Chapter 14: The Secret's Out

The day had finally arrived. When the Ducks arrived at the Superhero Festival, they were surprised to find that a good portion of the populace had arrived already.
“Told you it was a big day,” Phil said, stepping up beside the Ducks.
Wildwing was about to reply, but stopped short when he saw what Aggie, who was with her uncle, was wearing.
“Aggie?” he asked.
“Just… don’t ask, Wing. Just don’t,” Agnus replied just about bristling and keeping her eyes out of contact with the others.
The other Ducks just looked at her in varying degrees of surprise. Aggie had pitched up in, what they assumed, was full costume. A full hockey inspired superhero costume in green.
“Like it?” Phil asked the Ducks with a smile.
“Uh, yeah. Where’d you…,” Duke started, not entirely sure how he should actually respond.
“Ags’ own design,” Phil replied proudly.
“Aggie?” Wildwing asked, the only one really brave enough to ask her anything pertaining to hockey.
“I designed it before I gave up my hockey days okay?! When I was very young. Uncle Phil had some old photos of my original and… had this thing made up for me for today,” she replied, still keeping her eyes away from the Ducks.
“Well you wanted to fit in didn’t you?” Phil asked.
“I don’t recall you asking me about that, Uncle Phil,” Aggie replied, glaring at her uncle.
“Ahh, c’mon! It’s the Superhero Festival! You used to love this when you were younger.”
“Key word there, Unc, younger.”
“Oh you’ll have fun and you’ll no doubt thank me later. Well, I’ve got to go make sure everything’s ready for Press Meet. I’ll see you guys later.”
“Not that he’ll have a hard time finding us with me in this neon green catastrophe,” Aggie muttered.
“Aww, come on, Ags, it’s not that bad,” Duke said, walking up to the young lady and slinging an arm around her shoulders.
“Duke, I have a hockey stick in my hand, don’t annoy me.”
“Oh-ho, Ags, I know you better than that. You’d never take a swing at me with, well, anything.”
Aggie growled warningly.
“Though I’m not about to push my luck anyway,” Duke added, removing his arm from her shoulders.
With that Aggie spun one-eighty degrees and skated up into the sanctuary afforded her by the Migrator.
The Ducks just watched her.
“You guys carry on, I’ll see what I can do here,” Wildwing said.
“You sure, bro?” Nosedive asked.
“I’m sure. Besides, I believe that’s Thrash and Mookie waving you over.”
Wildwing pointed towards Captain Comics where Thrash and Mookie were standing waving in their general direction if nothing else.
“Gotcha, bro. See ya later,” Nosedive said before heading off towards Captain Comics with Grin close behind him.
“Good luck,” Mallory said, before following after the two with Tanya at her side.
“You’re gonna need it,” Duke added before following the group.
Wildwing sighed to himself, he knew they were right. Just when he thought he may be getting through to Aggie about hockey, Phil had to go and do this.
“So,” he said, stepping into the Migrator to find Aggie sitting on one of the chairs near the back of the vehicle, “You’re just going to stay in here the whole day?”
“Pretty much the idea, Wildwing, yes,” Aggie replied, sounding a little less hostile to Wildwing’s relief.
Wildwing leaned against the frame of the Migrator’s door.
“Come on,” he said after a moment of silence.
“What?” Aggie asked, arms firmly folded across her chest.
“Don’t be so sour. Phil’s just…”
“Trying to ‘help’?”
“Yeah. He’s not trying to do anything to spite you or anything. He just wants to see his little Aggie back the way she was.”
Agnus sighed and looked away from Wildwing.
“Besides, it’s a beautiful day out,” Wildwing continued, looking out of the door at the blue sky.
Agnus remained silent.
Wildwing sighed silently to himself.
“Tell you what,” he said, standing up, “I’ll make you a deal.”
That peaked Agnus’ interest.
“Stick with me and the other Ducks for a while. If you start to feel uncomfortable in an hour or so, I’ll let you return to the Migrator.”
