Disclaimer--- No ownership of the Ducks, but I ain't sellin' this stuff either.
Author's note--- This story is another chapter in my long-running Dragon Chronicles. Not every story in this series will be listed on FF.net, but all of them are listed in chronological writing order on my webpage. If you'd like to find out more about Zelda or other characters that will appear later in this series, visit my website at http://members.fortunecity.com/zeldathedragon and go to the information page. The rest of my stories can be found in the fanfiction section.
Rating: PG for violence and a little blood.
The Spiritfall Saga
Crossing the Line
Written by Zelda
Wildwing shifted the towel over the back of his neck back and forth before he refitted his glove and blocker, picked his stick up again, and locked himself in his typical goaltending position.
"You ready yet?" Nosedive called from the red line, tapping his stick on the ice impatiently.
"Shut up!" Wildwing laughed, shifting his leg pads quickly. "You try facing shots like you've been firing, you'd sweat too."
"That's what I hope every other goalie in this stinkin' league is doing bro!" Nosedive yelled back. With that, he lifted his stick back, shifted his hand along the shaft, and in a blur, let it rip forwards. The puck was a barely-detectable streak of gray as it zipped through the air, rising.
Wildwing shifted into position quickly, and stretched out a massive left hand, snagging the puck in his glove, jerking the webbing back. "Sheesh Dive!" Wildwing tossed the puck back to his brother, grinning. "You keep up a shot like that from the red line, let Mal and Duke put a screen in front of whatever unlucky goalie you're aiming at, and you'll have a goal 50% of the time."
Nosedive mopped his bill and puffed out his chest proudly.
"You keep up that arm Dive, I'm done for today." Wildwing took his water bottle off of the net and skated off the ice, taking all his gear with him. He waddled into the locker room, reminding himself how he was never able got get used to being off the ice with all this gear on. He opened his locker and stacked his stick, glove and blocker in neatly. He sat down and slowly started to unlace and unbuckle the myriad of straps that held his padding on. Once off, he stored that too, and put his regular clothes and a clean jersey on. His Mask flashed golden again. As he went about his routine, he thought to himself. Although the regular practice regime had kept them busy, the Ducks hadn't had Dragaunus knock on their door for over a month. It was a well-appreciated respite, although Wildwing knew full well that Draggy was out there, it was he that wasn't taking the initiative to find him. Wildwing pushed the thought out of his mind. Yeah, he thought, it was nice to get some rest. Battling Draggy and other NHL teams wore them down to a frazzle when the schedule got heavy. Now, they could relax and take things at their own pace. Phil had a stack of publicity stunts already lined up just in case a free moment could be found. Zelda had taken the opportunity to go back to the Territory again, and she had stayed there for quite a while, at least three weeks. Wildwing yawned and shut his locker, walking out of the room and into the elevator tube.
Mallory was happy to see the dragon plodding though the doors to the Ready Room, trotting up to her. Mallory waved from the couch.
"Back so soon?" Mallory joked.
Zelda grinned. "I had things to do." she nodded. "But I am glad to be back. Hope I didn't miss anything."
"Been snoozing ever since you left. Dragaunus picked a great time to take a vacation."
"Good, as I hoped." Zelda finally reached her.
Mallory noticed Zelda had something on her back. Suddenly, a little brown dragon popped its head out from beneath Zelda's folded wing. "Aww, you brought a visitor!" Mallory cooed.
Zelda turned her head and smiled at the hatchling with lazy eyes. The little dragon blinked up at Mallory hesitantly. Zelda rumbled and unfolded her wing, the hatchling sliding onto the floor. The little thing, smaller than Zelda's head, scampered back and cowered behind her leg. Zelda chuckled.
Mallory smiled and opened her com. "Hey guys, guess who's back?"
"He's awful young Zel, but he's so cute!" Duke peered down at the hatchling.
"He is young." she nuzzled him out into the open. "Only a couple of weeks. I brought him out here for a few reasons. His name is Ibid."
Nosedive turned up his bill. "I've seen cuter.... but this guy comes close." he grinned.
The little brown dragon looked up with soft eyes at the Ducks that towered around him. He was slowly starting to draw away from Zelda's side.
"Has anyone ever been outside the Territory this young?" Grin asked.
"Not many." Zelda admitted.
"He's still very impressionable." Grin nodded.
The dragon sat down on the floor. "Well I wanted him to get a good impression of you guys." she curled her tail about the young one.
"Can he talk?" Tanya squatted beside him.
"Not in most regular languages." Zelda smiled, rumbling again to the little one beside her.
"Wait a sec...." Wildwing rubbed his beak. "Ibid's only a couple of weeks old right?"
"Yup." Zelda nodded.
"You've been gone for three weeks." he continued.
"Yup." she repeated, seeing where he was going.
"Can I register a... connection here?" Wildwing ventured.
Zelda smiled sheepishly. "Ibid's YOUR kid?" Nosedive gaped.
Zelda put up a paw. "Not mine Dive, we parent as a community." Zelda told him. "But... technically..." she admitted. "Yeah."
"Congrads!" Duke gave the dragon a pat. "How come you never told us?"
Zelda again smiled and shrugged, pawing the floor. "Well, it's not really... a big deal... same thing happened last year."
Wildwing slicked back his hair and shook his head with a smile. "One of those 'circle of life' things I guess. So THAT'S why you went back."
