Part Two: Making Another Pass
“You’re not getting any younger,” Ricochet stated from the darkened doorway.
“You’re no spring chicken yourself.” the figure within answered.
“I meant no disrespect.” Ricochet rapidly explained, “It’s just…well, you know the rules. You made most of them. To ensure the continuation of The Brotherhood we must have someone to pass your blade to, along with the role as leader.”
The intense red glow from behind the eye patch of the second duck dimmed somewhat, “Yeah, but it ain’t exactly easy to go out there and find someone to pledge yer heart and soul to. Especially when all they see is money and power. What I need is a girl who thinks nothing of that stuff. No money, no power, just me.”
“But everyone knows you’re the most notorious jewel thief on Puckworld.” Ricochet reminded him, “There’s not a duck on the planet that isn’t aware of how much you’re worth. And The Brotherhood of the Blade is a mob that most any duck would give their right arm to be a part of.”
“Or their right eye?” Duke glared.
Ricochet fell silent for a moment. Sighing he decided to continue the conversation, the other members had unanimously decided that Duke HAD to pick someone, and soon. When you’re a member of The Brotherhood, it’s common knowledge that each day could be your last. They couldn’t risk the whole society crumbling simply because their leader was too picky to find someone to create an heir with. Handing down the top ranking position via bloodline was the only way to ensure that a power struggle wouldn’t break out for Duke’s position once he became unable to lead. Whether it be by old age, handicap, or death.
“Look L’Orange, no one’s trying to force you to commit to anyone here,” Ricochet searched for the appropriate words, words that wouldn’t result in him losing a limb. “We’re just concerned about the future of The Brotherhood.”
“Hey, let me worry about the future of The Brotherhood. I am it’s founder after all.” Duke was getting frustrated, he did worry about what could happen if he waited too long to chose a wife but at the same time, he refused to marry solely out of necessity. It just wasn’t like him.
Ricochet’s patience was wearing thin, he made a mental note to carve a new naval for whoever had volunteered him for this little chat. “Duke! We need another leader in the waiting. You’re not even MARRIED yet! Isn’t there anyone? Anyone at all?!”
Instead of meeting Ricochet’s demanding gaze Duke’s eyes fell to the floor. He seemed to be recalling something---or someone.
“L’Orange?” Ricochet lifted an eyebrow, “Who is she?”
“Nobody.” Duke answered walking deeper into his moonlit chamber.
Ricochet wasn’t given up, not when he’d finally caught a break. “A fellow thief perhaps?”
“Nah,” Duke wished his lackey would go away. He really didn’t wanna discuss this. “A scientist, she’s on the news sometimes. I--uh--bumped into her once.”
That wasn’t entirely true. He’d come across her alright, just never spoken to her. He was sizing up a jewelry store for a heist that night when she caught his eye. She wasn’t in the best of moods at the time. Muttering something about how her boss was a slave driver and what she wouldn’t give to be rid of some guy that was bugging her at work.
Then she’d glanced around, Duke was the only duck that seemed to be paying any attention but she didn’t seem to mind. Pulling her lavender headband out of her hair she shook it down just below her shoulders. Then she removed her glasses and the shirt to her power suit revealing a tight fitting light blue tank top. Her pants were still a bit baggy but it was obvious from the curves above her belt that she was much slimmer than she appeared with her lavender suit on. Duke guessed she dressed that way to avoid cat calls and other such irritations from whoever that jerk at her job was.
A vehicle pulled up and another duck with red hair called out to her, “Hey Tanya! Come on, we’re gonna be late for Emery’s big gig down at Shellshock!”
“Gimme a minute,” the blonde had replied, tossing her glasses and shirt in the backseat and darting into the alley.
Duke struggled to prevent himself from whistling as this Tanya rushed back out in a pair of black denim jeans that must’ve been hidden beneath her lavender pants. They too were considerably snug, but not too revealing like the ones most of the bar girls he was used to wore. No, this was a classy dame. And his heart skipped a beat as he watched her speed away with her friend whose name he later learned was Ruby.
She was on the news again that night talking about some new cleaner burning fuel that she and her fellow lab techs had invented. Duke recognized her instantly and did a little self-motivated background search. With his sources he was able to figure out that she was the top scientist, and probably the best undiscovered hacker, on Puckworld. Nice, just my type. He’d thought before learning that she’d soon be departing with a group of ducks called The Resistance to overthrow Dragonaus, an evil lizard that had recently conquered their world. Well, most of it. The crime world was still mostly unchanged, thus The Brotherhood still went about their thieving business, one way or another.
Since most of the museums and jewelry stores had been raided by the drones The Brotherhood had gradually starting fighting Dragonaus. No one conquered their territory!
That’s when he got an offer from Canard, the leader of The Resistance, that he couldn’t refuse. No time like the present to inform his boys about his plan. After all, they were askin’.
“Alright Ricochet, this is how it is.” Duke began.
Ricochet braced himself, his instincts told him this was gonna be one of L’Orange’s famously drawn out plans.
“I’m join’ up with this mysterious Resistance team that everybody keeps talkin’ about.” Duke waited for that bit of information to sink in before he continued. “An’ when I come back…I won’t be alone.”
“Does this mean-”
“Yeah,” Duke grinned with a glint of mischief in his eye, “I’ll be sportin’ a new piece of jewelry, a wedding band.”
Duke’s flashback ended as he lay across his bed staring up at the metallic ceiling. Holding his hand before his face he noted the ringless finger. Oh boy, I really stuck my webbed foot in my mouth that time.
But no, he couldn’t give up. No doubt Ricochet and the others were still holding him to his word. The rule was clear, until Duke was proven dead, he was still the leader. And that held him to the obligation of finding a wife and ensuring the future of his mob. Ugh, this was beginning to sound like a monarchy.
Why’d he have to be so caught up in the way things were done centuries ago? When there was a code of honor among thieves? When love wasn’t just a one night stand?
He had a way home, but it would only transport two. He needed Tanya to say yes before they could go back. But how to convince her?
That same mischievous spark appeared in his eye as he recalled Tanya once mentioning to him how homesick she was. How she just wished she could go home. Well, that could be arranged…but everything had its price.
Drake One displayed a map of the city as Tanya placed red points near each location where the team had discovered the Raptor over the past year. Maybe there’d be a pattern? Even if there wasn’t, at least she’d look busy. She’d done a pretty good job so far of keeping Duke out of her thoughts all morning, hopefully it would last. It wasn’t going to be the first time her hopes were dashed…
“Hiya angel.” a familiar accented voice chimed as the elevator doors slid open.
“Oh…um…hi Duke.” she fumbled through an answer.
Smirking Duke walked over and leaned against the supercomputer, “Plotting out ol’ Draggy’s hideouts?”
“Not a bad idea.” he casually glanced back at the screen, “Sleep well?”
“Like a baby.” Duke winked down at the confused blonde, “Plenty of sweet dreams.”
Tanya felt her cheeks go redder than the dots on the screen. “Um, the others got roped into doing some photo shoots today. They should be back by noon.”
Looks like my luck’s improving. Duke chuckled to himself. “So I guess it’s just us then huh?”
“Looks like it.” much more of this and she’d break out into a sweat.
Sliding closer with his hands in his pockets he spoke again, “Maybe now’s a good time for you and me to catch up on a few things sweetheart.”
“Well for starters, I know a lot about your personality and all just from spending time here on Earth with ya. But frankly, your past is a mystery to me. What was your life back on Puckworld like?”
Tanya looked at him with a mixture of suspicion and bewilderment. “You wanna know about my life before I joined the team?”
“Sure, I mean, ya know a bunch of stuff about mine, courtesy of that rat Falcone. So why shouldn’t I know a little about yours?” Duke feigned innocence.
Okay, that makes sense. I guess. Tanya relented. “Not much to tell. I worked at Duck Tech Industries ever since I graduated from Puckworld University with my friend and lab partner Ruby Dunshap. As for where I lived, not much to it either. Just a one bedroom apartment in the middle of town. Nothing fancy, just big enough for me and Ruby’s son Birin. She uh, dropped him off before her late night shifts so I could baby-sit. Her husband worked the late shift too for a while after they had him. It was just my way of helping them out. Me and Ruby are like sisters, ya know?”
Experience with kids, not bad. Can I pick em or what? Duke decided to play his card. “Ya must really miss the little guy. Sounds like him and Ruby were the only company ya had.”
“No, I had other friends.” Tanya was starting to fell that familiar pang of loneliness set in. “It’s just, Ruby was my best friend, and Birin looked up to me like his favorite aunt or something. Sometimes I just wonder what they’re up to. How Puckworld’s rebuilt itself?”
“Yeah, that would be nice to know.” Duke agreed, “I mean, The Brotherhood wasn’t just a mob of the most skilled thieves on Puckworld. To me, they were family. It’d sure be nice to know how life’s been treatin’ em.”
Tanya smiled, “I’d say Falcone’s seen better days.”
Laughing Duke replied, “Frankly, I couldn’t care less about that traitor. As far as I’m concerned, the worst thing about The Brotherhood is how long it took us to kick the jerk out.”
“So why did you finally decide to…uh…kick him out?”
“The backstabber was gunning for my role as leader.” Duke answered, “Me and a couple of the boys found out about a plan he had to usurp me, the dirty rat, and managed to turn the tables on him before he got his shot in.”
“You mean he tried to-” alarm flashed in Tanya’s eyes.
Duke noted the worried look on her face, “Yeah, but not to worry sweetheart. No one outsmarts Duke L’Orange, master thief.”
A smile crept over her face again, “Boy, confidence isn’t one of your problems is it?”
“Nah, I just got one problem now.” Duke responded looking Tanya straight in the eyes, “And she keeps evading me.”
Tanya felt as though a swarm of butterflies had been set loose in her stomach. Rising up out of her chair she faced him, “Um Duke, it’s not that I don’t like your or anything it’s just that I---I don’t know, this is kinda of sudden.”
“Some of the best things in life just spring themselves on ya,” Duke remarked taking Tanya’s bill in his hand and gently pulling her in for a kiss.
At a loss for what to say or do Tanya simply let him pull her forward, his beak puckering as she closed her eyes. A chill ran down her spine as their beaks touched. Now she knew what they meant by sparks flying!
Her knees weakened as he deepened the kiss, she was glad when he slid an arm around her back, maybe now she wouldn’t hit the floor when she fainted.
Duke felt Tanya’s arms go around his neck and placed his free hand behind her head. He couldn’t resist, slowly he slipped off her headband and ran his hand through her long blonde hair as it fell below her shoulders. This was better than he could’ve ever imagined.
Neither duck noticed as the doors to the elevator slid open revealing the team’s manager, Phil Palmfeather, and four utterly embarrassed ducks.
“And if I never see another box of Kooky Crispies as long as I live it’ll be too soon!” Nosedive was grumbling.
Mallory shrieked when she saw her best friend in the arms of a lowdown jewel thief, who she still wasn’t convinced had fully reformed. “TANYA?!? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR EVER LOVIN’ MIND?!?!”
Wildwing and Grin exchanged looks. Without a word Wing hit the down button on the elevator and the doors closed hiding the strange and unexpected scene.
*Hehehe…I’m so mean to poor Mal sometimes. I must be part Nosedive or somethin’. Well, review everybody and let me know how ya liked this chapter. Like I said, I’ve got no idea when I’ll update this fic again. But keep your eyes open!*