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Set In Stone (A Ghost Cat story)

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“A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” - Jean de La Fontaine
 
Set In Stone
 
 
Summary: Taking place in an alternate timeline within the Darkwing Duck universe and right before the events of "Echoes of Destiny”, Ghost Cat receives a premonition about what a monster named Negawing Duck will do to his people: the Nekojins. Terrified of the catastrophic extinction that awaits his species, the mercenary sets out to the Negaverse in what could be his most dangerous and possibly last mission: to assassinate the tyrant before he can do any harm, but surprisingly, the situation might become a little more complicated than Ghost Cat anticipated.
 
Disclaimer: I don’t own Darkwing Duck, but I do own Negawing/Alrich, Draco, King Lucian, Carmilla Macawbers, Emperor Shoru and Ghost Cat
 
Note: Happy New Year, my fellow brethren of the Darkwing Duck fandom and Old Haunt! 2020 is finally over with, huzzah! *Imitates trumpet noise* Here is a special treat that I crafted just for you, which was loosely inspired by the 2002 Twilight Zone series’ episode “Cradle of Darkness.” I apologize for the delay of the third chapter of “Spoils of War”, but I’ve been extremely busy dealing with the holiday season as you can imagine. Don’t fret, I’ll finish working on it as soon as I get the chance, eventually. In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy this one-shot project.
 
 
The breeze swirled in from the west on that particular Transylvania summer night. Now, outside of a pale-gray medieval era castle Ghost Cat – also known as Takeo Robbins - stood, gaze seemingly up at the stars. But instead of watching the heavens, bright green irises scoured the fortress' façade until they rested upon their target: an open window. Those eyes narrowed ever so slightly, determinedly. If you could stop a modern day Hitler from rising to power, would you?

That's the question that has been weighing heavily on Ghost Cat's conscience ever since one of his previous clients - a grateful soothsayer - had instilled him the ability of precognitive foresight several months ago. Initially, whenever he slept he was met what he passed off as delusions. In his visions, he witnessed the destruction of his homeland by the hand of Negaduck's descendent named Negawing and also witnessed the terrible crimes that his son, Takeshi, committed throughout his career as a dangerous mercenary until he was struck down by Negawing's older brother, Draco after a failed operation of breaking down the eldest Abnormal Prince's empire by attacking his bases. The carnage he witnessed Takeshi committed... was quite disturbing since they depicted him traveling around destroying colonies by stealing their life force and energies so he could cultivate gargantuan corrupt trees that spawn immensely powerful fruits (the variant of highly advanced energy drinks), which Takeshi harnesses by devouring them and dramatically increasing his capabilities.  The fact that he became strong enough to hold his own against an extremely dangerous warlock such as Draco and forced him to utilize his Draconian Emperor form was an astonishing feat on its own. The colonies and his inhabitants were reduced to withered husks. This nightmarish scenario was among the ones that Ghost Cat intended on preventing from coming to fruition. He would do anything to prevent his son from becoming a genocidal monster by taking down the one who initiated the chain of events that caused Takeshi's descent into madness - Negawing Duck.

It's not only a few weeks earlier that Ghost Cat came to terms with the fact that his visions are actual premonitions, but he was on his own. If Ghost Cat tried to spread word of danger, then heroes like Quiverwing Quack would have him carted off Duckham Asylum as a case of delirium or he could be dismissed as a crackpot by one of his members of the rogue gallery. Hell, even his king - Emperor Shoru - would most likely had him arrested and there was no way he was going to tell his family about this. He came to the grim conclusion that he was alone in this endeavor as neither his hulking dim-witted minion Bonecrusher nor his main client the enigmatic crimelord Unknown nor his archrival Shadow Wolf would take his word seriously.
 
It had taken him several long weeks to find a inter-dimensional portal to the Negaverse and to track down Negawing at the heart of the Leviathan Empire's capital city (Transylvania). The panther mercenary had come this far in his mission, and he would not be turning face. If what he’d been forewarned was at all accurate, then what happened tonight would ensure the safety of his future – of his people’s future. If he succeeded. No. He would complete this task. His race – the Nekojins – are growing into a powerful civilization and it hadn’t been by Emperor Shoru simply twiddling his thumbs and sitting on his throne all day. He’d killed before on the behalf of his emperor by participating in his conquests for the glory of the empire. This time would be no different. He can fulfill this complicated mission, because he was a proud warrior, just like his ancestors were. He will not let Negawing become the catalyst of the Nekojins' downfall. Once he succeeded in preventing that megalomaniac from annihilating his people then it will prevent Takeshi from following in his father's pawprints and getting killed by Draco later on. Change one critical moment of history then it shall create a ripple effect.
 
