Lights! Camera! Gala!

The Canardian Museum of Art Benefit Gala was at the tippy top echelon of all  the city’s socialites calendar. Anyone who was anyone was there. Movie stars, millionaires, entrepreneurs, artists of all mediums were drifting through the rooftop venue. The tall white columns were awash in purple colored floodlights, the ceiling glittered with extravagant chandeliers that sent prisms glimmering across the floor with the dancers.  Tables were piled with exotic flowers and crystal cut glassware that seemed to twinkle all on their own.  Banquet tables boasted the finest food cooked by the staff of the celebrity chefs in attendance.  Gordon Rammzee was even there, laughing at a well told joke no less.  Everything glittered, everything sparkled, most of all the glamorous beauties in attendance. Every dress out did the next. Sequins and glitter.  Diamonds and pearls. Precious jewels paraded around like peacock feathers.  The violin quartet was humming a waltz that seemed to fill the room with romance and delight.  Everyone was enjoying themselves, commenting on how much better it was this year than previous years, trading stock tips, playing a game of who has the biggest boat by flashing cell phone pictures and raising their voices. You know, rich people stuff.

 

The fact the gala was being held on the elite roof of the museum itself made for an interesting waiting area.  The attendees would gain entrance only after a strict security team had cleared them. Walk the red carpet as photographers abused them with directions and questions then they were ushered off by overly kind and helpful staff wearing stunning tuxedos. They would lead them to the glass elevators that would shuttle them through the floors of the museum at a leisurely pace, allowing glimpses of the exhibits as the floors passed.  There seemed to be a lot of penguin exhibitons this year. Seating was not strictly assigned but each pass had been registered under a name.  Gladstone had been dumbstruck when the waiter had asked if he was interested in waiting for the rest of his party before ordering a drink.

Rest of his- he had only won this ticket two days ago by pulling a number out of hat outside. Wait- hadn’t he had two more at one point? He eyed the empty chairs beside him.  Huh. Well... guess he could stretch out his legs? The table sat six and it currently held three, an attractive couple were whispering sweet nothings to each other directly across from him. The woman kept eyeing him and he self consciously shielded his face.  Of all the times to have a stupid black eye...

Out of all the things that had happened to him since he came to St. Canard... that was the worst. His spirits were low.  Was it poor taste to dine and dash at one of these things?

    • Lilly Teal
      Lilly Teal

      The realisation suddenly hit her that the only reason she was standing here was because Oz wouldn't let her go, and she felt sick.

      Talk about being lucky that it wasn't her in that tarp.

      She didn't feel lucky. If you took stock of how she was feeling, it was mostly scared, shocked, and tiny hint of anger that was screaming and shouting that this wasn't fair.

      He can't do that. Can he?

      Sure he can, we're watching him do it.

      A sudden thought jolted her into action, and she looked around frantically for the wreckage of their table. It was all wreckage, honestly. One pile of wood looked very much like the other.

      "Keys. Keys. Did you see if Oz left his keys?" She looked at Gladstone in panic, feeling that loss of control all over again. I can't pull him into this, it's my friend, this is stupid. "Oh God. I'm so sorry I have to go-"

      And do what? You've never driven fast in your life.

      "- do something maybe I'll be able to see where they drop him I don't know-"

      Breathe, you're babbling.

      • Gladstone Gander
        Gladstone Gander

        “Uh-“ he supplied helplessly. His eyes darted to the retreating gyrocopter as it slowly moved away. The tarp swung below it like a pendulum. This wasn’t how this was supposed to work. Lilly’s distress rattled him was he supposed to help her look for keys? Keys...

        “AH!” He shouted and grabbed her by the shoulders. “ KEYS!” He gave her a small shake his mind racing his eyes searched the crowd until he saw one man who was scowling and shouting into his phone. “YOU!” Gladstone released her and practically danced backward quickly pointing at the man. “MCNAIR! You’re The one I drank under the table, you’re the police chief right?! Get me-“ he glanced at Lilly. “-US a ride! Full escort to the pier! Keys!” He closed the remaining distance between him and a planter beside a bench that he had sat on what felt like days ago and practically climbed into it. His fists came up filled with metal and soil. This was crazy, he loved crazy.  He would work with crazy.

        “Keys.” He said pointedly to Lilly. “You’re a genius.” He shook out the yacht keys and tossed one to the police chief, and held the other two in his dirty hands. A serious looking woman flashed her boating license and snatched one from him before hurriedly taking off toward the elevators.

