The Day Dale Became Smart
By Chris Silva and Indy
Part Three


"Where is that rodent?" Nimnul said, pacing expectantly. As dawn broke over the smoggy skies of Manhattan, evil forces assembled for a sordid purpose. Fat Cat watched his new partner in crime with a superior’s indifference.
       "I dunno, but if he's not here soon we'll go ahead without him!" Fat Cat snarled.
       Mepps tapped Fat Cat on the back. "Uh, but Boss, isn't he the one that came up with this idea?"
       "What, you would begin without me? Surely you jest!" Dale asked rhetorically.
       Fat Cat held his paws out to Dale as the chipmunk entered the room. "Ah, mi amigo! We wouldn't have thought of it!"
       Dale wasn’t impressed. "I'm sure of that. Are Mole and his people ready?"
       "Yes, those dimwitted diggers are just waiting for the signal," Fat Cat said, pointing a remote Nimnul held.
       Nimnul looked at the equipment Dale had with him. "What’s this? I thought you already had them under surveillance....."
       Dale climbed up on a lab stool. "As we are all still a little hesitant of working with each other, I thought it an act of good will. While you and Fat Cat are overseeing the Moles and the transportation of the gold, someone must stay behind to supervise the operation of the EMP generator. You can take the Rangers with you so to show that I'm not planning any deception. This portable camera allows me to watch their faces as they see the robbery taking place under their very noses."
       Fat Cat sneered. "Of course you're planning a deception! You wouldn't be a criminal mastermind if you weren't!" Fat Cat grabbed the cage.
       Dale tried to keep calm. "Now Fat Cat, if you destroy them now, how can they see your ultimate victory? Remember, you can only kill an enemy once, but you can humiliate them for a lifetime."
       Fat Cat eyed the cage. "Who said anything about destroying them? I'm going to give them a front row seat to the goings-on!" Fat Cat smiled toothily at the caged-up Rangers.
       Dale nodded with a look of understanding. "Ah, forgive me. It's a hold over from the old days. Please, let me install my camera, I want to be able to see every moment of their despair!"
       Nimnul pointed a thumb to the other cage. "What about the bat?"
       "Let her stay! She's not important anyhow," Fat Cat said.
       Dale shook his head. "Take her as well. I want them all to see our triumph." Fat Cat put the cage down in Dale's vicinity, and Dale installed the new camera and removed the old one. Then he picked up a clipboard and began making some notes. Eventually he looked up to the cage.
       "So, Chip? What is your master plan for defeating our daring robbery?" Dale asked.
       Chip shook his fist at Dale. "You bad munk! Someone will stop you!"
       Dale dared not show his true emotions. He was their only hope now. "Chip, you simpleton. There is no one to come to your rescue and there is no one brilliant enough to stop us all. So, enjoy the show."
       Nimnul cast a sarcastic eye at Chip. "My, aren't we the bossy one today?" The scientist plucked Foxglove out of her cage and stuck her in with the Rangers. Dale turned to Nimnul.
       "Nimnul, our alliance has worked well so far, but we must be able to tolerate each other. We all have great big egos, and it will be our greatest struggle to cooperate," Dale said.
       "Ego? Moi? I am merely the greatest scientist alive! What's egotistical about that?" Nimnul asked flatly.
       Dale crumbled up the sheet of paper he was writing on and hurled it at Chip. It hit him in the nose. "Be silent, Chip. Your words fall on deaf ears."
       Chip fumed a bit and kicked the piece of paper to the far side of the cage, near Foxglove. Gadget came over to him.
       "Come on, Chip. He's not worth it," Gadget said. Chip turned away and went with Gadget back to Monty, Zipper and Foxglove.
       **She's right, Chip. I'm not worth it,** Dale repeated in his mind. Then he turned his attention to his cohorts. "Let's get this show on the road," Dale said.
       Nimnul took a seat at the controls of the EMP generator. "Time to rise and not shine, big city!"

       Nimnul set the controls for a 30-minute delay-enough time for he and Fat Cat to get to the Global Gold Reserve and prepare to direct the hauling of the gold.
        "We’ll be back soon!" Fat Cat said, almost singing it. The feline boss stopped when he got outside. "Mepps, I don’t trust him. Stay here and watch what he does."
        "Uh, okay boss," Mepps said. "Does that mean I get some fish?" Fat Cat ignored the question and marched on with Nimnul.

