Chapter 2 - Time waits for no man - or mouse

       Meanwhile the imbalanced professor was preparing for another time trip. Nimnul already had four large diamonds, and added his latest trophy to a specially-made holder. The object had six metal columns protruding from a single base, with one larger receptacle in the middle. This middle socket was empty, obviously awaiting his next theft.
       "Now, don't you worry, my lovelies!" Nimnul said, patting his pilfered jewels. "I'll be back soon, and then you'll have a big brother to play with! Ha ha ha ha!"
       The Rangers heard every word of this strange soliloquy, thanks to Gadget's listening device. Chip was amazed that Basil simply accepted this technology of Gadget's. Basil smiled when Chip asked him about it.
       "Well, it's true that everything is different here, but I was a bit ahead of my time as it was, even in the nineteenth century. I was always tinkering with devices to improve the science of detection," Basil said. He looked back at Gadget's device, at once absorbed with it. "I certainly could have used a device like this… How does it work?"
       "I think the explanation had better wait, Basil!" Gadget said. "Look!"
       Through the roof's skylight, their vantage gave them a perfect view as Professor Nimnul left the diamonds and walked to a table in the middle of the room. Upon that table rested a strange contraption. Gadget pointed as he began to manipulate its controls.
       "Chip! It's my time machine, I'm sure of it! It looks a bit different, but I recognize some of the controls," Gadget said.
       "Then we've got to get down there before he can use it!" Chip said.
       Gadget pulled out her glasscutter and made an entry for them. Anchoring two of Chip's ropes to the roof, the Rangers and Basil slid down to the table opposite Nimnul, near the diamonds.
       "All right. Any ideas on how to stop him?" Chip asked. Gadget thought a moment. "Well, if I could get into that machine I could render it useless by altering the polarity on the temporal..."
       "There's no time for that!" Basil said. "We've got to stop him and now!
       Chip began looking around, then spotted what he was after. "The main switch! If we can get to it, we can shut off the main power!"
       "Power?" Basil asked. "Do you mean this whole building is powered by electrical conductivity? I knew that experiments in mass..."
       "Come on, Basil!" Chip said. "The history lesson will have to wait!" Chip turned to the others. "Okay," Chip said, "Basil and I will handle the switch. You do what you can to slow down Nimnul. Let's go!"
       Basil took a look at the young Chipmunk as they ran toward the opposite side of the laboratory. **He's young, but he has spunk. Good cranial development too,** noting the fedora on his head. **Clothing styles have certainly changed.** Before he could ponder that, Basil was giving Chip a boost to reach the switch. It was just above his fingertips.
       "Hold it, Monty! A bit back to the right!" Gadget said. She'd managed to build a makeshift harpoon gun from leftover parts strewn around the lab table they'd first landed on. The main shaft was a large glass pipette, which Monty was maneuvering per Gadget's orders. Gadget had secured the gun with Chip's rope and a hefty piece of elastic completed the picture. Chip's other rope was now tied to a metal rod that went up through the ceiling. The business end was tied to a counterweight atop the pipette. Dale was manning the hook that held back the elastic.
       Fortunately, Nimnul had noticed none of the activity going on behind him. He was far too absorbed in setting the destination coordinates for the time machine. **After all, I wouldn't want to end up in the Dark Ages and be burned as a heretic,** Nimnul reasoned.
       "Right...right…there!" Gadget said, getting out of the path of the gun. Gadget held her arm up and Dale got ready at the hook. Nimnul was finishing his preparations. Now he was walking away from the table, right into the weapon's field of fire. Gadget's arm came down. "NOW!"
       The catapult fired, and the rope--attached to the metal rod--pulled taut at the right moment, wrapping the counterweight around Nimnul's legs. "What...whoa!" Nimnul yelled, teetering over and falling hard to the floor. "Who did that?"
       Monty, Gadget, Dale and Zipper cheered as the evil professor crashed. But they didn't cheer long. Nimnul freed himself quickly and spotted them as he stood. "Oh, no! The vermin!" Nimnul cried. "Well, you aren't stopping me this time! I'll skip the countdown and teleport now!"
       But before Nimnul could even reach his machine, the lab's power went off. Nimnul pressed buttons on the time machine in disbelief "It must be them! What did those despicable rodents do to me now?" He looked all around, then noticed the main switch.