        That just left one key. Gladstone grinned at Lilly a fire burning in his eyes as he held it up. “We’re getting him back, we just have to get to the bay... are you with me?”

        • Lilly Teal
          Lilly Teal

          You're... you're really...

          One of these days she was going to stop being stunned by him, mouth slightly open and out of words. But that wasn't today, or any time in the foreseeable future.

          There wasn't time to be too surprised, and her startled expression blossomed into a bright smile. She caught his shoulders in her hands, her own eyes lighting up as things started to look like they had a chance. And support. Someone who acted like they knew what to do whether they did or not, and she could help them to the best of all her abilities.

          It was exactly what she always needed. And he was volunteering himself.

          "Yes. Yes yes!"

          I could kiss you right now, said her smile. He eyes. The excited wagging of her tail. But there wasn't time for that, and she took his hand. The faster we get to the transports, the faster we get to the boats, the faster this show on the road.

          They started to run.

          • Gladstone Gander
            Gladstone Gander

            One quick dash, slow tense elevator ride, and then mad sprint found them out on the steps of the museum. Red and blue lights were flaring all around them from the army of squad cars that arrived on the scene. Gladstone could barely make out the shape of the Swan Song in the distance, the crooks had overloaded themselves their retreat was barely more than a crawl. His heart was pounding, this could work, this had to work. Police Chief McNair waved them into his vehicle.

            “Strap in you two, I’ll not have that gasbag make a fool out of me!” He snarled and slammed on the gas not really giving anyone a chance to buckle anything.

            The car fishtailed wildly before they accelerated toward the docks it’s hefty escort wailing all around them. The chief fumed in the drivers seat about the gall of gala crashers and Gladstone quickly tuned him out. He turned to Lilly and realized they had been clutching each others hand the whole time. It surprised him but he did nothing to change it. His other hand still clasped the boat key so hard he was losing feeling in his fingers.

            “...you know.” He smiled weakly. “I promise things like this don’t always happen around me. Usually I just win raffles and things...” why was he babbling? Because he felt guilty. Because this was her friend’s life on the line. Because he desperately wanted to keep his friend from hating him like everyone else. “I’ll make this right.” His hand gave hers a light squeeze, his gaze unblinking and determined. “Whatever it takes.“

            Hopefully his luck was contagious and Oz had contracted a bit of it himself.

            • Lilly Teal
              Lilly Teal

              Unlikely, but hey, there's no harm in hoping. Oz, as it happened, had an excellent view of the bottom of the copter and Tuskernini's feet. Not that it stopped him from talking. He'd come to the realisation that with all the paintings and loot in the tarp with him, they couldn't afford to cut the ropes and let him drop. They'd have to position themselves and slide someone down to tip him out by hand, and carefully.

              Which meant, of course, he had time to be annoying.

              "Beautiful night, isn't it? Shame your feet are spoiling the view."

              ~~~

              Pulling her attention away from the window to look at that determined gaze, she gave a small smile and shook her head.

              "It happens in this city. If it wasn't you if would have happened some other way." She was being kind, there was little way this would have happened without the fantastically lucky chandelier shot. 

              She slid a little closer, so that their shoulders touched, and squeezed his hand back gratefully. "But it means a lot that you're here right now."

              • Gladstone Gander
                Gladstone Gander

                Tuskernini frowned at the scene below, far too many police heading their way. His eyes searched the surrounding airspace.  No sign of any police helicopters or egotistical mallard shaped jets so... what could a few ground troops do?  He was practically high on his success when the voice from below brought him down a few notches. 

                “I will register a complaint with the costume department.” He turned, careful to keep his grip on the aircraft but wanting to gloat with a good vantage point. “Although you look a little garish in there surrounded by true art.  Perhaps you should take some solace in these last few moments by basking in their refinement.  Although you seem to be a bit dull, my boy.  After all,” He tucked his hand in his pocket and threw the little cylinder he’d used as a weapon at the bound bird, unable to deflect it the little plastic tube bounced off his head. It plopped to a stop on the bag of gems with the clearly printed words “Grease Paint” facing up.  “-this ‘terrible’ actor seemed to play the nefarious armed robber rather convincingly wouldn’t you say?”

                 Boast, boast, gloat, gloat. It would probably be a blessing to be splashed in the drink right now rather than listen to this.  Completely unnoticed throughout this all the tarp swayed... one rope started to fray slightly, was that grease paint the straw that broke the camel's back?

                 


                 

                “Thank you.” Gladstone heard the words leave him and immediately felt like an idiot.

