I still can't believe that I've actually written a Mighty Ducks story! But here it is, for better or for worse...
By Kim McFarland
It was not a dark and stormy night. Not in this part of the world, anyway.
The Chinese countryside was peaceful and calm. The few clouds in the clear sky reflected off the water in the many ponds that dotted the landscape. Their clear surfaces were rippled occasionally by gentle breezes that swayed the tall grasses.
Overhead, an airship roared through the air.
Inside the spaceship, three alien reptiles looked at the landscape. One - a gaunt, ghostly looking being with a sepulchral voice - intoned, "Perfect."
"Perfect for WHAT?" another, a brutish, scale-studded beast, said. "Looks useless to me."
"It's the ideal vacation spot for the entire family - and a trip to it can be yours, if the price is right!" a smaller, green-hued lizard interjected.
"We've tried force. We've tried time travel. We've tried raising other villains up to subjugate this world. Every time we've failed, and why?" Wraith asked.
"Them ducks keep getting in the way." Siege snarled, not pleased at being reminded.
"Exactly. We, the once-mighty Saurians, have not been able to take over this one miserable ball of dirt because of six ducks! Every time we've tried to destroy them, we've failed! But THIS will change all that." He gestured with a bony hand at the screen.
"We're gonna drown them? I thought ducks float." Chameleon commented.
"No! So far, all of our weapons, no matter how advanced, have not defeated those six ducks. They must have more than just their pitiful avian technology helping them. They must be charmed! However, those are cursed springs below us. When we curse the ducks, they will not stand a chance against us! Technology has failed us too many times. It's time to use magic against them." Wraith folded his arms. "Besides, it's time I got to do something important to the plot for a change."
"But we've been cursing them ever since they stranded us on this planet. Why, just yesterday Lord Dragaunus said -" Chameleon metamorphosized into a greenish copy of Dragaunus and parroted a flood of invective directed toward the Mighty Ducks, and avians in general.
"It just don't look right if you don't breathe fire." Siege muttered.
"I am not amused." growled a deep voice from the entrance of the control room.
Chameleon turned around, then hurriedly assumed his normal form. Dragaunus scowled as he stalked into the room. Pinning Wraith and Siege with his eyes, he asked, "Is the long-range teleporter ready for testing?"
"Ready to rip!" Siege gave a clawed thumbs-up. "It's powered up and ready to go!"
"Then test it!" Dragaunus ordered. "If we can teleport halfway across this planet, then no part of it will be out of our grasp!"
Siege, Wraith, and Chameleon each looked at each other. Then Wraith and Siege looked at Chameleon. Chameleon backed away a step. "Hey, no, not me! I'm not insured!"
Ignoring his protests, Siege picked Chameleon up in one fist and placed him on the teleport pad. Chameleon, cowering under Dragaunus's gaze, whimpered, "What if it doesn't work? What'll you do without the comedy relief?"
"Rejoice." Wraith muttered.
In Anaheim, it was not a dark and stormy night either. It was dark, or as dark as nights in big cities tend to get. All was quiet in the Mighty Ducks' headquarters below their rink, the silence broken only by bursts of rapid-fire keyclicks.
Tanya looked up at the screen of Drake One, the Mighty Ducks' supercomputer. Superimposed on a map was a glowing marker. She had been unable to sleep, and since she was getting tired of seeing the same double-bounce marker every time an alarm went off, what better way to spend her time than reprogramming the computer? She had chosen a different shade of red, and was experimenting on different effects when the computer's siren blared.
Wildwing was in the control room in minutes. Tanya was frantically trying to shut the sound off. When she saw Wildwing she shouted over the din, "Sorry, I was just experimenting."
Nosedive, who had just run in behind Duke, yawned, "False alarm? Oh, night-night then." and turned on his heel to walk back out.
"Wait." Wildwing looked at the screen display. "What is that? A teleportation alarm?"
Tanya looked up. "Uh, yeah." she said, surprised.
"Looks like the lizards have taken up a nocturnal lifestyle." Duke commented. "Hey, what's that marker mean? I've never seen that before."
"Uh, it's just a new marker. I got bored and changed the old double-bounce." Tanya said, sounding embarrassed.
"Oh, yeah. Looks good." Duke commented absently.
The alarm fell silent, and the blip faded from the screen, leaving behind a circle to show where the alarm had been. "Emissions have ceased." Tanya said. "But while they were going, they were using..." she did some quick calculations in her head, then said "a LOT of power. If a normal teleport is a one on the Richter scale, this would have been a nine!"
"Let's check it out."
Nosedive said to nobody in particular, "My contract didn't say anything about plot points taking place at night. I gotta have a talk with my agent."
The Pond's red goal light flashed. The ice split apart, allowing the ramp bearing the Ducks' land vehicle, The Migrator, to lift up. Wildwing said, "Set torque to maximum throttle!"
Nosedive, in the driver's seat, pressed a button. "That's a roger!" he called.
The Migrator backed up, fishtailed slightly, then started down the tunnel.
"Turbines to speed." Wildwing said.
Duke pushed a slider switch forward. "Turbines to full power." he answered.
Outside, a billboard advertising "Duck Dogs at The Pond" tilted back, revealing the exit to their underground tunnel. The Migrator sped out of the hole and onto the street.
They tracked the emissions to the outskirts of town. They searched for the source, trying to pinpoint it based on the computer's projection. Mallory commented, "I know we don't come to this part of town often, but I'm pretty sure there's no castle in Anaheim."
"Castle?" Wildwing looked back at her.
She pointed. "That outline against the sky."
As Wildwing looked at it, the outline flickered, changing from a castle's turrets to a single sharp point. They all recognized it immediately. The Raptor, Dragaunus's ship! "Pay dirt! Come on!" Wildwing said.
Within minutes they were at the base of the Raptor, which had not yet resumed its holographic disguise. Tanya, looking up, commented, "Whatever they're doing, it must be sucking up a terrific amount of power, drawing it away from their cloaking device. That's why they're doing it at night."
"Right." Wildwing gestured toward the airlock. "Grin, this is your department." he said.
Grin nodded and stepped up to the airlock doors. He took in a deep breath, then pried the doors open. As he did they heard the sound of machinery breaking. That airlock would not be functional for a while.
Meanwhile, inside the Raptor, Chameleon heard the sound of an alarm go off. The Ducks had already broken in! He tapped a button on his wrist communicator and said in a high-pitched girl's voice, "They're HEEEEEEERE!"
"Excellent." Wraith replied. "Delay them until the teleporter is ready, then lure them through."
Chameleon looked at the power gauge. It would be a few more minutes. He activated a few of the security systems.
Wildwing scanned the corridor with his mask's sensors. "Watch out, guys. This place is boobytrapped."
"Good thing we're ducks, not boobies." Nosedive commented.
On cue, a pair of guns lowered from panels in the ceilings and began shooting light purple lasers at them. Where the beams struck the corridor walls they bounced off the curved metallic surfaces, creating a bright glare. The Ducks flattened themselves against the walls. Except for Tanya, who was hastily rolling her sleeves down to cover her arms. Wildwing shouted over the noise, "What are you doing?"
"They're lavender!" Tanya replied, and grabbed the puck gun from Nosedive's belt. As Nosedive started to protest she stepped out into the corridor. The lasers focused on her, trying to burn through her body. As they did she fired explosive pucks at them. The pucks shattered the lasers' lenses.
"Tanya, what the heck were you doing?" Wildwing exclaimed as she returned the gun to a startled Nosedive.
"Those lasers were the same color as my clothes, so they couldn't burn me." she said in a matter-of-fact manner.
"Uh ... right." Wildwing scanned the corridor again. "Nothing more here. C'mon!"
Chameleon was tempted to set off some more of the security systems, but he knew that the Ducks would just trash them the way they always did. The teleporter was ready now anyway. As the Ducks appeared in the entranceway, Chameleon stepped up to the teleporter pad. Wildwing struck a pose. "We've got something for you, lizard!"
"Oh, I'll bet it's a warrant for my arrest! Isn't that wonderful?" Chameleon responded cheerfully in a Princetonian accent.
As the Ducks rushed toward him, Chameleon calmly threw a switch. Just before they seized him he faded from sight - and, when they stepped onto the pad, they did too.
Chameleon appeared on the other teleport pad. He jumped off. As the Ducks began to materialize Siege threw a switch, and a thick-barred cage lowered from the ceiling, completely enclosing the pad.
Wildwing looked around. "You should know that this won't hold us." he declared.
"I got the situation in hand." Duke said, drawing and activating his Duck Saber. As he did, Tanya activated her Omnitool to a metal-cutting setting.
"I don't intend for it to hold you." Wraith replied. He glanced at a monitor, which showed the ponds directly below the ship, then said, "Release them." to Siege. Siege slapped down another lever. A trapdoor opened under the Ducks, and they dropped out of sight.
Wraith watched them fall on the monitor. He only saw five. Glancing back, he saw that the last one - the female with red hair - had grabbed onto the bars of the cage, and was trying to climb back up. He aimed his staff and shot a bolt at the cage, electrifying it. The duck dropped from sight. Wraith watched as she fell into the underbrush by the springs.
She was stunned and submerged in murky water. She came to her senses in time to strike for the surface - which was just a foot above her head, as the pond was shallow - and cough out a mouthful of water. She scrambled out of the water and onto the bank. She was completely soaked, and her clothes felt uncomfortable. She looked around the ponds, and saw nobody else. "Guys?" she called.
Wildwing, who was also stunned by the fall, heard the call. He was floating on the surface of a nearby pond. He made his way to the edge and tried to shout back. The only sound he could make was a raucous squawk. He stopped, and looked down at himself. And squawked again, louder this time.
Nosedive saw a white bird struggle out of one of the ponds and quack to itself. Then the bird half-ran, half flew towards her, still squawking. "Sorry, birdie, I don't have any bread crumbs."
The duck stopped and quacked, "Dive!"
Nosedive knelt down. The duck seemed to be wearing a tiny hockey mask. Weird! She reached forward to remove the mask. The duck shied back. "Dive, it's me!" it said, barely intelligibly.
"Wildwing?" Nosedive breathed.
The duck nodded vigorously. Then it heard a noise behind itself and looked back. A grey cat was stalking towards it. The duck squawked and flapped its wings, trying to take off. Nosedive picked it up. "Don't worry, we haven't come to this planet to end up as Meow Mix."
The cat, which they could now see also was soaked and bedraggled looking, sat on its haunches and stared at them with its left eye. "So I'm not the only one." it said very clearly.
Both Nosedive and Wildwing leaned forward and said, "Duke?"
"Yep." the cat replied.
"Oh, boy, it's going to be one of those stories." Nosedive groaned.
The cat said, "Looking good, Dive." Then its ears swiveled around. It said, "Wups. Back in a flash." and darted off.
Tanya dog-paddled out of the water, sputtering and coughing. The first thing she noticed when she pushed her hair out of her eyes was that the grass around this pond seemed much larger than normal. In fact, it was taller than she was! Unable to see past it, she cupped her hands to her mouth and yelled, "Guys! Hey, guys! Where are you?!"
After a few moments she heard something large dash toward herself. A giant cat winked down at her from above the grass. She pressed a control on her Omnitool to form it into a weapon - and nothing happened. The cat said, "Whoa, Tanya, calm down. It's me, Duke."
"Duke?" So that's why he looked like he was winking - he only had one eye. "What happened to us? I'm the size of a mouse!"
"The shape of one, too. Just wait until you see what happened to the others, though." He grinned, then jerked his head in the direction from which he had come. "C'mon."
Meanwhile, a panda had emerged from one of the pools and meandered up to Wildwing and Nosedive. Nosedive asked Wildwing, "Is that one of us?"
Wildwing spoke to the panda. "If you're one of us, say something."
The panda tilted its head, looking quizzically at the duck.
"Not too promising." Nosedive commented.
"Hey, guys! I found Tanya." Duke called.
Nosedive, Wildwing, and the panda saw the grey cat and a blonde, jumpsuit-clad mouse emerge from the tall grass. Tanya said, "What happened?!"
"I don't know. And we have to find out where Grin and Mallory are."
The panda slapped the ground with one forepaw.
Tanya began laughing, looking at Nosedive. Nosedive asked, "WHAT is so funny?"
Duke said, "I can hear better than the rest of you now. Quiet a minute." His ears swiveled around, then he said, "Follow me!" and dashed off into the grass.
They found Mallory lying on her back in a patch of thick grass. She groaned and opened her eyes.
"Mallory, are you all right?" squawked a duck.
Mallory stared at the duck, then looked around, recognizing the one-eyed cat, the mouse in the jumpsuit, and the duck in the hockey mask. When she saw Nosedive she grinned widely.
"What? What's so funny?" Nosedive demanded.
Mallory winced as she sat up. "This has got to be a dream." she snickered.
"All right, WHAT is the joke already?" Nosedive exclaimed.
"Ah, little bro, haven't you noticed your voice?" quacked Wildwing.
"What about it?" Nosedive said defensively.
"If you weren't wearing that armor chestpiece, you'd know."
"Huh?" Nosedive looked down, then unlocked the fastens on the front of her battle armor and opened it. And screamed shrilly.
That was too much for the rest of them. They all laughed. Even the panda seemed to be grinning. Nosedive clapped her armor shut and said, "What's so funny?! This is a fate worse than death, man!"
"True. I wouldn't want to be you." Mallory said. "But then, I never DID."
"Looks like Wildwing finally has a little sister." Duke added.
"Oh, you're all really funny." Nosedive growled. "How'd you like it if this happened to YOU?"
"How'd you like to be a mouse?" Tanya responded.
"Guys - and gals." Wildwing spoke up, trying to keep a straight face. "We have to find Grin, and then figure out how to get back to normal before we do anything else."
The panda slapped the ground with its paw, as if trying to get their attention.
"Maybe this is Grin." Duke said.
"It can't be him. I asked it, and it didn't say anything." Nosedive asserted.
The panda shook its head. It looked around the group, then sighed in resignation. It sat, folding its hind legs in a tailor's crouch, and closed its eyes in meditation.
"Oh, this is Grin all right." Tanya said.
The panda opened its eyes and nodded.
"How you get in? Spring of Sorrows no open for another hour!"
They all turned toward the voice. A Chinese man in a guide's uniform rushed up to them. "Oh no! Very bad you fall in spring!"
"You're Mr. Exposition, aren't you." Nosedive remarked. "You're kinda late."
"What is this 'Spring of Sorrows'?" Wildwing asked.
The guard began his customary explanation. "Each spring has very tragic tale of someone who drown there. That there-" he pointed to the spring Nosedive had emerged from - "Our most famous spring, Spring of Drown Girl. Very powerful curse. Whoever fall in spring take on body of girl."
"Oh great. GREAT." Nosedive groaned.
"And all the springs are cursed like that?" Duke asked.
"All springs have curse." The guide affirmed. "You fall in Spring of Drown Cat, yes?" He pointed at another spring.
"Okay, pal, this is fascinating." Nosedive stepped forward. "Now, how do we get back to normal?!"
The guard looked at Nosedive. "You fall in two spring? I never saw anything like you."
"Don't ask. How do you lift the curse?"
"You no lift curse." The guide shook his head regretfully. "Curse must run its course." He took a small booklet out of his pocket. "This tell you all about springs."
Mallory took it. The guard beckoned them toward the gate, "We leave here now, before more accident happen."
They stood just outside the gate. Wildwing asked Mallory, who had been leafing through the booklet, "What does it say?"
"How should I know?" she said in frustration. "It's written in Chinese!" She dropped the booklet. The panda picked it up.
"Grin, can you read Chinese?" Wildwing asked.
Grin shook his head.
"Those crummy lizards must have planned this!" Duke said.
"I wouldn't put it past them to plot something like this to weaken us." Wildwing said.
"I'm going to KILL them!" Nosedive snarled.
"That's not ladylike, Dive." Duke commented with a smile.
Tanya sneezed, then interjected, "My Omnitool won't work. I can't contact Drake One!"
"Can you fix it?" Wildwing asked.
"No. When it got shrunk down, its parts must have been miniaturized past the point of no return. You can only make circuits so small before they, ah, stop working." She sniffled, then sneezed again.
"Well, the Saurians planned this. They must know all about this curse. We have to defeat them if we're going to get back to normal." Wildwing quacked.
Mallory looked around. "We aren't exactly at a tactical advantage right now." she commented.
"Mallory, you and Nosedive go get us some transportation." Wildwing said. "I'm going to find out where their ship is."
"How are you going to do that?" Nosedive asked.
Wildwing flapped his wings. Startled, Nosedive let go of him. Wildwing rose into the air, circled once, then headed in the direction the ship had flown.
"That's one way to do it." Duke commented as he watched the duck disappear in the distance.
An hour later, Nosedive and Mallory returned to the others. Wildwing, who had just come back, asked "What are those?"
"Bicycles." Mallory answered. "This is the best we could do, without any way to access our funds. We were lucky even to get these. It's a good thing Nosedive here has cute legs." Nosedive scowled at her.
"Three bicycles. Well, it's a good thing the Saurian ship isn't far away, then. I'll lead the way."
Duke said, "We'll ride in one of the baskets." He crouched and looked at Tanya. "Climb on."
Hesitantly she climbed onto his shoulders. He said, "Hold on tight." She clutched his fur. He sprang up into the basket of Mallory's bicycle.
The third bicycle creaked. Its frame was not built to support the weight of a giant panda, but it looked like it would hold.
Wildwing hovered in the air in front of them, flapping his wings hard to stay in place. "Follow my lead." he said, then turned and flew off.
Wildwing led them to a field not far from the springs. They parked their bicycles behind a rocky outcropping. Nosedive's face was slightly red. "Man, people were staring at us. I hate that!" she grumbled.
"Dive, they weren't looking at you." Duke said. "I think a panda riding a bicycle is a little funnier than a duck lady." He nodded toward Grin, who had dismounted the vehicle and was rubbing his legs.
"A frontal assault won't work this time. Not with most of our weapons and tools not working." Wildwing started. "Time to consider some new tactics."
"I'm thinking stealth here." Duke said. "That's my specialty. I can sneak Tanya in, and they'd never know we're there."
"Right." Wildwing said. "Grin, you're with me. We're going to create a diversion." The panda nodded.
Duke knelt again. Tanya backed a step away. "No, I'll walk. I'm, ah, allergic to fur."
"You're covered with fur." he reminded her.
"I know!" She sneezed again. "Now I'm allergic to myself!"
"Oh boy. Beautiful." Duke muttered under his breath.
"What about us?" Mallory asked.
"You'll back us up. Stay out here." Wildwing answered.
Mallory nodded agreement. Nosedive just looked surprised.
"Duke, Tanya, you go on ahead." Wildwing said. "Grin and I will come in in a few minutes."
"Right." the cat said, and crept off through the grass, the mouse following him.
Duke and Tanya walked up the ramp and into the Saurian ship. Once inside, Duke whispered, "Stay by the wall, and if one of them walks in, freeze!"
"But they'll see us!"
"They might see us. But if we move, they'll see us for sure. Trust me on this, it used to be my main line of work."
She took his word for it. He led her through the ship, following the reptiles' scent. "Whew! I'll be glad to be a duck again. Cats got too good a sense of smell. These Saurians stink." he commented.
They reached the control room, and crouched just outside the doorway. The dim lighting of the corridors had worked to their advantage, but this room was well lit. No, not exactly, Duke thought. Although the lights were brighter, they threw dark shadows here and there. Those would be useful. "Stay here." he told Tanya.
She crouched in the corner outside the door. Duke waited until the Saurians in the room - Wraith, Chameleon, and Dragaunus - were all looking at a monitor. He sprang noiselessly from the doorway to a dark area just under a console, then looked around the room from his hiding place. Then he returned to Tanya. "I see a good vantage spot. I'm going to have to jump you up there."
"Oh no." she said.
A raucous squawking broke out from the ship's corridors. The three Saurians looked up. A white bird flew in and circled the room. Duke and Tanya flattened themselves against the wall. Siege pounded in after it, waving the butt of a laser rifle like a club. "Stupid bird!" he bellowed as it dove at his face, then pulled away. He swatted at it. Chameleon went flying across the chamber.
"You idiot!" Dragaunus shouted at Siege. "Can't you catch a bird without destroying us in the process?!"
"If it's not one thing, its's the other." a dazed Chameleon commented in a nasal voice.
"Get that filthy bird out of my ship!" Dragaunus shouted at Siege.
The duck flew over Siege's head and back into the corridor. Siege followed it. They heard a crash, and the sound of Siege's heavy footsteps abruptly.
"What has that idiot done now?" Dragaunus muttered and looked into the corridor. A few yards from the door lay an unconscious Saurian; a large, dented metal pole which had presumably been the instrument that had rendered him unconscious; and a very large, furry, black-and-white animal. The animal put one paw under its left eye, pulling the lid down, and stuck out its tongue at Dragaunus.
Nosedive leaned against the side of the spaceship. "We're the only halfway normal ones in the group, and we get left behind! I don't believe it." She fingered the grip of her puck blaster.
"It could be worse." Mallory answered. "We could be out doing one of Phil's stupid publicity stunts."
Nosedive grimaced. "I'll never be able to look at pizza the same way again."
Wildwing flew out the hatch. Still on the wing, he quacked to Nosedive and Mallory, "Heads up, lizards coming your way!"
"All right! Ducks rock!" Nosedive exclaimed, drawing her gun. On the other side of the hatch, Mallory took a ready stance. A panda came barreling out, followed by Siege, Wraith, and Chameleon.
Mallory caught Chameleon as he rushed past. With a few blows she subdued him, then quickly bound him. Then she turned her attention to Wraith, who was shooting bolts of lightning at Nosedive. Nosedive was dodging about erratically, firing pucks when she saw openings. So far, none of them had affected Wraith, who destroyed them in midair.
Further away, a giant panda and a large Saurian were facing off. The Saurian had every intention of crushing the animal, except he could not grab it! It blocked all of his blows with surprising strength, and got in a few of its own.
From the door of the ship. Dragaunus watched. He shook his head and muttered, "Idiots. No wonder we're all but extinct."
Meanwhile, inside the control room, Duke said, "Brace yourself." He grabbed the back of her collar firmly in his teeth and sprang up to the teleporter's control panel. Tanya's scream was broken by a sneeze.
When he set her on her feet she said "Geez, warn me next time." She looked at the controls. A regular keyboard, viewscreen... she started punching keys, using both hands. "I think I can reprogram this so only we can use it. I just have to crack the passcode and change it."
"How long will that take?" Duke said, glancing at the door.
She punched a few more keys. She said to Duke, "Hold that big key on the side down." He placed a paw on it. She hit another key. "OK. These dumb Saurian keyboards don't even have shift lock keys." she muttered. "With my Omnitool I could do this in a jiff!"
"Tanya, I don't think we have the time for this!"
"All right, all right! I guess the only thing we can do is wreck it so they can't use it." she said, frustrated.
"Now you're talking." Duke said.
"If I had my ... rats, even a puck blaster would sever those cables there."
Duke followed her gaze to a confusion of wires at the top. "Will teeth and claws do?" he said, preparing to leap up.
"NO!" she shouted. "There's too much power in those cables, you'd be electrocuted! We need to cut them from a distance."
"And me without opposable thumbs."
Tanya looked around. An idea formed in her head. "Duke, put me..." she looked around, then pointed to a ledge not far from the top of the teleporter controls. "Up there."
Duke grabbed her by the collar and jumped to the ground, then climbed up to the ledge. When he set her down she said shakily, "Now I need some things. "That stylus," she pointed, "and some of the cord on that bag-"
"I can't carry the whole bag, it's too heavy." Duke interjected.
"You can cut it off with that tool there." she pointed.
Duke saw the tool to which she was referring. "What is that thing? Dragaunus's nail clipper?"
"I don't know, but I'll need it too for its blade. And that scrap there, the metal strip..."
"Okay." Duke leapt down.
For the next few minutes Duke brought Tanya the items that she needed. Then, while she assembled them, he darted out to look at what was happening with the others. When he returned she held her device up. Duke said, "What is it?"
"It's a kinetic propulsion unit." she explained quickly. "When the metal band straightens, it'll shoot a projectile farther than I could throw it, and with more force."
"Oh, it's a crossbow."
"Yeah, that's what I said." she replied absently as she picked up the cutting tool. She placed the cutter along the shaft of the makeshift crossbow and drew the string back, bending the metal band at both ends. She sighted along the cutter, then released the cord. The cutter shot out, and sliced through several of the cables. One of them sparked violently. Surprised, she exclaimed, "Golly, it worked!"
"I don't think the teleporter's kaput yet, though." Duke said, eyeing the screen.
"What does it say?"
Duke took her to the controls. She punched some keys, then looked up at the screen at the results. "'Lock control disabled.' Well, that's a start. Right now it's powered up and targeted for the next teleport, but after that who knows where the user will end up? If it works at all - those power lines look ready to blow."
"Sounds good to me. We'd better use it - the guys aren't in good shape out there."
"What? They're losing?" Tanya asked, shocked.
"Well, we ARE kinda at a tactical disadvantage, you know. I think we better cut our losses and the Saurians' gains while we can."
"OK." She braced herself for the trip down.
Dragaunus grew tired of watching his henchmen being bullfought by ducks and other animals. He started forward, then was startled to see a grey streak dart out between his feet. Earth vermin!
Duke called up, "Wildwing! We busted the teleporter so it'll only work one more time! Let's use it to get outta here!"
Wildwing, hovering with his wings beating hard, said "I hate to retreat, but we have no choice. I'll tell the others. On my signal, go!" He flapped off towards the panda.
Dragaunus shook his head in disgust. Even with the Ducks in this sorry state, his henchmen STILL could not manage to defeat them! He was through waiting. He stepped forward out of the door, intending to seize the first avian he could reach and crush the life out of it. Or perhaps that ridiculous bear that Siege could not manage to lay hands on.
A bird flew to the hatch of the ship and squawked raucously, then flew inward. The Ducks and panda immediately rushed into the ship, followed by the grey cat. Wraith looked after them and asked, "Now why would they do THAT?" in a puzzled tone.
"Never mind! AFTER THEM! Dragaunus shouted.
Dragaunus, Wraith, and Siege pounded back into the ship. A moment later Siege came back out, picked up Chameleon, and walked back in.
"C'mon, move, move!" Wildwing quacked, hovering above the teleport pad. "It's no good if we bring the lizards back with us!"
"Right behind ya, bro!" Nosedive answered.
"Where's Tanya?" Mallory asked, looking around.
Something butted against her ankles. She looked down. Duke looked back up at her. He was holding Tanya in his teeth. Grin reached down and took her gently in his paws. Tanya slumped against his fur, groaning "I never got motion sickness before."
The Saurians were in the room with them. Dragaunus slapped a lever down, and the cage banged down onto the teleporter pad, enclosing them as it had before.
"There's no way they can get out this time!" Siege crowed.
"Not alive, anyway." Dragaunus said. "Electrify the bars!"
Tanya jerked a handful of Grin's fur to get his attention. He looked down. She beckoned toward him. He lowered his head to listen.
The Ducks jerked away from the bars of the cage, which had begun to hum. Nosedive shot back, "We'll get out of this, lizard lips! We've been in worse than this and still kicked your scaly tails!"
"When?" Mallory muttered under her breath.
The panda stepped to the front of the cage and stared at Dragaunus. It was holding its paws close, concealing something.
"What do you have there?" Dragaunus said.
The panda opened its paws, revealing a mouse in a jumpsuit.
Dragaunus laughed. "So THAT'S what happened to the other one! You can't think THAT miserable vermin can defeat me, do you?"
"Oh, I don't know - at least give me a shot at it." Tanya replied, and lifted her crossbow. She aimed it and shot a scrap rod at the control panel. It tapped the activation button.
"NO!" Siege shouted, and grabbed the cage to move it. The electricity shocked him, leaving him dazed. Dragaunus slapped the lever to raise the cage, but by the time it began to raise the Ducks were already gone.
"After them!" Dragaunus snarled.
"Boot, captain" Chameleon, who had finally peeled the tape off of his mouth, said in a thick Scottish brogue, "It has to power up first. It'll nae take boot a minute. I canna make it go any faster!" He flicked the switch. The machine began sparking ominously.
"Blasted weak power source!" Dragaunus bellowed. "Once we get a set of bellyrium crystals-!"
"Uh, is it supposed to do that?" Chameleon looked nervously at the sparks.
The Ducks appeared on the teleport pad in the Raptor. The machine was beginning to hum loudly, and flashes of light were visible through the casing seams. Tanya yelled, "It's going to blow! The feedback must be overloading this one too!"
"Well, how about that?" Wildwing said. "Everyone out. Nosedive-"
"Finish the job. I'm way ahead of ya, big bro." she replied. After giving the others a headstart, she fired an explosive puck at the most fragile looking part of the machine. Then she raced after the others ahead of the explosion.
The ready light flashed on the panel. Dragaunus pointed at the teleporter pad. "Now! After them!"
"Uh, I really don't think it's supposed to be sparking like that." Chameleon said.
In lieu of a reply Dragaunus picked Chameleon up and set him on the pad, then stepped onto it himself. Wraith and Siege had no choice but to follow. Dragaunus reached over and tapped the teleport button. They disappeared just before the device exploded.
When they reappeared, the first thing they noticed was the solid blue-white landscape. The second thing was the lack of solid ground beneath their feet. The third was that it was very cold.
They fell ten feet into a soft, cold surface. Digging their way up, they looked around. "We must have sent ourselves to this planet's arctic region!" Siege said.
"One of the many disadvantages of relying on technology instead of magic. It malfunctions." Wraith muttered.
Chameleon, shivering, said "Dragaunus? Do a lizard a favor and breathe a little fire over this way, wouldya?"
Dragaunus granted his request emphatically enough that Chameleon found himself charred and standing waist-deep in water.
Back at the Pond, the team was standing around Drake One while Tanya laboriously punched keys on the keyboard, with Duke's occasional help. Finally she turned back and said "Sorry, guys. I can't find any information on those springs, or anything else that would do this to us."
"Oh, GREAT." Nosedive moaned. "Like I want to stay a GIRL for the rest of my life!"
"At least you kept your species." Duke replied.
"It isn't permanent." Grin said.
The others looked over, startled to hear his voice. Grin was back to his normal self! He held out the booklet that the guide had given them. "It says that the curses are not permament. The older the curse, the weaker it is."
"Grin! I thought you said you couldn't read Chinese!" Mallory exclaimed.
"I can't. The translation is in the back." he replied, holding the booklet open.
"Let's see that." Duke said.
Mallory took the booklet. She quoted, "The curse of spring weaken with years old. All curse temporary. Read age of spring."
"Well, hallelujah!" Nosedive exclaimed.
The back pages listed all of the springs, and the dates of their curses. Mallory scanned the text, looking for one word. When she found it she said "The Panda Spring was cursed in 570 AD."
"Five seventy-one." Tanya said, pressing some keys.
Mallory scanned again. "Hmm ... the mouse spring was 595. Hey, Duke, the cat spring was 571."
"Really." he said. He jumped off Drake One's control panel.
"And..." She flipped through more pages. "The duck spring was 580."
"So when was - whoa!" Nosedive startled as Duke abruptly returned to his normal form.
Duke looked at his hands as if making sure they were both there. "Thank goodness that's over with! I need these thumbs!"
Tanya was tapping rapidly on the keyboard. "There were about five minutes between Grin's change and Duke's, and one year between the dates of their curses. Approximately five minutes per year."
"So I have about forty-five minutes to go, and you have two hours." Wildwing quacked.
"So how long do I have?" Nosedive wanted to know.
Mallory flipped a few more pages. Then she covered her mouth and snickered.
"What?" Nosedive asked.
Mallory showed the page to Duke, pointing to a certain entry. He, too, laughed.
"Let me see that!" Nosedive snatched the book and scanned for the proper entry. She read out loud, "Spring of Drown Girl most famous spring with most tragic tale. Girl commit suicide there when her lover die in ... World War II."
Mallory could not help laughing at the dumbfounded expression on Nosedive's face. "This has to be a typo!"
Tanya finished tapping on the keyboard. "According to my calculations, Nosedive, you have about five days to go!"
Everyone laughed. Nosedive said indignantly, "Come on, this isn't funny! What am I supposed to do now?"
"I'm sure Phil would have some ideas. Swimsuit ads would be my first guess." Mallory giggled.
"You tell him, and so help me Mal-" Nosedive began.
"Now, c'mon, we really shouldn't pick on poor Nosedive." Duke said, putting an arm around Nosedive's shoulders. "I mean, this is really really going to throw a kink into his - ah, her life. We ought to show her a little sympathy, right?"
Nosedive looked at Duke, surprised at his change of attitude.
"I mean, today we learned to make the best of a bad situation, right? When you got lemons, make lemonade. Nosedive, why don't we just forget about what happened today, OK?"
Duke lowered his voice and moved his hand down her shoulder, drawing her closer. "I'm thinking dinner and a movie, just you and me..."
Mallory added, "You know, Nosedive, I have a dress that I think would look just perfect on you. And we can do something with your hair, maybe put it up." She looked at her thoughtfully.
Nosedive looked from Duke to Mallory and back again, then shoved Duke's hand away. "You gotta be nuts!" she shouted as she fled the room.
Mallory and Duke both burst out laughing. Tanya joined in. Wildwing, suppressing a chuckle, said "Did you two have to do that?"
"Hey, how could we pass it up?" Duke controlled his laughter long enough to answer. "It was a golden opportunity!"
"OK, you've had your joke. But leave him - her - alone from now on, OK? Enough's enough."
"OK, we promise." Duke said.
"Good. I'm going to go wait this out in front of the TV." Wildwing flew out of the room.
Tanya had dragged the phone receiver off its hook. She punched a few numbers and sat by the mouthpiece. Mallory noticed, and asked, "Who are you calling?"
Tanya waved for Mallory to be quiet when she heard the line pick up. Into the mouthpiece she said, "Phil?"
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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