The Times of Their Lives
By Indy
Chapter Four

Chapter 4 -- Time Wounds and Heals...

       Chip wasn’t aware of anything but his own tears for several minutes. Then he realized someone else was crying. Basil couldn’t take it any longer—he pushed Chip aside and held the beautiful mouse’s head in his hands.
       "I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! What was I thinking!?" Basil cried.
        Chip was astonished, then anger replaced astonishment. "You…you love her! You were trying to use me all along to get to Gadget! You traitor!"
        Chip grabbed Basil and slung him off Gadget before Basil could say anything. Chip’s teeth were bared and he was oblivious to anything except his jealousy, heightened by despair. Basil banged his head against the wall and turned around just in time to see Chip land on him. Chip grabbed his lapels with both hands and shook him violently.
        "!" Basil said, as Chip’s efforts were continued to bang his head into the wall. "You do..on’t under..stand. She..e’s no..ot..Gad..get!"
        Chip stopped at once, stunned by the words. But he didn’t let loose of the lapels. "Not Gadget? But if she’s not Gadget, then who…"
        "Basil?" the female mouse called weakly. Chip could hear the voice was indeed not Gadget’s, and let Basil go.
        Basil came over and comforted her. He took out a handkerchief, and dipped it in water. As he rubbed her face, the "bruises" came off. They were actually very well-disguised applications to simulate Gadget’s facial contours.
        "Arianna? Are you okay?" Basil asked softly.
        Chip stood up straight in realization. "Arianna? You mean when you came back from the time trip, that wasn’t Gadget?"
        Basil nodded as he checked for broken bones. "I knew that we were likely walking into a trap, and that we would be watched. I discussed it with Gadget, and we decided to go to Arianna and have her play the role of Gadget, leaving her free to create countermeasures."
        Another level of realization hit. "You mean Gadget’s been here all along?"
        "Yes, at my house," Arianna said. She had a gentle British voice, deeper than Gadget’s. She managed to stand, and her whole demeanor bespoke calm self-respect. "I am honored to be able to finally greet you as myself."
        Chip took the hand she offered, taken aback by the whole thing. Arianna went into the closet at the back of the room to change—fortunately she’d planned ahead.
        Basil guided Chip to one of the chairs. "I’m sorry I angered you without cause, Chip. But we had to allow you and the Rangers to believe Arianna was Gadget. If you knew and acted out of character, the men watching us might have found out and gone after Gadget."
        Chip sighed, "I understand. So she’s been here for two days, then?"
        Arianna reappeared. She was wearing a white lace dress, with her hair up in a pompadour. In short, she was breathtaking. Chip just stared at the vision coming into the room. She put out a hand to Basil, who gentlemanly escorted her to the chair he’d been occupying. Chip realized he’d been sitting the whole time, and just managed to rise before she sat.
        Chip blushed slightly as he looked at Arianna, but she showed no sign of disfavor. In fact she smiled kindly. "I think a friend of yours is looking for you, Chip," she said.
        Chip turned toward the window, and there was Gadget, waving at him. Never has sorrow turned to joy faster. Chip ran over to the window. "Gadget! Boy am I glad to see you!"
        Gadget pointed to her ears and shook her head.
        "The vacuum seal on the windows isn’t letting any sound out," Basil said. "We need another way to communicate with her."
        "No problem," Chip said. He wrote down the problem on a sheet of paper and showed it to Gadget.
        Gadget frowned in thought, then took off. She returned with a pad, a hammer and chisel. /Get clear of the window. The glass will come toward you,/ she wrote.
        Everyone took position behind the chairs. Gadget tapped the glass, seeking a weak point. Finding none, she chose a corner of one pane and struck. Nothing. She struck harder. Still nothing. She went across the street and borrowed a construction mouse using a sledgehammer. She held the chisel, and he stuck with it. No good.
        Gadget frowned, and wrote on the pad, /we’re going to need a violent sonic disruption to break that glass. The vacuum is between the inner and outer panes. If we could set up a high-frequency vibration on one of the sides, it should be enough to overcome the vacuum/.
        Chip and Basil looked crestfallen, but Arianna came forward. "If you need a high frequency vibration, a C above high C ought to do it."