Ghost Cat’s hand drifted to his hip where he ran his fingers along the handles of his handgun and pocketknife for reassurance. He intended on eliminating his target in the middle of his sleep, knowing how extremely dangerous a sorcerer that Negawing is. He will not take any chances of awakening him. Taking in a final gulp of fresh air, the panther mercenary slipped a long rope from his coat pocket and tied a hook to the end. In a single swift motion, he swung the rope skyward for the window. Giving his rope a quick tug, the hook caught on the windowsill. Ghost Cat reached as far up on the rope as he could, then he hoisted the rest of his body along and wrapped his legs around it. Thankful for his upper-body strength and praying that the rope would hold his weight, the middle-aged panther began to climb. Don’t break, rope. Don’t let Negawing's guards hear me, my god don’t let them hear me. Don’t look down, whatever you do, just don’t look down.
 
Painfully slowly, the windowsill grew closer and closer until Ghost Cat’s own gloveless fingers wrapped around it. Making as little noise as humanly possible, he pulled the rest of his body through the open window. The second his boots touched the wooden floor Ghost Cat had his knife at the ready, poised to strike at anything that moved. When nothing disturbed the delicate peace, the black-furred mercenary let his tired body relax a little. I'm getting too old in dealing with this nonsense. The sooner it's taken care of, the better
 
Ghost Cat scanned his surroundings, taking in every detail. He decided at last that he must be in the wrong room. It was not unlikely since he had entered through the only open window he could find. There was no evidence of a tyrant waiting in this room, no bed with a sleeping murderous criminal mastermind inside. No intricate devious diagrams of potential invasions or weapons of mass destruction lying around as he’d been expecting. In fact, the only thing of interest was a tiny cradle, the corner of a faded baby blue blanket draped over the side.
 
Scratching the back of his head in confusion and then shrugging his shoulders as he figured that Negawing had an illegitimate offspring or something of the sort. Ghost Cat made for the door, silently tiptoeing across the ground. With every footstep, the floor welcomed him with an unearthly groan, a monster awakened from its slumber. Takeo Robbins would freeze, sure that this time the floor-always on guard-would give him away. Each time, however, as the fifty-five-year-old assassin stopped to listen for rapid approaching footsteps, his fears were only met by silence. Eventually, Ghost Cat reached the door and wrapped his fingers tenderly around the handle, as if dealing with a bomb. Hesitantly, he pushed the door open. He was ready to pull it shut behind him when the name plate plastered on the outer side of the door caught his eye. Alrich Macawber... what the hell?! Alrich’s Negawing's real name! I’d been in the right room all along? But… that could only mean... Ghost Cat felt his mind scrambling to comprehend the new knowledge. The middle-aged mercenary turned his eyes to the cradle resting harmlessly in the middle of the room he’d just been about to leave. Slowly, he backed into the bedroom again, closing the door quietly and creeping over to the crib. Sure enough, the name “Alrich Macawber” was engraved into the side of the wooden cradle. This “demon-spawn” 's only a duckling? That can't be right! I’m supposed to kill a baby, but I’d never taken the life of a child before in my career!
 
Takeo wasn’t sure exactly what he was doing as he watched his own hand reaching into the mass of blankets and slide them down slightly, revealing the baby’s small beak and tufted cheeks. Innocence. It was the only thing the panther mercenary could see in the child’s sleeping features, unaware that a extremely dangerous bounty hunter towered above him with the purpose of ending his new life. Judging how young he looked, he estimated that his target was roughly several months old, give or take a week. Ghost Cat growled, his hands clenching into tight fists by his sides. Get ahold of yourself, Ghost Cat. You're the greatest assassin that has ever stalked the Earth. I’ve always completed any mission that has been assigned to me. I am feared in over a dozen countries, I am envied by all who kill for cash, and I am looked upon like a god! I am known as the Scourge of Moscow, the Black Baron of Calisota, and the Devil of London; I’ve assassinated presidents, prime minsters, politicians and countless other highly guarded individuals since before this demon-spawn's father was born. I'm just as notorious as Negaduck, Magica DeSpell and Taurus Bulba were. I am a professional killer in every sense of the word and yet I'm… and yet I'm having difficulties bringing myself… The panther mercenary’s thoughts trailed off as he felt his heart pounding against the cage that was his ribs. He only wanted to turn and go back. Back to the comfort and back to where his family awaited him. He was almost ready to do so when the thought of his people flitted through his mind, a taunting reminder of the catastrophic fate that awaited the Nekojin homeland. Ghost Cat forced his other arm, the one brandishing his knife, to lift. It seemed to be the hardest task he’d ever tried to complete. He took in a long, deep breath and brought the knife up, suspended in the air above the sleeping duckling. It will be a swift and merciless demise, compared to the one that he had seen Negawing condemning to his people in the near future. A fate much more than the deranged duck-tator deserved that's for sure.
 
He would later convince himself that he would have brought it down too, had the duckling’s eyes not shot wide open. The diminutive orbs met the intense emerald glare as Ghost Cat found himself staring back his reflection in a pair of wide blue eyes whose depth reminded him of the ocean. The middle-aged mercenary only dropped his gaze as he felt tiny fingers wrapping themselves around his thumb. The duckling cooed, tilting his head to one side in a curious manner.
 
The summer air was suddenly asphyxiating and smothering, and the cool draft from the opened window sent burning chills down his spine. Then there was a low clattering thunder that split the silence open like lightning in thick, humid air. Ghost Cat realized the knife was no longer in his fingers, but had fallen to the floor. He cursed internally at his blunder. Now he could hear the sound of someone, awakened from their sleep, shifting in the next room, probably the duckling’s parents or his older brother or one of the many servants. Either way, his time is running out.
 
Pick up the knife, Takeo! This is your last chance! If Lucian or one of his relatives finds out about this then it would be impractically impossible to infiltrate his castle again as he’ll increase his security measures by several fold! You’d evoke his wrath, which could guarantee your death warrant! Pick up the knife right now, you baka! That brat is using his magic to deceive you! He's no cherub! Your people and family are depending on you now more than ever! Pick up the knife! Ghost Cat closed his eyes tightly as he could vaguely hear the sounds of a terrible explosion and Negawing's voice cackling with sadistic glee. Pick up the knife or the severe consequences will be on your head, Takeo!  The mercenary within him screamed in frustration, his face pulling down into a dark and dangerous glare. No, don't do it! This is all wrong! He's just an innocent ducklingHe hasn't done anything wrongLeave him aloneThe father inside him shouted back fiercely, shaking his head urgently. Opening his eyes, Takeo looked at the glinting metal that lay at his feet, and then back to the babe in the crib whose tiny feathery hand had worked its way into Ghost Cat’s. Alrich's blue eyes shined like sapphires in the darkness, filled with innocence. For a brief moment the black-furred Nekojin could see his own son Takashi in Alrich’s place and all of a sudden he felt sick and he knew, even before he’d decided, that he could not go through with this as his resolve was shattered like glass, his heart melted like snowflakes in the sun. Ghost Cat would, but Takeo could not. The father won the internal conflict over the assassin, although albeit barely. Tearing his hand from the baby’s grasp, the panther mercenary grabbed his knife and fled for the opened window, causing the duckling Alrich to sniffle and tears brimming in his eyes. The footsteps were growing nearer now he was glad for the excuse to leave.
 
He threw himself out into the night and, ignoring the horrible burning in his palms, slid down the rope to the waiting ground below. Ghost Cat tugged the hook loose and dove into the bushes, out of view of the window as he watched a light flickering on in the room. The cooing of a woman - most likely Queen Camilla - and high-pitched whimpers of the duckling soon followed. Takeo felt his pulse slowly quieting down in his ears. He felt no relief, however, only a strange, horrible new fear. Ghost Cat was surprised to realize his cheeks were damp with the trails of his tears. He had never felt so disgusted with himself. Not only had he completely failed to protect his people from the horrors to come, but he’d actually been about to murder a child. A child as roughly the same age as his own son for crying out loud! What the hell was he thinking traveling to the Negaverse's Romania from the Primeverse?! He’d been left with no way out. Ghost Cat had no idea how long he sat there in that bush. He knew he could not go home and face his family looking like this. He let the tears fall and did his best to muffle his gut-churning sobs while burying his face into his arms, his body trembling with turmoil.

Finally, he gained composure enough to stumble to his feet. The sudden urgency to find his way home, to do anything to take his mind off the situation, dimly fluttered in the back of his mind. Slim strips of sunlight had already begun to appear on the underside of clouds and Sylvania both be worried sick if he wasn’t back soon. The thought of the comfort of his own house and his waiting wife and son were enough to send Ghost Cat sprinting away from that faded pale-gray castle and towards the rising sun in the east, heading towards the direction of the derelict building where he found the trans-dimensional gateway. He had failed his most imperative mission, which will possibly haunt him for the rest of his life. What have I done? What in god’s name have I done? He thought bleakly to himself, closing his eyes tightly as a few tears streamed down his face. Sylvania... Takeshi... my people... I've failed you all. I just couldn't go through with it. Please forgive me for my greatest disgrace. 
 

