The Times of Their Lives
By Indy
Chapter Six

Chapter 6 -- Time Breeds Strange Allies-and Enemies

       Back in the "present" of the altered timeline, Chip thought about his strategy. He’d decided to check the laundromat where Winifred first found their leather-winged friend. It was only a hunch, but it was all he had to go on at the moment. The chipmunk pushed his uncertainty aside as his senses adjusted to the time shift.
        It was early morning in San Francisco, and the time travelers were across the street from where the laundromat was—or rather where it was supposed to be. It wasn’t there! Chip wanted to panic, but his determination wouldn’t allow for that.
        "Are you sure this is the correct location?" Arianna asked.
        Chip nodded. "Let’s see if we can find something out. Maybe an animal in the area knows something."
        The procession dodged traffic and searched for any clues on the empty slab that once held the building in question. Finally, they found someone. A young rabbit had made his home in the storm drain behind the lot. When they asked about the laundromat, he twitched his ears in surprise.
        "No one’s asked about that old place in years! My parents used to live here, and they told me the building used to be really popular. Then some humans came along and bought the building from the owner. She left and the building was knocked down within the week," the rabbit said.
        "Did you ever see a pink-colored bat around here, possibly with a snake or spider?" Chip asked.
        The rabbit shook his head. "Nope, and I’ve never heard of any around here, either. Now excuse me; I’ve got to start foraging. Some of us don’t have it as nice as you."
        Chip watched the rabbit hop off, looking after him glumly. He’d hoped for something, but it was just a dead end. Basil saw his shoulders slump and came over.
        "Now don’t get down, my lad. Remember, no mystery is unsolvable. You just have to remember the byline of the detectives," Basil said.
        "Never give up?" Chip asked.
        Basil tilted his head. "Well, that too, but I was thinking of not making deductions before knowing the facts. It’s time to do some legwork."
        Arianna and Basil followed Chip since he knew the city. They tried all the regular gathering places—the Embarcadero, the piers, Chinatown, even the park. No one knew anything. Then Chip had another idea. They had just left the park, when Chip ran back into it.
        "Chip! Where are you going?" Basil said.
        "On a hunch! I’ll be right back!" Chip shouted back. He hoped against hope it was there. It was! The tree he’d visited so many years ago near Chinatown. Now if only…
        "Tammy!" a voice sounded. It was her—the teenage red-haired squirrel that had given him so many trying days. She looked the same, but Chip suspected that was deceptive.
        Chip crawled his way up the oak tree and made for the door to knock. He hoped Tammy’s mom was in a good mood. The door opened, but it wasn’t her mother. It was a female chipmunk, around Tammy’s age.
        "Yeah, what do you want?" she asked flatly. "We already paid tribute once this month!"
        Chip was so taken aback by the question, that the girl softened a bit. "Are you…looking for someone?"
        "Well, actually I was looking for.." Chip started.
        "Hi there!" a voice sounded behind him. He knew that voice all too well.
        Chip turned and faced Tammy. She looked essentially the same, except her clothes were patched here and there. Still, she had the glint in her eyes that Chip had come to accept and expect.
        "Oh, is your name Tammy?" Chip asked, matter-of-fact.
        "Yes? How did you know? Have you been talking to someone at the restaurant?" Tammy asked suspiciously.
        Chip decided to throw out a line. "The restaurant? No, I knew your mother. I was curious to see how you were.."
        Tammy’s eyes suddenly filled with tears and she ran past him into the treehouse. Chip wanted to follow, but her friend blocked his way. The girl had short blonde hair, and was wearing a blue tee shirt and jeans shorts, with a stained apron over it all. Her face was one of contempt.
        "Mister, if you were trying to hurt her, you just did! Tammy lost her mom and her sister when that crud Klordane invaded the city. She was on her own until I came along. Now, she works down at the Mouse House with me waiting tables. It’s not the best life, but between the two of us we can pay tribute and still manage to eat. Now, beat it before I have to get nasty!" the chipmunk said.
        With that, Chip realized just how much the world had been affected. True, cities and lives had been lost, but Tammy! **If everything gets back to normal, I’ll pay you a visit, Tammy,** Chip silently promised. He could see that nothing more was going to happen here, and left for his friends.
        "Melanie?" Tammy asked. "Is he gone?"
        Melanie took off the apron she’d been wearing, hiding the three holes at the bottom of her shirt. "Yeah, I ran him off. Seemed to be honest, but you can’t be too careful these days."
        "I wish he’d been asking for a date. He was cute," Tammy said listlessly.
        Chip had covered half the distance back to his friends when he was suddenly tackled from behind. Someone grabbed his arm and pulled it behind his back, nearly wrenching it from the socket.
        "Why were you up there!?" a male voice asked.
        Chip tried to squirm loose, but it was no use.
        "I was a friend of Tammy’s mother, and I wanted to check to see if her daughter was okay," Chip managed.
        The arm-lock loosened a bit, but not much. "For your sake, you’d better be telling the truth." Chip was allowed to stand. He faced his adversary.
        It was Buzz, the guinea pig that had been working for Professor Nimnul along with Sparky. He was slimmer, more muscular and wearing a leather jacket and a beret. He was also carrying a knife.
        "I look out for the animals in this neighborhood, especially those two. They’re on their own and down on their luck. Then again, who isn’t these days?" Buzz asked rhetorically.
        Chip nodded, and realized he’d found a contact. "I was also looking for a bat. She’s pink-colored and goes by the name Foxglove. Have you heard of her?"
        Buzz didn’t look away from Chip, but his eyes showed something. "And if I have? What’s it worth to you?"
        "How about your life?" Basil said. He’d snuck up behind the guinea pig and grabbed his legs, pulling them out from under him. Buzz dropped the knife and Arianna grabbed it up quickly.
        "Let me go! Don’t!" Buzz shouted, as Basil sat on his back and pulled Buzz’s legs toward him. "Okay! Okay!"
        "Where is Foxglove?" Chip demanded.
        "She’s not here. Hasn’t been for years. Her Uncle Bedivere took care of her, and they moved. I think they said they were going to Carlsgood Caverns," Buzz said.
        "If you’re lying…" Basil threatened, pushing harder.
        "I’m not! I swear, that’s all I know!" Buzz shouted.
        Basil let him go and the guinea pig breathed hard on the ground. Then Basil turned fast as he felt a presence. It was Tammy—she’d been watching from the treehouse and then listening from the bushes.
        "If you really are Foxglove’s friends, I hope you find her. We played together some when I was younger and she was always nice. Sir, did you really know my mom?" Tammy asked.
        "Yes, I did. She was always kind to me, though she wasn’t too happy about the first time I bumped into her. She loved you and Bink, too," Chip said.
        The tears returned. "I know. I’m glad you remember her. You’re the first person I’ve met in a long time that has."
        Chip couldn’t stand it anymore. He went over and hugged the young squirrel. She cried in his arms and buried her face in his fur. Basil and Arianna said nothing, but Arianna came over to Basil and took his arm. Finally, the crying stopped. Tammy looked up.
        "When you’re through looking, do you think you could come back? I’d like to see you again," Tammy said softly.
        **Some things remain the same** Chip thought. But somehow he knew this Tammy was older inside than the one he knew. Her world was harder and crueler, and it showed.
        "Yes, the next time I’m in town I’ll take you out," Chip said.
        Tammy kissed him on the cheek softly. "Just see that you do."
        Chip left with his companions, turning to wave goodbye to Tammy. Basil didn’t turn, but turned to Chip instead.
        "You know you won’t be able to keep that promise," Basil stated.
        Chip frowned. "I will. Somehow, I will."
        Soon, the trio was back in London. Gadget was feeling better. She’d gotten a good rest, and woke up hungry. Jenkins served her a fine British breakfast, which further helped her disposition. She was actually rosy by the time Chip saw her.
        "Feeling? Just fine, Chip! A little rest and a little food was all it took. What did you learn?" Gadget asked.
        "We may have a lead on Foxglove. It appears someone who says he was her Uncle Bedivere took her to Carlsgood Caverns," Chip replied.
        "Sit down and eat, Chip," Arianna ordered. "We still have a long way to go, and you must be as hungry as I am."
        Chip had to admit, the breakfast was superb. Crumpets with fresh jam and butter, cheese melt and excellent herbal tea. Chip finished first, then yet another question came to him.
        "How are you able to afford all this, Arianna?" Chip asked.
        "The government takes care of its own, Chip," Arianna answered. "I served as a an agent in international espionage for over 15 years, and now I have earned my retirement. I know I am still young, but anyone who lasts that long is considered a veteran and is allowed to retire from service with a full pension. I have done my duty for Queen and country, and now I am ready for new adventures. I would say that I am off to an excellent start," Arianna said, smiling.
        Once everyone was prepared, Gadget set the controls for Carlsgood Caverns and activated the portal. They had traveled back fifteen years from the "present", knowing that Foxglove was twenty-five when she joined the Rangers. Carlsgood Caverns was expansive—a huge limestone structure with more rooms than anyone could get through. As they entered from the outside, they also noticed something else—there were bats everywhere!
        Large groups of bats were massed together hanging upside down from the ceiling. Occasionally, a bat or two would swoop just over their heads. Chip looked at the hundreds of bats and just stared. Where to start?
        "Can I help you?" The voice startled the trio, who turned and found they were facing an old gray bat. His ears were drooping a little and his eyes were a bit baggy with age, but he was still in good condition. "I am Rubin, the elder of this community. Are you looking for someone?"
        "Yes," Basil said, "a bat named Bedivere, who may have a niece with him named Foxglove."
        "Old Bedivere? Sure, I know him! Follow me," Rubin said.
        The old bat flew slowly, giving the landwalkers time to make their way over rocky obstacles. They passed through a series of caverns, until they finally reached one that housed a small river. The rushing of water dominated the sounds, and as with the first cavern the bats covered the ceiling. Rubin called out and a bat came down to them.
        Bedivere was a little older than Rubin, and looked somewhat like Foxglove. He had the same ears and facial structure, except his jowls were heavier, his face was fuller and his eyes were a pale blue. His graying brown fur was also a sharp contrast.
        Chip walked up to him. "Excuse me, sir, but we were looking…"
        "Talk to me son!" Bedivere said with a distinct Texas accent. "Don’t beat around the bush, boy! As my pappy said back in Hondo, spill it!"
        Chip decided for the direct approach. "Well, we’re looking for your niece Foxglove, and.."
        "Foxy! That wild little filly took off sev’ral years back! Said she was gonna join that resistance movement…Now what did they call it?" Bedivere pondered.
        "Do you mean T.B.O.W.?" Rubin asked.
        Bedivere slapped his thigh. "Yeah! That’s it! The ‘Take Back Our World’ group. She was all rearing at the bit to fight against injustice and all that. A group came through here recruiting and off she went! Can’t blame her, I guess. If I’d been younger I would’ve gone too, sure as shootin’!"
        "Is there anything you can tell us that would help us find her?" Arianna asked. "It is critical that we locate her soon!"
        Bedivere thought for a moment. "Well, she has no family to go to. When she was five, her parents died in this very cavern during an earthquake. I would’ve had it too, if a nice human hadn’t rescued me. I hunted for my brother’s family, and found only Foxglove alive. I adopted her and we left for San Francisco. I figured she needed to get away from the site of so many memories. It was so long ago, that she really didn’t remember. Too bad though—Daisy and Galahad were great parents to her."
        Chip knew he had a rare opportunity. "Uh, does your family have a last name, in case she’s changed her first name?"
        "Last name? We don’t normally use it, but it’s Fairmont. She should still be using her name though. All the Fairmont girls are named after flowers, just like the men are named after knights" Bedivere said. "Her mother’s name was Daphne at first, but she took on the name Daisy to keep the tradition going."
        "Do you have any idea where she’s gone?" Basil asked.
        Bedivere scratched his chin. "I couldn’t put the brand right on the hide, but the group’s headquarters was San Francisco. Mighty secretive lot, that. Wouldn’t tell me anything past their name—nothing about their leaders or purpose. Nothin’."
        "Well, Basil," Chip said, "looks like it’s back to the present, then."
        After a quick jump through the portal, a ruined San Francisco stood before them. Klordane’s San Francisco. Basil signaled for Chip and Arianna to follow, and off they went. The situation was troubling, for there was no clue to go by. It was simply hunting based on a hunch.
        Chip caught up with Basil. "Did you face this often?"
        "Oh yes!" Basil exclaimed. "This is why I became a detective! The challenge, the fight to solve the mystery. It’s life, Chip! Look around and enjoy the hunt!"
        "But my friends," Chip started.
        Basil flailed his arms at him. "All the more reason to look around! Live in the moment, observe what’s going on. There’s nothing as challenging as a mystery where everything goes against you! Why I remember.."
        "Wait! Look!" Chip shouted, pointing.
        Basil and Arianna followed Chip’s finger and saw a face. It was high up in one of the decimated buildings, on the topmost floor. Then it vanished behind a half-destroyed wall.
        "Let’s go!" Basil said, running toward the building.
        "What did that look like to you?" Chip asked Arianna.
        "Someone wearing a mask?" Arianna answered.
        "I thought so too! I’ll head around back. You two check upstairs," Chip said.
        The pursuers split up and surrounded the building. Basil pointed Arianna toward a set of steel stairs and Basil started up a pile of rubble that led to its twin on the other side. There was no sound as they approached. Basil stealthily crept through the bricks and rebar, looking for the silent watcher. Arianna was also coming quietly on the other side, going slow. Finally they met in the middle.
        "Did you see anything?" Arianna asked.
        "The plot thickens," Basil said. "Whoever this is, they’re quite good at hiding."
        If Basil had been a little closer to the back of the building, he would have heard a slight snicker. A green-costumed form was sliding down a drainpipe, satisfied with having eluded the searchers. However, a surprise was awaiting the mysterious observer at the end of the journey.
        "So, what you do for an encore?" Chip asked.
        The stranger was startled, and then it was Chip’s turn as the creature spread its wings and started to take off! Chip jumped and caught the fleeing form by the feet!
        "Hey! Leggo!" a female voice said.
        Chip didn’t let go, but already he was forming a conclusion in his mind. "Come back down! I don’t want to hurt you! Your Uncle Bedivere sent me!"
        "Uncle Bedivere!" the girl said.
        The bat landed and took off her mask.
        "Foxglove, it’s you!" Chip said.
        "You know me?" Foxglove asked.
        Chip stammered for a moment. "Well, I know of you. I know your uncle, and I know your childhood friend Tammy."
        Basil and Arianna came up as Chip and Foxglove began to get acquainted. "Don’t worry, Foxglove. They’re with me."
        More introductions went around. "So why the mask and costume?" Arianna asked.
        Foxglove looked around to see if anyone else was coming. "Well, if you’re on the level, you should probably come with me."
        "Why?" Chip asked.
        "It’s not going to be safe out here long. I was watching for one of Klordane’s spies when you spotted me," Foxglove said.
        "Spies? Then you’re fighting him?" Basil asked.
        "C’mon, follow me," Foxglove asked.
        The small troop passed through several city blocks, finally ending up at an old parking garage. Every few moments Foxglove had looked, checking for any sign of adversaries. Once inside the small hole in the concrete that had once formed the ground floor of the lot, she relaxed.
        "I guess there’s no need to worry about spies here," Chip said.
        A group of mice, chipmunks and other ranger-sized animals came up to them, checking the newcomers for weapons. Then, the group parted and they were allowed to pass.
        "I’d say no need to worry about anything at all. At least on their part!" Basil noted.
        "Silence! We are entering the hall of leaders," Foxglove said.
        A large room opened before them, with the acronym "T.W.O.B." writ large on the wall in black letters. The light was focused only on the letters at first, obscuring the rest of the room.
        "Who comes?" a voice resounded in the echo chamber.
        "A friend to the cause," Foxglove replied. "Long live the rebellion! Take back our world!"
        The bat saluted with her left wing straight out as she said this and six more left hands appeared out of the darkness in answer. Then Foxglove led Chip, Basil and Arianna into the cold room.
        "It’s like a secret society meeting," Arianna whispered.
        "Reminds me of something Ratigan would have done," Basil said.
        Foxglove shushed them. "Behold! The leader of our cause, and the founder of the rebellion. I give you…the Red Phantom!"
        "The Red Phantom?" Chip echoed. But even as he did, a red blur appeared from the shadows and swept by him and the group, landing on the table.
        "Phan-tom! Phan-tom!" the group chanted.
        Chip et al were shown to seats, as the Red Phantom took one as well. All Chip could see was a red costume like the one a ninja would wear, except instead of a hood, this creature had a red bandana over its head. Thus the identity was concealed, and only darting eyes showed from under the cowl.
        "Friends, we are about to retake the park!" Red Phantom said.
        Cheers came from all parts of the room. The mysterious leader stood, holding his hands up for silence. "We have enough members now to take control back from Klordane’s forces! Once we have the park, we will use it a base of operations, and spread our influence through the city! Long live the rebellion! We will take back our world, foot by foot!"
        "Long live the rebellion! Long live the rebellion!" the crowd shouted.
        The Red Phantom jumped onto the long table again—actually a marble slab—and came over to Foxglove. "Assistant, report!"
        Foxglove jumped up onto the table as well. "Well, I was searching for any spies, but instead I found these three newcomers. They gave me reason to believe they weren’t enemies so I brought them here."
        "Really? Well…" Red Phantom said, looking them over, "I think I will test their good faith myself. You!"
        Chip looked at the finger pointed at himself. "What do you want me to do?"
        "Fight, what else?" Red Phantom said, brandishing a sword.
        Foxglove came over to him. "Be careful, honey!"
        "Now don’t you worry. He’ll never lay a hand on me. Besides, all he has to do is last five minutes with me," the phantom said.
        Chip hadn’t been certain at first, but now he knew who was under that cowl. **I guess fate can’t cheat love, can it?** The fedora-topped chipmunk jumped onto the table and caught the sword the phantom offered him.
        "Well, at least you’ll offer decent sport!" Red Phantom said. "The last two didn’t even last a full minute!"
        Chip gulped involuntarily. He knew this was not the fun-loving munk he was used to playing around with. This Dale—for he knew for certain now it was his long-time friend—was playing for keeps. The two chipmunks came near and rubbed swords.
        "Are you prepared to die, stranger?" Red Phantom asked.
        Chip gritted his teeth. "Not if I don’t have to! On guard!"
        The fight began fast and furious. Fortunately, Chip had not only the benefit of his early training with Dale as a sparring partner, but the luxury of having watched him fight Lucien not two days ago. Thus, he was ready for Dale’s opening strategy—the Red Phantom tried to end the fight fast by disarming Chip. Fortunately, the wily chipmunk was ready and his wrist held.
        "Very good!" Red Phantom said. "If you hold out, I may make you my captain of the guard! If you hold out…"
        Dale feinted, then came in three times in a blur of hacks and thrusts. Chip was hard-pressed, but managed to hold him off. Obviously, this Dale had used his skills every day and was much stronger, whereas Chip’s easygoing companion had coasted. It was making for a deadly struggle.
        Then Dale did something unexpected. He ran off! But before Chip could follow, a red blur came swinging toward him on a rope! Chip ducked, but barely in time. Dale continued his swing, Chip’s fedora impaled on the weapon!
        As Dale completed his swing and came back around, Chip came up with a counterattack. When the Red Phantom swooped down at him again, Chip slipped off his jacket and threw it at him. Dale’s epee went right through it, and it blinded him. The daring munk lost his concentration and ended up on his back on the table. As he cleared the jacket from his vision, he found the business end of Chip’s epee pointed at him!
        Dale looked at the sword, then laughed! "Great counter! Where did you learn to fight like that?"
        "Oh, I’ve had lots of practice," Chip said, helping him up. "My name’s Chip, and this is Basil and Arianna."
        "Welcome, welcome! I think I will make you captain of the guard! Chip did you say? Will you take the job?" Dale asked.
        Chip smiled, then shook his head. "I have a more serious task. One that you and your friend here can help us with."
        "Tell us! What is it?" Foxglove asked, now at Dale’s side.
        Chip motioned Basil and Arianna forward. "We’re fighting for the same cause as you, but there’s something you don’t know. Klordane has a time machine! He’s used it to change events in the past and allow himself to take over the world! We’re trying to correct what he’s done and we need help!"
        Dale and Foxglove looked at each other, then back at Chip. "He’s crazy!" Dale said.
        Chip winced at Dale using that phrase on him. Basil came forward boldly and stepped in. "We can prove what we say, sir!"
        "All right, I’ll give you a chance," Dale said. "But if you can’t prove your story, then all of you will die."
        Basil nodded his head. "First, we can tell you about details of your own life. You were trained in fencing from your father, who carried on the tradition from your French ancestor, Lucien Gerard D’Oakmont."
        Dale opened his mouth. "But how could you know? No one here knows my history. It’s a closely-guarded secret!"
        Chip pressed the advantage. "Like you name is? Dale Oakmont?"
        "Your name is Dale?" Foxglove asked. "I thought it was the Red Phantom!"
        "Well it is! I mean they are, I mean…oh, my real name is Dale. I just used the name Red Phantom because it was like the Red Badger—my favorite superhero!" Dale said.
        A bunch of murmurings went back and forth through the room. Chip and Basil exchanged looks of satisfaction. "Now listen," Chip said, "Klordane has gone back into the past and changed the lives of you and your friend Foxglove along with several others. We have to find out where and when he did it so we can make things right again and save the world!"
        "Take our world back!" the group shouted.
        Dale looked to them all, and everyone nodded, including Foxglove. "All right, let’s say we believe you. What do you need to know?"
        "We will start with you, Dale," Arianna said. "Do you remember an important decision in your life where humans helped you, or where members of your family mysteriously vanished or died?"
        Dale walked to the edge of the table and took a seat, motioning for the others to join him. They did so. "Well, I can’t say really. I mean, I grew up with mom and dad. Dad taught me to fence like you said. I left home when I was sixteen, and dad died a little while after I left."
        "Why did you leave home?" Basil asked.
