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Outlaw Inlaws

By Jadestar

"Kid? Kid? Hellooooooooo?" Duke waved a hand in front of Nosedive's face. They were sitting in the Lounge Room, Nosedive watching Holo-V, Duke reading. Well, they had been two minutes ago. Now Nosedive was staring agape at the set, and Duke was wondering what the heck was the matter with him. "The news? Beakwatch I could understand but what on Puckworld can you see in Richard Webcroft?"

"She's beautiful..." Nosedive murmured.

"I hate ta break this to you, but she's a he."

Nosedive finally snapped out of it. "Not him! That!" He pointed at the current picture. "The largest diamond on Puckworld."

Duke looked at the picture, and whistled. "Not bad." He glanced back at Nosedive, and shook his head. He's caught the bug. Let's hope this is temporary.

"We gotta get it!"

"Get what?"

Leila and Nylessa walked in, Nylessa closing her beak after her question.

"Isn't it obvious! That!" Nosedive pointed at the screen, not looking.

Leila didn't bat an eyelid. "I'm sure we drastically need the latest thing in unsightly hair removal Dive," she said sarcastically.

Nylessa sniggered. "Well, maybe he does anyway."

Nosedive growled. "Not that! The other thing!"

Duke decided it was high time to bail his apprentice out. "They just found a very, very large diamond. Dive here's in love."

Nylessa snorted. "Nosedive? Break military security? He couldn't break a vase even if he jumped on it!"

Nosedive narrowed his eyes. "I could so! And how'd you know about the military security anyhow?"

"I saw that broadcast earlier."

"You knew what I was talking about, and you just let me sit there and look stupid?!"

"Well, yeah. I mean, why not?"

Duke had to restrain Nosedive. Milantha laughed from the corner. "You couldn't do it," she said. "That sort of job needs careful planning, and finesse. You, like so many males, lack the ability of both."

"Now, wait just a second there! It's one thing ta insult Dive, but a totally different matter when you insult me too!" Duke interrupted.

"She's probably right." Nylessa smirked. "Nosedive couldn't do it. I doubt any of the guys in the Brotherhood could."

"We could to! Girl, you've been using too much hair spray!" Nosedive looked insulted. "And we'll prove it too!"

*****

The six drakes lay in the cold grass, eyeing the darkening base as the moons rose from the horizon and lights flickered on about the grounds. Only the second youngest really wanted to be there. The rest held great respect for the fury the females of the ‘Blade had at their feathertips.

"Nosedive, this is undoubtedly the stupidest thing you've ever gotten me into," Duke growled.

"You mean he talks you into insane stunts often?" Jedar feigned shock. Duke ignored the interruption.

"If we lose, we lose, and they'll never let us forget it! If we win, we lose, because they'll make our lives utter hell!"

Shockwave's white feathers went so pale he was nearly see-through. "Maybe we could go back?" he piped up in a hopeful voice.

Marshall nodded. "Must we really do our utmost ta disgrace tha ladies?"

"Are you guys all avians? Get a grip on yourselves!" Nosedive couldn't believe his ears. Was he the only one willing to stand up for his gender? "Not only do we get the respect we so richly deserve, we get one puck of a diamond too!"

"Pardon me for breaking up this conversation," Cutter broke in, sounding slightly amused. "But hadn't we get going? We're here, and that's that." He glanced at his watch. "The shields should go down in 5... 4..." He showed them his fingers as he counted down. "3... 2... 1... Now."

Sure enough, the front gate made a creak as the electric locks fell off. Cutter jumped up, and started running. Shockwave started up. "There's only a minute window," he hissed. "We couldn't chance them being off for longer."

"Let's party." Nosedive's smile glinted devilishly in the moonlight, and he pounded after the others.

*****

"So far, so good," Duke muttered, teeth clenched. Cutter headed off, knowing the base well.

"Sparky and myself will cut the internal security." He smiled. "Then, you know, we might just pick up a few things here and there..."

Shockwave actually looked rather evil. "Change a few base passwords..." he grinned.

Marshall glanced at his watch. "Let's meet up here in twenty, then."

Cutter and Shockwave took off in one direction, Duke and Nosedive in another. That left Marshall and Jedar.

