DIB, Part 4
Written by Zelda
Zelda could see the guards. Ten of them, five to each side of the huge, black bay doors that marked the entrance to the dome-shaped Charg mothership. Now was go time, but the guards would be a problem. She and Duke couldn't take them alone.
Duke motioned her to crouch in the leaves. "The others are almost ready sweetheart." he whispered. "All we have to do is hope we're not seen."
Zelda nodded and lay tensely beside him. She watched the guards carefully as they stood, alert and ready by the doors. Her mind wandered slowly to the Territory. She thought of all of her kind, the clan that she lead, that she hadn't seen in at least a month. She was but a few miles from them, and suddenly hit by a pang of homesickness. She thought of them all snuggling into their beds, or perhaps a few of them were stealing a nightly drink by the river, or playing a game of tag in the dark. She missed all her friends, worried about them with this fight but a little ways from her home. She shook her head as she realized how homesick the Ducks must feel from time to time. If she didn't like being across the country from her home, she wouldn't be able to stand being in another dimension. It was harder for them, she reassured herself. Her homesickness was rather selfish in comparison. An activity amongst the guards snapped her back to attention. One of them was talking on a com, the others listening intenly to the conversation. They broke and picked up their laser staffs, beginning to flank out into the woods, moving towards she and Duke! "Did they see us?" she suddenly panicked.
"Easy... maybe they're worried that the patrol didn't come in on time." Duke stood slowly, keeping his eyes on the approaching guards.
"Do we move?" Zelda whispered.
Duke silenced her. "Too late." he mouthed. The guards were getting too close. If they moved, their cover would be blown. They'd have to stay put and hope the foliage hid them.
Zelda froze, ready to spring on the first guard that spotted the both of them. Suddenly, the woods about sixty feet away burst into laser fire! The guards and Ducks both jumped about three feet up in surprise as at least a hundred Alterian rebels suddenly poured out of the woods, illuminating the night with their lasers and guns blazing.
Duke pulled Zelda to her feet and they both ran through the hail towards the open entrance of the ship.
"Talk about being just in time!" Zelda yelped.
They were about to dive into the entranceway, when suddenly a whole troop of Chargs, perhaps as many as fifty, burst through the doorway, running in formation. Duke and Zelda stumbled back outside and flattened themselves against the hull of the ship, trying not to be seen.
"We'll have to fight our way in!" Duke yelled, tearing his sabre from his shoulder. "Let's go!" He started slashing through the closest line of guards as they exited, slowly parting his way into the ship.
Zelda flew up and soared over the heads of the guards, having an easy time getting in. She landed as Duke finally shoved his way through, the last of the Chargs exiting. They were finally in the ship. It was huge, the tunnel that they were in extending strait back, the ceiling 20 feet up.
"Got a map?" Zelda asked.
"We'll find Dive and Grin, come on!" They both started running again, back down the hallway.
The fighting was furious. The forest lit up like a red police flare on the side of a road, hissing and sparking in incandescent flame. Even though she was far from the battle, Mallory cringed.
"Time to go." Kazor was talking to one of his lieutenants. "Are we all ready?"
"First lines have their arms in place, seconds are ready, third and fourth lines will be prepared in less than a minute."
"Excellent. And the second half of our troop?"
"They report to be in position Kazor."
"What about our report from the first troop? What are we looking at for a battle here?"
"The first troop reports one fourth has been lost to injury, the Chargs are continuing to send backup from their ship."
"Then it's time we even our odds. Start the countdown for the second charge, in thirty seconds we attack!"
"Yes Kazor." the lieutenant saluted him and scurried off into the brush.
Mallory finished loading her puck cannon and wiped her brow. "You're a better leader than I thought you would make Kazor. You've really got this whole thing organized." she complimented.
"Mallory, I've had years to think about this. From the very day I took over the rebel group, I started planning how I was going to destroy the Chargs once and for all. I've been waiting for this battle for a long time." he said grimly. "Now get ready, we've got ten seconds to lock and load."
The attack came from two sides, closing in on the Charg fighters like a garbage compactor. The second troop had split in half, taken station on opposite sides of the battlefield, and charged. They now were pressuring the Chargs on three fronts. The battle was incredible. Mallory was instantly enveloped in the light and heat of the laser fire, watching all the bodies moving around her. She was suddenly back in the Special Forces, suddenly back in the Second Saurian War, suddenly back to to crushing hunter drones beneath her foot. It was like the fight over Puckworld was happening all over again. Mallory shivered, a combination of deja vu and fear running down her spine. She clicked her puck cannon and sent Charg guards falling all around her. It was good to be back in her element.
Duke moved as soundlessly as a cat as he ran down the main hall.
Zelda kept at his heels in envy, talons clicking rhythmically on the cold metal floor. They whirled past door after door, sealed shut with no apparent way of opening them from the outside.
Duke was getting frustrated. Suddenly they spotted a door, halfway down, which was open and let a beam of light out from it. They stopped close to the entrance, flattening themselves against the wall in order to peek in. It was another huge room, with a great pedestal at the end of it. Upon that pedestal, on a huge chair, sat some bloated, moving object, swaying and bulging back and forth.
The two squinted to recognize none other than the Emperor Charg himself, barking at an underling of his about the sudden attack. The two couldn't make the conversation out, and shrank back into the hallway.
"Why that no good..." Duke snarled under his breath. "I'd like to give him a sample of my skills as a cosmetic surgeon." He unsheathed his sabre in threat.
Zelda pulled his arm back."Defeating him's an honor only Kazor deserves." she whispered. "Our job is to find the others."
Duke nodded slowly. "You're right, you're right." He still kept a seething eye on the doorway. "Let's keep low and get across."
The two darted across the doorway like scared rats, shrinking back against the wall on the other side, sighing dangerously loud in relief. Suddenly, a door at the entrance to the hall flew open, and the hallway filled with the thunder of the feet of another Charg batallion. Reinforcements. The rebels must have caught the Chargs on the run! The two grinned at each other and started down the hall again. They were about to pass another door when it flew open in front of them! The two gasped and crouched on the floor, but only a single Charg guard came bustling out, fussing with his laser staff and not noticing the two.
"Blasted war." he muttered to himself. "I'm no warrior, I'm just a prison guard! Curses to Charg if I lose my head out there...." The two turned back as the door started to automatically close.
Duke wedged his foot in it, and it opened again. "Come on, I've got a hunch." he waved Zelda in, and they both found themselves in a much narrower, lower hallway. They started to run again. Now they would have some chance of finding the others. "That guy said he was a prison guard."
"Perhaps he had knowledge of where the others were." Zelda said. "Was it wise to let him go?"
"I'm sure we can find them on our own." Duke stared straight ahead as he ran, the hallway stretching and curving like a lazy serpent before them. The two stopped dead at a fork. Duke scratched his head, thinking hard.
Zelda started to sniff the ground.
"Anything?" Duke asked.
"The scent is poor..." Zelda was frustrated as she continued to pace, snout to the floor. "I'd say we go this way." she finally pointed to the left.
"The nose knows." Duke joked, as they both picked up the run again. Again they jogged down a long and twisting metal hallway, gradually slowing themselves to a walk along the way. There was something near, they both could sense it. Duke instinctively began to slink along the wall again. Finally they both stopped at a curve. There was something around the bend. There were voices, coming from far down in the tunnel, echoing off the walls. This far away they were indecipherable. Again frustration. Could they be Dive and Grin? Or perhaps they were the head of a whole troop of Charg soldiers, chatting about the battle plan. They could be walking into a trap. Duke silently slipped around the bend, rounding the curve and continuing on. Zelda followed him as he drew his sabre and held it before him. The voices slowly became clearer, the scent of the voice's owners became more prominent. It was their own. Duke could tell too, but they still proceeded with the same caution. There could still be guards. Duke peeked around a bend to see the cell across the way, blue bars of electricity separating him from Grin, Nosedive, and Jay. He was thrilled to find them. "Pssst!" he hissed at the three.
Nosedive's head shot up, and he instantly grinned from ear to ear.
Although relived, Duke was instinctively angry at him. Keep your cool, you're gonna blow our cover kid!
Nosedive realized his facial expression, checked himself, and then signaled to him. No guard. So it was safe.
Now Duke smiled, and let Zelda peek out from behind him.
"Man am I glad to see you guys!" Dive celebrated in a whisper.
"Ditto." Zelda trotted close to the bars. "Everyone in one piece?"
"Mostly, except Grin here." Jay gestured to the gray duck that towered above him, still sitting crookedly to avoid aggravating his wound.
"I believe I shall live." Grin nodded sarcastically.
"So what's goin' on? Wha'd we miss?" Jay stood up quickly. "Any real action?"
"There's a war going on out there." Duke gestured outside the ship, not taking his eyes off of a control panel next to the cell.
"Jeez! The aliens get to have all the fun while I get locked up in here with YOU." Jay scowled lightly at Nosedive.
"Love you too man." Nosedive bit back.
"Stow it, both of you." Duke edged his voice higher. "If it weren't for Zel and I you'd still be here. You've got Wing and Kay worried sick." He continued to prod carefully at the control panel.
"Technical difficulties?" Jay asked.
"This is something for Tanya, not me." Duke sighed, squinting at the maze of buttons and knobs. "I hope she's alright. I hope they're all alright out there." he broke from his task to ponder for a moment.
"Yo, things are really that bad out there?" Jay ventured.
Duke nodded at him slowly, then resumed his task of observing the panel. Slowly he reached in and dabbled at the buttons. Suddenly, a blaringly loud alarm shattered the silence, and the hallway glowed red. Duke spat out a curse that was shrouded by the noise.
"Way to go!" Nosedive snarled sarcastically.
Duke threw up his hands in frustration at the panel and punched it angrily. The bars faded! "Come on, everyone in here's probably already distracted with the fighting outside. Tripping that alarm might have actually helped us!"
Jay jumped out of the cell. He opened another panel in the wall to find his noisy cricket and three puck launchers in a compartment. He grinned and kissed the gun before tucking it safely away in his suit. Nosedive grabbed his two launchers, spinning them on his fingers.
"We are BACK IN ACTION!" he celebrated, tossing the last launcher to Grin, who was just standing up and walking out.
Duke opened his com. "Mission accomplished. Now what?"
"Well duh we could use a little help out here guys!" Tanya yelled back at him. The video transmission was scratchy.
"On our way Tanya." Duke ended. "Let's go, everyone."
"Go on." Zelda told him. "I'll hang back with Grin. We'll be right behind you."
Duke nodded and started running with Dive and Jay, already halfway down the hall.
Grin rubbed his back and started to walk gingerly.
Zelda trotted at his heels. "Feeling okay?"
"I'll be fine." he growled. "Any word from Wildwing?"
"Not for a while." Zelda admitted. "But if I know Wing he's got something big up his sleeve." They entered the main hallway, bay doors opened wide and revealing the chaos of fighting beyond.
Grin broke into a run, heading out.
Blasts sheared inches over Tanya's hair, frazzling the ends. The Duck finished rolling over and stood back up, realigning her puck launcher and firing back upon a cloud of pursuers. She was being chased away from the others by the Chargs, almost as if she were singled out. Tanya panicked and kept running into the forest, getting blacker and blacker as she lost the fighting behind her. Three or four Chargs still pursued her. The Duck growled, taking her eyes off of the terrain ahead of her to try and pick them off as she fired behind her. She had to keep running, to trip and fall now would get her caught. And still they kept coming. Why couldn't she hit them?! Frustrated, she stopped and whirled around, firing angrily into the bushes. One Charg tripped and fell. She turned and ran again as laser fire started to come dangerously close. Suddenly, she felt her toe stub, her foot catch in something, and suddenly she was off balance, flying forward. She closed her eyes as her bracing hands met the dull crunch of dead leaves, her body only slightly cushioned as her palms were scraped in the dirt. She gasped and spun to get up again, when the yellow laser blasts rang around her, exploding the ground just a few feet from her. To move was to risk getting hit! Could they even see her in the darkness? Tanya was frozen by indecision. Did they have the optic capability to see well in the dark? They were cats... but what about their pinpointing capability and hand-eye coordination? Tanya really began to panic, loosing track of her calculations. Suddenly, munitions fire in a rainbow of colors ruptured from the black forest behind her, tearing up the earth. Tanya saw the black silouettes of the Charg warriors tumble to the ground. Then there was a yell, and the forest fell silent and dark again. Tanya stood up, still frozen in suprise. Suddenly there was a hand on her shoulder. Tanya spun around to see two red eyes glowing before her.
"Relax." Wildwing tried to calm her. "We've come to end this."
Duke was alarmed at the volume of it. Hundreds of Chargs must be in the fray, and just as many Alterians.
Nosedive whipped out his launchers and leapt from the bay of the ship with a yell of "DUCKS ROCCCKKKK!" and landed running on the ground, disappearing into the fight.
A stray laser blast ricocheted off the ship a few feet from Jay, startling him. He took out his cricket and braced himself against the outer wall of the ship.
"What're you doing kid?" Duke asked.
"Watch." Jay squinted and fired. The weapon sent out a blast that slammed ten fighters to the ground.
"Hey watch it!" Duke yelled. "You'll hit an Alterian!"
"That's not my problem yall." Jay shrugged. "My beat's on both of them aliens."
Duke shook his head and tore his sword off his shoulder, the blade flashing golden and swiping within a few inches of Jay's face.
"What the heck you think you doin' man?!?! Trying to get me killed?!"
"That's not my problem." Duke grinned, and darted off into the fight.
Jay growled and cocked his noisy cricket carefully and looked for an opportunity to jump in as well. Suddenly, a huge blast of light blue energy erupted like a volcano from the forest beyond the fight. It sailed up and spread like a hood over the fight, sparkling and bright. Jay knew exactly what it was. He smiled. Suddenly, a wall of black emerged from the forests all around the ship. A thousand weapons clicked on in unison. Hundreds of MiBs stood shoulder to shoulder, surrounding the ship with their weapons drawn. Chargs and Alterians both froze in their footsteps. It didn't take long for the Ducks to regroup and find Kay and Jay.
Kazor was standing with them, arguing. "We were forced here! If you'll just go take a look at the laser hole in the side of the ship..."
"No matter, you still didn't have to turn this into a war."
"Stow it Kazor. We'll be detaining you at MIB headquarters until we work all of this out." Kay snapped at him. Kazor found himself in handcuffs. The Ducks were in no place to object. There was a commotion as a party shoved their way through the fight, a group of MiBs leading the detained Emperor Charg to Kay. Upon seeing each other, the two leaders immediately struggled and flared at each other.
"Cuff him too boys!" Kay ordered.
"If you can find big enough cuffs..." Jay started.
"Ducks." Kay turned to them. "You did commendable work today. We need you to come back too."
"We understand." Wildwing nodded. "I believe all of us are okay, we'll head back to the Migrator and meet you at headquarters."
Kay turned around and walked off behind the two captives.
Jay snapped to and followed him.
Wildwing rubbed the back of his neck and shook his head. "Well this is one for the story books." he noted. "Come on, we'd better start back as well."
"I'll meet you back at the Migrator." Zelda hopped up into the trees. "No doubt my kind have been hiding from this fight, I'm going to go check in with them."
Wildwing gave and approving nod, and Zelda flapped away. Wildwing turned and started off into the wood. Suddenly, a Charg caught him on the arm.
The team spun around angrily to confront the lone soldier.
The lion cowered before the circle of Ducks. "Please..... you know the MiB... make them go easy on the Emperor..."
"We have little influence over them." Wildwing shook himself out of the Charg's grasp. "All we can argue for is fairness." With that, he tramped off into the forest, leaving the Charg and Alterian armies picking up the pieces of their war in the silence and shadow of hundreds of MiB.
Kazor stood up, grinning triumphantly as his lieutenant finished briefing him on the results of the battle. "You know my friends, we didn't start this fight, but we won it."
"Winning the fight perhaps." Grin was trying to reach the itchy bandage on his back. "But the war remains undetermined."
Kazor nodded musingly and ran a paw though his mane. "Still, it is good to know you Ducks are here. After I went to Alteir 4 I wondered about your fate. It is good to see you still have the upper hand over your enemy."
"As it is good to see your troops operating. Goodness knows Charg deserves what he's getting from you." Mallory stood with her back to the wall, near the solidly shut metal door, watching to see when they could get out of this holding room.
"Yeah, just do me a favor, the next time you start off a war, do it away from this planet!" Dive mocked anger.
Kazor took it lightly.
Suddenly, the door opened. Kay, Jay and Zedd came walking in. They seemed to ignore the Ducks, and paced right up to Kazor, seated in a simple wooden chair.
"Here's the rundown Slick." Kay told him. "You're getting off with the proverbial warning this time."
"Investigation of the battle site and your ship proved your story." Zedd started. "The Chargs are clearly in the wrong. Still, you're no saint, Junior."
"So what does he get?" Nosedive suddenly jumped it. "Torture in some alien lava pit? Does he get fed to some giant slug?"
"Community service." Kay said with a straight face. "You'll be helping to run an intergalactic daycare center on Verunius's third moon."
Duke leaned in Mallory's ear. "Talk about your childhood emotional scarring."
"And the Emperor?" Kazor asked hopefully.
Zedd turned and walked away as if he'd never heard him. Kay followed. Jay hesitated. "Well?" Kay frowned back at the young man.
"He's the one who gets fed to the slug." Jay grinned, and walked away too.
"Hey wait a second." Wildwing suddenly stood from his chair.
The three men halted.
"Now what about your end of the bargain?"
"I agree." Tanya stood as well. "We risked our tailfeathers out there for you! Surely that means something."
"We have already considered loosening our regional travel restrictions on you...." Kay began.
"No, I mean the whole thing." Wildwing walked up to him, frowning aggressively. "No limits, no rules. We're no enemy, we've never been."
Zedd and Kay leveled eyes. Then they glanced at Jay.
He immediately backed off.
"Hey you guys... they did save my butt out there." Nosedive cocked his head.
"Alright Ducks. Go on, get out of here and go catch up with your schedule. You can probably get up to Buffalo tonight."
The Ducks all cheered, Kazor grinned.
Zedd walked out, followed by Jay.
Kay paused for a while in the door and shook his head.
"I'll admit it Ducks, you do good work. But you caught a break today." He frowned. "Just keep an eye out for what you do. We'll be watching you." Kay walked out, leaving the door open behind him.