                 THANK YOU? Thank you for what? For trying to make him feel better about getting your friend kidnapped? Or thank you for standing up and offering to take Oz’s place instead of him? Even though he couldn’t possibly have been killed by it?  Thanks for using those tickets he left for you so that he could show off?  Oh yes, thank you for understanding that his feelings trump all. Thank you.

                 

                He opened his mouth to try to back pedal but the car ride took a dramatic turn, literally, and he was pitched into her like a kid with a few lessons lacking in the “sharing the slide” portion of public playgrounds.  He braced himself against the window to not crush her but found he was nearly on top of her regardless.

                “uh.. what I meant to say was-“ The car swerved again and Gladstone tumbled across the cab to connect with his own window.  "COULD YOU TAKE IT EASY!" ...this was to the driver not Lilly.

                ”Almost there!” McNair replied, and the marina was  clearly visible in the distance.

                • Lilly Teal
                  Lilly Teal

                  There was a long, stunned pause.

                  "YOU SECOND-HAND SCAM ARTIST. YOU OVERWEIGHT OVER-ACTOR."

                  Tell him how you really feel.

                  ~~~

                  Now it was Lilly's turn to almost crush him against the window, as she came tumbling with him with an agonised squeak.

                  YEAH SERIOUSLY COULD YOU TAKE IT EASY WE WERE HAVING A REAL MOMENT OVER HERE.

                  "Ooo..." she winced apologetically and reached out a hand to touch his arm where she had slammed into it, but was distracted halfway through and pointed across him outside his window. The copter was faint in the darkness, but it was definitely there.

                  "There it is! Oh thank goodness, it's still in view. What luck."

                  From where she was right now, his face was very close. She gave him a sideways glace, pretty sure this was his luck coming into play, though she wasn't exactly sure how Oz's rescue was lucky for Gladstone, and squeezed his arm gently, trying not to hurt it in case it was bruised. It was still worrying, she was still scared, but she felt oddly... fizzy with a strange hope.

                  "We'd probably think nothing about more haunted ladles after this mess."

                  • Gladstone Gander
                    Gladstone Gander

                    Yes, yes, let out that rage.  He loved haterade. He drank it in like applause.

                    "Don't waste your breath, you'll have to hold it soon enough!" 

                    The fray ran deeper, the rope unraveling slightly.  So dramatic... almost like it was a movie or something.

                     


                     

                    Gladstone saw the 'copter as she pointed it out but a little distractedly.  Even though they'd been barely a breath apart while dancing earlier he hadn't had control over himself at the time.  How he was maintaining the feat now was any one's guess.  Haunted- what?  Oh. Oh yeah, sure the whatsit. She sure smelled nice.  FOCUS.  He turned his head to look at her properly but misjudged the distance, his bill brushing the tip of hers in the motion. Wait... what was he going to say?  Did people still talk anymore?  Where were they?  Who was he?  

                    Whoever he was, he suddenly found the door behind him no longer there to support his weight. The sudden lack of car door made him tumble backwards out of the vehicle.  McNair steadied him before he hit the ground.  Gladstone had a second to stare at Lilly in the car- maybe he could just get back in? - before he was spun around on the spot and presented with a view of a sleek sport yacht.  It was smaller than most, but had a long flat nose with a big deck complete with a hot tub in the center.  The words "Star Catcher" were painted on the side.  Gladstone couldn't help but be amused with the name. Ha. Cute.

                    "You've got the keys to Star Catcher, I'll be right behind you in the Probable Cause and I think Admiral Shoehorn is in the Holy Trilogy already. You try to out run him, I've got men in the air en route.  We're going to smash this fly."  With one shove of goose toward boat McNair dashed off. 

                     

                    "...are you sure you want to come with me?" Gladstone asked mostly the air, as he uncurled his fingers from the key carefully.  "It could be dangerous."

                    • Lilly Teal
                      Lilly Teal

                      This was ridiculous. Unfortunately the fray in the rope meant wriggling towards the edge to see where they were was out of the question. All Oz could do was groan in deep annoyance.

                      ~~~

                      Stepping out from the car, she was trying very hard not to think about what had just happened, and possibly almost happened.

                      "I know," she said quietly, mostly to the air herself. I'm not sure what's going to happen if I look at you right now.

                      You know what, let's take this with some optimism. I didn't think we'd have a boat, ten minutes ago. Stepping forward, she regarded the boat with her back to him, and found the confidence to speak with amusement.

                      "Of course I'm coming with you. You'd have to physically push me away and I think I could take you in a fight."

