The Times of Their Lives
Chapter 5 -- Past Imperfect...Chip heard the name "Hackwrench" ringing in his ears and was about to ask the obvious when a thump behind him answered it for him. The chipmunk reeled in time to see the finale of Gadget’s faint.
"Oh my!" Basil said. "Is she all right? What brought that on?"
Arianna and Basil ran over as Chip checked her head, which had hit the floor hard. No damage. Then Chip looked back at them.
"You mean you don’t know? I just assumed you’d have mentioned…" Chip started.
"Mentioned what, Chip?" Arianna asked.
"Her last name is Hackwrench, too!" Chip said.
Basil gasped and stood up, his mind at once alive in thought. Arianna stood up slowly as well, looking to her newly betrothed and then back at Gadget.
"It could be coincidence…" Basil finally said.
"With our similarity in features? The similar intelligence, the bent on inventing, the asymptomatic thought patterns? I think coincidence is very unlikely," Arianna countered.
Chip looked back to Gadget, who was starting to stir. "If we were in our own time, we could tell for certain with a DNA scan."
Basil looked perplexed. "DNA?"
"Deoxyribonucleic Acid," Gadget said, "the building blocks of all living beings on Earth. Everyone has a separate DNA sequence that makes up their individual being. It’s as good an identifier as fingerprints, and can be used to trace lineage."
Basil looked at her in amazement as another discovery of the future was revealed. Arianna come over to Basil, put her arm around him and looked down at Gadget. "In this case, I don’t think any tests are necessary. She’s your descendent, through and through."
Arianna offered Gadget a hand up, which she gladly accepted. Then the mouse inventor looked at the two of them. "Since my dad’s been gone, I’ve had no one to call family but the Rangers. I’ve never even met anyone else with my name. To think, the people I’ve been working with are my own ancestors! The person I fashioned an extra bracelet for was my own great-grandmother! What if something had happened to you? What if something still does?"
Arianna hugged her, and for the first time in a long time Gadget felt what it was like to have a mother again. She cried in the elder mouse’s arms and Basil came over and hugged her as well. Chip was standing to one side, amazed. In a way, he was like an invisible viewer of the goings-on. A part of him was relieved for Gadget, but another was strangely jealous. What was it?
The comforting session finally ended, and Gadget was full of questions. The most important jumped out of her. "Basil, why didn’t you use the Hackwrench name? Why Basil of Baker Street?"
Basil blushed slightly. "Well, to be honest Gadget…I didn’t like the name. I thought it sounded plain. Plus, I wanted the notoriety of a dramatic title. It only seemed natural to move to the home of my human counterpart and use the street he lived on as my last name."
Gadget nodded. "I understand. But where did the name come from? I mean, someone had to have liked it or else they were into self-punishment."
Basil put an arm on her back. "When you return, I’ll have the Hackwrench family Bible ready for you to consult."
"When I return?" Gadget asked. "I’m not going anywhere! I have to operate the time machine! It’s on manual, remember?"
"But surely Arianna can do it!" Basil said. "You need to help Chip get your friends back!"
"No, I’ve got to stay and make sure that the machine works right! If it breaks down, I’m the only one who can get it going again!" Gadget said.
"But Gadget…" Basil started.
"Basil," Arianna said, "let her stay. It means a lot to her to keep you and Chip safe. Besides, it will allow the two of us to get better acquainted."
The resolve in Gadget’s eyes finally forced Basil’s hand. "All right. Chip and I will go alone. I guess we’d better get going."
"Oh, wait!" Gadget shouted. She ran into a small room at the other end of the library and came back with a metallic octagonal badge, about two inches wide. "This badge will temporarily short out their time machine! Tap it three times, and it sends out a signal that will scramble their machine for around half an hour."
Chip took the badge. "How close do we have to be for this thing to work?"
"That’s the bad part," Gadget said. "You’re going to have to be within five feet of it, and you’ll only get a full half-hour if they haven’t activated it yet."
Basil grabbed a small toolbag. "Then we’ll just have to see that they do not activate it. We shall use stealth."
Gadget came over and hugged Chip and then gave Basil a long hug. "Promise me you’ll be careful, Basil. A lot’s riding on it."
Basil gave her that fatherly look that Gadget had only seen previously from Geegaw and Monty. "We’ll be back. They haven’t made the challenge that Basil of Baker Street cannot overcome! Come, Chip! The game’s afoot!"
Chip and Basil discussed the possibilities of what Klordane’s henchman had done to Chedderhead, while Gadget adjusted the controls on the time machine.
"Guys," Gadget said, "it’s really critical that you get that badge in place."
Chip didn’t like the sound of that. "Why? What’s the problem?"
"We’ve got to make sure that when you finish crossing the wires, that the area they return to will allow no recovery of the machine. That badge will regulate the power surge that results from the wires crossing, and it will send them near a small island in the Pacific," Gadget said.
"Near it? As in ‘in the water’ near?" Basil asked.
"Precisely!" Gadget said. "That way, the machines won’t be salvageable because of the corrosive salt water and the depth of the ocean. We’ll still have to deal with the blueprints, but at least we know it’d take time and effort for Klordane to build any more of those machines. After all, it took all his resources to build five."
Arianna returned to the room. She was wearing a safari outfit. "I’m going with you. You need a third person along. I’ve still got my bracelet, and you two are going to need help!"
Basil shook his head determinedly. "No, my dear! It’s too dangerous!"
"If it is, then you had best not go yourself," Arianna joked. "You need all the help you can get. Your wife-to-be is a very determined and resourceful woman. I am going!"
Chip piped up at last. "Basil, I know you don’t want to hear this, but I think she’s right. She’s been a big help to us already, and just because she’s a woman…"
"But don’t you understand, Chip," Basil said, "in this century, women simply aren’t allowed to do things like this! It’s….it’s not natural!"
Gadget traded a knowing smile with Arianna. "Basil, Chip is right. Arianna’s already proven herself. Now she wants to help again. You’re an intelligent mouse, Basil, one of the most intelligent ever. Do you really think that Arianna is not up to the task?"
