CHAPTER 1

St. Canard had seen plenty of disasters in its day--vampire potatoes, giant teddy bears, ducks turned dinosaur, to name a few--but none compared with the tragedy of the Plaza Hotel burning. At least three hundred people had been killed in the fire (which had actually been a massive explosion) and a similar number had been injured. The crooks responsible for the atrocity were included in the latter category, save two, who had escaped from the scene of the crime.

Drake Mallard blinked his bloodshot eyes and drummed his fingers nervously on the table as the latest news broadcast ended. It was bad enough--awful, in fact--that the Plaza Hotel had blown up. But to make his life worse, Gosalyn had disappeared.

Jumping abruptly to his feet, the duck ranted, "I should've been watching her! I should've paid more attention to what she's been doing!" He stopped and looked around with an utterly flabbergasted expression on his face. "I can't even remember the last thing I said to her! I've been so...so...absorbed in my own stupid problems that my daughter's run away!" A chilling thought occurred to him. "She wouldn't have gone downtown, would she have?" He paced across the room and clenched his fists. "It had to have been the Sinister Six; those malicious miscreants! Money just isn't enough, oh no, now they've moved to mindless mayhem! Er...well..." He stopped and thought for a moment. "I guess things are no different than before. Except before Darkwing Duck was always there to stop them." Collapsing back into his chair and dropping his head on the table, he moaned, "I'm a failure. At everything. What's the point?" Suddenly, something crossed his mind, and he raised his head. Three villains had been caught, two had escaped. "That's only five," he mumbled. "Where's the sixth? That's odd..."

~

"Ooh..." Megavolt groaned. "My head hurts...and my arm...and my leg...and my chest...and my--"

"Can it!" Quackerjack shouted from across their prison cell.

Megavolt shifted in an unsuccessful attempt to find a comfortable position on the hard prison cot. Life was so unfair. He could--no, should--have been out on the streets, freeing the enslaved, rescuing the abused... He pulled the one poor soul he'd managed to save out of his jumpsuit and stared at it mournfully. There was a slight crack in the red lightbulb. It looked as if no one had escaped that blasted--er, no pun intended--hotel uninjured. On the other side of the cell, Quackerjack was nursing his own wounds, which included a nasty bump on the head, a twisted ankle, and a myriad of cuts and scrapes. Bushroot, their other captured comrade, was suffering from an even nastier bump on the head and a battered dignity.

"Can't you get us out of here?" the plant-duck whined.

"Sure, I'd love to Veggie," Megavolt replied crossly. "I'll just start in on that since I've got my battery pack and an electrical socket right here."

With a sigh, Bushroot ignored Megavolt's sarcasm and said, "Then I guess we're stuck in here. Too bad--I was looking forward to go to the Villains Charity Ball."

Sitting up painfully, Quackerjack reminded him patronizingly, "Hate to break it to you, weed, but we never go to the Villains Charity Ball. We never even get invited. Tuskernini and his stupid party committee are too afraid of Negaduck to send us invitations."

"But Negaduck's gone."

Quackerjack crossed his eyes. "But no one knows but us."

"Well, it doesn't matter," Megavolt broke in, "because we're in jail. Why do you want to go to that stupid party, anyway?"

The jester's eyes widened. "Do you even have to ask? It's a major gala event! And I'd have a date."

At this, Bushroot snapped his fingers and glared murderously at Quackerjack. "That's why we're in here! It's your fault!"

"Um...heh...what?"

"That heroine that showed up! That's the girl you've been obsessing over!"

Megavolt sat up slowly and looked at the jester. "Reeally?"

Bushroot nodded emphatically. "There was nothing in the front desk. And then she showed up. And the army. And the police."

"You're gonna die, you freaky toymaker," the rodent informed Quackerjack evenly.

Quackerjack shrieked and covered his head, but when nothing happened, he peeked out at Megavolt, who had an agonized expression on his face. "Or at least," the rodent amended, "you'll die when I can move, which, at the moment, I can't."

Swallowing in relief, the duck taunted weakly, "Nyah, nyah, you can't zap me anyway. The cops drained all your electricity."

"Thanks for reminding me."

The three of them fell silent until Bushroot spoke up meekly, "How long do you think we'll be in here?"

Megavolt and Quackerjack looked at each other thoughtfully, and the duck said, "Probably a long time. Premeditated murder, y'know. It sticks with you."

"I'm not a killer!" Bushroot gasped.

"Well, we killed," Megavolt told him flatly.

"I didn't want to."

Megavolt shrugged. "Yeah, I'd probably be feeling pretty bad, but I'm still really woozy from getting electrocuted." After a moment, he questioned, "Anyone know if Luminas and Licky got away?"

~

The Liquidator studied a bizarre, twisted mass of metal perched precariously on a lab table in the old Audubon Bay Lighthouse. "What's this thing?" he questioned.

A young cat dressed predominantly in black glanced over her shoulder. "That's a gamma ray particle analyzer."

"What does it do?"

"You've got me."

The cat, known simply as Luminas to most people, approached the watery canine. "Megavolt was working on this. He was pretty proud of it."

"It doesn't look like a weapon of mass destruction," the Liquidator mused.

"I don't think it is," she murmured.

"Then it's not going to help us break them out."

Luminas shook her head glumly and remarked in the same manner, "Even if something in here does turn out to be useful, neither of us would know how to use it."

"Too bad you're not an electrical genius."

"Too bad I'm not a regular genius," she snorted. "Heck, it'd be nice to be a criminal genius, but I'm not. And I think we might just have to break them out the old-fashioned way."

"And that would be?" the Liquidator inquired, raising an aqueous eyebrow.

"No clue. But I think it involves a cake and a shovel."

The two of them exited the lab and were immediately bombarded with a young girl's voice yelling, "You better let me go or you'll be sorry! When Darkwing Duck finds out about this you're both going to be--" "Oh, shutup," Luminas cut her off boredly. "You're not getting anywhere by yelling, and I highly doubt that Darkwing Duck is going to come and rescue you."

At this comment, the Liquidator narrowed his eyes and stared at Luminas, who noticed and squirmed uncomfortably.

"He is coming, and you can't shut me up!" the girl shouted obnoxiously. "You don't even know how to keep a hostage! You're supposed to keep me happy so that when you ransom me and my family pays we won't go to the cops!"

Luminas gritted her teeth, grabbed a roll of duck tape, and advanced on the girl, who was bound in a corner. "Y'know what, Gosalyn? The first hour or so of listening to you scream your head off was mildly amusing. Then it got old. Then it quickly progressed to being downright annoying. Now..." She stopped and tore a piece of tape off the roll. "...it is grating on every nerve in my entire body." The cat neatly placed the tape over Gosalyn's mouth in a self-satisfied way. "And just think: if you'd been quiet, I wouldn't have had to do that."

Gosalyn attempted to yell something, but it came out more as "Mm mmn mmm mmph mm!" which prompted Luminas to roller her eyes and seek out the Liquidator, who had vanished to Megavolt's tiny excuse for a kitchen for no particular reason other than the fact that he was sick of Gosalyn's voice.

"So," he began in that voice that meant he knew something he wasn't supposed to, "Our little captive sounded pretty sure about Darkwing Dip coming to the rescue."

"Did she? I can't imagine why..."

The Liquidator smiled unpleasantly. "He's still alive, isn't he? You and Sparky didn't kill him. I bet you couldn't. That's not really surprising, though--you two are too soft-hearted for your own good. But which one of you had the guts to lie to Negaduck?"

Luminas smirked at him, untroubled by his deduction. "Who do you think?"

"You, obviously. Sparky's also a coward."

"He's not really as chicken as he seems," the cat defended him offhandedly.

"You are in love with him, aren't you?"

She turned and coldly shot a ball of flame at him, blasting his arm into mist. At his annoyed expression, the cat remarked, "I don't understand why everyone assumes that. I can't stand men. They're all swine."

"Well, you certainly spend a lot of time with us," the Liquidator observed. "Maybe someday you'd like to enlighten us all as to why we're swine?"

She pressed her lips together and looked away. "It's personal. Too personal for the likes of you to hear."

~

Avia Triks (or the Flying Wonder, as most were supposed to know her) sat dismally in her apartment. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to be feeling. Elation? No, that couldn't be right. True, she had put three major supervillains in jail, but at what price? When she had warned the police of the planned felony, she had expected them to evacuate the hotel. But they hadn't. And people had died. A lot of people had died.

At that moment, Avia decided she felt like scum. Traitorous scum. It couldn't possibly have been even remotely in-the-ordinary to put a prospective boyfriend in prison. And Quackerjack hadn't been a bad fellow. Sure, people said he was a dangerous lunatic, but she'd found him to be...sweet. And more than a little goofy. She'd even let him kiss her good-night.

In a moment of absolute truth, Avia admitted to herself that she really had liked Quackerjack...quite a bit. But how could a hero stoop to that? It had to be a moral crime or...or...something.

"I'm probably just not cut out to be a hero," she sighed for about the fifth time that day.

That was the story of her life. She'd never fit in--at least not in the places she'd wanted to. In her childhood, she'd always wanted to play sports--but she was too small and not early tough enough. So she'd turned to music. That had been disappointing as well--instruments hated her, as did the choir teachers and most of the choir kids. Theater was yet another humiliation. Art, a horrible failure. Her writing skills were passable at best. The only places she really excelled in were the plain old boring school subjects of math, science, grammar, and history. Her parents had forced her to join the math club, since that was one of the only places people accepted her. That was unfortunate, because Avia couldn't stand math. But that was the irony of her life.

The one thing that had kept her going all those years was her idol. Darkwing Duck. She'd known that name before anyone else in St. Canard. She'd wanted to be his sidekick, but she was only twelve at the time, and her parents, obviously, wouldn't allow it. But now Darkwing duck was gone, and she was just beginning her career as a hero.

Avia sighed. Too bad she couldn't be happy about it.

~