It is now ten years after the "Darkwing Duck" TV series took place. A lot of things have changed, like... er... well, everyone's ten years older. Hence the title of this series,

Darkwing Duck In the Twenty-First Cen-tureee!

BULL METAL JACKET

By Kim McFarland


"All right, kiddo, give it your best shot."

"Don't call me kiddo!"

Gosalyn glared at Launchpad. The slender young woman wearing the green leotard was standing in a slight crouch, knees bent to give her a lower center of gravity and better balance. Her long red hair was tied back to keep it from getting in her face. Launchpad watched her warily.

Suddenly she moved forward, throwing her weight behind her fist. He deflected the blow. She dodged back, though he did not try to retaliate. Without pausing she continued the attack with a series of kicks, none of which seemed to have much effect. Again, instead of fighting back, he waited patiently.

Again she led with her right hand, and again he deflected it. But it had been a feint; she had shifted the force to her left hand, which got him in the chest. Surprised, he fell backwards, caught himself, and ended up with his arms behind his back. Gosalyn moved forward, in for the kill. Then she found herself flat on her rear on the floor.

She gave Launchpad a dirty look. "Do you HAVE to keep doing that?"

"Hey, it's fair. You oughtta practice dodging it."

It was a standard move: if you get knocked down, kick your enemy's legs out from under him so he won't have an advantage over you. Dad always pulled that trick on her when they sparred. She expected it from him; he was a tricky little fighter. But Launchpad mainly fought with his fists, not with fancy moves, and she had just plain been caught unawares. The heck she'd admit it, though!

He stood and held out his hand. She took it, and he helped her up. "Let's try that again."

"OK, kiddo."

She gritted her teeth and willed herself to ignore his teasing. She started with a different ploy, ducking down and kicking out to sweep Launchpad's legs out from under him. He hopped over her attack and feinted a counterattack, leaving his midsection open. She dove forward, trying to drive her shoulder into his solar plexus. She made contact, but he stepped backward and turned, redirecting the force of her attack. Her momentum carried her a few steps past him. He tried to grab her throat while her back was turned. She pivoted fast enough to see him coming and slap his hands aside with her forearm. Again she tried to kick at his legs; again he dodged her attack. This time while she was off balance he caught her in a hammerlock.

"I saw the kicks coming." he told her.

"Look down."

She had shifted her hips to the side, and was poised to drive her fist into a tender spot. Her position gave her leverage to put plenty of force behind the blow.

"Not bad, Gos." Launchpad released her.

"That's dandy, providing you've already let someone grab you. Learn that in self-defense class?" Darkwing criticized.

"DAD! I can't beat Launchpad! He knows all my moves."

"Gosalyn, the reason he knows your moves is because you telegraph them. I know exactly what you're going to do as soon as you do. No element of surprise."

"I can't help it! And hitting Launchpad is like hitting a brick wall!"

"Uh huh. If someone like him caught you in the street you'd be in a fix, wouldn't you."

"No! I just can't go all-out against 'Pad!"

"Suppose you had to?"

"I wouldn't have stopped my hand. And I'd also have gone for his head in the first place." That was Launchpad's weak point: a blow to the head would daze him; hit him hard enough and he would be out like a light.

"Then it's a good thing he didn't let you in close enough to get his head, wasn't it? That's the purpose of all the ballet dancing. How can you clobber what you can't touch!"

"'S right, kiddo."

"Launchpad! Don't call me that. I'm nineteen!"

"Kiddo," Darkwing said, "you'll be called things worse than that in a fight. You let it make you mad and you've lost."

"Well - all this stuff isn't going to do me much good if I've got someone pointing a gun in my face." she groused.

"It won't?" He gave her his gas gun. "Point it at me."

She aimed the gun at his face. Abruptly he spun around and kicked. Her hand flew away from the gun. "OW!"

"OW!" he mimicked her as he caught the gun. He twirled it on his finger, a smug look on his face. "You didn't see THAT coming, I'll bet."

She stopped rubbing her wrist, though it still hurt. "I'd rather just spar with Launchpad."

"That's fine - for practicing attacks." He knew as well as she did that Launchpad would never hurt Gosalyn. He was cautious - too cautious with her. Because his method was simply to pummel his enemy into submission, he would not even pretend to attack her. Darkwing, on the other hand, would force her to defend herself! He held back too - the purpose of the sparring sessions was to train her, not to injure her - but whenever he caught Gosalyn pulling her punches he blessed her out fiercely.

"How'd you do that kick, anyway? I didn't see you start."

"Ah, that takes a lot of practice. Careful balance. Practiced skill. Whiplike reflexes."

And an ego the size of a small country, she finished in her mind. That was why training with Dad was a pain sometimes. Being a black belt in Quack Fu, he was good, very good - and he was obnoxiously aware of that fact.

"Anyway, I think we've practiced enough for tonight, Gos. Let's go-"

WHAM!

The tower shuddered. Darkwing looked in the general direction of the explosion. "Launchpad, what are you doing?"

"It wasn't me. It was outside!" Launchpad ran to the tower window.

Something streaked past too fast to see clearly. Darkwing and Gosalyn looked out beside Launchpad. The flying object looked like a small military jet. It circled the tower column below them. A small missile shot into a crumbling dent in the support, and again the tower shuddered. Debris rained onto the bridge below.

"What in the -?!" Darkwing exclaimed when he regained his balance. "Launchpad! To the Thunderquack!"

"Don't think we can catch him, Dad." Gosalyn said, pointing out the window. The aircraft was already receding towards the horizon.

"It's going north. What's up there?" Launchpad interjected.

"Let's find out." Darkwing climbed the ladder to the computer platform. "Looked like some sort of military plane. What kind was it, LP?" he called down as he tapped at the keyboard.

"I dunno. I've never seen any plane that looks quite like that. Must be something new."

"Well, we'll see..." Darkwing typed his inquiry, then drummed his fingers as the computer linked with others around the country, exchanged data, and did whatever else took computers so infernally long. As he waited Gosalyn came up behind him and watched.

A negative answer appeared on the screen. "What?" Darkwing said, "It's a simple question!" He retyped his inquiry. As soon as he tapped the enter key she said, "Typo, Dad."

"What typo?" She pointed at the screen. It displayed the message MATCHING PLANET NOT FOUND. Darkwing typed another inquiry, muttering "Plane, not planet, you dumb terminal." under his breath.

"Garbage in, garbage out." Gosalyn commented.

When the computer displayed the same answer as before Darkwing glared at the screen. "That's what it said the first time. Okay, let's see if there are any AWOL military planes at all." He typed the question in, then added his SHUSH security code to include any Top Secret information in the search.

"Well, maybe just because it looked military, doesn't mean it was." Gosalyn said. "It could be from somewhere else."

"Nah, it has to be-" The computer beeped. He glanced back at the screen. MATCHING PLANE NOT FOUND.

"Looks like it does after all." she said.

He swung the chair to face away from the computer. "Why would anyone shoot at the tower? It's like someone knows we're up here."

"You brought Megavolt up here once-" Gosalyn began.

"Him? Nah. His brains are so scrambled he can't even remember his own name. And he doesn't like to tangle with me; the only time we fight is when I have to stop one of his crimes. He'd rather be crusading to save the lightbulbs. And can you imagine that dimbulb flying a plane?"

Gosalyn glanced at Launchpad, grinned and said, "Why not?"

"Gosalyn!"

"Just joking, Dad." Before he could speak she said, "Okay, then Negaduck. He doesn't know this is our hideout, but he'd blast this tower for the heck of it just to wreck the bridge."

Darkwing shook his head. "It wasn't him. If it was he'd make good and sure that everyone knew who was responsible, and he'd have finished the job. And, sure as I know him, he'd have painted the plane red, yellow, and black. He's such an egomaniac."

"Must be." She looked pointedly at the Thunderquack.

"It's almost as if someone was trying to call me out... but who knows about the tower?" Darkwing mused.

"Maybe Megavolt told someone. The Fearsome Five!"

"Nahh." Darkwing shook his head. "They haven't teamed up since Negaduck disappeared a few months ago. Without him they're mostly harmless. And even if Megavolt remembered, and anyone who knew how fried his brain is believed him, then that would lead us back to Negaduck, and it WASN'T him."

"Fine." she grumbled. Did he HAVE to shoot down every single idea she came up with? "You got any better ideas?"

"Yes. Obviously it's someone who wants to draw Darkwing Duck out. Well, if they want a fight they'll have to do better than that little hit-and-run!" he announced.

"We gonna lay low?" asked Launchpad.

"Of course not! We'll go on patrol in the Thunderquack as usual tonight. If someone really wants a fight, they'll find me more than a match!" He climbed down the ladder and left via the transport chairs.

Gosalyn shut the computer off and came down from the computer platform. Instead of heading for the chairs, she perched silently on the ledge outside the window and looked at the damage below.

Launchpad looked after her. He had heard the entire exchange. He went over to the window. "Gos?"

"Yeah, 'Pad."

"You OK?"

"He doesn't ever listen to me! At least I had some ideas! He didn't have any at all." She turned to face him angrily.

Launchpad leaned on the window frame. "You had some good ideas, Gos. He just didn't think they were the right ones this time, that's all." He patted her on the back.

"He won't admit that he hasn't the foggiest what's going on, and I might. He doesn't take me seriously." she insisted.

"Gos... Quiverwing, he does. He takes you as seriously as he does me."

"That's a big comfort." she muttered.

"Look, I know it can be tough working with DW. But if he didn't take you seriously he wouldn't be spending so much time on training ya, would he?" He patted her back again. "You get used to him, and then he's not a bad boss-"

"Launchpad, I am not planning on being his sidekick. No offense, but that isn't for me!"

"I know." She was like her dad - independent and headstrong. "Look, DW didn't become a hero overnight. It's gonna take a lotta work."

"I know, I know! I just wish he didn't have to be such a jerk about it." she muttered and turned away.


Dusk overtook St. Canard. As soon the shadows disappeared The Thunderquack burst out of Audubon Bay and flew over the city.

On the edge of the bay, an observer watched as the airship receded in the distance. Darkwing usually patrolled the city between dusk and dawn; he was still a creature of habit.

The observer's silhouette changed. The metal parts of his exoskeleton opened and locked in new positions, revealing a set of streamlined plane wings. The engines flared to life, and he took off for the tower. He could have pursued the Thunderquack and shot it down before Darkwing knew what was happening - but that was not his goal. This was a more personal matter.

He reached the tower in a matter of minutes. He alighted on the ledge outside of its windows. The wings folded back into his exoskeleton. He stepped in through the open window. The tower was too dark for his normal eye. The lens of his other eye whirred, scanning in the infrared. The interior of the tower came into focus.

The tower looked the same as he remembered it, even though the only time he had been inside it was over ten years ago. Details had changed - the platform the "kitchen" had been on now boasted a bank of computers, and the walls were cluttered with various experimental-looking weapons and gadgets - but it unmistakably bore Darkwing's stamp.

His gaze fell on the motorcycles. They, and the Thunderquack, symbolized Darkwing perfectly. Foolishly overblown, a tribute to Darkwing's uncontrollable ego, having been made in his image. Two motorcycles: Darkwing now had an apprentice. As if one of them was not bad enough! He resisted a sudden urge to smash the vehicles. Instead, he touched one with his mechanical arm and released a burst of electricity into its control panel. He continued until he was certain that the circuits were burned out, then repeated the process on the other motorcycle.

He looked up at the computer. He could blast it from here - but, again, his mission was not simply to break Darkwing's toys. Darkwing liked a mystery. Give him a puzzle to solve, and he would follow it blindly. His jet engines lifted him to the computer platform. He located the computer's main memory banks and forced the panel open. He took a small bag out and shook its contents into the computer. Small metal balls clattered against delicate circuits. Some of them stuck magnetically to the metal casing of the hard drives. A few severed cables satisfied him that the computer was, for now, completely inoperable.

He lowered himself off to the main floor level again. All of this would make it clear to Darkwing that someone was trying to get his attention, but that was not quite enough. Then his gaze alighted on the gigantic portrait of Darkwing.


A large red light began flashing on the Thunderquack's control panel. The terminal screen displayed the message SECURITY BREACH AT TOWER in large letters. Launchpad nudged Darkwing, who was at the moment engaged with Quiverwing in a difference of opinion concerning search methods. "Hey, DW."

"What?" He looked at Launchpad in annoyance.

Quiverwing, who was sitting in the back seat, looked past Darkwing and saw the screen. "Dad! Something's happening in the tower!"

Darkwing turned to look at the screen. "Cripes! Launchpad, take us back!"


When the tower came into view they were surprised and relieved. They had almost expected to find it destroyed by another missile. From the outside, there appeared to have been no damage at all.

Inside the tower the damage alarm lights were flashing, and the capture nets had been deployed. They had snared something or someone, but whatever it was had torn its way loose. Darkwing flipped a hidden switch, causing the lights to stop flashing and the nets to retract. He grumbled, "Well, THAT was useful."

When the nets were out of the way they looked around. Their equipment seemed to be intact. A close inspection, however, revealed differently. The Ratcatchers would not start. Launchpad removed one melted-looking control panel cover. The circuits had been so overheated somehow that they had melted and fused. "DW, looks like we're gonna hafta stick with the TQ for awhile. This baby's outta commission."

"Both of them?" Darkwing asked, dismayed.

Launchpad inspected the other motorcycle. "Yep."

Quiverwing called down from the computer platform, "Dad - the computer's scrambled. I tried to call up the security camera files to see what got in, and it's giving me plot synopses of 'Pelican's Island'."

"Well, are you sure you didn't do a typo?" he answered back peevishly.

"Nope! And the synopses are wrong." she replied.

"Oh, great! Now we gotta get Honker in here to debug that stupid piece of junk again!" Darkwing paced around in frustration.

"Ah, DW-" Launchpad began hesitantly.

"WHAT?" Darkwing snapped back at Launchpad, who was staring with a look of dread at a point beyond and above Darkwing. Darkwing followed his gaze, then froze. In their rush to check out their equipment, they had not noticed that the giant portrait of Darkwing had been defaced.

Both Launchpad and Quiverwing braced themselves for an explosion. Darkwing, to his credit, remained silent for several moments. Then he announced in a strained voice, "This means war!"


Within minutes The Thunderquack took to the sky again. A solitary figure standing on the cliff above Audubon Waterfall watched it. Good, he thought, Darkwing was just as easy to manipulate as ever. His wings and jets unfolded, and he rose into the air.


"Launchpad!" Darkwing exclaimed as he caught sight of a dot arising from behind the cityscape. "There it is!"

Launchpad abruptly swung the ship around in a tight arc. When the ship was flying in a straight line again he peered at the distant aircraft. "What kinda plane IS that? It looks all wrong!"

"It must be experimental." Quiverwing said.

"No! I mean, look at its body. It's too short, and it doesn't have a nose cone at all. A jet plane oughtta be more streamlined than that. It's not aerodynamic." Launchpad insisted.

"We'll find out soon enough. Follow it!" Darkwing ordered.

The plane hovered until they came close, then suddenly dove. It flew into the waterfall, but instead of smashing into the rock face behind it, it vanished.

"The old F.O.W.L. lab!" Darkwing exclaimed. Then he braced himself as the wall of water rushed to meet The Thunderquack.

He was mildly surprised when the ship passed safely through the curtain of water into a wide cave mouth. He was not completely disappointed, though; the Thunderquack skidded on the dusty cave floor and crashed into the far wall.

"Everyone OK?" Darkwing asked, handing Quiverwing her hat, which had been knocked into the front by the impact.

"No fatalities. I think." she replied breathlessly.

Launchpad pressed the switch that opened the Thunderquack's dome. Darkwing drew his gas gun and surveyed the cave's interior quickly. It was a huge room, with several natural corridors leading away into the rock. There was plenty of wrecked scientific equipment left over from when F.O.W.L. had used this hideaway for scientific purposes. It did not look as if it had been used since. And there was no sign of anybody else in the cavern. Darkwing stepped out of the cockpit. "Careful, he may be lurking anywhere."

Quiverwing and Launchpad exited the Thunderquack. Darkwing began his monologue. "The first clue: you can clearly see the marks its landing gear made. But they stop right here. There is no jet to be seen, and none of these corridors is wide enough to accommodate its wingspan."

"Duh." Quiverwing commented under her breath.

Darkwing shot her a brief glare, then continued. "Where the jet's tracks stop, footprints begin. They lead to that corridor." Darkwing pointed. Before Quiverwing could speak he continued, "Here's the plan, team. Launchpad, you come with me. We'll go in after him. Be on your guard. Quiverwing, you have some glue-bomb arrows with you?"

"I always do. You know that! But-"

"You wait out here. We may need your backup. If we run back out, hit him with the glue bombs. Stand where you can't be seen from the corridor." He turned to walk into the corridor, his gas gun at the ready.

"DAD!" She grabbed his cape to halt him. "Doesn't this seem a little TOO obvious to you? He'll be expecting you. Look, there are other corridors." She pointed. "They must interconnect. We can catch him from behind if we use one of the others."

"Gosalyn-"

"Quiverwing!"

"Quiverwing, I have been fighting the criminal mind for longer than you have been alive. I'd think that I would be competent at it by now. You just wait here and back us up. C'mon, Launchpad."

They went into the corridor, leaving Quiverwing fuming outside. AGAIN, she had come up with a perfectly good idea and again he had not listened to her! It was as if he enjoyed shooting her down. In fact, he probably did!

Well, the heck with that. Her idea was better than his. She stood in the entrance of the adjoining corridor. After several seconds she was sure she heard noises from within. That proved that the tunnels interconnected! Quickly and silently she made her way down the rough stone tunnel.


Another had been watching them via the few remaining functional monitor cameras in the lab. So this was Darkwing's team. It was no more impressive than before. As a matter of fact, the woman looked more like a liability than an asset. She was young, and certainly inexperienced. She was the obvious weak link in the chain.


Darkwing and Launchpad emerged from the tunnel into another small room. This one was also full of equipment, this time in good condition. In fact - "Launchpad, this looks like some of the equipment F.O.W.L. used when they made Taurus Bulba into a cyborg. That piece there - it could be part of a spare arm."

"This place gives me the creeps." Launchpad commented. "Look at this model. It looks almost alive!" He pointed at a life-sized figure.

Darkwing examined it critically. "It must be a mock-up F.O.W.L. made before they built Taurus up. This thing has a lot of gizmos that Taurus never had. Looks like they had to leave some of these doodads off to bring him in under budget."

"It's like it's watching us." Launchpad said uneasily.

"Oh, calm down, LP, it's just a model. Hey!" He looked closer. "There's no dust on this thing. Someone has been here recently!"

The model moved and spoke. "You are BOTH right."


Quiverwing had been following the sounds of speech. She was dismayed when she found that they were now coming from a ventilation duct. Of all the luck! But they were distinct enough, so she must be close. She opened the duct and crawled in.


Darkwing jumped back and ran into Launchpad. Taurus stepped forward. "We meet again, Darkwing Duck."

"Hi there." Darkwing aimed his gas gun and shot a cartridge at Taurus. It exploded in a cloud of concentrated smog. Launchpad and Darkwing backed up so they would not catch the worst of it.

A breathing mask slid over Taurus' nose and mouth. His metal arm extended a fan, which blew the smog towards Darkwing and Launchpad. They choked as the gas blew past them. Taurus' mask retracted. "I am prepared for you this time."

Quiverwing could see Taurus through the grating now. So it was HIM, after all of these years! Nervously she tried to draw her bow. And found that she could not, because of the enclosed space of the crawlway. Helplessly she stared at the glue arrow in her hand. Well, she could throw it. But they were moving around down there, and her aim was nowhere near as good by hand as it was with a bow! She would have to aim carefully - but first, to work the grate off the opening without making too much noise-

"Oh, really?" Darkwing put his hand in his inside coat pocket with a smug look. He caught Launchpad's eye, then looked back at Taurus. Smugly he said, "Prepare to - run!"

He darted down the corridor. Launchpad followed him. Taurus startled, then pursued them.

Quiverwing kicked the grate off the duct opening, scrambled out of the crawlway, and tried to draw her bow while running after them.

"Come on, bully-boy!" Darkwing taunted. "Betcha can't catch me!"

In lieu of a reply a bullet shattered a rock ahead of him into fragments. Darkwing doubled his speed, sprinting for the open cave ahead. As he reached the corridor exit he yelled, "Let 'er rip, Quiverwing!"

Taurus charged out of the corridor. He stopped when he saw Darkwing look back, suddenly dismayed. Launchpad, who had dodged to the side of the tunnel entrance, tried to slam into Taurus. The bull easily swatted him aside with his metal arm.

Darkwing backed up, stalling for time. He could not fight Taurus hand-to-hand; the cyborg could make shredded duck of him. And his gas gun was useless. That left one other approach - infuriate him enough to cause him to overheat and shut down. "Well, well. It seems that every time I see you there's less Taurus and more metal. And they keep changing you. Think they'll ever get it right?"

Taurus smiled. He knew what Darkwing was trying to do! "And every time I see you, you get less and less clever." His mechanical hand retracted, to be replaced by a gun barrel. "You have always been simple to manipulate. Too simple."

Quiverwing finally reached the exit of the tunnel. She saw Taurus - and, beyond him, almost at the waterfall, was Darkwing. Launchpad was nowhere to be seen. Desperately she ran closer, nocking an arrow.

"How anticlimactic, that after all this time this is how it should end - not with a bang, but with a whimper." Taurus mused for Darkwing's benefit. Then he pointed the gun barrel at the Thunderquack. Armor piercing bullets ripped into its side. "There, at least, is the bang."

Quiverwing shot an arrow at Taurus. A second too late she saw that she had grabbed a razor-tipped arrow instead of a glue-bomb. It ricocheted harmlessly off the metal exoskeleton. The bull seemed not to notice.

Taurus turned back to Darkwing, and smiled suddenly. "You are so fond of theatrics. You should enjoy this."

Darkwing startled when he saw wings unfold from Taurus' exoskeleton. The jets roared, and Taurus shot forward. Darkwing ducked down. When Taurus flew over him he reached down and snatched him up, then flew through the water and away.

Quiverwing desperately shot several glue-bomb arrows after them. They hit the sheet of water and were washed away. She looked around. Where the devil was Launchpad?! There - looking quite the worse for an encounter with Taurus. She grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. "Launchpad! Wake up!"

His eyes opened. "I was having the most beautiful dream. And you were there..." he mumbled.

"LAUNCHPAD! Wake up! Taurus grabbed Dad and flew away!"

"He what?" Launchpad jumped up and ran to The Thunderquack.

When he tried to start it one of its engines made an angry, rattling noise. Launchpad turned the ignition again. "Start, darn it!"

"The engine's shot." Quiverwing told him.

"Naw! It's got thousands of miles in it yet." Launchpad said, still turning the key.

"No. I mean, Taurus shot in one side of the Thunderquack. It must've damaged an engine."

He stopped turning the key and jumped out of the ship. "Where?"

"My side." She pointed to the ship's flank.

He ran around and looked. The bullet holes had pierced the hull, and they were right outside one of the two engines. He opened the hood and fiddled around with the leads, then got back into the driver's seat. "I cut the power to the right engine. Come on, baby..." The remaining engine roared smoothly to life. "We only got one engine now. It'll be enough for us to limp home on and get it replaced. There's no way we can chase Taurus until I get it repaired."

"Aw, no!"

"'Fraid so. Don't worry, kiddo, DW can hang in there."

"That wasn't funny!"

"Buckle up. With only the left engine, this is gonna be a rough flight."


They did make it to the tower eventually. Although the flight was not really that long, it seemed that way, because of all of the acrobatics involved. On half power the Thunderquack could stay in the air with difficulty, and with the engine off center to the main mass it had a strong tendency to circle. Launchpad soon gave up fighting it, and they returned to the tower in a long, spiraling flight.

While Quiverwing recovered Launchpad busied himself with replacing the engine. He had spare parts, almost enough to build a second Thunderquack, because he never knew what he would need to replace after a crash. Patching the holes in the hull would have to wait until later. Patting the ship's flank, he said, "Sorry, baby. Those hurt me as much as they hurt you."

Quiverwing said, "I can't believe I grabbed the wrong arrow! If I'd hit him with the glue I could've stopped him!"

"What happened happened, Quiv. DW sometimes loads the wrong gas charges into his gun." Launchpad said.

"Yeah, but this was when it counted!" she wailed.

He stopped looking the ship over and put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Don't beat yourself up. You did your best, I know you did. And DW's tough. He'll be there for us to rescue."

"I know, Dad's tough... but Taurus is too."

"Kiddo..." He understood her fear of Taurus. He had done some horrible things to her when she was a child. Even though it was ten years ago, the memories were still vivid. He could understand that, when she actually found herself facing Taurus, she could have frozen. Mentioning it would just make her feel worse. "Look, I know he's a bad one - but your dad's been in spots as bad as this before."

"I know, I'm sorry... I just wish you guys had waited a moment longer, so I coulda gotten a clear shot at him. He wouldn't have shot at the TQ."

"It wouldn't'a made much difference, Gos." He looked back at The Thunderquack.

"Yes, it would!" She insisted. "I was almost ready to get him in that room back there, the one with the machine parts, but Dad ran out too soon. I was almost ready to glue Taurus."

"How did you know about that room?" He turned around, surprised.

"I was in the air vent. I was gonna get him from behind, before he knew what hit him. It would've worked if-"

"That's where you were?"

"Yeah-"

"Quiverwing, we told you to stay outside and back us up!"

"My idea was better. Dad was just being bossy. As usual-"

"Darkwing told us the plan, and you should followed it!" He was clearly angry.

"Hey! He should've listened to me in the first place!" she objected. "He just wanted to keep all the glory for himself!"

"No, YOU should've followed the plan! We were counting on you!"

She turned away. "Now you're against me too!"

"Quiv, when we work together we work as a team. How are we supposed to get anything done if we can't even count on each other?!"

She turned back angrily. "Don't order me around! You're the sidekick, I'm not!"

"That doesn't matter! You still gotta know how to follow directions when we need you!"

"Well fine then! Blame it on me! It's all my fault!" she yelled. "I'll show you that I'm capable! I'll get Dad back myself!" She turned toward the Ratcatchers.

"No." His hand closed on her wrist.

She tried to jerk her arm away. He did not release her. "Let me go!"

"No." he repeated firmly. "You're not going off on your own, not on this case. You're a beginner. You're no match for Taurus Bulba. You are not going to go up against him by yourself."

"Oh, you don't think I can? You think I can't be a hero without Darkwing Duck? I'll show you! Now let me GO!" She twisted her wrist.

He ignored her struggles. "Let me tell you something, Quiverwing. Real heroes don't do their stuff just for the publicity, or to "show" anyone! They do it 'cause it's their job! And if it was you that Taurus got, DW wouldn't be standing here arguing, he'd be busting his tail feathers to get you back!"

"Oh, and YOU'RE good enough to rescue Darkwing then?!"

"No. I'm not. If you try to rescue DW yourself he'll catch you too, or worse! And then it'd be up to me to try to rescue you both, and I don't think I could. Anyone who can catch DW is more'n a match for either of us!"

"So what then? You wanna just give up?!" She tried to pry his hand loose. His fingers did not budge.

"TOGETHER we have a chance at least. That means we work as a team, we make a plan, and both of us follow it!"

"And what if I say no?!" She tried to yank her arm away again. It had no effect.

"Quiv, it's our only hope right now! Do you wanna fight me or do you wanna rescue DW? While we're standing here arguing we're wasting DW's time!"

"All right! Fine!"

"And you follow the plan this time!"

"All right! I will! I promise! Now let me go!" He released her. She rubbed her wrist, where he had been holding her.

He knew that he had not hurt her; he had been careful not to hold her too tightly. She was angry, not hurt. He went back to his inspection of the holes in the hull, trying to think of a possible plan.


Darkwing came to on the floor of a small room made of a natural cranny in a cave and sealed off by a metal grating. What had happened?...

Oh yeah. He remembered that Taurus had been flying, carrying the struggling, fighting Darkwing toward parts unknown. Darkwing had realized that his struggles were interfering with Taurus' flight, and had tried to force him to drop him. He had almost succeeded - Taurus had been holding him with just one hand - when something crashed down on his head. It must have been Taurus' other hand, the metal one. Next thing Darkwing knew, he was here. Wherever "here" was.

By now his eyes had adjusted to the dim lighting that came in between the bars. He could see that the room beyond was a larger opening in the cave, but not as big as the one that the Thunderquack had entered earlier. He took out a magnifying glass with a light and shone the light around his cell.

There was little to see besides rock. There was no door in the grate. The whole thing must swing out in one piece. He stuck his hand out, feeling for the lock. He found it on one side, almost out of his reach. He could barely touch it with his fingertips. It was too far over for him to try to pick.

He went back to his inspection of the rock. It was of a different kind than that of the abandoned F.O.W.L. hideout. He spoke to himself, "Limestone, with onyx inclusions. That can only mean that I'm some distance away from St. Canard." This kind of stone was not found in the cave that had housed the F.O.W.L. lab. He paused, trying to think of just where that kind of rock WAS found. His clothes were still damp from the trip through the waterfall; therefore, the flight could have not been too long. Call it ten miles, give or take some. If he could get to the supercomputer in the Tower he could get the answer in a minute!

"And if I could use the supercomputer I would be in the tower, and I wouldn't be here." Darkwing muttered in disgust. Wait - maybe not! He could call to the tower with his computer link! He took out a small gadget, and spoke into its microphone. "Darkwing to tower."

There was no answer. He tried repeating several times, to no avail. The solid rock must be blocking the signal. He put it away, sat down, and muttered, "Drat. NOW what am I supposed to do?"

"Even without an audience, he is still a showoff." A familiar voice came from outside of his narrow field of vision. A few heavy footsteps brought its author into view. "Perhaps it is because you are your own most dedicated audience."

"Taurus Bulba!" Darkwing jumped to his feet.

"We have already met." Taurus said drily.

"Listen, you bovine bandit, you had better release me now!"

Taurus folded his arms. "Oh? And why?"

"Because -"

Taurus waited while Darkwing sputtered, searching for something suitably dramatic. After a minute he said, "I think not. You are, pardon the ethnic humor, a sitting duck."

"Oh, no I'm not!" Darkwing drew out a pocket laser and shot it at Taurus. It reflected off of the metal exoskeleton, nearly singing Darkwing. The gadgets perched on Taurus' horns aimed and fired at the laser, destroying it. Darkwing dropped it with a yelp.

Taurus shook his head with a wry smile. "Very impressive."

Darkwing almost took out his gas gun, but he realized that if he tried to use it now Taurus would destroy it as quickly as he had the laser. Instead, Darkwing needed to buy some time. "So, what do you want from me?" he asked, standing as tall as he could in the small cell.

Taurus said, "Your death."

"Well, then, get on with it, bully boy. If I'm stuck in this cage then you have an even chance!" he goaded.

Taurus laughed. "The great and powerful Darkwing Duck is reduced to squeaking like a cornered mouse! No, you will not bluff me into releasing you from that cage. I will have your life, as an exchange for the life you took from me."

"What on Earth are you talking about?"

Taurus extended his metal arm towards the bars of the cage, at the level of Darkwing's neck. A three-fingered grip squeezed several of the bars in toward each other. "That is hardly an act of flesh and blood." One of the three fingers pointed at Darkwing. "You caused the Waddlemeyer Ram Rod to overload, and when it exploded I was nearly killed. I would have been, if the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny had not taken my body and rebuilt it with their clumsy mechanical devices. It is because of you that I am more machine than man. You took my humanity!"

Darkwing stepped back, out of the reach of the grip. It was dangerously close to his neck, which was unfortunately not as strong as the metal cage bars. Taurus continued, "Don't worry, I will not kill you just yet. You will know when it is time for you to die. I have waited a long time for this; I plan to savor the moment."

"That would look lovely on a greeting card. What have you been waiting for?"

"The form that FOWL gave me was worse than incompetently made. It was as if they thought they could create a superior being by attaching weapons onto a poorly designed, overheating hulk. I had no intention of settling for that! It took time to have my mechanical parts remade, and much more time to redesign them again because of the problems that inevitably arose. All of this had to be accomplished in complete secrecy. But if I must be a man-machine hybrid, I will have the best that science can make!"

"Wow. Do you play video games too?"

"Bah. I am wasting my time here, talking to you. I have plans to put into execution after you are out of my way." Taurus turned to leave.

"You'll never succeed. Even if you kill me, you'll still have The Quiverwing Quack to deal with. Better give up now, while you still have the chance." Darkwing bluffed.

Taurus paused. "The Quiverwing Quack... yes, I have heard mention of her. She is your apprentice. She is likely to be as big a nuisance as you. I must take care to eliminate her as well."

Too late, Darkwing realized his mistake. "No, actually, she's not really - she's no threat to you. You don't need to bother with her-"

"You seem suddenly protective of her." Taurus interrupted. His mechanical eye scanned Darkwing. The duck's pulse and respiration rates had suddenly increased. "She must be very important to you ... as important as that little girl was, years ago." Darkwing was hiding it, but his heart rate was still rising.

"What the heck are you talking about? There's no relation." Darkwing insisted.

"Then why are you so close to panic at the mere mention of her, when you calmly joke about my taking your own life?" Darkwing began to say something, but Taurus continued. "If your apprentice is anything like her master, then I must deal with her. Thank you for the inspiration. You will see the fruit of your suggestion." He turned and left.

Darkwing screamed after him, but to no avail. His cries echoed uselessly in the cave.


"When Taurus caught me and Honker the last time, I let Dad know where we were with a paint trail. Think he'll be able to signal us for help somehow?"

Launchpad said, "I sure hope so. We found your trail by flying around, looking for clues. That's the only thing I can think of to do now."

"Me too." Gosalyn looked up at the computer platform. "Any luck getting the computer working again, Honker?"

"Not yet, but I found the problem." came the answer from a tall, skinny gander wearing coke-bottle glasses and a white lab coat. "I can almost understand the cut cables, but how did you manage to get magnetic ball bearings in the hard drive?"

"What?" She climbed up the ladder.

Honker held a handful of small metal spheres out at her. "These were inside the computer. They've scrambled the drive."

"Oh great." Gosalyn groaned. "Can you salvage anything?"

"It would take a long time. Did Darkwing back up the computer drive like I've told him to?"

"Yes-"

"Then I'll just reload from there-

"-half a year ago." Gosalyn finished.

Honker silently rolled his eyes and shook his head as he dropped the ball bearings into a waste paper can. "I'll try, but I don't know how much I can get back."

"Thanks, Honk." She pecked him on the cheek.

He closed the computer panel. "Between you and DW, and working at SHUSH R&D, I wonder how I have any time left over to breathe." he sighed.

"But at least it's less dangerous here. With us, all you have to worry about is the occasional murderous criminal. But at the labs you have to deal with Dr. Bellum every day!"

Honker grinned back. "Yep."

He went to work on the keyboard. Gosalyn climbed back down. Launchpad's upper body was still inside the Thunderquack. The old, bullet-chewed engine was on the floor beside it. Gosalyn asked, "Almost ready?"

"Getting there. I gotta check to make sure nothing else is wrong with her before she flies again."

"Launchpad, we don't have much time!"

"Gosalyn, do you want us to find a busted fuel line in the middle of a flight?"

She knew when to shut up. Honker and Launchpad were both busy and didn't need her interference. She tried to think of some angle on Taurus as she selected arrows for her quiver. Armor piercing tips - would those work on Taurus? Hopefully they would. Spring loaded grappling hooks - those were always useful. Heat-seeking homing arrows- "Heat-seeking!" she said out loud.

She almost went to Launchpad to tell him her idea, then reminded herself that he would finish his job faster if she did not interrupt him. Okay then, she would work it out herself.

Some time later Launchpad closed the Thunderquack's side panel, climbed into the cockpit, and started the engine. It checked out perfectly. Gosalyn jumped up. "Can it fly now?"

"She's still hurtin'" - he gestured at the bullet holes in the hull - "But she'll fly all right."

She felt a stab of guilt. If she had been on her mark, Taurus would not have damaged the airship. "Um, I have an idea."

"What is it?"

"Well, remember how Taurus' circuits overload and shut down when he overheats? If we can get him to do that, we can rescue Dad before he comes to."

"Yeah. But, how we gonna find him?"

Honker said from the platform, "I have the communications relay system restored, I think, but that's all. Does Darkwing have anything on himself that we could track?"

"Like what?" Gosalyn asked.

"Like a transmitter of any kind. If it broadcasts a signal, you can home in on that."

"Yeah! He has a link to the computer here. Would that work, with the computer out of commission?"

"If it sends out a signal that we can track." Honker answered.

Gosalyn gave her link to him. "His is just like mine. Can you do anything with that?"

"I think so..." He went to work with the device and the computer's antenna. After some minutes he opened up her link and began fiddling with its circuitry, adjusting it in ways that she did not understand. He attached a metal hoop to the setup with a length of wire, then spent some minutes testing it out from various angles. Gosalyn had to fight to keep from asking him what he was doing.

Soon he announced, "It's kind of rough, but this will track a signal from his link. I've got it set to receive his signal. The signal will get stronger when this antenna is receiving it along the maximum surface area."

"Uh, Honker, in English now?" Gosalyn asked impatiently.

"Um, the computer's sending out the signal at the moment." He held the hoop antenna so that he could look through it to the computer. "Now the signal is strongest because the antenna is getting more of it." He turned it ninety degrees, so that it was edge-on to the computer. "Now it's weakest, because it's barely receiving any signal."

"Oh, I get it, it works like the TV antenna!" she exclaimed.

"Something like that." Honker agreed.

"Got your arrows?" Launchpad asked Gosalyn.

"Yep. Let's go! Wanna come, Honk?" she asked, tying on her mask and pulling on her bowyers' gloves.

"Um, thanks, I'll pass. I'll work on the computer."

"Okay, next time then." They grinned at the mutual joke. Honker no longer came along on their adventures; he was much more at home helping them from the back lines than in the actual fray.


The ship burst out of Audubon Bay. Launchpad set it on a course to circle the city while Quiverwing worked with the hoop antenna. After five minutes she grumbled, "There's just one problem. No signal."

"None at all?"

"Yeah. Don't tell me Dad forgot to put the batteries in his link!" She looked ready to cry with frustration.

"Keep trying. It's sorta our only hope." Launchpad said.


A section of rock in a sheer cliff face slid away at Taurus' signal, revealing a landing bay. He had chosen this hideout for its secluded location. Who would bother him, miles away from St. Canard, in this inaccessible eyrie? But today, for the first time, this turned out to be a disadvantage. He would have to lure the girl back here.

He was about to transform into his jet form when he noticed that Darkwing's aircraft was circling over the city. How was it flying now? He thought he had destroyed it! As he watched, it turned toward his cliff.

How convenient! Had they seen the opening from so far away? Well, whatever the cause, he would wait for them to come to him.


"Launchpad! I'm getting a signal!" Quiverwing said excitedly. After a few frantic seconds of playing with the antenna she said, "It's coming from that direction!" She pointed through the hoop, at a cliff.

"Hang on, kiddo!" Launchpad swerved the ship to set it on its new course.


Taurus walked over to Darkwing's cell. "I have decided to take some mercy on you, Darkwing. I will grant what I think will be your final wish." he announced.

"What's that? Death by old age?" Darkwing asked sarcastically.

"I will allow you to say goodbye to your loved ones face to face before you die. They will be here any moment now." Taurus watched with amusement as it sank in. "What? For once you seem to be at a loss for words. They will be in the landing bay soon, and when they come searching here I will be ready for them." Both of the weapons on his horns turned to point at the corridor.

Darkwing was struggling for something to say when one of the cave walls burst inward.

Stone fragments flew at them. Darkwing dove back in the cell. Only dust and gravel hit him, though; the grating had stopped the bigger rocks. Taurus, however, was nowhere to be seen in the rubble.

He peered through the dust, trying to see what had caused the cave-in. He could see nothing, but he heard a familiar mechanical whirring sound and a cough. Then a female voice said, "Wouldn't it've been easier just to go in through the hole in the cliff?"

"Well, we just made a new hole, that's all." Launchpad answered.

Darkwing cried, "Quiverwing! Launchpad! Get out of here! Taurus is waiting for you! Get out!"

"No way! I got you into this, and I'll get you out!" she answered through the settling dust. "Where are you?"

"Back here! I can see you though a grating. Taurus was here a moment ago. I think he got hit by a flying rock."

Quiverwing looked back at Launchpad. "I take it back. Good crash!"

"I aim to please." Launchpad spotted the grate and pointed at it. "There's DW!"

Quiverwing started towards him. She was suddenly blocked by Taurus, who threw the rubble off of himself and stared at her. She was the right age, and resembled the girl that Darkwing had rescued from him so long ago - "Gosalyn!"

She stared, wide eyed. "Taurus Bulba-"

That confirmed his suspicions! Taurus turned back to Darkwing. "She answers when called. So this IS Gosalyn after all." He looked back at her. "What a sad role model for a girl of such spirit."

"Better him than an overgrown toaster oven!" she answered, trying to keep the fear out of her voice.

He spoke to Darkwing. "She even has your gift for words." He turned back to her. "It is a pity I will have to orphan you again."

That stopped her. "'Again'? You... you killed grandpa?" she breathed.

"You did not know that my men killed Professor Waddlemeyer while I was trying to steal his invention, the Ram Rod? Some detective."

She struggled to contain herself. When she was able to speak again she aimed an arrow at him and announced, "Get away from Darkwing's cage, Taurus."

He turned to see her aiming an arrow at him. "Bows and arrows!" he laughed. "Against my metal! You think you can defeat me with nothing but spirit and flimsy weapons! This is too silly!" The weapons on his horns turned and pointed at her, but emitted no beams, just a shower of sparks. They had been damaged. He started towards Quiverwing - she took a step back, and nocked another arrow - and found himself enveloped in a cloud of blue smoke. Quiverwing took the opportunity to shoot a volley of arrows into the cloud. They hit with metallic sounds. Launchpad joined in by throwing the heaviest rocks that he could manage.

Taurus blew the smoke away with his fan. "Is it your plan to annoy me to death?" Around his feet were her arrows, the tips and some of the shafts wrecked, and more broken stone. "You have no hope of defeating me!"

She lowered her bow. "You're right." she said. "I'll make you a deal."

"You wish, even now, to bargain with me?" The thought amused him. "What do you have to offer?"

"Just me." she replied. "You let Darkwing go, you can have me."

"WHAT?" Launchpad and Darkwing exclaimed simultaneously. Darkwing yelled, "No you don't, little missy!"

"You would give your life for him? How touching." Taurus said.

"Taurus, she's just a harmless kid! What good is it gonna do you to capture her? She's no threat to you! You're just wasting your time with her! I'm the one you want, and you've already got me!" Darkwing shouted.

"HARMLESS KID? NO THREAT?" Quiverwing yelled angrily. "I'll-"

"I accept the exchange." Taurus said, and held his metal hand out to her. He would not release Darkwing, of course - but it would make Darkwing suffer all the more to see his daughter die before him.

"Don't you touch her!" Launchpad's voice, amplified by the Thunderquack's speakers, echoed in the caverns. He was sitting in the cockpit. "You do, and I'll blast this whole cave in!"

"You will not. If you shoot, you will kill Darkwing and Gosalyn along with me. This is your precious Darkwing's only hope of survival." He continued advancing on Quiverwing.

"You'll never let DW go! You'll kill them both! Get away from her and open the cage or I'll fire!" The front of the Thunderquack opened, revealing a cannon barrel.

Taurus stood his ground, staring Launchpad down. While his attention was elsewhere Quiverwing began firing glue-bomb arrows at him. One caught him in the face. It was not strong enough to hamper his cyborg parts - but it had hit exposed flesh this time. His metal hand wiped at the mess - then, a moment too late, he realized his mistake. He tried to pull his hand away without harming the flesh of his face. When he finally did she could see that it had covered his eye. The electronic lens of his other eye focused on her. "No more game playing, little girl!"

She stood her ground and continued firing arrows at him. They sailed far past him. One flew at Darkwing's cage. He prepared to dodge, but the arrow hit to the side of the opening with a metallic click - and the door swung open an inch.

Darkwing shoved the door open. The still-vibrating shaft of a lock-pick arrow was sticking out of his cage's lock.

Though Taurus was nearly close enough to touch Quiverwing, she continued shooting arrows at him. By now she had run out of glue and armor piercing arrows; she was emptying her quiver, shooting whatever she had at him. They did not harm him, they served only to infuriate him. He reached out to swat her bow aside. The gun in the Thunderquack's front clicked ominously. And something purple caught Taurus' attention.

Darkwing waved at Taurus, then blew him a raspberry. "Hey, bully boy! Over here!"

Before Taurus could reach him he shot a grappling hook upwards and pulled himself up. Taurus was in the process of transforming into jet form to fly up to him when several rocks struck his back. He looked back. Quiverwing had detached her cape, and was waving the red lining at him. "Toro! Toro!" she called.

"I will not be harried by costumed fools and children!" Taurus bellowed and charged at Quiverwing.

"Like I'm afraid of a half a ton of angry pot roast!" She leapt out of the way at the last moment. Taurus crashed to the wall behind her, then turned, apparently unharmed, and roared at her.

Darkwing yelled to Quiverwing, "He's gonna overheat! Keep it up!"

"I know!" she shouted. Taurus was already becoming red.

Darkwing dodged out of sight while Taurus' attention was on Quiverwing. She dodged his attacks nimbly, making good use of her gymnastic training. Taurus soon learned to anticipate her moves, though, and almost caught her. Before he did, he saw a familiar cloud of blue smoke appear. He retracted his grip hand and replaced it with a heavy gun barrel. A flock of bullets pierced the blue smoke. Another smoke cloud appeared halfway across the room. Taurus roared and subjected it to the same treatment.

Darkwing watched from his hiding place. Why had Taurus not overheated yet? He was turning bright red now! Then Taurus turned his back, and Darkwing saw the steam escaping from two vents hidden in his upper back. He groaned. When Taurus had had himself rebuilt, he had had a cooling system installed so his circuits lock up! Why hadn't Darkwing anticipated THAT? And if Quiverwing was expecting him to overheat at any minute, she might become careless! He had to get her out of there! He shot another gas cartridge back at the area of the cage and shouted at the wall so that his voice would bounce off of it to Taurus. "I AM THE TERROR THAT FLAPS IN THE NIGHT!"

The trick worked! Taurus whirled and advanced toward the blue cloud, his gun arm at the ready. Out of Taurus' field of vision, Darkwing scuttled over to Quiverwing and whispered, "Get into the Thunderquack! He's-"

"No way, Dad! We're gonna finish this once and for all!" she hissed back and raised her bow.

"NO!" Darkwing shoved her toward the Thunderquack. "He's not going to lock up! He's got a cooling system now! We can't overheat him!"

Quiverwing gulped. She had not anticipated that! She heard herself say, "I'm not gonna give up now, Dad-"

Taurus turned at the sound of their voices. He finally had all of them in one place. He raised his metal arm. The gun barrel at the end retracted, to be replaced by a bigger one.

Darkwing and Quiverwing leapt into the cockpit of the Thunderquack as the first missile slammed into the rock in front of them, causing the thin outer wall to crack, letting in sunlight. Launchpad closed the dome. A second missile struck the airship squarely on the nose, knocking it out of the wall.

The ship fell, tail first, down the sheer cliff face. Launchpad worked the controls frantically, and the ship suddenly shot straight up into the air. Quiverwing looked back. "It's caving in."

Darkwing looked back. Where the Thunderquack had been lodged into the stone, was now a ragged hole above a rockslide. More rocks were pouring out. The ceiling of the cavern must be collapsing. As they watched, a spark of light appeared at the hole. It accelerated towards them.

Darkwing and Quiverwing looked at each other and groaned.

The spark grew into Taurus' jet form. Launchpad swerved the Thunderquack violently. Taurus just missed them. Quiverwing yelped, "He's gonna ram us!"

"Launchpad! Strategic evasive maneuver number forty-two!"

"Right!"

The ship turned tail and fled.


They flew for hours. Taurus showed no sign of tiring of the chase. They tried to accelerate away; Taurus's speed matched theirs. It seemed as if his top airspeed was the same as that of the Thunderquack. Quiverwing looked back anxiously for the two hundredth time. "Can't we fire backward?"

"Nope. Got no backwards mounted gun." Launchpad said, shaking his head.

"Launchpad - when you threatened Taurus with that gun, would you really have blown the place up?" Darkwing asked.

"Um, I was hopin' he'd back down." Launchpad said.

"Of course. But, would you really have done that? I know that if he's gonna get Dad and me, you might as well take him out too, but you could've killed yourself too." Quiverwing said.

"With the cheese cannon?" Launchpad asked.

Darkwing gaped. "The WHAT?"

"Well, that was what SHUSH sent, so that's what I installed..." Launchpad looked embarrassed. "It's supposed to stick people, sorta like Quiv's glue arrows, only more."

Darkwing sat back in his chair and laughed. "You bluffed Taurus with a cheese gun!" He slapped Launchpad's shoulder. The ship swerved slightly.

Quiverwing said, "That's funny - Taurus just did that too."

"Did what?"

"Shook a little. Just after we did."

"Huh. He must be tracking us real close. LP, can we turn fast and gum up his jets with the cheese stuff?"

"Before or after he crashes into us?"

"Right." Darkwing muttered. Stalemate! They could not outrun or attack Taurus, and Taurus couldn't reach them. And he could not shoot them, or he would have done so by now. He had probably used up his ammunition back in the cave. That could only mean that he meant to ram them.

Quiverwing looked down, towards the ground. The trees had thinned an hour ago. Now the ground was a solid, featureless expanse of white, broken only by sharp mountain peaks. "Glaciers. Where the heck are we, the North Pole?"

"Not yet." Launchpad answered. "Uh, we can't stay up here forever, guys. I'll run outta fuel."

"I wonder how much fuel Taurus has. Maybe he'll run out before we do." Quiverwing suggested.

"We can't count on that." Darkwing looked back. Taurus was close enough that they could see the expression on his face. Red rage, literally. Even his metal parts were beginning to glow! "Pull ahead, LP! If he rams us now, he'll burn the ship! Not to mention singing our costumes!"

Launchpad pressed a control, and the ship accelerated slightly. He dared a look back. When he released the wheel it spun, and the ship flew directly towards a mountain face.

"Launchpad! LOOK OUT!" Quiverwing shrieked.

Launchpad jerked the ship out of its course just in time. "Sorry."

Taurus echoed their maneuver almost perfectly. "He's doing exactly what we do. Must just be locked onto the ship. If we'd crashed, at least we would've taken him with us." Darkwing said.

"Yeah..." Then Quiverwing asked, "Was it my imagination, or did it look like he turned just a little LATER than we did?"

"A li'l later, maybe a few seconds." Launchpad answered. "He just about wiped out."

"If he had been closer to us, he would have, wouldn't he?" she said, more as a statement than a question.

Darkwing caught on. "Launchpad, let him catch up! We're going to see how close you can get to crashing without actually doing it!" Darkwing announced.

"Roger that!" Launchpad answered gleefully. "Buckle up, this is gonna be better than that flight home, Quiv."

As soon as Taurus came close he put on a burst of speed. Launchpad grinned and turned the ship in a tight circle. Taurus turned in a slightly wider circle. Darkwing said, "He's not as maneuverable as the Thunderquack."

"Nobody's perfect." Launchpad said as he spun the steering wheel again.

For the next few minutes nobody spoke. Launchpad was concentrating too hard, and enjoying himself too much, and Darkwing and Quiverwing were fighting back air sickness. Launchpad flew the ship in a tightly tangled flight above the mountainous ice plane, and noted to himself that Taurus's maneuvering had become less tight, as if he were tiring. He heard Darkwing groan, "Launchpad, much more of this and the windscreen is going to get very messy. From the inside."

"Okay, hold on to your hats!" Launchpad answered and pulled the steering wheel back. The ship rose, nose upward, straight into the sky.

"Where are you gonna crash him, on the moon?" Quiverwing moaned.

Launchpad leveled off to let Taurus almost catch up. Then he pushed the ship into a steep nose dive.

As the ice came up towards them Quiverwing had to bite back a scream. At the last moment Launchpad jerked the steering column back. The Thunderquack pulled out of the dive. Its belly slapped against the ice. Then it rose into the sky again.

Behind themselves they heard a shattering explosion.

"Bullseye." Quiverwing said.

Darkwing opened his eyes and looked back. Taurus was nowhere to be seen - and, below them, the flat ice was now marred by a crater.

Launchpad landed the Thunderquack on the rim of the crater. In the center was a pile of broken ice, as if an iceberg had been dropped from some height. As they watched, a figure threw several ice blocks off of itself. Dismayed, Darkwing said, "What does it take to stop this guy?!"

"You cannot defeat me!" Taurus struggled through the ice, his metal glowing bright red. His wings were still partially extended. "No one can defeat me!" His wings and jets shifted, but did not close. The metal parts were too damaged by his crash to slide past each other. He struggled to climb the slope of the crater. But instead of going upward he was sinking - not sliding downslope, but sinking directly downward. He looked down, and was surprised to see a pool of water around his legs. The water touching his metal exoskeleton boiled, heating the rest of the water, melting the ice around him faster than he could climb.

Within minutes he had disappeared from sight into a small lake. The water boiled for some minutes afterward. Soon it began to ice over again, forming a glassy sheet. And all was still again.

Darkwing broke the silence that followed. "How anticlimactic."

"Are you complaining?" Quiverwing asked. "He nearly toasted us!"

"No, no, I guess not. Actually, I guess it is poetic that he should defeat himself." Darkwing mused. "Done in by his own evil ambition. Well, he'll keep there. Let's go home."

She looked down into the clear ice. There, she could see Taurus' frozen form in the bottom of the lake. "I feel sorry for whoever digs him out of there."


The flight back was quiet. At length Quiverwing tapped Launchpad on the shoulder. He glanced back. "Hmm?"

"Launchpad... I guess I owe you an apology. I DID screw up back there. I'm sorry. I won't do that again."

He patted her hand. "'S okay now, kiddo. You made up for it."

"What do you mean? She was great!" Darkwing said.

Quiverwing and Launchpad exchanged glances. She sighed and said, "No, I wasn't. It was my fault that Taurus got you in the first place, in the F.O.W.L. lab. I wasn't waiting for him to come out. I should've been there to back you up, like we planned. I'm sorry."

"You weren't?" he exclaimed, surprised.

"I'm sorry." She looked away.

Launchpad looked at Darkwing and said in a low voice, "I'll tell you later."

"No." she said. To Darkwing she confessed, "You told me to stay outside and wait, in case you needed backup. I thought I could go in one of the other tunnels and get him from behind, so that's what I tried to do. So I wasn't there when he came out. I was mad 'cause you always squelch me, and I thought my plan was better, so I ended up screwing yours up. I'm sorry." To Launchpad she said, "I know I was a jerk, 'Pad. I'd hate me for it too-"

"Whoa! HATE you?" Launchpad looked back at her in surprise. "Gos, you ticked me off real bad, but I'd never hate you! You're like my own kid! Everyone does dumb stuff sometimes."

"Yeah." Darkwing said. He had been angry at first, but he could see that she was genuinely contrite. How had Launchpad brought her back in line? That task took all of Darkwing's skill, and even then he was never sure of success! He shot a questioning glance at Launchpad.

Launchpad looked back at Darkwing, then said to her, "Gos, I think of you like you're my own kid. You know that. I'll always love you. No matter what dumb stuff you do. Kiddo." he added teasingly.

"Me too, Gos. And, well, I suppose everyone makes a mistake every so often. Even I do. Occasionally."

She looked at him in wide-eyed, mock surprise. "You? NO!"

"Yep. Even the Dauntless Duck has made a mistake, perhaps even two, in his lifetime. Certainly no more than that."

Launchpad and Quiverwing exchanged glances and grinned. "Right." she said.

"Well, anyway, we defeated the bad guy, saved St. Canard, possibly the Earth, and certainly our hides. Launchpad, find the nearest sunset and fly off into it."


All characters copyright Disney. Story copyright Kim McFarland. Permission is given by the author to copy this story for personal use only, provided no changes are made to the story, the credits, or Gosalyn's age.


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