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

"A Night At The Opera" (a sequel to "The Voice" and "Branching Out")

By: The Lauderdale

The bag lay open at the base of the pole, nearly overflowing with light bulbs. Megavolt had set it there with a sigh of relief at being finally able to put down his burden for a spell. Hooking his thumbs in the small of his back behind his battery pack, he arched until something cracked loudly, giving almost the effect of a gunshot in the stillness of this dark neighborhood. "Ohhh…" he groaned softly, stretching. "Man, did I ever need that…." He held the position for a moment, then relaxed and shook his arms a little to get the circulation moving, looking up the pole at the lone bulb that lit this particular street. "Hold on, baby—Daddy's coming."

He'd taken out most of the street already—the precious bulbs that had shown like gems warding off the darkness had been unscrewed, one by one, free to line his huge sack. It had been a pretty good night's work: this had to be his sixth street, with not one bulb broken or scratched, and not a single "incident". Meaning that a certain purple-caped crusader had not bothered him at his work. Yet.

Well, seeing as this would be the last bulb for the night, he wasn't going to worry about that now. Flexing his fingers briefly in advance, Megavolt set them on the cold steel of the pole and started to climb. Pulling himself up hand over blue rubber-gloved hand, he enjoyed the feel of the cool night breeze against his face. His rubber jumpsuit might allow for great freedom of movement, but it wasn't the most comfortable thing to wear on a humid summer night. And worst of all was the tendency his goggles had to mist over, often killing his vision until he could find an opportunity to pull them off at some point and wipe them clear.

Like the one he got now as he reached the top of the pole. Locking his knees around it tightly, Megavolt was able to free his hand long enough to pull off the goggles. Blinking a little at the bulb shining in its socket at the end of the bar he clung to with his other hand, he held up the goggles to let the rubber strap slide down his arm, then released his hold on them, allowing them to dangle. Man, that cool night air felt so gooooood….With the goggles dangling from his free arm, he reached for the bulb….

"I am the Terror…that FLAPS in the night!…"

"Yaaack!" Megavolt, so startled that he nearly fell, jerked his arm back and clung to the pole for dear life.

"I am the MOSQUITO…that ruins your vacation up at your fancy summer cabin! I…am DARK-wiiiiiiing DUCK!!"

"Sheez, Dipwing! You mind doing that again?! Then maybe I can bring a suit against you for whiplash!" said Megavolt, glaring down at Darkwing from the pole as the smoke cleared.

"Can it, you maniacal miscreant! I've got your number this time! You're as helpless as a cat up a tree!"

"Oh yeah?" asked Megavolt, kind of stuck for a comeback. Normally he would have had a wittier retort, but it was a little hard when you were stuck up a pole with a psychotic superhero duck standing guard at the bottom. He eyed the building the lamppost was in front of. There was a ledge he might just be able to make. He just had to judge the distance….

"Don't even think about it, Megs. Or else…."

Megavolt froze suddenly as he heard a clinking sound. His heart stopped. He had forgotten about the bag of bulbs at the base of the pole. Slowly he looked down to where Darkwing lightly tossed a bulb up and down in his right hand. Megavolt licked his lips nervously a second, then decided it was a bluff. "You wouldn't. Good guys don't take hostages."

Darkwing scowled, but had to concede that Megavolt had a point. Not about the hostage biz, of course, but if he smashed the bulb in order to apprehend Megavolt for stealing it in the first place…well, it kind of defeated the purpose. Muttering a little to himself, Darkwing set the bulb back in the sack again. Oh well, something could be done, anyway…."Hey, LP! Take these back to the Ratcatcher!"

"Nooo problemo, DW." Launchpad took the bag and swung it over his shoulder. The bulbs inside clinked as they bumped against each other.

Megavolt winced. A good night's take…gone. Those poor little babies….But he'd better forget about them. It looked like it was gonna be all he could do now to take care of himself. Taking advantage of Darkwing's momentary shift of his attention to his sidekick, Megavolt made a decision and leapt for the ledge. "Gkkk—" he gritted out as he made it. His battery pack nearly unbalanced him, but after teetering a few precariously seconds he was able to regain his balance. Once that was done, he had no compunctions about breaking the window he found himself by. Ignoring Darkwing's swearing below as the duck ran for the door to the building, Megavolt jumped inside.

Below, Darkwing raced in the building and up the several flights of steps to the floor he thought Megavolt was on. The sound of a woman's scream proved him right. He ran for the door it was coming from, stopped and backed up to go at it full speed, sending it flying open with a single Quack-Fu kick. Standing there for a second to orient himself on the screaming, he ran for the room it was coming from.

The duck in the hair curlers and the green face cream screamed again. The freaky little rat in the rubber jumpsuit had taken her by surprise, breaking her window and dodging the objects she threw wildly in her terror before escaping out of her bedroom. She had thought he was gone, but now here was an even wilder, freakier character! The guy was obviously a lunatic to be caught dead running around in a stupid hat like that! She began wildly flinging objects again.

Darkwing found himself caught in a barrage of framed pictures, brushes, and other bedside objects. He flung up his arms to protect his face. "Madam! Um, Miss! Please! Let me—"

"Get OUT, you pervert! HELP!! MURDER!! FIRE!! HELP!!" Her voice was shrill and more painful than her artillery.

In the other room the door, which Darkwing had flung open so violently, had caught Megavolt against the wall as it did so, whacking him brutally in the nose and knocking him backwards behind it to smack the back of his head—hard!—against the wall. He saw little winged light bulbs circling around him. "Please, Mama, I only stuck my finger in the socket once," he murmured, dazed. Then the sounds of Darkwing being attacked in the Bedroom of Horrors broke through to him. Megavolt shook himself out of it, took stock of the situation, and made good his escape.

Darkwing, escaping as well from the terrified harridan's assault, found himself alone in the hallway again, where he remembered the steps. Trusting his instincts, which told him up, he took them two and three at a time. By the third flight he was panting but was rewarded at the fourth flight by the end of the steps and the door out onto the roof. Which had been flung open. He had been right.

