Chapter 6

Later that evening, Jack sat at his desk up in his room, biting on the end of a pencil and scowling sullenly at the trigonometry textbook open in front of him. He had several complicated problems to solve before class on Monday, but no matter what he did, he couldn't keep his attention on his work. His mind kept flitting to the conversation he'd had today with the Nikomedes intern and how odd it was that even after a very public explosion, the company had refused to say what it might have been or even pinpoint exactly where in the building it had taken place. For liability reasons, it wasn't entirely unusual for large companies such as Nikomedes to refuse to speculate on causes immediately after an accident, but it was unusual to flat-out refuse any requests for absolutely any information at all, especially from its employees. Jack leaned back in his chair, trigonometry now forgotten. Something was being covered up and hidden within the walls of Nikomedes, but what? And perhaps more importantly, why?

Jack got up and threw open his closet doors, digging for black clothes before he caught himself and stopped, his grandfather's admonishments ringing in his head. They'd argued about it so many times over the course of the past two years that Jack could practically recite word-for-word what Drake would say if he caught him. Jack flopped down on his bed, belly first, in frustration. Despite what Drake thought, the last thing Jack wanted to do was hurt his grandfather in any way; Drake had more or less raised him, and Jack knew that he owed the older duck everything. But the same calling that had beckoned Darkwing Duck and Quiverwing Quack from the shadows of their domestic lives called inside of Jack as well. It was impossible to explain to anyone who hadn't felt the calling, but it was real nonetheless.

Which is why Jack absolutely had to get into the lab at Nikomedes. He couldn't rest until he had.

And there was only one person in the world who might be willing to help him.

"Hey man!" Jack burst emphatically as a beat-up door opened a crack to reveal Launchpad on the other side. "How's it going?"

"Jack? What're you doing here?" Launchpad asked in confusion, holding a hot mug of soup in one hand and a newspaper under his left arm.

Jack slipped in quickly and threw a friendly arm around LP. "You remember how, several months ago, I made a vague promise to hang out with you at some hypothetical point in the future? Well, no time like the present, LP! How about a drink?"

"Little young to drink, aren't you Jackie?"

"Drink? I meant a drive. How about a nice drive around town, eh? It'll be fun! We can…drive, and talk about…stuff. In the general direction of downtown. C'mon! It'll be great!" Jack declared as he elbowed LP playfully in the ribs. "All those beautiful ladies in St. Canard won't know what hit 'em, am I right?"

LP smiled and patted his newspaper. "You go ahead. I've got a mug of soup and the Miss Etiquette column. I'm fine." LP looked down to catch Jack's all-black outfit. "Geez Jackie, is wearing all black the new thing at St. Canard U?"

"What?" Jack asked surprised, following LP's gaze down to his clothes. "Oh uh, no, no," he simpered. "No, it's just…I'm going through a…beatnik phase at the moment. You know, hep cats and poetry slams and all that."

LP gently extricated himself from Jack's arm and smiled. "Thanks for stopping by anyway, Jackie. I don't get to see much of you now that you're so grown up."

Jack brought himself up to his full height, puffing his chest out a little in pride. "That's right! Nineteen years old. Just think, in another few years, I'll be able to rent a car and not pay an exorbitant insurance fee!"

"Nineteen! I remember you when you were just this big," LP said, holding his hand out low to show Jack's former height. "Why, I remember when your mom was just that big! You remember the workshop? And being in the tower? You were always so interested in whatever modifications I was doing to the Thunderquack. Sometimes you'd stick small parts in your pockets and take 'em home, remember? Boy, the number of times we nearly died in a fiery crash because Jackie had lifted a cog or a gear somewhere!" LP laughed, trying to decide if the memories of that were sentimental or just plain horrifying.

Jack tittered nervously, a little embarrassed. "Yeah, I-I guess I was always kind of a troublemaker – "

"I'd think I was going nuts because I could never find anything," LP reminisced, still chuckling. He reached in Jack's pocket playfully. "And all along, it'd be in Jackie's – what's this?" From Jack's pocket tumbled a mass of black cloth. LP picked it up and turned it over in his hands, looking at it in bewilderment. "Is this…is this a ski mask, Jackie?"

Jack grabbed it back quickly. "It's nothing, LP."

"It's almost May. What do you need with one of those this time of year?"

"Don't worry about it," Jack grumbled as he shoved the hat back in his pocket.

LP studied Jack carefully for a moment. "What's going on, Jackie?" he asked quietly. "The way you're dressed, the ski mask; you in trouble, kiddo?"

"No, LP," Jack answered honestly, turning to leave. "It's just…there's something I have to do. I was hoping you could help, but – well, maybe I shouldn't drag you into it."

"Hold on a minute," LP said, closing the front door which Jack had just opened. "Tell me what's going on."

Jack sighed and refused to look up at LP in the eye. "Look, I – I need go downtown. To Nikomedes Chemical Laboratory. I have to find out what that explosion was all about yesterday."

"That sounds dangerous," LP observed, scratching his temple. "Why in the world do you want to do that?"

"Because something's going on down there. Something they're covering up." Jack set his jaw. "And I'm going to find out what it is. Are you coming with me?"

"Me?" LP laughed softly. "Heh, no. And I don't think you should, either."

"I'm going anyway," Jack stated obstinately, moving towards the door at a march. LP reached out and grabbed the back of Jack's shirt and gently dragged him back into the living room. LP might have been older, but he was still built like a tank and strong as an ox.

"You aren't going anywhere," LP commanded mildly with a touch of amusement in his voice as the young duck struggled ineffectively against his grip. "You want to worry Drake to bits?"

"Of course not! That's why I didn't tell him where I was going!" Jack explained in an exasperated voice as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

"Just sit right down there," LP said, steering Jack by the shoulders into one of the overstuffed chairs. Jack reluctantly collapsed into one, crossing his arms in front of himself, as LP sat down on the footstool directly across from him. "Why are you doing this, Jackie?" he asked earnestly. "After everything that's happened, why would you want this for yourself?"

"Maybe it's because of everything that's happened that I want this for myself," Jack shot back stubbornly.

"That's not a very good answer, kid, and you know it."

"Look, I came over here for some help, LP. Are you going to help me or not?"

"Help you do what, get yourself killed so Drake has one more terrible memory to add to his collection? No thanks, I don't think so," LP snapped uncharacteristically.

Jack got up slowly, sighed, and stuck his hands in his pockets. "LP, I'll level with you. I need your help. I don't think I can pull this off by myself." He rubbed the back of his head, a slightly embarrassed flush coming to his cheeks. "And…to be honest, I've never broken in anywhere before. Ever. I…I don't really know how," he admitted quietly.

"Not going to be much use as a vigilante then, are you?" LP pointed out.

Jack grimaced. "Well, certainly no one's offered to help me!"

"Like who?"

"Like…like Gramps!"

"Being a vigilante isn't exactly what most parents want for their kids."

"Gramps did," Jack countered with a steely look.

LP smiled and shrugged. "I don't know about that, Jackie. As I remember it, Gos had a pretty hard sell in front of her when she wanted to follow in DW's footsteps. They argued about it for years before DW finally realized she was going to do it whether he liked it or not. But I wouldn't say he ever wanted her to do it."

Jack's expression faltered for a moment. He had always assumed the unstoppable partnership between Darkwing Duck and Quiverwing Quack had been mutually agreed upon by Drake and Gosalyn, that there had never been a second thought in anyone's mind as to who would eventually take over for Darkwing. Nevertheless, Jack stood up as straight as he could and declared, "I'm still going, LP."

Launchpad watched the younger duck leave a moment later, heading out into the darkness with only a backpack to keep him company.