Basil stood, looking at the three expectant faces surrounding him. "Oh, all right! You can go."
"You won’t regret it, Basil," Arianna said. "Besides, you need someone to look after you."
Basil smirked a bit, and assumed an attitude of mock annoyance. "Well, I’ve done pretty good for myself so far!"
"Then why do your socks not match?" Arianna pointed down, covering the smile on her face.
Basil pulled up his trousers. Sure enough—one blue, one brown. "That just goes to show I like a little variety in my life."
"Then you will have a wonderful time with me along," Arianna replied. "Now let us be off. Time is wasting!"
The trio stepped into place, and Gadget activated the portal. In a moment, they stood on the dry plain of Alice Springs, the wind whipping their faces. Roughing it took on new meaning in this place. The arid country was a mixture of scrubbrush and suffering trees. A mile away, a rock mesa rose suddenly out of the desert-like plain.
"I think we had better find shelter!" Arianna said. "It is still several hours until sundown."
"Then come this way, folks!" a voice shouted behind them.
Everyone turned immediately to see a grizzled, brown-haired and brown bearded mouse carrying a seabag.
"Chedderhead Charlie!" Chip said.
"’Ow’d you know me name?" Chedderhead asked, his face showing suspicion.
Chip blushed. "Oh, a friend of Miss Ideler’s here said you could be counted on to show us around!" Chip was hoping Chedderhead’s reaction to Gadget would carry over to Arianna. He wasn’t mistaken.
Chedderhead turned his attention to the lovely adventuress. He doffed his black safari hat. "I’m honored to come to the aid of such a beautiful damsel. Ideler? Do you have a brother in Singapore?"
"I do not think so, mister Chedderhead," Arianna smiled winningly, "but I am sure he would have mentioned you. I am pleased to put myself under the care of such a gentleman as you."
That was all it took. "Miss, you and your friends must spend the night at my abode. It’s not much to be sure, but I’d be honored by your presence."
Chedderhead offered his arm, and Arianna took it. She looked back at the amazed Basil with a "told you I’d be useful" look. Chip elbowed him to accentuate the moment.
The home of Chedderhead Charlie was small, yet warm. It was a seaman’s house--two floors with slightly faded blue paint contrasting the white eaves and window frames. Still, it had the look of dignity. That was mainly the doing of Camembert Kate. She "ran a taut ship", as Chedderhead said. The able-bodied mouse was outside, sweeping the dust off the stoop.
"As I live and breathe!" Kate said. "We haven’t had guests here in nigh on to two years!"
"Break out the good cheese, Katie me darlin’! We’ve reason to celebrate tonight!" Chedderhead said.
"Surely you’re not going to trouble on our part?" Arianna asked.
Chedderhead held the door for her. "Not entirely, me dear. Y’see, me son Monty has come of age an’ ‘es about t’ship out with his dad for parts unknown!"
"Now don’t be bringing up trouble in this house, Chowderhead!" Kate said.
Chedderhead put his hands on his hips. "Now you know I don’t like you callin’ me ‘Chowderhead’! You ever goin’ to forgive that time I used your pressure cooker?"
"Doesn’t seem you’ve given me much reason to," Kate said. "Besides, you’re taking our son off when he could stay home and make something of himself!"
"Couldn’t this wait until later, sweetlumps?" Chedderhead said through clenched teeth, thumbing toward the guests. "We’ve got guests, y’know."
"Oh, don’t mind us. We’re a couple of old salts who don’t know when to quit. Where is Cheezer, anyway?" Kate asked.
Chedderhead motioned everyone to the large table in middle of the room. The room itself wasn’t much to notice. It was rustic—plain wood walls and shelves, as well as floors, with handmade area rugs and mats here and there. The chairs were a mixture of the Orient and Europe. An oilcloth and pewter tableware completed the picture.
"Didn’t you hear me? Where’s young Cheezer?" Kate asked.
Chedderhead took a seat. "Last I saw, the lad was out by the gorge."
Chip drew in a breath. "Would that be Einke Gorge, by chance?"
"None other. We go out there a good bit to practice survival skills. The lad just loves sneakin’ up on me!" Chedderhead replied.
"Chedderhead Charlie Erskine!" Kate shouted. "You get your carcass up and get that boy of ours back ‘ere! That gorge is dangerous for anyone alone, and it’ll be night soon!"
"Aw, ‘e can take care of ‘imself!" Chedderhead said. "Besides, e’s ‘ad Chedderhead Charlie to learn from! How much trouble could ‘e get into?"
Kate didn’t say another word. She just came over and pulled Chedderhead’s chair out from under him. "Now this chair better not be full until Cheezer’s back!"
"Why don’t we go help you look?" Basil asked. "After all, it will be dark soon."
Chedderhead had already headed for the door, but he turned back to look at them. "I dunno. It takes a tough lot to ‘andle the outback. Still, if you think you’re up to it.."
"Let’s go!" Chip said. "Don’t worry, Kate. We’ll find him!"
"That’s Mrs. Erskine to you, young man. But thanks for your ‘elp, anyhow," Kate said.
The area around the gorge was very rocky. By the time the group reached the nearest lip of the gorge, the sun was setting.
"Son, are you here!?" Chedderhead yelled.
Everyone listened, then a voice that sounded like it was coming from the Earth itself responded. Monty!
"Down here, Dad!" Monty shouted.
Four faces looked down. The craggy three-foot crack of the gorge opened up lower down to a full ten feet wide. The bottom was several hundred feet below, veiled in darkness. Monty was holding onto a tree root a third of the way down.
"Oh, my!" Arianna shouted. "We’ve got to get a rope!"
"’E’s too far down!" Chedderhead shouted. "I’m gonna climb down after ‘im!"
Chip ran up and tried to hold him back. "But there’s no good handholds! If you hit some loose rock, you’ll fall all the way to the bottom!"
"Can’t be ‘elped, mate!" Chedderhead said, pulling free. "That’s my boy down there! I’ve gotta save ‘im!"
Chedderhead started running toward the west, looking for a good access point. Basil turned and gathered everyone for a conference.
