The Day Dale Became Smart
Zipper buzzed back to the RangerWing. He indicated he'd seen nothing.
"Keep looking, Zipper!" Gadget said. "He’s got to be out there!"
Foxglove was glad she had echolocation, because the tears in her eyes were making it hard to see. "Please be all right, Dale. Please."
Dale was far from all right though. Though it depended strictly at the moment on whose side one rallied for. "We don't destroy them, we reduce their intellect to that of your worthless henchmen, so that even Mole and Mepps could be mental match for them. Hahahaha!" Dale said.
More insidious laughter echoed in the dome, and more lightning strokes flashed. Dale paced back and forth. "For far to long they have tormented me and mocked me for my feeblemindedness. Now they shall know what it is like!"
Mepps was totally lost. "Like what, Boss?"
Dale caught Fat Cat’s look. "Allow me."
"Like being a simpleton, like yourself!" Fat Cat shouted.
"Oh, that's good Boss...." Mepps said, and fell over.
Zipper signaled all clear ahead. Chip waved back at him. "Keep a look out Zipper! He's got to be up there somewhere!" Chip said. Zipper saluted and buzzed off again.
Gadget looked up from her machine’s monitor. "Uh, Chip, do you think that Dale will try to harm us?"
Chip had been thinking that possibility over too. ‘I dunno, Gadget--before today it wouldn't have entered my mind."
"It's all like a bad dream, it is--jus' hope it don't turn into a real nightmare...." Monty added.
Suddenly Foxglove pointed ahead. "Something's happening up there!"
A large device altered its direction and pointed itself directly at the RangerWing.
"That don't look good, mates," Monty said.
Chip pulled the wheel hard. "Retreat!" Before Chip can maneuver out of the way, the RangerWing is seized by some sort of power.
"Tractor beam!" Gadget shouted.
"Zippah, Foxy...save yerselves!" Monty said. Zipper steadfastly refused.
"If you go, I go!" Foxy said adamantly.
Chip tried every control to no effect. "Gadget, can you do anything about this?!"
"I'm sorry Chip! We're all full power now! I'm going to have to shut down," Gadget said, turning the switch off.
"Gadget, how can you think about sleeping at a time like this?!" Foxglove asked.
Gadget's reply went unheard, as Nimnul's voice came over a loudspeaker. "At last-at long, long last I've got you in my clutches! And you have an old friend of yours to thank for it!"
Foxglove didn’t want to believe it. "NO!!!!"
Nimnul laughed scornfully. "But let me give you the honor of hearing his voice yourselves....."
Dale’s voice was calm, yet tinged with excitement. "So-called friends, today is the beginning of New York's first multi-species crime syndicate! You will all have the honor of witnessing its first act of terror."
"No, Dale! You can't!" Chip said.
"My sweetie, a criminal...." Foxy said, lamenting.
"Stripe me starkers!" Monty cried.
Zipper buzzed in amazement.
"Save me your speeches, fearless leader. The time to strike is nigh! We have prepared a special fate for the lot of you…" Dale said. Chip and Dale could now see each other, as the RangerWing had cleared the dome's edge. Chip gasped.
"Fat Cat too! He...he's brought all our greatest enemies together......" Chip said.
Gadget eyes pleaded with her former friend. "Dale, don't do this!"
Dale was unmoved. "You should thank me. I convinced them to savor the moment of revenge rather than have it all at once. At least for now you will all continue to draw breath."
Foxglove tried to free herself from the tractor beam and failed. "Dale, how can you think of doing this? You're turning your back on everyone who loves you!"
Dale looked pained for just an instant, then regained his composure. "Dummy, nitwit, goof-up. Do those sound like endearing names?"
Chip noticed Dale's momentary reaction, as did Fat Cat. "Dale, we're not perfect! I admit that! But we all still love you, even if we don't always show it!" Chip said.
"Such sentimental drivel once would have worked on me, but I grow stronger by the moment," Dale replied.
Nimnul was growing increasingly impatient, as all mad scientists do. "What are we wasting time for? Destroy the vermin!"
Dale walked to the controls of Nimnul's "Desmartification" ray. Chip didn’t really believe that his friend would do it until that moment. Now he knew this might be his last opportunity to say anything. "Dale, if someday you are changed back--I want you to know I forgive you....."
Fat Cat leaned over the console. "Don't listen to him! Do it!"
Dale looked to Fat Cat, then to Chip. "They say you can't really know someone until you've walked a mile in his shoes. This device will let you know what my life has been like." Dale zapped them all but Foxglove. Nimnul grabbed the stunned and horrified Foxglove as she watched and put her in a cage. As the ray began to take effect, Gadget grabbed hold of the RangerWing’s controls.
"Don't worry, Chip! I'll get us out of this with my plunger gun....now where's the control for it?" Gadget asked.
"The plunger? What's a plunger?" Chip asked back.
"Uh, who's flying the plane?" Monty asked.
Chip pushed Gadget’s hands aside. "Lemme fly! Lemme fly!"
Gadget pushed him back. "No fair! It's mine!"
Monty began to shake in fear. "Mate, ain't you flyin' the plane? Zipper, you fly the plane!"
Chip jumped up on the top of his seat. "Stay out of this! It's mine!"
Mepps and the goon squad were totally amazed. "Uh boss? What's happened to them?" Mepps asked.
Nimnul grabbed the plane out of the air and turned it upside down, shaking the Rangers out into a cage.
"I told you before! They've been turned into idiots like you!" Fat Cat said.
"Oh yeah. I forgot," Mepps said apologetically.
Nimnul wrung his hands in fiendish glee. "At last these vermin are in my grasp!"
Gadget looked up at Nimnul with determination. ‘We'll get out of here! I'll just...just...what will I do?"
Chip ignored her. "I don't care! It was my turn to fly!" Chip sat down and moped.
Mole laughed, thoroughly entertained. "They sure sound dumb, Fat Cat!"
"You would notice..." Fat Cat said under his breath.
Monty started jumping around and waving his fists wildly at Nimnul. "Come on, ya big dummy, I kin take you!"
Gadget was totally at a loss. She knew she should know what to do, but she didn’t. "Golly, what do we do now, Chip?"
Chip sat down in huff. "Don't talk to me! I don't like you anymore!"
Fat Cat put his paws on his cheeks, admiringly. "Oh, this is too precious for words!"
Foxglove looked on from her cage. "What have you done to them? What have you done!?"
Dale didn’t look in her direction. "I wanted them to live life through the eyes of Dale."
Foxglove immediately got angry. "You're not doing that! You're getting revenge on them by watching them suffer. How could you?"
Gadget was beginning to panic. Her very sense of well-being was gone. "I'll think of a way out of here....I've got to think of a way out.....I CAN'T THINK OF A WAY OUT!" Gadget fell to her knees and began to cry.
Dale looked on without pity, still talking with Foxglove. "Perhaps it was one bonk too many on the head, or one "Nitwit" or "Goof-up" too many. I don't know-all these years of indignity were too much to hold in."
Chip stood over Gadget, taunting her. "Sissy girl! You'll never get out that way!" Gadget didn’t reply, and kept crying.
Dale had another idea come to mind, and focused his attention on the chipmunk that had been his lifelong friend. "Tell me, Chip. What would Sureluck Jones do in a case like this?"
Chip thought for a moment. And then another. "He'd...oh, I know this he'd....he'd..." Chip's face went blank. "I don't know..." Chip whispered.
Fat Cat looked at Chip in mock sympathy. "Aw, what's the matter? Lose your deductive skills?"
Monty raised his fists at Dale and Fat Cat. "Come down here you pipsqueak and fight me like a man, what are ya afraid of?"
"I don't know," Chip repeated, in normal voice.
Dale emitted a cruel chuckle. "You all have no idea how many times I've dreamed of seeing you like this!"
Chip’s anger was building fast. "I don't know!"
"How does it feel to be a dummy, Chip?" Dale asked.
Nimnul joined in the taunting parade. "Aw, can't figure a way out, ittle man?"
Chip shouted his reply. "I DON'T KNOW!"
"Get used to it, nitwit," Dale said.
Chip was near a state of panic and started shaking. Tears began to form that he desperately wanted to hide but couldn’t. He ran to the far side of the cage. "I don't know...I don't.....I don't....."
Monty jumped up and down, trying to get anyone’s attention. "Wiiiiimp! Why don'tcha come down ere and fight someone yer own size?"
Then Chip grabbed a thought. It was from somewhere in his simplest memories, but it came up like a beacon until it reached his mouth. "But...but Dale, you're my bestest best friend, why?"
Dale winced. He couldn't remember the last time Chip had actually called him his best friend. Chip looked into his eyes expectantly. But still Dale’s heart was unmoved.
"Chip, as of this moment, our friendship is ended," Dale replied.
Chip gasped in horror. "But...but you promised. You promised. YOU PROMISED!" Chip was overcome with emotion and turned away crying. Foxy watched the scene with dismay.
Dale suddenly felt very uncomfortable. "I tire of this. We should secure them for now. We don't want to have all our fun in the first few minutes-remember, we must savor this."
Nimnul smiled toothily. "‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’ You've got a nasty little mind. I like it!" Nimnul used his remote and the Rangers' cage was secured several feet above the floor.
Dale bowed to Nimnul’s praises. "Thank you, I've always wondered what it would be like brilliant. It’s certainly enjoyable."
"Now where were we, before the fun?" Fat Cat mused.
Dale leaped off the controls. "EMP!"
Nimnul laughed heartily. "Ah yes! Global devastation!"
Dale looked to the cage. "Tell me, Gadget, what does the acronym EMP stand for?"
Gadget looked up slightly, her now-bloodshot eyes showing her pain. She tried to mouth a word, but instead returned to her sobbing. Dale's cruel smile faded.
"Yes, global devastation," Dale said, blandly.
Fat Cat could see Dale was getting distracted. "Gentlemen, aren't we forgetting something? The ransom, perhaps?"
Dale returned to his first line of thought. "But by demanding a ransom they can theoretically track it back to us! If we use the EMP to cover our tracks, we could steal anything in Manhattan and the whole city will be so overwhelmed by the disaster they won't be able to do anything to stop us."
"Widespread chaos! My kind of plan!" Nimnul shouted.
Dale held up his hand. "Nimnul, that is your greatest shortcoming! All you want to do is destroy-any fool can destroy. You need a plan or goal to achieve. If you had the world what would you do with it?"
Nimnul looked at Dale like he was stupid for asking the question. "Star in all the television commercials, what else?!"
Dale rolled his eyes and tried to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "Uh, yes. An admirable goal no doubt. When we bring the world to its knees we will certainly see to it that you star in every commercial"
Nimnul pumped his first. "Yes! Air Nimnul, here I come!"
"What a buffoon....." Fat Cat commented.
Dale couldn’t resist, in spite of himself. "Don't forget ‘Time to make the donuts’".
Mole raised his hand. "Could I do that one?"
Mepps jumped up and down. "Yeah, me too!"
Dale smiled in mock excitement. "Why, we could make you the customers!"
"Oh boy!" Mole said.
Dale turned away from them and looked back to the cage. "Nimnul, when we succeed, you can own a whole network if you wish."
Nimnul pointed his blaster at the goon squad and they shut up. "Before these minibrained misanthropes interrupted, we were talking about Manhattan?"
Dale nodded. "We must plan a course of action. What do we want to steal?"
Mole piped up. "Candy?" Fat Cat bonked Mole, then returned his attention to the matter at hand. "Gold, jewels, stocks...."
Dale thought it over. "We should steal enough money to fund our next project. But personally, I have nothing I really desire. Bringing the Rangers to their knees was my ultimate goal-now with that achieved I must decide on a new goal."
Nimnul brightened up. "Wait...I have it! The Global Gold Reserve!"
"For once, you've had a superior idea!" Fat Cat said.
Dale liked the idea. "A beautiful suggestion. It is what brought the three of us together as enemies-now let it bring us together as allies! Perhaps we could set up a Swiss bank account and blackmail other countries with the threat of an EMP in their major cities, after Manhattan."
Nimnul nearly danced with glee. "We can succeed where Klordane failed! Oh, the sweet irony!"
"Let's do it!" Fat Cat said, punching one paw into the other.
Dale shouted up to the cage for effect, "You hear that Rangers! We're going to rob the gold reserve and there's nothing any of you can do to stop us!"
"You let me outta 'ere and I'll show you some stoppin!" Monty challenged.
Dale took up the taunting again. "What's the matter, Monterey? You sound ‘Cheezed.’"
"You promised...." Chip said.
"I can't think....I can't....." Gadget said.
Monty fell over, exhausted from his agitation.
Dale shook his head at him. "Not much fun being stupid is it?"
"You.....promised....." Chip repeated.
Nimnul banged on the cage. "Sounds like a broke record! Promised, promised, promised!"
Dale called Nimnul back over. "We need to plan. We'll need to tunnel under the reserve to plant explosives, and when the blast knocks out their alarms and computers, that will seal the vaults. We can go in and take everything without them being able to stop us! We will need building plans and tunnelers."
"Mole and his subterranean comrades can handle the tunneling," Fat Cat said.
"I can shrink the gold with my Gigantico gun and made the robbery as easy as picking pockets!" Nimnul said, smirking at his genius.
Dale was enjoying his job of leader. "Capital idea, Nimnul! That will make our job much easier, not to mention easier to store our gold once we have it."
Dale looked over to Nimnul’s vintage Albert Einstein clock on the wall. "Perhaps we should break for now, it is getting late. I wish to speak with Foxglove, alone."
Fat Cat stretched. "It's been a long day, but a good one! And tomorrow sounds really peachy....." Fat Cat and his cronies headed back for the cat food factory. Nimnul went off to prepare for the next day’s plundering. Dale walked to Foxglove's cage.
Foxy looked in his eyes, hoping to find anything of the old Dale there. "Dale-cutie-please....stop this madness!" Foxy's eyes pleaded with him.
"How can you say that? A time is coming when none dare oppose me! Even the humans will bow before me. Then I can give you anything you want-the crown jewels of England themselves could adorn you noble brow."
Foxy's head falls to her chest "There's only one thing I want," she said, softly.
"You have but to name it and it will be thine, fair one," Dale said.
Foxy looked into his eyes. "I want the Dale I fell in love with...."
Dale sneered at the idea. "What could you possibly see in him? He was an easily manipulated fool who was nothing more than a doormat to his alleged friends!"
Foxy turned half away. "He was wonderful! He was kind, loyal, gentle, and true..." Foxy's eyes started to fill with tears. "I...I miss him so much....and if you can't...can’t give him back to me..." Foxy starts crying "Then I wish I were DEAD!"
Dale was at once concerned and agitated. "Foxy, don't say that...Argh! Fools, all of you!"
Foxy ran to the bars of the cage and wrapped her wings around them, shaking them. "Where is Dale Oakmont!? What's become of him? Dale, where are you?" Foxy fell to her knees, and the tears took over.
Dale drew himself up to his full height. "The Dale Oakmont you knew is dead-now I, the perfected Dale, stand in his place."
Foxglove looked over at him, and the look was so full of hurt that it struck Dale to the core. "Foxy,...I'm sor..." Dale fell silent and looked away. Foxglove turned away again, alone with her sorrow. Dale walked away in silent frustration.
As he passed through Nimnul's lab, he heard the additional sobbing of the Rangers in their cage. Nimnul looked at the unhappy chipmunk.
"What's on your tiny mind, partner?" Nimnul asked.
Dale tried to shut out the voices. "Oh, just pondering the cruel games that fate plays with our lives."
**I can have the world, but I have no one to share it with,** Dale mused.
Nimnul was oblivious, as usual. "I prefer a good game of Parcheesi myself. Just think, tomorrow will be your debut as a criminal mastermind!" Nimnul said.
Dale snapped out of his preoccupation. "That's right, I had all but forgotten! Perhaps I need some time to prepare. Would you mind if I used some of your equipment? I shall return to Ranger HQ, but I would like to be able to view my teammates from my home."
"Not at all! A fellow genius is always welcome! Just don't open the refrigerator. There's dangerous chemicals in it," Nimnul said. "We wouldn’t want you falling in and turning into a chipmunk hand grenade!"
"My thanks," Dale answered politely. Dale began setting up cameras to view the cage of the Rangers and one for Foxglove's cage and set up a transmitter.
Nimnul observed Dale's work and came over to the Rangers' cage. "Smile now! You're on candid camera!" Nimnul said jokingly.
Dale didn’t bother to look up. "Now Nimnul, be nice. Remember, savor the flavor."
"What's the good of winning, if you can't gloat and taunt the losers?!" Nimnul countered.
The Rangers barely paid Dale any attention, although Chip did show a bit of interest in the camera. Dale continued his preparations. "Bear in mind that at their current level of intelligence, such taunts have little effect. What will really get them is their inability to stop our rampage. If you taunt them constantly they will grow a thick skin-pick your attacks and they will hurt more."
Nimnul did a mini-dance. "Oooooh, I like that little mind of yours! Well, if you're set up here I'm ready to go beddy-bye. We need our beauty sleep if we're going to be effective city devastators tomorrow!"
"Goodnight and don't let the computer bugs bite," Dale said over his shoulder. Nimnul laughed as he and Dale parted ways. Dale turned and almost wished the Rangers goodnight, but he stopped and turned away from their hurt looks. He quietly walked to the RangerWing and headed for the tree.
As the RangerWing powered down, Dale stepped off and headed for the door. It creaked loudly under the pressure of his hand-something he'd never noticed before
"Needs oiling. Guess I'd better get Gad..." Dale pushed the idea away and stepped in. He turned on the lights and looked around. No smells of Monty’s cooking coming from the kitchen, no sounds coming from Gadget's workshop, no arguing from Chip, no buzzing from Zipper.
No heartfelt welcome from Foxglove
Dale found he actually had to force himself to speak. "Ah, peace and quiet. Now for a little television..." Dale set the television to view the broadcast from Nimnul's lab. He again saw his broken hearted friends in tears.
"How the mighty have fallen....How the fallen have become mighty," Dale muttered, with sadness entering his voice.
Suddenly, Chip looked up at the camera and seemed to be staring into Dale's soul. The eyes repeated those desperate words he'd heard just an hour ago. Dale picked up the remote and began desperately flipping through the channels to find something to raise his spirits.
"Got to be some happiness for me somewhere..." Dale said. Finally, he stopped at a familiar face that he’d come to enjoy.
"Hello, I'm Peter Graves-tonight on Biography we'll be looking at the life of Judas..."
Dale grabbed the remote fast. "Yargh!" The guilt-ridden chipmunk flipped the channel.
"Tonight on the History Channel, the story of Benedict Arnold and his legendary betrayal."
Dale pulled out one of the videotapes Gadget made for her VCR and put it in. The movie "The Princess Bride" came on in the middle. An old woman comes on, booing in his face
"You had true love, and you treated it like garbage! Slime! Muck! Filth! Boo, boo, BOOOOOOOOO!"
Dale dove for the VCR and hit the pause button. The old woman on the screen stared at him, her eyes bulging. Dale shut his eyes and laughed a loud sarcastic laugh.
"Even television has turned against me!"
Dale stared at that awful face and suddenly remembered another line from the film. "Thanks for reminding me of that! Why don't you just give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice in it?"
Dale wandered from the room--aimlessly at first, then the idea came to him that everything in Ranger Headquarters was his now. He started out, investigating his property.
Dale entered the room he shared with Chip. He glanced around at first, then approached the large set of shelves that were filled with the detective books that Chip had accumulated over a lifetime. Dale picked one up and paged through it. Now that he had robbed Chip of his intelligence, he'd probably never want to read another detective story again. He'd get so frustrated, never being able to figure out who did it. That sudden realization was like a slap in his face.
"That's another one you bungled, Sureluck...."
Dale let the book drop, the look on his face as empty as the sound of the echo upon its impact. Dale couldn't imagine Chip's life without his detective work. It was the very essence of Chip!
**That's probably what Chip's wondering right now,** Dale thought.
Suddenly, a favorite quote of Chip's came to his mind. It worked its way to his lips like a foreboding epitaph-"He was the best and wisest man I have ever known...."
"And I turned him into Dale."
Unwilling to face the increasingly troublesome feelings, Dale went to Gadget's workshop. "It's all mine now. Who can imagine the wonders I will build here...not Gadget...anymore..."
Everywhere Dale looked, Gadget's kind face haunted him. Memories of old cases and inventions poured into his memory. Then one thing in particular caught his eye--the propeller copter that Gadget helped him to build into his dinner jacket when he played Double-O-Dale.
"She shed compassionate tears for me in my sorrow that day. She'd probably be afraid to come in here now. She'd feel so bad, having the desire to invent but not the intelligence to do it. If she did try to invent something she'd probably end up killing...herself..."
He looked back at the invention, but now the face in his mind was the bloodshot eyes looking at him from a face filled with despair. "She was the most brilliant person I ever met and I turned her into Dale also."
Dale placed the copter down, almost reverently, and went into Gadget's bedroom. Another face stared at him here. Dale looked at the picture of Geegaw Hackwrench that sat on Gadget's nightstand. Geegaw was smiling and giving a thumbs-up
"If he was here he'd break my neck for what I did to Gadget and the others. And so would Chip's parents, and Monty's and Zipper's and Foxglove's...and mine."
Looking for solace, Dale went to what had been his second favorite place in headquarters--the kitchen refrigerator. He opened the door, and found himself face-to-face with a wedge of Brie '86. Dale slammed the door and stifled a sob. "He didn't even do anything...and now he's Dale too....Monty would probably be as big a danger in the kitchen now as I had been then. And poor Zipper! He no doubt felt almost as unappreciated as I have and I made him Dale as well."
It was increasingly difficult walking through headquarters. Dale could hear the Rangers' voices in his head and twice he jerked around--certain he'd heard one of them call his name. Dale walked again to the living room. He turned the television back on and returned to the channel with the Rangers. He steeled himself and tried again to convince himself that they had brought this all on themselves. But the only sound he heard besides the sobbing was Chip continuing to mutter, "You promised".
Dale jumped up from the coach and came to within an inch of the screen. "Okay! I promised! Are you happy!? Will it make you happy to know I ruined your life, Chip Maplewood! Well I did! I ruined your life! I ruined your life....and mine…"
As if he heard him, Chip’s recital suddenly changed. "You said you'd always be my friend..."
Dale felt like he had suddenly been struck by a two-by-four in the face. THAT promise, that's what Chip had been talking about. Dale staggered back and fell onto the sofa. "I'm no friend...not to you, not to anyone...."
In his mind, Dale returned to his early childhood. He was walking through the woods on the way home from school when he heard someone crying. He followed the sound and saw a chipmunk boy his own age sitting on a log, crying his eyes out. Dale knew the boy. He was Chip Maplewood-a pushy, bossy, short-tempered kid who was a very sore loser. Still, he was a very bright and clever kid, and all the grown-ups liked him but none of the kids could stand him. Dale walked over and sat next to him on the log
"Watcha cryin' for, Chip?" Dale asked innocently.
Chip had turned away from him to hide his tears. "Go away!"
Dale broke out his patented smile. "C'mon, cheer up! I don't like it when anyone's sad..."
Chip managed to turn around, a pitiful sight. "You want to know why I'm crying? I don't have any friends!"
Dale smiled the more. "Sure you do! Everyone has friends! Why there’s...there's.....uh......"
Chip cried even harder. "See? I don't have a single friend in the whole world! Everyone hates me!"
Dale came closer and put a hand on Chip's shoulder. "Well, I don't hate you."
Chip managed to compose himself a bit. "Well, you don't now, but if you were my friend you'd hate me too."
Dale sat by Chip and looked him in the face. "Let me be your friend and I promise I'll never, ever hate you."
Chip pouted. "No! You'll be my friend for a little while, but then I'll say or do something and you'll hate me and stop being my friend!"
Dale raised his hand in oath. "I promise I'll always be your friend, no matter what you may say or do."
Chip wiped his eyes and smiled at Dale. "You really mean that? You promise?"
Dale chuckled. "Cross my heart and hope to die!"
The image faded and where a happy youngster had sat a moment ago, a solemn adult sat now. "And by my own mouth am I condemned," Dale said. His words echoed in his mind as he got up, doing his best not to look at the face on the television. He turned it off quietly, and went to his room.
Dale saw the photos of himself with his parents. He turned away, ashamed.
"Got to get some sleep..."
He looked at his vast comic book collection. They held no interest for him now. Not only had he robbed his friends of their greatest joys, he had robbed himself as well. "Not even Kablammo Man can save me now."
Dale fell into a fitful sleep. He tossed and turned, muttering unintelligible words. Then from somewhere, Dale heard a voice that was familiar--only it was not familiar
"Wake up, you big dummy! I gotta bone to pick with you!"
Dale started, and at first saw nothing. Then he heard someone clear a throat, and turning to his left was face to face with-himself. Or rather a spectral after-image of his former self, Hawaiian shirt and all. The red shirt had gone to pink and the yellow to a paler version. Dale could see right through his doppelganger, and that scared the willies out of him.
"YAAAAAAAH!" Dale pulled the covers up-only his large eyes peeped over them.
The spectre was still there, and not in a good mood. "That's right Mr. Big Brain! I'm a ghost, the ghost of Dale past."
Dale quivered under the covers. "W..what do you want?"
The spectre floated right over Dale. "I WANT YOU TO STOP RUINING MY LIFE, YOU IDIOT!" Then the ghost rattled chains that mysteriously appeared from nowhere.
Dale was caught between panic and fear. "NO! Go away! You're dead! You're dead!"
The apparition pointed a finger right in Dale’s face. "I got news for you. I'm you. As long as you're alive I'm alive."
"I didn't know what would happen! I didn't!" Dale pleaded.
The ghost’s face was unchanged. "Well, whose fault is that?"
Dale looked to the left and right, trying to think of an excuse. "It was that crazy dude with the powers! He made me this way!"
"No, you asked to made this way! You have no one but yourself to blame for every bit of this!" the ghost answered. "Did you talk to your FRIENDS and ask them for guidance to help you use your new knowledge for good? No, you used it to show off and to humiliate your friends! You’re no better than what you imagined them to be!"
Dale felt pinned and wanted to be anywhere besides where he was. "They....they had it coming! They didn't love me the way I was--they tortured me!"
The ghost shook his head in contempt. "You ARE a dummy! And you still are one, you're just a brilliant one now!"
Dale squirmed, perspiration forming on his brow. "I've shown that I'm better than even the best of the Rangers' enemies! I have respect, I....."
"You have lost the love and respect of everyone you've ever cared about," the image said with condemnation.
Dale threw the covers off. "NO! NO!"
"You've always had more brains and sense than you use. That is the true sign of a fool," the ghost noted.
Dale grabbed at the spectre, trying to silence him. It was useless, and the voice continued to haunt him. "They treated you like an idiot because your actions left them no other choice!"
The emotions were too intense, and Dale began to cry. His spectral companion floated down next to the bed. "If their words or actions hurt you, why didn't you tell them?"
Dale was a mix of anger and guilt. "I'm not an idiot! I'm not!" He began to cry again. " I'm not...."
The ghost’s face was one of sympathy now. "You can't escape it, Dale. I should know, I'm you."
Dale looked up at the spirit floating next to him. "I was afraid, okay!? I was afraid!"
The ghost’s face went past sympathy to one of true concern. "Can you say the words Dale...what are you really afraid of?"
Dale was crying openly now. "I was afraid.....I was afraid...that....they....would....REJECT ME!" Dale buried his face in the covers and bawled. "I rejected them because I was afraid they'd reject me!"
The spirit of Dale past looked down on him softly. "Dale, even at your most idiotic bungling they never let you down, they never abandoned you...they never stopped loving you."
"I know...I know. I let them down. It was me. I deserved what I got--I didn't believe in them! WHAT HAVE I DONE!?" Dale cried in horror.
"Dale, if any of them were mad at you and you were in danger, do you think any one of them would hesitate to risk their lives to save yours?" the spirit asked. All Dale could do was shake his head.
Dale past became choked up. "And what of Foxglove?"
Dale's mind went immediately back to how he’d left her--betrayed and in despair. "Oh, she loved me! She loved me and I didn't listen!"
Dale past became visibly angry. "You're darned right she loves you, you brainless idiot! If I wasn't a ghost, I’d beat the stuffing out of you for how you treated her...she loves you more than life itself and you betrayed her!"
Dale fell to the floor and looked up at the spirit of his former self, desperately putting his hands together and holding them up to the spirit, begging. "Please! Please tell me it's not too late! I don't care what happens to me! Tell me what to do!"
The spirit looked down at him. "I wish I could help you, but I can't, I'm Dale past. I've got a brain the size of a chickpea. If you want to rescue your friends, you're going to have to use that new brain. You can rescue them, because you know they would have rescued you."
Dale stopped, and dried the tears from his eyes. A look of moral determination came upon him, such as he had never had before. "I'll do it! I'll save them! They may never forgive me for all this, but I owe them my life a hundred times over!"
"I just hope that that they can forgive..." the spectre said as he vanished. Dale did not hear those last words, as he’d already run to Gadget's workshop, with an idea already forming. Hands flew to spare parts and tools and quickly a machine took shape. It was a good thing too, for Dale found himself squinting at the first rays of dawn. Dale worked frantically, building what looked like a simple closed circuit TV camera. Thirty minutes later, he smiled proudly at his invention. For the first time he realized the joy Gadget must have felt at the moment of completion.
With no time to spare, Dale slipped the remote control for the camera into his pocket and headed for the Ranger Wing and a meeting with his evil cohorts. "They'll never notice the difference! I don't deserve it, but I feel so happy...." Dale said, all of a sudden realizing he really was happy. He knew he’d find a way to free his friends and see them safely out of the terror they’d been thought. Dale actually chuckled as he loaded the camera in the RangerWing
The Rescue Rangers are copyright Disney and used without permission, but with the utmost respect.