        "Well it does seem strange, but I guess the main reason was Foxglove," Dale said. "She’d joined up with a gang of bats who were a bunch of free spirits. They got into a rumble under our tree with another gang and I went out and used my sword to capture their leader. Then I saw Foxy. She was gorgeous, and I decided then and there to join the gang. Dad didn’t want me to, but I was head over heels I suppose."
        "Jus’ like me, big boy!" Foxy said coyly. Dale blushed, adding to the redness of his costume.
        "Then when Klordane invaded, I had the idea of turning all the gangs in the area into a resistance movement. I named it, and we’ve been fighting ever since," Dale said.
        "Foxglove, what about you?" Chip asked.
        Foxy took off her mask again, showing her pink furry face underneath. "The only strange thing I guess was the gang itself. No one knows how it started. They were touring through the caverns one day and Clyde—that’s the original gang leader—asked me to come along with them. Come to think of it, I seem to remember a conversation with Clyde asking him why they came to the cave, and he said something about a human had said it would be a nice place to visit."
        "I bet that human was one of Klordane’s men!" Chip said. "Okay, now we know what happened. Klordane altered Foxy’s timeline and used her to alter Dale’s. Very tricky."
        "Hold on now, Chip," Basil said. "That’s a working theory that happens to fit the facts. We don’t know that’s what happened for sure."
        "He’s right Chip," Arianna agreed. "Let’s not rush off until we know for sure. Dale, are you sure it was for Foxglove alone that you left home? What other gang was this that they were fighting?"
        Dale did a double take. "I dunno—I guess it was just a rival gang. Foxy?"
        "They showed up one day, trying to take over our turf. We never did find out where they were from," Foxy said.
        Basil rapped his fingers on the table. "Sounds a bit too convenient. They just happen to attack your group at Dale’s tree? At a time when he’s there? Smells of a setup!"
        Chip face took on a slightly confused look. "So now we’re back to three possibilities! They could have altered Foxglove’s life with her uncle, and they could have manipulated that gang at two phases in her life! What about Dale? They could have altered his life before Foxglove met him!"
        Basil smiled at him. "Now you’re starting to think like a detective! We have to consider all the possibilities and then eliminate the impossible. Foxglove, tell us more about your early years."
        Foxglove went on to tell them about the friends she had, the times she’d played with Tammy and the other animals in the park and how sad she’d been when her Uncle Bedivere had taken her away. Still, she had a good life in the caverns with all the other bats—they’d play hide-and-seek and everyone looked out for everyone else. Finally, Clyde and his bunch of freewheelers came along. Foxy had shied away from them at first, but her curiosity had won out. They had traveled through several states before coming to California and finally San Francisco. It was around four months after their settling in a neighborhood near the park that the fight had taken place.
        When they questioned Dale, it was quite the same. Dale had grown up his father’s son. The fencing lessons and practice had happened just as Chip remembered. In fact, until Foxglove’s gang had come along Dale sounded like the funny fellow that everyone remembered. But when the gang made him their leader, he changed. He still had some of the sense of humor, but being in the leadership role matured him. He focused his skills and training and became a formidable fencer. His Red Phantom persona gave him a sense of awe that made few wish to cross blades with him.
        Chip listened with wonder. Dale had shown a bit of flair every now and again, but never anything like this! Still, now that he had met Lucien and seen what Dale was capable of, Chip was not overly shocked by it all. Dale could see Chip was staring at him.
        "Do we know each other?" Dale asked.
        Chip nodded. "In another life. In another place and time."
        "I think I could have called you friend," Dale said.
        "You did, and we were like brothers. I’d like it to be that way again," Chip replied.
        Foxglove interrupted, "And you say the world wasn’t taken over?"
        "No. In fact we stopped Klordane. Dale, me and three others. You joined us a few years later, Foxglove," Chip said.
        "A world at peace, and I get Foxglove?" Dale said. "That sounds like a place worth fighting for!"
        "I think so too!" Foxglove said. "Let’s help them!"
        The group at the table shouted their agreement. Basil looked at his companions with the same question on his face as was on theirs. Finally, he turned to them.
        "If our friend Gadget can find a way to keep you safe in the past, then you can join us. But if not, then you will have to return soon. The effects of remaining in another time period are lethal after a while," Basil said.
        "All my life, I’ve been fighting to free my world. I never thought that I would get the chance to keep it from getting messed up in the first place," Dale said. "If I can only do that, then my life is worth something."
        Foxglove came over and hugged him. "Oh, I love it when you get dramatic!"
        With new "old" friends in tow, the group made their way to the point where they came in. There, the portal was waiting for them.
        "Oh, it’s true!" Foxy said. "They were telling us the truth, love dumpling!"
        Dale blushed as Arianna covered her mouth. "Foxy, I asked you not to call me that in front of anyone…"
        "Oh, I forgot. Forget I said anything, everyone!" Foxy said, smiling all the more.
        As they stepped through the portal, Chip thought, **It’s going to be pretty nigh impossible to forget that one!**
        But when they crossed the threshold, Chip immediately forgot the embarrassing moment. Gadget had collapsed! Dr. Dawson was on the floor, tending to her. Chip quickly came over with everyone else.
        "What happened? Is she going to be okay?" Chip asked—the emotion already high in his voice.
        "She insisted on keeping vigil until you returned," Dawson said. "The poor girl’s been getting weaker by the hour! I did what I could for her…"
        "Well, it wasn’t enough, was it?!" Chip suddenly lashed out. "How could you let her…!"
        Chip suddenly ran out of the room in tears. Basil spoke a few soft words to Dawson, then followed Chip into the conservatory. Chip had gone into a corner, crouching and sobbing. Basil came over gently.
        "Chip…Chip, it’s going to be all right," Basil said.
        "You don’t know that!" Chip said. "No one knows that! We’re fighting for our lives here and now the girl I love may never wake up again!"
        Basil knew what he had to do. He didn’t like it, but he did it. He slapped Chip twice across the face. "Pull yourself together, lad! Okay, things are bad! The enemy is formidable! But you can’t just curl up in a corner and let them win by default!"
        Chip was ashamed. He hadn’t done anything like this since… "I’m…I’m sorry Basil. I let the moment get the better of me."
        "No need, my friend. Let’s go check on Gadget now," Basil said.
        "Chip, she’s asking for you!" Dawson said, poking his head in.
        Chip was up on his feet and running. He quickly apologized to Dawson, who was the understanding type of old doctor anyhow. Chip knelt beside Gadget, whose eyes were barely open.
        "Chip…it’s good to see you again," Gadget said.
        "What’s wrong, Gadget? What is it?" Chip asked.
        "Time, Chip. Mine has run out," she replied.
        Chip looked down at her as panic started to set in. "You mean…oh God! No! Please, no!"
        "Chip…Chip, you don’t understand. I won’t have to die. I just can’t help you any longer," Gadget managed.
        Chip followed Gadget’s eyes to the bracelet.
        "Let me go, Chip," Gadget said. "It’s the only way to save me. The only way to save the Rangers."
        "But you’ll go to that other timeline! You’ll become someone else!" Chip protested.
        "That can’t be helped," Gadget said. "I’m counting on you, Basil and the others to get me back. I trust you with my life. Let me go, Chip."
        Chip’s hand was shaking as it started to move toward the bracelet. "Gadget, in case we can’t get you back, there’s something I need to tell you…" Chip was trying to get those three words out, but his throat was closing on him. Then he felt Gadget’s hand on his and looked into her eyes.
        "I know, Chip. I know. Now let me go while there’s still time," she said.
        Suddenly Gadget’s breathing became labored. Chip knew the time had come. He reached down and kissed her hand and removed the bracelet. Gadget disappeared like the morning dew, and Chip’s tears added to the pain of the moment.
        No one said anything for some time. No one could. All anyone could do was watch Chip cry himself out. It took about an hour, but finally the well ran dry. Arianna had been holding him most of that time. Chip hadn’t been aware of it at first, but now he looked up and hugged her, like he would his mother.
        "Thank you," was all he could manage.
        "I think he’s going to need some time alone," Arianna said. She took Chip back into the conservatory and came back a minute later. Basil took the empty bracelet and gave it to Dale.
        "You saw at what price this came. Are you willing to stay and help us?" Basil asked pointedly.
        "You betcha!" Dale said. "After that, who could say no?"
        Arianna took off her bracelet and gave it to Foxglove. "I will need to stay here and run the time machine. You can take my place."
        "Thank you," Foxglove said, clipping the bracelet onto her wing. "Will he be all right?"
        Basil shrugged his shoulders. "I don’t know. He just lost the girl he loved more than anything. Still, if he’s made of the caliber material I suspect, he will be ready for action soon."
        Dale took a seat in one of the chairs. "Do we know where we’re headed yet?"
        "Not precisely," Basil said. "Based on what you’ve told me, I rather suspect that the human that directed the gang that Foxglove joined was a plant by Klordane. That’s where we’ll start."
        Fortunately, Arianna had kept the written instructions Gadget had given her, and they were enough to allow her to set the destination time. But, there was a problem.
        "I’m not certain of the location where you’ll come to. I’m sure Gadget could put you right at the spot, but the best I can do is get you into the city at the right time," Arianna said.
        "That’ll have to do," Chip said. "Dale, is there a good place where we can hide and watch what’s going on?"
        "What do you want to hide for?!" Dale exclaimed. "We’ve got to take out those dudes!"
        "The badge!" Chip shouted. "We don’t have a badge to get rid of Klordane’s henchman this time!"
        "Do you mean this, Mr. Chip?" Dawson asked. The doctor fished into his coat pocket and produced a badge similar to the other ones they had used. "She worked on it all the time you were gone, and asked me to give it to you. I guess she knew she…"
        Chip shook Dawson’s hand. "Thanks, doctor. I’m sorry I was so mean to you earlier. I’m glad she had someone as nice as you to look after you."
        Dawson smiled and patted his shoulder. "You’ll find a way to get her back, young munk. She put a lot of faith in you."
        Chip sighed and looked at the badge. It appeared to be complete, but only a field test would prove it for sure. Chip clutched the badge, knowing it was the last thing she had worked on. Then Chip looked up and saw the somber eyes of Basil.
        "She means a lot to Arianna and I as well, my boy. She was like a daughter to us, even though we only knew her for a short time. Arianna’s good at pretenses, but I can tell you she’s very much affected by this," Basil said.
        Chip nodded slightly. "I guess it’s good she’s staying behind,` then. We’ll fix Foxglove’s and Dale’s problems and then go after Gadget."
        "Chip, was Dale supposed to be with his father at that point in his life?" Basil asked.
        "Yeah. Dale and I stayed with our families until we were eighteen. Then we moved out and took up lodgings in the treehouse. It was pretty minimal until two years later, when Gadget came along," Chip said.
        "You and Dale are very close friends, aren’t you?" Basil asked further.
        "Close doesn’t begin to describe it. Dale and I met when we were six years old. We played together, ate together, slept over at each other’s houses…I couldn’t imagine life without him," Chip said.
        "That’s how Dr. Dawson has become to me," Basil said. "From that first case with Professor Ratigan, he’s been a faithful friend to me. I’m glad you two reconciled, Chip. He’s a soft-hearted fellow."
        Arianna came over and broke up the conversation. "I’ve got it ready, gentlemen. It’s time."
        Chip and Basil returned to the library, where Dale and Foxglove were already waiting. Basil showed them how to activate their bracelets, and after the temporal flash they both started staggering around. Finally, they clasped each other.
        "Wow, I feel like I do after thirty times on the go-coaster!" Dale said.
        Foxglove giggled, "Look at me! I’m doing the weeble-wobble!"
        **Some things never change,** Chip thought, enjoying the moment.
        The portal brought Chip, Dale and friends to Chinatown—in the middle of a pile of fish.
        "Ewww!" Dale said. "It’ll take a week to get that smell outta my suit!"
        A half-hour’s walk brought them to the site of the fight. No one was in sight, but suddenly a red-nosed chipmunk holding a pair of grass clippers was out trimming the flora around his treehouse. Chip and Dale recognized the munk immediately—he was in a traditional white fencing outfit, which was covered in green grass stains. His spectacles were sliding down the bridge of his nose every time he bent down to gather the clippings.
        "Dad," Dale whispered.
        The munk went back into the treehouse, and all was silent again for a while. Then the gang came, a leather-clad Foxglove right with them. Suddenly a charge was sounded, and their rival gang attacked, dressed in denim. The fight was mostly rough and tumble, until the leader of the rival gang pulled out a dagger.
        "Get him, Brutus!" one of the denim gang yelled.
        Brutus went after Clyde, the bat leader that Foxglove had told them about. He pulled out a belaying pin, but Brutus knocked it out of his hands. No one had noticed that the shouting and yelling had attracted two additional viewers. Then one of them dropped from the treehouse and Dale ran forward in his fencing outfit. Brutus saw him coming and took the newcomer on. However, the dagger was no match for his sword and soon Brutus was unarmed.
        "Woah! You beat Brutus, the leader of the Southside gang!" Clyde said. "You wanna join us?"
        Then Dale felt a presence at his shoulder and turned to see Foxglove beaming at him. That was all it took.
        "Not only that, but I’ll lead ya!" Dale said.
        Dale’s father was just coming down to protest, when Basil caught Chip’s attention. He pointed to the other Dale, who had worked his way around in the bushes until he was just behind one of the rival gang. Suddenly, the gang member vanished!
        Soon, the group worked its way around to where Dale was interrogating the frightened young hamster.
        "I told you ev’rything, man! Don’t kill me!" he said.
        "Well, what did he say?" Chip asked.
        Dale looked up. "I think we’re at the wrong place. He said they have no humans backing them!"
        Chip got in the boy’s face. "What about the humans that told you to go to Carlsgood Caverns?"
        "Th..they were just tourist types! They didn’t really tell us anything—we were just hanging out, looking for a good place to rest. We saw this guy and lady looking at a map and talking, so we flew down. They mentioned the caverns, so we went," the youth said.
        "If you’re lying…" Dale said, cracking his knuckles.
        "It’s the truth, I swear!" the hamster said, starting to cry for fear.
        Chip took Dale aside. "I think he’s telling the truth, Dale. It looks like the change must have come earlier. That only leaves Uncle Bedivere. We’ve got to go back and check it out."
        Dale wasn’t satisfied. "He could still be lying, Chip. Let me work him over!"
        Chip never thought he’d hear Dale say something like that. "You can’t just hurt someone because you think they’re lying!"
        "Why not?" Dale asked.
        "Because…because it’s not nice!" Chip said.
        "Ooooh, it’s not nice huh?" Dale taunted. "Well, we wouldn’t dare want to do something that wasn’t nice!"
        With that, Dale grabbed Chip’s hat and stomped it. Chip could take a lot of things, but his fedora was his pride and joy. It instantly put him over the edge. He lunged at Dale and the tussle was on!
        "Do we..unghh..fight like this often?" Dale asked.