       Dale had waited until he was sure they had left. Then he pulled out the plans for Nimnul’s machine and set to work. Dale was working so hard to deactivate the machine of mass destruction, he didn’t become aware of an extra presence.
       "Say, is there some fish in here?" Mepps asked.
       Dale started and nervously looked at Mepps. Under any other circumstances he would enjoy running mental rings around the dumb cat, but now was not the time. "We're fresh out Mepps. Perhaps you could get some from the fish market across town?"
       "But the Boss wanted me to stay here....." Mepps said.
       Dale had to get rid of him fast. "Mepps, remember when I hurt you in the park?"
       Mepps thought hard a moment. "Uh, yes?"
       "Do you believe I can hurt you worse than I did in the park?" Dale asked pointedly.
       Mepps still stands there blank-eyed. "Uh, yes....."
       Dale put his hands on his hips. "Do you want me to hurt you worse than I did in the park?"
       "," Mepps replied.
       Dale jumped from the console to the stool next to Mepps. "Then will you PLEASE go far away from here, so I don't have to hurt you?!"
       Mepps looked at the menacing eyes, and decided he'd best go. He ran for it as Dale pretended to reach for him. Then Dale looked back at the clock nervously. Mepps was an unanticipated delay. He would have to work harder. Before starting his work anew, Dale removed the remote from his pocket.
       "I'm so sorry, everybody," Dale said, as he pressed the button.

       In the cage, Foxglove noticed the piece of paper had some writing on it. She picked it up. ‘Get them in front of the camera, Foxy. The camera will restore them. You're on your own after that.’
       "Hey, look at this!" Foxglove said. Chip and the others came over, conveniently in front of the camera
       Chip reached for the paper. "What is it? It's mine!"
       Gadget pushed him aside. "Hmph! It's my turn to be leader now!"
       Chip pushed back. "No! I'm the leader!"
       "Bzzzzzzz!" Zipper buzzed threateningly-well, for a fly anyway.
       "You couldn't lead your way out of a sewer drain!" Monty said.
       Chip turned around at that insult. "Oh, yeah?"
       Monty pulled down Chip’s fedora on his head. "I says I'm leader cause I'm bigger than you!"
       Chip fixed his hat back. "I'll take care of that!" Chip and Monty prepare to jump at each other.
       "Boys! All the same!" Gadget said, shaking her head.
       Gadget snuck up behind Chip and took his hat off and put it on her own head. "I'm wearing the hat so that makes me leader now!"
       Suddenly, Foxglove gets an idea. "Stop it! All of you stop it and stand still right now or you don't get any supper!"
       Chip stopped his attack. "Aw, do we haveta?"
       Foxy stomped her foot. "Yes, you do! Stand right in front of the camera, all of you!"
       Gadget folded her arms. "But it's my turn to be leader! I never get to be leader!"
       Foxy took on a stern look. "Gadget, you'll not get to use your workshop for a week if you don't stand right there." Gadget turned still as a statue.
       "That's better, everyone," Foxy said. Then she looked up at the camera and whispered, "C'mon Dale, please be back....."
       Chip grabbed his hat and put it back on his head. "Ahhh. Now I'm leader again!"
       The camera flared to life.


       The Rangers blinked and rubbed their eyes. "Crikey! What in blazes just happened?" Monty asked.
       Fat Cat was caught off-guard by the flash and reacted in his usual way. "Yack! Stupid camera!" Fat Cat ripped it away from the cage.
       Gadget considered Monty’s question. "Well, from a physics perspective I’d say...waitaminit...I can think again!"
       Chip smiled. "You're right Gadget! That surge must've reversed the process! We're back! And in Fat Cat's clutches again. Well, it's not like this is the first time."
       Foxy held up the paper. "Here, look at this guys!"
       Chip read the note. "What is going on in Dale's head? First he betrays us and now he restores us?"
       Foxy clasped her wings together. "I knew my cutie couldn't stay bad!"
       "We'll deal with that later! Right now, we've got to figure out how to stop all this!" Gadget said.