        Basil motioned for Chip to cover his ears. He did so, as Arianna warmed up. She had a haunting voice. She started low, testing her diaphragm. As the tone started to rise, Chip and Basil got down on the floor, and Gadget moved aside. Finally, she began moving to the top of her register.
        "lllllllllaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" she sang, putting force behind it. The windows began to vibrate, particularly the pane in front of her face. She tried again, this time going even higher. Chip and Basil screamed at the sudden pain. She held C above high C for seven seconds before it happened.
        WHOOOOSH! The pane in front of her cracked, and the vacuum was broken. Arianna was pushed back by the sudden force of air, but aside from the exertion she was fine.
        Gadget rushed in, and hugged Chip and Basil. "Golly, I’m so glad you’re okay! But where are the others?"
        Chip’s smile faded as if it had never been there. "They’re gone, Gadget."
        Gadget searched his eyes. "Gone? You don’t mean they’re….dead"
        Basil sat with a sigh. "No, worse if that’s possible. One of your old enemies has used your time machine technology to alter all your pasts. In your present, there are no Rescue Rangers."
        Gadget’s eyes grew large. "But that means….Monty, Zipper, Dale, Foxglove….all gone. No. No! Oh, Chip!"
        She fell in the chipmunk’s arms, sobbing and shaking. Arianna come over, and helped her to the chair she’d been sitting in.
        It took a little while, but Arianna and Chip managed to calm Gadget down."Now, now….it will be okay. You’ll get them back," Arianna said.
        Basil came over and touched her shoulder. "It is ready, Gadget?"
        Chip looked at them quizzically. "It? It what?"
        Gadget dried the tears from her face. "Come and see," Gadget said.
        The group left Basil’s quarters--much to the relief of Mrs. Judson--and made their way to a very stylish Victorian home. It was a three-story mansion in fact, white on the exterior with gingerbread-type molding under the eaves. A charming sight.
        Arianna led the way through a small, yet ornate mouse door in the left rear corner of the house, concealed by a rosebush. Arianna’s rooms were very plush and comfortable, and communicated that this person was used to every comfort life can offer. Still, there were indications that she wasn’t pampered either. A pair of well-used target pistols lay in their open box on the sideboard. An epee hung by the ornate mantelpiece along with a pair of white gloves. A half-finished painting rested on a stand in the corner nearest the large picture windows.
        "This way," Arianna said. They left the converted conservatory, and entered a smaller room. This one was the library, with books on all walls—even on the door! In the middle of the room were two comfortable reading chairs, a small circular table with a couple of books on it, and a silver tea setting with steam rising from the kettle. Arianna left them to get something.
        Then Chip looked beyond the tea setting and saw—a time machine!
        "You see Chip," Basil said, "this is what Arianna bought us time for. Once I saw that the criminals likely had more than one time machine, there could only be one reason—they were committing time-based atrocities. It also seemed logical that they’d try to deprive us of our means of traveling. Thus, we needed a fallback plan, which is why I talked to Gadget alone back at Ranger Headquarters."
        Gadget began checking the controls. "We agreed that a second time machine was necessary, Chip. So I went with Basil and smoothed over their broken friendship. It took some doing, but once we told Arianna how much was at stake, she agreed immediately."
        Chip looked at the machine. "Is it ready to go? I’m ready to get my friends back and make Klordane rue the day he thought this thing up!"
        "Yes, but where and when do we go?" Gadget asked. "We don’t know when each Ranger’s history was altered!"
        Basil retrieved additional chairs so that they could discuss the matter. Arianna returned with fresh crumpets. Chip took two, the smell immediately making him realize how hungry he was. Basil guided his companion to a chair and updated her on the conversation.
        "If I might suggest," Arianna said, "I think you should begin by examining this man’s methods. Klordane is a criminal of the highest caliber, and seems to take excessive pleasure in leaving his personal touch on the lives of others."
        "He sure did with Detective Drake," Chip admitted. "He made his life a living purgatory until we stopped Klordane."
        Basil stood and began pacing. "So based on what you know of him, what would be the best revenge he could make on the Rangers?"
        "Short of killing us? Turning us to evil, I suppose. Or making our altered lives miserable in some way. Or those we loved," Chip mused.
        "Possibly all of those. The secret is determining which route he would take, when and why," Basil added.
        Gadget snagged a crumpet. "Well, we also have to consider that he’s got the advantage of that book, too."
        "The book!" Chip cried. "Of course! He’s got our histories, and he’s gone back to some pivotal point in our past lives and altered the outcome!"
        "I think you’ve got it, Chip," Basil said. "But I think there’s only one way to determine exactly when and where to go. We’re going to have to travel back to your present."
        Chip frowned at the idea. It meant facing a future where the Rangers had not stopped Klordane. What horrible changes would there be?
        "I don’t like it, but I don’t see an alternative either. Okay, Basil and I will travel to the future. Gadget, you might better set the return time for an hour, since we may not get a warm reception," Chip said.
        Gadget went over to her machine. "I didn’t have the parts to build the automatic settings into this machine, Chip. I’ll have to do it manually. That also means I won’t be able to join you on any of the time missions—unless you want a one-way trip, that is."
        "Not right now anyway," Chip said. "First, we’ll see what the damage is and if we can repair it."
        Chip, Basil and Arianna cleared away the chairs as Gadget prepared the machine. When all was ready, the ladies hugged their respective friends.
        "Be careful, my love," Arianna said.
        "Love? Are you sure, dear?" Basil asked.
        "I never questioned it. Now go and do what you were born to do," she said.
        Chip looked at the floor, "Uh, Gadget? If we can’t get the Rangers back…"
        "We’ll face that possibility if it comes. Good luck," Gadget said, as she kissed him on the cheek.

       Normally, that kiss would have sent Chip into the ionosphere, but now he hardly felt it. He smiled as much as he could at her and joined Basil in front of the machine. Gadget activated the portal.
        Chip and Basil appeared in the city. Chip immediately looked left and right. Nothing looked changed! The buildings were the same, the library across the street was still there…but something was missing.
        "The automobiles…no automobiles," Basil mused. Then Basil turned and looked behind them. "My God…."
        Chip turned quick to look at Basil, then followed his vision to the horrific scene behind them. Half of the city was gone! The buildings were totally razed, destroyed. Chip could even see where the park was—or should have been. Now it was just part of the war zone.
        Basil grabbed his arm to pull him along, but Chip just stood locked in his tracks. "So it wasn’t just the Rangers he changed. He devastated the city, or worse."
        "Let’s see if we can find out some details," Basil said. The library seems to be intact for the most part.
        Basil was partly right. The second and third floors were mostly gone, which they saw once they entered. Concrete and rebar was lying about everywhere, along with fallen bookshelves. Many of the books had fallen victim to fire and weather, but the microfilm records were intact in their metal cases. Chip explained their function as the two detectives made their way toward them.
        "Amazing technology! Let’s see if we can find a newspaper from the time he went back to," Basil suggested.
        "But how will we read it?" Chip asked.
        Basil made his way over to the dented cabinets. "One thing at a time, Chip. Right now, let’s see if we can find the right film."
        It took a good ten minutes for them to find a way to force one of the cabinet drawers open. They found a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle from 1989 for the time in question. They grabbed the box containing the film and started over to the readers. The electronic ones were impossible, but the manual readers were still accessible. Several of them were broken beyond use, and the best of them had the tops ripped off.
        "How can we see them without power?" Chip lamented.
        "Tell me about the method for viewing these films," Basil said.
        Chip looked up at the broken viewers. "Well, a light from the top of the viewer shines through a magnifying glass, projecting the image on the microfilm down to the surface below."
        "Magnifying glass…magnifying glass…." Basil muttered, looking around. Then he spotted it. "There’s one, Chip! Come on!"
        Sure enough, one of the magnifying lenses was lying among the debris. It was scratched up a bit, but still serviceable. A quick search produced three more, two of which could also be used.
        "But what’ll we do for light?" Chip asked.
        Basil pointed up. "Only one source that’s free."
        It took time, but Basil and Chip managed to set up the microfilm. They took the roll to the top of one of the topless viewers where they’d set two books a few inches apart. Straddling the space were two of the magnifying glasses. They unrolled part of the film and placed it in-between the glasses.