        "All the…time!" Chip grunted.
        Soon, the munks were squabbling in their fast munk-talk and rolling over and over. Basil moved to stop them, but Foxglove held him back. "Don’t worry. Dale does this for fun!"
        "What about Chip?" Arianna asked. "Is he having fun?"
        "You know, I think he is…" Basil muttered.
        At last, both combatants gave out. Then Dale looked at Chip and started laughing! In a moment, both of them were rolling in the grass, holding their stomachs.
        "Whoooooo! I haven’t laughed like that in some time!" Dale said.
        "Me neither. I’ve missed that, Dale," Chip said.
        Then suddenly Chip stopped, as he realized this still wasn’t "his" Dale. Chip became somber again, and Basil came over.
        "We’d better be going, Chip. Time’s wasting," Basil said.
        Suddenly another thought came to Chip. "Time!? How much time to we have until we have to give up and enter the other time line?"
        Basil looked off for a moment. "Based on Gadget’s response, I’d say we have about 27 hours left to us."
        Chip got up, suddenly realizing how precious the time was. "Okay, let’s get back to Carlsgood caverns."
        After a quick return to London, the time-trippers made their way further into the past. Arianna did a better job this time, or coincidence was on their side. Whichever it was, they appeared next to the time machine in question!
        "We got a break!" Chip shouted. "Okay, now we’ve got to find that human and see what he’s up to."
        "There he is!" Foxglove said.
        The human was in front of the caverns, about to enter.
        "Okay, I’ll stay here and alter the time machine. Basil, you and the others go and watch him," Chip said.
        The threesome didn’t wait, but set out immediately. Chip opened the bottom panel and crossed the wiring. He thought about joining the others, but then he remembered the badge. **I have to make sure he can’t go back and warn Klordane. Especially now.**
        Foxglove’s abilities made it easy for her to follow the human in question. She’d put on her mask again so that no one would be likely to recognize her. Then, everything was confusion—an earthquake! Bats flew everywhere, and the human was heading for her old home.
        "Dale! Dale!" Foxy shouted.
        "I see him!" Dale replied. He and Basil fought their way through the torrent of wings, and jumped into the side room. They were just in time to see Uncle Bedivere fall from the ceiling, along with all the other bats. Then the human started moving toward one of them in particular. Suddenly, Basil knew.
        "Come, Dale! We’ve got to stop him! Attack!" Basil said.
        "Attack? But won’t that.." Dale said, but Basil was already running towards him.
        **I should have known…it was an accident!** Basil thought. The detective ran up the human’s leg, and bit him on the back of the neck.
        "Get off, bat! Get off!" the human shouted, slapping at Basil. Rocks were still falling here and there.
        "No! Uncle Bedivere!" Foxglove suddenly shouted. She saw what Basil was trying to do, and flew toward him to knock him off the human. She was stopped by a red blur that swung and caught her.
        "Dale, no! He’s going to pull Bedivere out of the rocks before he’s buried!" Foxglove shouted.
        "Foxy, he wasn’t meant to live," Dale said. "I’m not the smartest chipmunk, but even I can see this one!"
        "But Uncle Bedivere!" Foxy shouted.
        "He’s the one that’s messed up time! Klordane’s man saved him, and it changed your future and mine!" Dale shouted back.
        Basil’s distraction had worked. Suddenly, a large portion of the ceiling came down, and many of the bats were covered. Then, all was silence—except for two weeping voices that happened to be the same.
        "I’ve got to go to her," Foxglove said. She flapped down, where a young bat was crying as her uncle’s life was ebbing away.
        "Uncle Bedivere!" the girl cried.
        "Be brave, my good Foxglove. I love you, and I always will. You’ll have to look after yourself now," Bedivere said. Then, he turned away and the breath left him.
        "No!" the girl cried, shaking him. "Bedivere! Bedivere!"
        A wing cradled her. "He’s gone, honey," the elder voice said.
        "He can’t be! My mom and dad were killed an hour ago! An hour ago!" she cried.
        The masked bat hugged her tight. "We can’t know why death comes, but I’ll make sure you’re provided for before I leave."
        The girl suddenly looked up at the older bat. "Who are you?"
        "Someone who lost her family like you just have. Come on, we’ll get him covered," Foxglove said.
        With Chip, Basil and Dale helping the bats that survived, the burials were soon completed. Foxglove came forth, with her new "friend" alongside her.
        "She can’t stay here any longer. She’s asked to come live with us" Foxglove said.
        Dale suddenly looked panicky. "But we can’t.."
        "I told her. I’m going to take her to a group of bats at home that find foster homes for orphans," Foxglove said.
        "I’m scared!" the younger Foxglove suddenly said.
        Dale came over and hugged her. "Don’t you worry, little lady. We won’t leave you until we know you’re going to be well-cared for."
        "Always remember, you’re a Fairmont and that counts for something," the elder Foxglove said.
        Basil turned to Chip. "Did you dispatch that villain?"
        Chip nodded. "No problem. He came running out of that place and never bothered to look at his machine or the badge on it. He’s taking a bath in a very big tub by now!"
        The group hitched a ride on an airplane back to San Francisco. Five hours later, they were at the foster care facility. Foxglove had already become a favorite among the people there, but she was still depressed. The head caretaker was Doctor Batorius, a kindly-looking black bat in a doctor’s outfit, came up to them.
        "There’s two parents here that have been looking for a daughter to adopt. I think they’re interested in your young Foxglove," he said.
        The group followed the doctor into a visiting area. There, Foxglove was talking to a nice-looking couple of brown bats. Doctor Batorius greeted them.
        "Everyone, this is Bob and Evelyn Porch. They have told me they’d like to take Foxglove, but as her guardians you have to approve," he said.
        The masked bat came forward. "Why do you want her?"
        "We can’t have a child of our own, and we’re quite well off," Bob said. "We thought about a son, but Evelyn is a teacher and wants a daughter to train to take her place in the community."
        "So, she’ll be well taken care of?" Chip asked.
        "Oh, yes!" Evelyn said. "Foxglove’s like a dream come true. I have all sorts of things my mother passed on to me, and I have no daughter to give them to. We have a nice home, in a quiet neighborhood."
        "I can vouch for their character," Doctor Batorius said. "They’ve volunteered here for years, and everyone says they are loving people. I don’t think your friend will find a better home."
        "Just one thing," Foxglove said. She bent down to the little girl. "Would you be happy going with them?"
        The little bat looked down and shook her head slightly. "I’d like to stay with you!"
        Tears came to both Foxglove’s eyes. The elder held the younger gently. "And I’d love for you to stay with me, but I don’t have a good home. I go from pillar to post, and there’s no rest. Besides, I don’t know how to cook or clean or anything."
        "You could learn!" the little bat pleaded.
        The elder hugged her again. "Believe me, I’d love to but I simply can’t. I like the look of these people—they seem nice, and you’ll learn lots of great things from them!"
        The young Foxglove looked down again. "Okay," she whispered.
        The masked bat was overcome, and cried again, pulling the teary younger version of herself to herself. Doctor Batorius spoke to them both gently, and Evelyn came over and took her.
        "Please treat her well, and be patient. She’s had a very hard life so far," Foxglove said.
        "We’ll do our best to make the rest of her life happy. Thank you so much for being a good friend to her," Bob said.
        At last, the two groups went their ways. The young Foxglove looked back and waved to the elder, who smiled and returned the wave.
        "I hope we did the right thing," Foxglove said.
        "Did it feel right?" Chip asked.
        "Yes, but what’s going to happen to her?" Foxglove asked.
        Chip hesitated. "We don’t know a lot of your young life. In fact all this has been an education in itself. Eventually, she ends up working with a witch named Winifred, and.."
        "A witch?" Foxglove shouted. She turned to go get herself back, but the others prevented her.
        "Time has to be allowed to take its course," Basil said. "None of our lives turn out exactly like we would like to."
        "But how could she leave those wonderful people?" Foxglove asked.
        "Maybe she doesn’t. She may have been kidnapped, or maybe they died too," Chip said. "I will say this. Now that I understand you better, I won’t take you for granted like I have before."
        "You did? Well, as long as I have Dale, I’ll be happy," Foxy said, nuzzling Dale a bit.
        Basil tapped Chip on the shoulder. "Chip? We’d better be going. Gadget’s still out there."
        Chip’s attention now turned to the mouse inventor, and the time remaining. "Let’s get back to the airport and the rendezvous site! We’ve got one more Ranger to save!"
        Klordane was not a happy person, to say the least. None of his gang had returned, and there was no reason why. Nimnul was really sweating it over.
        "Where are they, Nimnul? Where?!" Klordane demanded.
        "Well, considering the delicacy of fourth-dimensional travel and the infinite destinations available, there are a myriad of..."
        "WHERE!?" Klordane shouted.
        "I don’t know!" Nimnul shouted back. "They should have been back hours ago! The machines are foolproof! They must have met with resistance somehow."
        Suddenly, Klordane realized it. "The Rangers! It has to be! Somehow they’ve escaped. Well, they won’t foil any more of our plans! Back to London!"
        Chip, Basil and the others found the portal waiting for them when they reached the caverns again. It was a relief to see the shining oval that led to home. They crossed through, but relief was the last thing waiting for them.
        "Arianna!" Basil shouted.
        Klordane had come himself. He’d used Nimnul’s Gigantico gun to shrink himself to Ranger size. Using the knowledge of Chip’s book, he’d found Arianna’s home. Now, he had her bound and gagged next to him.
        "Come in, everyone! I could have simply left with the young lady but I wanted a chance to talk to you all face to face," Klordane said.
        "You understand us?" Chip asked.
        Klordane showed them a small disk he was wearing as a tiepin. "This is a translator device invented a few decades down the road. It allowed me to complete my research on you Rangers and conduct my new master plan! But now you’ve meddled in my plans again! So like history, time repeats itself. You’ve got most of your group back, but I’ll see to it that you don’t get your girlfriend back!
        "Let her go, Klordane!" Basil shouted. "Your insane plan will never work!"
        "’Where there’s a will, there’s a way’, or so the poet tells us," Klordane said, grinning evilly. "I will have my world, and you pitiful excuses for heroes won’t stop me!"
        Klordane pulled out a knife and was about to end Arianna’s life, when Dale’s training kicked in. Under his outfit, Dale had other weapons as well—including throwing knives. He whipped one of these out now, taking it by the butt of the knife, and threw. The butt caught the blade of the dagger as it was coming down, knocking it out of Klordane’s hand.
        "What?!" Klordane yelled.
        "Get him!" Chip shouted.
        Klordane knew the jig was up, so he ran for it. Chip and Dale ran together after him, Foxglove flying on ahead. Foxy caught up with him outside Basil’s home, where the time machine—also shrunk—waited for him.
        "Stop, you…you life wrecker!" Foxy shouted.
        Foxy tackled him, but Klordane was no slouch. His bulk was too much for the masked heroine to handle alone and he knocked her aside into the stone wall. She was knocked out instantly.
        Klordane had just come into Chip and Dale’s view when the villain knocked Foxy out. "Foxy!" Dale shouted, running faster than ever.
        Chip tried to keep up, but the adrenaline in Dale was giving him an advantage. Dale growled and grabbed another throwing knife.
        "I’ll kill you for this! And for my world!" Dale bellowed, nearing attack range.
        "I think not, my foolish one!" Klordane said. "I’d like to stick around, but time won’t let me. Farewell!"
        With that, Klordane produced a remote control, which activated the time machine. Dale threw his knife, but it merely sliced through empty air and struck a wall behind where the time machine had been. Then Dale remembered Foxglove.
        Chip was already tending to her, making sure she was okay. That was naturally Dale’s first question to him.
        "She’s okay, just knocked out. Let’s carry her back to Arianna’s place and see how she’s doing," Chip said.
        Dale and Chip formed a chair by linking their arms and carried Foxglove back. They found Basil and Jenkins—who had also been tied up—treating Arianna’s bruises.
        "He came up from behind me and knocked me out cold," Arianna was saying. "Silent as death he was, too. Now I see just why we’re in this mess. Did you stop him?"
        "No, we didn’t," Chip said. "He managed to stay a step ahead of us and escaped into time again."
        "We’re going to have to face him and defeat him once and for all, Chip," Basil said. "He’s too dangerous to leave running around."
        "So you mean we have to kill him?" Chip asked.
        Basil thought a moment. "Only if that’s the last resort. I’d rather banish him to some point in time where he couldn’t do any harm if that’s possible."
        Arianna sat up from her reclining position, a cold compress on her head. "With his knowledge, he would be a formidable enemy in any age. We need some way to stop him permanently."
        "Maybe Gadget can come up with something when we get her back," Chip said. "Speaking of which, we should get going soon. We’re down to twenty-one hours as it is."
        "I rather expect our endurance will begin to give out some time before that," Basil added. "Gadget started to weaken about ten hours before we had to send her into the alternate timeline."
        Chip didn’t like the sound of that. Only eleven "good" hours left then. "Well, at least we have a good place to start. We’ll go to Gadget’s old home first."
        After Chip told her where the plane was, Arianna set the coordinates as best she could. Basil noted that Chip was already showing some signs of fatigue, as he himself was.
        "I’m glad we have Dale and Foxglove along. They’re fresher than we are," Chip said.
        "Plus I have a feeling we’re going to need all the help we can get," Basil said.
        Arianna activated the portal, and the team of four made their way through. It was night at the airport, and the large B-52 that formerly housed the most intrepid member of the Rangers was fifty yards from them.
        "She’s getting better every time!" Basil noted. "Do you remember how to get in?"
        Chip motioned for them to follow. "I believe so, but if Gadget is still here that plane must be a deathtrap for salesmen by now."
        "Salesmen?" Dale asked.
        "It’s a long story, Dale. Gadget is pretty as the day is long, but she’s a bit…eccentric," Chip said. Suddenly the words of Monterey Jack spoken so long ago came back to him. **I don’t think young Gadget’s elevator goes to the top floor.** How he’d love to have that Aussie with him right now.
        It took longer than Chip thought it would, but after a few wrong turns, the young chipmunk found himself in that very room where he’d first laid eyes on Gadget. The vision of her beauty jumped in front of his eyes, and it seemed like yesterday. There was only one problem—Gadget wasn’t here.
        The plane had been abandoned long ago. The Rangers never visited the plane after that first case, so the plane’s appearance was likely quite similar to what it was in the other timeline. Chip was stirred from his memory by a shout from Basil.
        The mouse detective had made his way to the very table where Gadget and the boys had first shaken hands. Chip joined him there quickly.
        "If you will notice, Chip, the dust on this table is slightly less thick than elsewhere. I would say that this was the last area to see any interaction within the last decade," Basil said.
