Archlord V:

As a phoenix rising from the ashes, so too is the Darklord reborn! Sorry, being too theatrical here! Returning under a new name after a LOOOOONG hiatus, the Darklord – er-hem, ARCHLORD now I guess – is back and ready to unleash literary mayhem! Hoping to get a lot of my unfinished work completed this time around!

Anyways…recently managed to score a rare DVD set of Darkwing Duck and the nostalgia stick bopped me pretty damn hard. Decided to write a small ficcy about two of my favourite one-shot villains meeting through a seeming mischance…or F.O.W.L. designed scheme, take your pic. This one's for all you lizard lovers out there!

Disclaimer: I do not own Darkwing Duck or any of the characters affiliated therein. They are the property of Disney and Tad Stone.

Adaptability

Randy let out a loud yawn. Here he was, at ten-thirty on a Wednesday night, keeping watch at the reptile house of the St. Canard Zoo, going on two hours overtime, bored out of his mind, and all out of smokes. It was enough to drive you out of your mind with boredom.

The reptile house itself was divided into three areas. The first was the viewing room. It circled around an underground enclosure made out of stone, with the glass cages set into the walls. Mostly it was the snakes and other small reptiles that inhabited this area. Next you had the outside pens, where the larger and much less lethal lizards were housed. The walkway was lined with shady trees so that the zoo patrons could watch the animals sunning themselves without getting too deep a tan themselves.

And as for the third area…

Randy checked his watch. Ten-thirty. His boss, Mr. Fabberquack, hadn't checked on him all of tonight (The old skinflint's probably too busy counting today's take, Randy thought to himself angrily), and Randy just knew he hadn't gotten around to hiring anyone else for the late shift like he had promised he would. And he was all alone to boot.

Surely there could be no harm in…checking, could there?

After one last surreptitious glance to ensure he was completely alone, Randy reached down and pulled up his keyring. Walking briskly even as he sorted, he soon came to a lone door down at the far end of the viewing room, just before it led on to the outside enclosures. The door was solid steel and was kept securely shut by a sturdy padlock. Randy finally found the key he was looking for: a chunky, old-fashioned key, wrought in exactly the same steel as the door. He inserted the key, turned it – there was a big metallic clunck as the locking mechanism let go – and swung the door open.

Heat roared out like an invisible lion. Bright red phosphorescent lights blazed down, staining everything in an eerie crimson glow. Randy started forward, already feeling his skin prickle under his feathers at the humidity.

In the exact centre of this room was a large table. And set upon this large table was a medium-sized glass terrarium. And inside this terrarium was sand, some leaves, a food tray, an empty water dish, and-

And a perfectly ordinary-looking speckled lizard of some description.

Always keep the door locked, always keep the room hot…oh, and give it food and water every so often, Mr. Fabberquack had told him (the last had sounded almost like an afterthought), but he had never told Randy exactly what had made this lizard so different from the rest. Like it needed special considerations.

Or precautions.

Regardless, Randy had never much liked having to babysit for the scaly, little…thing, whatever it was. And, while he had been as catch-as-catch-can about the food pellets and water, he had seen that the room had always remained hot and the door had always been locked come the end of his shifts.

Randy grinned and leaned forward to get a better look. The small creature looked at him with something like contempt: its orange eyes narrowed and the blue spines on its back quivered slightly. Its tongue flicked out lazily.

Still grinning, Randy raised his hand and tapped sharply on the glass, sending harsh reverberations through the lizard's domain. The small reptile scuttled quickly under the pile of dry leaves that was in the corner of its prison until the noise had died away, then stuck its small head out, glaring balefully at the night watchman.

"Yeah, well I don't like you much either," the duck replied. "That old fool seems to think you're something special, but I'm damned if I know what." He took a look at the empty water dish, and wondered whether he should fill it. He yawned again – the heat of the room was starting to get him – and decided that he would wake care of it tomorrow. In the afternoon. Perhaps.

"You do realise that you're talking to a lizard."

Randy gave a startled yelp and jumped about a foot in the air. He whirled around. Standing there was someone in a zookeeper's uniform. Despite recognizing this detail immediately, Randy was still perplexed; he hadn't seen this person around the grounds before.

He was a short, lean rooster – just thin enough to be what most people would call "stringy". The edges of his beak were curved upwards in a small smile that nevertheless seemed…forced to Randy. Like a smirk. There was no mirth in it, and the fact that the lower half of his beak was serrated didn't help. His eyes smouldered sullenly in their sockets like twin flecks of burning coal. And there was something wrong with his comb. It was brushed over to one side of the crown of his head neatly enough, but the quills looked…too sharp.

Too dangerous.

As he was noticing all of this, Randy thought he heard the newcomer say something else. Shaking his head, he asked: "Beg pardon?" The stranger grinned indulgently.

"I said 'Do you talk to all of your charges or just this one?'" He moved closer to the terrarium and studied the lizard inside. Randy put a hand on his shoulder.

"Now wait just one minute," he said, puffing out his chest. "You just can't come wandering in here and…and…well, just who are you anyway?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," the other avian said – though he didn't sound sorry at all. "Where are my manners. My name is Quilliam Squawkins." He tapped an ID tag on the breast pocket of his uniform. "I'm the new night watchman." Randy blinked.

"The new…night watchman?" he repeated, somewhat dumbly.

"Oh yes," Quilliam replied giving him a broad smile that was far closer to a leer. "I started here two days ago…but surely Mr. Fabberquack would have told you, wouldn't he?"

"No," Randy said slowly. "He didn't tell me anything like that…" Quilliam slapped him on the back.

"Like the husband with the cheating wife, eh?" he said. "Always the last one to know." He gave a grating laugh that sounded like broken glass on stone. "The boss sent me to take over your shift. You can go, now," he added, a magnanimous note in his voice.

Randy, however, stayed where he was. A new night watchman, one who supposedly had been working here for two days, but whom he had never seen before, shows up to take over his shift without a single word from the higher-ups? It was all too neat. And even if Randy had been earnestly wishing to lock up for the night and go home, something about this guy just seemed…off.

"Did…did Mr. Fabberquack tell you about the locking protocols?" he asked, wishing he could've mustered up something better to try and outface the other bird's statement.

"Oh, I transferred from the Central Zoo in Duckberg," the rooster said, still wearing that small, pursed smile. "It's all SOP. I'm sure I'll pick up the rest of it as I go along. Now…why don't you run along, hmmm? I'm sure you could still make it home for the half-time kick off to tonight's game if you hurry." His tone made it clear that he was becoming impatient. Nevertheless, Randy kept up.

"And what about the feeding schedules," he added, his voice becoming more pronounced; he wasn't about to let some 'new boy' tell him how to do his job. "And pen cleaning. And…"

"Yes, yes, yes," Quilliam rapped at him. "Rules, regulations, lunch break times, I've got it already! Everything here is under control! Now…goodbye!" He seized Randy by his upper arm, the fingers biting deeply, and all but dragged him over towards the door. Randy winced: it hurt. Before Quilliam could shove him through, Randy slapped the other avian's arm away, with a cry of: "Let go of me!"

"Look…I don't care where you go, you fool!" The words came out as a barely restrained hiss, cold and sharp as a scalpel. "As long as you're not here! What part of that is so hard for you to get through your thick skull?!" Randy felt the first red threads of anger beginning to work their way past the fog of anxiety and confusion that had suffused his mind since the stranger had turned up. Puffing out his chest again, he raised both his arms and gave Quilliam a hard, open-handed shove.

The rooster had clearly not been expecting that, because he was thrown sharply backwards, landing heavily on his backside and crushing his tailfeathers. He gave a small squawk of discomfort. Randy pointed a threatening finger at him.

"I don't know who you are," he said slowly, "or what you think gives you the right to handle and talk to me that way, but I know this much: you're no zookeeper." Looking imperiously at the smaller avian from where he lay on the floor, Randy now didn't feel threatened in the slightest. "I'm going to call Mr. Fabberquack." With that, he pulled a cell phone off the clip where it hung on his belt. While the rooster glared at him from the floor, Randy looked away and began to dial. The sound he heard next, however, made his blood run cold. He had only heard it once or twice in his life, but a sound like that was impossible to mistake.

A small, metallic click. The sound of a firearm having its safety taken off.

Randy numbly turned. Quilliam had regained his feet. He was breathing hard, and there was a manic gleam in his formerly murky eyes. There was a look of intense hatred screwing up his features…and a silenced 9mm pistol in his hand.

Randy's beak dropped open in shock. Dimly, he was aware that the cell phone in his hand was still ringing, trying to connect to the zoo director's phone. Quilliam's breathing steadied and he flashed Randy a wide, frenzied grin.

"Oh, I think you can hang that up now," he said, his voice quiet now, almost silky. "After all…Mr. Fabberquack isn't going to be answering any time soon." With numb, trembling fingers, Randy did as he was told. Quilliam waggled the muzzle of the gun in his direction.

"Keys," he said simply. Randy reached down to his belt for the clip to his keychain. Fumbling slightly, he at last managed to unclip them, and held them out in Quilliam's direction, but the smaller bird shook his head.

"No, no, no," he said, as if speaking to a child. "Drop them on the ground and kick them over to me." Once again, Randy did as he was told. As the keys jingled to a stop near Quilliam's feet, Randy swallowed nervously and heard an insectile click in his throat.

Slowly, without taking his eyes – or the barrel of his pistol – off of the zookeeper, Quilliam stooped to pick up the keys. Straightening up and pocketing them in one swift movement, he regarded Randy with some interest.

"Now," he said, his tone that of a man perplexed, "what am I going to do with you?" Something in the way he spoke and the gleam in his eyes made Randy all but bite his tongue to keep from fainting dead away.

"D-d-don't hurt me, mister," he stammered. "I-I won't tell anyone anything…honest. Just- just let me go and you'll never hear from me again. How about it, huh?" Quilliam canted his head to one side, as though giving Randy's offer very serious thought.

Then he clucked his tongue and shook his head in a despairing way.

"Sorry," Quilliam said – once again not sounding like it at all, "but you had your chance. In my line of work, we have a few simple rules, number one of which is this: 'no questions asked'. And you had to go and break that rule…" His hand, holding the gun, never wavered as he took two steps back, keeping Randy covered. "But don't take it personal, big fella. It would've had to have ended this way regardless…"

Randy's nerve broke. With a choked cry, he spun around and made a break for the door.

The silenced pistol spat once. Twice. There was muffled thud, and then all was silent.

Quilliam looked over at Randy's crumpled form disinterestedly, watching the dark pool spreading underneath onto the concrete. Then he raised the pistol and fired once more.

The second rule: a corpse is preferable to a witness, he thought to himself. Reseating the gun into its cheater-holster under his left arm, Quilliam turned his attention back to the main objective of his mission…and was not surprised by what he saw.

Throughout the whole ordeal, the lizard had been watching their conflict with avid interest. And, at some during the last few moments, it had left its pile of leaves and come right up to the nearest side of the terrarium to watch the outcome. To watch Quilliam kill Randy. And – ridiculous as it seemed, he was just positive – the creature looked like it was smiling.

Quilliam felt an answering grin beginning to surface on his own face. It looked like the intel for this mission had been right – for a change. Moving silently past the dead zookeeper, Quilliam retrieved one of the fold-up chairs that had been haphazardly stored along the walls of the room. Unfolding and setting it down two feet from the glass, he sat and looked into those brilliant, orange eyes.

It was her. It had to be. No doubt about it.

He kept staring for some time. Finally, he decided to break the silence: "You're different, aren't you?"

The lizard didn't respond – How could she? – but that didn't faze him.

"That's okay," he said softly, almost crooning. "I'm different too." The lizard flicked its tongue out, never taking its eyes off him as it did so. Quilliam leaned even closer.

"I can help get you out of here, and I can help you achieve any goal you desire," he said. "Would you like that?" No response. He waited patiently for a few moments more, and then heaved a large sigh, stood up and turned towards the door.

"Oh well," he mused aloud, "I guess the information was incorrect. I suppose you really are nothing but an ordinary lizard. My mistake. Good luck to you; here's hoping your next carer remembers to feed and water you regularly." He started to walk out slowly, taking his time, letting the creature in the glass cage get a good long look at his back. He pulled up short and grinned again – he was turning into a regular Quackerjack – when he heard then noise he had been hoping for: the frantic scrabbling of small sharp claws on glass.

He turned back around. The lizard had raised its upper body and stood there with its small forelimbs splayed out on the glass. The orange eyes were still fixed on him, but the emotion that blazed within them had changed from feigned listlessness to an all-too familiar look: desperation.

With a chuckle, he moved back to where the lizard waited, and crouched down so he was once again at eye level with the creature. "If I let you out of there, are you going to co-operate with me? No tricks?" The small creature blinked once, and then slowly nodded. "Good," he said. "Now, you're going to have to bear with me; I don't think shutting off the heat-lamps or simply moving you to an area with a different temperature will cause you to revert back to your old self. But if you will accompany me for a little while to a secure location, I can offer you a little…pick me up, shall we say, that should solve the problem. If you want to strike out on your own, I'll make no attempt to stop you, but St. Canard's a big city, and it would be all too easy for a little thing like you to get crushed in the gears of the machine. No biting, no running, no problems…Do we understand each other?"

The lizard nodded again, never taking its reptilian gaze off of him. Quilliam took the keys out of his pocket and began swiftly sorting through them, testing each in turn against the lock on the terrarium. After several unsuccessful attempts, he finally found the one he sought. A sharp twist, a smart klik, and the door fitted against the glass wall of the lizard's enclosure swung open. The creature moved to the exit…and then pulled up short, eying Quilliam warily.

He gave an exasperated sigh. "Okay," he said, matter-of-factly, "I wouldn't have gone to all the trouble of getting you out of here to try and pull something now. You have absolutely no reason to trust me, I get it, but I read your profile long before I was assigned the task of retrieving you and I happen to know that you never trusted anybody, and just look where that got you!" The reptile glanced away sharply as though it were embarrassed…or ashamed. Quilliam lowered his tone and went on. "Look…I know what it's like to be on the outside and to envy those within, to knowthat you deserve more than what Fate has dealt you…and I know what it feels like to be alone, with no one to turn to, without a friend in the whole world." The lizard turned back, studying him closing, trying to determine whether or not he was telling the truth. Slowly, very slowly, he lowered his hand into the opening of the terrarium, fingers splayed and palm facing upward.

"Camille…" The lizard stared at him still deeper with those bright orange eyes; she held him with her gaze. And he stared back, unblinking, and spoke two words, words he had used in the line of duty time and time again. Two words without importance solely used to achieve his own goals or the goals of his superiors. Two words he had never used with much meaning behind them, except on very rare occasions …like now.

"Trust me…"

Maybe it was the look in his eyes. Or maybe it was the way he had used her given name. Whatever the reason, something seemed to change somehow. The tension that had hung between them was gone. The lizard flicked its tongue once more…and then slowly clambered onto Quilliam's hand. Before he had even withdrew his arm all of the way out of the open hinged door, the reptile had already made it most of the way up his arm. By the time he had crossed the room and made it back to the door, it was sitting on his shoulder.

"See?" he angled his head slightly to make sure the creature was able to keep its footing – and wasn't planning to take a nip at his neck or something else. "That wasn't so hard now, was it?" The lizard hissed, and glanced at Randy's body, then looked back at Quilliam questioningly.

"Don't worry," he said reassuringly, lifting his left arm up (she hissed warningly in his ear) and slowly stroking the top of her scaly head with one finger. "I'll lock the door behind us and take the keys. Since Mr. Fabberquack is in no condition to call the police, it'll be some days before they get everything sorted out, and by the time they get a dupe key and check this room, we'll be long gone." Camille – Well, might as well start using her given name, he thought – hissed approvingly.

After making sure there was nothing incriminating outside (and carefully picking up the spent 9mm casings) and locking the door securely, it would be a simple matter to make it out of the zoo grounds and back to his place of residence. Other than a couple of dead ducks, the plan had gone off smoother than expected; of course, High Command would be sure to want a progress report…but it could wait until morning.

And, as he walked out into the dark night with Camille upon his shoulder and his mind filled with plans for the future, Lieutenant Razor Quill of F.O.W.L. laughed.

It was going to be a very interesting couple of days ahead of them, yes indeed.