Part One - That Thing in the Ice
White flecks blowing through the imposing grayness surrounds the tiny research station positioned at the Pine Island Glacier outpost. With the constant threat of global warming and loss of what was once thought of as an endless land of ice, scientist survey the continent with a vigor never before seen. The tiny village of pods linked by plastic tunnels resembles a frozen translucent mound barely visible through the storm that has overtaken the late afternoon sky.
A line of three snowmobiles followed by two teams of dogsleds rushes through the unforgiving weather in a search for shelter from the harsh environment. They pull into a makeshift area and begin to dismount their varied transports and hurry inside for warmth.
“Don’t worry about the dogs,” a man shouts to his companions over the wind. “I’ll get them settled and fed. You take the specimen in and see what the professor has to say about it.”
All of his companions but one nodded at his order, grabbing equipment and bags of gear before heading inside. He instead moved up beside the first man. “I’ll stay and give you a hand. It’s too cold for one man to be doing all by himself.”
“Fine. Whatever you say, Nic.” He pats the man on the shoulder as he turns to the sleds to release the sled dogs. “I want to get her in as fast as we can. She’s been acting sluggish ever since she left the dig site.”
“She seemed just fine there. She was digging at something buried in the snow,” Wilbur said. He knelt down before one of the lead dogs and examined her mouth. “Yeah, we better get her inside. I don’t like the look of her mouth. It’s not right. It’s turning yellow.”
“Probably just the snow. Let’s get them inside where its warm.”
Together, they began releasing all the dogs from their harnesses and leading them to the kennel run where their cages were kept.
)> )> )> )>
“What do you think it could be, Professor?” Expedition Leader Jonaz asked of the young man standing over the examination table where the ice sample had been placed. “We found it inside of a recently discovered crevasse in the ice field just before the storm blew in.”
“It is unusual, that is for certain,” Professor Plum said. “It appears to be an avian, roughly the size of a football. It is completely encased in the ice, which is strange. It would take a long period of time for the ice to become this dense around an unfortunate wildfowl that traveled into this region of the continent. It might be some type of malformed penguin.”
“Do you think it is worth thawing out?” Jonaz asked while rubbing his hands together for warmth. “We were going to just leave it there, but we figured we should let you make that decision. Do something that makes it look like our venture down here isn’t a huge waste of time.”
“I can use an extraction drill and take a small sample of the creatures DNA and use that to discern what it truly is,” Professor Plum said. He walked over to a cabinet, opened the double doors, and removed a large drill. Fastening a long, thin bit into its housing, he returned to the table, pressing the trigger repeatedly to test the device. And because he liked the sound. “Not to worry, my little friend. This won’t hurt a bit.”
Placing the drill bit to the large block of ice, he pressed it forward while engaging the motor. A mist of ice chips spewed from the hole he created as he sent the bit deeper and deeper into the sample. Reaching the hazy shape trapped in the ice, the drill suddenly jumped in his hands as if fighting his attempt to drill any further.
A bloodcurdling garbled howl erupted through the compound, louder than any natural animal should be able to make. Its sound resembled the baying of a wolf but combined with an unearthly hissing sputter.
“What was that?” Jonaz asked. He hurried to the intercom built into the laboratories wall. “Nic? Was that one of your sled dogs?”
From the other end of the intercom, terrified and frightened barks played. “Somethings going on with Queenie. You know where the professor is?”
“He’s here with us. What’s happening?” Jonaz asked.
“I… I… I don’t know. You have to see this. I think Morphons must be changing her.” The intercom went silent.
Professor Plum retracted the drill bit from the ice. “Let me put this away and I’ll meet you all there.”
Jonaz nodded and rushed out of the room as the professor brought a cooler out from under a shelf and placed the frozen object inside. He also removed the drill bit and placed it into a test tube, sealed it with a cork stopper, and placed it inside of the cooler as well.
The kennel where the sled dogs was a filled with stalls for two dozen animals, tiny sliding doors to allow them entry and exit, and shelves of bagged food. The noise from the dogs was overwhelming as they barked and howled with discontentment, except from within Queenie’s slot. Nic, Tasha, and Tara stood outside of her stall and stared into it with looks of worry and shock as Jonaz entered the room.