                      Now let's get this thing started so we don't have to fight each other about it. Let's team up and fight everyone else.

                      • Gladstone Gander
                        Gladstone Gander

                        "Oh, no doubt." Urges and wistful thinking were tucked under his metaphorical hat at the lighthearted taunt.  "I wouldn't last ten seconds against you. " It was practically confirmed, he was scraping by on the skin of his teeth for the last a week or so  at any rate. 

                        Anyway... his arm looped hers and he helped her onto the yacht. 

                        It may have been the smallest one in eyeshot but it was still huge.  The captain's compartment was partially enclosed with a needlessly elegant seating area around it.  The boat barely bobbed in the water, the hot tub on the nose was containing it's liquid assets as if on stationary ground.  Below them there were two floors of glorious cabins and a five star kitchen, but Gladstone made a straight path to the controls.  He stared at them for a moment trying to find the ignition. He let out a little "aha!" when he found it and the boat purred into life. 

                        Could he drive this thing?  Let's find out. He slammed the throttle and the yacht lurched as it sped out of it's spot.  Or... tried to.

                        It was still tied to the dock and the anchor was down.

                        Some hero.

                        • Lilly Teal
                          Lilly Teal

                          Thank God for the needlessly elegant seating area, or the lurching might have pitched one or both of them straight into the water. As it was, Lilly found herself on the floor of the boat in great confusion, before pulling herself back upright, her hand by chance just happening to grab onto the area the mooring rope drew out from.

                          "We're still tied," she said somewhat unnecessarily as her head righted itself after the fall, struggling to remember how boats work. She'd have to get out to cast off the rope, right? And raise the anchor. Afterwards. So it didn't go floating off while she tried to get back on.

                          "I'll do the rope and chain, you keep an eye on the helicopter!" she called out over her shoulder, hopping back onto the dock to fight with the rope.

                          Stupid

                          Sea-salt

                          Crusted

                          Knots

                          AH!

                          Hitching up her dress, she climbed back on a little wobblingly now that the boat was free.

                          Mercifully, the windlass looked like it had a motor attached to it, so they wouldn't be lifting the anchor by hand. Less mercifully, she couldn't see a way to turn to motor on.

                          Would someone with a flashy yacht like this really want to leave their comfortable captains' seat just to lit anchor?

                          "Gladstone, do you see anything that looks like it would lift the anchor in there?"

                          • Gladstone Gander
                            Gladstone Gander

                            Ah. Yes. Anchors.

                            He never proclaimed himself an ample seaman (phrasing?) or a hero so his pride was not so much damaged as bruised. Bruised like the arm that had been recently introduced to a foreign body (in this case Lilly’s), now that she was out of range he touched it lightly flinching before returning to the controls. Anchor.. anchor. There was a button with an anchor on it, ah yes. Must be that one. He pressed it and the clinking of chains cued them in to the weight being lifted out of the bay floor.


                            Now if only he had cut the throttle they would have eased out into the bay. Instead suddenly no longer weighed or lashed down the yacht sped out over the water. Gladstone held onto the steering wheel for dear life until he adjusted to their pacing. The boat skipped across the wake nearly colliding with the Holy Trilogy in the process. For all the chaos they were closing in on the Swan Song quickly.

                            “You okay Lillypad?” He shouted, having completely lost track of her.

                            • Lilly Teal
                              Lilly Teal

                              "Fine..." said a less than fine voice faintly behind him as she tried to get back on her feet. She'd been flung into the railing on the back of the boat and was pretty sure she had three parallel bruises across her back now. "Ow. I'm fi-iiiiine!"

                              That panicky, extended syllable was the consequence of another near collision with an old buoy that really shouldn't have been there. She pulled herself along and held onto the back of the captain's chair, struggling to push her hair out of her face, which was now well and truly out of its own moorings and having been flung about so much was trying to eat her alive.

                              "What are we going to do?" We can't catch him if he falls, the statue would smash through the deck. She waved a hand as she asked the question, accidentally flicking a pair of levers. "Uh oh."

                              Wait is that... a harpoon?

                              Is that a trawler net why would you NEED that on a fancy luxury yacht?

                              • Gladstone Gander
                                Gladstone Gander

                                He noted the insincerity of her “fine” and once she appeared over his shoulder he shot her a weak smile. Plan? Oh, one of those? Someday he was going to be able to talk to this girl when the world wasn’t falling down around their ears and then she’d know how little he thought about any course of action he took.