Jedar glanced at the older duck with a grin. "Explore?"

Marshall bowed slightly. "After ye."

*****

Nosedive rubbed his hands gleefully as the force fields surrounding the diamond flickered off. Even Duke looked a little excited. "Oh yeah, baby..." he moaned, reaching for the diamond. He tossed it to the blond.

"Whoa, man, didn't I tell 'em we could do it?" Nosedive grinned, and turned to go.

"Not so fast," a third, female voice said coldly, clicking the safety off her pucklauncher. "Turn around slowly and hold your hands above your heads."

Duke and Nosedive exchanged glances, and then turned, Duke reaching quickly for his saber. Mallory shot it out of his hand immediately, and then finally saw his face. She stared. He stared. The other he grinned.

"Duke?!"

"Mally?!"

"Nosedive. But you both know me..."

"What do you think you're doing?!"

"Stealing the diamond of course! Duh!"

"But... But..."

"No buts about it Mallory." Duke shrugged, grinning. "So, how've ya been?"

"Fine.... Waitasec! Hands up!"

Nosedive started to laugh. "Oh, yeah, you're gonna shoot us... I don't think so."

"I have a job to do." Her voice was stone.

Duke was honestly startled. "They made you do guard duty?"

Mallory sighed. "Well, everyone has to some time... NOW PUT 'EM UP!"

Duke was about to bend over to get his saber, mind whirling, when Mallory abruptly slumped to the floor, her gun clattering away over the floor. As one, Nosedive and Duke looked from the unconscious Mallory to the figures standing over her.

Marshall felt guilty, and looked it too. "I dinna mean ta hurt tha lassy..."

Nosedive grinned. "She'll be fine." He tossed the diamond in the air cheerily. "She's got a very hard head."

*****

Cutter grinned as he hacked his way easily through the military database. He felt totally at home here, and was enjoying every moment of it. "Sweet." He merrily changed passwords left, right and center. The men here were going to get a big surprise at the end of their shifts...

Shockwave, however, was bored.

He idly flicked through the weapons the facility had. Bombs. Rockets. And lots of guns, of course; every military had those things. A bug started bothering him. He tried to squash it between his hands with little success, resulting in a series of loud claps until Cutter finally told him to quieten down.

As Shockwave scowled at the console in front of him, the bug landed neatly in front of him on the array of buttons, and he slapped a quick hand down on it. Splat! BEEP! He jumped as his screen flickered from a green background to a red background.

"Whoops."

Cutter spun in his chair immediately, a frown on his face. "Whoops? Whoops? I don't like to hear whoops, Sparky!"

"Rocket detonation sequence initiated," a robotic female voice echoed calmly.

Cutter immediately brought up the rocket's stat sheet, and groaned as he scanned the page. He leapt up and grabbed the teen's arm as he raced past.

"Why are we going?" Shockwave yelled as they pumped down the corridors.

"This place is going to blow! That rocket's gonna explode in its holder!"

"Whoops."

*****

The other four thieves were standing around the still unconscious Mallory when they burst in.

"Sparkyaccidentlysetoffabombwehavetomovebeforewegetblownskyhighcomeon!"

Duke, Jedar, Nosedive and Marshall blinked. "What?" they said in unison.

Cutter rolled his eyes. "Let me simplify this. RUN!"

Seeing the looks on Cutter and Shockwave's faces as they, well, 'rocketed' past, three of the guys obeyed instantly. Marshall paused for a second, and scooped up Mallory. He headed off after the others, but not before slamming his fist on a fire alarm button.

*****

Half an hour later in the clump of trees which was as far as they had managed to get before the base had gone boom, Shockwave was apologising.

"Sorry... I mean... Sorry... There was this yucky bug, and it was annoying me and it landed on the keyboard and I..."

Duke held up his hand. "Save it, kid," he said tiredly.

Marshall looked even older than usual. "Some woulda gotten out due ta tha alarm, but I dunna think it were many."

Jedar patted Marshall's shoulder. "Hey, that was quick thinking on your behalf. And those are military ducks. They all got out." He glanced at Shockwave. "They're trained for emergencies." But emergency plus Sparky equals absolute disaster, and were they trained for that? He didn't say it out loud.