        Chip looked down. "There’s an image, but it’s blurry. We may have to get the film further back."
        More scrambling and lifting. Finally, they got the film situated just right. With sweat pouring down in the noonday heat, Basil and Chip looked at the story the words presented.

       San Francisco Chronicle –September 1, 1989

    Klordane Strikes!
       San Francisco (AP) : Today, San Francisco
       gave into the demands of Aldrin Klordane
       after a week-long robot attack.
          It was learned soon after the attacks began
       that Klordane had gained the technological
       assistance of Norton Nimnul, a fringe scientist
       who aided him in the theft of the gold from the
       Global Gold Reserve.
          It was also revealed by Klordane that he
       had used the stolen gold to have the giant 50-
       foot robots assembled.
          Per orders of Lord Master Klordane, he
       issued this statement today:
          "Citizens of the world, I, Aldrin
       Armstrong Klordane, do hereby serve notice
       on the countries of the world.
          My super robots have aided my takeover
       of San Francisco, and the capitals of the world
       are next, unless complete control of all world
       finances is immediately turned over to me."

        "It looks as if you and your friends banded together at just the right time to save the city, and possibly the world," Basil commented.
        "And all this time I thought the Rangers were just small potatoes compared to human crime-fighters," Chip said.
        Basil put his paw on Chip’s shoulder. "It’s like I told you Chip. It’s hard for any of us to be the judge of our own worthiness. Help me, and let’s see what the next few days reveal."
        The story was just what they feared—pictures of carnage throughout the world. Finally, every country had to give up and submit to Klordane’s will. The pictures from throughout the world showed bunches of people lining up to turn over their wealth. Other shots showed refugee camps from the devastation. Chip gasped at one picture.
        "Wait! Go back! One figure there looks familiar. Let me get the spare glass," Chip said. He rushed down and came up with the glass and held it above the others. It took a little twisting and turning to blow up the desired section.
        "Monty! He's dressed a little different, but it's him!" Chip cried.
        Basil squinted for a better look. "Looks like he’s giving aid to some of the mice in that refugee camp, right alongside the human’s first aid area."
        Chip began to move the glass. "Where is this? Let’s check the caption."
        --Balaclava, near the remains of Adelaide, South Australia.
        "It’s a place to start, anyway," Chip said.
        At that moment their bracelets buzzed.
        "The ten-minute warning!" Basil said. "We’ve got to get back to that street corner!"
        Chip was about to answer, when the ground started to shake. Their contraption fell apart from under them, sending them rolling down the pile of rubble behind the viewer.
        "Earthquake!" Chip shouted, as the noise got louder.
        "Worse! Look!" Basil pointed.
        It was three of the automated robots they’d seen in the newspaper photos. They were gunmetal gray, fifty feet tall and humanoid shaped. What was worse, they were shaped just like Klordane! No nightmare could have compared to what Chip now saw coming toward him.
        "Run!" Chip cried.
        Basil was right after him, and they managed to avoid the robots’ paths as they smashed through the library. Then they stopped.
        "Uh, I think they’ve spotted us!" Chip said.
        Indeed they had. Automatic motion detectors so sensitive that even a mouse would trigger them alerted the robots. And their master. Suddenly a familiar voice echoed over loudspeakers.
        It was Nimnul. "What’s this? Two rodents dare remain in the city of Lord Master Klordane’s first victory? Well, I’ll fix that!"
        Suddenly, the robots came to life again, knocking down walls to get at their tiny prey.
        "Hoo, hoo! I love my job!" Nimnul shouted, the echo spreading out for miles.
        Basil and Chip didn’t dare look back. They gave it all they had and were soon in the proximity of Main and 5th, the corner they’d left. The portal was open.
        "Jump for it!" Chip shouted.
        The two detectives ran and jumped. Chip looked back to see the giant visage of Aldrin Klordane bearing down on them. A brick wall next to them was falling, knocked over by the giant metal monster. The portal was right in front of them….

        Arianna and Gadget had been talking while their friends were gone. Gadget had been overly anxious to talk to Arianna about her first meeting with Basil. Arianna laughed lightly when she asked.
        "Oh, Basil was just like any man smitten with a girl. He did his best to stop me, though. And he nearly did so. But I’d made a study of him, and I was one step ahead," Arianna said.
        "So you really are..were a criminal?" Gadget asked.
        Arianna smiled again and shook her head. "No, dear. I was a double agent. The British government had hired me for my acting talents. I had penetrated deep into the affairs of several countries—France, Spain, and Germany. They knew me as Lily Belle, Carmen Barcelona, and Fraulein Schnitzel."
        Gadget’s eyes widened. "So you were working for the same cause! What happened next?"
        Arianna sipped her herbal tea. "You see, we’d planned all along on using Basil to fortify my position in foreign circles. If I could escape him, my contacts would know that I could be trusted. There was only one problem."
        "What was that?"
        "I fell in love with Basil," Arianna said. "Before he realized I was a "criminal", he’d waited backstage at one of the performances I gave—which was also where I was giving false information to the enemy. Basil came and congratulated me on my performance, then he touched my face!"
        Gadget blushed at her first memory of Basil, and listened on.
        "I never thought I would fall in love like that, but there it was. It made my job a lot harder and it made Basil slip up on his. That was why he was so angry with me when he found out. He accused me of using him and walked away. I cried for days," Arianna said, wiping away a tear at the memory.
        Gadget nodded in sympathy. "And then we came along."
        "At first I was furious to see him. I thought, ‘the nerve of that mouse, coming here after what he did to me!’ But after you stepped up and explained why you’d come, I knew that I had been too harsh."
        Gadget leaned back, amazed at Arianna’s abilities. And her face. "Isn’t it amazing how similar we look?"
        "True. A good thing, as well. I only had a day to learn your voice, mannerisms, and enough information to get by on," Arianna said.
        "Did the time machine give you any problems?" Gadget asked.
        Arianna shook her head. "Not with those instructions you gave me. I was just glad they were not too complicated, so I was not required to look at them when I set the controls."
        "How’d you do with Chip?"
        Arianna’s smile returned. "How did you know Chip and I talked?"
        "Simple deduction, my dear Arianna. I know Chip. When a situation gets tense, he always wants to talk to me to reassure himself," Gadget said.
        "He is a nice young munk. A bit on the self-important side, but self-sacrificing too. He certainly likes you," Arianna noted.
        Gadget drank some of her tea now. "Yeah, I suppose. But I’ve never been in a real relationship before. I don’t know if I’m in love or not. I don’t think he knows, either."
        "It is an important decision," Arianna said, "and one you should never take lightly. I have had many romantic encounters and some not so romantic. You have to start by stepping back and honestly asking, ‘is he for real or am I making him up?’"
        "Huh?" Gadget asked with a look of confusion.
        "It is so easy to imagine our wants and desires in someone else—especially if we want them to be there. I think that is what Chip has done with you. He may be right. But if he asks you the big question, make sure you have the right answer," Arianna said.
        Gadget leaned forward, "Which is?"
        "The one you have thought of beforehand. In other words, do not get caught off-guard. He is smitten with you, or at least what he thinks is you. But does he really know you? The real you?" Arianna asked.
        Gadget paused. No one had ever asked her that one. "I don’t think anyone knows the real me. They don’t know the anger I felt at being abandoned by my father. I know he died, but that’s how it felt inside. I was angry, and I couldn’t face the world again. If anything ever happened to my friends…"
        Arianna stood up suddenly. "But something has happened! Why are you not angry, then?"
        "I guess I am in a way. I’ve just become so used to shutting in my feelings, they don’t get out much. At least not the bad ones," Gadget said.
        "Not since your father left?"
        Gadget nodded, showing her sadness. "Exactly. I haven’t felt comfortable being totally open around anyone but him. In fact, you’re the next in line right now, which is really strange since I’ve only known you a few days and…"
        At that moment, the portal flashed as Basil and Chip were hurled through. They slid across the hardwood floor and ended up at the base of one of the bookcases, knocking several books over. They were also unconscious.

        Gadget and Arianna ran over.
