The Times of Their Lives
By Indy
Chapter Seven

Chapter 7 -- A Moment of Truth

              Aldrin Klordane had grown up in normal enough surroundings. His father Pierre had been an airline executive for over a decade when Aldrin was born. While Pierre knew good business, it was his mother that had been the largest influence on him. Unfortunately, that influence was not good. Cordelia Klordane was the quintessential socialite. She spent her days at the various clubs in town. In the evenings, she hobnobbed with the "in" crowd.
        Young Aldrin was left to the care of a stern nurse and an indifferent butler. It was true that he hadn’t had a piggy bank or a train set as a child. His nurse had direct control of his allowance and rarely allowed him to have anything frivolous. Discipline was the thing for his old German lady, who called him "mien kinder" when she was in a good mood and "dummkopf" more often.
        Thus it was that when Master Aldrin finished high school, he took all the inheritance he could squeeze out of his parents and left. He tried to set himself up in business to show his father he was capable, but only made a meager living. Then he remembered something his father had told him. "If you can’t make an honest buck, make a buck anyhow."
        His father had been referring to corporate politics, but Aldrin saw bigger possibilities than that. It started with a local gang and petty crimes, but it only took five years to make Aldrin Klordane one of the most respected names in the underworld. His admittedly ingenious mind had allowed him to plan, to move slowly and then take over rival "organizations" when he had the advantage.
        Then had come the most daring caper of his life—his Master Plan. He’d found old surveyor’s records that had indicated a vulnerability in the site chosen for the Global Gold Reserve. Of course, the architects had discovered the error originally but it was quickly buried in paperwork to save money. Klordane had calculated the amount of tectonic stress needed to crack the vault. He found another genius in Norton Nimnul, who devised the means to create the needed quake. All had gone well—then those rodents had come along.
        It had seemed impossible, yet these five small creatures had thwarted two years of planning! Yet the words were there to be seen, plain as day. Klordane read them with satisfaction now, like a favorite piece of historical fiction. Then he checked the small blinking device on top of it.
        "Is the temporal displacement stabilizer working all right on that?" Nimnul asked, striding in.
        "Yes, indeed. We were fortunate to find these in the future. Otherwise, we’d have had to enter the alternate timeline permanently," Klordane said. "How are our guests doing?"
        Nimnul caught himself studying the wondrous device. "Oh, the vermin? I’ve got them locked up in stasis fields. All except the one with the hat. She wanted to handle him personally."
        Nimnul laughed gleefully. "Killed by the object of his affections! I love it! Haah hahahahaha!"
        "I don’t see anything to laugh about," Gadget said. She hadn’t listened to the conversation, mainly because she was in a foul mood. "The chipmunk’s still unconscious. I’ve tied him up and taken him to my quarters. He’s not going anywhere."
        "I can’t wait to hear the special fate you’ve reserved for him, my dear," Klordane said. "I know you’ve been waiting to get your hands on him for a long time."
        Gadget looked at the book on Klordane’s desk. "Is that stabilizer still working?"
        Klordane held up the book. "Nimnul just asked, but yes. Now, just what will you do with the chipmunk who killed your father? I’m curious."
        "What does it matter? He’ll be dead soon. That’s what you care about, isn’t it?" Gadget asked.
        Klordane peered over the desk with mock concern. "My dear Gadget, aren’t you happy? I give you everything your little heart could ask for!"
        "Don’t give me that! You and I both know I’d be in the sewer if you didn’t have some use for me," Gadget replied sourly.
        "As always, a pleasure to talk to you. Come, professor. I have peasants to dominate and I want you at my side. Return to your soon-to-be victim, Gadget," Klordane said.
        Gadget left with them, turning left as they went right. However, she didn’t leave. Not when there was a chance to gain an advantage. The mouse pressed a device that looked like a watch on her arm. "Security bypass. Passcode Geegaw 1127."
        The mouse re-entered Klordane’s office. Something had puzzled her ever since Klordane had recruited her. The devices that he and Nimnul wore were of a technology far beyond the normal. Now, she had a chance to study one of them. Gadget climbed the desk, using her modified gloves. There was the book. She was about to rip the device off of it, when another idea stuck her. **This book must have some value for old great dane to have protected it so much. Maybe there are secrets inside.**
        Conveniently, the Gigantico gun was also on the table. One zap later, the book was down to Ranger size. "Rescue Rangers…hmm. Sounds like a better evening than usual," Gadget muttered, starting to turn the pages as she headed back.
        The first stop for Klordane was the modified prison that was serving to hold the remainder of the time-trippers. They were all in separate containment fields, lying on small metal tables atop a larger metal table. From above, an energy field shone down on them, keeping them unconscious.
        "Ah, yes. The paralysis field. Our little inventor certainly is worth her keep," Klordane exclaimed. "It’s made many a caper easier."
        "When do I get to have some fun?" Nimnul asked expectantly.
        "What? Eliminate these defenders of the right? I wouldn’t hear of it!" Klordane said. "However, their time is almost up. How much longer before their limited protection runs out?"
        Nimnul checked an electronic clock on the wall. "Ooh, just four hours and seventeen minutes now!"
        "How fitting," Klordane said, "to have time not only as my ally but as my executioner too! But I want Chip to suffer more. He’s the leader, and the leader must pay a higher price. So it will be that beauty will kill the munk!"
        "Do you think she bought that story about his being her father’s killer?" Nimnul asked.
        Klordane waved for him to follow. "Does it matter? She hates chipmunks! After all, one killed her father. Why not that one?"
        Nimnul and Klordane’s laughter filled the hall. "Now I wonder where she heard that from?" Nimnul asked.
        Unknown to them, Gadget had heard every word of that conversation. She’d read enough of Chip’s book on the way back to her quarters to start forming some questions in her mind. She’d learned several lessons from Klordane, and the first was to trust no one. **At least that lesson paid off, ** she thought. Once she reactivated the security measures, the intrepid mouse tapped into Klordane and Nimnul’s activities. She noticed the animals in the stasis field as well. Suddenly, Gadget felt the need to sit down.
        She took off the ninja uniform, under which was the coveralls she’d made when she started working on her father’s plane as a young girl. It was pure sentimentality, but her father was all she’d had. Now, to learn that Klordane had lied about his death! Conflicting thoughts ran through her head and she picked up the book and began to read again. This was a whole different reality, a different world. She found herself wondering, and went over to the still-unconscious form of Chip.
        The chipmunk certainly fit the description and the picture in the book, but how could he be here? Then she noticed the bracelet. She selected a device from a shelf full of them and pointed it at the ringlet. "Temporal stabilizer! But I thought Klordane was the only one who had them. Wait!"
        Gadget ran back to her surveillance system and rechecked the images of the animals on the tables. "They’ve got them too—and they’re also in the book! That one…Basil." She opened the book again. "My great-grandfather…?"
        The thoughts were now pouring through the young mouse’s mind. She went back to Chip, almost wishing he was awake so she could ask him some questions. Her mind was awash with conflict; she’d been ready to torture and kill this chipmunk. Now, she didn’t know what do to! As Gadget pulled Chip into a chair, a small book that had been dislodged by the ropes fell out of his jacket pocket. She picked it up—it was obviously some kind of journal.
        Gadget sat down in a chair opposite Chip and flipped the book open, hoping it would confirm the other book and what her eyes and ears had told her. It did far more than that, for the book was an homage to her. Poetry in beautiful verse flowed from the pages. It was all about her—this chipmunk loved her! Gadget found her eyes starting to mist as she read one poem in particular…

Your smile is my sunshine

It radiates like the brightest star

It melts my heart

And warms me

Every time I see it rise


Your voice is music

It sings in my soul

You speak

And I am at peace

Just when you say "hello"


Your touch is the summer breeze

Light and warm on my face

I blush just thinking

And remembering

Your embrace..


