Blind Leading the Blind
Written by Zelda
Author's note: Probably over-exaggerating the chlorine thing, I seriously doubt that anything similar could happen in real life. But it makes for a good story, and I ain't a chemistry whiz, so you've been forewarned!
Siege rolled right back up again, catching her by surprise. He was more like one of those punching bags you could never totally knock down. Mallory was quick to leap out of the way as the Saurian's tail came crashing, splintering the concrete inches from her. Mallory pirouetted like a shortstop to send Siege down to kneeling with his hands over his head from a flurry of pucks. She landed and followed up with a sweeping kick to the back of his skull, which finally toppled the roly-poly giant for good. Mallory stood for a few seconds, heaving with exhaustion, before she ran off to find somebody else to teach a lesson to. She ended up amidst a pack of hunter drones, back to back with Zelda.
"Anyone know why these guys decided to have a party here?" she shouted to her.
The dragon shook her head. "Your guess is as good as mine, the city pool is a pretty weird target!" she yelled back.
Mallory sprung out and sent a drone flying into the water, disabling it. "How about the others?"
"I'll check, if you're okay here!" Zelda turned back.
Mallory smashed another drone and waved her away. "Go!" she insisted.
The dragon nodded, and with a powerful flap of her wings, launched herself clean out of the fray and swooped around to the other side of the pool. From high overhead she spotted Wraith and Chameleon still giving chase, darting like cowards between the stationed hunter drones. The dragon decided to pick on someone her own size, and dove strait down.
Nosedive winced and wrapped his arms around his head as the flurry of blasts bounced off of his chest armor. The burst of fire ceased, and Dive uncurled and fired back at the Chameleon.
The lizard leapt in the air and darted agily, taunting the frustrated Duck on. "Cem on, I could take the whole lot a ya with one hand tied behind my back!" he yelled. "And blindfolded, yeeeaa, cem on ya punk!"
Angry at his own bad marksmanship, Dive charged Chameleon head on, ramming him fully with his shoulder, nearly sending the lizard into the pool, and dropping his own pucklauncher in the process. Dive recovered quickly, but Chameleon was one step ahead of him, locking his laser on just as Dive stood again. The Duck froze, weaponless.
Chameleon grinned sickly. "Thaaat's right ya mug, just come nice and quiet now!" he waved his gun menacingly.
Suddenly, there was a whoosh over Dive's head, and a purple blur sent itself and Chameleon careening into the pool, landing with a splash. Zelda swam easily away, leaving Chameleon to flounder in the deep section.
"Not faiiiiirrrr!" he gulped. "I can't swim!"
Zelda shook the chlorinated water out of her scales as Dive grinned, tossing Chameleon a styrofoam life ring. "Come back next time and I'll give you a lesson on how to drown." the dragon laughed.
"See lizard? That's how you play the game!" Dive yelled triumphantly, before he and Zelda took off.
Wildwing spun around, wasting drone after drone in an attempt to draw Wraith out. He saw Siege's fat orange body lying across the pool, he knew the others were taking out their targets. And he was currently blasting Wraith's hiding options away, one by one. The Saurian hustled amongst a line of stationary drones, like a target in a fairground shooting game. "You can't hide from me Wraith!" he yelled out.
Wraith scurried to another drone, which soon lost its head to Wildwing's shooting.
"Come on out and fight, let's get this over with!" Wraith scurried away again, and as Wing trained his launcher on him, the beheaded drone exploded, casting smoke across the whole stationary line behind which Wraith was hiding, like an animal behind a tree. Wildwing cocked his launcher and paused in the silence, waiting for Wraith to show himself. "Come on out you coward!" he yelled. Then, Wing spotted a furl of Wraith's gaunt robes from behind the feet of a drone, directly in front of him by about 30 feet. Grinning, Wildwing tiptoed with all of his cunning right up, preparing to peek around and catch Wraith by surprise.
As he silently aimed his launcher, and crept around the drone, Wraith's face suddenly jutted from the smoke, pointing smugly to the drone that Wildwing stood right in front of.
As Wildwing realized his error, the single drone sprung to life, and fired.
Grin caught Wraith by the staff, which the old lizard hung onto with a vice grip. The big Duck took up the stick and spun it -and Wraith- high into the air before he finally let the lizard fly into the pool, slapping the water.
"Oooooohhhh!" Dive winced as he ran up. "That's gotta hurt!"
Wraith howled angrily as he came up to the surface. "You accursed Ducks!" he snapped. "I hope our hunter drones can teach you to swim with the fishes!" As Chameleon came paddling helplessly up in his life ring, Wraith activated his teleporter, and the three henchmen vanished.
"That's three down!" Tanya yelled from across the pool. "Let's take out these drones!"
Duke backed her up as they were surrounded by five of them. He grinned and unsheathed his sabre. "Don't you know the rules?" he grinned to a drone. "No glass bottles or laser guns in the pool area!" With an almost effortless swat, he sliced a drone in half. Another one followed suit seconds later.
"And no running!" Tanya chimed in, bodychecking several into the water.
All the stationary drones on the other side of the pool suddenly sprung to life, and started shooting.
Zelda bounded over to help take out a pack around Dive and Grin, when suddenly something snagged her wing. Yelping in surprise, she pulled back, turning around to find Wildwing holding on, lying on his side on the concrete. "Wing, leggo!" she snarled, her wing straining. "What's the matter with you?" It took her a few seconds to notice the char marks characteristic of a laser blast, right in his face. The dragon stopped pulling and put a paw on his glove to get him to let go. "It's okay Wing, it's me! What happened to you?" Before her panicked leader could respond, lasers went up around them, the drones closing in. Zelda charged to drive them off, but Wildwing refused to let go of her. "Need some help over here!" she roared out, hoping Dive and Grin would hear her over the battle. Her fears were alleviated as blue pucks streaked everywhere, and the two came running to help dispatch the remaining drones.
As they fell into piles of debris, Grin and Dive gave each other a high-five and holstered their launchers.
"Nice job Grinster, these boys are gonna be one job for the lifeguards tomorrow!" Dive celebrated.
Grin was not all jubilation though, as he quickly noticed Wing on the ground. "I believe we have a problem here!" he called out to those across the pool.
Wildwing sat up, still not letting go of Zelda's twisted wing.
"Now tell me Wing, what happened to you?" the dragon asked.
Wildwing let go of her to tear the Mask off of his face, and stare at it in blank disbelief.
Tanya knelt down beside him and took it out of his shaking hands. "I don't think this is much to worry about Wing, it is badly damaged, look at this, the front is nearly blasted clean out. But it's repairable. Are you okay?"
Wildwing still hadn't moved. "I... I can't see anything." he said.
"What do you mean? Seeing stars or total blackness?" Zelda asked quickly.
"It's.... it's all flashy." he stumbled up.
"The shock to the head from the blast." she shook her head. She jumped up onto Grin's shoulder as the big Duck steadied his leader, to have a better look at his face. "It might be the heat, or just the impact, maybe a concussion...."
"But I can't see!" Wildwing repeated, panicked.
"Calm down Wing, it's probably temporary." Tanya put a hand on his shoulder. "The Mask took most of the hit."
"Are... you sure?"
"Looks to be just a shock response to me too." Zelda nodded. "The heat may have just jolted your nerves. Let's get you back to the Pond and we'll know for sure."
Wildwing was led away by his brother carefully, as they followed him back to the Migrator.
"Are we in the infirmary?" he asked Tanya, as she shined a light into his face.
"Yup, sit up straight." she replied. "Now, do you see anything?" she shined the light directly into his right eye.
"No more stars?" Zelda asked from the console of the Medicom.
"Only black, is that bad?"
"Not really." Zelda tried to calm him down. "It may mean the shock is wearing off, you may be getting better already."
Wildwing seemed to take that well.
"Yup, your eyes themselves are okay, just bloodshot... trying to compensate for the hit." Tanya nodded.
"Maybe some nerve bruising.... " Zelda muttered, tapping aimlessly at the computer. "How close were you Wing?"
"Point blank." he responded slowly.
The others, who were standing in the infirmary, looked intently at his two caretakers.
"That's... close." Tanya replied guardedly. She shut off her light and walked towards the door, waving to Zelda.
Wildwing shot his hand out, groping in midair. "Where are you? Where are you going?" he asked.
"Consultation time Wing, we'll be right back." Tanya closed the door behind her, and the two were left alone in the hall.
In the comparative emptiness of the hallway, Tanya waited for Zelda to speak first. But Zelda was apparently waiting on her. "Well?" she asked.
The dragon still hesitated. "Well, I'm no specialist in eye injuries." she started. "I really don't know what to think. There's no real nerve damage to the eyes, that's good."
"But they are bloodshot." Tanya said. "The Medicom is showing some partial nerve irritation."
"Probably just synaptic bruises." Zelda nodded. "But the real question is how much of the hit the Mask took."
Tanya brought out the shattered Mask, and they both studied the nearly blown-out eyes and bad charring. "The problem is that we don't have anything to gauge this by." Tanya frowned. "The Mask did take most of the hit, and thank goodness." she put it back in a pouch on her hip. "But nobody's been hit before at point-blank range. We don't know the power that those lasers pack at that distance. "
Zelda nodded. "So." she looked up. "What's our prognosis?"
The whole team stared at Tanya and Zelda as they entered.
Wildwing heard the door open and sat up. "So." he asked. "What's your prognosis?"
Zelda and Tanya gave each other an uneasy look.
Tanya ventured forth and put a hand on his shoulder. "Well as you know, the Mask took the brunt of the hit." she started. "You're lucky for that, otherwise we'd be piecing your skull back together right now."
"So... am I blind?" Wildwing hesitated.
"Well now you are." Zelda took over. "The Medicom has showed us there is some slight nerve damage to your eyes, and surrounding face. But it's nothing permanent." she assured her quickly panicking leader.
Wildwing calmed down. "So it's only temporary?" he asked.
Zelda gave another glance up to Tanya.
"Yup." she smiled. The whole team looked relieved.
Wildwing found Zelda's neck and hugged her. "So how long before I'm back to playing again?" he asked jokingly.
Both Zelda and Tanya quickly sobered.
Wildwing noticed the pause. "What?"
"That's the only catch Wing." Zelda sighed. "We don't know how long it's going to take for your eyes to repair themselves."
"It could be a day, a week...." Tanya trailed off. "But they will heal." She looked down at Wildwing hopefully.
He didn't know how to take it. "Well then... I guess I'll just have to wait." he said hollowly.
"Ahh it won't take long Wing." Duke broke in cheerfully. "You're like DuCaine himself when it comes to healing, you'll be runnin' around here in two hours tops."
Wildwing grinned. "Sorry to worry all of you so much. Go on, take five. I'll finish up in here." he waved them out. The rest of the team exited, leaving the three alone. There was a pause. "So you guys told me the whole truth right?" he asked.
Tanya huffed. "Of course we did." she said. "We don't know when you'll heal, only that you will."
"Until then though." Wildwing started.
The others knew where he was going.
"I wouldn't worry about it Wing." Tanya patted Zelda's snout. "You've got a seeing-eye-dragon right here!"
The thought of a harness made the dragon back off. "I don't think we even need to go that far." she said. "Just a little practice and you won't be bedridden for long."
"I'm not gonna be, period." he growled, and shifted to his feet. He started to walk about, hands out around him.
Zelda tisked him and shook her head.
"What?" he asked, annoyed.
"How many senses do you have?" she quizzed him.
"Five." he replied.
"And how many senses have you lost?"
"Good. In order to compensate for the loss of one of your senses, you'll have to rely more on the other four."
Tanya looked at her. "You sure he won't need anything? Not even a walking stick?"
The dragon thought. "At first, yes." she relented. She'd have to keep reminding herself that he was not one of her kind. She'd have to go easy on him.
Tanya nodded. "Gimme a second to go and rustle one up. We don't exactly keep these things handy around here." she started out. "The corner pharmacy might be a good place to start." The door closed behind her.
"So anything else hurt?" Zelda asked.
Wildwing shook his head. "Just tired.... it's all a little much, I guess." He leaned back against the bed for some stability.
"I understand." Zelda sympathized.
"But Zel." he started with a sigh. "I haveta face facts. I'm no good in this condition. How am I supposed to lead?"
The dragon paused.
"Now Wing...." she began in her usual stern tone, but it had no effect.
He started massaging his thumbs into his eyes, and blinking rapidly.
She jumped up on the bed and lowered his hands from his eyes. "That'll do them no good." she sighed. "If anything you should be keeping them closed."
Wildwing was frustrated. "You know very well that kind of answer isn't going to sit well with me." he muttered.
"Give it some time." she pleaded with him. "Dragaunus isn't going to attack tonight..."
"How do you know?" he growled at her. "What if he planned this?" He hopped off the bed and staggered on the floor, already unsure of his surroundings. He reached for the bed again. "I've been irresponsible before, things have happened." He paused again. "What if he planned this?" he repeated. Zelda jumped down beside him. "I can't answer everything Wing." she said. "You're going to have to trust us... trust yourself, to get better and let us handle things if they do happen."
Wildwing huffed, unsatisfied.
Zelda frowned. "Fine, you want to get worked up over this? Follow me."
"You want to get back on your feet?" she asked sternly. "You're going to have to learn, and it's not easy." She placed her tail in his hand.
He took it and let go of the bed.
She walked forward, and he followed. She stopped at the door, and he stopped. She led him out and down the hall a bit. "Which room are we going to?" she asked.
"The... galley." he answered.
"Knowing your way around isn't fair." she shook her head. "Like going around your room in the dark, you know where you'll trip." She spun him around in circles a few times to get him disoriented. "Now you're truly blind." She led him back into the infirmary. "Now, where are we?"
Wildwing shrugged. "How am I supposed to know?"
"Remember what I said about using your senses more?"
"Good then, what was the last thing you heard?"
"A door close."
"That means we must be in a room." she nodded. "But what room? Now touch. What do you feel?"
"Overhead." Wildwing said.
"Excellent. Next is smell. What do you smell?"
Wildwing stood in thought for a moment. "Something... gauzy....are we in the infirmary?"
Zelda grinned, but replied sternly. "I don't know, you tell me."
Wildwing frowned. "We are." he said firmly.
"And you're right. Not only did you determine that you're in the infermary, but you've described several key features of the room in the process." Zelda smiled. "If you were in a strange room, you'd know where the air was coming from, where the door was, other things."
Wildwing nodded doubtfully.
Zelda sensed it and growled. "Look, I'm no expert here. I teach you just as others of my kind are taught."
"There are some of your kind that are blind?" Wildwing was surprised.
The dragon grinned. "This is why you can't tell." she nodded. "But then again, I dunno if it'll work with you, and I'm not exactly trained in this field. Diamond should be here..." she trailed off into thought.
"Well, I'll try and make it work." Wildwing was still unsure of himself. "I don't see any other choices." As he said this, the door opened, and he turned around to face Tanya as she entered.
"Here ya go Wing." she thrust something into his hand.
He waved something light and slightly flexible around.
"Standard issue walking stick." she said. "Careful where you swing that."
"Sorry." Wildwing started tapping it on the floor. "Hey this thing really does work..." he started walking about slowly. "You know what, I think I'm gonna take this thing out for a test spin." he prodded the door open.
"Just don't get yourself lost!" Tanya called after him, as he stumbled out.
Zelda looked after him thoughtfully.
"And what are you thinking?" Tanya grinned down at her.
The dragon jumped up on her shoulder. "I'm thinking he's gonna be just fine." she nodded, and smiled back.
"Ow!" Mallory stepped back, her ankle smarting. "Careful with that thing!"
"Sorry!" Wildwing grinned, embarrassed, hand waving around for a chair. "I still haven't gotten the hang of this."
Mallory took his arm and guided it to the table. "You hungry?" she asked.
"Actually yeah, mind grabbing me a slice of pizza from the fridge or something?"
"Just what I was going to get myself." She put a soda on the table for Wing, he reached a hand out and nearly spilled it. She poured a glass of juice for herself, popped the pizza in the microwave and sat down. "Hope you don't mind me asking, but what's it feel like?"
"It's weird... a little scary really." he replied. "It's like trying to find your way around with your eyes closed... except you can't open them when you want to... that's the scary part."
"I'm sure you'll get used to it." Mallory replied as the microwave beeped. She set the pizza down before Wing and he fumbled with the slice in his hands. She could tell he was embarrassed at his own clumsiness. "You know Wing I got a story for you, might make ya feel better." she said.
"I'm interested." Wildwing chewed.
"Back when I was in basic training for the Special Forces..." she started. "There was a guy in my unit named Blaine. He was a little quiet, but he was a new recruit. I'll tell ya Wing, I never saw a Duck with better combat sense. He could assemble a launcher as quick as you could snap your fingers, and he always seemed to know where grenades would land and when they would go off."
"Nice." Wing commented. "So?"
"So," Mallory continued. "He was a little weird. Besides being quiet he always wore sunglasses, I never saw him take them off, not until the drill sergeant ripped them off of his face because he refused to. That's how we all found out he was blind."
"It was an accident." Mallory nodded. "A chemical spill from a train when he was a teenager. It was sad, they dismissed him immediately when they found out. He always had wanted to be a soldier..."
"And this was supposed to make me feel better?" Wing smiled sarcastically.
"If he could do it, you could too." she smiled back.
Suddenly, alarms screamed out through the halls. Mallory jumped up from the table and Wildwing panicked trying to get up.
"Come on." she grabbed his arm. Holding his hand, she led him quickly up to the Ready Room.
"I knew they'd try something like this." Duke snarled as he looked up at the screen. "I'm calling Wraith now."
"Back at the pool again." Grin shook his head. "It makes no sense... what could they want?"
"Besides a swimming lesson?" Dive joked.
"Could it be chlorine?" Tanya suggested.
"For what?" Mallory asked a question in reply. "Besides, it's just a city pool. If they needed chlorine, why wouldn't they raid a chemical plant for a larger amount?"
"It could be a trap...." Zelda edged nervously.
"Another trap." Wildwing muttered.
"You're benched for now fearless leader." Zelda turned on him sternly. "We're not going to let this be another trap."
"She's right. I think we should go in there gung-ho and teach them a lesson." Duke nodded.
"We certainly don't wanna wait, they've already set off the alarms." Tanya said.
"Then let's go! We can discuss all the fine print on the way!" Dive was already running for the hangar.
Wildwing grabbed his shoulder, and the whole team stopped. "Is the Mask fixed yet?" he asked hesitantly.
"No... I never had time to work on it." Tanya answered.
Wildwing looked relieved and worried at the same time. "Okay... be careful, all of you."
"Wait a minute." Duke said. "What if this is a trap... a diversion, you know?"
"You have a good point." Grin nodded. "What if they try to attack the Pond?"
"Then stay with me Dive." Wildwing ordered.
"Me?!?!" Dive drew back.
"Yes you. You're the most hotheaded one on this team, I don't want you getting the others in over their heads." his older brother ruled.
"Awwwww man!" he whined, and stormed off to another end of the room.
Wildwing turned back to where he thought the others were. "Be careful." he insisted.
"We will Wing." Duke nodded. "Let us know if you have any trouble."
Shoes pounding on the metal floor, the rest of the team darted to the hangar, and the Migrator.
Dive pouted sincerely. Why wouldn't his brother trust him alone? It's not like they hadn't done this before. Dive cast a cold glance over to Wildwing as he fingered the keys of Drake 1's console with clumsy familiarity. "You should have let me go." he snarled quietly.
Wildwing didn't even bother turning his head. "It's my call Dive." he explained.
"Why don't you trust me?! I'm your brother for crying out loud!" Nosedive came storming back, up the stairs, to the console.
Wildwing rapped the keyboard with his hands. "It's not that Dive." he tried again.
"What is it then? I don't buy that you want me here in case of a Saurian attack."
"But it's true."
Nosedive rolled his eyes at his older brother. "Look, remember the last time this happened? When we didn't have you around to lead because you quit?" he growled. "At least I've never up and left. How's that for hotheadedness?! I can handle this!"
"That's enough!" Wildwing raised his voice.
Nosedive stood his ground.
Wildwing rubbed his eyes, and sighed. "Look Dive, none of us are perfect here." he started. "Of course I trust you. You've got a lot more responsibility than you think."
"Don't try and change the subject Wing." Nosedive interrupted him. "What if the Saurians don't attack the Pond? What if their raid on the pool's legit? Now the rest of the team's an extra man down!"
"But what if the Saurians are pulling a trick?" Wildwing raised an eyebrow. "None of us are willing to take that chance, you shouldn't be either."
Nosedive tried to look into his brother's eyes to see whether or not what he was saying was genuine, but he found them closed.
"And I suppose you didn't swallow enough poolwater the last time?" Mallory taunted the wry green lizard before her.
Furious, Chameleon snapped out his blaster and shot, but the agile Duck simply flipped backwards, out of range. "Stand still!" Chameleon growled. His shots were so loud that he couldn't hear the purpose of Mallory's evasiveness, creeping up behind him. The Saurian was lifted cleanly by the collar, whirled about, and dragged on the rough cement. He looked up to find Zelda towing him towards the pool, flapping to pull him faster. "Oh no you don't, not again!" he tried to aim as he was jostled along the ground, and fired right up through the dragon's wing.
Zelda seethed and only pulled faster, tossing him over the edge before he could fire again, and following him into the water with a dive. She flapped her wings and powered herself aside, as a blast made the side of the pool go up in an ashen, underwater cloud.
Chameleon still had his laser, floundering along on the surface.
Bubbling a snarl, she gracefully swerved upward and surfaced beside him, clamping her jaws down on an arm and pulling him under with her.
He let out a gurgled scream, dropping the blaster, panic ensuing as the water closed above him. Holding her breath and her patience, she held on as he struggled, wrenching underwater, desperate for the surface. Blood clouded her vision of him quickly, and she let go, flapping back to the surface. Without looking back, she hefted herself from the pool, and into another firefight with the hunter drones. There were many more of them this time, and none of them were simply standing around either! A quick scan of the poolside revealed all of her teammates still fighting, mostly against the drones except for Duke and Tanya who had doubleteamed Wraith. Zelda could be satisfied with that, just as long as none of them were alone with a henchman, especially Siege. She spun around, looking for him, and caught a flash of his orange, leathery hide as it peeked from the corner of a small poolside building. She growled and decided to take him on. Sneaking around the side, she saw the building had several warning notices posted on it, for chemical storage. Were they really after the chlorine? She couldn't waste any time, and slid into the doorway, blocking his exit. "Going somewhere Siege?" she snarled.
He suddenly withdrew into the darkness, fumbling in surprise. "Hey, no fair sneakin' in!"
Zelda followed him with a growl, when something came flying into the light again. No sooner could she react then she was slammed violently to the concrete floor under the weight of a sack of chemical pellets. Zelda choked, the wind knocked out of her, as Siege pulled the bag off and thundered over her in retreat. Cringing, she wheeled around, trying to stand and watch as he ran out into the open, loaded down with the bags, one spilling little bluish pellets all over the ground. She roared out angrily, but a sudden flash of blue pucks let her know Siege wouldn't be getting away easily now. Tanya and Mallory had followed her, and now pinned Siege under a hail of fire.
The Saurian shook off the pucks as an annoyance, then hefted a sack from his shoulder and charged, swinging it in a wide arc at Tanya.
Caught firing, Tanya would have been able to dodge back under normal circumstances, but the sack extended Siege's reach, and the Duck was helpless as she felt the heavy burlap crunch against her side, and the sheer inertia toppled her into the pool. She felt the cold water surge up around her, and she struggled to the surface.
"Tanya! You alright?" Mallory glanced over to her, letting her launcher down for only a moment.
Tanya coughed and shook back her hair.
"I'm fine! Stop Siege before he gets away!" As she swam to the edge of the pool and hauled herself out, Mallory and Zelda went charging away across the rough concrete. A characteristic whooshing noise, and a bright green light, and Tanya knew it was all over. A quick glance behind her revealed no trace of the other henchmen.
"Dangit!" Mallory's voice carried over. "He got away again!"
"Whoa, you okay Tanya?" Duke reached down a hand to pull her up.
Tanya took it and stood, shaking the pool water out of her hair. "Yeah, I'm okay. What did he hit me with, anyway?"
Coughing, Zelda trotted back and sniffed at the bluish pellets that had dropped out of the bag. She wrinkled her nose and sneezed violently. "Chlorine!" she coughed.
"So they were after that!" Duke stamped his foot down.
"But they only took one bag, there must be twenty in the shed." Mallory peeked in. "Draguanus putting a pool in?"
"As likely as it is for my scales to fall out." Zelda snorted.
Tanya picked up a pellet and rolled it over in her hands. "They might have only needed one bag. These pellets are highly concentrated, I bet they just put a handful in the filter every few weeks."
"But that still don't tell us what they want 'em for." Duke shook his head. "Why chlorine?"
Tanya shrugged. "You could do a lot of stuff with chlorine, it's a powerful solvent. They use it in bleach, antibacterials, that sort of stuff. And you can get it in any form, liquid, solid, or gas."
"Well if Draguanus wanted to confuse us, he's won this time." Mallory shook her head. "Should we head back?"
"Hang on sweetheart." Duke poked his beak into the shed. "There could be a few clues around here worth lookin' for." Still looking around cautiously, the team spread out again.
Grin fell to examining around the rim of the pool, but his mind was distracted. He didn't like the way this was going.
He sneezed, the first noise he'd made in about twenty minutes.
Wildwing hoped that he really hadn't hurt his brother's feelings. He didn't think so, Dive had been through things like this before. Nosedive sneezed again, and Wildwing pinpointed him at somewhere around the other end of Drake 1's console. He sat to thinking again, fingers rapping the keys before him lightly, purposelessly. No, he didn't think he had hurt Dive's feelings. And even if he did, then so what? He could take it, and hopefully learn from it. He considered the team, for all it went through in battle, to be pretty sheltered. Nobody really fought, or had open alterior motives. It certainly wasn't the same with other hockey teams. Sure people were friends, teams worked together, but they were divided amongst themselves. There was too much competition, for ice time, for fans, even for jobs. They never had any of that here, their team was simply too close and too small. A unit of 27 grown men, with family, coaches, managers, and the media breathing down their necks, couldn't stay as close as they did. Their situation here was unique, he noted. Not even on Puckworld would they get along this well. Who would have thought that ducks from so many walks of life would be able to defeat Draguanus as they had, back home? They had been through a lot. Nosedive sneezed again, and Wildwing sneezed too. There was a faint smell in the air, something strange. He sniffed curiously. "Hey Dive, what's that smell?" he asked.
His brother audibly turned and sniffed too. "I dunno, Mallory's cooking?"
"Very funny. Go check the galley, will you?" he asked.
Nosedive shuffled and stood. "Can't find it yourself?" he sneered.
Wildwing was taken aback. That one hurt. "I said go and check." he tried to keep a hard tone. Nosedive snorted and was off, every footstep resounding hollow in the Ready Room, until the doors hissed closed, and Wildwing was alone.
What was that all about? Nosedive had rarely relented to flat-out insulting him, there was always some light joking involved. But his tone was totally serious, Wildwing could tell that for sure. He shook it off, or at least tried to. That smell was becoming worse now, it was almost acrid, and chemical. Maybe a plastic fork had melted in the dishwasher. But why would it smell here? Maybe it was Drake 1. Wildwing got up, tapping his stick against the console as he edged around it. It would be impossible to find the problem though, he might as well just shut the whole system down. That was something he would not do, not while the others were still out. He flipped open his com and leaned against the console.
"You find anything Dive?"
On the other end, his brother coughed loudly. "Not Mal's cookin..." he sniffed.
"What's going on up there?" Wildwing asked.
Nosedive sneezed again. "I dunno! Smells... like a pool!" He fell to coughing again. "Stings my eyes, bro."
"What?" Wildwing was puzzled. "It has to be something coming from the vents... and their only outlet is outside."
"Yeah..." Dive hacked. "Well while you're thinkin... a gas mask would be nice!"
Wildwing started to panic. "Find a way up to the surface Dive, I'll be with you in a sec!" But as Wildwing realized just how strong the smell was getting, he wasn't so sure about that.
This was really getting frustrating. Grin finished scouring the rim of the pool, for the most part. There was a strange feeling at the pit of his stomach, as if he knew something wasn't right about this situation. It unnerved him to say the least. He sniffed the air and smelled a faint odor, something chemical and strange. He looked ahead of him, to where Siege had first broken out of the shed, to see some of the pellets spilled by the edge of the pool. Curiously, he picked up a single pellet in-between his finger and thumb, looked it over, and dropped it into the water. The pellet sank, letting up a powdery little tuft of smoke. Grin gathered up a handful and dropped them in. The smell was acrid, burning. Something told him this was a bad sign.
"Hey Tanya, over here." he waved her.
Tanya came up to him from the shed, kneeling beside him. "Found something?"
"Possibly." Again, he gathered a handful of the pellets and dropped them into the water.
The fumes rose, and Tanya wrinkled her beak. "That's weird." A few more moments and her eyes were tearing. She and Grin both stood. "That's really weird. They must be using industrial-strength chlorine, maybe for cleaning at the end of the year..."
"That means it's more dangerous?" Grin asked.
"Those fumes are bad news." Tanya explained. "Chlorine gas burns, your eyes and lungs especially. Just bad news." she shook her head. "This expands the choices that Draguanus has in using it. It's pretty much a weapon now."
"But he would have to expose someone to the gas in an unventilated space to use it." Grin rubbed his beak in deep thought. "Very curious indeed." Suddenly, there was a loud beeping over their coms. Duke flipped his up first, seeing quickly that it was a simple alarm from Drake 1. But it wasn't about teleportation energy, it wasn't a video signal. It was a code red, plain and simple. Duke looked up, rather helplessly. "Wildwing was absolutely right."
It was searing, almost as if it were eating away at the inside of his lungs. Wildwing's panic was growing as he hustled up the stairs, gripping the railing, sucking in his breath, and nearly tripping. His brother was up here, in this mess? He took in another breath and his lungs burned again. The gas was getting thicker as he ran up the stairs. Of course it was, the ventilation system was top-down. Which meant that getting through the main floor of the Pond would be the hardest. Wildwing nearly lost count of how many flights he had run, and then he snapped back to reality and shoved through a pair of double doors. His mind reeled, trying to remember where the galley was, when his com suddenly went off.
"What's--going on here?!" Dive was frantic, and coughing.
His brother's voice brought his panic to a fever pitch. "Hang on Dive--I'm coming to meet you!" Wildwing choked out.
"--Can't see!" Nosedive snarled. "What is this?"
"An attack!" Wildwing answered. "Hold your breath and wait-- for me!" Dive shut his connection audibly, and Wildwing fell to coughing again. The smell up here was unbearable, like bleach, like a pool. Could this gas be chlorine? The irony was almost as terrible as the pain that was eating away at his chest. He had to get to his brother. His com clicked again as Wildwing stumbled into the open hall, desperately trying to find his way.
"Wildwing, come in!" Mallory's voice was tense.
The others must have realized the trap. "I'm here---" he coughed.
"Are you two okay?"
"Dive--- he's near the galley. I'm trying to get to him--" he couldn't control the coughing now. Zelda whined over the comlink.
"We're on our way Wing, you two just have to hang on, we'll be there in less than five!" Mallory was rough but encouraging.
Wildwing took another blind step before he found the wall. He hoped that it was the right one.
"We'll be waiting---" he managed, and closed his com. Speaking was agony, and he didn't dare open his eyes with this gas around. Not that it would do him any good anyway. He just hoped he was going the right way, and that Dive wasn't too far...
"But going back down would be suicide!" Duke turned from the driver's seat.
"That's my point!" Tanya was hacking away at the console. "The only gas masks we have are in the infirmary, the hangar, and here!"
"They don't do us any good in any of those places." Mallory snorted.
"It can't be helped now." Grin was the only one who attempted to sound calm.
Tanya went back to typing frantically, trying to see if their defenses had been compromised at the Pond. "If I were just at Drake 1, I can't get our full array of security cameras in here. I know where the Saurians are."
"Care to fill us in?" Duke asked, turning a tight corner. "We're almost there."
"The main ventilation duct." Tanya looked over. "It's gotta be, that's our primary air intake for the whole Pond."
"Which means the gas is most concentrated at ground level." Grin nodded solemnly.
"Well... yeah..." Tanya said.
Zelda whined again.
"Okay look, next turn and we're in the parking lot." Duke raced from the freeway exit. "Battle plan?"
"The Saurians will be there." Mallory already had a cannon in her arms.
"I'd expect that sweetheart." Duke agreed. "But what about our guys? We have gas masks in here, don't we?"
Tanya was just about to reply, but Zelda cut her off. "I can go in."
"That's right, you can hold your breath!" Mallory remembered.
"Maybe half an hour." the dragon nodded. "I can find them, even if I can't see."
"Good girl." Tanya nodded. "But you won't be able to talk. The only link we have with the guys is our coms. Maybe I can stay here and try and navigate them out, and give orders to you too."
"That settles it." Duke nodded, suddenly slamming on the brakes. "We're here kids."
They split up quickly, leaving Tanya in the Migrator, looking back at them. Zelda darted from the others, trying to fasten a com to her wrist as she flew for the main entrance doors. Two gas masks were slung around her neck. Behind her, she could hear the flare of pucks go up quickly. The Saurians weren't wasting any time in defending their tactics. But Zelda had other concerns. As she flapped towards the glass archway of the Pond, she could feel the knot in her stomach growing tighter. There was no doubt that Wildwing and Nosedive were in serious trouble. She landed at the doors, reached up for the handle, and pulled them open. The smell was incredible, even the fumes wafting into the open air were enough to make her eyes tear reflexively. Zelda coughed and stumbled backwards.
"You ready Zel?" Tanya's voice crackled up over the com.
"Yeah, I'm going in." She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and leapt into the doorway.
"Good, now the two are down by the galley, the nearest stairs are off to your right."
Zelda wheeled to her right and took off, having trotted this hallway well enough to know it by heart. She veered further to her right and met up with the wall, dragging a wing along it until she suddenly felt an open space before her.
"That's it, careful down the stairs." Tanya reminded her.
Zelda clattered her way down them cautiously, counting one flight, then two. She broke from the stairs and ran into a closed door. Stumbling backwards, she rubbed her snout and reached up until she could feel the handle. With a click, she pushed it open. Here, her memory started to falter.
Dead silence. There was nothing but silence in the hall before him. Wildwing felt increasingly helpless. Where was his brother? He couldn't even use his eyes if he opened them to check his AutoTracker. Nosedive had to be down here somewhere, why wasn't he making any noise?! Wildwing nearly jumped three feet as his com beeped, and he fumbled to open it again.
"The cavalry's here Wing!" Tanya told him.
Wildwing tried to answer her, but could only cough.
"No no, don't try to talk." she told him quickly. "Just listen, I've got Dive on the line with us, I'm going to try and guide the both of you out of there."
If she had any video image of him, Wildwing gave her the courtesy of a nod.
"The good news is that Zelda is on her way down to get you. Pound on the walls if you can, it may help if things get desperate, got that?"
Wildwing nodded again, grimacing at the pain in his lungs. He would need to take another breath soon.
"Alright then, listen to me Dive. Wildwing is closer to the stairs, you'll need to get to him and then you can both leave. About twenty feet ahead of you is a turn to your right, you need to go down that hallway."
Over the line, Wing heard his younger brother gasp for air, falling into a coughing fit seconds later. Helplessly, Wildwing pounded against the wall. But apparently his brother was moving.
"That's it Dive." Tanya encouraged. "Keep going, you'll be with Wing in no time. Listen you two, I'm switching over to another channel for just a sec, gotta give some directions to Zel. Stay with me."
The connection switched off with a click, and again Wildwing felt helpless and alone. He listened for his brother, and thought he heard a faint pounding down a ways. Was he really that far? Wildwing wanted to go after him, but before he did anything, he'd have to breathe again. He braced himself as he took the air in slowly and thinly, grimacing as a thousand tiny pinpricks acid-etched their way into his chest. His heart sinking, Wildwing decided to stay put.
She should have known. Mallory should have expected them to be lying in wait, to have heard them screech into the parking lot, to have seen them jump out, to have already been cloaked. Now she was just trying to make the world stop spinning before her, and Wraith was still somewhere around, looking to take another crack at her head with his staff. She managed to make out Grin, leaping in front of her and tackling the frail old Saurian to the ground. He disappeared in a puff of acrid smoke, and she heard Grin snarl in frustration.
"Stay on your toes Grinster, he'll be back!" Duke was across the way, still vying for ground near the ventilation duct with Siege. These guys were just suckers for punishment! He could see the sack of chlorine pellets, torn hastily open and dripping with water, sitting on the ground right where the vent was. Getting that chlorine away was the key to getting the guys out of the Pond safely. But Siege had other ideas. Duke yelled as he felt a laser blast shear across his right shoulder, and he nearly dropped his sabre with the pain. Siege's bloodthirsty chuckle was what got him back to his feet. "You'd better wipe that smirk off of your face..."
"Or you're gonna do it for me?" Siege taunted. "I don't think so Duck. Maybe you should join your friends in there and get fumigated with 'em!" He slammed his tail against the Pond's stone side for emphasis.
Duke rubbed his shoulder and growled right back at him. "Forget about just wiping that smirk away, your face is gonna be Swiss cheese." As Siege backed slowly away, crouching, Duke raised his sabre and charged the waiting Saurian.
Grin helped her up, leaning her gently against the wall. They couldn't afford to have any more teammates out of action, not with the henchmen still lurking en-force. Chameleon was currently taken care of, however, as he struggled to escape from the bola ropes that held him with strangling force to a nearby palm tree. He holstered his launcher as Mallory pushed him away, one hand over her forehead.
"I told you I'm fine!" she insisted.
"Not until you can stand up straight." Grin insisted quietly. He looked over his shoulder, trying to find Duke and Siege, but both were gone. Perhaps they were around the corner of the building. Grin looked over and saw the sack of chlorine unguarded. Now was a golden opportunity. Grin looked over to Mallory to find her already walking for the vent, leaning lightly on the wall. Grin caught up with her and handed her his launcher.
"You want me to cover for you?" she asked. "You got it."
He nodded back to her and walked quickly ahead, holding his breath as he approached the wet burlap bag. Even with the pull of the vent above it, the chlorine still gave off almost visible vapors, and stung his eyes. Blinking back tears, Grin grabbed the bag and pulled it away, pellets spilling from a large gash strait down the middle of it. Over all the noise he was making, he couldn't hear Wraith slide up from a vapory cloud behind him, and his stomach dropped only seconds before Mallory yelled out and fired. By then, it was too late, and Grin lay out cold on the asphalt.
If she had her sense of smell about her, she'd be able to find them in an instant! Frustrated, Zelda spun in a hesitant circle, the pounding on the walls of the Pond echoing around her. The gas masks clattered noisily against each other as she turned. This building carried sound and vibration far too well, a result of earthquake-precautionary construction. Now it was working against her. She fought her instinct to whine out for help as she continued to hold her breath, trying to concentrate on Tanya's instructions.
"Zel you've gotta move faster..." her voice was edging higher. "I may have to go..."
Shocked, Zelda listened as Tanya's voice grew more and more nervous. Were the others in trouble up there? Now being pulled topside, the dragon was torn.
"Zel listen to me, you're really close to them both." Tanya gave another hurried instruction. "Take the next left you come to, then two more rights, and you'll be with Wing. Dive's only a little ways off from there." her voice drifted away.
Zelda tapped her com's mic, trying to get a response.
There was none, Tanya had left the Migrator.
Zelda spun around once again, trying to force herself to concentrate. The only way she'd find the others now was by following her instinct. She put her ear against the wall, fighting to slow her racing heart, and listened. Further down, the pounding came again. Staying close to the wall, Zelda went off at a hasty walk, and soon came to a left turn in the hallway.
The pounding on the wall behind him was becoming softer and softer. His own was as well. Struggling to keep his head on straight, fighting the dizziness from the lack of air and the searing pain in his lungs, Wildwing sat himself upright against the wall. If he didn't breathe soon he was going to faint, he could feel it...And out of the throbbing in his head and the pounding at his back, there was another sound down the hall. It was Zelda, the tapping of her claws on the metal floor was unmistakable! Wildwing sucked in a breath and attempted to call out to her, but midway he fell to uncontrollable coughing. Apparently it worked well enough, for as he was struggling to regain his breath he felt Zelda loop her neck under his arm, hoisting him up.
She couldn't see him or smell him, but listening to him gasping scared her enough. She brushed back his hair and patted him on the shoulder, trying to reassure him. Quickly, she slipped a mask around and over his bill, and he didn't fight her, but instead relaxed a little once it was on.
Wildwing raised an arm and pushed her down the hallway, towards Nosedive. The pounding from him was coming again.
Zelda gave him another pat and was off down the hall, her clipping claws now in a run, receding into silence.
Wildwing was left in the blackness again, trying to find the oxygen enough to stay conscious. At least now, he had it.
He was almost startled as she got to him, apparently he had been lost in his own helplessness, kneeling on the floor. He pushed her away, panic increasing, maybe mistaking her for a Saurian, but Zelda let one of his hands run over her neck, and he knew he was safe. She fumbled for a moment, unstrapping the gas mask from around her neck and getting it over his beak. He coughed once it was on, heaving oxygen in gratefully.
"Man..." he choked, his voice muffled. "Air is good..."
Zelda ran around and pushed against his back, urging him to try and stand.
"Alright... gimme a sec Zel..." he coughed, crawling over to the wall and leaning against it. "Lemme at least get my breath..."
Frustrated, she butted him in the legs to get him to move. They couldn't afford to wait, not with what was going on outside. They must know, even if they hadn't heard Tanya's last message. Finally, Nosedive seemed to cooperate with her, stumbling ahead.
"Dive!" Wildwing coughed, sounding like he was just coming towards them. Zelda nearly ran into him as he patted his younger brother on the shoulder. "We've got to get out of here..."
"I'm all for that..." Dive wheezed back. "But how?... Which way?"
There was a decided pause among the trio.
Zelda backed audibly away as a sign of hesitance. She'd gotten so turned around in her distress, she hardly knew right from left anymore.
Wildwing tapped his com, hoping Tanya would be back on the other end. "Tanya, come in." But there was no answer but static. He coughed again and hesitated.
"Bro, we gotta get out of here." Dive repeated.
"We will Dive." Wildwing breathed. "Follow me." He started off in one direction, grabbing Nosedive by the arm.
Zelda hopped ahead of Wing, following their footfalls, listening for any sign of danger. For all they knew, the Saurians could very well be storming the Pond again.
"The stairs..." Wildwing coughed, pulling his brother left down a passageway. "They should be back here..." he stumbled ahead, Zelda bumping against him every now and then in disorientation.
"You sure this is the right way?..." Nosedive asked.
Wildwing was beginning to hesitate himself, having nothing to go on other than his own distracted memory. But in a few moments he reached a hand out and found the smooth metal of the handle on the doors to the stairs! He happily swung it open, creating some sound in the Pond besides their own footsteps.
"Found it!" he coughed in celebration. "Up two flights, both of you, and we'll take it from there..." He pushed his brother ahead of him, and heard Zelda clatter up quickly behind. Wildwing stumbled on the first few steps before he found his pace, the gas mask jangling against his beak. Was he ever glad to have this thing, otherwise he'd probably never make it up the stairs! He clambered up as quickly as he could, one flight, and then two. Almost at the top, he heard Nosedive shove open the doors ahead of him. They were almost out! Wildwing skidded up to the top of the stairwell, feeling himself go through the doorframe, and then his legs bumped into something. He nearly tripped, and was startled enough, but he heard a thud and Zelda let out a frightened squeak.
"Bro?" Nosedive coughed.
Wildwing straightened himself quickly and realized he must have knocked Zelda over! The two of them must have stood hesitating just in front of the stairwell as he came running out. Nosedive was standing just next to him.
Zelda began to cough, standing audibly.
Wildwing knelt down, finding her quickly. "Zel, I'm sorry! What---"
The dragon coughed and shook herself away, whining. "Let's---get out---of here--"
Knocking her over had caused her to lose her breath! Thinking quickly, Wildwing pulled the gas mask off of his beak, trying to grab a hold of her again. It was tough, the pain from the sudden gulp of chlorine gas was frightening her. It was more concentrated up here too. He felt her take a quick breath, and he strapped the mask back onto his beak. "Come on girl--" he encouraged as he stood. "It's not far."
Her aim was terrible, and Wraith was easily dodging her shots as he stepped over Grin's back and raised a fireball in his claws. Backing against the Pond's wall, Mallory holstered one launcher in order to adjust the other. She couldn't use her explosive pucks, no matter how much she wanted to, not with Grin laying so close. But a freeze puck... "You think you're pretty hot Wraith?" she sneered. "Chill on this." She fired again, and missed again. If her head would only stop spinning!
Wraith sneered and tossed his fireball, watching as she barely managed to dodge. "Clumsy Duck." he insulted. "There is no escaping me now!" He jumped forward and started to run at her, when suddenly he let out a yell of surprise and crashed to the asphalt.
Mallory stood, laughing bitterly, as Wraith scrabbled on a wide patch of ice, spread over the ground from her intentionally mis-aimed puck. "Who's clumsy now Wraith?" she asked, rediailing her launcher in to her bola pucks. "You're the one who won't escape." Squinting her eyes and straining for an accurate shot at the Saurian twenty feet before her, she aimed strait for his head and fired.
"Stay here!" she yelled, gasping in the fresh air as she galloped through the doors. "Or get back to the 'Grator if you can!" She looked over her shoulder as she ran, grateful to be able to open her eyes again. Nosedive and Wildwing both tore off their masks and staggered, Nosedive eventually leaning over on his knees, coughing. Although she wanted to stay with them, they would eventually be alright, and she had greater concerns. There was no way the Saurians would take the Pond, not now. That could have been the point of this entire scheme! Her lungs were still searing from that quick flash of chlorine, but Zelda pushed through it and gained her wings, flapping around the corner of the building and towards the main air vent. Swinging up almost at the roofline, she was shocked to find Mallory stooped over Grin as he lay on his stomach, two Saurians still struggling and yelling nearby. Zelda roared out in alarm and dove to land, but Mallory looked up and waved her on.
"It's okay, he's just knocked out!" she yelled. "Go help Tanya and Duke!"
There was something in her tone that Zelda didn't question. She wheeled skyward again, calling out behind her. "Yell if you need me Mal!" Leaving the two of them behind, she flapped powerfully over the roof, and the fight Tanya and Duke were in spread wide before her. The two stood across from each other, blitzing Siege against the wall of the Pond with a flurry of pucks. Only at first glance did they appear to have the upper hand. Zelda frowned. Siege had grown indifferent to most pucks, even under an onslaught like this he could turtle under his armor and thick skin, only held to the wall by the force of the pucks. Once the Ducks ran out of ammo, he could strike freely. And as Duke started to reach for his sabre, Zelda saw Siege's chance coming soon. She was about to go join the fight when something distracted her. Out of the corner of her eye, a flash of green light erupted on the ground, a dozen feet or so behind Duke. Her stomach dropped as she realized what -or who- it was. "DUKE!" she roared out. "Behind you!"
Without hesitating for an instant, Duke tore the sabre from his shoulder and spun, bringing it up to meet the claws of the Saurian Overlord.
Snarling at his bad luck, Dragaunus whipped his tail and sent Duke sprawling away across the pavement.
Taken completely by surprise, Tanya looked over her shoulder. "Duke!"
Dragaunus was already leaping after him, looking to slam his six hundred pound weight fully down on the Duck's ribcage, when something slammed into him and took him to the ground as well.
Zelda snapped at Dragaunus's face as she tried to scramble on top of him, to not get pinned to the ground.
Dragaunus roared and smacked her away with the back of his hand, staggering up to face Tanya and the recovering Duke. "Now Siege, let's finish this!"
Shoving aside a pile of pucks around him, Siege lumbered away from the wall, laughing. "Only three against two? What pathetic odds!" he sneered. "The three of ya couldn't beat me alone! Now you featherbrains are in for it!" With that, he pulled his laser and charged the two Ducks like an angry bull.
Drawing his sabre up, Duke ran for Siege, charging just as Siege was, as if the two were playing a game of chicken.
Trying to look away, Tanya quickly reloaded her launcher and ran for Dragaunus, seeing Zelda up behind him and looking to attack him as well. But Dragaunus simply lashed his tail out again, and the dragon was sent flying just as Duke had been. Tanya shot as his back was turned, hitting Dragaunus behind his crested head. Buckling over from the pain, the Overlord roared in fury and spun to face her. Nervously spinning another kind of puck into her launcher, she backed away slowly.
It was exactly like a game of chicken, and Duke knew that Siege would be dumb enough to keep running. He didn't shift his gaze from the Saurian's burning eyes as the two came closer and closer to each other. Siege's thunderous footfalls actually began to upset his balance, and Duke knew that he was close enough. Springing straight up into the air, he leapt clean over Siege's head, and stabbed strait downwards with his sabre, catching something.
Siege howled out, skidded to a halt, and turned as Duke landed, gripping his shoulder. The spine of his left shoulder armor clattered onto the ground. "You jerk!" Siege roared. "Now you're really gonna pay!" He raised his meaty hands and charged for Duke, when something blue flashed and glanced off of his head.
Duke almost let down his guard with his surprise as Siege tottered and fell, first to his knees and then onto his stomach, out cold. He looked over to his left to see nothing short of Wildwing lowering his smoking arm launcher, Nosedive standing at his side. "Well whadda ya know!" he celebrated. "Come join the party guys!"
Wildwing pointed his brother to take care of Siege, and nodded to Duke, before he went running off for Dragaunus.
Duke met the kid halfway, placing a foot on Siege's leathery head. "Whoa, you okay there Dive?"
"A little winded..." Nosedive confessed, leaning over and bracing himself on his knees. "Let's just take care of these guys, hm?"
"Glad to kid." Duke nodded, taking a bola out of a pouch on his belt. "You wanna do the honors? I'll go help out the others."
"Sure." Dive took Duke's bola and shooed him off. "Have fun."
Duke nodded sharply and was off.
Even though he was surrounded by three launcher-toting Ducks and one angry dragoness, Dragaunus didn't so much as break a sweat. He eyed each of them in turn, lashing his tail to keep them at a distance.
"Your plan's down the drain, Lizard Lips." Wildwing snarled. "And your henchmen are in dreamland. Care to leave while you can?"
"You are so polite, Wildwing." the Overlord sneered. "Or do you offer me the chance to leave out of your own cowardice?"
Unshaken, Wildwing instead leveled his launcher at Dragaunus's head. "This is your last chance."
"No." Dragaunus sneered. "It's yours." He roared and kicked savagely for Wildwing, but the Duck dodged it and landed his own kick to Dragaunus's back, sending the Overlord to the pavement again. Dragaunus rolled away and up, but by that time the Ducks had regrouped, lined up against him.
"Let him have it!" Wildwing commanded, and he and the rest of the team opened fire on the Saurian. Dragaunus howled, disappearing underneath the onslaught, until suddenly a green light faded out through the blue hail of pucks. The Ducks held their fire to find him gone!
"Yo guys!" Nosedive called from behind them. "Siege pulled a disappearing act too."
"Cowards indeed." Zelda snorted. "Looks like Dragaunus decided to cut his losses."
"The other two are gone as well!" Mallory called to them. She and Grin were coming around the corner, both rubbing their heads.
The others ran up to meet them.
"You guys okay?" Tanya asked.
Grin rolled his eyes and grunted.
"As soon as the Pond stops spinning, I will be." Mallory nodded. "Wraith packs a mean punch with that staff of his. Remind me to make toothpicks out of it next time we meet."
Wildwing grinned and patted her shoulder, looking tired out himself. "As long as both of you are still in one piece."
Mallory was about to answer, when she suddenly realized something. "Wing, your eyes! Can you see again?"
"Funny thing, isn't it?" he asked. "Things are a little fuzzy, but yeah! Opened my eyes as soon as Dive and I got out of the Pond, and it all came back to me."
Mallory nodded, and Zelda climbed up onto Wildwing's shoulder to have a closer look at his face.
"Heh, I guess all the time that you had your eyes closed really helped you out Wing." she said. "Your eyes are almost back to normal!"
"Is that ever a relief." he smiled. "And it's good to be out of all that chlorine! Thanks to you Tanya, we all made it out alright."
"I'm just glad things worked out." she pointed back to the sack of chlorine that Grin had dragged away from the vents. "But I have no idea how long it'll take for the Pond to air out. The health inspectors are gonna have a field day with this one."
Wildwing shook his head and sighed, but still retained his smile. "As long as everyone's okay, that's the most important thing. Now, let's see if we can't start cleaning this up. You guys sure made a mess of the place."
"Oh thanks!" Duke threw his hands up, grinning. "But I get to keep that chunk of Siege's armor, that one's goin' up as a trophy on my wall."
Zelda nuzzled against his armor warmly and smiled up at him. "You were the one who got us out of there, you know. I lost my way, and who knows what would have happened to Dive and I if you weren't around!"
Wildwing patted her back. "Hey, I had a good teacher! I just got used to not being able to see, I guess, and it didn't bother me too much. Of course, I couldn't breathe..." he chuckled.
The dragon stood up from the ramp of the Migrator and shook herself off. "Well I don't know about you, but I can literally feel that gas still on me. I'm taking a bath and then having a good snack." She spread her wings and was off in a few leathery flaps, wheeling over towards the aqueduct that ran alongside the Pond.
Wildwing was left alone, and took the moment to look over towards the west, the setting sun bathing his face in orange. He took a deep breath and was very, very glad to have things back to normal... or as normal as they could be in the given situation. Soon, he too stood up, blinking in the bright sunlight, and walked around the Migrator's back side, looking to head back to the others in the Pond. He was rather surprised to see Nosedive sitting on the open back hatch, and Dive looked up at him as he approached. "I didn't even hear you over here little bro." he smiled a little, walking up. "You're just sitting here by yourself?"
Nosedive looked up at him for a moment, a look that was too distorted by the sun's glare to describe accurately. "Yeah, guess I am." he said, after a pause. "Just thinking I guess."
"You wanna talk about something?" Wildwing asked. Only now did he seem to remember his brother's stinging comments earlier.
Nosedive looked off into the sun and merely shrugged his shoulders.
Internally, Wildwing frowned. His brother was incorrigible, completely unknowing of how much those few simple words had affected him. For a moment, he felt bitter and angry, and thought of turning away and leaving it all at that.
"Sorry about what I said back there." Dive spoke up, squinting in the light. "I was just mad."
"Well... you've got the right to get mad, I guess." Wildwing sighed. "I shouldn't have been so stern. You've got a point, maybe. Maybe I wouldn't have treated the others like that, if they switched places with you."
Nosedive stifled a need to pick at that maybe thing. "It just frustrates me Wing, you know?"
"You gonna blame me little bro?" Wildwing smiled down. "Just because I'm trying to make sure you're okay?"
Nosedive looked up, really ready to protest this time, but saw that his brother wore a joking expression.
"I'm not going to kiss your boo-boos Dive, don't worry." Wildwing ruffled his younger brother's hair. "But I am going to be a big brother. If you don't like it, tough."
Nosedive reeled over as if physically hurt, leaning back only to smooth his hair back into place. "Okay, but don't expect me to appreciate you babying me!"
Wildwing grinned and offered him his hand. "You never have! But if that's the way you're going to play it, then let's call it a truce, hm?"
Nosedive smiled back up. "Truce." He took the hand of his older brother and leader, was pulled to his feet, and walked with him back towards the Pond.
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!