“What’s wrong with her? How was she hurt?” Jonaz demanded as he stepped behind them. Once he could see what captured their attention, he took a step back in horror. “What in the name of god?”
The large, lean dog was barely recognizable. Her fur had become matted to the point of looking like it has become one solid layer plastered to her body. A body that appeared to be liquefying, changing into a blob of goo, except for her head. Her muzzle flattened and her jaw widened as it took on a yellow hue. It was horrifying to look at, straight out of a horror movie.
Blossom and her parents loaded up the back of their van with supplies for a picnic. A large basket full of supplies, a picnic blanket, and a large ice chest. Her father closed the door with a firm click and they all boarded the vehicle.
“Why are we doing this again?” Blossom asked. Her weekends were the only time she had to practice her morphing abilities for BADGE as a probationary field agent. This outing was an interruption of her planned activity.
“We need to get out of the house for a while and have some family fun,” Dad said. “With Mom at her new job and you at the Sagan Academy for school, we haven’t seen much of each other lately.”
“What are you talking about? We have dinner every night together,” Blossom said as she buckled her seatbelt.
“That’s right. We sit around a table and eat, but we’re all so tired from the day, we don’t do much else. We need to have some fun. Recharge the batteries, so to say,” Mom said.
As much as Blossom wanted to disagree so she could stay home, she couldn’t. Between homework and twice weekly patrols, she had been pretty busy, as had her mom, with her landscaping designs. A day outside at the New Amsterdam State Park might be a good diversion.
What could be more relaxing than a day next to the lake, taking in the sun, and feeding the ducks.
“What do you think is going on, Professor?” Jonaz asked.
“I may be a genius, but I have absolutely no idea.” Professor Plum said as he knelt beside what used to be Queenie. Her canine body was no longer visible. Instead, it was replaced by a hardened carapace formed from what used to be her beautiful black and white coat. He tapped at what remained of her with a pen. “I’d need to verify this with equipment in my lab, but it resembles calcium carbonate.”
“Bone?” Nic said.
“There’s more than just calcium carbonate in bone. This is more like… shell. The hard shell of an egg.” Professor Plum stood up and grabbed a nearby broom. He swung at the remains, striking the material hard. The blow was deflected, showing no apparent damage to the shell casing. The blow did evoke a low rumbling growl from within what was left of Queenie, causing everyone to retreat a step. “Very hard shell, but shell none the less.”
“Is she still alive in there?” Nic asked, his face contorted in concern.
Professor Plum took an old-fashioned stethoscope out of a backpack, knelt down closer to the mass, and placed it on top of the carapace. “I hear a muffled heartbeat, but it is very, very slow.” He stood back up and waved the others toward the door leading deeper into the compound. “I think it is time we contacted BADGE. Their scientists will certainly have more experience with this… strangeness.”
“OK then,” Jonaz said. “Nic, get the rest of the dogs out of here, but keep them contained. We don’t know what this is. If they were contaminated or infected, we need to keep an eye on them. I’ll contact BADGE, but with this storm, it’s likely going to be a while before they can get anyone here. Spread word to everyone else to keep out of here. Professor, keep me informed if you find out anything new.”
Each with their own missions, the group dispersed to their assigned tasks. Professor Plum retrieved the drill from inside his pack and loaded a new, larger bit.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
I smell a quack... 🦆
"Embrace your inner weirdness"
In reply to this post by Madam Marvelous
Part 2: Fowl Air
Jonaz entered the communications room of the Antarctic base. Power flickered slightly, as it typically did during storms. He sat down at the computer monitor and pressed the space bar to bring the system out of sleep mode. After a few seconds, a bright blue screen flared to life. Jonaz dug the nails of his frostbitten hands into the thick nylon pants he wore to keep warm.
WINDOWS UPDATE IN PROGRESS
DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR DEVICE
THIS COULD TAKE SEVERAL MINUTES…
“Ballz!” Jonaz said through gritted teeth. “Every time you need to do something important…”
The wind outside roared like a frenzied beast. Tiny whistles of frigid air slipping through cracks in the exterior doors filled the air with an eerie harmony. Professor Plum removed the drill bit from the hole in the casing around what remained of Queenie, dragging a thin line of goo as the tool pulled away from the small hole.