Your spirit

And your goodness

Issues a balm of peace

Love and laughter rules my days

Your voice, your touch, your smile...


Speak, and I am yours…


       The mind of Chip Maplewood was still searching for a lost world called reality. Time, events, faces all seemed to meld into a hodgepodge of thought and sound. For a moment, a thought would seem familiar to him, then it would flit away like a butterfly before he could take hold. The images were sharp, but confusing. Giant Klordanes marching over the face of the earth, a Victorian detective at his side. Dale and Foxglove in strange costumes. Then, there was that other image.
        It was the one his mind was fighting not to see, but the image was there and it stayed. A figure draped in black, then locks of golden hair falling as the hood was removed. It was all happening in slow motion—the face turning. Those eyes! It can’t be!
        Gadget, no!
Then, somewhere far away, Chip heard something. He couldn’t make it out but he was certain it was coming from another being. Slowly, agonizingly, he crawled up the sheer walls of his own mind and made a bid for consciousness. The noise was getting louder all the time. What was it?
        It was the curiosity more than anything that drove him on, for something told him that this noise was good, something he should head for. The blackness finally gave way to a dark gray and then, just a bit, light began to pour in. Everything was a blur at first, but now he was sure the sound was coming from a person.
        His eyes come open, and his mind told him he must be dreaming still. For there, in front of him, was the girl of his dreams. It was Gadget.
        And she was crying….
        "Gadget.." Chip said, finding his throat strangely sore.
        It took two more efforts for Gadget to notice that someone was saying her name. Then she snapped back to reality. It was the chipmunk, and he was calling her. She unbound the ropes and started checking him for any major damage.
        Chip touched her, just to make sure she was real and not an illusion. "Water…please.." was all he could muster. Gadget went away and came back in a few moments with a glassful. He drank it gratefully.
        "You’re still groggy. Here, lean on me and I’ll take you to the couch," Gadget said.
        Chip was in no condition to resist. He allowed her to bear his weight and he ended up leaning back on a plush couch. Slowly, his wits were returning to him.
        "Gadget! You’re alive!" Chip shouted suddenly. He reached for her and hugged her to him. Gadget started to resist for fear he had been pretending all this time, but she could feel the tears running down his cheeks and touching her face. For the first time in her memory, she felt what love was like. She liked it.
        Chip was praying that he wouldn’t wake up, that this wasn’t a dream. He’d been overwhelmed when he had to let Gadget go. And now she’d come back to him! He didn’t want to let go, and felt some gratification in that she didn’t seem to want to let go either. Then it happened. Gadget pushed back from him a bit, looked into his eyes, and kissed him. And kissed him.
        Chip’s mind lurched into action. Something was wrong, dead wrong. He knew Gadget would be glad to see him, but not this glad! He’d been amazed that she was going to kiss him—now he was nearing shock. Finally, the message reached out to his frame. He squirmed and pulled back.
        "What’s wrong, Chip? Aren’t you glad to see me?" Gadget asked.
        Chip stared at her. Could it be? "Lawainie?"
        "Who?" Gadget asked. From his reaction, she could tell that wasn’t the right reply.
        Chip stood up. "Okay, who are you and what am I doing here?"
        "I’m Gadget Hackwrench and right now you’re talking to me. Are you all right?" Gadget asked.
        Chip nodded slightly. "This apartment...I’ve never been here before. It’s too plush to be anything you built. Where did it come from?"
        "One of the perks of being a super-intelligent mouse," Gadget said. "State of the art living quarters, wall-to-wall carpeting, crystal and silver to eat on. Klordane takes care of his own."
        "Klordane!" Chip said. Suddenly, everything fell back into place. "Then this is still the alternate timeline. Klordane’s taken over the world, and you’re…"
        "Not your Gadget," Gadget said. "Yes, I’ve just discovered who you are for myself."
        Chip stared at her again. "If you knew, then why did you let me hug you, and why did you kiss me?"
        Long pent-up emotions were playing across Gadget’s face. "I was curious. I wanted to know what love was like. You see, I haven’t been able to trust anyone for years. Not since I left the airfield."
        "Klordane came to the old B-52, and took you away, didn’t he?" Chip asked.
        Gadget went into her elegant kitchen and made herself a cappuccino. "He didn’t take me! I had nothing else to do. No one ever came and visited me—not that I encouraged it either. I had been there two years since dad died and then Klordane came and made me an offer. He said he’d known my father, and that he was willing to help me with my inventing. He set me up with the finest equipment money could buy, Chip. All I had to do in return was develop technology that was useful to him."
        "I can imagine. Weapons, surveillance equipment…" Chip started.
        "Neutralization bombs, paralysis machines, and so on," Gadget added. "I always tried to make my weapons non-lethal if possible, but knowing Klordane he probably had Nimnul modify them."
        Chip came over and faced her. "Then why stay here? Why did you work for a man you knew wasn’t good?"
        "No one else cared, Chip!" Gadget exclaimed. "No one remembered me. No one! Do you know what it’s like to be totally alone, Chip? I was grateful to even meet someone that said he remembered dad! I suppose that was probably a lie, too. He told me you killed him."
        Chip’s eyes widened, but Gadget turned her face away and held up her hand. "I don’t believe him anymore, Chip. I don’t know that I ever really did, but I didn’t have anyone else. All I’ve had is Klordane. He’s tried to give me what I want—I’ve got everything that I’ve ever asked for. He’s even tried to bring suitors in for me, but they just repulsed me."
        The chipmunk took Gadget’s hand. "So what did you want?"
        "Love," Gadget said. "The one thing my father gave me that no one has bothered to…until now." The mouse inventor started closing the gap between them, her eyes starting to mist. "When I discovered that Klordane had tricked me, I suspected that meant that you were my ally. When I read your poetry, I knew it went beyond friendship."
        Chip was getting very uneasy. "You…you read my poetry? Uh, well, I didn’t mean for you…I mean for Gadget to read that. Those are my inner thoughts."
        Chip tried to pull his hand away, but Gadget wouldn’t let him. "Don’t be ashamed, Chip! In all the time I’ve been here, no one has cared about me just for me! They wanted my brains, my skills, and my inventions. Oh, they’d notice me, but it was always for their own gains. But you…you love me! Don’t you?"
        Chip was getting very confused. Here he was, faced with the girl he loved—or was it?—saying that she accepted him—or did she?—and wanting to know if he really loved her! "I…I think so. This doesn’t seem right. Gadget wouldn’t act like this!"
        "You mean, the Gadget you know doesn’t love you?" Gadget asked, her demeanor suddenly changing.
        **Come on Chip! You’ve got to grab hold of the moment! ** "Well…I’m not sure. I know she likes me, but she’s never kissed me. Certainly not like you…" Chip said.
        "How could she not!?" Gadget exclaimed. "You’re gorgeous! You love her! Doesn’t she know?"
        "I…I think she does," Chip said. "The last time I saw her she said, ‘I know.’"
        Gadget was somewhere between angry and morose. "But you never kissed her or had a relationship, did you? Why not? Were you afraid?"
        "No. No, I just think neither of us were ready for that sort of thing," Chip said, amazed at his own words. He couldn’t have said these things to anyone else other than the mouse standing in front of him.
        Gadget strode up to him. "Well, then. Your problems are solved! Just stay here, because I like you already." She pulled him to her before he could react and again she kissed him.
        Chip pulled away. "No! It isn’t right. Gadget wouldn’t do this!"
        "I’m Gadget! The only Gadget now! Like it or lump it," Gadget said.
        Chip grabbed his fedora off the floor. "I can’t betray the girl I love, even if she is only a memory! I’ve got friends to save."
        Chip had nearly made the door, when Gadget burst into tears. The chipmunk stopped, knowing he couldn’t leave until they talked some more. He came back and she fell into his arms.
        "She doesn’t deserve you! Why don’t you stay with me?" Gadget pleaded.
        Chip raised her head up and helped to wipe the tears away. "Love is a strange thing. I can’t explain it. I only know that I’ll love her until death and far beyond. Nothing can change it. Whether she accepts it is up to her."
        Gadget smiled a bit. "I wish I could go with you and tell her what a great prize she’d be getting."
        Chip shook his head. "I don’t want her to love me out of pity or obligation. Love is either there, or it’s not. I’m glad I can be her friend, if nothing else."
        Gadget looked into his eyes. "But if she says yes some day, will you…"
        "Without hesitation," Chip replied.
        Gadget nodded. "I’ll help you free your friends, then. Your world’s worth saving."
        "I’m glad you think so," Chip said, holding her close.
        "Chip, would you do one thing before we leave?" Gadget asked.
        "What’s that?" Chip asked.
        The mouse looked with pleading eyes. "Would you kiss me? Me, and not your Gadget?"
        It had been hard for Chip to resist as it was. He touched her soft hair as he kissed her gently. Now he could feel her tears as her arms enfolded him once again. **They say a kiss lasts forever. Maybe for her, it will,** Chip thought, lost in the moment. It was certainly a moment he’d never forget.
        The first thing Basil of Baker Street was aware of was a pair of dark eyes staring down at him. Then he saw that the eyes were attached to a face, and that to a hat.
        "Chip! Chip, my lad, it’s wonderful to see you again!" Basil said.
        "You too, Basil! I’ve got a friend here who wants to meet you," Chip said.
        With that, Gadget peered from behind Chip, where she’d been waiting.
        "Gadget, you’re here! Wait, that would mean you’re the Gadget of this universe. Then you’ve realized who your friends are and you’re releasing us," Basil deduced.
        Gadget had to smile a bit at that. "Wow, he is good! Are you really my great-grandfather?"
        Basil nodded and patted her hand. "Quite. Now, let’s get the others free."
        They did so, and soon the group was reunited, such as it was.
        "So you mean that this is Gadget, except she’s not the real Gadget, and she’s going to help us restore her timeline?" Dale asked.
        Chip shook his head in disbelief. "Still the same old Dale."
        Dale laughed. "No I’m not! I’m the Dale from another universe. Wow, someone should write a story about all of this!"
        "Well, assuming everyone gets straightened out, this book will likely chronicle everything," Gadget said.
        Chip took the book and everyone gathered around. He opened to the section on Gadget:

       …Gadget was five years old when she first began showing signs that she would be an extraordinary mouse. Her father Geegaw came in from an airshow one night and found that she had built her first invention—a toy version of her father’s plane. From then on, her father provided her with tools and opportunities to build and learn. Soon she took over as chief mechanic on her father’s flight team. It was three days after Gadget’s eighteenth birthday at the seventh annual Trans-World challenge where Geegaw took off, never to be heard from again. His course took him over the Bermuda Triangle, and he joined the ranks of the pilots to disappear in its mysterious maw.

       Gadget looked confused. "But that’s not the way it happened! Dad was killed when his plane exploded and crashed off the coast of Hawaii."
        "Looks like that must be our target in time! Klordane’s henchman must have arranged your father’s death," Chip said.
        "That…that butcher!" Gadget said. "I’ll give him what he deserves!"
        "And what might that be, my dear?" Klordane said, appearing from around the corner. "Really, you must do a better job of concealing your security overrides. I see you’ve changed sides. Pity you chose the wrong one!"
        Klordane move aside to allow Nimnul to use his weapon—a modified version of his weather machine converted into a rifle. Lightning bolts sought out the diminutive team.
        "Come on!" Gadget shouted. "This way!"
        Gadget ran for the far side of the holding area, the rest of the group in tow and Nimnul right behind. Gadget quickly tapped out a sequence on her wrist communicator. A small hidden door opened in front of them.
        "Look out!" Chip yelled, as another lightning bolt came their way. The last of the bunch made it through and the door shut as the evil professor caught up.
        Nimnul boiled over in frustration. "Blast! She’s made an escape for herself. Well, no one escapes Norton Nimnul!"
        "Easy, my dear professor," Klordane said. "She can’t go far, and she won’t get away. Everything is in hand."
        Gadget led the group through a maze of secret corridors that eventually came out at her quarters. Everyone took a breather while Gadget checked the security board.
        "Good, he hasn’t found us yet. I can stay ahead of Klordane for a while, but I’m sure he’s got something cooked up," Gadget said.
        "We’ve got to escape here and go back to make things right in your timeline!" Chip said. "How long until the portal activates, Basil?"
        Basil checked a small timer that the other Gadget had provided for them. "I’d say about twenty minutes, now. It will be close this time."
        "We've got another problem," Chip said. "We'll also need a scrambler badge to disable the time machine of the henchman."
        Chip suddenly felt woozy, and fell back against the couch. Gadget came over to him immediately.
        "What is it, Chip?" Gadget asked.
        Chip looked at his bracelet. "I think our time is running out. These bracelets only give us about a week’s duration outside of normal time, then we die."
        Basil sat down too. "I didn’t want to say anything to Arianna, but I knew our time was getting short. Gadget, how are Klordane and Nimnul surviving? They’ve been out of normal time far longer than the duration?"
        Gadget's eyes lit up. "Hold on!" Gadget said, slipping on her ninja uniform once again. "I’ll be back in five minutes!"
        Basil and Chip could only look at each other and wonder. Still, Gadget was back at the appointed time. She had five small devices.
        "These are temporal stabilizers that Klordane brought back from the future. I took them out of his spares and shrunk them with the Gigantico gun. Clip them on to your bracelets," Gadget said.
        Everyone did so, and at once Chip was feeling better. "Nice of Klordane to give us a reprieve. Did you have any problems getting them?"
        Gadget smirked and held up her electroshock gloves. "Not really. A couple of guards tried to stop me, but I was too stunning for them."
        Basil looked at the cufflink-sized device on his bracelet. "And how much of a reprieve are we getting? A week, a month?"
        "As long as they work and you’re wearing them, they’re permanent," Gadget replied. Then Gadget put the fifth one on. "And I’m coming with you!"
        Chip felt the panic returning. "Gadget, I’d love to have you along, but are you sure that’s right?"
        Gadget’s voice was immediately a mix of desperation and anger. "I’m not staying here! It’s too risky anyway. Look, you’ll get your Gadget back when you change things."
        Chip gulped. He knew he was in a bind. "I…I don’t think it’s such a good idea, Gadget."
        "What!?" Gadget shouted. "I’m risking my neck for you! Don’t you think I deserve something better than this?"
        Basil knew Chip was in over his head. "My dear, certainly you do. But let us be fair—you weren’t meant to be at all, at least not this way. You were supposed to be part of a team, a team that fought for the right and made a difference."
        "But I am here! I’m real, as real as you are!" Gadget pleaded. "I want to live. He loves me!"
        "No, he loves the Gadget he’s known. You’re taking advantage of the situation for your own gain. That’s not the Gadget you know, is it Chip?" Basil asked.
        Gadget looked at him in near-hysteria. Chip looked at her, but knew there was only one thing he could say. "No, she’s not."
        "Well, then I’ll give up my name! I’ll become someone else. I just want to live!" Gadget said.
        "You can’t cheat fate, Gadget," Basil said. "Your place is here in this universe. If you really love him, you’ll let him go. After all, he let go of his Gadget. Now you have to let him go so he can get her back."
        If one thing was consistent between the Gadgets in the two timelines, it was conscience. She couldn’t stand it any longer—she knew he was right. She fell to the floor, crying.
        "I’m sorry, Chip! I was trying to use you to get out of here. It’s been so long since I’ve been around anyone good…I don’t know what’s right anymore!" Gadget said.
        Chip came over and hugged her. "I think you do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be on the floor now. I’ll always cherish the time we had here, but I have to be true to the Gadget I know."
        "Thank you, at least for that," Gadget said. "Maybe..maybe it will work out between the two of you before it’s over."
        "Who can say? I’m just glad I got to meet you, too," Chip said.
        Gadget hugged him tight again as everyone stood by and watched.
        Suddenly, Basil noticed something. "Gadget, you aren’t wearing your goggles."
        "What goggles? I’ve never owned any," Gadget said.
        Chip looked confused. "But your counterpart in our universe was never without hers! Did your father have a pair of flight goggles, separate pieces connected by a leather strap?"
        Gadget thought about it. "Well, he did have goggles, but they were a single piece. I’ve never even met anyone with goggles like that. Are you sure?"
        "Absolutely!" Chip said. "But if your father didn’t have them, who did?"
        "I guess we’ll find out," Basil said. "Gadget, is there a safe way out of here?"
        Gadget was still studying the board. "The answer to that is maybe and how good do you fight?"
        Dale pulled on his red cowl. "All right, a fight! Let’s take ‘em down!"
        Foxglove shushed him. "Not so loud! They could be right outside the door!"
        Gadget put the security board on automatic. "I’ve set it so we can slip past the normal security protocols without being detected. However, we’ve got a problem."
        "What’s that?" Chip asked.
        Gadget pointed her thumb back at the main screen. "We’re not going to be alone."
        Already, the staff that had previously been under Gadget’s command was looking for her and the other intruders. Sovereign Squad had been sent directly to Gadget’s quarters, but it took them a while to circumvent the security lockouts. Finally they had made it to her door.
        "Break it in!" commanded Warrick, the squad leader.
        In a few moments, the door was nothing but splinters.
        "Commander, no one is here!" a lieutenant reported.
        Warrick surveyed the room. "She must have used the secret escape route. No matter. Aggressor Squad and Devastator Squad are in position in the tunnels. Aggressor, Devastator, this is Warrick."
        Momentarily, Warrick’s wrist radio came to life. "Devastator Squad, Benson here. No sign of them in the north tunnel, over. Aggressor Squad, Davis here. They aren’t in the east tunnel either. Continuing search, over."
        Warrick’s frown got larger. She wasn’t in either of the tunnels! But how? Unless she'd planned ahead for this…
        Chip was amazed at the amount of equipment Gadget had managed to fit into such a small area. She had indeed planned ahead for treachery, just as Klordane had warned her to do. Gadget had made a secret repository, separately powered and well-hidden from the rest of the base. She could still monitor outside actions from here, and the tools and supplies would allow her and anyone else to stay for days.
        "Let me get to work on that badge you need. How long do you have?" Gadget asked.
        "About fourteen minutes now," Basil said. "Will that be long enough?"
        Gadget was already pulling parts together. Fortunately, the book Chip wrote had included a schematic of the badge. "We’ll see. I should have something ready for you by then."
        Chip wasn’t exactly thrilled by the "S" word appearing just now. He needed a distraction and fortunately Foxglove gave him one.
        "Chip, now that we have a few minutes, would you mind reading my entry in the book? I’d like to know if we….if I did the right thing," Foxglove said.
        Chip understood her concerns all too well. There was no guarantee that their decision to leave Foxglove with the Porches was the right decision. Still it had seemed right at the time. Chip opened the book and leafed through to a certain page….

               "Foxglove Fairmont—Foxglove lost her parents to a cave-in when she was only five years old. When her uncle Bedivere also died, a kind group of strangers took her from her home in Carlsgood Caverns to San Francisco to start a new life. She was under the care of Robert and Evelyn Porch for ten years, until their tragic death in a minor earthquake that collapsed the underpass they had used for cover.
        Foxglove refused further foster care and set out on her own. She drifted for over a year, and then met Winifred—the cleaning lady who attempted to become a witch. Foxglove had been so desperate for attention, that she soon fell in with the designing woman and her henchmen Bud and Lou.
        It was almost four years to the day after that when Foxglove first ran literally into Dale. We’d needed a night off and Dale had suggested the movies. I was going to profess my love to Gadget when Gummy Dummy had to get the hiccups and ruin it all! I did forgive him after, especially when Foxglove came along. It finally made it possible for Gadget and I to spend some time together and find out about ourselves.
        Foxglove is still a member of the Golden Ranger Squad, and assists in training new recruits.

               "So I lose another family! Life is so unfair!" Foxglove said, starting to cry.
        Dale comforted her. "Hey, but you still have me! Doesn’t she?"
        Chip nodded. "You’ve been married for about a year in our timeline."
        "There!" Gadget said. "It’s all ready!"
        "So soon?" Basil asked.
        Gadget handed the badge over. "Well, the construction’s pretty basic, and I had all the parts right here. We’d better get going. You’ve only got about five minutes."
        After checking to make sure the corridor was clear, the group exited the secret chamber. No one spoke as Gadget led the way out of the east corridor into the night. They gained the bushes outside and waited for the portal.
        "There you are!" Warrick shouted. "Attack!"
        From out of nowhere, a dozen mice in black ninja suits appeared. Gadget and Dale stepped forward, ready to counter. The rest took up a fighting stance.
        Then they came. Chip had his hands full—he’d done some back-street fighting in his day, but ninjas were another matter. He took a chop to the ribs and one to the shoulder that nearly knocked him out. Then the ninja fell!
        It was Gadget who’d done it. She had prepared for this contingency too, and the nunchucks she’d hidden in her ninja suit were in full use. Still, the numbers were a problem, even for her—and she’d trained most of these mice!
        Then suddenly the area was filled with crimson smoke. Three mice when down immediately, and Dale laughed in the night. "Evildoers beware….the Red Phantom haunts the night!"
        Chip had to admit, it was an impressive sight. But then another sight caught his eye. The portal! It had just opened fifty feet from them. Only another five minutes to get there…
        "Have at you!" Dale said, brandishing his sword. The ninja Dale was fighting good with a katana, but not nearly so good as Dale was with a rapier. Soon, another ninja was down.
        Basil was holding his own, especially with Foxglove’s help. His knowledge of Baritsu was coming in handy and proved effective on the attackers. Foxy was dropping whatever she could find on the ninjas and distracting them. Then they were joined first by Gadget and then by Dale as they finished off their opponents. Soon all the ninjas were dispatched and everyone ran for the portal.
        "A minute and half! Let’s go!" Basil said.
        "Wait!" Gadget shouted. "Chip, I know I can’t go with you, but I want to say goodbye. I think you owe me that."
        Chip glanced at Basil and he nodded. The others stepped through the portal, leaving them alone.
        "Chip, I want you to know that you made a real difference in my life, and I hope you make a bigger one, if you know what I mean," Gadget said.
        Chip nodded. "We’ll straighten this thing out, one way or another. I just don’t know what to do when things go back to normal. You’ve opened a door for me in a way, but I don’t know if I’m ready."
        Gadget came to him and kissed him for the last time. The night wind stirred her hair as she stirred his heart. "You’ll know what to do. Just remember in any case there is a Gadget out there that loves you."
        The tears were coming from two sets of eyes as Gadget escorted Chip over to the portal. She hugged him one more time, and then let him go. He looked back once more at her beautiful face, then stepped through. As if it had been waiting for him, the portal closed just after.
        "I’d give my life to save yours, Chip. And I probably have," Gadget said to herself.
        "You’ve betrayed me for the last time!" Klordane said, running down the front stairs of the building. Nimnul was right with him. "Now you’ll learn what happens to those who double-cross me!"
        Gadget knew she probably didn’t have a chance, but life is a precious thing after all. She ran back for the bushes, jumping as Nimnul loosed his lightning gun on her. One big set of flashes and it was over.
        Klordane laughed only as a criminal can as he told Nimnul to bring the body back to him. Nimnul went over to the area in question. After a minute, he stood up.
        "She’s not here! It’s impossible, but she’s not here!" Nimnul cried out.
        Klordane was seeing red. "What!? She couldn’t have made it back to the escape door she used. It’s too far away!"
        Nimnul put on his infrared goggles and searched further. "There’s no heat signature in the area! If she ran off, there would be something. It’s like she just vanished into quantum elements!"
        Klordane grabbed Nimnul by the collar and shook it, finding nothing better to take his anger out on. "I swear, I’ll find that little traitor and when I do, she’ll rue the day she was born!"
        Arianna breathed a sigh of relief as the bruised but triumphant group made their made into the cozy London home. "Oh, Basil! The timer ran out and I thought you were not coming back this time!"
        Basil hugged his bride-to-be. "There now, darling. You know I’ll always come back. Can’t miss my wedding, after all!"
        "Oh, you two are going to be married?" Foxglove asked. "That’s wonderful!"
        "I think so," Arianna said, smiling at Basil. "Now, what did you learn?"
        Chip showed Arianna the book. "More than enough. Now we have the upper hand!"
        "Don’t get overconfident, Chip," Basil warned. "He still has quite a bit of resources at his disposal. So far, we’ve been very fortunate to escape with our lives. Very fortunate indeed."
        Arianna took the book and began making the destination changes on the time machine. Chip began to reflect on Basil’s words. They had been fortunate. They’d figured out Klordane’s plan, tracked down the other Rangers and thwarted Klordane at every turn so far. So why didn’t Chip feel good about that?
        Was it Gadget? No, it wasn’t just that. Basil saw Chip ruminating on the couch and came over.
        "It feels too easy, doesn’t it?" Basil asked.
        Chip started at that. "How did you know that was what I was thinking!?"
        Basil sat next to him. "I’ve thought it many times before, lad. It’s the bane of every detective to second-guess what’s going on. Do you sense a trap?"
        Chip shook his head. "It’s not that. But it’s like—I don’t know—it’s like fate is dealing in our favor or something!"
        Basil leaned back and closed his eyes. "I’ve been there too. I must admit it looks like we’re getting help from somewhere. But if so, who? And why?"
        Arianna interrupted the boys’ bull session. "The machine is ready. I am just relieved it has not had any problems so far. We have been quite fortunate."
        Basil and Chip shared a smile, and gathered up the others. Dale and Foxglove had been off in one corner, sharing a quiet moment. Dale grabbed a sandwich from the tray that Jenkins had brought in for them.
        "Got to keep our strength up! So where’s the next destination?" Dale asked.
        Arianna activated the machine. "It appears you are going to San Francisco again. This time it is two years back from when you Rangers first met Gadget, or 12 years from your own "present".
        "Whoa, let me write this down!" Dale chided.
        Arianna chuckled. "Worry not, Dale. You should arrive near the airfield. Do you have another badge?"
        Chip pulled it out of his pocket. "The Gadget in the other timeline made it for us. She was…very helpful."
        Basil knew Chip was about to reminisce, and he also knew they didn’t have time for it. "Let’s go, lad. Time’s wasting!"
        "I am sure whatever you did, it was the right thing Chip. You are a good person," Arianna said.
        Chip hugged her. "Thanks, Arianna. Okay, let’s go!"
        It was dawn at the airfield. The red, white and blue streamers had been put up the night before in anticipation of the Trans-world Challenge. There were a few pilots out already, checking over their planes before the round-the-globe flight began.
        "Oh, look! An old Stearman!" Dale said. "My dad and I used to watch those old planes fly in at the air shows."
        There were fifteen model planes in all, of all shapes and sizes. The Stearman biplane was the oldest, but there were model sizes of the P-51 Mustang, a P-38 Lightning, several cargo planes and even someone’s attempt at the Batplane!
        Amid all of that, Chip recognized what he had been looking for. Two mice were checking over a model of a Douglas SBD Dauntless. One was very familiar to him. The other he’d always wanted to meet.
        "The points need replacin’ Geegaw!" Monty shouted. "You still haven’t given the ol’ Eagle the overhaul she needs, ‘specially after that last trip."
        A grease-laden mouse in coveralls came out from under the plane. Geegaw Hackwrench was all business when it came to flying—except when he was flying. He came out and put his hands on his hips.
        Geegaw stared him down. "Now Monty, who exactly was it that promised the King of the Shanti tribe a full loaf of cheesebread for their secret cheese recipe? Who was it that conned my daughter into flying him down there? Who was it that nearly got her eaten by hyenas? Hmmmm?"
        Monty looked sheepish. "Aw now Geegaw! That was over a year ago! I’ve apologized up and down for ya! What else do you want me to do!?"
        "How about get a little common sense under that Australian noggin of yours?" Geegaw shot back.
        Chip had to smile at the exchange, and now he had one of his great unanswered questions answered indirectly. He walked up to the arguing duo.
        "Uh, excuse me? Is this where the big flyoff is happening?" Chip asked.
        "Well it ain’t the Miss America pageant!" Monty said, laughing.
        Geegaw came over and shook Chip’s hand. "You’ll have to pardon my partner here. He’s one slice short of a wedge. I’m Geegaw Hackwrench. And you are?"
        "Chip. Chip Maplewood. These are my friends," Chip said.
        Introductions went all around, and then Chip started guiding the conversation again. "Seems like a pretty small flight team. You need help getting ready?"
        "Thanks anyway, but my daughter Gadget should be along anytime now. Say, maybe you’d like to meet her," Geegaw said.
        "Trying to match that girl up again, eh?" Monty asked.
        Chip blushed and Geegaw laughed again. "She hardly ever leaves the airfield! She needs to get out and see the world every now and again. Besides, this lad looks like a nice clean chap."
        Chip was more than amused on the inside at what was going on. Still, he couldn’t ignore the irony of it—Geegaw trying to set him up on a date with Gadget!
        "Ah, here she comes now. She’s quite a looker, isn’t she?" Geegaw asked.
        It was like seeing her for the first time again. Gadget was a little younger than he remembered, but then again, she was! The eyes…the face…the hair—all the same.
        "And how!" Chip said, out of sentiment.
        "You’d better get over here, lass! You pa’s trying to hook you up again!" Monty yelled out.
        "Oh, dad! I can get a date if I want to!" Gadget shouted, as she approached.
        Geegaw was enjoying the game. "But you never want to! You spend too much time cooped up in that little workshop of yours. Come and say hello anyway."
        Gadget tromped around the plane, not liking being ordered around any more than any teenager. She offered her hand. "You’ll have to excuse dad. He’s always trying to run my life. Oh, I’m Gadget by the way."
        Chip shook at, staring at her. "And I’m Chip. This is Basil, Dale and Foxglove."
        Gadget gave them a brief greeting, then turned to the plane. "Did you replace the points?"
        "Just about to, luv. We’re in final check now," Monty said.
        Gadget jumped up on the fuselage. "You know better than that, Monty! I’ll check it from stem to stern. No way I’m letting dad go without a complete checkover. Otherwise, he’s flying the Screaming Eagle!"
        Geegaw came over and patted his daughter on the shoulder. "You’re the best airline mechanic around, Gadget. Oh, would you reach behind the seat and check that the parachute’s there?"
        Gadget did so, and realized there was something besides the parachute.
        Geegaw was all smiles. "Happy late birthday, dearest! I really wanted to be here on the first, but it took a while to pull this old lady out of mothballs."
        Gadget opened the package. "Flight goggles!"
        "Only the best made, dearest. They’re hand-made, designed after the ones your grandfather used in the Great War," Geegaw said.
        "Your father flew in the First World War?" Chip asked.
        Geegaw showed a knowing smile. "Sure! Haven’t you heard of old "Dust ‘em up" Hackwrench? My dad loved planes—runs in the blood I guess. Well, he’d adopted a human pilot and went along for many a mission with him. Saved his life, too!"
        "Here it comes—the ollllld melon rind story…" Gadget said, her head fully under the bonnet of the engine.
        "Anyway…" Geegaw said with mock annoyance, "Horatio Hackwrench was born in England. He joined up with the Royal Flying Corps and a human named Arthur Underwood. One day, they were flying over the Somme and who should get on their tail but the Red Baron’s own brother, Lothar Richthofen!"
        Everyone was listening intently now, save Gadget. "Arthur zigged and zagged, doing whatever he could to shake the German ace, but it was no good. Richthofen fired and Arthur’s Camel was taking a good many hits. It looked hopeless, but then my father grabbed up the melon rind that Underwood and he had been eating. It was still full of seeds. He took and threw every bit of it into the propellers. The blades chopped it up and sent seeds flying at Richthofen! He didn’t know what it was and it shook him up so much that he broke off the attack."
        "The boy had a quick mind," Basil said.
        "That he did!" Geegaw agreed. "He was the first in the family to invent things, as far as I know. I’m not much of one myself, but Gadget sure got Horatio’s skill!"
        Basil was doing his best not to show his emotions at talking to his own grandson. "And yourself, how did you get into flying?"
        Geegaw laughed softly as he led them over to the hangar. "Oh, my dad always encouraged me. He built a gas-powered Jenny and flew it for years. Then he built a few more and started a flying school. Even after he and mom died in a plane crash, I couldn’t stop. I’d sooner give up breathing than flying. We Hackwrenches tend to be a bit compulsive."
        Geegaw went into the hangar to change and Basil sat down on an old pile of tires while Chip and the others kept him company.
        "So is he really your grandson?" Foxglove said.
        Basil shrugged. "As far as I know! But I must admit, if I were to have a son I would have named him after my father."
        "Your father’s name was Horatio too?" Dale asked.
        Basil nodded. "Yes, it was a popular name at the time. His brother was named Nelson. They were shipbuilders in Liverpool. We’ve always had our hands in building things."
        Geegaw returned from the hangar, now dressed in his normal flight outfit. He put on his monogrammed scarf and artfully threw it around his neck. "Looks like good weather today. We’ve got a good month of flying ahead of us, what with all the checkpoints, et cetera. I’m sure old Dartboard will crash his iron horse as usual."
        Everyone crowded around Geegaw. That was only natural, since he had one of those natural personalities that attracts people. No one was a stranger to him, and no story of his had ever been told enough. He pulled out his flight map.
        "We’ll be going west to east this time. Stops in the Hawaiian Islands, Fiji, New Guinea, Australia—I’m dropping Monty off there--, Africa, France, the West Indies, then Florida and finally back here. 32 days, hopefully," Geegaw said.
        Chip realized he had another opportunity to answer a different question. "Geegaw, is Gadget her real name?"
        Geegaw laughed out loud. "Of course not! She got that name from the time when she took an engine apart and put it back together in less than 30 minutes. I’d taken her to the Flying Tigers club—that’s a club for people who’ve flown over ten thousand hours. It was a bet, see, and when it’s her skills in question she can’t resist a bet. She took home four hundred dollars from the guys at the Flying Tigers club. Then one of them came up and shook my daughter’s hand. ‘I don’t know what your name is, but with that kind of know-how it should be Gadget!’ Well, everyone laughed and congratulated her and the name stuck."
        "So what’s her real name?" Chip asked.
        Geegaw checked to make sure they were out of earshot. "Well, mind you she doesn’t like the name at all, but it’s Arianna."
        Everyone gasped.
        "I know, not much of a name. You tend to pick up handles in the aviation circuit. My real name is Arthur by the way, after that pilot. I got my handle from spending so much time in planes! Anyway, when I found out what my real last name was from the adoption agency, I couldn’t resist doing a little research. I was on tour anyhow, so when I reached England I looked up the records. Seems I was related to a famous detective over there. I liked his wife’s name so much, I passed it on to my daughter," Geegaw said.
        "Have you ever told Gadget about her ancestors?" Basil asked.
        Geegaw shook his head. "Not yet. She’s not the type to be interested in genealogy. I’ll get around to telling her one of these days. Say, your name’s Basil, too. You’re British?"
        "Born and bred, so we say. It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Geegaw. I’m sure your ancestry is proud of you," Basil said, offering his hand.
        Geegaw took it warmly. "Well, I’ll say this. You’re about as good an Englishman as I’ve met. Maybe we’ll meet again someday."
        "Maybe. Until then, sir," Basil said.
        Geegaw watched his grandson head for the plane, knowing he wasn’t coming back. Chip had a wistful look on his face, too.
        "I only got to meet him for a short time…" Basil started.
        "But it’s like you’ve known him all your life?" Chip finished.
        "Exactly. It’s a good feeling to know that your descendents will carry on well after you’ve left the mortal coil. He’ll die doing what he loved best. Flying," Basil said.
        Suddenly, Chip’s gut told him something was amiss. He couldn’t put his finger on it right away but nevertheless it was there, gnawing at him. However, it was Dale who noticed the problem first.
        "Say, why are those chipmunks checking the plane over again?" Dale asked.
        Everyone went over, to find that it was a final safety inspection.
        "See? It wasn’t anything. But where’s Klordane’s man? The flight takes off soon. I’m sure they have to try something here," Chip said.
        The coverall-clad chipmunks checked the plane over. "You check out a-okay, Mr. Hackwrench. Your fuel’s topped off and you’re ready to roll," the chief inspector said.
        "Time to hit the silk!" Geegaw said.
