Author's Note: This story takes place after my story Tension Convention, so if you haven't read that, you might want to read that before this one.
Two weeks had passed since Darkwing Duck foiled Quackerjack's scheme to destroy Whiffle Boy at Whiffle-Con. With Quackerjack and Liquidator behind bars and Megavolt and Bushroot lying low, one might have thought that St. Canard's crime-fighter would get a break. Unfortunately, he had no such luck. Negaduck robbed a bank two nights afterward, and Tuskerninni and his penguins filmed their own sequel to Gone in Sixty Milliseconds on a posh car lot uptown the following weekend. It seemed that once word got out that Darkwing was without the Thunderquack for surveillance and pursuit, the city's villains grew bolder in their criminal activities. F.O.W.L. had its eggmen and agents out and about causing mayhem, and the previous night Darkwing even dealt with a comeback from the Gooney Golf goofball Lilliput, who had built a new shrink ray and used it to shrink door locks and burglar alarms on St. Canard's jewelry stores.
Darkwing had all but marked his calendar with the days until Launchpad would to be able to fly again, but it seemed that his burn wounds were healing even slower than the doctors anticipated. It did not help that Launchpad was clumsier than average on a good day, and with a steady dose of Quackodin in his system, he was ten times worse. Launchpad was not exactly a model patient, either. He was so eager to get back in the proverbial saddle that he kept overdoing himself, and as a result, wound up just prolonging the healing process.
Like the time a rainstorm blew a gutter off of the side of the house, and Launchpad took it upon himself to get up on a ladder and fix it while Drake was out, rather than wait for him to come home. He ended up slipping and falling from halfway up, and landed on his injured arm. That got him a thicker bandage and a stern lecture from the doctor, as well as a good tsk-tsking from Binkie Muddlefoot, who saw him fall. Another time, he tried to do some maintenance on the Thunderquack, but got his bandage snagged on the undercarriage, and tore it and his wound open instead. Drake ended up banning Launchpad from doing any work on either that or the Ratcatcher until he was better. "It's bad enough not having my pilot and the Thunderquack right now," he ranted at him. "I need you to get better so I can patrol the skies again. F.O.W.L. is having a field day, and the last thing either of us wants is us being grounded any longer than necessary!"
"I told you I'd love to have piloting lessons," Gosalyn chimed in. It was at least the fiftieth time she had suggested it, and Drake was still not convinced or amused.
"And I told you to forget it!" He sighed. "Although I'm starting to wonder if I should take on another pilot in the meantime. Patrolling in the Ratcatcher just isn't cutting it, even temporarily." Drake paced back and forth. "But who can I trust? Darkwing Duck's identity can't be given out to just anyone, and I'd sooner eat six helpings of Morgana's slug casserole before I take her up on that offer to borrow her father's creepy family hearse-copter."
"She said it was a bat-plane, and I think it sounds way cool!"
"Sure, if I was Bat-Duck and not Darkwing Duck!" Drake frowned at Gosalyn.
"You just want someone for a little while?" asked Launchpad.
"Yes! It's not like I'm going to replace you, LP. But Darkwing Duck has to get back to patrolling the populace at a proper pace again, or the citizens of St. Canard will suffer!" He gave Launchpad a curious look. "You don't have anyone in mind, do you?" He paused, and then added, "That isn't Gizmoduck?"
"Naw. Not him. I was thinking more like how my family's all pilots, and you know you can trust me, and, well, I know I trust them! They wouldn't let you down!"
"Your parents?" Drake stared back at him incredulously. "I mean, I know they're stunt pilots, but… well, they're not spring chickens. You think they could fill in a substitute sidekick role? And what about their jobs?"
"Actually I wasn't thinking about them so much as I was my little sister Loopy. She's in college, but she took this semester off to concentrate on her flying. She'd probably love the chance to come and help and meet Darkwing Duck."
"Your little sister."
"She's an ace pilot. She does some crazy stunts that don't involve crashing even better than I do."
"And you think she could hold her own against the vile villains we come up against?" Drake was not convinced. "It won't do me any good to have a pilot my enemies would think is an easy target."
"Oh, I'm sure she will!" Launchpad had enough enthusiasm to make up for what Drake lacked. "Loopy's got nerves of steel like all of us McQuacks."
"So unless we run up against Paddywhack, we'll be fine, huh?"
"Hey, c'mon! Paddywhack was a creepy demon clown toy thing! And ghosts and stuff are different…"
"Right." Drake let out a snort and then fell silent as he mulled over the idea. He really did need the Thunderquack back in operation as soon as possible, and someone Launchpad could vouch for so personally had to be trustworthy, he supposed. "Okay. Give her a call."
Morgana Macawber had just gotten out of bed and went into the kitchen to have her spider spice coffee when Eek and Squeak flew in holding the mail. It was four in the afternoon, but that was the equivalent of morning to Morgana, who preferred to stay up all night and sleep in the daylight. Her nocturnal nature served her well in the restaurant business anyhow, since the Shadow Chateau opened its doors for the dinner crowd at five and stayed open until the witching hour of three in the morning. Morgana rarely went over before seven, though, since she had full confidence in her staff. Most were normals, but her assistant was a quarter-ghoul whose grandfather was a friend of the Macawber family, and he managed everything quite efficiently.
"Bills," she sighed as she thumbed through the mail the familiars dropped on her table. "Sometimes I wish I could put a hex on that tax assessor like in the old days." She put the envelopes aside and glanced at the newspaper. The headline was not that engaging, just some political dust-up that she did not care about, so she turned to the entertainment section. While she wasn't much for celebrity gossip, sometimes her restaurant was mentioned, and she was always interested to know if there was any free advertising, for good or ill, being tossed her way. She paused when a familiar name caught her eye: Darkwing Duck. Her eyes widened, and then her beak curved into a frown, as she saw the article's title and what it was about.
Celebrity Supermodel Leaves Action Hero Actor for the Real Deal! – World famous supermodel Luna Darkfeather stunned everyone yesterday when she and her longtime boyfriend, actor Brant Strongbill, parted ways in an angry shouting match at the exclusive Featherdown Lounge. Sources say that Mr. Strongbill was jealous of Ms. Darkfeather's constant mentions of St. Canard's resident hero Darkwing Duck and his impressive actions in foiling the Fearsome Four when they held Mr. Strongbill for ransom. Strongbill was allegedly inebriated and told witnesses that he was tired of her going on about what a "real hero" was like and finally told her to "be with him if you like him so much, then!" Ms. Darkfeather was said to have replied that she "already had" and stated that "a real hero is better" before storming out of the club in a huff.
Morgana was livid. "She already did?" Her green eyes lit up with fury. "I'll kill him!"
Lightning crashed in storm clouds that formed above Morgana's house, and Eek and Squeak fluttered nervously, sensing the dark energy coming from their mistress. Archie, more of a natural cynic, climbed down from her hair onto her shoulder and started murmuring to her in an effort to calm her down.
"I don't know," she said flatly as she headed for the door with her fists clenched. "Yes, the papers and reporters sometimes sensationalize, but…"
Archie countered with another series of grumbles.
"But why would she make up such a lie? Making herself out to be a whore in public isn't exactly the kind of publicity most agents would recommend!"
Morgana stared out the window and glowered in the general direction of Darkwing's home while Archie continued to try and reason with her. Meanwhile, Eek and Squeak fluttered around her head, collecting the angry energy she radiated before anything destructive could happen.
"All right." There was still an edge to her voice, but she had calmed down somewhat. "I'll talk to him. Maybe things got blown out of proportion or twisted in some way. I'll give him a chance to explain his side before I turn him into horny toad." She reached up and petted the spider gently. "Thank you, Archie. You're a good friend."
Morgana was not the only one feeling out of sorts. Across town in his greenhouse, Bushroot was preoccupied with his own troubles, the foremost of which was that he felt terribly alone. It was not an unfamiliar feeling for him; it seemed to him that misery and loneliness were his lot in life. What friendships he found always seemed to turn out superficial and fleeting in the end, and his search for anything deeper had proven even more elusive.
At least, that was how it had been until recently. Somewhere along the way his luck had changed. During his time with the Fearsome Five, Bushroot had forged useful alliances, and even more importantly, he had gotten to know Liquidator. His partner in crime, the master of all things aquatic, had become more than just his colleague; he was someone he could rely on and talk to even when they were not on a caper. When he was with him, Liquidator watered and strengthened his plants, he brainstormed about how to increase their liquid assets with him, and he made Bushroot feel like there was somewhere he belonged.
Even after the Fearsome Five had fallen apart when Negaduck stole their powers with the Mystic Eye of Quackzecoatl, Bushroot and Liquidator had not lost their camaraderie. In fact, the opposite had happened. By that time they had grown closer than ever, and the term "partner in crime" had come to mean more just than a villainous association for profit. Bushroot loved the water dog. He made him feel alive and revitalized, not just through the physical act of watering him as he often did, but also emotionally. The plant-duck was no different from his plants in that he too thrived when someone talked to him and gave him attention.
It made the sudden loss of Liquidator, after he had been flash-frozen and hauled off to the super-villain prison on their last caper, that much harder to take. Bushroot had never been able to cope with loneliness well, but this time, after being thrust back into the old familiar misery of isolation after being out of it just long enough to believe those days were behind him, it was like waking from a warm dream of summer to find his roots frozen in a foot of snow.
He thought about Liquidator constantly. While he had never been with him twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, he would spend days at a time at the greenhouse, and he often dropped in by surprise after a significant absence. It was knowing that there wouldn't be any surprise visits from Liquidator, that there was no chance at all that the drip on his faucet or spray of his hose was him coming to see him, that made it so unbearable. Bushroot missed him terribly. He wanted to talk to him and hear his bubbling voice, to feel the rush of his water against his leaves, and see his glib smile as he talked about their latest scheme for profit. Bushroot had a thirst that only Liquidator's companionship could quench, and after a while, even drinking Sparkling Crystal Pure Flood Water pilfered directly from the factory did nothing to alleviate his loneliness.
He wanted to break him out of prison now that it was clear that Liquidator was not able to get himself out. It had been well-publicized on the news that drastic new security measures, including some designed by S.H.U.S.H.'s elite scientists, had been implemented on the super-villain prison and its grounds. Bushroot did not know all of the details, but he surmised that they must be fairly effective if Liquidator had not managed to find even a tiny crack to slip through. What had been able to learn through the grapevine—good thing they really were as sneaky and gossipy as their reputation implied—made it clear that any breakout would be a risky venture.
Still, he planned to try. Bushroot's natural cowardice had been overridden by his loneliness and desperation at that point, and the first step in finding a way to get Liquidator out was by finding a way to get in to see him. It had been easy enough to learn the prison's visiting hours and policies, and with the right disguise, Bushroot was certain he could at least get that far. He had a seed of a plan, and considering he was the master of plant life, even a seed was enough to make him optimistic.
Steadying his nerves, Bushroot took a swig from his coffee mug. It was filled with a foul-looking and smelling mixture of fertilizer coffee and steeped compost. While disgusting to most, to a plant-duck it was great, and it helped to ease the leaf-twitching anxiety that going near the super-villain prison induced in him. "Keep an eye on things, Spike," he said, and then set the mug down so he could pet his fly trap. "And wish me luck."
It was just before dinner time when the doorbell of 537 Avian Way rang. "Keen gear!" Gosalyn exclaimed, pausing her Whiffle Boy game. "That must be your sister, Launchpad."
Launchpad rose to his feet, but Drake was closer to the door, so he opened it. When he did, he was greeted by the sight of an outrageously dressed petite female duck. She had short blonde hair teased into a wild look that was accented with a hot pink hair band, and she wore an equally bright pink halter top with paler pink leggings, along with pink metallic bracelets and pink boots. Even her aviator's cap, tucked under her arm, was neon pink. The only familial resemblance that he saw between her and Launchpad was her big, bright eyes and cheerful smile. She beamed at Drake as she met him. "Like, omigod!"
Oh my god, Drake thought, wide-eyed as he stared back at her, wondering what he had gotten himself into.
"You totally must be Drake, right? Launchpad's, like, told me all about you!"
Drake nodded. "Uh, yeah. Come on in." He stepped aside and motioned for her to enter, and she bounded energetically into the room, tossing her large—pink, of course—duffel bag on the floor.
"It's so cool to meet you! I'm Loopy!" She grinned and then ran over to Launchpad, who gave her a hug. "Launchpad! It's like, so good to see you, big brother! How are you?" She looked at his arm. "Oooh. That's a wicked nasty bandage."
"Heh. It was a wicked nasty burn," he said, releasing her from the hug. He flexed his arm a little and then shrugged. "It's getting better, though. Just can't fly while I take the Quackodin."
Loopy chortled. "Yeah, no kidding. You totally crash enough without that!" She turned to Drake and Gosalyn, who watched the reunion. The former was pondering how the perky pilot in pink would affect his heroic super-hero image, while Gosalyn just seemed eager to introduce herself.
Launchpad did not keep her waiting. "Gos, Drake, this is my little sister Loopy."
"It's totally awesome to meet you!" she said to Gosalyn.
"You too! I never knew Launchpad had a cool sister. Even if you do wear a lot of pink," Gosalyn said, as if it was a surprise to her that the abundance of said color could be cool and not girly.
"Hey, what's wrong with pink? It's my favorite color!"
"You don't say," Drake remarked.
If Loopy was offended, she did not show it, and instead she laughed. "Launchpad was totally right. You've got a great sense of humor, Drake." She gave him a warm smile. "Thanks for inviting me to stay and help you guys out."
Drake nodded. "Yeah, about that—"
"I mean, I'm like, so honored," Loopy went on, cutting him off. "It's way cool to not only get to meet Darkwing Duck, but to actually be able to fly with him like my brother and help him kick some evil super-villain ass. That just sounds so rad! I can't wait!"
Gosalyn nodded along with her. "Oh yeah, it's awesome to kick bad guy," she paused as Drake shot her a sharp look, "butt!"
Loopy put her hand over her bill for a moment. "Oh. Sorry. I'm kinda used to being around other students, not kids."
Chuckling, Launchpad patted her on the back. "It's okay, Loopy. Just be careful around Mom and Dad when you go home."
"Oh, don't get me started," she said with a sigh, holding up her hand. "Like, they're cool and all, but why do they have to act so old?"
"I wonder that sometimes about my dad," Gosalyn muttered, which earned her more than a sharp look that time.
Launchpad interrupted before an argument could erupt. "Well, you know how they are, Sis. They love us. They used to drive me crazy, too."
"I totally know why you moved to Duckburg at eighteen now." She smiled. "But whatever, old or not, you know I love them. And you really have a nice house here in St. Canard," she said, looking from her brother to Drake. "It's awesome that you can keep your identity so secret. I wondered how that worked with everyone knowing Launchpad lives here, but I guess they totally wouldn't suspect a guy like Drake here to be Darkwing Duck!"
Gosalyn snorted with poorly stifled laughter while an indignant look flashed across Drake's features. "What? Why?"
Loopy seemed taken aback by Drake's reaction at first, but she recovered. "Whoa, chill out, Drake, dude! Or should I call you 'DW' like Launchpad does? Anyway, I meant it as a compliment. It's like a way awesome cover. No one would suspect a quiet single dad guy like you to be the Terror that Flaps in the Night!"
"Quiet? Hah! You don't know Dad yet."
"Very funny," Drake retorted.
"Well, we're glad to have you here to help, Loopy," Launchpad said, still trying to keep the peace. "DW sure doesn't take well to being grounded, and the criminals are going nuts with him only able to patrol the streets and not the skies."
Drake cleared his throat. "Speaking of which," he eyed Loopy up and down, "while I'm sure you can handle the Thunderquack from what Launchpad's told me, are you sure you're up to facing off with some of St. Canard's most vile villains? Not that I expect an average college girl to be able to crime-fight like a pro who's been doing it for years like myself, but I do need to be reasonably sure that I won't be bailing you out of trouble every five minutes."
Loopy flashed him a confident look. "Like, you totally don't have to worry about that. I kicked the tail feathers of this way creepy sleaze-ball that tried to get nasty with me at a bar once."
While Drake processed that, Launchpad gave his sister a shocked look. "You hang out in rough bars, sis?"
"Oh, not all the time!" She waved her hand dismissively. "Relax, Launchpad. It's not like I'm sixteen anymore, you know."
"Yeah, I know. But you're still my little sister. It's just weird thinking of you doing that kind of stuff."
Loopy grinned. "You totally should've gone to college. It's way fun."
"Because your brother is such an academic type, right?" Drake quipped, while Launchpad shrugged, unaffected by the remark.
"You know school was never my thing, except for shop. Did okay in that."
"Did okay?" Gosalyn repeated, walking over to Launchpad's side. "You built the Thunderquack!"
While Launchpad smiled at the compliment, Drake gave Loopy a curious look. "So what do you major in?"
"You're planning on being an engineer?"
Loopy was either oblivious to or ignored Drake's overtly dubious tone. "Yeah, totally. We McQuacks are all pretty handy with mechanical stuff, and like, math and stuff has never been that hard for me."
"That's way cool!" Gosalyn said. "I thought everyone who liked math was nerdy."
"Your best friend loves math," Drake pointed out.
"Dad, Honker's awesome, but I never said he wasn't nerdy."
"Ooh, Launchpad told me about Honker! He sounds like a really rad kid. Is he here, too?"
Launchpad shook his head. "He lives next door. Hey, maybe you could meet him now. The Muddlefoots are home, right?"
Drake's eyes widened. "Oh no. I don't think we need to bother the Muddlefoots—"
Ignoring her father's protest, Gosalyn nodded and went over to the phone while Launchpad picked up Loopy's bag with his good arm. "C'mon. I'll show you to your room."
While she was following him, Gosalyn called over. "Honker said his mom and dad want to meet Loopy too, and they're having a barbecue right now, so we could come over if we wanted."
"Awesome!" Loopy exclaimed, and then looked to Launchpad. "I mean, if that's okay with you guys."
"Sure! Herb makes great coconut burgers," Launchpad said. "You'll love 'em."
"I'll tell them we'll be over."
Loopy grinned. "Sounds totally killer."
Drake forced a smile through his grimace. "Totally."
The visit to the Muddlefoots was even more tedious than Drake feared. While Loopy and Binkie exchanged bubbly introductions and Herb showed her all around his prized "bar-be-cue" setup, Drake slumped into a lounge chair and stared longingly at his home. It was not that he did not like Loopy, exactly. She seemed like a nice enough girl. He was reasonably sure that she could be trusted, since he trusted Launchpad, but why did she have to be such an airhead?
As he saw her blowing bubbles with her gum while politely listening to Herb go on about the special seasonings on his coconut burgers, Drake could only imagine what Loopy as a temporary sidekick would do to his heroic image. Would she babble the villains into submission? Try and load hair spray into his gas gun? How was anyone going to take the Terror That Flaps in the Night seriously with her following at his heels in spiked hot pink neon ones?
Gosalyn and Honker chatted with Loopy next, and Drake was glad that nobody said anything to him other than Binkie offering him a Koo-Koo Cola. He took it, mostly to send her scurrying off to the kitchen to get it so that she would not feel compelled to make small talk. He was zoning out and wishing time to pass so that he could leave when he heard something that caught his attention.
"Hey, Loopy, can I get you another Koo-Koo Cola?"
The polite and accommodating request was not made by Binkie, Herb, or even Honker, but… Tank?
Drake looked over and saw the older Muddlefoot child staring at Loopy with what could only be described as a lovesick puppy dog look.
While Loopy took him up on the offer, Honker wore a rather puzzled expression at his brother's unusually polite behavior, while Gosalyn made a face. She whispered something to Honker, whose expression changed from surprised to flabbergasted. "No way!"
"Thanks, Tank-ster!" Loopy said as he handed her the can. He grinned back at her while Gosalyn snickered and Honker looked even more shocked.
"Heh heh." Launchpad chuckled from beside Drake, where he had not even noticed he had walked over until then. "Looks like Tank has a crush on my sister. These kids grow up fast, huh? Before long, Gos will—"
"Not be interested in a Muddlefoot that way, I hope!" Drake snapped back in a harsh whisper. He did not even want to think about his little girl growing up, much less dating. "And it's obviously just some phase. Tank is what, thirteen? And your sister is wearing a shirt that draws that kind of attention, you know…"
"Hey hey hey! Loopy's not like that! She's just being nice." He made a face. While of course he knew that she wasn't encouraging a harmless crush, he also did not like the idea that anyone would go leering at his little sister. It rubbed against his natural big brother grain.
"If you say that again, I'll knock your block off!" Tank's regular and usual surly voice carried over the chatter. He was glowering at Gosalyn, who was snickering.
"Yeah, right! I can take you blindfolded!"
Whatever their argument was about was cut off when Herb called out, "Hey Drake, isn't that Morgana over at your house?"
Although he was always happy to see Morgana, that time he was more thankful than usual to see her heading toward his front door. "Why, so it is! Well, I better go greet her. Sorry to leave so soon, but you all have fun. Bye!"
Seconds later he was back in his own yard and inviting her inside. "Morg, sweetie, you don't know how nice it is to see you—"
"Oh, is it?" Morgana's response was so icy that Drake could have sworn that the thermostat was suddenly turned down to freezing. It was then that he noticed her angry look, and how her fists were clenched in that "I'm powering up enough supernatural energy to knock you on your tail feathers" stance.
"Well, yes." He looked up at her, puzzled. "What's the matter?"
"What's the matter? How about this?" She thrust the incriminating headline about Darkwing Duck and Luna Darkfeather in his face.
He took the paper and his expression went from confused to shocked. "That's just… what? Luna Darkfeather thinks we're dating?"
Morgana's green eyes blazed with unnatural fury. "So you have seen her?"
"No! I mean, not since after the whole thing with rescuing Brant Strongbill a couple weeks ago!"
"Thing? What thing?" Morgana leaned over him, and it seemed to Drake that she had grown at least a foot and was about to start breathing fire.
"Nothing!" protested Drake. "I mean, no thing thing, just a thing where she and I were in the ambulance after it happened and…"
"What thing happened with you and this woman in the ambulance?"
"Dad?" Gosalyn's voice interrupted from the archway leading from the kitchen. "Everything okay? There's a thunder cloud over the house…" Launchpad and Loopy's faces also poked out behind her.
Drake gulped. "Nothing, just a big, big, big misunderstanding." He looked at Morgana. "Morg, sweetie, I promise I never did anything with her like that at all. I only talked to her once. I promise! Your honey-wumpus wouldn't lie to you…"
"Whoa! Someone said you were cheating on Morgana?" Launchpad was also stunned to hear it.
"Someone printed it in the newspaper!" Morgana said hotly, tearing the article out of Drake's hands. "Luna Darkfeather told a whole club full of people that she was with…" Her voice trailed off when she saw the unfamiliar face of Loopy in the room.
"With Darkwing Duck," Drake said, beyond frustrated at that point. He gestured to Loopy. "She knows, Morg."
Morgana's bill curled into a deeper frown. "And who is she? Another pretty girl you spend your time with that I never knew about?"
"She's not a pretty girl! She's Launchpad's sister!"
While Gosalyn snorted at her father's unintentional rudeness, Loopy made a face. "Ouch. I totally felt the burn on that."
"Ah, he didn't mean it like it sounded," Launchpad assured her.
"No! I mean, yes. Argh!" Drake groaned, and then took a deep breath to explain. "I mean, she's here because she's Launchpad's sister, and she knows my secret identity because she's going to fly the Thunderquack for me while he's getting better. I just met her. She's staying with us because of that. That's all."
"Oh. I see." Morgana nodded toward Loopy. "I'm sorry."
Morgana glided over to her. "I'm Morgana. Drake's… possibly still girlfriend, if he has a good explanation for that article." She shot him a look to make it clear he was not off the hook yet.
"Totally cool to meet you." Loopy smiled. "And I've got to say, you rock that goth look in a way better way than the Quack Topic crowd does."
"Er, thank you. I'm sorry we had to meet at such an inopportune time."
"Speaking of which, maybe we ought to let them work things out?" Launchpad nodded toward the kitchen.
"Yes, I think that'd be a good idea," said Drake.
Launchpad, Loopy, and Gosalyn retreated back through the archway, leaving Drake and Morgana alone in the hall. Drake thought he heard Gosalyn say something about "Dad digging his own grave," but he ignored it for the time being. "Morgana, I swear to you, I don't know what she's talking about. I talked to her on the case, and that was it. The last time I saw her was in the ambulance that took Brant Strongbill to the hospital. She said a couple of things to me, that's all. I haven't seen or talked to her since. I don't know why she'd say that. Maybe she and her boyfriend just got into a fight and she said that to get to him."
The sincerity in Drake's voice was evident, and Morgana's temper cooled. "Perhaps. But why would she say that about you? What did you two talk about?" She fixed her gaze on him. "Maybe she misconstrued something?"
"Give me some credit, Morg! I didn't hit on her." He let out a heavy sigh. "I don't even know her. She's just some flaky supermodel." He met her eyes. "She's got nothing on you."
Morgana could not help but smile a little. "Do you mean that, Dark?"
"Of course I do." He stepped closer to her. "I'm your honey-wumpus, and I always will be."
"Oh, Dark." That time Morgana let out a sigh. "I'm sorry. It's just that you mean so much to me…"
"It's okay. I understand. But you don't need to worry. Darkwing Duck is a hero true to his city and his lady." He made a dramatic bow, and then put his arm around her.
"And if you see Luna Darkfeather, you'll set her or anyone else that brings it up straight?"
"Absolutely." He planted a kiss on her cheek to seal the sentiment.
In a seedy area across town, a slim female figure slipped unnoticed into a run-down building after unlocking the door. It was an abandoned apartment building that had been condemned the year before, and no renters had lived there for some time. That was not to say it was unoccupied, however. The individual entering it knew it well.
On the second floor, a female duck bound with hand and foot cuffs called out desperately for help when she heard the sound of someone outside the apartment she was locked inside. Her hopes fell when she heard only the telltale raspy chuckle of her captor, and the click of the front door shutting. She could not see the front door from where she was; the windowless kitchen she was in had a door to the main apartment that was added at some point while the place had been occupied, and her captor had put a lock on it to make sure she stayed in there. She had limited mobility with her cuffs on, and could only go into the bathroom from where she was, which was located off of the kitchen. She could not escape, but she could relieve herself and drink water if she became too thirsty. It was a good thing, because she had been there for what felt to her like eons, even though it had only been a couple of weeks.
"Still hoping that someone will rescue you?" Her captor sneered as she opened the door. "Nobody thinks anyone is here, nobody cares about this place, and nobody knows you're missing. I've told you that a thousand times." Her voice was sibilant as she enunciated the last word.
Luna Darkfeather looked up miserably from her seat at the rickety table in the dark kitchen. "Why don't you just kill me, then?"
Luna's captor eyed her with cool indifference and switched on a battery operated light. Although the plumbing in the building still worked because it was hooked to the city sewer system and nobody had bothered to turn it off yet, the power had long since been cut off since no one was paying the bills. "I don't hate you enough to kill you."
Even though she should have been used to it, the sight of her captor's face never failed to startle her. The features looking back at her were her own. "You just want to steal my life."
"Until I get bored with it," her captor retorted, and tossed a bag of fast food on the table. "Eat. You must be hungry."
The greasy food smelled far better than it should have, mostly because the last thing Luna had eaten was a snack bar some hours before. The last time her captor brought food had been a couple of days ago, and that had been a box of granola bars from the grocery store. They were all gone now. "A double cheeseburger," Luna remarked as she unwrapped it. "Even starving, I probably shouldn't eat this."
"Oh, just enjoy it. It's not like it'll ruin your model figure," her captor mocked. "Or should I say my figure?"
Luna let out a sob. "You're not me."
She sneered again. "Only according to you. No one else seems to have noticed. But since I can't stand seeing you simper like that, I'll let you have your peace for a few minutes." Her captor's stolen features then shifted and morphed into her natural ones—a duck-like woman with yellowed eyes, featherless skin with a greenish undertone, and a wild mane of violet-blue hair. "Better now?" Camille Chameleon asked, swishing her tail. "Now eat your burger. It's probably the only real food you've eaten in years."
Luna did not argue, and took a voracious bite out of her burger while Camille sat at the table with her.
"How long are you going to do this?" Luna asked after she swallowed. "Are you really ever going to let me go?"
Camille made an aggravated noise. "I said I didn't hate you enough to kill you. If I wanted you dead, you'd be six feet under already." She helped herself to one of the fries she had brought with the meal. "You'll get your life back when I get what I need out of it. And when I'm done having fun." Her eyes took on a mischievous look. "It's not every day a freak like me gets to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, and live the life of the rich and famous."
Luna set her burger down and stared at her in miserable disbelief. "And nobody noticed."
"Don't take it so hard. You're not that interesting. At least not to them, not beyond your looks and your fame." It was hard to tell whether Camille was taunting her or being somewhat sincere. "The press loves your scandalous behavior, though."
"You're stealing my life to ruin it." Luna's eyes brimmed with tears. She could only imagine how red and swollen they must be; it seemed to her that she spent half her waking hours crying.
At that, Camille let out a harsh laugh. "Not quite. Yours is collateral damage. I'm out to ruin someone else's." She leaned closer with a cruel gleam in her eyes. "At first, the notion of taking a pretty, perfect life like yours and running amok with it did appeal, I admit. I've always hated girls like you. Pretty. Popular. Everything handed to them on a silver platter. Everyone adores them because they're so beautiful." Her voice took on a bitter note before she paused. "But after a few days of playing you, I actually feel sorry for you." She looked at Luna, who just stared back at her, uncomprehending. "So many expectations, so many people nosing into your life, and despite that, you can disappear and be replaced, and no one notices anything amiss." She enunciated the last word with a strong hiss. "To most of them, you're nothing more than a pretty doll."
Although she tried not to, Luna let out a sob at Camille's harsh words. "Not to Brant! He's not like that. Not my family either."
"Your brother called, but I haven't returned the message yet. Your mother emailed, but didn't see anything off in my response." She straightened, and then added, "As for Brant, things aren't as peachy as you think. You've broken up."
"What?" Luna cried out.
"Don't cry about it. He's not much of a loss," she hissed. "Ever since his rescue, he's been moping and drinking and bored me to tears."
Luna's sobs came harder. Camille had told her about Brant's rescue; it happened shortly after she had taken her captive. Knowing that Brant had been rescued from the Fearsome Four by Darkwing Duck had been one of the bright spots in Luna's ordeal. Before her abduction, she had been so worried about him, and had even volunteered to help in the hostage negotiations. That was when everything went wrong. Detective Araucana had come to her door to go over things the night before the deadline, only it had not been Araucana. It had been the strange shape-shifting mutant criminal Camille Chameleon, who had assumed Araucana's form and invited herself into Luna's room in disguise. Apparently Camille had been trailing the detective to glean information about the ransom case, and chose Luna as a target for herself. Once inside her room, the disguised Camille attacked Luna and captured her, and then brought her here to this terrible place, where she had been kept ever since. In the meantime, Camille took over her life.
At first, Camille told Luna she was just after the ransom money, and that Luna was a convenient way to get it. Like most of the rest of the city, Camille first learned about Brant's abduction by the Fearsome Four, and Darkwing Duck's involvement, on the news. Camille told her that in the past she had been foiled and incarcerated by Darkwing Duck, and he and his "little helpers," as she'd hissed out the term, had manipulated her weakness to heat to turn her into a helpless form, and then had her locked up in a high security terrarium. Only they had not realized that her metabolism would stabilize over time, and before long, she was able to change again. It had only taken mimicking a rock in the terrarium to get security to open it and come in to see what happened, and give her a chance to escape. Ever since, Camille vowed to find a way to pay Darkwing Duck back, and that hostage situation had given her the perfect in. Undetected and insidious, Camille cackled gleefully, spitting out the last word like the lizard she partly was.
Her attempt to steal the ransom money was thwarted, though, and true to her form, Camille adapted the situation to her advantage. She took over Luna's life for the long term, and decided to start paying Darkwing Duck back by destroying his reputation before ultimately destroying him. An ego the size of his was an easy target, Camille boasted. Once she learned through St. Canard's villainous rumor mill that Darkwing had a girlfriend—the Old Haunt and the Underbelly were splendid places for finding out such tidbits, especially when one blended so well with the crowd—that became her first plan of attack. Break his heart and his ego, and he would be a broken duck. Luna did not understand why if Camille hated Darkwing so much, she chose to toy with him rather than kill him, but then, it gave her hope that one day Camille would not change her mind and kill her. It was clear that Camille was not in her right mind, at any rate, and Camille's assurances that her life was not in danger gave her no comfort.
Hearing that Camille had done something to her relationship with Brant, though, struck Luna like a physical blow. Luna had been holding onto the belief that Brant would figure out something was amiss. That because he loved her, he would know that she wasn't her, and he would somehow find a way to save her. Like I was trying to do for him, she thought in despair. But if Camille drove him away, and destroyed that love… what did that mean? What if when she did escape or was rescued, too much damage was already done? Was it too late now? She sobbed again.
"Why Brant? Why can't you let me keep him at least?"
Camille was irritated by her tears. "It's nothing personal, although I don't know what you see in him. He's a bore. Rich and handsome, sure. Perhaps even charismatic. But I've had more stimulating conversations with toaster pastries." She sneered. "Then again, you probably have that in common."
"You're jealous." Luna's voice was ragged from crying.
"And you're stupid, smarting off to me." Camille pushed back from the table, glowering at her. "Jealous," she repeated. "No, it's not out of jealousy that I broke it off with your 'Brant baby,'" she said, mocking how Luna had spoken of him once on television. "He was in the way. How could I let the world think you're having a torrid affair with Darkwing Duck while you're still involved with him?"
Her tears temporarily stopped, replaced by shock. "You're saying I'm sleeping with Darkwing Duck?"
Camille's face wrinkled in distaste. "I know. The thought makes me want to retch, too. For that, I apologize. I like you enough to say you deserve better." She straightened. "But necessity breeds strange bedfellows, and I promise, I haven't actually done anything with him looking like you yet, nor do I plan to if I can avoid it. I find him repulsive." She hissed the last word for emphasis. Camille then put the straw in the soda she brought Luna and put it within her easy reach. "It's not diet. I'm not trying to make you fat," she said, rolling her eyes a bit as Luna took hold of it. "You're thin as it is, and the extra calories will sustain you better than those fake chemicals. There's also an apple pie in the bottom of the bag for later. I may not be able to get back until tomorrow evening. Relax and think of this as time off from the stresses and tedious fools in your everyday life."
With that, Camille stood up and headed for the kitchen door, her tail swishing behind her. "If things go well, maybe I'll bring you a pizza next time. I'm sure you don't eat much of that, either." She let out a raspy chuckle and shut and locked the door behind her, leaving Luna alone once more.