Chapter 7: Coffee and Questions

The next morning found Agnus hard at work, cleaning up the front entrance to the Pond.
“Glad to see that you’re cleaning up your act,” someone said from behind her before chuckling at his own joke.
“Ha ha. Very funny, Duke. Shouldn’t you be at practise?” Agnus asked, while she continued to sweep.
“Only if they miss me.”
Agnus rolled her eyes before getting back to work.
“You okay?” Duke asked.
“I wish people would stop asking me that,” Agnus replied.
“No, it’s fine. It shows you care, but…”
“Say no more. I get where ya comin’ from, kid.”
“Thanks, Duke.”
“So, when does your shift end?”
“Twelve noon, why?”
Duke opened his beak to reply, but was interrupted by his wrist-com.
“Hold that thought,” he said, before flipping open his communicator and saying, “Duke here.”
“Where are you?! Practice was supposed to start ten minutes ago,” Wildwing said irritably.
“I’ll be there in two tics, Wing. Just finalizing something,” Duke replied.
“Fine. Wildwing out.”
With that the transmission was terminated and Duke closed up his wrist-com.
“They’re missin’ me,” he said, looking over at Agnus.
She just smiled amusedly at him and shook her head.
“Anyway, like I was sayin’ b’fore Wing interrupted us, ya keen on goin’ fer a coffee or somethin’ across the way at the mall?” Duke asked.
Agnus looked at him a bit surprised.
“Well?” he asked.
“Um… s-ure. Where do you want me to meet you?” Agnus asked, a bit unsure as to how to take this.
“Migrator hangar. I’ll see you at noon then, sweetheart.”
With that, Duke turned and began to make his way through to the rink for practise.

Meanwhile, in the Raptor, Dragaunus was still smouldering about his henchmen’s defeat the night before at the hands of the Ducks. It had set his plan back a bit and patience was not one of his strong points.
“So… what now, boss?” Chameleon dared to ask.
Dragaunus had called them in to issue new orders, but had yet to issue them.
The red giant half-turned to look at his underlings. They flinched, but stayed put despite their self-preservation instincts telling them to get out of there on the double.
“Now, Chameleon, you and the others will return to the city to get what I sent you there to get in the first place,” Dragaunus replied.
“The Ducks are no doubt expecting us to return,” Wraith said.
“True, but… nothing is to keep me from implementing my newest plan. Do you understand?! Nothing!”
The three Saurians gulped, but nodded.
“Now get going and don’t return empty-handed unless you wish to be sent into dimensional limbo!” Dragaunus growled.
The three disappeared out of the command room with varying ‘yes, boss’-replies.
Dragaunus smirked evilly to himself once the three where gone and returned his attention to the large viewing screen, mulling his plan over and over in his head. Each time smiling more and more evilly.

Twelve noon. Agnus had just gotten off work for lunch and was making her way through to the Migrator hangar to meet up with Duke, but something didn’t sound right. Where she expected to hear silence, she heard voices. The sight that met her when she rounded the corner into the hangar solved the mystery.
“Dude, the fact that you don’t want to come along makes me think it’s necessary for me to come along,” Nosedive said, placing his fists on his hips.
“It ain’t. So why don’t you just run along and play some video games or something?” Duke asked, arms folded across his chest.
“Why don’t you…”
“Hey, guys,” Agnus said, skating up to the two drakes.
“Aggie, hey,” Duke replied with a smile.
“Hey, girly-girl,” Nosedive replied with a smile and a wave.
“What’s with that arguing?”
“Dive wants to come with us,” Duke replied.
“Yeah, but Duke doesn’t want me anywhere near. Now, does that tell you something or what?” Nosedive asked.
Agnus just smiled at Nosedive before looking at Duke who was rolling his eye.
“I told you why, Nosedive,” Duke said, narrowing his eye at Dive.
“Pfft. Yeah, right, like I’m buyin’ that ol’ line,” Nosedive said.
“What line?” Agnus asked.
“Adults are talkin’ an’ he’ll just get bored,” Duke replied.
“Ah, I see. Well, it’s his own fault for not listening to you if he does get bored, Duke.”
“Yes! The lady has spoken, Duke,” Nosedive said with a grin.
Duke just narrowed his eye at Nosedive again.
“Besides, the comic store’s nearby if he wants to leave,” Agnus added.
Duke's mood took a sudden upturn. This may work in his favour after all.
“You’ve got a point,” he said with a little smile, causing Nosedive to become a little suspicious of him.
“So, whenever you’re ready…,” Agnus said.
“Right. All right, Dive, hop in.”
With that Duke turned and opened the door to the Migrator.

Nosedive sat back in his seat next to Agnus, completely bored out of his skull. Duke wasn’t kidding when he said ‘adults talking’. If all adults were this boring, Nosedive never wanted to grow up. He checked his watch while Duke droned on about… something to do with angles and his duck-saber.
“Uh, I’m just gonna go see how Thrash and Mookie are doing,” he said, sliding out from the table.
“Told you you’d get bored,” Duke said with a smile.
Nosedive just narrowed his eyes at the swordsman before turning his attention to Agnus.
“Next time, just you an’ me, girly-girl. I’ll show you that the Ducks know how to have fun,” Nosedive said with a smile, putting a hand onto Agnus’ shoulder.
Agnus couldn’t help but chuckle before replying, “Thanks, Nosedive. Sounds great.”
Nosedive smiled before looking at Duke out of the corner of his eye. The look of utter ‘get-outta-’ere-now’ on his face was enough of a reward for Nosedive.
“Check ya later,” he said on his way out.
“See ya, Nosedive,” Agnus and Duke said in unison.
“I thought he’d never leave,” Duke said once Dive was out of the café.
“I had a feeling you were just stalling for time with that long and… sorry, I’ve already forgotten most of what you said,” Agnus said.
Duke chuckled before replying, “Not a problem. I’ll explain it better next time, with a demonstration perhaps.”
“Right. So… what is it that you really wanted to talk with me about?”
“I just wanted to have a good heart-to-heart with you is all and you can’t very well have a heart-to-heart when there’re three hearts in the area, now can you?”
“I suppose not.”
“I know you don’t like this question, but… how are you? And I really mean: how are you?”
Agnus sighed and averted her eyes from Duke’s.
“Ags. Heart-to-heart here. I ain’t gonna be spillin’ anything’ ya say ta me if ya don’ want me to,” Duke said, putting his hand over Agnus’.
She looked him straight in the eye as if searching for sincerity.
“You can trust me,” he said, looking straight back at her.
Agnus sighed once more before nodding and replying, “I’m okay.”
“Really?” he asked.
“Yeah. Sure, being in the Pond is sorta stressful, but…”
Duke squeezed her hand slightly, to let her know that he was there for her.
“Take your time,” he said gently.
“But I know it’s not permanent. As soon as they find a permanent replacement for their janitor… I’ll be outta there and looking for a new job,” Agnus replied.
Duke sighed quietly. That wasn’t the answer he had wanted to hear.
“You really that keen on gettin’ outta ‘ere?” he asked.
“It’s nothing personal, Duke. You and the others are great, but…,” Agnus started before averting her eyes from Duke again.
“What is it that makes you so… dislike hockey?” he asked, wanting to get to the core of the problem.
Agnus’ demeanour immediately became defensive. She pulled her hand out from under Duke’s, sat up taller in her seat, set her shoulders back and looked Duke straight in the eye.
“It’s a personal matter, Duke,” she said.
“I can see that,” he said before making his tone gentler, “Sweetheart, I don’t want to cause you discomfort. I want to help you. Phil mentioned that you had gotten into a ‘funk’ a few years ago regarding hockey. It’s why he came to see you, why he’s… got you working at the Pond. He wants to help you get out of this. I take it you weren’t always against hockey.”
Agnus just looked at him.
Duke was about to open his beak to continue his attempts at cracking this safe, but was interrupted when two masked men burst through the doors to the café.
“All right! Nobody move! This is a hold-up!” one of them said, holding a gun at level with the patrons’ heads.
“Aggie. Down,” Duke said in a hushed voice.
“What?” she asked.
“Just do it.”
Without further argument, Agnus slipped down under the table, hidden by the solid back of the chair, while Duke contacted Nosedive.
“Now, everybody jus’ do as you’re told an’ ya won’t get hoit,” the other of the two men said.
Duke rose from his seat and stepped into the corridor that ran between the tables.
“‘Ey look. It’s one o’ dem ‘Mighty Ducks’,” the man said, spying Duke.
“Yeah and, unless you drop the hardware, you’ll find out just how mighty we are,” Duke said.
The pair of thieves raised their guns and aimed them at Duke. He readied himself to move, but then…
“Excuse me, but it’s impolite to point,” a voice said from behind the two men.
They looked over their shoulders just as Nosedive took hold of the shoulders of one of the men. “Let’s take this outside, shall we?!” he asked, throwing the one man out of the café.
The other was already turning to aim his gun at Nosedive, but suddenly found himself being body checked from the café.
“Nice work, kid,” Duke said with a thumbs-up.
“Back at ya. They’ll let just anything in nowadays, won’t they?” Nosedive asked, looking at the pair before them.
“No kidding. Let’s help set the standard again.”
With that the pair leapt at the two would-be thieves before they could regain their weapons.
The sounds of the brawl were too much for Agnus just to sit under the table and do nothing. Cautiously she came out and looked out the window to see what was happening.
Duke and Nosedive were busy trying to subdue their respective targets, which was proving harder than the pair had anticipated. They were so busy in fact that neither bothered to look when a car door closed behind them.
Another player was about to join the fray and he was armed with the same kind of gun the previous two had had with them.
“Oh no,” Agnus gasped before scrabbling out from the table and skating as fast as she could for the exit.
Duke and Nosedive were still oblivious to the fact that they were being positioned by their opponents so that their friend would have a clear shot at them.
The man raised his gun and aimed it at Duke’s back. He slowly moved his finger to the trigger, but then…
“Duke! Dive! Behind you!” Agnus yelled.
The pair looked over their shoulders just in time to see Agnus body check their would-be shooter. Their beaks dropped open.
She wasted no time and kicked the gun so that it went skidding under a nearby bench.
“Did you see that?!” Nosedive asked.
“Yeah, but we’ll discuss that later. Right now…,” Duke said, trailing off as he turned his attention to his opponent.
The man smiled sheepishly, while Duke tightened his grip on his shirt.
“Ca-can’t we talk dis over, guys?” he asked. “Yeah, perhaps o’er a cup o’ cawffee?” the other, who was in Nosedive’s grasp, asked.
“Negative, junior,” Nosedive replied.
Duke and Dive each let go of their opponents with one hand and used that to deliver a knockout punch.
“Sweet dreams, jerk-weed,” Nosedive said, dusting his hands off.
“Think she needs our help?” Duke asked, looking to where Agnus was apparently playing goalie.
“Against that hockey puck?”
At that moment the man made a dash for the bench, but Agnus intercepted him with a round house kick to the chest, which sent him reeling back.
“Nah. I think she’s got it under control,” Nosedive replied with a smile.
Duke smiled slightly too, but then, as he looked at Agnus again, his expression turned more serious.
At that moment, Captain Klegghorn arrived on the scene.
“Alright! What’s going on here?!” he yelled.
The man who had tried to shoot Duke took one look at Klegghorn and took off running.
“Hey! Get back here!” Klegghorn yelled.
“I got ‘im, Captain,” Agnus said, quickly skating after the felon before Klegghorn could object.
“Where do you want these two?” Duke asked, holding his ex-opponent up by the collar of his shirt.
Nosedive stood next to him with his own ex-opponent in hand.

Meanwhile, Agnus was closing in on her target.
“If only I had a stick. I’d be able to…,” she started before noticing a store, which just happened to have a display out front of hockey related items. Among which was a stick.
“Mind if I borrow this? Thanks!” she called to the shop owner, as she picked the stick up and continued her chase.
She sped up to be within a few feet of her quarry and then, using the hockey stick, tripped him up.
The man hit the ground with an ‘oof!’ and a thud.
Agnus came to a skidding stop and skated back to the dazed man.
“Two minutes for tripping. Worth it though,” Agnus said, looking down at the man.
He just scowled up at her.
At that moment the police arrived in their squad cars.
“Nicely done, Miss,” Captain Klegghorn said, while his officers put the dazed man into one of the cars.
“Thanks. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Captain. I believe I had better get this back to its owner,” Agnus said, tapping the stick against her hand.
“Quite right, Miss.” Klegghorn nodded politely.
“Captain.” Agnus nodded back.
Klegghorn couldn’t help but smile before turning to oversee the arrest.
Agnus smiled too before beginning to skate back the way she had come, but came to an abrupt stop when she almost skated into two other skaters.
“So playing dirty can be useful sometimes,” Nosedive said with a smile.
Agnus just shrugged and smiled at Nosedive.
“You handle that thing like a pro… much like your body check,” Duke said.
Again, Agnus just shrugged, but her smile had disappeared.
“Come clean, Aggie. You can’t perform those moves without some prior hockey experience. On ice-experience,” Duke continued.
“Whoa. Hey, Duke, lighten up. Ags may just be a natural,” Nosedive said, sensing the tension between the two.
“Even a natural player ain’t that good without some training, Dive,” Duke said.
Nosedive sighed.
“Aggie,” Duke started.
“Thanks for coffee, Duke, but my lunch break is about to end and… I gotta get back to the Pond. So if you don’t mind…,” Agnus said, skating past the two ducks.
Duke twisted his beak in irritation, but left it at that. He turned and began to skate after Agnus with Nosedive close behind him.

Back at the Pond, Wildwing was hearing it all from Duke and Nosedive.
“I’m telling you, Wing, those were professional moves! There’s no way she could have performed them so well unless she was trained. Her body checking, goal keeping and even tripping skills aren’t raw. They’re honed,” Duke said.
“I see,” Wildwing said, stroking his beak thoughtfully, “And… what does this have to do with anything?”
Duke looked deflated.
Nosedive chuckled quietly before putting a hand onto Duke’s shoulder and saying, “Duke’s just a little upset that Ags is holdin’ out on ‘im is all, Wing.”
“Is that what the whole going out for coffee-thing was for? To get Agnus to tell you why she dislikes hockey so?” Wildwing asked.
“Sort of. Hence why I didn’t want a tag-along,” Duke said, looking at Nosedive out of the corner of his eye. Well, at least trying to seeing as Dive was on his ‘bad’ side.
“Hey!” Nosedive protested.
“Duke, she hasn’t even been here a whole day. Give her a chance to settle in, will you?”
“I’m sorry, Wildwing. It’s just… this secret’s driving me mad! It’s like a safe. One I just gotta crack.”
“Typical,” said a voice from the door.
The three looked to see Mallory and the others walking up to them.
“You would think like that, wouldn’t you?” Mallory continued.
Duke just narrowed his eye at her.
“Alright, you two. Ease off,” Wildwing said, stepping in before the pair really got going.
“Still no closer then?” Tanya asked.
“Not in the least,” Duke replied.
“Though we know she may have actually played hockey when she was younger,” Nosedive said.
“Really? How do you figure?” Mallory asked.
“You should have seen her body check this guy earlier.”
“Pro style,” Duke added.
“You don’t say,” Mallory said, interestedly.
“Yeah. Her goalie skills aren’t something to be sneezed at either,” Nosedive replied.
The rest of the team just looked over at Wildwing, who put his hands up in front of him.
“I didn’t see anything. Dive and Duke just got back and… have been telling me what happened at the café,” he said.
“So that’s what the coffee-thing was about,” Mallory said, putting two and two together.
“Pretty much. I wanted a heart-to-heart with Ags. Hopin’, apparently hopelessly, that she’d open up a little about this secret of hers,” Duke said.
“Ah-ha. Well, I think you possibly just lost your chance to gain her trust any time soon, Duke.”
“Says who?”
“Says me.”
“And what makes you so sure?”
“I’m a woman, just like her, and I sure as anything wouldn’t trust you with any personal secrets.”
“Oh! Is that what you are? Well, you had me fooled, Mal.”
Mallory’s beak dropped open, aghast at the audacity Duke had to say that. She snarled and ran her hands up her arms in turn as if she was rolling up her sleeves before beginning to stalk towards Duke.
Wildwing groaned inwardly and secretly wondered why his team couldn’t just get along like the teams he saw on TV.
Duke just stood his ground. He was in no mood for Mallory’s trust issues regarding him and he didn’t need anyone putting thoughts in his head that someone else wouldn’t trust him for the same reasons.
“Whoa! T-out, Ducks,” Nosedive said in a semi-hushed voice, coming between the two teammates, “Someone’s coming.”
“It won’t be Aggie. She only gets off work late,” Duke said.

The footsteps that Nosedive had heard were getting closer to the door of the command room.
The doors opened and the Ducks loo
ked to see who it was.
“Hey,” Phil said with a smile. “Phil, what brings you down here?” Wildwing asked.
“Agnus told me about the hold-up at the café today. I just came by to see how Duke and Nosedive were.”
The Ducks collectively raised an eyebrow at their manager.
“You’re actually concerned for our well-being?” Duke asked.
“Of course. You’ve got a game tonight. I don’t need my team down a duck now, do I?” Phil asked.
The Ducks just smiled amusedly. Phil was still Phil.
“That and… I had to make it sound legit for Ags. What I’m really down here for is… I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to Duke.”
“Thank you?” Duke asked.
“Yes. Ags also told me how you had tried to get info out of her about why she’s against hockey.”
“Did she discuss her problem with you?” Duke asked hopefully.
“Ha. You kidding? No. Ags doesn’t discuss it. She says what’s done is done. Talking about it just brings back the pain. She prefers to just leave it in the past and get on with her life.” Phil paused as he thought about his niece. “Some life.”
“Why do you say that?” Wildwing asked.
“I guess I can tell you seeing as she already suspects that you know about her previously playing hockey. You see… Ags’ dream, when she was a little girl, was to become a professional ice hockey player. She’d practice harder than any kid I knew. I guess having access to the Pond to practice in did give her an edge.”
“Wait. She had access to the Pond?” Duke asked.
“Whoops. Heh. Guess I’ve said too much. Look, point is, you know she played hockey and loved it and now… she hates it,” Phil said, turning to leave before he said anything else he wasn’t supposed to.
“The why is still missing though, Phil. Why doesn’t she like hockey?”
“I can’t say, okay?! Agnus would have my head.”
“Why?!” the Ducks asked in unison.
Because … people don’t understand. I understand. Tat and Shig understand. Some of the other hockey players understand, but… generally… people don’t. They just tell her to ‘suck it up’ or ‘get over it’, but she can’t. Not that easily. You’re gonna really have to get to know her and gain her trust before she lets you in on that part of her life. Hence why I came to say thanks to Duke. I appreciate that he’s trying to help her. We all want our Aggie back… and the only way to get her back is… to get her to like hockey again. To pick up a stick, put on a pair of ice skates and get back out on the ice. I’ve already said way too much. Don’t tell Aggie I told you all this, okay? Please… I’m still trying to gain her trust again after I blurted this thing out at a social gathering.”
“We won’t, Phil. Thank you for sharing what you have with us. We know our mission now,” Wildwing said.
“Thanks, Wildwing. I really do appreciate it.”
With that Phil turned and made his way out of the command room.
“Well, we’re a third of the way there. She picked up a stick today,” Nosedive said with a smile.
“What could’ve happened to make someone, who was hockey-mad, anti-hockey?” Duke asked, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
“I don’t know, but we’ll get to the bottom of it… in time. Right now though, we have to practice for tonight’s game,” Wildwing said.