A Quarter To Midnight

Duke unstrapped himself speedily from the Migrator and ran to the back of the vehicle. The other ducks watched in amazement as he grabbed the emergency cycle and headed for the door. He slammed his palm on the door release, and gunned the bike.

"Got business. Gonna be back late. See you guys tomorrow." He suddenly drove straight out the door. Nosedive had slowed the Migrator down, but the bike almost tipped as it hit the road. Duke got control again and zipped down the way they’d come.

"What is he doing?" Wildwing asked Mallory. Mallory looked quiet cross.

"I have no idea."

"Does anyone know?" Wildwing looked around. Tanya, Nosedive and Grin all shook their heads. "What about you?" he asked Jadestar.

Jadestar shrugged. "He’s driving a Duckcycle." she said helpfully.

"Do you know *why*?" Wildwing asked patiently.


"Just checking. Oh well," Wildwing turned back to the front. "I guess there’s not much we can do anyway. It’s not like this is the first time he’s just headed off."

"Yeah, but this *is* the first time he’s ridden out of a moving vehicle." said Tanya. It must have been a company car, because the building before him was a tower of glass panes and steel. So the driver couldn’t be traced as easily… There was a light on the bottom floor on, but apart from that the building looked empty of life.

Duke leant on the door, and it was open. He walked quietly towards the source of light.

The light was illuminating a dark stairway which seemed to go down to some kind of concrete basement. Duke walked down, his boots making no noise.

The human standing at the unopened safe spun around as Duke tapped him on the shoulder. "Wha…what are you doing here? We aren’t open!"

Duke smiled his most charming smile. "I’m the safe-inspector. Doing a surprise inspection."

"You’re a duck."

"I’m moonlighting. So, you want to open the safe?"

The man slammed shut the file drawer he’d had open. "Fine, fine." He reached over to press some numbers on the consol, when his mobile phone rang. "Excuse me." He walked up the stairs and left Duke.

Duke listened with mounting interest to the half of the conversation he could hear.

"Yes…good…no….yeah, one of them is here now…no…I know….yes….OK, goodbye."

Hearing the phone call end, Duke hurried to the safe and started pressing buttons, any bp>"Think it’s something we should know about?" Nosedive looked at Mallory.

"What, suddenly I’m the expert? How should I know?!" Mallory was obviously annoyed. "He’s just being himself. He’ll be fine."

"Each has his own path." Grin said.

"I know that. It’d just be nice if he told us exactly where that path was going!" Wildwing stepped on the accelerator and headed to the Pond.


Duke stopped his bike when he saw the car. And it’s in the right place too.

For the past month Duke had had a few ideas about a spat of drug-related robberies. He knew the others hadn’t seen the car. But every time they interrupted the heist (usually a pharmacy) he saw the same car drive past. It was an ordinary car. White Holden Commodore, nothing special. It was always too dark to see the driver. It never slowed down, or sped up, just drove past like an ordinary car.

Duke had noted the number plate one time, and, taking the computer skills Tanya had given him to a higher level, had successfully hacked into the Anaheim Police computer network. He admitted to himself that using their system to find out the details of the owner of the car was a kind of stealing, but it was in the sake to stop more stealing.

He knew very well the others wouldn’t see it that way (and danged if he’d ask Klegghorn for help!), and that was mostly why huttons. The man came down and frowned when he saw what Duke was doing. "That’s not even how you do it." He glanced at the number on the screen before entering his own. "2 3 4 5?"

"Lucky number." Duke flashed a smile. "I try it on every safe I inspect."

"Ever worked?"


The man hit a last button, and the walk-in safe opened a little. The man pushed it open, and entered. Duke followed.

The safe was large and stuffy. Metal shelves full of papers covered the place, with a few boxes doted here and there. Duke started poking around.

"Look, I have to make another phone call, and they never work well down here. Tell me when you’re finished, OK?"

Duke nodded and the man walked out. Duke was trying to get his hand between a box and the wall, but his com got in the way. He placed it on the edge of the shelf, and got his hand behind. He’d been hoping for packets of drugs or money taped to the back, but there was nothing.

The safe door suddenly swung shut. Duke whacked the shelf accidentally in his hurry to free his hand, knocking the com onto the floor in the process.


Unknown to the ducks in the Pond, who were all in bed, the dot that signified Duke’s position went out with a quiet blip.


Duke banged on the safe door. "Hey! Let me out!"

"No chance! Don’t think I don’t know why you’re here! You Mighty Ducks are working for the cops!"

Duke roared all the louder. "HEY! THAT’S A DIRECT INSULT!"

"What are you going to do about it?" the voice taunted. "You’re in there. And over the weekend, no one else is going to come anywhere near this building, let alone this safe. And by Monday, let’s just say that you wont have a problem anymore."

"I’ve lasted longer." Duke snarled.

"Without food or water, yes. But oxygen? Good luck. I’ll see you on Monday." Duke pressed his ear hole to the door, and listened as the man walked to the bottom of the steps, and closed the metal grill. He ran his fingers along the rim of the door.

"Dang. Airtight. And it was stuffy in here to begin with. Never mind," Duke rescued his com from the floor and checked it over. It seemed to be fine. "Help is only a call away."


Wildwing blinked as his com went off. He flicked it open groggily. "Yeah? Duke?" He wondered why the picture didn’t come up, but only vaguely.

"Hey Wildwing. Sorry to wake you up, buuuuuut…" Duke started talking.


Duke blinked. "Wildwing?"

Wildwing sighed heavily with annoyance at who he figured was the twins. "I can’t believe you two found the button that does that. Go to bed, and I’ll kill you in the morning."

"Huh? Wildwi…" Duke stopped as Wildwing cut the connection. "Something is so wrong." he muttered.


All the ducks were groggy as they sat around the breakfast table, but Wildwing suddenly remembered something.

"Tanya, I want you to take out the circuit in the coms that lets you remove your picture from it. Someone," He glared at the twins direction. "Has been making prank calls in the middle of the night."

The twins eyed each other. "Uh…what circuit?" Nosedive raised an eyebrow. "But we got someone calling us in the middle of the night."

"So did I." Mallory agreed.

"Me too." Grin and Tanya said at once.

Just then Phil burst into the kitchen. He ducked under the table. The ducks exchanged glances, and stuck their heads underneath.

"What are you doing?" Wildwing asked.

"I’m hiding. Someone’s out to get me. They found out how to use the coms." He pulled his out of his pocket. "I’ve had beeps all night."

"Could someone get into the coms?" Mallory asked Tanya.

"Well…yeah…I guess. They’d just have to find the frequency. That could explain the lack of a picture." Tanya said thoughtfully.

"Is there anything we can do?" Jadestar asked, pulling Phil out from underneath her feet.

"We could change frequencies." Tanya considered. "But we better wait until Duke gets back, or he wont be able to use his com."

Jadestar plonked a bowl of cereal in front of Phil, and he cheered up enormously. Breakfast went on.


Duke sat up against the wall of the safe, head between his knees. He sighed wearily, and tried to reach the others again.

"Wildwing, come in Wildwing." he muttered, not expecting his leader to hear or see him. Sure enough…

"Look, I don’t know who this is, but you can be assured we’ll find out sooner or later!" Wildwing sounded like he’d lost almost all of his patience.

"Oh, sooner, please."

"What do you say to that? Go on, answer me."

Duke took a few breaths. "I’m running out of air, Wing. You see, there wasn’t much to start with, and since I’ve had a few panic attacks…" Wildwing closed the connection, looking very peeved. "OK then, don’t believe me." Duke lolled his head back and closed his eyes. He suddenly opened them again. "Better not go to sleep." he decided, and concentrated on his thoughts.


"Hey Mookie! Where’s Thrash?" Nosedive greeted his friend with a cheerful wave.

"He’s out back." Mookie looked harassed. "He’s trying to fix his com. What was so important?"

"Huh? Don’t tell me they called him too!"

"What do you mean? His com is broken, it doesn’t show a picture, and you can’t hear anything. We were about to bring it to Tanya."

"Nah, it’s someone who’s taken over the frequency. Just ignore it if it bleeps."

Mookie made a face. "That’s kinda hard."

Nosedive pointed to the bags under his eyes. "Tell me about it."


Tanya flicked open her com. "Um, hi?" she asked, expecting another crank call.

"Hi hi hi hi! Tanya! It works! I was afraid I’d busted it, and I tried hard to fix it, but I just couldn’t, and I was gonna call youse on the phone but I decided to try you first, and it worked!"


"Yep! So, what’s the big emergency? Can I help? Can you ask Wildwing if I can help? Is this a bad time? I can go, but I could help, I could be a big, big help! Come on Tan, please?"

"Buzz, I don’t know what you’re talking about! Slow down, and start from the beginning."

He looked puzzled. "Well, you know, you guys were trying to get me all night! But I wasn’t getting anything."

Tanya sighed. "Don’t worry about it. I think someone’s using our frequency."

Buzz’s forehead furrowed. "I don’t think that’s possible."

"Why not?"

"Well, you mean radio frequency style things, huh?" When she nodded, he continued. "Well, sure, you or I could do it, but we have advance technology. There aren’t many people around who have the equipment *to* be able to call your coms."

Tanya paled under her feathers. "Duke."


"I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I should have realised. I saw that Duke’s com wasn’t registering, but he turns it off whenever he leaves. I can’t believe I didn’t…" Tanya was almost in tears about her mistake.

"Hey. Hey, Tanya. Everyone makes mistakes. Stop tearing yourself up about it." Wildwing tried to comfort her. "Let’s just concentrate on getting to Duke, OK?" She nodded, and he patted her shoulder.

"The thing is," Mallory chewed on the tip of one of her fingers. "That he’s been trying to get our attention for almost 12 hours. And he hasn’t called since he tried Wildwing an hour ago. The longest space yet."

"Have you tried calling him?" Nosedive asked. Tanya nodded.

"It’s the same. No answer, no picture, but it will connect."

"I’ll try again. We have to make sure he’s still able to answer." Wildwing reached for his com. "Duke? Duke, answer. Are you alright? Come back to the Pond immediately." Wildwing kept the line open for a few minutes, waiting.


"I thought it might work if you tried calling." Duke rasped painfully. He gulped air. "It’s not fair. It’s not fair! I gave you directions! I gave you all the clues I could! Think for a second!" He panted, his feathers moist with a fine layer of sweat. He exhaled heavily as the connection was cut.


Jadestar was finding paper and pens. Tanya was clearing a table in the Ready Room. Grin was making snacks. Wildwing and Nosedive were finding chairs. And Mallory was fluttering everywhere, trying to help.

"OK everyone." Wildwing looked around at the other five ducks. "Why would Duke call Phil, Thrash and Buzz, but not Klegghorn or Mookie?"

"I doubt that anyone would call Mookie in a time of crises, but then, you wouldn’t exactly call Phil or Thrash. Buzz, not really. But Klegghorn’s a cop. He’s good at his job, even if he is rather misguided about us." Mallory sighed.

Tanya handed out sheets of paper. "Write everything and anything that comes into your head." she instructed.


He heard the beep, but it was getting harder and harder to gather up the strength just to press the button that opened the com. The com sat on his lap, and he finally shoved his finger onto the knob.

"Duke? We’re still trying to find you. Hang in there. Mallory’s just going through your stuff to try and get some hints. I’ll put you through." Wildwing’s head blinked out of the picture, but Duke heard him say ‘he’s taking longer and longer to answer…’ before Mallory’s face came up on the screen. He could see that his room was in chaos behind her.

"Duke! I can’t find anything!" she was getting more and more upset. "Why does everything have to be such a secret with you? You couldn’t even tell me where you were going! You couldn’t even tell me!" She suddenly started to cry. His heart broke as she sobbed. She brought herself back under control with typical quickness. "I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated because I can’t help you." She smiled a shaky smile. "You know how I like to be in control."

"I love you." they said together, though only Duke knew. He almost smiled at the irony of it.

"I better keep looking." Mallory sighed, looking around her at all the mess. She addressed him again. "No hints?"

"I gave you my only hint."

"I’ll see…yeah, I’ll see you later." She shut off her com, and Duke laid back. He accidentally slipped down the side of the door so he was lying on his side, but he saw no need to waste energy on getting upright again. He breathed quickly in and slowly out, his body vying for oxygen.


It was well into the night, only a bit over an hour short of Sunday morning. The ducks still sat around the table, drinking coffee at an incredible rate. Tanya tried not to yawn as she pulled out a map of Anaheim. "OK, another idea. Location." All the ducks groaned inwardly, immediately feeling guilty. Tanya marked out Thrash’s house, the Pond, Phil’s house, and Unbridled Technology. They all stared at it, trying to think. Wildwing sighed, looked at the time, and called Duke again. He waited a long time before he got connected. He talked quietly to Duke as the others continued to gaze at the map.

Nosedive suddenly grunted. "Give me a ruler and a pencil." He held out his hand for the objects. "We did this is school a few weeks ago." He joined the marks together so they formed a rectangle. He then drew a line from the Pond to Thrash’s so it went through the shape. He then did the same for the other two. He stared at where the diagonal lines met in the middle of the rectangle. "Ask him," Nosedive said quietly. "if he’s somewhere on Lakespear Drive. If he is, tell him to hang up."

"Duke, hang up if you want us to go somewhere on Lakespear Drive."


Had Duke had the resources, he would have heaved a sigh of relief. He shut his com.


"Any disturbances on Lakespear Drive?" Wildwing demanded of Klegghorn.

"No, why?" Klegghorn was grumpy at being commed at this time of the night.

"Don’t worry. It just makes our job a bit harder." Wildwing muttered as he cut Klegghorn from his com screen. "Mallory?"

"OK, Duke, we’re going to call out the names of buildings. Hang up if it’s not where you are. Paint’s R Us?"


Duke gasped for air, and disconnected.


"United Banking?"




"Stationary ‘n’ Stuff?"




It went on for what seemed like forever to Duke. "OK, there’s only two left." he heard Mallory say, but he couldn’t hold his eyes open anymore.

He suddenly felt a severe burning sensation on his hand. The pain forced his eyes open. He saw from the underside of the communicator fall a drop of strong smelling liquid. Acid… He tried to push the com off him as fast as he could. It slid off him, and made a slight thump as it landed. He sluggishly reached to make it turn back on. When it wouldn’t he realised he’d just knocked out those last functioning parts. He groaned, and stopped trying so hard to breathe. Maybe now would be a good time to just give up. No! Never! He forced his eyes open, and concentrated on breathing steadily. They’re so close. So close. Wait… A thought suddenly hit Duke, and his stomach took on the feelings of despair. How are they going to get the safe open?


"Duke? Duke! Duke, come in! Come on Duke, you can do it, answer. Just push the little button…" Mallory tried in vain to reach him, but it was impossible. She looked up. "Maybe we ought to just look around the last two places?" She looked out the Migrator window and moaned at the sight of the two skyscrapers.


After breaking into Energy Emissions, the ducks split up. Mallory and Jadestar found the flight of stairs leading into the murky dark. Mallory switched on her torch and walked down, Jadestar at her heels. At the bottom, Mallory waved her torch around in the partitioned off section beyond the metal grille. She suddenly gasped, and grabbed Jadestar’s arm tightly.

"Look! It’s a grey feather!"


After calling all the ducks down there, Mallory excitedly showed them her find. "He must have been here! Maybe he’s still here!"

"He could be in the safe!" Jadestar agreed.

Wildwing shook his head sadly, and moved his own light onto the feather. "It’s too small for a duck’s feather. That’s probably just a pigeon feather that got down here on someone’s clothes. We better move onto the next building." Wildwing led the group up the steps. Mallory went up slowly.

It was a feeling that something wasn’t quite right that slowed her down. It was that feeling that could have saved Duke L’Orange’s life.

Mallory heard a small noise at the bottom of the stairs, and she quickly scuttled back down there too take a look.

She found the safe door open about 30cms, with the back of Duke’s head slightly protruding. She shrieked. He didn’t move. "Wildwing! Tanya! Guys! I found him! Get down here quick! Tanya, get your Omnitool into cutting mode!"


Tanya cut through the bars as fast as she could, but not fast enough for Mallory. As soon as three sides of a square big enough for the three smallest ducks to fit through were cut, Mallory shoved everyone aside, and pushed the square out. She pulled Duke out the whole way from the safe, and was infinitely relieved to find that he was still breathing. He opened his eyes blearily, and looked straight up into hers.

"You came." he said, puffy, trying to get as much air as possible. He raised a hand in greeting to the twins. "Hey."

"Of course we got you! We don’t let team mates go that easily!" Nosedive smiled.

Mallory frowned. "But why did the safe open?"

The four looked up at the pad for opening the safe. In small red digital letters it said ‘timer on’, with the time underneath it.


Story Copyright Rachel Baker ’98. Jadestar also Copyright Rachel Baker. All other characters Copyright Disney, and used without permission.