“What is this now?” Plum mused to himself. He spun about and began to search through his pack for a specimen dish to store the clear, mucus-like substance until he could get it to his lab.
Through the hole he created an angry red eye peeked outward. It stared at the professor’s back and then a soft tapping at the interior of the shell began, just quiet enough that the noise was blocked by the fury outside.
“Finally!” Jonaz exclaimed as the blue screen of death faded. He initiated the communications protocol to contact BADGE. “Hello. Can anyone hear me?”
Static played over the speakers, nearly deafening Jonaz. He lowered the volume until he could tolerate the background noise. “Hello. Anyone who can hear this message, please respond. We need assistance from BADGE. We’ve had a strange… encounter here. Something seems to have infected one of our sled dogs.”
Professor Plum returned his attention to what remained of Queenie. A quiver of movement behind the hole he created startled him. He leaned in, curious as to what moved within. A red eye ringed by white met his stare and then darted away from the opening in the shell.
“What in heaven’s name is that?” The professor leaned in closer, searching for a better glimpse of what he saw within.
Deeper within the shell-like casing, barely visible in the darkness within, a pair of eyes glinted in the light above a yellow bill as something peeked out at the professor. “Quack.”
Bracing himself with both arms, the professor leaned forward with his head to verify what he imagined he saw. “How on earth did a d—"
What he could only describe as a duck charged forward, breaking through the shell as its bill opened wide and promptly closed down hard on the professor’s hand. Blood gushed out, spilling over what appeared to be the formerly peeking duck’s bill, covering it with Plum’s bright red sauce of life. “Quack. Quack. Quack quack quack. <spit>.”
The professor howled in pain as he quickly yanked his tender hand away. He suddenly felt ill and swooned, rolling prone to the floor as he passed out. “You mother…”
Jonaz finished sending his message out into the aether, hoping someone would respond t his call for help. He rushed back to find the professor to see what progress he might have made. Once he reached the doorway, he paused, shocked to see another shell-like casing on the floor. This one resembled a human body, but had a large section broken away that created a hole into its vacated interior.
“Professor?” Jonaz muttered as he took a step backward. A rustling of feathers startled him from behind.
He spun about, discovering a red-eyed duck in the hallway behind him. Kneeling, Jonaz studied the unusual visitor to the station. “What the heck? How did you get here?”
Something rubbed against his thigh. Jonaz looked down and found another duck beside him, this one with red stains all over its yellow bill.
“QUACK!” The duck raised its wings and charged upward at Jonaz’s face.
“Thanks for giving us your help to get to the station during this storm, Star Force,” the pilot said over his radio. He looked out the side window and waved at Chained Angel as she flew with wings as white as the snow. Snow that was falling in the air outside of the protective bubble Infinite Tempest created to keep the storm from interfering with the rescue plane’s mission.
Chained Angel waved back. “That’s what we’re here for. Tempest and I were investigating some leads on the Augments in South America, so we were already in the region.”
“We’re getting close to the coordinates you gave me for the base,” the Infinite Tempest said. “The storm is starting to let up, so you should be able to land without difficulty. How long have you been out of communication with the expedition?”
“It’s been about six hours since we heard from the base commander. Jonaz send out a message for help, but it was garbled. BADGE hasn’t been able to reach them since.” Agent Leslie said from her co-pilot seat.
“We’ll go ahead and check out the area while you land the plane. Meet you all there,” Chained Angel said before diving down toward the ground, Infinite Tempest following closely behind her.
The clouds and flurries of snow dissipated like curtains parting as they approached the Antarctic base. A heavy wind buffeted them and the landed, as if pushing them away. Other than that, nothing moved as they searched over the building’s perimeter.
Chained Angel wrapped her wings around her, protecting herself from the wind. “Where is the crew? You think they’d be watching for help to arrive.”
“I don’t know. Should we go--,” Infinite Tempest raised his arm and pointed behind Angel, “-DUCK.”
As she whirled around, a piece of torn canvas slapped against her face and flew off with the wind.
“I said to duck,” Infinite Tempest said with a chuckle.
“Thanks,” Chained Angel said coolly. “You head that way; I’ll go around the other side.”