Zelda smiled down again. "Tradition." She scooped Ibid back up onto her snout. "No one's hatched outside of the Territory, no one dies outside the Territory."
Ibid stood high on the tip of Zelda's snout, sniffing the air. Suddenly, he jumped into Nosedive's arms and scrabbled up his armor, hiding in his hair, snuffling around like crazy.
"Akk that tickles!" Nosedive squirmed.
"Here we go again." Tanya sighed.
Zelda laughed. "Great, just great. I was hoping he'd like you guys, I was worried because he was nervous the whole trip down. But he's adventurous, very observant. He's liking the experience."
Ibid snuggled on top of Nosedive's head and yawned.
"Umm.... is he gonna sleep on my head?!"
"You're lucky he's not gonna do something else on your head!" Mallory burst into laughter.
Zelda flapped up and picked up the hatchling. "I'm putting him down in my hammock for a nap." she landed and trotted out of the room. "Be back in a sec!" She was gone with a busy swish of her tail.
"I still don't believe it." Duke smiled.
The little thing did sleep a lot. Then again, he was young and the trip down had been an experience for him. Grin sat on the roof looking at the little brown lizard as it slept soundly, balanced on Zelda's steady snout.
Her eyes focused on the afternoon horizon, and the storm clouds building on it.
"He feels safe here." Grin's comment was the first in at least ten minutes.
The dragon glanced up at him, never unleveling her head. "I'm relieved actually. I was afraid he wouldn't take this well." she confessed.
Grin frowned a bit.
"What?" Zelda asked.
"It isn't normal for you to do something like this." he said deeply. "I know you when it comes to tradition. Why did you really bring him here?"
Zelda snorted defensively.
Ibid stirred a little.
"What makes you think I'm lying?" she asked.
"I never said that you were lying." Grin explained calmly. "But there's a deeper reason to you taking the risk with him."
Zelda took a glance into Grin's eyes and saw that it was useless to hide from him. She sighed and lay back down, looking out at the clouds. "Just in case." she muttered.
"Explain." Grin said.
"I wanted to put a fear to rest, that's all." she started to get defensive again. "Just a reassurance."
Zelda sighed again. "I wanted to make sure there was someone who would always... be here for you guys... in case."
"I don't like where you're going with this Zelda." Grin began sternly.
"Ibid is young... too young. This is the time where he starts to learn... to look at others around him. He's very impressionable. I wanted him to get a bond with you Ducks." Zelda continued over him. "When I came to Anaheim, there were quite a few of my kind against it. I like to think I've proven them wrong over time... but in case something should ever happen to me---"
"You wanted a backup." Grin broke in.
"Yes." Zelda confessed. She stared at him, almost angrily. "Go ahead, tell me I'm being selfish, tell me I'm shaping fate. Tell me that I'm taking the life of this hatchling in my own claws." she snorted, Ibid stirring again.
"I am. It's against precedent. It's not bad that I brought him out here... I don't know what it is." she swung her head back to the horizon. "Go ahead, tell me. My head's been telling me all day."
"That's not what I think." Grin said.
Zelda looked back at him suspiciously.
"Really." He was telling the truth. "I'll tell you what I think. I think your tradition is making you afraid. You're not hurting Ibid. Just because you brought him down here, doesn't mean you're raising him the wrong way."
The dragon smiled a little. "I've wanted to hear that... half of me tells me I'm doing right, the other half says I'm doing wrong. I don't like to debate myself."
"I understand." Grin patted her on the back. "And you know what'll tell you for sure?"
Zelda looked up at him.
She smiled as he got up and walked back inside.
Ibid blinked and raised his tiny head to watch him go.
The dragon sighed and lay her head down. "You see?" she asked him softly. "Friends have their minds tied. They stray only together."
The little dragon gripped her earflap in his jaws and tugged gently in reply.
His beady eyes followed as the dragon got up, stretched in the evening sun, and walked off of the roof and back inside. Dragaunus sat on the hood of a car, musing. Suddenly, a fat, short little human walked into his view, yapping into a cel phone. Dragaunus watched as he opened the door and got into the driver's seat, still yelling. Dragaunus rolled his eyes and slid off the hood, the rocking lift of weight off of the hood surprising the human. He straitened his tie, frowned at the dash, and drove off, still yelling. Dragaunus did not lament that he'd never understand humans. But they were excellent laborers. He had massive plans for their kind, after.... He turned back to the empty roof and thought, fiddling with the activated cloaking device around his wrist. He was remembering the time when he first entered the Territory, amazed at walking cloaked amongst creatures that could still sense his presence. He remembered how he marveled at the dragons... at what they had become, at what legend had pegged them, at the power they had with the humans. He remembered that Zelda was as awestruck upon seeing him, as he was upon seeing her. And he remembered her furious rejection of him. He had vowed from that day to punish that dragon's impudence. He started to feel anger well up inside of him just as he simply remembered it. But there was something base inside of him that looked fondly upon Zelda's hatchling. He envied her for having a chance to continue her bloodline. As he mulled over it, he began to get angry again. Draguanus fiddled with his cloaking device again before he turned around and walked away, knowing better than to teleport at the doorstep of his enemies.
