The Voice's eyes narrowed as she glared at the wall and the taunting bull's eye on it she had made with magic marker a few minutes ago. She stood, carefully poised, feeling the firmness of the rubber ball in her hand. Focusing, she took a step back. Abruptly her arm cracked forward and the ball shot against the wall—
—completely missing the bull's eye and ricocheting back around the room. Megavolt yelped as it hit him in the head. Luckily his sparkplug helmet served as some protection, but the super villain still wasn't particularly pleased. "Can't you do that somewhere else?" he asked. The ball rolled against his foot and he picked it up.
"Sorry," said The Voice sheepishly.
"I'm really trying to work here," he said, tossing it up and down in his hand. "It's very hard to concentrate under the constant threat of a head injury." He threw her the ball.
She caught it. "I'm really sorry," she said. "I guess I just don't have anything to do."
"If hitting me in the head is your idea of something to do, then I wish you really didn't," said Megavolt.
The Voice sighed. Since their little escapade at the Opera House the other night, Megavolt had come down with a severe case of Mad Inventor's Syndrome. He had begun with the intent of repairing a broken microwave…and gone on to spend the past forty-eight hours feverishly toiling on his new "baby." As for what "Baby" was going to be, The Voice had no idea. At the moment it looked like a small UFO on wheels.
"When are you going to finish?" she asked abruptly.
"Huh? Oh. Once I find those old chopper parts," he responded vaguely. "Hey, can you pass me that?"
The Voice looked at what he was pointing at (an electric mixer) and picked it up. She went and handed it to him, then wandered over in the direction of the TV. In front of it was a grubby-looking red beanbag that she'd scrounged up the previous evening. It smelled to high heaven but was at least furniture of a sort, into which The Voice now sank. An instant later she was up again with a cry of pain. She picked up the white plastic spork she had just sat on, examined it a moment and then threw it aside, muttering something unprintable.
Seating herself a little more gingerly this time, she looked at the gray screen of the silent television set in front of her, silently contemplating turning it on, but then deciding against it. This, she thought to herself, was one nasty time of day. You couldn't sleep and it was too early to go on a crime spree. And nothing decent on TV, either. She wished she had a comic book she hadn't read already.
"Lord, am I ever bored," The Voice muttered to herself.
"Hoo hoo hoo HOO! IIT'S ***PLAY***TIIIME!" A blur of purple and red bounded into the room and smashed into the television set.
The Voice yelped and fell backwards as she tried to avoid the sparks that showered down on her. The back of her head hit the floor, making her see stars. "Hhh…." she hissed, sitting up and leaning forward.
"Hey, who—?" Startled by the voice coming from overhead, she looked up and, because the intruder was bending over her, accidentally smacked her forehead against his chin. He cried out and staggered backwards a few steps before landing hard on his backside. The Voice brought a hand to her forehead and scrambled awkwardly to her feet.
"Oh great," she heard Megavolt mutter from behind her. "Not again."
"Again?! What is that thing?!" demanded The Voice, backing up till she was standing next to him and staring all the while at the intruder.
"Remember me telling you none of my TV sets lasts for very long? That "thing" is the reason why," said Megavolt, sounding annoyed.
The "reason" had stood now and was awkwardly feeling his chin. He was a duck clad in a harlequin-patterned jester's outfit, complete with a huge, currently lopsided Renaissance collar, which, having found no important injury to the lower portion of his enormous beak, he now adjusted. "Owww…." he said accusingly, giving The Voice a dark look.
Megavolt folded his arms across his chest. "Quackerjack, what do you want?" he asked.
The jester ignored him. "You shouldn't be here. Who are you?" he demanded, pointing at the tall brown avian in the long tan-colored trench coat.
"I'm The Voice," she said, glaring back. Her head was throbbing and she had the feeling she was going to be developing two very large and unpleasant lumps where she had hit it.
Megavolt sighed. "Voice, this is Quackerjack. Quackerjack, The Voice." He turned and went back to fiddling with his invention.
The dark look had left Quackerjack's face when she had said whom she was. Now he looked incredulous. "The Voice? You're The Voice? I thought The Voice was—"
"Yeah, I know, a guy, whatever," she said, walking past him to fall into her beanbag again and nurse her head in her hands.
"Well, yeah, but aside from that," Quackerjack said, following and standing over her.
"Huh?" The Voice blinked up at him.
"Aside from what?"
Quackerjack scratched his head. "Aside from what, what?"
"It's no good trying, Voice, you're not gonna get any more sense out of him than that," Megavolt said as he tinkered with the device he was working on.
Quackerjack turned and stuck his tongue out at Megavolt, then returned his attention to her. "Hey, if you're really The Voice, prove it," he said, sitting on the floor in front of her.
"Prove it?" she said, rubbing her head.
"You know. Do somebody."
Now that just sounded *wrong*. It took her a couple seconds to try and work out what the heck he meant. "Impersonate someone, you mean?"
"Sure," said Quackerjack.
She shrugged. "This is Tom Lockjaw reporting to you LIVE from the Audobon Bay Lighthouse, where authorities have just discovered the secret hideout of—"
"AAACK!" Quackerjack actually looked around for a couple seconds, genuinely spooked, before realizing it was in fact her. "Stop, stop, I'm convinced," he exclaimed, throwing up his hands. Then he looked at her more closely, curious. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
The pain was starting to dissipate somewhat. "Um, I needed a place to hide out from Darkwing Duck. Megavolt's putting me up for awhile."
Quackerjack silently mouthed the word, "Oh." He then sent a knowing glance from her to Megavolt and back again, which neither happened to catch, luckily for him. As it was, he gave a long, high-pitched giggle, making The Voice stare at him oddly. She had a feeling this guy was going to get on her nerves before long.
"Quackerjack." Megavolt, who had been trying to ignore the two of them, gave up and addressed his associate in exasperation. "What do you want?"
In a flash Quackerjack was on his feet and had bounded over to Megavolt. "Oh man, Sparky, you would not believe it but I have the GREATEST idea for a caper…."
"Oh HAPPY day!" Drake all but sang as he washed the dishes.
"Well, you sure sound like you're in a good mood," remarked Gosalyn.
"And why shouldn't I be? I have a lead!" her dad said joyously.
He'd come back the night before last, miserable and perturbed at what he knew all the papers and news channels were going to tout as his latest faux pas. Going after a criminal like The Voice for ages and not even perceiving her correct gender?! Even Gosalyn had been incredulous.
"You mean The Voice was a girl all this time? Geez, Dad, how did you manage to make a mistake like that?!"
"Well, I just assumed he was—I mean, she—"
"You think the only people who can beat you have to be guys? Man. My dad the chauvinist," she had muttered under her breath.
He'd responded in typical Darkwing fashion, stomping around, making short, surly responses to anything anyone said and putting off officially filing his report on what had happened at the Opera House, and his discovery there, with the police until late the next day. By that time he knew the story had spread anyway and if he put it off any further it would be obvious he was hiding something. Going into the St. Canard Police Headquarters that evening, it was all he could do to stand the smirks and sniggers he felt being directed at him. Commissioner Garret had made no effort to contain his amusement at the entire situation.
"Yeah, laugh it up, fat boy," Darkwing had muttered as he stormed out of the station. It was so unfair. After all, the cops had all assumed The Voice, and before that, the Strip-Mall Mall-Stripper, had been a guy as well. And yet it was he, the Terror that flaps, who ended up with egg on his face.
"Yeah, yeah, so he was a she, alright?!" Darkwing growled, trying to push past the young woman he assumed was a reporter.
"Oh, please, Mr. Darkwing, if I could just have a few moments—I think I may have some information for you in connection with The Voice."
He had stopped, turned slowly. "Really?"
"She said her name is Cynthia Barker," Drake told Gosalyn now as he scrubbed at Launchpad's little bowl with the teddy bear design around the rim. "She's a freshman at the University of Saint Canard and she has an internship at the St. Canard Opera House. She was working as one of the House's technical crew the night of the performance. While she was backstage she noticed a girl she recognized as an old classmate from her Theater course in high school." He stopped scrubbing and stared at the bowl. What the heck had his sidekick been eating that was so hard to clean? He wondered if there happened to be any sandpaper lying around….
"The Voice?" asked Gosalyn.
Drake nodded, giving up the bowl as a lost cause and setting it in the dish rack. "Barker was going to go over to talk to her, but before she got the chance the performance began. Of course it was during that time me and The Voice had our confrontation, and that was when Barker realized her old school chum was none other than the nefarious ne'er-do-well."
"Wow," said Gosalyn, looking very impressed.
"Yep yep yep, Darkwing is on top again," said Drake, puffing himself up a little as he turned off the tap.
"No kidding. You were pretty darn lucky to run into a good witness, weren't you?"
Drake deflated slightly. True, it really had only been chance, his finding (or rather, being found by) this lead, but—"She actually tried going to the police when she realized, but they just brushed her off."
"Why didn't you?" Gosalyn asked.
Her father wiped his hands on the dishtowel. "Because she had an excellent little piece of evidence on hand," he said, walking over to the counter and lifting down a large hardbound book, which he held up for Gosalyn to see and tapped meaningfully. "Her high school yearbook."
"It's got The Voice's picture?"
Gosalyn gave a whistle of appreciation that warmed Drake's heart. "That's really cool, Dad. So now what?"
"Well, now I follow up. It was too late to really do anything last night besides make a couple calls. Apparently our vocal villain has a twenty-four year old brother who lives not that far from here. Me and L.P. are going to head over and talk with him, just to get the ID confirmed."
"So, you've probably got a pretty nice day lined up for yourself, huh?"
Drake hadn't missed Gosalyn's sly grin. He raised an eyebrow. "And following that obvious cue, it doesn't look the one you've got ahead is too shabby either. Now why might that possibly be? Hmm…demolishing a small country this afternoon?"
Gosalyn laughed. "Nuh-uh. Assembly."
"Oh right, that little school assembly you've only talked about for the past two weeks." Drake rolled his eyes.
"Yuh-huh. I'm gonna be reading my essay I did for English. On the "Vengeance of the Blood-Sucking Mutated Zoooooombie Slugs From the Planet Ferbilax!"." She rubbed her hands together in gleeful anticipation. "Finally—I'll be able to see that this great cinematic masterpiece is appreciated the way it should be."
"And I'm sure the enthusiasm with which you approach your cause is completely uninspired by any personal love of the spotlight," Drake remarked dryly.
Gosalyn put a hand to her heart and stared at him with wide eyes. "Oh Dad, how can you wrong me so?"
Drake opened his bill but was interrupted by the sound of a knock at the front door. "I'll get it!" came Launchpad's voice. They heard him answer the door. "Hiya, Honk-man."
"Hh, hello, Mr. McQuack. Is, hh, Gosalyn here?"
"Hey Honk, be with ya in a sec!" yelled Gosalyn, abruptly putting her bowl to her bill and guzzling the last of her cereal down, then leaping to her feet. "LaterDadgottagohopeyacatchTheVoiceseeyabye—"
"Now wait just a minute, young lady, if you're going to be speaking in front of a school assembly are you sure you should be wearing—"
Launchpad stood in the doorway. "Uh, who exactly are you talking to, D.W.?"
"'Bye, 'Pad!" As she called out, Gosalyn was already out the front door.
"Oh, just the Gosalyn-shaped blur, L.P.," Drake sighed.
"Come on, you know you wanna."
Megavolt curled his lip in a snarl at Mister Banana Brain's leering grin. "You're always doing this to me. Why can't you just leave me alone?"
"Because you're wrong and I'm right, Dwight."
Quackerjack sighed. "He's not gonna shut up until you say it, Megavolt."
The Voice looked rapidly back and forth between the two of them, then at the puppet in Quackerjack's hand. It was strange enough watching the two insane super villains arguing with each other—when the stuffed fruit started in, that's when she'd really lost track of the conversation. All she could do was stare at its empty plastic eyes and frightening toothy smile-repulsed, and yet at the same strangely fascinated.
"I don't get it," she said at last, completely bewildered. "It's a banana."
"Yeah, and it's gonna be a fried banana in a minute," growled Megavolt, starting to charge up his hands with electricity.
The puppet jeered at him. "Oh yeah, use the threat of violence when you can't think of anything else to say. That just proves it."
"Hah!" said Megavolt, but he lowered his hands.
"Megavolt," The Voice said again in a disbelieving tone, "you're losing an argument to a banana."
"What, do you have something against fruit or something?" the banana in questioned demanded testily as Quackerjack made it turn towards her.
She threw up her hands in a gesture of denial. "No, no, not at all. In fact, I find it…positively scrumptious," she said, looking at the obnoxious puppet meaningfully.
Mister Banana Brain gave a most satisfying squeak. "Eep!"
Quackerjack stuck his inanimate companion behind his back. "Now see what you've done? You've hurt his feelings."
The Voice shrugged and settled back comfortably in her beanbag. "I still won."
"I need to remember that tactic," Megavolt muttered to himself. He shook his head. "Let's get back to what we were talking about before. Uh." He suddenly looked blank. "Wait a sec." He fell silent. Quackerjack and The Voice waited. "Lemme think—"
"Don't hurt yourself," muttered Quackerjack, giggling.
Megavolt glared but let it pass as he remembered his question. "Tell me again—I understand the what and the how, but why are we doing this?"
"Simple, Simon. You get to free all the light bulbs you want, I gain a couple hundred new playmates, and we split any money we get in exchange for the hostages." Quackerjack grinned, rubbing his hands together. "Oh, I am sooo good."
Megavolt nodded. "Fair deal. Ok. I'll take it."
"We each get a third, right?" asked The Voice.
Quackerjack turned to her. "You want in?"
She shrugged. "I'm not sure it's such a great idea—"
"It's the best idea, fatso!" chimed in Mister Banana Brain from behind Quackerjack, peeping over his shoulder.
The Voice gave the puppet a dirty look as she stood up. "—but I don't have anything better to do. Besides." She looked back at Quackerjack a little dubiously. "If you're part of the Fearsome Five and you've fought Darkwing Duck so many times, that means you *are* supposed to be the crème de la crème of St. Canard's villainous underworld. I suppose I could do worse."
"You sure could," agreed Quackerjack.
The Voice couldn't help but wonder, though, exactly how.
Joshua allowed the phone to dangle from his hand a moment while he took a chug of his beer. He then set the can carefully on the counter and ran the back of his hand across his forehead. It came away greasy. The phone had caught him just after the completion of a job in the garage, before he'd had a chance to change. His shirt was plastered to his body with sweat. He didn't mind when he was working, but in the house was a different matter. There, Joshua was a bit of a clean freak.
He stood awkwardly, trying not to give in to the temptation to lean against any surfaces as he put the phone to his ear again. Roger was going off at him about how they were supposed to have met at Alberto's, and blah and blah and blah. Joshua groaned mentally. He was getting a little tired of Roger's thing for pasta. He decided not to say anything about that right now, though. "Look, I'm really sorry, ok? I just have this thing I need to stick around the house for. I did leave a message."
"Yeah, whatever. Creep."
Joshua sighed. He hoped Roger wasn't really annoyed. The guy could be hard to read sometimes when he was in a "mood"—he might be seriously annoyed, but then again, he might not. Then abruptly Joshua's ears perked up. "Listen, I gotta go—I just heard a knock at the front door. That's probably them. Catch you later, alright?"
"Fine." It was kind of a grumble and didn't sound particularly affirmative.
Joshua made up his mind to ignore it. "Good. I'll call you right back, 'kay? You take care." He stayed on just long enough to catch Roger's half-hearted grunt in response, then hung up, glanced down at his dirty T-shirt, made a noise of disgust and went to answer the door.
On the front step, Darkwing knocked again. "Gee, I hope he's here, D.W.," said Launchpad.
"He told me he would be when I phoned yesterday." Darkwing couldn't think of any reason why he wouldn't. The super hero hadn't given his true reason for seeing the guy, or even his identity, over the phone, only made up something about needing to have an engine checked. Apparently The Voice's brother ran a low-key car repairs business in his garage. Speaking of which—"Besides, the garage is open, so he should be here."
As he said this, the door opened. "Hi. Can I help you?"
Darkwing stared up at the large, burly canine with gray fur and short cocked ears who had answered his knock. "Oh, I'm sorry, I must have the wrong address. Do you know if there's a Joshua Quirk living near here?"
"That's me. You the one who called yesterday?"
"Uh, yeah." Darkwing slipped the yearbook he was carrying from under his arm and opened it to the page he had book-marked, then looked from the photo of The Voice to the large canine in front of him. He was sure there must be some mistake, but—"Do you happen to know a young woman by the name of Heron Quirk?" Darkwing turned the yearbook around and held it out, indicating the photo of a rather plain-looking brown-feathered avian female in a pair of glasses.
"Yeah, she's my sister." Joshua glanced from Darkwing to his sidekick, both of whom he had by this point recognized from the news, and said quietly, "I guess there's no engine trouble, huh?"
"Can we come inside?"
"Oh, yeah, I'm sorry." He made way for the two of them, looking a little distracted as he glanced around outside for a second before shutting the door behind him.
Gosalyn clutched her essay closely, darting suspicious glances at anyone who came near as her class marched for the gym. "Hah. I am sooo ready."
"Hh, good luck, Gosalyn."
"Luck? Luck doesn't have anything to do with it, Honk. It's all in the material." She brought the papers up to her bill for a quick kiss and gripped them again to her chest.
"Hey, lemme see that a sec, Gos," sneered Tank, swiping at it.
Gosalyn jumped back, giving Honker's bully of a brother a dirty look. "You better watch it, Tank. Nobody's touching my baby except me." She patted it and cooed gently, "That's right. I won't let anyone hurt you."
"Third grade, over here. Line yourselves up along this wall." The kids lined up where their teacher was indicating and seated themselves, cross-legged. At the last moment she put her hand out, stopping the young red-haired duckling. "Not you, Gosalyn. You're going to be giving the first recital. I do hope that you give it the same…animated delivery you did in class." Her English teacher only barely hid a smile, which Gosalyn was too excited to notice. She held her essay in her hands, alternately crumpling and smoothing the paper as she waited.
"Lemme at 'em, lemme at 'em…" Gosalyn muttered under her voice.
Principal Farnsworth, who was standing at the podium, tapped the mike gently to get every one's attention. When the gym fell silent, she began. "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome. It gives me great pleasure to present to you the works by our very own St. Canard Elementary students that you will be hearing today. Now as you know, our school has been producing fine young people such as those who will be speaking for over forty years now, and providing them with the knowledge and life lessons that will prepare them for higher—"
Gosalyn, even in her current state, couldn't help but snicker to herself at this speech, especially since one of those fine young paragons of elementary school virtue their principal was speaking of, Tank Muddleroot, was currently scratching himself in an interesting place. The kids on either side of him were scooting away, increment by increment. Gosalyn caught Honker's eye and inclined her head towards Tank. Honker looked at his older brother and lowered his face into his hands in despair. Gosalyn's shoulders shook with suppressed laughter.
Everyone began clapping and a startled Gosalyn realized that it was time for her to go up. Getting a tighter grip on her essay, she strode towards the front of the gym.
The principal went on, "Not only is "Vengeance of the Blood-Sucking Mutated Zombie Slugs From the Planet Ferbilax" the most hilarious piece of writing by one of this school's students I have ever read, I think I can be confident in saying that it is one of the funniest comic essays by a person of this age yet written. I hope that you will all agree. Miss Mallard, the floor is yours."
Farnsworth stepped away from the podium and a shell-shocked Gosalyn took her place behind it. She felt her face burning, but her blood was chilled. Numb with horror, she began to speak.
"Either of you want a drink?"
"Uh, no thanks," said Darkwing.
"Got any Koo-Koo Kola?" asked Launchpad.
"Is Diet ok?" Joshua responded, a little nervous, but polite. "Sorry. I don't drink it but I have a friend who does, so I keep a six-pack on hand. Otherwise there's beer or water, if you'd prefer—"
"Diet's fine," Darkwing answered for his sidekick.
There was a green couch located under the window, where Joshua motioned the two of them to take a seat. The super hero did so, scanning his surroundings attentively as Joshua went into the small kitchen. The living room was clean and sparsely furnished, a short bookshelf at either end of the couch and a low coffee table in front. The glassy surface was spotless. Darkwing leaned against the arm at his end of the couch and looked at two pictures resting on the top of the bookcase. The foremost was a photo of a middle-aged avian couple of unknown species. Both bore some resemblance to The Voice, having her pointy yellow beak, brown feathers and glasses: the male was bulky and broad-shouldered while his wife was plump and petite. She had large, pleasant eyes and was smiling. They looked like a nice couple. There was a second gilt-framed picture of Joshua next to a gangly redheaded canine with long thin ears and a sleepy smile.
"One left. Glad you wanted it," said Joshua as he crossed the room to hand Launchpad the can. "Now I know to restock."
"Thanks," said Launchpad.
"Won't you please sit, Mr. Quirk?" asked Darkwing.
"Uh…." Joshua glanced down at the grease stains on his shirt and jeans. "Sorry. I'd rather not sit just now. I was finishing a job in the garage."
"If you'd feel more comfortable changing first. It's only that I'm here to talk to you about your sister."
"Is she in trouble?" Joshua asked.
Darkwing nodded. "You could say so, yes. Have you heard anything on the news recently about a criminal called The Voice?"
He was startled to see that Joshua didn't appear puzzled or shocked. Instead a look of resignation crossed the canine's face. "Yeah. Yeah, I have. Um…." He went quiet for a minute. "I think I'm gonna take that offer and go change quick. I'll be right back down. If that's fine with you," he added in a troubled tone.
"Sure, sure," said Darkwing. He waited until Joshua had turned and headed upstairs before glancing at Launchpad. "Whaddya think?"
"Right now I'm remembering why I hate Diet Koo-Koo Kola," said Launchpad with a shudder, as he started to set the can down with a grimace.
Upstairs, Joshua had closed the door to his bedroom and was leaning against it, breathing deeply. "Oh man, Heron," he said at last quietly, shaking his head. Shedding his grubby outer garments and opened a drawer, he chose a fresh pair of jeans and a cardigan and climbed into them. Scratching his head with a sigh, he headed downstairs again. "Sorry about that," he said, sitting on the edge of the armchair a few yards from the couch.
"No problem," said Darkwing. "Mr. Quirk, what can you tell me about your sister Heron?"
"According to the fliers, the assembly lasts from twelve thirty to two," said Quackerjack. "So the last kids should be in the gym right now. We'll give them a couple minutes so we know no one's wandering around loose in any other parts of the building, then head in."
The Voice glanced around them. The three super villains, with a batch of Quackerjack's novelty teeth, were standing behind St. Canard Elementary, near the doors to the cafeteria, which was empty at present. "Man, I feel kinda weird, attacking my old elementary school."
Quackerjack gasped. "Wow! You used to go to St. Canard Elementary?" He sounded excited.
"Yeah," said The Voice, surprised by his enthusiasm. "You?
Quackerjack grinned at her. "Nope."
"Oh," said The Voice.
He shook Mister Banana Brain at her, who said, "Not a hope, dope.
The jester then put the doll away and looked at the toy watch on his wrist. "'Twelve-forty. Let's go." He pushed in the cafeteria doors, entering the building.
Megavolt followed, with The Voice close behind. As they entered he said, "I did."
"What?" she asked.
"I said I used to go here when I was little."
"Oh. Hey, really? Wow."
"Yeah," said Megavolt.
The Voice shook her head. "Wow. Hey, I didn't know this building was that old."
"Excuse me?" Megavolt stopped so abruptly she almost walked into him and turned towards her, looking offended. "Just how old do you think I am?!"
"Uh…." she said, laughing nervously and backing up a few steps.
"Hey, will you two come on?" called Quackerjack from up ahead. He couldn't really hear what they were talking about, but it was probably something mushy. What a weird development this was: Megavolt getting a girlfriend. And one that didn't require batteries, either. Wow. He'd sure never seen that one coming. "You can make out some other time!" he said.
Quackerjack's voice was muffled as he turned the corner. "What'd he say?" asked Megavolt, scratching his head.
"Something about taking time, I think. I dunno. We'd better catch up."
Blissfully unaware of the jester's conjectures, Megavolt and The Voice went on to join the impatient Quackerjack.
They were laughing their fool heads off at her. Students, janitors—even some of the students were giggling. Those who didn't look completely lost, that is. Gosalyn felt the urge to scream with frustration. What a dirty trick on the part of the English Department! "Vengeance of the Blood-Sucking Mutated Zombie Slugs From the Planet Ferbilax" was not a "comic essay". It was not "a hilarious piece of writing by one of this school's students". It was a detailed and thought-out analysis of one of this century's great cinema classics, right up there with "Voracious Vampire Space Carrots". She wasn't up here to make people laugh but to make them aware!
Only professionalism stopped Gosalyn from taking her essay and flinging it in the faces of her audience. Instead, she tried to imbue her sentences with more passion, more gusto—the rage of a true champion of the arts.
"Gutenbird's magnificent debut is seldom viewed in its proper status as one of the greatest in the B-horror genre," she said, glaring at her listeners over the top of her paper. "Few non-horror buffs have learned to appreciate its unique texture. They point out its flaws in terms of acting, set, and costume design. What they don't realize is that "Blood-Sucking Mutated Zoooooombie Slugs" isn't about tastefulness! True cinematic brilliance isn't to be hindered by the simple question of quality!" She gesticulated wildly as she spoke. The audience only laughed harder. Gosalyn wondered how this could possibly get any worse.
Gosalyn only gaped for a second before she rolled her eyes. Typical. "Yeah, I guess this would be how," she muttered. Folding her arms sullenly across her chest, she watched as Megavolt, Quackerjack and some other villainous-type person made their big-deal dramatic entrance, followed by a number of Quackerjack's novelty teeth.
Megavolt scratched his head. "Uh. Ok, all of you sitting, stay sitting; all of you standing, get sitting."
"Excuse me, pardon me, sorry," said the avian female in the trench coat, politely herding the adults into a line against the wall that faced the third graders. "Yes, thank you. Uh…huh. Right, that's good."
"Hoo hoo hoo hoo! Hey, I told you this would be easy," said Quackerjack. "Hello, playmates!" he exclaimed, grinning maniacally at the children. They cowered away. "Oh, hey, don't be like that. I've got some nice toys with me for all of you!"
"Don't you listen to him, guys! Anyone who plays with his toys should have their head examined. If it isn't blown off first." Gosalyn scowled at him.
"Oh great, it's her," muttered Quackerjack at the sight of the familiar redheaded duckling. "What are you doing here?"
"Hello, genius, could it be because I go to school here?"
Megavolt, who had been watching, muttered, "I always figured she was too much of a delinquent to be going to school."
Quackerjack stuck Mister Banana Brain in Gosalyn's face. "Well, Belle, you could at least have had the decency to play hooky today or something! Now we're going to have to…take "care" of you."
The jester rocked back on his heels and heaved a mock sigh. "I'm afraid my little friend here is right. Hmm. Now what would be excruciatingly long and painful, whilst amusing for the masses?" He tapped his large bill thoughtfully.
Gosalyn folded her arms across her chest. "Oh, I am sooo scared," she said. "Think fast!" She suddenly darted for the right—running right into the third member of the super villain's group. Gosalyn gave an "Oof!" and sat down hard on the floor.
"Ouch! Hey, are you all right, sport? You're gonna bust a tail feather doing that sort of thing." The Voice reached down and took hold of Gosalyn's shoulder, pulling her to her feet. "There we go. Um. You didn't hurt yourself or anything, did you?"
"We can only hope," said Megavolt.
Gosalyn threw off the super villain's hand. "Get bent, bad guy!" She glared up at her suspiciously before her eyes suddenly widened. "Hey, you're that new villain that D—that Darkwing's been fighting. The Voice."
"Yeah, sure, that's me. Wow. You know me?" The Voice asked, flattered.
There was an unholy gleam in Gosalyn's eyes. "Oh, I sure do," she said, grinning, as she drew her foot back and kicked the super villain with all her might in the left shin.
There seemed to be a long pause before the reaction came. The Voice's pupils shrank to stunned pinpricks. The next minute she let out with a high-frequency yowl that made everyone in the room wince, and commenced hopping around on one foot.
Quackerjack sighed. "Oh for goodness' sake, you're doing it all wrong. Here." He grabbed Gosalyn abruptly by the scruff of her shirt and hefted her into the air. "This is the correct method for dealing with pesky interfering brats."
Gosalyn hung, kicking and screaming, from his grip, her limbs peddling in the air furiously as she tried to struggle free. "Let go of me! I'll show ya pesky and interfering!" She swung a fist in vain, spinning with the force as she did so.
"Ow! Ow! She just—ow!" The Voice was yelping as she continued to hop up and down on her left foot, hugging her right knee the whole time.
Megavolt, who was standing by the teachers, shook his head as he watched the fiasco. Then he remembered what he was doing. "Oh, right. Let's see, I guess I'd better ask you to fork over all your cash now." The teachers all looked at each other, seeming amused at his statement. "Well, come on," said Megavolt, the tip of his index finger glowing.
"What cash?" asked one elderly lady.
"Very funny, Miss…." Megavolt blinked at the photo-ID pin she was wearing on her blouse. "Miss Oppenheimer? Hey, I had you for second grade. Remember me?"
The teacher squinted at him. "Elmo? Little Elmo Sputterspark? Well, really, what a surprise. I always wondered what had become of you." She clucked disapprovingly. "Can't say I expected this."
Megavolt grinned cheerfully. "Oookay, trip down memory lane's over. Give me everything you have." She shrugged, putting her hand in her skirt pocket and pulling out a handkerchief and eighty-five cents. "That's it? Alright. You—open that purse." The younger woman next to her did as she was told. A moth flew out. Megavolt deflated a little. "The rest of you?"
A librarian spoke up. "Well, what did you expect? We're teachers. Since when do we have money?" Her fellows laughed in agreement.
Megavolt cursed. "Drat. Stupid low teaching salaries. Come on, where are all our taxes going?"
The teachers, of one accord, jerked their thumbs in the direction of Principal Farnsworth, who looked around for moment before pointing to herself. "Who, me?" she asked, incredulous. "You've got to be joking." There was a sudden irritated surge of electricity along the twin flanges on Megavolt's sparkplug helmet. "But if you want to check, here are the keys to my office!" she amended hastily, fishing them out and tossing them to him. "School safe is behind the portrait of the founder, combination is 698."
Megavolt gave them a little jingle. "Great. Quackerjack—hey, Quackerjack, could you quit beating up the six-year-old for a minute?"
"Beating up?" yelped Quackerjack, who had made the mistake of releasing Gosalyn. She had promptly jumped on his back and was currently pummeling the back of his head as he tried in vain to get her off of him.
"Six-year-old?!" yelled Gosalyn, insulted.
Megavolt sighed. "You're a budding young dogooder, right?" he asked her. "Stop hitting him or I'll fry this teacher." He pointed back at the group of adults without looking at whom he had selected.
"Hmm, that could ruin my grades for the year…then again, they're already pretty bad…." Gosalyn debated to herself out loud. "Oh, fine." She jumped off of Quackerjack. The annoyed jester slapped a set of cuffs on her wrists.
"Ahem," came a voice from behind Megavolt.
"Whoops. Sorry, Miss Oppenheimer," he said sheepishly, lowering his finger. "You know I wouldn't really have done it." Thinking about the A- she'd given him on a science paper once, he added, "Not for long, anyway."
"Hmm," she said, giving him a distrustful look.
Turning to Quackerjack, "You keep an eye on things here. Voice? You're going to the Principal's Office."
"But she started it!" whined the super villain, rubbing her leg where Gosalyn had kicked it.
Megavolt sighed, grabbed The Voice by the arm and started pulling her along after him.
Joshua looked down at his knuckles, which were rubbing the arm of the chair. They were about five minutes into the interview and he was coming along slowly. He wasn't actually an unwilling witness, just a very miserable one. "Heron's not a bad kid. She really isn't. It's just that she's made some bad choices."
"Have you seen her lately?" asked Darkwing.
"Not since I lent her some money when she first left. 'Bout the time I figured she should start running out, I get this anonymous package in my mail, paying me back. Bills in rubber bands. That was when I started getting really concerned. I couldn't think where she'd have gotten the money. And then there was that weird stuff in the paper 'bout this person called The Voice and I started getting my suspicions…."
"How about your parents? Has she been in contact with them recently?"
Joshua looked queasy. "Dad retired this past year and they moved. Really obscure out-of-the-way little place. They don't know a thing about what's going on. They just know what I tell them, and I tell them what I know that will keep them happy. This is gonna kill them."
The Voice was limping. Megavolt glanced at her. "Hey, you shouldn't take it personally. She's part of Darkwing's little fan club, after all."
"But she kicked me!"
"You're a super villain. It's all part of the job description—every great villain has to be kicked by some spunky child protagonist-type at one point or another. The more often, the better."
"Yeah? Well, I think I'm gonna bruise," said The Voice ruefully. "So now what are we doing?"
"We're getting the cash from the school safe."
"What'd you need me for, then? I mean, you can do that on your own, and shouldn't there be at least two people watching the gym? A second person who is, ahem, NOT Quackerjack?" She grinned.
"Um, Quackerjack can handle it," said Megavolt evasively. A little too casually, he went on, "You, um, heard the principal give the combination, right?"
"Sure. Course, I was in the throes of agony at the time…." She frowned in memory, then her face lightened as she looked at some stairs they were passing. "Oh, hey, look, they never painted over that stupid dancing cucumber. Major cool!"
"Yeah? But you heard what the combination was, right?"
"Wish they could've gotten rid of that darn onion, though. Um…." The Voice blinked. She gave him an odd look but answered, "698, I think. Right?"
"Yeah, right, of course," said Megavolt quickly. "I was just checking that you heard her."
"Uh huh." She examined his face closely. "Uh, it's in the principal's office, right?"
"So…didn't we just pass the principal's office?"
Megavolt came to a comical dead halt. "Right. Let's back that up, shall we?" He turned around and she did so as well. "Third door down?"
"The fourth one."
"Right." He started towards it.
"On the LEFT side."
"Gotcha," he said, changing direction without even a pause.
The Voice shook her head as she followed him. "I'm starting to see why you wanted me to come with you," she muttered to herself. He'd probably never have been able to find it on his own….
Megavolt stopped beside the door and began fiddling with the keys for a moment before finding the right one, which he slipped into the keyhole. He jiggled it around for a few moments. The lock failed to turn. Finally growing exasperated, he threw the keys on the ground, took a step back and zapped the lock until it exploded, booted the door open with his foot and headed into the room.
As he scanned the place he started to open his mouth. "Behind the portrait of the founder," said The Voice before he could say anything. They were both looking at the same large picture of the authoritarian-looking mustachioed dog person. The background of the portrait was a gaudy and inexplicable red, and lent an air of menace to the picture. "Doubtless a work that has struck fear in the hearts of many erring young souls," she remarked in a very familiar voice.
"Thank you, "Darkwing"," said Megavolt sardonically, not taking his eyes off the portrait. He had become enough accustomed to The Voice's impersonations that he no longer jumped when she came out with them. Not every time, anyway.
"That's pretty big…not to mention all that fake gold crud on the frame has gotta weigh a ton," The Voice mused thoughtfully.
"Yeah." He took one corner and she took the other. Together they maneuvered it down to lay on the large desk. The door to the safe was built into the wall behind it.
The Voice stepped towards it and leaned against the wall, turning the dial. Megavolt watched as the door to the safe swung open and she started lifting out documents. Reaching into the far back, she pulled out a number of plastic zip-loc baggies with hundred dollar bills in them. She tossed him one. "Voila."
"Mercy buckets," he replied, opening the baggie and starting to count out the money.
"Eeyew." She shook her head as an expression of pain crossed her face.
"So sue me. I never took French."
"What did you take?" The Voice asked, opening one bag with a pop.
"Calculus, Computer Science, Physics…."
"All the nerdy subjects." She smiled to show she was joking as she flipped through a wad of bills.
Megavolt wasn't offended, only mildly amused. "Nerdy? Ok, so what were you, smart-aleck?"
"Uh, Art, English, Theater…."
"That's nerdy," he said.
"No, that's freakish." She lifted her head and began reciting, in a Valley Girl-type accent, "Freaks are, like, yer average volatile creative types, y'know? whereas nerds are, like, yer average mathematically and scientifically gifted geniuses. You've gotta get with contemporary teen lingo, dude."
Megavolt shook his head. "Not at this point, thank you very much. I didn't particularly like my teens. Every year that passes puts them that much further behind."
"Well, that was, like, disgustingly poetic." She dropped the accent and used her normal voice. "How much you got?"
"'Bout thirty-four hundred so far." He tapped his pile of cash and looked at her questioningly.
"Twenty-eight," The Voice said in response. "And that's just two of these bags. Let's try and put it all together in one big one here—make it easier if we're keeping it together in one place." She glanced over, picked up the dustbin next to the principal's desk and dumped out the contents before pulling out the plastic liner. As she began pushing cash into the bag, The Voice was surprised and gratified at the amount of money they were ending up with. "Ok, so maybe this wasn't such a bad idea. I guess I wasn't expecting a big take. With this much, you'd think they could afford better food in the cafeteria."
"Cafeteria food has to be foul. It's the rule." Megavolt shrugged.
"Yeah? I'm also wondering if the principal hasn't been saving herself a little something on the side. Either way, this is a decent amount of cash. Quackerjack isn't as crazy as he seems."
Megavolt gave her a look. "Oh, I assure you, he is. You think he cares less about whether we get a good take?" He hopped up on the desk and stood up to unscrew the light bulb in the ceiling.
The Voice shielded her eyes against the sudden blaze as blue incandescent electricity sizzled along Megavolt's body, and his skeleton flashed a couple times through his skin. The lighting in the room dimmed briefly. The Voice waited a moment or so for the high-pitched screaming to stop. Finally he let go of the bulb and stood there, charred and blackened and slightly smoldering.
Megavolt coughed. "Ow."
"That looked pretty painful," remarked The Voice.
"Yeah. Next time, remind me to go hit the off-switch first."
"Sure thing. So how's that, then? I mean, about Quackerjack."
Megavolt dropped down to a squatting position, resting his elbows on his knees as he rocked back and forth on his heels. He was matter-of-fact. "Quackerjack's in it for the fun. Plain and simple. He enjoys toys and chaos, and this is just one more way to get them. Money's nice, but only as a means for more toys and more chaos. He'll be glad to get the money, but just getting to halt the educational process for a time and produce havoc will make the day worthwhile. You see? Totally loony tunes."
"Oh. So. Then. Well, why did you agree to come with him?"
"To free the light bulbs, of course."
"Oh yeahhh," said The Voice thoughtfully. "I should have remembered that."
"And what about you?" asked Megavolt. He really was curious. In the time she'd been living at the Lighthouse The Voice hadn't offered much about who she was and where she came from (that he could remember, anyway.) The whole origin thing. Most super villains had an origin. Why had The Voice been plaguing plazas and strip malls when he met her, and why had she been so quick to follow on his proposition? What was the deal?
"Me?" A slightly furtive look came into her eyes. "Just because, I guess. Nothing else to do."
The Voice looked down at the plastic baggie in her hands. "I don't wanna lose count," she muttered.
Megavolt wasn't always the brightest bulb when it came to dealing with other people, but this particular hint was pretty unmistakable. Together, they went back to counting the cash in silence.
Darkwing nodded stood up. "Thanks for your cooperation, Mr. Quirk. You've been a lot of help." He had indeed. Now Darkwing had some more idea of just what he was dealing with. The background information Joshua had given him provided some important insight into the psyche of Heron Quirk. Darkwing had the feeling this insight was going to prove invaluable the next time he confronted her criminal alter ego.
"Can you give me any news if something comes up?" Joshua looked desperate. "Will you be talking to anyone besides me?"
Darkwing cocked his head. "I'd say I've found out all I need to know. Why do you ask?"
"It's only that I want to know how much time I have. If I'm going to break it to my folks…you know," he trailed off awkwardly. "I want to do it gently."
The super hero shook his head as he got up and headed for the door. "You may want to be quick about it. I expect it to be in the papers first thing tomorrow morning. Goodbye, Mr. Quirk."
"You'll let me know if anything comes up?"
Darkwing opened the door and glanced back. "If anything does, you'll probably be reading about it soon."
The gray canine turned slightly green. "Oh man."
Darkwing and Launchpad headed down the front steps, just as a loud beeping sounded from Darkwing's motorcycle. "It's the Ratcatcher's mini-computer! There must be some sort of crime in progress!" exclaimed Darkwing as he and Launchpad hurried towards the vehicle. He jumped into the seat and began scrutinizing the console in front of him. "Wait a minute….That looks like—Good God! St. Canard Elementary? That's Gosalyn's school!"
"Uh oh. We'd better hurry, D.W.," said Launchpad, settling into the sidecar of the motorcycle and fastening his seatbelt.
"You aren't kidding, Launchpad." Darkwing scowled and revved the engine menacingly. "Let's get dangerous!"
As the Ratcatcher burned rubber down the street, a green car pulled up to the curb in front of Joshua Quirk's house. A gangly redheaded canine got out of the car, slamming the back door behind him. He glanced down the street at the trail of exhaust Darkwing had left in his wake, then headed up the front steps of the house and knocked on the door.
"Uh, who's there?" came a troubled voice from inside.
"You know darn well who it is, Josh!" He wasn't so much mad as he was curious. "So who was that pulling away just now? That wouldn't happen to be the reason you stood me up today, would it?" The door opened and the redhead looked startled as he caught sight of the other canine. "Man, you look like heck. What's wrong?"
Wordlessly Joshua grabbed Roger and yanked him into the house.
"Oh yay, it's the police!" exclaimed Quackerjack delightedly as he looked out a window. "Let's see how many. One cop car, two cop cars, three cop cars…."
Gosalyn was leaning against the wall next to him, bored. After Megavolt and The Voice had left the gym, Quackerjack had posted his novelty teeth at all the exits. Then he'd had a little fun making scary faces at some of the littler children. Once they started to cry he'd abruptly reverse tactics and offer them a teddy bear or rubber ducky to comfort them. As soon as he'd moved on, Gosalyn would take the toys from the kids and surreptitiously throw them over the hopping, snapping teeth and out into the hallway where they wouldn't harm anyone.
When Quackerjack had gotten bored he'd also gotten suspicious and told her to stick around where he could see her. Near where he was standing at the window, Gos figured, was as good a place as any. It allowed her to watch the street and check for Darkwing's arrival, which she was sure would be soon. As she leaned against the wall, to pass the time Gosalyn absently slipped one hand in and out of the cuffs Quackerjack had put on her earlier. Stupid super villains. They could never get the cuff size right. Allowing one empty cuff to dangle from her right wrist, she swung it in a circle idly.
"Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three. Wow, twenty-three." Quackerjack looked at her smugly. "That breaks the record. Last time me and Megs had hostages, we got nineteen cop cars."
Gosalyn put her hand back in the cuff quick, but he didn't seem to have noticed. She rolled her eyes. "That's nothing. Ever get a tank?"
Quackerjack was impressed. "No, not that I remember. Outside of the National Guard, but that was with Negaduck. You got a tank once?"
She grinned. "Heck no, I'm a nine-year-old, not a super villain! What am I gonna do that warrants a tank?"
"Oh…." He stuck his tongue out at her. "You shut up and keep those cuffs on. Hey, look, twenty-four!"
Drat, he'd noticed. Gosalyn gave the cuff on her left wrist a ninety-degree turn and scowled. Then she happened to glance at Honker, where he was sitting with the other kids. The young gosling had taken off his glasses and was holding them up, reflecting flashes of light off of one lens. Gosalyn quickly recognized the pattern of flashes as Morse Code. She nodded to him in acknowledgement, then turned to Quackerjack. "Hey, I'm gonna go sit by my friends. It's boring here."
He shrugged, still looking at the window. "Do what you want. But please, none of that escaping stuff. It's really annoying."
"Whatever you say, Quacky," Gosalyn said sweetly. She headed for where Honker was sitting.
He put his glasses back on. "Did you get my message?" he whispered.
"Sure did. Sprouts and tomato on wheat bread. Thanks, but I'm not interested. Dad actually put a brownie in my lunch today."
Honker smacked his forehead. "No, Gosalyn! The message was, I think I may know a way out."
"Really? Keen gear, Honk, that's great! How d'ya figure?"
"Hh, if my calculations are correct, there should be a ventilation shaft right over there."
Gosalyn glanced where he was pointing, then gave him a puzzled look. "What do calculations have to do with it? I can see the grate in the wall."
"Yes…." Honker actually looked sheepish.
"That's not much help."
"No, Gosalyn, listen! Quackerjack's teeth are guarding all the entrances, but they don't know about that air vent. If we can get that grate unfastened somehow, we'll, hh, have a way out that nobody knows about."
Gosalyn looked thoughtful. "Hey yeah! Then if someone could make a distraction or something, we'd be able to sneak people out of here. But how are we going to get it unfastened?" she mused, looking at the grate.
"I could probably do it," said someone gruffly. Gosalyn looked over to see Tank, who was sitting on a young pig boy with braces. The smaller kid was struggling. Tank scrunched down on him viciously. "Hey, knock it off, Shrimp, I'm trying to talk to Gos."
"Hmm. Do you have something you could use to open it?" Gosalyn asked him.
"Hey, if I can break into Mom and Dad's car I'm sure I can break into that thing," said Tank dismissively.
"Alright! Honk, I lied to Quackerjack—I do have a Tank!" She grinned and turned back to the older gosling. "Listen, try and get over there without drawing any attention to yourself. You're big enough—if you just sit in front of that grate-thing you can hide it with your body. Can you open it behind your back?"
"Oh sheesh. Give me a real challenge," Tank scoffed as he got off his victim, who gasped as the air reentered his lungs.
"Great! High four, man!"
"This'll be cool," said Tank as they exchanged the gesture. "Anything that involves damaging school property…." He chuckled as he started to inch cautiously in the direction of the grate.
"I'm gonna go and keep Quackerjack from noticing Tank," said Gosalyn to Honker. "Give me a cue when it looks like he's done." She put her cuffed hands behind her head casually and walked over to the insane toy maker. "Wow, twenty-seven cop cars!" she said.
"Nuh-uh. See? Here comes another one," Quackerjack replied enthusiastically. He held out Mister Banana Brain.
"That'll make it twenty-eight, Kate!" exclaimed the doll.
Gosalyn rolled her eyes. She had the feeling this was going to be long and painful….
The Voice was singing as she and Megavolt left the principal's office. "'We're in the money! We're in the money!'"
He joined in: "'We've got a lot of what it takes to get along!'"
They both laughed.
"Wow. This is pretty cool. That's the first time I was ever in the principal's office for a good reason," The Voice remarked. "Er, loose definition of the word "good", I suppose."
"You went there a lot?" asked Megavolt.
She held up two fingers. "Once here, once in high school."
"Made Stanley Fowls squirt glue out of his nose in fourth grade."
Megavolt burst out laughing. "What?!"
"He was messing around showing off to Cynthia Barker and I made a funny noise at the wrong moment. Or should I say, the right one." She snickered.
"And the second time?"
"Oh." The Voice's face darkened a little, remembering. "Junior year. Force-fed Danny "Jerk-face" Kohen an eraser." She frowned.
Megavolt blinked. "Who's Danny "Jerk-face" Kohen?"
"Ah, just a guy. You know—he used to make fun of me. Elementary, junior high, high school: he defined my scholastic existence. He was there all through it. Elementary school-'You're so fat, Heron!'" she said in a snotty child's voice. "Junior high-" In a deeper, husky male voice: "Her-o-in! Her-o-in!" She shrugged, misinterpreting the expression on Megavolt's face. "I know, he wasn't very creative."
"I guess not," said Megavolt. Actually he was noticing the name. Heron. Was that The Voice's real name? This was the first time she'd ever mentioned it. Megavolt figured he'd store it away for future reference, but he knew he was probably just going to forget. He wondered if she actually had told him it before and he had already forgotten it then. The thought made him feel kind of bad for some reason. "So why did you wait until your junior year to get back at him?"
The Voice shrugged. "Didn't matter when he was just making fun of me. But then one day he made this crack about my brother. I kinda took exception to it." She looked at him. "So what did you go to the principal's office for?"
"Nothing. I never did anything wrong."
The Voice stared. "You're joking."
Megavolt looked at the ground. "Well, I did go a couple times for other stuff."
"Spelling Bee. I was the school rep. And a couple Science Fair awards."
The Voice stared at him. Then she started laughing. "You goody-two-shoes!"
Megavolt couldn't help it. He laughed as well. Then they both started singing again: "We're in the money! The sky is sunny! Let's mend it, spend it, send it rolling a-"
"Hey, what are those?" The Voice broke off. There was a small pile of toys outside the entrance to the gym.
Megavolt shrugged. "They look like a bunch of Quackerjack's exploding pandas to me."
"Wonder what they're doing out here in the hallway?"
"Beats me. Move it, Fido." He shooed at two of Quackerjack's novelty teeth. They hopped aside, snapping a little in disappointment. "Hey Quackerjack, we got the cash!"
"Well, we've also got company," said Quackerjack from the window. "What's the number now?"
"Thirty-one," said the bored redheaded duckling in the handcuffs next to him.
"Thanks. Thirty-one cop cars!" said the toy maker.
"Piece of cake." Megavolt said dismissively.
"Yeah right. You're forgetting Darkwing Duck," said Gosalyn. "When he gets here you guys are gonna be in some serious trouble."
The Voice looked at the girl warily and stepped behind Megavolt. She wasn't about to have her shin kicked again.
"Hah! Darkwing Duck. I snort, chuckle and guffaw. Plus a little titter for emphasis." Megavolt gave a mad giggle.
"Yeah!" said Quackerjack. "You think me, Megs and Fatty here can't take him out?"
"Thanks, Quackerjack," said The Voice, looking like she was going to punch him.
Just then there were a number of loud explosions in the hallway. Everyone—the three super villains, the teachers and the students—gave a jerk of surprise and looked towards the entrance where the sound had come from. The novelty teeth guarding it were hopping around in a particularly agitated fashion. "What was that?" exclaimed Quackerjack.
"Your exploding pandas. Something must have triggered them," said The Voice.
"Oh, is that why you had them out there, for an alarm? Neat idea," said Megavolt.
Quackerjack looked puzzled. "But—I didn't…or at least I don't think I did…."
"Wait a minute, guys, if something triggered them—" The Voice began.
A cloud of purple smoke filled the entrance. "I am the Terror…that Flaps in the Night!" It was a loud, clear proclamation, but then a series of coughs ruined the impressive effect. "I am the (hack, wheeze) pesky tick you can't (gasp) singe off—sputter, cough…." As the smoke dissipated a sooty Darkwing was revealed, doubled over coughing.
"Whoops…maybe I shouldn't have left Quackerjack's toys in the hallway…." muttered Gosalyn. She glanced over at Honker, who waved his hand at her and pointed to Tank. The older Muddlefoot boy nodded and stepped aside to show the open mouth of the air vent behind him. Gosalyn looked back at the three super villains, who were staring at Darkwing. "Well, I did say when we get a distraction…" she murmured to herself. Cheerfully shedding the handcuffs, she stole away to join Honker.
"I am…" Darkwing went on, then broke off again, coughing. "…sounding like an anti-smoking commercial." He sneezed, brushed the soot off his costume and straightened. "But I am also…Darkwiiiiiing Duck!" He struck a pose. "Your mischievous misdeeds will never pan out, you nefarious ne'er-do-wells. I'm nullifying your noxious naughtiness!"
"Noxious naughtiness…?" said The Voice.
"Oh yeah? Well, take a bite out of this, Darkwing Chew-Toy! Attack!" Quackerjack yelled.
The novelty teeth near the entrance, temporarily stunned by the super hero's sudden appearance, now hopped towards Darkwing. He just stood there and snapped his fingers. Suddenly a large bone sailed over his head and landed in the room between him and the teeth. They promptly started gnawing on the bone—and became stuck to it.
"Wow, D.W.! Coating that bone with super glue worked great," said Launchpad as he joined Darkwing in the entrance.
"Yep yep yep…not a bad idea if I do say so myself," agreed Darkwing.
Quackerjack was throwing a fit, jumping up and down and shaking his fists at the unfortunate teeth that were glued to the bone. "How many times do I have to tell you? No snacking between meals! Oooh!" He put his fingers in his mouth and whistled.
The other teeth in the room all bounced over to attack the crime-fighting duo. "Ah ah ah," said Darkwing, shaking his finger at them. "Naughty naughty, haven't been brushing!" Seemingly from nowhere he pulled out a dentist's drill. The other novelty teeth rapidly turned tail and began hopping the other way.
"Cowards! Wimps!" yelled Quackerjack after the retreating dental-wear, pulling at the tassels of his cap in frustration.
Megavolt poked the enraged toy maker's shoulder. "Allow me." He turned a feral grin on Darkwing as he charged up his gloves. "Prepare to feel the burn, hero!"
Darkwing had to duck fast to avoid the zap of electricity. Megavolt laughed maniacally as he aimed at Darkwing's feet, making the superhero dance rapidly to avoid being hit. Darkwing didn't appear concerned, though. Instead, he began freezing in elegant poses as the volts passed by on either side. Holding out his arms, he started to go into a pirouette.
Megavolt paused for a moment, blinking in puzzlement. "Huh? What is this, a rehearsal for "Duck Lake"? Oh well." He shrugged, then leveled his blazing gloves once more on the hero. "Enjoy yourself, Dipwing! Because this is the last time I'm letting you dance around the issue!"
Launchpad, who was standing behind the twirling Darkwing, winced. "Whoa…bad pun there, Megavolt," he said, shaking his head. He jumped to the side, narrowly avoiding getting zapped as Megavolt began releasing volt after volt towards Darkwing.
The spinning superhero, however, twirled out of the way of each volt and spun increasingly closer to his electrical nemesis. Megavolt noticed what was happening too late. "Uh oh…."
"ShpudwaHOING!" cried Darkwing as he broke out of the pirouette and leapt towards Megavolt in a flying Double-Patented Web Kick. Megavolt cowered, foreseeing doom.
Suddenly, in midair, something grabbed Darkwing by the leg. He squawked in startled indignation as his flight was interrupted. "Hey!" he exclaimed, swinging ignominiously from The Voice's grip. "What do you—hey! Hey, put me down!"
"No problem," she said, letting go. Darkwing flailed for a frantic second before he fell and landed on his head, seeing stars.
"D.W.!" exclaimed Launchpad, running forward. Quackerjack, whistling innocently, stuck out his foot. The pilot tripped and went flying. He hit Darkwing with an "Oomph!"
"Ow! Launchpad!" said Darkwing, shaking his head to clear it as he pushed the sidekick away. "Can't you even run without crashing?"
"Sosh…dorry, GW," Launchpad slurred dizzily.
"Aw wook. Widdle duckies faw down, go boom." Darkwing froze and lifted his face to see The Voice, who was grinning. As he looked, she, Megavolt and Quackerjack burst out laughing.
Darkwing gritted his teeth. Then he grinned as well. "So how's it going…Quirk."
The Voice froze.
"I mean, the whole super villain-thing. Seems like a pretty sweet career move to me. Considering what a loser you were before…Heron."
Megavolt and Quackerjack's laughter had trailed off as they noticed how silent The Voice had gotten. Her face had gone completely blank.
"Oh." Darkwing put a hand to his bill in mock horror. "Perhaps I shouldn't have brought up your great failure."
How does he know?
"The anguish that ails you."
That horrible moment.
"The dire degradation that dogs your days."
After I tried, and I tried, and I tried….
Her fingers began to flex. A high keen was building in the back of her throat.
Quackerjack looked back and forth between Darkwing and The Voice, confused. "What's happening?" he asked Megavolt. "What's up with her?"
Megavolt just stared at The Voice. "I think…I think she's having a…flashback."
Quackerjack gasped in disbelieving horror. "A flashback? Oh no, not that!" Whether you were a super villain or a super hero, few things posed a greater threat to your very being than-
"Yes!" exclaimed Darkwing. "A flashback!"
Sorting through the mail in breathless anticipation. The business envelope with the address and the official type. "Ms. Heron Quirk, we regret to inform you—"
A sudden inhuman howl burst from her throat with the force of a Pacific gale. Everyone put their hands over their non-existent ears as bulbs burst, windows shattered, and shards of glass flew through the room. Outside, the blood of police and basically anyone else within hearing range turned to ice at the enormity of the sound. Inside, Megavolt was the first to come to his senses. He jumped for The Voice and slapped a gloved hand over her beak. The terrible shriek choked off in her throat. Her pupils were completely dilated, black holes of anguish.
"What?!" said Megavolt, taking his hand away from her beak. "What?! What happened that was so terrible?!"
The Voice didn't answer. She appeared to be in some sort of shock.
"The college she wanted rejected her," said Darkwing.
There was a pause.
"That is the most under-whelming origin story I've ever heard in my life," said Quackerjack flatly.
Darkwing glared at him. "Scoff if you like, Quackerjack, but it matters plenty to our friend Heron here."
"That's all? That's what the big bad flashback was about? She's upset because some college turned her down?"
"And not just any college. The University of St. Canard. Re-jected." Darkwing examined his nails casually.
"But that's stupid. That's not really what you're so upset about, is it?" Quackerjack asked, turning to The Voice.
She was just staring straight ahead of her, unseeing. "It's not fair. I shaped up. I pulled my grades together. Community involvement. Extra credit. 3.4 GPA. It's not fair."
Megavolt grabbed her shoulder. "Heron…uh, I mean Voice. Snap out of it. Quackerjack's right. It's not that big a deal. So you didn't get into the college you wanted. Look at what you did get. Want money? You can go ahead and take it. Innocent bystanders run from you in fear. And there are tons of people who haven't gone college. I didn't." He laughed nervously.
"Yeah, me either!" an excited Quackerjack joined in. "And look how I turned out! Huh? Huh?"
The Voice's eyes slowly refocused. She stared: first at the goofy-looking duck in the clown suit with the banana-headed companion; and then at her roommate—the rat/dog/weasel-creature in the yellow rubber jumpsuit who talked to light bulbs.
The Voice began bawling her head off.
Quackerjack blinked. "Oh well. I did my best," he said, shrugging. Then he turned to Darkwing. "Hey, you may have reduced our pal The Voice here to a puddle of traumatized, psychologically distraught goo, but we still have hostages!"
Darkwing rolled his eyes. "Take a look around you, Quacky. I'd say you're about all hostaged-out."
Quackerjack and Megavolt looked around in a panic, suddenly realizing that they, an emotional Voice (who was sitting on the floor now) and the two crime fighters were the only ones left in the gym. During the battle, Gosalyn, Honker and Tank had already evacuated teachers, students, janitors et al via the ventilation system.
"D'oh!" exclaimed Megavolt.
"Oh man…we're sitting ducks!" groaned Quackerjack. He looked at Megavolt and The Voice, who definitely weren't ducks, and corrected himself: "Well, sorta."
"The irony is delicious, isn't it?" commented Darkwing smugly.
Suddenly Megavolt scowled. He stepped in front of Darkwing. The hero backed up as he noticed the electricity charging along Megavolt's gloves. Instead, the villain surprised everyone by planting his hands on his hips. "Ooooooh! Darkwing Duck, you, you-That was a really mean thing to do!"
"Wha'?" Darkwing blinked.
"Don't you give me that! You know exactly what I mean!" Megavolt pointed at the sobbing Voice. "Picking on somebody like that. And you call yourself a hero. You Quisling!"
"Huh?" Darkwing was looking a bit uncomfortable. As Megavolt stepped forward, he stepped back.
"Without exception the most disgusting display of perverse sadistic psychological torment—" Megavolt was ranting.
Darkwing put up his hands. "Hey hey hey, wait a minute—"
"Yeah!" exclaimed Quackerjack. "Ya big bully, you!" He stuck out his tongue.
"You don't even realize, do you? If anyone could fully understand what you've just done, it should be Drake the Dweeb," finished Megavolt.
The hero stared at him, shocked at Megavolt's use of Drake Mallard's old nickname. Then the lower half of Darkwing's bill began to tremble a little as he remembered images of cruelty from the past.
Having his beak tweaked.
Being tripped in the hallway.
Guys bullying him with impunity. Contemptuous girls making fun of him.
"When I grow up I'm gonna protect people and fight bad guys. I'm gonna be a super hero!"
"Hah! You mean super dweeb!"
Sudden shame filled his being. "I'm sorry," he said to Megavolt.
"Why don't you tell her that?" the villain sniffed darkly, pointing at The Voice.
"BOOO-HOOO, HOOO, HOOO…BOOO-HOOO—" she sat on the floor, wailing.
Darkwing gulped. He looked at Megavolt, who was glaring, at Quackerjack, who was making faces at him, and at Launchpad, who shrugged, appearing almost as embarrassed by the whole situation as Darkwing was. Darkwing took in a deep breath, let it out again and walked over to The Voice. He fumbled in the pocket of his costume for a Kleenex and held it down to her. "Here."
The Voice's heart (and ear) –rending sounds gradually broke off. Sniffling, she accepted the Kleenex. "Thank you," she said, the words somewhat muffled.
"Look, I'm sorry. And, uh—" He looked over his shoulder at Megavolt.
"And I'll try to make it up to you," prompted an impatient Megavolt.
Darkwing turned back to The Voice. "We'll see if we can't work something out," he said awkwardly. "Maybe, if you come willingly, I'll see if I can talk to the police. Try and get you a life sentence. Er, I mean light sentence…." He laughed nervously, searching for something else to say. "There there."
"Well…I guess there is something…." The Voice said in a dubious way. "But—I, um—" She looked over awkwardly in the direction of Megavolt and Quackerjack. Quackerjack started whistling and Megavolt looked up as if he had just noticed something interesting on the gymnasium ceiling.
Darkwing, seeing how embarrassed she looked, beckoned for Launchpad to join him. "Yes? There is something?"
"Well…" she said, "um…I'm not sure I wanna say…." she trailed off in a small voice. Hero and his sidekick both leaned in closer, trying to hear.
The Voice conked their heads together.
They crumpled to the floor. Pushing the unconscious Darkwing and Launchpad aside, The Voice stood up and dusted herself off. "Heh. Guess the old saying's true. Two heads are better than one."
Quackerjack let out a war-whoop. "Alright! Heron Quirk, Voice, whatever your name is, you are a genius!"
"And that's the truth, Ruth!" exclaimed Mister Banana Brain.
"Well, it doesn't look like they're gonna bother us for a while," The Voice said, glancing down at the two ducks. "But we're still surrounded by thirty-one cop cars."
"Thirty-three," Megavolt corrected her, looking out the window. He looked over at Quackerjack in sudden realization. "Hey, that beats our record!"
"Duh. Ya think?" said the toy maker, shaking his head.
Megavolt looked thoughtful. "We've got to find a way out of here that doesn't involve going outside."
"Oh man, I wish I'd brought Bobo the Clown with me," said Quackerjack, rubbing his hands together. "Then we could explode our way out! It'd be fun!"
The Voice looked at him skeptically. "Uh, yeah. Fun. Right." She looked around the gym and sighed. "Man. This sucks. I don't know why I'm here. I hate this room. I always hated it 'cause I could never do the exercises the gym teacher had us do. In fact, I hate this whole school. Can you believe it? Six years. Six whole years, and when I finished elementary school I swore to myself that I'd never come back. And now look. I'm a super villain, surrounded by half the St. Canard Police Force, trapped in the school I hate." She shook her head. "I've died and gone to Purgatory."
"Yeah. This school sucks," agreed Megavolt.
Suddenly The Voice frowned. "Wait a minute. Hey, wait a minute! This school sucks!"
"Well, I'll agree that I don't really wanna be in it anymore—" Quackerjack began.
"No. I mean, this school really sucks. Megavolt, do you remember what it was like when you used to go here? You know? The plumbing system was really messed up? And like, for me, when I was here, we were always getting a day off because the boiler was broken or something?"
Megavolt reached under his plug helmet and scratched his head. "Yeah, that happened to us too. So?"
"In fact I was down in the boiler room one time," The Voice said rapidly. "In the basement. It was recess and I was hiding from Danny Kohen behind the boiler. And I think there was a manhole cover down there. Maybe, if we go down there, we can hop down into the sewer or something and get out of here that way!"
"Hey, that could work!" said Quackerjack. He glanced at Darkwing. "But we'd better do it fast. Sleeping Beauty over there may be waking up soon."
"Yeah, you're right. Not to mention the police should be barging in here any minute now," said Megavolt.
The Voice nodded. "Come on, follow me. I think I remember a door to the basement near here."
They headed out of the gym. As they did, Megavolt heaved a sigh. "Sewers. Disgusting. Wet. Sewers." He shuddered. "This is not going to be fun."
A few minutes after they had left, Launchpad began to stir. He sat up slowly, groaning and rubbing his head. "Ow…man, I feel like someone dropped a house on me, D.W. Uh, D.W.?" He glanced down at his friend. "D.W.!"
"Stop yelling, Launchpad, my head hurts," complained Darkwing as he returned to consciousness. "Owww…my head…." he said, sitting up.
"Do you remember what happened? It was all so fast, I didn't even know what hit me."
Darkwing scowled as he rubbed his head. He could feel a lump forming there. "Oh, I remember alright. The Voice. That's the last time I ever pay attention to the psychological neediness of a super villain, L.P. Man, she laid it on worse than Reginald Bushroot."
"Well, she's called "The Voice" for a reason."
"Heck of a super power!" mocked Darkwing. "The ability to whine your enemy into submission." He shook his head. "And I fell for it."
"Well, it could be worse," said Launchpad.
Darkwing folded his arms across his chest and glared at his sidekick. "How? How, Launchpad? I ask you, how could it possibly be worse?"
"FREEZE, POLICE! DON'T MOVE!" A number of cops burst into the room just then and trained their guns on the two ducks. The one in the middle was the last to lower his weapon. "Well well well, if it isn't our favorite vigilante, Darkwing Duck. So how did you screw up this time."
Darkwing had lain back on the ground again and covered his face with his hat. "Let me guess. It's the bane of my existence, Officer Mel," his voice came from under the hat, slightly muffled.
"Having a little slumber party, duck? Oh man, the chief is gonna laugh his head off when he hears about this."
There were other voices in the hallway. A number of reporters entered the room. As cameras began to flash, Darkwing sighed and pulled the hat down tighter across his face.
"Hey look, Dad, they got your good side!" said Gosalyn, pointing at the TV screen that evening.
"Heylookdadtheygotyourgoodside," Drake mimicked her irritably. He hunched back against the couch and glared at the screen. "I hate the news."
"Funny," remarked Gosalyn, "since you're always talking about how if I'd just watch the news I'd learn something."
"I don't want you to learn that your father is a complete goofball," said Drake.
Gosalyn smiled up at him. "Aw, Dad. I didn't learn that from the news…."
"—refuses to make any comment aside from the fact that he fought the three super villains but was unable to successfully apprehend them. They were Quackerjack, Megavolt and that new voice in the world of villainy, The Voice."
"Ooh, that's really clever, Tom!" said Drake to the TV. He rolled his eyes.
Lockjaw went on, "The Voice may have been identified today as Heron Quirk, a dissatisfied 18-year-old who disappeared some months ago and who may have turned to a life of crime following her rejection by the University of St. Canard."
Suddenly a number of children appeared in the box over the reporter's right shoulder. "Hey, there I am!" exclaimed Gosalyn.
The Gosalyn on the screen was standing between Honker and Tank. Her eyes were crossed, her tongue was sticking out and she had one arm around Honker and was using the other one to do bunny ears over Tank's head. "As for the hostages, none of the children or the teachers were harmed, thanks to the heroism of the young lady you see before you—Gosalyn Mallard. This feisty 9-year-old, with the help of her two friends Honker and Tankard Muddlefoot, successfully found a way out of the building through St. Canard Elementary's ventilation system."
There was a close-up and Gosalyn's head filled the screen as she spoke into a mike. "I wasn't scared. I was just mad 'cause they interrupted my thing I was reading for the assembly. We couldn't've gotten everyone out if it hadn't been for Darkwing Duck. When he started fighting those creeps it gave all of us the chance to get away." She waved at the screen. "Thanks, Darkwing!"
In the room, Drake ruffled Gosalyn's hair affectionately. She pulled away but giggled.
Lockjaw reappeared on the screen, nodding sagely. "A brave and…modest child. In the world of sports today fans were stunned when—"
Drake switched off the TV with the remote. "Yep yep yep. We make an amazing team, kiddo."
"Aw…." Launchpad stood in the door to the kitchen with a large bowl in his hands. "What about me?"
"You make good popcorn, Launchpad," said Gosalyn.
"Heh heh." The pilot looked pleased as he came over and set the bowl on the coffee table in front of them. "Bon appetite, guys."
"Kean gear!" Gosalyn dug her hand into the popcorn enthusiastically. "So ha dih yo day go, Da?" she asked around a mouthful.
"Eh…I've had better. But seeing my heroic daughter on the news made up for a lot." Drake smiled at her fondly. "How about you? Would you say you had a pretty good day today, sweetie?"
"Werr, Dah…." Gosalyn munched thoughtfully, then swallowed. "Well, Dad, being a hostage wasn't too much fun. But being on TV was pretty cool. But I still never got to read my whole "Vengeance of the Blood-Sucking Mutated Zoooooombie Slugs From the Planet Ferbilax!" paper." She sighed.
"Aw, that's too bad, Gos. You wanna read it now?"
Gosalyn lifted her head abruptly. "Really?" Suddenly she looked suspicious. "You'd better promise not to laugh."
Drake looked puzzled. "Well…I suppose I…promise?"
"Ok. Hold on a second, I've got a copy in my room!" She jumped off the couch and ran out.
Drake listened to her footsteps thudding up the stairs and looked over at Launchpad. "L.P., I'm starting to wonder what I just agreed to."
"Ok!" A breathless Gosalyn appeared in the hall entrance. She leaned against the doorframe for a moment, looking down at the paper in her hand, then abruptly looked up. "First…there is darkness," she began, her eyes intense, her voice dramatic. "Then…through the darkness we hear an ominous crunching sound. It's the giant zoooooombie slug, devouring all in its path! People scream! Cars are demolished! Whole buildings are enveloped in the vile space slime! It's the "Vengeance of the Blood-Sucking Mutated Zoooooombie Slugs From the Planet Ferbilax!""
Drake made an odd muffled sound. His bill was clenched shut, but one corner twitched suspiciously. With a look of painstaking seriousness on his face he leaned forward on the arm of the couch to listen.
"That…was an unpleasant experience," said The Voice, a grossed-out look on her face.
"My count is seventeen. Seventeen times I shorted out down there," remarked a sooty Megavolt.
Quackerjack looked down at his clothes. "This was my best outfit!" he whined. "Pure silk! Ruined!"
They were trudging up the Audobon Lighthouse steps, filthy and fatigued. After a long afternoon lost in the St. Canard sewer system, the climb seemed to be taking forever. "At least we're finally out of there," said The Voice. "Four hours…I didn't think finding the main sewer-way to the bay would be so hard."
"It would have been faster if we'd had Licky along. He knows the sewers like the back of his hand," said Quackerjack.
Megavolt shuddered. "Please no. Having The Liquidator along is the only thing that could have made that whole trip worse. He's always splashing me."
They all sighed in relief as they reached the top of the winding staircase. "Whew!" said Quackerjack. "We made it!" He did a couple cartwheels across the room.
The exhausted Voice's beak fell open at this display. Megavolt reached over and closed it. "It's Quackerjack. He's got quick recovery time."
"Oh, you guys are such a bunch of party poopers," said Quackerjack. "Today was great! We wreaked havoc, we beat Darkwing and we got a whole lot of money. What's not to like? Hey, let's divvy it up right now."
"Sure," said The Voice, sounding a little more cheerful herself at the prospect. "Megs?"
Megavolt looked at her. "What?"
"Let's divide up our shares."
He blinked. "I don't have the money."
"But you—you were the one carrying the bag."
Megavolt shook his head. "Nuh-uh. I thought you were."
"Well, I was before we left the school. Then when we went in the sewers and you trying to stay in the dry areas, I figured…."
"Oh yeah. But it was a little heavy so I gave it to Quackerjack."
They both turned to the toy maker.
Quackerjack looked uncomfortable. "Um…I think I set it down a minute, and…."
"Um…where that street with the pizza smell met that street with the Chinese food?" He looked puzzled. "Or maybe where that corner was with the basketball court—"
"Quackerjack! Those could be half the street corners in St. Canard," exclaimed The Voice.
"You lost our loot!" yelled Megavolt.
"Hey, I didn't lose the loot, she lost the loot!" Quackerjack said, pointing to The Voice.
He put his hands on his hips. "Well yeah, Hercules, if you hadn't given it to Wimp-Boy here—"
"Hey!" Megavolt looked insulted. "You're more of a Wimp-Boy than me!"
"HEY!" Quackerjack and Megavolt both jumped as The Voice interrupted them. "Stop. Look. Listen. Not all of the money is gone, ok? It didn't all fit in the bag, so I put some in my pocket. Let's just share that, alright?" She put her hand into the enormous pocket of her tan trench coat and began to grope around. Megavolt and Quackerjack both stood in front of her. Painstakingly The Voice counted the cash out into her hand. "Five…ten…twenty…twenty-five…thirty-five…forty…sixty. That's…twenty each." She looked up, a little embarrassed. "Um, I think some may have fallen out at some point."
For a moment no one spoke.
"Whoo-hoo! Twenty bucks! I'm rich! I'm rich!" Quackerjack grabbed his cash and started dancing around the room.
Megavolt shrugged in response to the expression on The Voice's face. "Again, it's Quackerjack." He glanced at the money in her hands. Megavolt had his suspicions regarding this purported extra loot. The Voice's trench coat pockets were deep, too deep for anything in them to fall out easily, and he didn't remember there being too much money to go in the bag earlier. He had the feeling The Voice was just pretending this was loot money for the purpose of shutting Quackerjack up. "Uh, you keep the rest. I got to rescue some light bulbs today. That's enough for me." The Voice gave him a grateful look.
Quackerjack picked up The Voice's rubber ball, which was lying on the floor. He tossed it up and down. "Hey Voice, that was a real hoot the way you took out Darkwing earlier. I swear, you even had me believing you were having some kind of major emotional crisis."
"Heh heh, yeah. Pretty convincing, huh?" laughed The Voice as she sank into her red beanbag. She turned her head to find Megavolt's eyes on her. "What?"
He dropped into a squatting position next to her. "You weren't completely acting, were you," he said, quietly so that Quackerjack wouldn't hear.
She glanced over at Quackerjack, who was bouncing the ball maniacally at the bull's eye she'd made earlier, then back at Megavolt. "Not at first," The Voice admitted after a couple seconds. She gave him a sort of pathetic half-smile.
"Hmm." He rocked back and forth on his heels briefly before standing up again. "Voice. Come." The Voice got up, puzzled. She followed Megavolt as he headed for the control room. He opened the door and motioned for her to go in.
Quackerjack stared after them as the door shut behind them. Then he looked at Mister Banana Brain, who he'd seated in the corner. "Meg-a-volt and Voi-oice, they're get-ting mu-shy!" he sang, giggling.
Inside the control room, Megavolt motioned for The Voice to sit on his couch. As she did, he sat down beside her. "Wanna talk about it?"
"Oh." The Voice looked down at her feet. "Well, it's just…I really tried, you know? I wasn't a dumb kid. I mean, it's not like I was a genius or anything. Sucked at math and science." She laughed weakly. "All the subjects you loved. But I had an above average reading level. And I never did anything bad. I was just never as good as Josh was. At anything."
"Josh?" Megavolt asked.
"Joshua. My brother. Six years older than me, and perfect at everything." She stared ahead of her glumly. "A degree in engineering, a nice house, his own home business…you'd like him, he's a mechanic. Fixes cars. Loves anything with an engine."
"Cool," said Megavolt.
"Yeah. He's been looking out for me. You know. Ever since I told him I got rejected. I kinda lied to my parents—I said SCU accepted me. But I told Josh." She sighed. "He was really upset. He's always been telling me to get my act together, and this…this really disappointed him. But he lent me some cash. Said he'd cover for me with Mom and Dad. Tell them I was doing well in school and eating right and making friends. Doing something with my life."
Megavolt looked at her. "Well…you know….All that stuff I said before? It's still true. You've got a reputation, you've got access to money. You've escaped from Darkwing Duck multiple times. You've got incredible super powers. I dunno—sounds like you're doing something with your life to me."
"Yeah. Sure." The Voice didn't sound as enthusiastic as he might have hoped, but for just a few seconds she looked thoughtful. Then abruptly she changed the subject. "So what was that thing you called Darkwing back there? It seemed to shut him up pretty fast."
Megavolt shrugged. "Oh, just his old nickname from high school."
The Voice was startled. "You went to high school with Darkwing Duck? Do you know who he really is?"
Megavolt looked sheepish. "I've forgotten it."
"Oh." She shrugged. It was odd, that Megavolt could remember a nickname and not a person. His memory was very erratic when it came to the sort of things he remembered or forgot. The Voice decided to try asking him something. "So what was your real name?"
He hesitated. Then: "Elmo. Sputterspark."
The Voice didn't laugh. She didn't even look like she thought his name was funny. Instead, she held out her hand. "Hi, Elmo."
He reached over and took it. "Hi, Heron." They shook hands.
Just then the two of them heard an annoying voice singing outside the door, "Meg-a-volt and Voi-oice, sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N—"
"Huh?" said Megavolt.
The Voice looked puzzled. "What?"
On the other side of the door, Quackerjack snorted. "Oh, go back to your smooching in there! Kissy kissy!"
Inside the control room, as realization dawned on them, Megavolt was horrified. "Hey! Whaddya think's going on in here? The Voice is just my roommate! We're not together!"
"Yeah, no kidding. You're probably old enough to be my father," said The Voice, looking a little shocked at the thought.
Megavolt glared at her. "Will you knock it off already? I'm not that old!"
"Oh really? When you were in high school, did you wear bell-bottoms?"
"I never did that! Everyone else did, but I never—" he broke off as he saw her nodding and realized he'd fallen right into her trap. "Oh. Oh, that's it. You are going down!" He started to charge up his gloves. The Voice opened her beak, preparing to launch a vocal attack.
Just then they heard Quackerjack again. "Ooh-hoo-hoo, listen to that, Mister Banana Brain. Sounds like those two are having a lovers' quarrel in there. Meeeeee-ow!" Megavolt and The Voice both blinked and turned to stare at the door incredulously. They could hear Quackerjack laughing.
The Voice turned to look at Megavolt in disbelief. "What are we doing?! Look, we know who the real enemy is, right?"
"Right," he agreed.
Slowly a look of terrific cunning crossed The Voice's face. "Um. Megs. You wanna—?"
Megavolt gave a sly smile. "Yeah, why not?"
The Voice winked. "You hold, I'll kick?"
"Nuh-uh. You hold him, *I* kick him."
"How 'bout we flip for it?" asked The Voice.
"Sure." They shook hands again and got up, advancing with diabolical intent on the door behind which the unsuspecting clown was still laughing.
Quackerjack wasn't going to know what hit him.
Very early the next morning, in a pleasant rural setting many many miles west of St. Canard….
The car pulled to a stop, the engine still running. "Why don't you drive all the way up?"
"Are you crazy? I don't want them to know I'm here! This is going to be a simple operation—in and out." Joshua ran his fingers along the top of his head nervously.
Roger laughed. "Josh, you sound like some guy in an action hero movie."
The large muscular canine, who was just getting out of the car, paused and looked at him. "Roger…you know, you didn't have to come if you didn't want to."
He shook his head. "Oh no, you're not getting off that easy. We do everything together, remember? And if it involves making an hour and a half drive both ways every morning for the rest of our lives…."
Joshua groaned. "Ugh. Please, enough already. I don't even wanna think about it. Stay in the car—I'll be right back." Looking around cautiously, he started towards the gray house on top of the hill.
Roger grinned and yelled after him, "Ever hear that old saying about honesty being the best policy?"
Joshua yelped and whirled around. "Roger, for goodness' sake! Keep it down!"
Roger chuckled softly to himself as he watched Joshua rapidly walk up the hill. "Guess not." He leaned forward and turned on the radio. An Oldies station. The gangly redheaded canine smiled as he recognized the song. He began idly tapping his fingers, keeping time on the dashboard. "'We're in the money, we're in the money…'"
It was still very early morning, and the sky was that soft pearly gray that generally attends the first hours of the day. A bird started twittering in a nearby tree. Blades of grass sparkled with dew. Roger, still singing, watched as his boyfriend reached the front door to the house. Joshua looked around briefly, then bent and picked something up. As soon as he had it, he turned and started running pell-mell down the hill. Roger shook his head in amusement. "'We're in the money, the sky is sunny—Old Man Depression you are through, you done us wrong!'"
Joshua, panting, tossed the newspaper into Roger's lap. "Alright, we're out of here!" He hopped in, shut the door and hastily put the car in Drive.
Roger was chuckling as he opened up the paper. On the front page of The St. Canard Times was a black and white photo of a disheveled-looking, bespectacled avian teenager with the caption, 'The Face Behind The Voice: A high school yearbook picture of Heron Quirk, age 18.' "This is a terrible picture of your sister," said Roger.
Joshua, who was concentrating on driving, nodded vaguely. "Mm."
"So tell me, Josh—you really going to drive three hours every morning and steal your parents' newspaper so they don't find out the truth about Heron?"
"That's the plan," said Joshua, keeping his eye on the road.
Roger laughed again. "Oh man. I love you, Joshua Quirk. You are such a closet-case." He settled back contentedly in the passenger's seat and started singing again. "'…the money, we're in the money, we've got a lot of what it takes to get along! We're in the money, come on, my honey, let's lend it, spend it, send it rolling along!'"
They drove toward St. Canard and sunrise.
"School House Rocked" is copyright The Lauderdale, June 2001. The Voice/Heron Quirk, her brother Joshua, Roger, Miss Oppenheimer, Officer Mel, Cynthia Barker and the briefly mentioned Stanley Fowls, Danny Kohen and Chief Garret are also mine. Darkwing, Gosalyn, Launchpad, Megavolt, Quackerjack, Honker and Tank Muddlefoot, Tom Lockjaw, Principal Farnsworth (really! watch "Toys Czar Us") and any other characters from the DW show who may have shown up or been referred to in the previous story are of course copyright Disney. The song "We're In The Money," instantly recognizable to anyone who loves the old "Loony Toons" shorts, was in fact written by Al Dubin and Harry Warren back in the '30's.
(Oh, and since I know she'll kill me if I don't….) "Vengeance of the Blood-Sucking Mutated Zoooooombie Slugs From the Planet Ferbilax!" is copyright Gosalyn Mallard, age 9.
Re-uploaded on October 4, 2015 with minimal changes to the story itself, due to fourteen years of FFN messing up my formatting.