The two of them examined the exterior of the buildings as the plane landed, following BADGE protocol until the plane landed. Once the agents departed the plane, they headed into the buildings while the Morphon-powered heroes maintained the perimeter.
Once inside, the agents searched the compound and found no signs of life. The equipment was all working properly. The environmental systems were all functioning, and beside powdery white residue in places throughout the building, everything seemed fine.
Agent Leslie called Chained Angel in to assist. The two of them met in the central laboratory area.
“No sign of them?” Angel asked as she entered the room.
“Nothing. No signs of distress or messages. No bodies. Nothing unusual except for nobody is here.” Agent Leslie said as she heaved a heavy cooler from the floor to a table. “This seems to be where they placed whatever unusual object they found for storage, but I have to admit, I’m not sure if I should open it.”
“Do you mind?” Chained Angel asked as she moved up to the table edge.
Agent Leslie stepped back. “I suppose not. I don’t sense anything alive in it, but I’ve seen too many horror movies to take the chance.”
Chained Angel smiled as she pulled the top off. She looked into the interior of the box. “Whatever it is, it’s still frozen solid in ice.” She went to reach in to remove the object.
“NO.” Agent Leslie rushed up and slammed the lid shut. “I sensed something waking up when you went to pick it up. We need to get whatever that is to BADGE’s scientists. I got a very, very bad feeling from it.”
Chained Angel pressed the lid tightly closed. “OK. Let me call in for some help with that.” She pressed a button on her wrist communicator. “Starmaster. Do you mind playing postman for us?”
Starmaster teleported into the room, his blue and black costume appearing in a burst of blue energy as he exited the Mindscape. “What do you need?”
“Can you take this to BADGE’s science labs and give it to Dr. Henderson. There are some scientists and expedition personnel missing and this may be part of the reason why.” Chained Angel reported to her league’s founder.
“Happy to help. I’ll be there in a –” Starmaster disappeared in a flash of blue light as he teleported through the Mindscape to BADGE’s HQ.
Infinite Tempest circled the frozen compound from the sky, watching the horizon for signs of bad weather. Beneath him, under the cover of newly fallen snow, several green heads popped up from the ground. Nearly two dozen red-eyed ducks padded their way up the plane’s ramp and into its interior, softly quacking in an odd unison.
The constantly blowing wind covered their triangular footprints, leaving no trace of their presence to be seen.
Starmaster appeared in a hallway outside the BADGE HQ science department, not wanting to disrupt the efforts of the technicians working within, or their experiments. Using his telepathic ability, he sought out the mind of Dr. Henderson. Fortunately, she seemed to be in a meeting in a conference room with two individuals Starmaster knew well.
“So, have you made any further progress on your Project Dreamcatcher since you temporarily stepped down while your bun is safely baking?” Dr. Henderson asked.
Krystal Fae reclined in her chair, alleviating some pressure on her back as she touched her growing midsection. A steaming cup of tea, hints of lemon and mint scenting the air as it steeped, sat before her alongside a binder of notes. “I’ve done some simulations with several engine configurations and have had encouraging results. We may be getting close to building a prototype at the start of the new year.”
Alan Marcus, aka Catalyst, sat beside her and nodded. When Starmaster knocked on the door to the room, Catalyst stood and moved to open it. Before he reached it, the knob turned and Starmaster walked in. “No fair using TK. What rush?”
“I’m sorry to interrupt you three,” Starmaster began. He explained the situation at the Antarctic base to the group. He held up the transport cooler holding the object found by the expedition. “They hoped you might be able to figure out what this is.”
“We’ll do our best. Krystal. Alan. Do you mind assisting us?” Dr. Henderson asked.
The two super-powered scientists nodded, and together they all moved into secure examination lab.
The plane departed the base after an hour of searching. Chained Angel and Infinite Tempest remained behind to continue to search further into the Antarctic terrain.
Agent Leslie couldn’t help but to feel slightly useless, not being able to find the missing crew, but a nagging headache dampened her limited telepathic abilities. Her head pounded like she was trapped in a room with dozens of people all singing Happy Birthday in different languages at the same time, over and over.
After several hours of flight, they entered North American airspace and began their journey to New Amsterdam. The pilot worked hard, maintaining their course, but for some reason, tiny mechanical alarms kept triggering from internal subsystems in the aircraft’s ventilation mechanics.
“This is so odd,” the pilot said as he tapped a gauge on the dashboard. “There it goes again. It’s reporting blockage in duct Alpha 9. Then it goes away.”
“Did something get trapped in there? A goose or pigeon caught in the intake vent?” Agent Leslie knew of several aircraft vs bird accidents that happened during flights.
The pilot shook his head. “No. We haven’t hit anything. Why don’t you see if you can get the maintenance drone online and have it search through the vents to see what’s going on.”
“Can do,” Agent Leslie said as she pulled a computer keyboard onto her lap. She activated the small eight-legged robotic drone located in the planes cargo bay and sent it into the nearest air duct. Its metallic legs tapped at the aluminum like a dozen birds pecking at a glass window. Even all the way up in the cockpit, Agent Leslie could hear the faint staccato echoes of the drone’s movement reverberating from the vent in the ceiling.
Using the modifications to the implant that allowed him to hear, Catalyst ultrasonically scanned the contents of the container after they removed it. Beneath the dense ice, an unusual discovery was made. “Duck.”
After years of fighting villains, Starmaster immediately dipped his head expecting an attack.
“No,” Catalyst snorted as he released a single laugh, then pointed at the object on the titanium tray. “It duck.”
“Don’t you mean a penguin? How did a duck ever survive in that climate?” Starmaster asked.
“Not normal duck. Still showing diminished cellular activity. Faint heartbeat.” Catalyst brought up a digital display and showed them the vital signs he could pick up with his scan.
“You’re not going to believe this,” Doctor Henderson said from a different lab station. A gas chromatograph displayed a series of chemical peaks on its screen. “There are indications of extraterrestrial particulates in the ice surrounding it.”
“A space duck? Is Strange Quark’s trying to pull one of his pranks or something on us.” Krystal Fae said with wide eyes. “If there weren’t missing people involved, I wouldn’t put it past him.”
“Let me see what I can sense from it,” Starmaster said. “It might be sentient, like Zen and PainGUIN and their species.” Starmaster sent his consciousness into the Mindscape and tried to connect with the creature on the table.
A bright red eye opened and glowed with an eerie energy from the duck’s body beneath the rime of ice. The entire crystal seemed to come alive with unholy power.
After turning a corner in the ventilation duct, the drone registered an unusual sound present. Agent Leslie turned on the drone’s microphone to hear what it did.
Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. Quack. It wasn’t the sound of one duck calling. It was multiple duck voices at the same time, a chorus of duck voices quacking in perfect unison.
“Whaaaaat?” Agent Leslie switched the feed over to the pilot’s headset as a chill ran up her spine. “It sounds like an entire flock of –”
“Mother Ducker!! How the f$#^ did we get a bunch of mother-quaking ducks on my mother-ducking plane?!” The pilot flipped on the autopilot and unbuckled his harness, readying to enter the main body of the plane.
Agent Leslie switched the security camera to the passenger section, where the BADGE agents with her traveled. Instead of finding them in their seats, she saw the chamber full of body-shaped shells with openings where ducks were emerging. “My god. The people back there are turning into ducks. The people are DUCKS!”
Suddenly, all the duck’s eyes flared red. The ducks stopped milling about and began eating everything around them. Clothing left over the fragmented shells. Seat cushions. Backpacks. The metal frames. Some even took bites out of the hull of the plane itself.
Louder alarms began to sound, filling the cockpit with a fury of angry alerts. “We’re getting major system failure alerts. We’re going down.” The pilot tapped some buttons and connected with BADGE HQ. “Aircraft in distress. We’re going down over New Amsterdam State Park. Repeat. We’re going down hard and fast…”
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
Part Three: Duckworld
Blossom looked up into the sky as the alarm klaxon went off. The entire park had been put on alert of an aircraft’s uncontrolled descent into the state park she and her family were picnicking at. She watched as a single person dropped out from one side of the plane as it headed down. A parachute glider opened and carried the person away safely, but the plane had no chance for the same. It crashed into the waters of Goldeneye Lake.
