you had a wife, and some kids that have all grown up and gone on with their lives," Darkwing stated, more to prove that he wasn't entirely ignorant of this matter than anything.
"Yes, and it's been years since I've had the chance to do much of anything with them," Hooter responded, as he gazed wistfully at the picture he handled, portraying said family. "Been too busy with my work at SHUSH." He sighed heavily. "You know, my youngest daughter has just blessed me with another grandson eight months ago, and I still haven't taken the time to meet him. And he is on a long list of other grandchildren I've hardly had the time to get to know." His grip on the picture tightened some. "Retiring will change all of that. No longer will I have an excuse to ignore my family anymore. Now I'll have all the time that's left to me in my life to do whatever I can to cherish and appreciate their company."
Darkwing was silent for a long moment, seeing what Hooter was getting at, and understood it well. He opted not to say anything, though, because he knew confessing this would only leave him unable to do anything but stand to one side and let Hooter leave. "J. Gander…" he began.
"Darkwing, I know you have family too," Hooter began again suddenly, unknowingly calling Darkwing out on his attempts to ignore this matter. "So you know what I'm talking about. Times where we get too caught up in our work only to realize, too late, that we missed something important. Only now picture it from my point of view. I feel like I've missed almost all of it and that nothing can ever get me caught up again. But I want to try anyway. So please Darkwing…let me have that chance."
Darkwing hesitated to respond for a long moment. He knew there was only one response he could give at this point, but it was the response he didn't want to give, at least not without more of a fight.
Seeing Darkwing's hesitation, Hooter had one more point to add. "Darkwing, how would you feel if you woke up one day and realized you had not only missed out on not only the life of your Gosalyn, but were missing out on her children's lives as well?"
Darkwing looked sharply up at Hooter at this comment. It was the first time either of them had either really verbally discussed anything about Darkwing's life as Drake Mallard. That alone was shocking enough, but for Hooter to also use it to try and convey so deep a point…Darkwing's resolve crumbled under it.
"Okay J. Gander," Darkwing finally conceded. He heaved a heavy sigh. "Retirement it is. But…please know that…your presence here at SHUSH will be greatly missed."
Hooter nodded. "I understand, Darkwing," he said. "And thank you."
Drake knew his own home had suffered a fair deal during Negaduck's invasion, but even that couldn't quite compare to the damage Macawber Mansion received during the same invasion. Even with magic on its side during repairs, it was clear fairly early on that the mansion was never going to be the same again. Whole portions of the house had been all but obliterated, including its porch, front door, and half of its kitchen. The rest of the mansion had fared somewhat better, but not unscathed, bearing many holes or other scars from all of the battling done during Negaduck's invasion. But for her credit, Morgana had taken it all in stride, repeatedly saying that this was her chance to remodel.
But then, it was probably Morgana that Drake was worried the most about, for she had lost more than parts of her mansion. She had lost her husband.
Drake still had mixed feelings about Bob's untimely death. It was no secret that he and Bob had never been terribly close. When he first met him, in fact, Drake had strongly resented him, knowing that he had succeeded with Morgana where he had not. But over time, he had warmed up to the warlock psychiatrist, and had come to accept that he and Morgana had been very close. Which was what bothered Drake the most, because he knew Morgana was still hurting over this death, even though she hid it well.
What was worse about all of this, though, was the fact that suddenly, after years of believing otherwise, Drake's relationship with Morgana was yet again up in the air. And Drake admittedly didn't know how he should respond to it.
So typically he tried not to, at least for the time being. Thus when he arrived at Macawber Mansion, which was in the process of being off-and-on magically remodeled whenever Morgana could spare the time to cast the necessary spells, to pick up Charlie, Drake was all business. He did not want to linger too long, as he didn't want to have to focus on the matter of him and Morgana too long. The fact that he had Hooter's oncoming retirement hanging over his head now, only reaffirmed his intentions to make this quick.
Exiting the car, and having changed back into his casual attire, he looked at the mansion for a moment, breathed a sigh to collect his nerves, and then proceeded to the mansion's front door. Or at least he would have, if there was a door. Instead, there was just an open, door-shaped, hole. Morgana obviously hadn't taken the time to replace it yet. This wasn't hard to understand, seeing that she had clearly been redesigning the porch to be very different from how it had been before. The old door design probably wouldn't work for this. And at least there were steps that would lead to said door.
"How does she keep the rain, wind, and cold out, though?" Drake thought aloud to himself, before slapping his forehead as he answered his own question. "With magic, of course! Duh!"
He turned his attention to the door, and by association, to the new problem that presented. How does one knock when there is no door to knock on? A quick look around revealed that there was no doorbell installed as of yet, either. Drake frowned, undecided. He didn't want to just walk in, that would be rude. But then again, Morgana might not mind. It was hard to tell with her these days.
Of course, this wouldn't be such a problem if Drake had visited the mansion before, since Negaduck's invasion ended. And he had once before…with Christine present as well, and they had both been lucky enough to catch Morgana outside in her yard, magically filling in blast craters. This was really the first time since the invasion that Drake got to visit on his own to be put into this situation. And he didn't really know how to resolve it. If only he was still in costume, then he could just do a smoke and entrance, and then…
His problem was suddenly solved when Charlie happened to walk past the front door, stop, and then do a double take to look back at Drake.
Drake, realizing how stupid he probably looked just standing there, sheepishly waved. "Hi," he said.
Charlie grinned and waved back. "Hi."
"Um, I'm here to pick you up," Drake pointed behind him at the waiting car. "So…if you've got everything…"
"I do," Charlie responded, holding up his trademark stuffed otter toy, Jude.
"Well then, let's go."
Charlie nodded, started forward, but then stopped and turned back to face the mansion's library doors to shout, "Bye Morgana!"
Drake felt his heart leap up with a jolt of anxiety, and looked up at the library doors as Morgana opened them and peered out. She at first seemed puzzled, up until she saw Drake, and then she immediately brightened.
"Dark!" she said happily, and started towards him as if she intended to embrace him, only to catch herself last minute and hold off. "Um…hi."
Drake shuffled his webbed feet a little. "Uh, hi Morgana."
They were silent for a moment.
"So…how are you doing?" Drake asked finally.
"Ohhhh," Morgana began, holding out her hands as if undecided. "Well enough, I suppose."
"Well…good," Drake responded. "I'd hate to hear that you…you know…weren't doing all right."
"Well," Morgana admitted, "I suppose I am…feeling lonely in this big mansion now." She sighed. "But I suppose there isn't much you can do about that."
"Well, I can still try," Drake offered.
"Well…" Morgana began.
"Would you two stop saying 'well' all the time?" Charlie asked suddenly, getting annoyed by the two's overuse of the word.
Drake and Morgana exchanged looks, and then chuckled weakly.
"Look, Morg," Drake began finally. "I'd like to help you out more, but…I have my own responsibilities, and…"
"Are you avoiding me, Dark?" Morgana asked suddenly.
Drake was brought short by this for a moment then he sighed. "Yeah, kind of," he admitted. "But…I just don't know where you and I stand anymore, now that Bob is…um…" he trailed off, unable to say it.
Morgana hung her head some. "I understand," she admitted. "I…don't know either. But…I suppose we need to take the time to find out."
Drake sighed. "Yeah, I suppose we do, just…not now." He started to usher Charlie out the door. "I've got bigger things on my plate at the moment."
"Like what?" Morgana asked.
"Like finding out that J. Gander has decided to retire from SHUSH."
"Before the week is out." Drake turned his attention back to Morgana. "Look, Morg, I'm sorry I haven't been doing more to be there for you. But whether we like it or not…I have other responsibilities that demand for just as much of my time."
Morgana nodded in understanding, and grinned some. "I know," she said. "And I understand." She placed one hand on his shoulder. "I would expect you to do nothing else. So you do what you need to do, Drake."
"Okay," Drake said. "But…if you need anything…"
"You will be the first I turn to, Dark," Morgana assured him.
Drake nodded, satisfied. "C'mon Charlie," he said, motioning the youth towards the door. "It's time to go."
"Hooter's retiring?" Gosalyn exclaimed loudly later that evening at dinner.
As Mallard family dinners typically went, it was fairly routine, save for the fact that tonight they were joined by Christine and Charlie for the meal (thus invited because it was getting late), and Launchpad was absent. But as for their discussions at dinner, they were typically less routine, given the career paths of most of the participants. Tonight, with Hooter's retirement looming, was no exception.
"Yep, he's leaves in just a matter of days now," Drake announced glumly, poking at his own dinner with his fork.
"Does he have a reason why?"
"A couple, as a matter of fact. Increasing age, feeling he's done his bit for the world, desire to do more with his family…"
"Those all sound like reasonable reasons to me," Christine remarked understandingly.
"Admittedly, I agree," Drake concurred. "Which is why I'm not putting up more of a fuss over it."
"But…but…" Gosalyn began, still trying to process the full implications of this. "Who'll replace him? Agent Grant?"
"Don't know yet," Drake explained. "According to Hooter, the powers that be are still figuring that part out. I'm hoping it'll be someone like Agent Grant, though. That would at least ease the transition."
"With our luck, though, we'll probably get someone…infuriating," Gosalyn grumbled. She frowned at her meal for several long moments. "Why does he have to go and retire now? I mean, with Negaduck defeated and St. Canard vowing to enter into a new golden age as a result, you'd think it'd be the perfect time to stay put."
"I don't know about that," Christine disagreed. "Negaduck's invasion changed a lot of things. Seems to me it only paved the way for more changes to take place. Besides, change isn't always a bad thing. I'm sure it'll all work out in the end."
"I suppose," Gosalyn said, not convinced. "It'll be interesting to see how Honker will react when I tell him in the morning. That is assuming plans haven't changed, of course."
"What do you mean?" Christine asked, who was unaware of their plans for the morning.
"Honk and I are going in at SHUSH HQ for some meeting or something that Honker's going as Techno, and he talked me into joining him for reasons I wasn't really paying attention to," Gosalyn explained. "But we're likely to meet with Hooter at some point during that, so…"
"So that'll be your chance to discuss this with him in full," Drake concluded. "But don't bother trying to talk him out of it. I tried. He's already made up his mind."
Gosalyn sighed. "I know."
"Does Launchpad know?" Charlie suddenly asked.
"He was the first to find out," Drake replied.
"Where is Launchpad anyway?" Christine asked.
Drake had a knowing look as he answered. "He had other plans tonight."
"…so he's sitting there in his throne, right? Thinking he's won and everything, and that he pretty much rules over the whole land. But just when he's about to treat himself to a victory drink, there's the gang, confronting him! And at first he's not worried, right? Because he had already beaten them and robbed all six of them of their ability to stop him, and thinks that they still are, that they couldn't work together to sort things out between them, but they did. So he lets them try to attack, only to realize too late that they really have gotten their act back together and are just about to defeat them. And he struggles, going "noooo" and all of that, but too late, and BAM! He's reduced to a stone lawn ornament again, defeated!"
Agent Mia looked at Launchpad for several long moments with a blank expression on her face, still attempting to process what Launchpad had just told her. Her fork hovered over her plate of dinner, forgotten for the moment. "Okay," she began slowly. "So…what happened then?"
"Oh well, then the six just go back to the capital where the princess gives them recognition for their efforts, shows off a new stained glass window showing off their victory, they receive applause from everybody, and then they cut to credits," Launchpad concluded quickly in nearly all one breath, before leaning back in his booth seat.
Mia slowly nodded her head, pretending to understand. "Ah," she said curtly. She glanced around the restaurant for a moment, trying to decide what else she could say. "So you say this was on TV?"
"Mm-hmm!" Launchpad replied quickly, leaning forward again to return his attention to his own dinner. "It wasn't something I'd normally watch, no, but hey! It kept me entertained nonetheless."
Mia couldn't help but grin at this. "Well, that much is clear," she agreed. The feline returned her own attention to her own dinner. "And I suppose we have to talk about something during these dates you keep talking me into."
Launchpad merely grinned broadly at this and didn't comment one way or the other as he continued to eat.
Mia, however, allowed herself to think about other matters. "I suppose it's just as well that we have something cheerful to think about tonight anyway, though, isn't it?"
Launchpad's smile faded as he looked at his dinner plate for a long moment, knowing what she was talking about. "Yeah, I suppose so," he admitted. He was quiet for a moment then glanced up at his date. "When did you find out Hooter was retiring?"
"Today, like you did," Mia replied with a heavy sigh, and shook her head. "It's hard to believe that he's really going to leave."
"Yeah, well, he's made it clear that he doesn't intend to stay any longer," Launchpad said. "Darkwing already tried to talk him out of it. Instead, Hooter managed to talk Darkwing out of trying."
"I'm sure he has good reasons," Mia assured Launchpad.
"And he does," Launchpad agreed. "It's just…not going to be the same without him. I mean, SHUSH and Hooter have almost become synonymous with each other. SHUSH, Hooter…Hooter, SHUSH…it feels weird to think about having one without the other."
"Yeah, but it's going to happen," Mia said.
"What makes it worse is that we don't know who's going to replace Hooter yet," Launchpad continued. "At this point, it could be anyone. I'm hoping for Agent Grant, if only because we already know him, but…if I'm honest…for that to happen, it would sound almost too good to be true."
"I think you're right," Mia agreed. "After I found out, I had a meeting with Agent Grant to discuss things, and I discreetly hinted towards him possibly becoming director, and…he didn't respond too warmly. If you ask me, I think he's already out of the running."
Launchpad shook his head then sighed himself. "Well, there's not much point in speculating about what we simply don't know at this point, and it's pretty clear that it's out of our hands now," he said. He forced a grin. "And anyway, I suppose we should be happy. If this is what Hooter wants, and he's getting it, then…all the more power to him, right?"
"Yeah," Mia agreed.
They were quiet for a few moments.
"I wonder what Hooter's going to do with himself once he retires," Mia wondered aloud suddenly.
"DW told me Hooter has family," Launchpad offered. "I imagine he'll catch up with them."
"Yes, but Hooter's wife passed away years ago, and all of his kids have moved on and out of the house," Mia pointed out. "So…what is he going to do when he isn't visiting family?"
"Well…" Launchpad began, thinking. "Maybe he'll stay with one of them, then."
Mia gave Launchpad a skeptical look.
"Well, why not?" Launchpad asked in his defense. "They are stranger things you could stay with. I should know because I have a talking crow named Poe for a roommate."
Mia looked at him blankly for another moment. "Poe," she repeated.
"Yeah," Launchpad replied with a nod. "Long story. But he's a good bird once you get to know him. Although…sometimes I wish there was something I could get him to do so to pull his own weight around the house."
"What, you mean he's not a part of your little Darkwing Duck gang?"
Launchpad laughed. "No, not really. In fact, when Negaduck invaded, he flew off and hid for his own safety. It wasn't until we had taken back all but Canard Tower before he turned up again. He kept out of the way, see, but he wasn't unaware of what was going on."
"Heh, but it sounds like with a little training, he'd make for a good messenger bird," Mia remarked aloud.
Launchpad furrowed his brow, considering the idea for a moment. "Maybe," he said. "I like the idea, but I don't know if Poe would. He has a bit of an ego for a bird."
The next morning found Honker Muddlefoot waking up as he normally would that morning. He got up, got dressed, and preceded downstairs into the kitchen for breakfast. In the kitchen, his mother was already at work fixing breakfast as she usually was, working at making an omelet. His father was already sitting at the table, flipping through a TV Guide.
"Did you know that they're showing a program called 'Ten Most Memorable TV Shows,' on channel twenty-one tonight?" Herb Muddlefoot asked aloud as his son entered. "They're going to show a whole bunch of select episodes from classic shows on it, like Pelican's Island, Star Trek, Doctor Hooves…"
"Sounds like fun," Honker noted with a grin as he sat down at the table. "I'll see if I can manage to catch it tonight."
"Speaking of which, what are your plans for today, dear?" Binkie Muddlefoot asked as she flipped the omelet she was making.
"I have a, uh, club meeting to attend to today with Gosalyn," Honker explained. "I don't know how long I'll be, but I hope not too terribly long."
Inwardly, though, he was wincing, because he knew that it was partly a lie. His parents knew nothing of his double life as Techno and his association with Darkwing, and while he had been doing it long enough to be used to it, it still rubbed him the wrong way every now and then. Furthermore, he continually wondered if he really could keep this secret from his parents forever. But until such a time, hiding the truth was the better option no matter how one looked at it. Besides, his parents seemed happy enough being none the wiser.
"Well, you probably won't be missing much around here, anyway," Binkie explained as she brought Honker his breakfast to eat. "Your father and I are planning to go and help Mr. Mallard continue working at repairing his house. If we're lucky, we might get his living room all finished today."
"Mm," Honker said with a mild grin, knowing that Drake Mallard was actually wishing that the Muddlefoots would leave him to fix his house himself.
"Oh, and one more thing," Binkie continued as she returned to the table suddenly, dropping a bundle of letters on the table. "Here's the morning mail. If you all could sort through it and pull out anything pertaining to you all so I can take care of the rest later when I get a chance, it would be appreciated."
"Right dear," Herb grunted, but he otherwise made no movement to sift through the pile of letters.
Honker, however, did. And it wasn't long before he uncovered a letter addressed to him, bearing the familiar logo of MIT on it. Feeling a jolt of excitement that he had received a response for his application to the school, Honker grabbed the letter and opened it up, pulling out the letter within to begin reading, a happy smile on his face.
But it wasn't long before that smile slowly started to fade away again as what was written on it made itself clear.
"They rejected you?" Gosalyn exclaimed in surprise as she worked to dress herself in her Crimson Avenger costume.
"Yep," Honker replied numbly as he half-heartedly worked to put on his own.
Gosalyn gaped at him for a few moments. "You?" she repeated. "The smartest guy I know?"
"Well, I don't know about that, Gos."
"Still…how could MIT pass up you? Do they not realize what they're missing out on?"
Honker glanced at her with a frown. "The other day you were acting surprised I had even applied at MIT," he pointed out. "Why the change of heart?"
"Because I knew how much it meant to you," Gosalyn replied as she paused buttoning up her costume's black double-breasted jacket.
A moment of silence fell, the silence multiplied by the fact that Darkwing Tower was both quiet and empty already as they were the only two present in it at the moment. Launchpad and Drake were at Avian Way, continuing work on repairs, as planned. In a way, Gosalyn was glad for this, as it gave her and Honker a chance to talk in private, and since the subject today was obviously a touchy one, she was extra glad for it now. She allowed the silence to continue to hang in the room before strolling across the tower to sit down beside Honker.
"Look, Honk," Gosalyn began, "I don't really care what you do with your future, so long as you are happy. You are, after all, my bestest of friends, to the point you're almost family. And I could tell you were really hoping to attend MIT. Furthermore, I know you like the back of my hand. I know how intelligent you are. So, that said," she shook her head, grinning a little, "I really cannot see how MIT could've possibly made as dumb a choice as to let you slip through their fingers."
Honker grinned a little, heartened by Gosalyn's comments. "Yeah," he conceded, putting on his visor. "I suppose there are other schools I could attend anyway."
"And they'll be extremely lucky to have you, Honk," Gosalyn replied as she put on her own mask before patting Techno on the back and moving to grab her hat.
"Likewise," Techno murmured aloud to himself, before gathering his nerve to say something else. "Um, on a slightly different subject, there is something else I wanted to ask. Uh, I was…see…I just thought maybe…"
"Can it wait?" Crimson suddenly interrupted as she hopped onto the Avenger and revved its engine. "We're running late to get to that meeting of yours."
Techno glanced at the time displayed on the HUD of his visor quickly and saw she was right. "Yeah, it can wait," he said as he joined Crimson by climbing into the motorbike's sidecar before Crimson drove the bike on and out of the tower to head for SHUSH HQ.
"Besides," Crimson continued, thinking about Hooter's oncoming retirement. "There's something you need to know."
The meeting was relatively uneventful. Crimson ended up dozing through most of it, so she never did figure out what it was all about. But it apparently ended on a good note, because Techno walked away from it looking cheerful and happy.
"I take it the meeting went well, then?" Crimson asked when Techno shook her out of her light nap.
"Yep," Techno confirmed gladly. "Pity you slept through most of it."
"Eh, I have no regrets," Crimson stated as she stretched her arms and popping her back. "But while I'd hate to spoil a good mood, I think it's time we went and saw Director Hooter."
Techno did not argue this point, so they did indeed leave to go to Hooter's office. Upon arrival, they did not have to wait long before they were ushered in into the office, where Hooter was waiting for them at his trademark place behind his desk.
"Crimson, Techno," he greeted as they entered. "I figured you two were going to come and visit me before too much longer."
"Yeah, we heard about your plans to retire from Darkwing," Techno remarked aloud. "And I think I speak for all of us when I say that we're sorry to hear that you're planning to leave."
Hooter sighed himself. "Yes, well, everyone has their day," he commented. "And I think I've had mine, is all. It's time to move on."
Crimson shuffled her feet awkwardly for a few moments. "I think I already know the answer to this," she began, "but I don't suppose there still isn't anything we can do to get you to stay, is there?"
Hooter shook his head. "I'm afraid not, Crimson," he said. "My plans for retirement are already finalized, and the government is already well on their way to determining who my replacement will be. It's too late to pull out, even if I wanted to."
A moment of silence fell.
"Well, speaking of replacements," Crimson continued, opting to move on. "Any idea who it might be?"
"I'm afraid not," Hooter confessed. "By the looks of things, I could very well end up leaving SHUSH before they have one selected."
"What happens then?" Crimson asked.
"Then Agent Grant will be in charge of SHUSH until such time that a replacement is finalized," Hooter explained. "Beyond that, though, I know no more about the matter than you two."
Another moment of silence fell, during which the two teens sought something else to say.
"Well, at any rate, it's been a pleasure to work with you, sir," Techno finally said, stepping forward towards Hooter's desk, his hand outstretched.
Hooter gladly took it and shook it, before moving to shake Crimson's hand as well. "Thank you, Techno, Crimson," he said truthfully. "It has been a pleasure to work with both of you as well, as well as the great many other good people I have crossed paths with during my time as director. And I hope you two will continue to go on and do good for the world, as you've already done thus far."
"Well, I certainly plan to," Crimson stated immediately and with complete confidence. "Personally, I love what I do." She then jabbed a thumb playfully at Techno. "Dunno about Tech there, though, seeing he's looking into colleges, universities, and all of that further education stuff."
"Really?" Hooter remarked, taking an interest as he turned to Techno, who blushed a little by being put in the spotlight so. "What schools have you applied for, Techno?"
"Well…just MIT so far, sir," Techno confessed a little reluctantly, not comfortable to be discussing his private life like this. "But I received notification that they had rejected my application today."
"Really?" Hooter remarked again, surprised. "They rejected you, of all people?"
"That's what I said!" Crimson immediately exclaimed, drawing a chuckle from the others.
"Well, my apologies for MIT not working out, Techno," Hooter said. "But I wish you luck in your attempts to find the school for you." He suddenly blanked out, a thought coming to him as he started to sort through the papers on his desk. "Unless," he began, finding the said paper and handing it over to Techno. "You'd be interested in going here."
Techno examined the paper's contents briefly. His eyebrows went up in mild surprise. "The SHUSH Training Academy?" he asked.
"The facility at which all aspiring SHUSH agents-to-be, or other like candidates, attend to study the fields of espionage, technology, science, and many more," Hooter said. "You won't find a better school on the planet, in fact. It's just not suited for everyone. However, given your talents Techno, and your past work with Darkwing…"
"No, no, I see where you're going with this," Techno said, starting to brighten the more the idea sank in. "You think I should apply here?"
"I'd even be willing to put in a good word for you before I leave, Techno," Hooter added.
Techno regarded the paper for a few moments, shaking his head and grinning widely, touched. "Thank you, director," he finally said.
"You're more than welcome," Hooter assured him. "It's the least I can do. In fact, I'd offer the same chance to Crimson here, but…" he glanced knowingly in her direction. "Something tells me she's not interested."
"Nope!" Crimson confirmed brightly and with no hesitation at all. "I already know what I'm going to do with myself in the future." She motioned to her costume tellingly.
Hooter laughed. "I'm sure you'll follow Darkwing's footsteps admirably, Crimson," he assured her.
"Thank you Hooter," Crimson said, beaming under the praise.
But any further commenting and flattery was brought to a sudden halt when an alarm started to go off in the building. The three started to look around for the source when the intercom suddenly clicked on.
"Director Hooter to sub-level five!" it reported urgently. "Repeat, Director Hooter to sub-level five immediately!"
The three looked at each other in alarm for a moment.
"And just when things were going so well," Crimson grumbled aloud.
"Report!" Hooter barked the moment he, Crimson, and Techno marched into sub-level five, which was currently in a flurry of activity.
Despite Hooter being about to retire, he still bore authority over the SHUSH staff to receive an immediate response. "The transdimensional portal generator is charging up, someone is dialing in," a technician reported quickly.
Crimson heaved a sigh at this as all attention turned directly to the portal generator itself as it warmed up to open a portal. "You know, there was a time when this could happen without so much alarm," she stated.
"That was before Negaduck's invasion," Hooter replied pointedly. "We've since learned that it's better to be on our guard."
Techno nodded in agreement. "Better safe than sorry," he approved.
They didn't have long to wait before the transdimensional portal burst into existence with its usual chromatic display of color. SHUSH commandos quickly raised their weapons to point at the portal in the event of an attempted transdimensional invasion, but for the moment, nothing stepped through the portal.
After a moment, Dr. Bellum appeared and handed Hooter a paper report. "We can stand down," she said, looking visibly relieved. "We just received the UIO's IDC."
Hooter breathed a sigh relief. "Right, stand down!" he called to the commandos. "If we haven't already, send the all-clear to any incoming travelers!"
As the next few moments were spent in relative silence as Hooter's orders were carried out and everyone awaited the arrival of their visitor, all eyes turned expectantly to the portal again.
"The UIO," Techno repeated aloud to himself. "I hope it's just a friendly visit, and that there's nothing wrong."
"If only we could be so lucky," Hooter murmured aloud.
When their familiarly yellow-suited visitor finally stepped through the portal, it was clear from her face that Hooter was right to be worried.
"NegaCrimson," Crimson greeted with a hint of worry in her voice as she went to go meet her double as she reached the bottom of the ramp. "What brings you here?"
"Oh, nothing good unfortunately, as you've probably already guessed," NegaGosalyn responded before turning to address Hooter. "Director Hooter, I have what is perhaps a peculiar question for you."
"Okay," Hooter said with a nod of understanding. "Fire away."
"If you faced a change in the world's leadership that you intend to oppose, what would you do?"
Hooter turned blank for a few moments at the unexpected question, but he attempted to give an answer. "I would imagine something similar to what was done during the darkest times of Negaduck's invasion," he answered. "Rally together as many allies as I could, hide away someplace safe, or someplace that can be defended well, and seek a way to rectify the situation."
NegaGosalyn nodded. "That's what I thought you'd say," she said, looking like she was stopping to consider her options now.
"Why do you ask?" Techno asked.
"Because that's exactly what the Hooter of the Negaverse has done," NegaGosalyn replied. "And I've come here looking for help, as your Hooter put it, to rectify the situation."
"Well, as it just so happens, we're available," Crimson said to her double, motioning to herself and Techno. "Just let me send a Flashquack to Darkwing explaining the matter, and we'll be right with you."
She walked off to carry out the task, leaving Techno and Hooter with NegaGosalyn. The three milled around impatiently for a few moments in silence. NegaGosalyn looked around the large room for a few moments, noting the increased activity and routine work taking place since the last time she was here.
"Well, by the looks of it, you guys are doing better than I am in the Negaverse at the moment," she noted, sounding pleased.
"Well, we're still recovering, but yes, things are going well," Hooter responded. "For the most part."
"Right," NegaGosalyn said. She shifted around for a few moments, as if feeling awkward. "Look, just for the record, I want to apologize for my past actions from before, when I was on Negaduck's side. I…I really regret what I did before, and I want to make it all up in any way I can."
"In my mind, NegaCrimson, you already have," Hooter assured her. "Your presence will be welcomed at SHUSH, at least for the rest of my command here."
"Which won't be lasting much longer," Techno couldn't help but add for NegaGosalyn's benefit.
NegaGosalyn frowned. "Why's that?" she asked.
"I'm retiring," Hooter replied.
"Oh." NegaGosalyn was quiet for a moment. "I'm sorry to hear that."
Hooter heaved a weary sigh at this. "Yes, well, I was going to have to do it eventually," he pointed out.
"When you really think about it," Crimson said as she suddenly reappeared, a Flashquack in one hand and her written note in the other, "we should be thankful that we got to have him around for as long as we have. Anyway, we have bigger matters to worry about, so just let me get this Flashquack properly calibrated…"
"What did you write anyway?" Techno asked, curious, taking Crimson's message to read while she prepped the Flashquack. "'Darkwing, trouble in Negaverse, going with NegaMe to go fix it. Signed, CA.'"
"It's quick and to the point," Crimson assured him before he could criticize the vague note any, taking back the note and stuffing it into the Flashquack and letting it fly off to its destination. She turned back to the others. "So, to the Negaverse then?"
As what had become usual when traveling to the Negaverse at the request of the Underground Independence Organization, the leading force that had stood against Negaduck's rule there, Crimson, Techno, and NegaGosalyn arrived inside the building that had become their base of operations and housed a portal generator of their own. However, this time, the whole building was abuzz with activity, and had easily double the normal amount of people at work here than it had in the past.
"Whoa," Techno remarked, impressed. "Had a boost in numbers, huh?"
"Ya could say that," NegaSteelbeak, the leader of the UIO, said as he waited for the group's arrival. "No Darkwing Duck t'day?"
"No, he's engaged in other activities involving a house, the repair thereof, and pesky neighbors," Crimson explained. "But you got me and Tech."
NegaSteelbeak grinned a little. "Well, Crimson, Techno, if ya'll follow me an' Miss Mallard t' th' briefin' room, we'll fill ya in on what's happened," he said motioning with one hand.
They walked off towards the room in question, passing numerous other UIO workers along the way. Some they didn't know, but others they did. At one point they passed NegaRowe and NegaMegavolt, also UIO agents, standing in a hall, discussing the contents of some document they were holding. Upon seeing Crimson and Techno, they waved. Crimson and Techno waved back, and proceeded onward, until Crimson remembered something.
"Oh!" she said, turning around and walking backwards so she could talk with the two as she went. "NegaRowe, I have what is probably going to seem like a weird question for you! If you, Bushroot, and Quackerjack were villains, and were trying to hide, where would you go?"
NegaRowe thought for a moment. "Someplace with fish!" he decided. "Or crayfish. I love crayfish mate!"
They had to move on before they could discuss the matter any further, but Crimson got her answer.
"Darn it," she muttered aloud. "I already thought of that, and checked it out."
"And it led nowhere, just like I said it would," Techno replied. "Rowe's smarter than that."
"So I take it there was a point t' all of that?" Steelbeak inquired.
"Our Rowe, Quackerjack, and Bushroot went missing after the invasion ended," Crimson explained briefly. "They haven't done anything to cause trouble since, but just the fact they're lying low and are still convicted criminals hasn't been sitting well with some parties, especially seeing how our St. Canard is anxious to move on to better times. Unfortunately, we don't know where to find them."
"They'll turn up," NegaGosalyn said with confidence.
They eventually arrived at the briefing room and gathered around the table that sat in the white-washed room, but only NegaGosalyn and Techno took seats.
"So, NegaHooter," Crimson remarked, getting right to the point as she leaned on the back of one of the chairs. "Can't say you guys have ever really had problems with him before."
"That's because we had Negaduck to keep him in line," NegaGosalyn explained.
"Now that he's defeated, Hooter's taken it upon himself t'…take things into his own hands," NegaSteelbeak elaborated, pacing the length of the room behind where NegaGosalyn sat. "Or so he's tryin'. The scary part is that he has a chance of succeeding."
"Why, does he have much support?" Techno asked.
"More than enough, in fact," NegaGosalyn elaborated. "At first, after Negaduck's defeat was publically announced in the Negaverse, he didn't do much, or so it seemed."
"Naturally, sort of like your Hooter, ours is in control of FOWL," NegaSteelbeak continued. "And most of everyone there is fiercely loyal t' him. What we didn't know is that they were making plans t' stage an uprisin' th' moment they heard Negaduck had been defeated. They made their move once they found out the intent t' reform FOWL accordin' t' Miss Mallard's plans…"
"Please don't call me that, Steelbeak," NegaGosalyn interrupted flatly, sounding like it wasn't the first time they had this conversation.
NegaSteelbeak shrugged dismissively, acting like his hands were tied on the matter. "It's either that, or I start callin' ya by yer proper title of empress or Lady Gosalyn."
Crimson blinked and looked at NegaGosalyn. "Empress?" she repeated.
"Yeeeeaaaaah, I kinda got…promoted," NegaGosalyn explained, sounding like she didn't want to talk about it.
"Standard succession law stuff here in the Negaverse," NegaSteelbeak elaborated. "As the Negaverse sees it, Miss Mallard here was the one who overthrew Negaduck. In so doin', that entitled her t' takin' his position as ruler of the Negaverse."
Crimson and Techno had to take a moment to process all of this.
"So…you're the leader of the Negaverse now?" Techno asked NegaGosalyn.
NegaGosalyn sighed. "Reluctantly," she confessed. "Actually, I didn't want to do it at all, but the UIO pretty much insisted that I accept the position."
"The way we see it, is that by havin' someone on our side in a position of that much power like Miss Mallard here, we could do things t' change the Negaverse we could have never done before," NegaSteelbeak explained.
"Makes sense," Crimson admitted, seeing the point he was trying to make. "As absolute ruler, you can do just about anything you want whether people like it or not."
"But that's exactly why I didn't want any part in being the absolute ruler!" NegaGosalyn argued. "First chance I get, I am giving up the position, and guaranteeing that no one else tries to take it up. It's not right to force things upon other people. It only leads to pain and destruction, and the gains are very short-lived. I know that now." She sighed again. "Unfortunately, I can't just quit. It'd leave a power vacuum, and the Negaverse is already unstable enough as it is. Besides, I clearly can't do whatever I want, because if I do something unfavorable enough, people will still try to rise up against me and overthrow me. That's exactly what has happened with Hooter."
"What did happen with Hooter?" Techno asked, seeing that the explanation wasn't completed before they branched off onto this topic.
"He discovered Miss Mallard's plans t' merge FOWL with the UIO," NegaSteelbeak explained. "Made Hooter force his hand, I suppose."
"Yeah, I didn't trust FOWL as it was, figured it'd only ever be loyal to either to Negaduck or itself, and I wanted the UIO to be put into a position where it could act better than it already is, and since FOWL was going to receive reforms anyway, I figured I would combine the two, fire Hooter, and put Steelbeak in his place," NegaGosalyn explained.
"It was supposed t' all be done in secret, though," NegaSteelbeak said. "'Cause obviously if they knew 'bout what we planned t' do…well, ya already know what they did in such an incident, 'cause they did find out, an' acted accordingly."
"I still don't know how Hooter found out," NegaGosalyn added off-handedly. "I worry I might have a leak somewhere."
"Is that what you need us for?" Crimson asked, believing she was catching on. "To find this leak?"
"No, if there even is a leak, the UIO can handle it," NegaSteelbeak said. "We brought ya two here t' help with the more immediate problem of Hooter, an' what he plans t' do."
"What does he plan to do?" Techno asked.
"That's just it, we don't know," NegaGosalyn said. "I mean, we can guess, but at the moment, it's not enough. All we know is that he, FOWL, and anyone else who was loyal to Negaduck gathered together and holed up in the FOWL command building."
"Doing what?" Crimson asked.
"That's the part we don't know." NegaGosalyn shrugged for added emphasis on this. "For all we know, they could be building a nuclear bomb in there. We really don't know. And that's what's worrying. I don't know a whole lot about my Hooter, but I never really did like the man. He always seemed so…manipulative. Like he always has a bigger plan in mind than what is immediately obvious. So the fact that he's got himself holed up in a building where he can't do anything with former followers of Negaduck like Launchpad and the Muddlefoots, and has been in there for a couple of days now with no clear change puts me on end greatly."
"We was hopin' that maybe you guys could look at it in a new light, an' maybe see somethin' we haven't," NegaSteelbeak concluded.
Techno and Crimson exchanged glances. They then stopped to consider the dilemma for several long moments. They were clearly trying to come up with an answer of any sort. But after working at it for several moments, it was quickly started to come clear that they didn't really know how they were going to provide that answer.
Finally it was Techno, of all people, who responded. "I got nothing," he confessed. "I mean, I could speculate just as much as you guys are, but without any evidence to back it up, it's not going to do much good. Furthermore, NegaHooter's actions are actually kind of surprising. He has more than sufficient resources that you'd think he'd make more of a stand than just hide himself away. But he is. And I can't think why he would even bother unless he has some reason to, which could be anything."
"In that case, count me out as well," Crimson added. "If Techno can't deduce anything, then I certainly can't."
"Don't short change yourself, Crimson," Techno said, then got back to the subject at hand. "What was FOWL's list of projects at the time NegaHooter holed up? Was there something he could possibly use to his advantage?"
"Nothin' on th' records," NegaSteelbeak answered. "FOWL's last major project was actually t' come up with various materials Negaduck needed for his attempted invasion in your universe. When that fell through th' floor an' Negaduck no longer in charge t' give 'em new orders, they hadn't picked up any new projects t' replace it by th' time this all went down. Anythin' else is relatively minor in comparison. Y'know, like agent trainin', paperwork, necessary preparations for th' reorganization they knew was comin', an' so on. Nothin' Hooter could really use in a fight or against us, really."
"But FOWL HQ is the place where most of that stuff is developed and stashed, so if there's anything of use to Hooter, it'd be there," NegaGosalyn added. "None of this takes into account anything that might have been done before hand off the record, too. So there could still be something that was overlooked."
"So the question is…what?" Techno stated aloud.
Crimson rubbed her beak in thought for a few moments. "What we need is more information," she said. "At the very least, more information about NegaHooter, and what he could possibly be planning."
A moment of silence fell in the briefing room then NegaGosalyn suddenly stood up, having an idea.
"In that case, I'm going to take you two and go to Canard Tower," she explained as she headed for the door, motioning for Crimson and Techno to follow. "I think it's time we spoke with an old acquaintance of ours."
NegaGosalyn took them outside the UIO building, which sat out on the outskirts of NegaCanard, and to a waiting black vehicle of unclear make and model. A driver was already waiting for them within the vehicle. Opening the backdoor so to let Crimson and Techno in before joining them herself, NegaGosalyn told the driver to head for Canard Tower, and with that, they were off. The ride went along quietly at first, the group not having anything they were interested in saying, and both Crimson and Techno already had a good idea where they were going and felt there was no need to protest or comment on it. However, as they drove into the city itself, Crimson started to notice that something seemed different about it.
It took her a few moments to realize what it was, before seeing that it was the obvious; there were people out and about on the streets. In her previous journeys to the Negaverse, NegaCanard had always been virtually empty of any and all life, especially civilian life, who knew the streets were dangerous and that it was mildly safer to stay in their homes. But now, there were people wandering about, going about their business, doing so in a sort of experimental, exploratory way. There weren't many, probably no more than a dozen to a street, regardless of what street it was, but it was a significant change from before.
From there, Crimson started to notice a whole slew of other changes all throughout this twisted variant of the St. Canard she knew, and all of them, whether they were big or small, were good changes. Things like far less pollution being pumped into the air, the streets being maintained and cleaned, and above all, power; NegaCanard was actually lit with electrical power. It didn't show much at this hour, it still being daylight, but it was there, and was a big breakthrough in Crimson's eye, as most of the city had traditionally been kept dark and powerless under Negaduck's rule.
"Looks like you've been turning things around, NegaGos," she remarked aloud to her double.
NegaGosalyn glanced briefly out a window, but didn't seem as impressed. "I've been trying," she confessed. "I've made some progress with St. Canard, but there's still a massive amount of things that need changing before it can become anything like your St. Canard, to say nothing about the rest of the world." She sighed. "But…one step at a time, I guess. Hopefully, one day, I can make the Negaverse a better place. I owe it that much."
"That is an extremely admirable goal, NegaGosalyn, and it says much about how much you've personally changed for the better," Techno said appraisingly.
"It's a start," NegaGosalyn repeated, clearly looking like she felt the praise was still a bit premature. "I have to admit that I've got my work cut out for me, after all. It all depends on whether or not I can really make a lasting change on the Negaverse, a universe where it hasn't had some of these things in many, many, years, and isn't accepted by all. And most of what I've done is just in St. Canard, and not elsewhere."
"Well, you gotta start somewhere," Crimson pointed out.
"Yes, but changing St. Canard for the better is one thing," NegaGosalyn stressed. "Changing the rest of the world is entirely another. And it all depends on whether or not I can bring results."
Eventually their ride came to a halt when they arrived before Canard Tower in all of its glory, infamous or otherwise. The building itself seemed like it had hardly changed, but this did not surprise Crimson or Techno much. They weren't here to look around anyway, and upon entering the lobby, they quickly turned and proceeded down into the basement levels of the building, where it housed a private and extremely secure prison. It was here that Negaduck had kept his most important prisoners, like Darkwing Duck himself, people that he did not want escaping at any time, and went to whatever lengths he could to insure it.
So it was only fitting that the duck they were heading to see would be here too.
The cell was newly constructed and located at the furthest, deepest, most inaccessible location in the prison. NegaGosalyn and her Posiverse accompaniment had to pass through three heavily guarded security checkpoints before they could even get close, and they were given thorough screening at two of them, including rather impersonal pat-downs that even NegaGosalyn herself received with no apology. One checkpoint even used magic in their search for anything amiss, a search which, thankfully, turned up nothing amiss at all.
Past the checkpoints was a heavy metal door easily more than foot thick stood in the stone wall, locked. NegaGosalyn had to enter in a password on a keypad, have her hand and eyes scanned to confirm her identity, and give a verbal password before the door could be unlocked and opened…only to face another door just like it with the same security installed. After that door was yet another door with the same specifications and security measures. Then after that came an energy forcefield of unknown design and strength, but NegaGosalyn, while moving to deactivate it with the same kind of security measures as the doors before, warned Crimson and Techno not to touch it. Past the forcefield was a more traditional wall of prison bars with a door embedded in it that opened with a key and password on another keypad. Then after that came yet another door, this one of the more traditional design that had a simple tumbler lock on it.
"Think you've got enough security?" Crimson asked sarcastically as her double worked to insert a key into the door's lock, this one different from the key she used before.
"Given who it's keeping locked up and as it's someone I do not ever want to see escape," NegaGosalyn began as she unlocked the door and gave the knob a strong twist, "I fear it might not be enough."
They went through the door to enter small room that was relatively empty save for a table bolted to the floor, various monitoring equipment, and a bulletproof window, which looked into another room of similar dimensions, completely sealed off from this room. In that room, chained to the wall by hand and foot, his suit worn and dirtied and clearly looking to be not in his best of spirits, but currently not having the energy to try and doing anything about his situation for the moment, was Negaduck himself.
Crimson and Techno gathered at the window and peered through it at their archenemy, having mixed feelings about what they were seeing. Part of them were glad to see Negaduck under such tight security for once, but another part of them had their concerns that NegaGosalyn was clearly showing him no mercy whatsoever where she had at other times.
"He can't see or hear us at the moment, and probably doesn't even know we're here yet," NegaGosalyn explained as she closed the door to the room and moved to join them. "The window is only one-way, and the only way to talk to him is with a sound system that is currently deactivated." She motioned to said system briefly. "So if you guys have anything you want to say before we begin…now is the time to do it."
Crimson and Techno exchanged glances briefly.
"How has Negaduck handled all of this?" Techno asked.
"In his typical Negaduck fashion; bitterly," NegaGosalyn answered. "Let's just leave it at that."
Crimson and Techno exchanged glanced again, but otherwise had nothing else to say.
Crimson finally sighed. "Well, let's get on with it, then," she said.
NegaGosalyn nodded, and pressed a button on the control panel before her. "Hello Negaduck," she said simply into a microphone on the control panel.
Negaduck stirred then glanced up at the window, consequently right at NegaGosalyn even though he couldn't know that was where she was. His eyes were dark and narrowed, but nonetheless, he grinned.
"Gos," he greeted back in a cold, but oddly polite, manner. "Come to gloat some more, or to try and pry more of my secrets from me?"
"The latter," NegaGosalyn answered without hesitation, sounding like she had gone through this routine before and knew what to do to get right to the point.
"All right, of what sort of secrets are you dying to know this time that I may or may not tell you? Where my hidden stash of candy is?" Negaduck's grin grew somewhat bigger at his jab.
"I need to know everything you know about J. Gander Hooter," NegaGosalyn prompted, unfazed.
"Ooh, J. Gander," Negaduck responded. "Now there is a tricky fellow." He chuckled. "I take it he's giving you some trouble, then? Heh, I'm kind of surprised he waited until I was overthrown to do so."
"Now what is that supposed to mean?" Crimson asked aloud to herself.
Her voice must have carried over the sound system, because Negaduck grinned again. "Is that your Posiverse double I hear, Gos?" he asked with spot-on accuracy.
NegaGosalyn opted not to deny it. "It is," she confirmed without hesitation. "Not that it concerns you."
"Oh, of course not. She just helped overthrow me and take away everything I had ever worked to gain for myself. It's not like I have any hard feelings or any silly but justifiable nonsense like that." He laughed to himself briefly, a cold and insincere laugh that confirmed that he most certainly did have hard feelings. "So, Crimson, how's Darkwing doing? Tell me he's got trouble of some sort to deal with."
"Just a house to repair," Crimson replied matter-of-factly. "Beyond that, things are actually going quite good for him." She opted not to mention the fact that Hooter was planning to retire in her universe.
"Hmm, pity," Negaduck hummed to himself. "But I suppose we aren't here for small chat such as that. Well, you guys aren't. I suppose I don't really have a say in the matter either way, now do I?"
"What can you tell me about Hooter, Negaduck?" NegaGosalyn asked, bringing the conversation back to the original topic.
"Depends on what it is you want to know," Negaduck replied. "Why, what has he done?"
"He's barricaded himself into FOWL HQ with his staff of agents and a few other followers still loyal to you."
Negaduck laughed. "Oh, that figures," he remarked. "And let me guess Gos, you, in your infinite wisdom and experience in ruling, can't figure out what to do with him now."
"Not without knowing more about his plans, no," NegaGosalyn confirmed. "I need your insight on what he might be planning."
But Negaduck, to their surprise, just shrugged. "How should I know?" he asked. "The guy never liked to tell me anything."
NegaGosalyn frowned, but pressed on undeterred. "You still worked with him, you know him better than I do," she pointed out.
"Not as much as you'd apparently like to think," Negaduck said. "Hooter always liked to do his own thing, see. Frequently he was enacting his plans entirely on his own, not whether or not I actually told him to. In fact, I frequently only found about them myself well after the fact."
"But…Hooter answered to you," NegaGosalyn pressed, now starting to furrow her brow in puzzlement.
"On paper, yes, but if you really want my honest opinion, Gos, I never trusted the guy, he never trusted me, and you shouldn't trust him either. He's just something I inherited into my control when I became ruler that I couldn't ever seem to get rid of, no matter how hard I tried."
"I thought you kept him around because you thought he was useful."
"He produced results, yes, but only when he stayed in line, and let me tell you now, it took a lot of effort to keep him in check even as little as I was able to. Quite honestly, I'm not at all surprised you weren't able to keep him from going rogue. There are times when I have to stop and wonder how I had managed to keep him from doing exactly the same thing." Negaduck snorted to himself. "Luck, I guess."
"But then…what could he be planning?" NegaGosalyn asked.
"Knowing him, he's probably plotting to take it all for himself," Negaduck responded casually. "I've suspected for years that he had plans for overthrowing me and taking control of the Negaverse, and probably would've eventually tried it had you not beaten him to the punch."
"Then, if he was posing such a threat, then why didn't you do something to take him out of the picture?" Techno suddenly asked aloud.
"Why hello, Techno, nice to hear your analytical voice again," Negaduck spoke pleasantly. "Now, to answer the question, Hooter is not a force you want to reckon with. He is extremely manipulative, calculating, and he is always one step ahead of you. He is not someone you can just pop off and forget, nuh-uh. He is dangerous, and will stop at nothing to get his way." Negaduck suddenly turned very serious. "It is for these reasons Gos that I let Hooter be. Because I knew that if I messed with him too much, I would only be bringing more trouble down upon myself. It was better to let sleeping dogs lie, at least until they stopped sleeping." He leaned forward as far as his chains would allow him, locking his eyes on where he presumed NegaGosalyn to be, which was of course, frightfully accurate. "Unfortunately for you, Gosalyn, you don't have that luxury. The dogs have awoken, and now you get to deal with them. And if you'll allow me to be quite frank, I don't think you're up for the challenge."
And with that, he leaned back against the wall of his cell, tilting his head up, and spoke no further on the matter.
"Well…that was unproductive," Crimson remarked aloud as the trio reentered the lobby of Canard Tower.
NegaGosalyn seemed slightly stunned. "I knew that Negaduck wasn't going to be cooperative," she confessed. "But I didn't really expect him to not actually know anything like that."
"Well, at least it wasn't entirely pointless," Techno pointed out. "We have learned that there is likely more to NegaHooter than any of us expected."
"That doesn't tell me what to do about him," NegaGosalyn griped.
The trio was silent for a few moments.
"Look," Crimson began suddenly, "I'm thinking that maybe we just need to take the risk and go in guns blazing, and take him down by force."
The other two turned and looked at her skeptically.
"Crimson," Techno began, "you know that we don't know what NegaHooter might be planning. He could easily have something in place to protect himself from exactly that, and then we'd be in serious trouble."
"I know," Crimson assured him. "But you know that we don't have any other ideas. And by that same line of reasoning, you both know we can't just leave him there and wait for him to make the next move. Because NegaHooter's playing for keeps. We shouldn't be giving him the chance he needs to win."
NegaGosalyn sighed, rubbing at her forehead as she started to pace, considering her options.
"Of course, the final choice is yours to make, NegaGos," Techno added.
"I know," NegaGosalyn replied. "That's what I hate about all of this." She was silent for a long moment. "But…Crimson is right about one thing. The longer we hold off, the more time we give Hooter to act, and letting him act is indeed the last thing I want to happen at this point, especially after what Negaduck has told us about him."
"So…we're in agreement then?" Crimson prompted.
NegaGosalyn hesitated, and then nodded. "Yeah," she said. "We've waited long enough as it is. I think we're just going to have to bite the bullet on this and just hope for the best."
"Well then, if we do this, then I feel that I should point out that we be prepared for anything, so to increase our chances as much as possible," Techno stated.
"Agreed," Crimson said with an immediate nod. "If we don't completely know what NegaHooter could throw at us, going in there without the right forces or equipment would spell failure. We'll also probably want to throw everybody we can against him too. Having numbers on your side is always a plus, no matter what the situation."
"In that case, I'll probably need backup," NegaGosalyn said. "With most of FOWL allied with Hooter, that just leaves me a handful of UIO agents and a personal militia with the sort of combat training necessary, which totals to a fair bit, but not enough to take on Hooter and his own forces alone."
"I'm sure we can get a few recruitments from SHUSH back home, but we'll need to go and send word," Crimson assured her, before turning to Techno. "In fact, while we're at it, I think it's time we officially pulled Darkwing into this."
"Agreed," Techno said with a nod. "He'll probably be a little irked that we left him out of it for this long."
"Oh c'mon, Tech, Darkwing will understand," Crimson said with confidence.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" Drake exclaimed as he read the lengthy report the Flashquack had delivered to him at home while he was working in the kitchen.
Launchpad poked his head in through the door, having heard the shout. "Something wrong, DW?" he asked.
"Yes, this!" Drake replied, holding up the report. "I got word back from SHUSH about what Gos and Honker are up to in the Negaverse."
"Oh!" Launchpad said, understanding as he joined Drake in the room. "So…what's the problem? I mean, seeing how the last message was so vague and all, but…"
"Well, apparently we're not the only universe that is having issues with our respective Hooter," Drake explained curtly. "Only in the Negaverse, he's gone rogue, bottled himself up in FOWL Headquarters, and is likely plotting a way to take the Negaverse for himself unless something is done to stop him."
"Okay," Launchpad said, understanding the situation. "So…you're miffed that Crimson and Techno went to tackle that situation on their own?"
"Oh, no, they seem to have things under control, and have even worked with the UIO to come up with a game plan to try and take NegaHooter down," Drake said quickly. "They are handling things well, which I'm glad to hear."
"So then…you're miffed that you're missing out on all the action," Launchpad guessed again.
"No, actually, because I have obviously never been too fond of the Negaverse, and either way, SHUSH is going to be providing some forces to try and stage an attack to take NegaHooter down, and Darkwing has been asked to go and join them."
"So…" Launchpad rubbed the back of his head in thought for a few moments. "What are you miffed about?"
"The fact that I'm probably going to have to leave my house in the unattended care of the Muddlefoots, while this all goes down," Drake grumbled.
He and Launchpad peeked into the other room, where Herb was working to set up a new door for Drake's study while Binkie supervised. They exchanged worried glances, Launchpad especially. Unlike Drake, he had always been fond of the Muddlefoots, but even he had to concede that there were some things you were just better off not leaving the suburbanite pair doing on their own unless you were there to watch them. Ultimately, though, Drake knew that there was little point in trying to tip-toe around the matter, so he stepped forward, prepared to get it over with here and now.
"Um, Herb, Binkie?" Drake began hesitantly.
"Yes, Drake, what is it?" Binkie asked sweetly, turning to her neighbor.
"Uh, something's come up, and I'm going to have to take LP and go and take care of it," Drake explained, pointing vaguely behind him to indicate he needed to leave. "We could be gone awhile."
"Well, don't you sweat, Drake, we'll finish getting the downstairs of your house all nice and fixed up while you're away," Binkie assured him.
"Yeah, about that," Drake said. "I was kind of thinking that it might be better to just call it quits for today, and…"
"Oh no, no, no," Herb interrupted as he tested the hinges of the new door. "No point in putting this off any longer Drakester. Might as well finish what we've started."
"Yeah, I was afraid you were going to say that," Drake mumbled, then tried a different tactic. "Could we at least postpone things until Christine gets here, so she can help too?"
"But Christine's going to be working well until tonight, DW," Launchpad couldn't help but point out. "I'm sorry to say it, but…that's kind of late."
"Yeah, we'll have pretty much wasted all of this wonderful daylight when we could have been working at getting your house that much closer to being finished, Drakester," Herb reasoned. "And we're so close, too!"
"But…" Drake began to protest.
"Now don't you worry, Drake, we've got everything under control," Binkie promised him. "You'll see. You'll come home and find a wonderfully complete living room waiting for you to relax in."
"No buts, Drake, we insist! Consider it our chance to pay you back for being such a nice neighbor for all these years!"
Drake hesitated, but he could already see that Binkie had already made up her mind, and it would be difficult to talk her out of it now. Furthermore, they all had good points, and even he had to admit that it was kind of flattering that they were doing this mostly because they thought Drake had been such a good neighbor, even though Drake had really only just been tolerating them for all these years. Plus, he knew time was short, and that SHUSH was expecting him to come straightaway.
So he heaved a heavy sigh in defeat. "All right," he said, starting to walk back to where Launchpad stood in the kitchen entry. "But you guys stick to the plans, okay? No making any changes without my okay, and don't try to tackle anything we didn't already plan to do today, and above all, no doing anything stupid! Oh, and Binkie!"
"The wallpaper stays."
Drake gave his neighbors one last look over before finally slipped into the kitchen again and heaving another sigh. "Oh, I'm going to regret this, I just know it." But he took a moment to put his worries to one side and to focus more on the task ahead before leading the way out of the house. "All right, LP. Let's get dangerous."
When Darkwing and Launchpad arrived at sub-level five, they found a large party of SHUSH commandos waiting for them, gearing up for departure, and armed in anticipation of the coming fight they were planning. Hooter was there as well, just in the process of wrapping up giving his final orders to the commander of the forces, who was none other than Lieutenant Taylor.
"You will adhere to the commands those in the Negaverse have to give," Hooter was instructing the pine marten firmly. "Remember, the Negaverse does not work like our universe at all, and there are rules and procedures in place there that we would not have here. Those in the Negaverse those what they are, though, and how the rules of the game goes. Keep that in mind at all times. And if you have your concerns about the orders those in the Negaverse give you, turn to Darkwing for confirmation. Whether he likes it or not, he is one of our leading authorities on the Negaverse. Speaking of which…" having noticed Darkwing enter the room, the aging owl turned to the hero. "Darkwing! Glad to see you made it."
"Likewise, J. Gander, although as usual, I wish it was under better circumstances," Darkwing replied as the two shook hands. "Although, given what we were just through last month, it could easily be far worse."
"Precisely," Hooter said, then motioned to the commando beside him. "You remember Lieutenant Taylor, correct?"
"Oh yes, I remember," Darkwing responded, turning to him. "And I'm sure he remembers me."
"Seeing that trouble follows you wherever you go that I usually have to deal with, it's hard not to," Taylor grumbled somewhat back to the duck. "Still…I have to concede that he knows what he's doing, so…"
"Thanks…I think," Darkwing responded with an expression that was somewhere between a smile and a frown.
"Think you got enough commandos in here, J. Gander?" Launchpad asked, looking the group of armed SHUSH commandos over.
"I hope so," Hooter said, following the pilot's gaze. "I don't have any more to spare. Still, I think any help NegaGosalyn can get for this will be welcomed at this point."
"I'm sure it will all be appreciated," Darkwing assured.
"Well, be sure to tell NegaGosalyn that I am not certain SHUSH will be able to repeat this action in the future once I have left," Hooter continued. "Don't get me wrong, we all want to see the Negaverse become a better place, but…to the powers that be, it's not really the Posiverse's war anymore."
"All the more reason why we're going to miss you when you leave, J. Gander," stated Darkwing calmly. "You aren't shortsighted enough to see things the same way as the powers that be." He then changed the subject. "We ready to go?"
Hooter nodded, and motioned to a technician to start up the portal generator. "I'll be in the control tower then," he said, giving the group a nod. "I wish you all good luck, and try your hardest to insure that the hope for peace we've managed to bring to the Negaverse continues."
Taylor nodded. "We will, director."
NegaHooter liked to consider himself as a patient man. He had waited a long time to get where he was now, to have his plans reach a point where they could progress forward in the directions he desired. But even he had to admit that he was starting to feel anxious. Part of it was the fact that his plans were going well until Negaduck got the bright idea to try an invasion of the Posiverse, an invasion that, despite its deceivingly good initial successes, NegaHooter had never been for. He foresaw that it could only end in failure, and predicted it would only harm the Negaverse than benefit it in the end.
But even he hadn't anticipated NegaGosalyn turning on Negaduck, leading to the former usurping the throne as it were and tossing Negaduck into jail, which further jeopardized his plans. He knew that NegaGosalyn had a lower tolerance for unwanted violence or in-fighting within the system and probably would be quick to sack him, especially once she caught wind of the things he had been doing that Negaduck had never bothered to investigate when he was in control. He tried to delay it as long as he could, but once he found out NegaGosalyn's plans to reorganize FOWL with the inferior, democracy-loving, UIO, he was forced to make his move sooner than he hoped. At least he had managed to recruit a few ex-followers of Negaduck who opposed NegaGosalyn's rule, even though they hadn't been on the best of terms before.
But the other part was that he was anxious because his plans were finally starting to come towards fruition, meaning his attempts to adapt to this unexpected series of events had worked. He knew that barricading himself into FOWL Headquarters had been a gamble from the start, especially if anyone called his bluff that he had a means to hold the building. But he had counted on NegaGosalyn, being as inexperienced as she was, would delay immediate action until she could confirm NegaHooter's intentions, giving him time to prepare his plans further. And thus far, the gamble had been paying off. If his luck continued to press, he would be able to continue his plans onward again as originally planned.
Naturally, he had no such luck.
"Hooter!" NegaLaunchpad exclaimed as he burst into the room with his usual lack of grace and subtlety. "You're going to want to see this!"
"Ohhhh, let me guess!" NegaHooter griped as he followed the former, punkish, henchman of Negaduck's to a window outside in the hallway. "It's trouble."
"Well, uh," NegaLaunchpad began as he motioned to the window, looking like he attempted to come up with something witty to say before failing, "yeah."
And sure enough, a large party of opposing forces were approaching the building. Looking over the rim of the tinted glasses he wore, NegaHooter could pick out the uniforms of the UIO, NegaGosalyn's personal militia, and SHUSH commandos. And even from here, he could see NegaGosalyn leading, along with a couple of others that he didn't need to try very hard to figure out who they were.
"She's even brought the Posiverse into this," NegaHooter remarked aloud wistfully. "But of course. We are, after all, supposed to be helping allies now that she's in charge."
"Your orders?" NegaLaunchpad inquired seriously.
"We stand our ground," NegaHooter responded immediately, straightening and smoothing out his dark suit jacket. "Keep them at bay for as long as possible and at any cost. And I mean any cost, Mr. McQuack."
He then turned to go, NegaLaunchpad watching him go, not looking entirely pleased. "These plans of yours had better work, Hooter," he stated firmly. "We've got a lot riding on your plans, and not a lot we can risk losing."
"They'll work, Mr. McQuack," NegaHooter assured him, pausing at the door leading back into the room. "So long as you do your part."
"The only reason I'm even giving you my part is because I don't see much other choice if we're going to beat Gos," NegaLaunchpad pressed. "If it weren't for that, I wouldn't be putting so much trust in you right now."
"You're going to have to trust me now if you wish to have any chance of enacting your plans," NegaHooter said. "Which aren't going to happen if you keep standing there, arguing with me about trivial matters."
NegaLaunchpad frowned, but then shook his head, pulling out a radio. "Honker, Herb, go on defensive," he spoke into the device as he stalked off. "We're to stand our ground and resist any and all enemy attempts to gain access to the building. Use whatever force necessary."
NegaHooter watched him depart with a satisfied grin before reentering room, watching as the various scientists and technicians were hard at work completing one of the final pieces for his plans. He stood to one side, letting them work, pleased at the progress they were making. He was soon joined by an agent who had previously been standing to one side, supervising.
"I take it, then, that they are serving as fall guys to buy you time?" she asked.
NegaHooter glanced back at her with a cruel grin. "But of course, Agent Mia," he remarked. "All for the greater cause."
NegaGosalyn's plan was actually to get the first shot in, but it was those at FOWL Headquarters that got the first shot, as forces all over the building quickly attacked at the intruding forces. Quickly taking cover, the group proceeded to return fire. The battle quickly turned constant fest of pop shooting at enemies, a tactic that would've drawn it out far longer than initially hoped.
Fortunately, NegaGosalyn had planned ahead for this, and motioned to the Friendly Five that had been discreetly hiding amongst the ranks. Immediately the four surged forward to attack, Megavolt unleashing the most effective attacks by lashing out with bolts of electricity, while Bushroot used his powers to cause vines to scale up the building, shooting into windows to restrain the resisting forces inside, and Quackerjack launched various versions of his trademark toys of destruction at the building and the occupants, adding further confusion.
Meanwhile, NegaGosalyn led Crimson, Techno, Darkwing, NegaRowe, and NegaLiki towards the building's entrance. This area was among the most heavily protected areas on the building, but in the chaos the other forces were laying out, those defenses were already either partly weakened, or distracted, leaving them just vulnerable enough for direct assault. NegaLiki led the charge by changing into a massive wave of water that plowed through the building's front doors and washing away what defenses were placed there. The others then went in and took out any stragglers with their weapons or, more likely, in hand-to-hand combat. Soon they had the entrance forces subdued and the entrance cleared.
"Right," NegaGosalyn said, turning officially to the others. "Spread out and secure as much of the building as possible, but our top priority is to find and capture Hooter. Most of the forces in this building aren't always willing to work together like this, and Hooter's likely the only thing keeping them together. We bring him down, we can send these forces into disarray."
"Easier said than done, mate," NegaRowe remarked.
"Rowe's right," Darkwing agreed. "That's probably exactly what NegaHooter's going to expect us to do, and be prepared for it."
"Exactly why we don't have much other choice but to do it my way," NegaGosalyn pressed. "If we don't go for Hooter straightaway, he's going to keep us distracted with the rest of his forces while he makes his break."
"And then this could just start all over again at a later date," Crimson concluded.
NegaGosalyn nodded. "So let's not sit here arguing about it," she concluded. "Let's get going and find Hooter."
"We're getting overrun here, Hooter!" NegaLaunchpad called warning through the radio. "We're doing our best to keep Gos and her forces at bay, but they're starting to overwhelm us! I've already got reports that they've infiltrated the building and working their way on up to your position!"
"Delay them for as long as you can, Mr. McQuack," NegaHooter calmly instructed into the radio as he watched the scientists put the finishing touches on their project.
"It's not as simple as that!" NegaLaunchpad snapped back. "They've brought the Friendly Five into this!"
NegaHooter only snorted, having no sympathy to give. "They are nothing you cannot handle, Mr. McQuack," he pointed out. "You have spent the past decade fighting them and keeping them at bay, this should be no different. So stand your ground."
"This isn't the same, Hooter! They've got numbers on their side now!"
"Stand. Your. Ground." Hooter hissed into the radio. "If I may remind you, Mr. McQuack, you were the one who was insisting that these plans needed to pay, and urging me to take whatever action is necessary to insure it! But this is a team effort! You must do your part and stand your ground! I will not tell you this again! It's sink or swim from here on out, Mr. McQuack, and I intend to swim."
He then turned off the radio and dismissively pocketed it. "Gentlemen," he said aloud to the room, "I certainly hope you are ready soon, because we are running out of time."
The lead scientist was just finishing packing the project up into an easy-to-carry box. "We're finished now, director," he said, handing over the box. "Done exactly as you requested, sir."
NegaHooter grinned as he accepted the box. "Excellent," he said, peeking inside the box to insure that everything was indeed in order. "Now then, on two step two. Agent Mia?"
NegaMia then suddenly raised her weapon and pointed it threateningly at the team of scientists and technicians. "Everyone at the back of the room!" she ordered. "Now!"
Surprised, they raised their hands and reluctantly backed up to the far side of the room while NegaMia and NegaHooter made for the lab's only door. They proceeded to step out it without further comment, but the lead scientist finally decided he needed to protest.
"This wasn't what we agreed upon, director!" he exclaimed angrily. "We were all to escape this, safe and sound!"
"The plan has changed," NegaHooter responded coldly, glancing behind him at the lead scientist. "And your services are no longer required."
And with that, he closed the door and locked the group inside before turning and walking off.
"Come, Agent Mia," he urged, tucking the box and its contents under one arm. "We need to get to the upper launching pad before the intruders beat us there."
Once they were inside the building, NegaGosalyn and her party's progress continued on at a heartening rate, especially as more of their forces filed into the building after them. NegaHooter's mishmash collection of forces stood and attempted to oppose them every step of the way, slowing their progress, but it was rapidly becoming clear that NegaGosalyn had the upper hand now. Some continued to fight to the end anyway, knowing they had nothing left to loose, but others were more realistic and knew it was rapidly becoming a lost cause and started to surrender, one by one.
Yet NegaGosalyn was not interested in any of this, as NegaHooter still eluded her. Starting to grow increasingly concerned the longer the rebellious owl remained unfound, she ordered everyone to spilt up and search for NegaHooter at any location in the building, and then later made it everyone's first standing order. Taking NegaRowe and Crimson with her, NegaGosalyn then personally went to check all the likely and possible avenues of escape available to NegaHooter, to see if he was there and if not, to make sure they remained cut off from him.
Her first place to check was a rooftop launching pad placed on the top floor of the building, and as it turned out, it was a good thing she chose to check there first, because on their way to check it out, they heard the sound of an aircraft engine starting up.
"C'mon!" NegaGosalyn said urgently to her companions as she broke out into a run for the launching pad. "We have to stop whoever it is that's trying to escape!"
They quickly arrived at the double doors leading into the room containing the launching pad, but of course, they were locked. NegaRowe quickly intervened by forcing the doors open with a few well-placed kicks. Pushing them open, the trio then pushed into the room only to be greeted with the sight of NegaHooter and NegaMia making an attempt to escape in an aircraft standing on long metal legs, with NegaHooter still in the process of climbing into the copilot's seat, and NegaMia already safely situated in the pilot's seat.
Crimson recognized the aircraft almost immediately. "The EGRT?" she asked questioningly, in surprise.
"Agent Mia!" NegaHooter cried out in warning as he saw the party enter.
NegaMia glanced up from the controls she had been working at and quickly flipped a switch on the control panel.
"Stop them!" NegaGosalyn ordered, and proceeded to open fire on the aircraft.
Only to find her shots stopped by a shield of energy surrounding the aircraft, protecting it from harm.
The three lowered their weapons in surprise.
"It's got a shield?" NegaRowe exclaimed in surprise.
Any further conversation was cut short as NegaMia returned fire by turning the aircraft's guns on the intruders, firing liberally and forcing them to take cover. It also bought enough time for NegaHooter to finish clambering into the aircraft and strapping himself in. While continuing the firefight, he and NegaMia continued their preparations to escape, warming up the aircraft, and opening a pair of doors in the roof of the room that opened it up to the sky outside. NegaGosalyn and company continued to fire at the craft, attempting to stop them, or at least slow them down, but were unable to get their shots past the aircraft's protective shield.
The aircraft then launched upwards into the air, retracting its legs as it did so as it took flight, rising on up and out of the building. From within the cockpit, NegaHooter could be seen cheekily giving NegaGosalyn a mocking salute. And still the shield protecting the craft could not be penetrated.
NegaGosalyn was growing increasingly angry. "Attention all troops!" she shouted into a radio while keeping one eye on the fleeing craft. "A craft is now exiting the building with our target within! I want everyone to turn all weapons on that craft and…"
She trailed off as she saw the craft slowly turn invisible as a cloaking device was engaged. Soon all that could be detected of the fleeing aircraft was the roar of its engine as it flew off, undetected and unopposed.
The battle ended not long after that. As predicted, without NegaHooter to keep them united, and their resolve being strained under the success of NegaGosalyn's attacking forces, the enemy troops soon started to fall apart, some even turning on each other to vent their frustrations upon. Others kept fighting until they were subdued by force, but by then, they had already lost the fight. However, the victory was somewhat hollow due to NegaHooter's unexpected escape, and NegaGosalyn wanted answers on where and when NegaHooter obtained such an aircraft, having never seen the likes of it in the Negaverse before.
But as it turned out, no one really knew where it had come from. Even the captured rebelling FOWL agents knew little about it, some saying that they had heard of some kind of project taking place on that launching pad, but didn't know the details of what it was, or even that it was operational. There were also widely varying accounts on what NegaHooter's plans were, with most of them not lining up with what actually transpired, or conflicting with each other.
"I can only assume that Hooter's plans were far more elaborate than we anticipated," NegaGosalyn concluded in finality as the mess the battle had left was being cleaned up. "And whatever they were, he kept them to himself. Not even Launchpad knew what NegaHooter's plans were, apparently having been told they were something else from what NegaHooter actually did, and in fact, that was the only reason he and others were even cooperating in the first place. So they were understandably a little miffed when they were left behind."
"So they're willing to tell all about what was going on because NegaHooter cheated them, then?" Crimson asked as they walked through the war-torn hallways.
"Well no, there's still a good number that are keeping quiet still," NegaGosalyn explained. "Maybe further interrogation will get them to crack, but that's not the point. The point is that Hooter escaped." She sighed. "Negaduck was right. I wasn't prepared to handle him."
"Well, at least you've got FOWL back under your control now, right?" Darkwing inquired.
NegaGosalyn nodded. "Yes, I have that much," she agreed, "which means I can keep it out of Hooter's hands now. I'll begin reforming it immediately, merging it with the UIO and get it answering to me only. So when Hooter shows up again, he's going to be hard pressed to find forces that will rally behind him."
"I'm more interested in this aircraft that NegaHooter escaped in," Techno remarked aloud. "Crimson, you said it looked like the EGRT, right?"
"What's the EGRT?" NegaGosalyn asked.
"Isn't that a small fat bird with a long thin beak?" Launchpad asked aloud.
"No, EGRT is the Experiment General Retaliatory Transport," Darkwing said. "It was an aircraft the military built in the Posiverse some years ago. They ended up not putting it into full service, but it was still a pretty impressive craft that could travel on land, sea, and air."
"NegaHooter's little craft looked just like it," Crimson explained. "Only it had a few new tricks up its sleeve to boot."
"Like the shield and the cloak," NegaGosalyn guessed.
"Yeah, which puzzles me more, because the cloak sounds a lot like the stealth technology we use on the Thunderquack II," Techno stated.
"And the shield looked like that shield you were able to create with the same stealth technology not so long ago, Tech," Crimson added.
"But that little craft couldn't have enough power to create a shield like that, much less power a cloaking device at the same time," Techno protested.
"All I know is that I have no clue where Hooter, let alone FOWL, obtained such technology," NegaGosalyn pressed. "It's very advanced for Negaverse tech. Hooter's clearly been keeping this secret and under wraps for a long while."
"You think Negaduck might know something about it?" Crimson asked.
"Honestly?" NegaGosalyn asked. "I'd doubt it. Hooter's clearly been planning this for a long time, and you heard Negaduck, Hooter's playing to take it all for himself. That would be a plan he wouldn't go telling to Negaduck." She then stopped and moved in front of the others. "Look, either way, the raid was successful. Hooter may have escaped and will no doubt try again at a later date, but that's my problem now. You guys have done your part in this matter, for which I am very grateful, and I thank you all for your help."
"Don't mention it, NegaGos," Darkwing said. "We all want to see the Negaverse become a better place. We're more than happy to help make it exactly that."
"Then thank your Hooter back at SHUSH as well, then," NegaGosalyn added. "It was the forces he sent through that helped give us just enough of an edge to pull this off."
"We'll be sure to tell him, NegaGos," Launchpad assured her.
"So I guess that's that, then?" Crimson asked. "Time for us to part ways again?"
"Yeah, I have a whole mess of work to do here," NegaGosalyn admitted. "Quirks of being large and in charge and all. Otherwise I'd come see you all off. But the UIO will see to it that you all get back to your universe safely, and, again…thank you. For everything."
"You're more than welcome," Crimson assured her double.
So after bidding a few more farewells, the group then parted ways and started off.
"Huh," Techno remarked aloud once he and the others had gotten a few feet off. "I just realized something. This whole raid has forcibly removed NegaHooter from power, and from his position as director."
"Yeah, so?" Crimson asked.
"Well, is it just me, or does that seem a bit coincidental that our Hooter is working to retire from his own post as director at about the same time?"
The four were quiet for a moment as this realization sank in.
"Maybe there's a connection," Launchpad reasoned.
"This is the Negaverse, after all," Darkwing pointed out. "It's taken several steps to become its own entity these past few years, but it's still a parallel universe of our own Posiverse. Similarities probably are to be expected." He sighed. "But I'm not worrying about that at the moment."
"Then what are you worrying about at the moment?" Crimson asked. "That NegaHooter escaped?"
"No. NegaHooter isn't going to be a problem until he stops fleeing and takes action again, and I think that could be a little while."
"Are you worried about the fact that he has technology in his possession that the Negaverse normally doesn't have?"
"No again, for the same reasons, and that NegaGos said she'd worry about that."
Crimson thought for a moment. "Is it the fact that Hooter's about to retire, then?"
"That does worry me, but it's not what's worrying the most."
"Then I give up. What are you worried about?"
"What the Muddlefoots might have done to my house while we were gone."
But as it turned out, the Muddlefoots surprised them all.
When they finally returned to the Mallard home that evening, back in their usual attire and ready to face whatever Herb and Binkie might have to throw at them, the first thing Drake was pleased to note was the fact that the outside of the house seemed the same as it had always been. But then again, it was the inside he was more concerned about.
"We're back!" Drake announced with some hesitation as he and the others stepped through the front door.
Binkie poked her head in through the living room entrance. "Oh, perfect timing, Drake!" she said sweetly. "We just finished working on your living room! Come see! I think you'll find we exceeded your expectations with it!"
"Oh great," Drake said, already dreading what he'd see as he obediently walked towards the living room so to see the damage. "Let me guess, you changed the wallpaper with something else, something fashion-y, like, I don't know, bunnies or…"
He trailed off when he looked into the living room and saw that nothing was amiss about it at all. Everything had been restored back to the way it had always been, and the furniture all returned to their usual places and everything. Herb was even in the middle of placing a fresh vase of daffodils on the coffee table. Drake's beak nearly unhinged in surprise. He wasn't the only one. Even Honker seemed surprised at what he saw.
It was Launchpad, as usual, who summed it up best. "Wow."
Drake began searching for the right words to say. "This is…but I thought…Binkie, I thought you…the wallpaper's the same still!"
"Well, of course, Drake, you made it very clear how you wanted it," Binkie explained proudly, pleased by Drake's response.
Drake numbly started into the living room, a grin starting to appear on his face as he looked the room over with growing enthusiasm. "It's…it's all perfect!" he exclaimed. "There's my chair! There's my couch!" he suddenly tripped and fell. "There's that rug I'm always tripping over! I love that rug!"
Gosalyn helped him up. "So," she began, "you think you have something to say to the Muddlefoots then?" she asked, pleased.
Drake blinked then looked at Herb and Binkie, watching him expectantly.
"Herb, Binkie," he began. "I never thought I'd say this, but…thank you."
"Why, you're welcome Drake!" Binkie declared. "It was our pleasure!"
"Anything to help out our favorite neighbor!" Herb added, also pleased.
Drake could only grin. For once, the Muddlefoots had actually pulled through for him.
"But anyway, while we'd love to help out more," Binkie continued, "I'm afraid it's getting late, and we have our own house to tend to. We'll come back to help some more tomorrow!"
"Bye guys, see you later," Honker added, joining his parents as they left.
Launchpad, Gosalyn, and Drake were thus left to themselves.
"Well!" Gosalyn concluded, clapping her hands together. "I think that went swimmingly."
Drake settled in on the couch, still grinning broadly. "At least today has ended on a good note," he remarked, pleased.
But of course, that good note ended fairly quickly, especially as the day of Hooter's retirement arrived. On that day, things were a fairly solemn throughout SHUSH as Hooter prepared to leave the building as its director for the last time. Darkwing and the gang had arrived so to see Hooter off, and from there, the idea snowballed, and soon a wide variety of other SHUSH employees were gathering so to see the director off.
Agent Mia was among them, and was heading downstairs to join the others when she passed Agent Grant's office. Chancing a glance, she saw the agent was still at his desk.
"Agent Grant, sir!" she said, surprised, letting herself into the office to see what he was doing. "Aren't you coming down to see the director off?"
"Of course I am," Agent Grant responded with an irritated grunt as he worked. "I'll be there in a moment."
It was then that Mia saw what he was doing. He was meticulously taking his things about the office and placing them neatly in a box. In other words…
"You're packing?" Mia asked, surprised.
Grant sighed. "Yes, I'm afraid so," he replied.
Mia's heart sank as she realized what this meant. "Then…I take it you aren't going to be replacing Hooter as director."
Grant shook his head. "I received word today," he stated. "They're reassigning me, sending me across the pond to command my own team of agents in England as soon as the new director arrives. It's actually not a bad assignment. They could do worse."
"I suppose," Mia agreed with a heavy sigh. "But that means we've have no hope of getting someone as director that we already know, and know we can work with well."
Grant looked at her understandingly. "It'll work out, Agent Mia," he assured her. "I have the assurances of the president that they are considering the best of the best for the job, and that he's keeping Vice President Norrin at bay at the same time."
"While I appreciate President Ravenspell's efforts, you and I both know Norrin well enough to know that won't stop him forever," Mia pointed out. "Do you at least know who they're considering as the replacement director?"
Grant shook his head. "They seem more interested in keeping us in suspense for now," he admitted. "But I'm taking that to mean they just want to make sure they get the best person they can for the job."
They were both silent for a moment. Mia was just about to half-heartedly make the attempt to thank Agent Grant for his words when he sighed and hung his head.
"Oh who am I kidding?" he asked aloud in defeat. "Let's face it. With Director Hooter leaving…things just aren't going to be the same anymore."
Mia sighed, nodding in agreement. "Let's just hope it's not going to be a bad change."
"Where did all of these reporters come from?" Crimson asked with a frown as she looked out the lobby window at all of the reporters and press that had amassed anxiously outside, awaiting Hooter's departure. "I thought you had wanted this to be kept small and simple, Hooter."
"I did," Hooter responded darkly. "Clearly though, someone slipped to the news stations what is going on, though."
"I'd bet anything that it was a certain vice president we all know and hate," Darkwing growled bitterly.
"I don't know what he hoped to gain from it, then," Techno remarked. "Not less he wishes to rub in the fact that Hooter's leaving, like it was done under duress or something."
"I refuse to give him the satisfaction," Hooter stated determinedly. "I will go out there with my head high, completely confident of what I am doing. I will not acknowledge the press or anything. I have made my choice, and it was my choice alone to make it."
"In that case…" Darkwing said, drawing the owl's attention back to him, "…you best say your goodbyes now."
Hooter sighed, and turned to face Darkwing and gang, and the many SHUSH employees of all sorts that had filed into the lobby behind them. Sighing again, he nodded, and moved to stand where he could be seen by all.
"Agents of SHUSH," he began slowly. "Coworkers, friends…I know my retirement plans have been met with mixed feelings from all of you. But…I know that despite your misgivings, despite your wishes to see me stay…you have all rallied behind me in my choice in the end, and have given your support. And…I thank you all for that. And for the loyal and, dare I say it, undying work you all have done for me. For this organization. For this city. For this country. For this world. Heck, for this universe of all things even! And I can state here and now to anyone, anywhere, that I fully expect all of you to continue giving your absolute best to do your jobs, and continue to make all of that a better place, and to keep it safe always."
"Now I know you all don't want to see me go. I don't blame you. Deep down, I would prefer it if I could stay as well if I could. But I can't. I just can't anymore. I'm not the same, young, spry owl I used to be. Time has taken its toll, and I cannot ignore it any longer. We've all really been putting off the inevitable when you get right down to it. I simply could not have been around forever, and we all know it. We just didn't like to think about it. Now we have no other choice, but if it helps, think of the fact that we're all lucky I was able to keep going for this long. And know that we have been through thick and thin together and certainly have done more than our part for the world and the multiverse it exists in. Yet you all keep doing it anyway. And that's all I really want from all of you. So please, no matter who you get to replace me, just be sure you keep doing what you do and absolutely nothing less than that."
"So…that said, I wish you all goodbye, and I wish you well. Agent Grant, Agent Mia, Agent Sandy, Dr. Bellum, Lieutenant Taylor, and all of you. I wish you well."
He then turned to Darkwing and the gang, and sighed one more time.
"Crimson, Techno," he began, shaking their hands in turn. "I wish you both well in your endeavors, and may you both succeed in the lives you wish to seek."
"Thank you director," Techno said.
"We'll miss you sir," Crimson added.
"Launchpad," Hooter continued, turning to the pilot, who had gotten very teary-eyed. "You…" he grinned. "You keep on being you. Oh, and one more thing," he had Launchpad lean over so he could whisper in his ear. "You treat Mia well, you hear?"
Launchpad only blanked out for a moment, a little surprised by Hooter's comment. Grinning, Hooter patted him on the arm, and then turned to the final person he had to address. His smile faded slightly.
"Darkwing," he stated.
"J. Gander," Darkwing answered.
A moment passed, and then the masked mallard held out a hand. Hooter accepted it and quite firmly and warmly shook it. Then he pulled Darkwing into a friendly, one-armed hug.
"You take care of yourself, J. Gander," Darkwing instructed.
"You too, Darkwing," Hooter replied. "You too."
That done, he then picked up his briefcase and turned to face the door. Taking a deep breath in, he then pressed out into the throng of reporters outside. There, SHUSH agents were already moving into position to keep the reporters far back, but of course, they weren't going to let that stop them from getting their story, and immediately a flurry of comments, questions, and calls for Hooter's attention arose.
"Director Hooter, how do you think this will impact SHUSH?"
"Is it true that you are retiring out of duress?"
"Director, who do you think will replace you?"
"What are your plans now, Director Hooter?"
Hooter ignored all of the questions, just as he said he would, and walked determinedly down the steps and across the walk towards the car that waited for him, eyes kept firmly ahead. He only looked back as he proceeded to climb into the back of the car, and then he focused only on Darkwing and the many others friends and coworkers that gathered on the building's step. He gave them one final salute, which was quickly returned by all, before he climbed into the car. With a roar of the engine, its driver then drove it on down the road, around a corner, and then it was gone.
A momentary lull fell as everyone turned to watch the car go. But then the reporters were back at it again, this time turning their attention on Darkwing, his companions, and the SHUSH agents. But like Hooter, they did not acknowledge the reporters, or do much to answer any questions.
"Darkwing Duck, how do you feel about all of this?" one reporter asked.
Darkwing turned his attention in the direction of the reporter, his face neutral. "That a good man has left SHUSH."
Fun Facts: Man...it's been awhile since I did one of these. Um...
I suppose I should start off with explaining what to expect from me on the matter of NADWD. Well, short answer is: more chapters. Long answer: they're likely going to come at a very sporadic rate, and while I'm going to work at producing them as fast as I can, there will probably be long delays between them. Also, I have altered my plans for NADWD AGAIN, and have cut my plans short some. We still have a good number of chapters still until we reach the end, but...the end is a lot closer now than it was last chapter. Worry about that later, though, when we get closer to it. With my luck, it'll probably be not until another year til we reach that point. But, in the end, just know that NADWD is still continuing, and that I have NOT forgotten, and as I have said repeatedly in the past, I fully intend to see it through to the end.
Now...to the chapter itself.
First off, you probably didn't notice this, but I deliberately left out the chapter rating for this chapter. That's because it struck me that rating individual chapters like that was kind of silly, and it was becoming even more silly as each chapter was being consistently T rating anyway, so I've henceforth done away with that.
I always knew that Negaduck's invasion would be the game changer for NADWD, and that things would be very different afterwards, and among those things I decided that would be different, would be that DW would enjoy a massive spike in popularity, one I daresay he's been long overdue for. So right off the bat, I explore those possibilities with that parade, which was fun to write, especially as it provided a chance to have fun with DW's ego. Also, it gave me a chance to recap recent chapters briefly, as a refresher for the readers, since it's been awhile since I posted a chapter.
This is the first time Mayor Kim's appeared in NADWD since chpt. 70, "Laws of History."
Binkie's comment on Drake's living room looking nice in blue is a reference to chpt. 71, "Daughterless," in which we see an alternate version of the same in which it was indeed, blue.
Another point to show that NADWD has changed in flow, is that both Honker and Gos are looking at their futures after they graduate, both addressing it in their respective ways.
And yeah, in the space of time since I last posted a chapter, the show "Jumpgate: Universitas" was based upon got cancelled (darn it), so I scrubbed it's fictional counterpart accordingly. Of course, this does leave me with a small dilemma...what is the gang going to watch now? Hmm...I'll think of something, but I'll probably be...experimenting...with possible shows in the meantime.
I really don't use the Flashquacks often enough anymore, so they got a more than generous amount of love this chapter.
"Pop. Mechanisms" is based off of "Popular Mechanics".
And yeah, Hooter's retiring. If you really think about it, the poor guy has to be getting up there in years. I mean, he was looking old back in the original TV show, and NADWD takes place seven years after that and beyond. He's definitely at the age here retirement would be a reality. So I decided best make that happen, and, give's me the chance to shake things up further in NADWD. How will the gang react to a new director of SHUSH? Find out next chapter. Which hopefully won't be too delayed in coming.
And Agent Grant's getting written out as well, but it was in the plans to write out the 2IC with Hooter too since way back with Grizzlikof was still around (that was why I didn't mind writing out Grizzlikof when I did, because I knew I was going to do it later anyway).
I actually don't like that Morgana/Drake scene I threw in this, and was sorely tempted to cut it. If the chapter had run long (which it didn't), it would have been the first to go, in fact. But...I kept it in because I suppose it still did fit my purpose, even if it did come out cheesy, and the Morgana/Drake relationship needed SOME kind of addressing anyway, even if brief.
Launchpad is actually quoting a real show at his date with Mia, BTW. In fact, I could be in trouble for doing that, but...no regrets. ;)
And who here remembers Poe? Yeah, I kind of forgot him too, so I tried to fix that at least partially in this chapter, and hopefully have laid the foundations to keep him from slipping through the cracks so quickly again in future chapters.
I couldn't resist the "Doctor Hooves" gag. :P
No clue why MIT rejected Honker BTW, so don't ask. Wasn't in the plan to have him go to MIT anyway.
Oh yeah, and I had intended in this chapter for Honker, after several failed attempts, to ask Gos out on a date before the end, but I totally spaced it in the later half of the chapter, and forgot to include it, and can't figure out where to slip it in real quick, so that may have to wait until a later chapter.
It's gonna be fun writing NegaGos as leader of the Negaverse now. :D
I spent most of this chapter while writing it with no clear idea on what NegaHooter's plans were. Fortunately, I finally got an idea towards the end of writing, one in which I went "Oh yes! DUH! Why didn't I think of that before?" But they're deliberately vague in this chapter. We'll come back to that in a future chapter. :)
The EGRT is in reference to the episode from the show, "Tiff of the Titans," and yes, that is the proper acronym.
Drake's excited comments of "There's my couch," "There's my chair," and "there's my rug that I'm always tripping over" is a reference to the episode "Dead Duck," because I loved Jim Cummings's delivery of that line. :P
That ending scene with Hooter's farewell was actually a bit moving for me to write, and I was surprised by how much emotion I ended up putting into it. I have mixed feelings about that hug Hooter and DW share in the same farewell, since you can't just write about someone hugging these days without risking someone interpreting it with an ulterior meaning that just isn't there, but I quickly saw that a mere handshake just wasn't going to cut it. DW and Hooter just have been far too much for that.
Next chapter will be titled "A Different Kind of SHUSH," and will introduce the new director and 2IC of SHUSH, so until then everyone. :)