        Everyone began searching the table. Nothing unusual presented itself. Well, nothing criminally unusual, that is. Dale found his way into Gadget’s famous sprocket collection, a mixture of toothed rings in a wide-mouthed glass jar. Naturally, he fell in. The Red Phantom came out covered in sprockets.
        "Well, never let it be said that I couldn’t play ‘Ring Around the Rosie’!" Dale said merrily.
        "Chip! Over here!" Foxglove said.
        Chip followed Foxglove’s voice. She’d opened the old microwave and found the unique device Gadget had used to subdue Chip, Dale and Monty. Then she’d gone inside.
        Foxy held up a piece of paper. "Look! I found a note, and it’s from Klordane!"
        Chip read the letter:

       My Dear Chip,

       When you stopped my efforts the first time, I was convinced you and your team were simply lucky. Now with this effort of mine also facing possible defeat, I realize you are a truly worthy opponent. So I can think of no better method of winning than to use your own allies against you. Gadget is after all the best mind among you, and properly encouraged will prove valuable to my other "self". Thus, I have assured that he will enlist her services. You might be able to defeat me, but can you defeat her?

       Time is like a boomerang
       It loops back to you
       And you find yourself
       Facing the same problems again

       To everything there is a season
       And a time to every purpose…
       My purpose is to win, Ranger
       And I will use every means possible

       Ranger versus Ranger
       In imminent danger…
       What path will you choose?
       And even if you win, you’ll lose!

       "I’ll give him this," Chip said, "he has a flair for poetry. He’s right though. The odds have changed if Gadget’s on his side now."
        "Is Gadget that tough to beat?" Dale asked.
        "She’s my descendent," Basil said. "And every child is supposed to arise to be the epitome of their ancestors. If that is so, then we face a powerful opponent indeed."
        "Dale, where does Klordane have his headquarters in your time?" Chip asked.
        "The nation’s capital, last I checked," Dale said.
        "It would take too long to fly there. We’ll have to wait for the end of the hour and use the portal," Chip said.
        Thirty-seven minutes later, the time portal opened, and they returned with the news of Klordane’s revenge. Arianna reset the portal and they were off once again. Washington, D.C. looked like the San Francisco they had just left—beaten and broken in many places. The monuments were pockmarked and marble laid here and there in places. All in memory of the defeat suffered at the hands of Klordane. The heroes made their way to Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House. Guards were everywhere.
        "This must be the place," Chip said. "We’ll just scurry in unnoticed and yeowch!"
        Chip had started to enter the main lawn under the iron fence when something shocked him. Basil drew near and stuck out his finger. It met with electricity.
        "Some kind of electric wall. Very clever. No person or animal could get through that," Basil noted.
        "Maybe not through, but what about over?" Foxglove said. She immediately flew up and then over the fence. But something stopped her, and she came back.
        "There’s ultrasonic detection devices everywhere!" Foxglove said. "No one could get through all that!"
        Chip’s mind was already on overdrive when he spied what he was after. "Well, if we can’t break in, then we’ll let them take us in."
        "What?" Dale said.
        Chip pointed to a laundry truck that had just pulled up. "Let’s hit the sheets!"
        Everyone made their way to the truck, where men were taking in cleaned laundry and taking dirty stuff out. The team jumped into a pile of sheets and waited. Soon the basket of sheets moved and they were off!
        The change in light level told them that they were inside. They waited for what seemed at least an hour, and then they decided to move out. They were in a large linen closet, but the door out was open. They found themselves in a long, carpeted hall. No sentries were about, but after what Foxglove told him Chip was taking no chances. His put his finger to his lips, signaling for silence, then led the way to the right.
        The group reached an intersection, where they found signs pointing the way to the Oval Office. They followed the suggested path, and soon were in the President’s office. Of course, it was now Klordane’s office. The master criminal wasn’t there, but something else was—the book! It was too big to carry, but Chip was already working on it. He’d spotted Nimnul’s gun in the corner. With Dale and Foxy’s help, they soon had the book off the desk quietly and in position. Then Basil and Chip aimed the gun and shrank the book down to Ranger size.
        "Let’s go!" Chip said, putting the book in his pocket. "We still need to find where Gadget is!"
        The foursome left, Chip in the lead. The only problem was, they were not proceeding unnoticed. In fact, their presence had been detected as soon as they had left the linen basket. Two darting eyes watched the group on a remote screen as hidden cameras tracked their every move.
        "Shall we go?" a voice sounded behind the watcher. Three mice in black suits had entered and stood ready with specially-made armaments. The watcher put on a black hood and shook its head. The creature was dressed in a black ninja outfit.
        "I’ll take care of them myself. Leave."
        So far, there was no sign of Gadget or any other animal for that matter. Chip was beginning to wonder if Klordane’s threat had been a bluff to delay them when suddenly Foxglove sighed and slumped over.
        "She’s been hit by a dart! Take cover!" Dale shouted.
        Everyone scattered into the room, which was a snack room full of vending machines. Dale took cover under a candy machine and prepared himself. His fighting skills were first-rate, but he was up against an opponent unlike any other. A form dressed totally in black emerged from the shadows behind him. Only Dale’s instincts saved him from a rear attack.
        "So, you’re the one behind the dart!" Dale said. "Who are you?"
        The ninja did no reply. Instead it attacked. Dale drew his sword, but the attacker came barehanded. Dale thrust, and the black-clad fighter grabbed his sword-arm with both hands and pulled him forward, using his momentum against him. Dale was unprepared for this and lost his sword. He took up a fighting stance—he knew some karate. However, his opponent soon showed superior skill. Dale tried a flying kick, and not only did he miss, but the ninja rolled on the ground and came up where Dale landed. Two hands struck home on the connection of Dale’s neck and shoulders, knocking him out instantly.
        Chip watched all that take place in less than ten seconds. Now, it was his turn. He had worked his way out of the interloper’s peripheral vision, and was looking for anything he might use as a weapon. He found one in a small piece of dowel that he broke and used as a staff. The snapping sound caught the hooded form’s attention. It was now or never. Chip stepped out and took up a fighting stance.
        The mysterious one circled him warily, looking for an opening. Then, a series of handsprings announced the attack! Chip brought the staff low, hoping to trip the ninja or bring it off-balance. That was exactly what the black one had hoped for. Suddenly, the handsprings ended and the ninja did a jump with a flip and ended up on top of Chip’s staff! Chip just stood there slack-jawed at first. He threw a punch, and the ninja blocked it easily. Then the ninja punched him to the stomach, the chest and finally sent him reeling with a sweeping kick to the face.
        Chip knew he was outclassed. He’d hoped to find Gadget, and now he was faced with doom at the hands of this warrior. Just as the would-be attacker closed in though, Basil jumped from above and landed on the ninja! The surprise caught the ninja off-balance and although Chip was bruised, he knew he had to charge. He did, but he didn’t reach his opponent before the ninja performed another kind of charge. Suddenly, Basil recoiled as an electric shock went through his system. The ninja had touched him with one hand—a gloved hand that had electrodes on it.
        Basil fell unconscious, but the diversion had been enough for Chip to regain himself. He jumped the ninja, forcing it down. He went for a choke-hold, careful to keep the glove with the electrodes away from him. Then, he realized he had the edge of the hood in his hand and he ripped it off. The golden hair, the azure eyes—it couldn’t be! But it was, and the sheer shock of it forced Chip to release his grip. When he did, Gadget knocked him away. He looked up and saw his love coming at him with his staff raised over her head.
        "Gadget, no!" Chip cried.
        His plea went unheard, and in a moment the darkness overcame him...

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 Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine