Chapter 16: Love is a Curious Thing

By Hal Aetus

Welcome to the next part of a series I call “The Trials of Graves-Beaks.” For more background, read this intro page. This builds off of other fanfic out there that puts Falcon in the situation of being Mark’s bodyguard and boyfriend. I’m also building off of elements from season 1 and 2 of the new DuckTales reboot but don’t worry– you won’t miss much if you haven’t seen them and the spoilers should be minimal. A big thanks to Patreon supporters for encouraging and funding this story one chapter at a time. Please leave a rating below – no login required!

Mark was barely conscious but he heard a glitch catch in Ultima Mark’s laughter. He struggled to his knees and squinted at the terminal, trying to see through the thick smoke. Ultima Mark was stuck in mid-laugh and the image was badly pixelated. Then it flickered and the expression changed to fear, its eyes flicking about then focusing on Mark.

“Wait! Wait! Stop! Get away from there!” He seemed to be looking at something that wasn’t Mark. Mark realized that Lil Bulb had made it into the vault. Now let’s hope my phone is still there!

Mark pressed buttons on the terminal insistently. “Ultima! *cough* We’re giving you what you want! *cough cough* Now stop attacking!”

In the vault, Lil Bulb was on the floor next to the server tower that Mark had tapped into hours before. Mark’s phone was still there and still connected. Ultima Mark was watching from a nearby monitor. Upon hearing Mark’s promise, his expression changed from fear to that of an excited child on Christmas morning.

Mark coughed hard and rasped out, “You’ve got to let the phone connect again. Then you’ll get everything…”

Lil Bulb tapped in a security code and launched an app. Ultima Mark smiled and his eyes sparkled. He giggled and waved his hand. “Very well, I’ve called off the robots. Now give it to me! Giiiive it to meeeee!”

Mark rasped out, “Turn. On. Ventilation!”

Ultima Mark sighed and rolled his eyes. “OK, OK, fine, weakling. Fine, as long as you shut up!”

Sprinklers came on and the smoke began to thin as ventilation units kicked into overdrive. Mark could breathe again. He rose to his feet and peered down at the terminal.

Ultima Mark had a white chicken in his arms and was petting it. “You’re so cute!” He looked at Mark like an excited 8-year-old. “Can I keep it? Will it get bigger? Does it do tricks?—“

The digital chicken clucked contentedly then winced and gave a louder cluck. An egg popped out from its fluffy rear and Ultima Mark caught it. He looked puzzled and held it up in his hand. Then a smile came over his beak.

“It’s an egg! Wow!”

The egg quivered and cracked and a chick popped out. The chick cheeped a few times and then hopped to the virtual floor, growing larger by the millisecond. It pressed against Ultima Mark, seeking affection. Ultima Mark was enthralled, completely ignoring Mark and Lil Bulb. After some petting, both chickens paused, clucked, and each laid an egg. The eggs hatched and two more chickens popped out and grew and the process continued.

The vault door suddenly hissed and budged slightly. Mark scrambled over to the handle and helped it swing open amidst all the debris. Right inside was Lil Bulb, his filaments glowing red with determination and his right hand in a salute to Mark.

“Bravo, little guy, Bravo!” He picked up Lil Bulb and walked through the door. The second door was already propped open so he strolled right in. By now, the images of Ultima Mark on the monitors were becoming obscured with clucking digital chickens. Ultima Mark was sitting cross-legged on his virtual floor, holding two chickens while others were crowding all around him. He was becoming buried in chickens but his yellow eyes were two blissful circles of joy. He closed his eyes and laid back among the feathery bodies, quickly becoming covered in chickens.

Mark picked up his phone and tapped a few buttons while Lil Bulb watched from his shoulder. “And that, my friend, is the end of that.” Mark turned to the little robot, “You did a great job, little dude! Now go get some buddies and take over a few Glombots. We’ll get the geezer out of the shark room and G.T.F.O.!”

The Lil Bulb hopped to the floor and ran off. Mark turned back to the monitor and Ultima Mark was completely covered by chickens filling his digital room. His giggling was still audible but it was glitchy and distorted, getting quieter and quieter as thousands of chicken clucks drowned him out.

Mark smiled at his accomplishment and tapped more button on his phone’s screen. He touched his ear bud and spoke to Gyro: “Gyro, mission accomplished! Ultima’s history!”

There was a huge crackly sigh on the other end.

“How’s Falcon? Is he ok?” Mark closed his eyes and wrinkled his forehead, afraid of what the answer might be.

“Falcon’s alive. He’s in surgery. No word on prognosis yet.”

Mark exhaled and rubbed a filthy hand across his brow and pulled back his hood. His eyes teared up with relief. “Thank Gizmo for saving his life. Thank you too.”

Gyro was quiet for a second, uncertain of how to respond. He had never received a compliment from Mark. “You’re welcome, Mark. Get outside—ambulances and police are arriving now.”

“Gotta go get Glomgold still but we’ll meet you outside in 10!”

“I, uhh, so rarely get to say this to anyone, but well done, Mark… Mark?”

Mark had already dropped the earbud and let it dangle by his shoulder. He didn’t want to talk anymore. He was too busy watching progress bars on his phone app and thinking of Falcon. The glowing blue bars twinkled in his moist eyes and illuminated his frowning beak. “Nobody hurts my Falcon and gets away with it! Nobody!”

It took a little longer than ten minutes but Mark finally staggered out the front door of Glomgold Industries with a vanguard of 3 Lil Bulb-controlled Glombots. One of them carried Flintheart, bound and gagged, as he kicked and emitted muffled curses. Fire crews were already rushing into the building assessing the situation and looking for any other people. Dog paramedics approached Mark asking if he needed any help.

Mark, forgetting his diminutive stature, grabbed the first one by the shirtfront. “Yeah! I need you to take me to the hospital so I can see Gravesie! Now!”

In mere minutes, Mark was in the emergency surgical ward waiting area. Despite continually badgering the staff, it was hours before a doctor finally came out. It was an eagle with kind eyes and gentle hands. As he pulled his surgical mask down, he wore the expression of someone who looked worn out from an impossible task. He leaned down and spoke quietly to Mark. No one but Mark could hear him, so quiet was his voice, but before he finished his sentence, Mark sprang to his feet and hugged the surprised eagle. A smile came across the doctor’s beak and he hugged Mark back.

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