       "I've got to figure out how to stop all this!" Dale said. Dale could see he was nearing his goal, with time to spare. But as he looked around Nimnul's lab, he saw many other terrible things the madman had created. Even if he stopped the EMP, what other horrors would Nimnul create here? He realized he would have to do more than destroy the EMP generator-he would have to destroy the whole base.
       The EMP’s automated voice came over a loudspeaker. "Five minutes to activation...." a female voice said blandly.
       Dale realized that to stop the horror he created might not leave him enough time to escape. "I'll have to hot-wire this jalopy," Dale muttered, pulling off the panel to the EMP. When he did, alarms went off everywhere. Again, Dale worked frantically, watching the seconds of his life tick away.

       "Warning--tampering detected. Countdown at 60 seconds....59...58.." the voice announced.
       Dale leaped from the machine and ran. "What'll I do? I can't...wait, the refrigerator!"
       Dale grabbed a stick and forced the latch on the fridge. Several bottles of chemicals were inside


       Dale quickly scanned the labels. "Trinitrotoluene...hydrochloric acid...." The chipmunk worked frantically, pouring the chemicals into a large flask. Then he grabbed Nimnul's remote and activated one of the mechanical hands. The hand took the flask and placed it right in front of the EMP generator's emitter.


       Dale jumped onto the emitter. "Now if I only have time to wire it!" Dale rode another mechanical hand to the emitter, ripped out an ignition wire and stuck it in the flask.


       Dale pressed the remote again and the hand stretched up, its left finger reaching the dome. Dale jumped and made the roof.


       Dale slid down the roof, and looked at the sky. "I may not make it, but I'm a Rescue Ranger to the end!"


       Fat Cat and Nimnul were jolted by a slight rumbling. The Rangers noticed it as well, and how distracted the villains became.
       "I'll try to unlock the cage with my tail," Gadget said. Gadget inserted her tail into the key hole.
       Fat Cat was too caught up in dreams of greed to notice. "That must be it! Time to go up!"
       Nimnul laughed in triumph. "Ha, ha! The sound of televisions blowing up, computers crashing, planes falling! Music to a mad scientist's ears!"
       Fat Cat leaned into the hole his minions had made. "Dig you moles! Gold and glory await us!"
       Lost in their greed, Nimnul and Fat Cat abandoned the cage with the Rangers. Chip watched them enter the hole and then turned to Gadget. "Now's our chance! Hurry, Gadget!" Chip said.
       "Works like a charm, if I believed in charms that is," Gadget said.
       Monty opened the door. " Well, Sureluck, do we go after the baddies or poor Dale?"

       Nimnul, Fat Cat and the goon squad emerged in the gold room to find....two armed guards with...
       "Rottweilers!" Fat Cat screamed.
       One of the dogs licked his chops. "Oh, look at that big tubby kitty!"

       Chip smiled when he heard the sound of dogs barking and guards yelling echoing through the tunnel. "We go get Dale!" Chip shouted.
       The second dog was drooling. "Let's do lunch, Razor!"
       "Right on, Blade!" the other shouted.
       "Retreat!" Nimnul cried.
       The Rangers just managed to avoid being trampled by the criminals when they ran out of the hole--who had a problem all their own.
       "We've been double-crossed!" Fat Cat shouted, a pair of sharp teeth at his heels.
       Nimnul’s pants seat was gone and his boxers were covered with pictures of Einstein’s face. "I'll never...NEVER work with a chipmunk again!"
       Razor had just finished running Nimnul up a telephone pole and looked over his shoulder at Blade on Fat Cat’s tail. " those moles for me!"
       From his perch on the pole, Nimnul could see that the explosion had really come from his lab-or rather the smoldering crater that used to be his lab. "MY LAB!!!!!" Nimnul shouted and jumped down, forgetting the dog. Nimnul stopped short in agony, which was the wrong move, because Razor's friend Blade gave him a new kind of agony.
       "MY BEHIND!!!"
       "Here kitty, kitty, kitty," Razor taunted.
       "I hate Rescue Rangers! I hate ‘em, hate ‘em, hate ‘em!" Fat Cat yelled, his henchman right behind him. The Rangers laughed as Nimnul, Fat Cat and the rest disappeared from sight.
       "Serves 'em right! Chip said.
       It took several minutes, but the Rangers made their way to Nimnul’s lab. The devastation was complete. Only a few large building fragments had survived. Kirby and Muldoon of the local police force were already leaving from checking the scene when Foxglove started looking through the wreckage of the lab.
       "Dale..." Foxglove said, starting to cry.
       Suddenly, Chip realized what Nimnul had said about not trusting a chipmunk. "Then...Dale was up there! NO!"
       Monty caught up with Chip. "C'mon, maybe he got out alive!"
       Gadget kept the probabilities of that chance to herself. With Foxy leading the way, the Rangers begin to search the wreckage together.
       "He's got to be alive! He's got to be!" Foxy said, turning over some rubble.
       "Zipper, mate. Look everywhere!" Monty said. Zipper saluted and checked hard and fast.
       Gadget appeared out of part of a drainage pipe. "I don't see him! Maybe he got away before the blast!"