                                “Well-“. He lost train of thought as the trawler net blasted into the night sky at her misfire. He blinked then shrugged. “ -that could do?”

                                Suddenly lights and the sound of chopper blades rang out overhead. Gladstone slouched in his seat to see out the windows as two police helicopters closed in on the Swan Song. As his gaze met the villains vehicle his blood ran cold.

                                Tuskernini looked at the approaching police aircraft with a scowl.

                                “How gauche!” He declared.

                                The fraying rope finally snapped and the tarp swung wildly, throwing the whole gyrocopter off balance. A few bags of loot slid out of the new opening and tumbled into the inky black bay below. Oz and his statue started migrating toward the gap slowly.

                                • Lilly Teal
                                  Lilly Teal

                                  Of course nobody could just jump forward and catch him, but as soon as the rope frayed, Lilly instinctively started forward. The only thing that managed to do was accidentally press another button that she was too close to.

                                  "Oh no-"

                                  The harpoon fwipped off into the night.

                                  It missed Oz's feathers by a hair, tearing through the ropes that bound him and sending him bouncing crazily around the swinging tarp.

                                  It angled through the remaining ropes, somehow managing not to tear them.

                                  It wrapped neatly around the stand of the police helicopter, and then it suddenly went taut, sending a jolt through the now connected helicopter, escape craft, annoyed and confused hostage, and boat.

                                  "... well at least we won't lose them."

                                  • Gladstone Gander
                                    Gladstone Gander

                                    Gladstone stared at her, then the rope, then the daisy chain of aircrafts that they were currently connected to, then her again.  He beamed.

                                    "Brilliant!"

                                     

                                    This was of course when the rope went taught and something had to give.  In this case it was the yacht.  The vessel groaned as it was yanked forward by the force of the aircrafts.  Gladstone pitched backward in his chair but was ready to catch a hold of Lilly's wrist to keep her from being flung into that nice bolted down seating area. His heart was hammering against his ribs.  This was not how he hoped an evening of dancing would end.  The boat crashed up and down on the waves the wake of the other vessels in the bay had made.  Everything was very choppy and overall... not very enjoyable.  In spite  of his wobbling legs he pulled Lilly into the captain's seat just as he was able to cling to the steering wheel.  Everyone okay? Having fun? No? Well him either.

                                     

                                    "Okay-" He said mostly to amp himself up. "We've got to go faster.  We have to catch up or we'll really be in the-SHIIIIIIP!" This was naturally because a freighter was currently in their path, Gladstone threw his whole weight into the wheel to turn the rudder and zip out of the way.  This sudden jerky motion had a very interesting chain effect on the captive vessels strung to them.


                                     

                                    Tuskernini nearly fell off his perch when the net snagged them, but he held on fast.  He looked down to see his precious cargo leaving his possession.  And.. oh dear, that rapscallion of a hostage was free.  And oh dear times two, why were they currently careening to the side as if being pulled by a string.  Ah, he saw the frantic little boat below.  He scowled at it.  Oh what he would do to those interlopers if he ever got down there-

                                     

                                    "Tuskernini!" Called the police officer in the chopper next to him.  "Surrender now! Land your vehicle and release the hostage."

                                     

                                    "I don't take requests!" He shouted back and climbed into the open cab of the cockpit. He pulled an oversized orange pistol from a box on the floor and aimed it at the policeman.  "Blame it on my dramatic FLARE!" 

                                     

                                    Pop.  BOOM. FIZZLE. SPARK. 

                                     

                                    The safety flare exploded like a firework in the other helicopter and it lost control.  It started spiraling downward and Tuskernini was rather pleased with himself until he realized, rather lamely, they were all still connected.

                                     

                                    Oh dear. 

                                    • Lilly Teal
                                      Lilly Teal

                                      Oh dear was right. What with the boat frantically avoiding the freighter to the right, and the helicopter in a downward spiral to the left, the Swan Song began to execute a series of uncomfortable alternating barrel rolls and yaws and neatly emptied out all the rest of Tuskernini's ill gotten gains into the bay.

                                      Good thing there was a trawler net on hand for later, eh?

                                      Oz clung onto the rope grimly, the only reason he hadn't joined the rest of the beautiful objects in the water, and tried to wriggle himself into a position to slide down towards the boat.

                                      Now if only the boat would stop MOV- oh it was getting closer.

                                      No, wait, the two helicopters were just getting closer to the water. He was just contemplating making a jump for it when the police helicopter sputtered and attempted to right itself, struggling for control and just barely grazing the surface of the water. It made a heroic attempt to pull up, and thankfully managed as much as it took to get the connecting rope over the the top of the freighter that the boat had just avoided. That could have been very, very bad.

                                      Not that it was exactly very good. They had lost a lot of altitude, and the pilot was still in a half-blinded haze, the helicopter bobbing about drunkenly near the surface of the water and dragging the Swan Song along with it, with the boat tagging along merrily.

                                      It had the added advantage of ingloriously dunking Tuskernini and the penguins with every bob.

                                      With Gladstone holding onto Lilly's wrist, she held onto his arm, and he held onto the wheel, and they had essentially locked each other into place so they wouldn't get thrown around in the ensuring chaos. That didn't help at all with the uncomfortable bobbing and jolting motions.

                                      • Gladstone Gander
                                        Gladstone Gander

                                        Pull up-pull up-pull up!  The penguins went to work trying to keep their flippers dry figuratively and literally.  After a deal of effort they were able to coast just over the surface of the water.  Tuskernini peeled a starfish from his face and let out an angry huff of air.  Going once more into the emergency kit he pulled out a Swiss army knife and leaned out of the cockpit to see if he could find that blasted cord and sever it.  Once he saw Oz's prone position clinging to said cord, the plan tasted so much sweeter.  If he couldn't have his shiny precious rarities he may as well get revenge on this thorn in his side.  Carefully he climbed out of the cab and onto the landing skid below him.  Now where was that rope?

                                         


                                         

                                        The StarCatcher made a horrible scraping sound as the freighter grazed their side panel leaving a rather ugly gash in the paint but nothing more. Gladstone fought the wheel back into a straight trajectory, his arms aching with the effort.  The surface skimming helicopters were directly ahead of them, if they could keep up this pace with no more interruptions they might- an orange light lit up the dashboard.  It looked a lot like a gas... pump.

                                        "You have got to be kidding." He whined. This was fine.  It was okay. Everything's fine.  His luck would probably protect... him.  His eyes locked on the Swan Song still too far away.  It was his luck after all.  It didn't tend to be generous to other people unless they were in the trenches with... he swallowed thickly.  He hated the idea he just had. Oh how he hated it.  "I uh-" He put an arm around Lilly, changing places with her so she was on the wheel. "I need you to take this." 

                                         

                                        But now if he left Lilly, would she be pulled into the unlucky vortex?  What was he supposed to do?  What would his Uncle or cousin do?  They were the adventurous hero types.  They'd  probably figure out a way to get everyone home safe with a few extra coins in their pockets.  Pockets?  Ah! He started patting himself down, finally finding what he was looking for.  A small laminated shamrock was in his hand.  He gave it a light kiss and tucked it firmly in Lilly's hair. 

                                        "I'm going to go get him." He sounded so much braver than he felt. "Just... keep going straight.  I'll be back before you know it." Hopefully with all his limbs still attached.  "Just uh... don't lose that." he patted the four leaf clover.

                                         

                                        Gladstone stumbled across the uneasy deck toward the cord and pulled himself onto it.  Alright... just.. keep looking straight ahead... don't think about the sudden death all around you.  He started moving along the rope, climbing out over the water toward the Swan Song. Oh this was an awful plan.

                                        • Lilly Teal
                                          Lilly Teal

                                          Oz glanced up, and once again found villainous fat obscuring his vision. "Come to join the party, have you?" he said through gritted teeth. And then, purely out of spite, he jerked his whole body, making the cord and the Swan Song judder violently to the point that his legs slipped from around the rope and he slid along with his hands for a painful six inches or so.

                                          Worth. It.

                                          By chance, the random act of petty violence brought him around to face the direction of the boat again, and his eyes widened as he saw Gladstone shuffling his way along the impromptu high-wire. What a man. What. A. Man.

                                          "Be careful!" Lilly called after him in worry, torn between keeping her eyes on the metaphorical road and keeping them fixed on the green jacket suspended over the water. And because she kept glancing back to watch him, she saw the ripple in the rope Oz had caused heading towards them. With a flash of inspiration she didn't know she was capable off, she slowed down just a fraction, enough to tighten the rope and take up the slack that would have have coiled dangerously along the line and potentially sent her man Gladstone flying, before picking up that speed again to keep them at par.

                                          I had no idea that would work, this is so terrifying.

                                          • Gladstone Gander
                                            Gladstone Gander

                                            Tuskernini lost his balance and found his hands gripping Oz's literal lifeline to steady himself.  Well, wasn't that lucky?  He flipped the little blade out and started sawing at the rope.  "Of course I had to be fashionably late, given your attire it seems you'd know little of that."  The rhinestones on the Walrus's suit glittered in the night.  Yes.  Fashion.

                                             

                                            Gladstone nearly lost his grip on the rope with the sudden retaliatory shaking.  He caught air for a moment before he swung wildly around to stop on the opposite side he had been scaling.  This left him partially upside down, his tie flopping in his face. Oh this was horrible.  His eyes met Oz's when the man glanced down and he could only flash a weak smile.  Yes, hello. We're dead.  We're dead men. Nice to see you. The rope tightened under his grip, keeping him from further harm and his gaze drifted to the boat.  That's my girl. Okay... one hand over the- he froze.

                                            Had he imagined it or had a huge dark shadow just moved under the water?  Why was this happening?  He let out a trembling breath. Okay... Okay... if Scroogie McDollarsigns could do this... so could he.  He started climbing again.  

                                             

                                            From the boat that large shadow that Gladstone was now actively ignoring began to make the water rise in a sizable wave toward the StarCatcher.

                                            • Lilly Teal
                                              Lilly Teal

                                              "Of course you were, that's definitely late fashion, honey." There was a weird adrenaline rush to hanging over a deadly drop, trading catty comments, and he grinned. It wasn't as if he could even do anything but wait, why not enjoy the moment? "You should have left it where it was buried."

                                              Hm. Actually. He swung his legs experimentally, letting the momentum swing him a little further and taking a new handhold. No, that doesn't get me very far. I wouldn't make it to a safe height before the rope was cut all the way. Still, no harm in trying.

                                              Gladstone, I hope you have something big.

                                              Just like the something big that was creating that wave.

                                              "Oh no. Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no oh no." Lilly tried hard not to panic, but she could feel control of the boat leaving her as the prow started to raise higher and higher on the wave. She was keeping it straight, but what was the point when the whole thing was threatening to go vertical?

                                              It did have the advantage of making the slope of the rope a lot less steep. How... lucky?

                                              Gladstone, this is not what we had in mind when we said big.

                                              • Gladstone Gander
                                                Gladstone Gander

                                                Lilly wasn’t the only one trying to keep from panicking. Gladstone was desperately trying hard to ignore the bickering happening above him and the chaos building below. He was not doing a good job of either. He was petrified but mostly he was angry. This anger fueled him to climb up the cord and finally reach Oz. Instead of doing anything heroic or practical he simply climbed up the opposite side of the rope using him for leverage and footholds and paused a moment when they were face to face.

                                                “This city-“ he fumed through strained breathing and gritted teeth. “-is ridiculous.”

                                                Yes. Where was the lie? This important bit of conversation now behind him he continued to scale the rope. Tuskernini blinked at the newcomer who was closing in quickly.

                                                “You? Aren’t you the dandy who demolished my -“

                                                Tuskernini was silenced by the sight of what erupted below them. A beautiful pale topless woman rose from the water, it seemed very Arthurian until he recognized her..or more appropriately “it”. The statue lifted from the foamy depths by means of a giant tentacle. The wave hit the StarCatcher and the cord strained the nearly cut rope barely staying solid. Gladstone grabbed the knife from Tuskernini in his distraction, scowled at the large tentacles that were rising out of the wake, and cut the cord.

                                                The ship pitched over the top of the wave as Oz and Gladstone began their freefall. Completely emotionless Gladstone grabbed Oz around the middle keeping one hand on the severed cord. The surface of the bay was rushing toward them at literal breakneck speed. Until it wasn’t. The cord snapped up as it caught on a rising tentacle and their trajectory turned into a circular orbit of the appendage. After a full rotation Gladstone let go. There was a rush of air as they careened horizontally through the night until...

                                                SPLASH.

                                                The warm water of the Starcatcher’s hottub bubbled around them, they had landed right in the center of it as the boat slid down the outside of the wave. Gladstone pulled Oz to the surface and clung to the handrail every lock of his hair plastered over his eyes. He calmly grabbed a nearby pillow, pressed it against his face and screamed into it. Terrified, terrified screams were muffled by the fluffy stuffing. After about thirty seconds of hysteria the pillow fell out of his hands and he shakily slicked his hair back out of his face.

                                                “You ok Oz?”

                                                Was that big enough?

                                                • Lilly Teal
                                                  Lilly Teal

                                                  The police were stunned, to say the least. The momentum of the rope snapping sent Tuskernini swinging in their direction, putting them a little off-balance as he swung under the helicopter like a very lively catch. The penguins didn't seem like they had any answers either.