Darkwing took a deep breath to clear his mind, readied his gas gun, and leaped out onto the roof. He looked around himself quickly for Megavolt, aiming his gun randomly, but didn't see him. The roof was all shifting shadows, full of crevices and corners. Darkwing made sure Megavolt was no longer on the roof, then, remaining alert and keeping the gun trained on the shadows around him all the while, walked over to the edge. Just as he'd suspected-the buildings in this particular neighborhood weren't far apart. Megavolt must have simply taken a pole vaulter's approach—minus the pole—and just went a-leaping the rooftops, meaning that he was long gone by now. There was no way Darkwing was going to be able to catch up with him tonight.

Darkwing lowered the gun. "Darn it! Thought I had him that time." Oh well, it wasn't the first time Megavolt had escaped. He always turned up again. And at least Darkwing was occupied. With his defeat (as he liked to think of it) of his latest great foe, The Voice, back a week ago, the long hiatus of virtually nonexistent crime had been broken. Not one night had Darkwing gone without a crime to foil. And he might not admit it to himself, but he was content.

Darkwing gave a cursory glance at the neighboring rooftop—in vain, of course—then sighed and headed back for the stairs.

Megavolt slogged his way home, weary and light bulb-less, up the metal spiral staircase of his lighthouse. A whole night of work, gone. But he couldn't seem to get upset about that now. His mind was too occupied by the thought of his little couch waiting for him. He hadn't slept in it in over a week. Actually, he didn't know where he'd been sleeping during that time—all he had of the past few days was a vague memory of a conversation with a toaster in Duckburg. Megavolt wasn't worried about that, though—his memory had never been particularly good, and anyway, he was tired. His brain dulled with the night's exertions, he wanted only to sleep.

Which was why he felt a sudden, sharp stab of annoyance when he saw the door to the tower control room was open a crack. It must be Quackerjack. He was always coming over at inopportune times. And boy, was this ever one of them. Megavolt figured should it be Negaduck himself in there, he would still probably blow a fuse. Well, maybe not if it was Negaduck. That would be suicidal. But anyone else…Megavolt flung the door open, ready to fry someone.

The figure in the long scruffy tan trench coat straightened at the sound of the door's violent slam back against the wall. "Who's that?" The guy didn't turn around as he spoke.

"Local electrician," growled Megavolt, leveling a glowing index finger on the guy's back.

"What?" came a voice suddenly from behind him.

Megavolt, startled, whirled around, sending a blast through the open doorway behind him. Rather than seeing the charred remains of whoever it had been, though, he saw no one. "Uh oh—" Uh oh was right. Something barreled into him from behind. "OOOMPH!!" was all he had time to remark as he fell on his face, with his attacker on top of him.

"Ouch," said his attacker in a slightly absent-minded tone. "That's gotta leave a bruise."

Megavolt started to struggle when abruptly he felt something sharp pricking the skin at the back of his neck. He immediately went still. "Hey, I don't know what the heck you think you're doing up here, but if you don't get off of me right now, you are gonna be in serious trouble."

"Megavolt?" said whoever it was, sounding startled. "Is that you?"

"Well, duh," said Megavolt, exasperated. And curious. Who was this?

"Oh shoot, I'm really sorry about this. Look, if you'll just promise not to fight me and all that good stuff, I'll let you up."

Promise not to—yeesh. "Sure, I promise," said Megavolt in a subdued tone. The sharp pain in his neck withdrew and the weight was removed. "Owww…" groaned Megavolt in a really fake way. "Oh the pain, the pain! I-have-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up!"

"Oh, do you want me to help you?" The voice was concerned.

Megavolt felt a hand take hold of his own. Man, I can't believe that worked! thought Megavolt. Taking his chance, he suddenly gripped the guy's hand incredibly tightly, as if he were trying to crush it. "What the—"

"This is what is known as a double-cross! MUA-HAHAHAHA!!" Megavolt laughed maniacally as he sent volts of electricity pulsing through the guy's arm. The guy screamed, his body jerking spasmodically, and passed out. Megavolt pumped in a few more volts, then, satisfied that his victim wasn't going to be able to leap up and murder him so very soon after all that, relaxed his hand. "Yeah, no creep's gonna mess with ME and get away with it," he said cheerfully as he stood up, dusting himself off. "Now let's get a look at you." He grabbed his fallen adversary's shoulder, rolling him over.

It wasn't a he at all. That was the first thing Megavolt was aware of. The second was that this person was very familiar. Her head feathers, beneath the soot, seemed dusty-brown and stuck out haphazardly every which way. That might have been from his shocking her, but he seemed to have this vague memory that it was how they looked normally. A pair of old-fashioned iron-framed spectacles seemed to be somehow magically balanced on her beak.

Megavolt, bemused by his feeling of déjà vu, decided he would let her wake up and explain herself. She'd piqued his curiosity. Nobody ever came up here unless it was that meddling Darkwing Do-gooder and his annoying fan club. There was also the matter of her voice. That had not been a female's voice he had heard. He would have sworn she was a guy, if it weren't for the obvious.

And then he remembered something else. Going to the top of the spiral staircase, he peered down, As he wasn't surprised to see, nobody was there. Whoever her friend had been was long gone. If there had been someone else in the first place. Which suddenly Megavolt doubted.

He heard a groan and turned to see his would-be attacker beginning to stir. "Don't even think about moving," he said. His foot hit something, making it roll a ways, and he bent and picked it up.

"I smell burnt feathers," she said, sitting up and sniffing the air. Her voice wasn't especially masculine now, nor especially feminine, but a somewhat androgynous one that lay in between.

"That would be you." Megavolt examined the object he had picked up.

"Ohhh….Man, what the heck did you have to do that for?"

"What?! You were the one who was gonna stab me with a—" (Megavolt blinked in disbelief) "—a PENCIL?!"

"Hey, a puncture wound with a pencil's gonna hurt about as much as a puncture wound with anything else. Besides, YOU were going to attack me, and I didn't have anything else on hand."

"Well, you were in my hideout in the first place!"

"Your hideout?"

Megavolt smacked himself in the forehead. "D'OH!!"

His attacker, however, didn't seem to be particularly interested in the fact that she had uncovered the secret refuge of one of the most dangerous super villains in St. Canard. "You mean this place was…TAKEN?!" She groaned and covered her face with her hands.

"Well, yeah. What exactly did you want it for?"

With her words a little muffled: "A hideout, same as you. I had a run-in with Darkwing a week ago and I decided I'd better find one, and I figured the Audobon Bay lighthouse would be—"

"A run-in with Darkwing Duck?"

She lifted her head and blinked at him. "Hell-LO?! I'm The Voice, remember?" Megavolt must have looked puzzled, because she said, "Sweet Rivers Mall? We went to a deli afterwards and you said I should try being a—"

"Oh yeaaaaaah." Now he remembered her. The Voice, formerly known as the Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper. He remembered their conversation at the deli. After she'd made her resolution to be a super villain it had trailed off somewhat, he had grown bored and shortly after that she had left the deli. Megavolt had wondered idly at the time how she was going to make out. Now he asked her.

"Ok. Nothing great. I twisted my ankle pretty good during my last heist, which was, of course, lovely. That's when I decided to find a hideout, so I could recuperate a little. I didn't think anybody else would be weird enough to think of using this place."

"Well, somebody was."

"I didn't know that. I just came up here, and I didn't find anyone. Didn't see any sign anyone was up here. The only thing I found were a bunch of tools and equipment that might have been left by repairmen, and a lot of hardware catalogues…." Megavolt blushed bright red as she mentioned his secret stock of bathroom literature, but The Voice didn't notice. "And the couch, but that looked like it had been here forever. I figured if anyone had been here, it was a long time ago." She looked at him apologetically. "I'm afraid I moved some of your stuff. Sorry about that. It's all up against the back wall there, though."

Megavolt looked quickly where she'd indicated, then relaxed. "Oh, that. Don't worry about it. That's mostly spare parts and stuff." Then he looked at her again. "So what are you gonna do now?"

The Voice shrugged. "I dunno."

"I mean, where are you gonna go?"

She sighed. "Well, my ankle's fine now. And I was on the streets for a couple months before I came by this place. I'm used to roughing it a little. I'll just find a dumpster or something to sleep in until I can find another good hideout." She added wryly, "Preferably one that isn't already occupied."

Megavolt studied The Voice a second. She'd done him a good turn awhile back at Sweet Rivers Mall, helping him get away from Dipwing, and yet she wasn't trying to use that to her advantage now. And for some reason he felt a little, well, not responsible for her, but more as if he'd already gotten involved and really couldn't pull back now. He was the one who'd suggested she try becoming a super villain, and she'd gone out and done it. Like it or not, to a certain extent he was already stuck with her. Besides, he thought to himself, she may be doing well enough so far, but she could still be a disaster waiting to happen. And there was the remote possibility that if he just went and turned this nutcase loose again on the streets of St. Canard, the effects might rebound on him.

He took a deep breath. "Look, you can…stay here for a while. Until you find another place. But don't think this is permanent," Megavolt added quickly. I'll need to figure out just what to do with her, he thought to himself.

The Voice looked at him, not seeming exactly thrilled. "Oh yeah? Well, that's very…nice of you, but how do I know I'm not safer under a newspaper on a bench in a park somewhere? I mean, no offence, but what if you're some kind of pervert?"

"Me?" Megavolt drew himself up to his full, less than impressive, height. "If it doesn't plug into a wall or run on batteries, it's safe from me."

"Oh, now I feel so much better," said The Voice sardonically.

He ignored the comment. "Look, I've had a busy night. I'm dead on my batteries. I need to sleep and recharge for tomorrow. You're gonna have to figure out where you're gonna be sleeping, 'cause all there is my couch in the control room." He didn't offer it to her. One of the nice things about being insane and a super villain, thought Megavolt, is that no one expects you to be polite.

Apparently she didn't. "'S'ok. I can sleep out here on the floor." The Voice looked at him a little awkwardly. "Um, thanks."

"Eh, don't mention it," said Megavolt, a little embarrassed. What am I DOING?! he thought to himself. Shaking his head, he went to the control room, closed the door, and changed out of his super villain costume, slipping his bathrobe out from under the cushions of the couch and pulling it on around him, then stepping into his slippers. He sat on one arm of the couch and stared at the control room door for a very long time. Finally he got up and went to it.

When he opened the door and looked out, he thought for a moment that she had left. Then he saw that she was sitting with her back to the wall near the door to the staircase. Her knees were drawn up to her chest and her arms were wrapped around them, while her head rested back against the wall. The Voice's eyes were closed and she appeared to be asleep, but as he watched her she suddenly said, "'Night."

"Um, yeah. Goodnight," said Megavolt. He shut the door again and leaned back against it. "Uy…." He sighed and went over to the couch. Lying down, he propped the back of his head on his arm and stared up at the ceiling of the control room. For all that he was tired, it was awhile before he could sleep.

"Wa-HOO!!" The sound of Gosalyn's return from school could be heard all over the little house on Avian Way. "Hey Dad, guess what, guess what, guess what!"

"Owww…." whimpered Drake, as he brought up his hands to cover both sides of his head. "Gosalyn dear, could you keep it just a tiny bit—"

"Dad, guess what!"

"There's a pattern being broken here."

Gosalyn cocked her head to one side and looked at him, not following. "Huh?"

"Normally when you get home for the school, the first thing you say is, "What's for dinner? What's for dinner?"" Drake quoted these lines in a petulant voice, adjusting the strings of his apron in irritation.

"Oh. Hey yeah, what's for dinner?"

He smacked himself in the forehead. "Spinach casserole," he said in a muffled voice.

"Ok. Hey, guess what!"

Drake lifted his head again and looked at Gosalyn. She hadn't even made any gagging noises at the word "spinach." Whatever had happened must have been truly momentous. "What?"

"My teacher gave back our film essays today! I got an A!"

"Well hallelujah!" said Drake, startled. Outside of PE, and oddly enough, Science (though perhaps not so oddly, considering the fact that Gosalyn's best friend was Honker and that her biological grandfather had been a brilliant scientist) high grades weren't a frequent occurrence with Gos.

"My teacher really liked my essay on "Vengeance of the Blood-Sucking Mutated Zoooooombie Slugs from the Planet Ferbilax"! She said it was really good! She wants me to read it in front of the school and—"

"Slow down, slow down, kiddo." Drake kneaded his fingers against his forehead, trying to still the headache he could feel starting to come back.

"What's the matter, Dad?" asked Gosalyn, staring at him. The excitement had died down in her voice and she sounded a little concerned.

"Oh, it's nothing, honey. I just had a rough night."

"Yeah? What's up?"

"Well, you know Megavolt's been running loose all over St. Canard over the past few nights causing havoc. Also…."

"What?"

"There's been a report that The Voice struck a Videorama last night. Though I think it's more likely it was just some hoodlum or something. But a clerk says he got a look at the culprit and that he fit the basic description."

"Oh great, so all that's gonna get stirred up again," said Gosalyn, making a face. Hah! Darkwing Duck! she thought mentally. Back to Psycho-Duck, you mean.

Drake, reading her mind, said, "Don't worry, Gos. I've had much too much on my hands lately to go obsessive."

"Sure, Dad, sure."

"What, you doubt me?!" demanded Drake, pretending to take offense.

"Oh no, Dad, I'd NEVER do that."

"Uh huh. Well, since you seem to be in such fine fettle, you should have all the energy you need to take on your homework. Hop to it, young lady."

"Aw…." Suddenly she brightened. "Alright if I go over to Honker's house to study?"

"Hmm. You know, I wonder how much HE studies while you're over and how much YOU watch TV." Her face fell, and he relented. "Alright, Gos, go ahead. Anything to get you and your cracks about my cooking out of my way."

At that comment Gosalyn, who hadn't paid any attention to what her father had told her was for dinner, glanced at the recipe he was working from. "Spinach! Eeyew!" she groaned retroactively. She turned and headed out of the kitchen, followed by her father's laugh. "Hi, Launchpad. Bye, Launchpad," she said to the pilot as she passed him on her way out the door.

"Hey, Gosalyn." Drake heard the door shut and Launchpad entered the kitchen, a manila folder in his hand, a moment later. "Hey, DW! Feelin' better?"

"A little better, LP. Did you manage to get that file off the Commissioner?"

Launchpad shrugged. "He didn't have any problem giving it to me. You know, DW, maybe the police would be more helpful if you were more polite to them."

"Polite?! I am polite to those fat slobs! I solve all their cases for them—they should be grateful!" Drake snatched the folder from Launchpad cantankerously and began flipping through it. He began to whistle. "Three cars hot-wired, four vandalized houses, one missing dog—people really are being quick to blame every crime they can on this guy. Though this last…." Drake rubbed his bill thoughtfully as he looked at the details on the Videorama hit. "Maybe. I didn't think so before, but now that I look at it, this one seems have all the characteristics of many of The Voice's previous crimes. Or at least the Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper's. When he became The Voice, his crimes became more dramatic, wilder, to go with his new super villain identity. But after he faced off against me last week, it's understandable that he'd have toned it down a little. So it's back to the way it was before: little damage involved, quiet, unobtrusive—the only reason he got caught in the act was because a clerk happened coming back from a late-night trip to the men's room."

"But why would he want a TV, DW?"

"I dunno, 'Pad." Drake frowned. "Sell it on the black market? But if he was into underworld dealings, petty street business or otherwise, either I or the police would have had some leads long before this. Besides, his crimes have always seemed to point to someone with a pretty direct MO. He's not the type who's going to steal a TV for cash when he can just steal the cash in the first place."

Launchpad shrugged. "Well, maybe he wants to use it himself."

Drake actually snorted. "Oh sure. Right, Launchpad. That has to be the—" Suddenly his eyes widened as a thought came to him. "Hey, I've got it! Maybe he wants to use it himself! Well, of course, that makes all the sense in the world." He puffed out his chest a little. "Yep yep yep….In the end, Darkwing Duck always comes through."

Launchpad gave him a puzzled look. "Uh, yeah."

Drake ignored him and started pacing about the kitchen, thinking out loud. "But for him to be stealing a TV for personal use indicates that he's leaving what one presumes to have been a vagrant lifestyle in favor of a more stabilized, local one. One with electrical accommodations, running water, so forth and so on. Hmm. Things are beginning to look up. The more comfortable they are, the more confident in their own security, the likelier they are to make a mistake. And there I'll be in the shadows…waiting." He jabbed dramatically with his finger in the direction of the ceiling.

"Uh, DW?"

"What is it, Launchpad?" asked Drake through gritted teeth, annoyed at how the tension of his dramatic moment had been broken.

"Your apron is coming undone."

Megavolt shifted comfortably on the couch, pulling the afghan up around him snugly. Then he heard the bullet. He blinked and sat bolt upright, startled. The sound came again. It was coming from the direction of the door to the control room. He could see that it was slightly ajar and that an electric cord had been threaded through to plug into the adjacent socket. A little puzzled, but not particularly alarmed, Megavolt stood up, pulling his bathrobe tighter around him and stepping into his slippers, then started for the door.

He opened it to see a figure in black jeans and a black sweatshirt watching cartoons on a middling-sized TV. "Uh…."

The Voice, hearing Megavolt behind her, glanced back at him. "Oh, you're finally up. Wow, you sure slept the day away, didn't you? I've been up forever."

"Um, yeah." Megavolt peered at her myopically and scratched his head. "Uh…who are you?"

"Huh?" She blinked at him (equally myopically—she wasn't wearing her spectacles.) "Um, I'm The Voice. Remember? You're letting me stay for a while?"

"Oh yeah," said Megavolt vaguely, not really remembering at all but willing to accept her word on it at the moment.

The Voice turned her face back to the screen. She wondered how long she was going to need to keep reintroducing herself to Megavolt like that. She seemed to have to remind him every time they saw each other. Not that they saw each other that often, considering they were living together. Most of the time when The Voice was at the lighthouse Megavolt was off committing a crime somewhere, or when she got back he'd be sleeping and so on. Still, it had been two days now. Well, she was hardly one to complain. It wasn't like The Voice's own attention span was anything to brag about.

"So when did I get a TV?" asked Megavolt.

"Oh, I went out and stole one last night. It was too much to resist, finally having a place to plug one in after so long and not actually having a set. Um, you don't have some weird Amish thing against television, do you?" That would be strange, especially considering the whole technology deal Megavolt had going for him.

"No, no. I have TVs all the time. They just…don't tend to last very long around here. You stick around long enough, you'll see why. Better enjoy this one while it lasts," he finished cryptically.

The Voice shrugged. "Anyway, this is just about over. You want me to switch it to the News?"

"Sure, go ahead," he said, not particularly interested. She did so, and abruptly Megavolt whistled, leaning forward and gazing intently at the enormous, glittering chandelier that filled up the screen. "Holy Mother of…."

The camera pulled back to include an image of a certain annoying reporter. "Hi, this is Tom Lockjaw reporting to you live from St. Canard's best and only Opera House. The House has not been open to the public since renovation work was begun on it two years ago, and in fact this is the first time a camera has been allowed within the House walls since the renovation was finally completed last month. "

"Wow, listen to the acoustics in that baby," breathed The Voice reverently. It was possible to tell the beautiful resonance of Lockjaw's voice as it carried through the Opera House, even simply listening to it on television. The renovators had clearly done a superb job of acoustical enhancement. Megavolt was silent, taking in the effects of the newly renovated lighting arrangement.

"Tonight, the upper crust of St. Canard will come in battalions to listen to numerous lauded opera singers such as the notable Placido Flamingo, and to view the sumptuous and dazzling new interior of the Old St. Canard Opera House. Among them will be—" Lockjaw smirked a little and adjusted his tie, "—this reporter. So until tonight, folks, this is Tom Lockjaw, signing off."

"Hey, what time is it, anyway?" asked The Voice.

"Huh? Oh, uh—"

"Wait a sec, you wouldn't know, you've been sleeping." She looked a little annoyed. Lord, I gotta get me a watch, she thought to herself.

"No, it's four in the afternoon," protested Megavolt.

"Really? How do you know?"

"I've got a good internal clock," he said. It was the truth. He'd installed it himself.

"Well, alright. Four o'clock. Ok. Listen, I'm gonna go get a bite to eat, and then I've got plans later. So I won't be back tonight."

"Neither will I," said Megavolt.

"Alright. Catch ya later." She threw her coat on and left.

Megavolt got up and went over to the mass of junk and spare parts that had normally covered the entire room, before The Voice had moved it all against the wall. He got down on his hands and knees and began to scrounge through it, tossing various objects from broken typewriters to baby carriage wheels to dead calculators over his shoulder. At long last he came up with a long blue bungee cord, which he proceeded to roll up. With his prize tucked securely under his arm, he went to the control room to change.

The audience gathering in the House that evening gave no thought to the hard work that went into the presentation they were about to see. Their attention was wholly given over to the business of finding their seats, chatting with friends, looking over their programs. They didn't give a thought to the hustle and bustle that was going on just behind the huge velvet curtain.

Backstage, a couple techies glanced curiously at the unknown person with the glasses in the black sweatpants and sweatshirt. For the most part, however, people were too busy to stop and chat with a new face. Which was fine by her. She didn't want to be discovered. She didn't even want to make a hit tonight. This, she had decided to herself, was an evening for culture.

Getting by the Stage Manager had been easy. Already harried and distracted by his many duties on this gala occasion, he was very vulnerable to her persuasive tone. He didn't bat an eye when The Voice told him a techie friend had asked her to please help out as an extra hand, that she had been by once or twice during the renovations and knew the layout. He only waved her impatiently backstage and went back to yelling at the unfortunate minion who had broken a gel lamp.

She lingered briefly by the dressing rooms, hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous Placido Flamingo. The guy had an amazing voice, and she was really looking forward to hearing it this evening. However, his two bodyguards were extremely conspicuous in their attendance outside the doors, and she knew that no casually dropped words were going to get her in Flamingo's vicinity. She wasn't a professional hypnotist, and her persuasive tone generally only worked on the unfocussed or the relaxed, on minds that were, for whatever reason, open to suggestion.

Instead, after stashing her trench coat, which she had brought in stuffed under one arm in an innocuous tan-brown bundle just in case, in a spot she would remember, The Voice wandered around, giving assistance when it was asked and casually deflecting any questions that arose. Her generally nondescript appearance helped her here as she lifted and fetched and carried, and any unfamiliarity of hers with the backstage area and the people there was easily explained away by her story that she was doing somebody a favor. She also picked up some interesting information about the recent renovations-the electronic as well as architectural enhancements that had been made for a Panasonic effect. Everything she learned enhanced her anticipation of this evening's performance.

After putting in about half an hour's work, she grabbed her chance at respite, slipping away into the shadows near the edge of the great curtain. It was just a couple moments before the performance was scheduled to start.

"Here we are, then. Right back here in the wings, sir. I believe this spot should adequately suit your purposes…if not…." Mr. Galloway, the Proprietor of the St. Canard Opera House, glanced around and spotted somebody. "Ah, young—lady," he finished, having to guess because of the darkness. He was relieved to find himself correct as she turned slowly, pointing to herself in a questioning manner. "Yes, you. Could you please see to Mr. Darkwing and his friend's needs?"

"That won't be necessary, Mr. Galloway. This should be just fine," said Darkwing Duck. The Proprietor nodded and left. Darkwing strode towards The Voice, who stiffened a little. However, he only walked past her to stick his head out of the curtain for a second.

The Voice, on a reflex that four years of high school Theater classes had drilled into her, suddenly found herself tapping his shoulder. "Pardon me, sir. Please step away from the curtains."

"Excuse me?" said Darkwing, turning to glare at her. Then he stopped, peered a little closer. "Hey, do I know you from somewhere?"

Mentally The Voice squirmed. "I can't think where," she said out loud quite calmly. "I know I haven't seen you anywhere, except on the news. And if you have to stand so near the curtain, stand in the shadows like I am so that the audience doesn't accidentally see you." She motioned him back.

Darkwing scowled but did as she told him. "Alright, but just don't get in my way. I happen to be trying to prevent a crime here." He glanced past her at the backstage area, then returned to scanning the audience. "Tonight is a gala event, and it is my belief that the general show of affluence will provide an irresistible temptation to those of the criminal persuasion."

"You think so, huh?" The Voice's shoulders jerked a little, as if with suppressed laughter, but her tone was utterly serious.

"I'm certain of it, or my name isn't—Darkwiiiiiing Duck!" Darkwing nodded, satisfied that he had made himself impressive enough, and then went on with his vigil.

The lights went out backstage. A ways away from them, The Voice heard the Stage Manager hissing at everyone to shut up as the performance was about to begin. "So, uh—big crowd tonight, huh?" the superhero's sidekick, who was standing next to her, asked, trying to make conversation. She nodded, mimed a silencing gesture and Launchpad dropped the attempt.

Suddenly a spotlight fell upon the stage. Darkwing and Launchpad looked around a little. The Voice simply forgot their presence for a moment, watching in anticipation as the great Placido Flamingo stepped out into the spotlight. The orchestra struck up and he began to sing.

"Une heure encore et ma belle maîtresse

Va venir dans ces lieux.

Une heure encore amour,

Et si tu veux

De tous ces coeurs fous f'allégresse

Le mien sera le plus joyeux.

Ah! tu serais ingrat si tu trompais mes voeux…."

High above the members of the audience, Megavolt had barely held in a gasp when the House lights dimmed. When the orchestra struck up with its first loud notes he had nearly lost his grip on the chandelier. He probably would have lost it entirely if he hadn't been holding on for dear life in the first place. Megavolt squirmed a little as he put himself in a more secure position. Once he had done so, he looked down at the audience to see if he had been noticed. However, everybody was listening intently to the singer onstage.

Megavolt allowed himself to give a small sigh of relief. The evening had gone quite smoothly so far. His approach, unlike The Voice's, had been far more secretive: he had simply snuck in when the House Manager wasn't looking and had made his way up to the House's catwalk. Unnoticed—no mean feat when you were the only person in the bright lemony-yellow suit amongst several score of black-clad techies!

Once on the catwalk, which luckily at that moment had been deserted, Megavolt easily found the central chain of the House's grand chandelier. Attaching himself with the bungee cord to a beam near the chain as an extra security precaution, he made his way down the chain. The descent had been relatively easy: the enormous chain, having to support such an enormous weight in the form of the chandelier, was extraordinarily thick—so much so that Megavolt could use the huge steel links almost like steps on a ladder. And the super villain was too insane to pause at any point due to feelings of vertigo.

Now, with the theater darkened and the audience completely caught up in the sounds issuing from the opera singer below's mighty lungs, Megavolt opened the huge sack he had brought with him and began unscrewing bulbs.

"…La gloire était ma seule idole,

Un noble espoir que je n'ai plus

Ceignait mon front de l'auréole

Que l'art destine à ses élus…."

It was amazing. Simply incredible. The sound carried effortlessly through the House, and sent shivers down The Voice's spine in a positively cliché manner. The reverberations of Flamingo's powerful tenor, its beautiful resonance carried by the music of the orchestra and further enhanced by the newly enhanced acoustical system, could be felt all over. Here, only fifty or so feet from the artist himself, she could truly appreciate his strength, his use of emphasis, the nuances and purity of his notes as she never had before. It almost made her want to sing along with him.

"Ugh, I can't see how anyone can stand this stuff." The words, muttered beneath the swell of Flamingo's awe-inspiring song, were practically blasphemous.

"Heh heh, you said it, DW. I've heard cats fighting that've sounded better."

"Oh well, we're not here to listen to this rubbish anyway," said Darkwing dismissively. "Nothing seems to be going on in the audience—come on, LP, let's go look around a bit backstage."

"Philistine."

Darkwing turned, surprised. "What was that, Launchpad?

Launchpad looked puzzled. "Uh, I didn't say anything, DW."

Darkwing looked at him, then glanced at the heavy-set techie in the black ensemble for a moment. He decided he'd just been hearing things. It hadn't sounded like her, anyway. "Let's go."

The Voice, relieved to have her quiet spot for listening to the performance all to herself again, went back to watching Flamingo as he sang. His long, flexible neck contorted itself wildly as he pushed out the final doleful notes of his aria.

"…Mais au repos elle prefère

Ma vie errante et ma misère."

It must have been some faint sound that had caught her—either that, or just a certain alert feeling aroused by her knowledge of Darkwing's presence in the Opera House. Whatever it was, in the split second after the music accompanying him came to a close and before the audience began to applaud, The Voice suddenly found herself jerking her head up to look at the House's grand chandelier. It was trembling slightly, and her eyes narrowed as she peered at it more closely. Then for an instant she caught a glimpse of a blue rubber boot and suddenly she guessed.

The Voice brought her head around fast to see if Darkwing and his sidekick were still nearby, but their decision to explore the backstage area had taken them beyond her range of vision. She stepped back from her spot near the edge of the curtain, then turned and raced away to find her trench coat.

Megavolt giggled madly under his breath as he unscrewed the last bulb. "Hey, cutie! Say hello to all your buddies," he said softly as he dropped it in the sack, certain that no one in the audience would be able to hear him over the opera singer onstage and the accompanying music of the orchestra.

No one in the audience did. In the audience.

"Boy, Sparky, you sure do have a screw loose," came a mocking voice from overhead.

"What?!" Megavolt's head came up so fast that he actually heard a small protesting crack from his neck. He yelped and brought a hand up to it, nearly losing his balance in the process. As it was, he lost his grip on something else—the sack of light bulbs. It fell, but the rim of the sack caught on one of the little steel curliques on the chandelier below him and hung precariously. Slowly the hem began slipping over the tip of the curlique. "Darkwing Duck! Ooh! Why can't you just buzz off?" whined Megavolt as he strained to reach for his booty.

"Give it up, Megs! I'm taking you in!"

Just at that moment the bag fell. "AAAHH!!" yelled Megavolt, putting his hands together in a diving position and leaping after it. He caught it in mid-air and squeezed his eyes shut as the auditorium leaped up towards him. There was a sudden loud "boinging" sound and he was abruptly jerked up again as the bungee cord he had fastened to himself reached its limits. He bobbed up and down a couple of times, then simply hung there. "Talk about being at the end of your rope," he muttered to himself weakly, most of the air driven out of his body. He continued to clutch the sack which, miraculously, had not spilled, ripped, or fallen from his hand. Amazingly, no one in the audience even glanced up, engrossed as they were in Flamingo's singing.

"Hah! We've got him now!" gloated Darkwing to Launchpad.

"Oh do you?"

Darkwing didn't even have to ask Launchpad if he had spoken this time. The voice was too deep and ominous to possibly have come from the amiable pilot. Darkwing whirled around. "Who's there?! Show yourself!"

"Um. Actually I'm over here." Darkwing turned his head to the right, where a mysterious figure stood in the shadows. "Step away from the chandelier."

"AAACK!! It's the Phantom of the Opera!" cried Launchpad, pointing at the figure.

"LP, would you chill out? It is not the Phantom of the Opera! It's The Voice."

"Erm, yes! Yes I am!" said The Voice. "I am—uh—The Voice! What comes from afar! Now step away from the chandelier."

"Launchpad, can't you handle this bozo? I'm trying to take care of Megs here," said Darkwing.

"Oh, well that's comforting," came an annoyed voice from below.

"Shut up, Battery-Breath, I'm not talking to you."

Launchpad shook his head. "Nuh-uh! No way, DW! This guy's creepy!"

"What?! For the love of—alright, buddy, you and me, right now!" Darkwing advanced on the shadowy figure.

The Voice opened her beak.

"Sprezzo, audace, il tuo furore

La mortal disfida accetto!

Sprezzo, audace,it tuo furor, ecc.

Vien, vieni, vieni!"

She slapped a hand over her beak, startled at what had apparently come out of it, then realized that the dramatic challenge was part of the aria being sung below. Onstage, the performance was continuing, Flamingo and his audience remaining blissfully unaware of what was going on just over their heads. "Wow, that sure was appropriate," said The Voice, rather amazed at the timing of the piece.

"You can say that again," said Darkwing, who was looking down similar amazement. Then abruptly he brought up his eyes to glare at the shadowy trench-coated figure. He lifted his gas gun. "Suck gas, evildoer!" he growled, aiming his gas gun at The

Voice and firing. She dodged and the cartridge ricocheted harmlessly off a beam and, coming back at Darkwing to explode at his feet, sent up a cloud of thick purple smoke. Below, the dramatic music continued to play.

"…La tua mortale disfida accetto,

Non temo il tuo furor,

No, non temo il tuo furor,

Non temo, indegno, ti sprezzo

E non temo il tuo furor!"

Darkwing, coughing, backed away and abruptly stumbled over the railing. It was only by luck that he was able to grab the edge of the railing bar and prevent his certain fall. Instead, he hung from the catwalk practically by his fingertips. Suddenly a shadow fell over him and he looked up to see The Voice standing over him.

"Well, well, well, look what we have here." A black-gloved hand reached down and casually pried up one of his fingers. "Dis widdle ducky went to market. Dis widdle ducky stayed home. Dis widdle ducky—ah, the heck with it," said The Voice, suddenly raising a fist to bring it down on Darkwing's knuckles.

Darkwing kept his cool and simply released his hold on the railing. Using an insane maneuver that had nevertheless proven valid on a number of other occasions, he grabbed the corners of his cape in an attempt to use it to parachute harmlessly to the ground. Unfortunately the fall was too short for this tactic to work well and he suddenly landed on something soft.

"EEEK!!" shrieked the woman in whose lap Darkwing had landed. She began to wallop him with her purse, screaming at the top of her lungs all the while.

"DW!!" Launchpad, who only knew that he had just seen his boss and friend take a swan dive from the Opera House catwalk, raced past The Voice for the stairs. "I'm comin', DW!"

Unconcernedly The Voice glanced after him, then walked over to the huge chain from which the main chandelier was suspended and looked down at Megavolt. "So, how's it hanging?"

"Very funny," growled Megavolt.

She grinned. The way he was suspended from the bungee cord, it kind of reminded her of a scene from Mission Impossible. "Lemme try and pull you up."

"That would be good, yeah," said Megavolt sardonically. He rested his chin on his hand in a rather incongruous fashion, considering he had nothing to then rest his elbow on, as she began hoisting him up.

"So, enjoying the performance?" The Voice asked through gritted teeth as she worked at the cord. Megavolt was a pretty slim guy, but this was still no slight weight. She was glad to be wearing gloves.

"It's getting interesting," admitted Megavolt, snickering a little as he watched Darkwing being beaten up below by the hysterical woman with the handbag. The real performance had effectively halted and Megavolt's position, hanging from ceiling, had finally been observed. Megavolt casually considered sending a few volts into the audience and the orchestral pit, then decided he had best conserve his energy. He would probably need it soon, making his getaway. Suddenly he cried out as The Voice accidentally pulled him up into the chandelier.

"Sorry about that. Grab hold of the chandelier!" After a moment of ignominious swinging, he managed to hook a leg over it. Getting into a sitting position, he undid the bungee cord from his belt, then fastened it to the sack of light bulbs. He expected

The Voice to protest, but she simply pulled it up. Meanwhile, Megavolt grabbed a hold of the huge chain suspending the chandelier and clambered back up to the catwalk. There, The Voice handed him his sack. "Quick," she said. "Darkwing's probably gonna be back here any minute!"

Megavolt glanced over to observe a number of techies had come up on the catwalk and were staring at them. The techies made no move towards the two criminals. He also caught sight of a door with an "Exit" sign, presumably opening on a fire escape. "Thanks," he shot back. "We'd better split up—it'll be faster." And it would make the likelihood of catching them both slighter. The Voice nodded and he turned from her, running over, opening the door and stepping through—and promptly falling four stories to the ground below, his scream trailing after him.

The Voice gaped, then threw up her arms in an abrupt gesture of exasperation and decided that she couldn't worry any further about him for the moment. Instead she ran toward the techies before they could move, pushing through them and taking the steps down into the backstage area. Down there, most of the House's tech crew were milling around, confused and uncertain of what to do. Instants after the disturbance in the audience, Flamingo's two bodyguards had hurried out to flank him and hustle him out of the building. Now the Stage Manager was simultaneously bellowing out commands to close the curtain, to leave it be, to turn out the lights in the house and then on again, and so forth.

The Voice found herself absently giving thanks that this guy hadn't been her Stage Manager back when she was in high school. But he was doing her a good turn here. He was paying absolutely no attention to the back door. The Voice raced out, glanced in either direction and then ran around the corner—straight into Darkwing Duck.

"LAUNCHPAD!! HURRY UP—I CAUGHT THE VOICE!!" Darkwing bellowed, latching onto the arm of the person in the trench coat. Then he recognized the heavy-set female techie he and his sidekick had been standing next to earlier that evening.

"Oh, I thought you were somebody else," he said, releasing her. "Sorry about that."

"Uh, no problem, man."

Darkwing turned away, took a few steps, then stopped. Slowly he turned again. By that time she was already half a block away. "DW?" Launchpad ran up to him, stopped and looked around. Behind him had followed a gaggle of reporters, headed by Tom Lockjaw. "Uh, DW, I thought you said you caught him."

Now she was a full block away and in the process of running round a corner even as he watched. Darkwing swallowed and pointed after her. "Her," he said, and slowly turned to thunk his head a couple times against the side of the building. "Her."

They made it back at about the same time. Megavolt looked a little the worse for wear but still had the sack of bulbs slung over his shoulder. The Voice raised an eyebrow at it. Knowing what she was thinking, he sighed. "Used my back to break their fall."

"Well, I suppose it's better than having the fall break your back," she said with a shrug, and only then noticed that for once he seemed to have remembered her and hadn't asked who she was. She followed him up the winding staircase to the lighthouse's watch room, where she closed the door behind them and watched Megavolt go down on his hands and knees, scouring the junk pile. Silently he produced a First Aid kit from its depths.

The Voice fell back against a wall and slid down it slowly to sit in a disorderly heap on the floor, wracked with silent laughter.

"What?" Megavolt asked her. "What?"

The Voice pointed at him. For a long moment she was unable to speak. "Now that—" she got out at last, "—is—is what I would call—making—a night of it! So would—would you say you enjoyed your—your evening?"

Megavolt stared at her, then, unable to help himself, began grinning. "Oh," he said, "oh, I definitely got a charge out of it." He started to go into a fit of uncontrollable giggles. The Voice hugged her knees and laughed until she was almost sobbing. Neither of them regained control for nearly half an hour.

This fanfic is © Sarah Lauderdale, 1999. That would be Me Myself. Same with the characters of Mr. Galloway and The Voice. I can't claim the character of Placido Domingo, since he's © himself, but I can claim his DW-verse counterpart, Placido Flamingo. And since I like St. Canard's Opera House, which looks suspiciously like my high school auditorium in my mind (aside from the big-arsed chandelier) I'm stealing that too. HA HA!! However, Darkwing in all his glory, Megavolt, Launchpad, Gosalyn, St. Canard, and so on are © Disney.

For those of you who can't speak Italian or French, I just want to translate Placido Flamingo's two arias. The first one is Cellini's aria "La Gloire Etait ma Seule Idole" from the opera Benvenuto Cellini. I just used it because I like Cellini and figured it could probably set the mood as well as the next aria. The portions I used can be translated thus:

"One hour still and my beautiful mistress

Will come to these places.

One hour still, love,

And if you want,

Of all these insane hearts of joy

Mine will be merriest.

Ah! you would be ungrateful if you misled my wishes.

Glory was my only idol,

A noble hope which I do not have any more.

Ceignait, my face of the aureole

That art intends to its elected officials;

But in the end she prefers

My wandering life and my misery."

The second was Arturo's aria from the opera I Puritani, which goes pretty much like this in English (and you do have to admit it is pretty appropriate, considering….):

"I despise, boldly, your furor;

The deadly challenge I accept!

I boldly despise your fury...

Come, approach me, come!

Your deadly challenge I accept,

I fear not your fury,

No, I do not fear your furor,

I fear not, unworthy, I despise you

And I am not afraid of your anger."

Don't try making money with this fanfic, altering it in any way, or passing it off as your own (yeah, like you'd really want to). Contact me at cartoon6@hotmail.com if you want to use my characters or if you have anything else particularly on your mind, and hey, it's always nice to have some feedback. 8) And so concludes the longest copyright I have ever written. (*wipes the sweat from her brow*) Uuy….