“And… if not?” Agnus asked.
“Well, then you stay out and have a good day. Either way you win.”
Agnus thought for a moment.
“Well?” Wildwing asked, extending a hand towards Agnus for her to shake.
She silently rose to her feet, picking her hockey stick up as she did so, skated forward and clasped Wildwing’s hand in her own.
“Deal,” she said with a smile.
Wildwing smiled back at her as they released each other’s hands and he gestured for her to take the lead.

Thrash and Mookie were just finishing up explaining the history of the Superhero Festival when Wildwing and Aggie came up to the group. Thrash gasped.
“Doth mine eyes deceive me?” he asked with a smile.
“I don’t think they do, Thrash,” Mookie added.
“The Hockey Avenger returns!” the pair said in unison.
“The who?” Duke asked.
“Who cares? Sounds like a great name for a movie,” Nosedive said.
“Aggie, is that you under all that green?” Mookie asked.
“Yeah,” Aggie replied with a slightly forced smile.
“Ahem,” Duke said, hoping to get an answer to his previous question.
“Oh, sorry, Duke,” Mookie said, “The Hockey Avenger was an original character created by a kid here several years back.”
“Back when our hockey team didn’t suck so bad,” Thrash added.
“Long time before we arrived then?” Duke asked.
“You got it. Mook and I were always huge fans of the kid in the suit, even though we never knew who she really was.”
“Yeah, we really wanted to say ‘hi’, but they were always in the middle of a crowd of hockey players. We could never get close enough,” Mookie said.
“O-kay,” Duke replied, not too sure what to think of this newest piece of info.
“Wow. I didn’t realise you guys were fans of mine,” Agnus said.
“Wait. What?” Mookie asked, looking at Agnus somewhat surprised.
“You’re not tellin’ us that you’re…,” Thrash started before being joined by Mookie in saying, “The original Hockey Avenger?!”
“Sworn to keep the game clean and the goons on the boards. Heh, boy, does that sound corny or what?” Aggie asked, shifting her shoulders slightly to make her suit a bit more comfortable.
“Actually, no. It sounds like a good resolve,” Wildwing said.
Agnus just gave him a little smile.
“Dude! It is you!” Thrash exclaimed.
“I thought you didn’t like hockey,” Mookie added.
“I don’t. The Hockey Avenger was created a long time ago, before I changed my mind about the… sport,” Agnus replied.
“Oh, well, can you still do your signature move?” Thrash asked.
“My… signature… move?” Agnus asked, glancing at the Ducks out of the corner of her eye and then looking back at Thrash and Mookie.
“Yeah, you know. That thing you could do with your hockey stick. You sorta used it like a baton,” Mookie said.
Agnus looked at the stick in her hand and then at the two comic book store owners.
“Well,” she started.
“Please,” the pair said.
“Just try,” Thrash added.
Agnus sighed before skating a little way off to a clear spot.
“Fine, but… expect an extreme fail,” she said, turning to face the group again.
The Ducks moved closer to Thrash and Mookie, then the group waited for Aggie to begin. She took a calming breath before slowly beginning to twirl her hockey stick by her side, she gradually moved it from her side, spinning it faster and faster as she did so, to in front of her. Suddenly she sent it flying up into the air. Her audience’s heads moved to follow the line of the hockey stick. Aggie, meanwhile, skated back a few paces before hopping up, backwards, onto the backrest of a bench where she waited for the stick to return to her. She caught it above her head, immediately returning it to its full speed spin before slashing it through the air like an oddly shaped sword and returning it to a stationary, slightly slanted horizontal position across her body while she moved into her signature pose as the Hockey Avenger. There was an enthusiastic round of applause from Thrash, Mookie and some other people who had gathered seeing the ‘show’ take place. The Ducks meanwhile just stood there a little stunned. “Uh… heh,” Agnus said, feeling a little embarrassed by the attention she’d drawn. “See, son, I told you the Hockey Avenger was real,” a man said on the sideline. Aggie took that as her cue to step down from the bench and rejoin her friends by Thrash and Mookie.
“That was awesome!” Thrash said.
“Thanks,” Agnus replied with a little smile, feeling pretty uncomfortable at the moment.
“Uh… Hockey Avenger,” a voice from behind Agnus said.
Turning, she found that the voice belonged to a little girl, roughly eight years old.
“Yes?” Agnus asked.
“C-could you sign my autograph book. My… my mommy’s been telling me tales of you for a while now.”
Agnus let out a little laugh of surprise.
“Has she?” she asked.
“Yes,” another voice replied.
Agnus looked up to see a lady a little older than her walking up to her.
“I hope you don’t mind, but… the character just lent itself so easily to stories when my little girl got interested in hockey and skating. You’re an inspiration for her to keep getting up whenever she falls on her skates,” the lady said, putting her hands onto the little girl’s shoulders.
“No. Of course not. I’m… honoured that you even remembered the costume,” Agnus said, before going down onto one knee to be on the same level as the little girl, “So, who do I make this out to?”
“Angela,” the little girl said, handing Agnus her autograph book and a pen.
“Okay. To Angela, Keep on skating. Your friend, Hockey Avenger,” Agnus said as she wrote down the message.
“I will! Thank you,” Angela beamed, just as Agnus closed the book and handed it back to her along with her pen.
Agnus couldn’t help but smile as she stood up again and watched the little girl disappear into the crowd with her mom.
“So,” Duke said, gaining Aggie’s attention, “Anaheim’s used to having hockey-based superheroes.”
“I would hardly say that, Duke,” Aggie replied, skating back up to the group.
Just then Aggie noticed that Wildwing was smiling somewhat amusedly at her.
“What?” she asked.
“You’re unique, Ags,” he replied with a smile.
“If you’re referring to that baton thing… I came up with it when I was eight. Give me a break.”
“No. I mean how you’re known and unknown at the same time here.”
“What do you mean, Bro?” Nosedive asked.
“I mean, look at Tina. She knew full well who Agnus was. Thrash and Mook knew who the Hockey Avenger was, as did a couple of other people apparently. Yet many hockey fans don’t know you from a bar of soap.”
Agnus just smiled and shrugged.
“It’s a select few who remember me and my family, Wildwing. Real hockey fans will know who we are, but… those who just enjoy the game and only know their team… we’re just another name. As for the costume, it’s only those who really liked it that may remember,” she said.
Wildwing just smiled at her, still a little amused at his realization.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the Ducks and their friends, they were being watched. Chameleon carefully peered over his cover of garbage cans to see the Ducks.

A while later, Phil had tracked the Ducks down and had already shepherded them to the stand which had been built to raise the speakers up above the crowd so that all could see them. The mayor was busy giving his speech. Why he needed to was beyond most people, but they figured it was just a PR thing. Showing support for something the populace held dear and stuff like that. Agnus stood at the back of the crowd, she saw the Ducks every day and felt it best to let others who didn’t have that privilege get as close as they could to their hockey heroes. She wasn’t alone however, as Tatiana and Shiga had met up with her earlier.
“And now, without further ado, I hand over to the captain of the Mighty Ducks: Wildwing!” the mayor said, clapping as he stepped away from the podium and Wildwing rose from his chair to take his place at the podium.
“Thank you, Mr. Mayor, it’s an honour to be here,” Wildwing said, hoping he wouldn’t forget anything that Phil had told him to say.
Meanwhile, lurking behind the stand, was Chameleon.
“I gotta time this just right or else… those Ducks will get me before the boss does,” Chameleon said to himself, looking for where he might pluck a feather from each duck’s person.
Wildwing hadn’t even gotten to the first line that Phil had had him memorise, when an alarm went off. Everyone looked in the direction of the noise and saw a man rushing off towards the road.
“Thief! Thief!” someone screeched from the sidelines.
“This is my chance,” Chameleon said to himself before moving quickly and quietly to get behind the Ducks as they rose to better see what was happening.
“A whole assembly of superhero wannabes and no one’s doing anything?!” Aggie asked rhetorically, “Shig, you finished with that?”
Agnus point to the cold drink can in her friends hand.
“Yeah. Give it to ‘im, Ags,” she said with a smile, catching into what her friend was up to.
She tossed the can to Aggie who dropped it, stepped on it to flatten it into a rough puck shape and then skated out into the open, away from the crowd, moving the improvised puck along the ground with her hockey stick as she would a real one on the ice.
“What is Ags…,” Duke started, as he and the others watched her.
So engrossed in watching the goings-on the Ducks barely noticed when Chameleon stole up behind each of them and plucked a feather from their bodies. Grin and Mallory being the only two to react with a swat in the direction of the sting.
“Agh! I hate bugs,” Mallory griped, as she swatted at the location of the sting on her neck.
Aggie, meanwhile, was skating hard and fast after the man, who was now speeding up having seen her coming after him.
“All right, Ags,” she heard a voice in her head say, “Focus on where you want the puck to go. Then… let it fly.”
“I got ya, Dad,” she said to herself, locking her eyes onto the thief.
Two more strides and that was it, she turned her stick and let the ‘puck’ fly… straight into the back of the thief’s right knee. The man let out a cry as he went down onto the pavement. Aggie arrived just as he was trying to get up again, but she placed a skate squarely on his back between his shoulders.
“Don’t even think about it,” she said in the most dangerous voice she could muster. Behind her, the crowd erupted into cheers as they applauded the act of heroism.
“Not bad,” Duke said with a smile.
“Yeah, with moves like that she could kick butt and play a mean game of hockey,” Tanya added.
“If only we could convince her of the latter,” Wildwing said.
“Gotcha!” Chameleon said, hopping up over Wildwing’s head and plucking a feather from him, apparently abandoning his previous stealth tactic.
“Ow! Hey!” Wildwing exclaimed.
“It’s Chameleon!” Mallory said.
“Get him!” Nosedive said, pulling out his blaster.
“No! There’s too many people around, you may hit one of them!” Wildwing commanded.
“What did he want?” Mallory asked, looking at Wildwing.
“I don’t know. It feels like he plucked a feather or something,” Wildwing replied, rubbing the spot on his head which was still stinging.
“You all okay?” Phil asked, walking up to his team having noticed something was off about them.
“Yeah. We’re fine, Phil,” Wildwing replied.
“Good. Then let’s continue shall we?”
Just then Wildwing noticed Aggie returning to her spot at the back of the crowd and smiled to himself.
“Yes, let’s,” he replied, before taking his place at the podium once again, “Congratulations on a job well done, Hockey Avenger.”
Aggie looked at him a little surprised to be addressed, but quickly recovered and replied, “All in a day’s work, Wildwing.”
Wildwing smiled at her before turning his attention back to the ‘speech’ he had memorised. “Now, where were we?” he asked, rhetorically.

Later that day, when the festival was winding down, the Ducks, Shiga, Tatiana and Aggie were heading back to the Migrator.
“Aww man. I wish the Superhero Festival was more than once a year,” Shiga said.
“No kidding. I haven’t had this much fun in ages,” Nosedive added.
“Well, this is where we leave you guys. It was awesome to spend the day with you,” Tatiana said with a smile.
“Likewise, Tat,” Grin said with a smile of his own.
Tatiana just smiled up at him, the pair were fast becoming good friends.
“See ya ‘round?” Shiga asked, looking at the Ducks.
“I’m sure you will,” Wildwing replied, holding a hand out for Shiga to shake.
“And not just in the newspapers,” Duke added with a smile.
“Good. See you ‘round then… Hockey Avenger?” Shiga asked, turning from the Ducks to her friend.
“I do wish you’d all stop calling me that,” Agnus said.
“What? And give away your secret identity?” Nosedive asked with a cheeky grin.
Agnus just smiled at him.
“So, see ya?” Shiga asked.