                                                  Oz laughed a little, high pitched and strained. How were they still alive? "I'm fantastic."

                                                  Throwing his shaky arms around Gladstone's neck, which had the added consquence of throwing hot tub water all over the deck, he gave him a big smack on the cheek, still laughing. "My hero."

                                                  "Oz! Gladstone!" Her hands had practically locked around the steering wheel. She'd have shut her eyes, if only she hadn't been watching her friends nearly die in mute terror. Prying her hands off, she hurried over to them.

                                                  "No no, you'll slip right into the tub." Oz waved a hand, hauling himself out and grabbing Gladstone's arm to pull him up and well. Well didn't they look a sight, rumpled and dripping and definitely not the dandy pair that had shown up at the gala at the start of the night.

                                                  Cheer up Gladstone, the rest of you matches your black eye now.

                                                  The quetzal looked down at his clothes, but before he even had time to voice a regret, Lilly had flung herself at him. "You're okay!"

                                                  "I am!" He grinned, which faltered a little as she pushed back and held him by the shoulders.

                                                  "You idiot!"

                                                  "I am..."

                                                  "Never get in front of a villain, you know that!" If Gladstone hadn't been here- Oh Gladstone! Hugging Oz had gotten her completely soaked, and her hair was all open and a tangled bird's nest with a clover stuck in it somewhere, but she didn't seem to care as she turned around and now threw her arms around the drake, holding him like she'd watched him die right before her eyes. Which she nearly had. "Oh my goodness..."

                                                  Bright side, she matches you, Glad.

                                                  • Gladstone Gander
                                                    Gladstone Gander

                                                    Gladstone could barely hear over the horrified pounding in his chest. He blinked at Oz when he kissed him before he smiled softly. Hero, oh yeah sure just add that chip to the pile. Don’t get used to it because nothing like this will ever happen again... that is if he had any say in the matter. He accepted the aid out of the hottub, his legs were feeling a little too rubbery for him to attempt it on his own. In a daze he tried to take inventory of his appearance. Unluckily there was his reflection in that window there, who was that drowned wretched little creature? Someone who pulls off daring rescues apparently. Who even was he anymore?

                                                    Lilly’s voice pulled his eyes away from himself and he felt a wave of relief crash over him. She was okay. Tousled and terrified, but ok. They were all okay. His eyes stung but he blinked away the sensation. The knots in his chest unraveled as he watched her chastise her friend a smile finally, sincerely spread across his face. Better him than me. Then it was his turn. He closed his arms around her as if she was the most fragile thing in the world and buried his face in her hair.

                                                    “You were incredible Lilypad. But please-“ he leaned back to look at her. “-can we add this to the list of things we never have to do again?”

                                                    There was a different kind of flutter in his chest having her so close after everything that had just happened. His hand came up to brush some of that lovely messy hair out of her face. His eyes were locked on hers, and his face started to incline toward hers with a clear purpose.

                                                    Which was interrupted by the smash of splintering wood. Gladstone jolted and unconsciously shielded Lilly from the source of the sound.

                                                    The marble statue that Oz had become all too familiar with was a few feet away, the deck smashed in slightly from it’s sudden arrival. A soaked bag of fine jewelry plopped on the deck beside it... then another. Lithe tentacles squirmed over the side of the boat depositing a bizarre collection of... pilfered shiny things and stolen artwork. A figure hopped off the octopus and landed on the deck. A diminutive fish woman with pink fins on her head frowned at the three of them and pointed her trident at the growing pile.


                                                    “Are these yours?” The creature asked an irritated nasally voice.

                                                     

                                                    • Lilly Teal
                                                      Lilly Teal

                                                      Lilly stared at the little fish woman, as Oz brightened up. "Neptunia!" Hero of the seas! Member of the Justice Ducks! I'm a fan! "Thank you. And your friend. I was nearly a gorgeous but very dead body."

                                                      "This... this doesn't usually happen all at once?" Lilly said to Gladstone, feeling absurdly embarrassed by the weirdness of St. Canard now. If he didn't hate the city already...

                                                      She still hadn't let go of him, either because she was too distracted to remember or she didn't particularly want to. Both, probably. "I'm sorry, Miss Neptunia, this was all stolen from the museum. We didn't mean to mess up the bay."

                                                      Please don't take your environmental... zeal out on us.

                                                      "You can keep the statue if you want, honestly, I don't think anyone would care," Oz put in. I DEFINITELY won't be missing it.