‘And it used to be, for awhile, that the river flowed right to my door.
Making me just a little too free.
But now the river doesn’t seem to stop here anymore.’
-The Right Thing To Do, Carly Simon
It was to be the worst day in Puckworld's history. Fate gathered on the horizon like an invisible mist, premonitions shooting from it to the more observant ducks below. The strange rumbles coming from the cloudless skies bothered some, but were dismissed as construction work somewhere. A few seemed to sense the danger hanging in the air, however, mostly ducks that had spent their whole lives smelling it. Like thieves.
Duke L'Orange was blissfully unaware of this.
The greatest thief on Puckworld smiled in his sleep, and curled up. More than likely he was cold. A roof-top was not really adequate protection against the weather, especially with the ice season just starting. He'd slept in the open enough times for the temperature not to matter though, and he dreamed on.
Until the shout, that is.
Duke woke with a start as the police duck that had found him yelled to his fellow officers. He immediately jumped to his feet, but stayed standing where he was.
"You're surrounded L'Orange. Maybe you should throw in the towel and come quietly." the duck said, approaching carefully. Duke wasn't known for violence, but cornered rats_
Duke laughed, unconcerned. "I seem to recall I was told that just last week. Is that a standard thing to say, or do you all have no imagination?"
The duck continued to approach. Duke grumbled a bit, and stepped towards that ledge. "I'll jump." Duke told him, not bothering to put much expression in his voice. It wasn't needed. The police were always so paranoid, so easily to manipulate_
"Hey now, that wont be necessary." the duck put on his `counselling' voice.
Duke couldn't help but smile slightly. He decided to play his game a little longer.
Far above Duke, a lizard grinned evilly. "Prepare to de-cloak_NOW!"
Duke was forced to jump back when a laser beam suddenly split the roof between the thief and the cop. The law keeper screamed as he fell through the roof. Duke tried desperately to regain his balance. Almost, almost_no. Duke toppled backwards off the top of the building.
"*What*?" Mallory screeched, looking at a computer screen. "Sir, I think this darn thing is malfunctioning again_Why I'm on monitor duty I'll never know_" She groaned, not knowing how to fix the problem. The contraption had to be broken, either that, or the entire planet was being attacked, including DuCaine Metropolis, where she was now. She turned to her general.
"Sir, how do you_?" Seeing the look on his face she changed question. "You think we ARE under attack?"
He was gazing out the window. He suddenly raced to one of the many computers, and slammed his fist on a red button. Alarms sounded all over the compound. "McMallard, get me Tanya Vanderflock. Then report to your superior officer, Thunderbeak." He started pacing.
She saluted and raced out of the room.
"I can't believe that Mum doesn't trust me and Jade enough to let us go to the mall by ourselves." Nosedive Flashblade grumbled.
Wildwing grinned as he patted his `baby' brother on the back. "Gee Dive, I wonder why? I mean you've only just substituted the sugar in the sugar bowl with salt, given Dad dishwater with brown food colouring instead of tea, melted your old crayons in the microwave_"
Nosedive silenced him with a wave. "Yeah, but I did those at home, not at the mall!"
"You'd think she'd be glad to get rid of us! Well, him mostly_I only helped with finding the food colouring_" Jadestar smiled at the memory of her foster father only discovering their prank when he'd gone into the kitchen looking for sugar and found them making the same concoction for his wife.
"Personally, I'm surprised Mary let you go. By rights, you two should have been grounded weeks ago." Wildwing grabbed Nosedive to hold him back when the boy tried to cross a road in front of a car. "Besides, you're 14, and despite rigorous training, can not cross a road without getting your feathers spread all over it."
Nosedive was about to give the answer that he felt that comment befitted when the car that had just gone past exploded into flame as it went past a joining road. The three young ducks stared in shocked amazement as a huge red and grey robot appeared. Wildwing grabbed his siblings by the wrists, pulling them roughly with him as he spun around. "Run." he ordered.
Duke shot a grappling hook up towards the roof, continuing to fall. He held his breath as it arched away to the top of the building. It finally stopped his fall about one story above death. "Stars," he muttered. "That one was close." He slashed at the rope with his sabre, and fell the last space to the pavement, landing like the professional he was. "I *think*," he mumbled as he eyed the advancing Saurians and drones. "That now just might be a good time to leave."
Grin opened one eye as his mediation in the park was rudely interrupted. He grumbled as he went up to a drone who has about to shoot a female duck. He grabbed it from behind, and threw, ignoring her thanks, then set about making the park peaceful again. Cyborg after cyborg fell at his hands, and he'd finished off almost half in the area before the military got there. By then, Grin was the only duck left in the park.
A red head finished off a few still making for him, and ran over. "It's no good, there's more where they came from. Follow me." She ran off, and Grin followed.
Tanya frowned as she viewed the drones up close. There was no way short of shooting them all that she could see of stopping them. She'd hoped for a kind of transmitter, so she could find the frequency they'd been using, so she could jam it, but she'd found nothing. She opened the radio-like circle on her wrist and spoke into it. "Sir? I think the only way to stop them is to, uh, like, attack. You'll just have to get the whole military out fighting."
The general sighed. "OK Vanderflock. Are you coming back?"
"Yeah. I'll blow a few up on the way."
"Wait. It's Saurians?"
"Uh huh. Signing off." Tanya closed the connection, and set about making her way back to the base.
"This is so much not good." Nosedive complained, growling under his breath as he was forced to put his hands behind his back and walk in a line behind his brother and sister by a Saurian, and he frowned. "Wildwing, I thought you said that there were no more Saurians!"
"You're the one who knows the legends Dive. Where were they meant to be?"
"Sounds like a great place."
"Ha ha ha."
"Maybe that's why they broke out." Jadestar commented.
"But the whole point is that they weren't meant to be able to!" Having done an assignment on Drake DuCaine for school, Nosedive had become interested, and had followed up his project with research. Jadestar always joked that the only reading he ever did either involved pictures, or the Mask. She was right.
"Quit talking back there!" the Saurian ordered to the last three ducks on the line.
"Bite me." muttered Nosedive.
"Don't tempt me." the Saurian grinned, showing a mouthful of teeth.
Mallory jumped as a Saurian fell against her back, dead. She spun around, and saw a grey duck with a white streak in his hair grinning cheekily at her, spinning a sabre. "Gotta watch ya back, doll."
"Don't call me `doll'." Mallory growled.
The duck held up his hands and backed away, still grinning. "Sure thing sweetheart." He was suddenly gone, and Mallory was left with the ever-silent duck she'd already picked up.
"Dang, he could've been useful." Mallory muttered as she and Grin continued towards her headquarters.
Duke sighed as he watched the destruction of DuCaine Metropolis. He looked on as the seemingly endless supply of drones ferried lines and lines of ducks along the street, heading for who knew where. Duke longed to go down there to try and free at least a few, but it would have been suicide in the narrow streets which they now occupied.
"Should've stuck with the red head." Duke mumbled. "Cute and she looked like she knew what she was doing." Course, she was with the military, and they'd like nothing better than my beak on a plate for that stunt I pulled last week. Wouldn't have done it if I'd known that the blasted Saurians were gonna show. I mean, what was I going to do with an Areowing anyway? Gotta remember what I did with that_underground somewhere, wasn't it? Remembering where you stashed your winnings was Duke's least favourite part of being a thief. He shrugged, deciding it might take awhile to get to where ever he'd put it no matter how fast he figured out exactly where that where was.
"_And there's no chance for outside help?" Canard Thunderbeak asked his leader.
"No. We're the only military on the planet with still-working communications. The `brains' have been working on trying to establish connections with every other single base, all drawing nothing." Since the Presidential home had been among the first things bombed, and the vice-president homes on the other continents had been next, the man who was known only as `General' was now in charge of Puckworld, and he was trying to save a planet with one all ready wounded army. He'd asked Canard in for someone to talk to, and a special assignment_ "Tell me Thunderbeak, have you ever heard of the Mask of Drake DuCaine?"
Canard almost smiled, remembering the many times he'd been subjected to Nosedive's excited rambling. "Yes, Sir."
"Tell me what it does."
"It sees through the cloaking devices of the Saurians, and can determine the true structure of objects. Sir."
The General flexed his fingers out of jumpiness. "I want you to find it."
Canard raised an eyebrow. "It doesn't exist. It's a legend."
"Canard, I don't care if it's a fairy. We need that Mask to find Dragaunus. Got it?"
Canard sighed inwardly and saluted. "Yes Sir!" Where's Nosedive when you need him? Canard gazed at the carnage from a window as he walked down the hall, heading for his quarters, to pack for the evacuation of the base to a safer and less visible building. Dead probably. Like Puckworld.
Canard started to pray to a God he didn't believe in.