One In a Million: Salute to Our Leader

By Nyre

Accessing file...

Four tan-feathered fingers rapped continuously on the console. A pair of deep blue eyes searched the screen slowly... then...

Warning... warning... warning...

Confidential File.

Enter Password.

Okaaay.... Uhm, what was that password the Gen told me...? Oh yeah. Noble Avonnfeather slipped in the disk and typed in the commands. Minutes passed then...

File Accessed.

... First Strike Force.... Retrieval... Dimensional Gateway...

First strike force! Noble's mind raced. Duke...! He jumped out of his chair as soon as he pressed the 'save' option and ran to Max Swiftshadow's quarters.

* * *

"You're sure, Noble?" the most trusted members of the young Brotherhood had all gathered in their leader's quarters. Max Swiftshadow glanced from left to right and sighed closing his emerald eyes as one of the remaining former Blades nodded.

"Wait, then this means that the rest of the government hasn't done anything to get the team back! Those--"

"Hold it, Jeanette." Melancholy stopped her friend. "We have to think this whole thing through. And besides the Gen was the one who gave Nobe the codes. We should be thankful."

"There's nothin' to think through, Choly. I say we go and take the job," came Damone's deep voice as he glanced at his fellow comrades. "Max, what's your decision?"

Max Swiftshadow was silent for moments... If we retrieve Duke then... The present leader of the Brotherhood stood and picked up his katana, raising it high up in the air. "We go. Noble?" He paused. "Find the things we need. We're following Duke, and getting him back."

* * *

"Uh-oh." Tanya muttered softly to herself as she looked up at Drake 1 after finishing her regular weekly maintenance check. What on Earth is going on? She typed in a few numbers and swallowed hard. No... it can't be... "GUYS!!!!!" She screamed at top volume as she slammed her wrist on the alarm button.

* * *

What the?! Nyre sat up as Drake 1's alarm sounded. Time to get movin'. She quickly morphed into battle gear as she rushed out her door colliding with Nosedive, Hacker, Castel and Dee.

"Quit fooling around you guys," Dee muttered, helping Castel and Nyre to stand. Dive and Hacker snorted and stood and the five made their way to the Ready Room, meeting up with Mallory at the door.

"Tanya, what now?!" Drake and Duke had just come from the internal gym and were still in their sparring uniforms. Grin came in with Ace and Wildwing shortly.

"Yeah, Taunny, where's lizard-lips now? I wanna kick some major scale!" Nosedive punched his fist into his palm. Tanya simply stared at the computer screen, turning pale under her feathers.

"Tanya...?" Castel reached out and touched the blond tech's shoulder. "You okay?"

"No." She whispered pointing to a red blip on the screen.

"What... is that?" Mallory asked softly making her way over to Drake.

"Isn't that..." Hacker began.

"...teleportation energy...?" Ace finished for his friend. Everyone exchanged glances.

"And it's... right here," Nyre pointed out, falling back a step.

Suddenly the lights went out. Tanya fumbled for the emergency light switch and found it. She glanced around to make sure that everyone was okay and pulled open the drawer where she kept all the flashlights.

Wildwing donned the golden mask and barked out a command to the whole team. "Okay! Move out! Check every part of the HQ. Hacker, Dee, stay here with Tanya and bolt and lock all the doors in the Pond. Whatever came in, I don't want it getting out." He turned his attention to the others, "the rest of you, move out. The usual team-ups. No complaints -- JUST MOVE!"

* * *

Max sat up and rubbed his back glancing around. Trig! Skye! He managed to move over to where his two best friends lay, unmoving. "Hey, get up you two!" He nudged each one. His heart began to race. They've gotta be okay...

"Wha...? Five more minutes Jean... I wanna sleep," Trigger moaned out softly and turned over.

"Idget! Get up!" Max laughed and shoved his friend.


"Max here."

"Max, where are you? Are Trigger, Skyler and Damone with you?" Jeanette's face appeared on the viewscreen of his comm.

"Trig and Skye are here... Dame...?" he glanced around.

"'Live and well..." came a grunt from the shadows. "Where on Puckworld are we?"

"He's fine, Jean, where are you?"

* * *

Jeanette surveyed her surroundings. Metal walls... good ventilation... the design resembled some of that on Puckworld... but she had a gut feeling that wherever they were, it wasn't on Puckworld. She glanced back to the comm and sighed in exasperation, "I'm alone... I think. But I've got a trace on Choly and Noble. Stick together and switch on your tracker. I'm out." And she shut the communicator.

* * *


"'ver here Choly." Melancholy rolled onto her left side, her right ribs were hurting bad. But at least she felt she could stand. She got onto her feet and fumbled for Noble in the darkness. "Darn it all... why the he--"

"Stop that, Nobe." Choly hissed as she got hold of his arm. "Ya got your penlight?"

"Here." A light suddenly filled the space it could in the room. Noble smiled up weakly at the younger duck as he pointed to his foot. It was twisted in an odd angle. "I don't think it's broken...sprained maybe, care to take a look at the thing?" Melancholy nodded and bent down gently picking up her comrade's foot.

"Choly! Noble!" A voice came form the darkness, the two exchanged glances.

"A little further Jeannie..." Noble called back. The brown female duck suddenly appeared before them, Conrad in tow, but she stopped at the plight of her friend. "Wha.. what...?"

"Twisted the stupid thing. Hey Conrad." The duck in question smiled back and leaned down to help Melancholy. "Where're the boys?" Noble returned his attention to the older duck who sighed and checked her tracker.

"On their way." And minutes later the whole group was gathered in the hallway and settled their division plans. They had to find out where they were.

* * *

"I don't like this, Wing," Nyre murmured as she watched his back, launcher raised and ready to fire did the need come. She shuddered as she looked into the darkness. "Something about this doesn't feel..."

"Right?" He supplied.

"No, normal." She shook her head. "It's not usual for us to get teleportation energy within the HQ. Any guesses who it could be?" She felt him stop and she turned. "Wing...?"

"Shhh..." He hushed her as he bent to pick up something. He raised it to the light for her to see.

"What's that?"

"A broach." He frowned. He'd seen one like this before... in Duke's room before when he'd helped fix it up a little. The broach of a Brotherhood member.

"Wait... isn't that..."

"The Brotherhood emblem." The white drake nodded and handed it to her while opening his comm. "But it's different. It's the color of an emerald, Duke carries a maroon colored one... and he doesn't even use it anymore."

"What are you saying...?" the human asked as she eyed him curiously.

Instead of replying he contacted Duke by a click of a switch. "Duke, I think you need to see something." And Wildwing raised the broach for him to see.

* * *

No. Couldn't be. Duke L'Orange's mind raced. Only moments before had he and Grin split up when his comm had beeped for his attention. Now he wished it hadn't.

I know only three people who use green within the Brotherhood. His thoughts turned to Jeannete. No. Not Jeannie, she uses the pale colored ones. Couldn't be Garrett, he uses the dull kind. He swallowed and a pair of bright emerald eyes came to mind.

"Duke?" came Nyre's voice over the comm.

"Uh, yeah? What d'ya need angela?"

"Same question DK, who uses this?"



Duke's eyes darted to the blind corner of the hallway. He narrowed them and placed a finger to shush Nyre and Wildwing and shut off his comm to avoid distraction, noise and detection.

Who are ya...? He ignited his saber just as a form came out from the shadows in a defensive stance.

* * *

Dive felt Castel stiffen behind him. Its either all my senses are playing tricks on me... He glanced suspiciously into the darkness and his grip on the flashlight tightened. Or someone's there... waiting.

A flash of silver-blue light shone suddenly.

"Castel! DOWN!!!" Dive ducked and launched several pucks in the direction of the light. Damn! He pounded his fist into the floor and got up.

"D-d-did you see that?" came the hybrid's soft voice behind him. He reached over and gave her a hard squeeze. "Don' worry girly-girl. Whoever that was... we'll get him, uhm... her... er... it." And the two rushed into the dark.

* * *

You nut! Noble gritted his teeth together. You almost got blasted. He glanced to Melancholy who was frowning deeply beside him. "Wha's wrong?"

She glanced at him. "You didn't notice?" she whispered. "Those were two ducks." Noble remained silent, assessing the situation. "From your readings on the doorway operator we aren't on Puckworld. We're on some planet in a spiral galaxy about, I dunno... several light years from Puckworld. And yet, we end up seeing ducks!" Her voice had worry written all over it.

Noble deactivated his saber and nodded. "Something's not right. I've..." He paused. "I've seen that kid before."

"Which kid, Nobe, the male or the female?"

"The male. He looks..." Suddenly realization hit him like a blaster three inches away form his face. "That kid was in the strike force." He told her, voice low.

Melancholy gave him a questioning look. "How are you sure...?"

"When the Gen showed me the data files... I got a good look at the pictures and files. I think the kid's name was... something Flashblade... got a brother with him as well. That McMallard chick is in with the force too."

Choly frowned and elbowed him. Her look told him everything he needed to know.

Talk about the Gen's daughter with respect.

Noble smiled weakly realizing that he'd used a term she deeply disliked. "Okay, okay... the daughter of the General McMallard is with them too. Ya happy?" She snorted in reply. "Who else?"

"Well, Duke."


Beep. Jeanette's face came into view. "Max is missing, any ideas where the kid may be...?"

* * *

Duke lunged at his unseen opponent and in turn the smaller boy, yes, boy ducked and rolled away. The grey duck suddenly recognized the maneuver. "Max!" He cried out and backed away. Instantly he heard a clang as what he had evaluated as a katana strriking the floor.

There was a moment of deafening silence... then....

"Duke...?" came a soft, uncertain voice. Next came out Maximillian Swiftshadow, the present leader of the Brotherhood. Duke felt a wave of mixed emotions rush through him and he suddenly pulled the younger duck close, hugging him as a father would his own son.

"Max!" Duke pulled back and gave the boy a once over. "You look different now..." He smiled softly. "You look more refined than when I..." His voice trailed and his eyes took on a wistful look.

"Left? Duke, it's okay. I... uhm, I mean, things have been going good." Max's emerald eyes twinkled. "So... uhm... where exactly are we?"



"A planet far from Puckworld. We've been here for a little over two years now. The team's still pretty much intact 'cept for... Canard."

"Mr. Thunderbeak?" The youth asked disbelieving. "Is the Gen... I mean, General McMallard's daughter still here? I..." he paused and fished for something in his pack. "I have something to give her."

The ex-thief smiled and put an arm around the younger boy. "She's safe and well. Let's get ba--"

A familiar female scream sounded somewhere North. Duke's eyes widened. "'Gel!" He grabbed Max's arm and rushed into the direction of Nyre's scream.

* * *

Nyre slammed into the wall and dropped her launcher. Damn. She glanced up quickly at the Raptrin who frowned down at her. In his hand was a duck saber, the blade almost transparent, a silver light shone on the tip.

Where'd Wing go? She wondered, quickly dodging her opponent and jumping into the next part of the hall where she activated the newly installed ice-shield to stop him from coming any closer. "That's as far as you go, buddy." She leaned on the wall and clutched her wounded shoulder. What's a Raptrin doing here?! Could he be someone in league with Falcone?!

Things had gone so fast. She and Wing had split up only for a few seconds when she'd felt another presence with her. What came next was a flash of light and in panic or in reflex action she shot a puck at her unseen opponent. When she'd gotten wounded was a mystery to her. She hadn't noticed the wound until she had slammed onto the wall.

She watched her nemesis now as he paced back and forth, his eyes searching her. Evaluating her.


"'Gel! Hey kid! Nyre!" came the sound of Duke's voice. A flicker came to the Raptrin's eyes and Nyre saw her chance. In a flash she had the shield down, had pulled out her own saber and had charged back at the boy.

He's strong. She thought to herself as their sabers connected. He began to push her down. Down at the floor. No. I won't go down! A pain suddenly shot through her arm and her knees buckled. Oh God. No. Not now... She fell to the floor and her saber clattered beyond her reach. Oh Lord. She felt herself tremble as the Raptrin placed the saber tip at her throat. I am gonna die. She shut her eyes waiting for the worst.

"TRIGGER!!!" two voices demanded.

* * *

Trigger dropped his saber and stared in disbelief and shock at the sight before him. "Lord Duke...!" He exclaimed and dropped to his knees.

"'Nuff with the Lord, Trig, just move away and lemme get to Nyre."

Nyre? The Raptrin glanced up and at the young female... off-worlder in the corner. Her eyes exposed all emotion. And right now it was a mixture of several.

Confusion. Fear. Shock. And a number of other emotions that made him wince. Was this Duke's friend? Did he just attack a companion of the leader...?

He watched as Duke approached her and cradled her in his arms. An image of a brother and a younger sister crept into his mind but he shook it away. Duke's alive! He's here! He cast a glance at one of his closest friends, Max. The young leader's eyes watched the two intently.

"You 'kay angel?"

"Just don't let Wing know 'bout this and I'll be fine."

"It's a little too late for that, girly-girl." Trigger glanced behind Max where a small group had gathered. He recognized them from the pictures of the first Strike team. They were alive!

He blinked as he suddenly noticed another duck, female, carrying a semblance to the off-worlder with Duke...and with five fingers.

Immediately seeing the same and thinking on the same wavelength both he and Max drew their sabers and went into defense stance as the duck approached.

Obviously stunned by their reaction she stepped back and into the arms of who Trigger recognized as Wildwing Flashblade. But he wore... the mask? The mask of Drake DuCaine! Canard Thunderbeak was supposed to have hold of that!

His mind raced and his eyes darted in all directions.

"Easy now Trig," came a soft, low and smooth as silk voice from the shadows. "I know it seems confusing. I myself am trying to take it all in."

"Conrad." Duke smirked and reached into the shadows to pull out another duck with black feathers and golden-brown eyes.

"How long have ya been there?!" Max's jaw dropped.

The black duck grinned at his former apprentice. "Quite awhile now." He cast a thoughtful glance at the girl beside Duke. "Ya alright lass?" She nodded in reply. "Duke, she looks much like Wind did."

Duke shook his head. "Same species, Conrad. In fact..." He blinked and paused. "We're on their planet." He turned his gaze shifted to the tall white drake hugging the five-fingered duck who glanced fearfully at Max and Trigger. "Wing, take Nyre will ya. Oh and..." He put his hands on the flat ends of the two boys sabers, pushing them down to point at the floor. "Enough." He glanced to each one, giving them both stern glares. "Both o' ya." His eyes softened as he approached the female duck in Wing's arms.

"Easy now, Cassie-girl. Forgive the two. They're not used to seein' a five-fingered duck." He stroked her hair and she let go, allowing Wing to now pull Nyre close.

Dive shrugged, flipping open his comm. "Yo Duke, I'm callin' in the rest of the team."

"No, wait." Max spoke up and flipped his as well. He glanced to everyone present and began to explain, "Duke, other chosen candidates of the Brotherhood are here. Lemme signal them to fall back and not to attack anyone else." Trigger blushed and looked away.

Nyre smiled weakly and moved from Wing's arms to place a hand on the Raptrin's shoulder. "It's okay... uhm...?"

"Trigger. Trigger Deathhawk."

"Oh, okay, Trigger." She smiled softly. "It's okay. I'd probably react the same way too. No hard feelings?" He nodded and glanced to Max who was now busy contacting Jean and the rest of the team.

"Jean here."

"Fall back, Jeanette." Max ordered softly.

She cocked an eyebrow and glanced to someone with her. "What was that?"

"Fall back. And don't attack anyone ya run into. Kapeesh?"

* * *

Noble grinned as he imagined a sweatdrop form behind Jeanette's head. He moved closer to his companion so that he could be seen as well through the communicator. "Ya be a little too late Max. We got a couple of off-worlders here. Jean jumped them a little back."

Max winced on the view screen and sighed. "Okay, forget it, just send me the coordinates okay? We'll be there in a little. Max out."

Jean leaned on the wall and smiled weakly at Noble. "I heard." She glanced to the group tied up in the corner. There were three tied and bound. Two females and a male.

"Jeanette. Noble." Came low voice.

Both immediately went on defense stance. "May you be friend or foe come into the light stranger." Jeanette spoke clear her words.

"Forget my voice so soon, Jeannie? I'm hurt." And from the light suddenly came a face the two recognized so well.

"Drake?!" came shocked whispers.

Drake Freewind stepped out from the shadows followed by a female avian with red hair and bright green eyes. "McMallard?!" Jeanette gasped at the sight of the general's beloved daughter.

"She's Mal McMallard?!" Skylar dropped his saber and knelt before Mallory.

In reaction, she immediately stepped back and pulled out her launcher but was stopped immediately by Drake. "Shhh... easy Mal," he turned his attention to Skylar. "'Nuff with the kneeling Skylar. Get up."

The youth nodded and got to his feet. "Drake...!"

"My God, Wind, you're here! We thought..." Jean suddenly rushed over and flung her arms around his neck. When she pulled back she smiled weakly at Mallory, an apology for her behavior. "I'm sorry, Ms. McMallard. It's just that... stars..." She smiled. "We thought you were killed, Drake. The news back on Puckworld said that you entered the mines and never came back."

"I lived." Drake laughed, explaining slightly. "Then I found a way to get here." Mal shot him a look. "Mal, it wasn't as wonderful. Trust me."

"Drake, how come ya look older than before?"

Drake winced. "That was one of the 'side effects'... the machine malfunctioned. When I got here, it was three years before anything happened on Puckworld." Mal hugged him in consolation. "Had to wait three darned years before I actually met up with the team. But then, it was weird since I never expected to see them again."

Footsteps, fast footsteps sounded behind them and seconds later, the rest of the team and the Brotherhood candidates came forward.

"NYRE!!!" Came a frustrated scream from one of the girls who were tied and bound.

"Marri!" Nyre laughed and stepped forward with Grin to untie them. The young human tugged at the ropes but they wouldn't budge.

"Allow me," the huge, grey duck smiled at her and with one motion, snapped the rope into two.

As Mel and Ace stood up, Marri growled, a dangerous light coming to her eyes as she looked at Jeanette. "Whoa! Whoa! Marri! Down! DOWN!" Nyre grabbed the girl's waist from behind. "Easy Mar, they're friends... breathe in, breathe out..." Marri did so and snorted.

"You can let her go now Nyre, I'll handle it from here." Mel placed a hand on her friend's shoulder and took her sister. "Okay Mar...." She continued as Nyre turned her attention to Ace, currently talking with the rest.

Wing glanced all around, looking slightly overwhelmed by the sight of new avians amongst them. "We better get back to the main room." He flicked open his comm. "Tanya, Dee, Hacker. Are the lights okay?"

"Yeah Wing?" Tanya came into view.

"We got our 'visitors'."

"Nyre there?" Dee's worried voice sounded in the back.

"Right here, sis." Nyre laughed and smiled as Dee's violet eyes stared back at her. "Uhm, hey, you three." All three suddenly came into perfect view. "Might wanna fix up some refreshments. Our..." she glanced around and stifled a laugh. "...Guests are looking tired and in need of drinks. Fix up eight pitchers, okay?" The only answer she received were three identical confused looks.

* * *

"This is fabulous." Tanya smiled as Noble finished explaining how they'd gotten there. "So you have the gateway operator?"

Noble nodded. "Not here, of course. But we do have a remote." He lifted the handset he'd been carrying all this time. "We have separate pins, that's what keeps us all linked to the generator."

"Major cool, Noble!" Dive grinned from where he sat. He turned to the rest of the ducks. "That means we can go home!" Excited chatter broke out amongst the team and ideas came into view.

Castel glanced warily to Dee who shrugged and continued to make some more juice. "Uhm, guys?" She stood and turned to her team. "Where's Mom?"

"In the kitchen honey," Mal told her snuggling closer to Drake, "Levi and Darien called and she wanted to take their call." Castel nodded and smiled sweetly in thanks and made her way to the said room.

Behind her comments reached her ears. "Mom?" A pause. "You mean she's Nyre's..."

"Yes. She is." Castel heard Duke's reply. "She's Wing and Nyre's daughter."

"But how is that possible?" Castel stopped short to listen. That's Conrad asking... I think. "You've only been here a little over two years right? And besides, a human-avian hybrid? Is that possible?"

Tanya's voice came through clear. "Actually, thanks to our nemesis Tyana Ferau, it was."

"Your... nemesis?"

"Tyana's a human who dabbles in mutation, genetic engineering and the sort." Drake. "She took a little of Wing and Nyre's DNA, mixed them together and viola... she got a hybrid."

Castel sighed painfully, recalling all the trouble that had happened.

"But Tyana's your nemesis... why would she...?"

"Create Nyre and Wing a daughter? Her motives were a little shook up, but she, Dragaunus--"

"That scum's still alive?!"

"Easy Trig... go on Drake."

"Anyway, she and the saurians figured that bein' blood relations would put a glitch in any attempts to kill Cas. Everyone here at the Pond has morals, and we make it known to public." A sigh. "That's why the news cooked up some gossip on how Cas came around." A bitter laugh. "Nyre and Wing's lovechild they called her. Whatever."

Castel could hear Mal softly calming down Drake, but he continued. "She's not a lovechild..." A pause and a soft, wholesome laugh. "They're good as married anyway." Cas shook her head and turned to go to the kitchen.

* * *

"Nyre, it's gonna be okay." Levi's soothing voice came clear over the phone line, and Nyre reached for another tissue.

"How are you so sure?" She choked out and blew her nose. "This is... *sob* this is the opportunity *hic* they've been waiting for all their life here." She glanced up at the ceiling through bleary eyes. A long-suffering sigh. "I don't want to get in the way of their happiness..." Her voice dropped to a softer pitch. "But..."

"Nyre... calm down. Wing loves you..."

Nyre felt her chest tighten. "I know that." She sobbed. "It's just... you know me." She wiped away another tear. "I don't want to hold Wing, much less the other members of the team, back from what's gonna make them happy."

"Oh Nyre..." Levi sighed. "Darien, you talk to her."

Nyre smiled inwardly. At least they're not fighting. The phone was picked up. "Nyre?" came Darien's voice. "Hey c'mon girl. Don't act that way." A pause after hearing her suppressed sobs. "Look, you and Wing have gone through a lot. And besides, Cassy's there."

"He'll probably take Castel with him," she answered mournfully.

"Do you seriously think that daughter of yours will agree to leave you behind?"

Nyre smiled weakly at her friend's retort. Can't say anything that'll prove that wrong. "Thanks Dar. Now you go. Levi'll probably want to wring your neck for a few minutes."

A snort. "Let her wait. Look, call us if you need anything okay? Be sending you e-mails." A sigh. "Diplomats get the worst schedules."

Nyre laughed. "Go. Tell Levi, Ace sends his love and that we all miss you. Both of you." Darien laughed on the other end. "Yeah Dar, we miss your squabbles."

"Whatever, babe. Okay, bye."


* * *

Castel watched as Nyre hung up and dried her tears. Mom, don't worry. Dad won't leave. She watched as the human went to the sink and wash her face. Not now.

Not if I can help it.

To Be Continued...
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