Phil Palmfeather had just gotten through a very bad lawsuit and was not in a good mood. Whether it was unsympathetic judges or uncooperative clients, this was turning out to be a very bad week for Phil. As he headed down toward the Hanger to harass Wildwing a little about his job, Phil ran into Nosedive and an atomic bomb.
No, not literally. But Phil knew right off that if he could get this face on the cover of Playgirl, he'd have an financial bomb under his rule.
"You! Who are you?!"
"Phil, it's okay, he's with--" Nosedive began. Phil ignored him, waiting for the blonde man to answer.
"Uh, I'm Leon...."
"Whatever your job is right now, it's the wrong job for you. Now listen, I know a company looking for a face just like yours, but they've turned up short thus far. And here, you fall right into my lap!"
"Uh......." Leon looked nervous, and glanced at Nosedive. The duck started to say something, and Phil cut him off.
"Listen, kid, I've lived long enough to know you never turn down a good chance when you get it!"
That actually seemed to amuse him. Leon grinned, then passed another look at Nosedive.
"Well, it's not like I have a whole load of options to choose from anyway," he said cryptically. Phil gave him a puzzled look.
"Look, Phil, I just sort of left my last job. What's your offer?"
Silence rang loud from Leon and Nosedive. Phil, not sure what the problem was, continued.
"I can get you covers on JCPenny and Playgirl, and move up from there. Maybe even do some boxer commercials--"
"Forget it, not interested," Leon said, pushing past him.
The last thing Chameleon wanted was publicity. He'd created this new form to escape Draganus' vengeance. Jumping onto the cover of JCPenny was about the stupidest thing he could do about now. And Chameleon, despite any front he'd put up in the past, was not stupid.
"You're turning down a great chance for fame and fortune, Kid!" Phil yelled after him. Nosedive hurried to keep up.
"Kid.....the last time anybody's called me 'Kid'.....You know, the average Saurian lives to be about six hundred. Did you know that Nosedive?"
"Uh, no, I didn't. How old are you?"
"Three hundred twenty-one. And I have a feeling I'll live a bit longer than average. Probably a couple more millennia, if I'm lucky. And your agent calls me 'Kid.'"
"Oh." Three hundred?! Nosedive couldn't even conceive it. Ducks lived about the same life time of a human. Maybe a little longer, but not much. "What was all that with Raye? She didn't seem too happy."
"The truth is never a joyful thing, and I know what it is."
The teenaged duck looked puzzled, but he had a feeling that asking anything more was not beneficial to his health. Anyway, Chameleon wasn't his usual, perky self. Nosedive was beginning to like him more and more, the longer he hung around him. It was going to be a pity when he left. It wasn't like Nosedive really had anybody he could really have much fun with in this group. Mallory was a grouch and Tanya was dead boring, while Grin was just weird. Wildwing was his brother, but he was leader too, and could be a pain in the ass with his always ordering him around. Duke was okay, sometimes, but the older duck liked to spend a lot of time on his own, and while he didn't make it too obvious, he didn't consider a sixteen-year-old the best sort of company. As for Cleech, the bounty hunter would just as soon strangle him, and Raye was creepy and a bit depressing. And way too serious!
"How much longer do you think you need?" Nosedive asked.
"For this form to take hold."
"About a week, with no changes in between."
"Oh. So what do you think you'll do with your life after that?"
"I don't know. I doubt I'll stay on Earth long. I really don't know how I'm going to get off of this planet, but I'll think of something."
"A couple of millennia....." Nosedive said, still unable to accept the idea. Chameleon just laughed.
"You know, sometimes even I have a problem with it."
Both of them chuckled. Then Nosedive's wrist-com sounded. Wildwing was on the other end.
"We're calling a conference in the Main Bay in a few minutes. To decide what to do with Canard and Lucretia."
"Okay, meet you up there."
He flipped the communicator off and shrugged to Chameleon.
"Well, this is going to be boring as heck. You wanna come?"
"Yeah, might as well."
"It's obvious we can't send them back to Puckworld yet, not without the rest of us," Wildwing stated. "And we all swore we wouldn't leave without finishing off Draganus."
The others nodded in agreement. Chameleon stood in the back ground, leaning against the wall, a smirk on his face. Lucretia was wearing metal restraints on her wrists, while Canard stood, looking confused, glancing back and forth between speakers. These fools will never learn, Chameleon thought to himself.
"And meanwhile?" Raye demanded. "Look at her--" She gestured to Lucretia. "What kind of harm is she going to do?"
"She seemed pretty innocent last time she was hear, and nearly cost us all our lives," Wildwing pointed out.
"So maybe she's faking it. Are you willing to believe that Canard is faking it as well? I say, give them a chance. Maybe they'll remember, maybe they won't. But don't judge them from their pasts!"
Wildwing considered it. She did have a point, even if he didn't like what she was saying.
"Fine. We'll take a vote. Those for letting Lucretia free roam of the Pond, raise your hand."
Only Raye, Grin, and, surprisingly, Tanya, raised their hands.
"I guess that settles it," Wildwing said. "She stays in the holding cells."
Raye shook her head in disappointment but said nothing. Cleech stepped over to her side as Mallory and Duke led Lucretia away.
"It's better this way, Luv. She's betrayed o'r world too many times. It's probably her nature."
"If you say so," she responded coldly moving away. Chameleon waved to her as she walked back to her quarters, then trotted over to catch up with her.
"You seem pretty determined to give her a second chance," he noted. Raye shrugged.
"Why not? If you were given a second chance at life, wouldn't you take it?"
"No, I wouldn't, but that's me. Maybe--"
They both froze abruptly, as if on some signal, and looked around. Both had felt something, unseen, like a cold wave passing over them. Raye looked at Chameleon.
"What....what was that? It felt familiar...."
Chameleon stared at her a moment, trying to figure her out.
"You don't know?"
Raye looked annoyed. "No, I don't know! It felt like a...a sugar rush, at hyperdose!"
"Interesting analogy. You honestly don't know, do you? That's...odd. Maybe I assumed wrong."
Raye glared at him. "What aren't you telling me, Chameleon?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know?! What do you mean, you don't know?!?"
"Just that. Calm down, Raye, you're losing control. That's the last thing you want to do, believe me."
"There you are!"
Both turned at the sound of Nosedive's voice. He came running down the corridor toward them, looking distressed.
"Man, you're gonna get me in trouble! I'm not supposed to let you out of sight!"
"Sorry, 'Dive. See ya around, Raye," Leon responded, starting away. Raye grabbed his arm.
"I don't think so. You don't say something like that and then just walk away!"
Leon looked at her a few moments in silence, his true age showing through in his eyes for a few seconds. Then he shrugged nonchalantly.
"Well, if that's what you really want...Give us a moment, huh 'Dive?"
"Uh, sure..." Nosedive watched in confusion as Chameleon led Raye out of earshot. He spoke to her for a few minutes, and Raye's face changed dramatically. What was he telling her? Then suddenly Leon stepped back, patted her on the back and strode confidently back to Nosedive.
"What was that all about?" 'Dive asked, still watching Raye, who hadn't moved from the spot she was standing in. She had a strange, distant look on her face, an unnerved look.
"Nothing interesting," Leon said, trying to turn the duck's attention away.
"I think Raye would argue otherwise."
"She'll tell you when she's ready, Nosedive. Come on, I need to start packing."
"Um, yeah, okay," Nosedive reluctantly turned away from the sight in the corridor. He wondered if he really wanted to know....
Leon returned to his quarters without further incident. The real incident occured after Nosedive left, muttering a brief apology about having to lock him in. Leon didn't really care, he had a lot to think about now. If Raye really wasn't faking it, which was a pretty good possibility...no, she honestly didn't know what was going on. Sooooo.......
Then he noticed it. Sitting as innocently as is possible for a piece of equipment on his bed. His comm. He'd turned the tracer off, so Draganus wouldn't be able to penetrate the Pond, but it was still online. And the "message" light was flashing. Oh shoot....!
"Should I, or shouldn't I? That is the...oh forget it..." Leon murmured to himself, not really in the mood for a joke now. The light continued flashing. They couldn't find him. It was just a message, saved on the billions of memory space on a little wrist computer....
"I swear Draganus, if it's another one of those damned e-mail snowball fights......" Leon quipped to himself, picking the comm up and clicking the "read" button. A bit of static, and Draganus' face came into focus.
"Hello, Chameleon, if you are listening to this, you obviously haven't stepped outside yet," the Overlord began. Leon felt a Sinking Feeling begin in his chest and start a slow course down the rest of his body. This body was a lot taller than his last one.
"So I'll warn you now, we know damn well that you're hiding out in the Ducks' headquarters. Very smart of you, but you've effectively trapped yourself, dear Boy. Enjoy your time there, because the minute you step outside the Pond's shields, our tracers will go online and you will be instantly incinerated. I believe you remember that we had a killswitch installed inside your body after your little...escapade on Atlantis. Just a friendly reminder. Draganus out."
The message ended as it began, with static. Leon tightened his grip on the communicator until it cracked and shattered. He barely noticed, however, letting the pieces drop to the floor from now senseless fingers.
"Damn," he muttered.Obviously, this is continued in my next story, "The Truth About Cats and Ducks," coming very, very soon! Meanwhile.....