"What we need is something like Gadget’s RangerWing to get down there safely. Any ideas?" Basil asked.
"Out here? There’s nothing to build anything with!" Chip said.
Arianna looked around, then grabbed Chip’s shoulder. "What about that?"
Sure enough, not fifty yards away stood a lean-to, covering the only good well in the area. The covering was made of thick burlap, which had pitch on top of it to make it waterproof.
"A glider! We can make a glider out of it!" Chip shouted. "Come on, everyone! There’s not much time."
Chip’s words were truer than he knew. For another pair of eyes had been watching Chedderhead. Now a form starting moving toward the unsuspecting mouse. Chedderhead was engrossed in making a rope out of twine. Hands trained by long experience flashed back and forth, making a strong cord. The form edged ever closer.
"That’s right, Basil! Stretch it out!" Chip said. The glider was quickly taking shape. Once Arianna understood what they were doing, her skills at tying and stitching were invaluable. Basil had brought along pigging straps for creating a makeshift ladder, and Chip was using these to tie several pieces of hardwood lean-to into the underbrace portion of the glider. Basil was hard at work setting the longer pieces in place, and holding them while Arianna used the rest of the pigging to stitch them where they would hold the burlap in place.
Percy made his way into the clear, certain that Chedderhead hadn’t seen him. He rushed the mouse, holding his hands out in front of him in a clear effort to push Chedderhead over the cliff. The grizzled Aussie heard the footsteps just in time.
"Ya bloomin’ nutcase! Why’d ya try to do that?!" Chedderhead shouted.
Percy came up just short of the lip and turned, determined to do his job. "Da boss says you gotta go! So over ya go!"
The wind was right. With Basil and Arianna helping to hold it down against the gusts, Chip managed to guide the glider over to the lip of the gorge. "Well, here goes! Pistachio!"
The glider worked! Chip was headed in the right direction when he heard shouting ahead of him. Then he saw Percy up above him holding something in both hands. Chedderhead!
"Let me down, you wall-eyed wombat!" Chedderhead cried.
As if to answer, Percy drew back and threw the adventurer up in the air!
"Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" Chedderhead shouted, watching as he started to fall into the gorge. Down, down he went. Then he saw something coming fast.
"Chedderhead, throw me the rope!" Chip shouted up. "It’s your only chance!"
The brave Aussie waited until what looked to be the right moment and threw the bundle of rope, holding onto one end. Chip missed it at first, and dove! The rope end was just beyond his grasp…so he held onto the glider with one hand and twisted his body out into space with the other.
"Got it!" Chip shouted gladly. He held on and righted the glider. The strain was gut-wrenching, but Chip knew he couldn’t let go. The glider was bending a bit under the pressure of two bodies, but it held. Chip used every piece of momentum to send him toward the lip of the gorge. Fortunately, an updraft came along at the right time. Chedderhead was bouncing and bopping off the rock formations along the way up until he finally reached the top himself.
"Wooo-ha!" Chedderhead exclaimed. "That was more fun than riding in a barrel full ‘o monkeys!"
Chip landed and held his right arm. "Ow! Oh, that hurts!"
Chedderhead ran over and pushed Chip aside, arm and all. "I’ll take it from here, boyo! My son needs saving!"
Before Chip could protest, Chedderhead had grabbed up the rope and was sailing for the gorge. Arianna came up and helped Chip to a sitting position.
"Are you okay, Chip? That arm hurting you?" Arianna asked.
"More sore than anything, but thanks Arianna. Is he gone?" Chip asked.
Basil looked back from the cliff and the binoculars he was using. "Yes, he’s down there and he’s got Monty! Egad, but that mouse is strong! He’s pulling him up!"
Then the glider came into view again, and Chip could see it for himself. Father and son were together, and the glider was really strained now. But the two mice didn’t notice it—they were laughing and cavorting already. Then the trio on the ground had to duck as Monty and Chedderhead buzzed them!
Percy’s eyes grew large with panic as he saw what was happening. "I’d better get back and tell Mr. Klordane!" The dimwitted lackey was heading for his time machine when Monty and his father landed on the gunsel!
"Now let’s have a real jolly punchup!" Chedderhead shouted, biting Percy’s ear.
Percy jumped around, desperately trying to free himself from the two mice. Basil and Chip used the diversion to their advantage. With Arianna just behind, they ran in the direction Percy was headed and soon found the machine. It was just what Gadget had predicted—a scaled-up version of her own invention.
Basil reached into his toolbag and drew out a modified screwdriver bit that Gadget had made for this purpose. Chip and Basil managed to loosen the screws, and they soon had the wires fixed and the plate back in place. Now, Chip drew out the badge.
"Hey! Get away from there, rodents!" Percy shouted. He’d freed himself from the Aussie onslaught, but just barely. They were being dragged along on his shoelaces.
Chip tapped the badge three times quickly. It flew out of his hand, the electromagnet inside the device pulling it toward the time machine. Percy pulled away from Monty and Chedderhead—who were both knocked out from hitting a large rock—and activated the machine.
Everything seemed normal at first, but when the portal appeared the machine began to whine and make whirring noises. Percy banged on the machine, which did nothing to help of course. Then the portal moved and engulfed man and machine, as it was programmed to. But before the portal vanished, a surge of power flashed from within and a scream was heard from Percy. Then, everything was quiet.
Suddenly, the air was filled with chuckling, then laughter! The adventure-loving duo rolled on the ground for laughing, enjoying the moment to its fullest.
"Oh dad, you were one tough cookie!" Monty shouted.
Chedderhead was still laughing. "Reminded me of my flying days with Duck Payger at Eggland Air Force Base! Those ruddy Americans were always good for a laugh! You’ll love America, son!"
Basil and Chip exchanged looks and made their way over to the jovial twosome along with Arianna. "Glad we could be of service," Basil said.
Chedderhead slapped Chip in the back, knocking him down. "Ah, allow me the pleasure of introducing me boy, Monterey Jack! Soon t’be The Famous Monterey Jack, I might add! We Erskines always find our way into the story books!"
**You don’t know the half of it**, Chip thought.
"Pleased to meet you everyone!" Monty said, still riding the adrenaline of the rescue. "Me dad’s the greatest, ain’t he?"
"Lad, take off your flight cap in front of a lady," Chedderhead muttered.
Arianna smiled, and held out her hand to Monty. "It’s a pleasure to meet such a devoted young man…"
Monty took her hand and shook it vigorously, leaving Arianna a bit flustered.
"No, lad!" Chedderhead scolded. "You’re greeting a lady, not arm-wrestling a dingo! Miss, if I may?"
Arianna smiled in spite of herself and held her hand out to the elder mouse. He took it gently and kissed it lightly. "There, you see lad? Always treat a lady with charm! I see I’ve got a lot to teach you yet!"
The Erskine house was full of tenants that night. Yet it was cozy as everyone sat around the fire. Chedderhead told stories of how he and his father had traveled around the world many times, and all the wonderful adventures they had. Chip felt a bit of home come back to him, and the warmth of the fire was reflected in his heart. Still, he knew his task had only begun.
Basil and Arianna were huddled together, watching the driftwood pop in the hearth. Kate knew a pair of lovebirds when she saw one, and smiled wistfully, remembering her wedding day with Chedderhead. True, they had their disagreements, but she still loved her big Cheddar wheel, and wouldn’t trade him for anyone else. Suddenly, Kate remembered something else and got up.
Chip used the disturbance to open conversation. "Uh, Monty? Did you ever have a fly for a friend by the name of Zipper?"
Monty was on the floor by the fire and drew up his left knee so he could prop his left elbow on it and his head on his left hand. He closed his left eye and let his right look off into space. "Zipper? I don’t think so, mate. I’ve had a scorpion for a pet before, till Ma saw it and made me take it home. Why’d you wanna know?"
"Oh, just curious," Chip said. "I seem to remember a mouse that looked like you once with a fly named Zipper."
"Well, who knows lad? Maybe we’ll find you a Zipper out there when we go travelin’!" Chedderhead said.
"Where you bound for?" Chip asked.
Chedderhead sat and thought. "Well, I plan to show the lad the best of the sites me dad showed me! We’ll start off by goin’ to Wellington, then over to Samoa. We’ll take the steamer up to Tokyo, then make our way over to Hawaii, then the west coast of America. We’ll work our way down to Panama, then over to Cuba. We’ll spend a little time in Spain and France, then Switzerland. Finally, we’ll work our way home."
"Now Cheezer," Kate started, returning with a plate, "I want you to promise to think before you run in. Your father’s got a way to running into a situation blind and getting into trouble."
Kate brought the covered plate over and gave it to Chip.
"What’s this?" Chip asked.
"Oh, just a little something to say thank you for bringing my Cheezer home," Kate said, looking lovingly at Monty.
"Aw, Ma! My name’s Monterey! Can’t you stop calling me Cheezer!?" Monty said.
"Now son, you may grow to be a hundred and become more famous than your father, but you’ll always be my Cheezer to me! Give me a kiss, now…" Kate said.
"But Ma! In front of all these people?" Monty begged.
Kate crossed her arms and stuck her chin out. "Cheezer, either kiss me or kiss your trip goodbye."
Monty finally gave in, and then Chip remembered the plate in his hands. It was a wedge of chocolate—almost. Chip bit into it and then a distinct flavor and aroma overcame him. He spit out the offensive material.
"Oh, I forgot you weren’t a mouse!" Kate said. "Chocolate-covered limburger is a family favorite."
"Well, chipmunks don’t go for it," Chip said. "Uh, Monty, would you like…."
But Chip had known there was no need to ask. Already, the young lad’s moustache was curling.
"Chee-yee-yeee-yeee-eeeeezzzzeeee!" Monty shouted, grabbed the wedge and downing it in one gulp.
Kate shook her head. "Just like his father. Oh well, I suppose it had to happen. Just promise me to return someday lad. I’ll come back too, once I’ve earned my sealegs."
Monty did a double take. "You’re going too!?"
Kate laughed. "Well I’m not staying around this hovel waiting for you two! I’ve got adventures of my own to find!"
Chedderhead came over and hugged her. "I knew I married the right mouse! Katie me darlin’, we’ll meet up ‘ere again in a year’s time. Then we’ll see who’s ‘ad the grandest adventures!"
"You always could tell ‘em better than I could, Cheddar wheel!" Kate said, laughing.
The evening went along smoothly after that. Finally, Chip, Basil and Arianna made their excuses and headed out.
"Well, that’s one down, Chip," Basil said. "Now we have to take the next step."
Chip led the way to the rendezvous point. "And that’s going to be right back here!"
"How do you mean, Chip?" Arianna asked.
"Well, I asked about Zipper because he’ll be the next easiest to trace. We know that Monty didn’t meet Zipper before he left, so I bet he met him on the journey! We’ll have to get Gadget to send us forward in time one year."
"Good thinking, Chip!" Basil said. "It’s a good place to start. Of course, he may have met him later on, you know."
Chip shook his head. "It couldn’t have been too much later, Basil. Monty often talked of Zipper in his adventures, and the only one I know that Zipper didn’t join him in was his time in Trampleonya."
Gadget activated the portal and three dusty comrades came through. "Did you save him?" Gadget asked.
"Yep. Now, we’ve got to go back a year later and see if we can find out what happened to Zipper," Chip said.
"Okay, just give me a minute or two," Gadget said. She turned the dials and switches, suppressing a yawn.
"Did you not get any sleep while we were gone?" Arianna asked.
Gadget didn’t look up. "Oh, I’m used to that. When I’m on an inventing binge.."
Basil walked into the adjoining room and came back with an alarm clock. "Here, I’ve set this to go off in an hour. Now rest some, my dear. We’ll be fine."
Gadget took the clock with a bemused look. "I suppose so. I’ve made the adjustments. I take it you had no problems with the badge?"
"None at all," Basil said. "I presume it worked. We’ll know for sure when we check on Monty and family."
"Here goes!" Gadget said, activating the portal.