       "Get away from my switch!" Nimnul yelled.
       The diminutive professor moved faster than Chip thought he could, almost reaching them before they could jump out of the way. Nimnul reactivated the power, locking the power box, and the time machine activated!
       "The shut off must have canceled the timer!" Nimnul said, running toward the portal.
       "After him!" Basil said, as everyone converged on the portal. The team watched as Nimnul passed through the gateway. They were just behind, but they were too late. The portal closed just as Nimnul disappeared. He was gone.
       "Great!" Chip said. "Now we'll never catch him!"
       "Never doesn't exist for the ideal reasoner, Chip," Basil said. "Besides, it's quite obvious where he's gone."
       "What? What do you mean?" Gadget asked.
       Basil rolled his eyes in his impatience. "Oh, come now! Nimnul says he's going to get the 'big brother' of these diamonds. The jewels in front of us are five of the six largest in the world. Thus..."
       "He's going after the Hope Diamond!" Chip exclaimed.
       "Precisely!" Basil answered. "And according to his machine, he has gone back to the year 1599."
       "Which means he's after the diamond before it was cut up into smaller portions!" Gadget said.
       "Exactly!" Basil agreed. "We'll stop him! We know where and when he's gone. The only question now is why?"
       "Yeah," Foxglove said. "What does he need the diamonds for?"
       Chip thought it over for a moment. "Nimnul's not the type to just steal the diamonds. Gadget, what do you think?"
       Gadget turned the matter over. "Well, in correct alignment, they could be used for a large laser, or they could..."
       "Laser?" Basil queried. He was beginning to realize there was much about this century he knew little of.
       Gadget was only too glad to inform him "Oh, that's an acronym for 'light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.' The term was invented in 1957 when..."
       Chip touched her shoulder. "Uh, Gadget? Let's leave that for later too, okay? We've got bigger problems to discuss than the scientific advancements of the 20th century."
       Chip's admonition broke the two thinkers' train of thought. "You're absolutely right, Chip!" Basil said. "First, we have to determine if we can use Nimnul's machine to get us to where he is. Second, we must determine what the overall plan is here. Why does he want the jewels?"
       Gadget, with the help of Foxglove and Zipper, was testing the controls on the time machine. Per her instructions, Zipper flipped switches and Foxy pulled a lever that was out of Gadget's reach.
       "Come on down, you two! That'll be fine!" Gadget said. Everyone grouped around the mouse inventor.
       "Well, Gadget, what's the verdict?" Chip asked.
       "It's no good, guys. He's modified this version of my time machine to automatically lock out the controls when he leaves. It will reactivate later, but I can't tell when. And there's no way to get around his security measures without damaging or destroying it," Gadget said.
       Chip let out a sigh in frustration. Gadget looked pretty glum, as did the others. If Gadget couldn't get through his security, no one could! Then all eyes turned to the pacing form of Basil. He'd pulled his pipe out from an inner pocket and was looking down at the floor, his face a mask of pure concentration. Then, as though he'd been struck by lightning, he jumped and turned in the same motion.
       "Ha, ha!" he exclaimed. "Of course! We've been thinking in terms of three dimensions when our problem is four dimensional!" The Rangers all looked at each other in confusion, then back at Basil.
       Basil had a wild look of realization in his eyes. "Don't you see? Nimnul has escaped by using time instead of space! All we have to do is build a machine of our own and go the same time and place he did. It doesn't matter when we leave! Whatever he's doing in the past, we can arrive at the same moment or even before he does!"
       "Is that true, Gadget? Can we essentially get there before he does?" Chip asked.
       Gadget was caught up in the thought now. "Theoretically...I'd say yes. Of course, I've never had any personal experience with penetrating the fourth dimension or transcending temporal barriers, but the idea at least sounds feasible."
       "Then what are we waitin' for?" Monty asked. "Gadget, are there enough parts here to build another time machine?"
       Gadget nodded. "Yes, and that's what worries me. He's got more parts here than he needs for replacements."
       "Meaning?" Chip asked.
       "He's probably built more than one time machine," Basil said, finishing the thought.

