The Times of Their Lives
Chapter 8 -- A Chip in Time
Chip’s mind was still being tortured by the memories of the past few days. Especially the memory of a girl who looked like Gadget, but wasn't. What had he been thinking? Not even he knew for sure.
Images of her mingled with the strangely-dressed comrades aiding him, and the constant overriding image of Aldrin Klordane dogging his every step. Suddenly, he woke up, screaming. Arianna was there momentarily.
"Chip, are you okay?!" Arianna asked.
"Y..yes, I think so," Chip replied.
Arianna felt of his forehead. "At least you don't feel sick. Another nightmare?"
"They seem to happen all too often these days. I wouldn't wish what's happened to us on anyone. When Klordane takes revenge, he doesn't mess around, does he?" Chip asked.
"What are you going to do when you face him, then? You do not seem the killing type to me. But if you do not kill him, you have to accomplish something as permanent," Arianna said.
"Or?" Chip asked.
"He will kill you. If you manage to beat him, he will certainly come after you again!" Arianna said.
"She's right, Chip," Basil said, sticking his head in the door. "This fellow plays for keeps."
Chip sat up, and put on his jacket and fedora. "What do you want me to do, then? The Rescue Rangers have never gone after somebody to kill them on purpose! That's not what we're here for! We'd be no better than he is!"
Basil came over and put his hand on Chip's shoulder. "I know this hasn't been easy, Chip. It would have just been easier to give up and let Klordane win. I don't think you want that. But if you allow him to live, what guarantee will there be that he won't come back again?"
"None, I suppose. But to kill someone! It's unthinkable!" Chip countered.
Arianna nodded. "I understand your hesitation, Chip. Perhaps we can find another way. But whatever you choose, you must be certain Klordane cannot do this again."
Basil sat up. "Let's leave this until later. Right now, we have more important things to discuss."
Chip, Arianna and Basil join the rest of the team in the conservatory. Jenkins was serving an early breakfast. Twilight dominated the scene as Basil and the others took their seats.
"So now we go after Chip's parents," Foxglove said.
"What do we know about them?" Dale asked.
Chip pulled out the book they had taken from Klordane. He flipped through into the came to a certain section. Then he gave the book to Basil.
Chip Maplewood - Born to Roger and Jennifer Maplewood. Orphaned at the age of seven months after his parents were killed in an accident near San Julian, Argentina. Chip was raised by his grandfather Sean. Chip considered him to be his foster father, and even called him dad. Chip left home when he was fifteen, and two years later his lifelong friend Dale Oakmont joined him. All other information on Roger and Jennifer is classified.
"Classified?" Dale remarked. "Why would it be classified?"
Everyone looked at Chip. "Well, Chip, any ideas?" Arianna asked.
Chip just shrugged. "All I know is my grandfather wouldn't tell me anything about them. I asked him several times, but he just simply refused. I don't think he was ashamed of them, but it was like he had taken an oath or something."
"We'll find out soon enough," Basil said. "If everyone is ready, we can get going."
Basil led the way to the library and the time machine.
"What time period should I set the controls for?" Arianna asked.
Chip thought a moment. "There’s only one person who might know anything about my parents. Set the time machine for 1980. We’re going to South America."
Arianna decided to go with the others this time and set the machine for a three-hour delay. She showed Jenkins what to do in case they didn’t return on time.
The air was chilly in the Andes mountains. Chip’s grandfather had brought him along on his vacation. Sean Maplewood was a retired conductor and professor of music, who still attended the annual lectures. His youth had long since given way to graying fur and a slightly rotund figure. Still, the old chipmunk carried himself well. The young Chip was dressed in a white t-shirt with blue ribs on the neck and sleeves and a denim jacket. His grandfather was wearing a safari outfit.
Chip had found the journey boring for the most part, until he came upon some ancient ruins. There, he was in the middle of giant stone pyramids, unique statues and an archaeological team.
Chip had been hesitant to step forward, but his grandfather finally caught up with him and took him to meet the team. When they approached, Sean suddenly let out a yell.
"Well, I’ll be jiggered! If it isn’t old glory and adventure himself!" Sean said.
At that, a mouse dressed in a leather jacket and felt fedora turned around. Chip was awestruck at the sight of him. The object of Chip’s amazement just smiled at him.
"Sean, you old rascal! I haven’t seen you in years!" the mouse said.
Sean came up and shook Henry's hand heartily. "Henry, I’d like you to meet my grandson, Chip. Chip, this is the boldest rogue I’ve ever met—Henry Harrison!"
Harrison was a dashing fellow, even in middle age. The mouse had brown fur, which was beginning to gray a bit around the ears. There may have been more gray, but the fedora hid most of the hair. Harrison's square jaw and sharp dark eyes gave him a look of alertness. The adventurer was wearing a tan safari shirt under a brown leather jacket. He carried a mapcase and a whip.
Chip was still standing there in awe, so Harrison had to start the greeting by grabbing Chip's limp right arm and shaking his hand. Finally, Chip's brain started up again.
"Uh, hi there! Wow, where did you get that neat hat and jacket?" Chip asked.
Harrison showed them over to a shady spot. "I've done a lot of traveling in my time. Archeology takes you to sites around the world. Egypt, Africa, Tibet, the Arctic... so many others."
Chip sat in rapt attention, hanging on Harrison’s every word. The fedora-clad explorer told of treasures, danger and intrigue. Chip asked a hundred questions.
At last, Sean stood up. "We’ve taken up enough of your time, Henry. Time to be moving along, Chip."
"Aw, grandpa! Do we have to?" Chip pleaded.
Chip looked up into his grandfather’s eyes, and knew that he meant it. With a sigh, Chip rose to go. Suddenly, shouts erupted from the far side of the camp.
"Python! Python!" one of the assistants shouted.
The large snake was already cutting its way through the jungle edge, racing toward the mice in the encampment. The would-be victims scattered in every direction, causing the python to hesitate. Fortunately, that was enough.
