:: On a cold, crisp, dark December evening, the New York Metropolitan Opera House is brightly lit. Banners festooned around the entrance proclaim that the grand hall has been reserved for the prestigious first annual Golden Acorn Awards. Katie Courier stands outside, catching spot interviews from the various stars, characters, cast members, and Rangerphiles as they file in::


Katie: Good evening, and welcome to our exclusive coverage of the first annual Golden Acorn Awards! We're looking forward to an outstanding, fantastic, fun-filled night as the best and brightest in Ranger fandom make their appearances to claim these new markers of excellence.


::Katie spots a familiar face in the crowd and rushes over with her cameraman. Gadget Hackwrench, escorted by Chip and Dale, walks along the big red carpet and heads for the main entrance. She’s dressed in her regular coveralls, but she is wearing a pretty amethyst necklace and earrings::


Katie: Gadget! Gadget, a moment of your time!


::Gadget, happy to oblige as always, walks over::


Gadget: Hi there! Swell night, isn’t it?


Katie: It certainly is. Is there anything you’d like to see to the millions of fans watching this ceremony around the world?


::Gadget looks from Katie to the camera and waves::


Gadget: Everything should go great tonight with no pr—


::Chip and Dale cover her mouth at this point::


Chip: You never can be too safe.


::Katie grins, then there is the soft KRUMPH of an explosive charge from above and a shower of concrete dust that makes Gadget and the others flinch. A pair of rappelling ropes drops down the front of the opera house, upon which a pair of squirrels in SWAT uniforms, armed to the teeth, rapidly descend. Gadget cries out in alarm as she recognizes her associates from Dave White’s story, “The Bikini Break”.


Gadget: Gary! Gordon! What are you guys doing!


Gary: We're getting you outta here!


::Gary catches her by the arm while Gordon covers their retreat, to the total confusion of the onlookers::


Gary: We got your message.


Gordon: Sneaky way to put it—‘War Code Anna's Gold’. We figured you were tied up and typing with your tail.


::Gadget stopped the two commandos with one mighty pull as she realized the truth::


Gadget: That's not what I sent! I sent you a reminder, ‘Golden Acorn Awards’!


::Gary stops at the edge of the stage, confused::


Gary: That's not what we got.


::Gadget’s eyelids narrow and her voice takes on an accusatory tone::


Gadget: You didn't shut off your encryption software, did you?


::The two rodents freeze as they realize there were two ways to interpret - or decrypt - the message. Gordon sneaks the stun grenade he’d been holding back into his pocket. Gary follows suit with his pistol::


Gordon: It's the award ceremony?


Gary: That's tonight?


::Gadget points furtively toward Katie, the camera, and the five hundred well-dressed guests who have gathered around::


 Gadget: It's NOW!


 ::The Two Scruffy Guys begin to notice the many curious faces just beyond the glare of the camera lights. Gordon chuckles weakly::


Gordon (embarrassed): Ahhh, hahahaha. Well, leave it to us to make a splashy entrance.


::Gadget cringes, blushing at the awkwardness of it all::


Gadget: And I thought I'd be embarrassed if I had to sing. How do we get out of this?


::Gary waives off her concerns::


Gary: You know us better than that. We prepare for every contingency!


Gordon: Including success.


::The Two Scruffy Guys grab the front of their uniforms and pull them open with the abrupt sound of ripping Velcro. The SWAT gear falls away as the pair steps out in tuxedos that are not only perfectly fitted, they are even wrinkle-free. Gadget stares open-mouthed at the sudden transformation, and Gordon gently bumps Chip aside::


Gordon: If Dirk Suave can do it, we can do it.


::Gadget shakes her head in wonder::


Gadget: I've got to get a better writer.


Gordon: We warned you not to agree to the whole series. It just gets nuttier from here.


Gary (to the crowd): Okay citizens, situation normal! You can go back to your reveling!


::Katie brushes the cement dust off of her designer dress, and tries to compose herself once again::


Katie: That’s it from outside. On to you, Stan..


::The scene switches to the interior of the Met, resplendent in ornate decorations. The many rows of red plush theater seats are beginning to fill up fast in the theater, and a huge golden acorn trophy is visible on the big screen just behind the podium on stage. The scene shifts again as Stan Blather begins his spiel::


Stan: This is Stan Blather, reporting to you live from inside, backstage at the Golden Acorn Awards, where the preparations are in place to start off the ceremonies tonight.


::Stan walks into a crowd of hurrying people, grabbing one of them by the arm. It's a bat in a ten-gallon Texas hat::


Stan: Excuse me, sir. I'd like to get your thoughts on tonight's ceremony. Your name is...?


::The Texas prairie bat gives a war-whoop right in Stan's ear::


Bedivere: YEE-HAW! This is Bedivere Fairmont, the toughest hombre west of anyplace you know! Is that there camera thingy on?


Stan: Uh, yes. It is.


::Bedivere nearly runs over Stan, sticking his face right up to the lens::


Bedivere: Howdy y'all out there in tee-vee land! This heah shindig's gonna be the greatest to-do since the big prairie-dog ropin' contest of '88! Strap down those sets, because it gets wild from here, buckaroos! YEEEE-HAAAW!


::Bedivere slaps Stan on the back, knocking him down, then waves at the camera again before heading off. Stan resettles his toupee on his head before looking for another interviewee::




::He heads out of the New York sewers, shivering with nervous awe. It is the cloaked form of an alligator, with part of a costume visible from under the cloak as he passes through the harsh light of an alleyway and toward the back of the Metropolitan Opera House::


Euripides: Hey, what's all the shaking for?


::From under his cloak emerge two smaller cloaked figures. They are puppets—one dressed as a toga-wearing ancient Greek, wearing glasses, and the other a dark-haired long-nosed Frenchman in formal dress::


Sewernose: Do you not know what this place is? This is the New York Metropolitan Opera House! All the greats over the years have played here. Do you know what this could mean?


::The alligator raises the French doll up to his face, who promptly takes on a disapproving tone::


Voltaire: That you might sully the place up with your substandard performance?


Sewernose: What? How dare you! I shall neither sully nor stain this <I>revered</I> edifice, but instead shall impart my glory upon its stage, and in exchange shall leave with but a small token parcel of its reputation to my illustrious name, which shall...


::The Greek doll, in the past so supportive of Sewernose’s acting abilities, interrupts him rudely::


Euripides: Ah, put a cork in it and get inside before we miss everything!


::The two small cloaks disappear into the larger one as the shadowy figure darts inside the backstage area unnoticed::




::A short man in a tattered cloak slinks clumsily across the backstage area, keeping to the shadows and muttering to himself::


Nimnul: Hmmph! Put on an awards show and don’t invite me, eh? I’ll bet they laughed at the thought—they <I>always</I> laugh! GRRrrrr! Well, no more! Tonight, <I>I’ll</I> have the last laugh, and they’ll be crying a river from now until next Tuesday!


::The oddball professor stops, thinking for a moment::


Nimnul: Actually, a river like that could be a good source of cheap power for my lab...ah, details. There’s more important things at hand. Now, to research how to best turn this event to my advantage...


::He moves deeper into the shadows to collect his malicious data::