Chapter 1. The Die is Cast

The end of yet another exciting adventure was marked by the rising of the sun over St. Canard. Darkwing Duck, the gallant protector of the city, trudged home through the chilled Autumn wind. He dragged his tired feet to the front door of his suburban home. He paused a moment before entering.

As soon as the door clicked shut, two shadowy figures leaped from the bushes and scurried to a window. They peeked over the edge, their eyes narrow and sparkling in the dusky dawn.

Inside, Darkwing looked wearily upon the figure of a red-haired girl who slept curled on the floor with her face buried in her arms. He sighed and scooped her gently into his arms. The child's eyes, shadowy from trying to hide tears shed earlier in the night, fluttered open. A smile touched her mouth as she drifted back into sleep. Her face was less troubled than it had been but a moment before. Darkwing carried the girl up the stairs.

The two dark figured turned from the window. As a misty dew fell, blue sparks flew from the helmet of one of the pair.

"Drat," he muttered. "Rain. Perfect."

The second shadow jingled the bells on his jester cap, giggling softly. "Serves you right for insisting we follow him, Sparky."

"Why do you call me that??" the rodent demanded.

The jester shrugged. "I love to irritate you, Megs. It's so rewarding."

Megavolt growled under his breath. "You won't find it so rewarding when I fry that big beak of yours into a pile of ashes! My goggles are fogging up!"

"Oh lighten up," Quackerjack smirked. "It's just a little dewfall. Why **did** we follow that stupid duck, anyway? We escaped. He didn't catch us. We could be in Rio right now."

Megavolt chuckled sourly. "And the boss would come right after us with a chainsaw."

"Yeah… well… um… Yeah, I guess he would but…"

"But nothing!"

They walked on in silence. Megavolt had had the last word. But that wouldn't last long.

Soon they were back at the hideout. The 'little dewfall' turned into a heavy downpour. True to his predictions, Megavolt completely shorted out. Quackerjack, however, pranced about in the rain as if the entire concept of pneumonia was a blessing.

"Nyeah nyeah," he teased at the raindrops. "Can't hurt me! Hey Megs! I know! You're a water rat, right?" Quackerjack laughed as they entered the hideout: an old abandoned factory. Megavolt slammed the door behind himself, muttering about duck flambé.

As shaky as their friendship seemed, Megavolt and Quackerjack were not easily made into enemies. They teased each other to no end. Their private wars escalated at times to the point of death threats and physical violence, though neither actually intended to harm the other. It was touch-and-go. The two were as different as cheese and broccoli, but they were friends.

The would-be spies found Bushroot and the Liquidator playing Gin Rummy in the furnace room. When they entered, there was a moment of tense surprise among the group. But the moment passed as quickly as it had come once all four realized to their relief that their boss, Negaduck, was not present.

"Hey guys!" Quackerjack chirped cheerily. "Wanna come out in the rain with me?"

Bushroot looked up from his cards. "I don't think so," he said. "I… uh… already watered myself this morning."

Quackerjack looked hopefully at the Liquidator. "Come on, ol' buddy! Don't you **like** getting wet? It's not like you can be anything else."

"Survey says… a warm Liquidator is a happy Liquidator! Warning! Do not expose to sub-zero temperatures!" He hadn't even bothered to remove his careful gaze from the pile of cards in the middle of the table. Bushroot was far too good at cheating by growing vines out of the table long enough to peek at the next card while his opponent's attention was distracted.

Quackerjack pouted. "Fine then! You're no fun! Sub-zero temperatures… bah! Wimps." He marched out onto the balcony and proceeded to hang upside-down from the railing, letting the rain fall on the underside of his beak. The feeling made him laugh, then sing. "Drip, drop, pitter, patter! It's so silly, it doesn't matter!" he sang merrily. Megavolt yanked the shades closed and went back to his spot beside the furnace, where a bright fire was crackling. He took off every article of soaked clothing except his yellow jumper and waterproof boots and set them on the rug to dry in the fire's heat. He let the jumper dry without removing it.

"How was the heist?" Bushroot asked more out of politeness than curiosity. Megavolt's gloomy air told him all he needed to know about the success of the night's quest.

"Not bad, actually," Megavolt answered. "Er… it would have been not bad if that idiot toy maker hadn't screwed things up by insisting that we should stop at the toy store on the way. He never lets me stop at the electric store!" Megavolt crossed his arms sulkily. "If we hadn't been so late, we'd have gotten away from Darkwing Dork with more than just our lives and a pocket watch." He pulled said watch from his pocket, dangling it in the light of the fire. "It's not even real gold! Negaduck's gonna be so mad."

"Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the electric socket," the Liquidator bubbled.

Bushroot shrugged. "He's always like this when he gets shorted out. Gin." He spread his cards over the table. The Liquidator gaped.

"You cheated! That's the twelfth game you've one so far!"

Bushroot tossed back his purple hair proudly. "You know what they say, Licky. Lady Luck is a fickle woman. Besides, you beat me fifteen times yesterday. Where's our score card? Mark up 25 points plus…" He glanced at the Liquidator's cards. "Ooh, twenty-three! That makes… 48 points total!"

"Hmph!" The Liquidator gathered the cards. "That's all very well and good, but I'm shuffling this time!"

Meanwhile, Megavolt slowly blocked his colleagues' voices from his mind. As the fire lent its warmth to his shivering, wet body, he let his memory wander back to the girl with red hair. Who was she? Obviously a relative of Darkwing's. A niece, perhaps. Or maybe a daughter. But where was her mother? Such questions! But wouldn't it be nice to have someone waiting when work was over? Not just anybody. Certainly not the likes of Bushroot and the Liquidator. Someone who cared… someone who wanted to be just like you…

To these thoughts, Megavolt's eyes grew dimmer and dimmer until finally they closed. With the rain pitter-pattering and the fire crackling, he slept. It had been a long night, but there were longer nights to come.