::The spotlight falls on the side veils at stage right but there is no one to be seen. After a short time members of the audience begin to whisper and mutter between themselves. It is then that slowly NeoBat pokes his head out into the light::


NeoBat (in a sing song voice): I’m baaaack! That’s right. Despite the best efforts of many…….I’m back!


::With a spring in his step NeoBat crosses the stage and once more settles in behind the podium::


NeoBat: I’m sorry for the delay folks but we were getting our presenters ready for the next category. Which is…


::NeoBat  looks offstage to his left and nods::


NeoBat: …Best Original Villain.


::Again he looks offstage but only to his right this time and again nods::


NeoBat: It looks like we’re ready.


::Taking a deep breath to calm himself, NeoBat smiles and continues::


NeoBat: Okay, let’s do this. Ladies and gentlemen it is my pleasure to introduce our next two presenters. Entering stage left, direct from his engagement as The Colony’s #1 bad boy, Mr. Joseph Garibaldi.


::Stepping out into the spotlight the neo is greeted by polite applause as he moves across the stage. The brilliant beam of light playing along his sleek, glossy black fur lends an illusion of fluidity to his movements. It is as if he were a living, breathing mass of black ink. However, what is even more striking is the highly polished, blood red shell of Kevlar which encases his torso. Emblazoned on the left breast of his body armor is the image of a cloud with a lightning bolt emanating from it. The bolt in turn becomes a dagger stabbing into the earth. This insignia marks its wearer as one of The Colony’s elite soldiers. Paying no heed to the audience’s applause the black neo aloofly makes his way to the podium as NeoBat announces his co-presenter::


NeoBat: And at stage right we have the prototype for all the neos that followed. He’s big! He’s bad! He’s been called a menace….by his friends no less! Ladies and gents, the Dark Ranger, Alexander Fairmont.


::The audience gives the relative newcomer a very warm welcome as he steps into the glare of the spotlight. The techno-organic bat reciprocates with a smile and a bow to the gathering before starting his trek to center stage. Like Garibaldi, Alex’s torso is also covered by a protective shell of Kevlar, however, in his case it’s a glossy black trimmed in gold. On his armor’s left breast, Alex has opted for the placement of the Ranger insignia. Upon reaching the podium, Alex finds a rather impatient looking Garibaldi waiting::


Garibaldi (coldly): If you’re quite finished playing to the crowd, Mr. Fairmont, we could get started.


:: Alex replies with a shake of his head::


Alex: Sheesh! This is supposed to be a fun occasion, Joe. You need to learn to lighten up a little. 


Garibaldi: My name is not Joe. If you must address me by my given name then call me Joseph.


Alex: Joseph. ::Alex repeats the name with a nod:: Funny you don’t look like a ‘Joseph’ to me.


Garibaldi (through clenched teeth): Mr. Fairmont, can we please get on with this?


Alex: Sure. I’ve no problem with that, Blackie.


::The black neo bat closes his eyes and reins in his anger::


Garibaldi: Mr. Fairmont, have you ever been told that you can be extremely exasperating at times?


Alex (off-handed): Uh huh. As a matter of fact, Chip was just telling me that earlier this evening. 


::Leaning forward on the podium he looks at the Ranger leader::


Alex: Weren’t you, boss?


::The spotlight swings and stops on Chip just in time to see him chuckle and nod his head in response::


Garibaldi: Mr. Fairmont!


Alex: Alright, alright! Sheesh, don’t get your tail in a knot.”


::Alex looks at the infuriated bat beside him, then turns to the audience::


Alex: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. As NeoBat has told you my companion and I are here to present the Golden Acorn Award for the Best Original Villain.


Garibaldi: A category in which I have some degree of expertise, I might add. Which begs the question. I understand why I’m a presenter here, Mr. Fairmont. After all, I am, by definition, a villain. But why are you here? You, who run with this band of…do-gooders, aren’t a villain.


Alex (smirking): Neither, by definition, am I a hero. I am what’s tastefully known as an anti-hero. 


Garibaldi: Hummph,


::Giving his co-presenter a raised eyebrow and a sidelong glance, Alex continues::


Alex: Well, if we can put your wounded pride aside maybe you could get on with this.”


Garibaldi: Very well. The nominees in the category of Best Original Villain are…


Alex: Alexander Flaversham from, ‘Gadget Until Proven Innocent’ by Morgan K.


Garibaldi: Officer Haggs from, ‘Gadget In Chains’ by Loneheart


Alex: Tuffaz Nails from, ‘Dale, The Detective:  Case of the Nabbed Necklace’ by Indy and Chris.


::Raising the envelope, Garibaldi moves to open it but Alex’s arm flashes forward and his extended cutting blade neatly slices it open. Garibaldi looks wide-eyed at Alex as the Ranger rookie’s blade stops just short of his throat::


Alex: What’s wrong, Blackie? Think that I was going to break the truce?


Garibaldi: I’ll admit that the thought did cross my mind, Mr. Fairmont.”


::Regaining his composure he announces::


Garibaldi: And the winner is…Officer Haggs!


::Margo Haggs marches out onto the stage with her nightstick tucked under one arm and a sparkle in her eye. She takes her place at the podium with military precision and smiles in a self-satisfied way::


Haggs: Good evening everyone. I am Margo Haggs.


::There are boos and hisses from the audience, although, it has to be said, rather nervous ones from people who were sitting furthest away from Margo Haggs::




::Her thundering voice stills the audience entirely::


Haggs: Ah ha. I'm here to pick up an award. For Best Original Villain. Namely, Me.


::She grins fiercely:: 


(Sitting in a dark and shadowed corner somewhere on another plane of existence, Ratigan scowls. "I tell you, Fidget, I've been robbed. ME OF ALL PEOPLE!"


Beside him Fidget sighs and toys with his drink. "Yeah, yeah. I heard it all before. Last year now I come to think about it.")


Haggs: It's not a nice job but someone's got to do it…we can't all be glory hounds zipping around in our own aeroplanes. Some of us have to deal with crooks after the Rangers catch them."


Haggs (soliloquizing): The ones that are smaller than a Chihuahua and that don't have good lawyers and connections on the council of cats, anyway.


::The rangers shift uncomfortably, thinking of Fat Cat::


Haggs: There may be some of you here tonight who have reasons to dislike prison officers. There may be some of you here tonight who don't like me. There may be some of you think I'm a bad person.


::She looks at the award::


Haggs: Alright, obviously quiet a lot of you think I'm a bad person, in order to have voted for me to get this award. Thank you. But all I've got to say is this: if you think you hate me now… just wait until you seen the next installment of Gadget in Chains!


::The whole audience boos and hisses. Haggs genuinely takes it as a compliment::


Haggs: Thank you.I have to go now. But in the meantime if either of you should spot a couple of dangerous escaped felons about the building, please notify me immediately. I have orders from Loneheart to return them to Shrankshaw at once.


::As the winner happily—well, in relative terms anyway—leaves the stage, Alex turns to Garibaldi and places a metallic hand on his rival’s shoulder. The black neo looks at the appendage and then at its owner::


“So,” Alex begins with a lopsided grin, “see you at the after party, Blackie?”


“I don’t see why not.”  Garibaldi replies with a wry smile. “The truce extends to those proceedings as well.”  He turns to leave but is brought up short by Alex’s hand on his shoulder again. “Yes, Mr. Fairmont, what is it now?”


“Umm, will your lady friend, Anna be accompanying you to the party?”


“Yes, as a matter of fact, she will. Why do you ask?”


“I think that it best that we keep her, Alicia and Rebecca separated. After all, they didn’t agree to any truce.”


“Hummph.”  Garibaldi says with a nod. “As much as it galls me to admit it, you’re right. We’d both better make it clear to our female companions that there’s to be no hostilities at the party.”

“Right.”  Alex says with a toothy grin. “No hostilities……..at the party. See you there, Blackie.”