The woman with the handbag backed against the wall, screaming and shooting erratic sprays of mace in the face of the man moving in on her

"The Voice"

By: The Lauderdale

The woman with the handbag backed against the wall, screaming and shooting erratic sprays of mace in the face of the man moving in on her. Or at least she got some of it in his face. In her panicked state, her hold on the can was shaky and the aim off. What little was on target was waved away with great ease by the thug.

"Come on, sister--hand over the goods," he said, flicking out the blade. She dropped the can and screamed even louder. "Look, lady, give it a rest--no one's around to help you."

"That's what you think, you nitwitted neanderthal! I am the Terror...that flaps in the night!" The burly thug with the switchblade froze abruptly, then whirled to see the cloud of purple smoke manifesting itself behind him. "I am the caped figure...who stalks the perimeter of your worst nightmares!" Growling, the thug ran into the smoke, slashing at it viciously with the switchblade. Blind as he was, he didn't see the glass beer bottle he slipped on. He landed smack on his back.

As the smoke dissipated, he lay staring up at the purple-clad duck standing over him. "I--am Darkwiiiing...Duck! And you are...absolutely pathetic." Darkwing bent and picked up the dropped switchblade. "Cuff him to that pole, LP," he said.

"Righto, DW," said Launchpad cheerfully, hoisting the still-dazed thug to his feet.

Darkwing went over to the woman. "Are you hurt?" he asked.

She shook her head, looking shaken but fine. "Thank you," she whispered hoarsely.

"Ah, no need for thanks. It's all in a day's work for--Darkwiiing Duck!" he exclaimed, striking a pose. She stared at him blankly, then tottered off down the street. "Yeah, you're welcome," he muttered, a little disappointed. "How you coming, LP?" he asked, turning to his sidekick.

"Nooo problemo, DW," he said, dusting his hands off. "And I already called the police to let 'em know the spot."

"Good thinking, LP. Well, let's clear out and leave him to the boys in blue." He glanced briefly at the baddie, then shook his head. "I swear, they seem to get more incompetent," muttered Darkwing to himself in disgust.

"Yeah, I guess too many donuts'll do that to you," said Launchpad.

Wow, Launchpad made a funny! thought Darkwing. Out loud: "No, 'Pad, I mean the crooks, not the cops. Not that a few less donuts woudn't hurt them. But I just wasted one of my best introductions on this line-up reject." He waited till Launchpad had jumped into the sidecar, then jumped on the bike. "Crime just isn't what it used to be," he said, as the Ratcatcher came to life beneath him. "I remember the days when thugs like that were fun, you know? More of a challenge."

"Maybe it's just that you're getting better, DW."

"Maybe." Darkwing liked that explanation, but it still didn't solve his fundamental problem. "It's just that, on the one hand you have FOWL. The Fearsome Five. Now that's fun. When you can get it. After that you just have, what, the guy we just trashed.

You know--dumb. Easy. Boring. And--well, look," he said, pointing to the screen before him, which was unusually blip-free. "Not even all that much of that sort. It's enough to really...exasperate a guy."

"Whaddya mean?" asked Launchpad, scratching his head under his flight cap.

"Well, I guess I mean I'm bored. You know? It's not that I ask for much, just a little variety. Something new. Different." He sighed. "Ah, it's silly."

"Yep," said Launchpad, which perhaps wasn't the best response, but he couldn't help thinking it. Why the heck would DW want for there to be more crime?

"I mean, how do I know I'm not getting into a rut or something? I need something that'll shock my jaded senses back to life again. The unexpected, LP--" shaking his finger to emphasize the word. Then he sighed. "Never mind, I'm probably just being really lame here. Still, it'd be nice to have something new. Maybe a little mystery or something. Yeah, that would be nice," he said wistfully.

"Oh, nice. So it's just a cute little mystery, is that what you're saying?" The police commissioner's voice was sarcastic.

"Sir--"

"No viable suspects, huh?"

"Well, sir, you see--"

The commissioner's fist came down with a bang on the table, slopping coffee over the edge of his mug. "I'm not having any more of these excuses! It's enough that that stupid vigilante with the fashion problem seems to be getting more done than any of you in the crime department, what with all those super villains saturating St. Canard--now some small-time two-bit burglar makes us look like idiots! You people are being paid to take out guys like these! Then do it!"

"I am the Terror...that flaps in the night!"

"Oh god, there goes my ulcer," groaned Commissioner Garret as he recognized the voice that spoke from the purple cloud that had just appeared at the door. All the cops who had been standing in front of his desk whipped around and held their guns trained on the cloud. "Hold your fire, you morons!"

"I am the donut...that leaves powdered sugar all over your nice clean uniforms!"

"Can't we shoot him anyway, Chief?" growled one of the cops, who had eaten a white sugar-powdered donut earlier and looked it.

The smoke dissipated, and the figure who stood within became visible. "I--am Darkwiiiing...Duck!" He glanced contemptuously at the cop who had spoken and who still had the gun trained on him. "Hey Garret, didn't you say in that press-release last week that you don't hire trigger-happy rookies?"

"Officer Mel! Lower your weapon and let the...hero...in."

Muttering something, the cop lowered the gun and, with his comrades, stood aside. Darkwing strode cockily forward to the police chief's desk. Launchpad came through the door in the normal way, greeting the cops with a cheerful "hi". A couple of them, knowing him from other times he'd come in with Darkwing and having no real problem, greeted him with some friendliness. They didn't really understand his devotion to the annoying, egotistical, and arrogant Darkwing, but they knew Launchpad for the right sort.

"So, Commissioner, something going down your blue boys can't digest?"

"Why are you here, Darkwing?" sighed Garret, glaring at him.

"I heard you guys are having some problems, and, being the nice guy I am, thought I'd take some of the load off your backs."

"We don't need any of your help," growled Officer Mel.

Darkwing looked at him in an interested way. "You know, last night I took out a thug making a go at purse-snatching? Left him in cuffs for you boys at the corner of Stroud and Lancaster? Big stupid-looking muscle-bound thug--he could've been your brother."

Mel growled and started forward. Commissioner Garret stood up and yelled, "Officer Mel! All of you, clear out!" All of the cops filed out the door, the seething Mel leaving last. Garret sat down slowly, muttering something and rubbing his forehead furiously with his knuckles. "You lousy little trouble-maker. Every time you come by here, I end up needing an aspirin. What is it you want?"

"I wanna know what you have on file about the Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper."

"He's already garnered himself a name?"

"No, I made that one up. Who do you have in the way of suspects?"

"You know what, Darkwing? I don't understand you. You so into fighting the big crime? Why are you coming down to our humble little station?" Garret was being sarcastic.

"Well, maybe I'm just bored," said Darkwing.

"And suppose I just don't give you the info?"

"Well, then I guess the "stupid vigilante" goes out and nabs yet another badguy without any help from the police, and makes them look even stupider than they would if they'd just given him the cooperation he asked for."

A moment passed.

Garret sighed again. "Well, since I know you'll just keep making a nuisance of yourself if I don't...." He slipped a folder out of the small rack on his desk. "This is a copy of the file. Go nuts. Make yourself happy. But you're gonna have to fight my men for him."

"Huh. I'll have them--and the crook--out in the first round. And now, pretending for the moment you have hair, I'll get out of it. Come on, LP. Let's...get...dangerous!"

Darkwing and Launchpad drove by Greenfield Plaza later that day, checking it over. It looked like any other strip-mall: small, close-knit shops, mostly chain-types like the Hamburger Hippo on the corner, a huge parking lot, and lots of cars and people.

It was a fine day out, and, since it was Friday afternoon, the crowd was mainly composed of teenagers. It looked like any other strip-mall, and Launchpad said so.

"Well, it is, Launchpad. Except for the particular pestilence plaguing this poor plaza. The Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper. I know him, LP."

"You do? Who is he?"

Darkwing sighed. "No, 'Pad. I mean that I know him. As in know his type. Know how he thinks. This his own little kingdom, his own little paradise. Doubtless he roams it in the day with impunity, another faceless member of the crowd. He could be here right now--that guy over there leaning against the wall, talking to his girlfriend. That man on the bench reading the newspaper...Oh, wait, never mind, that's a she. But you know what I'm saying. He's the unknown, the face we see every day and forget. But at night he comes alive. He slips silently through the lot, unseen by the few still patronizing the shops still open, and enters an empty one at will. Wielding the tools of his trade with uncanny ease, he enters and takes what he wants...and is gone without a sound. The cops are baffled, the neighboring shop-keepers terrified...and he is still at large. In the darkness. Waiting to strike again."

Darkwing stared into empty space, eyes haunted by the thought of the dark, menacing personality he had created in his mind. A sort of twisted version of his own, he mused melodramatically to himself--the way he himself might have gone had he not instead chosen to use his particular dark, brooding brilliance to fight crime.

Launchpad himself was silent a moment, impressed by the picture Darkwing had so intensely conjured up for him. Then he thought a sec. "Well, wait a sec, DW, if you've never seen him, and if you've never met him, well, how do you know he is all that? I mean, all he's done is rob a couple stores. Heck, how do you know all this is even all the same person?"

"Hush your bill, LP," said Darkwing, scandalized. "Because the burglaries are all the same. The shop has been all closed up, the shopkeeper left. Him the only one with the key, and yet somehow the place is broken into, the lock picked, the stuff stolen.

And only so much--a couple hundred bucks here, some swiped items there. No little signatures, like finger prints or flashy, show-off signs like graffiti, anything else to give him away. Usually there isn't even any sign of a burglary at all--nothing thrown around on the floor, the register all closed up, the door still locked. Just the missing money and a little dent in the inventory to give it away.

"It's not someone working in the store, or the storeowner, because this is happening in just way too many shops, all in incidents that are far too close together in terms of time and space. The approach is clever, secretive, intelligent, casual. Consistantly and regularly. For the past month or so. The cops, being the way they are, have only just figured out it's a pattern, and that it's the same person. Someone who's found they can beat the system and live without paying. Someone good. And it's only a matter of time before they decide they want more, and head for the big leagues. Up the criminal ladder."

Launchpad had the thought that maybe Darkwing was even more desperate for something to do then he had thought, but he didn't say this. Instead: "So how do we get him?"

"We wait. We watch. He's been "patronizing" Greenfield Plaza--and Sweetsprings and Fairoaks Plazas as well. All around this area. But we'll take Greenfield. It's closer to home."

"Hey, Darkwing? Why do all plazas have these strange names?"

"Huh?" Darkwing had been just about to fall asleep, but Launchpad's question had jerked him awake. "What?"

They'd been hanging around Greenfield Plaza every night after ten for the past four days, and hadn't had a peep yet. In the meantime, burglaries had taken place at the two other plazas, Sweetsprings and Fairoaks, but Darkwing had decided to stick with Greenfield. He knew the crook would come back...of course the guy was obviously intelligent, and he was obviously not gonna strike the same place for more than a couple nights in a row. And when he did come back, Darkwing would be there. Waiting for him.

"Heck, I don't know. How do you mean, strange?"

"Well, they're all kinda...nature-ish, and pretty. It just seems kinda weird."

Darkwing wondered himself, now that Launchpad had mentioned it. It was kind of interesting. "Beats me," he said. Suddenly he froze. Making a shushing gesture to Launchpad, he glanced around the corner of the building whose shadow they hid in.

The dark figure at the door to the little 7-Eleven stopped. Darkwing watched with baited breath as the crook stood silently, alertly, for several minutes. He could seem to feel how intent the man was, almost felt that he'd be able to see Darkwing and Launchpad in the shadows. But then he stooped and started working with the lock.

Darkwing considered what he'd been able to make out of the guy. Which was, basically, nothing. At first he had thought the guy was wearing some kind of cape, but the hang of the material had been all wrong, and he had realized that it was instead some kind of really long, trenchcoat-type thing. With an incredibly high collar. It masked a body that was not tall, but still taller than average--maybe about five feet five to most people's five and Darkwing's own four. And of bulk--not huge, just big.

And otherwise, nothing.

The burglar stood, opening the door fairly casually, and, after standing silently a moment, walked on in.

Darkwing touched Launchpad's arm briefly, then started silently for the building.

Inside, the crook headed for the register, opened it, and began counting out money. He only grabbed some twenties and a couple quarters, slipping them into pocket beneath the trenchcoat, then closed it and headed for the freezer section. Suddenly--

"I am the Terror...that flaps in the night! I am the annoying shopper...who cuts in front of you in line! I--am Darkwiiiing...Duck!" The cloud of smoke, color indeciferable in the darkness, appeared in the doorway. The burglar, facial features obscured by the general darkness and the shadow of the unusually high collar, stood there a second, then began to walk calmly towards the door. "Stand right where you are, you midnight shopper! There is no sale here!"

"Oh, there isn't? But I was hoping to get a real bargain." The crook's voice was a distinctive nasal baritone.

"Well, I'd advise you to try giving up now if you really want a bargain--on your sentence!"

"Hey!"

Darkwing, hearing the cry come from behind him, whirled around with the gas gun. As he did so, he felt something huge impact with his body, sending him flying out of the way. The burgler, having knocked him out of the doorway, took off down the street. Launchpad shot off in pursuit, and Darkwing, scrambling to his feet and mentally cursing the way he'd taken his eyes off the guy, followed. He saw Launchpad running down a flight of steps into the St. Canard Metro System and raced down after him.

The platform was lit, and he could see Launchpad standing at the bottom of the steps and looking either way, trying to pick out which the burglar had taken. He came down fast beside Launchpad and looked along with him. There were only a couple of

people on the platform, and the train that was in was already pulling out. Launchpad started to make for it, but Darkwing grabbed his shoulder. "We can't catch it, LP, and there'll be too many people. Let's just see if anyone got a good look at him."

No one had. They had said that the man had shot into one of the cars in the train, without exactly stopping to let them have a better look. He had been a bit over five foot and bulky, and wearing a long brown coat that had flapped a bit behind him, enough to let them make out that he was wearing a pair of black pants.

Darkwing, swearing a blue streak, headed back to the Ratcatcher with Launchpad. Still swearing, he drove to the police station and reported on the break-in. Or was going to. In the end Launchpad did it instead, because Darkwing, in his anger, was nearly unintelligable. The glibe sarcasm of the policewoman who took the report didn't exactly help either. But Darkwing was silent on the drive back to the Audobon. By that time his normal deductive processes were taking over, his mind snapping down like a trap on the event.

Back at Darkwing Tower, he moved around endlessly, nervously, picking things up and putting them down as his mind worked feverishly. "Launchpad," he said suddenly, stopping in the doorway to where the pilot was fiddling with the Thunderquack, "who was behind me?"

Launchpad, in a stained white T-shirt, wiped grease from his brow with the even greasier back of his arm. "What?"

"I had that guy where I wanted him. Right in front of me, cornered in the store, gun aiming right at him. And I hear this voice. Someone says "hey!" So I turn, and you know what happened. He charged right through me and got away. But who was it behind me?"

"Well...I was behind ya, DW, and I didn't see anybody."

"Did you say "hey!"?"

"No. I heard it, though. But I didn't get a chance to look because the burglar got away just then."

"Hmm...." Darkwing rattled his fingers against the doorframe momentarily, disturbing LP's concentration, then moved away. "Someone else...?"

The next day they headed into Fairoak Plaza. A hardware store had been burglarized two nights before. A lot of twine and tools were missing, as well as the usual couple hundred dollars, and the manager was convinced the culprit was the Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper. "Where'd you hear that name?" asked Darkwing, curiously.

"Cop used it when he was checking out another burglary in Fairoak yesterday," said the storeowner, to Darkwing's amusement. "Over at, uh, Harry's place. The "Blue's Shoes" over there. And Harry says he actually saw the guy, too."

"Yeah, I saw him," said Harry when Darkwing went over there. "I'd locked up a little late for me, and I suddenly couldn't remember if I hadn't left a light on when I'd left. Wasn't more'n a block away, so I headed back, and I saw him at the door. He was wearing a long brown coat, and he was fiddling with the lock. So I yawls out, and he jerks his head up, and I sees the glasses flash a little in the light from--see the street lamp in front?"

Darkwing nodded. "Yes. So he was wearing glasses."

"Yeah, glasses. Rest of his face was dark from the shadow from this hood-thingie--"

"A hood? You're sure it wasn't a collar?"

"Yeah, sorry, that's what I meant. So anyway, the light caught his glasses when he moved his head, see, but then the shadow from the collar hid it. But his feathers were all screwy and sticking out every which way, and they were this kinda tan brown, only they looked kinda gray at the time under the light. Couldn't tell what he was, exactly, but he wasn't a duck. I could tell by the beak. He wasn't really put together--I could tell, cause of, you know, the messy feathers, and the coat had seen better days. Anyway, he was big--tall, and I'd guess a couple pounds overweight, and he had black on under that coat.

"Did he say anything?"

"Well, yeah. He said, "Oops. Sorry. I have to go." And then he ran. And he had this kinda high-ish kinda voice, like, I think a tenor."

"A tenor?" asked Darkwing, startled.

"Yeah! I recognized the type, see, from when I was in college. Studying opera, you know...."

Darkwing, much more interested in what he'd heard about the crook's vocal range then in the musical studies of a shoe-store manager, said, "So he was a tenor," in a puzzled voice.

"Yeah. Hey, and I think he was a Brit, 'cause he had this kinda english-type accent thing going for him. Um, you look kinda weird. Did ya figure something out? Do you know who robbed my store?"

"No. But you'll know as soon as I do."

Yawning, Drake shuffled into the kitchen two weeks later, still blinking the sleep from his eyes. "Morning, hon," he said to Gosalyn, whose arm was plunged up to the elbow in a box of Frosty-O's. Then the scene clicked in. "Gosalyn! What are you doing?!" he demanded, scandalized.

"Looking for the free Gizmoduck action figure," she said.

"Free Gizmoduck action--?! take your hands out of there! Don't you know that's unsanitary?"

"But I'm the only one who eats Frosty-O's," said Gosalyn, puzzled.

"Well....Never mind, just get your hand out of there!"

"Ok," she said, rolling her eyes but doing as she was told.

"Gizmoduck action figure...hmph. Why does *he* get an action figure...?" grumbled Drake under his breath, glaring a little at the Frosty-O's as he opened the fridge to get the milk.

"Hey, DW, did you see the paper?!" yelled Launchpad, tearing into the kitchen.

"And hello to you too, Launchpad," said Drake pointedly, in his "really now, isn't that a Gosalyn sort of thing to do/say/feel?" tone. He also hadn't overlooked his friend's use of the name for his alter-ego. "What are you doing calling me--you-know-who--in the house?"

"Huh? Oh, gee, sorry, Dark--I-mean-Drake--but look!" He thrust the newspaper in Drake's face.

Inches away from his eyes, the big black letters were a little close for him to focus on at first, but he then muttered "Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper Strikes Again!" Drake groaned. After Darkwing had talked with Harold Platterbill, the manager of "Blue's

Shoes", thinking he stood to make a little money from the super hero's visit, had given his story, as well as the culprit's nickname, to a reporter. Since St. Canard had been virtually crime-free of late, the story about a serial burglar, however small a crime, and coupled with the all-important "cute" nickname, had been blasted all over the news and all out of proportion. He was a constant danger, a possible arsonist, and a public menace. He had been identified as a number of different cons. His burglaries had garnered him a collective sum that was in the millions. Drake was getting sick of it. Especially the manner in which the police were pointing out that, while they had not yet captured this felon, Darkwing was also on the trail and had been just as successful. Again, the media was turning him into a laughing stock, in the same way that they were practically turning the admittedly low-profile Mall-Stripper into an axe-murderer.

The Mall-Stripper had also be seen by over ten different people, all of whose descriptions were different. Save for three that came close enough to what Darkwing already knew for fact. The only problem was that in each case, the voice assigned him differed drastically. Here in the latest news story, one woman gave it as being similar to television reporter Tom Lockjaw's.

"All these so-called witnesses...." Drake, pushing the paper away, slouched down in his chair again in disgust.

"Gee, DW, maybe he's like another William Robin. You know, the one from that movie, "Mrs. Doubtfeather"?"

"Keen gear, Dad--that'd be so major cool! A crook who could do voices like William Robin!"

"Pff. William Robin. No, Launchpad, on the contrary--I really think that's unlikely. I think it's much more likely that he's just being garbled by the people who've encountered him. Or claim to have encountered him. He's just some incredibly intelligent individual who has been getting off scott-free for so long he thinks he has life by the throat. He's going to get over-confident, sooner or later. And when he does, I'll have him."

Drake, in a feeling of cheerful certainty, headed into the living room and turned on the TV. Even from there, Launchpad and Gosalyn could hear Tom Lockjaw saying, "...and the latest reports are that the police, and St. Canard's own self-proclaimed gaurdian and defender, Darkwing Duck, have no leads on the man known as the Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper--"

They heard Drake scream. The next instant, the TV was off and Drake stomped back into the room. He took his unfinished glass of milk and downed it in a single gulp, then stomped over to the fridge and flung the door open so hard that half the magnets and the papers they held up flew off. He turned, milk carton in hand and rage in his eyes and growled, "I'm having another!"

Launchpad and Gosalyn looked at each other in worry.

Five minutes, two glasses and a beer stein of milk, and innumerable vain pleas to stop later, the two of them left the room in despair, leaving Darkwing staring broodingly into his cup.

Megavolt rubbed his blue-rubber-gloved hands together gleefully as he looked around the deserted mall. His legs, aching still from his standing for the past several hours on a men's room toilet, bent so that his head wouldn't be seen over the top of the stall, didn't bother him a bit. All his! All the lightbulbs in the entire mall! Oh yes, soon the streets would echo with joyful cries of freed bulbs!

He hadn't been active criminally for some time, and it had finally gotten to him. As much as anything could get to Megavolt, since he was already about the most gotten-to person in St. Canard. Nearly three months of going about in his long-unused real life alter ego, he couldn't stand it any longer.

Megavolt headed for the security department of Sweet Rivers Mall.

"Baker 150, this is Stratton, I repeat, this is Stratton, do you read me, over."

"Yeah, I copy you, Stratton. Over."

Darkwing and Launchpad patrolled the streets in the Ratcatcher. Darkwing, after he had thrown his small fit as Drake, had allowed Gosalyn and Launchpad to persuade him it might be best that he lay off the Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper for a while. Take a sort of break. Bust some other criminals. He listened keenly to the police scanner as he talked with Launchpad.

"You know what would be really good right about now, LP? If we could just bust some FOWL tailfeather. Even some loser like Lillyputt would be good right about now...."

"Uh, Baker 150, we have a small problem over at Sweet Rivers Mall--signals from the security cameras have picked up the well-known supervillain Megavolt in the mall, I repeat, in Sweet Rivers Mall. He appears to have inconvenienced the security guards there and is currently unscrewing a number of light bulbs. The subject is a male rodent creature of indefinite age and species in a yellow rubber jumpsuit and red battery pack...."

"...but any loser will be perfectly fine, Megavolt's perfectly fine by me, no need to be picky, right, LP?" asked Darkwing cheerfully as, tires squealing, he swung the Ratcatcher around and gunned her in the direction of Sweet Rivers Mall.

Megavolt, having shocked the two mall security guards into unconsciousness and duck-taped them to the floor, romped through the mall joyfully, causing mindless destruction and freeing light bulbs as he went.

Or he did at first. But then he had slowed, become quieter, more inhibited. It wasn't as much fun as he had thought it would be. Oh, of course freeing the bulbs had given him a sense of vicarious pleasure--they had been so happy to be free, showing their gratitude by lying still and saying nothing as he unscrewed them and set them on the floor at various points. No, that had been fine. It was the emptiness, the still loneliness of the huge, empty mall that had gotten to him, dampening his spirits.

He suddenly remembered a tiny hardware store in one of the more obscure parts of the mall that he hadn't yet looted. It was on a higher level. Finding the nearest escalator, he started up. His blue rubber boots were eerily silent on the unmoving escalator steps as he ascended. At the top, he glanced around a couple times, trying to judge where the store should be.

It was at that point that he noticed the shattered glass lying on the floor in front of the little comic book store. He froze, then started towards it, seeing as he did that one of the glass display windows had been shattered. Boots crunching a little on broken glass, he stepped up, peered into the darkness. "Hello?"

The guy was at one of the shelves, and stood absolutely stock still, looking back at him. He appeared to be wearing some long trench coat with an incredibly high collar. His face wasn't all that visible, but as Megavolt held up a glowing index finger to see the figure more plainly, he could see that the guy was was wearing glasses, and that his brown feathers were incredibly disarranged. He had plainly broken in.

Megavolt, seeing it was another criminal, was just glad to find himself no longer alone. "Hi," he said cheerfully as he came in. "Don't worry, I'm not a cop."

"I could kinda tell," was the wry response.

"So. Uh. Read any good books lately?"

"That depends. Are you the type who accepts comic books as a valid form of literature?"

"Sure."

"Then yeah."

"Ok. I'm Megavolt, by the way."

"You may know me. I'm the Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper on the News."

"Yeah?" Megavolt was interested. "Hey, I think I have heard of you. Man, there are a lot of people who'd like to know who you are. So where'd you get a dorky name like the Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper?"

The figure shrugged. "Oh, I dunno. Some moron thought it sounded good, I guess. I know they mean that I strip malls, but it makes me sound like some kind of sicko exhibitionist. I dunno. I'm thinking of branching out. Leaving the malls behind. Taking on a new name."

"Like what?" asked Megavolt, interested.

"The Voice," the guy replied. In Megavolt's own voice.

Before Megavolt had a chance to react to that, a cloud of purple smoke suddenly manifested itself at the top of the escalator. "I am the Terror...that flaps in the night!"

"Oh no, not him!" moaned Megavolt.

"I am the rubber insulation that stops you in your tracks. I--am Darkwiiiing...Duck!"

"Again with the introductions! Always with the introductions!" complained Megavolt, grabbing The Voice's arm without thinking and yanking him in the direction of the broken window, hoping to get out before Darkwing, vision obscured by his own gas, could do anything about it.

Unfortunately it dissipated, and Darkwing aimed his gas gun at them. Megavolt stopped still, and The Voice plowed into him. "Save it, Sparky. Who's your friend?" Then he recognized the long coat, the bulky figure. "The Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper! Oh hoh, man, have I wanted to get my hands on you!"

Megavolt released The Voice's arm and turned to him. "You know, that sounds really awful when someone says it fast. You know that, right?"

"I certainly do," came a voice from behind Darkwing.

Megavolt jerked his head in that direction, startled, but Darkwing continued to stand there. "That's not working this time. So, you're a little ventriloquist, are you?"

"Ah, DW, I really don't think he's that little," said Launchpad, stepping up beside the vigilante. "No offence," he added quickly in The Voice's direction.

"None taken," said The Voice politely.

"Enough chitchat!" said Darkwing, gloating a little. "Launchpad! Cuff 'em!"

"I don't think so," said the burglar. And then uttered a high, piercing note.

Glass shattered on all sides.

Darkwing ducked and rolled instinctively, not know what had just happened, and The Voice grabbed a Megavolt stunned by such a high note practically in his ears (if he'd had any) and raced right past the fallen Darkwing, knocking Launchpad out of the way and shooting down the escalator. "No, not again," growled Darkwing, leaping to his feet and following.

Racing down the escalator and past stores, Megavolt gathered his few remaining senses together. "Watch it! You're gonna step on my lightbulbs!"

"Lightbulbs?" asked The Voice between pants, running in an odd, bent way for the nearest exit.

"You're not getting away this time!" yelled Darkwing from behind them.

They raced for the doors--and nearly crashed right into the cops who were coming in. The Voice, thinking quickly, yelled in their faces, "He's trying to kill us!" confusing them so much that they broke ranks and let the two criminals pass through.

"You idiots! You morons! You're letting them get away!" yelled Darkwing as he saw what had happened. The cops, looking at each other, of one accord blanched. Darkwing charged through them, followed closely by Launchpad. Then he stopped still, as he had two weeks before on the metro platform.

Megavolt and The Voice were gone.

They both collapsed against a wall in a dark alley. The Voice was breathing heavily, and Megavolt wasn't much better off. "Man...man, that was way too close," he said, gasping a little. Then he looked at The Voice, who, hot from the running, had pulled off his trenchcoat. For a moment the image didn't really click. Then Megavolt blinked. He opened his mouth, then shut it again. The Voice looked at him, glanced downwards. There was a moment of silence.

Then a shrug. "Oh well," she said.

This fanfic is copyright The Lauderdale, 1998. Or possibly '97. Anyway, it's old. The characters of Officer Mel, Commissioner Garret, Harold Platterbill, and The Voice are all mine. Darkwing in his glory, Launchpad, Gosalyn, the Ratcatcher, Megavolt, St. Canard, and so on are copyright Disney. Don't try making money with this fanfic or passing it off as your own. I say this for your good as much as my own. Hey, think about it a moment! Do you really think you could make money with it, or wanna tell people you wrote this thing? You can contact me at cartoon6@hotmail.com if you want to use my characters (though why you'd wanna, I dunno.)