Chip, Sean, Harrison and a few of the others hid in a small crack at the bottom of one of the pyramids. The python sniffed at the entrance, hissing.
No one was sure what to do at first, then Chip grabbed up a handful of dust and blew it out the crack. The python drew back to sneeze, and as it did the trapped party made its escape.
"Come on! Head for cover!" Harrison said.
The python was not long in recovering. Its pale eyes were soon focused on the running mice and chipmunks. Harrison and the others ran into the jungle, coming out at a clearing. Unfortunately, it was a wrong move. The clearing only led to a long drop-off that provided no escape. Then, it was upon them.
The hungry predator approached slowly, knowing his victims were at bay. Harrison brandished his whip, and tried to keep the big snake back. It only made the python angrier. Harrison's left foot met the edge of the cliff and he went over, screaming. Sean made a grab for him, but missed.
"Henry!" Sean yelled, watching him fall. Harrison kept his cool, and lashed a tree limb below him. He spun around twice, and managed to hang on.
Neither Chip nor Sean saw any of that. They were too busy looking at the snake closing on them. Then, Chip decided on a bold move. He ran straight toward the python.
"Chip! No!" Sean cried.
The python brought its head down, welcoming the foolhardy chipmunk into its waiting maw. That was just what Chip was counting on. As the beast opened its mouth, Chip leaped onto its head! The python was shocked at first, then it began to buck like a bronco. Chip pulled off his jacket and covered the creature's eyes.
Deprived of its vision, the python jumped about more than ever. It was headed right for the cliff.
"Jump, Chip! Jump!" Sean said.
But it was already too late. Snake and rider plummeted over the edge. Chip looked and saw the forest floor several hundred feet down.
"Heeeellp!" Chip shouted.
Harrison saw him coming, his whip at the ready. He sat down on the limb.
"Grab on!" Harrison said.
Chip jumped as Harrison snapped the whip. He missed!
With Chip almost passing him, Harrison jumped himself. With one hand, he reached out for Chip, the other snapped the whip back toward the limb. Hand met hand, and the limb creaked under the strain. But it held.
Thirty minutes later, Chip and Harrison were back on top. Sean hugged his grandson.
"What were you thinking!?" Sean said. "That has to be the craziest stunt I've ever seen!"
Harrison came over and slapped Chip on the back. "Yeah, it was great! Where did you get that idea?"
"Aw, Dale and I do that kind of stuff all of time! Where did you learn to do that trick with the whip?" Chip asked.
"Nowhere. First time I've ever tried it!" Harrison said, chuckling.
Chip just stared at him, then broke out in a smile. Sean was already laughing.
"You old rascal! You never cease to amaze me," Sean said.
With the danger passed, the digging continued. Chip was fascinated with the goings-on, and asked a lot of questions. At last, the setting sun signaled it was time for grandfather and grandson to go.
The archaeologists wouldn't let them go however without thanking Chip for his bravery. Everyone came forward and shook Chip's hand, several thanking him profusely. Then Harrison came forward with a special gift--or rather, two gifts.
In a moment, Chip had traded his shirt for Harrison's fedora and jacket. Chip was truly speechless.
"But...but I can't take these from you! They're special!" Chip protested.
Harrison smiling down at him. "And so are you, Chip. Thanks for saving my life and the lives of my comrades. Besides you need a good jacket to keep you warm. This is the least I can do."
Chip pulled the brim of his fedora down, taking on his classic appearance.
"Looking good, boy!" Sean said. "Now we had better get going. I have a lecture to give tomorrow in Sao Paolo."
"You'll have to hurry to make it by sundown. It's several hours back to the hotel from here," Harrison said.
Chip and Sean waved goodbye, and started their trek back. Harrison returned to his tent, and came out wearing a new fedora and jacket. "Good thing I had spares," Harrison muttered. He watched as the two chipmunks disappeared into the jungle.
Harrison wasn't the only one watching. Not two minutes later, two mice approached them. The male was wearing a deerstalker and brown suit, the female a safari outfit. Basil waved a hello.
"I say there, old bean, have you seen anything of Colonel Montgomery? We seem to be lost," Basil said.
"Sorry, haven't heard of or seen him. Is he with the archeology project?" Sean asked.
"Archeology? No, friend. Well then, perhaps my fiancée and I could join you. We seem to be in a bit of a sticky wicket, what?" Basil asked.
Sean extended his hand. "The name's Sean Maplewood, by the way. Come on! It's only a few miles back to the hotel. Meet my grandson Chip."
"A pleasure, lad! Maplewood, seems I've heard that name somewhere before..." Basil said.
"Sean Maplewood, of course!" Arianna said. "Dear, the famous conductor!"
Sean bowed low. "Even here in the jungle, my reputation precedes me. Were you there for my London performance?"
"Quite so. I have always been interested to know about your family. What did your son end up doing?" Arianna asked.
Sean looked uncomfortable. "Well, let's just say he and his wife kept a lot of secrets."
Basil noted the look on his face. "Ah, something hard to talk about?"
"All too hard. But, there's no need to keep it a secret any longer. They were agents, working for the government," Sean said.
Chip gasped and faced his grandfather. "Why didn't you tell me that!?"
"Because I promised not to. Not for ten years anyway. That time has passed now, and their stories can be told. Roger started out working for the Rescue Aid Society. In fact, that's where he met Jennifer. She was another agent, stationed in Belgium. They worked several cases together, and fell in love. Then, they were picked for the special agents division," Sean said.
Everyone waited while Sean regained his composure, including a costumed bat and chipmunk hiding in the bushes —and another chipmunk with them who was holding back his tears. Arianna came over and comforted Sean.
"Thank you. I guess I needed to talk about this more than I thought. Let's walk over into the shade," Sean said.
They did so, and Sean continued. "The special agents division handled the tough cases. In other words, the dangerous ones. Their last case started easily enough. They were sent down to South America to investigate rumors of covert activity off the coast of Argentina, near Santa Cruz."
"Any idea what that activity was?" Basil asked.
Sean shook his head. "They never found out, as far as I know. They were reported lost at sea. However…"
Basil raised an eyebrow. "However?"
"They were listed as lost in a typhoon. But there weren’t any typhoons in that area when they were supposedly lost!" Sean said.
Chip did a double take. "Then…they could be alive?"
"I don’t know. I…don’t know," Sean said. "All I know is, the investigation into their deaths was quietly buried. I never got a straight answer."
Silence reigned for several moments, then Chip spoke up again. "That’s why you came here, then! To look for them!"
Sean smiled, and patted his grandson on the shoulder. "You’re just like your dad, Chip—a quick mind. Yes, I came to check into things myself. I’ve used my annual musical lectures as a cover to lessen suspicion. I know the division still has its eye on me."
Basil extended his hand, and Sean shook it. "Good luck then," Basil said. "You needn’t worry, old bean. We’ll never say a word."
Sean shook his head. "I don’t know why I felt I could tell you all that. Like I said, I suppose I needed to tell someone."
The foursome returned to the hotel, then went their separate ways. A silent follower and two companions were waiting for Basil and Arianna.
Chip was confused. "My grandfather never told me any of that before! Why didn’t he tell me? Why?"
Arianna sat down on a bench, and motioned Chip over. "If I had been in that situation, I can tell you that the mission would come first. If he could not talk about it for ten years, then the situation at the time must have been volatile."
"He was protecting me, then," Chip said. "And I thought those musical lectures he did were silly. If I’d only known…"
"I’m sure he knows that," Basil said. "What happened on this trip?"
"As I remember, I stayed with some friends of granddad, while he supposedly went off into the jungle to study ‘native ceremonial songs’ or something like that," Chip said.
"Obviously, he had other plans," Arianna said.
Dale finally spoke up. "Well, we’ve got to find out either way. Your folks hold the key to getting everything back to normal."
Chip nodded, and they all headed back for the rendezvous. The portal was waiting for them. Once through, Chip headed for the conservatory and some rest.
"I’ll set the new coordinates, then I’ll be in to talk with you," Arianna said.
Chip didn’t even look, but headed for the sofa in the next room. He had much to contemplate. He’d never spoken to the other Rangers about his parents. Not that he would have much to tell them, anyhow. The only memories he had were of pictures and stories his grandfather had told him. He’d been too young to remember anything, and that more than anything else made him feel like he was cheated.
Many a night, a young Chip had lain in bed, thinking just as he was now. Over the years, he’d hidden an anger he never let anyone know about. An anger over being abandoned. He knew now that it wasn’t their fault; they couldn’t help what happened. Still, that feeling would gnaw at him every now and again in his stomach. At those times, there was nothing he could do. He had no answers—did his parents even love him?
Arianna could read part of Chip’s quandary on his face as she walked in. Chip seemed to sense it, because he immediately voiced his thought. "What if they were traitors? What if they didn’t die, and simply defected to the enemy? What if they didn’t really care about me and decided to go off together?" Chip asked.
Arianna didn’t answer, but sat down by him. Chip didn’t move.
"This is hard for you to talk about, I know," Arianna said. "But you may be facing your parents soon. Are you ready for that?"
Chip still didn’t move. "I’ve pushed myself all my life, but I’ve never known whether they would approve. It’s made me a perfectionist. Nothing’s ever been good enough for me. Now…now that I could actually meet them…I don’t know."
"You have built your entire sense of self-worth around this, have you not?" Arianna asked.
Chip nodded slowly. "I guess grandpa wasn’t the only one holding back secrets. I felt that if I were doing something to make a difference, it would gain their approval somehow. Now…I’m afraid."
Arianna put her hand on his. "I think I understand, Chip. But do you understand what this means for you?"
Chip just looked at her with curiosity.
Arianna continued. "If you have based your feelings on an assumption, can you trust any of them? Can you trust your feelings for Gadget?"
Chip stood up immediately. He wanted to leave the room, to get away. He knew he couldn’t and Arianna knew it too. She stood with him.
"I am not saying your love is false," Arianna said, "but you may want to re-examine the reasons for it. Do you love her for her, or because you need to love her? Is this part of gaining your parents’ approval, too?"
Chip lowered his head. "I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore. I thought I wanted a Gadget that loved me openly, but it didn’t work that way. Maybe I’m fooling myself. Maybe I should just come out and ask her, and get it over with."
Arianna grabbed his shoulders, and turned him toward her. "Chip, chin up! Now I know the girl you are talking about, and let me tell you a few things. First, she likes you very much—perhaps she loves you. She does not know yet herself. She feels abandoned since her father died, but does not want to admit it to herself. Does any of this sound familiar?"
"You mean we…we’re both suffering the same way?" Chip asked.
"You must have felt you were similar. You just did not realize how much. Now Chip, do you think Geegaw would disapprove of his daughter’s actions?" Arianna asked.
Chip smirked. "Of course not! He’d be proud!"
"Then give your parents a chance! Even if it turns out to be bad, at least you know. That is much more pleasant than going through life being tortured by vain imaginations," Arianna said.
Dale stuck his head in the door. "Are we ready to go yet?"
"We are now," Chip said, extending an arm to Arianna. "We are now."
The time portal opened, and Chip and comrades headed for Argentina. The town of Santa Cruz was a small hamlet on the coast, mainly a shipping port between it and the Falkland Islands. Small ships came and went constantly, providing the necessities of living.
On one of these small vessels, a crusty old crab was guiding his ship into port. He yelled to the bat in the crow’s nest, "Mister Longley! Do ye have the lubber in sight?"
Longley pulled out a telescope. "Aye, Cap’n Crone! He’s three points aft, on the dock."
"Good, an’ well-met! Ye can take the rest of the day off then," Crone said.
Foxglove noticed her fellow-creature coming down from the crow’s nest. "I’ll see what I can learn."
Foxglove removed her mask, and stuffed it and her cape into a special pouch in her costume. She looked more normal now, but not enough to keep Longley from giving her a curious look as she approached.
"And what would you be, missy?" Longley said with his fine Irish brogue.
"I’m looking for someone. Well, actually for two someones," Foxy said.
Longley was taken her grace and charm. "I’ll be only too happy to help a lady in distress. Just who might ye be looking for?"
"Two chipmunks, actually. They should be traveling together," Foxy said.
Longley thought a moment. "Seems that I saw a couple of chipmunks not a week ago. I think they were on the ferry to the Falklands. There’s old Stephens now, the old weasel. He’d know—he’s the ferryman."
Josiah Stephens was indeed a weasel. A bit on the portly side, he wore a woolen cap and a worn gray greatcoat.
"Chipmunks? Yes, I remember the pair. I took ‘em to the south jetty on the main island. Secretive types, they was. Wouldn’t give me the time ‘er day," Stephens said.
Foxglove thanked Stephens and Longley in turn, then came back to her friends.
"Sounds like Mr. Stephens is about to get some new passengers," Basil said. "Let’s see about hiring him."
Hiring was no difficulty, as the local village had hired the weasel to ferry whoever wished to go to the Falklands. The ride over was choppy, and Dale rode the railing most of the way. Chip came up to the wheelhouse.
Stephens was whistling an old tune that Chip couldn't place. "Oy, lad! I was glad when ye looked me up! Business has been slow lately."
"Why is that?" Chip asked.
"Arggh! It’s those blokes on the island! The tourist trade's been good here for years, then stories of deaths ‘round the island spoiled everything. Strange whirlpools, storms on calm days--it's got everyone bloomin’ scared!" Stephens said.
"Do you believe these stories?" Chip asked.
Stephens took a draught of his pipe. "Forty years I've been at sea. I've seen lots of strange things. At first, I didn't put a grain of salt with the stories. But then more people started disappearin'--I don't know, lad."
Chip stayed in the wheelhouse, quietly watching as the island approached. Then Chip came down to meet with the others.
"I'm beginning to understand what brought my parents here. Something very strange is going on. We’ll have to be careful," Chip said.
"Good reasoning at any time. Even moreso now," Basil said.
Stephens stopped the small tugboat a half-mile from shore. "I’ll lend you the use of the dinghy, but this be as far as I go. I warn ye, that island’s not safe!"
Chip thought a moment about telling the weasel all they’d been through already, but decided against it. Instead, he helped Dale to untie the dinghy and hook it to the pulleys. They pulled the ropes, and the dinghy settled nicely in the seawater.
Night was approaching fast as the five adventurers entered the little boat and paddled for shore.
"There’s a flare gun under the back seat. Fire it off when ye’re ready to leave! I’ll be back here by mornin'!" Stephens said.
The tug started up again, and chugged away into the night. Then all was silence, save for the waves lapping against the boat and the oars pulling against the waves. The dinghy made almost no sound as it kissed the sand of the beach.
"We’ll wait here until it’s completely dark, then see if we can find out what’s going on," Basil said.
"And where my parents are," Chip added.
Finding a small grove, the group settled down. Basil and Chip built a small fire.
"I'm going to scout the area," Chip said.
Chip made a circular route around the camp, and returned twenty minutes later. He found Dale and Foxglove talking softly together, and Arianna was sleeping in Basil's arms. Chip sat down away from the others, and pulled out a picture. It was the only other picture he had besides the one of Gadget. It was of his parents, Roger and Jennifer. They were by the seashore, in straw hats and island wear. His grandfather told Chip the picture was from a vacation, but now Chip had to wonder. The area looked similar to where they were-- could it be from this mission?
Dale noticed Chip looking at the photograph, and motioned to Foxglove. Chip saw them coming, and instinctively started to hide the photo. Then he remembered these were not the Rangers that knew him.
"Say Chip, we haven't talked much," Dale said, "but maybe now is a good time. What was…what am I like in the other timeline?"
Chip kept looking at the photograph. "You're a funny guy, a good companion and my best friend. Both you and Foxglove have stuck by me through thick and thin. But I never showed you this."
Chip showed them the photograph. "Why not? They're a handsome couple," Foxglove said.
"I never wanted to..to have to explain about my parents," Chip said. "From the way grandpa talked about them, I always thought they had done something bad. But now...I don't know. Maybe I made a mistake."
Foxglove came over and put a wing around Chip's shoulder. "Look, I barely knew my real parents. They were gone too soon for me to remember them. But if I had a chance to see them again, I'd take it in a moment! I wouldn't care if they'd done something wrong. Just to get to see them one more time..."
Chip nodded. "I guess I've always had this assumption about them. Why didn't he tell me? Why?"
Arianna had been listening in. "I suspect it was to protect you," she said. "Sean knew that if you were like your parents you'd never rest until you found them, dead or alive. Maybe they knew secrets that were dangerous to others. To you."
Chip put away the photograph. "I guess my questions will just have to wait for now."
Basil crept over. He whispered, "Someone's coming. On your guard."
In a moment, the fire was out and everyone was down on the ground. Soon footsteps were audible trudging through the brush. Then the group of four humans stopped.
A male voice spoke. "Sir, do you smell smoke?"
Another male voice responded. "Hungry already, Stone? Don't worry, we're heading in now."
Chip and Basil looked at each other and nodded. They signaled the others to follow. In the dark, they did not see the diminutive form break off from the others. Soon, they could make out searchlights atop high walls. Chip and the others stopped short of the lights and watched as the gray-clad guards covered with bandoleers marched through the front gate of what appeared to be a stronghold.
As the other lights turned off, Chip got up and started forward. He made it ten feet before a hand grabbed him and pulled him down. A tussle began, which was broken up when Dale and Basil pulled the attacker off of Chip.
"You fools! You were about to set off the alarm!" the attacker hissed.
No one was expecting this reaction, and they let the stranger up. The "guard" ripped off a gray hood. Chip gasped-- the face was nearly a mirror image of his own!
"I distinctly told G I didn't want any backup. And who are you supposed to be? My doppelganger?" the chipmunk asked.
Chip was speechless. He knew who it was, but couldn't speak it. Basil had no such impediment.
"Roger Maplewood, I presume?" Basil asked.
Roger put a hand over Basil's mouth. "You know better than to use my real name! I'm Samson."
Introductions were made all around. Then Arianna came up next to him. "Have you been able to contact our agent on the inside?"
"One hour ago. She'll turn off the alarms in two minutes. We'll have eighteen seconds to make it through the gate," Roger said.
"How did you know I was about to trip an alarm?" Chip asked.
Roger handed Chip a pair of goggles he’d had around his neck. Chip looked, and the entire compound was plain to view.
"I'm surprised G didn't issue you a pair of infrareds," Roger said. Roger's wristwatch alarm beeped. "That's the signal! Go!"
Foxglove flew while the others ran. They all slipped through the door, and moved toward a large hut. Chip could see the equipment for infrared tripwires everywhere. As they made it to the hut's porch, the infrared devices came back to life.
"Where to now?" Arianna asked.
"Inside," Roger said.
Inside the hut, it was obvious the outside was merely a facade. Advanced equipment was everywhere, including a very large weapon. A form came out of the shadows.
"Did you take care of them, Delilah?" Roger asked.
"Do you think I would have signaled if I hadn't?" his counterpart replied. She removed a mask, revealing a beautiful female chipmunk with red shoulder-length hair and blue eyes.
"Mother," Chip whispered.
Now Chip had an opportunity to look his father over also. The only major difference between Chip and his father was that Roger was slightly taller, thinner in the face and had a deeper voice. Chip could see his cheekiness came from his mother, not to mention his temperament.
"I thought you said they weren't sending reinforcements!" Jennifer said.
"Don't look at me!" Roger said.
Arianna stepped forward, and introduced everyone to her. "It was a last-minute decision. What's left to do?"
Jennifer turned to her. "I'm about to short circuit the equipment. Then we'll get the files."
"We weren't briefed on this part of the plan. What is all this about?" Arianna asked.
"I can't believe that M! Sending out agents without telling them what day it is, even!" Jennifer said. "Okay, then. Samson and I were sent to investigate activities involving weather experiments here. But that's not entirely why we're here. Our information is that there’s a new criminal boss backing this operation. Someone that has eluded the human authorities so far."
Once that information had sunk in, Chip asked, "Who is behind all this, then?"
"We aren’t certain, but we’ve traced him to this island. Apparently, this man has made ties with a rogue scientist named Nimnul. He’s a crafty one, that’s for sure. Goes by the name of Klordane. Aldrin Klordane," Roger said.
"I know it’s a long shot," Jennifer added, "but at this point we don’t have many alternatives. Klordane seems to be gathering power in the underworld to form a secret criminal syndicate. We’re hoping we can find something on him to give the authorities a shot at taking him out."
Chip and his team stifled their surprise. The tracks of time had crossed again.
"But what about the humans?" Chip asked. "Their spy nets should be as good as ours!"
Roger gave Chip a long stare. "You should know that the human spy nets don’t know everything. They work for profit, anyhow. They can be bought off. This Klordane seems to be buying off people left and right."
"This island, for instance," Jennifer continued. "He wrangled a deal with the British government somehow to get a part of the Falklands. He’s good. Very good."
The conversation lulled off as Jennifer began altering the settings on the large machine. Once she finished, she jumped down and began to explain.
"This island is being used by Nimnul for weather experiments. He’s looted over two dozen ships in the past few months with it, and no one’s even dared to set foot on this island. I’ve set the machine to overload on its next use. That’ll slow him down for a while at least. Now, let’s get those files!" Jennifer said.
Once Jennifer shorted the infrared sensors again, the miniscule marvels worked their way across the compound. It was composed of six large huts, the largest being the one they had just left in the center. They traveled southeast, entering what appeared to be a boardroom. A light was on, and two men entered.
"Professor Nimnul! I need to speak with you," Klordane said.
"Can’t it wait till morning? I’ve been working on that infernal weather machine for the past week!" Nimnul replied.
"You can enjoy the peaceful bonds of sleep later. Right now, I want to fill you in on a new plan I’ve come up with," Klordane said.
The contingent watched as Klordane and Nimnul walked over to a blackboard. Klordane uncovered it. The slate was covered with several diagrams.
"Behold, my new master plan! The Global Gold Reserve!" Klordane said triumphantly.
Chip gasped. **He planned it this long ago?**
Nimnul looked over the drawings. "But Mr. Klordane, this plan will take millions to fund! And how are we supposed to ship ice from the Arctic and start an earthquake?"
"That’s your job! I’ve come up with the goal, and now you will find the way to make it happen. After all, that’s what I pay you for!" Klordane said.
"But to do all this will take years!" Nimnul protested.
Klordane laughed. "Good things come to those who wait! After all, they’re not going to move the Global Gold Reserve in the next twenty years. But when the time comes, I will!"
Roger watched the happenings intently. "So that’s his plan! What genius, too. He’s going to keep building his resources until he’s got enough to crack that vault! It would be the haul of a lifetime, too—there’s several billion dollars’ worth of gold in that reserve at any one time!"
"We must let the organization know! This cannot be allowed to happen," Jennifer said.
Roger thought a moment. "Okay, we’ll wait until they finish and go in. We’ll get whatever proof of their scheme we can and spend the night in the jungle. Then we’ll clear out at dawn."
Everyone agreed with the plan. Chip was curious though, and a bit scared. Since none of this information had gotten out before, they must have been stopped from reporting their findings. Chip didn’t like where his train of thought was taking him. The light going off in the boardroom broke it up.
"Now’s our chance!" Roger said.
They all went in, and made their way into the ventilation system. There were no extra security measures inside the building, so they made it to the records section with no difficulty. Roger pulled out an infrared camera and went to work. Chip volunteered to help Jennifer play lookout.
"I’m glad you came now," Jennifer said. "This plot raises the stakes on this mission quite a bit."
Chip knew this was his chance. "Risky to you, and your husband. Are you planning a family?"
Jennifer turned to him and smiled. "We just had our first. A son, named Chip like you. I wish I could be there with him right now. Duty calls, though."
"Why is this duty more important than your duty to him?" Chip asked.
Jennifer gave him a bemused look. "You sure you haven’t been talking to Roger? I just got through having that argument with him before we left! I love my child, but I can’t just lay aside ten years of training and contacts. I’m needed here—yes, I suppose I’m needed there too. I love Chip so! He’s always smiling and laughing. And he always goes to sleep right off when I sing my favorite song to him."
Then Jennifer started to hum it. It had been so long since he’d heard her voice and the song that he’d forgotten. But now he remembered as the soft sounds of his mother next to him jogged his memory. The lilting melody of Memory played in his mind, and tears came to his eyes. Jennifer noticed.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"It’s just that…my mother used to sing that a long time ago too. Hadn’t heard that in years," Chip said.
"Remembering old times?" Roger asked. He was leading the group from the records files. "We’re all done here. I heard you talking about Chip."
"He was just asking why I’d chosen to come on this mission rather than tend to him," Jennifer said. "I explained to him like I explained to you."
Roger sighed loudly. "I know. I didn’t want to leave the little lad either. It wouldn’t be fair to him if he lost both his parents at once. I guess it’s just his fate to have two parents that have to be away from him."
Basil put an end to the reminiscing. "We’d best be off while we can. Something tells me discovery here could be fatal."
The small band left the main building. Jennifer couldn’t deactivate the alarms this time, but there was no need. The building was close to the wall, and there was a break in the beam structure large enough to let them through. They were about to go when they heard a voice across the camp.
"What’s this!? Someone’s been tinkering with my weather machine!" Nimnul said.
Jennifer turned to face Roger. "He’s found out! If he can fix it…"
"I know. We’ll have to go back," he said.
Arianna looked worried at this. "Go back? Won’t that be too risky?"
"We have to," Roger said. "Another reason we were instructed to sabotage the weather machine was because of the tanker."
"The Madre de Dios is coming right through here this morning. It’s carrying a large oil shipment. Word is that Klordane wanted to hijack the freighter. That weather machine gives him the perfect tool," Jennifer added.
Roger pointed to the top of the wall. "It’s an easy climb out from here. You go on ahead. Delilah and I will stay behind and make sure that machine is out of commission! Here, take the files."
Chip refused. "If you’re going, we’re going. You said it yourself—you need all the help you can get!"
Roger started to protest, but Chip and the others had already started forward. Roger shrugged and followed.
Nimnul had indeed spotted the tampering. He’d decided to give his machine a final checkover. Now, he sat in the seat of his silvery device, shaped like a teardrop. Nimnul pulled a lever, and the hydraulic lift under the machine pushed it up as the roof automatically opened up.
"I’ll have to check and see who’s been playing with my toys," Nimnul said, "but for now, I think it’s time I got a turn! Nyah hahahahahaaa!"
From the roof of the boardroom building, chipmunks, mice and a bat watched as the insidious inventor aimed his weapon.
"Let’s see…I think a waterspout should be just the thing. I’ll use half-power just to be safe," Nimnul said.
The machine emitted a bright, purplish ray and found its target in some clouds over the sprawling ocean. Immediately, those clouds grew and intensified. A waterspout formed, going wherever Nimnul directed the ray.
"Excellent! You and I are going to do great things together, mister waterspout!" Nimnul said. "In fact, we’re going to suck a whole country’s oil supply dry! Oh, I’m such an evil genius!"
While the professor went on his tirade, Roger and Jennifer had assembled a mini rocket-shooter. Into this they put a grapple, attached to a generous length of rope. They waited until Nimnul was fully engrossed, then…
"Fire!" Roger said.
The shooter fired, sending the grapple screaming across the compound, where it lodged in the outstretched roof of the main hut. Dale, Chip and Basil pulled the rope taut before it could touch the infrared sensors below. While they tied the rope off, Jennifer and Roger clamped two metal slides onto the rope.
"Okay, we’ll go across first and send the slides back for you," Roger said.
With that, the chipmunk agents zipped across the length of the rope, hanging on to the grips connected to the clamps. Dale and Arianna went next, Foxy flying next to Dale. Chip and Basil were last.
"We’d better hurry," Basil said. "No telling when Nimnul’s going to close that roof!"
Chip and Basil slid across the length of rope, arriving just as Nimnul was bringing the machine down. Foxglove took the grapple and flew it and the rope to the roof of the other building, careful not to let the rope get too low. She returned quickly.
"I can see why M picked you," Roger said. "A very useful agent to have around."
Foxglove beamed at the compliment, while Jennifer, Basil and Chip watched Nimnul. The second-rate scientist closed down his weapon and headed for the door. Everyone hid until Nimnul was out of sight.
"I’ve got some bad news," Jennifer said. "Someone must have been watching us! I hid my sabotage work well, but someone deliberately exposed it to view. It’s not going to be easy to sabotage it again!"
Roger hugged his wife. "I know you’ll figure it out, sweetheart. Basil, Dale, Foxglove, you help her out with whatever she needs. The rest of us will keep watch."
Arianna took one side of the building and Roger the other. Chip scouted between the two of them. He stopped when he reached Arianna.
"We’ve got a new problem," Chip said. "Whoever exposed mom's work must have been a time-traveler."
"Yes, I suspect the same thing. They are attempting to undo what your parents did long ago. That also apparently broke up your timeline," Arianna said.
"Which means they may have survived, come back, and altered my life entirely. A life where I had a family."
Arianna put her hands on Chip’s shoulders. "It’s not meant to be, Chip. They have a destiny to fulfil. We have to let them fulfil it."
Chip looked to the hut, and finally nodded.
"You really impressed me." Chip began. "You seemed to understand mom and dad without ever having met them."
"Spies know spies Chip," Arianna said. "Once you have been in the business, you know how it operates. So what do you think of them?"
"They’re good people. Hard-working, dedicated," Chip said.
"Sounds like someone I know. Do you still hate them?" Arianna asked.
Chip put his hand on the back wall. "I guess I can’t hate them for something I’d do myself. I’ve often wondered what I’d do if I were ever a father. I worried that I would have to give up the Rangers. I know now I’d do exactly what they did. My work means too much to me."
"Are you going to tell them who you are?" Arianna asked.
"What would be the point? Even if they believed me—which they wouldn’t—they don’t know me. No, I’m just glad I got to meet them once," Chip said.
"They are good people, Chip. The kind I would choose to serve with any day. You have reason to be proud of your heritage," Arianna said.
Chip nodded and left her to watch. Soon, he was around at Roger’s post.
"All quiet back there?" Roger asked.
"Looks like everyone’s asleep," Chip replied. "Tell me, how did you get into the spy business?"
Roger looked across the compound, letting his memory drift back. "They say there are few people who know their destiny. I knew mine as far back as I could remember. From my earliest days of playing spy, I’ve always known that this was the life I’d lead. It’s not as glamorous as they make it out to be, but it has its moments. Meeting Jennifer was one of those.
"I still remember it. We ended up working a case in France together. Nothing big—a smuggling ring trying to bring some artwork out of the country. We fell in love one starlit night on the Eiffel Tower. I married her a year later. Now I’ve got a son," Roger said.
"How do you feel about being a father?" Chip asked.
Roger kept looking away. "At first, I totally objected to it. Me? A father? It didn’t seem right. But Jennifer won me over. Eventually I came to accept the idea that we should have a family even though we’re leading this dangerous life. I just hope Chip understands that. I know there will be days when he needs me and I won’t be there. His first step, his first home run, maybe even his graduation day. But I’ll be there for as many of them as I can. When I saw his little face as I left, I just knew it was worth it."
Chip couldn’t say anything. He didn’t need to. The hours passed by quickly. Chip checked in every now and again on Jennifer’s progress. Then he turned his attention to an equally important task. Borrowing Foxglove, he scoured the island for the time machine that he knew had to be there.
Foxglove flew down and reported, "It’s near the beach, hidden by some palm trees. But we don’t have a short-circuit device for it!"
"Then we’ll just have to disable it," Chip said.
They reached the machine, and Chip and Foxglove spent the better part of the next twenty minutes ripping every wire out of place. Then Chip replaced the main panel, hiding their dirty work.
The duo returned to the compound and found Jennifer had had equal success. She’d found a way to rewire Nimnul’s contraption to scramble the output in a way he would not detect—until it was too late. The process was taking time though and even with the able help she had, dawn was approaching fast.
The first yellowish streaks of morning flashed over the horizon as the work was completed. Arianna came in.
"They’re coming. Hide!" Arianna said.
Nimnul, Klordane and several henchmen made their way into the weapons hut. Nimnul activated his weapon.
"Well Mister Klordane, another day, another million!" Nimnul said gleefully.
"Cut the chatter, professor. Just do what I’ve paid you to do. Get me that oil!" Klordane ordered.
Nimnul raised the weapon, and the silhouette of the tanker was already visible. "Ripe for the plucking!" Nimnul said.
While all attention was on Nimnul and his task, the heroes took their opportunity to leave the compound. Ten minutes later, they were on the beach.
"Are you sure that cross-wiring will work?" Roger asked.
Jennifer nodded. "Once the machine builds up to full power, he won’t be able to control it. We’d best be on our way."
Basil led the way to the dinghy. "It’s going to be a tight fit with all of us, but we’ll manage. All aboard!"
Just then, Nimnul fired the weather machine’s ray. A waterspout formed, and the tanker was caught in it, helpless.
"Oh, it’s a big one! I’m going to need more power!" Nimnul said.
As the tanker moved toward the island, Nimnul upped the power. 70 percent, 80 percent…
"Wha….what’s happening?" Nimnul asked. Several telltales went off, signaling problems. "You’re not supposed to do that!"
"What’s the problem professor?" Klordane asked. "Nothing serious, I trust—for your sake."
Nimnul started sweating. "Well, it would appear the machine’s power distribution net has been altered. I can’t control it!"
As the words sank in, Klordane watched with increasing anger as Nimnul jumped from the machine to the outstretched roof. Suddenly, the machine went haywire, sending large bolts of lightning into the sky. The weather over the island became rougher.
The tanker stopped just short of the island, then managed to turn away as the machine loosed its grip. Nimnul and Klordane had made their way to the beach now, too.
"What’s going to happen to that machine of yours?" Klordane shouted.
"It will eventually self-destruct, but not before it takes out these islands and a good chunk of Argentina with it!" Nimnul said. "There’s also a slight possibility…."
"Of what?!" Klordane demanded.
"If the machine takes too long to destruct, it could set off a series of weather disasters around the planet! There’s no way to shut it off now! We’ve got to go!" Nimnul said.
Nimnul used a remote control, and brought up an escape sub. Klordane and Nimnul got in and submerged.
Roger picked Jennifer up and put her in the dinghy. "Go with them! I’ll see what I can do about the machine, and I’ll join you if I can."
"Roger, no! It’s a suicide mission and you know it!" Jennifer shouted.
Roger held his wife close. "So what do we do? Stand by while thousands or millions of people are killed? You know me better than that!"
The tears were coming down her face. "Then we’d better get going! There isn’t much time!"
Roger pushed his wife away. "No! You go and take care of Chip! I can handle it myself!"
"Darling, I love you! I can’t live without you! It’s all or none!" Jennifer said.
Roger paused a moment. "You go on without us! If you make it, report back what you’ve seen here! Let them know, we died in the line of duty!"
Chip couldn’t take it. "Please, no! Come with us!" Chip rushed up to the two of them, hugging them close.
"What’s the matter? Why are you so against it?" Jennifer said.
Chip pulled the book out of his jacket pocket and showed them the name on it. "I’m not just Chip! I’m Chip Maplewood, your son! I’ve traveled through time to repair my own timeline!"
Chip saw their faces, and knew they needed convincing. He pulled out the photograph, and another came out with it. Roger picked it up, and smiled at Chip.
"Is this your girl? She's pretty." Roger said.
Chip blushed."Well, maybe..." Chip said.
Jennifer saw the other picture and pointed. "Roger, that's us on the beach just before we came here! I recognize the background. But...I haven't developed the film yet!"
Jennifer looked up at Chip. "If..you are my Chip, then tell me. Is this island our end?"
Chip nodded. "I’m sorry, mom! I wish there was another way! I love you both!"
Then the tears came, and they knew. Somehow, they knew. They hugged him.
"Always remember us, son! We won’t be there for you, but we love you!" Roger said.
"My boy! My darling boy!" Jennifer said, holding Chip in her arms. "I felt there was something between us! And when you mentioned the song…."
Suddenly, the earth beneath the island shook.
"Jennifer, it’s now or never!" Roger shouted. "Chip, we’re proud of you, no matter what! Live a good life and hold us in your heart!"
"I will! Always!" Chip said.
Father and son embraced one last time. Then Roger reached out for Jennifer, taking her hand. He slipped off his wedding band, and Jennifer followed suit. They gave them to him, along with the pictures and book.
"Take them! It’s all we can give you, Chip. Maybe you’ll find someone someday that will be worthy of them. Maybe you already have," Roger said.
Chip took the rings as the two chipmunks waved goodbye and headed for the compound. He just stood there for a few minutes, not even feeling the maelstrom around him. Then Basil came up and pulled him to the dinghy.
From the churning sea, Chip looked on as this music of his mother's voice sang in his mind. Suddenly the island seemed to light up like a Christmas bulb. Then it was gone.
"They did it, Chip. Look," Basil said, pointing up.
The clouds began to dissipate. The storm turned to calm. The island was gone as if it had never been. Chip fired the flare
Jenkins breathed a sigh of relief as the weary time-travelers made their way through the portal. The dutiful butler had stayed by the machine for a straight day. Arianna praised him for his diligence.
"If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll go sit in the conservatory alone for a while," Chip said. "I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep just yet."
They all understood of course. "You know it isn’t over yet, Chip," Basil said. "As long as Klordane wears that device, your timeline will not be restored. It’s time to find him and settle this."
Chip knew Basil was right. But what did settling mean? "Do you think we’ll have to kill him?"
"I hope it does not come to that, my lad. But we are dealing with a human who knows no bounds. It we do not do something…permanent, Klordane will be free to plague your lives," Basil said.
"But killing goes against everything I stand for as a Rescue Ranger! Even if it is someone who’s trying to kill us!" Chip countered.
"Then we’ll just have to find a way to neutralize him without killing. Get some rest, lad. Ideas will come," Basil said.
"Chip? Chip, are you awake?"
Chip managed to crack an eyelid, and he was certain it was a dream. Encased in light was the girl he loved. She was calling to him. Chip got up, and went toward the light and the arms of his Gadget.
Six hours later, breakfast was served. Arianna looked about and noticed one member was missing.
"Basil, go check and see if Chip is still in the conservatory. He needs to eat something," Arianna said.
Basil came back in a few moments. "He’s not in there, dear. Maybe he is still in his room."
"Nope," Dale said, "I checked in there when I got up."
Worry spread across Arianna’s face. "Jenkins, did you see him?"
"I did not, madam. I am also quite certain master Chip was nodding in the conservatory when last I saw him," Jenkins replied.
"Could it be? Klordane?" Arianna asked.
"Quick! We must search the house and the entire city if need be! We’ve got to find him!" Basil said.
"That won’t be necessary," Chip said behind them.
Everyone turned in surprise.
"Chip! Where have you been?" Arianna asked.
Chip sat at the breakfast table. "I’ll tell you over breakfast. For now, let me say that I now know how we can defeat Klordane once and for all."
Basil sat down next to him. "And what is this plan?"
"We’re going to fill the unforgiving minute," Chip said.
Dale was puzzled, and he wasn’t alone. "What does that mean?"
"It means it’s time to get time on our side," Chip answered.
As the others sat back down, the questions continued. Chip began to lay out the rudiments of his plan.
Back at the White House, Klordane was livid. He knew his plans had gone wrong. How? How?
"Professor!" Klordane shouted.
Nimnul ran in, knowing what was next. "It wasn’t my fault, Mister Klordane. If your men…"
"Bother the men!" Klordane said. "Those Rangers are behind this. Somehow they’ve gotten loose. I don’t understand it! That death-trap was foolproof! And how did they solve the puzzles so quickly that I left at each diamond robbery? They shouldn’t have been able to reach London that fast! They must have been getting help!"
"But who? No one else knows about this except the hired help!" Nimnul said.
Klordane considered that. "There could be a traitor in our midst. I want you to conduct heavy surveillance of anyone who could have helped them."
Nimnul left Klordane to his thoughts. "I don’t know how you did it, Rangers," Klordane said, "but it’s time to end this battle once and for all!"
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