CHAPTER 1

St. Canard. City of lights--sort of. City of dreams...well, not really. City of...incredibly irritating police officers. Yes, that actually fit.

Megavolt breathed the night air in deeply, enjoying the heady fragrance of electricity on the breeze. Thunderstorms were most definitely the best part of the natural world--the more violent the better. Usually at least part of the city's power was knocked out, providing a convenient cloak of darkness. Now...to commit a crime or not to commit a crime...that was the question. Well, that was always the question. Maybe he'd go wreak some havoc if he had some company.

The click of high-heeled shoes caught his attention just before a voice greeted, "Hey, Sparky."

"Hey." Megavolt turned around and scrutinized the young cat standing there. Her tight, black top and mini-skirt, black boots, black gloves, multiple piercings, black and orange hair, and blue eyes were all very familiar. "Where've you been?"

She strode over to him. "I told you two weeks ago."

"No you didn't."

Sighing, she responded, "I did; you just forgot. I went to Acinonx. Remember now?"

"No."

"Well, I did."

Megavolt shrugged, then thought of something. "As your alter ego? Wow, that sure is a great alter ego. Who would ever think that the fearsome Luminas is actually...uh..."

Luminas smiled and shook her head. "No dice, Megs. I'm not telling you my name."

He sniffled. "Fine, then. Just...just go." After a moment, he buried his face in his hands and began making muffled sobbing noises.

Luminas watched him boredly for a minute, and then her ears perked up at a sound from inside the lighthouse. Before she could say anything, Megavolt jumped up and rushed inside. Luminas rolled her eyes and followed, entering just in time to see him pick up a phone. "I'm not even going to ask why he's got that," she mumbled to herself.

"Well, you took long enough to call," the rat snapped into the receiver. After a second, he said sarcastically, "Oh, boohoohoo."

A door slammed open downstairs and a voice yelled, "Just because I make toys does not mean you've got the right to short out my hideout!"

Megavolt held the phone away from his ear and said in a somewhat confused tone to Luminas, "I'm getting a weird echoing effect..." She pointed wordlessly towards the spiral staircase, and realization dawned on the supervillain as he said into the phone, "You can hang up now."

A large-billed duck in a jester costume stormed up the stairs, looking none too pleased. "I want some respect!" he yelled.

"Hey, QJ," Luminas greeted calmly. "How goes it?"

He crossed his arms over his chest. "Oh fine, fine; except I was kinda counting on going on a crime spree! But of course, you had to mess with the lights--"

Megavolt hit his head and pointed towards the balcony. "Hello? Ever heard of a thunderstorm?"

Quackerjack opened his mouth to retort, then closed it and furrowed his brow. "Oh. That would explain a lot."

With an emphatic nod, Megavolt agreed, "Um, yeah, it sure would. Hey, where should we wreak havoc tonight?"

Quackerjack whipped a list out of a pocket and informed the rat, "Let's see, we cleaned the bank out first thing two months ago...um...you took over the power company, we raided every hardware and toy store in the area, ransacked the computer place..." He thought for a second. "Hey, how about we go to the hospital and terrorize elderly people?"

"Man, I love having almost total control of this city," Megavolt sighed.

Luminas rolled her eyes. "And remember who you have to thank for that."

"I said almost, you know."

"Yes, I noticed. But that's still a whole lot better than what you had before."

"Tell me your name?" the rat attempted.

"Nice try."

"Okay, fine. You'll get no thanks from me!"

Giving him a pained look, Luminas asked, "What's with you and knowing my name? I don't see you telling me yours."

In a tone that implied it should have been obvious, Megavolt replied, "I don't know it."

"Elmo Sputterspark," Quackerjack volunteered.

She grinned devilishly. "Oh, that's cute. Elmo."

Glaring at her, Megavolt warned, "Don't call me that." Then, turning back to Quackerjack, he said, "Shall we?"

The duck shrugged. "Sure."

They began to leave when Megavolt thought of something and asked Luminas, "Wanna come along?"

"No, I don't think so. Someone might recognize me."

Quackerjack blinked and gave her a strange look. "Big deal."

"Well, I'm trying to close a deal on a house, so--"

"What?!"

She smiled slightly. "I decided I need a house."

"Um, yeah, we covered that already," Megavolt said. More than a little disbelief colored his tone.

"Don't look so surprised. I figured you saw it coming."

Quackerjack and Megavolt looked at each other and the duck began, "Nooo...we hardly see anything coming with you."

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said sarcastically.

"Are you gonna invite us over?" Megavolt questioned eagerly.

A look of distaste crossed her face. "Oh, I don't know...the carpet's so nice and white..."

"Come one, we're clean!" Quackerjack protested. "And we won't break anything!"

"Pleeease?" Megavolt begged.

Luminas held up her hands. "Boys, simmer down. I don't even own the place yet."

"But you will, and when you do, we're coming over."

She smiled fondly at them. "What would I do without you two? No matter how down I'm feeling, I can come here and see at least one of you act like a complete imbecile, and it always makes me feel better."

Megavolt blinked. "I have a feeling that wasn't a compliment..."

Patting his shoulder, Luminas advised, "Go with the feeling. But I've gotta jet. You'll see me in a couple days."

The moment she was gone, Quackerjack said decisively, "We'll see her house." A moment later, he inquired of Megavolt, "You hungry?"

"Yeah."

"That deli on West 85th is supposed to be pretty good."

"Okay. Let's go. Hospital food is terrible."

~

"August twentieth; ten A.M. It has been two weeks since moving into 541 Avian Way. I have met several of my neighbors, most notably the Muddlefoots, whom I hope to encounter as little as possible in the future."

The doorbell rang, and Luminas sat up on her bed. "It appears I have a visitor." She looked at her small, hand-held tape recorder and shut it off, then hopped to her feet and glanced at a mirror to make sure she was presentable. T-shirt, shorts, tennis shoes...normal enough. "Be right down!" she yelled.

The only answer was another impatient ringing of the doorbell. "Well, thanks for waiting," she muttered, descending the stairs and heading to the front door.

Megavolt was standing outside.

"What are you doing here?!" she yelped. Then, as a second thought, she grabbed his jumpsuit and pulled him inside.

"Hey, what's the big idea?" he complained.

She slammed the door and leaned against it. "The big idea--that you obviously aren't picking up on--is that this is a suburban neighborhood, it's broad daylight, and you are a major supervillain!"

"So are you."

With a frustrated sigh, she returned, "I'm out of costume."

Megavolt opened his mouth to reply, then stopped and looked at her. "I was wondering what was so weird about you. You look different."

"That's kind of the point."

Ignoring her, Megavolt started to explore her house. "Hey, this place is nice."

"It should be, for what I paid," Luminas remarked. "Check out the living room. You'll like it."

Though he gave her a puzzled look, Megavolt obeyed, and an exclamation of delight soon followed.

Luminas grinned and moved into the kitchen. "You want some coffee?" she called.

"Sure," he answered faintly.

She poured him a cup from her coffeemaker, entered the living room, and handed an incredibly stunned Megavolt the mug.

He took it from her rather dazedly. "Big screen TV? Stereo system? Computer? Scanner? Digital--"

"Yeah, the list goes on and on."

"You've got it all."

"And I bought it legitimately."

"With money you--"

"Stole. Right. Minor detail."

Megavolt took a sip of the coffee. "You do realize how hard it's going to be to keep me out of here."

She closed her eyes against the horrible images playing in her mind and nodded, more than a little nauseous. "Just promise me you won't break in. And don't go into my bedroom."

"Okay."

Sighing, she said, "I don't know why I bother. You'll just forget you ever agreed to anything."

At that moment, the doorbell rang again. "Now what?" she questioned to no one in particular. Then, to Megavolt, she ordered, "Just sit here quietly."

And so, for the second time in ten minutes, Luminas found herself standing at the door. Her visitor this time, however, was the last person she'd expected to see.

"Hi, neighbor!" The duck standing outside was the perfect model of a suburban citizen--though right now he looked as if he'd been driven over the edge (or at least very near to it) by the rest of his household. "Welcome to St. Canard."

She covered her initial shock by smiling. "Thanks...I don't believe we've met..."

He stuck out his hand. "Drake Mallard."

Shaking the offered appendage, she laboriously came to a decision and told him, "Cinder Litress." There was a crash from the living room and she moved to block Drake's view as he attempted to peer inside.

"What...uh...what was that?" he asked.

"What was what?"

"That sound."

"Ah." She laughed to stall for time. "That would be my pet rat. He's always getting into things. If you'll excuse me for a moment..." Turning around, she yelled in a high-pitched-pet-scolding tone, "Sparky! We have company! Be polite!" To Drake, she said, "Sorry about that. Um...was there something you needed?"

Realization dawned on the duck as he forgot about the odd sound. "Actually, yes. I hope you won't think me a bad neighbor, but...I recently got a...new job, and I'd really rather not leave my daughter alone all day..." The wailing of a poorly tuned electric guitar from down the street emphasized his point and Drake finished quickly, "Would you be willing to watch her?"

Luminas pressed her lips together, in part because she was experiencing extreme indecision, and in part because she was more than a little irritated with Megavolt. "I'm not sure..." Yeah, that was an understatement.

"I can pay you," Drake added, a note of desperation in his tone.

"Well..." A particularly dissonant chord caused her to clap her hands over her ears. "Sure, sure, what time should I come over?"

Drake clasped her and and shook it gratefully. "Thanks, Ms. Litress. Really, you don't know how much this means. It'd just be nine to four...maybe come over a little earlier tomorrow...you know which house is mine?"

Luminas nodded dazedly, said good-bye, shut the door, and leaned against it tiredly with closed eyes. Had she actually just agreed to watch some snot-nosed little brat? And not just any snot-nosed little brat, oh no, it had to be his... Well, after she taught the kid how to play guitar decently she could always back out.

When she opened her eyes, Megavolt was standing there, a huge grin on his face. "Well then...Cinder."

"Shutup! You were not supposed to know! Now you'll just spread it all over the place..."

"No I won't," Megavolt assured her unconvincingly. After a moment's thought, he began singing in a mocking tone, "Cinderella, Cinderella, night and day it's Cinderella--yowch!" He broke off abruptly as her foot stamped down--hard--on his.

"Let me see if I can put this in terms you'll understand," she said slowly. "If you say anything to anyone--or sing that song again--I will torch you. Got it?"

"Got it," he muttered. "I think you broke my foot."

"Just be glad I'm not wearing my boots."

Megavolt grimaced. "Aren't we clever today."

Cinder smiled sweetly. "Yes, and we're getting more than a little angry..."

Megavolt muttered something under his breath and then questioned, "Are you trying to tell me something?"

With a sigh, she replied, "Nice of you to notice. Yes, Sparky, dear, I'd like you to go." She opened the door and pointed at the street outside. "Buh-bye."

"Through the front?" he asked helplessly.

"That's the way you came in. You weren't too concerned about it then. Now get out!"

Shrugging, Megavolt sauntered out. "Okay. See ya around...Cinderella."

The only response he got was a door slammed in his face.

~

Quackerjack checked his watch impatiently and muttered, "Any time now, ya stupid janitor," as he stood outside St. Canard High School. Briefly, he wondered why he was breaking into a school, but the thought was fleeting, similar to his patience. "Why does it even matter if some custodian sees me? Who's gonna stop me?" He giggled and asked the empty parking lot, "Darkwing Duck?" With another titter, the villain scampered up to the front door and raised a fist to smash in the glass. Before he had a chance to do so, however, a chunk of something bounced off his head and landed in a puddle on the sidewalk. He peered at it for a second as it started to smoke, then mumbled, "Dry ice...?"

Any possibility of further contemplation was cut off by a female's voice--"By the power of wind and sky, evil, with my help, shall die!"

Quackerjack groaned. "You've gotta be kidding me..." Waving away the minimal smoke from the piece of dry ice, he beheld a dark figure standing on the school's roof. "Slow night, huh?" he called, then mumbled to himself, "I thought we were done with these loser heroes..."

The figure spread its arms, revealing a wing-like apparatus, and leapt from the rooftop, swooping dramatically to the ground. "Prepare to perish," she (at least Quackerjack assumed it was a she) announced.

Pulling a pair of his signature teeth from his pocket, the duck asked nastily, "Take lessons from Darkwing Dork?"

The figure stepped into the light and Quackerjack's jaw dropped open. "Oh," was all he could utter. "Wow."

The figure was, in fact, a willowy, young, female squirrel attired in a rather cheaply made costume. At Quackerjack's shocked look and complete lack of movement (other than the twitching of his involuntary muscles), she carefully approached and handcuffed him. "You're under arrest."

"I am?" he asked dazedly.

The squirrel, at this, looked quite pleased with herself. "The Flying Wonder triumphs again!"

This snapped Quackerjack out of his reverie. "Excuse me, what did you just call yourself? The Flying Wonder? You're a crimefighter?!" It took only a couple seconds for him to fall to the ground, laughing hysterically.

Her face settled in a determined expression and she replied stoutly, "Yes, I am a crimefighter. I beat you, and if I'm not mistaken, you are Quackerjack, the feared and hated toymaker who is also a member of the Fearsome Fi--er, I mean--"

"Sinister Six," Quackerjack wheezed, breathless from laughing.

"Right, a member of the Sinister Six," she corrected herself.

Focusing on her face again, Quackerjack blinked and then grinned rather foolishly. "Hey, you're pretty for a crimefighter."

The Flying Wonder opened her mouth to respond, then closed it again and tilted her head, a thoughtful expression on her face. "The manual didn't cover this," she murmured to herself. Looking back to Quackerjack (who still had that foolish expression plastered on his features), she furrowed her brow and muttered, "Well, it did say that 'when in doubt, take three steps back'." She did this a bit ceremoniously, then announced, "You're coming with me to the county jail...wait...no, that's not right..."

Despite the fact that Quackerjack was already enamored with this nervous little superhero, he broke into raucous laughter. "The 'county jail'? Seriously, where'd you get this stuff?"

"Isn't it intimidating you just a little?"

"No. It's pretty lame."

With a sigh, the girl plopped down on a garbage can. "It was supposed to be the best superhero manual out there."

Shrugging, Quackerjack informed her, "Hey, it could happen to anyone. There are a lot of bad instruction books out there. Trust me. You just need to learn your trade again." He looked at her costume dubiously. "And you should start with that."

"My outfit?" she questioned in a dismayed tone.

"Uh, yeah. It looks like something out of a cheap fifties science fiction movie. And while you're doing that, get a new name for yourself."

"I didn't think it was so bad..."

"Well, it is," the duck informed her. "I don't want my name mentioned in the same headline as yours."

She looked hurt. "But the manual--"

"Your manual was probably written by some wannabe," he interrupted.

Putting her hands on her hips, the Flying Wonder snapped, "I'd like to see you write a good instruction book."

"No thanks. This supervillain gig works out fine."

"Who do you think you are, anyway?"

"Quackerjack, feared and hated toymaker who is also a member of the Sinister Six," he quipped with a grin. The Flying Wonder buried her face in her hands, and the duck watched her for a moment, then slipped the handcuffs off his wrists, noting with a little pity that they were the fake kind anyone could buy at Jay-Mart for a dollar. Placing the cuffs beside her on the garbage can, he said, "Well, it's been fun, kid. Look me up. It's been awhile since I've been anywhere with a cute girl."

She didn't acknowledge him as he sauntered away, whistling dissonantly, the high school totally forgotten.

~