       Elsewhere, in a room where the only illumination came from a small overhead bulb dangling from a wire, the cold darkness was suddenly filled with satisfied, evil laughter. The source of the laughter was shrouded in the shadows, but two horrible eyes reflected what light there was. When a smile joined those eyes, the image was reminiscent of the Cheshire cat. But even that fanciful figure couldn't make the terrible sound echoing through the small room.
       "Soon, they will all realize the truth. But by then their time will have run out. Literally!" And the laughing continued.

       Instead of using Nimnul's replacement parts, Gadget had opted to reconstruct her original time portal at ranger headquarters. After careful searching, Dale and Foxglove had found Nimnul's copy of the plans. There was no sign of Gadget's original however, which did not rest well with her. Gadget was able to get most of what she needed from Nimnul's lab. For the rest, she recruited Monty, Dale and Foxglove to help her search. That left Chip and Basil free to pursue an equally important task.
       The two detectives were headed for the city library. Chip had suggested they walk, as this would free up the vehicles for loading hardware, and would give Chip a chance to give Basil a taste of modern life.
       "Where are all the horses, Chip? And what are those strange things called?" Basil asked, pointing at a noisy vehicle with an even noisier driver.
       "They're cars, Basil. I think they were called horseless carriages in your time," Chip said.
       Basil sneered a bit. "Ah, yes. I do remember seeing one. Never thought the contraption was practical. Well, it shows that even I can be wrong. But have no style, no joie de vivre! Everyone's in such a bloody hurry! In my day, it was considered rude not to stop and salute a fellow passerby."
       Chip introduced his new friend to many more of the realities of modern life, such as television (he hadn't seen the one at headquarters), hot dogs, and when they got to the library, the computer. This in particular was a source of fascination for the detective. Basil watched with mystical interest as Chip operated the machine.
       "In-credible, Chip! A machine capable of storing, processing and retrieving information at fantastic speeds! Why, one literally has the world at his fingertips with this. What leaps they must have made in the science of detection!" Basil exclaimed.
       "You don't know the half of it," Chip said. "With computers, it's possible to literally connect with any country on Earth! You can instantly check criminal records, perform DNA analysis, and even perform chemical experiments in virtual reality."
       Basil was flabbergasted and hungry for the knowledge at the same time. But then he remembered their real goal. "I'm eager to learn as much as possible. For now though, suppose we use this computer to search for what we're after."
       "Right. First things first," Chip agreed. It had been wonderful watching Basil's reactions to everything, getting to share the viewpoint of someone seeing so many things for the first time! But Basil's statement reminded Chip of their purpose. Basil had suggested back at the lab that the historical records should show when each of the other thefts had taken place--plus they might get a clue as to what Nimnul was up to.
       Chip had taken Basil to a place in the library not frequented by humans, so they weren't disturbed as Chip laboriously typed in the names of the various jewels. The Star of India..the Star of Rhodesia..the Tiger's Eye. It didn't take long for the two searchers to notice a pattern.
       "For a genius, he's certainly been sloppy," Basil said. "Then again, I don't think anyone else would have noticed his pattern. Every time, one century apart."
       "And always the same way, too," Chip noted. "Like here, 'The Star of Rhodesia was stolen in the year 1499 by a common thief, whose identity was never discovered. The jewel was never recovered."
       "I suspect he hired it done, just as he did with The Star of Indonesia--the jewel that he stole in my century. The fellow I saw was a professional pincher, if ever I saw one," Basil said.
       "Then all we have to do is wait for Gadget to finish building her time machine and thwart the theft of the Hope Diamond," Chip added.
       Chip was ready to go, but Basil hadn't budged.
       "What is it, Basil?" Chip asked.
       "I don't like it, Chip! This is all too easy. I gauged Nimnul's intelligence as equal or nearly equal to my own. I would never leave such an obvious trail! Unless..." Basil's words were lost in thought.
       He didn't speak for over a minute. "I see one of two possibilities. Either these thefts are what they appear to be, in which case we should be able to undo the deeds--or this is just the tip of the iceberg!"
       "What do you mean?" Chip asked. "Are you suggesting that the thefts are a link in a bigger crime?"
       "Possibly," Basil replied. "But this kind of scheme reminds me of the nefarious Professor Ratigan. He loved to steal things, just to goad me into attempting to stop him."
       That led Basil into telling Chip about the time he'd stopped Ratigan from stealing the clapper of Big Ben. Chip sat and just reveled in hearing his hero tell one of his stories first-hand! Plus it was a new story! Basil related how Ratigan had left obscure clues all around the city at the sites of minor thefts. When he put them together, Basil realized Ratigan's true target and kept the evil Professor from taking the clapper for ransom.
       Chip frowned in thought. "So do you think Nimnul's using these crimes to bait us? Why?"
       "You said it yourself--revenge. He is an enemy of yours, after all. From the way he described you when I first met him, he hates you contemptuously! We will go back in time, but we must be prepared for a trap!" Basil exclaimed.
       Basil motioned to the computer. "Can I have a try? I'd like to see if there is any record of me out there."
       "Sure, feel free!" Chip said. "I'll get on the next terminal around the corner and check for the other jewels."
       Basil remembered the steps he'd seen Chip take. **User friendly,** Basil mused as he looked at the records on Victorian London. Then, he found a digitized version of his favorite London newspaper. He checked the week he'd left. **No mention of me! Not a word,** Basil noted with frustration. Then he noticed something else--and gasped. He checked the words twice, just in case they might change. No luck. Basil quickly changed the screen as Chip returned.
       "Find anything?" Chip asked.
       "Nothing much," Basil said blandly. "It would appear my time thought little of me as well."
       "No matter what anyone else thinks, Basil, you'll always be my hero," Chip said warmly.
       Basil offered his hand and Chip shook it eagerly. Basil smiled warmly. "As long as there are people of character like you, then my legacy will last. I take it the pattern held firm on the other jewels?"
       "Exactly--1299 and 1399. Like you said, sloppy," Chip said.
       Basil turned to leave. "I think then we have the information we came for. Let's go, Chip! The game's afoot!"
       Chip was right by his side, smiling huge after hearing that famous phrase from the master himself.
       Meanwhile, Gadget had made a good deal of progress on the time portal. At the moment however, she was working on something else. Foxglove peeked in on the mouse inventor to see how things were going. "Ooh! How beautiful!" Foxglove said. She picked up the silvery ringlet Gadget was building. "Can I try it on?"
       "Sure! But remember, it's not jewelry Foxglove," Gadget said. Foxglove slightly bent the flexible band, letting the tines gently clip onto her right wing. "I love it, Gadget! Can I keep it?"
       Gadget didn't look up from her tinkering. "Maybe. But for now, I need you to do something."
       Foxglove's attention shifted from the bauble to her friend. "What's that?"
       "Press the small button on top of the band and see if it works," Gadget replied
       Foxglove looked back at the band with a bit of trepidation. **What have I just gotten myself into?** She slowly moved her left wing toward her right and gingerly pressed the button. As she did, a slight humming filled her ears and a flash emanated from the air around her. Foxglove's equilibrium was knocked off-center and she stumbled backward. Fortunately, Dale was coming in at that moment and caught his wife before she found the floor!
       "Hey, Foxy! Did you learn a new dance step?" Dale asked.
       Foxglove was still a bit dizzy, though the effect was waning. "Yeah, the 'drop back and plunk it!'" she said. "Gadget, what did you do to me?"
       "Oh!" Gadget said, suddenly snapping back into reality. "That bracelet creates a pocket of time around you. What I told you about Basil applies to us, too. It'll allow us to stay in the past much longer than we could have otherwise. I noticed that Nimnul was wearing one, too."
       Dale looked confused, which wasn't unusual when Gadget began explaining things. "So what would happen without this bracelet thingamajig?"
       Gadget deactivated Foxglove's braclet and began tinkering with it. "We'd die in less than three days from gross temporal displacement."
       "Oooh, you're right, Gadget. That does sound gross!" Dale remarked. "Well, I'd better check on Monterey Jack. See you two later!"
       Actually, Dale had seen the look in his wife's eyes. Dale was simple about some things, but he had learned to read Foxglove's facial expressions well. And this one said, "I need to talk to Gadget alone." Dale left with a slight smile, because he could guess the topic of conversation.
       Foxglove put her wing on Gadget's back. "So, what do think of him?"
       "Oh, I like Dale just fine, don't you?" Gadget said innocently, still working.
       "C'mon," Foxy said playfully. "You know who I mean..."
       Gadget put down her tools and turned with a half-smirk. "What do you want me to say? He's a fascinating person!"
       "Is that all? I thought I detected something when he thought you were Arianna," Foxy pressed.
       Gadget put her hands on her hips. "Foxy, he was hallucinating! He touched my face, that's all!"
       Foxy was enjoying the game. "But have you ever met anyone who understood you like he does?"
       Gadget paused for a moment, then shook her head. "I have to admit I haven't. I've never seen anyone who picks up new concepts faster than he does, even Sparky! But then he's supposed to be the 'greatest detective in all mousedom.'"
       **Time for the endgame**. "And what do you think of him?" Foxglove asked again.
       "I respect him. As a colleague, Foxy!" Gadget said, noting the look Foxglove was giving her. "Besides, I've already got a friend."
       "Can I quote you on that?" Foxy asked. "I'm sure Chip will be back soon!"
       "Will you stop?" Gadget asked, laughing a little now. "Don't tell him that! I like him, but I'm not ready to make him my husband!"
       Foxglove walked to the door of the workshop, then turned. "So what's stopping you?" she asked seriously.
       "That's my affair, Foxy. Don't worry, if things change, you'll be the first to know!" Gadget replied, the smile now full on her face.

       Dale shut the door the moment Foxglove entered their room. "So what'd she say? Huh? Huh?" Dale asked with bated breath. When it came to Chip and Gadget, Dale was as curious as anyone.
       "Oh, she's just not ready yet," Foxy replied.
       Dale shook his head. "Gosh, it seemed so easy with us. Do you think we did something wrong?"
       "Certainly not!" Foxglove shouted. "Are you saying it was a mistake to marry me?"
       "No, no, no!" Dale said. "I'm not saying that! It's just strange. To me, Chip and Gadget seem just made for each other."
       "Sure!" Foxy agreed. "But just try telling that to Gadget! She clams up and won't give you a straight answer."
       "But they are much better friends, especially after our vacation," Dale noted.
       "They sure were getting along good last night, weren't they?" Foxy added, smiling at the memory. "I think part of the problem is that they're both independent. They're used to relying on themselves."
       "Well, it's definitely true with Chip. He spends as much time alone as he can! Still, I know he's crazy about Gadget. Why won't he pop the question?" Dale asked.
       Foxy sat on the bed and frowned a bit. "I think you already answered the question with Gadget. She's always been on her own. She told me that she hasn't had a real boyfriend before."
       "Really? Her? But she's so beautiful!" Dale countered.
       Foxy signaled him to quiet down. "Don't you let on I told you! She's starting to confide in me some. But I know she likes Chip. I really just don't think she's ready for it."
       Dale grumbled to himself. For him, it was a simple enough puzzle. He wanted them both to be happy, and as far as he was concerned they would be happy if they were married. After all, he was! He looked at his wife and the happiness sang between them. It just seemed so right!
       Foxglove saw Dale's thoughts on his face, and came over and nuzzled him. "Cutie, you can't rush these things! If they're meant to be together, they will be! Of course, if we see an opportunity to help things along..." Foxglove gave Dale a sly look.
       "Gotcha, Foxy! Wouldn't they be surprised to hear us plotting!" Dale said, smirking.
       " Speaking of surprises, Cutie, I've got one for you!" Foxy said.
       "What's that?"
       "We're about to have company," she said coyly.
       "Who? Where are they coming from?"
       Foxy took Dale's hand and patted her tummy. "Right here, Papa!"
       Dale's eyes got as big as saucers as the meaning hit home. Then Dale hit the floor.
       Foxy giggled as she knelt down. "Oh, Dale...Dale? Dale!"
       By the time Foxglove had recruited Gadget and Monty to help get Dale to bed, Chip and Basil came through the front door. They quickly found their way back to Dale and Foxglove's room.
       "Hey! What's the matter with Dale?" Chip asked. Gadget and Foxglove looked at each other and burst out laughing. Chip's look became more confused by the moment, until Monty broke the news.
       "Our little buddy Dale here's goin' to be a father!" Monty said. Chip's face changed from one of confusion to amazement. He looked at the still-conked-out form of his friend and then shot a questioning glance to Foxglove, who smiled wide and put her left wing out straight and brought her right down in a falling motion onto it.
       Chip's face started to break into a grin. "You mean he..hahahahhahaha!" Chip held his sides for laughing, then fell back and started rocking back and forth on the floor. It took a good half-minute for him to get it out of his system.
       "Oh Chip," Foxglove said. "I'm glad you feel that good about it. I'm sure when your time comes, you'll handle it lots better!"
       Chip blushed and involuntarily looked at Gadget, who also blushed and looked down.
       **Score one for the home team!** Foxglove thought as she lifted an eyebrow in satisfaction. At that moment, Dale started to groan. Everyone turned as Foxglove rushed over to her husband, Gadget right behind her.
       "Dale! Dale are you okay?" Foxglove asked. Dale's eyes fluttered open.
       He was still a bit groggy, as he looked around. "Hey, what's the matter?"
       "What do you mean, Dale?" Chip asked.
       "You and Gadget are blushing!" he said, pointing.
       Chip reached up and felt the heat of his cheek, a gesture that a certain girl reflected across the room.
       "Never mind, Dale!" Chip retorted. "How are you feeling?"
       Dale reached up and rubbed the back of his head. "Okay, I guess. What happened?"
       Foxglove took his other hand. "You mean you don't remember?"
       Dale looked away for a moment, thinking. "Uh, I remember you took my hand and said something about a visitor…."
       Foxglove beamed down at him. "That's right! We're going to have a visitor!"
       Dale looked around. "You mean besides Basil? Who?"
       Foxglove brought his hand to her tummy. "From here, Cutie!"
       Dale looked at the hands, then at his wife, then at Chip.
       "She means you're having a baby, you lamebrain!" Chip said.
       Dale's eyes again grew wide. He shot up to a sitting position, took one more look at his wife, and he was out again!
       "Well, at least he was in bed this time!" Monty said as Zipper chuckled.
       The chuckling was of course addictive, and even Basil joined in the round of friendly laughter. Then the mouse detective walked over to Gadget.
       "Gadget, have you completed work on the temporal protective devices?" he asked.
       Gadget nodded. "I'd just fixed the second one, when Foxglove called about Dale's first fainting spell."
       "Then let's give them a test. I need to go back to my time for a few minutes, to get some things from my lodgings," Basil said.
       "Oh, can I come along, too?" Gadget asked. "I'd like to see your inventions!"
       Chip perked up at this. "Oh, I'd love to see it too!"
       Gadget shook her head. "I think it had better be me, Chip. If one of the bracelets breaks, I'm the only person who can fix it."
       Chip nodded his agreement, however reluctantly. "You're right. I guess my trip will have to wait till you've got another bracelet done."

       The group (minus Dale) walked to Gadget's workshop. In one corner, she'd set up her version of the time portal. Gadget slipped on the bracelet Foxglove had worn and was momentarily surrounded by a flash of light. Gadget leaned against her workbench.
       Chip came over to help her, but stopped short. "Is it okay for me to touch you? I won't break the field, will I?" Gadget held up one hand, leaving the other to brace. "It's okay Chip, it'll pass. It's just the effect of creating an artificial temporal field. The electromagnetic charge in the bracelet.."
       "We'll take your word for it, Gadget," Chip said, sparing everyone.
       Basil stepped forward. "I think you all had better leave now, in case the portal or the bracelets have an unexpected effect."
       "But.." Chip started
       "He's right Chip," Gadget said. She was now able to stand. "There could be unanticipated effects. You guys go check on Dale. We'll be back in a little while."
       Chip and the others reluctantly turned and left. Chip gave a last glance at Gadget, then shut the door behind him.
       Gadget worked the controls of the time portal, talking as she went. "They didn't need to leave, Basil. Why did you want to talk to me alone?"
       Basil walked over to her. "I need you to do a special project with me. I had to be sure the others didn't know."
       Basil whispered in Gadget's ear for several moments. She nodded once she understood what he was thinking. She quickly gathered some tools and materials to take with her. Gadget laid in the target date of January 2, 1899.
       "Are you sure about this?" Gadget asked, as the time machine hummed to life.
       "I don't think there's any other way, Gadget. We've got to--I've got to," he replied.
       Gadget and Basil watched as the machine warmed up, the circuits glowed, and the portal flashed into existence. Two of the smartest mice in history walked through the shining white oval. As it consumed them, the portal flashed again and disappeared.