        "Chip? Chip, are you okay? Chip!" Gadget shouted, checking his vital signs. "He seems okay, but he’s got a nasty bump on his head."
        "Oooooh," Basil moaned, "giant robots…"
        Arianna looked to Gadget, "Giant what?"
        "It’d take too long to explain," Gadget replied.
        Chip was coming around too, now. "I’ve got a headache named Norton Nimnul! Where’s the aspirin?"
        "A hundred years into the future, Chip," Gadget said.
        Suddenly, Chip slipped back into the present. "Monty! We know where Monty is in the future!"
        "You do? Where?" Gadget asked.
        "Australia, of course. He’s apparently become a doctor or something," Chip said.
        Gadget mused a moment. "Well, Kate did say that she wanted him to become a doctor. Maybe Zipper’s with him too!"
        "Let’s start putting the pieces together, then. The game’s afoot!" Basil said, that hungry gleam in his eyes.
        Chip’s eyes caught the hunger, too. "To Balaclava, Australia! Rescue Rangers--uh, Ranger--away!"
        A quick recalibration of the destination circuitry soon had the portal ready for ten years before their last stop. Chip and Basil went through again.
        The first thing they were aware of was the sound of the guns. Big cannonlike sounds came from the southwest. Adelaide. The whole area was one big evacuation, a deluge of M.A.S.H and Red Cross units. Or what passed for them. For these were the remainder of those who had chosen to resist in this country. They had paid with broken bodies and broken lives.
        Basil and Chip watch with awe and horror as line after line of the halt and the hurt made their way past them. Then Chip noticed the M.A.S.H. unit.
        "Look, Basil! It’s the same tents where Monty was!" Chip cried.
        So it was. The same people receiving treatment for their wounds. The same doctors attending them as best they could—and the same mouse doing similar work on a hamster. Chip and Basil ran up to him. Monty had a white doctor's coat on over a white shirt and cream vest, with stethoscope. He was wearing black trousers and shoes, and a makeshift helmet made out of a bottlecap that had been pushed up in the middle. The helmet was held on with twine that had been glued to the bottlecap.
        "I say there lads," Monty said with a distinct British accent, "would you two mind terribly grabbing that stretcher over there? I've been volunteered into this ruddy fight, and this fellow’s a little large!"
        Chip did a double take, but Basil pulled him aside before he could say anything. They picked up the makeshift stretcher, a mixture of twigs, rawhide and twine.
        "His accent!" Chip said. "What happened to his accent?"
        "Let’s help him out, and maybe he won’t mind answering a few questions," Basil advised.
        They brought the stretcher, and two male nurses under Monty’s charge helped Chip and Basil to move the invalid hamster to higher ground. From there, they could see burning buildings in the distance. Monty was already busy setting an old mouse’s leg.
        Chip came over. "Here, I’ll hold him steady."
        Monty didn’t even pause in his work. "Thank you, good sir. It’s only too rare anyone stops to lend a hand these days. By the way, I’m Doctor Monterey Jack."
        Basil knelt down and helped Chip. "By your accent, I assume you’re a fellow countryman?"
        Monty began tying down splints on the set leg. "Aye, that I am sir. My mum advised me to go into the medical corps. Of course **unnh** my father wanted me to come join him on his adventures. I probably **ugh** would have, except that…" Monty paused.
        "Except what?" Chip asked.
        "He died, just a day before he was going to take me on my first tour around the world. Broke my mother’s heart too. I didn’t have the nerve to go against her wishes after that, so here I am, a doctor," Monty said.
        "Ah, better times," Basil said. "How long ago was that?"
        Monty looked at Basil and smiled glumly. "Better indeed. I’ll never forget that day. It was eleven years ago, the day before my birthday."
        Chip looked as uncomfortable as he was asking the next question. "Was it foul play?"
        Monty raised his arms and continued working. "Who knows? He sure didn’t seem the type to commit suicide, but that’s what everyone said it was. We lived in the Northern Territory then, near Alice Springs. That’s where it happened—they say he threw himself into Einke Gorge. Never believed it myself. Say, could you two…."
        But no one was in sight. Monty shook his head. "Guess they got tired of an old doctor’s tales. Ah, well. Here ya go, old man…lean on me."