Nosedive looked ashamed, sitting against a tree trunk with his head bowed. "I didn't even think to get Mal," he muttered. "Nah, I just bolted..."

"Hey, kid, it's okay," Duke said. "No one blames ya, and Mal's okay."

"This is all very touching," Cutter broke in mildly, "but perhaps we ought to return to the matter at hand?"

The 'matter at hand' said nothing.

"That's a good right hook you've got Marshall. She's still out." Nosedive was quite impressed. "I've never seen Mallory bested by a fist."

Duke looked around. "Did anyone bring any water?" He was met by a multitude of shaking heads. "Great," he muttered.

"It'll be chaos at the military base." Shockwave sighed. "If we left her somewhere for them they'd probably never find her. Or something would fall on her."

Jedar shrugged. "Well we can't take her back to the Lair, or Leila will explode at us. We'll just have to wait."

So they did.

*****

"Do you think we still won the bet? I mean, we did get the diamond..."

"Nosedive, shut up."

*****

It was an hour before dawn. Duke shifted in the dampening grass. "We have to get moving soon," he mumbled, unnecessarily.

Mallory moaned softly, and blinked. In a flash, they all surrounded her. Jedar quickly confiscated a puckshooter from her belt, and Cutter and Marshall held her down gently in case she decided to fight. Duke and Nosedive crouched near her head, while Shockwave stayed on lookout.

"Hey, Mallory, can ya hear me?" Duke asked her quietly. She narrowed her eyes to bring him into focus easier.

"I can hear you..."

"Great!" Nosedive enthused. "How are you feeling?"

Mallory opened her beak to answer, but Marshall broke in. "Terribly sorry ta be hitting ye like that, lass. I suppose that in hindsight a bola puck would have been sufficient..."

Shockwave stood over them all, wide eyed and looking like a giant. "I didn't mean to blow up your base! It was the bug's fault!"

Jedar shook his head. He glanced at Mallory. "You think you're okay to get back home by yourself?"

There was a long pause. Mallory finally spoke up. "Where's that?"

Duke looked confused. "We don't know, sorry..."

"I don't either," she said simply.

Nosedive leaned in closer. "What's your name?"

She sat up, and guessed. "Mallory? That's what he called me." The female pointed at Duke, who sat back on his heels.

"Beautiful. She's got amnesia, or something." He looked disgusted.

Marshall looked increasingly guilty. "Has anyone here ever dealt with this sort of thing before?" Nobody answered. "Ah. Okay."

Mallory rubbed the back of her head. "You guys are my friends, aren't you?"

Nosedive nodded quickly. "Oh, sure. We're not going to hurt you, if that's what you're thinking."

She looked rather plaintive. "Can't I go home with you? I don't want to stay here."

Jedar snorted, and stood up. "She's faking. She has to be. She just wants the whereabouts of the Lair."

Duke shook his head. "That's not her style. She'd rather kick you than con you."

"What do you guys do?" Mallory seemed more interested in them then herself.

Cutter answered her shortly. "We're thieves."

She looked at him in slight wonder. "Oh... Am I a thief too?"

Nosedive grinned suddenly.

*****

"This is a stupid idea. What if she gets her memory back? What if someone recognises her?" Jedar was not at all pleased with the current solution, and he was trying to keep on the pessimistic side of things -- the way he saw it, someone had to...

Mallory, hair newly blonde and wearing jeans and a t-shirt, wasn't listening to him. What she was listening to was Duke, who was explaining her 'past' to her slowly and carefully. The sun was high in the sky by now, and they all knew they were being missed.

Nosedive was having the time of his life, nearly dancing with excitement. "Come on 007, it's like the ultimate irony!"

Shockwave looked doubtful. "They'll never believe us, though."

"Not you too? Do you want Nylessa to crow over you for the rest of your life?"

"No."

"This way she won't."

"...You were trying to steal the diamond when we got there, so now we're taking you back to our gang. But your name isn't really Mallory."

Mallory looked at Duke. "Why did you call me Mallory, then?"

"You look like someone I once knew called Mallory, but you aren't. Your name is... uh... Melanie. Melanie Gemsong."

"Oh. It's a nice name," she added thoughtfully.

Cutter grinned and turned back to the others. "I don't believe it. I think we can pull it off. And even if we don't, at least we will have tried!" They all turned to look at Jedar with expectant expressions.

Jedar gave in. "Fine, not that my agreeing matters much. Just remember when Leila serves up our heads on platters that this was not my idea."

*****

"This is Melanie, Melanie Gemsong." Duke held his breath, waiting for Leila to throw a fit. When she didn't, he relaxed slightly. "She was trying to steal the diamond when we got there."

Leila looked her up and down. 'Melanie' smiled reassuringly. Leila nodded. "So, you want to join the Brotherhood of the Blade?"

Nosedive nodded from behind Leila, so she too nodded. "Yes, I do."

Leila got on with it. "You must swear never to..."

*****

"...You're a junior, so you'll stick with me and Sparky for the most part, except when we go off with our masters, which are Duke and Cutter respectively. Then, if anyone asks a lot of questions that you can't answer, just don't. People respect that around here. If we ARE with you, let us answer. Uh... Any questions?" Nosedive was fast getting used to 'Melanie'. After all, she didn't look like Mallory so much anymore, and she didn't act like Mallory so much either, it was easy.

They entered the training hall. Iliana and Milantha were training there. They cast a curious eye at Nosedive and his entourage. Nosedive waved a hand at them, while Shockwave went over to talk. "That's Iliana and Milantha. Iliana's the Loremaster, so you have to be polite to her. Milantha's Sparky's girlfriend, so you have to be polite to her too." he muttered out of the corner of his beak. Mallory nodded knowingly.

"Hey Dive! Who's the chick? And why's she hanging with a dope like you?" A saber student called out. Someone else laughed.

"He likes older women."

"So do I, when they look like that." The saber student advanced on the two, much larger than both of them, carrying his saber. He grabbed Mallory's wrist, and she shook him off. He feigned hurt. "Aw, come on, you can't wanna hang with a kid like him." He leaned in closer until his face was inches from hers.

"You know what I'd really like, right now?" Mallory asked, sweetly sarcastic. Nosedive had a feeling he knew what was coming next. The saber student didn't.

"What's that?" he whispered back, about to kiss her.

"For you to GET OUT OF MY FACE!" She pulled back suddenly and gave him a hard kick to the gut, sending him sprawling to the ground.

Silence reigned as the hall's occupants all gaped at the new junior. Mallory calmly stepped over the fallen male. "Now, Nosedive, what were you showing me?" He didn't answer, carefully eyeing the bully's friends to see if they'd attack. It didn't look like they would.

Milantha broke the silence by clapping.

*****

Duke blinked as he flicked through the wallet Mallory had handed him. He raised an eyebrow at Nosedive. "She's actually pretty good." he muttered.

Mallory overheard, and she put her hands on her hips. "Well, if I can steal a diamond I can steal a wallet!"

Duke nodded quickly. "Of course."

"I'm hungry. I'll be right back." Mallory headed over to a fruit store. She casually started up a conversation with the store keeper, checking over the food. As soon as he turned to another customer, she took a few of the smaller varieties, and wandered back over, tossing Nosedive and Duke a piece each. "So, when do we get onto the more interesting stuff?"

*****

"I told you so." Jedar sounded smug.

"Why don't you help instead of smirking?"

Cutter smiled suddenly. "Marshall, you don't have an apprentice."

Shockwave and Marshall exchanged glances, and the pale grey duck finally answered. "No. I don't. Fer personal reasons."

Nosedive caught on. "Yeah? And who was the one who bonked her over the head in the first place?"

Marshall shook his head. "No."

Jedar, Cutter and Nosedive nodded. "Yes."

*****

"He's going to apprentice me?"

Nosedive nodded. "You said you wanted a master..."

"But not him!" Mallory looked rather mystified. "Why him? I mean... He's old!"

Jedar was slightly annoyed. Had they spent the best part of three hours talking Marshall into it for nothing? "Melanie, you'll be fine. Marshall is a good teacher, and a good swordsman."

Mallory sighed.

*****

"Hands looser. Faith, not that loose! It'll fall out, lass! Yes, much better...Perfect in fact." Marshall examined the grip Mallory had on her training sabre. He moved her fingers up and down the weapon.

And pulled up sharply. "By the DuCaine..." he whispered.

On her left hand, one of her fingers bore the mark of a wedding ring.

*****

Lyric raised an eyebrow as another whispered male conference was carried out in the Mess Hall. "They look cosy."

Milantha looked annoyed. "Sparky said he was going to eat with me. We haven't talked all day."

Estelle leaned on one elbow lazily. "Hello, here's Melanie." She sat up straighter as the guys shut up when she came over to them. "That's funny. First time she hasn't been part of the conferences."

Lyric started eating again. "Oh well." She obviously wasn't bothered. Milantha and Estelle exchanged glances, and pretended to return to their food.

*****

"This just gets worse and worse." Jedar grumbled. "I say we get rid of her somehow. She doesn't know the way back here."

Duke shook his head. "Unfortunately, it's our fault she's in this mess." He glanced at Nosedive. "Plus, she's... Mallory. We can't just dump her."

Nosedive raised an eyebrow. "She's been very busy, hasn't she? Wonder why we never knew?" He smirked. "I bet some guy out there is very, very happy..."

Cutter shook his head. "Right now, some guy out there is very, very upset. Has anyone considered the fact that outside of this toilet block, Mallory McMallard is dead?"

"Not McMallard."

"Whatever."

There was a toilet flush. They all froze as Tarrin came out of a cubicle. He held up a hand before they could make up an explanation. "I don't want to know." He left without another word. Marshall also headed for the door.

"Let's find out where to drop her off."

*****

"Mallory McMallard not found."

"Damn."

"Ideas?"

"What do you mean, 'not found'?!"

"The system's only as good as the information in it, and the instructions we give it. How is it meant to know what her last name is now?"

"Well, how are we?"

Duke held up his hands. "Okay, okay. Jedar, Cutter's doing his best. Cutter, don't act like Jedar. Now... Who would Mallory be most likely to marry?"

Nosedive grinned hugely. "Out of all the guys I know she knows? You."

"Don't be stupid."

Nosedive ignored Duke, and tapped Cutter on the shoulder. "Mallory l'Orange. Look it up."

"This is pointless!"

Cutter smiled, shrugged, and looked it up. "What's it going to hu-rt?" He blinked as a result came back with a recent photo of someone who was definitely the former Miss McMallard. Nosedive had a choking fit. Duke looked like he'd been slapped. Marshall and Shockwave were trying not to laugh. Jedar was also amused.

"That's one twisted chick. Not to mention Duke..."

"No!" Duke growled. "Get more information." Cutter did so, and they read on. Duke suddenly started to laugh. "This is unbelievable..."

"Whoa Duke! Mal's your sister-in-law!"

Duke grinned. "Way to go Rance..." He suddenly blanched. "And he thinks she's dead..."

*****

Again, it was night and the moons were rising. But now it was just two ducks, and they were not near a military base.

"This is going to get you killed. Firstly, by Rance, and secondly by anyone who sees us." Nosedive was looking warily over his shoulder. According to the computer, they were standing in front of the l'Orange residence, in a very heavily populated part of the Metropolis.

Duke didn't answer. He hesitated at the door, finger almost on the bell. "What are we goin' ta say? Sorry Rance, didn't know she was yours..."

"Duke! Just get us inside before we get caught!"

The older duck took a deep breath, and pressed the door chime. They heard it sound inside. There was a clattering of footsteps, and the door was opened hurriedly. "Have you heard...Oh. Hello."

Duke rubbed the back of his neck. "Hey Rance. Can we come in?"

Rance's face was like stone. "Now's not a good time." Duke took a good look at his younger brother. His eyes were slightly red, and he looked tired. Duke felt guilty.

"You really want to hear what we have to say." Nosedive piped up. Rance stood in the door for a second more, then moved and jerked his head to signal his welcome.

*****

Rance stared into his coffee. The gold ring on his finger made Duke smile slightly. My little brother, all grown up an' married...

Nosedive cleared his throat, wondering if it was only him who was getting suffocated by tension. "Umm... Who is the lucky girl?" He pointed to Rance's hand.

Rance put down his cup, and twisted the ring around and around. "Who was the lucky girl. She's dead." He looked down at the floor.

Duke sighed. "That's why we're here. Mallory's not dead."

Rance looked up with a start. "Huh?! How'd you know it was...?"

"She's with us."

"She's with you? YOU'RE the ones that blew the place up?!" Rance stood angrily.

Nosedive laughed nervously. "Slight miscalculation on the behalf of one of our colleagues..."

"Is she okay?!"

"Physically." Duke was quiet.

Rance's eyes were nearly shooting fire. "Only physically?"

"She's got amnesia, Rance."

"She WHAT?!"

"Nasty bump on the head. We didn't know what to do with her, so we took her back with us."

Rance snarled. "You won't be happy until you've got the whole team in that hole, will you?!" Duke didn't answer, so Rance continued. "Bring her back. Wait, I'm coming to get her..." He grabbed a gun and a coat.

"Wait!" Duke wondered how to put it. "She thinks she's a thief."

"Well, however could she have gotten that idea?" Rance's voice dripped sarcasm. "I don't care if Mallory thinks she's a Saurian! She's got to come home!"

Nosedive sipped his own drink. "Why'd you two never tell us you got married?"

"You never asked. Let's go."

"Rance, don't be stupid. You know you can't just waltz in there. They'll kill you." Duke tried, unsuccessfully, to calm him down.

"You're telling me not to be stupid?! Puck callin' the kettle black, Duke."

Duke forced back a retort. "Listen, I have a plan, which will hopefully get Mallory's memory back." He could see Rance about to interrupt, and he held up his hand. "Hear me out. For once."

*****

"Why this house?" Mallory wanted to know.

Marshall shrugged. "It's a nice house. Means there'll be nice stuff inside."

"Fair enough." She started walking across the street. Marshall watched her go with a sigh, then stepped back into the shadows. Mallory turned to ask him where he thought they should break in, and was surprised when he wasn't there. She decided to test the front door, hoping she'd get lucky. She did.

Rance was watching her from behind the bathroom door, and it was all he could do to stop himself running over as she started to rustle through drawers. "Hey, a cop..." she murmured. She pulled out some more papers. "Military stuff...Could be useful..." She pulled up with a gasp as she found her photo attached to some papers. "What the...They've got a file on me?" She dropped it like it was made of hot coals, and moved over to the bench. Rance smiled slightly as she flicked through the photos he'd 'conveniently' left lying around.

"Rance?"

Rance spun around to find none other than Leila deSilver standing behind him. "What... deSilver?" he choked out.

Mallory heard them, and was more than startled when her leader walked into the sitting room with a duck whom she'd just seen in some photos. "What's going on?"

"Exactly what I want to know." Leila growled. Her look only got darker as Duke and Nosedive burst into the room, followed by Marshall.

"Mallory..." Rance reached out for her, and she blinked.

"Mallory?"

"Mallory?" Leila stared, and took a closer look at the red head. "Mallory McMallard?!"

"L'Orange." Rance supplied.

Duke laughed nervously. Nosedive backed up.

"What the Drake is going on here?!" Leila was, by now, not pleased.

Duke cleared his throat, and tried to be angry. "You followed us?"

"Tarrin informed me of an interesting discussion you had."

"Tattletail," Nosedive grumbled.

"She got a bump on her head and lost her memory... We couldn't just leave her..." Duke tried to explain the situation unsuccessfully.

"What's going on?" Mallory was getting distressed. Rance moved to comfort her, and strangely, she didn't shrug him off. "You're the one in the photos..."

Rance nodded, and ignored the others. "My name's Rance." he said softly. "Rance L'Orange. I'm Duke's younger brother."

She smiled at him. "Nice to meet you."

Rance smiled back, knowing very well that she had to remember him somehow...She was never this friendly when she first met people... "You're going to stay with me instead of Duke fer awhile... No more stealin', okay?"

She pulled back slightly. "But I'm a good thief! I've always been a thief!"

Rance shook his head. "They've been lyin' to you. You're not a thief, you're in the military."

Mallory was startled. So much so that, for the first time in her life, she was speechless. Meanwhile, Duke and Leila were still arguing, while Nosedive and Marshall tried to look like they weren't there.

"Why didn't you take her back to the base?!"

"It was blown up..."

"Say what?!"

"Sparky had a small accident..."

"My stars!"

Everyone spun on their heels as a new voice joined the commotion. A rather large, plumpish, middle-aged female duck stood there, looking aghast. "Mrs L'Orange?!"

Mallory looked peevish. "I've told you not to call me that." She continued under her breath. "In fact, I've told you not to call me at all..."

Rance rolled his eyes. "Oh, so she remembers Mrs Hen, but not me! Mally, I'm hurt."

Mallory blinked, as if suddenly aware of her surroundings. "What the...? Duke?! Nosedive?! What are you doing here?! Who're they?!" She scowled at everyone except Rance.

The ensuring pandemonium was so great that no one noticed Mrs Hen head out the door. But ten minutes later, while Rance and Mallory had a touching reunion, and Duke nearly had his own touching reunion with Leila's saber, the police burst in.

"Hands UP!" Mallory and Rance put their hands over their heads. The others tried to leg it. Unfortunately for Leila, Mallory had pieced enough together to figure out that she was a thief, and Leila didn't see Mallory's foot until it was level with her eyes on the ground.

The red head smirked down as the torrent of abuse washed off her back. "That's not very ladylike."

Leila jumped up faster than the cops could grab her. "Neither is this!" And she promptly gave Mallory a punch in the gut.

*****

Another ten minutes later, after they'd been pulled apart, Leila and Mallory sat with their hands tied behind their backs glowering at each other as the lock-up van trundled down the icy streets. They were bickering more like sisters than the future sister-in-laws that they really were.

"This is all your fault."

"My fault?! Let's not ferget who was wimpy enough ta get knocked out by Marshall!"

"He got me from behind! And let's not forget who Marshall works for either!"

"He does not work fer me."

Mallory snorted. "Oh sure, whatever."

Leila narrowed her eyes. "You know what your problem is?"

"Loud-beaked, black haired bimbos?"

"Alright, them's fightin' words!"

The cop looked over his shoulder. "Are we going to have to sedate you two?!"

The younger duck continued in a low voice. "I hope they put you away for good. This is where being on the wrong side of the law gets you."

But Leila was listening to something else. When she turned back to her unwilling companion, she was smiling slightly. "Maybe, but it'll also get me outta here."

"Huh?"

Leila perkily waved goodbye to Mallory as the back door of the van opened, and a light grey arm pulled her out onto the roof of the vehicle. For the second time that day Mallory was lost for words as the duck in the blue jumpsuit that she didn't know shot a grappling hook around a passing lamp post, and still couldn't speak as the two ducks swung off the top of the van to the street. By the time Mallory had regained the power of speech, they were disappearing off into the opposite direction of the still moving van.

"Oh, this is going to look very bad in the papers," Mallory mumbled.

*****

Two ducks were arguing, but it wasn't Leila and Mallory. It was Jedar and Nosedive.

"I told you this was a bad idea from the start, didn't I?"

"Shut up."

"Didn't I?"

"Shut up!"

"Didn't--?" Jedar was interrupted by the combined voices of Duke, Marshall, Cutter and Shockwave.

"SHUT UP!!!"

"Just clean, will ya?" Duke grumbled.

Shockwave paused in his work, and looked at the end of his toothbrush. "I'm out of paste again," he complained.

Cutter gave him an aghast look. "Please don't tell me you've been using your toothpaste on this floor instead of suds."

"Of course I haven't."

"Good."

"It's your toothpaste."

"SPARKY!"

"Oh... Wait... Am I meant to be using that soapy water?"

Cutter shook his head and directed Shockwave to the bucket.

Two hours later, the Mess Hall floor was cleaner than ever before.

Until Dude walked all over it with muddy boots, that is.

"Faith and puck, lass, now we have ta start all over again!"

Dude gave Marshall a cheeky look, and scampered off to get her payment from Nylessa.

 

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