There and Back...AGAIN?
 
 By
 
 Matt Plotecher
 
Thanks also go to Jeff Pierce and Cyndie "Sparky" Read for their help.
 
Characters from the series Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers and the Darkwing Duck series are copyright (c)Disney, and used here without permission. All other characters are copyright (c)Matt Plotecher. Distribute freely, but do not modify.
 
 --Chapter 1: "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..."--

     The building was isolated from the rest of the complex, sitting alone in a barren, darkened, concrete yard. The researchers liked to say it was because they needed quiet and privacy from the rest of the SHUSH compound to develop their work. Even the janitors, however, knew it was really because this way damage would be minimal when the place finally exploded. Whatever the reason, it turned out to be fortunate at the moment for all of SHUSH. The research lab, due to it's isolation, was easily closed off. Several barricades, with security guards and vehicles tucked safely behind them, surrounded the entire building. Searchlights swept over all possible exits, while various scrying devices probed inside. Each time they did, though, a sudden current overloaded them, sometimes so badly that it melted the instrument completely.
     J. Gander Hooter surveyed the scene with a frown. He knew any attempts at electrical surveillance would fail. Not that they really needed it to know who was in there, but they were worried about where he was. Dozens of top-secret projects were at risk now, either by being stolen or destroyed. So far, it had not come to pass, but the director of SHUSH knew better than to press luck.
     "I got here as soon as I got your message, J. Gander," a voice said from behind him. Hooter didn't need to see the dispersing blue smoke to know who it was.
     "Thank you for coming so quickly, Darkwing," Hooter replied. "We've been watching him for close to fifteen minutes now, but it's impossible to pin down where he is inside." A sudden surge through another machine emphasized his point.
     Darkwing nodded. "Give me the complete run-down."
     "Well, our scientists were working as per usual, when he just quite simply walked out from around a corner. He then demanded to know where the bathroom was."
     "Excuse me?"
     "It took the scientists off guard, too. He said something like, 'No, that's not right...where is my...uh...you know...' and so on. While he was trying to remember, our scientists showed the first use of common sense this year and left the building. They told security, who entered to neutralize the threat."
     Darkwing sighed and looked over at the ambulances.
     "Yes, they failed," Hooter said with a sigh. "But at least no one was killed. He appeared to be more interested in searching for something. That's when I called you."
     "Okay, then. Give me ten minutes and it'll be over with." He started forward, only to find his way blocked by the Rock of Gibraltar. Looking up, he recognized this particular geological feature as agent Grizzlikof. The immense bear towered over Darkwing, scowling. Of course, Darkwing had never seen Grizzlikof with any other type of expression, so it was possible that Grizzlikof smiled by scowling.
     "Sir, I must object!" Grizzlikof thundered. "We have several highly-classified projects in there. I do not think it wise to let a freelancer," he sneered the word, "to be allowed within."
     Then again, maybe Grizzlikof's scowl really was just a scowl.
     "Besides," the bear continued, "I can have the intruder neutralized in only eight minutes."
     "Thanks ever so much, Griz," Darkwing stated, narrowing his eyes, "but Gander called me because he wanted the best. Not the paperwork. Besides, I can finish this in seven minutes."
     "Darkwing is best suited for this situation, agent Grizzlikof," Hooter said, stepping between the stare-down contestants. "He has the most experience against this intruder, and I don't want to risk any more agents or equipment. We may be able to overcome him given time, but I'm afraid that is not an option. You yourself mentioned the highly-classified projects within the building. Who knows how many have already been marked for theft? Or just studied, so he can replicate them himself? I'm told that he is a highly competent inventor, and I can't take the luxury of time now."
     Grizzlikof nodded abruptly. "Very well, sir." He stepped aside, next to Hooter. "But I could have done this in six minutes."
     Darkwing, who was beginning to turn his back, spun around to face Grizzlikof. "Oh yeah? Well I can do this in five minutes, Bongo!"
     Grinding his teeth, Grizzlikof snorted. "Twenty dollars says you can't."
     "You're on! I'll have this case closed and return to claim my cash before you can blink."
     Hooter rolled his eyes, then remembered something. "Oh, Darkwing, try to keep this intruder from blowing up the building. I'd like the lab boys to have first crack at that."
     For one of the few times in his life, Darkwing couldn't think of a response. He merely nodded, then blended into the shadows and disappeared from view.
     "Five minutes, Darkwing Disaster." Grizzlikof grinned. "Maybe it was good for him to go. I can use the money for this week's poker game."

     No lights were on inside. The searchlights from the outside cast thick shadows on the floor. They danced across tables and desks until the light was abruptly cut off from the room, passing along the outside wall. In the central lab, a single figure was rummaging around a group of shelves. Papers were strewn about, gizmos were taken apart, and loose change was pocketed for next week's lunch money.
     "I...am the terror that flaps in the night!" A voice echoed throughout the room.
     "Oh no..." Megavolt groaned. He turned to see the trademarked cloud of blue smoke billowing in the doorway.
     "I...am the science teacher who--hey!" The voice snapped as Megavolt withdrew his Electro-gun and began firing into the cloud. "Will you let me finish?!"
     Megavolt thought for a moment. Only a moment, though. "No."
     Another barrage of electrical bolts came flying into the cloud. They passed through harmlessly, blowing chunks of concrete out of the wall behind it.
     And people wonder why I emerge from a blinding cloud, Darkwing thought. He quickly moved to cover before continuing. "As I was saying, I am the science teacher who gives you a failing grade! I..am Darkwing Duck!" He leapt up onto a table with a dramatic flourish, arms spread wide, cape dramatically flowing out behind him.
     "Happy now?" Megavolt asked, bringing his Electro-gun around to bear.
     "Not until your fuses are tripped and circuits broken..." He grinned. "Sparky."
     "Arrrrgh! I really hate it when you call me that, you know!!!" He fired off another series of electrical bolts. Darkwing sprang from the table as it was reduced to splinters, flipping over at the apex of his jump, and landed directly behind Megavolt. As Megavolt turned around to face him, Darkwing snapped out his hand in a martial art chop.
     "Shupounda-Hing!" He focused his strength into the blow, knocking the Electro-gun free from Megavolt's hand and sending it skittering across the floor.
     "Oh yeah? Well, 'Shoulda-Sing' right back at you!" Megavolt merely reached out to grab Darkwing, charging up his glove to roast the duck on contact.
     Expecting this, Darkwing dropped to the floor, knocking Megavolt's legs out with a sweep attack. "And that's 'Shupounda-Hing'. It's a focusing cry for congealing spiritual strength into an attack."
     "Who are you? Darkwing Duck or Juice Lee?" Megavolt queried, firing a burst of electricity from his glove as he regained his feet. Darkwing dodged to one side, moving in again.
     This time, however, it was Megavolt who was expecting the attack. Darkwing launched himself into a double web-foot kick (patent pending), when Megavolt snagged the duck's legs and ran a current through the airborne superhero. Megavolt used the momentum to whip the dazed crime-fighter off into a corner, crashing him into a shelving unit. Several half-finished devices tumbled down on Darkwing, bouncing rather well from his head.
     "I don't have time for you, Duck," Megavolt intoned in a low voice. "I have bigger fish to fry." His plug-helmet glowed for a moment, then thousands of volts of electricity danced from it to various devices in the room, bringing them to life and heading towards Darkwing.
     Darkwing shook his head and regained control of reality in time to see several robots, weapons, and toaster-ovens marching towards him unerringly. He quickly scampered off to the side, away from them, as he looked around for Megavolt. But the luminous lunatic was nowhere to be seen.
     One of the robots stepped directly in front of Darkwing, reaching out an appendage. The masked mallard stepped back, but heard some vehicle driving in from behind. He sprang straight up, letting the vehicle drive by underneath him and ram into the robot, reducing them to scrap metal in the process.
     Seizing an overhead lamp, Darkwing swung across the room to an open area near the doorway he had entered through. The various machines swerved about, trying to reach him.
     "Hah!" Darkwing grinned. "The devious Darkwing Duck dodges dexterously, deterring the deranged devices!" He nodded to himself. Good alliteration, he thought. Now where is Megavolt at?
     He looked about, then heard a series of explosions coming from the corridor beyond the doorway he was standing in. Peering down the hallway, he caught a glimpse of Megavolt in a room at the far end. "Aha!" Darkwing glanced at his watch. "Two and a half minutes left, more than enough time to--OOOOOF!"
     His train of thought was derailed by a series of high-velocity toast, launched by one of the toaster-ovens that had gotten a clear line of sight. The scorched pieces of bread slammed into Darkwing's side, knocking him down.
     Brushing the crumbs off, Darkwing rolled out of the field of fire, checking for any butter or jam stains on his outfit. "Whew, none here. If I had to wash this suit again this week..." He trailed off, noticing that he had rolled directly into a corner. The numerous devices had blocked off all avenues of escape. Darkwing was worried.
     Sure enough, checking his watch, he saw that he now had less than two minutes to find and detain Megavolt. And these marauding machines were not helping matters any. The squad of toaster-ovens lined up, preparing another batch of burnt toast to fire. Darkwing noted with disdain that they were even loading the toast up with grape jelly; they were fighting dirty now.
     "Sorry, mechanized marvels," Darkwing reached into his cape, withdrawing his Gasgun, "but didn't anyone ever tell you it's not nice to cause a superhero to lose twenty bucks? Especially with this month's poker game coming up." He set his Gasgun to "Liquidize" and fired.
     Several capsules scattered out, which then burst into water over the devices. Darkwing had guessed right, in that the scientists of SHUSH were so concerned with advancing their technologies, that they hadn't even bothered to waterproof their inventions. Sparks flew as each of the devices shorted-out, collapsing in a heap. Darkwing stopped by them long enough to grab a few pieces of well-buttered toast before heading off down the hallway.
     The door to the room where he had seen Megavolt was still open, making his job easier. He leapt through, landing swiftly into the middle of the room. Megavolt was over in a corner, holding his Electro-gun in one hand, and some other device in the other.
     "Hey, Megsy!" Darkwing called out, flinging the buttered toast at his adversary. "You forgot your order of toast to go!"
     The toast smacked into Megavolt's hands, spreading melted butter around. Megavolt lost his grip on both items he held, and they dropped to the floor.
     "Hey!" Megavolt started, looking at his hands. "I didn't order butter on these!"
     Darkwing took advantage of the moment and whipped out his Gasgun, setting it to "Glue-bomb". He squeezed the trigger, firing the glue canister out. Megavolt tried to move out of the way, but slipped on the butter-covered floor and thudded to the ground. As it turned out, this was fortunate for him, as the glue bomb missed him and exploded on the wall behind the fallen supervillain.
     Darkwing groaned.
     "Oh yeah, I meant to do that," Megavolt lied. He tried to stand, but slipped again.
     "Okay, take two," Darkwing sighed, aiming his Gasgun at Megavolt.
     "Why Darkwing," Megavolt's voice held an edge of malevolence, "I believe I will."
     He snapped his fingers, and an electro-magnetic surge brought his Electro-gun and the other device back to his hands. He fired his Electro-gun at the same time that Darkwing fired his Gasgun. The bolt of lightning met the glue-bomb halfway, causing a curtain of super-strong glue to form between the two titans. Megavolt's hands were still slippery, however, and he lost his grip on the items again. At the same time, Darkwing glanced at his watch. Less than a minute left.
     "I just can't cut a break!" they cried simultaneously.
     Megavolt ran an incredibly high charge through his gloves, bathing the area around him in an electrifying field. The butter was burnt off, leaving a stale smell in the air. Darkwing darted around to one side of the glue curtain, where it hadn't reached, and dashed through. He came up on Megavolt just as the supervillain was regaining his feet.
     "I don't suppose you'd be willing to just give up now?" Darkwing was desperate enough to ask.
     "Is this a trick question?" Megavolt responded honestly.
     "No."
     "Oh, well, no, not really. But thanks for asking."
     "Anytime." Darkwing grumbled. It was at this moment, when they were both standing there, chatting civilly, that Darkwing's gaze fell upon the second item Megavolt held. And he recognized it.
     "The electrilizer!" He had forgotten all about it since the last time he had seen it. He had dropped it off at SHUSH, figuring they might be able to do something with it. Like destroy it.
     "Yeah, it's what I came for." Megavolt answered. "Now I can leave."
     The feathers on the back of Darkwing's neck began to rise and he smelled something over the lingering smell of burnt butter. The smell of ozone. His eyes darted back to Megavolt, who was grinning unnaturally, a gleam of madness shining in his eyes, with electricity springing forth from his plug-helmet.
     Darkwing sensed the attack a split-second before it happened. He threw himself to the floor as an enormous charge of energy flew from Megavolt's plug-helmet, narrowing missing Darkwing. Even so, the top of Darkwing's hat was smoking from the close shave.
     "Oh blast it!" Megavolt snapped. "Why'd you have to go and spoil a perfectly good sucker-punch?"
     "That was not a punch, it was a death sentence, you megalomaniacal madman!" Darkwing rolled for cover, cursing himself for allowing Megavolt to build up a charge that strong. He glanced at the wall where it had hit--correction: Where the wall used to be. It had been totally vaporized by the blast.
     "Semantics." Megavolt grumbled, snapping the electrilizer firmly into place in his chest socket. He turned it on, and looked around for an outlet. Darkwing took a second to check his watch. Ten seconds.
     He quickly weighed the options of rushing Megavolt on the slim chance that he could surprise him and take him down before he was roasted, or of taking the extra minutes to insure that Megavolt was subdued with little or no injury to Darkwing, and pay twenty bucks. But it was more than twenty dollars at risk for Darkwing. It would be admitting that Grizzlikof was right. It would be swallowing his pride. Darkwing knew the day he did that, he would choke on it and die.
     So actually, since his pride was involved, it wasn't that difficult a decision. He sprang from his hiding place, making a straight beeline for Megavolt.
     He was delighted to see that maybe this wasn't as suicidal as he thought. Megavolt was busying adjusting the electrilizer and preparing to jump.
     Five seconds.
     Megavolt pressed the final button, and his body shifted to the electromagnetic pulse used in electrical byways. At the same moment, Darkwing tackled him, knocking them both into a nondescript machine in the corner. Megavolt's personal store of electricity automatically brought the machine to life, it's red lights flashing and sirens wailing. The two combatants struggled in close confines, striking out blindly.
     Four seconds.
     One of them hit the "send" switch on the electrilizer, and they both were sucked into the machine.
     Three seconds.
     Within the electronic flow of the machine, Darkwing and Megavolt still struggled, unaware of their new surroundings. Darkwing's brain, the section that actually looked out for the safety and well-being of the body, was screaming at him about something, but the section that held the ego was blocking any communication with a well placed image of twenty dollars.
     Two.
     The machine started its normal operations, but the introduction of two unaccountable elements, namely Darkwing and Megavolt, was causing problems. The machine liked everything to be nice and organized, with all probabilities sorted and accounted for. But these two new elements, and the havoc they were causing within, were giving the machine the equivalent of passing a gall stone.
     One.
     That annoying section of Darkwing's brain finally broke through, distracting the ego with an image of an 8 1/2 by 11 glossy of itself. Darkwing froze, clinging to Megavolt like a life preserver. This caused Megavolt to momentarily glance about.
     "Well," he said rather nonchalantly, "this wasn't in the script I read."
     Zero.
     The machine exploded.

    It was a dark and stormy night. Or at least, it could have been. After all, Professor Nimnul was working feverishly in his lab, without windows, so it might have been raining doughnuts for all he knew. But dark and stormy nights often accompanied mad scientists when they completed a project, so he assumed that one was going on outside.
 He tightened the final bolts on his latest project, then stepped back to admire his work. The metal gleamed in the well-lit interior of his hilltop lab, while various gauges and meters measured power levels and desired output.
     "Ah," Nimnul sighed happily. "And thus another brilliant invention of mine has ripened before my eyes, ready to be plucked and used for utter chaos and domination." He stepped back a few more paces, studying it once more, looking for anything that might hint at a problem.
     But all was well. Satisfied, he nodded to himself, and withdrew a remote control from his coat pocket. He tapped a series of buttons, and the machine activated. It was a large, four-legged monstrosity, with two large metal wings protruding from its sides. All in all, it looked like a dragon, constructed entirely of steel. It easily stood twelve feet tall at the shoulder, with a long neck capable of stretching out another three feet. A tail curled around it, swishing slightly against the stainless steel floor.
     Nimnul nodded to himself. With the metal dragon standing, he went about his final checklist. All gauges were showing the proper output levels, all bio-synthetic limbs were receiving signals from the internal CPU, and each armor scale was firmly attached to the wire mesh insulator underneath.
     With a wide grin and spark of madness in his eyes, Professor Nimnul gleefully dashed over to the main controls along the wall of his lab. His hands flew over them, putting in the instructions for its first test run. The metal dragon's eyes flared as the incoming instructions were received, glowing with an eerie facsimile of life. It raised its head towards the domed ceiling, and launched upwards with bionic legs. It soared straight up, a small but powerful pair of jet thrusters giving it more power than the wings. It rammed through the ceiling to the night sky, its armor unscathed, not even scratched.
     Below, Nimnul was upset.
     "Oh for--why didn't I think to put in an exit big enough for the dragon?" He sighed and shook his head, looking at the pile of rubble now on the ground. "Oh well. I suppose now's a good as time as any."
     He felt better about it as he programmed a few other robots to begin the repair and building of a skylight. His spirits were further boosted when he saw that it was indeed a dark and stormy night out.

     Lightning flashed across the sky, causing the Rangers to gulp as one. The dark storm clouds loomed overhead, giving them a distinct feeling of being small and insignificant. Their tiny Ranger Plane continued along the whipping winds, fighting to remain steady.
     "Uh, Gadget-luv," Monterey said, glancing at the clouds, "I've never been a back-seat driver before, but uh, do you think that you could step on it a wee bit?"
     "I'm going as fast I can, Monty," Gadget answered, struggling with the controls. Her eyes were focused on the sky in front of her, protected from the wind by her goggles. "But the storm is covering the whole city, so no matter where we go, it'll be all around us."
     "May-maybe we should land then," Dale stammered. He had just witnessed another lightning bolt, and was having bad visions about the Ranger Plane getting hit by one.
     Chip grimaced as thunder boomed all around them. "That's not such a bad idea, Dale. Gadget? Can you land us somewhere safe? We can get home after the storm abates."
     Gadget nodded. "Probably. But take a look around. I don't see anywhere really safe."
 She motioned with her head to the open fields below. Nothing but open fields for as far as the eye could see. Gadget estimated it would take them at least another ten minutes before they were close to the city.
     "We should have brought the Ranger Wing," she stated as another lightning bolt lit up the sky. "We could have been home by now, safe and warm."
     "Hindsight is 20-20, luv," Monterey replied. "We all thought that the Ranger Plane would be best for the case."
     Zipper buzzed, gripping Monterey's shoulder tightly to avoid begin tossed from the plane or snatched away by the wind. Monterey nodded to Zipper.
     "Yeah, mate, it was right for the case." He dug his fingers into the seat as the plane was buffeted by another gust of wind. "But that doesn't help us much now, does it?" He groaned.
     Chip pulled down his hat tightly, keeping one hand on it. He scanned the countryside, hoping to spot an overhang, or a gopher hole even, anything to provide some shelter. This storm was tugging at all the wrong strings in him for some reason. It  felt...unnatural.
     Dale, too, was frantically searching the ground below, but he was looking for something soft to land on in case a bolt of lightning did strike. The softest thing he could find was a pile of rocks, and he didn't quite believe it would work any better than the ground. Sighing, anxiety in his voice, he sat back and looked out across the sky. Another flash of lightning shot out, and he thought he heard an explosion of some kind.
     "Did anyone else hear that?" he asked, sitting up.
     "What? Thunder?" Chip asked.
     "No, it was...quieter than that. And sounded more like something breaking. Like rocks or something."
     Zipper nodded in agreement, having heard it as well. He crawled out onto the edge of the plane and pointed off in the distance. The rest of the rangers looked over, and saw the lights of the city in the distance. But Zipper wasn't pointing to that, as they found out. Gadget brought the plane around for a better look.
     They flew around the edge of a rocky hill, and saw with dismay what Zipper was getting at. They all recognized Professor Nimnul's hilltop lab. The large geodesic globe with those huge pipes sprouting out and digging into the rocks was hard to forget. What's worse, they all saw the gaping hole in the top of the globe, with a light coming from within. It appeared the Professor was at home.
     Chip was about to say something, when a movement caught his eye. He turned his head just as lightning danced across the horizon, shedding a strong light across the sky for a fraction of a second. Chip's jaw dropped as he saw a silhouette of a dragon flying off towards the city.
     The rest of Rangers were more interested in the hole in Nimnul's lab. Things could be seen moving within. Gadget was already bringing the plane in closer for a better view of the inside.
     "Wait!" Chip cried as the plane twisted away from the dragon.
     "What is it?" Dale asked, looking over in the direction that Chip was gaping at. But without the lightning's illumination, nothing was visible except darkness.
     "I--I mean, I saw...I think..." Chip stuttered. He craned his neck, but still couldn't see any sign of...of whatever it was that he saw. If I saw anything at all, he thought gloomily. He sat back down in his seat. "I thought I saw something over there," he finally managed.    "But I don't see anything now."
     "Well, let's check this out first." Monterey suggested. He leaned over and peered down into the lab. "I doubt we'll get another opportunity to see what Nimnul's up to before he springs it on the world."
     "Right." Gadget nodded. "Hang on, guys, I think I can get through that hole with minimal difficulty."
     They were about to ask what she meant exactly by "minimal difficulty" when she thrust the wheel forward, bringing the Ranger Plane down into a steep dive. Glad that they had the foresight to install their safety belts, the Rangers hung on tightly as Gadget brought the plane down through the hole, only slightly tearing the balloon.
     The ride to the floor was quick, but thrilling, as the Rangers watched the world dip, spin at blinding speed, and generally do things that only happen after a serious blow to the head. It came to an abrupt end as the floor suddenly lurched up to met them. Blackness shrouded over the entire group.
     "Ah!" Dale cried. "We're dead!"
     "Impossible," Monterey said from somewhere to his right. "The dead don't get sick." There was a gagging sound, followed by a hand being slapped over a mouth.
     "Monty's right, Dale," Gadget answered calmly. For her, this landing really wasn't that different from some of her others. "The punctured balloon must've landed on top of us."
     "Lucky us," Chip said in a dazed voice.
     A weak buzz from Zipper agreed with Chip.
     "Well, let's get out from under here," Chip managed to state in much steadier voice. His eyes had stopped flashing colors, and he was pretty sure that his stomach was back in its proper place. "If Nimnul is around, the last thing we want is to alert him of our presence."
     "Hey!" A familiar voice called from beyond the darkness. "What's that balloon and bleach bottle doing here? I thought I told Normie to pick up his toys when he was done with them."
     "Too late," Dale mumbled weakly.
     "Look at the bright side, guys," Gadget's voice said. "We wanted to see what Nimnul was up to. This just speeds the process along."
     "Yeah," Monterey answered. "But I'd prefer it to be from a safe distance."
     "Oh...well, you can't win them all."
     Chip and Dale had managed to unfasten their seat belts, and crawled over to the edge of the plane. Together, they carefully pushed up the balloon to see what they could see. A wall greeted them.
     "Wrong side," Dale muttered. Chip rolled his eyes and nodded.
 A small shaft of light came from the other side as Gadget and Monterey pushed the balloon up on their side. The Rangers cringed at the sight before them.
     They were inside the lab, apparently far off from the center of the huge room. They spied at least ten to fifteen robots moving about. They were cleaning up the rubble, and others were doing something with the hole that the Rangers had passed through. What made them cringe, however, was the appearance of the robots. Each one of them looked like some type of monster.
     In all honesty, this wasn't a big surprise. The Rangers had encountered robots Nimnul had built before. Whether they were giant bulldogs or huge guinea pigs, they always looked user-unfriendly. But these...these weren't even trying for that standard. Dale, being a big fan of fantasy fiction, recognized several of them.
     "Look over there," he whispered, nudging Chip, "It's a troll. And there's a goblin. I think that one's supposed to be some sort of orc, or maybe an ogre." Chip could feel his friend shudder. "They look pretty nasty, even if they aren't the real things. At least he didn't try a dragon."
     "Dragon..." Chip let it sink in. "He did Dale. That's what I saw, flying off towards the city. One of them is out there now." His face was rather solemn.
     "But why?" Dale asked. "Why make them like this?"
     "I don't know that, mates," Monterey quickly interjected. "But I do know we had better do something quick, or we may get a closer look at these robots than we planned on!" He motioned up at the approaching figure of Nimnul, striding closer, mumbling something about Normie and whether his parents would return soon from that two week vacation they took over a year ago.
     Chip took a moment to gather in their surroundings. "Okay...I got an idea."
     Nimnul stepped down and picked up the plane, then stood back up with it wearing a frown. "Where have I seen this before?" he asked himself. He pulled the deflated balloon off of it, still studying the plane intently. Thus, he never noticed the five tiny figures clinging to the underside of the balloon. Zipper immediately flew off and out of sight. The rest of the Rangers had to wait until Nimnul tossed the balloon over his shoulder before they could let go. They all landed with varying degrees of gracefulness on the floor, then moved off to under one of the worktables.
     Nimnul knew he had seen something like this before, but he couldn't recall where. Finally, he just shrugged and tossed the plane into a trash can on his way back to supervise the new skylight construction.
     Chip watched with a frown. "This does not bode well for the visiting team."
     "Huh?" Was the choral response.
     "I mean, things have gone from bad to worse. We're stuck in the lab of one of our worst enemies, Nimnul is obviously up to another scheme, and one of his inventions is already on its way to the city, for who knows what reason." He sighed. "Not exactly the way I like to start out a case."
     "Well," Gadget said, moving forward to see the Ranger Plane, "I can fix our transportation soon enough. We can probably be out of here before too long."
     Zipper tapped Chip on the shoulder. His expression seemed to say, Give me a few minutes, and I can scout out what he's up to. With that, the spirited fly took off.
     "Hey Chip, cast your peepers over there," Monterey pointed over to the other side of the lab, where a large computer sat. Among the numerous switches, buttons, and dials, were a series of monitors. A couple of them were displaying some readouts of what appeared to be a metal dragon, and one was a moving view of the city from a bird's eye view. Or more appropriately, a dragon's eye view.
     "Now this," Chip said with a grin, "is how I like to start a case."
     With that, the Rangers broke off into two groups. Monterey went off with Gadget to see about getting the Ranger Plane ready, while Chip and Dale headed off for the large computer.
     The two chipmunks carefully made their way across the lab, staying far away from the robots and Nimnul. Fortunately, they were too preoccupied in the construction around the hole to notice two small furry mammals scamper over onto the control panel of the computer.
     "Oh man," Dale stepped back, intimidated by the huge device. "Where do we start, Chip? It's like a maze."
     "I know." Chip glanced about, but had no clue as to what function keys did what.
     They crawled up the slanting surface to the monitors.
     "Whew, television." Dale sounded relieved. "This, I can handle."
     "It's not television, Dale." Chip said as he stepped up next to him. "This is what the dragon is seeing. See? Look at the angle."
     Dale shrugged. "Well, the skills I developed when watching T.V. can apply here."
     "What skills?"
     "Uh...the ability to watch it for over six hours straight?"
     "Very helpful, Dale," Chip said sarcastically. "You want to wait around here for six hours?"
     "Well, if the programs are good..."
     "They aren't programs, nuthead! It's a camera, so unless it suddenly decides to stop by the Late Show for a while, you won't be seeing anything of interest."
     "Well..." Dale tried to think of a defense. Fortunately, the monitor provided it for him. "I'd call that interesting." he stated triumphantly, pointing to the screen.
     Chip looked and saw that the dragon had entered a building of some kind. Flames shot out from the top of the screen and down the hall, driving the people within back. Chip and Dale watched with a mix of fascination and fear as the dragon stormed down the hallway, blasting its way through any obstacle in its way. The security guards attempted to shoot it, but the resounding sounds of ricochet told the chipmunks how ineffective it was.
 The dragon turned suddenly and burst through a series of doors until it came to a large, metal vault. A pair of lasers began to cut the hinges off.
     "What do you think's in there?" Dale asked, unable to tear his eyes away.
     "I don't know," Chip answered, equally mesmerized. "But I do know that if Nimnul wants it, we have to stop this dragon of his."
     He shook his head and looked around. Too many possible functions greeted him as he scanned the control panel. He grabbed Dale and spun him from the monitor. The Dragon had finished cutting the hinges off and was moving inside in the darkened room, it's starlight sensors amplifying the existing light for better vision.
     "Listen," Chip said quickly, "we have to stop that thing. Any ideas of where to start on here?"
     "Well," Dale considered the control panel quickly. "Whenever I play a video game, I use a joystick to control the figure on the screen."
     Chip nodded. "As good a place to start as any. Quick; split up and search for something that might be a joystick."
     The dragon had stopped in front of a large, electronic wall unit. It's tail came into view, protruding a small connecter. It plugged into an I/O port, and the unit clicked to life. As they raced over the control panel, Chip glanced back to see the words, "Beginning download" flash across the screen. A small digital display began counting down from 60 seconds.
     "Hurry Dale!" Chip called out. "We have a time limit now!"
     Dale was darting past rows of switches, but hadn't seen anything yet, and was beginning to doubt one existed. He paused, a feeling that he was forgetting something tugged at him. He looked about again, and saw what it was. Most computers used a separate joystick, usually off to the side of the main controls. He ran down to the section he thought it would be in, and spotted a joystick down at the corner.
     "Chip!" he called out. "It's over here!"
     He hopped on it, pulled the stick back. But nothing was happening on the monitor.
     "What's wrong?" Chip asked. He had also noted that lack of response from the dragon. He also noted that the counter was down to thirty seconds.
     "I don't know. It isn't working!" Dale jerked the stick all the way back, but still no response.
     Chip spotted a blinking red button in front of the joystick. "Wait, maybe we need to tell the computer what it is we want to control, first."
     "Huh?"
     "A selection button, Dale." Chip responded as he stepped down on the button. It glowed red, and another electronic display in front of Chip flashed the word "Orc". A shout from behind them told them they were now controlling a robot, but not the one the wanted. Chip stepped repeatedly one the button, scrolling through a variety of robots.
     "What?!" They heard Nimnul cry out from behind them. "What's going on with the control panel?"
     "Chipper! Hurry! He's heading over here!"
     Chip increased his stepping, until the word "Dragon" appeared.
     "Got it!" he announced.
     Sure enough, the view on the monitor suddenly showed the ceiling getting closer and closer, followed by another ceiling, than another...
     "What's happening?" Dale asked, still holding the joystick back.
     "I'm not sure. I think you're telling it to take off."
     They watched as the dragon rammed its way through ceiling after ceiling, finally breaking out into the night sky. The view shook a little, and sort of quavered, hovering.
     "Why isn't it climbing?" Dale asked.
     "Look!" Chip pointed over to another monitor showing the readout of the dragon. Across the bottom, they read, "Overloaded. Suggest dumping of excess weight."
     "It never unplugged from the wall unit! It must have pulled it all the way up through the ceilings. No wonder, look at that." He pointed to the tail section of the readout. "The connecter was fused in from the sudden surge of our transmission."
     "So what do we do now?"
     Chip looked over his shoulder to see Nimnul with a raised mallet, about to crush Dale. "Run!"
     Dale caught Chip's warning just in time. He let go of the joystick and dodged back as the mallet smashed into the spot where he was a split-second later. The joystick handle was snapped off and sparks flew from the exposed wiring.
     Chip ran down and grabbed Dale, pulling him back up and away from Nimnul, who was readying for a second attack. None of them noticed the warnings flashing across the screens.
     The digital readout was still running, however, and had reached five seconds.
 Dale yelled out a warning as Nimnul lunged again. The mallet crashed down directly in front of Chip, bashing in buttons and snapping off switches. More sparks flew, and a discreet smoke seeped out from the sides of the machine.
     Four seconds.
     Seeing Nimnul pulling back again, Chip pointed to the newly opened hole in the control panel. Dale nodded, and they both quickly ducked inside, nimbly dodging sparks and exposed wires. They ran up towards the top of the machine, where Chip guessed there would be a vent they could get through.
     Three seconds.
     With the chipmunks no longer in sight, Nimnul had a moment to see the damage he had inadvertently caused. The dragon was still trying to fly with the large unit attached to its tail, and the whole computer used to control his robots was in danger of going up in smoke.
     Two.
     For all of the talk of Nimnul being insane, never let it be said that the man is an idiot. He quickly activated the emergency coolant system, flushing the interior with a fire suppressive gas. He entered a quick series of commands in the control panel that was still functioning, causing the dragon to detach its tail completely. He watched on the city scanner as the dragon began its flight back, and the unit and tail plummeted to the ground below.
     One.
     "Do you hear that?" Chip was about to ask Dale, but the hissing jumped to roar as the gas shot through the computer's internal structure. Both of the chipmunks blacked out instantly.
     Zero.
     The unit, still running, hit the city street and exploded.
     But not before it finished its final computation.

     Somewhere, in an infinite realm of possibilities, there exists a single chance. The chance that two totally circumstantial events will have exactly the same result at exactly the same time. The odds of it happening are perhaps once every billion years. The chance for this particular billion years was now cashed in.
 

 --Chapter 2: This had better not be Oz, either.--

     Thunder was the first sound heard. The next was the rush of air. Darkwing's world snapped back into focus like a gunshot as his body shifted from the electrilizer's effects back to it's normal state. He became aware of the sensation of free-fall. As his vision gradually focused, he saw that he was indeed plummeting towards the ground.
     He quickly took in the city below--he had to be at least 1,000 feet up, probably more. His first thought was that the explosion had blown them sky-high, but he quickly realized that this was not St. Canard. No Autobahn Bay Bridge, not even a body of water. None of the skyscrapers in the center of the city. A gnawing fear edged into his stomach.
     The fear was easily suppressed, however, by the very up-front fact that unless he did something, he would soon become Darkwing Pressed Duck. He looked around, and spotted Megavolt alongside of him, seeming to enjoy it.
     "Cool!" he exclaimed. "I always wanted to try sky-diving!"
     "Without parachutes, it's called sky-dying!" Darkwing snapped back.
     Megavolt blinked and gulped. "Oh yeah." He began to promptly scream.
     Darkwing grumbled, upset. Not that Megavolt was screaming in fear, but because he hadn't thought of it first. Well, with stark terror out of the way, cool logic stepped up to bat.
     Maybe I can snag a building with a plunger from my Gasgun, he thought. Looking around, he noted that they were falling down towards what appeared to be a junkyard. One tall building was within range. But as he reached for his Gasgun, he remembered that he was out of plungers, due to Gosalyn's science project (you don't want to know).
     Strike one.
     How about using my cape as a parachute? He thought suddenly. He grabbed the edges of the cape and spread it out, only to see ribbons flap uselessly in the wind. The explosion had shredded his cape.
     Strike two.
     Wait! Launchpad dropped me off in the Thunderquack, maybe he's close enough for a pick-up! His face brightened with hope as he dug out his radio and attempted to reach his sidekick. Static was all the response he got. Then he remembered that it looked like they were transferred to a different city. This could be Duckburg, for all he knew. Whatever the case, Launchpad was out of range.
     Cool logic, having struck out, went back to the bench as total panic came in to pitch-hit.
     "AAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Darkwing screamed.
     Startled by someone else screaming, Megavolt was drawn out of his fear. "Oh, well, if you're to handle the fear part..." He shrugged, and looked down. The ground was rising up rapidly; he only had a few seconds.
     Megavolt made a quick adjustment to his Electro-gun, sending out a series of rapid-fire bursts of varying electro-magnetic frequencies. The waves resounded off of the ground back up at the falling pair. Megavolt set up another field of energy around him (and Darkwing, but whether this was on purpose or not remains a matter of debate), one of equal polarity. The natural "push" created by two like magnets was re-created here, but this time on a much larger scale. It would have normally been enough to stop the fall.
 But for some reason, all it did was manage to slow their descent, fortunately enough so that when they landed on the rubbish heap, they were only bruised instead of flattened. Megavolt bounced off down the pile of garbage, with Darkwing tumbling right behind him. They crashed rather heavily into a collection of old tires at the bottom of the hill, bouncing off more forcefully than they were used to.
     Groaning, Darkwing sat up and glanced about. He was glad to see that his hat was still with him, albeit rather worse for wear. Another clap of thunder reverberated throughout the sky, and a few bolts of lightning playfully arced from cloud to cloud. Off to his right, he could see the glow of the city. What city, he wasn't sure. To his left, he spotted a small shack, apparently the residence of the caretaker of this place. A dog was barking from within, and Darkwing could see movement inside. Someone would be out soon enough. And directly in front of him...
     Megavolt groaned and raised his head. His eyes were even more unfocused than normal, and Darkwing could hear his adversary's ragged breath.
     "Oh...that was a painful way to land." he said weakly.
     "Better than what would have happened." Darkwing replied. He stood up, and walked warily towards the downed supervillain. "Just stay put. You may have saved our lives, but you cost me twenty dollars." Among other things, he thought bitterly. "The cops will be here as soon as the civilian realizes who's in their backyard."
     As if on cue, the door to the simple dwelling opened up, and the civilian stepped out. Both Darkwing and Megavolt looked up to the figure stepping out into the light of the lampposts along the junkyard. And as one, both their jaws and hearts dropped.
     The person was just that. A person. Not a duck, dog, cat, or even a dog/rat/weasel type thing (Megavolt has yet to meet another of his kind). He had no beak or snout, but a simple nose, two rather small (to them) eyes, and five fingers on each hand. The human panicked and ran back indoors upon seeing them. Darkwing and Megavolt might have panicked too, but they had seen humans before...namely, the last time the electrilizer sent them through to another dimension.
     The gnawing fear in Darkwing's stomach quickly grew to a ravenous hunger which threatened to consume him. "Oh no..." He swallowed hard. "Not this place. Not again!"
     Megavolt shakily got back to his feet. "No...it can't be. Not this nightmare again. Stuck in a world of weird-nosed people." His eyes widened with a sudden fear. "With no way home this time."
     Darkwing fought back the fear long enough to think clearly. "No, wait. We've gotten out of this mess before, we can do it again." His confidence restored, he straightened up. "Yeah, I mean, I'm famous here. A well-known television personality."
     "A cartoon personality," Megavolt corrected him.
 Darkwing glared at Megavolt. "Whatever. Regardless, I am still more famous and respected here than back home. The Rockwell guy will be willing to help us out. Assuming his helmet is still functioning, we can use that to get back home."
     "I don't know." Megavolt frowned. "You may have been hobnobbing with the industry last time, but I was searching for a way home. I had to look around to find that antenna we used, and don't remember any of this." He waved his hands in the direction of the city.
     "Hey, there was a lot of city we never saw. Besides, it's your electrilizer. Why wouldn't it have transported us back to the same place?"
     "Because those dweebs at SHUSH were messing around with it."
     "Huh?" Darkwing knew the dweebs at SHUSH. This was not good news.
     "I noticed it when I was setting the frequency. I found it in that one room, out on a table with some notes around it. It looked like they were trying to establish contact with another dimension. When I was adjusting it, I was trying to figure out exactly what they did to it."
     "Well? What was it?"
     "I don't know. I was interrupted by an unnamed party in a purple outfit. And I don't mean the artist formerly known as Prints."
     Darkwing merely cleared his throat and looked around for a distraction. His prayers were in answered in the form of sirens. They were faint at first, but quickly grew louder. Darkwing and Megavolt could see the red and blue lights flashing across the area as the sounds of several police cars pulled up along the junkyard.
     Darkwing breathed a sigh of relief. "Okay, here's the plan. Let me do all the talking. They should recognize me from our last time here, and give us a lift to Rockwell."
     "Either that, or a rock cell," Megavolt replied, glancing about nervously.
     "Will you calm down? What could possibly go wrong?"
     Megavolt fixed him with a stare. "I can't believe you had the brazenness to say that."
     Darkwing shrugged. "It's in the job description." He stepped up to the front.
     The police began a slow and careful move into the junkyard. Several officers held out searchlights, while the rest snuck down around piles of trash, guns drawn.
     "Hail, good police!" Darkwing proclaimed, stepping up into a spotlight. "It is I, Darkwing Duck, champion of justice, prince of protection, and the terror the flaps in the night. You no doubt recognize me from my cart--"
     "What the heck is it?!" someone cried.
     "Beats me, but it looks dangerous. Keep your distance, men."
     "Yeah, look how it's dressed. No one sane dresses like that!"
     Megavolt snorted from behind Darkwing. "See? I'm not the only one who thinks so."
     "Shut up!" Darkwing hissed, then turned back to the police. "Hey guys, don't you remember me? I'm the superhero from that cartoon, you know? Haven't you bought my merchandise for your kids, yet?"
     "It's obviously insane," the lead officer called out. "Get out the tranquilizer gun."
     Megavolt began a slow withdraw from the scene, looking for possible escape routes. but the police had the area surrounded. "Well, Darkwing, any other bright ideas?"
     "Well, just one," Darkwing glanced nervously at the closing circle of police, and the ones bringing out the tranquilizer guns. He palmed one of his smoke canisters. "RUN!" he shouted and threw the canister down. Blue smoke exploded outward, obscuring Darkwing and Megavolt from the police. They dove for cover at the explosion, then peeked around carefully, confirming that it was only a smoke grenade.
     "Move in!" the captain commanded.
     They all quickly closed in, but no sign of the two intruders was evident. They had obviously escaped during the decoy grenade.
     "Start an area search, they couldn't have gotten far," the captain told the officers, then went to his car and radioed in. "Put out the word that we have two unknown trespassers at large. I need a sketch artist down here pronto. They look like nothing I've ever seen. And tell the commissioner." He turned off the radio and looked skyward and the looming storm clouds. "I have a feeling that our problems have only just begun," he muttered to himself.

     "What's going on over there, Zipper?" Monterey called out. He and Gadget had managed to pull the Ranger Plane free from the trash can, shoving it over to the floor below. They had just finished that when they saw the sparks flying from over by the computer. Zipper had swooped in, frantically buzzing something.
     Zipper took a moment to calm down, then went into a quick explanation of Chip and Dale ducking inside the computer, but not coming out.
     "Crikey!" Monterey turned to Gadget. "We've got to get them out of there, but how? And the Ranger Plane isn't even fixed yet!"
     "You and Zipper get Chip and Dale, then get them over here." She rolled her sleeves all the way up and brought her goggles down over her eyes, a determined glint in them. "The Ranger Plane will be ready to fly by the time you get back." She stated it as a fact, not a hope.
     Monterey nodded and slid down the side of the trash can, then made his way over to the computer, Zipper flying just overhead, keeping watch. The robots had gone back to their construction, and Nimnul was engrossed in running a diagnostic on the computer, so the Monterey and Zipper arrived at the side of  the computer without incident.
     Crouching down beside the computer, Monterey watched as Nimnul worked the control panel, trying to isolate the problems internally before having to actually open it up. Monterey checked around the side of the machine, but he didn't see any way in, and mentioned it to Zipper.
     Nodding, Zipper motioned for Monterey to wait below as he flew up to see if he could find a way in. He sped up the side of the computer, finally coming to the top. He spotted the twin, large grates for ventilation right away. The grill was spaced more than wide enough for him to slip in unhindered.
     The insides of the computer were dark, aside from the occasional sparking wire. Zipper managed to navigate through the maze of circuitboards, until he thought he spotted some objects that looked more organic, as opposed to the geometric shapes that surrounded him. A quick beat of his wings brought him to the two downed Rangers.
 Landing next to them, Zipper first checked to make sure that each was still alive. He was relieved to see them breathing in slow, rhythmic slumber. Next, Zipper set about waking them up. No way he could haul them back up to the top, and he doubted there would be time to get Monterey before Nimnul opened the computer up to start the hardware repairs.
 Having had to revive the chipmunks before, Zipper knew the best and quickest way: He flew behind them, grabbed each of their tails and pulled back, letting them snap back into their rears.
     "Erg!" or something to that effect was the chipmunks' response as they awoke with a start. They didn't have time to ask questions, however, as Zipper darted back in front of them, explaining their precarious positions. Chip and Dale nodded, and followed Zipper back through the computer to the vents. They had a bit more trouble squeezing through the grill, but with some help from Zipper, they managed to pop through and then shimmy back down the side to join Monterey.
     "Glad to see you blokes are still okay," he said as they dropped down next to him.
     "Thanks Monty," Dale responded. "Is the plane finished yet?"
     Chip nodded. "I think we had better get out of here quick. Nimnul spotted us messing with his computer." He glanced back nervously at the fuming Professor, currently removing the control panel. "It won't be long before he comes after us again."
     "Gadget said it'd be ready," Monterey answered. "What's going on with him?"
     "I'm not sure yet." Chip admitted. "He's built these robots for a purpose, and it looks like he's using them for remote-control theft, but I think there's more to it than that."
     "Um," Dale cut in, keeping an eye on Nimnul, "can we talk about this later? Like after we're on the Plane and outta here?"
     Monterey shrugged. "Can't argue with the lad's logic."
     Chip was about to state that he could, but the rest of the group had already left. Sighing, he quickly took up the rear.
     Back at the trash can, they could see Gadget hammering away at one side of the Plane. She finished, then looked up at the rest of them with a smile.
     "All set," she announced proudly.
     The Ranger Plane did look back to normal, aside from the missing balloon. Looking it over, they could see that Gadget had built a quick sling-shot rig out of the balloon, aiming up at the hole they had entered. The four Rangers exchanged glances.
     Gadget walked back around to the front of the plane, and pushed against it. It shifted a little, but not much.
     "Um...could someone give me a hand?" She asked, somewhat sheepishly. "I need to get this into place." She pointed to the area in front of the sling-shot.
     Chip and Dale each stepped up next to her, one on each side, while Monterey and Zipper guided it by the sides. Together, they slid the Plane into place, then climbed up into the seats.
     "Um...Gadget?" Chip asked tentatively, watching the robots work around the hole. "I have a important question: Do you think that those robots might pose a problem for our escape?"
     "No."
     "Oh." He didn't sound reassured.
     "I guess it wasn't as important as you thought." Dale suggested helpfully.
     "Everyone strapped in?" Gadget asked. "Hang guys, it'll be a little bumpy for the first minute or so."
     "There's an understatement," Monterey muttered. He was eyeing the hole, rig, and hoping that the laws of physics would be merciful on them.
     With a sudden *click*, Gadget released the pressure valve on the wings. They started to rise, triggering the release on the slingshot. The entire Ranger Plane was propelled through the air at a tremendous velocity, forcing the Rangers back into their seats. The robots at the hole were working solely on the area around it, so the Ranger Plane managed to exit without any difficulty.
     "You did it, Gadget!" Chip called out, twisting around to see the hole growing smaller behind them.
     "Yeah, Gadget-luv," Monterey agreed, "I gotta hand it to you on this one." He was still amazed that it had actually worked, but wisely decided to keep that to himself.
     "Thanks, guys," Gadget replied, concentrating on her piloting. "Now if I can just glide us to the ground, we'll be okay. Did you boys find out what Nimnul was up to?"
     "Yes and no," Chip replied. "He's using the robots to commit robberies for him, but I think there's something more to it than that."
     "Why?" Dale asked.
     "Well, you saw what the dragon was doing, Dale. It was downloading something from that unit we saw." He frowned and sat back, thinking. "My guess is that Nimnul was gathering information or data about something."
     "A bank, maybe?" Monterey suggested. "He's done research to rob banks before."
 Zipper pointed out that Nimnul had hit more than banks. Jewelry stores, warehouses, and the like.
     "Right, Zipper." Chip looked out over the cityscape. "If we could find out what building the dragon invaded, I'll bet it'll tell us what Nimnul was after."
     "Shouldn't be too hard," Monterey shrugged. "Just follow the wreckage."
     By this time, Gadget had brought the Ranger Plane into a slow downward spiral, finally landing it smoothly in a small field. The Rangers were still quite a distance from the city, but they were much closer then before. The storm had seemed to quell for the moment, but Chip feared that it was merely the eye of the storm, and more turbulence was coming soon.
     "Hey," Dale said as he climbed out of the plane, "look over there." He pointed to the distant city. The others all listened as they climbed out, and peered in the direction Dale indicated.
     Not too far away, in what they knew to be a run-down section along the edge of town, they could see some flashes of light. Almost like fireworks, but these lights glowed, rather than burst. A few moments later, and the wind carried the sounds gunfire, explosions, and sirens to them.
     "Crikey...what d'you suppose is going on?" Monterey asked, wide-eyed. "Maybe something with that thing Nimnul was messing with?"
     "No, that was in the center of the city." Chip watched for a moment more. "Whatever it is, it sounds real serious."
     The rest of the Rangers nodded. They all knew that they should go investigate, to see if they could help out in some way, but each of them had an uneasy feeling settle around them. Chip was the first to shake out of it, and headed off towards the commotion, the rest of the Rangers right on his heels.
 

 --Chapter 3: Chipmunks & Mice & Dog/Rat/Weasel Type Things, Oh My!--

     The police had caught up with Darkwing and Megavolt much sooner than they had anticipated. Still disoriented from the effects of the electrilizer, compounded by the discovery that they had jumped dimensions again, they weren't thinking too clearly as they escaped the junkyard. Instead of keeping to the shadows, they seemed quite content to run madly down the well-lit streets. The call had gone out on the police radios, and the area search was quick and methodical. Soon the suspects in question were spotted around a corner, and it wasn't long before the police started to herd them in.
     In addition to all their other problems, both Megavolt and Darkwing noticed that something seemed... strange...about this dimension. They felt almost out of sync with what was happening around them, but the feeling was impossible to pin down as they were running for their lives.
     In mere minutes they found themselves surrounded again, this time in the center of an intersection. police cars were all around, and more arriving each minute.
     "Now what?" Darkwing asked breathlessly. He and Megavolt stood back to back against the encroaching officers. Guns had already been drawn, but none fired.
     "Personally, I hate feeling like a rat in a cage!" Megavolt snarled.
     Because his timing was never in tune with etiquette, Darkwing turned to face Megavolt. "I thought you were a rat, genetically speaking."
     Because his timing was even worse in situations like this, Megavolt uncertainly answered, "I'm...not...sure, really. Last I heard, I was a dog/rat/weasel type thing, but I still have people looking into it."
     A bullhorn cut into their supervillain-genealogy discussion.
     "All right you two," the captain said, his amplified voice echoing from the buildings around them. "Just stay put, and don't cause any trouble. Nobody here wants any confrontation."
     "Speak for yourself..." Megavolt muttered, his eyes narrowing. Darkwing, who was once again back-to-back with his arch-enemy, missed this.
     "So just relax, and come along with us peacefully," the captain continued, "and no one will get hurt." He turned to one of his officers. "How long before the S.W.A.T. team gets here?"
     "Shouldn't be too long, sir. They're bringing the gas bombs, but I don't know if it'll work on those." He shuddered a little as he looked at them. "What are they, anyway?"
     "I don't know. Maybe deformed humans, or deformed creatures of some kind. Maybe aliens for all I know. What I do know is that I want them tucked away somewhere far from a populated area. Then we can start answering your questions."
     He brought the bullhorn back up to address the...things. He had noticed that the taller of the two was glowing a little. "Okay, you in the yellow jumpsuit, cease and desist whatever it is you're doing."
     Megavolt's scowl deepened. And his glow brightened.
     "Megavolt," Darkwing hissed over his shoulder, "what are you doing?" He didn't want to turn his back on the twenty or so cops facing him down with drawn weapons.
     The captain started to get agitated. "Hey! I said knock it off!" Still no response. Frustrated, the captain resorted to name-calling. "Hey watt-brain! I'm talking to you, Sparky!"
     "DON'T CALL ME SPARKY!" Megavolt's screech pierced the air.
     A bolt of lightning pierced the same air a moment later, directly hitting the police car in front of the captain. Metal was ripped apart and glass shattered in a thousand directions as it exploded. The officer next to the captain found himself on the ground over twenty feet away, stars dancing before his eyes.
     "Strange," he muttered, dazed. "I thought the storm was over." Shouts and screams quickly brought him back to his senses. He could see past the burning wreck of twisted metal that used to be a police car, to the one who had been glowing, throwing out bolts of lightning, exploding cars and scattering officers. He turned back to the captain to point this out, but the captain was lying face down on the cement, his body still smoking.
     "Oh no..." he whispered as he crawled over to the captain, feeling for a pulse.
     It was there, but faint.
     Thanking whatever forces had kept the captain alive, he turned and looked around, finally finding his partner. "Hey Muldoon!"
     Muldoon stopped his run from the newest fire, and quickly altered his course to take him over to his partner.
     "What is it, Kirby? Gaaaa, you don't look so good."
     "Take an exploding car in the front and see how you feel. But come on, we have to get the captain out of here. He's still alive, but I don't know for how much longer."
     Seeing the state of the captain, Muldoon nodded. He glanced around quickly, seeing that the whole operation had gone up in smoke, literally. Officers were trying to take cover from the lightning-throwing attacker, while others were trying to provide covering fire. None of the bullets seemed to hit the attacker, however, so it wasn't very effective, but it least he was staying put.
     "Wait here." Muldoon said and then made a quick duck-and-run to the nearest working police car. He climbed in and started it up, then quickly sped over to the area with Kirby and the captain. Other officers saw this, and kept Megavolt's attention drawn away, more so with taunts than actual gunfire. In particular, he seemed to react vehemently to the name "Sparky"...

     He wasn't next to Megavolt, but still in the intersection. He wasn't responsible for either Megavolt's outburst or the chaos that followed, but he doubted that the police would believe him right now. This day, Darkwing thought glumly, has gone from bad to downright cruddy.
     He was busying trying to prevent a clear line of sight from the police, as he wasn't about to test his dodging capabilities against a bullet in flight. Megavolt had apparently throw up some sort of magnetic field around him, as the bullets were straying far from the mark on each shot. Darkwing wondered about it for a minute, as he had never seen Megavolt pull this trick before. But then again, whenever someone called him "Sparky", who knew how he would react? This time, it just happened to be picking a fight with the local police force. A fight, Darkwing noted with some uneasiness, that Megavolt seemed to be winning.
     A movement to his right brought him out of his reverie. A few officers had moved in around him, boxing him in and away from his "partner", Megavolt, who was still busying himself with increasing the amount of work for the city clean-up crew tomorrow.
     The police had a clear line of sight now, but they hadn't fired. Darkwing hoped that it was because that they might have sensed that he was actually a crime-fighter. In truth, the police were afraid that shooting Darkwing would only enrage Megavolt further, but either way had the same outcome: Darkwing was not in immediate danger.
     Noticing their willingness to let him live, Darkwing seized upon an idea. He threw his hands up over his head in a surrendering pose. "Wait! I can help you! I can stop him!"
     The police exchanged glances, but never let their weapons waver from Darkwing's chest. "How?" one of them asked.
     "He'll listen to me. I'm from the same...place he is, so he trusts me." Darkwing had been about to say the same dimension, but thought that might be pushing his luck. Truth is stranger than fiction, he reminded himself grimly.
     "Why should we trust you?"
     "Because you have nothing to lose. If I'm wrong, he kills me, and you have one less wacko to worry about." That didn't come out exactly the way he wanted, but it seemed to work.
     "You have one minute. The second after that, we open fire."
     "Great, another time limit," Darkwing sighed to himself. "If you could, use water against him. It'll short him out, but just don't be standing within five feet of him when he does." Quickly, he sprinted back off towards Megavolt, calling over his shoulder, "Tell your men to hold their fire, and for goodness sakes don't call him Sparky!"
     One of the officers hopped into a still functioning police cruiser and told the rest of the force the deal. He then patched through to the incoming S.W.A.T. team, updating them on what they knew...yes, the captain was alive...no, the attackers hadn't tried to make a break for it...well, one looks like a three-foot tall bird and the other looks like some sort of rat/weasel/dog type thing...no, nothing stronger than coffee...
     Megavolt was running out of police cars to blow up. He actually had to stop and look for them now. He had tried hitting the police officers, but they seemed reluctant to stay in one place long enough for a clear shot. Targets that didn't move, as opposed to those the moved quickly while shouting out rude things, seemed to be the easier of the two to hit. He had just spotted one, and was charging up his gloves, when a hand pulled him back.
     "Blast it, Megavolt!" Darkwing snarled.
     "I was about to, thank you very much!" Megavolt shot back.
     "I mean, why did you have to ruin everything?! Now you've made us into wanted criminals in this world!"
     "And this situation is different from St. Canard in what way?" Megavolt asked, regaining his feet. His glow had begun to dim, Darkwing noted, and the police had actually stopped firing, both bullets and names. At least something was going right today.
     "Okay," Darkwing admitted, "maybe you are used to being a felon, but I was a respected hero!"
     "Respected!" Megavolt laughed. "Let's be honest, Darkwing. You're one step above street sweepers in the public's eyes."
     "We are not here to discuss my popularity," Darkwing replied testily, growing defensive. "Besides, we can always hit my webpage when we get back. You'll see from the counter how many people have stopped by to read all about my excellent exploits of excitement."
     "Yeah, I've seen it. And tell me that you didn't start the counter at one thousand."
     Darkwing was suddenly extremely interested in inspecting the top of his hat.
     "I figured. So that means that you've actually had as many as five people hit your page in how long? Five months?"
     "Give it time!" Darkwing snapped. "People probably just don't know about it yet."
     "Oh please! With those huge advertisements you've put all over the place? You go to any blue smoke dealer on the web, and there's your ad at the top! Speaking of which, what is this ‘light-bulb loony' reference in your villain's write-up about me?"
     Darkwing blinked. "You read that?"
     "Unfortunately. Rather self-promoting, wasn't it? All I read about was how you risked life and limb against me time and again. You talked about yourself at least 50% of the time."
     "Well, yeah," Darkwing kicked at the ground. "But you have to admit, I did name you as my arch-enemy, not Dr. Slug."
     "Well...yes." Now it was Megavolt's turn to kick at the ground. "And thank you for the compliment. But it still isn't enough, Darkwing. You need to rework that whole section, if not the whole homepage."
     "All right! All right!" Darkwing sighed. "You win, I'll at least rework the supervillain section."
     "‘Atta boy, Darkwing." Megavolt cheerfully clapped his arch-enemy on the shoulder. "I'll even help you out, if want."
     "Thanks, Megavolt. That'd be a big help. Can you give me some info on the Fearsome Five, do you think?"
     "Why not?"
     Astute readers may wonder why Darkwing and Megavolt have hit it off so well suddenly. Well, Megavolt is insane, and Darkwing is egotistical. In a non-combat situation, these personalities can mesh very well together.
     Even more astute readers may wonder even more what's going on with the police, as Megavolt and Darkwing are still standing in the middle of the intersection, surrounded by burning cars, chunks of concrete, and other indications of a peeved Megavolt.
     Quite simply, they left. Once the captain was driven off to the hospital, and Darkwing had kept his promise about stopping Megavolt's rampage, the police force used the general rule of thumb. That is to say, look at the situation and hold up your thumb in front of it. Then, keep backing away until you can no longer see the situation, as your thumb completely blocks it. You are now at the proper distance to safely stay out of whatever is going on until those capable of dealing with it arrive.
     The police were now several blocks away, and the S.W.A.T. team had almost arrived. Someone had the foresight to keep the S.W.A.T. team informed of recent developments, so the troops were taking a few minutes to put protective gear into place. Their primary orders were to subdue both of the transgressors, at which time they would be shipped to a laboratory for proper study. They were informed that the bird was more gullible, so it could be lured away with some reassuring words, and maybe some bird seed. The other one would have to go by force.
     Darkwing and Megavolt, meanwhile, remained in their own little world.
     "...but that liquid body can't be all it's cracked up to be," Megavolt was saying. "I don't even want to think about how he goes to the bathroom."
     Darkwing nodded, writing this down in his notebook. "And what's the deal with Negaduck? Has anyone tried talking to him about trimming down those eyebrows? I mean, it's like he has some sort of fungal growth up there."
     Megavolt shrugged. "Well, the rest of us think he's kind of sensitive about that, so we try not to mention it."
     A number of squealing tires interrupted their rapport. They turned to see several S.W.A.T. vans screeching to a halt all around them. The back doors opened up, spilling forth a mass of well-armored and protected men. Each one carried his rifle easy and at the ready.
     "Well, that's rather rude of them," Megavolt commented. "Now I have to fry them, which will probably make me lose my train of thought." He looked at Darkwing. "You'll remind me where we left off, right?"
     "Yeah, don't worry ab--oh no, wait! Not again!"
     But it was too late. Megavolt had already charged up his plug-helmet...
     But then it emitted a few feeble sparks, and the glow died.
     "Oh rats." Megavolt slapped his forehead. "Between the electrilizer jump and my previous...uh..."
     "Rampage?" Darkwing offered, looking around again at the ruins strewn about.
     "Oh, yeah. Thanks. Well, between that and our jump, my power reserves are pretty much drained." He looked around. "I don't see any power lines or anything to recharge with."
     Darkwing watched with growing fear as the S.W.A.T. team started to pull out grenade launchers and set them up around the area. Several rows of troops had already taken position behind some cover, aiming their rifles at the duo in the middle. Both Megavolt and Darkwing knew they were in serious trouble when the last van unloaded its troops. Someone had tipped them off, as each member was carrying a supersoaker. Darkwing kicked himself inwardly. Megavolt did outwardly.
     "You told them, you idiot!" he snapped. "Well, this is just skippy! You'd better figure out some way to stop them before we're both killed!"
     Darkwing was trying to figure out just that, when one of them motioned to him. "It's okay...uh, sir. We were told of your assistance. Step away from the other one, and we'll keep you safe."
     Darkwing breathed a sigh of relief and started forward, but was yanked back by Megavolt.
     "It's a trap!" Megavolt yelled. "You'll never separate us! We are forged from the same circuit! One for all, and all for...everyone else. Or something."
     "Thanks, Megavolt, but I'm sure that everything will be fine. Just let me--"
     "We have to stick together to the end, Darkwing!" Megavolt dramatically struck a pose, grasping Darkwing even tighter. "Together, alone in a foreign world, we have to put our differences aside and work together ‘til the end!"
     "Gee, that's real sweet of you, Megs," Darkwing was trying to squirm out of Megavolt's grip. He turned back to see the trooper waving for him to get over there and out of the way. Why is there a bag of bird seed in his hand? Darkwing wondered, then dismissed it.   "But this is for the best. You said you're low on power, so let me do the talking here, and we'll be all better in a jiffy."
     Megavolt, remembering how well things went the last time Darkwing did all the talking, shook his head. "I'm low but not out. Hang on. I have one more trick up my sleeve, so to speak."
     "What? What are you--"
     Darkwing was cut-off as Megavolt raised his free hand skyward, and a sudden field swept all around them. Then both Megavolt and Darkwing shot straight up, into the night and out of view. The S.W.A.T. team looked up and around uneasy. The leader shook his head and sighed, looking at the price tag on the bird seed.
     "Buck eighty-five for nothing." He tossed the bag over his shoulder and ordered a search to commence immediately.

     For the second time in under an half-hour, Darkwing was treated to an aerial view of the city. This time, however, he was not falling. Instead, he was flying slowly about 500 feet up. To be precise, he was clinging tenaciously to Megavolt, who in turn had his right hand magnetized to the underside of some sort of small aerial craft.
     "What did you do this time?" Darkwing quacked, waiting any moment for them to fall again.
     "Besides saving our lives?" Megavolt responded tersely. If having his hand firmly attached to an unknown flying object while airborne had any effect on him, he didn't show it.
     "Oh...yeah." Darkwing took a deep breath and calmed down. "Okay, what happened? You said you were low on power."
     "Exactly. I said I was low, not out. All I did was activate my energy-seeker, and well, here we are."
     "Energy-seeker?" Darkwing repeated.
     "Basically, my harness emits a quick surge over the area, and detects the strongest source of power around. Then it locks on to the target, converts a section of the object to negative polarity, my glove to positive, and presto! My magnetic personality brings the object to me." He looked down. "Or vice versa. Normally, I'm drawn to a wall socket or power lines, where the energy-seeker then siphons off the power to recharge me."
     "Is that happening now?" Darkwing thought that if it was, he should've felt something by now.
     "No." Megavolt looked back at the craft he was attached to. "This thing," he motioned with his head to the craft, "must have a boatload of power stored up inside to beat out the power lines we flew by. The energy-seeker locked onto this as the strongest source, but the trip up here expended too much of my power reserves to finish the job. So, I'm stuck in neutral, so to speak."
     "Great." Darkwing groaned. "How long before your magnetic glove gives out?"
     "It won't. They're permanently locked to each other until I can power up again, canceling the magnetics in the process." Megavolt tried to relax as much as he could, while dangling 500 feet from the Earth and having a duck clinging to him at the same time.
     "Relax." He continued. "Enjoy the view. Enjoy the rest. As soon as we land, I'll probably be in range of something to recharge from, and we'll be on our way again."
     Darkwing didn't answer. He was busy studying the skyline. He had some time on the last electrilizer trip to scope it out. At the time he figured he might never get home, so he might as well find the most dramatic place to pose. Now he looked with a different intent.
     This skyline was not the same as the one on the last trip.
     True, Megavolt and he may have come through at a different time, either many years before or after their last visit, but there were too many differences; not enough similarities for it to be the same city. He sighed deeply. They were lost in another dimension. Again. With no apparent way back. Again.
     He looked below and saw the rooftops of suburbia passing underneath. They were getting further from the city, and that struck a chord in Darkwing. All things considered, he was a detective, and there was one major difference between this electrilizer jump and the last.
     The last time, they had erupted from a television in a department store. This time, they had just appeared in mid-air. He had a strong suspicion that he should try to return to the area where they had appeared, to see what it was that made them appear in that spot, instead of through some electronic device, like the last time. Granted, it may have been the lightning in the area, but it was all he had to go on.
     The problem now was getting back there. Darkwing used a free hand to check his pockets for anything that might help. The only thing that came close was a super-strong cloth-alloy (don't ask) high tension net. Not his first choice for a substitute parachute. Below, he could see that he was now over a wooded area, some of the trees a respectable height. He might be able to use the net in conjunction with a pair of elastic bands he had for repelling as a make-shift bungee cable: Dropping the net over the top of the tree on the way down, and hope there was enough space for the bands to slow his descent.
     Now he faced the difficult choice of separating from Megavolt, who he would need to use the electrilizer for the trip back, with the possibility that he may never find him again, or of risking the fall to go back and investigate the area before time wore the possible clues away.
     "In the meantime," Megavolt was saying, "How about a song? Ninety-nine blown fuses in the trash, ninety-nine blown fuses...You toss one out, I'll reduce you to grout, ninety-eight blown fuses in the trash..."
     Actually, the choice wasn't nearly as difficult as Darkwing thought.

    The explosions had died away some time ago, but the sirens could still be heard. Most of them were fire engines, but the Rangers could still pick out the police as well. They kept their pace up, knowing that sometimes the clean-up of any incident can be as important as the actual happening itself.
     Keeping to their quick trot, they had soon come into the parks surrounding the suburbia. Gadget estimated that they would need another half-an-hour to get to the area, but that could be drastically reduced if they could snag some transportation. So they pushed on in hopes of hopping on a emergency vehicle on it's way there.
     They were perhaps no more than halfway through the woods, when they all heard a sharp cracking sound for high above.
     "What's that?" Gadget asked, stopping and looking up.
     They all heard a muffled cry and saw, silhouetted against the sky, a figure falling through the branches uncontrollably.
     "How'd a person get way up there?" Dale asked, astonished.
     "Ask him later, Dale, right now we have to save him from falling to his death!" Chip darted over to a nearby sapling, pulling out a coil of rope he carried. "Zipper! Monty! Give me a hand!"
     They caught on to what he was doing as he lassoed the top of the baby tree and began pulling it down. Zipper pushed the top, while Chip and Monty pulled. It was quickly stretched out over the area where the figure was falling.
     "Come on, Dale!" Gadget said, heading over to a rotted log. "That sapling won't be enough."
     Dale planted himself next to Gadget, and they shoved the log down the incline, rolling it into place under the sapling.
     "That should help cushion the impact." Gadget looked up, worried. "But I doubt it'll be enough." She hated the thought of it not being enough, even though it was all they could do.
     Since they were all busy trying to prepare a safe landing site, none of them noticed that the fall was taking longer than it should have. Even so, the figure crashed through the remaining branches of the trees with alarming speed. He wasn't plummeting, but he wasn't easing in, either.
     He broke through the last leafy bough, and thudded into the sapling, snapping Monty and Chip off their feet and into a bush several yards away. What the sapling couldn't handle in terms of kinetic energy, the rotted log soaked. Between the two of them, and the elastic bands the rangers could now see, the figure wasn't injured too badly. In fact, since it was his second fall from a height of greater than thirty feet, he was doing dandy.
     As the dust settled, the rangers could now see that maybe he was injured worse than they thought. He was all white, and looked sort of feathery. He was shorter than most humans, aside from children. They also took note of the dark clothing he wore: All shades of purple, with some green and magenta thrown in for good measure.
     What they couldn't understand was the webbed feet.
     They all approached cautiously, Monty and Chip absent-mindedly pulling leaves from their clothes. Zipper hovered over the large bird, for now they could see clearly that it was indeed a bird, but like no bird they've ever seen before.
     A groan indicated that the object of their fascination was awakening.
     "Launchpad would have been proud of that landing." He said groggily, shifting to sitting position. He shook his head to clear out the cobwebs, then peered around, spotting the Rangers for the first time. He regarded them curiously, having never seen animals in the wild who wore clothes. Not that they were shabby dressers, mind you. Well, with the possible exception of that one in the loud Hawaiian shirt, but it really looked like it belonged there.
     This brought his attention to his own clothes.
     "Oh great..." he moaned, seeing the dirt and moss stains. "Like today hasn't been going   bad enough already. And who knows how long it'll be before I can get it to a washing machine? I doubt the Laundromats here will be welcoming to out-of-towners like me." He sighed. "Not only am I stuck here, but stuck here in a ruined wardrobe."
     All this time, the Rangers could only stand and stare. Finally, Monterey turned to the rest. "Are you mates seein' this as well?" He asked bluntly. "Or did I just knock my noggin too hard on a rock?"
     "No, Monty," Chip answered, "Or else I hit my head on the same rock you did."
     "Well I didn't hit my head on any rocks, not today anyway, and I'm seeing it too," Dale chimed in.
     Zipper nodded to the rest, then landed lightly on Monterey's shoulder.
     Now it was Darkwing's turn to stare. This is a new twist, he thought.
     If there was any doubt left in his mind that he had never been to this dimension before, this was the clincher. In all his previous adventures, he had never run into small animals like like this. True, Archie, along with Eek and Squeak, could communicate with others, but he had never seen them in any type of wardrobe. Besides, they were the pets of Morgana, and that threw the animal behavior guidebook out the window. Darkwing also recalled a group of ants that were committing robberies, but that was directed by Lilliput, and even he needed a special cap to communicate with them.
     "Well," Gadget said decisively, "whatever he is, he's got to be hurt from that fall." She calmly strode up to Darkwing. "Excuse e, Mister... uh... Mister-Recently-Fallen-a- Great-Distance, are you hurt badly?"
     Darkwing was caught off-guard by the question, and had to blink several times to bring himself back to the present.
     "Uh, no. No, not at all. I just--AHHH!" He jerked in pain as he tried to stand up. A sharp stinging was racing through his back. It felt like he might have strained something. What is going on? He thought with a tinge of panic. I never was this easily hurt before, I can still feel the bruises from my first fall. Those should have vanished by now!
     He gazed back up at the treetops, and then down along the elastic bands connected to his waist. The bands were stretched out, but his weight was enough to keep him down. This was another problem. In all the past times he had tried anything like this, the bands should have shot him back up into the air. But not this time. Why?
     He shifted, feeling another stab of pain, and he dropped the line thought for more immediate things.
     "Yes..." he managed in a shaky voice. "I guess I strained something in my back."
     Gadget nodded. Her practicality had won over her fear of the unknown. She no longer cared what he was, only that he was hurt. "Okay, then, hold still for a minute." She climbed up onto his back, to the bottom of his neck.
     Chip and the rest looked in amazement at Gadget as she started a comprehensive examination of Darkwing's back, trying to pinpoint the problem. Chip shrugged and stepped forward. Might as well get on with it, he figured. They were already providing medical treatment, after all.
     "Well, Mr., uh, Duck." Chip started as best could under the circumstances. "We're the Rescue Rangers. My name's Chip, that's Dale, Monterey Jack, Zipper, and Gadget is the one checking your back." He indicated each Ranger in turn.
     "Heya, mate. Call me Monty." Monterey greeted.
     "Pleased to meet you." Dale nodded.
     Zipper made a gesture which indicated they would have liked it to be under better circumstances.
     "You're telling me..." Darkwing agreed. He flinched as Gadget hit the spot.
     "Does that hurt?" she called out. She tapped the area again.
     "Yes." Darkwing's voice was very tiny. "How much medical training have you had?"
     "I'm self-taught," she stated proudly. "No formal training."
     Darkwing nodded to himself. Figures.
     The rest of the Rangers missed most of the conversation, lost in shock. Finally Dale blurted out what they were all thinking: "You understood what Zipper was saying?"
     Darkwing looked at them strangely. "Yeah. Is that unusual?"
     "Well, it's just that no human ever understands him." Chip explained. "And not many animals, aside from other insects."
     "Oh, is that all?" Darkwing waved the thought aside. "Back home, I know a few residents of the lower section of the zoological chart--no offense--and can understand them rather well." He shrugged. Only slightly though, as Gadget was around the strained area. "Of course, it did take me awhile to learn what they were saying. Launchpad still has problems, but Gosalyn caught on pretty quick..." He chuckled to himself.
     "What do you mean, ‘back hom--" Chip started.
     A siren broke through their individual thoughts, reminding them all why they were now in the woods.
     "How bad is it, Gadget?" Chip asked. "Can he walk all right?"
     "Yes, but he really shouldn't. He needs to rest, and I can probably make him a compress to put on it." She dropped back to the ground and walked back to the group.
     "Thanks, but I'll be fine," Darkwing said. I hope, he mentally added.
     "Well, it's just that I want to find out more about what happened to you, but we're kind of in a hurry. I thought you might be able to tell us on the way there."
     "Where?" Darkwing said, standing up. The pain stabbed at him again, but he fought it back.
     Chip pointed off through the woods. "Over near the city. We heard some explosions and sirens, and wanted to go check out what happened, and if anyone needed any help."
     "It's what we do," Dale added with a proud smile.
     Darkwing could only give a weak smile. "Oh....that." His voice was attempting non-interest, but it was strained.
     Chip picked up on it in a heartbeat. "What do you mean?" His brain put two and two together, mainly two unusual incidents, and asked, "You were involved, weren't you?" His gaze was the most penetrating Darkwing had ever felt from a chipmunk.
     "I...uh..." His mind raced. Why was he feeling so awkward in front of four rodents and a housefly? He set traps out for these things at home. And what was more, he was the mighty mallard! Darkwing Duck! Hero to the helpless, savior of the suffering, and traffic cop to the speeders of crime! And these five...
     ...had probably saved his life. His bravado drained out of him as he gazed back up to the trees. As likely as it was back home that he would have survived this fall without any injuries to speak of, he wasn't home anymore. The pain in his back was a testament to that. And if these five...these "Rescue Rangers" hadn't taken the time to intervene, without any askance, he might not have escaped with merely a strained back.
     "All right." His voice was firm again as he put his hat back on. His resolve in being forthcoming with the Rangers lent him a much needed strength. "You don't need to go there. Everyone who was injured was taken away for treatment. And I'm willing to bet the fire department has the burning cars under control. They weren't near any buildings, so the fire is contained."
     Chip nodded. "Now, how did you come to get there? And where is ‘back home'?"
     "Well, have a seat, because it's a long story."
     "Gadget?" Chip turned to her as he nodded. "Can you get a compress ready for him here, or do you need some other supplies?"
     She glanced about. "There should be enough here for now. You'd be surprised at what you can do with natural ingredients." She smiled as she went about the various trees and bushes, selecting plants and herbs.
     "Guys, give me a hand with these leaves." Chip said, shoving a group over towards a spot clear of rocks and roots. The others nodded and quickly put together a small bed of leaves.
     "There you go, Mister...uh..." Dale started.
     "Darkwing." Darkwing said with a grin. He tipped his hat. "Darkwing Duck. Crimefighter by trade."
     "Cool name." Dale said with a grin. "Well, Mr. Darkwing, these should be more comfortable to rest on."
     "Too right," Monterey nodded.
     Zipper gave a wink. From one crimefighter to another, it implied.
     "Thank you, and just call me Darkwing." He settled down carefully. Again, he noted, they didn't ask if they could help; they just did. He smiled and started to see some hope glimmering through his storm clouds.

     Most of the damage had been neutralized, and things were back under control now. Granted, he had a lot of repairs to do before everything was up and running like before this minor disaster, but at least he could get back to his original plan now. The robots had nearly completed the first stage of the roof entrance, and his metal dragon was returning intact.
     Nimnul wasn't completely sure how much information was downloaded before the unit was destroyed, but he was confident that there would be enough for his purposes. He continued work at the computer, hoping to have it completely repaired before morning. Losing himself into his work, he was only dimly aware of his metal dragon returning through the roof entrance and landing, somewhat nosily, behind him. His attention, however, was caught by what followed next.
     "Hey, this is a pretty nice set-up here, even for a weird-nosed freak."
     Nimnul spun around, but didn't see anything at first. Then he noticed a shape underneath his metal dragon. It appeared that someone had hitched a ride back to his laboratory. Nimnul wasn't as interested in how the intruder got onto the metal dragon as much as he was intrigued by the fact that he was apparently trying to stay out of sight. At least, he hadn't come out from underneath the metal dragon, which merely glanced about,
awaiting instructions.
     Digging his remote out of his pocket, he tapped in a series of commands to the robots not involved with the construction at the hole/entrance. Several large, unfriendly-looking robots moved over to encircle the intruder.
     "You might as well come on out," Nimnul stated. "I know you're here. I'd like to destroy you with minimal damage to my inventions. That's happened quite enough for tonight, thank you."
     "You want me to step on out?" There was a spark from the figure. In the momentarily flash of light, Nimnul saw...well, he wasn't sure what it was, to be frank, but he had seen some pretty bizarre things before, most of the time as a result of one of his experiments. So he wasn't shaken too badly.
     He was, however, rather ticked when a surge of electricity sprang forth from a nearby wall socket, lighting up the figure. The metal dragon was unaffected, as its interior surge suppressors and exterior armor protection were more than adequate to keep it from even noticing the voltage below.
     Megavolt, now able to detach himself from the underside of the dragon, moved out from underneath it and stretched, casting a quick glance around. He felt like teaching the human who was in 'charge', but was distracted by the dragon, actually seeing it from the first time.
     "Whoa...so that's what my energy-seeker picked out." He nodded admirably. "Nice design. What year is it, a '97?"
     "Made this year, actually," Nimnul responded. He didn't like the way this guy (he assumed it was male) looked, especially with that huge battery strapped on his back. Nimnul tapped a few more buttons on the remote, bringing the rest of his robot force down to join the closing circle. The metal dragon turned to face Megavolt, it's eyes glowing red with the latest instructions.
     Megavolt looked around at the approaching robots. "Oh, you're going to show them all to me? Cool!"
     "Oh yes," Nimnul smirked. "Up close and personal."
     "Great!" Megavolt, still not quite appreciating his situation walked up to the dragon, trying to pull its head down for a closer look. The metal dragon made the process easier by snapping its head down, steel jaws agape.
     "Nice teeth. I--YAH!" Megavolt yelled as he jumped back, the jaws clanging shut only inches from his head. "Well, if you insist on this..." He lanced a bolt of electricity from his glove to the metal dragon, striking it squarely in the chest.
     A shower of sparks spread over the area, but the attack was otherwise deflected. Taken aback by someone actually building a device to last, Megavolt tried another approach. Another surge of electricity hit the dragon, but this time with the intent of draining the power from it, and transferring it to Megavolt.
     Again, the attack was repelled. Nimnul had put a lot of time into these robots, and it showed. Maybe, given enough time to charge himself up to full power, he might have been able to affect the robots, but the power that was sapped from the wall socket was rather pathetic by Megavolt's standards. He didn't have enough to take out one of the robots, let alone a squad of them.
     He spied Nimnul moving around them, trying to keep in sight of Megavolt, but staying a safe distance away. Megavolt saw the remote that Nimnul was holding, and decided that it might be more effective to remove the source in this case. He arced another shot over in that direction, but couldn't see well enough for it to be accurate. The electricity scorched the ground near Nimnul, but that was all.
     It was enough for Nimnul, however, as he didn't like the idea of being reduced to cinders by someone else. Come to think of it, he didn't like the idea of being reduced to cinders at all. He entered the final signal for the eradication of Megavolt. He did feel a twinge of regret, though, as he was fascinated by the ability to control electricity like that, and would have liked to learned more about it.
     Megavolt found that his personal space was being violated rather quickly. Knowing that his normal electricity attacks wouldn't work on these robots, he tried another tactic to get clear of them. He quickly set himself and the nearest robots to a positive charge, so as they lunged in at him, the repulsion caused by two like magnets pushed him up and away from the danger.
     Once airborne, he shot a wide-angled static burst behind him, letting the force push his momentum away from the robots. He landed several yards away, and behind Nimnul. Spinning back around, Megavolt absent-mindedly noticed that his feet stung from the hard landing. This was puzzling, as he had done this hundreds of times back in St. Canard without any type of pain upon landing.
     He put it out of his mind for the time being, which really wasn't too hard, considering Megavolt's mind. He stepped forward towards Nimnul, charging up his gloves.
     "Why destroy the toy when you can take out the batteries?" He said threateningly, rasing his gloves.
     "Because these 'toys' will function without them, carrying out their last instructions." Nimnul informed him, not wavering from his position. "Namely, your demise." The robots were lined up behind Nimnul, but he was holding them back for the moment.
     They both knew that if Nimnul sent the robots in, Megavolt would roast him before Megavolt was even reached. Likewise, however, if Megavolt zapped Nimnul now, the robots would have nothing to keep them from rendering him into hundreds of Mircovolts. The stalemate was seen and recognized. More importantly, however, they both had, for the first time, the chance to meet each other's determined gaze.
     And some twisted part of them recognized the howl of madness that echoed in the other's soul.
     Megavolt lowered his glove, dispersing the power.
     Nimnul negated the commands, sending the robots back to their previous duties.
     And both madmen looked at each other for a long, long time.

     The storm clouds still covered the city, and lightning occasionally played back and forth between rumbles of thunder, but otherwise the storm seemed to have settled somewhat. A few strong winds blew out across the miles of thunderheads, eventually coming to the area where Darkwing and Megavolt had first appeared in this world. Directly below, over a thousand feet to the city street, the police and fire department were cleaning up the remains of the destroyed unit, taking statements from witnesses, and generally trying to sort through the whole mess.
     A pair of slanted eyes watched with interest, eyes that glowed with a patience of someone waiting for the right moment. Like a time bomb patiently waiting to explode.
 

 --Chapter 4: New Allies and Old Enemies--

     Chip whistled. "That's a heck of a way to start an evening at work," he remarked as Darkwing finished his story. Darkwing held a small compress against his lower back, the one the Gadget had assembled. A combination of leaves and moss, and a few other things she told him he'd be better off not knowing about. Whatever it was, it was working. The pain had subsided rather quickly. Gadget, who had been monitoring the troubled area during the story remarked on how quickly it was healing.
     "Yeah, but normally, I don't even feel it five minutes afterwards. Like I said, it seems to be worse recently." Darkwing shifted the compress around.
     "Could be a result of the electrilizer." Chip thought aloud.
     "Possibly." Gadget replied. "I have a theory, but we'll have to run some tests first."
     "Tests?" Darkwing looked ill.
     "Oh, it won't take more than a few hours, really."
     "Swell." Darkwing rolled his eyes. "Well, it's not like I can think of a better idea."
     "Do we take him back to headquarters?" Dale asked. "I don't think he'll fit."
     "But my equipment's there." Gadget looked back up to Darkwing. "We don't need to bring him inside. He can wait outside, and we can bring the equipment out to him, run the tests, then go back in and process the results."
     Zipper looked at Darkwing, then to Gadget. Wait outside? His look asked. He doesn't exactly blend in with the other park ducks.
     "Not unless we stop by a costume shop, and outfit them in matchin' suits." Monterey nodded. "Even if it's night, people are going to be around."
     "Well, we need to get back to the headquarters anyway, because we still have to find out what Nimnul was up to." Chip crossed his arms and looked around, thinking. "Go back, gather information and supplies, and get the Ranger Wing."
     "But Chipper, how are we supposed keep Darkwing inconsequential?" Dale asked.
     "What?" Darkwing quacked.
     "The word is ‘inconspicuous', Dale, and we'll do what Monty said: Stop by a costume shop." Chip grinned, an idea growing.
     "Uh, Chip m'lad, I was kiddin' about outfittin' the ducks," Monterey said slowly.
     "We're not outfitting ‘the ducks', Monty," Chip reassured him. "Just ‘a duck'."
     The others slowly caught on and nodded, smiling.
     Except for one.
     "I've got that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach again." Darkwing moaned.
     Gadget, checking the small of the back once more, confirmed that it was almost healed, so the Rangers climbed onto Darkwing, who began a steady trot back towards the city.
     "What's the game plan, then?" Dale asked Chip.
     "First, we get Darkwing disguised. Then we stop back by the headquarters and let Gadget run those tests of hers." Chip and Dale were tucked safely in the collar of Darkwing, while Gadget and Monty were snugly inbetween the jacket and inner shirt of Darkwing. Zipper went from the tip of Darkwing's hat, to the shoulder, next the Dale, and then to whenever it best suited him. They all had a clear view of the approaching city.
     "Actually," Darkwing said to Chip, keeping in the shadows of the suburbs, "after the disguise, I would like to stop by and check out that area where Megavolt and I first came through. I think that might shed some light on what happened."
     "Well, at least make a quick detour to our HQ," Gadget said, then added as he started to object, "Just long enough for us to get the Ranger Wing. It will enable us to help you out better."
     Chip nodded. "We can cover more ground that way."
     Darkwing agreed, coming up to the city itself. They saw the first of many buildings taller than two stories. Darkwing pulled out his Gasgun and fired the grappling hook up to the roof. Tugging to make sure it held, he released the coiling button, pulling him and the Rangers up to the roof.
     They stuck to the rooftops as much as possible, avoiding anyone on the street and any windows nearby that had a light on inside. After several minutes, Darkwing landed deftly behind the costume shop. The Rangers quickly disembarked and moved over to the door. Darkwing walked up the steps and tried the doorknob.
     "Locked." He took a step back. "Okay, no problem, I'll just use my patented web-foot kick, and we'll be on our wa--"
     "Wait!" Chip called out. "Let us open it from the inside. There might be a burglar alarm that would be triggered by forced entry."
     It took Darkwing a moment to process the information. "Oh. Yeah." He resumed his normal stance as the Rangers entered through a small crack by the stairs. A scant few minutes later, and Darkwing heard a soft click from the inside. The door swung open, the Rangers waiting down by the door frame.
     "Okay mate, all set." Monterey nodded as he went back into the shop.
     "Thanks," Darkwing said as he stepped in and shut the door behind him. "I'll get the next one. You've got to see my entrance..."
     They took about ten minutes in the shop, finally finding what they were looking for: A number of fake zippers, fake buttons, a pair of wide-legged pants, and a couple of good sized shoes. Darkwing quickly slipped into the pants and shoes (which were purple and black respectively, so they matched his outfit), and the rangers attached the zippers and buttons around his neck, head, and hands.
     When they had finished, they took a moment to appreciate their work. Now, if anyone saw Darkwing, they'd think that he was a midget or a child on his way to a costume party. The fake zippers and buttons gave the impression that he was only wearing a very realistic duck costume.
     "There!" Dale nodded proudly. He had done most of the direction for this disguise. "Now Darkwing, people will think that you're really a human."
     "Sort of..." Darkwing mumbled.
     "As long as they don't look too long," Gadget noted.
     "And there's bad lighting," Monterey observed.
     "And they have bad vision," Chip remarked.
     Zipper merely sighed and rolled his eyes.
     Dale shrugged. "Well, we work with what we have. Anyway, it's the best we're going to be able to do."
     "It'll do." Darkwing said. "I don't intend to go parading around town. Not yet, anyway."
     "Yeah..." Chip said speculatively.
     "Anyway," Darkwing continued, "let's get this over with. I think I'd rather be shot than have to spend too long looking like this."
     "With the way your dressed, mate, you might get shot anyway." Monterey remarked dryly.
     Darkwing just looked at his disguise and groaned again. "Come on."
     The Rangers resumed their places and Darkwing left through the back again, shutting the door and hoping that there were no video cameras recording. He could handle the idea of being hunted again, but not if they spread what his current image was around the police force.
     Another series of roof hops and wall scaling brought Darkwing to the Rangers' home base in the park. Darkwing was feeling more nervous than ever. They neglected to mention the fact that the park was directly across the street from the police station.
     "Did I mention that I'm a wanted fugitive?" he mentioned hurriedly, glancing over his shoulder, just waiting for a wave of cops to wash over him.
     "That's a good pick-up line," Gadget grinned. "Seriously, Darkwing, you'll be fine. Just stay in the bushes, and there'll be no problems. We'll be right back with the Ranger Wing." She climbed down from his collar and hastened up the tree, Chip and Dale right behind. Monterey lagged behind a bit to mention something.
     "Just for your own knowledge," he said quietly, "Whenever Gadget says, ‘no problems' it's like she thumbs her nose at the spirits of bad luck. They don't like that."
     "Great..." Darkwing was now on the brink of paranoia.
     "I'm not sayin' it will happen," Monterey quickly explained. "Just that you should keep your peepers peeled." With that, he went off to join the others. Zipper was the only Ranger left.
     "You sticking around, Zipper?" Darkwing asked as he crouched into a cluster of shrubs to wait for the rest of the Rangers.
     Zipper nodded. There are perks to having your own set of wings, he grinned.
     Darkwing smiled and nodded. Zipper's presence helped to calm him down, so he stopped worrying about the police, and started worrying about Megavolt.
     I've got to find him, too, he thought grimly. Dollars to doughnuts we'll need that electrilizer to get home. Not to mention that as much as I'd like to, I can't leave him here. After all, it's his fault I'm down twenty dollars, so he's the one who's going to fork it over!
     As always, Darkwing had managed to overcome his fear and settle on what was important in his life: Him.

     "Okay then, try this one:
 

  I am the beginning of it all
  Although in my old age I may fall
  If my inventory you wish to be scrollin'
  Best for you to use my colon
  Or you're going to run into a wall."

     Megavolt nodded, pleased, at sat back. Nimnul chewed over this latest one, for a moment. However, he had been working with computers, so it was at the top of his mind.
     "DOS," He announced triumphantly.
     Megavolt frowned. Nimnul was no creampuff in the technical field. He didn't know the short, squat man that well, but already was developing a strong respect for the Professor's knowledge.
     "Okay, I have one:
 

  Wherever you go, I am there
  I am what all systems share
  No matter if you're IBM or a Mac
  I am the basis for all of that."

     Not difficult for Megavolt, mainly because he had already been thinking about computers. "ASCii."
     Now Nimnul sat back with a frown. He, too, was becoming very aware of Megavolt's considerable knowledge of electronics and mechanics.
     Megavolt sat forward, thinking. He decided to divert the track from electronics a bit.
 

  "A quarter to the right
  The twist around a thread
  Can make me too tight
  Which all machines dread"

     It was definitely a strand away from the computer riddles, Nimnul thought. But he had been building things for quite a while now. He remembered the simple set of operations he went through. Testing the power levels, tightening the bolts, and checking the...
     "Torque!" Nimnul laughed. He regarded the...well, whatever it was, across from him. To be honest, it looked like some dog/rat/weasel type thing, but Nimnul didn't think that was the technical term for it. He had introduced himself as Megavolt, and related the events that brought him here, and it had started Nimnul's mind working.
     He had a suspicion that somehow, the events he had gone through, with the malfunctioning computer and exploded unit, and the events Megavolt had gone through were linked. Not by much, maybe, but it was there. Still, he decided to wait until he knew more before saying anything. He was about to ask another riddle, when Megavolt spoke again.
     "Pardon my asking," he said conversationally. "But what are you up to?" He nodded at the robots around them.
     "Oh, them." Nimnul nodded, glad to have a chance to talk about diabolical plans with someone equally twisted. "Those are my latest inventions. I'll be using them to start gathering materials and information for my next plan. I started tonight, but ran into unexpected difficulties."
     Megavolt nodded. Nimnul had told him about what had happened to him earlier this evening. He, too, had his theories, but like Nimnul, decided to wait until confirmation before saying anything.
     "You see," Nimnul continued, propping one foot on a knee, "I've worked with robots in past, to some degree of success. The main problems I found was that some vermin could sometimes infest them, sabotaging them, and generally make my life unhappy.
     "But not these." He smiled as he nodded towards the gleaming metal robots. The roof entrance was nearly complete by now. The robots had worked efficiently and effectively. "They're completed sealed off from that." He paused. "Not completely. I do have an emergency access panel on each if I need it, but it's coded, so it'll be safe enough."
     "But why monsters?" Megavolt asked. He reached over to the counter behind them, grabbing a cup of coffee for each of them. He gave them a quick charge to warm them up, then handed one to Nimnul.
     "Well, I figure if you're going to terrorize the city, you might as well do it with style, you know?" He sipped his coffee before continuing. "My only complaint is that they aren't advanced enough for artificial intelligence."
     "Why not?" Megavolt figured that Nimnul could have done so, if he really wanted.
     "My problem with A.I. is that it takes up so much space in memory, and things are pretty crammed in there as it is." He pointed to the dragon, who was getting a new tail attached by what appeared to be an Orc and an Ogre. "Do you know how much space fire breath takes up?" He rolled his eyes. "I'm lucky I don't need to strap a zip drive on its back."
     Megavolt nodded glumly. "What are they up to, then? Something that requires complex actions?"
     "In a way. I still do the majority of work here, but they all still need to be completely computer compatible. Right now I'm working on a theory that I can steal the entire world's databases, and put it on one sole system. Then, with the ability to control the entire world through the computer, like power plants, city records, police computers, water and sewer, and so on, I can pretty much conquer the world at my leisure."
     Megavolt nodded. "Cool." He thought about trying it himself, but that kind of thing never really interested him. He always figured that ruling the world would be a lot of work, and be too similar to some sort of legal job. So, he was more than happy continuing the fine tradition of robbing and terrorizing the populace for kicks. Too bad the populace didn't seem to think it was as much fun.
     He thought for a moment. Something was odd about Nimnul's plan. Of course, Nimnul himself was odd, but this was more of an oversight. "Where could you store that much information, though?" Megavolt turned to the Professor.
     "Well, you've heard of Virtual Memory? I'd be using something like that. Call it, Extradimensional Memory."
     "Really? You mean storing the whole database in another dimension?" Megavolt grinned. "That would work. You'd need to find a proper dimension to store it in, though."
     "Oh, I know where. I found out about a few months ago. On the Internet, no less. Really. I typed in the words 'Extradimensional memory storage' and there I was."
     "I'd like to get my hands on that search engine...finding that toaster-oven homepage should be a breeze." He turned back to the robots. "So how do they fit in? Wait...don't tell me," he quickly said as he started to see Nimnul's plan. "They go out, and gather up the necessary equipment and information, then bring it back to you, where you can put it all together." Megavolt began to grin, seeing the plan crystalize to simplicity. "Then, they go and start the ultra-download. Because there are so many, you can have them in all parts of the world at once. You monitor them from here, and transmit all the data to this Extradimensional storage, where only you can access it."
     Nimnul's grin was as wide as Megavolt's. "Great minds think alike."
     "Twisted minds think." Megavolt thought for a moment. "Sometimes."
     Nimnul nodded readily to this.
     "So how's it coming, then?" Megavolt asked, downing the rest of his coffee.
     "Slow." Nimnul sighed. "Like tonight, for instance. If they only had their own intelligence, things would go so much faster. I wouldn't have to be directing them all the time."
     "I think I can help you with that."
     Nimnul sputtered his drink. "Seriously? How?"
     "Well, I've done it before. Any appliance I touched came to a life of it's own. Of course, they revolted and tried to turn me into a power generator for the rest of my life, but hey, we all make mistakes."
     "Of course," Nimnul understood perfectly.
     "But I think I know how to subvert it. All we have to do is put in a few simple commands into their programming beforehand, and we'll be all set."
     "Wow..." Nimnul had a dreamy look on his face. "You'd really do that for me?"
     "Sure. I'm going to be in town for a while, so why not? Besides, you can probably help me out when you gather more information on other dimensions. It'll help me to get home quicker." Megavolt extended his hand.
     "Of course I will." Professor Nimnul clasped Megavolt's hand and shook it. "We inventors have an unspoken oath, after all."
     "We do?"
     "Well, I've never heard it, but I would guess we do. Shall we begin?" He stood up and headed over to the mechanical bay of his laboratory.
     "Well, there is one more thing that we need to check on first." Megavolt said after he stood. He realized, he actually felt a little tired. The events of the evening weren't anything that should have put him out like this. But it did. "I think that there's something else going on here. With me."
     "What do you mean?" Nimnul asked, turning back to him.
     "Well, let me explain something about my world..."

     "The determined Darkwing Duck doggedly digs for details of a dimensional door." Darkwing dramatically stated as he inspected the ledge of the building his was walking on. The city street was several hundred feet below, and directly above him was the spot where he and Megavolt had popped through. This was about as close as Darkwing could get to it, and he hoped it was close enough.
     "You know, you're pretty good at that word stuff." Dale said as he moved on down the ledge, also looking for clues.
     "Thank you Dale." Darkwing's ego inflated promptly. "All part of being a superhero. You see, when you're a superhero, you have to take the dramatic approach, for your fans. It's re--"
     "Oh, I know about the superhero stuff. I was one, you know," he mentioned as he checked around the lip of the ledge.
     "You were?" This caught Darkwing off-guard. He took a moment to stand up, tucking his magnifying glass away with his disguise. Up here, he figured he didn't need to worry about it. More over, those shoes were making his feet hurt.
     "Sure," Dale continued. He turned around and looked up at Darkwing. "Back when I was Rubber Bando, I was the city's biggest hero, biggest hope, biggest--"
     "Pain in the outback," Monterey Jack finished, coming around the corner. "I can't recall the last time I saw somebody with such an ego problem."
     "It wasn't that bad....was it?" Dale looked sheepishly at Monterey.
 "Yeah, mate, it was. You were so full of yourself we had bets runnin' to see when you finally would burst. Crikey, Dale, you even were more worried about your parades than crimefightin'. What kind of hero is that, right, Darkwing?"
     Darkwing had impulsive urge to be elsewhere. Unfortunately, a ledge over three hundred feet in the air didn't often many opportunities. "Well...ego isn't that bad...not really. I mean, you have to keep your self-confidence up and all..." He stammered. "Right?" he added in a tiny voice.
     "See?" Dale said, coming to Darkwing's rescue. "He understands what I mean."
     "Dale, I'm not sayin' that you were a bad crimefighter," Monterey stated. "Merely that you let that fame go to your head."
     Dale shrugged. "Well, yeah, but it was fun while it lasted."
     "Find anything, guys?" Gadget called out. She pulled the Ranger Wing up from the street below and leveled it off, even with the ledge.
     "Not yet, Gadget," Monty answered. "But we just started on this side. How about you?" Gadget had gone down to check out the wreckage below. It appeared that the unit that had crashed was directly below the entrance point for Darkwing and Megavolt. Guessing that it probably wasn't a random chance, Gadget headed down to see if she could find out what the machine was, and why Nimnul might have wanted it.
     "Did I ever!" she said with a grin, landing the plane. She hopped out, beaming with happiness. "I think we may have just made some huge strides here tonight!"
     "Gadget, do you think I was egotistical when I was Rubber Bando?" Dale put on his most disarming smile.
     "Uh..." Gadget had let herself get caught unawares by the question, and didn't really want to tell Dale what she thought of him at one point during his career as Rubber Bando. "What brought this on?" she stalled for time.
     "Aw, Dale was just givin' his resume to Darkwing, claimin' his time as Rubber Bando at the top of the list. I told him that it was ego that was at the top, but he doesn't seem to want to accept that."
     "Well, I can't believe that I was that bad."
     "Believe it, Dale," Gadget said honestly. "No one should ever be burdened with the ego you had at one time. How can anyone be a hero with a self-inflated image blinding them? Right, Darkwing?"
     "I think I'll go get Chip." He quickly scaled the sides of the wall up to the top, where Chip went off to. "And there's nothing wrong with a big ego," he muttered. "Really."
     The top of the building was a four sided pyramid, with a slow, pulsing, red light on the top of a rod in the center of the pyramid. This is were Chip had come, not looking around for any signs of clues on the building, but instead so he could get a clear view of the spot Darkwing said the crossing had taken place.
     He was staring up at it when Darkwing reached him. Darkwing noticed that Chip was merely sitting there, gazing up with a frown, looking...scared?
     "Hey," he carefully said, "Chip. You done up here?"
     Chip turned, then glanced back up. "Come here, Darkwing, I want to see if you see this, too."
     Darkwing stepped over, being careful with his balance. "What is it? You see something?"
     "Yes, look up there. No, more to the left...stop. Right there. Do you see a...a shimmering?" Chip looked back to the Masked Mallard, looking for confirmation.
     Darkwing squinted, and for a moment, he thought he saw a quick ripple of light, like a ripple across water, but then it was gone. "I...think so. It might be lightning."
     Chip shook his head. "No lightning acts like that. I've been sitting here watching it for over ten minutes, and it 'ripples' like that every so often, right at the same spot."
     "Okay then," Darkwing said, "can you guys take the Wing up there? Get a closer look?"
     Chip was silent for a moment. "I thought about it, but to be brutally honest, I...I don't like the feeling I'm getting from it." He looked down. "I'm afraid, you might say."
     Darkwing regarded Chip with a raised eyebrow. Even though they had only know each other for a half a night, Darkwing got the strong impression the Chip was perhaps the bravest one in the group. He certainly had the strongest sense of responsibility, so to hear him say this was an unexpected development.
     Darkwing looked back up. The storm clouds slowly rolled over them, but the ripple occurred again, in the same spot, as Chip had said. Darkwing looked at it for a short while longer, thinking about it. The night breeze blew over the brims of their hats, causing the only noise in the silence. For a brief period of time, Darkwing could feel what Chip was fearing. Not fear as Chip thought it was, but more so for the safety of his friends. Chip was probably willing to risk it by himself, but not with others along.
     How many times have I told Gosalyn to wait at home? Darkwing thought to himself. Told her it was too dangerous? He saw the same concern in Chip, and decided to leave it be. It was up to Chip if they would investigate it or not.
     "Gadget's returned." Darkwing informed Chip. "She says that she's learned a lot about what's been going on, so I thought I'd come get you before she started the full explanation."
     Chip nodded and turned away from the sky. "Thanks Darkwing." He smiled, showing that it meant thanks for the excuse to leave.
     They were soon back on the ledge, giving Gadget plenty of room to pace back and forth as she excitedly explained.
     "I landed in the alley, then headed over to the clean-up process first, before they cleared away the unit entirely. What a mess! Parts and pieces were all over the street, and it had covered all sorts of cars and the like. There were a lot of people heading all over the place, so no one paid any attention to me as I moved around, looking at the remains."
     She paused for a breath. "It was advanced, that was easy to tell, even from the worst parts. Anyway, I figured that we could learn more about it at our leisure, so I loaded up the back of the Wing with microchips and other things that were actually still intact. Of course, that wasn't really a whole lot, so I grabbed lots of scrap metal and other things I could use."
     She turned to the rest of the group. "Umm, some of you will have to ride back with Darkwing." She blushed. "The back seat is sorta full."
     If Chip and Dale were upset at the back seat, her blush completely erased it. They merely smiled and nodded. Monterey rolled his eyes. Who says Gadget doesn't know how to use her looks? He thought with an inward chuckle.
     "Anyway," she continued, "I then went to check out the actual building itself. It was the headquarters for a world-renowned company, the MacFarland Research Group. This was intriguing, but not nearly as intriguing as what they were up to. Remember where Nimnul broke into? Well, I found the place easily, considering the mess the Nimnul's robot left, and while everyone was talking with the police and phoning call-in shows I took the time to nose around their records. Some of it was out already for the police investigation, making my job that much easier. It wasn't long before I came across a really interesting discovery."
     Another deep breath. "They were actually researching other dimensions!" She turned to face them all. "I mean, they had already found out some interesting information about some and even on how to get there! Science has brought as so far..." She was grinning widely, her eyes shining. None of the Rangers could remember the last time they saw her this excited. She was so excited about this that she actually stopping talking, basking in the knowledge she had just gained.
     It was quiet for a moment. Zipper looked around at the rest of them. Monterey was scratching his head. He never really got into the scientific jargon that Gadget threw around. Darkwing was already thinking to himself, looking back up into the sky. As for Chip and Dale...While Gadget was momentarily silent, staring straight ahead at nothing, it was quite obvious what Chip and Dale were staring at. Zipper had to admit, Gadget hadn't been this radiant a quite a while. He doubted that either of them had even noticed she had stopped talking. They both were gazing at her like children staring in awe at seeing the sun rise for the first time.
     Flying over behind them, Zipper used his patented chipmunk awakening procedure--pulling the tails out 'til they snap back.
     "Argh!" The two chipmunks called as they snapped back to the present, literally.
     "Hmm?" Gadget asked, broken from her reverie, but still grinning.
     "Uh, just wondering why Nimnul sent that robot there, then." Chip recovered first, trying not to let his stinging end bother him. Zipper's muffled laugh behind him didn't help.
     "Well, the unit that was destroyed was were they held all of their records. They figured that by putting the only terminal in the vault, then only powering it when they needed it, the records would be safe." She shrugged.
     "Looks like they were wrong." Darkwing remarked dryly.
     "Well, at least Gadget's right about learning stuff," Dale said. "We know a lot of info, now." He nodded to himself, than got a blank expression. "So, what does it all mean?"
     "Well, ol' Nimnul is tryin' to find out more about other dimensions, for starters." Monterey pointed out.
     "More importantly than that, Monty, don't you see the connection?" Chip looked around at the other Rangers. Monterey shook his head, Zipper shrugged, Dale looked back blankly, and Gadget was still in her own little world.
     "The connection between this unit exploding down there," Darkwing said, "and then Megavolt and I popping in this dimension up there." He looked back to the sky. "Easy to see, but then again, I have a personal investment in this."
     Chip nodded. "Right. And from what I saw up there"--he stole a glance at Darkwing to see if he knew what he meant. The Masked Mallard nodded slightly--"I bet you can drop a plumb line straight down from where you entered, and where that unit crashed."
     "So that's what pulled you through?" Dale asked Darkwing. "I thought it was the electrilizer."
     "That too." Darkwing nodded, wondering again what Megavolt was up to. "My guess is that it was a combination of things."
     "Well, it looks like in addition to getting you home," Chip nodded at Darkwing, "we'd better check into what Nimnul is up to. If he's messing with other dimensions, it can't be good." And, he reminded himself, I want to find out what the heck that ripple is all about...
     "If I may be of service then?" Darkwing said with a graceful bow. "As long as we're going to be together for awhile."
     "Sure thing, mate," Monterey said with a grin. "We could use your help against a crackpot like Nimnul."
     "Yeah, being over four feet shorter than your opponent isn't a good place to be." Dale remarked.
     Darkwing thought back to some of the supervillains he'd faced. "I can empathize with that."
     "So where to now? Back to Nimnul's?" Monterey said as he headed to the Ranger Wing.
     "No." Gadget walked over to Darkwing. "If you don't mind, I'd like to run those tests now. Especially after reading those files," her eyes sparkled, "I have a pretty good guess as to what's happening with you."
     Darkwing sighed. "Sure. But let's get it over with quick. Dawn will be here in a few hours, and I'd like to find somewhere more secure than the bushes by the tree."
     "See you back at the tree, mates." Monterey waved to Chip and Dale from the passenger seat of the Ranger Wing, a grin openly showing.
     Chip and Dale both frowned at him. He had slipped into it before they had a chance to argue over who got to ride back with Gadget. Zipper, too, was grinning, settled comfortably on Monterey's shoulder. Chip and Dale looked to the back seat, completely loaded down with the scrap Gadget had collected from the unit.
     "Sorry guys." She said, blushing again.
     Their frowns melted away into smiles.
     "No problem," they chimed.
     "Thanks guys! I knew you'd understand." She hugged them both close, then hopped back into the Ranger Wing and took off.
     Darkwing regarded the two dreamy-eyed chipmunks with a smirk. "Good thing I'm designated driver." He picked then up, setting them along his collar, and began his climb back down.

     The pair of eyes watched as the Ranger Wing took off, and then Darkwing moved off the ledge. Even though they were easily a good five hundred feet away, the eyes could see this happen clearly. After the Rangers and Darkwing left, the eyes turned their gaze off in the direction of Professor Nimnul's hilltop laboratory.
     And waited.
 

 --Chapter 5: That Sync-ing Feeling...--
 
    Nimnul removed the large metal helmet from Megavolt, putting his plug-helmet back on. "Well, I will say this," Nimnul said as he started to go over the readouts, "It's refreshing to see someone even more bald than me."
     "Oh, trust me, there are worse things than being bald," Megavolt stated, remembering the afro he had when he first became Megavolt. Some things could never be forgotten.
     "Okay, let's start with the basic scans." Nimnul flipped through several charts. He took his clipboard and walked to a wall, pulling out his remote. The lights were dimmed as the slide projector came on, showing the first graph on the wall. Megavolt turned around in his chair, keeping a pot of coffee in easy reach. He had been through slide shows before.
     "So did you find out what the deal is?" he asked, sipping his mug.
     "Well, yes, but it's not completely clear yet. You, however, can probably clear up the questions I have. For starters, can you really get hit by an anvil without any ill effect?"
     "Well...it stings," Megavolt offered.
     "Besides that? No cases of broken bones, fractured skulls, semi-permanent cases of death?"
     "No. Well, maybe a bit of bridge work, but nothing serious."
 
 *    *    *

     "I see." Gadget said, going over her results. She was sitting on the highest branch around the group. For safety's sake, they had decided it best if Darkwing climbed the tree and had the tests there, where there was more room than in the bushes. He was reclining against a large branch at the moment, with Chip and Dale on a branch on his right. Monterey and Zipper relaxed against the trunk behind and above Darkwing. They all were able to see each other clearly, which was important as they were asking and answering questions as a group.
     "See, if we were hit by an anvil, we'd be flattened," Chip explained.
     "Well, none of us actually tried it," Dale admitted, "but we have a strong suspicion of the results."
     "I see." Darkwing said. He didn't like the idea of anvils becoming deadly. They had a nasty habit of falling on him.
     "And what about getting run over, or other high-impact forces?" Gadget continued. She had the tests completed and compiled, and just wanted to make sure she had a few important points down. "You can just get up and walk away after?"
 

 *    *    *

     "Doesn't everyone?" Megavolt didn't like the direction these questions were heading.
     "It'd be a lot safer crossing the street," Nimnul responded. "But no, most people have bad side effects to abrupt contact with high velocity masses over twice their size." He pressed the remote for the slide projector. The photo switched to some frame stills of "Blood on the Highway".
     "This happens to you people?" Megavolt set his coffee down, losing his appetite.
     "This happens in our world," Nimnul corrected.
 

 *    *    *

     "What do you mean?" Darkwing shifted uncomfortably, having a bad feeling what it meant.
     "Just that, Darkwing." Gadget said. "This is our dimension, and it has it's own laws of physics."
     "Ones very different from yours, apparently." Chip mused.
     Gadget flipped another sheet over. "From all the tests I've done, Darkwing, you or more appropriately, your body, has shown a strange reaction to any type of physical force. I first suspected it back in the clearing. You should have been much more hurt than just a strained muscle in your lower back."
     "But that's all there was, and I did heal quickly, so maybe the laws of physics aren't as different as you thought."
     "Not quite." Gadget looked uncertain as to how to continue. "You see, there's more to it than that."
 

 *    *    *

     Megavolt fiddled with his gloves, then grabbed his coffee again, not answering.
     Nimnul cleared his throat tentatively. "You see, you are from another dimension. One with different laws of physics..."
 

 *    *    *

     "...and yet, I'm carrying around a trace of my home dimension with me?" Darkwing sounded incredulous.
     "That's why your injuries weren't any worse from the fall, and why you healed so quickly." Gadget flipped over another page. "Normal humans and animals, in our world, would need at least a couple of days to heal fully, and you were out scaling skyscrapers not more than three hours later."
 

 *    *    *

     "I think that's also how you can understand the human language." Nimnul clicked the button, bring up another photo, this one of the vocal cords.
 

 *    *    *

     "In addition to us." Chip remarked.
     And me, Zipper added with a wave.
     "Okay, I'm confused." Darkwing confessed.
 

 *    *    *

     "What does this mean for me? Am I closer to my ‘normal' physics or your dimensions' version?" Megavolt queried.
 

 *    *    *

     "Depends," Gadget admitted.
 

 *    *    *

     "On what?" Megavolt pressed.
 

 *    *    *

     "We're not clear on that yet," Chip explained.
     Dale nudged Chip. "You mean you don't know? For shame!" He grinned.
     "Shut up, Dale," Chip responded.
 

 *    *    *

     "What I am clear on is that you seem to still be able to operate as per usual, but just at a reduced scale from what you're used to." This photo was of a bar graph dealing with the '84 presidential race, with the candidates names crossed out and terms for "dimensional capability" written in.
 

 *    *    *

     "This would explain some things I've been wondering, though." Darkwing conceded.
 

 *    *    *

     "Like why my repulsion magnetic wave didn't actually stop Darkwing and me when we were falling, just slow us down a little."
 

 *    *    *

     "Exactly. For normal everyday operations, you won't notice a difference," Gadget started.
 

 *    *    *

     "But I'd better watch my step when I start getting too fancy." Megavolt finished with a frown.
 

 *    *    *

     Darkwing sighed.
 

 *    *    *

     "But why didn't this happen the last time? When Darkwing and I skipped over to that other world of humans, their dimensional laws were pretty similar."
 

 *    *    *

     "You said it yourself, mate, things were different last time." Monterey shrugged. "Who knows how much other stuff fits into this one, let alone the last one?"
     "Well actually, I could find that out--"
     "Don't worry about it, Gadget-luv."
 

 *    *    *

     "At any rate, you'd probably want to watch it from here on out. No jumping off of 99 story buildings." The next slide was of a frowny face.
 

 *    *    *

     "Or blocking concrete slabs with your head," Chip added.
 

 *    *    *

     "Well this trip certainly has gone sour quick."
 

 *    *    *

     Dale shrugged. "Welcome to our reality. It's not much, but it's ours."
 

 *    *    *

     "As I mentioned before, things aren't really that much different. Just remember that the rules here are a bit more strict."
 

 *    *    *

     "Including the consequences." Darkwing acknowledged.
 

 *    *    *

     Nimnul shrugged and turned off the slide projector and brought the lights back up. "Shall we start conquest of the globe?" He asked cheerfully.

     The sun slowly crept upwards in the eastern sky. Darkwing had put his costume back on, despite his trepidations. Still, he remained in the tree, near the top. Its leafy boughs were strong and wide enough to support him comfortably, and the view helped to put his mind at ease. Down below, citizens had already begun to appear--some out jogging, others on their way to work, and some just out enjoying the morning.
     Darkwing settled back in his perch, and watched the people below him with a detached interest. His eyes were watching them, but his mind was reviewing what had happened, and what yet needed to be done. He needed to track down Megavolt; that was the biggest priority now. Megavolt still had the electrilizer, after all. He had thought of the possibility of using the information that the humans had gathered, thinking they might have had begun construction on a machine to breach the dimensional barriers, and perhaps even completed one already. But he knew that those chances were slim, especially since he wasn't on home turf anymore. No SHUSH to get back up from, no Launchpad to get him around in a hurry, not even his own tower, where he probably had something to help out. No, the electrilizer was his best bet.
     Making sure that he was securely settled, he leaned his head back, shutting his eyes. He had been up for a while, and figured that a nap would be beneficial for the moment. He had time, as the Rangers explained they would do some investigation to see if they could track down Megavolt. The police probably were still looking, so they would see what they could pick up on the police scanner.
     "Call this crimefighter completely K.O.ed," he murmured as he drifted off to sleep.
     Several people passing underneath thought they heard a snoring from somewhere, but they attributed that to wind blowing through the leaves, and didn't pay anymore attention to it. Of course, this was not a new behavior for them, as they never took the time to notice that one of the branches halfway up was level on the top, being used for a landing platform. Currently, the Ranger Wing was parked there, with Gadget going over it for maintenance.
     The Rangers had all gone straight to bed upon completion of the discussion with Darkwing. It had been late, and they had been through quite a bit of activity. Now, with a few hours of solid sleep behind them, they were already up and moving. While Gadget got the Ranger Wing tuned up, Chip was busy trying to track down various possible leads through the radio and news broadcasts. Monterey was helping Dale move all of the scrap parts Gadget had collected into her workshop. Meanwhile, Zipper had left early on. He wanted to check around with some contacts he knew. Friends in low places, like cracks in the sidewalk and door frames, he explained.
     Finally, after about three hours searching the airwaves, Chip turned off the radio equipment. Information had been present, but nothing that led in the direction of finding Megavolt. At least the police also had no idea of what happened to Darkwing, so the Rangers were ahead of the game in that regard.
     He headed off towards Gadget's workshop, wondering if Monterey and Dale needed any help moving the rest of the scraps in. He spotted them inside, resting on the lazy susan. They appeared to be in the middle of a break, but it was hard to confirm, as they were both asleep. Chip rolled his eyes and moved over to them.
     "Hey, sleeping beauties," he chided them as he spun the lazy susan around. "This is your wake-up call."
     "Wha...hey!" Dale yelped as he rolled over, not fully awake. He rolled off of the lazy susan, coming to a surprising stop against the floor, jolting him up. "Ouch."
     Monterey merely slid off and blinked several times, trying to regain consciousness.  "Huh? We were just, uh, testin' Gadget's worktable here for stability."
     "I'm sure," Chip said with an inward grin. "Well, hey, do you guys need any more help moving those scrap parts in?"
     "Naw," Monterey answered, standing up and stretching. He motioned to a large pile of bits of metal in the back of the workshop. "We got the last few pieces in here before we took a nap--I mean, a look at the lazy susan for any signs of unevenness." Chip was ready with a sharp retort, but Dale cut him off.
     "You know, Chip," he said as he rubbed his head, "some of those pieces are pretty interesting. I mean, it looks like Gadget could make some really useful things from them."
     "Like brakes?" Monterey hoped.
     "He said ‘useful', Monty," Chip commented. "Not wishful."
     Monterey nodded glumly.
     "Anyway, come on guys, let's go make some breakfast for the others. We'll need our strength today, I'll bet." He led the way out of the workshop.
     "Any luck with the radio?" Dale asked as they walked along the hallways.
     "No." Chip frowned. "We'll have to get out and pound the pavement, it looks like. At least we know the general direction this 'Megavolt' character was heading in."
     "How come they all get the cool names?" Dale wondered. "Maybe we should update our names, too. You can't strike fear into the hearts of criminals with a name like 'Dale' or 'Chip'. You need something dramatic and awe-inspiring." Dale had talked at length with Darkwing about this.
     "This from the guy who called himself 'Rubber Bando'?" Chip replied dryly.
     "Oh, well, excuse me, Mr. Sherluck Chip," Dale countered.
     "Look mates," Monterey interjected as they came through the kitchen doors. "Havin' a full-blown superhero name, complete with peppy adjectives like 'Super', 'Amazing', and even 'Fuzzy' aren't going to do us any good when half the time the bad guys can't even understand us. Why call yourself things like 'Captain Chipmunk' or something, when the humans are just gonna label you as 'Chipmunk' or some such?"
     "Yeah," Chip agreed, pulling out some various food from the fridge. "As I recall, Dale, the media was calling you 'The Rubber Rodent'."
     "I remember," Dale grumbled. He helped Chip sort out the food while Monterey donned his chef's hat and started the stove up.
     "What's more, even those that do understand us still only know us as the Rescue Rangers." Monterey wrapped his apron around him and took the food Chip and Dale handed to him, starting to slice it up.
     "I know." Chip got out a tall pitcher of orange juice. "Out of all the times we've faced Fat Cat, I don't thing he's ever referred to any of us by anything other than 'Arg! A Rescue Ranger!'" Chip thought for a moment. "Or some facsimile thereof."
     "If it's not 'Refuse Rodents' it's 'Rangerms' or something crummy like that," Dale muttered in agreement.
     "Ah, the price of fame," Chip said with a smile.
     "Too right." Monterey nodded, lying the cut food down in the skillet, then sprinkling it with some seasonings. "For fellas like Darkwing, it's not a problem, 'cause he's a solo crimefighter. For us, a team, we probably shouldn't worry about it."
     Chip nodded and watched as Monterey cooked the cheese strips in the pan. "I hope Darkwing likes cheese."
     "Who doesn't?" Monterey chuckled. "Besides, I just hope he doesn't have a big appetite. This is going to be more of a free sample than an actual meal for him."
     "Well," Dale said, sitting at the table, "I still think we should change our team name somehow, to give more ‘oomph', you know?"
     "Oomph?" Chip asked, sitting next to him. "Is that a technical term?"
     "What did you have in mind, Dale?" Monterey asked, pouring some more cheese sauce in the skillet.
     "Well...how about tacking on a prefix? Like 'Dale 'n Chip's Rescue Rangers'?"
     They all thought about it for a moment.
     "Nah," they decided in union.

    Completed, the energy-transference-and-intellect-bequeather-device (or as Megavolt called it "That Thing") stood in the center of the lab, with Megavolt and Nimnul in front of it. The various robots were lined up behind them, the metal dragon first. That Thing hummed quietly, the power inside being stirred by a churning electromagnetic wave. Megavolt had redesigned the machine, and with Nimnul's resources, both in terms of equipment as well as facilities, they had worked straight through the night, until it was finished at last.
     Working together, they had finished it in record time, and were now about to try it out. Megavolt watched the machine hum with a small twinge of apprehension. It was a better design than the last one, but he still remembered how much it hurt the last time. Now that he had to watch his step, he wasn't so willing to put his faith in his ability to absorb punishment without pain.
     "All set?" Nimnul asked, bringing the metal dragon up alongside of them.
     Megavolt shrugged. "As ready as I'll ever be, I guess. Now remember: After I'm powered up, steer clear. I don't know what'll happen if a human gets infused with this electromagnetic soup."
     Nimnul nodded, already putting on a pair of safety goggles, ones that actually fit over his huge eyeglasses. He stepped back around behind the dragon as Megavolt reached out to That Thing. He pressed his hand up against the metal bar jutting from its core.
     Nothing.
     Puzzled, Megavolt looked around, then rolled his eyes when he saw the problem.
     "Hey Nimnul," he said, grasping another lever, "You left the emergency brake on--"
     He was cut off as he released the emergency brake, and power flooded into him. His brain rattled around sharply in his skull, and he became distinctly aware of the smell of smoke. Sparks danced before his eyes. His hand had apparently melded with the bar, as he couldn't let go. The energy felt like it was about to cook him from the inside.
     Everything was running like clockwork.
     Eventually, after only a few seconds, Megavolt's hand came free from the bar and he was thrown back to the floor. He bounced a few times, then settled to a stop. The room was dancing a jig in front of him as he tried to rise. Someone kept tilting the floor as he regained his feet. He was only dimly aware of the pinkish aura around him.
     Trying to steady himself, he set his hand up against a convenient object. Power surged through him again, tearing a yell from him so bizarre I'm not even going to try to spell it out here; use your imagination. The flow of energy suddenly came to a halt, and Megavolt thudded to the floor, trying to remain conscious. His body ached all over, and the ringing in his ears was at a roar.
     "That was kinda fun..." he remarked as he slowly rose to his knees. Now that the power field was out of him, he had control of his senses, and could see Nimnul walking over to him. Nimnul was looking up, though, past Megavolt. He turned and saw that the object he had rested against was in fact the metal dragon. Now the pink aura had enveloped it. The robot was perfectly still, the only sign of any interaction with the power within it was the series of flashes from the eyes. Colors flashed through them in a blur, while an occasional equation or serial number would surface, only to be swallow back into the chaos moments later.
     The pink aura died abruptly, as the metal dragon blinked its eyes. Nimnul was fascinated by this, mainly because the dragon couldn't have possibly blinked beforehand. Megavolt stepped back, watching with tremendous interest. The robot's body was actually acting like a body. The movements were fluid, not stiff, and the metal was bending and flexing, as if it was flesh. Megavolt remembered the refrigerator he had first brought to life this way; it was walking over to him. Apparently, the power aura granted a certain freedom from the normal laws of physics, even in this "stricter" dimension.
     Megavolt chuckled at the irony. I can grant the ability to defy the dimension's laws, but I can't do it myself.
     The chuckle caught the attention of the dragon. It stepped forward towards Megavolt and Nimnul, who were standing side-by-side, watching with amazement at the life-like functions. A wisp of flame tricked out of the dragon's mouth, and they both heard a low, ominous hiss which seemed directed at them. I wonder if it has a dragon's personality, Megavolt thought, a little belatedly since it was already over and done with.
     "Excellent!" Nimnul said, breaking the trance. "Dragon, you look marvelously threatening right now. Like you're about to tear us to pieces. It's very convincing!" He said with a smile, oblivious.
     "Oh, do you really think so, sir?" The dragon asked hopefully.
     "Yeah, it's great." Nimnul nodded.
     The dragon sighed happily and sat back. Its voice was low and cultured, with just a hint of a British accent. "That pleases me, sir, really. I was hoping to generate the proper atmosphere of fear and helplessness that is generally associated with dragons."
     "Well...ah..dragon," Megavolt started, then scratched his head. "Um...got a name?"
     "Oh, well, no, I'm afraid not sir." The dragon thought for a moment. "How about Sean?"
     "Nah, too common." Nimnul waved the name aside. "We need something more...more...dragon-ish."
     "Smaug?" It suggested.
     "Copyright infringement," Megavolt pointed out.
     "Oh, good point sir."
     "I know!" Nimnul said. "From this day forth, you shall strike fear into the hearts of people everywhere, known as..." He paused dramatically. "Dragon!"
     Megavolt and the dragon looked at each other momentarily.
     "Perfect!" they cried simultaneously, grinning.
 

 --Chapter 6: Drive-By's and Singings--

     For the rest of the day, the Rangers planned out the best way to search the city and surrounding area for Megavolt. They would have liked to have started right after breakfast, but Darkwing was still asleep. They needed his help, as no one knew Megavolt as well as Darkwing did, and they had decided to let him rest. As Gadget pointed out, he'd had a real busy night.
     "Besides," Chip agreed, "It'll be easier to stay out of sight at night. We won't have to worry as much about him being spotted."
     "And even if he was," Dale defensively added, "the disguise will fool most people."
     The other Rangers just politely smiled.
     Grumbling something about no appreciation for creativity, Dale went back to work with the rest of them. As long as they had time, they had decided to prepare as best they could beforehand. They choose the Ranger Wing again, as speed was more important in this case. Gadget even decided that considering the amount of time they had, she could do some more tinkering with it, boosting the speed. She devoted herself to that task for the whole day, while the others decided what they didn't know couldn't hurt them, and so found other things to do.
     Chip gathered up the various maps they had and kept an ear open to the radio, listening for anything else suggesting the location of Megavolt. Dale was stockpiling various types of gear he thought they might need: rope, backpacks, grappling hooks, and comics. He wasn't sure if the others would agree on the importance of the last item, but he decided to be safe rather than sorry, should they need some reading material. Monterey busied himself in the kitchen, knowing full well it would be easier to eat during the search, rather than have to stop for food. He still wasn't sure what to do about Darkwing, though, so he just made an extra potent batch of his notorious cheese chowder.
     They were all so involved in their various tasks, none of them noticed that Zipper hadn't returned until he showed up early that evening.
     "Zipper!" Gadget looked over the side of the Wing, surprised to see him buzz his way up to the branch were she was working. "Where have you been? Golly, it's been all day."
     She slid down to the ground as Zipper motioned for her to follow him inside. They entered through the mailbox, coming out into the living room. Gadget sat down on the couch as Zipper rounded up the rest of the Rangers, each responding the same way as Gadget.
     "Where were you? Crikey, pally, ya could at least call...not sure how, though."
 Monterey, Chip, and Dale wandered into the living room, all sitting down on the couch while Zipper alighted on the control pad for the television. Now at center stage, and with full attention from his audience, Zipper recanted his tale.
     First off, Zipper motioned as he paced back and forth, I checked down around the streets to see if anybug had seen anything. I took a quick peek in the sewers, too, just in case. Still no leads. But then I remembered about the...disturbance that we were heading to when we met Darkwing.
     I flew down to the remains of the scene, Zipper's eyes informed. It looked like a small war had taken place, but at least it had drawn a lot of attention, particularly with the gnats and ants. I checked with them, and while none had seen it, the scouts that told them about it had said that Darkwing and Megavolt had escaped in the air, and a few of the flies believed that they flew off towards the northeast.
     "We found Darkwing in the park up there." Gadget nodded.
     "But not Megavolt. He must've still been heading to the northeast," Chip mentioned. Something was simmering in the back of his head about that direction...
     "Then that's were we start our search," Monterey said.
     But how can we track him if he was in the air? Zipper inquired with a shrug.
     "He had to land some time," Monterey reasoned.
     "If it was anything like Darkwing's landing, he'll be street pizza," Dale observed. "Or at least field pizza."
     They continued to bounce ideas back and forth, not noticing that Chip was strangely silent. He was thinking back to that night. They had come from that direction, as he recalled. And Darkwing had told them that Megavolt was magnetized to some sort of small airborne craft, but he wasn't sure what.
     One clue linked to another, making Chip more and more uncomfortable with the prospect it was leading towards. Sadly, Chip was good at his job, and knew where Megavolt now was.
     "He's at Nimnul's lab," He stated out loud, interrupting the others.
     They all turned to him. "What?"
     "They must've hooked up onto Nimnul's robot dragon." Chip sighed. "The one that was out there earlier and apparently on it's way back. If Megavolt stuck to it all the way, then he wound up in Nimnul's lab."
     The rest of Rangers shifted uncomfortably in their seats. The setting sun cast long shadows across the far wall, giving visuals for what they were all fearing.
 
     The stars had started to come out as Megavolt and Nimnul began outfitting the now sentient robots with equipment for the data transfer. The robots would patch into the various systems, download everything through a tight-beam transmission back to Nimnul's mainframe, where he could then make the dimensional storage transfer.
     They would have been done sooner, but Megavolt had a bad habit of passing out after bringing three robots to life, and wouldn't regain consciousness until several hours later. Nimnul took the time to catch some sleep himself, and to name the robots.
     Now the robots that looked like a troll, an ogre, an orc, a goblin, a griffin, a sphinx, a manticore, a giant spider, a large lizard, and a gargoyle all had names. Respectively, they were Troll, Ogre, Orc, Goblin, Griffin, Sphinx, Manticore, Spider, Lizard, and Gargoyle.
     Megavolt checked the connections on Sphinx, the last one to be outfitted. Nimnul was busy at the computer, plotting out the first target for each of the robots. Each of the robots could fly, thanks to Nimnul's internal anti-gravity module, but he still wanted the ones who couldn't fly normally, such as the orc and goblin, to hit targets where they wouldn't have to fly. Nimnul figured that each should be "acting in character", and a flying goblin, while handy, would be out of character.
     "All set," Megavolt announced, standing up and walking back over to Nimnul. "You have the targets picked out?"
     "Yep." Nimnul grinned, and entered them into the mainframe. The instructions were transmitted to each robot, who in turn nodded. Their eyes were now constantly glowing red, but they flashed brightly as their targets were acknowledged.
     Megavolt sighed happily. There was nothing like getting involved in some global domination scheme to cure homesickness.
     "Well, sirs, the staff and I are ready. Shall we disperse?" Dragon asked politely. "I must say, sirs, this plan is very unique. Classifiable as mad, by some psychological directories."
     "Your point?" Megavolt and Nimnul asked in unison.
     "None, really, sirs." Dragon nodded. "Just speculating on how others may view the nature of this plan. They may consider you mad, by association."
     Nimnul glanced at Megavolt. "But, we are mad."
     "I'm not angry." Megavolt said, then smacked his forehead. "Oh! You mean insane! Oh, yeah. I am. And so is this plan. But hey, that's what makes it fun."
     The rest of the robots had lined up side by side behind Dragon, and Megavolt stepped forward to the center of the lab. The lights within twinkled a bit, and a light music began to fill the air.
     (The author wishes to remind readers that this is a Disney setting, and therefore he is now satisfying the musical requirement of all Disney animation. Sing the following to the tune of "Mine! Mine! Mine!" from the movie "Pocahontas")
 
 

 MEGAVOLT:
 The files in old DOS
 The wonders all in ASCii
 Will be all transferred to
 Dimensional mem'ry
 The scheme we have here
 May seem mad by some
 Oh, but why should we be plain, bots
 When we are insane, bots?
 Mad, bots, mad is our methods
 And so, bots, take up the cause
 Grab a byte, bots
 Right, bots
 Plug in an I/O
 Download those silos
 Full of that data and CAD
 It's ours and we're mad, mad, mad
 
 ROBOTS:
Gone and gone and gone and totally
Gone and gone and gone and totally
 
DRAGON:
They're nutty nutty
So nutty nutty
 
MEGAVOLT:
Oh, yeah you know it!
 
DRAGON:
They're nutty nutty
So nutty nutty
 
MEGAVOLT:
Sane's for the weak!
 
DRAGON:
They're nutty nutty
So nutty nutty
They love to show it!
 
MEGAVOLT:
You can tell by the way that we speak!
My buddies back home
The other four fearsome
Will regard me in awe
Or at least just call me dumb
But my new research
Will startle my old chums
My name on the marquee
"Megavolt"...not, "Sparky"!
I'm mad, mad, mad
Beyond question
I'm mad, bots
Mad and in charge!
With those electrode nodes...
With that electric shatter
My thought patterns will scatter
Which usually makes me feel glad
Or else it'll make me quite mad
 
ROBOTS:
Gone and gone and gone and totally
Gone and gone and gone and totally
 
NIMNUL:
All of my life, I have searched for a crime
Like this one
A weirder, more crazier partner
I never have had
Hundreds of hard drives await
And I don't plan to miss one
In a crime I won't shirk
A crime that will work!
My greatest advantage? I'm mad!
 
MEGAVOLT and ROBOTS:
 Keep on hacking, bots                          Mad
 Don't be slacking, bots               They're way out there
 Mad, bots, mad                          And they make quite a pair!
 Mad to the end                           Gone! Gone! And totally
 Off the deep end                        Gone! Gone! They've got flair!
 
ALL:
And these refrains?
Insane!
 
MEGAVOLT:
Who needs profanity?
We've got insanity!
And all I need now is some plaid
 
NIMNUL:
This crime we behold...
 
MEGAVOLT:
This madness unfold...
 
NIMNUL:
Your brain will explode!
 
MEGAVOLT:
Or at least implode!
 
MEGAVOLT and ROBOTS:
    And this crime                       So go for the crime
    Is                                   We know these crackpots
    Mad!                                Have hit the jackpot
    Mad!                              And these screwballs
    Mad!                       Are also the cueballs and
    Mad!                                                      Mad!
Gone and gone and totally gone!
They're nutty nutty nutty and mad!

     The lights dramatically close down to a single large spotlight, shining down directly on the group in the middle of the lab, all posing with flair.

    "So Nimnul is a mad scientist bent on world domination?" Darkwing asked as he swung from building to building. He had his disguise on again, even though those shoes were hurting his feet, even more than the whole image was hurting his pride. But as long as they were in the city, he had to play it safe.
     "Yep." Chip nodded, carefully hanging on to Darkwing's collar. Dale was opposite from him, also holding on tightly as the Mighty Mallard made his way across the city's skyline, towards the distant hilltop lab of Professor Nimnul.
     "Great..." Darkwing sighed, planting his feet as he tossed a grappling hook over to the next building. "They should get along just peachy, then."
     "So what if they team up?" Dale asked. "Don't you think Megavolt would be more interested in getting home than going on a crime spree?"
     "With Megavolt, anything is possible." Darkwing's grapple caught and held against the building. "It's hard to second guess him in some regards. But he is a creature of habit, and wouldn't mind sowing some destruction and chaos before he leaves." He swung out over the city street gracefully, landing against the side of the building, and climbing up the rope.
     Chip and Dale watched out over the sky. It was a clear night, and the stars looked particularly bright tonight. Chip breathed in the night air deeply, feeling such a relief from the night previous. That shimmering space in the sky he had watched...it still caused him shudders thinking about it. Deep down, he knew that eventually they would all have to investigate it, but he was hoping it wouldn't for a while yet. In this regard, he was almost grateful for the distraction of the possible team up between Megavolt and Nimnul.
     His thoughts were interrupted as the Ranger Wing buzzed by them. Gadget, Zipper, and Monterey had taken the Wing, deciding it best if they could cover more ground once they got there. It was possible for them to head straight over to the lab, but both Chip and Darkwing disliked the idea. If they were caught, help wouldn't be available for some time. Time they might not have.
     So, the group in the Wing flew around causally, waiting on the building-bound to keep up. Darkwing figured he could increase his speed, but since a fall from this height would probably kill him this time, he decided that safety would be the better path.
     "Safety first," he muttered to himself, recalling the words of Binki when she was the Carnardian Guardian. He thought if he ever got around to writing that book about himself, he would leave that chapter out.
     He reached the top of the building and darted across it, the Ranger Wing following behind. Another toss of the grapple, another climb, another building. They continued in this fashion until they reached the outskirts of the suburbs.
     "Finally!" Darkwing called out with relief as he dropped into the deserted yards. He quickly pulled his disguise off, and barely resisted the urge to cram it into the nearest trash can. Instead, he tucked it back into his cape.
     "What are you doing? We aren't out of the city yet!" Dale looked about. The streets were empty, but lights were on in the houses. "Somebody could spot you. Put your disguise back on until we reach the woods."
     Darkwing snorted. "Not a chance, chipmunk. My feet are killing me, and I'd rather go skin-diving with sharks than wear that get-up for another minute." He adjusted his hat to a slight angle so that he looked dignified, yet cunning.
     "For one of the few times of his life, Dale's right, Darkwing." Chip glanced down the streets as well.
     Dale started to thank Chip, but started thinking about what that remark implied...
     "Look, Chip," Darkwing said nonchalantly, shifting his cape to dramatically catch the breeze, "The night is my element. My turf. My playground. I can disappear before an eye blinks and mystify the mind with my miraculous merits of melding."
     "Er, yeah, right, but can that wait until you're safely out of sight?"
     "Of who?" Darkwing motioned to the empty street. He started walked down the sidewalk, towards the woods. "We're only about ten minutes from the woods, and nobody is out. I mean, it's past ten and this is suburbia. We're perfectly safe."
     "Hey wait a minute!" Dale called out. He turned to Chip. "That was an insult!" He had worked through the prerequisite logic patterns to come to that conclusion, even if he did get lost a few times along the way and had to start over.
     "Guys, can you keep it down?" Gadget asked, bringing the Wing down next to them.
     "Yeah, mates. It's not like we need any more reason to call attention to ourselves." Monterey nodded from the passenger seat.
     Zipper decided that they were going slow enough, so he hopped out of the Wing, to fly alongside on the other side of Darkwing.
     "Will you guys quit worrying?" Darkwing motioned to them all. "You act like we're walking directly through a block party. Nobody is out here. Nobody will be out here. We will be safe."
     "Hey!" A voice called out from the house next to them. "It's that weird mutant bird they showed on "Hard Copycats"!"
     Lights went on throughout the house as the shouting continued, and soon it spread to the neighboring houses. Windows flashed to life as lights were turned on and people gathered around to see the...bird mutant.
     Monterey clapped a hand to his forehead, letting it run downacross his face. "So much for subtlety," he grumbled.
     "Come on, the woods aren't that far!" Gadget called toDarkwing as she gunned the motor on the Wing and sped off. "We'll met you on the other side of the woods!"
     "I'm more worried about meeting them on the other side, period," Dale said as sirens rang to life in the distance, rapidly growing louder.
     Darkwing had took off running, but was forced to remain along the ground. The two-story houses didn't give much of an advantage here, and he didn't like the idea of getting too close to these humans. But he knew he needed a quicker way to the woods. The sirens were very close now.
     "Over there! Look!" Chip pointed over to Darkwing's right, to a bike lying on the sidewalk. "Good thing some kid didn't listen to his parents about picking up his things."
     Darkwing regarded it for a moment. A crimefighter of his stature riding a common bicycle?
     A police car came screeching around the corner, red and blue lights flashing brightly against the dark backdrop of the sky.
     "Well, it's no Ratcatcher, but..." Darkwing mumbled to himself as he hopped on it and began pedalling furiously away from the oncoming car.
     "Quick! Cut across the lawn here!" Dale leaned over and directed Darkwing between two houses, a fence running down between them. Darkwing sped the bike through them, and the police car was forced to stop, unable to fit between the houses with the fence in the way.
     "Wow." Chip remarked as he watched the officers get out of the car and begin pursuit. "Police who actually care about private property. I thought they would have just driven through the fence after us."
     More sirens were approaching, but the woods were in plain sight now. Darkwing pumped the pedals as fast as any duck ever had, not bothering to stop or even slow down as they entered the woods. Shouts from the police could be heard behind them, and Chip and Dale looked over Darkwing's shoulders to see searchlights darting about.
     "My, they're persistent," Dale observed.
     "I (huh) noticed (huh)," Darkwing managed between gasps. "Don't they (huh) have something (huh) better to do (huh)? Like eat (huh) doughnuts (huh)?"
     "Probably got carry-outs," Dale replied.
     "As much as I hate to interrupt a discussion on the duties of law officers," Chip said mildly, staring ahead. "Look out!"
     Darkwing followed Chip's gaze too late, seeing the log at the same time that the bike hit it. Darkwing, Chip, and Dale all flew through the forest, crashing to the ground a good twenty feet away.
     Darkwing staggered back to his feet, a bit shaken, but not harmed. Chip was helping Dale back up. They had gone through a number of forest crash landings, even before they started flying with Gadget.
     "Well, so much for that transport," Darkwing breathed, looking back to the bent rim on the bike. He took a moment to gather his breath, then reached down and scooped up the chipmunks. "Back to the Darkwing express."
     "I think we got a good lead on the police." Chip glanced back. Beams of light were seen and shouts heard, but they were further away. "But let's capitalize on it. Gadget and Monty and Zipper should be waiting for us over there." He pointed off to the edge of the woods, were the trees ended and the fields began.
     Darkwing nodded, took a moment to secure his hat, and was off.
 

 --Chapter 7: The Gang's all Here...Joy.--

     The hilltop lab was silent and dark as Darkwing crested the top of the ridge. The Ranger Wing buzzed overhead, off to search for any signs of accessible entry. All the Rangers had gone, giving Darkwing a moment to himself. He took a deep breath, and started reciting the fan letters he'd received in the past, which always helped relax him.
     He took a moment to survey the area. Isolated. Private. Very secure. His mind flashed back to the lab at SHUSH central, and that it, too, shared these traits. Darkwing wondered what it might mean if there was some unwritten law that all mad scientists have their workshops in similar locations, but he didn't like what the implications might be, so he quickly focused on the actual laboratory before him.
     It fit a mad scientist's motif, Darkwing had to admit. The geodesic globe looming over everything, the large pipes piercing the sides of the hill, the lack of any type of duotone color scheme. He made his way down the slope towards Nimnul's lab carefully. He wasn't sure what this Nimnul character was like, but based on the Rangers' descriptions of him, he might have some type of highly elaborate security system. Of course, judging by other things the Rangers had mentioned, he might also have a year's supply of stolen potatoes in the back.
     Whatever the case, the lab seemed secure. No doorways or windows at ground level, aside from an entry portal. The portal was sealed shut, looking much like an airlock door. No other ways in were visible from his vantage point, but he thought there might be a disposal chute of some kind that might offer entrance. Of course, the thought of dirtying his only outfit even worse cast that idea in an unapproving light.
     He thought more about Megavolt and Nimnul together, and decided that if they were working as one, then it was most likely that they weren't home, or that they were asleep. He highly doubted the chance that they would be up and around without some type of sign evident from the outside: low noise, slight tremors, fiery explosions...
     The return of the Ranger Wing brought his mind back to present business.
     "Any luck?" he asked as they came down to hover alongside him.
     "Yes, actually," Gadget pointed up to the globe. "On the other side is an access panel. It's big, so you can make it through without any problems."
     "Once it's opened," Chip noted.
     "Oh, yeah. That too." Gadget shrugged.
     "'Ere mate," Monty said. "Give us your grapplin' hook, and we'll go secure it."
     Darkwing handed it over, and the Rangers carefully balanced it in the center of the Wing, then disappeared around the globe. Darkwing followed along on the ground, coming around to the other side. He looked up, following the trail of rope from the hook,
and spotted them just as they settled down on a ledge about three-fourths of the way up.
     Monterey hopped out first, as the Rangers passed the grappling hook down to him. He quickly lodged it firmly in a corner, tugging on it a few times to make sure it'd hold.
     "All right, Darkwing!" he called back down. "All set!"
     As Darkwing skillfully made his way up the rope, the rest of the Rangers gathered around the door.
     "Golly, guys," Gadget said as she looked around, "I don't see any control panels or anything. How can we get it open?"
     "Maybe it's concealed," Chip suggested. "Spread out and take a look."
     They set about inspecting the corners and sides around the ledge, looking for some sort of triggering device. Darkwing pulled himself up onto the ledge carefully, looking at the door.
     "Access panel?" he asked after studying it for a moment.
     "Not yet." Dale answered, running his fingers along the side of the door.
     "It's hidden really well." Gadget sighed.
     "If it's here at all." Chip said dejectedly. "Nimnul may have it rigged so it can only be opened from the inside."
     "Not to worry, my diminutive detectives." Darkwing smiled, reaching into his cape. "Equipped with the latest in SHUSH technology, Darkwing Duck tackles tons of technological traps." He withdrew a small metallic item.
     "A toothpick?" Dale asked after a moment of silence.
     "It does that to." Darkwing admitted. "But, this is actually a high-tech, state of the art lockpick, designed to release a series of counter-pulses to the circuitry within the panel. Observe..." He smoothly inserted the thin piece of metal into the small crack between the door panels. A sharp spark and hiss was heard, followed by the lockpick burning out and dropping to the ledge uselessly.
     Darkwing looked at it for a moment. "Or maybe it really was just a toothpick."
     Gadget was about to make a comment about the possible reasons it failed (including that it was total junk), but something in the sky caught her attention. A glint of light, like light reflecting off of something. The glint was moving, slowly but steadily, towards them.
     "Guys, look!" She darted to the edge and peered out at it. "Whatever that is, it's heading right for us!"
     "Blimey...what do you suppose it is?" Monterey couldn't make out any details of it.
     Chip frowned. "Ten to one, it's a robot."
     Gadget looked for a moment longer, then nodded. "I think you're right, Chip. It must be on its way back here." She watched a moment longer. "It's moving pretty fast, too. We'd better get out of here before it arrives."
     Dale nodded. "Yeah, but where do we go? It's not like we have a lot of places to hide around here!"
     Zipper motioned that it'd be easy to hide on the other side of the globe. He quickly set down on the nose of the Wing. Let's get moving, his eyes pleaded. The robot was getting there faster than they had expected.
     "Right." Darkwing nodded. He grabbed the rope and readied himself to repel down to the ground, when Chip yelled out a warning. He looked back up to see the robot barreling down at him. They had greatly underestimated its speed.
     The starlight was now reflecting off of it's entire body, shaped like a griffin. Its claws were outstretched in front of it, the shine on them indicating the razor-sharp edge they possessed. The most unnerving thing Darkwing noted about it, however, was that eerie red glow in its eyes...
     The annoying part of his brain was screaming at him again, this time trying to break through the fascination barrier. It desperately tried to point out the somewhat important fact that unless Darkwing did as his name implied and ducked, the griffin would rip right through him in less than a second. Finally, it told the ego that the fascination had called it an "unnecessary component of the psyche". So as the ego pounced on the fascination and beat it senseless, the warning managed to wriggle past to Darkwing.
     He hit the ledge flat, a hair's breath away from the talons as the Griffin whipped by him. Darkwing waited for the impact as the robot collided with the doors...but it never came. He carefully rolled to one side, and checked behind him.
     The doors were open. He could see that it opened into a large work area. It was easily thirty feet to the floor, and the Griffin had apparently landed on the other side of the room, gathering with a few other robots. A quick scan showed no sign of anyone else in the area. His initial guess was that the robots had an internal remote for the doors. He briefly wondered if the Griffin even saw him, but dismissed it in lieu of the good fortune that the doors were open for the moment.
     He took his rope and quickly gathered it up, quietly tossing it down into the room. He looked around for the other Rangers, and spotted them already climbing into the Ranger Wing and starting the engine. Apparently, they had spied the opportunity as well. Darkwing swung silently into the room, easing himself down as the Rangers flew in and down along the wall, keeping to the shadows.
     He wasn't sure if the robots could hear them, or even cared, but he decided to play it carefully. Unfortunately, the doors closed again while he was still ten feet off the ground, cutting through the rope cleanly. His landing was loud and painful, so he allowed himself a whimper. His only saving grace was that he was concealed from the other side of the room by crates of some kind. He was tempted to check them for potatoes, but resisted.
     The whirring of mechanized parts alerted him to the movement of the robots. He pushed himself up, taking a needed moment to brush the dust away as best he could, and peeked around the crates. The Griffin was there, as were a few others, moving about and looking for the source of the disturbance. Darkwing crouched down low, and studied the way the moved. A grace was evident that shouldn't belong to metal, he noted. Almost as if they were alive.
     He put it out of his mind for the time being, and concentrated on getting away from the area as discreetly as possible. The crates lined the wall for a good twenty feet, so he
scurried along noiselessly, looking for an opening.
     The Rangers could see what was happening clearly from their vantage point. The robots were moving closer to the area where Darkwing had dropped, but Darkwing was already a good distance away, and getting further with each stride. Dale wanted to go help Darkwing, but Monterey pointed out that the last thing they wanted to do was attract attention to themselves.
     "Besides," Gadget remarked, "it looks like Darkwing is doing a pretty good job of avoiding them by himself." She used the preoccupation of the robots to bring the Wing down on the other side of the room from them, unnoticed. She landed the Wing behind a large computer, the same one that Chip and Dale had nearly been caught in.
     "Come on," Chip ordered, hopping out. "While the robots are busy, let's see what they're up to."
     "But how, mate?" Monterey dropped next to him. "Just walk up and ask?"
     "In essence, I think that's exactly want he's planning on doing, Monty." Gadget grinned. "But we're not going to ask the robots..." Her eyes looked up at the computer.
     "Ugh..." Dale sighed. "This thing. Again." He shook his head and shrugged. "Well, the sooner we start, the sooner it's over," he mumbled as he deftly climbed up the back to the top, the rest of the Rangers following.
     Zipper darted up above them, checking to make sure the coast was clear. The robots had found the cut rope, and were starting a more methodical pattern. Darkwing was nowhere to be seen, probably for the best. Zipper knew, however, that their time was limited, and informed his teammates of this as they reached the top.
     Nodding, they wordlessly set about moving over the control panel, looking for information on the screens that might help. Both Chip and Dale noted with a smirk the area that was smashed by Nimnul was "fixed", thanks largely in part to Duct Tape.
     "Golly guys, look at this!" Gadget was reading a screen displaying updates of the transferred data. "This is... incredible..."
     "What is it?" Monterey asked, occasionally glancing over his shoulder.
     "It's a list of files...applications...other programs..."
    She watched it a bit more, her face hardening into one of comprehension. She glanced about at the other screens for confirmation.
     "Go on," Chip prodded after a minute of silence. "What about it?" He, too, was painfully aware of their time limit. The robots were already nearing the center of the room.
     "It appears that Professor Nimnul is downloading a tremendous amount of data, from all over the place." She moved over to the keyboard, and started tapping on a series of keys. Several files were selected, and information about them displayed in a smaller window.
     "See? He must be hacking into hundreds of databases to be getting this much information. And there's still more coming in!"
     "I guess it really is a data stream." Dale grinned. "But where is he, then? Doesn't he have to actually operate the computer to hack into places?"
     "Not quite, Dale." Chip said slowly, realization dawning on him. "Remember that Dragon we saw? It was going out and doing the downloading for him. That must be where the other robots are!"
     Speaking of which..., Zipper motioned dramatically. He pointed behind them, to the robot Griffin standing directly behind them! It was watching them, and the Rangers could almost swear it was smirking. Two other robots stood behind it, a Goblin and an Orc, Dale guessed.
     If the Rangers were surprised at the life-like quality it possessed, then they were dumbfounded when it spoke to them, in a voice very smooth and even.
     "Ah...what have we here?" It grinned, unnaturally bending the metal around its beak.  "It seems to be those rodents that the boss programmed us to terminate."
     The Orc snorted, a hollow gust of air through it's nose. "Yeah." Its voice was more like the grating of stone on stone. "But I didn't think they'd need a large rope like that to get down here."
     "Especially when they had this," a voice from behind the computer called out in a deep rumble. A Troll robot stepped into sight, holding the Ranger Wing in one metallic hand.
     "They didn't," the Griffin answered. "There was another on the ledge that I almost tore through, but he ducked. Quite appropriate, actually, as he was a duck of some kind." It turned back to the Rangers. "I think that our other boss may have mentioned him in passing. Whatever the case, find him. I'll deal with these intruders."
     The other three robots nodded and began to move off as the Griffin spread it's wings out wide, encasing the Rangers on the control panel. The Griffin's wings blocked escape from the front, and none of them wanted to turn their backs on it to try and make it back up to the top of the computer. The Griffin's two claws popped up in front of it.
     "Any ideas, mates?" Monterey asked, backing up with the rest into a tight cluster.
     "Is crying an option?" Dale asked, flinching away from the claws.
     "If you want," the Griffin answered. "Makes no difference to me."
     (It wasn't the internal programming that allowed the Griffin to understand the Rangers, but instead the trace of Megavolt's dimension that was infused in it when it was "born". Of course, this really didn't matter to either the Rangers or the Griffin, but is provided here as a public service announcement.)

    Finally! Darkwing thought with a grin.
     "I am the terror...that flaps in the night!" His voice echoed around the room, as blue smoke poured out from the top of a crate. "I am the 2400 baud modem when you have a two hour time limit on the net from your server! I...am Darkwing Duck!"
     He spread his arms out wide as he emerged from the smoke, really presenting a good entrance. He was quite pleased with himself, as he had finally gotten the opportunity to make his trademarked entry. Of course, at the same time he presented himself as an agent of good, he also presented himself as a clear target, standing on top of a crate with his arms outstretched like an idiot.
     The Troll swiveled its head around, two small barrels popping out of each temple. A series of lasers sprang forth in flurry of blasts. Darkwing had enough time to yelp and leap straight up, the lasers just grazing the bottom of his cape.
     "I just can't get a break!" Darkwing's fear was burned away by the annoyance of his only cape being further damaged. "Well, you little mechanical marvels, suck liquid!"
     His Gasgun was out, selected to "Liquidize", and fired, raining water down on the trio heading towards him. They paid it little attention and maneuvered underneath him as he began his descent. The failed attempt to short them out worried Darkwing, but not as much as the approaching landing. Particularly when the robots had all sprung claws from their hands.
     He twisted in mid-air, switching the selector on his Gasgun again, and fired off towards the wall. A small plunger shot out, snagging the wall and allowing him to swing out and land behind the robots. Darkwing mentally noted to thank Gadget for suggesting that they stop by the plunger shop, where she got all of hers at, before coming to Nimnul's lab.
     Darkwing had a hunch as to what was going on. These robots were moving too fluidly to just be robots. He dimly remembered that Megavolt had brought appliances to life in the past, but they had then revolted and tried to kill them all off. Either Megavolt didn't learn from previous experiences, or he had found a way around the problem. Or both, knowing Megavolt.
     If that was the case, then Darkwing was at a distinct disadvantage. These robots had him outnumbered, outgunned, and outmuscled...Darkwing grinned.
     "Just how I like it," he stated as he darted for the trio.
     A sudden leap and acrobatic twist placed him in the middle of them, not more than two feet from any one. His timing had to be perfect, he knew, but since he was perfect to begin with, he wasn't overly worried.
     Maybe I can't take these things out, but I'm willing to bet...he thought as the Troll fired it's lasers again...that they can do it for me!
     He had already ducked before the lasers fired, missing him and blasting into the Orc behind him. The Orc staggered back, and Darkwing hoped his theory was correct as he planted a patented double webbed foot kick into its head. His foot rang as it struck the metal, but the kinetic force carried through, dropping the Orc to the ground.
     Sure enough, since these things had consciousness, they could be knocked out. All he had to do was rattle the CPU, not necessarily damage it, and it would shut down. If it wasn't for the fact that his foot was killing him, he would have laughed.
     A rush of air announced an incoming fist from the Goblin. Darkwing instinctively rolled to his right, towards the Troll. The fist missed Darkwing, but connected with the Troll, who made a loud whirring sound as the fist clanged into it. It really did have a sentience, for it completely forgot about Darkwing, and began to pummel the Goblin mercilessly. The Goblin seemed surprised at this, but fought back as the onslaught continued.
     The ringing clash of metal on metal echoed throughout the room, distracting the Griffin momentarily.
     "What the--?" It started as it turned around.
     In a move wrought from desperation, Chip leaped up onto the hovering claw, driving it into one of the I/O ports on the control panel. The sudden rush of data and electricity didn't harm the Griffin, but did keep it occupied as the Rangers raced back up to the top of the computer.
     Looking over to the other robots, they saw that the Orc was on the floor, while the Troll and Goblin continued their metallic fisticuffs. Darkwing was nowhere to be seen again. The Griffin ripped its claw free, muttering with a menacing voice. It glared up at them, ready to pounce, but the Rangers had seen this coming, and waited.
     It leaped, only to have them drop behind the machine at the last second. The Griffin collided with the wall right behind them, bouncing back off to the floor.
     "Okay, now I'm mad." It sprang back to its feet, shaking its wings out.
     The Rangers wasted no time in moving to the center of the back of the computer, trying to keep out of reach of the Griffin, who couldn't fit its arm more than a quarter of the way in. Also to their benefit was the fact that the Griffin couldn't clearly see them. The huge computer was too heavy for the Griffin to move. They were safe...for now.
     "Now what?" Dale asked in a panicked voice. "There's no space under the computer to crawl under it, and we'll be snagged if we get too close to either side." A groping claw landed only a few inches away from Dale, emphasizing his point.
     "If we could only get to the Ranger Wing..." Gadget started, looking off towards where they last saw it, which was currently blocked by the Griffin.
     "Yeah, I think the robot dropped it when Darkwing appeared," Monterey nodded.
     Leave it to me, Zipper saluted. He flew back up over the top, unnoticed by the Griffin, still trying to get in at the Rangers. He didn't even need to look to see if the Goblin and Troll saw him, as the resounding clangs were still steadily coming. A quick glance confirmed it, as they were currently all the way over on the other side of room, content on the happy chore of knocking the living transistors out of each other.
     Zipper spotted the Ranger Wing not far from the computer, where the Troll had dropped it. It was upside down, but otherwise undamaged. Still, Zipper doubted he could right it by himself. He carefully scanned the area, looking for some trace of Darkwing. He thought he spotted a shadow shift over to his right, among the crates. A recon trip showed that it was indeed Darkwing, stealthily creeping up on the Griffin, Gasgun at the ready.
     Zipper swooped down to him, getting his attention without compromising their position.
     "Wha--oh, it's you Zipper." Darkwing said, easing up a bit. "I know, the others are trapped behind the computer, but I'm not sure how I can get that Griffin away from them. These things are actually pretty tough. The only reason the Orc fell was because of the laser battery that pelted it in the head. My kick was just a nudge to push it over the edge." He looked out at the Griffin. "I'm trying to figure out how to take it out without getting myself killed."
     Well, Zipper motioned, if we can get the Ranger Wing to the rest of them, we can get out of here, or at least to some safety. But I need your help. I can't turn it over myself.
     "It might work," Darkwing thought, still watching the Griffin, "but the Griffin can fly, too. And I'm willing to bet it can do so much faster than the Wing. We still need a plan for the winged beast of metal."
     Zipper nodded. Their planning sessions was cut short completely, however, by one of the doors in the wall opening up.
     "What's going on in here?!" A short, balding man in a white lab coat demanded. He was staring directly at the Troll and the Goblin, who had halted their "discussion" and now looked akin to children caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
     "Nimnul." Darkwing groaned.
     This is not what we needed, Zipper added with a nod.
     "Uh..." The Troll started, backing away from the Goblin. "Hi, boss."
     "Did we, ah, wake you?" The Goblin asked in a plaintive voice.
     "You probably woke the entire town with that racket!" Nimnul stormed into the room, and Darkwing's heart sank as he saw another figure enter.
     "What started this, anyway?" Megavolt asked, peering over at them.
     "Intruders." The Griffin called out from the other side of the room. He was still beside the computer, but was now merely guarding the exits from the back, rather than actively trying to grab them. "They're stuck behind this computer, boss. Those rodents you kept ranting about."
     "And that's not all." The Troll quickly explained, grateful for the lead-in. "There was this duck or something..."
     "Duck?" Megavolt's attention was caught. Nimnul was still fuming over the news of the Rangers involvement.
     "Yeah, all dressed in purple and magenta." The Troll nodded. "Not a bad color scheme, really."
     "Oh I wouldn't say that," the Goblin shrugged, "when you consider that most nocturnal beings prefer the chromas of subtle contrast, it really lacks in terms of originality."
     "True, but don't overlook the importance of giving new meaning to an old idea. Think of it like Dadaism, where they were attempting to re-discover art."
     "Ah, yes, that is a possibility. But then he's clinging too fast to old ideals to truly give a unique--"
     "Enough!" Was the choral response.
     One came from Megavolt, who had figured out what duck they were talking about, and was already beginning to charge up. One came from Nimnul, who couldn't care less about fashion statements (as his lab coat attested) and wanted to get the Rangers out from behind his computer.
     And the last one came from Darkwing himself, tired of the narrow-mindedness that these stereotypical Siskel and Ebert were giving him.
     Darkwing was over the crates before Zipper could stop him, and dropped down to the other side, facing off against Megavolt.
     "Just couldn't resist, could you Megavolt?" Darkwing intoned, wary of any sudden electrical surges headed his way.
     "Of course not!" Megavolt retorted. "I had all of my resistors removed. Blocking up my power flow, which is really annoying in times of stress, you know, because then the sparks sputter out due to inadequate power allocations."
     "I..oh, forget it." Darkwing should have given up the entire notion of witty banter with Megavolt. "What I meant was that you couldn't stop yourself from engaging in some criminal activity, could you? It was more important than getting back home."
     "On the contrary," Megavolt replied, closing the distance. "This is all about getting home. Once we have all of the data compiled in our Extradimensional memory unit, I can sort through it at my leisure, and figure out how to get back from there."
     The Troll and Goblin had helped the Orc back up, while the Griffin and Nimnul approached the computer. With Darkwing and Megavolt engrossed in their own discussion, only Zipper was able to notice what was happening on the screens. Even though he wasn't very technically oriented, he suspected something was up when over half of the screens were flashing red lights and danger messages across the bottom of the screens.
     "And another thing," Darkwing snapped, now glaring eye to eye with Megavolt, "When are you ever going to trim those whiskers?" He pointed with a sneer at the four electric whiskers snaking out from under Megavolt's plug helmet.
     "This from a duck with a bill the size of a aircraft carrier?" Megavolt snorted.
     "Hey hey hey!" Darkwing held up his hand. "Let's not get personal....Sparky!"
     "ARGGGGHHH! I REALLY hate it when you call me that!" A sudden burst of energy from his gloves drove his displeasure home.
     Darkwing sidestepped it, a gas canister shooting from his Gasgun. Yellow smoke streamed out from behind it. Megavolt merely set up a repulsive magnetic field, deflecting it harmlessly away. It skidded to the floor, spewing out opaque, yellow fumes. The two of them continued their combat, hidden from view in the cloud.
     Nimnul had decided to ignore the ruckus in the background, and instead concentrated on getting the Rangers out from behind the computer. They were now faced with either confronting Nimnul or the Griffin. Not a hard choice, really.
     "Quick!" Chip called to the rest as he lead the charge, his voice a harsh whisper. "Hide in his pockets!"
     They all quickly leapt up onto his coat, diving into the varying recesses of fabric they could find.
     "What?" Nimnul started back as they came near, only to lose sight of them as they ducked into his wardrobe. The Griffin sprang around as soon as they moved, but was unable to see them, let alone stop them.
     Nimnul begin a pat down of himself, checking for them. "They're in here somewhere..." he muttered.
     The Griffin, misunderstanding him, rolled his eyes. "Lose your keys again, boss?" he asked with a chuckle.
     "No! I mean those rodents are in my coat." He continued his search, but the Rangers kept shifting away from the hands.
     "Oh, let me help." The Griffin reached out with it's talons, slashing a pocket open. Pens, pencils, a calculator, and various small tools clattered to the ground, but no Rangers.
     "Ah!" Nimnul yelped, as the talon nearly pierced his skin. "No! You just wait and watch, in case they try to run for it."
     The remaining robots had decided to take the opportunity, seeing as no one had called them over, to take a break and continue the discussion of modern clothing apparel versus individuality of fashion in a private huddle in a secluded corner.
     Thus, once again, Zipper was the only one who was watching the screens. He flew over and settled down on the panel, watching as several video screens showed the sky above the city...twisting? At first Zipper thought it might be the computer messing up the video signal, but he saw the city skyline unaltered in each image. The clouds, currently blanketing the city, were another matter.
     They were twisting and gathering around a central spot, much like a whirlpool. They all appeared to be one, colored a dark red, although Zipper couldn't understand where the light was coming from. Occasional flashes of purple lightning sprang out of the vortex, and Zipper began to feel very ill at ease. He needed to notify the rest of the group, but nobody was looking over at the computer. Each was too engrossed in their own predicament.
     But there must be some sort of warning bells or siren or something, Zipper thought. All of the best inventions have them. This one obviously had the lights and screen savers of doom down pat, so where was the audio? He flitted about the control panel,  and spied a series of promising dials over by the edge.
     Landing next to them, he easily read the words "Volume adjustment" underneath on a label. They were all twisted down to the zero indicator. At first, Zipper wondered why Nimnul would have them all turned down, but them remembered when the Griffin spread its wings around the control panel. It must've accidentally hit the dials, turning them all the way down. Then he realized that now was not the time for contemplation, and quickly cranked them up to the "You had eardrums..." level.
     "DANGER! WARNING!" The monotone voice indicator boomed, actually succeeding in gathering the attention of all within.
     "What in the world?" Nimnul said, running over to the computer.
     "DANGER!" The computer continued. "DANGER WILL ROBINSON!"
     Nimnul brought the volume back down to a manageable level as he worked feverishly over the control panel, bringing up various views of the city from all angles. The cloud cover continued its creeping spiral towards the center point. Forgotten in Nimnul's coat, the Rangers risked a glance out from their respective hiding places. Darkwing and Megavolt, the pace of their one-on-one combat broken, stepped out of the gas cloud to the computer. Even the robots gathered around, staring at the screens. In light of a greater potential disaster, current disputes were forgotten.
     "What is it, boss?" The Griffin asked carefully. The rest of the group were staring at the screens, transfixed. Except for Nimnul who was angrily stabbing in commands on the panel and grimacing at the readouts.
     "Something's happening through the dimensional transfer link we've been using." He answered, not taking his eyes from his work. "Instead of information going in..." He paused, and looked back at the screens. "Something's trying to come out."

     The time had come. The portal was now firmly stabilized, and the opening was growing with each passing second. Of course, the legions couldn't fit through yet, but patience was second nature to the commander. In the meantime, the atmosphere of the new dimension might as well be prepared properly...
 

 --Chapter 8: Host Connection Established--

     "Okay, run this by me again," Darkwing frowned. "We have yet another dimension involved in this?"
     A temporary truce had been called by all parties. The Rangers were surprised by Nimnul's eagerness for one, but Darkwing pointed out that it'd be difficult for him to devastate a globe if somebody beat him to it. Megavolt tried to point out that in actuality it'd only make it easier, but an elbow to the ribs convinced him otherwise.
     Nimnul had also called back all of the robots, who arrived over the course of an hour. They, too, were well aware of what was happening, and had even taken the time on the way back to pick up some video footage and cloud samples, which Nimnul was now analyzing, with the help of Gadget.
     "Yes," Nimnul answered, shaking a beaker slightly and studying the reaction within. "As near I can figure they've had access to our dimension since you and Megavolt first broke through the barrier."
     "So how come we haven't seen them earlier?" Dale asked from his card game with Monterey, Megavolt, and Sphinx (the Rangers and Darkwing learned what each robot was named, and, when they considered the source, weren't terribly surprised). Sphinx was currently winning, but that wasn't a big surprise either. The robots, with Megavolt and Gadget's help, managed to piece together a make-shift translator for Nimnul to understand the Rangers.
     (To be honest, it wasn't the machine itself, but the power Megavolt powered it with. That power still held a trace of his dimension, enabling it to translate "Chipmunk" and "Mouse" to English.)
     "Well..." Nimnul started, then stopped. "It'll be easiest to explain things in terms of a timeline." He sighed and set the beaker down and strode to the center of the room. The card game was to the right, and Gadget was still at the workbench on his left. Directly in front of him were the robots, relaxing among the crates (yes, they are filled with potatoes, but I have no clue why), and behind him was the computer, where Darkwing, Chip and Zipper were.
     "You see," Nimnul said as he started pacing, "at the same time that you two were struggling inside that machine, I was transferring various bits of data from a database containing the most advanced information on other dimensions."
     "More than just information." Gadget called out. "I had some time to look over what I salvaged. They also had programs for actually reaching 'out' and 'touching' other dimensions. They were all still in the experimental, stages, obviously..."
     The robots snorted in unison. "Obviously."
     "Whatever." Nimnul snapped, getting back to the subject. "In any case, when some rodents messed around with Dragon" -- he paused to glare and Chip and Dale, who shrugged -- "Some program must've been activated. One of those dimensional-opening ones."
     "At the same time," Megavolt nodded, then frowned at his cards, "me and Darkwing were inside of the electronic flow of one of SHUSH's machines."
     "And if they had it stored away, then it must have been real dangerous." Darkwing was starting to pick up on this. "They would use any of their gizmos unless forbidden by the higher-ups at SHUSH, who actually have concern for the planet in mind." He  made a mental note to ask J. Gander about that machine when he got back.
     "Best as I can tell," Nimnul continued, "the machine you were in must have spit you out, or exploded, which is really the same thing actually...anyway, it must have spit you out at precisely the same time the unit from the MacFarland Research building finished it's program. Those two random events were linked through time, by means of my Extradimensional link."
     "Excuse me?" Chip asked. "This is news to us."
     "Oh yes, I forgot. It was one of the few things I've done that you rodents haven't interfered with."
     "Whiney, whiney..." Dale mumbled, but saw Sphinx glare at him. He cut it short and discarded.
     "The link?" Darkwing prompted.
     "Ah yes," Nimnul returned to the topic. "I had found out about this dimension several months earlier, and had already set up a link to it before I built the robots."
     "So the link already existed?" Chip asked, starting to understand. "And when the events in our and Darkwing's dimension were connected..."
     "By the fact that they happened at precisely the same time," Gadget noted.
     Chip nodded and smiled at her. "Right. Then, the link enabled them to break through the barrier without the need of an electronic device to travel through."
     Nimnul thought for a moment. "Partially. They still were only connected because they had been converted to electricity."
     "So, in essence, the program connected with the machine we were in?" Megavolt asked, tossing a card out. "Sort of like a modem?"
     "Right." Darkwing nodded. "And there was a lightning storm going on in the sky when we appeared. So since the unit that ran the program was destroyed, we couldn't come out there..." Darkwing started a thought.
     "So you popped out where the most amount of electricity was," Chip finished it for him.
     "Fine, mates." Monterey studied his cards, then drew two. "But how does this third dimension fit in with it?"
     "Easy, Monty." Gadget sat down on a test tube. "Remember that the link Nimnul established is what enabled them to cross over into our dimension, not as electricity, but actually physically bring them over. Only after they did, the hole, or whatever it was that they passed through, remained. And now this third player is trying to break through."
     "Has broken through," Dragon corrected. "Remember, miss, that's what happening out there now."
     "Okay," Darkwing stood up straight and looked at the monitors. "So where does that put us now? Whatever it is, it can't be good."
     "No, it isn't." Nimnul looked grim. "From what the robots have gathered, I can tell that the 'portal' is growing wider. Furthermore, our atmosphere is being subjected to their dimension's preferences." He frowned and came back to the workbench. "Instead of just passing into our dimension, as Megavolt and Darkwing did..." He looked back at the screens. "They appear to be trying to fill our dimension with theirs."
     Gadget sighed deeply. "Science brought us so far." She closed her eyes. "Maybe too far," she whispered.
     Chip, watching the sky on the monitors, shook his head. "I saw that portal," he told Darkwing and Zipper. "I should have checked it out. Maybe then we'd have a better chance of understanding what's going on."
     But Zipper shook his head. If it was this bad, his stance said, we would have been taken out before we knew what hit us.
     "Zipper's right, Chip." Darkwing sighed. "Sometimes we jump into things out of pride, rather than duty." The image of twenty dollars flashed in his mind, and he winced at his own words.
     In the settling gloom, the only bright spot was that Monterey managed to win the hand against Sphinx. Other than that, everybody was lost in their own thoughts.
     As Megavolt shuffled the cards and dealt, the remainder of the robots gathered around Nimnul and Gadget at the workbench. Nimnul was still trying the get as much information out of the samples that he could, but wasn't having much luck.
     "I need more to go on," he mumbled subconsciously. "If only I could get closer to the clouds...or better yet, the portal."
     "We could provide transport, sir," Dragon offered. "We're not sure of the exact location of the portal, though. Do you know where it is?"
     "No." Nimnul frowned. "I can only gleam information from it as energies are sent out by its growth."
     "Just like when a black hole sends out gamma rays," Gadget mentioned, and Nimnul nodded.
     "Exactly," he nodded, "so even though it may be in the same area that Megavolt and Darkwing came through, I couldn't pinpoint it."
     "I could," Chip called out, never taking his eyes from the screens. "I've seen it before."
     "Really?" Dale asked. "When?"
     "When we were on the skyscraper, looking for clues. I saw something up in the sky...a shimmer of some kind. But I didn't know what it was." He closed his eyes, and with his back turned to everyone, no one heard his addition. "And I was afraid of it."
     No one, that is, except for Darkwing, who merely nodded.
     "So how about it, sir?" Dragon asked again, eager to help. "We fly you up to this portal, and you can inspect it firsthand."
     Any sane person would have seen the danger of getting so close to the source of a dimensional invasion, but this was Nimnul, so he readily agreed.
     "Wait." Megavolt stood up from the table. "I'm coming too. This is the way I got in, it might be the way back."
     "Well, you can bet your sweet transistor that I'm coming, then." Darkwing stated, adjusting his hat just right. "If this is a chance to get back home, then I intend to take the first train from the station."
     "We might as well see you off," Chip added, finally turning away from the monitors. "We've come this far in this, we might as well finish it."
     Monterey nodded. "'Sides, it's not like you can keep me away from an adventure like this. Think of what'll do to our resumes!"
     Like you don't have enough tall tales to begin with..., Zipper winked at him.
     The rest of the Rangers agreed, and soon they set about formalizing a rough outline of a plan: They would all take the robots up there, and between Nimnul, Gadget, and Megavolt, they should be able to figure out more about the nature of the portal.

     Truly, the sky was a breathtaking sight. Clouds persisted in their slow, spiralling movement, all of them streaked with a dark red. Everybody noticed, including the robots, how dry and hot the air was getting. Nimnul glanced over from his position on Dragon, to the others behind him. The Rangers were all gathered on Griffin, who seemed to have developed a grudging respect for them. Darkwing and Megavolt both were on Sphinx, talking about various ways of returning to their own world.
     Both Megavolt and Darkwing were starting to get hopeful about getting back to their dimension soon, but at the same time, they intended to stick it out here. Megavolt was thinking about that "unwritten code" among inventors, which he planned to uphold by helping out Nimnul. Darkwing felt the same sort of kinship with the Rangers, but their link was one of justice, not conquest.
     The portal was easily visible to all as they approached the spot Chip navigated them towards. It was shimmering in the sky like a constant stream of ripples across a pond. Everyone gave an inward shudder as they neared.
     "It is certainly larger, sir." Dragon called out, as the strong winds whipping about made communication difficult. "It looks to be at least five feet in diameter. I wonder how I could have missed it before..."
     "Because it wasn't there before," Nimnul called back. "The portal was there, but not the visible sign of it. Not a visible sign this strong, anyway. Those ripples aren't more than the tip of the iceberg. I'd say the actual portal is at least ten feet wide, probably a bit more."
     He reached into his lab coat and pulled out a calculator. "It's like phases of the moon. The first phase was merely the contact. Somebody may have been able to see through it, but that's it. Now, with these ripples, the actual atmosphere of the place is starting to seep through." He punched some numbers into the calculator. "And soon we'll get to the actual doorway phase, where we can see clearly into the dimension beyond."
     "Hey Nimnul!" Megavolt yelled. "Is it possible to get through the portal now?"
     "Probably, it's just small at the moment." He took out another bizarre instrument, switching dials and hitting buttons. "My only question right now is what's on the other side..."
     "I thought you said it was that dimension that you had contacted." Gadget peered at the nearing portal. "What else would it be?"
     "Well," Megavolt said, tapping the side of Sphinx, "there's an easy way to confirm it." Sphinx nodded, and Darkwing gulped, both understanding what Megavolt was suggesting.
     Sphinx spread its wings out and sped towards the center of the ripples, Megavolt and Darkwing clutching to each other tightly. They passed into the ripples, time seemed to slow down for an instant, then they snapped back to the present. A harsh, dry atmosphere greeted their lungs, while an endless world of clouds greeted their eyes. They couldn't see any land, no matter where they looked. Of course, they weren't looking around that much, as the large fleet of starships hovering around them was holding their attention rather nicely. All of the ships were huge, but their shapes varied. Some were globes, others sleek triangles, and some in the shape of large cubes.
     Sphinx concentrated on its flying, so it tried not to pay the ships much thought. They were all around, floating rather peacefully throughout the endless skies. None reacted to the dimensional travellers, but whether this was because they didn't notice them or just didn't consider them a threat was unclear.
     "What a lovely place..." Darkwing muttered.
     "Not really," Megavolt remarked.
     Darkwing was about to mention that he wasn't serious about that, but the rest of the robots coming through the portal distracted him. The Rangers stared in disbelief around them, coughing slightly in the dry air.
     "It's like we're in a whole other world..." Gadget said breathlessly.
     "We are, Gadget," Chip reminded her.
     "Oh...that would account for it, then."
     The last one through was Dragon, with Nimnul still clacking away on one of his inventions.
     "Yep, this is the place." He nodded. "I recognize the dimensional signature."
     "But golly, where is the information being stored?" Gadget asked. "There isn't even any land, so far as I can tell."
     "In there." Megavolt's sweeping arm took in all the ships around them, and nearly knocked Darkwing off. "Isn't that why they're here? To store all the data?"
     "I bet they're here for more reasons than that," Chip said glumly.
     "You betcha." Dale nodded. "They're here to invade our world, just like in all my comic books." He turned to Chip. "And you said they would never come in handy."
     Chip's retort was cut off by Dragon.
     "Actually, sirs, give my companions and I one moment, and we'll pinpoint the reason." It smiled widely.
     "Sounds good." Darkwing nodded. "In the meantime, I would like it if we can find some place to hide, or something." He glanced around at the vast armada. "I'm surprised they haven't detected us by now."
     "Thank the robots." Nimnul stated, as he put away his calculator. "According to my computations, they generate a frequency that counters the technology here."
     "How so?" Megavolt asked. "Just their presence disrupts the scanners?"
     Nimnul nodded. "Just like you and Darkwing are carrying around traces of your dimension on you, same with the robots. Here, it acts like a white noise broadcaster."
     "Golly, but then they would know someone's here!" Gadget looked around nervously.
     "Huh? But I thought the robots were hiding us." Dale also looked around, but more in confusion.
     "They are, Dale." Gadget moved closer to Dale so she wouldn't have to shout. "But it's like hiding behind a shield in the middle of an open field. They know we're here, because they can see the shield. They just can't locate the exact spot."
     The robots swung low through the clouds, then began a careful climb up to one the starships, from underneath.
     "With any luck," Dragon explained, "They'll mistake the interference as a result from one of their own devices. Hopefully, they'll guess it's a malfunctioning drive, or something equally reasonable."
     Gadget nodded in approval. "Good idea, Dragon. It should at least buy us some time."
     "Well, we have to close to a ship no matter what, Miss Gadget." Dragon led the squadron up to one of the sides of the ship, landing deftly on the hull. The only noise was the whisper of their metal claws setting down. "You see, we have to patch into a computer, and that's rather difficult for us when we're a distance away. Our modems don't work very well when the satellites they use are back in our home dimension."
     Quickly, the robots spread out along the side of the ship, using their sensors to avoid any areas that contained alarms or the like that would reveal their presence. As the robots went in search of an access port, the rest of the group huddled together.
     "Golly, those robots sure are smart." Gadget watched them move off with a smile. "I hope I get a chance to talk with them once we get back."
     "If we get back," Monterey remarked dryly. "Need I remind you, Gadget-luv, that we're still in another dimension?"
     "You get used to it after a while," Megavolt noted, sitting down rather comfortably.
     "Getting cozy?" Darkwing frowned. "This isn't exactly my idea of a rest stop, Megavolt!"
     "Darkwing's right." Chip moved over to the side of the platform they were on. "This is the last place you want to let your guard down."
     "Is there ever a good place?" Dale took watch on the other side.
     "Well, I'm sure that we'll be safe here until the robots get back." Gadget said optimistically, sitting down. "And hey, these dimensional residents might not even be all that bad."
     "Yeah, Gadget," Dale said coyly, maneuvering over next to her. "You sure have a good outlook on things."
     "Thanks, Dale." Gadget smiled at him.
     Of all the times to be flirting, Zipper said with a shake of his head.
     Chip felt the same way, but before he could voice an opinion, Gadget spoke up. "You just wait and see, once the robots find out what's going on, we'll be able to go home with no problems."
     Darkwing glanced at Monterey, remembering what he said earlier. The Australian mouse just shrugged helplessly. Zipper nodded in agreement.
     A ear-piercing wail spilt the air moments later, the sound of some sort of alarm. The robots began to return, and at a much quicker pace, and not so nearly concerned about stealth now. Monterey and Zipper didn't seem too surprised at this, and Darkwing had to admit he had been expecting it as well.
     Annoyed at having his rest period interrupted, Megavolt sprang to his feet. "This had better be important!"
     "They are planning to take over our dimension!" Dragon said in a fearful voice. "And they've got the firepower to do it!"
     "Well, okay." Megavolt grumbled. "I'll let it slide -- this time."
     "What?" Gadget was astonished. "But...how...why...what..."
     "Quickly, climb aboard Griffin, Miss Gadget." Dragon said hastily as Nimnul hopped up on it. "We'll explain momentarily, as soon as we remove ourselves from this position."
     "What position?" Chip asked as he and the Rangers climbed onto the back of Griffin.
     Several clicks and whirs were heard from behind them, and they turned to see a dozen gun barrels jut forth from the newly-opened housings. The robots sprang into the air, managing to move out the arc of fire before the barrage started.
     "They've been waiting for a dimension to conquer. Any dimension," Dragon explained as they all jetted out away from the starship. "When you, sir," it nodded at Nimnul, "began your search for an Extradimensional database, they seized on the opportunity, and gave you the "access code" to reach through with a link. Then, they just waited for the hole in the dimensional barrier, caused by the link, to widen. Once it's wide enough..." They glanced around at the starships, now closing in, and none needed Dragon to finish the sentence.
     "So how do we stop them?" Chip asked.
     "Stop them?!?" was the choral response.
     "Chip, what can we do against them?" Dale asked in disbelief.
     "Dale's right, lad," Monterey agreed, again watching as the starships continued to close in. "We'll be lucky if we get out of this dimension alive."
     "Sorry to spoil your hopes," Griffin answered dejectedly, "but they're going to be watching that dimensional hole very carefully now. We're not getting back that way."
     "So we're stuck here?" Darkwing felt his stomach drop again, and it wasn't due to Sphinx's evasive maneuvers.
     "Hey!" Chip called out again. "You still haven't answered my question, Dragon!" The others stared at him, except for Darkwing and Megavolt, who sighed and nodded.
     "When you're desperate..." Darkwing started.
     "Even sushi tastes good." Megavolt finished, although that wasn't the ending Darkwing had in mind.
     "Look," Chip turned to his friends, "right now, like it or not, we're the only ones who know about what's going on, and the only ones who can stop them." He pointed out back to the starships. "Yeah, they're much bigger than us, but if we don't even try, then they've won without even firing a shot. And I intend to go down fighting." His eyes burned with such intensity that the others wondered if he really could beat those starships by himself.
     Monterey grew a smile. "Do not go softly into that good night, eh, Chip?"
     "Too right," Chip replied with a wink.
     Zipper gave a quick salute, indicating his inclusion into the suicide squad.
     Gadget and Dale thought for a moment, then shrugged. Chip was right: It's not like they had anything to lose.
     Nimnul was already determined to fight, but strictly because he figured that if those rodents always spoiled his plans for world domination, then these invaders should be treated to the same.
     "Well, when we plugged into their computers," Dragon thought out loud, "we did find out that it's the mothership that's keeping the portal open."
     Darkwing looked around again, spotting the huge starship they were heading towards. "That's where we're going, then."
     Dragon nodded. "If you can take out the main drive somehow, the portal should begin to rapidly dwindle. The only problem is that you'd have to get some transport to get back to the portal, and quickly, before it closed forever."
     "Wait," Gadget looked at Dragon. "What do you mean, ‘You'? Aren't you coming with us?"
     Dragon looked honestly surprised. "Why, no, my good lady. Who do you expect to distract the rest of these starships?"
     Gadget's eyes widened. "You can't be serious! You'll be pulverized! Destroyed!"
     "Look," Griffin stated calmly, "if we stay with you, the counter-frequency we're generating will give you away before you get anywhere. If we drop you off quick enough, they'll think that we were trying to seek refuge near one of the starships, then abandoned the idea."
     "It's the only chance for the dimension's survival, Miss Gadget," Dragon affirmed. "It's also logical. One life for billions."
     "Who are you?" Dale asked. "That doctor from ‘Flash Gordon'?"
 The mothership loomed before them, and the robots made quick work diving in and setting down on one of the ledges.
     "There." Dragon motioned to a panel on the side. "You can get in through that. The rest of the robots and I will be distracting them enough for you, but don't do anything too obvious, or the whole plan will be shot. Look for the main drive somewhere in the bow of the starship." The rest of the robots began flying back into the oncoming pursuers. "Oh, and keep an eye out for lifeboats and escape pods, or you'll be trapped here. My personal guess is that they won't be far from the drive, as the inhabitants here would want to leave in a hurry if their ship's drive was destroyed."
     "But you can't go!" Gadget cried. "You just got life! It'll be wasted!"
     Dragon took a moment to turn to her, halting its take-off. Gently, it reached out a claw and lifted her chin up, looking her in the eyes. "Perhaps it's best this way. Better to have tasted life and died, than never known it at all. And at the very least," it mumbled, taking its claw away, "we will know true peace."
     Then it turned on its stance, and was away. The rest of the group, including Nimnul, respectfully kept quiet as Gadget watched Dragon race to join its brethren in their destiny.
 

 --Chapter 9: To The Rescue, Terror In The Night--

     The panel came off easily enough, thanks mainly to a strong surge from Megavolt. They all slipped inside, trying not to hear the explosions and cries from outside. The panel opened up into the internal workings of the ship, allowing them to move unhindered up towards the bow of the ship. Along the way, they tried to develop a plan.
     "So we need to destroy the main drive, find an escape pod, and slip back through the portal before it closes," Dale went over it again.
     "And quick." Monterey added. "Once the main drive is destroyed, that portal will close faster than a hot knife through cream cheese."
     "Right." Chip kept an eye out for any signs of where the main drive would be, or the location of an escape pod, but he also watched Gadget out of the corner of his eye. She had been quiet since Dragon took off.
     "Maybe we should split up." Darkwing tried to mentally keep track of their path, but the endless, twisting pipes, walls, and other alien technology was getting overwhelming. "One group search for the main drive, while the other looks for an escape pod."
     "And how would we keep track of each other?" Nimnul frowned. "It's not like they have a P.A. system we could use."
     "I've been thinking about that..." Darkwing admitted, and snuck a glance at Megavolt, who nodded. For once, they were on the same wavelength.
     "Darkwing is saying that we take another chance," Megavolt stated, checking over his electrilizer. "The main drive has to be destroyed, so we'll do it with style."
     "I can agree with that." Nimnul smiled.
     "But that was a million-to-one chance, mate!" Monterey pointed out.
     "Not quite, Monty." Darkwing held up his hand. "It was a long shot that brought us over here, but we're not really taking a different method. Megavolt and I slip into the main drive, and destroy it. When it's destroyed, the surge should at least push us into the electronic flow of the dimensions, if not into our own world."
     "You hope." Chip frowned.
     "You could be transferred into pure energy, or caught in an endless feedback loop, or just plain blow up." Nimnul thought for a moment. "Although I'm not saying which one my money's on."
     "Either that, or be stuck in this dimension, or yours, forever." Megavolt shook his head. "Sorry, but as nice as the place is, anywhere that anvils are lethal is not the place for me."
     "Well, that settles it, then," Gadget stated suddenly. "You two take out the main drive, while the rest of us look for an escape pod, so we can get back home." Her tone clearly showed this was the plan, whether or not the others liked it.
     The Rangers exchanged glances. You're sure about this? Zipper's eyes asked.
     "I'm with Zipper, Gadget-luv." Monterey said tentatively. "If you're sure..."
     "I'm sure." No doubt was in her stance.
     "Then I'm in," he nodded.
     The rest of the Rangers quickly agreed, and even Nimnul couldn't think of a reason to disagree.
     Gadget turned to Darkwing and Megavolt. "Okay you two, good luck. I don't want the robots' sacrifice to be meaningless. They gave us a chance, and I, for one, fully intend to utilize it."
     "I guess this is goodbye, then." Darkwing remarked, a note of sadness in his voice.  "Whether or not we succeed, we'll probably never see you again."
     Gadget's features softened at this. "Yes...I guess so. Well, just remember to watch those falls, Darkwing." She smiled. "I doubt I'll be there to give you a herbal compress again."
     Darkwing returned the smile with a bow. "As the doctor orders."
     Monterey and Zipper gave a quick handshake. "Take care, mate. Best of luck to you back in yer own dimension." Zipper nodded and gave a brisk salute.
     "Keep up that word play thing. We heroes have an image to maintain." Dale struck a dramatic pose.
     Darkwing swept his cape in front of him, giving his own heroic pose. "Definitely will do, Dale." He turned to Chip, and shook the chipmunk's hand. "Be seeing you, Chip."
     "Hopefully not." Chip tipped his hat to Darkwing. "Otherwise, something went wrong."
     Darkwing returned the gesture with a brisk nod.
 Megavolt and Nimnul stood a bit away from the others, watching and shaking their heads.
     "Sappy," Megavolt commented.
     "Indeed," Nimnul agreed. "Well, Megavolt, write if you get a chance."
     "Sure," Megavolt thought for a moment. "Do you know what the rate is for interdimensional mail?"
     "Not offhand, but I'm sure they'll know at the post office."
     "Sounds good." He took a small mechanical device from his belt and handed to Nimnul. "Here you go, in case you need it for later populace terrorization."
     Nimnul was about ask what exactly it was, but Darkwing had finished his goodbyes, and was now headed off towards the main drive. "Come on, Megavolt!"
     Megavolt frowned. "Pushy pushy. By the way he carries on, you'd think the fate of the dimension was in jeopardy or something." He shrugged and quickly moved off to join up with Darkwing.
     "Okay," Gadget stated, scanning the area. "The escape pods should be near the lower section of the starship. And in any case, they'll have to be right next to the hull, so it'd be possible for quick escape."
     "Right, Gadget." Chip led the group down along the maze of the inner workings. "We have to hurry. No telling how long before Darkwing and Megavolt find the main drive and destroy it."
     They moved swiftly, Zipper and Dale scouting out ahead a little bit, checking for possible hazards while determining the best route. Nimnul brought up the rear, his longer leg stride allowing him to keep up easily with the Rangers while he tapped away on his own scientific calculator.
     They had been moving for about five minutes when a high-pitched whine filled the air. They all froze, and heard the sounds of muffled running and distant noises of battle taking place elsewhere in the starship.
     "Looks like the main drive was found," Dale remarked, a touch nervously.
 "Golly! Then we'd better get moving!" Gadget broke into a run, searching desperately for any sign of an escape pod.
     "Tsk tsk." Nimnul chuckled. "As much fun as it is to panic, I think it's important to note that you're not going to find any way to an escape pod from inside here, let alone a way into it."
     "Meaning?" Chip prodded, defensively stepped up next to Gadget. Dale took a position on the other side, also looking protective of Gadget and her ideas.
     "Meaning, rodent, that we have to be out there, in the actual hallways of the ship, to find the escape pods. We also need to be in the hallways to actually be able to enter it."
     A dull explosion sounded from the far off battle, tremors shaking the floor slightly. "Well, how do we get out?" Monterey looked around at the solid metal walls. Zipper flew about, searching the niches and crevices for possible ways out.
     Nimnul shook his head, as if the answer was obvious. "Still, you are merely vermin. I shouldn't expect too much." Before they could respond, he turned away and strode calmly down the way they had come. The Rangers, still wanting to argue against that last statement, followed.
     Nimnul stopped after a minute, and walked to one of the walls, crouching down. "We get out the same way that you rodents probably get in everywhere." He reached out and pushed the ventilation grate open. "Any questions, class?"
     "Yeah," Dale grumbled. "When does our regular teacher get back?"
     "Never mind, Dale." Chip pushed his friend forward. "We've got to get out of here. You can insult Nimnul later." They both ducked out into the hallway after Nimnul.
     "Why put off tomorrow what you can do today?" Monterey responded as he, Zipper and Gadget came through.
     The hallway wasn't too different from the inner workings of the ship, aside that it was more spacious and much more barren. Aside from that, there were still metal walls, floors, and ceilings, with strong overhead lighting. Nobody (or no thing, if you want to get technical) was in sight.
     "Ah ha!" Nimnul cried triumphantly, pointing to a doorway down the hall. "Just as I calculated! The escape pod!" He darted to the doorway and swept inside, the Rangers hot on his heels. Nimnul quickly began pressing buttons and pulling levers. The instrument panel blinked to life, and the doors sealed shut. Nimnul grinned and turned to the Rangers, only slightly saddened that they had managed to keep up. "Strap in," he ordered.
     Another explosion went off, but felt much closer as it rocked them to the floor. Gadget quickly hopped up on the control panel, searching the monitors and viewscreens as information and images sprang forth. "Uh oh..." she grimaced looking at one of them.
     The others followed her eyes to the monitor, which was showing a diagram of the portal. Sure enough, it was collapsing, but much quicker than anticipated. Nimnul quickly took his seat in the pilot's chair and activated the firing sequence. As the jets breathed to life, the Rangers maneuvered about the control panel, keeping an eye on what was happening around them. There was a large viewport in front to see out of, but they guessed Nimnul would be watching out for things coming at them. They were more concerned with things following them.
     The last of the rockets fired, and the escape pod lurched out of the protective hull of the mothership into the barren atmosphere. Starships were swarming about, apparently in confusion.
     "What's wrong with them?" Dale asked, watching the monitor showing the activity on the right side of the pod. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you." The other starships were flying erratically about, some even crashing into each other.
     "Here's what!" Chip read the data on the screen carefully. "Darkwing and Megavolt did destroy the main drive! And it looks like they destroyed more than that, as well. All electronic communication between the fleet has been garbled; they can't coordinate their movements!" He grinned.
     "And with it being so crowded out there," Monterey watched as the screen displayed the fleet bashing into each other, "they've got a little game of demolition derby goin' on."
     Not all of them, Monty, Zipper said with a motion towards a monitor in the rear of the ship. Three starships were moving in behind them. Not in formation, but not running into each other either.
     "Tailgaters," Nimnul grumbled. He grasped the steering controls tightly and dove sharply to the right. A barrage of laser blasts filled the space were they used to be a split-second later.
     "You know, Nimnul," Chip groaned as he climbed to his feet from his new spot on the floor, "it's normally considered good shipmate etiquette to shout `Hold on!' before preforming evasive maneuvers like that."
     "Oh, you'd prefer to be a pile of space dust, then?" Nimnul shot back. "I'll keep that in mind."
     "You know what he means, Nimnul." Gadget moved over to a section on the control panel, did a quick inspection, and started to dismantle it.
     "What are you doing?" Nimnul yelled as he swung the pod to the left, evading another attack and sending the others Rangers back to the floor. Gadget managed to hang on, and continued working.
     "Oh relax, and concentrate on getting us to the portal." She worked smoothly, gathering up various odds and ends. "I'm working on getting our pursuers off our back. But first, we have to be able to move about without being tossed around during your flight pattern delta."
     "Whatever," Nimnul said, figuring what he didn't know couldn't hurt him. Besides, Gadget was dismantling a section of the control panel that wasn't in use, so how important could it be?
     Within a minute, Gadget had managed to whip up some magnetic boots for the Rangers, aside from Zipper. Using the small magnets she took from the control panel, she used some of her personal supply of string and tape, so they could hold the magnets in place within the strips of cloth she had. They couldn't move as fast, but they could move while Nimnul continued to play dodge `em.
     "Okay guys, just hold these wires together here and here..." Gadget pointed out the spots. They were all gathered around the open section of the control panel, except for Zipper. The fly was busy monitoring all of the screens and signaling to the others any information that Gadget asked about.
     They gritted their teeth as Nimnul went into another barrel roll.
     "I don't think I'm ever gonna ride a roller coaster again," Dale moaned, then slapped his hand over his mouth.
     "We're almost to the portal!" Nimnul called out. "But it's getting really small. This craft is going to be a tight fit! Even so, we'll be sitting ducks when I make a beeline for it."
     "Keep going!" Gadget called out. "We've almost got it covered."
     "Oh well," Nimnul shrugged and brought the pod into a direct path for the shrinking portal. "Who wants to live forever?"
     "I'd like to try," Dale admitted. He and the others connected the wires as Gadget directed, allowing a tremendous surge to flow through the pod, into the rocket thrusters in the rear. The power from the system Gadget subverted dove directly into the propulsion units, creating a nasty reaction.
     The pod was shoved forward violently, forcing the Rangers to the floor again despite the magnets. The explosion behind them burst out wide, encompassing the oncoming pursuers. They flew into a cloud of fire and smoke, with just a touch of electrical aftereffects. The residual surge wreaked havoc on their navigational devices, sending them off on wild goose chases as the escape pod broke through the collapsing portal, back into their home dimension.
     The portal, now much smaller than Nimnul realized, broke the pod as it passed through, releasing Nimnul and the Rangers into a freefall over a thousand feet above the city streets.

     The trip to find the main drive had been relatively simple, as Megavolt merely tuned in his energy seeker, and they followed its directions to find it. They crept quietly along, managing to avoid actually running into anything. A few minutes of stealth was rewarded as the main drive now loomed before them.
     "Ah...the main drive," Megavolt whispered.
     "Yeah," Darkwing stated blandly. After a moment, he added, "Now what?"
     "Now, we use the electrilizer to get inside the system, and from there, we destroy it."
     "Oh. Makes sense."
     Megavolt switched the electrilizer on and grabbed Darkwing. He tuned it in a bit, and it's eerie hum encased both of them. A high-pitched whine erupted suddenly from all around them, and they heard running towards their direction.
     "Sounds like we tripped an alarm with that thing!" Darkwing shouted over the siren.
     "Oh well, it's not like we'll be around for much longer." Megavolt replied, hitting the "send" button.
     "Could you rephrase that?" Darkwing asked as they were sucked into the main drive. Darkwing held tightly to Megavolt as they travelled along the electronic current. "Which way now?"
     "Just go with the flow," Megavolt replied. "This current will take us directly to the heart of the machine. Watch."
     Darkwing tried, but was starting to get a bit queasy. This was never in the job description, he reassured himself. I'm allowed to get a little queasy whenever I trip the electronic ship fantastic. He gritted his teeth. Just a little, though.
     They sped quickly along, until Megavolt veered off to one side, landing in what appeared to be a large room with a crystal  in the center. Darkwing carefully released his grasp and looked around as Megavolt headed over to the crystal, withdrawing his Electro-gun.
     "I thought we were inside the main drive," Darkwing said, looking around at the metal walls. "What is this place?"
     "The heart of the main drive. We're still inside alright, but this is merely an electronic representation of it. Since we're electrolyzed, our minds can form passing electrons in the data stream into things and places more comfortable for us to understand. You don't even have to think about it."
     "Well, that explains how you manage," Darkwing grumbled, walking over.
     "It's like dreaming." Megavolt apparently missed the last remark. "Only we're awake. So maybe, non-dreaming dreaming..." He shrugged as he fired his Electro-Gun. A blast of energy hit the crystal ball, shattering it in one shot. "And without the heart to control the vast amounts of energy flowing through here, the main drive will overload in a few minutes, exploding, and sending us back into the dimensional flow. Hopefully, towards our home dimension."
     Darkwing looked at the shards as Megavolt put his Electro-Gun away. The Masked Mallard looked up at his arch-enemy.
     "That's it?"
     "Yep."
     "Rather anti-climatic, don't you think?" Darkwing felt disappointed.
     "Hey, I just work here." Megavolt shrugged. "I don't write these things."
     "Well, still I--duck!"
     "That's right, you're a duck." Megavolt agreed.
     Darkwing didn't verbally reply as he flipped over Megavolt, kicking the metal viper that was aiming for Megavolt. Darkwing's kick smacked it squarely in the head, causing it to burst in a short flash of energy.
     "What was that all about?" Darkwing asked, on edge. He looked around. "There's another one!"
     He pointed to the large, metal, segmented viper that was flying deftly through the air towards them. Megavolt fired a blast from his plug-helmet, scoring it directly in the chest. Another flash of light, and it was gone.
     "Oh....yeah, that's right," Megavolt said as he and Darkwing watched yet more coming in at them trough the metal walls. "Since we destroyed the heart of the main drive, the dimension walls are collapsing. That includes the walls in the electronic worlds." He fired several more shots, reducing them into flashes.
     "So what are these things?" Darkwing pulled his Gasgun free, not sure which setting would be effective.
     "Electronic signals from the mothership, probably. Since this whole place is going to blow, it probably figures it's fair to take us out at the same time." He continued firing as more swarmed through the walls.
     Megavolt was busy with a group on one side, so Darkwing knew he'd have to hold of those on the other side. He leap forward into the midst of them, sending them into a flurry. They flocked down around him, but at the same time he fired his grappling hook up to the ceiling, pulling himself up swiftly. The swarming metal vipers didn't seem to notice, and continued to annihilate themselves.
     Darkwing didn't have time to celebrate, however, as a constant stream was flowing in from all around. He dropped back down to a clear spot on the floor, dishing out kicks and hits to any that got too close. It only took one hit to vanquish one, but Darkwing was already starting to feel the twinges of fatigue, ready to pounce.
     "We can't keep this up forever!" he called out.
     "We don't have to!" Megavolt responded. He abandoned the single shot idea, and was now firing off wide-angled bursts, clearing swaths of vipers in one shot. But another group of vipers was right there to take up the empty place. "We only have to hold them off until the main drive blows, then we'll be kicked out!" he continued, feeling his power reserves steadily drain away with each blast. A swarm managed to get close enough to actually bite at him, but he quickly "melded" into the floor (being pure electricity has its advantages) and shot over to Darkwing, "popping" up next to him.
     Once again, the arch-enemies were back-to-back.
     "How long?" Darkwing shouted between hits. He was having difficulty seeing the opposite wall, as vipers were continuously pouring through.
     "How long what?" Megavolt fired off another immense blast, vaporizing dozens of vipers, only to have dozens more swarm in.
     "How long until the drive overloads?" Darkwing wasn't even thinking on how to fight. All he had to do was strike out and he'd hit something.
     "Any moment now!" Megavolt's power was drained with his final blast. "Unless we're totally mistaken, and it won't blow up at all." He punched the first viper that came in, but the other forty-nine behind it dove in on him. "Nuts! And I never did get to see the Toaster Oven Homepage--" His sentence was cut off with a gurgle and flutter of metal vipers.
     Darkwing was about to say something, when he felt several sharp teeth dig into his back and sides. Completely surrounded, he was driven to the floor as the vipers continued to dig into him.
     "Gos..." was all he managed before he blacked out.
 

 --Chapter 10: Hello Sunshine...--

     The sky was clearing up, the clouds parting and allowing some dawning sunshine to bathe the city below. Gadget noticed this with a smile, enjoying the moment even though the rest of the Rangers were holding on to her legs desperately as they continued slowly to float towards the ground.
     You were right, Zipper nudged her as he flew alongside, it is a good idea to always carry a parachute in case of emergencies.
     "Thanks, Zipper." She glanced over at Nimnul, who had his own parachute. "Good thing Nimnul learned the same lesson." She watched as he floated slowly away, the wind carrying him off to the outskirts of the city. "Of course, it was probably a certain incident with a giant fly that convinced him of their importance." She winked at Zipper, who gave a slight blush and grinned.
     "Crikey, sunshine!" Monterey grinned, hanging from Gadget's right leg. "I'd never thought I'd be so glad to see that!"
     "Is it morning already?" Dale asked, hanging from Gadget's left leg. "I didn't think we were gone that long."
     "We were in another dimension, Dale." Chip answered, hanging onto his best friend. "Who knows how time worked over there?"
     "Yeah, but we're back in our own again." Monterey sounded relieved, despite the fact they were still over 500 feet up in the air. "I don't know about you blokes, but I for one am willin' to stick with simple crimes for a while. Jaywalkers, litterbugs, insurance companies..."
     "Oh, I don't know, Monty." Chip glanced about, also feeling a bit relaxed. "How many crimefighters can say they've saved a dimension?"
     "Oh it's not that unusual, Chip," Dale laughed. "Happens in the comics all the time."
     "Dale, that's fantasy. This is reality," Chip responded.
     "Well, this version of reality, anyway." Gadget corrected him. "We know now that there's a lot more beyond our own little dimensional walls." She looked back up to the sky, which was now looking just like any other day; deep blue with patches of white, fluffy clouds.
     Zipper lazily glided down by them. I wonder if Darkwing and Megavolt made it out okay, his posture indicated.
     The rest of the Rangers were quiet for a moment. Finally, Chip spoke up. "Oh, I think so."
     "How can you tell?" Monterey asked.
     Chip shrugged as best he could, still clinging to Dale. "I couldn't really give you an exact reason, Monty. It's just, well, a feeling, I guess."
     Monterey nodded. "I know what you mean, Chipper."
     Gadget sighed. "Well, the important thing is that we managed to succeed, even though it was by the skin of our teeth." She was quiet for a moment longer, then cleared her throat tentatively. "Um...guys? When we get back, do you think...you could help me throw some things out?"
     "Sure, Gadget-luv." Monterey nodded. "What'cha want dumped?"
     "The things I salvaged from that wall unit."
     "What?" Dale and Chip asked in unison.
     But you were so excited to get it in the first place, Zipper's questioning look read.
     "I know...but well, I just think there are some things that are better left alone." She fiddled with her hands absently. "Maybe it's better to just forget about studying dimensional travel." A pause. "For now, anyway," She clarified.
     About ten minutes later, they finally landed, extremely grateful to feel the Earth under their feet again, even Zipper. As one, they made their way back to their headquarters, taking their time. Normally, each of them would be in a hurry, having something they wanted to do back at the tree.
     This time, each was content to just enjoy the luxury of being able to relax.

     It was a marvelous parade. The entire city had turned out to greet their favorite crimefighter. Streamers flew from every building, and the chant of "Darkwing!" was heard throughout the streets. The motorcade eased its way down the parade path, slow enough for Darkwing to wave to his adoring public. Morgana was at his side, along with Gosalyn and Launchpad. And there, in the driver's seat, was Grizzlikof. The huge bear had decided to forego the twenty dollars, as Darkwing had risked life and limb to save a dimension that wasn't even his. All in all, it was just the sort of welcome home that Darkwing knew he deserved.
     He wondered why the crowd changed their chant from "Darkwing!" to "Dad!", though...
     "Dad! Dad! Come on, wake up!"
     The scene before him shifted and blurred, then went black. A light blur appeared, as Drake Mallard realized he was opening his eyes. As he achieved more consciousness, more and more pain visited itself on him.
     "Take it easy, Gos. See? He's waking up."
     He was lying on his back. In a bed. His bed. As his eyes slowly focused, he could recognize the ceiling he was staring at as looking just like the one in his room. His room...
     "Well, his eyes are opening, Launchpad, but he doesn't seem be getting more coherent. Of course, with Dad, that may be asking for too much."
     His bed. His room. And those insults...
     "Gos?" he asked weakly.
     "Dad!" Gosalyn's tone snapped from cynical to joyous as Drake spoke. She flung herself onto him, hugging him tight. "You're back!"
     "What happened?" Drake managed to breathe after recovering from Gosalyn's crushing hug. He held her close, glad for the opportunity to do so.
     "We were hoping you could tell us, DW." Launchpad leaned over him and readjusted Drake's bandages. "Hooter told us you went in after Megavolt. There was a big explosion, and both of you disappeared. That was over a day ago."
     "We looked for you everywhere!" Gosalyn interjected, still not letting go. "But there wasn't any sign. We thought maybe you'd...you'd..." She buried her face in her dad's chest.
     Drake gently rubbed her back, feeling her tears on his chest. "It's okay, honey." He grimaced as he felt another stab of pain from the bite wounds on his sides. "Well, it will be." I'm back home...he thought with a grin.
     "Anyway," Launchpad continued, "We were coming back for our search last night when you just sort of fell out of an alleyway."
     "Fell?"
     "Well, like you were pushed out, would be a better way to put it. We thought we saw someone running off, but we couldn't see. You looked pretty bad, so we decided to skip the pursuit and get you home." He looked sheepish for a moment. "Well, we did stop for some take home at Hamburger Hippo, but only a for a minute!"
     Drake waved it off. "Never mind." He really didn't care. He was home. That was all that was important. His injuries would heal, and soon, now that he had his home turfs' laws of physics again.
     "What happened, Dad?" Gosalyn lifted her head up to look at him. "You just don't disappear for over a day from SHUSH headquarters and reappear with these nasty wounds. Well, not more than once a year, anyway."
     "I'll tell you once I get my strength back, Gos." Drake sighed. "But I don't know how I got back exactly." Megavolt must know, he thought. And if he's the only one, I don't think I'll ever find out for sure.
     But that was a worry for another time. True, Drake wasn't in that parade he dreamed about, but Launchpad and Gosalyn were there, and at the moment, that was more than sufficient welcome for him.
 

 --Epilouge--

     It was not a dark and stormy night. In fact, it was a bright and sunny day. The sunlight streamed in from skylight, giving the room a healthy glow. Even Nimnul, tucked away over at his huge computer, took a moment to breathe in the atmosphere. He then turned back to his computer. The screens that once held information about the robots now displayed information about a small mechanical device that had been scanned and studied.
     The readouts took a moment to go over, and Nimnul then leaned back, nodding to himself.
     "For a good time," he read out loud, "call M-EGA-VOLT. Normal long distance rates apply. Hmmm...I wonder what the charge is for interdimensional long distance?"
 
 

 THE END (?)
 
 
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