        Gadget came over and hugged him hard. "Promise me you’ll come back!"
        "Now dearest, there’s no sense in making a pie-crust promise. You know that. I’ll keep my eyes peeled and my flaps down and hope for the best. You know where my medals are? And the will? And the insurance?" Geegaw asked.
        "Don’t even make me think about it!" Gadget shouted. Still, Geegaw wouldn’t move until she nodded.
        Geegaw kissed her goodbye. "There’s a good lass! Now, you’ll keep the light on for me won’t you? You know that’s what pulls me though."
        Gadget wiped the tears away. "Oh, dad! You know I will."
        Geegaw locked her eyes in his vision. "I love you, dearest. Always remember."
        "I will, dad," Gadget said.
        Finally, there was nothing more to be said. Geegaw and Monty got in the plane. The Dauntless fired up right away. The propwash pushed everyone back out of range. The plane started taxiing. Then it hit Chip.
        The gas! Why would they need to check the gas? Unless…
        "Gadget! We’ve got to stop them! Someone’s sabotaged the fuel tank!" Chip shouted.
        "What!? Are you sure?" Gadget shouted over to noise of the other planes.
        "Yes! We’ve got to catch up to them!" Chip shouted. "We can’t let them take off!"
        Geegaw was back in his element. The vibration of the plane taxiing to the runway was like rocking in a cradle to him. "Monty, its been a great twenty years. But after I win this tournament, I think I’m going to finally settle down."
        "Settle down! You? It’d kill ya!" Monty retorted.
        "I’m serious, Monty. I’ve had more adventures than any mouse deserves to live through. I think I’ll come back and open a flight school like my father and turn over the reigns to Gadget. She’s got the makings of a great pilot in her," Geegaw said.
        Geegaw received clearance from the tower and revved the motor. "Let’s do it!"
        The plane surged forward, speeding down the runway. But the plane wasn’t alone.
        "Faster, Gadget. Faster!" Chip shouted.
        Fortunately for them, Gadget had just what they needed. It was a modified car with an airplane engine for power. Needless to say, it really moved. Chip and Dale both had on crash helmets, ready to bail if need be.
        "Say, isn’t that one of the ones who was vistin’ us just now?" Monty asked, pointing to the left.
        It was Foxglove. She’d flown straight for the runway, and now was giving them the "cut engine" sign.
        "I think she wants us to stop," Geegaw said.
        "Uh, Geegaw? We can’t stop! The trees are too close to the runway! If we break now, we’ll hit!" Monty said.
        "We’ll just have to circle around then. Hang on!" Geegaw said, pulling back on the stick.
        The nimble plane shot into the air. Chip watched it go with despair. "What’ll we do now?"
        "Follow them!" Gadget said.
        Suddenly, a pair of wings came out and clamped into place. Chip and Dale hung on for dear life as Gadget pushed the air-car up to speed and pulled back on the steering wheel. They were airborne!
        It took a few moments for the two fliers to notice that they weren’t alone. "What’re those loonies up to?" Monty asked.
        It took only a moment to guess, as Gadget moved under their plane and to their right. She came up slow, and then touched the end of her left wing to theirs. Dale started for the wing, but Chip held him back.
        Dale protested, "Let me go, Chip! My swordfighting lessons include balance. I’m the one who should go!"
        Chip was about to argue, but what for? Dale was right. "Be careful, Red Phantom!" Chip finally answered.
        Dale edged his way out on the wing, clamping down hard on the wing’s edge with his hands and his body in a squat position. The wind sheer was overwhelming, but Dale’s hand strength kept him alive. Soon he’d made his way over. Geegaw opened a small side window.
        "Someone’s messed with your gas tank! I’ll check it out!" Dale said.
        "Just make sure to hang on to something besides the bonnet!" Geegaw said. "It could rip off and take you with it!"
        Dale was careful, and slowly opened the bonnet. Straining with all his might, he held the bonnet with one hand, hooked his foot in a brace and unscrewed the gas cap. There, attached to the bottom was a bomb!"
        Monty and Geegaw’s eyes grew large as they saw what Dale had. The daring young chipmunk peeled off the bomb and replaced the bonnet. He brought the bomb to them.
        "What’s this gizmo attached to it?" Dale shouted.
        "It’s an altitude bomb!" Geegaw shouted back. "If we’d tried to land with that thing in there, the plane would’ve exploded instantly!"
        Dale started shaking. "What’ll I do?"
        Geegaw stared at the indicator on the device. "It’s set to go off at 200 feet. Dale, turn the knob on it counterclockwise so that it reads 1200 feet. That should be pretty safe."
        While Dale adjusted the knob, Geegaw radioed the tower and told them to warn off all aircraft in the area. After the all-clear was given, Geegaw gave Dale the "thumbs-up".
        Dale let the bomb go. Ten seconds later, it exploded in a giant fireball beneath them. First Geegaw, then Monty reached through and shook Dale’s hand.
        "You’re one brave lad!" Geegaw said. "I’ll never forget this!"
        "Me either!" Monty said. "Thanks a million!"
        Geegaw stuck a rope through the window and Dale tied it around himself to ensure safe passage back to Gadget’s plane. He made it back with no difficulty, and Gadget, Chip and Dale waved good-bye to the two adventurers.
        "Happy landings!" Geegaw said, turning his plane to the west.
        As Gadget flew the air-car back, Chip was already on the lookout for the chipmunks that planted the bomb. Sure enough, they were on the ground alongside a human.
        "They must have seen the bomb go off! Gadget, head for that human!" Chip said.
        "You got it, Chip! Hang on!" Gadget said.
        The man, Barney by name, had indeed seen the explosion. He’d also seen the amazing escape Geegaw had made. Now he’d have to report back to Klordane!
        Basil and Foxglove had missed the main action, but with good reason. Basil had needed Foxglove to help with rewiring the time machine. They’d found it behind several 50-gallon drums.
        "That’s got it, Foxglove!" Basil said. "Now all we need is Chip and that scrambler badge."
        "Oh, no! Here comes the human!" Foxglove said.
        It was going to be a race. Barney was making a break for it, and the air-car was closing in fast. "We’ve got to get this badge on that machine before he leaves!" Chip shouted.
        Gadget tapped him on the shoulder. She handed him a plunger gun. "You’ll only get one shot, but it’s better than nothing!"
        Barney had reached the time machine and was switching it on. The portal opened.
        "Golly, what’s that!?" Gadget said.
        "Keep going!" Chip ordered.
        Just as the machine started to be pulled into the portal, Chip fired. It was a desperation shot, but the plunger flew straight and true. The magnetic badge clinked onto the machine’s body just as it started through.
        "Aieeeeeee!" Barney shouted, though the portal's closing stifled the shout.
        Gadget landed the plane and turned to Chip. "All right, what is all this? Where’d he go? And how did you know they sabotaged my dad’s plane?"
        Basil and Foxglove ran up as Gadget was starting the interrogation. Chip looked to Basil for help. "Will it hurt to tell her?"
        "I don’t see how. When the timeline reverts to normal she won’t remember any of this," Basil said.
        Gadget was getting impatient. "Timeline? What are you talking about?"
        Chip took Gadget’s hand. "Gadget, we’re from the future."
        "The future?" Gadget replied in disbelief.
        "And the past," Basil said.
        "And alternate timelines," Dale added.
        Chip caught her attention again. "We came to this time and place to save your father and restore your timeline. I know this sounds crazy, but a future enemy of ours altered the timeline."
        Gadget had a look of disbelief on her face, but finally nodded. "Well, I did see that human disappear, so I guess there’s something to what you’re saying. What happened to him, anyway?"
        "We think he’ll end up with the rest of the henchmen we’ve stopped near an island in the Pacific," Basil said. "We couldn’t be sure."
        "So are you and I married in the future or something?" Gadget asked Chip.
        "Nope, just good friends. We’re part of a team called the Rescue Rangers. We help the helpless and fight for good," Chip answered.
        A faint smile brushed across Gadget’s face. "I like the sound of that. Well, I guess you’ve got work to do, so don’t let me keep you!"
        It was then that Chip did a double take. "Basil? If we just corrected Gadget’s timeline, shouldn’t everything be back to normal?"
        Basil stared at him. "You’re forgetting something, Chip. We’ve corrected everyone’s timeline, save one."
        Chip actually had to think for a moment. Then it hit him. "Ohmigosh! Mine!"
        "You mean Klordane affected your life, too?" Foxglove asked. "But how? You’re here!"
        Basil thought for a moment. "It’s true that he’s here, but what if Klordane altered the lives of one of Chip’s ancestors? That would account for it."
        Chip looked confused. "But which one? How are we to know?"
        Basil raised his eyebrows. "Well, look at it this way. We’ve got a lot of time to find out."

        In the warm waters of the Pacific, near the island of Tonga, a flashing light signaled the opening of a portal. Barney screamed as he fell fifteen feet into the ocean. As the time machine sank like a rock, Barney’s survival instincts kicked in and he swam for shore. Half an hour later, he was spitting up briny and hugging coastline. He was far from alone.
        "I can’t believe they got us all!" Fat Cat said. "What a bunch of dunderheads!"
        One of the goons came over and stared him down. "Well, you’re in good company, aren’t you kitty cat?"
        Fat Cat tried to sound jovial. "Now fellows, I’m sure we can find a way off this island and back to civilization! After all, ship and planes come through the trade waters all the time!"
        "Look, a ship!" Percy said.
        Everyone ran toward the water. Then they stopped short. It was a ship all right, with the name H.M.S. Bounty on it. Knowing there was no other way back, the men and cat took off their bracelets and disappeared.
        "Mister Christian, I thought you said you saw some men on that beach!" Captain Bligh said.
        "I did, sir. They just vanished, sir!" Christian said.
        "I know what you’re up to. You want extra shore leave before we reach Fiji. Well, you won’t get one minute, you mutinous dog!" Bligh retorted.
        Christian went below, thinking of all the ways he could make Bligh disappear like those rapscallions he’d seen….

        Gadget slowly opened her eyes. It took a moment to realize that she was not in the White House garden anymore. Where was this? The room was small, but cozy. There was a fireplace, tea on a round wooden table and some biscuits. She ate hungrily and then looked outside. Snow! Was she going mad?
        "Ah, I see you’ve awakened," a voice said. "Welcome."
        Gadget was about to ask who he was when the front door opened and another mouse came in. This one took off a coat and hood and smiled at her.
        Gadget was in shock. "No! It can’t be you!"
        Then she fainted.

        Another table was setting for tea as well. This time it was at Arianna’s, where everyone was resting after a wearying set of days.
        "I suggest we all get some sleep, now that we can," Basil said. "We’re all exhausted."
        Jenkins showed everyone to their rooms. Chip couldn’t sleep though. He was anticipating the adventure to come. A soft knock at the door announced Arianna.
        "Are you all right, Chip?" Arianna asked.
        "As good as I can be, I suppose," Chip said.
        Arianna came in and sat on the bed. "I know it has been a harrowing time for you, but you are close to victory now."
        Chip hung his head down. "I don’t think so. You see, I don’t even know who my parents really are," Chip said.
        "You were adopted?" Arianna asked.
        "No, not that. They died when I was a baby. My grandfather kept me until I was old enough to take care of myself. I always did consider him and grandma my parents, though."
        Arianna studied him. "So now you may get a chance to meet your real parents. You are afraid, are you not?"
        "Yeah. I’m afraid I won’t meet up to their expectations," Chip said. "You see, my dad was a leader like me. He and mom died while helping with relief work in South America."
        "Did they work as volunteers?" Arianna asked.
        "No, and grandpa would never get too specific on just what it was they did do. They were involved in some kind of official organization, but he made it clear I was never supposed to ask," Chip said.
        "So you are also worried they will not meet up to your standards," Arianna said.
        Chip nodded. "Exactly."
        Arianna hugged him. "Chip, I think you will be better off for knowing! If Gadget had turned out to be evil, I would still have wanted to know her. I am glad she was good though, and that she has such good friends."
        Chip had to smile at that. "Thanks, ma’am."
        "You call me Arianna or I will steal your hat!" the British adventuress said.
        Chip gave her the smile she'd wanted. "Arianna it is. Good night," Chip said, blowing out the light.
        "Good night, Chip," Arianna said, closing the door.
        Soon, the chipmunk leader of the Rescue Rangers was dreaming, this time of a better day and place. He was dreaming of Gadget and the first time they’d met. Chip was at peace, for a few hours of the night....

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 Six
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine