It is now ten years after the "Darkwing Duck" TV series took place. A lot of things have changed, like... er... well, everyone's ten years older. Hence the title of this series,
By Kim McFarland
It was a dark and stormy night in St. Canard. In an empty alley, unwitnessed by anyone, a hole opened in the air. Brimstone fumes dissolved into the rain. A lone figure stepped out, and the hole closed behind him.
The rain pattered against his hat. He squinted into the rainy sky with an expression of annoyance. "Just once, I'd like to see a night that wasn't dark and stormy." Negaduck grumbled.
He soon established that he had been sent from the netherworld back to Darkwing's universe. That annoyed him at first - but then, he did not want to go back to the Negaverse or the Posiverse either.
He had been away from this universe for several months. The first thing to do would be to find out what had happened in his absence, to reestablish his balance. He had a small dwelling in the suburbs that he used as a hideout. And the dimensional gate had opened up less than a mile from it. Coincidence? Considering who had created the gate for him, probably not.
By the time he arrived at his destination his clothes were thoroughly soaked. The first lights of dawn were appearing in the sky, so at least the stormy night was no longer dark. He picked up the plastic-wrapped newspaper that was lying on his neighbor's lawn and went into his home.
He changed into a spare suit and hat and lay his wet clothes out on the floor to dry. The hat would need reblocking for sure. Just one more indignity, courtesy of Darkwing Duck. Fortunately Negaduck always kept a spare costume or three handy.
When he finished that he realized how tired he was. But when he thought back on all that had happened to him in the last few hours, it was no wonder. He had been in The Posiverse, building up a criminal organization - and nearing success! - when Darkwing Duck had appeared. Minutes later, Negaduck had been defeated and captured. He had barely managed to escape with his freedom, and through the friendly intervention of his guardian fallen angel he had found himself back in Darkwing's universe.
Every time Negaduck tried to commit a crime Darkwing would sail in and get in the way, even if he had to cross into another universe to do it! How could a supervillain do his job with all this interference?! "If only the creep had never been hatched. My life would be a lot easier." Negaduck grumbled. He opened the newspaper and scanned the headlines.
After the first few pages his vision began to blur. He was that exhausted. The heck with it. He closed the newspaper and went to sleep.
That afternoon he went out, disguised as a civilian. It amused him to mix with the unsuspecting citizens, a wolf among the sheep. Plus, he got some of his best criminal inspirations this way.
His first stop was a book store. There were a few magazines he could always look to for ideas... But a display just inside the door caught his attention. "Oh, cripes!"
It was the color coding of the stand had caught his attention. Pink and purple, with yellow trim. And in 80-point yellow lettering, THE TERROR THAT FLAPS IN THE NIGHT. "Since when did he start writing children's books?!" he muttered under his breath.
He went over to the periodicals rack, grumbling under his breath. He did not see anything that looked promising, and after a few minutes he gave up. On the way out he studied the standup. It would be greatly improved, he thought, by a bullseye target. Discreetly he shoplifted one of the books for research purposes.
At home he skimmed the book. Being an autobiography, it might give Negaduck some useful insights into his old foe - if the truth could be sorted out from the egotistical embellishments. After scanning the chapter headings, he picked one at random and began reading.
Fifteen minutes later the book smacked into the wall. The thud of its impact with the floor was covered by a string of highly esoteric and unprintable descriptions of its author. The thing wasn't an autobiography! It belonged on the fantasy rack! And it went out of its way to make Negaduck look stupid!
He'd burn the thing later. For now, he'd go back to the newspaper. Maybe there was news of arson or a war somewhere that would cheer him up.
He was halfway through the paper before anything attracted his interest. The acronym SHUSH had caught his eye. The article was about a "time top" which Darkwing was giving to SHUSH for their research. The gizmo was actually a time travel machine that looked like a toy top. It had been used a number of times to go into the past, and had nearly altered the flow of history in the process. SHUSH was planning on using it to research prehistoric times.
"What I couldn't do with that doohickey." Negaduck said to himself. Idly he considered the possibilities. He could go into the past and really mess with Darkwing. In fact, with a little research he could arrange it so Darkwing never existed at all. He started to turn the page, then looked back. Why not?
He reread the article again. The top was going to be transferred to SHUSH that very day. How convenient!
He went to his clothes closet. He had a number of spares of his costume - the career of a supervillain was hard on clothes - and several Darkwing costumes as well. He took one of the latter down.
At the appointed time, a disguised Negaduck appeared outside SHUSH headquarters. A large van, discreetly labeled "NUCLEAR DEVICES", arrived. When Darkwing did not appear Negaduck stepped out and watched the transfer.
One of the resident scientists, a tall Oriental woman wearing a long lab coat and rounded glasses, spotted him. She walked over and said, "Darkwing! I didn't expect to see you here today."
"Just making sure the transfer goes smoothly. You never know what supervillains may be lurking around, just waiting to get their hands on this thing." he answered.
She wondered briefly at his odd smile. As several workers were preparing to move it with the aid of a flatbed truck he said, "You don't need that. I can drive it in."
"You can?" Dr. Bellum looked surprised. "But didn't you say it moved only in time?"
"It can go short distances. I'll show you." He climbed up to the entrance hatch and entered it.
A second later the Time Top disappeared.
Negaduck laughed to himself. For a top-secret government espionage agency, SHUSH was easy to outwit! It was a good thing the top's controls were easy to understand - but then, Quackerjack had built the thing, so any idiot ought to be able to operate it. So the top was now resting safely, several thousand years in the past, while Negaduck considered his strategy.
His aim was to eliminate Darkwing from St. Canard's history altogether. The earlier Negaduck could do that, the better. And he just happened to have the research material right on hand!
Ten minutes later he had made his decision. He had found an account of Darkwing's first appearance, described in painful detail. It gave the exact location and date. In fact, the only detail NOT included was Darkwing's identity! Negaduck spent some time committing the blow-by-blow description of that night to memory, gathering props, and changing clothes, then set the time controls on the machine.
The Time Top appeared outside the St. Canard high school. Negaduck, again in his "civilian" attire, stepped out and surveyed the building. There were unmistakable signs of preparation for the prom. He had arrived just in time!
His first impulse was to find someone to knock out and steal clothes from, to give him a costume fitting this bizarre time period. But he had little time to waste, and it would not be necessary to cover his tracks this time since he would vanish as soon as he was finished.
He walked into the gymnasium. A few of the setup crew gave him odd looks due to his anachronistic clothing, but they paid no attention to him otherwise. The place was a mess, with people on ladders hanging decorations for that night's prom. The band's instruments were already set up on the stage. Negaduck looked around the room. Everything fit the description in the book. Good.
He walked into the backstage area, where the props and costumes were stored. He found the box of smoke bombs first. He dumped them into a waste basket and stuffed some miscellaneous costuming on top of them, then replaced them with the stink bombs that he had brought.
Next, he found a mannikin wearing a swordsman's costume. He removed its purple mask, set the fabric down on the table, and began cutting the underside with a razor blade. He soon had it nearly worked through, so that any stress on the material would cause it to tear apart. Carefully he retied it on the mannikin, making sure that the knot at the back hid the damage.
He walked back into the gym. The workers were removing their tools. Negaduck stopped the one who was taking the ladder down and said, "Leave the ladder. I gotta make sure the banners are secure. Give me a hammer, too." The workman complied.
He walked the ladder over to one edge of the main banner and climbed up. He tapped the hammer on the wall, pretending to be driving the nail in deeper, then quickly working the nails back out so they were just barely supporting the banner. After subjecting the other banners to the same treatment, he set the ladder back in the place he had found it, just as it was in the book's description. As a finishing touch, he coated the top of the ladder with grease.
Then he realized that he would not be able to see the results of his efforts. If he posed as a chaperon someone might recognize his "family resemblance" to the younger Darkwing. If he tried to watch from hiding and was noticed, it might throw the whole plan off. But that wasn't really a problem; he was eager to see the results of his handiwork. He could come back later in the Time Top and watch Darkwing's humiliation.
He left the empty auditorium, turning the lights off behind himself.
Several hours later, the band was playing its electric guitars and drums on stage as the high school seniors danced. A lone duck in a purple tuxedo stood by the punchbowl. When he saw two girls approaching he quickly ladled out cups of punch for them. "Care to dance?" He flashed a self-conscious smile.
"Drop dead, dweeb." they replied and took the cups.
"You're welcome." he called after them. To himself he said, "It's gonna be a loooong night." Maybe it was because of his clothes that no girl would be seen with him. But this awful purple suit was all he could afford to rent!
He saw a strange flickering out of the corner of his eye, and turned to look. At the doors, a rat in a frizzy hairdo and a yellow jumpsuit called out, "I am... Megawatt!"
One of the band shouted, "Hey, that's our name, man!"
"Oh. Sorry. Uh, in that case... I am Mega...VOLT!"
"Who's the geek?" Hamstring, the class's star athlete, said derisively to Prina Lott, his date.
"He's worse than Drake the Dweeb." she replied.
"Ooh! What are you looking at?!" Megavolt cried. "Your piercing stares are driving me mad! Mad, I tell you! MAD! Oh, and by the by, I'm going to destroy the school and all of you with it. Too bad, so sad." He shot a bolt of electricity to demonstrate.
The party-goers fled the auditorium. Before Hamstring and Prina could escape Megavolt zapped the exit doors shut. "Where you goin'? The party's hasn't even started!"
As Megavolt advanced on them, Drake, who was recovering from being trampled by the stampeding crowd, said to himself, "Okay. Gotta do something. Think, think, think!" He spied the ladder, which coincidentally had been left under a banner. "Ah hah!"
"C'mon, kids, let's make this prom an extra-special night to remember!" Megavolt cackled menacingly.
Drake scrambled up the ladder and grabbed the banner, intending to swing down and kick Megavolt. But when his foot touched the top of the ladder it slipped on the grease. He grabbed the banner to break his fall. The nail popped out. Drake crashed to the ground, stepped on a fallen plate of hors d'oeuvres, and skidded into the table. The punchbowl flew off, dumping its contents on Hamstring and Prina.
Hamstring grabbed Drake by the collar. "Nice try, Drake the Dweeb. Now let a real man take care of this!" He tossed Drake through the stage curtains. Then the jock turned to Megavolt and slapped a fist into his hand. "I'm gonna enjoy this!"
"Not as much as me!" Megavolt replied, his hands and eyes glowing electric blue.
Drake watched from behind the curtains as Megavolt toyed with Hamstring, shooting electrical bolts at him. "I've gotta stop him!" he said to himself. "But what can 'Drake the Dweeb' do? No one will take me seriously! Wait a minute!" He saw the costume racks in the backstage storage area. "What if I weren't 'Drake the Dweeb!' What if I were... someone else!"
Within moments he had improvised a costume based on pieces of leftover stage costumes and his purple tux jacket. Then he frantically tried to think up a suitable stage name.
Outside, Megavolt was thoroughly enjoying himself tormenting Hamstring. "Ah, St. Canard High School. Who will save you now?!" He cackled. "Ha hah! All is lost! No one can save you now! You're chemistry! ... No, not chemistry, math - phys. ed? - no, uh, history! You're history! Ha ha ha!"
A cloud of smoke appeared on the stage. "What the...?" Megavolt muttered, turning to look.
"I am the terror that flaps in the night!" a voice said from within the cloud. "I am the grade curve that gives you an F! I am DARKWING DUCK!" The smoke cleared, revealing a gaudily costumed duck.
"I foresee doom." Megavolt mumbled. "Hey... what's that smell?"
The stench of the stink bomb filled the auditorium within moments. Darkwing tried to ignore it as he leapt up to grab the edge of a banner. It, too, collapsed when he pulled on it, dumping him to the ground. The rest of the stink bombs exploded in his inside coat pockets.
"I don't know who you are, or where you come from," Megavolt cried dramatically, "But your cologne stinks worse than your taste in clothes!"
Trying to save the shreds of his dignity, Darkwing jumped up. "My clothes are better than that ridiculous hairstyle of yours! Where did you get it? Stick your finger in a light socket?"
Megavolt launched himself at Darkwing. The two scuffled. Darkwing managed to pin Megavolt's hands so he could not shock him. But Megavolt twisted away and swatted at Darkwing's face. The blow severed the weakened fabric of the mask, which fluttered to the ground.
Hamstring laughed. "Drake Mallard?!"
"Only an idiot like Drake the Dweeb would try such a stupid stunt!" Prina said.
Drake scrambled back as Hamstring advanced on him. "But I have the situation completely under control!" he blurted desperately.
"Yeah, control this!" Hamstring picked Drake up by the collar and threw him out a window.
Drake landed in the bushes outside. He watched miserably as the police came, arrested Megavolt, and left. Drake had failed again, as ever.
The night deepened and grew cold. Eventually Drake stuffed the costume in a trash can and slunk home.
When Negaduck stepped out of the Time Top he wondered if the changes he had done to the past had had any effect. Everything looked just the same. But there had to be some difference. He'd research it. On an impulse, he changed out of his civilian outfit into his coat, cape, and hat. He was sick of going incognito. And, if there was no Darkwing any more, who would hassle him?
He went to the book shop he had visited earlier. Inside he saw several stands promoting new books - but none about Darkwing Duck! Encouraged, he picked up a newspaper and skimmed the headlines. He saw one of the sales people staring at him. He glared back harshly, and the person hastily went back into a storeroom.
He looked through the newspaper. There was no mention of Darkwing Duck... matter of fact, there was little news of ANY local crime at all. Would removing a crimefighter also remove the criminals? That made no sense. But who cares; this St. Canard looked just ripe for Negaduck.
He folded the newspaper and tucked it under his cape. When he stepped out of the bookstore he was startled to find several police cars parked out front. And a number of policemen, their guns drawn, standing behind their cars for protection.
One of the police spoke through a megaphone. "Put your hands up! NOW!"
What in the world? Negaduck slowly raised his hands - in the process pulling off one of his cuff buttons. When it dropped to the ground it let out a burst of red smoke. In the moments of distraction that followed Negaduck produced a machine gun that he always kept behind his back and opened fire. To his surprise, they fired back.
He threw several more smoke grenades to the ground, blanketing the police force. Then he fled.
There was no crowd on the streets to get in the way. For some reason everyone had suddenly cleared the sidewalks, and all traffic had come to a halt. Which made it easier for him to get away.
Or so he thought. The place was now crawling with police cars, their sirens blaring. He ran through the alleys between buildings. Every time he had a clear view of the street he could see a flashing blue light. Using the lighthouse that stood out above the other bayside buildings as a guide, he ran back to the dockyards that lined Audubon Bay. Without hesitation he dove into the waters, swam under a wharf, and listened carefully.
By dusk the sirens had died down. Negaduck climbed out of the water, cold and shivering, and wrung out his cape. What the devil was going on around here? He looked back towards the city, searching for flashing blue lights. He saw none, but he could not be sure whether that was due to the interference of the lighthouse or not.
He was considering methods of avoiding both jail and hypothermia when he heard the door to the lighthouse open behind him. He spun around, his machine gun in his hands. The ratlike figure in the door startled, then tried to slam it. Negaduck shoved the muzzle of the gun in the door before it could close.
Negaduck was inside before the lighthouse's inhabitant could react. He held the gun up and said, "One move and you're a spaghetti strainer!"
Then Negaduck peered closer. Now that he got a good look at him... "You look familiar."
"Hey, I don't wanna get involved. If you go, I won't tell the cops." The rat backed away his hands raised.
On hearing the voice, Negaduck finally realized who this was. He hadn't recognized him out of costume! "You're Megavolt!"
"Uh, yeah, whatever you say." he said, his eyes fixed on Negaduck's gun.
Negaduck lowered his weapon. "What the heck is going on here? I just nearly got busted by the entire police force for taking a lousy newspaper! And what're you doing out of uniform anyway? I didn't recognize you without the battery."
"The battery? What battery?" he said, mystified.
"The battery you wear on your back, Sparky! With the yellow jumpsuit, gloves, and plug hat!"
"Uh, I never wore a battery..."
Then Negaduck realized that his changing this time line must have had unplanned side effects. He said, "Let's take this from the top. Pretend I've got amnesia. Who the heck are you?"
"I'm, uh, Elmo Sputterspark."
Negaduck stared at him briefly, then burst out laughing. "What a dumb name! You'd better go back to 'Megavolt'."
"No thanks. I'd be busted and locked in the St. Canard Supervillains' Prison as soon as I put the old costume on. Crime just doesn't pay any more."
"What d'you mean, crime doesn't pay?!" Negaduck exclaimed, morally offended.
"You should know! You were the last of the supervillains to be captured. How'd you escape from prison, anyway? Nobody's ever made it out of there. It was all over the news!"
"I'm in the super pokey?" Negaduck's mind raced, trying to make sense of this. "Who arrested me?"
"The cops, who else. You ran 'em ragged. We were all rooting for you. But eventually they caught you and tossed you in jail with the rest of us."
"What about Darkwing Duck?"
"Who? I don't remember him. Was he in the prison?"
"Never mind. What sentence did I get?"
"I think a life sentence, with no parole. We never saw you again because they put you in solitary confinement."
"Sheesh. Hope I took a few cops out before they got me. Hey, if all the villains are in the Super Pokey, why aren't you?"
He shrugged. "Not guilty because of insanity. Being crazy's not all bad. I'm on parole for the rest of my life, but it's better than breaking rocks for a living. I'm never going back to crime again. I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid."
"Oh, brother." Negaduck looked out the window. "So they're onto me for breaking outta jail. Wonder what they'd do if they caught me."
"The news said they've put a reward on you."
"Really? How much?"
"A million dollars, dead or alive."
"Cheapskates! I'm worth more. - Wait a minute, how do I know you're not gonna phone the cops the minute I leave here!" He pointed the gun again.
The rat raised his hands. "Hey! Whoa! I'm not gonna do anything! They wouldn't believe me anyway, I'm crazy, remember!"
"Maybe. But just in case-" He swung the gun handle, knocking Elmo out. "Why take chances. Have a nice day." He stepped over the rat and was out the door.
This future was nothing like he'd planned. As near as he could figure out, when all the supervillains began appearing, there was no Darkwing to fight them. Instead, the police had cracked down on them, and cracked down hard. So hard that nobody dared to commit a crime any more.
Any world in which the police could put Negaduck in jail and keep him there was no place he wanted to stay. He'd have to give it another try.
Skulking carefully through the alleyways, he made his way back to the Time Top. He shut himself inside and set the controls to a half hour after he had made his changes to the past.
As soon as he arrived - just minutes before the prom was supposed to start - he dashed into the gymnasium and grabbed the hammer that he had left beside the ladder. He went up the ladder - just barely remembering not to step on the very top - and pounded the nail supporting the main banner back in. He ran around to the backstage and dumped the stink bombs out the window, then took the smoke bombs out of the wastebasket and put them back in the box. The mask - he puzzled over how to repair that for a minute before remembering that he had a spare Darkwing costume in the Time Top. He retrieved the purple mask and placed it on the dummy. Before he left he used the damaged mask cloth to wipe the grease off the top of the ladder.
That would set everything back to normal. He should have pounded in the other nails that he had loosened - but he did not have enough time, and since the main banner was secure, they shouldn't matter. Close enough. Sourly he threw the mask into the garbage can. As he opened the door to leave he was startled to find himself face to face with a young duck in a purple tuxedo. He shoved the startled duck aside, growling, "Out of the way, punk."
He returned to his present. A glance at a newspaper confirmed that everything was back to normal. He even found the article about the Time Top. Fine. So what now?
There was no question as to whether he would make another attempt with the Time Top to change the future. If one approach didn't work out, then he'd try again. He couldn't eliminate Darkwing from the flow of time entirely (drat it!); he had seen the result.
As much as he hated it, he would have to do some more research. He picked up the book again and opened it to a random chapter.
The next inspiration hit him soon, thankfully for his temper. Several times in the course of the chapter he had picked the book mentioned a certain little girl who was special to him, who had kept him going when all else looked hopeless. The sentiment made Negaduck's teeth ache. But when he read that without her, Darkwing would not have been able to keep his sense of purpose, Negaduck's plan emerged full-blown. Get rid of the little girl! Without her, he'd become demoralized and quit! And it was obvious that this was the same little girl that had habitually followed Darkwing around, so snatching her would be easy. Normally Negaduck didn't stoop to psychological warfare, but this was a special case.
Negaduck returned to the Time Top. There were several times he could think of off the top of his head when he could have done away with the little girl. Yet, the one time he had made a special effort, she had proved stubbornly difficult to kill. Well, with the Time Top he could pick whatever time he wanted.
He made his choice and set the controls.
Launchpad, Honker, and Gosalyn were imprisoned in a cage which looked like a giant, motorized hamster wheel. Negaduck had put them in this to lure Darkwing out. "Good trap, if I do say so myself. Now to set the bait." He pressed the switch that would divert the television signals of every station in St. Canard to his camera.
"Don't let this happen to you!" Negaduck pulled a lever. The wheel-like cage began to revolve. Launchpad, Honker and Gosalyn had to run to keep up with the spin. "If these pesky thieves had the Negaduck protection plan, they would not be trapped as you see, ready to be accelerated into old age." Negaduck said to the camera lens, brandishing his particle accelerator.
"Don't listen to him, Dad!" Gosalyn yelled photogenically.
"Face it, kid, you're toast." He laughed madly.
He focused the camera on the ducks in the wheel for a minute as he enjoyed the tableau. Then he said, "Ever seen a cat in a clothes dryer? When you get too tired to run, you're gonna find out what it's like! Unless that doddering Darkwing Duck can save you."
Gosalyn screamed, "Help, Dad!"
Negaduck stepped back into camera range. "Relax, who's gonna save you? Not that relic, Darkwing Duck. He's a fossil."
The camera cut off. Negaduck said, "Sorry I have to leave you, but I have a taxing schedule. Don't go anywhere."
The older Negaduck had been watching the whole scene from hiding and fighting back a growing feeling of d j vu. He had had to worm his way unrecognized through the crowd outside the building. Fortunately they were too concerned with paying protection money to notice him. The few who had recognized him had simply handed him their money and fled. When his former self left the room he opened the door. He folded his arms and took in the scene. It had been a clever trap; it should have worked. Just like all of the traps he had created for Darkwing.
He walked up to the controls and shut the motor off. The wheel slowed to a stop. He said, "The three of you are putting too much of a strain on the motor. I'm gonna let one of you go."
"Take the kids." Launchpad said.
"Who asked you, Dumbo? You. The girl. Get over here. The rest of you, back away from the door. One false move and I throw the wheel into overdrive!"
They obeyed. Negaduck unlatched the cage door. He took Gosalyn by the arm as she exited, relatched the door, and started the motor up again. Gosalyn began to struggle. Negaduck had been prepared, though - he took a rag soaked in chloroform out of his pocket and clamped it over her bill.
Her struggles soon weakened. He fastened the rag in place with a rubber band and picked her up. Launchpad called, "Hey! You said you were gonna let her go!"
Negaduck turned back and grinned. "I lied." he said, shutting the door behind himself.
Negaduck carried the unconscious Gosalyn to the Time Top, thinking about what to do with her. All that he needed to do for the moment was to remove her from the time flow, which he had already done. He could figure out how to dispose of her later. As long as that chloroform rag stayed in place she wouldn't be any trouble. He set the controls to return.
This time, when he opened the Time Top he noticed a difference immediately. The night streets were ... well, a little too orderly. Maybe it had something to do with the strange metallic devices hovering over each intersection? Before he left the top he poured more chloroform into the rag to ensure that she did not wake up in his absence.
The city looked positively sterile. The streets and sidewalks were deserted. The only things moving at all were the peculiar machines that floated over the city in slow patterns. What were they? They looked familiar somehow...
One passed overhead. Instinctively he froze, crouching in the darkness between two buildings. It did look familiar somehow. If he could just get a closer look at it...
He guessed that they were some futuristic sort of patrol devices. He would have to dodge them. No problem; machines were stupid and easy to wreck. At least he didn't have to dodge people or patrol cars.
He stepped out of the alleyway. And was dazzled by the glare of the spotlights of the two hovering machines that had positioned themselves on either side of the alley.
He whipped his machine gun out and began shooting blindly. The spotlight on one side of himself went out. It was replaced by a piercing siren. Metal grips clamped on his arms and legs and wrenched his gun away.
Negaduck could barely hear a rumbling, as of heavy machinery, under the wailing sirens. It became louder as its source approached. He could not see what it was, as several more of the floating machines were shining spotlights in his eyes.
All but one of the spotlights swiveled to light the tank that the patrol drones had summoned. Like the drones, it looked strangely familiar.
"I AM THE TERROR THAT HUNTS IN THE NIGHT!" boomed forth. "I AM THE AARDVARK IN THE ANTHILLS OF CRIME!" The trap door in the turret opened. A red mushroom cloud burst above it, in which a dark silhouette appeared. "I AM DARK WARRIOR DUCK!"
The drones' spotlights followed him as he stalked over to Negaduck. "And you are in big trouble... curfew violator!"
"Dark Warrior Duck?!" Negaduck exclaimed. What the heck?! The costume was different - more built up, complete with spikes - but it was unmistakably Darkwing!
"Wait a minute! Dim the lights!" Dark Warrior snapped. The drones reduced their spotlights to a more bearable level. Dark Warrior snatched Negaduck's hat off his head and peered at his face. "You're not only violating curfew, pal, but you're also walking around in public in a costume, a violation of Dark Warrior dress code 47.11. And as Negaduck! Any reason I shouldn't throw you into prison"
"I-" Negaduck began.
"I don't want to hear it. Take him away!" he directed the robot drones.
Negaduck managed to free his right arm from the drone as it began to lift him away and snatched his machine gun back. He opened fire on Dark Warrior Duck. Another drone seized his right arm and yanked the gun away. Dark Warrior shouted, "Drones! HALT! Come back here!"
They did. Dark Warrior took the machine gun and examined it in disbelief. Then he glared at Negaduck. "Possession and use of firearms! No citizen has had these in years! Where did you get this, scum?"
"I had it hidden conveniently behind my back!" Negaduck barked.
"That voice!" Dark Warrior snatched Negaduck's mask away. Negaduck tried to dodge; the drones held him firmly in place. "It IS you!" he said in disbelief. "How did you escape from prison? The St. Canard Supervillain's Prison is absolutely impenetrable! Well, never mind. You're going back into solitary!"
"You'll never take me alive!" Negaduck yelled, taking another machine gun out.
"Fine!" Dark Warrior produced a missile-launching handgun.
Negaduck dropped the machine gun and whipped out a bazooka.
Dark Warrior snapped his fingers. The front of the tank opened, revealing a cannon muzzle big enough for a duck to crawl into. It thrusted outward, pinning Negaduck against the building.
"I win." Dark Warrior said with satisfaction.
Dark Warrior took Negaduck to his stronghold in a tower building and set up the interrogation room. "Once again, HOW DID YOU ESCAPE FROM PRISON?"
"How did you escape from the nuthouse?" Negaduck retorted.
"You just never learn, do you?" Dark Warrior said. "I kept you in prison to serve as an example. You were always my worst enemy, and anyone who wanted to cross Dark Warrior Duck would think about your fate before he tried anything. But I've been too soft on you!" He looked out the window, at the silent city. "Maybe the reason I put off executing your final sentence is because you were the last person who had Gosalyn. I hoped that, someday, I would get her back." Then his voice hardened. "I should've carried it out on the spot instead!" He turned back and caught Negaduck in a burning glare.
"Gosalyn? The little girl? Oh, for-"
"YES! Don't tell me you don't even remember who she was, you murderer!" Dark Warrior cried in rage.
Negaduck said slyly, "Well, you could shut me in prison. But then you'd never see her again. I've got her!"
Dark Warrior stared at Negaduck in disbelief. Then he threw a punch that snapped Negaduck's head back. "That's the same thing you've been saying for ten years! I don't believe it any more! What did you do with her?!"
Negaduck shook his head to throw off the daze. "I've got her, you freak. You want her, you let me go!"
Dark Warrior restrained himself. "I could strangle you right now!... but that wouldn't bring her back. Your usefulness as an example to other criminals is finished because of your escape. I thought I could break you. Well, that means I'll carry out your sentence!"
"Fine, shut me back in prison. I'll escape again. No prison can hold Negaduck!"
"Prison? Oh, no. Have you forgotten? You're going to the electric chair." Dark Warrior smiled at Negaduck. "In fact, since Dark Warrior's justice is so merciful, I'll make sure the last few minutes of your worthless life serve as an example to others. I have a block of time on television every Friday. I can make this a special event, to show what happens to sinners in the hands of an angry duck!"
Negaduck glared at him. Dark Warrior said, "Well? Don't you have something witty and defiant to say?"
Negaduck whispered something. Dark Warrior said, "What? Speak up!" and leaned forward. And Negaduck spat in his face.
Dark Warrior used a corner of Negaduck's cape to wipe his face with. "That settles it. You're going down."
"Go to Hades!"
"I'll meet you there." Dark Warrior whirled and snapped "Lock him up." to one of the drones, then stalked away.
The robots forcibly transported Negaduck to a small, windowless cell in the tower. It was surprisingly unlike a prison cell; it was too clean, and it was made of metal. And, as he soon found out, it was escape-proof. The walls resisted all of his artillery, sending it ricocheting back at him. There was no way to pick the lock from inside or unhinge the door. Anything strong enough to damage the walls of the cell would pulp the duck inside first. By the next day he was certain of this; he had spent hours trying to escape. Not that he was afraid of this Dark Warrior Duck; he simply wanted to frustrate him by slipping out of his clutches.
This future was even more bizarre than the last one he had created. By taking Gosalyn, he had created this? Could snatching the brat drive Darkwing this crazy? Without her to occupy his time, he had created his tyranny over St. Canard. Negaduck could have admitted a grudging respect for that, if they had not been sworn enemies.
Could they be on the same side? Dark Warrior was certainly vicious enough to be a supervillain. But, no, even if he was, he still had it in for Negaduck for "killing" Gosalyn. Those other two in the wheel must have told Darkwing what had happened, and Darkwing had assumed that Negaduck had done away with her. Hence the grudge. Negaduck could force Dark Warrior's hand using Gosalyn - but apparently he - in this future - had been using that for years, and Dark Warrior no longer believed it.
So, Dark Warrior planned to execute him? Impossible. This was a ploy to scare Negaduck. Well, Negaduck didn't scare! He could take the worst any Good Guy could dish out, and use the moralistic weaknesses all heroes had against him. As tough as this Dark Warrior Duck acted, Negaduck was tougher!
Some indeterminate time later the door clanked open. Dark Warrior said, "Evening, scum. Hope you've made your peace."
"I'd rather make some pieces!" Negaduck replied and whipped out a machine gun from behind his back.
"Dark Warrior Drone, stun." The robot shot a bolt of electricity into the cell. Negaduck dodged it - but it hit the cell's metal floor, electrifying the entire structure.
After some moments Dark Warrior gestured to the drone to stop. To the singed duck in the cell he said, "Think of that as a preview." He slapped wrist cuffs on him and dragged him out of the cell.
"-will have a view of the whole setup, and B will zoom in for closeups."
When Negaduck recovered consciousness he found himself in a peculiar cross between an execution chamber and a television studio. The electric chair and the apparatus that operated it were in front of a dirty cinderblock wall on one side of the room; the other side was occupied by cameras and electronic equipment. Dark Warrior was instructing the technicians. "You'll cut to close-up on my signal. You know, the usual." Dark Warrior said.
The technician agreed. Dark Warrior turned to the equipment by the cinderblock wall. He fiddled with the dials, carefully setting each. When he was satisfied he glanced over to Negaduck and saw that he was awake. "Ah, he's back among the living. For the moment. You wouldn't want to sleep through your own funeral, would you." He directed the drone to bring him to the electric chair. As he was fastening Negaduck in with the leg and hand straps he said conversationally, "Gander Warhol said that everyone would have his fifteen minutes. Get ready, you're about to get yours. Full coverage, prime time, on every station. And, of course, all of your old friends in prison will see this. You've been the one that they all follow. They'll see what it got you."
"Go ahead, do your worst. I know what you hero types can and can't do!" Negaduck answered haughtily.
"I see you HAVE made your peace. You know, technically I should have sent in a priest for your last few hours - but I couldn't dig up an exorcist on such short notice."
"Ha ha. You know you can't execute me. If you do, you'll never see the kid again. I'm the only one who knows where she is."
Dark Warrior stared at him silently. When he spoke his voice was full of quiet fury. "I've kept you alive for this long only because you've been holding that over my head. Now I know that it isn't possible. Even Gosalyn couldn't have survived all these years with you!" He touched a dial on the wall. "This controls the voltage." He twisted it almost all the way to one side, so the pointer rested on the one, and walked over to a large throw switch. He grabbed it and pulled it down. Negaduck felt a tingle. "That's the lowest setting. Even if I had the helmet down it wouldn't do more than tickle you." he returned to the dial and twisted it to the other side. "The highest setting is eleven. Instantly fatal to a man. It's what I usually use."
"You'll never do it, Darkwing. You know you can't kill me. Superheroes can't do that kind of thing." Negaduck said coolly. "And even if you could... are you sure that I don't have Gosalyn?"
Dark Warrior gritted his teeth and turned the dial back a few notches. "Now it's set on nine. That's still fatal, but it may take a few tries. You should enjoy it more. As much as poor Gosalyn must have enjoyed her last hours with you! Now shut up before I gag you. I have lines to go over before we go on the air." He turned away and vanished behind the camera and sound equipment.
Negaduck's confidence that this was all a ploy to scare him was beginning to fade. For a hastily concocted fake, it certainly was realistic. All of the television studio equipment was real. The chair was actually wired for electricity. Yes, very convincing. Even down to the cracked material of the chair, and the peculiar smell, like burnt plastic. Even the insulation around the armrests' loose wires looked charred.
If Dark Warrior was trying to scare him into confessing, wouldn't he be questioning him?
Burnt electrical insulation!
Negaduck began pulling against the wrist straps. No use. The leather was cracked, but it showed no sign of breaking. No good with the ankle straps either. Negaduck had a knife hidden in an inside pocket in his coat - but he could not bring his coat close enough to his hand to reach it, and it was too far to the side for him to grip with his bill. He strained until his neck hurt.
Desperately he yanked again on the wrist bindings. Still no effect. He examined the locks on the wrist bindings. He could have picked them in moments, if he had a hand free! He tugged at it with his bill, hoping that maybe Dark Warrior had neglected to fasten them tight. No such luck.
As a last resort, he began pulling at the wires below the armrests with his teeth. They resisted, and shocked him painfully when he bit through the brittle insulation, but they did come free, one by one. Quickly he yanked them out, trying to ignore the repeated shocks he got in the process.
Too soon Dark Warrior returned and saw Negaduck doing what looked like biting at his wrist. He chuckled. "A trapped animal will chew through its own leg to escape its fate. You have four times as much work to do, but it's tempting to see if you could go through with it. If I only had more time..."
Negaduck jerked upright. "I do have Gosalyn! I came here in a time machine! I snatched her from the past and brought her here! She's still in my time machine, asleep! I'll show you-"
Dark Warrior scowled. "You never learn, do you! This is IT. Say your prayers, if you know any!"
Desperately Negaduck said, "Wait a minute! You said you had air time on Fridays, right? This is Saturday!-"
"Oh, like I haven't heard that too many times before! Nobody is stupid enough to forget what day it is! And even so, don't you think St. Canard would take Dark Warrior Duck's word on what day it is?!"
A cameraman spoke. "Dark Warrior, fifteen seconds to air time."
Picking up a cordless microphone, Dark Warrior snapped to Negaduck, "Quiet on the set. It's showtime!"
The hot studio lights came on, dazzling Negaduck. He could no longer see the camera crew. Dark Warrior, however, seemed at home in the glare. "I AM THE TERROR THAT HUNTS IN THE NIGHT! I AM THE PENDULUM IN THE PIT OF JUSTICE! I AM DARK WARRIOR DUCK!"
"Greetings, St. Canard. Tonight I have a special treat in store for all of you law-abiding citizens - and a message for the rest of you!" He stepped to the side, letting the camera see the chair with Negaduck strapped in. "Our special guest tonight is Negaduck, the worst criminal that has ever blighted the face of our fair city, St. Canard. He has been in solitary confinement for the past ten years. Last night he managed to escape. But before he could terrorize the city I, Dark Warrior Duck, captured him.
"This scum has been a danger for too long. His usefulness as an example to other criminals is at an end. Almost! Tonight, all will see the last minutes of this maladjusted menace!" He walked over to the control bank by the chair. "By now you all know how this chair works. When I pull this switch, it will send a fatal electrical charge through his body." He pressed a button, and the metal helmet lowered onto Negaduck's head. Negaduck tried to avoid it. Dark Warrior smiled at the camera, then fastened the neck and forehead straps. He perched the helmet several inches back, so it was barely resting on his head, to make sure it did not obscure his face. Then he returned to the control bank and gripped the handle. "Remember, citizens and criminals alike, that justice is always served in St. Canard when Dark Warrior Duck pulls the switch!!" Gleefully he slammed the handle downward.
Negaduck jerked violently against the straps. His eyes were blinded by light flares. A scream escaped from between gritted teeth.
Dark Warrior flipped the switch back up. Negaduck sagged back, his eyes staring blankly into space, his limbs twitching. Dark Warrior said, "Some criminals are tougher to kill than others." for the benefit of the camera and lowered the switch again.
After several more shocks, each longer than the last, Dark Warrior went over to the duck in the chair and inspected him. Negaduck was not breathing. He released the forehead and neck bindings. Negaduck's head sagged lifelessly forward.
Dark Warrior said into the microphone, "Once again, proof that the life of a criminal is nasty, futile, brutish - and short. And that, in St. Canard, justice is swift and unerring!"
The cameraman cut to a commercial. Dark Warrior put down the microphone and said with a vicious smile to Negaduck, "I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did."
To the rest of the crew he said, "Get rid of him. Throw him out with the rest of the trash."
The St. Canard Supervillains' prison television room was filled with a heavy, oppressive silence. All of the inmates had been herded in and made to watch the program. Now that it was over, the guards were letting their charges alone for the moment, to let the news sink in.
Megavolt finally broke the silence. "He actually did it!" he whispered.
They had only caught glimpses of Negaduck since his incarceration, on the rare occasions when he was taken out of his solitary cell. Even then none of the other prisoners were allowed close enough to him to speak. But he had found ways to communicate from his cell, and his presence was a strong force in the prison. He had grown into an almost mythic figure: the only one among them that Dark Warrior could never break. But now Dark Warrior had killed the best, the cleverest, the most powerful of their number.
"I can't believe it." Steelbeak said. "De duck's a maniac!"
In the quiet, those nearest one wall could hear a rhythmic sound. It was a faint clanging, like someone banging a pipe. A small orange cat put his ear to the wall. He listened carefully. A few of the other inmates had heard it, and were trying to decipher the Morse code message.
In a few minutes, the cat said, "It's just the word 'FAKE' over and over!"
"'Fake'?" Bushroot said. "What does that mean, Fluffy?"
The cat was staring thoughtfully at the wall from which he had heard the sound. "This is the north wall." he stated.
The north wing contained the solitary cells.
He was cold.
Consciousness asserted itself slowly. The first thing that his mind could grasp was cold. And pain.
Minutes passed. His eyes opened blearily. At first he could make little sense of the glimmering he saw. He watched apathetically. The flickers, he saw, were falling downward. A low, crackling noise split the air, then faded into the distance.
Where was he? The last thing he remembered was the electric chair. And burning pain, different from the sickly ache that now permeated his body.
He had been killed. Then where was he? Was he a ghost? Could ghosts die? At that moment, he wished wholeheartedly so.
His eyes started to focus. The little glimmers were still falling. He could now see that they were separate drops. And, when they touched his bill, they were wet.
He tried to move. His body felt unbearably weak. At least the ache was no worse. He struggled to sit up. His heart fluttered with the exertion.
He achieved his goal and sat leaning against a metal wall. He was in a dumpster in the rain. It must have been the rain that had awakened him. How? Wasn't he dead?
No. He realized now, being dead wouldn't be like this. He had caught a glimpse of what was in store for him, and it was much warmer than this. How was he alive?
He had pulled a lot of the electrical wires from the chair. He remembered that clearly; he could still taste the insulation. Dark Warrior had turned the power down, so that it would not be as lethal. And, now that he thought about it, the metal headpiece had not been tightly fastened to his head, so it had not conducted electricity well. All of that must have saved him. But just barely, from the way he felt.
He did not want to move. But he would have to. If Dark Warrior found out that the corpse he had tossed out was not a corpse he would come back and finish the job. And enjoy it. The duck was a raving maniac! Negaduck had to undo this future; he couldn't cope with someone as psychotic as Dark Warrior!
He felt a little better now. He still hurt, but he no longer felt as if it was made of lead. A little longer, and he'd be able to make his way back to the Time Top and undo this whole miserable mess.
Lightning flashed above him. Thunder boomed a second afterwards. He glared resentfully up into the dark and stormy night sky.
Soon he forced himself to move. He had to be careful and stick to the alleys; he did not want to be caught by the patrol devices again. Not in his current state. As he traveled he felt his energy coming back slowly. The ache dulled.
Fortunately, the Time Top was where he had left it. In all the commotion Negaduck's "jailbreak" had caused, it had been overlooked.
The little girl was still inside, still tied up and quiet. Good. He set the controls for ten years in the past. When the top arrived he picked her up to take her back. And she kicked him sharply in the stomach. "Let me go, Negajerk!"
The air wheezed out of him. She dropped with a thud on the floor. She had managed to slip out of the leg bindings; her wrists were still tied, though.
He was in no mood for this. He took a gun out of his cape and pointed it at her. "You have no idea how badly I want to waste someone. Keep pushing it, kid!" he growled.
She stopped when she recognized the deadly seriousness in his voice. Negaduck wet a rag with chloroform. She began to struggle when he brought it to her face. He aimed the gun at her eyes. She stopped resisting.
He had to strain to lift her; he was still weak. Necessity forced him, though, and he managed to bring her back to the room with the wheel cage. Darkwing's sidekick and the gosling were still inside. Good, he had timed it right.
Launchpad shouted, "What've you done to her!" when he saw the limp girl in Negaduck's arms.
Negaduck ignored him. He took the chloroform-soaked cloth from Gosalyn's bill and shook her. When her eyes opened blearily he gave a soft sigh of relief.
He stopped the wheel, opened the door, and handed Gosalyn to Launchpad. "She'll come around in a few minutes, so don't freak out." he growled.
Holding her in his arms, Launchpad said, "Gos? Gos, you OK?"
Negaduck said, "Love to stay and watch this reunion, but I got better things to do. Ciao." and threw the switch that started the wheel again.
When he got back to the Time Top he collapsed wearily. That last scenario had been a little too close. Negaduck had never expected to experience the second most painful moment of his life at the hands of a mutated version of Darkwing Duck!
He threw the switch that would return the top to his present. He spent some time staring at the cityscape before he was satisfied that there were no robot drones flying about overhead.
He couldn't eliminate Darkwing by demoralizing him. The results were too unpredictable. He might give up the superhero shtick, or he might go crazy. And a crazy Darkwing was a match for Negaduck!
Negaduck picked up the book with the idea of finding clues that could lead him to Darkwing as a child. If he could eliminate the little freak then - but, no, without Darkwing the police became hard to handle. At least, if he eliminated Darkwing too early on.
A plan began forming in his mind. Ten years ago was the height of the supervillain population explosion in St. Canard. Against all odds Darkwing had single-handedly kept control of the city; the police had hardly tried to handle supervillains. If Darkwing disappeared then, the police would not learn how to deal with supervillains in time, and the city would be theirs! True, Negaduck had not been able to defeat Darkwing permanently back then - but Negaduck was ten years nastier and more experienced now.
The more he thought about it, the better the idea sounded. With ten years' experience advantage, he could smear Darkwing for sure. And, after what he had done - would have done? tried to do? - to Negaduck in the guise of Dark Warrior, he deserved it!
He spent some time mulling over possible approaches. Admittedly, Darkwing was a match for Negaduck now. What did Negaduck know now which would defeat an earlier Darkwing? They had been fighting each other for so long that they had actually evolved each other. Like a predator and its prey - the prey, to survive, learned to fight, and the predator, to thrive, became stronger and meaner. What he would do was spring the nastier predator on the weaker prey! But he would have to plan this one carefully, to avoid creating any more disastrous futures.
He spent some time trying to figure out just exactly what Darkwing had learned in the last ten years that Negaduck could capitalize on. He could not rely on physical skills; in that category the ten years might not act in Negaduck's favor. Unfortunately, no major superweapons had been developed in the last decade - too bad; Negaduck indulged in a daydream about a duck-seeking missile. Bombs were just as reliable, and just as unreliable, as ever. For his purposes, there might have been no developments in weapons technology at all. Even the wires in a time bomb were colored the same as ever.
Wait a minute; why should they be? Negaduck had tried switching the colors not too long ago, in the hopes that Darkwing would clip the wrong one and frag himself. Unfortunately Darkwing now knew too much about the construction of bombs to be fooled by the trick. But the earlier Darkwing wouldn't!
He went down into the basement and started looking through the cluttered shelves. "I know I had a spare bomb around here somewhere..."
Several hours later and ten years earlier, along the shore of Audubon Bay Negaduck opened the Time Top lid and lifted his work out. It was a simple time bomb, with the color coded wires switched and, just for insurance, the wires tangled to make it difficult to see what went where. Let Darkwing just try to defuse this baby!
He looked up at the Audubon Bay Bridge, which loomed above him. The city's greatest landmark. The perfect setting.
Soon a red cloud exploded in the middle of the bridge. Panicked drivers applied their brakes, and were rear-ended by the cars behind them. Traffic stopped all along the bridge. When the smoke cleared Negaduck was standing on the roof of a wrecked car, holding a device above his head. "This bridge is about to be abridged!" Negaduck shouted.
Gratifyingly, the people in the cars panicked and fled in a most disorderly fashion. Those who tried to turn around and drive away were blocked by cars whose owners had abandoned them. Negaduck enjoyed the chaos. And, for once, he was looking forward to Darkwing's inevitable interference!
A familiar voice, barely heard, caught his attention. He turned to look. There, running frantically toward him from the shore end of the bridge, was a duck wearing purple clothes. Negaduck was surprised. Where were the motorcycle and the airship? The duck cupped its hands around its mouth and shouted something at the top of its lungs.
The Thunderquack burst out of the bay beside one of the bridge support towers. It set down unsteadily on top of several abandoned cars. Its landing gear punched through the car roofs. The top opened, and Darkwing leapt out. "Freeze, fiend!"
"Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome!." Negaduck called cheerfully. "Glad to see you could make it to the party. I even brought you a present!" He threw the bomb several feet in the air and caught it again.
"Are you crazy?! You'll blow us all up!" Darkwing yelled.
"That's the point!" Negaduck replied, tossing it up again. He pretended to fumble it, giving Darkwing a near heart attack, then caught it at the last moment.
Darkwing put his Gas Gun away. "All right, Negs," he said in what was supposedly a soothing voice, "put the bomb down and we'll talk."
"Put it down? Okay." Negaduck dropped it, then caught it an inch above the ground.
"You are crazy, do you know that?!" Darkwing shouted in exasperation.
"I'm crazy? You're the one talking to a man holding a live bomb!" Negaduck said. "But, actually, it's not dangerous. This is a time bomb. It's only dangerous after you do this!" He pushed a button. Grinning, he handed the device to Darkwing and said, "Happy New Year." Then he dove over the edge of the bridge.
"What the- Negaduck!!" Darkwing shouted after him. He was answered by a splash. Looking back at the bomb, he saw the timer display. It read 01:00:00. He had an hour to defuse it. No sweat. Then he noticed that the rightmost two digits were flickering by almost too quickly to see. The display changed to read 00:59:00. Then 00:58:00.
"Don't panic. You've still got enough time. It's a simple bomb. Child's play for Darkwing Duck." Darkwing said to himself as he carefully put it down and fumbled in his pockets for something to cut the wires with. 00:39:00. He found his Swiss Woodchuck's knife. He opened the bomb casing. Inside was a tangled mess of multicolored wires; he could not see which led to the detonator switch. 00:17:00. He tried to separate the red wire from the rest - it was red, wasn't it? 00:09:00. Yes, it was always red. He pulled it away from the others and cut it.
Negaduck, swimming away from the bridge, heard the roar of an explosion. He turned back to look. Slowly the bridge began to pull apart and collapse, dumping cars into the water. Treading water, Negaduck watched as the weight of the bridge pulled at the weakened support towers, which toppled into the bay, kicking up a powerful wave. He said to himself. "Negaduck wins! Fatality!"
Hampered by his costume, Negaduck swam to the shore. Out of the water he was wet and cold, but it was worth any discomfort to witness Darkwing Duck's death! In the middle of wringing out his cape he realized that he had hidden the Time Top under one end of the bay bridge.
He ran along the shore to the bridge. When he came close he saw that the bridge's collapse had not gone completely to the edges - but it was none too stable looking. He sprinted for the Top, watching the remains of the bridge shift unpleasantly. He climbed in as fragments began drizzling down on the vehicle, and slapped the return switch. In his haste he failed to notice the second Top parked not far away.
Back home, he took off his waterlogged clothes. He started to put on a fresh costume - then he thought about it. Both of the previous new futures he had created had been extremely unhealthy to him. He had better wear his "civilian" costume, so he could scout around without being grabbed by policemen or crazed crimefighters.
He looked for any signs of change in the main city, but saw none. After the Dark Warrior Drones, that was a promising sign.
Out of habit more than anything else he went into the book store. Again, no pink-and-purple stand. Better and better. He took a newspaper, found a bench outside, and began looking through it.
He could see right off that no crimefighter or police force had managed to eliminate crime in this future. In fact, after some careful scanning he found mention of one of his old minions, Megavolt. He had managed to get himself arrested yet again. The silly fool had been taken in for removing traffic light bulbs, causing major traffic problems. Negaduck rolled his eyes. The idiot! He wasn't even caught for something worthwhile! If it wasn't for his electrical powers he'd be worthless as a supervillain.
Negaduck continued reading the article. Megavolt had been sent to the "impervious" St. Canard Supervillains' Prison after his conviction. The case was open-and-shut, due to the large number of witnesses. Negaduck skimmed the list. Then he went pale.
There, at the end of the list, was the name of the person who had arrested him: 'Darkwing Duck'!
What the H***?!
He reread it. His eyes had not played any tricks on him. 'Darkwing Duck'! How in the world had he survived that bomb blast? It had taken the whole bridge down!
He thumbed through the rest of the paper, looking for a picture of 'Darkwing Duck'. Maybe he was not the original - maybe someone else had taken up the role. It wouldn't be the first time a superhero's title had been passed on. If it wasn't the same duck, then Negaduck could handle him easily. But he could not find a picture anywhere in the paper.
He considered brazening his way into the police station, in the guise of a citizen who needed Darkwing Duck's help. But they would probably recognize his face from the time he had used them to frame Darkwing. Would they? No, it wasn't worth it.
He left the newspaper and walked down the street. How could Darkwing have survived the explosion that had wrecked the Audubon Bay Bridge? No, it wasn't possible! It had to be someone else. He would have to locate this phony and deal with him. He wasn't about to put up with any more crimefighters in his St. Canard!
He was so preoccupied with his thoughts he did not see the motorcycle coming down the street. When he finally looked up it was because of the familiar sound of its engine. Then he stopped walking and stared, slack jawed.
The driver of the Ratcatcher was staring back at him. It drove past and narrowly avoided slamming into a telephone pole. While Negaduck watched, the Ratcatcher managed a U-turn and pulled up to the sidewalk.
The two ducks stared in disbelief at each other. The one on the motorcycle - wearing a purple coat and cape - took off his helmet. Softly he said, "Who are you?"
Negaduck stepped back and looked the duck on the motorcycle up and down. "Who are you?"
The duck on the motorcycle dropped his gaze in embarrassment. "I can explain. Would you come with me? I operate out of SHUSH Central."
"Yeah, okay." Normally Negaduck would be warier, but his curiosity was too strong. He got into the sidecar of the Ratcatcher.
Darkwing's center of operations at SHUSH looked like a converted warehouse. Negaduck looked around closely. Had Darkwing's hideout always been in SHUSH? Negaduck had never considered the possibility. Maybe that was why the secret had never been broached - it was hidden right out in the open!
It was bare, compared with what Negaduck had imagined. Negaduck had believed Darkwing had a larger collection of crimefighting gizmos, at least. Maybe he threw them away after he got tired of them. Darkwing parked the Ratcatcher on its platform. "I don't use the tower. I couldn't." he said suddenly, as if answering an unasked question.
"Yeah." Negaduck answered. "So you work out of SHUSH. I would never have guessed."
"I have to." Darkwing replied.
"Whatever." Then Negaduck realized what was missing. "Where's the Thunderquack?"
Darkwing looked away. "Launchpad and Gosalyn moved out of the city. They moved to Duckburg." he said in a low voice.
"They did? When?"
"As soon as I was released from treatment. He adopted her, I think. I've left them alone. SHUSH will tell you where they are."
"Don't you want to see them?" Darkwing said, surprised.
"Oh, I'll get around to it." Why did this duck think he wanted to see those two?
"They'll want to know you're still alive after all. And so will SHUSH. I'll step down and you can take over again. But - how did you survive? The entire bridge collapsed!"
"To tell the truth, I don't remember. A bomb sure packs a wallop. I guess I was blown clear." Negaduck lied.
"They never did find the body... I'd hoped that you'd lived somehow, but I gave up on that long ago. Who did it? Who bombed the bridge?" Darkwing asked desperately.
Negaduck shook his head. "I don't remember." So this duck was convinced that he was Darkwing? Then who was this duck?!
"Well, at least you're alive." Darkwing took the grey hat off and held it out to Negaduck. "St. Canard'll want the real item back."
"Hold on." Negaduck did not take the hat. "I've been out of it for a long time. What happened since I 'died'? Fill me in."
Darkwing began to pace nervously. "There was a huge public outcry. You would've liked it." he forced a laugh. "You became a martyr to justice, cut down trying to protect the city from its worst enemy. It didn't hurt that it was so spectacular, with the bridge coming down and all. As I said, they never did find the corpus delicti, but they figured that the bomb blew you to bits.
"Almost a year after, I, uh, stepped in. Trying to fill the gap, I guess. That's when Launchpad took Gosalyn away. He wouldn't raise her in the same city I lived in, so I heard. Anyway, I did clean up the city pretty well, since I, well, understand criminals." Again, the forced, nervous laugh. "Occasionally someone breaks out of the Supervillain's Prison, or another new one appears, but they don't last long."
"You've done pretty good, haven't you? What do you want me back for?" Negaduck asked.
Darkwing looked back with a pained expression. "I'm only a substitute-"
Negaduck waved him off. "Yeah, enough of the modesty already. Brother, the place has changed. All the droogs are in jail and I'm yesterday's news."
"You're not - what did you say?"
"I said, I'm yesterday's news." Negaduck repeated, warming to the role.
"No. Before that."
"All the criminals are in jail."
"No - you said 'droogs'. I've heard that before." Darkwing said.
"Oh, that. It means gang members. Slang." Then, suspiciously, he said, "Where have you heard that word?"
Darkwing looked away, ashamed. He admitted reluctantly, "I... used to speak that way. Long ago."
Negaduck's patience was exhausted. "All right, joke's over. WHO ARE YOU?"
Darkwing stared at him. After a long moment he dropped his glance to the floor and forced himself to say, "I... I was Negaduck."
Negaduck laughed out loud. "Very funny! If you're Negaduck, I'm The Fourth Horseman! Enough of the garbage already."
Darkwing spoke quickly, as if a floodgate had opened. "I used to be Negaduck. Whoever killed you made it look as if I had done it. But I hadn't! There was a manhunt. I was finally caught. Can you believe it, I got what was coming to me for the one crime I was innocent of! They sentenced me to death. But the sentence was commuted to an experimental rehabilitation technique that SHUSH had developed. Supposedly they could rehabilitate anyone. Anyone. The technique was - well, I was the ideal subject because if it did work it would prove that it'd work on anyone. And it didn't matter what they put me through; nothing could be too harsh for Darkwing's murderer. I didn't think it would work; I planned to fake being 'cured' so I could get out.
"But it did work. I can't commit a crime. I can't even think about it. They've even let me have my freedom, sort of, although they keep an eye on me." He gestured, indicating his hideout.
Negaduck shook his head in disbelief. This duck must be out of his mind, if he thought that anyone would believe such a ridiculous tale. "Sure. They developed this years ago. Then why are they still using the Supervillains' prison?"
"It's... drastic. When they tried to use it on others people called it inhumane. They could use me because I was a special case." Darkwing said in a flat tone of voice.
"How in the world could anyone turn St. Canard's deadliest menace into a crimefighter? I don't see any lobotomy scars."
"They did things to my mind, but not surgically. They forced me to hate evil and lawlessness." he recited mechanically.
"How did they do that?"
Darkwing was starting to look queasy. He spoke slowly, as if forcing each word. "Aversion conditioning. I can't even think about it without..." he stopped and closed his eyes. He looked as if he were close to being violently ill. When he was able to speak again he said, "I don't have a choice." with a look of misery.
"You mean, if you even think about being naughty, you get sick? That's all?"
"I wish! I wish-" he suddenly went pale. He leaned against the wall to steady himself. "They had to do this. I wish they hadn't had to." He looked calmer.
"Okay, they turned evil incarnate into a complete pussycat with this miracle treatment. That doesn't explain the purple getup."
"I have to make sure they don't get the idea that I'm backsliding. If they do they give me another shot of 'therapy'." He shuddered involuntarily. "I can't go back to that. I can only fight crime because they conditioned me that way. The only violence I can commit is in the name of the law. But just let me get my hands on a criminal..." The ghost of a familiar vicious grin appeared as he clenched his fists.
"Why don't you just skip town then? They can't scramble your brains any more if they can't find you. Maybe this will wear off."
"I can't. I can't leave town. I can't do anything they tell me I can't do. Post-hypnotics. I tried a few times. They just put me through more conditioning afterwards. And I can't even end it all. I can't harm anyone, even myself, except to stop a crime, like I told you. And suicide's against the law."
Negaduck snorted. "This is disgusting. You're pitiful."
Darkwing flinched, then said softly, "I - maybe so." He held out the grey hat to Negaduck. "You ought to be doing this, not me." he said pleadingly.
"And if I do, it'll prove that I'm still alive, and maybe they'll let you loose." Negaduck said.
"You must really hate me." Negaduck said contemplatively. "It's all because of me that this happened to you. You'd still be loose, doing what you do best, instead of trailing around in that silly purple outfit, desperately trying to prove you're a good boy so SHUSH won't punish you any more. I bet you'd love to bash me one. Wouldn't you?" Darkwing did not answer. Negaduck suddenly slapped him so hard that his head turned.
Enraged, Darkwing started to swing a retaliatory fist. Then he went rigid. All the color drained from his face. In a choking voice he said "No."
"Oh, admit it. You miss the old days. Back in The Negaverse, before you ever even heard of this place. The britva and the nozh, the red red krovvy. Aren't you just dying for a bit of the old ultra-violence!"
By this time Darkwing looked as if he were about to suffocate. "NO!" he screamed in pain. "How do you know all that?!"
"About your old haunts? They used to be mine, too. Haven't you guessed by now? I guess that the 'rehabilitation' - or that purple costume - sapped your brain too!"
"You're from The Negaverse too?" Darkwing gasped.
"Not only that, I'm not Darkwing, I'm the former leader of the Fearsome five, and before that the ruler of the Negaverse St. Canard. I'm also the one who killed Darkwing Duck! It involves time travel. You're just the result of a mistake. But don't worry, I'm going to go back and fix it, so you won't even have happened!"
Darkwing stared at him for a moment. Then he closed his eyes and said, "All this will never have happened." as if to himself.
Negaduck stared back. On an impulse he drew his gun and jabbed its barrel into Darkwing's coat, just to the left of his sternum.
Darkwing looked at the weapon. Then he closed his eyes and relaxed.
Negaduck paused, surprised. Then he punched him as hard as he could, knocking him out. "Idiot." he muttered, stalking out of the room.
He half expected Darkwing to try to follow him. Wouldn't a crimefighter try to prevent him from changing the course of history? But then, this Darkwing was no crimefighter, not really. He wouldn't even fight for his life! He wanted to be eliminated! And Negaduck would be happy to oblige.
To set everything right in this timeline, he would have to stop himself from killing Darkwing. He'd take the time top to just after he had arrived the first time, and stop himself. Okay, it might be a paradox, but anything was better than this!
By the time he had returned to the Top he had figured out his plan. He would dress as Darkwing and take his place. When Negaduck handed him - he handed himself? - the bomb he would simply throw it into the bay. In the minute the timer gave him it would sink down far enough for the water to damp down the explosion. All he had to do was switch costumes. Fortunately, he always had a spare purple suit. He changed clothes, then set the controls for several minutes after he had arrived the first time.
When he exited the top - which was parked near an exact duplicate of itself - he saw a puff of red smoke appear on the bridge. He scrambled up to the base of the bridge. He had to fight against the fleeing crowd. He would not make it in time! He stopped, cupped his hands to his mouth, and shouted at the top of his lungs, "STOP! DON'T DO IT!"
The Negaduck holding the bomb glanced in his direction. Then The Thunderquack burst out of the bay.
Negaduck ran as hard as he could towards the center of the bridge, hoping to beat the airship, cursing mentally because he had no breath to waste. But the cars choking the bridge blocked him. He wouldn't make it. He shouted again as the airship landed on the cars, its landing gear punching through the car roofs.
Then he realized that his shouting would do no good, because it had done no good. He had ignored the duck shouting at him when he had given Darkwing the bomb! But he couldn't give up. If he did something differently, maybe that would work. The Thunderquack's dome opened. Negaduck whipped out a machine gun and began shooting at it. The dome snapped closed.
Negaduck scrambled onto a car hood and began running over the tops of the vehicles, shooting a few bullets at the airship every time its dome opened. The Negaduck holding the bomb waited for him to arrive, grinning with anticipation.
When he arrived, half out of breath, he said, "You idiot, don't you realize what'll happen if you set that thing off?!"
"Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome!" he called cheerfully. "Glad you could make it to the party. I even brought you a present!" He threw the bomb several feet in the air and caught it again.
He heard the Thunderquack's dome started to open again. He whirled around and shot a volley of bullets at it, snarling "Stay outta this!" To the bomber he shouted, "Give me that thing! You're going to wreck everything!"
"That's the point!" he grinned and tossed it in the air again, then pretended to fumble the catch, giving Negaduck a near heart attack. "Oh, calm down. This thing isn't dangerous. It's a time bomb. It's only dangerous after you do this!" He pushed a button. Grinning, he handed the device to Negaduck and said, "Happy New Year." Then he dove over the edge of the bridge.
The Thunderquack's dome opened. Darkwing leapt out, Gas Gun in hand. "Freeze, imposter!"
"I don't have time for this!" Negaduck snarled. He had to pitch the bomb away - over the other side of the bridge, or it would explode too close to his earlier self and kill him.
Darkwing shot a gas cartridge at Negaduck. It exploded in a cloud of knockout gas. Negaduck tried to flee, but he still got a small dose of the gas. Darkwing snatched the bomb out of his hands and began looking at the wires.
Negaduck grabbed it back. "Are you crazy? We've got to get rid of this thing!" He ran for the edge of the bridge. Darkwing grappled with him. Negaduck desperately wrenched the bomb away from him again and brought it down hard on Darkwing's head. Then he threw it into the water as hard as he could.
He looked back at Darkwing. The crimefighter was lying flat on the ground, his eyes closed. Negaduck couldn't have hit him THAT hard with the bomb. Could he? It was a heavy gadget. He opened one of Darkwing's eyes, then slapped him. "Wake up!" he shouted.
Darkwing blinked dazedly. "And the rockets' red glare..." he mumbled. Good, the creep was still alive.
Say, shouldn't the bomb have exploded by now?
He went to the side of the bridge and looked down. And the water erupted in his face, blowing him high into the air.
When he came to, some hours later, he was washed up on one side of the bay. His costume was tattered. And he must have swallowed a gallon of none-too-pure bay water.
Blearily he looked about himself. It was dusk. Hours had passed. When his eyes focused he looked for the bridge. It was still there, damaged but intact. Darkwing, lying in the middle of it, would have been shielded from the blast. As Negaduck would have been if he had not looked over the edge. And there, under one end of the bridge, was one Time Top.
Wearily he dragged himself back to the machine and punched the return switch, sending himself forward to his proper present.
He had tried eliminating Darkwing several times, and the results had been worse and worse. If he did away with Darkwing at any time in the past, something worse would happen. At least in the real Darkwing he had an equal opponent, not a psychotic crimefighter or a mutilated version of himself.
This whole time travel thing was a stupid idea. He was better off now, fighting an enemy that he was familiar with. Screwing around with the past was just asking for disaster. He wished that he had never thought of it.
That could be arranged.
The Time Top appeared several hours before dawn in front of SHUSH Central. The surprised security guard said, "Darkwing? We weren't expecting you to deliver this until this afternoon."
"Yeah. Well, this is so some supervillain can't read about it in the paper and steal it." Negaduck grumbled. "I don't trust your security. You going to take it or are we gonna stand out here in the rain?"
"I'll take it in. Say, what happened to you? You look like you've been training for the demolition squad."
"Rough night crimefighting. Take this stupid thing, I don't ever want to see it again." Negaduck snarled and stalked away.
He walked through the rain to his home. He considered stealing a car, but he was too tired to bother. When he arrived he caught sight of the newspaper on his neighbor's lawn. Briefly he stared at the source of his inspiration.
He picked the newspaper up, took it out of its protective plastic bag, and pitched it down the storm drain.
All characters copyright © Disney. Story copyright © Kim McFarland. Permission is given by the author to copy this story for personal use only, provided no changes are made to the story or the credits.
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