The Times of Their Lives
Thirty minutes later, the portal opened and the daring group found themselves on a country road in 1699 France. It was night, and the clear sky and half moon revealed a row of oak trees standing guard on both sides before and behind them. Past these sentinels were open fields and haystacks. Behind them and just to the right stood a haystack and watering trough.
They heard the hoofbeats of the horses before they saw them. Six riders in the uniform of the King's guards--musketeers, no less.
"Quick! The haystack!" Chip shouted as the chargers came quickly. Everyone jumped into the hay, then five pairs of eyes watched as the group stopped at the watering trough.
" asked one of the guards.
the other guard replied.
While Chip was unfamiliar with Indian dialects, he knew his French--as did Basil and Monterey. "Looks like these blokes are the ones we're after," Monty said.
"Precisely. Let's see what the horses know," Basil said.
"I don't think that's going to be a problem!" Dale cried. "Look out!"
One of the horses had finished drinking and had decided to add some hay to his diet. The horse did a double take when he realized he'd gotten more than he was after.
"Ptooi! Oh, rodents in the hay! Sacre bleu!" the horse said.
"Hold on there, my good fellow," Basil said. "We are in need of information. Are these men carrying a large jewel, by chance?"
"Not by chance," the horse replied. "It's come all ze way from Italy, as a present to King Louis the fourteenth, Le Roi Soleil. The other horses on ze route could talk of nothing else!"
"Where is the jewel now?" Chip asked.
"On top of me, in ze saddlebag," the horse replied. "Ah, pardon moi. I am Bertrand Marcuse Reginald IV. But you may call me Bert."
"Thanks, Bert!" Chip replied. "We're here to guard the jewel. We've heard that bandits are planning to steal it!"
"You small ones?" Bert said. "Still, your size might give you an advantage. Very well, climb on my back and you can hide in ze saddle-bag with ze jewel."
With that, Bert lowered his head and the diminutive defenders of right scrambled up and onto their new friend's back. It was cozy for five of them in the saddlebag. Chip and Basil opened the mahogany box containing the jewel in question. The diamond, the Star of Rome, looked like a diamond-shaped Easter egg. They replaced the cover and stood on the box, Dale joining them.
"Wouldn't pay a plugged nickel for this ride," Monty said as they were jounced up and down. "But we're makin' progress."
Indeed, they were making good time as the horses galloped down the road. Soon they crossed a wooden bridge and the echo of the many hooves would certainly have stirred any residents nearby. Chip peeked out from the leather bag a bit, the wind pushing back his fur. The moon was higher now, and hard shadows were visible. It was still countryside, though there were a few houses here and there--or rather country estates.
Suddenly, the horses took a left turn, revealing what had been hidden to their vision. Basil pointed to a huge building, even as the Rangers took in the moon-aided view with wide eyes.
"There is our destination, gentlemen! Versailles!" Basil said with a gesture.
Indeed it was worth a gesture for this was the palace's heyday, the home of Louis the Fourteenth--one of the gaudiest kings in all history. The grounds showed the opulence with the many marble statues, the perfectly-manicured lawn, the exquisitely-crafted hedges, the tall fountains and the huge expanse that was Versailles itself. The horses stopped at the main guardhouse.
" the palace guard challenged.
" came the reply.
The guard opened the main gate. "
Less than a minute later, the entourage stopped. Chip, Basil and the rest were thrown about as DeTrope grabbed the saddlebag and quickly made his way inside. Louis was still up though the hour was late, awaiting his new conversation piece. DeTrope entered the throne room, beautifully bedecked with all manner of finery from the frescoed walls to the gold on the thrones. On one of those thrones sat the impatient Sun King.
" DeTrope said.
" Louis asked.
The unseen watchers found the corners of the bag as the guard reached in for the box. He approached and knelt at the throne, opening the box and holding up the treasure. Louis took it as a boy might grab for a new toy.
" the king said.
" DeTrope said.
" Louis said dryly. " "
DeTrope took the jewel, replaced it in the box and saddlebag and made his way to the treasury. He passed through a hall bedecked with tapestries, armor, and fine furniture. In the treasury room, he put the box and its contents on display with the rest of the royal jewels. While the guard was thus preoccupied, the stowaways crept out of their hiding place to find a better one. They settled upon a display of silver bowls that provided decent cover and a good vantagepoint.
"How long do you think it'll be?" Dale asked.
"Soon, to judge by the other robbery we saw," Chip answered. "I'd expect whoever Nimnul's hired to be along any minute now."
Chip was more right than he realized, for the criminal slowly emerged from the table directly under them! The crook was dressed all in black to better take advantage of the shadows, and the cudgel he was carrying left little doubt as to intention. The guard was hardly prepared for such a sudden sneak attack and was out before he could utter a noise.
"Look!" Basil said. "He's putting the note into the wooden box! Forward, men!"
The Rangers followed the daring detective. As the black-clad figure left with the jewel, Chip grabbed the paper and the group ran toward the door as one. They made excellent progress until they left the room and entered the main hall.
"Hold!" a voice cried out.
Suddenly the hall came alive with movement, as mice and chipmunks emerged from behind tapestries, paintings, vases, and armor. In a few moments, 20 assailants in guard uniforms surrounded our heroes. Monty rolled up his sleeves.
"All right! Who's first? I've been waiting for days to get in a good punchup!" Monty shouted.
Zipper, the chipmunks and Basil all took up a fighting stance as three mice drew their swords. A chipmunk jumped in front of them, signaling them to wait. He was slightly taller than Chip and Dale but not nearly so tall as Monty. He looked somewhat like Dale with his red nose, but it was smaller like Chip's and his teeth were normal. He was wearing a dark blue silk outfit with a white vest and swordbelt, and a white plume in his wide-brimmed blue hat. His dark eyes revealed no emotions.
"Are you come to steal the jewel?" the chipmunk asked.
Chip stepped forward. "If we were, it would be too late. The jewel is already gone."
"Gone!" the chipmunk replied. "Then that fellow wearing the black must have it. You're in league with him, I'll warrant!"
"We're no thieves!" Dale shouted. "And what are you doing here?"
The chipmunk raised his sword so that the tip pointed at Dale's head. "We are thieves, ourselves! We'd planned to steal the jewel and make a decent profit. But you say you're no thief, my red-nosed friend? I say you are and that you robbed us of what should rightfully be ours! Would you care to prove your words in the honorable fashion, blade to blade?"
One of his companions threw a rapier to Dale, who caught the weapon by the hilt. Dale turned the blade over, admiring the workmanship. The polished steel gleamed in the candlelight, while the two fleur de lis that came together to form the hilt gave the rapier a deadly beauty. Chip grabbed him by the shoulders.
"Dale, you can't fight this guy! This isn't a game!" Chip pleaded.
Dale looked Chip in the face. "I know it isn't Chip. But you know as well as I do that I can fight. You've been training with me for years."
"Look, I know your dad was good, and he taught us both a lot. But this isn't a training exercise! He'll kill you if he can!" Chip protested.
"Excuse me, monsieur," the thief said. "I do not think you understand the situation. If he defeats me, you will go free. If he loses, all of you die. But if he does not fight, I will kill you all for the liars you are!"
Monty started to push his way though. "Let me at the blighter! I'll take that toothpick of 'is and twist it around 'im!"
Three rapiers held Monty back. "Monty, this is Dale's fight!" Basil said. "Since you are from a different..place, you might not be familiar with a fight for honor. Dale has been challenged to fight for our honor, and he must answer the challenge."
"You are a mouse of honor, then?" the thief asked.
"Basil of Baker Street, at your service. And might I know your name?" Basil countered.
The mouse doffed his hat. "Lucien Gerard D'Oakmont."
Four gasps of surprise filled the room. Dale was in a quandary. All of his life, he'd heard how a French ancestor of his led the first Royal Mouse Musketeers. His mother often told him the stories of Lucien, handed down from one Oakmont to the next. His own ancestor, a leader of bandits! Now he was about to face one of the greatest swordfighters in history, with his life and those of his friends on the line! But what if he should kill him? It would be the same as committing suicide! He'd have to be careful.
"Well, varlet? Will you fight, or do you forfeit all?" Lucien challenged, sword at the ready.
Dale whiffed his sword to a vertical position in front of his face. "I accept."
The two combatants slowly walked toward each other, and took up their stances. The clinking and rubbing of steel on steel was the only sound to break the oppressive silence.
"Have at you!" Lucien cried, raising his rapier in a blur. Dale was almost caught off guard, but brought his blade up in time to block the hacking thrust toward his head! Dale backed off, remembering to pace himself. The lessons his father taught him came back to him now. **Don't rush the attack and give your opponent an easy victory. Play defense and seek out his weakness.**
Dale wasn't finding many weaknesses, but neither was his opponent. Lucien had expected Dale to back down at his challenge, and was slightly impressed when he hadn't. Then he'd figured to take the chipmunk before he was ready.
"You surprise me varlet," Lucien said. "I didn't think you had it in you."
Dale was staying back, getting a feel for his opponent's cadence. "I'm full of surprises, like this...!" Dale suddenly came in under Lucien's blade and jabbed up and in. Only Lucien's reflexes kept his shoulder from being stabbed.
"Better and better!" Lucien replied, a smile forming. "Let's see just how good you are!" Lucien upped the pace, coming at Dale with a series of thrusts. The swords clanged loudly now as Dale's instincts took over, the well-trained muscles going where long practice told them. Then, Lucien tried a classic maneuver--he feinted a high swipe, then came in low and hit up on Dale's blade, trying to disarm him. On many opponents, that might would have worked. But Dale's father had used that strategy on him over and over until he'd developed the strong wrist to resist it and hang on. Dale hung on.
Chip, Basil, Monty and Zipper could only watch and admire Dale's heroics. Chip knew that Dale was good, but this was amazing--even for him! Dale had starting bringing Chip to his father to train with him at an early age, and it had served to strengthen their developing friendship. Watching Dale, he could remember their earliest lessons, the fights they fought and the day he'd lost his temper.
Chip had started training at a disadvantage to Dale, since Dale had been learning for three years before they met. Still, it frustrated Chip that he couldn't beat Dale. Chip had worked day after day to develop, but Dale was always one step ahead. Chip finally vented his frustrations one afternoon in an emotional volley that Dale had hardly been prepared for.
Dale's father had come over and disarmed Chip before he could hurt Dale or himself. Chip never forgot the words he heard that day: "You've got wonderful talent, boy, but you'll lose every time if you don't have discipline. Fencing is done with the mind as much as with the arm."
Chip had asked (actually he'd yelled), "What fencer /ever/ used his mind more than his muscle?" That was when Dale's father went to a shelf, pulled down a large book and gave it to him. It was "The Complete Adventures of Sureluck Jones."
Dale's father took Chip's epeé and put it up. "I want you to read every story in here before you have another lesson." That day had changed his destiny forever, for what had begun as a reluctant task soon became a lifelong fascination. Suddenly, Chip realized the wonder of the moment, for he was in the presence of two of the biggest influences of his life. He knew one of them was in danger, and he reached out with all his will to lend his best friend any strength he could give him. **You can do it Dale. You can do it.**
The fight had continued through Chip's bout of memory, with neither combatant gaining advantage. Both munks were showing signs of tiring, but the ferocity of the battle continued. It was now that Dale remembered something else in the stories his mother had told him. There had been only one time that Lucien had been defeated. Suddenly, Dale remembered the rest of the story, and knew what he had to do. He feinted twice, then made his move--a quick thrust from right to left. Lucien quickly dodged, and Dale started like he was going to move back. Then Dale pushed forward off his left foot and caught Lucien unprepared! Dale pressed the advantage, and caught his opponent in the very move that had been used on him earlier. Only this time, Lucien's sword went flying! Dale was victorious!
Lucien dropped to the ground on his knees, in shock and amazement. "Kill me and be done with it! You proved your word was honorable--now my life is forfeit."
The chipmunk closed his eyes, waiting for the end. They opened in surprise as Dale plunged his sword into the cabinet behind him. "You gave me your life and I choose to spare it! Instead of dying, you will live to serve others. You and your followers must pledge to be banded together as brothers, as musketeers to serve king and country. All for one, and one for all!"
Lucien rose slowly, amazed at the words. "Too long we have lived for ourselves, taking and not helping others. Your words are true, and they will be honored. Isn't that right, men?"
All his followers shouted their approval as one. "All for one, and one for all!"
"Way to go, pally!" Monty shouted, as Zipper patted him on the back. "Knew you had 'im all the time!"
Chip came up now, full of curiosity. "Dale, you've never spoken like that before! Where'd you learn to talk like that?"
Dale chuckled. "Well, Chip, it's a good thing I pestered my mom to keep telling me the story of how this all happened, or I might never've got it memorized!"
Chip stared at Dale in wonder as nostalgia seized him once again. Yes, now it fit!
Chip remembered parts of the story now that he thought about it, including what happened next.
"Uh, I think it's time we were going, Dale," Chip hinted.
A volley of protests sounded against it.
"Please stay!" Lucien pleaded. "You could lead us!"
Fortunately, Dale had memorized this part, too. He removed the sword from the cabinet. "I cannot stay, good friends. My abilities are needed elsewhere. But raise your blades with me one last time and swear to always remain loyal to your word!"
As one, the group formed a circle then unsheathed and raised their swords, the points crossing each other. Lucien spoke, "We will keep our promise at cost of life and fortune! All for one, and one for all!"
"All for one, and one for all!" the group shouted, with a hurrah.
Lucien was so moved that he immediately carved the words into the cabinet where Dale's sword had been planted. The words remained there for years undiscovered, until a human who was visiting the king and was forced to wait for an audience happened to notice some scratches on the cabinet. Then as he bent closer, he uttered those words just as one of the king's guards came to fetch him. Thus was Alexandre Dumas inspired to write the tale of the musketeers--or at least that is how the story was handed down to one Dale Oakmont.
"Gadget! Gadget!" Foxglove cried out as she flew--literally--through the open door and crashed into the sofa.
"Foxglove?" Gadget asked as she heard the crash from her workshop. Gadget hurried in to find Foxy sprawled out behind the sofa, with a table and some books on top of her.
"What were you thinking of!? Are you hurt?"
"Had to..I had to get back fast! Nimnul's left with the diamonds and some other machine! And when he left..." Foxglove had to pause for breath. She'd been spitting out the words.
Gadget's face was now full of concern. For Foxglove to be this upset! "Yes, yes, and when he left?"
"The time machine he was using blew up! It blew up and then other machines blew up...I knew it wasn't safe there, so I flew to a safe distance and then the whole building blew up!" Foxy said.
"The whole building!?" Chip shouted. He and the rest of the group had just returned and caught the last of the conversation. "Did you see where he was going?"
"Yes. He had the machine set to January 4, 1899," Foxy replied.
"So, it's come full circle then," Basil said.
"What? What does that mean?" Monty asked.
Basil unfolded a piece of paper. "Look at the final note."
I've led you a merry chase
But the end is now in sight
Your time is done
And mine is begun
An age of sheer pleasantry
So to celebrate my victory
But now will be
Please be good enough
To join me
In an age where honor reigns
In the guise of a noble queen
In a town of ancient honor
In a home of noted fame
One with you knows the way
I'm sure to your aid he'll come
But like him, your day is done...
Or should I say, it never came?
2 4 5 6 0
The Rangers looked at each other with a measure of fear in their eyes. Basil was also the picture of dread, but he covered it up quickly as did Chip.
"Apparently, the summons is to my home," Basil said.
"Your home?" Chip asked. "But how could this villain know that you've been with us?"
"Perhaps that was planned from the start. I don't know. In any case, it would appear that he's been one move ahead of us the entire way," Basil answered.
"I don't like it Chipper," Monty said. "Smells like a trap to me."
"I disagree," Basil said. "This adversary of ours works in a diversionary pattern. I'm beginning to think that these rhymes were simply tactics meant to keep our attention."
"To keep it from what?" Chip asked. "So that Nimnul or someone else could commit a crime without us being there?"
Basil knotted his brow, concentrating his deductive powers. "I'm not sure, but if I've gauged his intelligence right, this sounds like an invitation to a gloat."
"So you think that the crime's already been done?" Gadget asked.
"It would seem so," Basil said. "Otherwise, what is there to celebrate?"
Chip nodded. "All right then! I'm tired of being in the dark! Let's see if we can find out who's behind all this!"
"Can I come too, Chip?" Foxglove asked.
Chip looked at her face, and knew that she didn't want to be left out this time. He couldn't blame her, but Dale was already coming up and shaking his head.
Dale put his hand on her left wing. "This could be dangerous, Foxy!"
"For the last time, Dale Oakmont, I'm a Rescue Ranger! I'm used to facing danger and
I won't buck my duty again!" Foxy said firmly.
Gadget came over to Dale. "Dale, I know you want to protect her, but Foxy's got a life to live, too. You can't keep her from getting hurt in every situation. Let her have some freedom!"
Dale still didn't like it. "But what if..."
"Gadget's right, Dale," Chip said, "Besides, we've always done everything together. Remember that little phrase you taught Lucien?"
"All for one, and one for all..." Dale said softly. "Okay Foxy, you can go."
Foxy came over and hugged him. "Don't feel bad about it, Cutie! I'm coming along partly to make sure you come back."
Dale perked up again at that. "I could face anything with you along for the ride, Foxy!"
"Uh, let's hold on the rest until we get the job done, shall we?" Chip asked.
The Rangers made quick preparations, and Gadget once again set the controls for the time machine. Gadget looked around the workshop, making sure everything was in order. Chip caught her at it.
"Oh, I was just thinking how used to this place I was," Gadget said.
Chip knotted his brow. "What do you mean? You've been inventing here for ten years now."
Gadget smiled and shook her head. "Not that way. I just mean that I'm glad I'm a Rescue Ranger. I suppose I could have used my abilities in a lot of ways. Building weapons, or machines for profit. But helping the helpless and making people's lives better has always been the best reward. Don't you think so?"
Chip paused for a moment. It wasn't like Gadget to talk this way often, but he had to admit she was right. "Sure. Before we met you, Monty and Zipper, Dale and I were just two guys having fun. I'd always wanted to be a detective and use the skills I had for good, but there just didn't seem to be a reason in my life to make a decision like that. Now, I couldn't even imagine my life without the Rescue Rangers. You guys are my life...say, why this reminiscing now?"
"It's just the poems and the threats to us," Gadget said. "They made me ask myself, 'would I have been better off never being a Rescue Ranger?' I was happy that I could answer a resounding no to that one!"
"Hear, hear, mates!" Monty shouted. "Same goes for me! If it weren't for the Rangers, I'd still be driftin' from port to port. It can be a great life at times, but you're the best mates a bloke could ask for!"
"Same for me!" Zipper squeaked. He didn't talk too often, but the little fly with the big heart was as much a part of the Rangers as anyone. He got taken by a nice surprise when Foxy hugged him from behind.
Foxy's eyes started to mist over. "Oh, I don't have to tell you what the Rangers mean to me! You were the first real friends I've ever had! Then of course, there's my Cutie..."
"No, here's your Cutie!" Dale answered, walking into the workshop. At that moment, the aggregate emotions swelled in everyone and they all converged for a heartfelt and somewhat tearful group hug, with Dale as the bewildered recipient.
"Oh, Dale, don't you ever put yourself in danger like that again!" Foxglove said. Dale had been bringing her up to speed on their last adventure. She'd been proud that Dale had fought so well and had shown the courage to save his friends. But now the combination of that news plus the dangers of the unknown had allowed her fears to surface.
"Gosh, Foxy! Now you're telling me to be careful!" Dale said jokingly.
"We just don't want to lose our best swordfighter!" Gadget chuckled--Chip had told her about it earlier. "You still find ways to surprise us, Dale!"
Now the tears were starting to form in Dale's eyes. "You guys are the best friends a chipmunk could ask for!" The crying and hugging went into a second round, until the emotions were finally spent. Basil entered now, sensing that the group was settled and ready for action.
The detective smiled warmly, putting one hand on Chip's shoulder, the other on Gadget's. "Good, you got it out of your systems. One should always face the opponent free of emotional baggage. Shall we go?"
"Too right! Let's do it!" Monty agreed.
"Gadget, let's go to London," Chip ordered.
The day of January 4th in London was cold and foggy--in other words a normal London day. Basil led the way through cobblestone streets to his home beneath that famous Baker Street address. A knock at the door soon brought Basil's housekeeper, Mrs. Judson. She was a kind hearted, no-nonsense, plump Scottish mouse. She was forever trying to keep Basil's rooms in order, a job that his unique vocation made almost impossible.
"Ah, Mrs. Judson!" Basil exclaimed. "Do be so good as to fetch some tea and crumpets, if you would! We have guests."
"You've had more guests than them, Mister Basil!" Mrs. Judson said. "I came down this mornin' and the sight of it was nearly the death of me! A strange contraption, there in the sitting room and all the doors and windows shut and locked! Oh, Mr. Basil, what does it mean?"
"There, there, Mrs. Judson! I'm sure it's quite all right. I'll check it out right away. Meanwhile, go and prepare the tea and crumpets," Basil said softly.
While Mrs. Judson went off to calm her nerves, the Rangers and Basil carefully entered the room in question. How many days Chip had dreamed of seeing this room! It was just as he'd imagined it--the Victorian furniture, the two red velvet-lined chairs turned toward each other, the carved wooden mantelpiece decorated with papers that were held in place by throwing darts.
The left chair held a battered leather violin case that stood open, showing the violin he'd read about so often. And there, on a small table between the chairs, rested the diamonds in their holder attached to a strange machine.
The diamonds and the machine had obviously fallen victim to Nimnul's Gigantico gun, but it was the machine that caught everyone's attention. It was metallic, square, and had several yellow and green flashing lights and red digital telltales. However, there was no immediate clue as to what the machine was, or even what it was for.
"I don't understand," Gadget said. "Why would Nimnul have given us the diamonds?"
Monty walked up to look them over. "Yeah, especially when he went to all the trouble of gettin' 'em in the first place! Well, at least we've got them back..."
"Don't Monterey!" Basil shouted. "That holder could be rigged."
Monty's hand stopped a mere inch from one of the jewels.
Gadget guided his arm back. "He's right, Monty. It could be set with a vibrational sensor, or who knows what?"
Monty slowly backed away and took a seat opposite Basil. "Crikey, I should have thought of that meself! Thanks for stopping me."
"Is it a trap, Basil?" Chip asked.
Basil took up the violin and slowly seated himself in the left chair, folding his legs beneath him. He placed his left elbow on the chair arm next to the contraption, and his chin upon his left hand. Basil knotted his brow, intently studying the device for a straight minute without speaking.
"I'm not sure, Chip," Basil said. "My instincts say no. However, it could still be a trap of some kind. Let's take it slow and easy."
No sooner had he said that, than an unseen seam around the middle of the box opened. It revealed two exhaust pipes that started to extend at forty-five degree angles to the diamond holder in front of them.
"Monty!" Gadget said. "Your sitting down activated it!"
Monty stood up quick, as did Basil. The group formed a semicircle around the device as it completed its movements. Then, white smoke appeared from the pipes.
"Gas!" Chip said. "Let's get out of here!"
Even as Dale and Foxglove moved toward the door, an unnoticed sensor closed the door. A sucking sound followed, which also came from the windows. Chip and Dale brought over a heavy suit of armor and rammed the door with it. They just bounced back.
"I was afraid of that," Basil said. "It would appear that sound was some kind of vacuum seal. We won't be able to break the doors or the windows."
"Uh, Chip? If this gas is poisonous, shouldn't we be dead by now or something?" Dale asked.
Chip suddenly turned back to look at the device. The smoke surrounded them all now, but no one was falling down. "It's harmless! But what's it for?"
As it if were about to speak, the metallic box began to hum. The telltales changed their settings, the lights blinked more quickly. Then, a beam of light shone from an emitter on the box, striking the first diamond, and setting off a reaction. Beams of red, blue and green crisscrossed, finally forming one combined low-power laser beam. A shape began to appear in the smoke, for it was obviously now a means to see the projected light.
Then, as if from nowhere, a low evil laughter began. The room had been wired for sound. The Rangers looked everywhere, trying to determine its source. Then, the sound stirred a memory in Chip. A very bad memory.
"No..." Chip whispered. "It can't be him!"
Chip, Basil and the Rangers watched in horror as the indistinct form began to sharpen. Their eyes grew wide with realization, for here was a person they had not seen in ten long years and could have stood another fifty without the pleasure. Still, the man hardly looked different from the first time they'd seen him. The same bald head on top and red hair on the sides. The same malicious eyes and grin. He wore a gray suit with a black vest, a red tie and black patent leather shoes. But it was him, their first and greatest foe--Aldrin Klordane had returned.
"Klordane!" Monty shouted. "I thought he was in solitary on Picard's Island!"
"Obviously he escaped," Chip said. "But how? And how on EARTH did he learn about us!?"
"I take it this fellow is an enemy of yours, Chip?" Basil asked.
Dale frowned. "That's the biggest understatement of the century!"
"Ah, I'm glad you could join me here, Rescue Rangers!" Klordane's image spoke.
"Yes, I know you all very well now! Time has a way of making all things equal."
Chip stared at the smiling face. "But how could he have found out? Only Nimnul's ever learned anything about us...and he didn't know enough to do all this!"
"I'm sure you're wondering how I've managed this grand undertaking! Since none of you will be here much longer, I have no qualms about sharing the incredible details of my new master plan," Klordane said. "You see, when those Egyptologists found your plans two months ago, my agents there knew that machine of yours was no primitive device and relayed the information to me in prison. I immediately was interested and dispatched Professor Nimnul to check it out. He's always been in my employ, and is still quite loyal. He used his Gigantico gun to shrink himself and check it out. Little did we know those plans were for a time machine! Or still that it was Gadget who had invented it! My dear, you are truly a wonder, and I salute you."
"Not impressed," Gadget said, as if the image could hear her comment.
"Nimnul built a replica and used it to travel into the future, to find out for me how I had been beaten. I knew you rodents had something to do with it, but I didn't know the full story. However, I do now!" The evil human held up a book, so that everyone could read the cover title.
"The Complete History of the Rescue Rangers, by Chip Maplewood!" Chip exclaimed.
"Nimnul happened upon this book by accident, having seen the reference in the book he looked up for my crime. It seems you six and the generations after you were quite famous in the future. That of course was after the discovery that humans could communicate with your kind. You made one serious mistake though--you wrote a complete history of each member of the Rescue Rangers. I expect I know more about you now than you do!" Klordane cackled.
"Chip, does that mean what I think it means?" Dale asked, a measure of fear in his voice.
Klordane's smile was absolutely terrible. "You know, Rangers, once I realized your part in stopping my first master plan, I thought about how I could get my revenge upon you. Just killing you was too simple a thing. Anyone can do that. No, there are truly some things worse than death! I realized I had the perfect instrument for your demise with the time machine."
Klordane paused a moment, reveling in his own thoughts. "The time machine allowed me to keep the appearance of being imprisoned in Picard's Island, while plotting my revenge. Professor Nimnul would come in a miniaturized form to deliver information and avoid detection. When Professor Nimnul at last completed our protective bracelets, I waited until the last bedcheck, then I had Nimnul shrink me to his size and take me with him when the portal reappeared."
Everyone was in awe of the subtlety of the scheme.
"Amazing!" Basil said. "He merely bided his time until he could time travel. Then he could return to that cell just after the moment he left it. No one would ever know he was missing!"
Chip shook his head in disbelief as Klordane continued. "That return mechanism of yours was another stroke of genius, my dear. We took the plans for the device and went into the past, just after I had been jailed by Detective Drake. I gathered my old group together, and with my remaining fortune I managed to construct five of these devices."
"But why the diamonds, Chip? And why the messages?" Dale asked.
"Yeah, that doesn't make sense!" Foxglove said.
Basil's face was stern now. "It was because of me."
"You!" Dale and Foxglove said.
"As I'm sure you're discussing by now, the first phase of my master plan was to give you resourceful Rangers something to occupy your time with. According to this book, the first time I escaped I merely tried to grab the diamonds and you and the ever-intelligent Basil of Baker Street stopped me again. However, I realized that if I added the mystery of the clues, it would capture Basil's attention and delay you long enough for me and my men to complete our job," Klordane said.
"What job?" Dale asked.
Chip bonked Dale, more out of frustration than anything. "He's getting rid of us!"
Dale gulped as Chip's words seized everyone with foreboding.
Klordane's face changed now, almost becoming kind. "I hope you enjoyed your trips into the past, Rangers, and the interesting people you met. You see, I could have stolen those jewels at any time, but I saw that coordinating the thefts in time and with Dale's and Monterey Jack's ancestors would be so much more appropriate. I also wanted you to treasure what you're about to miss--each other!"
Monty gasped. "My ancestor! So that's how you found out about Cheshire Cecil! Too-Ra-Loo, did you actually get to speak to 'im?"
Chip couldn't look in that face and lie. "No, Monty. We talked to his great-grandfather--and we found out something..."
Monty didn't like his hesitation. "What? Better be out with it, Chipper."
"We found out that his son, the first Cheshire Cecil, was a criminal!" Dale blurted.
Monty looked in utter disbelief. "A criminal! Me own ancestor a crook? Oh, the shame!"
Chip came over and patted him on the shoulder. "Monty, don't feel so bad about it. After all, if that first Cheshire Cecil hadn't done what he did, you wouldn't be here today!"
"Yeah, Monty!" Dale said. "After all, my ancestor was a thief too, until he reformed."
Monty considered that, and sighed. "You're right. And after all, his grandson did make up for it in a way! I guess you can't be proud of every ancestor ya have."
The chipmunks were relieved for Monty's sake, but then Klordane's voice snapped them back to reality. "At first, I considered hiring an assassin and killing the lot of you. No, killing was too good for you. You, who had ruined my one great chance to rule the world! But I realized that the best revenge would be to prevent you from becoming Rescue Rangers at all. And I've done it! By the time you see this, my men and I'll have gone into the past and changed all your past lives!" Klordane said triumphantly.
"But we're still here!" Dale said. "Why hasn't anything changed?"
Basil pointed to his wrist. "The bracelets, Dale."
Klordane spoke again. "Your protective bracelets are keeping you outside the time line right now. However, the changes have already taken effect! Now you cannot stop me! I will rule the world this time, and there is no accursed group of Rangers on the face of the Earth to stop me! Heh heh, ha ha, hahahahahahahaha!"
The Rangers just stared at the daunting image, shocked beyond imagination.
"If you will fail to stop me before..." Chip said, flatly.
"The Rangers are no more," Basil said. "A grim prediction. We've got to find a way to get out of here and undo what's been done!"
"The numbers! Of course!" Chip shouted. "'If you get the numbers!' Those numbers at the bottom of each poem represent us. First it was me and Dale, then you and Zipper, then Gadget, then Foxglove."
Dale nodded. "The order we met in! Then zero...none."
"Dale, I'm scared!" Foxglove said, clinging to him.
"I'm shaking right along with you, Foxy!" Dale said.
Gadget started thinking. "If we could use those diamonds, we might could cut our way out of this."
Chip was about to chance taking one of them when Klordane spoke, the movement apparently having set off the recording again. "It's entirely possible that you may figure out a way to escape my little trap," the villain said, "but since you're already using the bracelets, you've only got a week until the temporal displacement overcomes you. Then again, I've never been one to play fair!"
"Look out!" Chip cried, grabbing Basil. They had been farthest away from the device, at the head of the semicircle. The machine glowed, suddenly shooting forth bolts of electricity that sought out the bracelets of the Rangers. Chip's quick reaction saved him and Basil, as they fell behind a large wooden desk. The others were not so lucky. Dale, Foxglove, Gadget, Monty and Zipper were enveloped in power--Dale and Foxglove to the machine's left, the others on the right.
Gadget fell close to the table. Basil quickly opened the center drawer of the desk above him, feeling for something. He found a rubber scientist's glove and managed to pull Gadget out of the bolt's path. Then the machine glowed even brighter and exploded, the diamonds being hurled into the opposite wall from the force of the explosion.
It was several seconds before the effect of the smoke allowed Chip and Basil to see anything. But the sight that met their eyes was the most fearful Chip had ever seen. Four empty bracelets lay upon the floor, broken--their occupants erased from existence. Chip turned back to Gadget, the tears already starting to flow.
"Is she all right!?" Chip shouted, almost hysterical now.
"I...I think so, Chip. But she's had a bad shock. Just as you have. We all have. Oh, how could I have been so blind?" Basil lamented.
"You? What about me!" Chip shouted. "I've lost my friends! I've lost them all but Gadget!"
Basil started to get up as Chip walked over to the bracelets, but he knew it would do no good at the moment. Chip's fedora was misshapen and out of place--something he couldn't stand normally. Now, he couldn't care less. He fought for vision through his tears as he staggered to the wall by the door, his shoulders slumping. It was a good minute before he finally had the strength to pick up the bracelets. He knelt down by Gadget, putting them in her left hand and closing both of his on hers.
"Gadget, I promise you now on my love for you that I'll do everything in my power to get them back!" Chip said, almost spitting the words. "We'll get them back, and stop that Klordane once and for all!" Chip looked at Gadget's placid face; her hair was mussed, the goggles lying on the floor next to her. She was slightly bruised and still unconscious. Then words failed Chip again as the tears overcome him and he added his face to his hands, losing his fedora as the tears anointed her hand. The maniacal face and laughter of Aldrin Klordane filled his thoughts and tortured his soul.
Basil of Baker Street and the Rescue Rangers are copyright Disney and used without permission, but with the utmost respect.
Chapter Three, Part One