It was strange returning to the same place they had just seen, and the appearance looking so different. The Erskine house was run down now—the paint peeling off the faded exterior. A lone mouse sat outside with his head in his hands, thinking. The gang made their way over to Chedderhead Charlie.
"Uh, does Monty live here?" Chip asked.
It took a moment for Chedderhead to pull his thoughts together. "Hmm? Oh, Monty…you mean my boy. My sweet, sweet boy!" Chedderhead started crying, startling everyone.
Arianna comforted him. "Please, don’t hold it in. If you tell us about it, you’ll feel better."
Chedderhead pulled out a handkerchief and blew. "It would be nice to tell someone. Me Katie’s left me for good over this. It all happened three months ago in Panama. I’ll never forget the day—March 18. Me boy Monterey and I were making our way through the jungle when suddenly we heard cries for ‘elp. We ran to the source and found that a little fly had gotten himself tangled in some vines and had fallen into quicksand. Monty leaped in then and there to save ‘im. I was about to do the same, when someone knocked me out from behind! When I woke….when I woke up…they had both gone under!"
"Are you sure? Could they have escaped while you were out?" Chip asked.
"Not a chance, mate. They were both 30 feet from land and they would have needed my ‘elp to get free! I didn’t realize how much the boy meant to me! Now ‘e’s gone forever!" Chedderhead lamented, drowning in a fit of tears.
While Arianna did what she could, Chip and Basil went off to discuss their finding. "Well, now we know. Apparently, your friends met for the first time—and now the last time—in Panama. We’ll have to save both of them this time!"
"It’s not getting any easier is it?" Chip commented. "First, we save Chedderhead from dying, now we’ve got to go back and save Monty and Zipper. No wonder Zipper was so devoted to Monty though. He saved his life!"
"And now we’re going to save theirs," Arianna said, having left Chedderhead to his grieving. "Let’s get back to the rendezvous while we still have time."
"Dead? Both of them?" Gadget asked, unbelieving. "Do you think Klordane knows? Do you think he’s found a way to trace us?"
Basil came over and calmed her. "I’m sure it was just happenstance. Monty tried to save Zipper and the blaggard let them both sink!"
"Then we’ll have to set things right again! It was three months back?" Gadget asked.
"That’s what he said, though we could not get an exact location out of him. The jungles of Panama, a day’s travel from his ship was as close as he could come," Arianna said. "Basil, can we narrow it down with a bit of reasoning?"
"I think so," Basil said. "Chip, what would be Chedderhead’s reasoning in going to Panama?"
"The Panama Canal! Of course!" Chip said. "In our time, there’s a canal that’s been dug to allow ships to cross from the Pacific to the Atlantic and vice versa. They would naturally hop a ship there bound for Cuba!"
"Or at least one that could take them through the canal," Gadget mused. "Still, that leaves a lot of territory to cover."
Basil pondered it all. "But at least we know their destination. Now, they said they we going to go along the coast. So we can expect their trail to intersect the coast and a logical point of embarkation to one of the ships at the canal."
Arianna pulled out a map of the area. Chip remembered where the canal was, and drew in its location. "So they’d likely head for Balboa, then," Basil said. "If they hugged the coast, they’d likely head across the land at the point where a straight line would have done them the most good—just before that big jut on the map."
"All right, we’ll try there," Chip said. "We still have to find them, though. We also have to get there before they get to the quicksand."
"I think the best thing to do is find Zipper," Basil said. "If we can find him, we’ll find Monty and Chedderhead."
Chip nodded his agreement. "We’re going to need some extra supplies, then. Arianna, show us to the kitchen. We’ll need food and some more of that pigging. We’ll also need some machetes."
"A change of clothes would not be amiss, either," Arianna said. "Give me a little time to change. We’ll go in an hour or so."
Chip dusted off his fedora, and dragged himself into the library. He’d hidden how tired he was—it didn’t seem like they’d done that much! Still, Chip knew that wasn’t the case. Now, they were back at square one with an uncertain step along the path to victory. Chip mindlessly wandered in, and slid into a blue velvet-covered chair. In a few moments, he was asleep.
When his internal clock forced him awake, Chip could see that dawn had broke. Gadget was resting in the chair opposite him and Arianna had just brought in the breakfast items.
"I see you’re up," Arianna said. "We come back and found you asleep, so we decided everyone could use a little rest."
Chip sat up. "How long have I been.."
"Four hours. Just enough to get your faculties going again, I’d say," Arianna said.
The chipmunk rubbed his sore shoulder. "And to remind me of how many bruises I have."
Basil came in, as neat as ever. "We have more slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to deal with yet, my friend. Let’s eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow.."
"May never come at all," Chip said, sitting down to breakfast.
It was a quiet time at breakfast—partly due to Chip’s morose comment, partly due to the excellent food put before them. Chip glibly thought that Monty could do with a few days in Arianna’s kitchen to widen his selection. That thought brought Chip back to the task at hand. It was decided that they would start at Balboa and backtrack their way into the jungle on the most likely path.
"Take care of yourselves, you two," Gadget said warmly. "You’re all the family I’ve got!"
Basil motioned over to a certain fedora-topped chipmunk. "Don’t forget your extended family, either. You’ve got a good friend in that lad."
Chip blushed as Gadget came over and hugged him. "Don’t worry, Chip. I haven’t forgotten you. This has all been so…so…" Suddenly, Gadget lost her balance and Chip had to guide her to a chair.
"Gadget, what is it?" Chip asked, full of concern.
"I…I don’t know. It’s passing," Gadget said, holding her hand up to her head.
"Are you sure you are fine? I could call Dr. Dawson…" Basil offered.
Gadget shook her head and forced a smile. "No, no it’s okay. I think it’s just the effects of temporal displacement. Once I’ve set your coordinates in, I’ll go get some rest."
"See that you do," Arianna said firmly. "You’re too important to us to lose you."
"Thanks," Gadget said. "I’ll take care."
With that, Gadget once again set the controls. The portal opened obediently, and the threesome stepped through. Once the portal had closed Gadget checked her machine to make sure all was well, and once again slumped into a chair. She grabbed a small bell that was next to her chair on the small table and ring for the butler.
Arianna had been provided with three servants by her government—a butler, a maid and a chauffeur. Jenkins was as good a butler as Arianna could have asked for; a strong brown mouse with eternal loyalty to her needs. Before she’d left the first time, Arianna had instructed him to carry out Gadget’s every command. However, this was the first time she’d rang for him. He came immediately, still.
The tall, lean mouse in the traditional butler’s outfit appeared. "You rang, miss?"
"Would you send for Doctor Dawson, please? I need something to clear up this headache of mine," Gadget said.
"At once, miss," Jenkins replied. The butler left immediately.
Gadget had never liked the idea of having a servant, but right now she was grateful. Then she decided to get a drink of water—she realized she could have asked Jenkins for it before he left, but old habits die hard. She got her water, but the sudden shaking of her hand made drinking difficult.
"Golly, I must be more tired than I thought," Gadget said out loud. She hoped that was all it was.
"Look out!" Chip cried out. A large cargo was crate was falling, having come loose from the crane lifting it. Chip leaped and pushed Arianna and Basil aside just in time.
"Good thing you were looking up when we came through, Chip," Basil said. "I owe you one."
Chip was closest to Arianna and helped her up. She gave him a nice hug of thanks. "Me too, Chip. Now, let us see if we can find Zipper."
An old salt came up the dock in their direction. Surely this old mouse would have seen anything going on. At least that was Basil’s way of thinking.
"A fly, did ye say?" the seaman asked. He had an grizzled gray beard, an old beat-up captain’s hat covering haphazard locks of gray underneath. His seaman’s jacket and trousers spoke of many voyages. "Seems to me a fly was packed away on the Big Erie that just came in. Ye nearly got squashed by the cargo."
"Any idea where that fly might have gone? It’s quite important," Basil said.
The seaman squinted at Basil. "Is it naow? Well, Englishman, there’s your fly goin’ that way."
Everyone followed the line the seaman pointed at with his pipe. Sure enough, a fly was going into the jungle. It was too far away to make out who it is.
"Come on! We’ve got to follow that fly!" Chip said.
Gear in hand, Chip leading the way, the trio soon caught sight of the fly. It was not Zipper, but the insect was heading in the direction that Chedderhead described. After an hour, the fly came to a stop.
"A native village..interesting," Basil said.
And so it was. An insect village, to be exact. It was a small collection of grass and reed dwellings, near a small river. The houses were on stilts, about three inches off the ground and protected from river swells by a large boulder.
Suddenly, a sentry in a loincloth saw them and warned the village with a trumpetlike sound. Chip turned and saw him flying right over.
"Zipper!" Chip shouted. The fly did not stop, but kept going into the fly village.
Arianna came up to Chip’s position. "Are you sure it was him, Chip? Maybe that fly just looked and sounded like Zipper."
Chip shook his head. "No, that was Zipper all right! I’d know that buzz anywhere!"
They followed the sentry into the village. Apparently, the flies here were used to visitors, because they made no fuss over their coming. Then, a large fly wearing a bit of animal fur came forward. His speech was squeaky like Zipper’s, but still clear.
The chief held out his arms in greeting. "I am chief Buzzor of the Yoomin tribe. You are welcome here. Come join the others!"
The guests did so, and to their satisfaction they found Monty and Chedderhead were there too! They were sitting by the ceremonial fire, sharing stories of what they had seen and the derring-do they had done.
"…and there I was, all alone on a glider put together outta burlap and twigs!" Chedderhead was saying. "I threw me rope and grabbed me boy Monty here up to me in three seconds flat!"
The flies oohed and ahhed over the tale. Chip couldn’t help but smirk over the retelling of what had happened. Chedderhead was already expounding on the tale, making it more dangerous and exciting. Then he saw them.
"These are the ones that helped build the glider! By cheddar, it’s a small world!" Chedderhead said.
"We heard you might be down this way, and we wanted to say hello!" Chip said.
Chedderhead came over and shook Basil and Chip’s hands vigorously, and again paid homage to Arianna. "These fly blokes are about to put on a show for us. Seems today is their young flies’ age of testing. They have to face the greatest danger and prove their worth."
"Yes, it is a day of trial for our young flies," Buzzor said. "Once they pass the trial, they earn the right to have a name and sit in council. Ah, here comes my son now! Say hello to the next chief of the Yoomin tribe."
Sure enough, it was Zipper. He greeted them all, and took a seat a little space apart from all the rest.
"He must contemplate his trial," Buzzor said. "As heir to the leadership of the village, he must face the great Gummin."
"Pardon me, but what is the great Gummin?" Basil asked.
Buzzor took a sip of leaf dew. "The Gummin is the largest frog in the Yoomin territory. Many warriors have tried to survive a trip to the Gummin’s lair and not returned. My son must bring back a red wooly silkworm that only lives in the Gummin’s lair."
Soon, the flies were all assembled for their specific tasks. Buzzor put on a ceremonial robe made of a purple jungle blossom. "Today, you must prove your warrior’s heart. All who return with proof of their victory will be hailed as heroes. If you do not return, we will remember you in the hall of the honored dead. Fly well!"
"Fly well!" the flies answered back.
Monty stood up and came over to Buzzor. "Can we go watch?"
"As long as you promise not to interfere," Buzzor said. "Each fly must prove his worth alone."
Monty pulled his dad up. "Let’s go watch that son of ‘is. I’d like to see ‘ow he’ll get past the Gummin."
"Why not?" Chedderhead said. "Then when he’s done, we’ll go Gummin riding! Ha hahahhahaha!"
"I think we’ll tag along," Chip said. "It sounds interesting."
"The more the merrier!" Chedderhead answered. "Shake a tail, everyone!"
The lair of the Gummin was in the middle of a swamp, which frogs of course enjoy. The fly’s destination was a large, rotten tree stump surrounded by bogs of quicksand. The audience made their way to a nearby log, and Basil pulled out his glasses to get a better view.
"Ah, he’s looking for a back entrance," Basil said. "Oh, and there’s the Gummin. Frightful looking fellow."
Chip asked for the glasses. The Gummin was indeed a sight. He was even bigger than Rib-Bit, and covered with warts! Plus, the beast was waking up.
"Zipper! Of gosh, we’ve got to help him!" Chip shouted.
Monty held him back. "Hold on, pally. Remember, the chief said he’s got to do this alone."
"But, but…."Chip said, struggling.
Basil pointed to the stump. "Wait, Chip! I think everything’s okay. Look!"
The detective was right. Zipper had conned the old frog into thinking he was looking for a back way in. Gummin had heard his buzzing and had turned to his right, waiting at the only hole for his dinner. Zipper then buzzed outside the hole and landed. Gummin opened his mouth and closed his eyes.
Zipper made his way to the opening on foot and peeked in. Gummin was still there, waiting for him. Then he saw the silkworms. They were in the opposite corner, in an area where Gummin could grab one if he wanted it. Zipper carefully made his way, walking on the "ceiling" of the stump. He grabbed a silkworm and started making his way out.
"WHERE FLY!?" Gummin suddenly shouted. The resonance of that large voice in the stump resounded all over the swamp. Zipper fell, landing at the frog’s feet. He grabbed up the silkworm, but now he’d been spotted.
"Oh, dear!" Arianna said.
"The poor broke doesn’t have a chance!" Monty cried.
"Let’s go, everyone!" Chip said.
But before they could make any headway, the battle was on. Zipper was no stranger to frogs. He’d been training his whole life for this moment. Gummin’s tongue flashed out. Zipper flew up and away from its line of fire. Gummin tried again, but Zipper was ready. He’d been next to a notch in the stump, and the bold fly pulled the tip of Gummin’s tongue into the notch!
"Gaah! Nroooo!" Gummin shouted as Zipper freed himself and the silkworm. Zipper had won.
"Well done, little guy!" Chedderhead said. "You did it jus’ like ol’ Chedderhead Charlie would’ve!"
Zipper had started back for the village and had just left the group’s view when suddenly, a new adversary struck. It was one of Klordane’s henchmen! He came at Zipper with a flyswatter, batting him and his prize back into the swamp and into a tangle of vines and on into the quicksand!
"Hey, that fly’s in trouble!" Monty said. "I’ve got to save that bloke!"
Monty took off his coat and made for Zipper. Basil asked Chip for the new badge Gadget had given them.
"It’s Klordane’s henchman! I just spotted him with my glasses. He must have attacked Zipper!" Basil said.
Chip started for the quicksand pit. "Okay, you and Arianna handle the machine. I’ll help Monty!"
Chedderhead had already left to help, but unknown to him or anyone else, this human had a helper. The big Aussie was running as fast as he could for the quicksand pits when the unseen assailant struck.
"Oh, I do hope you enjoy you nap!" the attacker said, snickering.
Chip stopped short in his tracks. "Fat Cat!"
"What? Someone in these forsaken parts knows my name? Ah, a rodent for my supper! And here I thought I wouldn’t like the jungle!" Fat Cat said.
Chip knew he didn’t have much time to waste. Already Monty was getting stuck in the quicksand. "Tell you what. I’ll give you a raincheck on that dinner date. Right now, I’ve got friends to save!"
Fat Cat snarled. "Oh, I don’t think so. Because to do that, you’ll have to get past Fat Cat! And frankly, my diminutive dope, you don’t stand a chance!"
Chip almost panicked, but then he remembered Zipper’s signal. He picked up a leaf and curled it into a bullhorn. Then he made the trumpeting warning. In a few moments, the area was filled with Yoomin warriors.
"Attack!" Chip shouted.
Fat Cat was soon more than diverted. "Ew, disgusting little flies! I hate the jungle! I hate it!"
Now free from Fat Cat’s challenge, Chip grabbed up a length of jungle vine and ran over to Monty’s position. He was none too soon, either. Monty had Zipper on top of his head, which was about all that was showing of Monty too! Chip threw him the vine, and Monty caught it in his teeth.
"Hang on, boyo!" Chedderhead said. Some of the flies had brought water to splash on him and wake the big mouse up. In a moment, Chip was joined in the pulling. Muscles and teeth strained, and finally Monty, Zipper and the silkworm were free!
"Whew!" Monty shouted. "That was some strain on me choppers! Thanks for pulling me and the laddie out. You too, dad!" Basil and Arianna ran up just as Monty was dusting himself off.
"I think we’d better get this fly back to his tribe. He’s got a ceremony to go to!" Chedderhead said.
The group made their way back to the fly village, where the other warriors were being decorated. Chedderhead told of Zipper’s bravery, and how he had bested the Gummin. Again, everyone was impressed. Buzzor signaled for silence.
"My son, come forward. You have truly earned your name this day. What name do you choose?" the chief asked.
"Well, these friends have been calling me Zipper, so I’ll take that name!" Zipper squeaked.
"Know all today, that my son’s name is Zipper!" Buzzor shouted. The tribe shouted its approval.
"Now receive the reward of your bravery," Buzzor said. "Those who bring back the red silkworm have the honor to wear clothing made from its silk. Bring forth the shirt!"
Two female flies brought forth the freshly-made shirt. Zipper took the shirt into his hut and traded his loincloth for the badge of honor. The villagers shouted again.
"My son, you have the right of decision now. You can follow in my footsteps to rule the Yoomin tribe, or choose your own path. Make your choice," Buzzor said.
Zipper looked to his people, awaiting an answer. Then he looked to the strangers and especially the one who dove in after him. The choice was made.
"I choose to go with the stranger who saved me! He risked his life for mine, and I will repay by always being loyal to him," Zipper said.
The murmurs in the village were against this idea, but Buzzor signaled for silence. "My son has chosen, and does honor to the Yoomin tribe. Zipper, your brother will rule in your stead. He too passed his warrior’s test. Zipper, meet your brother Buzzor the second!"
The two flies stood together—twins! "I will miss you, my brother Zipper," the young Buzzor said. "You have always wanted to see the world, and I love the village. I think we both have what we want."
"Yes, we do brother Buzzor," Zipper said.
The two brothers embraced again, along with their father. Then a large procession followed as the strangers made their way out of the jungle.
"Nice to have seen you folks again," Chedderhead said. "We’re about to hop a cheese ship for Cuba. Want to come along?"
Basil put out his hand, and Chedderhead again shook it vigorously. "We must part now, my friend. Our mission takes us elsewhere."
"Well, anytime you’re in our neck o’ the woods, be sure to stop by!" Monty said. "Come on, Zipper! We’ve got a lifetime of adventure ahead of us."
Chip found his eyes misting a bit. He didn’t usually cry, but the happiness was getting out this time. Arianna saw it, and leant him her kerchief.
"Thanks, Arianna. I’m so relieved they’re both going to make it. Did you and Basil have any problems with the time machine?" Chip asked.
A far-off scream answered that question. "Not a bit, Chip. I imagine your Fat Cat and that human are swimming for their lives right now."
About two hours later, the portal opened once again. Gadget wasn’t in the study. Jenkins was there to greet them. "Miss Ideler, young Miss Gadget fell ill after activating her machine to bring you home, and Doctor Dawson is attending her in the conservatory."
Everyone ran in. Gadget was under a blanket, sleeping. Dawson signaled for quiet. He took everyone back out.
"What’s the problem, Dawson?" Basil asked.
"Overwork. Stress. She wasn’t getting enough rest waiting for you to come back. I’ve given her a sedative," Dawson said.
Basil peeked back in at the pale face. "Poor girl. She’s so dedicated that she doesn’t consider herself. Well, at least she’ll be okay now."
Chip knew he had to get Gadget out of his mind, which wasn’t easy at the moment. Arianna saw his face and knew his thoughts. "Chip, who is the next Ranger to go after?"
Arianna’s question helped. "I think we should go after Foxglove next. I have a pretty good idea of where she’ll be. The problem is finding what point in time of her past has been affected," Chip said.
"Yes, that’s true," Basil added. "With that book of his, Klordane could have sent his men back to any time period in her life."
"Chip, what do you know about Foxglove’s past?" Arianna asked.
Chip sighed. "Not much, to be honest. Dale may have known more, but he’s not here to help us. I only know that her history starts with Winifred, the cleaning lady that was trying to become a witch."
"A witch?" Arianna said.
"Yeah, weird huh?" Chip said. "I hope we pick up her trail fast."
Arianna left to freshen up, and Basil took Chip aside. "Lad, are you sure you want to leave Gadget here? Maybe you should take her back to the present for now."
"I don’t think so, Basil. She’d take it pretty hard, being left out. It would only make her worse. No, we’ll leave her here under your friend’s care," Chip said.
Arianna returned. "I’ve still got Gadget’s notes. I can set the time machine for us."
"But with the machine being manual only, she will have to bring us back," Basil said. "I will go and tell Dawson to wake her in a few hours."
Basil walked in and checked on Gadget and Dawson. The young Ranger was looking better now that sleep had claimed her. Dawson and Basil whispered back and forth.
"You’ll need to wake her in about six hours, Dawson," Basil said. "She has to work the machine to bring us back here."
"That should be enough, but the girl is very exhausted. I’ll have to let her sleep again after that," Dawson replied.
Basil looked down at her again. "She sure is a dedicated young girl. She’d have made a daughter to be proud of."
Dawson smiled back. "Yes, indeed. Sweet as they come, and as stubborn. How are you holding out, by the way?"
Basil chuckled softly. "Well, considering I’ve been to Australia and the jungles of Panama in the last day, not too bad. My wardrobe may need updating though," he muttered, poking a finger through a hole in his jacket.
Chip poked his head in. "We’re ready Basil. Let’s get going!"
Dawson and Basil shushed him, and Basil crept out. "Dawson will wake her to get us back. What’s our destination?"
"San Francisco. We’re going to go back about a year before we met Foxglove. She indicated she’d been with Winifred a while. I just hope that holds true in the new timeline," Chip said.
Basil nodded. "We’re entering murky waters, Chip. But never fear. With the three of us, no mystery can stand against us!"
Chip shook his hand. "Thanks, Basil. I must admit, I’m tempted to write a story on all of this, once it’s over."
Basil and Chip walked over to Arianna, who was looking at the paper Gadget had given her and setting the machine. "What makes you think you will remember, Chip?" Basil asked.
"What!?" Chip exclaimed.
Basil watch his fiancée’s progress. "Well, consider it. Once things go back to normal, your former timeline will start again. When you go back, you may not remember any of this."
Chip didn’t like the sound of that, but was forced to agree. Still, there wasn’t much time to think on such things. So much to do…..
"It is ready," Arianna said.
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends," Basil said.
Klordane was getting restless. Percy and Knuckles were way overdue. Where were they?
"Professor! Are you sure those time machines are working?" Klordane asked.
Nimnul came out from under one of the machines he was setting up. The two villains were in the old warehouse where Detective Drake had first tracked Percy to. Little did Drake know it was one of the rogue villain’s secret hideouts.
"My machines are working perfectly, Mister Klordane!" Nimnul shouted. "If those myopic misanthropes can’t work them, that’s not my problem!"
"Oh, but it is! You see, my cat is with them," Klordane said. "I want him back, I want the Rangers obliterated and I want my world!"
Nimnul dodged a wrench, the victim of Klordane’s frustration. "I’m sure they’ll be back here soon. Ah, finished!" Nimnul shut the panel he was working on and set the controls. "Okay, go and take care of that dimwitted chipmunk!"
The henchman obeyed and soon bad guy and time machine disappeared into the fourth dimension. "Hahahahaha! To think, we’re getting rid of our enemies before they become our enemies! I love it!"
"Just see that you keep these machines working, Professor. And if I find that anyone is helping helping those Rangers, well…." Nimnul grabbed a wooden dowel and snapped it. "They’ll find out that time isn’t their side either! Hee hee, ha haah hahahahaa!"
Basil of Baker Street and the Rescue Rangers are copyright Disney and used without permission, but with the utmost respect.
Chapter Three, Part One
Chapter Three, Part Two