“You bet,” Agnus replied, shaking her friend’s hand.
“Great!”
“Let’s go, Shiga,” Tatiana said, beginning to head for the road.
“Coming. See you guys,” Shiga said, walking off after her friend.
“See you,” the Ducks and Agnus replied in unison.
“We’d better be heading home too,” Wildwing said, looking at his team once Tatiana and Shiga had disappeared to the other side of the road.
The others just nodded in agreement before beginning to file into the Migrator.

Once on their way back to the Pond, Wildwing thought that now would be as good at time as any to bring up the subject.
“Aggie, that was a really impressive bit of puck control you did earlier,” he said.
“Really?” Agnus asked, a feeling of dread beginning to rise up in her stomach.
“You’re kidding right? That was amazing! You’re a natural!” Nosedive said, joining in.
The other Ducks agreed in their own ways, while Agnus just sunk deeper into her chair.
“I’d… I’d really appreciate it if you were to train with us. We might be able to learn a thing or two from you and… you from us,” Wildwing said, feeling a little uncomfortable about how direct he was being, but he couldn’t think of another way to word his feelings.
“You’re not going to stop, are you?! None of you are going to stop until I get back on the ice! When we get home, I have something to show you all that may change your minds about this… pestering!” Agnus said, her temper fraying and her heart breaking.
“What?” Nosedive asked.
“You’ll see,” was all Agnus said.

Once back at the Pond, Agnus, after changing into her usual attire, led the Ducks through to Phil’s office where she immediately went to his wall safe. She had just finished putting in the combination and turned the handle.
“Blast! He’s changed the combination,” Agnus said.
“Allow me,” Duke said.
Agnus stepped aside and let the master take over.
Duke put an ear to the safe and began to carefully turn the dial. In a matter of seconds he had it opened.
“Piece of cake,” he said, while the door eased open.
“I’m going to have to get you to teach me how to do that,” Agnus said, going to the safe and pulling a rectangular thing out which was wrapped in brown paper and string. “Be glad to,” Duke replied with a smile while Aggie closed the safe again and spun the dial off its last number.
“Back to HQ,” she said, taking the lead.

When everyone was settled in the rec-room, Aggie unwrapped the rectangular object.
“This tape… will explain everything,” she replied, sliding the tape into the player. It started automatically.
“It’s a game tape,” Mallory noted, looking at the images on the screen.
“Between… who?” Nosedive asked.
“Doesn’t matter. Just watch,” Aggie replied, feeling pretty tense as she watched the events unfold.
The Ducks watched closely, especially as a fight broke out between a couple of the players. Another man, a member of one of the teams, skated in to try to help the referees. There was a little struggle and then one of the fighters picked up his stick again and swung it into the neck of the helper. The man crumpled and there was a gasp from the crowd as well as a scream of ‘Daddy!’ from the sidelines.
Agnus paused the video.
“The man who just fell was my dad,” she replied, tears welling up in her eyes and a lump forming in her throat, “He went in to help, but did we get any help in return? No. My dad’s now in a wheelchair from that incident. He was hit on the neck so hard that certain nerves have never recovered. Not that his team was of much help. That was his first and last game with them, the bunch of savages. We’re just glad that he wasn’t paralyzed from the neck down.”
The Ducks looked from the screen to Agnus.
“And don’t any of you dare tell me I’m being silly about this. I know my dad’s still with me. I know that it wasn’t me who got hurt, but what few people realise is that when you hurt someone I love… you hurt me also,” Agnus said, fully on the offensive before anyone could say anything. “Ags… we didn’t know,” Wildwing said in a soft voice, plainly seeing how traumatized Agnus was from this incident.
“My family’s been battling financially ever since then. We received no help from the team or the manager or anyone in regards to Dad’s medical bills. We got some help from the guys back here in Anaheim, having moved states so that Dad could play on this other team, but we couldn’t expect them to keep us going.”
“You were hung out to dry,” Duke said, summing it up.
“Pretty much, Duke. Pretty much. You guys now know the full story,” Agnus replied, stopping and ejecting the tape.
The Ducks just nodded. Wildwing, however, got up, walked over to Agnus and pulled her into a hug.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, realising the pain he and the others had kept dredging up for Aggie.
“I forgive you. Like you said, you didn’t know,” Agnus replied, looking up into the drake’s eyes.
“Well done, Aggie,” a voice said from the door.
The group looked to see Phil standing there, his hands in his pockets.
“It’s now out in the open,” he said, holding his arms open for his niece.
“Yeah, it is,” she replied, skating up to him and giving him a hug.
“Not everything,” Nosedive said.
Everyone looked at him for an explanation.
“I get that you’re upset with the guys who hurt your dad, Ags, but… why hate hockey? It’s not the game’s fault,” Nosedive said.
The other Ducks looked back at Aggie, a little worried how she’d respond.
“Nosedive,” Aggie said calmly, “my dad brought me up in a very protected hockey environment. He and his team mates played super clean games and their opponents had no other choice than to play clean too. You know, the whole ‘respect your opponent and you’ll force him to respect you’ thing. Yes I knew you could get hurt being driven into the boards. I knew that skates could cut if they went over you. I especially knew that the ice hurts when you land on it, but… I never knew of the brutality of the people who played hockey outside of my rink. I was always too busy learning from my dad to actually watch a real game on TV from out of state. If I watched a game it was with my dad and his team while they were studying the moves of their latest opponents.”
The Ducks just nodded in understanding.
“So, I guess I gave up on the game partially because I was scared. Partially because I was appalled that… not all hockey players had the same sense of unity my dad’s team mates had had. Had this happened while we were still in Anaheim, my dad would have received the medical attention he would have needed. I know because he had had his knee damaged a few years before we left and they had that fixed up in no time with all the physio he needed for it and the families of the other players would have helped us in any way they could. From babysitting me, though Uncle Phil generally did that, to helping run errands. They did that for us with Dad’s knee and we did it for them when their men went down. And I guess I sort of blame the game too for if my dad had not been playing hockey… he would still be walking right now.”
The Ducks nodded again.
“Though,” Aggie continued, much to everyone’s surprise, in a different tone, “Being here. Meeting you. You’ve almost changed my mind about it.”
The Ducks smiled, glad to hear that maybe they had gotten somewhere.
“Only ‘almost’?” Wildwing asked.
“Yes. Part of me wants to do what you’ve all been trying to get me to do, get back on the ice, but… there’s still a big part that is just screaming stop.”
“Aggie, this is what you’re good at. We’ve seen you in action.”
Agnus just looked at the lead duck, not too sure what to respond.
“Tell you what. Play one game with us. We’ll choose a nice, quiet team for you to play against. If after that you really feel that hockey’s not for you, we’ll stop. Completely and utterly. You won’t hear another mention from us about getting back into hockey. Right, guys?”
The other Ducks agreed in their own ways.
Aggie looked at them and then at Wildwing.
“Do we have a deal?” he asked, holding a hand out for her to shake.
Aggie looked at his hand, thinking, but then she smiled and nodded as she took his hand and shook it.
“Deal,” she replied.
“Alright!” Nosedive cheered.
“You can play any position right?” Duke asked.
“Pick me a spot and I’ll play it the best I can, Duke,” Agnus replied.
“Good. We’ll see closer to the time,” Wildwing said with an almost proud smile.
Agnus just nodded in understanding.

Meanwhile, over in the Raptor, Dragaunus was putting the finishing touches to his master plan.
“Finally. It. Is. Done!” he said, watching as his new machine rose from the ground to be near the top of the workshop it was in.
“Uh… what is it?” Siege asked, as he and the others looked up at it, still a little confused.
“This, my dear Siege, is the beginning of the end of our… Duck problems.”
“Uh… how?” Chameleon asked, scratching his head.
“You will see soon enough,” Dragaunus replied before letting out his signature maniacal laugh.

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