by Kim McFarland
It was a dark and stormy night. Clouds hung low over the Negaverse St. Canard, mixing in with the smog. Little rain fell, but the growling of the thunder more than made up for the deficiency.
Negaduck was in his element.
He skulked through the back alleys in the center of the city, a pipe bomb hidden within his cape. When he reached the police station he peered through a window. The file room was empty. He opened the window and entered silently.
He appraised the room for a minute, searching for the most prominent location. He placed the pipe bomb on top of the file cabinet nearest the door and set the timer. Then he slipped one of his business cards under the door and escaped back out the window.
The next day he thumbed through the newspaper. His anticipation faded with each page he scanned and found no mention of his crime. Finally, he spotted it ... buried in the middle of a column on the last page. His disappointment turned into rage when he saw that not only had it not been deemed worthy of a headline, his name had not even been mentioned! He did not care that the bomb had been found and dismantled in time - although the havoc it would have caused by ruining the police department files would have been amusing - but he had planned for them to find his signature card and credit him with the attempt!
"Flatheaded cops! Probably so wired on coffee they didn't bother to look down!" he growled as he tore the paper in two. How was he supposed to get any publicity as a supervillain if they never credited his crimes?! After a few fakes he would pull off the REAL one, and by then everyone would know who was responsible!
He would have to get more serious. No more squibs and easily overlooked business cards. He would need something flashier this time, and he would show up personally.
With a crash of shattering glass, a canister flew in through the window of the St. Canard police station. It spewed forth a red smoke cloud. A figure dressed in a yellow double breasted coat, black cape and red wide brimmed hat appeared within it. As the smoke dissipated the figure shouted, "I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the screeching fingernails on the chalkboard of justice! I am NEGADUCK!"
He stepped forward and glared at the policemen at their desks. "And what do I have to do to get you schmucks' attention, burn down a doughnut shop?!?"
Several of the policemen exchanged glances. So THIS was the nutcase who was planting business cards all over. One of them spoke up. "It's our Mugger of the Month candidate!" He drew his gun.
"MUGGER!" Negaduck shrieked. Being ignored was one thing - being belittled to his face was another! He was starting to reach behind himself when a bullet missed him by a fraction of an inch.
He was no coward, but he was not bulletproof either. He dove out the window and landed in the seat of his motorcycle. He gunned it and roared away. Several police cars took off in pursuit.
Negaduck drove through the streets with flagrant disregard for traffic laws. The sirens stayed behind him. Apparently the cops didn't mind speeding down one-way streets the wrong way any more than he did.
He dodged in and out of traffic, thoroughly enjoying himself. This would be written up for sure! He remembered the grenade that he had planned to throw inside the police station, and took it out and pulled the pin with his teeth. It exploded behind him, silencing the sirens.
He drove into "the bad section of town", an area which the police had long ago given up on trying to clean up. They now just stayed safely out of the way. He felt right at home there.
He parked the motorcycle in the alley behind a decrepit apartment building and dismounted. This place would make a decent hideout for the time being, he thought. Now he just had to wait and see whether his front page write-up in the St. Canard Times was above or below the crease.
He hid his motorcycle behind a dumpster and climbed up the fire escape. The first two floors were boarded up; he went in the third floor exit. Inside, it was clear that although the building had been abandoned for years, someone had recently been inside.
He tried the doors. One of them was locked. He found a key nearby which fit the lock. He opened the door. Inside was a young girl in a pink dress. She blinked sleepily, then stared at him in wide-eyed surprise. "Who are you?"
His reply was cut off by a sudden noise from the hallway. A large, vicious-looking duck shoved past him and slammed the door, then pulled out a bazooka and aimed it at him. "Back off, punk!"
Negaduck looked him up and down appraisingly. He wore a denim jacket, jeans and a t-shirt, all torn and dirty. His red hair was pulled back in a rubber band, and he apparently hadn't made the acquaintance of a sharp razor in weeks. He looked as if he could punch his way through a wall, and furthermore would be dumb enough to try it. Typical street thug, Negaduck decided, easily bluffed. "Who are you calling punk?!" He walked up to him and slapped the muzzle of the bazooka aside. "And who are YOU?"
Momentarily caught off guard, he replied, "Launchpad McQuack. Now who are YOU?"
Negaduck swirled his cape. "I am known as Negaduck!" He paused dramatically.
Launchpad broke the silence that followed. "Never heard of ya."
Negaduck gritted his teeth. What did a duck have to DO to get a little notice?! "Perhaps you've heard of the pipe bombings at the police headquarters?"
"YOU'RE the one who's been doing that?" Launchpad asked, amazed. Negaduck nodded, eyes closed. When he opened his eyes again he found himself looking down the barrel of the bazooka. "You JERK!"
Negaduck shoved the weapon aside again. "Watch where you point that thing!"
"Look, punk, those stupid little tricks just get 'em mad. Then they come after ya. They're like any other gang - you don't get in their face, they don't get in yours."
"Oh, and what makes you such a hotshot? Besides the scrap metal?"
Launchpad took the bazooka down from his shoulder. "You heard of Flintheart Glomgold?"
"Yeah. He disappeared a few years back. So?"
Launchpad grinned and patted the weapon. "Nice guys finish last. I made sure."
"Yeah ... well ... so what's with the girl?" Negaduck jerked a thumb at the door.
"Oh, that... well, I struck out on my own awhile ago. Got tired of being McDuck's hired gun. Figured I'd take her as insurance, y'know, people will pay to get their little girl back."
"Oh. Whose kid is she, anyway?"
"Dunno. Grabbed her from the orphanage." He shrugged.
Negaduck jeered, "Lesson one. If you're gonna kidnap someone, pick someone who has a family you can ransom 'em to!"
"Well, shoot!" Launchpad said, exasperated. "I been holding her for NOTHING?"
"Right." Negaduck smirked.
"Guess I don't need her then." he said, hoisting the bazooka back onto his shoulder.
"Wait! Hostages can be useful."
Launchpad appeared to think about it. Then he lowered the weapon again. "Yeah."
Negaduck could see that this duck was definitely lacking in the brains department. But at least he had good taste in weapons... "Got anything stronger than this peashooter?" Negaduck asked, tapping the bazooka.
"Heck yeah! This is just the portable model."
"All right. I think we can strike a deal." Negaduck said with an evil grin.
Back at the police station, things were settling down. Now they had a face and a name to attach to the bomb threats they had been receiving. Not that the threats were of themselves unusual - St. Canard was a rough place to live - but at least they could alert the force to be on the lookout for the fruitcake in the stupid looking fedora.
Captain Jack Kazaleh called in his secretary and handed her a memo to type and distribute, detailing Negaduck's appearance and actions. It would boost the department's morale to get the gaudily dressed lowlife safely inside a cell. Then he sighed and looked at the caseload on his desk. There was a huge pile of files. Robberies, muggings, vandalism... Some of the cases were months old, and unsolved due to lack of manpower. They just didn't have enough people for this city!
He picked up an unfamiliar file. It was a kidnapping case. A girl had been snatched from the orphanage six days ago, and a ransom note had come in. He shook his head. Any smart kidnapper would take a kid with wealthy parents who would be too frightened to go to the police, and instead just pay to get their child back. He puzzled through the scrawly writing of the ransom note. This was unusual - the drop location was an address in the slum section. Usually kidnappers picked some anonymous place like a locker at the train station.
Well, this criminal was obviously not too smart - as evidenced by his choice of victims - and he might have been stupid enough to use his own address as the drop point. It was a chance.
Later that night Negaduck gave up in frustration. He had been trying to work out some plan to destroy the police station, but Launchpad couldn't seem to understand why. Couldn't the idiot comprehend the long-range benefit of getting them out of the way once and for all? All he seemed to see was that there was no immediate profit in it. No wonder he was just a street thug! He had no ambition! If it weren't for the weapons in his possession Negaduck would have left long ago.
He stamped into the room connecting with the third floor fire exit. When he entered he saw that the girl was staring out the window at the night skyline. Great. The big fool had even forgotten to lock her in.
She startled when she heard him close the door behind himself. Then, seeing it was not Launchpad, she relaxed a little.
"Kid. How long have you been here?"
"I've been here a week, I think, sir." she replied politely.
"Uh huh. No parents or anything?"
"No..." she said sadly. "Ever since Mom and Dad, and then my grandfather, died I've been at the orphanage. But it's not so bad." She put on a brave little smile.
Negaduck rolled his eyes. It was no wonder Launchpad kept her locked in that room. She was so sweet his teeth were beginning to ache. He hoped that he wouldn't need insulin after he pumped her for information. "What's your name, kid?"
"Uh huh." The last name was familiar - where had he heard it before ... ? Then he remembered. "When did they die?"
She looked at the ground sadly. "They died two years ago, sir."
He knelt down in front of her. "And what was your Grandpa's job?" he asked in a syrupy tone of voice. It was a long shot, but...
"He was a scientist."
"And what kind of science did he work with?" he asked hopefully.
"He worked with chemicals and compounds, sir."
Negaduck held back a yelp of joy. When he had regained his composure he put on his most sugary tone of voice. "Now, dear, don't be sad. We'll take care of you now."
Gosalyn hugged him. "Thank you, sir." she said trustingly.
Negaduck flinched. Then he patted her head. "Now, do you remember where his laboratory was?"
She shook her head. "I don't remember how we got there. I'm sorry."
He stifled a curse. Oh, well, maybe she would remember something that could give him a clue later. "Now, dear, it's way past your bedtime. I'll tuck you in."
She released him, and he breathed a sigh of relief. She got into the bed. He said, "Rest up. We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow."
"Would you sing me a lullaby?" She looked up at him appealingly.
Through gritted teeth he said, "I don't know any. Why don't you sing yourself one, dear?"
"I think I remember the one that Grandpa used to sing to me. Would you like to hear it?"
NO, you little rug rat! "Of course, dear."
She closed her eyes and hummed a few notes, then sang softly:
"Close your eyes, little girl blue,
Sleep well in the city of saints,
The lights that shine throughout the night
Will keep the darkness at bay.
Then come to me, little girl blue,
When you can solve this song's riddle
I'll see you high above the sea,
I'll meet you in the middle."
As she sang the last fine her eyes closed and her voice faded.
Negaduck left the room and shut the door quietly. If the kid didn't go to sleep now he could always rock her to sleep - with a real rock. He found himself humming the tune of the lullaby to himself. Then, in his mind, something snapped into focus.
He burst back into the lounge and yelled, "Launchpad! Do you have a map of the state?"
"Yeah." He did not look up from cleaning the bazooka. "So?"
"Listen, Einstein, you have no idea who that girl is, do you?"
"Have you ever heard of Zaslovium?"
"Of course you wouldn't have. Well, it's a powerful explosive. So powerful it was hushed up by the Government as soon as it was developed. The man who invented it was assassinated two years ago, and nobody managed to find out where his lab was before he bit it, so now nobody has the stuff."
"So the man who developed it was named Waddlemeyer! And you've managed to kidnap his granddaughter, who was practically raised in his lab. Now get me the map!"
Grumbling, Launchpad obeyed. Negaduck spread it out and began singing parts of the lullaby. "'Sleep well in the city of saints' - Saint Canard! 'The lights that shine throughout the night'... the main city, not the suburbs. 'Keep the darkness at bay'..." He looked around the map, then stabbed a finger at Audubon Bay.
"That wasn't a lullaby, it was an address!" he exclaimed triumphantly. "And his lab's right here in St. Canard, somewhere along Audubon Bay!"
"So when do we go find it?" Launchpad asked.
"We?" Negaduck shot him a haughty look. "I'll find it alone, thank you very much."
"Oh yeah?" he growled. "How you gonna get there? Riding that flashy little scooter? The cops'll nail you the minute you set foot outa this slum."
The motorcycle WAS pretty distinctive ... and chances were they'd have an APB out on him. The one time he managed to get some notice, and it was going to screw him up! "Well, you got a better idea?"
It was Launchpad's turn to look haughty. "Sure do."
He led Negaduck down the stairwell to the ground floor. When he opened the door to the lobby Negaduck stopped and stared. There, in the middle of the lobby floor, was an airship.
Launchpad walked up to it and tapped its side. "They won't be expecting something like THIS!"
It was like nothing Negaduck had ever seen. It was built in the shape of a duck's head, and streamlined for quick maneuvering. The thing was vicious looking! He would not admit it, but he was impressed. Launchpad continued,
"I'm a pilot too. I can fly as well as I can shoot." He was quite pleased by Negaduck's expression. "And this baby can shoot too."
"Well... don't you think you've overlooked something?"
Negaduck shouted, "This thing's inside a building! How're you going to get it out?!"
Launchpad patted the bill of the plane. "You'll see."
Captain Kazaleh arrived with his backup at the address. It was a boarded-up apartment building. It was not empty, though - he could see lights on inside. He sent his men to cover all exits, with instructions to have their weapons drawn. One of his men reported that the same motorcycle that Negaduck had escaped on was parked by the fire escape.
When they were all in place he raised the loudspeaker.
"THIS IS THE POLICE. WE HAVE THE BUILDING SURROUNDED. YOU HAVE TEN MINUTES TO COME OUT WITH THE CHILD."
Negaduck snarled several words that this APA's editor will not print. Then he said, "Get your peashooter. Target practice time!" He ran to Gosalyn's room and grabbed her out of the bed. She was not fully awake when he carried her back into the lobby.
Launchpad was sitting in the ship. Negaduck screamed, "I said get ready with the bazooka!"
He shook his head. "Get in the ship!" he yelled back.
"You idiot! There's no way to fly out!"
"Yes there is! You coming?!"
Negaduck said several more unprintable words as he swung Gosalyn up, then climbed in himself. Launchpad closed the dome of the ship and started the engines.
Negaduck cringed involuntarily as the ship roared forward, towards the solid cinderblock wall.
Captain Kazaleh dove out of the way as the front of the building exploded outward. He narrowly missed being hit by the debris.
He stared after the airship as it climbed into the night sky, and shook his head in shock.
This case was going to be more difficult than he had thought.
Inside the ship, Launchpad enjoyed Negaduck's expression of amazement. He gloated, "I told ya. This baby's solid, like a battering ram."
Negaduck managed, "I don't believe this! Where'd you get it?"
"I made it. Got bored with the stuff they had me flyin', back when I worked for McDuck, so I made my own."
"What else can it do?"
Launchpad pulled it into a nosedive over a small wooded area. Seconds before it was to smash into the ground he grabbed another control while pulling up sharply on the steering wheel. A burst of flame exploded from the trees as they roared back into the sky.
"Like I said, it's got ammo." he grinned.
The ship cruised for some time. Neither of them had a destination in mind. Then Negaduck remembered the map stuck in his pocket. He unfolded it, looked it over, and said, "Launchpad. Let's go back-"
Launchpad looked at him as if he were insane. "Go BACK? What for?"
"Not back to the building, back to St. Canard. I wanna find that lab." He pointed at the area he had circled. "Audubon Bay. That's where it'll be!"
"No problem-o." He pulled the plane around in a wide arc.
The blip in the radar screen suddenly swung around in a semicircle. It was now headed back in the direction from which it had come.
When Captain Kazaleh heard the report over the radio he shook his head in disbelief. He had thought that it was fleeing the city; why were they turning back? Never mind that - time for action, not for deliberation. And time to pull out the heavy artillery.
The St. Canard skyline came into view. As they approached Launchpad asked, "So where we gonna search?"
"The bay..." He was thinking hard. Then he remembered that he had brought Gosalyn with them. He turned back to see her trying bravely to remain calm in the back seat. "Gosalyn, dear, you remember the second verse of that lullaby you sang? Could you sing it again?"
"Now?" she asked, surprised.
"Then come to me, little girl blue,
When you can solve this song's riddle
I'll see you high above the sea,
I'll meet you in the middle."
She sang with a nervous quaver in her voice. He listened closely, trying to detect any further clues. When she finished he shook his head and looked back at the windscreen. Nothing. "Just keep going." he grumbled to Launchpad.
The city was plainly visible in the night because of the lights. The tower building showed as a speckling of lit windows topped with a light to warn away airplanes. The smaller tower of the bay bridge also sported similar lights. Staring at the bridge, Negaduck thought sourly that they would have to wait until the morning to begin their search. Even the protective cover of night and the city lights wouldn't help him this time.
The bridge tower was coming closer. And closer. And CLOSER.
"LAUNCHPAD!" Negaduck yelled. At the last moment be turned the plane just enough to avoid a collision. "You maniac! You trying to kill us all?!"
"Just waking you up." he replied, not wanting to admit that his attention had been wandering.
"Idiot. You ought to be named 'Psychopad'."
Launchpad considered. "Psychopad... I like that."
"You would." He watched as the bridge tower faded in the distance. Soon it was visible only as a spark of light.
The rest of it clicked into place!
"Launchpad! Turn back! The bridge tower!" Negaduck shouted excitedly.
"The bridge tower! 'I'll see you high above the sea, I'll meet you in the middle!' The towers are above the water, in the middle of the bridge! Back to the bridge!"
When they neared the tower Negaduck suddenly realized that there was no place to land. "Crud. How're we going to get in there?"
"No problem-o. Leave that to me." Launchpad replied coolly.
He aimed right for the tower. The ship's bill rammed through, punching a hole into the inside and holding the ship in place after Launchpad shut the engines off. He opened the dome.
They crawled through the hole. Negaduck looked around. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light he saw that he had been right! This WAS Waddlemeyer's lab! "Launchpad! We found it!"
"Yeah." He could barely see. As Negaduck began searching Launchpad crawled back into the airship. He turned on the floodlights and went back into the tower. "Thought I'd shed a little light on the subject."
They looked through the lab. Negaduck had a pretty good idea of what he was searching for would look like. Launchpad, browsing around, tried to appear as if he had as much purpose. The harsh lighting from the ship turned the lab into a stark jumble of light and shadow, complicating their search.
After a few minutes Launchpad asked, "What did Waddlemeyer used to wear?"
"I dunno. Who cares." Negaduck replied, annoyed at the distraction.
"Did he wear a brown jacket and blue pants?"
"I DON'T KNOW! WHO CARES!"
"Think I know why they never found him." Launchpad was looking at an area of the floor that Negaduck could not see. He bent down and picked something out of a shirt pocket.
Negaduck had found what he was looking for. It came in the form of a spiral-bound notebook and two full vials of fluid. The book identified the contents of the vials as chemicals which, when mixed, would form Zaslovium. He grabbed the book and the vials, then as an afterthought took a box of empty vials with rubber stoppers as well.
Then the lights suddenly grew brighter. He looked up through the tower windows to see helicopter-mounted searchlights glaring down on them. In his eagerness he hadn't paid attention to the steadily increasing whirring sound of the helicopters' propellers! Launchpad dove under a lab table out of reflex. Negaduck shouted, "You can't hide in here! Let's go!"
"They'll shoot us down out there!" Launchpad shouted over the roaring of the helicopters.
"No they won't! I told you hostages come in handy!"
They scrambled back into the airship and broke it free from the tower. "Fly over the city!" Negaduck ordered as he flipped through the notebook. "Can you get the channel the police radio is on?"
"Yep." He tapped a button.
It was already set to the proper frequency. Imagine that, Negaduck thought. He found what he was looking for in the book, and poured a few drops of each liquid into an empty vial. He sealed it with a stopper and swirled it carefully to mix the chemicals without setting them off. "Okay - I gotta drop this-"
Launchpad pulled a lever and the dome flipped up. Taken by surprise, Negaduck squinted into the wind. "Moron! You trying to throw us out?"
"The dome'd catch you." Launchpad jerked a thumb at it.
"Take us low!" Negaduck ducked down below the control panel, where the wind was not so bad. When the dive leveled out he threw the vial out and cried, "Close it!"
Launchpad did. Negaduck waited, his eyes on the spot where he had dropped the vial. After ten seconds he flipped frantically through the notebook again. "There should be a crater down there!"
"Oh." Launchpad was not paying attention.
Negaduck looked up, infuriated. Launchpad was looking through a wallet. Negaduck was about to commit an act of violence against the pilot when the hull pinged as if spattered with gravel.
"They're shooting at us!" Negaduck yelped. He looked out the windscreen and saw that a fleet of military helicopters closing in. "Does this thing have a loudspeaker?"
"I know, the hull can take it. And it doesn't. You wanna talk to the fuzz?"
"Talk on the radio." He pointed to CB microphone that was crudely attached to the radio.
Negaduck snatched it and pushed the switch. "This is Negaduck! Back off! Touch us and we ace the kid in here!"
There was general confusion on the channel for a minute. Then a clear voice cut through. "Is this the flying bogey?"
"Right. We're a tank with wings. We can take anything your weapons can dish out in this thing-" he said, bluffing shamelessly, "but tick us off and we might dump out our hostage."
There was a brief silence on the line. Then the same voice replied, "You have no hostage. Land at once or you will be shot down."
They weren't buying the bluff! He turned and beckoned to Gosalyn. "Come here." Trembling, she obeyed. He sat her on his lap. "Open the dome."
Negaduck spoke into the radio again. "Take a look. It would be tragic if this sweet little girl were to meet with an accident, now wouldn't it?" He held her up, then heard a whirring noise behind himself that was steadily increasing in volume and turned to see one of the helicopters approaching them from the back. He abruptly pitched her over the edge.
She cried out as she realized she was failing. Her scream cut off abruptly as the airship swooped down and caught her on its bill seconds before she hit the pavement. Before she could slide off Negaduck pulled her back in. Into the microphone he said, "Just keep it up, and it's street pizza for dinner!"
He put the speaker down, satisfied. Gosalyn huddled in his lap, shaking violently. Negaduck patted her head and said, "Don't worry, kid. You'll be safe as long as the police keep their distance."
Gosalyn wrapped her arms around him and buried her face against his chest. Negaduck winced. He forced himself to put his arms around her. Better soothe the kid or she'll have hysterics and get REALLY annoying, he thought. "Fly us over a residential area and keep us there." he commanded. Even if their little demonstration did not have the desired effect, at least the police would think twice before shooting them down where the debris would likely kill innocent people.
Launchpad guided the ship over a suburb and set it to circle on automatic pilot. The helicopters followed at a distance. When Gosalyn had calmed down he sent her to the back seat again and started flipping rapidly through the notebook. After a minute Launchpad said, "Aw, crud, the geezer didn't have nothin' on him! Just a buncha junk."
"Will you stop-" Then he caught sight of some papers in the wallet where the money was usually placed. He snatched them up and examined them.
A grin spread across his face. He listened calmly to the threats pouring in through the radio as he mixed several more vials of Zaslovium. Then he picked up the microphone. "This is Negaduck. I'm ready to surrender, just don't shoot me down. I'll land in front of the police headquarters."
Launchpad looked at him in shock. "WHAT?! After all that!?"
Negaduck's smile took on a predatory look. "Just watch and see."
The airship approached the station at low altitude. Captain Kazaleh raced it in his car, hoping to be there when it arrived. He had coordinated this attack, and he wanted to be there to toss Negaduck into jail personally.
As it reached the station he saw it hover briefly. The dome opened slightly and a figure inside dropped something. Then a ball of flame erupted where the police headquarters used to be.
He had finally carried through on his threats to destroy the station. Kazaleh thought moodily that at least Negaduck had been caught in the explosion too.
Then he saw the speck speeding out of the ball of flame into the sky.
"YES!" Negaduck yelled joyously. He picked up the speaker and barked his final message to the forces of Law and Order in St. Canard.
He laughed maniacally as he looked at the receding flames.
Launchpad looked at him with undisguised admiration. "You actually DID it!"
Negaduck grinned evilly. "Yep."
"Why wouldn't it work the first time?"
"It was on that paper in his wallet that to set it off you need to run an electrical current through it. Guess Waddlemeyer didn't want anyone raiding the lab and using the Zaslovium, so he decided to keep the trigger a secret. So I aimed for the power lines." Negaduck said smugly.
He continued after a suitably dramatic pause. "Now, I think it's time to play with our new toy."
Launchpad looked at him, puzzled. "Huh?"
"Don't worry about it." He was mixing up more of the chemical in the vials. "Just fly over to City Hall."
He smirked as it came into view. Once he had paralyzed St. Canard by eliminating the government, military installations, and power sources, it would be just ready for him to take over.
Whoever has the biggest toys wins.
All characters copyright © Disney, except Captain Jack Kazaleh, who is copyright © Kim McFarland.. 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 or the credits.
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