“I’ve got to go!” She shouted at her parents as they huddled together near their car. “I might be able to save someone.”
With that, the young heroine transformed into a Peregrine Falcon and shot into the air.
( *U* )
Starmaster staggered as he made contact with the alien mind, knocking several technical manuals on the floor as he fought to remain standing.
“Boss,” Catalyst rushed to Starmaster’s side and caught him before he fell. “What wrong?”
“It’s… it’s… QUACK!” Starmaster bleated.
The block of ice on the table lifted up into the air, surrounded by a nimbus of blue psychokinetic energy.
Krystal Fae raised her hand and used her telekinetic power to counter Starmaster’s. “It’s overtaking him, using him to break it free of the ice. Fight it, Starmaster!”
Inside the Mindscape, Starmaster found himself buffeted by a primal hunger. A desire for nothing but a need to consume. To grow. To destroy and devour. The mind he was in contact with didn’t understand existence as he knew it. It didn’t want things. It was compelled to do as its very nature intended.
He perceived the duck-like creature’s memory of being in space. Its need to find worlds to… to… there wasn’t a word in his vocabulary to describe the urge. Transform seemed closest. The creature needed to find new worlds to become what it was meant to be.
No. No! You cannot do that to this world. We won’t let you!
( *U* )
Madam Marvelous, or Blossom, flew over where she believed the plane crashed, but was surprised that there hadn’t been an explosion or plume of fire. Instead, she found herself flying above and enormous flock of ducks. Big ducks. Little ducks. Ducks of every variety. All swimming in the nearby lake or walking on the ground pecking at bits of food. There was no sign at all of any plane that had crashed, not even broken branches or a big hole in the earth.
As she surveyed the site, she noted something odd. The hundreds of ducks were all devouring whatever it was they were near. The ducks on the shore were eating the ground itself, creating growing holes. The waterborne ducks were lapping at water, taking in as much as they could ingest.
And the ducks made no noise at all. No quacking at all. Maybe it was because their mouths were all full, but it wasn’t normal. Ducks could never be that quiet for long. She wished that while she was in bird form, she could talk. She’d use her communicator to check in with BADGE to find out what they knew, but as things were, she just circled and watched, baffled by the duck’s strange behavior.
( *U* )
Krystal Fae continued to struggle against Starmaster’s grip on the frozen duck. Sweat beaded on her forehead as she focused her mind on keeping him from smashing the ice and releasing it. She gritted her teeth as she taxed her own psychic ability past her maximum. “He’s gotten much stronger than when I first met him a year ago.”
The chunk of ice hovered in the air, caught between their two telekinetic grips. Fracture patterns started to spiderweb within the crystalline matrix from the immense pressures.
Catalyst used his own Morphon-granted gift and gently dampened the neural interface between Starmaster and his suit of mental enhancing gear. Krystal’s control grew stronger, and the frozen duck slowly moved away from Starmaster back to the containment cooler used to bring it to the lab.
“QUACK!” Starmaster stopped fighting Krystal’s efforts altogether and instead he grabbed a chair and used it as a bat to smash the alien duck free from its frigid cage. A blast of energy knocked everything in the room backwards into the nearest wall, destroying most of the scientific equipment in the room.
Everything but the jet black duck left hovering in the air. It spread out its dark wings and its eyes flared red once more. “QUACK.”
Starmaster lifted a metal table from atop his body, free of the duck’s mental grip. “We have to stop it. It’s going to try to turn everything into ducks.”
“Everything?” Catalyst asked as he helped a dazed Krystal Fae to her feet. “All creatures on Earth.”
“Everything including the planet. I saw it in its mind. The spread from world to world and make each planet into a massive space duck, including everything on the planet. Their race has wiped out entire civilizations.” Starmaster tried to grab the floating dark-winged duck from the air, but it repelled his psychokinetic grip. “It’s mate already has begun transforming things. You have to warn the plane not to land. If they get out into the world, we might not be able to stop it.”
“What do you mean? I was told they didn’t find anything alive at the base,” Dr. Henderson said.