        Monty and the hamster--now brandishing a crutch--slowly made their way from the carnage of the devastation and disappeared over the hill.
        Thirty minutes later, the time-traveling duo was sitting in the cozy surroundings of the Ideler home. They had washed up and were grabbing a quick meal before heading off again.
        "So Monty’s father was their target!" Gadget said.
        Chip shook his head. "I never thought how important Chedderhead Charlie was to the Rangers. But Monty did say that Chedderhead taught him everything."
        Arianna brought some kippers. "Then you’ll have to prevent the murder and defeat the villain."
        Chip started at that. "You mean, we’ll have to strand him?"
        "She’s right Chip," Basil said. "If they learn that we’ve gone back in time, Klordane could just come back right behind us and do the whole thing again."
        Chip shook his head. "But we can’t kill them! Taking one life to save another isn’t justified!"
        "Then what? We can’t leave the crook there to carry out his plan, and we can’t let him use the time machine to get away."
        Gadget stood, inspiration hitting. "Maybe we can! Come with me!"
        The group left the dining hall and returned to the library. Gadget pulled a handwritten set of blueprints out of a drawer in the sideboard. "Look. They’ve copied my plans for the time machine. All you need to do is alter two wires."
        Gadget pointed at two parts of the machine—it was basically cone-shaped, with the top chopped off, and sitting on four legs extending from the base. "Here at the front left leg, there’s an access panel. Get in, and switch the blue wire and the green wire."
        "What’ll that do?" Chip asked.
        "It will send them back to the time they came from on a one-way trip. The wire-crossing will burn out the temporal circuitry," Gadget said.
        Basil studied the diagram. "Do you know where it will send them?"
        "Not really, but since there will be a big power surge when they activate it the results will be random to the amount of power flow at that moment…unless," Gadget said, thinking.
        "Unless what?" Basil asked.
        "Of course!" Gadget cried. "Hang on while I do some calculations."
        Basil went to speak with Arianna, while Chip left Gadget to her calculations.
        Arianna watched the young chipmunk walk into the gardens. "He’s an unusual chipmunk, Basil. Heroic, yet fighting himself."
        "Not so unusual my dear," Basil said. "Most males have the problem of self-image to overcome. He’s competing against his own expectations of what his life should be. He’s young yet—soon he’ll understand," Basil said.
        "And what about you?" Arianna asked. "Did you come back just to help your new friends?"
        "I think you know me better than that," Basil replied. "I knew I’d treated you terribly after the spying incident, but I didn’t know how to come back and apologize."
        Basil touched Arianna’s shoulders and turned her toward him. "Arianna Ideler, I love you like no other. Once I have completed this case, I would be honored if you would take my name and become my wife."
        Arianna’s face lit up. She’d expected Basil’s question, true, but now she’d heard the words. "Oh, Basil! I’ve loved you from the first. But are we really ready for marriage? I’ve just been telling Gadget that one should know everything about a prospective partner."
        "And what do I not know? You are a double agent, a spy without peer. You are the best soprano I’ve ever heard. You know me—my life is my work," Basil said.
        "True. But there are two things I don’t know," she said.
        Basil looked at her curiously. "What’s that?"
        "Your last name—and the day for our wedding!" she cried.
        Chip had come in on the last of that. He smiled at the scene. Basil had done it! For some reason, Chip felt proud—but he also felt uncertain. He remembered Arianna’s words and thought about Gadget. If they’d been talking that way, then Gadget must have been talking about him. **I’ll have to talk with Arianna sometime,** he thought.
        "Congratulations, you two!" Chip said, announcing his presence.
        Arianna and Basil were startled, not having noticed his entrance. "Thank you, Chip!" Arianna said, coming over and hugging him.
        "Well done!" Chip said, shaking Basil’s hand.
        "What was well-done?" Gadget asked, coming out of the library.
        Basil put his arm around Arianna. "Gadget, Chip, I present to you the soon-to-be Mrs. Basil Hackwrench!"

Basil of Baker Street and the Rescue Rangers are copyright Disney and used without permission, but with the utmost respect.

Go to:
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three, Part One
Chapter Three, Part Two
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine