It is not thirty, twenty, or even ten years in the future. It is right now, which in this case would be 1991. Or something. Whatever. Anyway, here is another tale of the exploits of
It was a dark and stormy night.
Okay, it wasn't really. It was a rather warm weekday afternoon in the city of St. Canard. Perfect weather for shopping, and a good percentage of the population was taking advantage of it.
In one upscale jewelry shop, a rather odd-looking white-feathered waterfowl woman was carefully inspecting the contents of several cases of gems. The staff watched her skeptically. Her clothes were not terribly stylish - she wore a nondescript sweater and skirt and large round-rimmed glasses, and had her long white hair brushed back in a style that resembled an airport windsock. But the staff knew that some rich people liked to "dress down", so they treated her and her dog with formal politeness.
She came to a decision and pointed at one item, a gold chain necklace with a large diamond in its pendant. "Let me see that one." she said.
One of the staff unlocked the display case and took the necklace out of its velvet box. She carefully picked it up by the chain and held it up, looking at the pendant. The dog placed its forefeet on the case, as if trying to see. She lowered it in front of the dog's face and turned the chain, causing the pendant to rotate. The dog stared as if mesmerized. She smiled, amused.
After looking carefully at the pendant, she lowered it back into the box. "Thank you. I have to look around a bit more - I must find just the right gem, I have plans for it - but I'll probably be back for this one."
"Very well, Ms...?"
"Matronic. Madam Anna Matronic." she answered before turning to leave.
It was still not a dark and stormy night. It was a pleasantly cool evening, just cool enough that after the summery warmth people would rather be indoors at night. That made it much easier for costumed vigilantes to do their jobs. And to train others.
"Well, you SAID you wanted to play the hero, Launchpad. We spent a whole mission with a sidekick trying to play hero. If that ever happens again I want you to be at least a passable imitation of one!" Darkwing said as he drove the Ratcatcher through the streets.
"OK, DW." Launchpad said from the sidecar.
"Besides, this has possibilities." Darkwing mused, too quietly to be heard over the roar of the motorcycle. If he could get Launchpad up to speed - as much "speed" as was possible for Launchpad, anyway - then Darkwing could use him as a double. It might only work when people saw him from a distance, perhaps, but then Darkwing Duck would seem to be everywhere! What that wouldn't do for his image!
"WHAT'D'JA SAY?" sounded right next to his ear.
Darkwing startled and the motorcycle swerved. Then he glared at Launchpad. Launchpad said into a small, handheld microphone disguised as a pencil, "THE WALKIE-TALKIES WORK REAL GOOD."
"I SEE that, LP." he said. "Now turn down the volume."
Darkwing flinched again. Then he turned his attention back to his surroundings. He was looking for someplace slightly seamy. He wanted to find a minor crime to practice on, nothing that would take too long to deal with. However, maybe the area around the lot of the Twentieth Century Ducks television studio was a little too upscale for that. He was considering setting up an ambush when he heard a scream.
Darkwing drove the Ratcatcher in close. A woman in an evening dress was shrieking like an air raid siren and trying to pull her purse away from a large, brutish looking thug. A run-of-the-mill mugging - perfect! He said, "Well, sidekick, time for your field test." Launchpad nodded, stifling his nervousness.
As the motorcycle came to a stop Launchpad jumped out of the sidecar. "Hold it right there, buster!" he shouted in a good try at an authoritative tone of voice. The mugger and his victim continued struggling as if they had not heard him.
Launchpad looked at Darkwing for guidance. Darkwing said, "They never pay attention to intros. Go on!"
"Right-o." He gathered his nerve and strode up to them. "Cut it out!" he said to the mugger.
The mugger paused and grinned at Launchpad, then swatted him into a brick wall. Launchpad hit hard on his back, but he shook off the daze and got on his feet again immediately. He couldn't fight off that guy by himself, and neither could that lady. He did the only thing he could think of - he grabbed her away from the mugger, picked her up in his arms, and ran.
Darkwing rolled his eyes and muttered, "Amateur." He jumped off his ratcatcher and shot a gas canister at the wall in front of the thug. "I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the balloon payment on the mortgage of justice! I am DARKWING DUCK!" he announced from the cover of the blue smoke cloud. Without hesitation he launched a web kick at the startled mugger.
It was like kicking a brick wall. Darkwing rebounded, regained his balance - putting his weight on his remaining good foot - and said, "Oh, a tough one, eh? No match for the Masked Mallard!"
From a darkened alley Launchpad looked back at the struggle. "Whew. DW'll take care of him for ya. You're OK now." he said to the erstwhile victim.
"You saved my life." she said.
"It's part of my job." he grinned at her.
In the darkness she could barely see him. "I don't know what happened to the security guards. They're supposed to keep those people away!"
"I dunno." he answered, then stole a glance back at Darkwing. He was still fighting heroically. The mugger obviously did not understand that fact, or he would have fallen down. Looking back at her, he said, "Um ... is there anything else I can do for ya?"
"You can put me down." she answered.
"Oh, uh, yeah. I forgot." He set her on her feet.
She looked in her purse, the strap of which was broken. From inside it she took out a script. "This must be what he wanted, but I can't think why."
He looked at the script cover. THE YOUNG AND THE BRAINLESS. Then he looked up at her and exclaimed, "Hey, now I recognize you! I watch that show all the time! You're Feather Locklear, ain't'cha? I thought your voice sounded familiar."
"Yes, that's me." Feather stepped out into the spotlight of the streetlamp so she could be seen, and flashed a camera smile at him.
"Wow... uh, sorry about grabbing you like that." Launchpad stuttered, embarrassed.
"That's all right. I was, you might say, swept right off my feet. Literally."
Launchpad grinned self-consciously. "I wonder why that guy wanted your script. Maybe he was a fan or reporter or something?"
"This is the script for the season finale. That must be the reason." she said.
"Really? Wow. I watch your show all the time. I'd better not look at your script then, I don't wanna spoil the surprise."
Now she could see him in the light, and she smiled at what she saw. He was a tall, strong, handsome duck. The red hair and boyish grin kept him from being a typical run-of-the-mill hunk like so many of her co-stars. He seemed to want to say something. She said, "Yes?"
"Uh..." he blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Could I, uh, have your autograph?"
"Sure." She flashed her camera smile at him again. She opened her script to the back, where there were several blank pages for notes. She detached one and asked, "What's your name?"
"Uh, Launchpad. Launchpad McQuack."
"Launchpad." She liked that name. Pressing on the back of her script, she signed her name and wrote a short note. Then she handed it to him.
He looked at the note and grinned happily. "Gee, thanks! Say, where were you going now? I mean, I'd hate it if we saved you just so another mugger could get ya."
"Just to the studio. We have a script conference in-" she looked at her wrist, "-now!"
"Lemme escort ya there at least, OK? Just to make sure."
"Of course." She held her arm out, and he took it. They walked through the unmanned gate into the TV studio grounds.
If Darkwing had been watching this, he would have been annoyed. However, he was too occupied at the moment to notice. This thug did not seem to know when to pass out! He also did not seem to know how to fight. Which was a good thing, as Darkwing's hands and feet were becoming bruised.
After nearly fracturing his hand yet again, he decided to take off the kid gloves. "You've asked for it, buster." he announced. "Now face the fearsome fury of Ramenjitsu!" He leapt over the thug's head - a move that always bewildered the foe, or at least that's what Goose Lee had said it would do - and kicked him sharply in the small of the back. Darkwing landed deftly on his feet.
And the thug fell on top of him.
Darkwing yelped and clawed his way out from under the thug. This guy must weigh a ton! When Darkwing was standing again he looked at his captive. He was lying, flat on his back, his eyes staring blankly upward. "Ewww!" Darkwing said under her breath. "Master Lee never said anything about that."
"Hiya, DW! I'm back."
"Where have you been? I could have used a hand here." Darkwing replied peevishly.
"I didn't want some other guy mugging Feather, so I walked her to her studio." Launchpad jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "It's just in there. Hey, I got her autograph." He held out a piece of paper to Darkwing.
Darkwing read, "To Launchpad, with love. I hope we meet again. Feather Locklear."
"I think she, heh heh, likes me."
"Whoever heard of a sidekick groupie?" Darkwing scoffed, handing the paper back.
"She wrote her phone number there, too."
"Well, yes ... anyway, we need to get the police to pick this scum up. Make the call, would you?"
"Why not just take him to the station like we always do?" Launchpad asked.
"You want to try to pick him up and put him in the sidecar?"
Launchpad tried. Then he went to look for a pay phone.
Madam Matronic was almost at the studio when she heard a police siren. She detoured toward the sound, her dog following close behind her.
When she saw the scene she ducked into an alleyway on the opposite side of the street to watch. The police were questioning Darkwing Duck, and some other people were trying to load a large man into an ambulance.
She took a small device out of her pocket and looked at the display. It was blank. Drat! She watched impatiently as the paramedics tried to lift the thug onto the gurney. One slipped a hand under the small of his back.
The screen on Matronic's device lit up. As soon as she saw the light she pressed some buttons on the device. The screen turned red.
The thug blinked, then got up, startling the paramedics. Without saying a word he ran away, down a street. Darkwing jumped onto his Ratcatcher and took off after him, passing Anna.
The next afternoon found Anna in her workshop on the television studio grounds. She was assembling a radio-controlled creature that would menace some teenagers in tonight's taping of "Graveyard Humor". It was mindless work for a mindless show. There was no real artistry in creating giant insects and slime creatures, not within the budget she was allowed at least.
She put a few finishing touches on the device, then closed the instrument panel and flipped a switch concealed on its back. She pressed a few buttons on a radio controller, and the creature began to move. It lifted itself on its six legs. She started towards the door. It followed along, scuffling across the floor with faint mechanical sounds.
When she walked outside her workshop with the giant roach following her, few people reacted with anything more than passing interest. Matronic was known for talking her creations on field tests around the studio. Anyone who worked there knew that.
She heard a yelp. Turning to look, she saw Darkwing Duck, and the taller duck who had been with him last night. The taller duck was backing away squeamishly. Matronic thumbed the control in her pocket, and the giant roach ambled toward them. Launchpad tried to back away through the wall. Darkwing stepped to the side and drew a gun. Matronic yelled, "No!"
Darkwing fired. A gas cartridge bounced off the roach's carapace, spewing fog. The roach stopped moving. Matronic stepped into the fog and picked the roach up. She inspected it, then said to Darkwing in a disgusted tone, "Do you know how long it will take to repair this?!"
"Repair it?" Darkwing exclaimed.
"Yes, repair it!" She took out her radio controller. "This is just a special effect for a TV show! And you've just wrecked its receiver!" She picked up the roach and turned to walk away.
"Wait a minute! I saw you at the scene of the mugging yesterday!"
Matronic cringed slightly. Then she turned back. "No, I wasn't. I was there afterwards."
"You saw the criminal, though. Is he anyone that works at the studio?"
"Of course not." she said, a tone of annoyance returning to her voice. "Then he'd be identified right off." She tucked the roach under her arm and stalked away.
"Weird." Darkwing murmured as he watched her leave.
"Weirder than someone who has real spiders in her hair?"
Darkwing glared at Launchpad. "Come on, let's go."
"Launchpad! Is that you?"
Both turned. Feather Locklear was running toward them. "I'm so glad you came." she said to Launchpad in a smoky voice.
Launchpad blushed, though he was not certain why. Darkwing snapped in an irritated tone, "We're here on a case. That mysterious mugger might be lurking around here. We aim to flush him out."
"Say, while you're here, why don't you come watch ‘The Young and The Brainless'? We've got a taping in just a few minutes. That's where I'm going. Please?" she said in a soft voice as she played with Launchpad's scarf.
"Wow, a taping? Can we, DW?" Launchpad asked.
"Oh, for Pete's sake, Launchpad!"
She added, "It's the lead-in to the season finale."
"Oh, all right." Darkwing said before his sidekick could speak. It wasn't as if they were following a hot lead at the moment anyway.
Feather escorted them to the studio building where the soap opera was being filmed. Darkwing and Launchpad had no tickets, but a word from Feather got them in. The taping itself made Darkwing feel ill. The acting, which ranged from wooden to shamelessly hammy, looked even worse when seen live. Looking around the audience, he saw that he seemed to be the only one not enthralled. Good grief, he had thought his sidekick's bad taste was unique!
Afterwards, Feather was outside. She was surrounded by a cluster of fans, signing autographs, but she managed to break away when she saw Darkwing and Launchpad. She put her arm through Launchpad's and asked, "What did you think?"
"Wow, I never thought I'd see it in real life. I thought you had to do lots and lots of retakes and stuff!"
They should have, Darkwing thought.
"No, we like to do it fresh. That way, it doesn't become a routine. Method acting, you know." She smiled dazzlingly. "Let's get out of this crowd. Come with me."
Launchpad looked at Darkwing. Darkwing nodded. He had enough of this. Especially since nobody had asked for his autograph.
They threaded their way to the backstage area. All of the actors were drinking coffee and congratulating each other on their performances. Darkwing willed himself to say nothing. One, the actor who played Lucas, noticed them. He asked Feather, "What show are they taping?" in an affable manner.
"They aren't actors." she answered. "Darkwing Duck is a famous crimefighter."
"Oh. Pleased to meet you, Dark Wing." he said, shaking Launchpad's hand.
Launchpad said, embarrassed, "Uh, I'm Launchpad. That's DW. I'm just his sidekick."
‘Lucas' looked at Darkwing. "Oh, my mistake. Would you like an autograph?"
What planet was this guy ON? "No, thanks. Would you?"
‘Lucas' looked at him blankly, then decided it was a joke and laughed. Darkwing rolled his eyes. Even off camera, these people were stagey!
"Come on, Launchpad, we can go somewhere more private." Feather said in a sultry voice.
"Ah..." Launchpad said nervously. He looked at Darkwing.
"Oh, it's not like we're on a case or anything." Darkwing said sarcastically.
"Uh - I am kinda workin' right now." Launchpad said apologetically to Feather.
"In that case - come with me. It'll only be a moment." she led a surprised Launchpad into her dressing room.
One minute later Launchpad emerged, blushing. He put something into his pocket and waved goodbye to Feather. She blew a kiss to him.
Darkwing was bursting with curiosity. What could anyone do in one minute to make Launchpad blush like that? Besides the obvious. "Launchpad, you have lipstick on your cheek."
"Huh? Oh." He rubbed at it with an end of his scarf.
They walked out of the studio. From a window in her workshop, Madam Matronic watched them leave, relieved. She had been thinking they would never clear out!
She made her way to the costuming department. She found the head of the department, handed him several photographs, and said, "I need one of these immediately."
He studied the photographs. "What, are we doing a show about the Hopeless Diamond?"
She ignored the question. "It must be perfect quality, good enough to look authentic in a close-up. It must match these photographs down to the last detail. And it must be hollow."
"Hollow? How should it open?"
"It won't be opened on camera. There should be no visible opening. I have to put a microphone inside it."
"A microphone, inside stage jewelry?"
"There won't be anywhere else for a microphone." she said with a secretive smile.
"Ahhh." he replied knowingly.
"I need it for a taping first thing tomorrow morning."
"Okay, okay." he went off to speak to one of his technicians.
Several hours later, back in his tower hideout, Darkwing said, "Well, THAT was a big waste of time!"
"Maybe that guy just disappeared." Launchpad suggested.
"Launchpad, crooks the size of a bus do not just disappear." Darkwing informed him. "They flee, they go into hiding, but they do not ‘just disappear'."
"Well, I meant, maybe he just left St. Canard. I mean, after ya caught him he mighta got scared."
"Yes - any properly perceptive perpetrator will panic when pursued by the persistent protagonist, Darkwing Duck." Darkwing said. "That must be what happened. What the heck, let's go home."
They sat in the transport chairs. Within seconds they were in the middle of a hockey game.
Drake dodged a puck, then shouted "GOSALYN?!"
His daughter rolled to a halt. "What?"
"Pardon me for asking the obvious, but WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?! Hockey is strictly forbidden in the house! And so are rollerblades!"
"I'm not playing hockey. Just practicing a few shots."
"You're still trashing the living room."
"You trash lots of stuff when you're fighting crime." Gosalyn pointed out. "You're stifling my artistic freedom!"
"That's a new one." Launchpad commented, impressed.
"I'll stifle a few other freedoms if you don't take those skates off and put this room back the way it was." Drake said, folding his arms and glaring at her.
"Aw, Dad! I'd much rather hear about your latest case." she said pleadingly.
"Really?" Drake was taken by surprise.
"Yeah! Didja catch any crooks?"
"Not today." Launchpad answered. "But we got to see a taping of "The Young and The Brainless."
"WHAT? And you didn't take ME?" Gosalyn shouted indignantly.
"That show will rot your mind." Drake stated. "The title describes the characters, the actors, and the target audience."
Gosalyn and Launchpad exchanged looks.
The next morning Madam Matronic got the fake necklace from the costuming department. She examined it closely. It looked perfect! But it was too light; anyone holding it could tell that it was hollow.
She found the catch and opened it, then installed a tiny device in the interior. In a free spot she glued some tiny lead weights. The she dabbed a bit of epoxy on the inside edges of the catch, and closed it again. Now only someone who knew what to look for would be able to open it.
The people in the jewelry store were surprised to see the eccentric-looking woman with the afghan hound return. She looked in the counter, then pointed to a large gem necklace. "That's the one. I've just about decided I'm going to buy that one, but I need another close look to make sure it isn't a fake."
The clerk looked offended. "A fake? Madame, we do not sell fake gems."
"Then you won't mind it if I take a closer look." she replied.
With a sniff he took the gem's box out of the case. She carefully took it out of the box and looked at it closely, turning it over in her hands. And her dog jumped up on her, knocking her over. The necklace skittered across the floor. The dog seized the pendant in its mouth.
Matronic got to her feet, then went over to the dog. Shielding the view with her body, she opened its jaws, opened a hidden compartment under its tongue, and took out a fake necklace. She replaced it with the real one. Releasing the dog, she said, "I can't take you anywhere! Bad boy!" The dog looked appropriately ashamed.
The clerk spoke coldly. "Madame, if you cannot control your animal we must ask that you take it outside!"
"Oh, really?" she answered haughtily. "Well, anywhere my dog isn't welcome, I don't want to go. This isn't the only jeweler's in St. Canard, you know!" She tossed the necklace to the clerk. "You can have this back. Come on, boy!" she addressed the dog. She turned and walked out through the merchandise detector. The dog followed her at a tangent, walking around the detector.
Later that afternoon, Gosalyn was watching "The Young and The Brainless". Drake was trying to ignore it; it wasn't good enough to watch the first time around, so why should he be subjected to it a second time? But it was peculiar that Launchpad wasn't watching it. What was he doing anyway?
Drake went up to Launchpad's room. The door was closed. Drake rapped on it. "LP? You in there?"
"C'mon in, DW."
Drake opened the door and walked in. Launchpad was wearing his best flight jacket and jodhpurs, and was combing his hair. Drake said, "Whoa. What're you getting dressed up for?"
"I, uh, I'm going to go meet Feather. For lunch." Launchpad answered.
"You're kidding me. You have a date with her?" Drake teased.
"Oh, we're just havin' lunch. That's all." He suddenly looked nervous. "Er, isn't it?"
"If you're getting all dressed up, what do you think?"
Launchpad finished combing his hair and put on his flight cap. "I dunno." he sighed. "She sure is pretty, ain't she?"
"That she is. And, LP, she has the hots for you."
"You think so?" Launchpad somehow managed to look both pleased and alarmed.
"I think so. She was giving you the same look she gives anyone on the show that she has the hots for."
"I thought you didn't watch that show, DW."
"I don't. She does it often enough that I recognize it, just from when you and Gosalyn watch it."
"Oh. OK." he said, looking not at all OK.
"Oh, calm down, Launchpad. Relax. She's just a woman, after all. I don't see you getting all bashful over anyone else."
Launchpad forced a grin. "Yeah, well ... heh, I just hope I don't walk into any doorframes." His smile became a little more genuine.
"What are you talking about?"
Launchpad's grin widened. "I gotta go, but I'll explain it later. Remind me to tell you about someone I knew in Toupei."
Feather was waiting at the entrance to the sound stage, her identity nominally disguised by a fashionably oversized trench coat and a large pair of sunglasses. She waved to Launchpad, who was momentarily confused before recognizing her. "Wow, good disguise." he said. "I almost didn't see ya."
She smiled, like a flashbulb going off. "It always works. Come with me, I have a studio car. It'll take us to a nice little place I know."
The aforementioned "nice little place" was, in fact, a dark, quiet restaurant, the kind which didn't mention hamburgers anywhere on the menu. Launchpad did not find that out immediately, however; he was a bit too distracted by Feather. She was wearing a clinging, low-cut black dress. Launchpad had seen that dress before - it had been used in a recent show - but it was exponentially more distracting when seen live. She was also wearing a necklace with a large, glittering gem in the pendant that hung in the most distracting spot.
Feather noticed his distraction, and was not displeased. In fact, it was what she had been hoping for. She was going to be filming a scene in this outfit later; by wearing it she could both entertain Launchpad and save time on changing.
He had forced himself not to stare at her, and was now looking at the menu with a puzzled expression. She asked, "Problem?"
"Uh - what language is the menu in?"
"It's Italian. Don't worry about what you order, it's all good." She smiled. He really was cute.
"Oh, OK." Looking relieved, he closed his menu.
He looked around, then back at her. In an effort to make conversation, he asked, "So - you come here often?"
"Every so often. Most of the studio people come here." she answered.
The place struck Launchpad as a bit weird. Why was it so dark? They had to light candles at the table so people could see. "Don't you get nervous, uh, wearing stuff like that here?"
She shook her head. "Not at all. If I spill something on my dress, I can change into another at the studio. Costuming makes at least two copies of all stage clothes."
"No - I mean that necklace. It's kinda, um, big. What if someone tried to steal it?"
"This?" She looked at the pendant. "It's just cheap stage jewelry. It looks real, though, doesn't it?"
"Sure does." he agreed.
The waiter came at that moment. Feather ordered her usual, a pasta salad. Launchpad took Feather's word literally and picked something out at random. What the heck, pizza was Italian, and he liked that, so he'd probably like the other stuff too.
Resting her elbows on the table, she steepled her fingers and looked over her hands at Launchpad. "Have you ever thought about being in soaps?"
The question surprised Launchpad. He looked blank for a moment, then he grinned. "Not exactly."
"What's so funny?"
"Heh heh, something that happened on a case." he chuckled.
"Are you going to tell me about it?"
"Well ... it's a weird story. Heh, DW's supercomputer got the idea it was Deedee Lovelost 'cause it'd watched some tapes of the show, and Honker and Gos and I had to act as if we were other characters from the show to get her to cut it out."
It was her turn to look baffled. "A computer?"
"A supercomputer, actually. I guess it does sound weird. Most of DW's cases are kinda weird, I guess, so I'm used to it." He shrugged.
"A supercomputer ... that's one the writers haven't thought up yet." she mused. She looked up again and smiled. "So you know a little bit about soap acting already."
"Nahh, not really. I was just pretending. I didn't go to acting school or anything."
"That's all acting is, pretending. And who needs acting school?" she leaned forward, so her dress became fractionally more distracting. "None of us ever took acting lessons. You just have to remember your lines and not look right at the camera, that's all."
"Not look at the camera? Why?"
"Because when people watch the show it looks like you're looking right at them."
"Oh, yeah, right. I never thought of that!"
"Why don't you give it a try? We're always looking for handsome men." she said in a low voice.
He blushed. "But, uh, I could never act. I got no talent."
"That never stopped anyone before." she said with a camera smile.
He could not think of a reply.
She continued, "Anyway, think about it. Oh - we're doing the season finale tonight. It's going to be live! Haven't you heard?"
"That's really for real? I didn't know that did live TV anymore." Launchpad replied, surprised.
"Neither did I. I wish I could tell you what's going to happen, but I'm not supposed to." she said, inviting him to persuade her.
"That's all right. It'd spoil the surprise. I can't wait to see it." he said.
Meanwhile, back at the television studio, Madam Matronic was putting the finishing touches on another android. This one, which was more complex by far than any of her others she had yet activated, had been in the works for almost a year. She had "educated" it by hooking its brain to television set the same time every weekday. That would be its only perception of reality, and it would behave as the character she had selected for it. As would all of the others.
She finished dusting color onto the android's face. Perfect, she thought as she looked back and forth from a photograph to her work. She took a positronic brain out of a case in a cabinet, opened a panel in the top of the its head, and slipped it into place, carefully connecting it to the body. She shut the panel and fitted a wig over the scalp, then flipped a switch in the small of its back.
The android's eyes opened and focused as electrical power surged through its connections. Part by part, its brain came online. When it was fully awake it looked up and around at its surroundings.
Madam Matronic spoke into a controller. "Stand up."
The android stood slowly, as if unfamiliar with its body. Which, Madam Matronic supposed, it was. But it would learn within minutes. She watched it carefully, ready to command it via her controller.
The android looked around the room. It saw a low-cut, black dress laid out on a table, and picked it up. It held it against its body, testing to see if it would fit. It looked at Madam Matronic and said, "Where's the mirror?" in a perfect voice.
Matronic took a mirror about a foot square out of a cabinet and set it on a table, propped up against the wall. The android looked mildly annoyed that there was no full-length mirror. Matronic was not unhappy about this; it was exactly how her original would have reacted. Perfect programming! And it would continue learning, thanks to the self-modifying functions inherent in its positronic brain.
The android held the dress up to its front. It turned slightly - and its eyes went wide. "Where are my clothes?!" it gasped as it covered itself with the dress.
Matronic had not expected an android to come down with a case of modesty, but she had a full set of clothes for it, in the same sizes that Feather wore. She handed a few items of underclothing to the robot and said, "Wear the dress over these."
The android stared at her. Matronic stared back for a moment, then rolled her eyes and turned her back so it could change without being watched. As she did she took out her controller and began speaking into it, giving the android instructions for its first assignment. She would not even try to explain to it the way she would to a human; although it could be taught that way, it would be like teaching a willful, vapid actor. Any command she issued through the controller, however, would go directly into the lower levels of the android's brain, and operate much the same way a hypnotic suggestion did. It would become part of its programming.
When it was finished changing Madam Matronic looked it over. Not it, her - the android was built to look and act female, and from the way it was admiring itself in the mirror it certainly seemed to have succeeded. When she saw the back of the dress she realized that a low-backed dress was not a good choice; any lower and it might have revealed the off switch in the small of the back.
Matronic reached forward and pressed the switch through the fabric of the dress. The android froze, then slumped forward. Matronic caught it and lowered it into a chair. She took out some bubble wrap that she used to pack her creations for transport, wrapped the android in it, then put it on a dolly and wheeled it out to a studio truck.
She drove around for a little while before taking out a small, compass-like device. The needle pointed in the direction she had expected. She put it down on the dashboard and drove to her planned destination.
When she reached it she parked the truck across the street. She went into the back and closed the doors behind herself. She unwrapped the android, straightened out its mussed hair and clothes, and pushed the switch in its back. Its eyes opened. It looked around at its surroundings.
Matronic spoke into her controller. "You are going to home in on a certain signal. It's the one I programmed you with earlier. Do you detect it now?"
The duplicate Feather looked around, orienting itself, then nodded.
"Good. Follow your programming!" she said, and closed the controller.
The android stood. Matronic watched it go down the ramp - good thing it didn't have trouble walking in high heels! - then went back to the cab of the truck.
She did not have to wait long. Within minutes a siren wailed, and the android sprinted back up the ramp of the truck and pulled it closed behind itself. Matronic drove the truck away at full speed, before anyone outside could understand what had happened.
A limousine pulled into the Twentieth Century Ducks lot. Launchpad stepped out, then held the door for Feather. She waved at the driver, who drove the limo back to the studio parking lot.
She took Launchpad's arm as they started toward the studio. Launchpad. "Why don't you stay? We're performing the season finale live. I could use the ... moral support." She smiled at him photogenically.
Launchpad pulled her to himself suddenly. She did not resist, especially when she heard the truck roar past behind her, too close for comfort. Launchpad asked, "Do they always drive like that 'round here? He coulda hit someone!"
"No..." she said, smiling a little and making no effort to separate herself from Launchpad.
Launchpad released her. "Uh ... you were saying?"
He was blushing! How cute. She replied, "Why don't you stay while we do the show?"
"Sure! But you sure they won't mind? I mean, isn't that supposed to be a secret and all?"
She waved the idea away. "They won't mind. It's not like you will have the time to spill secrets to anyone; the tabloid press will see it when everyone else does."
His comment was cut off by the sound of a police siren. She and Launchpad looked curiously as it pulled up right next to them.
Two police officers stepped out of the car. "Are you Feather Locklear?" she asked. The other stepped out and put his hand on his gun handle.
"Yes." Feather answered uneasily.
"Hold out your hands." As the officer snapped a pair of handcuffs on the startled Locklear, she recited "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you against a court of law. You have the right to have a lawyer present at questioning-"
"What? What have I done?" Feather blurted out.
"Start with assault and robbery. Five minutes ago." the officer replied coolly. "And that necklace is evidence!"
"This necklace?" Feather said in disbelief. "It's a fake, just stage jewelry. Look-" she took it off and drew the pendant across one of the police car's windows. It left a long scratch.
"Add vandalism to the charges."
"But, Officer," Launchpad began, "She didn't rob anyone. She's been with me the whole time. I swear!" he raised his right hand, first two fingers out.
"We have eyewitnesses." the officer replied. "And they reported her wearing exactly what she has on now. If you want to argue it, tell it to the jury."
"But I have a live show to do in an hour!" Feather said desperately.
"You should have thought of that before you broke open that jewelry case." the officer said as she opened the back door of the squad car.
Feather looked at Launchpad pleadingly. He said, "Don't worry. I'll do something. I promise!"
She said tearfully, "I know you'll try." before she got into the car.
Madam Matronic watched from the back of the van as the police cuffed Feather and took her away. Launchpad left as well, but not in the police car. This was going better than she had planned! The police following the script. And there were no eyewitnesses either, so she didn't have to use any of the alibis she had programmed into the android.
"What are we waiting in here for?" the android spoke. "It's dirty."
"You need time to study your script." Matronic replied after a moment's hesitation. "Of course, your dressing room would be mobbed. One must sometimes make sacrifices for one's art." Matronic took out a photocopy of the script.
The robot preened for a moment, then accepted the script and started leafing through it, memorizing each page in a glance.
Launchpad returned to the house. "DW! Ya gotta help me!"
"What's the matter now, Launchpad?" Drake answered from the living room sofa, raising his voice to be heard over the video game sound effects.
"It's Feather. She got arrested!"
That got Drake's attention. "She what?"
"They said she robbed a jewelry store, and they got all sorts of eyewitnesses too."
Drake shook his head. "Launchpad, Launchpad, Launchpad. You shouldn't be getting romantically involved with a criminal."
Launchpad raised an eyebrow.
Drake said quickly, "That's different. Morgana's a REFORMED criminal. Anyway, she doesn't need Darkwing Duck. She needs a lawyer."
"But, DW! She's not guilty! I was with her the time they said she robbed the place! She couldn't'a done it!"
Drake put the controller down. "Did she leave at any time? Say, to powder her bill?"
Gosalyn came down the stairs. Seeing that Drake was no longer playing the game and thus had no legal claim on the television set, she shut the game machine off and changed the channel. Drake glanced at her in mild annoyance, then looked back at Launchpad, who was speaking.
"No, she didn't. And we were miles away from the place, too. And what's really weird is that she was wearing a necklace that they said she stole - but she had it BEFORE they said she stole it."
"That is strange." Drake answered.
"What's strange?" Gosalyn asked as she sat beside Drake on the couch.
"That - hey!" Launchpad said, looking past her at the television.
"What're you looking - hey!" Drake said, following Launchpad's glance. "That show is live!"
"Duh!" Gosalyn said. "They just put a big ad up about it."
"But that's Feather!" Launchpad said.
"Yeah, shh. I wanna see this." Gosalyn said.
"Looks like they let her go after all, LP." Drake said.
"Thank goodness." Launchpad said, sitting on the couch to watch the show. "Hey, that's the necklace they said she stole!" He pointed at the screen. "I guess she showed 'em it wasn't real after all."
In an hour Gosalyn said, "Whoa! That was live? They didn't make any mistakes, hardly!"
"They must have hired stunt doubles." Drake said.
"Stunt doubles? For what?" Launchpad asked.
"The acting." Drake replied.
"Yeah." Launchpad said admiringly. "That was the best acting I've ever seen on one of those shows. 'Specially Feather."
"Yeah. She was almost lifelike." Drake muttered.
Launchpad got up. "I better find out what happened." He got up and went to the kitchen phone.
"Ask what's going to happen next season!" Gosalyn called after him.
Launchpad grinned back at her but said nothing. He sat in the kitchen alcove and took the paper with her autograph out of his inside jacket pocket. He called the number she had written below her name. After several rings a voice answered, "Hello?"
"Feather?!" he asked.
"Uh - it's me, Launchpad. Hey, how'd'ja get away from the police? Did they catch the real crook?"
On her end of the phone, Feather looked worriedly at Madam Matronic. Matronic nodded. Feather said, "Yes."
Matronic said in a low voice, "She's in jail now. She was an imposter."
Feather added, "She's in jail now. She was an imposter."
"Oh, good." Launchpad said, then paused. "Uh, that was a great show today, Feather. I think that's the best show I've ever seen!"
"Really?" Feather smiled, losing her nervousness.
"Yeah. I can't figure out how you're gonna get out of those cliffhangers, though." he commented.
Feather looked at Matronic. Quickly Matronic whispered, "Neither do you. The writers probably don't, either. They make it up as they go along."
Feather answered Launchpad, "Neither do I. The writers probably don't, either. They make it up as they go along." She laughed. She saw Matronic make a quick circling motion in front of herself with one hand, a signal to hurry up. She said, "Thank you for calling, Launchpad, but I have to go. Goodbye." She hung up.
Matronic touched a switch in the hollow of Feather's back, and caught her as she slumped forward. She laid her on the couch in the dressing room so anyone coming in would think she was talking a nap. That would hold the situation for a few hours.
She hurried back to her workshop. Tonight's trial run had been a success! As she had expected, her androids were so perfectly made that nobody could tell them from real people! The other robots, having been programmed in the same manner, would be able to substitute themselves for the rest of the cast. All she had to do was get the originals out of the way for good. Once that happened, she would have the studio where she wanted it. And THEN she would be able to get the funding she deserved! After all, how could an android spend an actor's exorbitant paycheck? And, after that, she would never have to make another slime monster or giant cockroach!
Soon the telephone rang. Drake picked it up, then called, "Launchpad! It's for you."
Launchpad picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Launchpad, it's me!"
"Feather? Is that you?"
"Yes! They can't get in touch with the studio lawyer, they said, so they won't let me out."
"Huh? Where are you?"
"In jail!" she said in exasperation. "Don't you remember?"
"But I just saw you on TV! I just talked to you on the phone about it." he answered, baffled.
"I don't know who that was." she said, close to tears. "While they were getting ink all over my fingers and asking me questions I saw a TV in their break room. Someone was playing my part! And doing an awful job!"
"Whoa ... you sure?" was all he could think to say.
"YES, I'm sure! She acted as if she didn't know the camera was on her!"
"Uh - Feather, I'll get you outta this. I'll try. There's gotta be something fishy here, and I know who can find out just what. Sit tight, OK?"
"All right." she said in a brave little voice.
Launchpad's heart melted. He said, "‘Bye." He hung up the phone and went onto the living room, where Drake and Gosalyn were playing a game. He said, "We got a case, DW."
"Right now?" Drake said, not taking his eyes from the screen.
"Feather is still in jail, even though she was just on the show. C'mon, DW, there's something weird going on. Please."
Reluctantly Drake put down the controller. "All right, all right." he grumbled. Launchpad was already sitting in one of the transport chairs. Drake sat in the other and punched the switch in the statuette to send them both to the tower.
Within minutes they were driving through the dusk to the studio in the Ratcatcher. Before they reached their destination, though, an alarm went off on the dashboard. Darkwing punched a switch below the flashing light. "Hold on, LP. We have a bank robbery to deal with first!" He gunned the motor.
They arrived at the bank within minutes. Unfortunately, it was not soon enough. They were there just in time to see several police cars take off with their lights flashing. "Drat." Darkwing grumbled. "I hate it when they start without me."
"Gee, that's too bad-" Launchpad said.
Darkwing shot Launchpad a look. Launchpad decided not to complete his thought out loud.
Darkwing walked up to a frazzled-looking teller and said, "Did you see the robber?"
"It was Wisconsin Webfoot."
"Wisconsin Webfoot? That's a character on a TV show!" Darkwing scoffed. "You mean, it was someone who looked just like him."
"No, it was him!" she asserted shrilly.
Before Darkwing could continue the argument Launchpad called from the door, "DW! We got another one in progress!"
Reasoning that the police had this particular case well in hand, Darkwing dashed out to the Ratcatcher. As he gunned the motor Launchpad said, "It's at The corner of Holly and Ivy."
"I know the place." Darkwing said.
Several minutes later they were outside Bindler's hardware store. Darkwing ran in. "Where is he? Where is he?"
"Uh, I think he already left." Launchpad remarked.
"Well, what did he take?" Darkwing demanded of the only employee he could see.
The thin, bespectacled, brown-haired clerk with a traumatized expression managed to say, "They took some supplies. Uh, ball bearings and some bolts..."
"It's OK." Launchpad said, trying to calm her. "Did the police come?"
"Yes." she whispered. "They didn't catch them, though." She fiddled with her glasses nervously.
"Big surprise." Darkwing muttered.
"Did they take any money?" Launchpad asked.
"No. They didn't. But..."
"Yes?" Launchpad asked patiently.
"They looked like some actors I've seen on TV." she said reluctantly.
Darkwing interjected, "The Young and The Brainless, right?"
"You've seen them?" she asked hopefully.
"Let's just say that there's been a lot of that running around." Darkwing answered. He started for the door. Then he looked back. "Launchpad! You coming?"
"Oh, er, yeah." Launchpad said.
After several more unsuccessful chases, Darkwing finally managed to spot one of the criminals just as she was exiting an electronics shop. He was not terribly surprised when he realized that she was leading him right back to the Twentieth Century Ducks studio. The guard opened the gate for her car to enter almost without slowing, but he blocked Darkwing's Ratcatcher. Darkwing said, "Do you know that you are allowing a felon to flee?"
"That was no felon." the guard - a big, rather brutish sort - answered. "That was one of the employees."
"I don't care if she's the president of the studio! I just saw her rob an electronics store!" Darkwing shouted.
"You're not on the approved list." the guard stated flatly.
Launchpad watched the argument without really listening He was looking at the guard, who reminded him of somebody. Who? It was someone he had seen recently, he was sure. After another minute he realized that this guard could be the cousin of the thug that he had rescued Feather from. Couldn't be the same guy, though. He had different colored hair.
The phone in the guard's booth rang. The guard turned away from Darkwing and answered it, infuriating Darkwing more. He listened for a minute, then hung up the phone and pressed a switch. The gate opened. Darkwing was surprised, but made no comment. He gunned the Ratcatcher and sped through.
"Wonder who he was talking to?" Launchpad thought out loud.
"Never mind that, LP. There's another one!" Darkwing said. He halted the Ratcatcher and jumped off to pursue one of the actors. The actor saw Darkwing, and ran.
The actor led Darkwing to the back of the same studio in which he and Launchpad had seen the filming of "The Young and the Brainless". Darkwing threw open the door and drew his gas gun on a cast party. "Suck gas, evil doers!" he announced as he fired a gas cartridge into the room. The actors did not have time to react before the room was filled with sleeping gas.
Darkwing slapped on a gas mask and entered the room. All of the suspects were here. "Launchpad! Call the police."
"OK, DW." Launchpad yawned from the doorway.
"And get out of the door or the gas'll put you to sleep too! Find a phone outside." Launchpad turned to go. Darkwing started tying the actors up for the police. He did not notice that Feather's eyes were open and watching him.
"Yeah. They're all here. DW'll have 'em ready for you." Launchpad said into the phone. "It's the, uh-" He peered at the building. "Building number twenty-three. Okay, thanks." He hung up the phone and started back toward the building. A movement caught his eye. Something was streaking out of one of the other buildings towards him.
Darkwing had finished tying the hands of the last suspect, and was walking back out. He saw Launchpad running toward him at full speed. "Launchpad, what-"
"Dog!" Launchpad panted. Then Darkwing saw the furry streak following Launchpad. Launchpad ran into the building and slammed the door behind himself. The dog crashed against the door. Then they heard it gnawing on the wood.
The mask was lifted from Darkwing's face. "Launchpad, what-" Then he looked around and saw Feather Locklear holding his gas mask. The rope that he had tied her with was hanging, torn, from her wrists. She looked back at him, then opened the door for the dog.
The creature entered and growled at Darkwing. Foam dripped from its mouth. Darkwing started backing away. Slowly he drew his gas gun. "Take this!" he cried, and fired a cartridge at it. The canister bounced off of its head with a metallic thud. The dog did not seem to notice.
Launchpad began to grab for its collar. Feather seized his wrist. He looked at her in surprise, then tried to jerk away. He could not break her grip. While he was struggling, he heard someone else enter. "You two just can't keep out of my hair, can you? You're worse than bubble gum!" a familiar voice exclaimed in annoyance.
Darkwing looked up. Behind Launchpad, Anna Matronic was regarding them crossly. "So YOU'RE behind all this!" he exclaimed, earning a snarl from the dog.
Ignoring Darkwing, she took out something like a walkie-talkie and spoke into it. "Feather. Rex. Take them back to the workroom."
Feather started walking towards the door, dragging Launchpad with her. The dog seized Darkwing's cape in its jaws and followed Feather.
They found themselves back in the special effects workshop. Matronic took out a spool of plastic line and began wrapping it around their wrists. As she did she said, "You two shouldn't have interfered. You're no match for my androids."
"Bah. I've fought robots before-"
"ROBOTS?!" She stopped tightening the line. "These are not just ROBOTS!"
"I think you hit one of her hot buttons, DW." Launchpad commented.
Ignoring Launchpad, Matronic continued, "These are far in advance of any robot in existence. Far from being limited to their programming as robots are, they are actually capable of learning from their experiences! And, unlike robots, these can replace humans!"
"Pooh. A walking scrap heap will never be able to replace a real person." Darkwing scoffed.
"Oh, won't we?" another voice said. Feather Locklear stepped into the room. She looked coolly at Darkwing and Launchpad.
"You all think androids are good for nothing more than imitating dead presidents and singing annoying songs for years on end!" Matronic ranted. "Well, it's fine with me if you think that. It'll just make it that much easier for me! And when I'm done-"
"You'll go to Dizzyworld?" Darkwing wisecracked.
She glared furiously at him. "Don't EVER say that word!" she shouted. She punched a button on her controller. A giant tarantula stirred to life, then crept forward to loom over Darkwing and Launchpad.
Matronic spoke into the controller while looking at the spider. "Don't let them get out of this room. But don't tear their clothes - I might find a pair of android crimefighters useful." She left the room, with Feather following her.
Darkwing said to Launchpad, "Watch the spider. I have a plan."
Launchpad said uneasily, "What do I do if it does anything?"
Darkwing ignored the question as he tried to work his hands around to his inner jacket pockets.
"Poor Feather." Launchpad commented. "Now I see it, she got put in jail for what the robot did."
Darkwing looked up. "Will you be quiet about her?!"
"But she got framed."
"And she's safe in a cell, and she doesn't have a giant spider standing over her! Now hush up and help me here. I have a Thing-Cutter™ in my inner right back pocket. Help me get it."
"How?" He shrugged his shoulders, the most elaborate gesture he could manage with his wrists tied behind his back.
"Turn your back to me." Launchpad did. "Now reach your hand back. You've got to unbutton my jacket first." Launchpad fumbled with the buttons. After what seemed like an eternity he undid them all. "The pocket's on your left."
"Is that it?"
"Not unless a Thing-Cutter™ has an eraser on the end, no. It's on your OTHER left."
"Launchpad! How many different lefts do you HAVE?"
"Sorry! I'm right handed, so I have a hard time remembering which is my left."
Darkwing muttered, "What scares me is I understand that." Out loud he said, "You're on the right - the CORRECT side now. Reach back, it's in the lining."
"Where?" Launchpad said.
"Back a little farther." Darkwing said through gritted teeth. It would not do to get ticklish with a giant spider watching!
Launchpad pulled something out. "This it?"
"No. Try again, LP."
"Gee, you got a lot of doohickeys in there." Launchpad commented as he dropped the whatever-it-was.
"I know that." Darkwing said, trying not to giggle.
"What's this doodad?" he asked as he pulled something out of Darkwing's coat.
"That's the Thing-Cutter™!" Darkwing exclaimed. "Now we're in business!"
"How do we use it?" Launchpad asked.
"Uh ... you start it up. I'll turn around, and you can cut my ropes. Then I'll free you."
"OK, DW." Under the watchful eye of the spider Darkwing turned around, and Launchpad fumbled blindly with the controls of the Thing-Cutter™. When it began whirring with a loud buzzing sound Launchpad asked, "Ah, DW - this thing's sharp, ain't it?"
"Yeah, it's sharp. That helps tremendously when you're trying to cut something." Darkwing replied.
"But I can't see what I'm doing. I might miss and get you."
Darkwing gritted his teeth. "Okay. Plan B. Turn facing me, put it on the ground, and hold it steady."
Launchpad shut the Thing-Cutter™ off, turned toward Darkwing, then asked, "Hold it with what?"
"Whatever. Your feet." He watched impatiently as Launchpad tried to maneuver it into a decent position. Then he turned his back to Launchpad. "Now you guide me so I can cut these ropes. Preferably without loss of limb."
Launchpad said, "Okay, back a little, and an inch to your right. Uh, no, my right, not your right."
"We're facing the same way."
"Oh, yeah. Your right, then. Uh, back a little more."
Darkwing followed Launchpad's directions. When he was in position Launchpad carefully pressed the "on" switch with the heel of his boot. The Thing-Cutter™ snagged Darkwing's ropes and sawed through them. Darkwing jumped forward before it could begin on flesh. He exclaimed triumphantly, "Once again, Darkwing Duck-"
The tarantula spat a substance at Darkwing. It congealed into a sticky, ropy strand on contact with the air. With its two front legs it spun Darkwing around, wrapping the strand around Darkwing's chest and arms.
"What now?" Launchpad asked.
Darkwing scowled. "Ooookay-fine. Time for Plan B."
"I thought we just did Plan B."
"And after Plan B comes Plan C, of course!"
"What's Plan C?"
Darkwing looked at the robot spider. "That thing can only deal with one of us at a time. Split up!"
Launchpad did not have time to ask what they could do to it while they were tied up. Darkwing bolted for the door. The spider scuttled after him. It stepped on one of the other gadgets that had fallen out of Darkwing's jacket pockets. The object, which looked like a remote control, yawped once. The spider stumbled and fell before reaching Darkwing.
"Launchpad! What did you do?"
"I dunno!" Launchpad answered.
Darkwing worked one hand free and picked up the Thing-Cutter™. Quickly he sliced Launchpad's bonds, and Launchpad freed Darkwing from the webbing. By the time they were finished with that the spider was beginning to stir again.
Darkwing saw one of its legs lift off of the device it had stepped on. He picked it up. "My electro-ultramagnet! That's what did it!" He pointed the device at the spider and pressed the button. The device yawped again, and the spider fell to the ground.
"Whoa! Ya zapped it!" Launchpad commented.
"‘Zapped' is hardly the word, Launchpad. I hit it with a pulse of electromagnetic waves. Since its brains are electronic, that jolt messed up its circuits. It'll be a while before it can function again."
"Wow. I woulda never guessed ya planned that." Launchpad commented admiringly.
"Neither would I." Darkwing muttered.
"So now ya gonna use that thingie to get the other robots, right?"
"Of course." Darkwing picked the device up. "To the Ratcatcher!"
"How we going to find ‘em, DW? I mean, they look just like real people." Launchpad started gathering up the other gizmos that had fallen out of Darkwing's pockets.
"And we can't just drive all over the city, pointing this thing at everyone." Darkwing mused. "There must be some way to distinguish those reprehensible robots."
"Hey, I don't remember this one. What's this do?" Launchpad held up something that looked like an overcomplicated remote control.
"That's not one of mine." Darkwing replied absently.
Launchpad put it down on a table. A light lit up. Darkwing glanced at it again, then picked it up and stared at it. "Launchpad! Do you know what this is?!"
"No, but it's not one of yours."
"It's a robot controller! Look!" He pointed it at the spider. The light came on again. Darkwing pressed a few buttons. The spider did nothing. "Drat." Darkwing muttered. "But," he recovered, "this thing will tell us who the robots are! To the Ratcatcher!"
Several hours and chase sequences later Darkwing and Launchpad walked into the St. Canard Police Station and deposited two wheelbarrow loads of bodies on the floor. "Here are the REAL perpetrators, not the actors you arrested." Darkwing announced.
Several startled policemen started trying to disentangle the bodies. One whose badge bore the name BEARAT, said, "Are they dead?" The others shied back.
"They're not dead. They're just not alive." Darkwing answered. "They're all ROBOTS, created to frame the real actors for their crimes." Darkwing declared. He pulled the wig off of one "actress", revealing a metal scalp with a panel.
"Take your hands off of her!" said a shrill voice from the entrance.
Darkwing looked around. Madam Matronic strode over to the robots. A dog followed her. Swatting away Darkwing's hand, she replaced the wig. "If the damage is permanent, you'll pay for this!"
"I'll buy you some Wacky Glue." Darkwing replied.
"Not that! You did something to their circuits! What did you do?!"
"Nothing much." Darkwing took out his electro-ultramagnet and tossed it smugly up and down in his hand.
Matronic snatched it away and looked at it. Then she stifled a grin. "You think a little thing like this can stop me?" she said, reaching into her pocket.
Darkwing drew his gas gun. "Put up your hands!"
She raised her hands, still wearing a faint grin.
Feather Locklear ran in. She looked at the inert robots. "You did it! You caught them!" she said, and hugged Darkwing.
Launchpad looked uneasily at the robots. Darkwing, when had overcome his surprise, said, "It was nothing."
"No it wasn't." she said in a smoky voice. "Those androids are too strong for any normal human to defeat. Only a clever crimefighter like yourself could have found their weakness."
"Ah, DW?" Launchpad said.
Darkwing ignored him. "Wall, anyway, you have nothing to fear now, Miss Locklear-"
"Please, call me Feather."
"-Ah, Feather. With these robots out of the way, you'll be safe from any harm." Without making any move to extricate himself he said to the nearest officer, "You can release the suspects in the cells, and lock these up instead."
"Help him, Launchpad." Darkwing said in mild annoyance.
Launchpad obeyed with a reluctant look back. Jealous, Darkwing thought. Didn't he know that it's the hero who defeats the villain and gets the girl?
The villain! He looked over to where Madam Matronic had been - and still was. He pointed his gun at her. "Don't move!"
"I wouldn't think of it." she said with a smile.
Launchpad and the police officer returned, with a number of miffed-looking actors. "DW!" Launchpad said.
"What? I have a villain to cover here!" He looked around to see Launchpad - and, standing right next to him, was Feather Locklear.
The Feather standing by Darkwing stared at her double. She pointed a finger and shouted, "Imposter!"
Darkwing reached inside his coat for the electro-ultramagnet - and found that it wasn't there. He heard a crunching sound. The Feather standing next to him opened her hand, revealing a mangled mass of metal.
"Looks like you've lost your trump card." Matronic said. "And it's a shame that you didn't know that your electromagnet only has a TEMPORARY effect on my androids! It only stunned them!" She took a device out of her pocket and pressed a button. "Get up!" she said to the androids, who had begun to stir.
They disentangled themselves from the heap and stood, smoothing their clothes and hair. "Your gas gun is useless against them, and their bodies are bulletproof. With them at my command, there's nothing you can do to stop me!" Matronic crowed. "Get them! Tie them up!"
The androids were looking at her oddly. She said, "What are you waiting for? Do it!"
"What exactly is our motivation?" one asked.
The other androids were watching. "Our motivation." he said in a cold tone.
She took the device that she used to control the androids out of her pocket. Before she could speak into it Feather picked it out of her hands and crushed it nonchalantly. Matronic stared at Feather in shock. Then she screeched, "Get him!" pointing at Darkwing.
Darkwing spoke with a grin. "NOW I see what your plan was all along, Matronic. You created these androids for cheap labor. And if your robberies get them thrown in jail, then you can just build more. You don't have to pay them, and you can just turn them off and stash them in the closet when you're not using them. Pretty clever." Darkwing grinned. The androids were looking more and more indignant.
"We are not cheap labor!" the android Feather declared.
"Oh, aren't you?" Darkwing asked. "How much has she paid you for everything you've stolen for her?"
She opened a compartment just below her collarbone, took out a handful of jewels, and haughtily dropped them on a desk. "You can have these back. I'm not going to be a part of her plans any longer!"
The other androids followed her cue, depositing money, electronic parts, and other stolen goods on the desk. Matronic, a shocked expression on her face, bolted for the door. Feather and another android seized her before she could escape. Darkwing stepped forward and said, "I can take it from here."
Madam Matronic glared hatefully at him. Then she wrenched her arms away from them, surprising her captors. Darkwing shouted, "Suck gas, evil doer!" and fired a canister.
It struck Matronic's head and bounced away with a metallic thud. She staggered backwards momentarily, then bolted for the door again. Darkwing sprang forward and tripped her. She fell hard onto her front.
"Launchpad! Give me a hand here!" Darkwing shouted. Matronic was struggling harder than he would have thought she was capable of. "Hold her arms so I can cuff her!"
Launchpad barely managed to hold her wrists still for Darkwing. While they were struggling he pressed the edge of the cuff against her back, and he thought he heard a click. Matronic went limp. Surprised, Darkwing lifted the edge of her sweater. And saw a switch.
"DW! She's a robot too!"
"Android." the artificial Feather corrected him. She, too, was staring at Matronic.
Darkwing tried to raise Matronic to her feet. She was surprisingly heavy. He and Launchpad settled for setting her in a chair. Officer Bearat said in a baffled tone, "What do we do with them? Robots aren't legally human."
"Why aren't we?" the android Feather asked.
Bearat opened his mouth - but found himself without an answer. Another of the androids said, "We can do anything you can. We demand to be treated as humans, starting now!"
Darkwing said, "When you put it that way... gentlemen, they're all yours."
The policemen hesitated. The android Feather insistently held out her wrists to be cuffed. The others followed her lead. As they were being cuffed the android Feather asked the real one, "Where are our cells?"
"Uh - second hall on the right, third and fourth cells."
The android walked into the jail area. Officer Bearat followed her hurriedly.
"That was ... strange." Launchpad said when the androids were all locked away.
The newly released soap stars had called for studio cars to pick them up and take them away from this horrible place. Feather hung back. "That certainly was. Robot doubles? It's like a cheesy TV show!"
Her phrasing made Launchpad grin. She did too, when she realized what she had said. She said in a low voice, "What'll happen to them?"
"They'll have a trial, I guess. They sure seemed human enough to me."
"They would have made incredible stuntmen." she commented thoughtfully. "And the studio retains some good lawyers..." She looked back up at Launchpad. "Are you sure you won't come back to the studio with me?"
"Sorry, I can't do that." he said.
"Why not?" she said, looking deep into his eyes.
"I got a job to do here, with DW." he replied.
"Well ... We'll see each other again." she said, as her limousine drove up.
"Sure. We will."
She went to the car. Before she shut the door she cast a glance back at Launchpad, and waved her fingers. He waved back, and watched as the car pulled away.
Darkwing, who had, to his credit, not gagged once as he watched this farewell, said, "You know, LP, you probably could be in soaps after all."
"Really?" Launchpad asked as Darkwing started out to the Ratcatcher.
"Sure. You got the acting talent for it."
"Ya think so?" Launchpad said, surprised.
Darkwing didn't have the heart to tell Launchpad that he hadn't intended it as a compliment.
All characters in this story are copyright © Disney. This story is 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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