“It’s mate was eaten by one of the sled dogs. It’s cells infected any living organism and caused it to become a duck,” Starmaster shouted as he used his telekinetic power to throw debris at the duck while it shook off the last of the ice from its feathers. The objects bounced off it without the duck seeming to notice them at all. “It converted the other living things into ducks as well. Those that were transformed snuck on the plane. If this one and its mate are able to merge, there won’t be any stopping them.”
The space duck opened its yellow bill and hissed at those in the room. It launched itself at Starmaster, beating at him with its wings around the head.
Get ahold of whatever heroes you can. Have them keep the other one’s away from here until we defeat it. Starmaster telepathically shouted to the room.
“QUACK!!” The duck’s cry rocked the room, a sonic wave that stunned everyone in the building into unconsciousness.
( *U* )
Madam Marvelous watched in horror as the mass of ducks huddled together and melded into a one massive monstrous duck that stood nearly two stories tall.
“Hello, Kitt’n,” Gem, Krystal Fae’s unborn child appeared in her astral form beside Madam Marvelous while she was still transformed into a falcon. “You need to keep this creature here until Mother wakes back up.”
How am I supposed to do that? Madam Marvelous thought to her young friend. She wondered if other people could see Gem hovering next to her, that is if anyone wasn’t paying attention to the gigantic duck eating trees like they were French Fries.
Gem shrugged. “It’s made up of people turned into ducks. They want to turn the world into one big duck.”
Eyes growing wide, Madam Marvelous had no idea what to do next. If she attacked the duck, would she be hurting the people that had been taken over? She wished she knew what to do.
Below her, the duck started to move off, tromping through the lake toward the opposite shore.
“You can’t let it get to BADGE headquarters. Things would get really bad if it did.” Gem said before
fading away into the astral plane.
People on the ground screamed in terror as they saw the massive duck approach. Every few steps, it lowered its head and took a bite of whatever was closest to it, growing larger with each bite. It wouldn’t take long for a creature that large to reach the headquarters if it put its mind to it.
I guess it’s now or never. I have to distract it before it makes its way into New Amsterdam. Madam Marvelous landed and began to transform into the largest form she had ever attempted. Her powers worked best when she became something that she had seen before, so she locked an image into her mind and began to grow.
Feathers became sugar-coated yellow skin. Her body expanded, growing both wider and taller until she became a massive yellow marshmallow Peep. Hold on. This isn’t what I wanted. I was thinking about the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man…
The duck turned to face her and hissed with enough force to rip large branches from nearby trees. It charged at Madam Marvelous, its large brown wings raised and ready to bitch-slap her to Thanksgiving.
( *U* )
Starmaster and the others roused slowly from their unintended snooze. As they looked around the room, there was no sign of the dark-winged duck.
“Where go?” Catalyst said as he stood up.
Krystal Fae lifted herself telekinetically from the ground and hovered in the air. “It is still in the building.”
They looked toward the door, but it was still closed and locked by the security protocols of the science lab.
Starmaster flipped aside a toppled table, revealing a hole punched through a ventilation grill. He knelt and stared down the silver-lined shaft. “It’s trying to get out of the building. When I was merged with its thoughts, I saw what its plan was. Once it and the other one merge, they will burrow into the earth and dig down to the planet’s core, where they will continue to eat and transform until they are all that is left.”
“What?” Krystal Fae muttered to the room. “Gem got a message to Madam Marvelous. She is with the other ducks now, trying to distract them.”
“We need to get her help. How is one hero going to hold them all back?” Starmaster asked.
“There’s only one now,” Krystal said. “But it is a big one.”
Catalyst pulled a tablet from his pocket and tapped several commands into it. “Satellite feed from her locata… Whoa.”
He turned around the screen so everyone could see the battle between an enormous duck and an equally large yellow Peep. The two giants batted at one another with their wings. The duck’s attacks dented the dense marshmallow fluff but didn’t seem to be doing any significant damage. The Peep fought defensively, thrusting its chest forward to bump the duck back, oftentimes knocking it onto the ground. After one such attack, the Peep threw its body onto the duck and held it to the ground like a sumo wrestler.
“I think she has it under control for now. Let’s do our part and stop the other one.” Krystal Fae said.
“Catalyst. Can you access all BADGE systems with that?” Dr. Henderson asked, holding her hand out to him for the tablet.
Nodding, Catalyst handed her the device, “Yes.”