It was 2063 when Ghost Cat met that boy again, over twenty years later and now the situation has drastically changed as their roles have been reversed. Now it was the mercenary who was in Alrich's mercy. By then, it just so happens that the duckling, now fully grown, had decided to worn a extravagant costume that consisted of a black fedora with an oversized brim and red band, a red mask, a red-lined black cape, and a long-sleeved black double breasted jacket over a yellow turtleneck. As for Ghost Cat himself, he did not look good since time has not been too kind to the elderly panther. He always had been a tall, broad Nekojin, but he was gaunt in the cheeks and very pale. His muscles had shriveled beyond use and his clothes were covered in mud. It was apparent that he has grown sick, starving, dying, and desperately thirsty for the glory of which he’d been robbed. He had been driven into destitution and he didn’t know what to do anymore as he had grown so weak that he couldn't wield his weapons anymore…
 
This is where Negawing Duck came into the picture… a seemingly charismatic twenty-five year-old warlock prince of the notorious Leviathan Empire, and when he spoke with that deep voice of his the panther’s heart flowed once more. Dozens of other poor Nekojins began taking notice as they climbed to their feet and huddled together with the ex-mercenary, one by one. Negawing’s soldiers arrived at the scene. However, instead of carrying deadly firearms these Abnormals began unloading crates from their hovering transportation shuttles and providing the Nekojins with food, fresh clothes, water and other provisions. Ghost Cat caught a loaf of bread that was thrown at his direction and began devouring it wolfishly as Negawing talked about restoring the Nekojins’ into greatness, identity, hope, land, a prosperous future that he sworn would be greater than Emperor Shoru's by tenfold. These words had a profound effect, especially considering that Ghost Cat and his like-minded outcasts here had been discarded to live in the slums for nearly a decade. More and more Nekojins gathered together  - even a large group of soldiers from the imperial army - and they listened intently while various others of them nodded their heads collectively in agreement, many punching their fists into the air as they were angry and disillusioned at the way the rest of the world is mistreating them. After finishing the bread Ghost Cat stroked his chin contemplatively, wondering if he had somehow altered the course of history after all for the better instead of failing to prevent his people's genocide... maybe he did made a difference.
 
Finally, when the short mallard ceased his speech and took several strides forward until he stopped before Ghost Cat, sea-blue eyes as piercing as ever and a feathered hand extended to the fallen mercenary, who wiped the crumbs from his mouth with the back of his hand. What else could the elderly Nekojin do but place his own fingers into the waiting palm and dropped to one knee while his own people cheered Negawing’s own name as if he were their own savior, lifting them from the ashes?

Ghost Cat inhaled slowly through his nose, and then released a low exhale to calm his nerves. "I, Ghost Cat, hereby swear my fealty before you and before all my ancestors this sacred oath; I will render unconditional obedience, to Negawing Duck..." He began tentatively, knowing that he was about to make the pact with a devil in feathers. However, at this point his own survival mattered more than anything else, including honor which had been tarnished thanks to Emperor Shoru, who had sentenced him to live in the slums and was separated from his own family as a capital punishment in fear of provoking King Lucian's wrath all those years ago.

While the other Nekojins began pledging their allegiances to him, none of them witnessed that the Malevolent Mallard’s beak curved into a small, horrendous smile while they became oblivious of the terrible destiny that still awaited for them. There's magic in the words that I had addressed during my rousing speech; a subtle incantation to influence them all to my bidding as I knew it would be easy to control them. Not every spell needs to be chanted aloud. Since they were discarded like filth, these knobs would absolutely do anything to sustain their repugnant lives. Emperor Shoru actually made my hostile takeover that much more easier! What a bunch of shortsighted saps! Everything's going meticulously to my ingenious plan, just as I knew it would. Let them think that I'm their would-be hero, after all it'll be all the much sweeter when they realize that I'm playing them like a fiddle by the time I'm through with them!, the tyrant thought smugly to himself with a faux sincere smile on his beak while he suppressed the impulsion to throw his head back and cackle triumphantly. However, even Negawing didn't realized that the machinations that he'll set into motion in the foreseeable future has already sealed his own downfall.
 
The End
I'm currently developing a new short story called "The Spoils of War", which focuses on my OC Draco's ascension to power in the aftermath of a certain villain's death. I should have the third chapter uploaded as soon as possible.
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Set In Stone (A Ghost Cat story) - by Ghost Cat - 01-01-2021, 06:01 PM

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