Nosedive checked his watch, annoyed. She should have been back ten minutes ago! He dragged his heels over across the huge Pond parking lot, to Anaheim park across the street. Now she was making him late for practice as well. Her little kid probably got stuck up a tree. This walk always seemed so much longer in the broiling sun! What he wouldn't give for a good Puckworldian snowstorm about now. But as he rounded Phil's parked car, he was surprised to see a squad car sitting by the park's entrance, lights flashing. Interested, Dive pulled his launcher and ran for the park. He dashed under the entrance's archway and looked around, spotting a crowd of people up the path. Klegghorn stuck out like a sore thumb, shooing people away. Dive holstered his launcher and walked up.
"What's the haps Caps?" he asked.
Klegghorn jabbed his thumb to the crowd. "Got a stray animal." he started sarcastically. "You better go take your dragon to the vet."
"Zelda?" Dive broke away and parted through the crowd to find people trying to shake Zelda's unconscious form awake. She looked pretty beat up. Dive gathered her up gently. "Anyone see what happened here?" he asked.
Everyone shook their heads.
Dive rolled his eyes. "Fine, now outta my way! You want something to look at? Come to one of our games." he broke off into a run back for the Pond, opening his com along the way.
Tanya's penlight peered into the dragon's eyes, before she turned it off and let her head rest on the Medicom exam table.
"She's just unconscious, just a few bruises." she ruled, looking her over one more time.
"But what happened to her?" Mallory asked.
Nosedive shrugged. "I found her like this! Nobody knew anything when I showed. Humans." he muttered.
Wildwing cast a frown in his direction before he noticed something. "Where's Ibid?"
Nosedive raised his eyebrows. "I totally forgot about the little guy!" he slapped his forehead. "I didn't see him anywhere. Maybe all the people scared him off."
"He might still be in the park." Wildwing thought out loud. "Grin, Mallory, go try and find him."
"Animals do like me." Grin nodded, and he and Mallory left the infirmary.
"Now all we can do is wait until she wakes up." Tanya sighed, sitting down in a chair.
"Ibid!!" Mallory hollered into the now emptied park. "Come on out!"
Grin stood on his tiptoes to peer high into the branches of a nearby tree. "I can sense no trace of the young one." he muttered.
Mallory put her hands on her hips before digging into a bush. "Well he's gotta be somewhere around here... the little guy couldn't have gotten that far."
Grin rubbed his beak in thought. "There was obviously some sort of a struggle between Zelda and someone." he reasoned. "Either Ibid ran off or he's been hurt as well."
"I hope not." Mallory pulled herself out of the bush, leaves stuck in her hair. "One of them hurt is one too many for me. He's probably just scared. We should get Zel out here as soon as she wakes up, she'll find him."
Grin leaned against a treetrunk and thought some more. Yes, Mallory was right that the hatchling would very likely be terrified upon seeing his leader attacked. To lose himself in the world of humans, with which he was unfamiliar and had never learned to adapt to, would be even more terrifying. In truth, perhaps in trying to escape, Ibid could have gotten himself anywhere. Grin thought of all the unpleasant ends which could meet such a small creature in such a big and strange city. He shook his head and opened his com. "Wildwing?"
"Did you find him?"
"Unfortunately, we don't think he's in the park anymore. We can't find any trace of him." Wildwing sighed on the other end.
"Perhaps if Zelda were here, she could sniff him out."
"She's already up." Wing sighed again. "Bring Mallory back here. You two just proved her memory sound."
Grin frowned as Wildwing shut his com, and he turned to call for Mallory.
Back in the Ready Room, the whole team assembled to hear Zelda go over her story again.
"I can't believe he'd kidnap a kid!" Duke growled. "You're the one he really wants, why mess with a hatchling?"
"Because he's Draguanus." Tanya nodded. "Why does he do anything he does? Because he's just evil."
"Gotta keep up with an M.O." Nosedive joked, anger mingling with his sarcasm.
Zelda herself sat musing at the center of it all. Not badly hurt, she still never said a word beyond what was demanded of her. The dragon simply sat on the floor, a paw cocked, ears back, head lowered in deep thought. "He's crossed the line." she mumbled.
"Zelda?" Wildwing asked.
Zelda looked up at him darkly. Her eyes blackened, her face blankly serious. She stared up at him for a few moments. They would never understand... no matter how well she explained it. "Duke would say that he lives by the sword." she started.
Duke perked up.
"I, my kind... live by blood. We exist... more in the past than we do in the present. The union that exists between the four species of our kind has existed as far back as anyone can remember.... to the creation of our species... to the dawn of our time." She stared blankly ahead, never losing the thunderous eyes or her strait tone. "We are a unit... the one that shall be protected by the blood of all. It is more than tradition... it is a code of life. We live to it by nature." She paused, lowering her head. "When Dragaunus first came to this planet, he asked my help in conquering this planet. I refused him outright, but it was no easy thing to do."
"Your history forbade it?" Grin asked.
"My actions went back on an unspoken and unwritten past that had existed between dragon and Saurian, hundreds of millions of years ago, in the roots of our ancestry. The Saurians had left this planet for so long. They had truly left it. When they returned, they had changed. The union had been broken long ago."
"So your actions were justified." Mallory ruled.
"Arguably." Zelda nodded. "Still, even after we had declared each other enemies, there has still existed a pact between us. Nothing can erase the blood between us, and the Saurian kind still holds true to ancient standards they had forgotten. Dragaunus knows full well that I am his enemy. Not my kind, me." She pointed emphatically. "He declared war on you Ducks, and once I joined you, I as well. But I drew a line in the sand between my kind and I."
"You never wanted him to be able to hurt your friends." Wildwing closed his eyes and nodded.
"I'm a leader, it's what's expected of me." Zelda sighed. "In truth... I am afraid for them. Dragaunus could wake up one morning and fire a nuke at the Territory... and effectively drive us to extinction. My kind doesn't stand a chance against him.... if I got the others involved we would all be slaughtered." Zelda finished her confession.
"Understandable." Duke said.
It seemed to work. "But now... by kidnapping Ibid, Draguanus has broken his end of the bargain. He has made a direct attempt at the life and safety of one of my kind. He's crossed the line with me. Now things aren't just historical, they're personal."
"All the more reason to go get him back!" Nosedive said decisively.
Zelda nodded. She turned around, losing her stone face, and walked up to the towering frame of Drake 1. "Do we know where he is?" she asked.
Tanya was already tapping at the console. "We will soon enough." Zelda sat by impatiently as Tanya scanned the city. Finding nothing, she started scanning the county. "This may actually take a while...."
"Not good enough when time is of the essence." Zelda stood and turned about. "I can find Draguanus faster alone."
"Now where do you think you're going?" Nosedive called after her as she started for the door.
"Like I said." she spoke loudly in reply. "This is personal."
"Wait a moment." Wildwing slid in front of her. "We're in this together, even if you don't want us to be." he told her sternly. "You'll stay here until we work out a plan."
Zelda sighed and hung her head, relenting to him.
In the back of his mind, Wildwing was growing frustrated. This was going to be another one of those situations where he would have to keep an eye on the fretting dragon. Any plans they made, she could chose to reject in one of her animalish losses of logic. He knelt down beside her and put an arm around her neck. "I know you're worried." Wildwing said gently. "We'll help you. Stay with us on this one."
The dragon nodded slowly, agreeing to wait.
"Good." he stood up.
"The best way to go about this is to split up." Mallory suggested. "Maybe half of us create a distraction, half go in and rescue Ibid with Zelda."
"That's too many of us." Duke argued. "Lizard Lips won't know which one of us is the distraction."
Wildwing nodded, listening.
"Why don't you go with her then Duke?" Tanya pointed to him and Zelda. "You're the best at sneaking in."
"That's better..." Wildwing mused. He could tell Zelda was getting jumpy. "You think you could find him?" he asked.
"I know I can." she curved her snout in an arc and whined. "Why won't you just let me go?"
"Because we want you to come back in one piece." Wildwing ruled. "Come on, we'd better get going. Zelda can give us a direction and we'll scan as we go."
The team ran for the hangar.
Grin kept a comforting hand on the base of the dragon's neck. There was a lot of energy passing between the two of them, him absorbing her silent fear. Her neck, her whole body, was tense and frozen. He sensed in her a deep terror... something that wasn't immediate enough to drive her to motion, and yet something that stuck her in her place as if she were tied to a stake. He knew he was helping her, keeping some link. He patted her gently as she closed her eyes.
"We still on the right track?" Wing looked back from the driver's seat.
Zelda nodded soundlessly, not looking back at him.
Tanya suddenly leaned up from her console.
"Got it!" she yelled. "You know that new building that's going up in the business district? The Raptor's sitting in the back of the construction site."
"Good job Tanya." Wildwing nodded. "Now we can plan a bit."
"I've been thinking about Tanya's plan." Duke spoke up. "There's merit to it."
"And we haven't come up with anything better." Mallory nodded. "I think we can pull it off if we can use the construction site for cover and draw the Saurians out."
"We'll have to keep ourselves well hidden." Grin suggested. "Draguanus will surely notice that Zelda and Duke are gone if we engage in a simple firefight."
"So you think we can pull it off Zel?" Duke looked down at her.
She nodded back up at him.
"Good, but we do things my way." he ruled. "How far are we from the ship?"
"Actually the site is just around this corner." Wildwing slowed at Duke's tone as he rounded the block.
"Let us off here." Duke said quickly. "Here's my reasoning: Zel and I sneak up behind the ship and get in while you guys bust in with the 'Grator, make some noise."
"The Migrator would buy us some real time." Dive agreed. "And keep us outta harm's way."
"I like your plan." Wing stopped and let the two out of the hatch. "Duke!" he called. "You remember to keep in touch. If you two get caught in there we'll need to know fast."
Duke nodded, shouldered his sabre, and watched as the hatch closed.
Wing gave the two a headstart before he drove on again.
Duke didn't have time to see Wildwing throttle into the site, as he ducked down a back alley. Zelda was close on his heels. There wasn't a word spoken as they entered the construction site over a chain-link fence, and suddenly felt the cold wave of the Raptor's cloaking field pass over them. Duke looked around for a few seconds before he spotted and exhaust grating a few feet up off the ground. He wedged his sword into the panel and pried it off.
"Maybe we should plug this up sometime, give them some nasty carbon monoxide." he grinned. But Zelda was distant from him. He could see her panic in her eyes. "Come on Zel, we'll get Ibid out safe and sound." he assured her, and let her crawl into the vent first.
She whined and crept in, tracking through the dusty vents more quickly than Duke could, because of her height.
"Wait up Zel!" Duke whispered harshly. "You know where he is?"
Zelda wedged her head around to look back at him. "I... I think so." she whispered back. "I don't like this."
"Stay with me here Zel." Duke pushed himself along as the dragon started ahead again. Suddenly he felt the ship rumble and even shift slightly beneath him!
Zelda whined again.
Must be the Migrator's mortars, Duke thought. Now was crunch time. The others couldn't fend the Saurians off for long, not with the Raptor's lasers right above them.
Suddenly Zelda started to pry at an exit grating before her. She wrenched it off and dropped out of his sight, out of the vent.
He scrambled to catch up with her, and dropped into an empty corridor.
The dragon was already sniffing the ground nervously.
"Did they come this way?" he whispered.
She looked back and nodded.
Duke unsheathed his sabre and slunk against the wall. "Careful..." he started. "They're gonna have this area guarded." And as he closed his bill, a laser pierced the wall inches from his head. Looking back into the hallway, Duke found the Chameleon in the shadows, gun smoking.
"Good evening and welcome aboard Saurian airlines." Chameleon morphed into a stuartess and emerged from a corner. "I'll be your apprehender and prison guard for the duration of your stay, on behalf of Lord Dragaunus and all the henchmen, have a MISERABLE TIME!" he morphed back to normal and started blasting.
Duke blocked shots away with his sabre and charged him, when suddenly the rhythmic clank of metal behind him made him spin around in his tracks. About five hunter drones came charging upon Zelda from the opposite hall, wasting no time in opening fire.
She roared and launched herself from the ground, spinning into a ball and shooting at the drones, unfurling only to let her claws rip into one's side. She swung around on the sparking mass, quickly taking it out.
Duke was called back to the Chameleon by his laser.
"Hey! Over here Duckie!" Chameleon taunted.
Duke resumed his charge, but the Chameleon ducked under his rush and grazed him across the back with a laser blast. Duke turned and huffed like an angry bull.
Chameleon realized the likeness and dropped his gun for the chance to point his fingers from the sides of his head and drag one foot on the ground like a hoof. "MOOOOO!" he laughed hysterically. Enraged, Duke leapt for the lizard. As the Chameleon panicked and started for his gun, Duke's sword slashed the laser in half. The Saurian now stood unarmed at the tip of his blade. "Torro." Duke narrowed his eye and growled. Suddenly there was a loud cry from Zelda, and the dragon slid into his heels. Duke spun around as she staggered to her feet, two drones coming to finish her off. "You okay Zel?" he asked.
"Yeah..." she panted.
"Whatsa matter dragon?" Chameleon taunted in a classical school bully voice. "Lose something?" Zelda roared at him in fury.
The Chameleon 'oooohed' at her, laughing and unshaken by the threat. "I wouldn't bother going for the Raptor's lost and found Zelly." he cackled, dead serious. "You won't find much, not even to bury." Zelda's eyes grew wide with fear. Something Chameleon had said hit a nerve.
Duke watched her face change, and she actually started to back away!
"Threats aren't gonna work this time Chameleon!" he yelled. "Give back her hatchling NOW!" He tried to challenge Chameleon, to make up for Zelda's stepping further back.
Chameleon only pointed and snickered. "Looks like you'd better get a leash for your pet." he joked.
Duke looked back to see Zelda actually fleeing, leaving him with the Chameleon and two drones! "ZELDA!" he yelled out. "What are you doing!?!"
Chameleon cackled again as Zelda disappeared around a corner. "No Duck." he started, the two drones surrounding Duke. "I think this is gonna work out just fine."
The suspension screeched as the Migrator came back down, rocking its occupants.
"I say we split before the 'Grator does!" Nosedive yelled. A laser blast rocked the vehicle again.
"Everyone run for cover and don't fire until my mark!" Wildwing opened the hatch and they all scrambled out amongst the construction machinery.
Laser blasts trailing behind him, Nosedive rolled on the ground and up to his knees behind a stack of rusting I-beams. His com crackled.
"Watch you don't get too close!" Mallory warned everyone. "The lasers are up too high!"
Dive shouldered a puck cannon, threw an arm over the edge of the pile, and looked for something to hit. But it was only the exterior lasers that rained down on him. "When does the party start?" he yelled. Suddenly his com crackled again.
"Duke?" Wildwing answered quickly. "What's wrong?"
"---I'm okay now---eld---ran off!"
"What? You're breaking up Duke!" Wildwing yelled back.
Nosedive listened in, nervous.
"My com---ave been damaged... stupid Chameleon." Duke started to clear up. "Zel and I got separated... I can't find her!"
"Try whistling for her... she's gonna get out of hand." Wildwing sighed.
"--Isn't working yet." Duke replied. "What's going on out there?"
"Just dodging the external lasers. You keep an eye out, the Saurians have yet to make an appearance."
"They're in here." Duke affirmed.
Dive grew even more nervous. Had the Saurians suspected their ambush plan?
"Then it's settled, we're going in for you." Wildwing ruled.
It caught Dive by surprise. "Are you crazy bro?" he broke in.
"We'll still be able to stall them and find Zel!" he argued back over the com. "Your homing device is still intact Duke. Keep it that way and we'll find you."
"Be careful." Duke warned.
"You all hear that?" Wildwing asked.
The team all checked in with their leader.
"I still think this is crazy bro..." Dive hesitated.
"You got a better idea?" Wildwing didn't wait for a response. "Mallory! You've got the best aim, try and take out those external lasers."
"Grin, fire with me on my mark. We've gotta try and create a smokescreen around the upper half of the ship, give us some cover. Actually, you can join in with us Tanya."
"Gotcha." Tanya affirmed.
"Okay, fire when ready Mallory!"
Dive looked behind him to see Mallory rear up over a backhoe and start firing at the ship. Several of her shots connected, sending up explosions from the sides of the Raptor. "Nice shootin' Mal-Mal!" he yelled.
"Keep shooting Mal." Wildwing instructed. "The rest of you fire and run on my marks. Fire!" Dive looked back to see his brother, Tanya and Grin reveal themselves by firing. Smoke pucks went off all around the Raptor, shrouding it. Dive raised his own launcher to try and pick off any remaining laser turrets that he could make out.
"Great job all of you! Go on, run for the bay door and I'll cover you!"
Dive took off at his brother's mark, scurrying from the pile of I-beams. Lasers still followed him. He bolted for the side of the ship, using it for cover. He saw Tanya through the smoke, with Grin not far behind. Then Mallory suctioned herself to the wall beside him.
"Whew! That was fun." she grinned sarcastically. "Where's Wing?"
He came barreling in, covering his eyes through the stinging smoke. He coughed as he waved the two on to join the others at the bay doors.
They all met up to catch their breath.
"Nice job all of you." he panted. "That should keep the Saurians guessing and buy us a few minutes to get in."
"Easier said than done." Grin wedged his hands into the bay door cracks and slowly, straining, wedged them slightly open. The corridor was empty.
"Duke hasn't moved." Mallory noted, checking her com.
"You alright there Dukester?" Nosedive asked. His com crackled in reply.
"--ine here kid, still no word on Zelda."
"We're in and moving toward your position." Wildwing nodded, and shut the connection. "Keep your eyes open team, let's go."
Duke stayed tucked in his little corner, unwilling to move should he find the Chameleon still stalking him. He had been lucky to escape, even though he had dispatched the Saurian's laser. Right now he worried about being found just as much as he was worrying about Zelda. He had never seen her leave the side of anyone during battle unless ordered, and even then she was reluctant. But then again, these weren't normal times. Duke ruled that she was simply more worried about her baby. She seemed to have good reason. The thought of the hatchling in Dragaunus's possession made even Duke shudder. But suddenly there was a noise in the hallway. He froze. Tensely, he tried to identify what had made it. Was it his teammates? No, Duke ruled them quickly out. They knew where he was. As quietly as he could manage, Duke reached for his sabre. Then, the sound came again, louder this time. It was a light squeaking. Could it be? Duke hesitated as he listened. Then he heard the light scuffling of claws on metal, and the frightened squeak came again. It must be Ibid! "Hey little guy..." Duke whispered. "It's gonna be okay." He leaned out of his corner, and into the towering shadow of the Saurian Overlord.
The sudden explosions sent Wildwing off and running. Grin, Mallory, Tanya, and Dive followed quickly on his heels.
"What's going on?" Nosedive asked.
"Duke's moving..." Mallory checked her com.
"Looks like we're too late." Wildwing snarled. "Get ready for a fight Ducks!" He wheeled around a corner to see Duke in Dragaunus's grasp, caught by the front of his shirt. In the other hand the Overlord squeezed Zelda's hatchling, encompassing the tiny creature in his talons.
"We've come to crash your party Lizard Lips!" Mallory yelled, pulling a puck cannon on him. Dragaunus stepped back, holding Duke closely in front of him like a shield.
Mallory didn't shoot.
"Oh no Ducks." he grinned, stepping backwards further down the hall. "Now that you're all here, I think we can finally start the real party!" Suddenly, he spun around and broke into a run down the hall, dragging the struggling Duke behind him.
"Don't let him get away!" Tanya yelled, as the Ducks picked themselves up quickly and were off in hot pursuit.
Dragaunus ran into a wider room, freezing in the middle, trying to decide which of three passageways to take.
The Ducks quickly caught up with him, surrounding him, blocking all three ways out. Dragaunus backed against the wall, still not losing the sneer across his face.
"It's over Draguanus." Wildwing snarled. "Drop them and maybe we'll let you live."
"We were just about to ask you to do the same!" Wraith snarled.
The Ducks spun around to see a henchman in each of the three hallways!
"It's a trap!" Grin yelled.
The room suddenly lit up in red, lasers flying everywhere.
Struggling, Duke managed to grab his sword and wasted no time in hacking at Dragaunus's arm. Howling, the Overlord dropped him and Duke rolled up a safe few feet away. Distracted by the lasers behind him, he wasn't able to stop Dragaunus from leaping onto Wildwing while his back was turned. The two both toppled to the floor as lasers and pucks hailed in a firefight over them.
The dragon skidded to a stop at another crossroads. This place was like a maze! The explosions that shook the ground seconds earlier no longer provided any source of guidance. She knew the others were in trouble, she could feel it. But where were they?! Torn apart in three different directions, the dragon's eyes darted down each passage, and her head spun trying to remember her way around. Suddenly, there were more explosions. The dragon roared and barreled down the hallway to her left. Far away, she could see the snapping red of the lasers. And as she approached, there was a sudden eerie silence. Panic made her run faster, until she saw why the fighting had stopped, and skidded to a halt as she entered the room. Dragaunus stood, back to the wall. In his left hand, he clutched Wildwing around the throat, choking him. In the other, he crushed her little hatchling. The dragon screamed in fury upon seeing him.
"Ahhh, I was wondering when you'd join us." Draguanus sneered. "I believe I have something of yours?"
Zelda moved instinctively for her baby, but Draguanus lashed his tail out to halt her.
"Tisk tisk..." he shook his head. "It's not going to be that easy Zelda."
Chameleon locked a laser on Ibid's skull, while Seige did the same for Wildwing.
"You see, I can't bear to lose both of my prizes here. You're going to have to choose." As he spotted the panic welling in Zelda's eyes, Dragaunus's blood-lust grin grew larger.
Zelda looked around in panic to see the others all clustered into another hallway, being held at bay by Wraith.
"One wrong move from you Ducks and I'll kill them both!" Dragaunus announced aggressively. "I wanted this choice reserved for my favorite little dragon."
Zelda roared angrily at him again.
Dragaunus merely looked on, interested.
"What's it gonna be dragon?" Chameleon chuckled.
Panic set in as Zelda's eyes darted between Draguanus's captives.
"Zelda!" Wildwing choked. "Forget about me!"
"No..." she breathed. "I... I can't!"
"I'm running out of patience Zelda..." Draguanus warned. He squeezed both of his captives tighter, placing a talon right across Wildwing's throat.
Zelda cried out for her baby, trying to move for him.
Draguanus swung Ibid higher, squeezing tighter. "I said, I'm running out of patience." Draguanus repeated. "Who's coming out of this alive dragon? Three, two... one..."
"No!" she roared desperately. "Wait!" Overcome by indecision, she was frozen in place. "I--I've made my choice." her voice faltered.
"Well speak up now." Draguanus was enjoying every moment. "Let everyone hear what your decision is."
She stared up into his laughing eyes, fury slowly replacing her fear. "I---I've chosen.... YOU DRAGAUNUS!" she howled and leapt for him, claws tearing into him squarely in the chest.
Draguanus fell back against the wall, crying out. His grip on his captives faded as Zelda scrambled over his chest and took the back of his neck in her jaws, wrenching back and forth. "Help me, you idiots!" he bellowed.
His henchmen stood confused, afraid to fire and hit their leader.
Finally Wildwing pulled himself from the Overlord's grasp and punched Seige square in the face. The other Ducks overwhelmed Wraith and piled back into the room. Another firefight quickly started itself.
Wildwing left the already battered Seige to the others and decided to tackle Draguanus. He darted through the tangled crowd to see him still wrestling with Zelda, and bleeding badly in several places. But Ibid was still in his grasp. Wildwing raised his shield and charged forwards like a bull, using it to ram Dragaunus hard into the wall.
He howled and whipped Wildwing in the knees with his tail.
Wildwing stumbled to the floor from the stinging pain, as Dragaunus used the distraction to catch Zelda off guard.
He swung around and caught his claws in her somewhere, throwing her away. She hit the floor hard, rolling until the wall made her stop with a gargling cry.
Grin suddenly loomed in and grabbed Dragaunus's right arm.
Wildwing joined him and grabbed the left.
Grin wrenched his talons apart and grabbed Ibid before the Overlord threw them both away.
He took a panicked glance around at his floundering henchmen, and his torn self, before he bolted for an empty hallway.
"Don't let him get away!" Wildwing pursued until Seige threw himself in the way, his fat round body blocking Wildwing.
"This is your stop Duck!" he snarled, using the small space to his advantage as he opened fire. Wildwing hid behind his shield, backing up slowly to try and figure out a way to take Seige down.
Nosedive rolled up behind him and started firing back at the Saurian. He connected a shot with Seige's laser, blasting it to pieces.
Seige panicked and fled after his Overlord.
Wildwing patted his brother on the shoulder.
"Thanks kiddo." he said.
"Yeah, you just remember that you owe me one next time we order pizza." he cracked a grin. "My choice of toppings."
Wildwing rolled his eyes before he turned back to the rest of his team.
Tanya was just seeing Wraith off down another hallway, and Chameleon was nowhere to be seen.
"Cowards!" Mallory yelled down a corridor. "Stick around a little longer and I'll frag ya good!" she huffed and holstered her launcher.
"Um, I think we got a problem here guys." Duke said.
Wildwing walked up to him, to see Duke staring at the corner of the room where Zelda had been thrown.
She still lay there, back to the wall, making a strange noise to match her jagged breathing.
Tanya broke from Wraith's pursuit and knelt beside the dragon, slowly lifting her head. Three deep slashes ripped across her throat, producing the weird sound.
"Dragaunus must have hit her windpipe..." Tanya breathed. "This could be serious." She went to pick the unconscious dragon up, when something landed between them.
Ibid stood bristling at his leader's side, wings flared.
Tanya drew back, surprised.
"It's okay little one." Mallory leaned down. "We only wanna help her."
Tanya reached out for Zelda again, but Ibid roared furiously and leapt up to nip at her outstretched hand.
He remained at a standoff, ears back and teeth bared.
Tanya hesitated, and slowly Zelda began to stir. She shifted her head and let out a gurgling rumble.
Ibid backed to her side, keeping his eyes on the Ducks the whole time.
Zelda slowly raised a paw and drew her baby closer, sitting him down. She rumbled again and looked at him softly.
Tanya again tried to pick the dragon up, and succeeded.
Grin watched the two as they slept almost placidly.
Ibid snuggled into the folds of the moss that wrapped Zelda's neck thickly.
He was grateful her injuries weren't as bad as Tanya had feared back in the Raptor. The punctures to her throat were small, thin, and already sealed and healing after just a day. He never ceased to be amazed at a dragon's capability for recovery. Still, he could tell that her wounds reached deeper than her flesh would show. Her experiment with Ibid had failed miserably. Grin was surprised that she wasn't livid with rage, her being so angry at Draguanus for 'crossing the line' beforehand. Would she simply accept that he would attack her hatchling? He didn't believe so... or perhaps he simply couldn't think of her otherwise. But there was a lot Grin didn't know about her kind's traditions and history. Zelda adhered to them as a code for life. His thoughts were broken as the dragon snuffled and blinked awake.
She spotted Grin and smiled, raising her head off of the Medicom bed.
"How are you feeling?" he asked softly, so as not to wake Ibid.
"Much better." she replied in a tired voice. She took a glance down at her sleeping hatchling and sighed.
Grin looked at her curiously.
"I must get him back home." she shook her head.
"When will you go back?"
"When he's rested enough... " she answered.
"But what about you?" Grin asked. "You're in no condition to fly cross-country."
The dragon arched her neck defensively. "I may not be 100%." she admitted. "But I'll be fine. I need to get him back." she looked at him again. "He needs to be home."
"You need to be home." Grin told her.
She looked at him, a little surprised. "Yes..." she slowly admitted. "What happened to Ibid... I must discuss this with the others."
"What will they do?"
"I... don't know." Zelda placed her head back down. "I must discuss it with them." she repeated.
"I can sense you are afraid my friend." he told her. "But pace yourself. You need time to recover, to gather your thoughts, before you go back. Something big has happened."
Zelda thought. "Perhaps I'll stay for a few days." she relented.
Grin nodded and smiled at her. As he did, the door opened, and Duke peeked in.
"Hey there kiddo, just wanted to see how ya were doing." he nodded as he stepped in.
Zelda slowly laid back her ears and lowered her head, looking apprehensively up at him. "I'm... fine." she said.
Duke shook his head. "Not when you talk like that to me you're not. Come on, what's the matter?"
Zelda shied away from him again.
Grin slowly stood and walked towards the door. "Guess I'd better go get something to eat... I'll be back later." his excuse to leave was a hollow one.
Zelda looked after him as if she were pleading him to stay.
"Zelda." Duke called her back to his attention. "What's wrong?"
She couldn't hide from his gently pressing eyes. "I... have to say I'm sorry." she confessed. "For what happened back in the Raptor."
Duke looked surprised.
Zelda ignored him. "You were in trouble... I shouldn't have left you." she thumped her chin on the bed in disgust.
Duke squatted to her eye level and picked her head up. "Don't talk like that." he insisted. "You had your reasons." he gestured to the still-sleeping hatchling. "I know you, you'll let yourself be ripped apart by guilt." he smiled gently. "What was more important?"
Zelda froze and looked solidly at him, her eyes changing.
Duke suddenly realized that his question paralleled the situation that she faced with Dragaunus. "Whoops." he said quietly.
She gazed at the floor. "I have a lot of thinking to do, about answering that." she spoke slowly.
"I think it was the right answer." Duke stated. Zelda didn't look up at him, and he admitted that his opinion didn't matter much. She did have a lot of thinking to do. "Look." he said, trying to gain her full attention. "I just wanted to say you've got nothing to be sorry about... really." He caught her glance and held it. "Go home, you need your rest." he patted her on the head and walked out.
The dragon looked after him emptily.
Beside her, Ibid shifted slightly and yawned.
She was glad that he didn't wake up. He didn't need to wake up to this. She sighed again and lay her head back down to sleep.
Wildwing sat awake for a little while, just watching the sleeping pair. She seemed to be sleeping a lot more... but then again it was definitely justified. He watched as Zelda shifted, writhing a bit on her back, in her hammock. She looked rather uncomfortable, but Ibid slept soundly on her belly. He'd have to keep a real eye on her for the next few days. He was musing over the situation back in the Raptor himself. He hadn't paid much attention to Zelda's proud ramblings about her kind before, in fact he thought she was rather boasting on the subject. But the look in her eyes as she stared up at Dragaunus in that room, obviously pinned for the first time with such a serious choice... Wildwing saw a profound difference in that look. Very rarely did she show fear to the Overlord, and she played that as a good strategy. But that look wasn't fear, not wholly... nor was it entirely panic or shock. At the core of that wide-eyed stare Wildwing had looked and seen that for the first time, Zelda looked at Dragaunus not as an enemy, but one of her own. One that had betrayed her, no doubt. Even though she had her baby back, she certainly wasn't acting normal. As Wildwing's eyelids grew heavy, his thoughts clouded and grew less distinct. He drifted off to sleep, thinking that he was glad this was over with.
Continued in part two of the Spiritfall Saga...
Mighty Ducks-The Animated Series, including all logos and characters (except me) are copyright and property of Disney. You may copy, print, or whatever with this document, so long as it is not altered and I (Zelda) am credited. Thanks!