“Good. I have an idea,” Dr. Henderson poked at the screen several times, working between several different operational systems. She pointed at a location on the building schematics. “Krystal. Can you and Starmaster get here?”
Krystal smiled a wicked smile. “Yes. Yes, we can.”
“Where?” Starmaster asked. "Why?"
“I’ll tell you later,” Krystal said. She telekinetically lifted and handed Starmaster the containment cooler. “Bring that.”
First she, then Starmaster teleported away.
( *U* )
Pinning the giant duck to the ground wasn’t easy as a creature made entirely of marshmallow. While she could move her body through immense concentration, she couldn’t actually feel anything. All her technique came from what she could see, so when the duck swept her legs out from beneath her, Madam Marvelous fell off the duck and rolled into the lake.
Fortunately, marshmallow floats. The duck quickly stood back up and rushed at its opponent, bill wide open and fully intent on taking a large bite out of her. In its rush to reach her, the duck stirred up powerful wake that carried Madam Marvelous further out into the lake, which in turn, slowed the ducks approach.
Struggling to come to her feet, Madam Marvelous eventually bobbed into an upright position. The duck swam closer, its webbed feet paddling beneath the water’s surface, but Madam Marvelous used her wings to propel herself backwards away from it.
The gargantuan duck sneered at her retreat and broke into thousands of smaller, normal sized ducks. They launched into flight and swarmed over her, each one using its bright yellow bill to bite into her. They ripped and tore off her sugary coating and continued to eat away at her marshmallow body like horseflies.
Madam Marvelous tried to cry out in pain, but Peeps have no mouths to scream with.
( *U* )
Krystal Fae and Starmaster appeared in the BADGE facilities maintenance department, next to the massive HVAC and atmospheric control system. Large fans circulated air throughout the building, generating a large, overwhelming hum of background noise.
“Keep the container open,” Krystal said. “Close it on my mark.”
Starmaster nodded and opened the container. Damage to the box’s exterior revealed a metallic luster beneath the softer, plastic coating.
“Dr. Henderson. We’re ready,” Krystal said over her communicator.
( *U* )
Back in the science lab, Dr. Henderson activating her program. “There. I’ve reversed the polarity of the neutron flow. That should do the trick.”
Catalyst held up his hands and crossed his fingers. Together, the two scientists hoped her plan would work.
( *U* )
The large fans slowed and ground to a stop. Within a second, they restarted, but with a new timber to their oscillations. Spinning in reverse, the massive ventilation system changed to a vacuum, drawing air deeper into the building rather than circulating it outside.
Within a few seconds, a rapid series of quacks erupted from one of the ventilation ducts. The dark-winged duck was drawn closer and closer, eventually into the nearly invisible fan blades. A burst of blood, feathers, and bone spewed into Krystal Fae’s waiting telekinetic grasp. She directed the duck’s remains into the lead-lined box, and Starmaster quickly closed the lid, forcing the latch permanently closed.
( *U* )
Seconds before she passed out from her wounds as she was devoured, Madam Marvelous watched as ducks fell from her body into the water, shifting into people, dogs, and bits of material into the water of Lake Goldeneye. Every duck in her vicinity disappeared, replaced by whatever mass was used to create it in the first place.
Madam Marvelous shifted back into her heroic persona and floated on her back for a moment, giving herself a moment to breathe. Her body ached but transforming sealed her wounds and made her whole once more, but the memory of being eaten remained with her. She’s been frightened before, but nothing like this. For the first time, she doubted her future as a superhero.
“Help. Help me,” a voice cried out. “I can’t swim.”
Closing her eyes for a split second before flipping over, Madam Marvelous took a deep breath and swam to aid the frightened man clutching a chunk of wood floating in the water.
( *U* )
“What do you want me to do with this?” Strange Quark asked Krystal Fae.
“We’ve made sure all traces of these creatures are gone from all three sites. Director Nova would like you to take them to the outer rim of the solar system and bury them where they will remain frozen.” Krystal said. “The colder the better.”
“In other words, take this cooler and bury it in Uranus.” Strange Quark chuckled at the entendre, teleporting away before Krystal Fae could roll her green eyes.
Madam Marvelous ID#26130
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