       Foxy looked all around and then stopped. "Wait, I see something!"
       Chip ran to her. "What is it, Foxy?!" Everyone gathered around Foxglove. Foxy half-ran, half-flew over to a brick. A piece of cloth from Dale's jacket was caught on the corner of it.
       "It's Dale…it's Dale's!" she cried.
       Chip knew she was right. "Monty, he could be trapped under there!" Monty began digging wildly in the debris. Chip and the others joined in.
       "Dale! Dale, are you there? DALE!" Chip shouted. The digging went on for a half hour, with no result.
       Monty finally gave out. "Chip...I..I hate to even say this, but...."
       "No! He's not dead!" Chip yelled. "He can't be!"
       Gadget was covered with dirt and perspiration. She slowly stood. "Chip, he'd be here if he was. He gave his life to...."
       Chip looked to the two of them wildly. "NO! Noooooooooooooooooo!" Chip dug all the harder.
       "Chip, get a grip lad!" Monty said.
       Foxglove collapsed to the ground, pounding the ground and sobbing. Chip’s hands were getting cut. "I don't care if he is evil! He's my first and best friend!"
       Gadget came over and put a hand on Chip’s shoulder. "Chip, the...the blast pattern is so wide that it's improbable he got away in time...."
       Monty put his hand on the other one. "Now Chip, true he put us in a predicament in the first place, but he sure enough got us out o' it."
       Foxglove was crying her eyes out. "I wish I were dead too!"

       Chip tried to dig more but his hands wouldn’t let him. He stood up, and fell into Gadget's arms in a combination of exhaustion and surrender to the inevitable.
       "He's dead! He's dead!" Chip cried. Gadget comforted him as best she could, since she was crying too. Monty took off his flight cap respectfully as tears came from him too.
       "He was so good-hearted! And then to have this happen....." Gadget said.
       Monty did his best to comfort his friends. He'd seen far too many friends laid to rest, but none before were close enough to be like a son to him. Zipper patted Monty on the shoulder, knowing more than the rest the private pain he was experiencing.
       Chip hugged Gadget tighter, venting his frustrations. "It's not fair! It's just not fair!"
       Gadget patted him on the back. "I know Chip, I know. Don't hold it in...."
       Chip couldn’t see for the tears. "I want my best friend back!"

       The Rangers stayed until sunset...there was no way of moving from the spot until a memorial was made. Finally, the others convinced Chip to come. He did, clutching the note that Dale had written--the last link he had to his partner and friend
       "I'll never forget you, Dale. And I swear I'll make whoever is responsible for this pay! They'll all pay!" Chip promised.
       As the Rangers moved out of sight, a lone figure moved in the rubble--his tattered jacket a testament to his narrow escape. The dust and soot-covered form watched them go
       "The buck stops with me, Chip. Only me."

       The next morning, the mood at Ranger Headquarters was somber. No one could think of anything but their fallen comrade. Chip developed a fever and became bedridden by afternoon. Monty pulled Gadget aside after she'd brought him his lunch.
       "It's guilt lass, nothin' less. Seen it a hundred times," Monty said.
       Foxglove hung from a branch on the tree. She hadn't eaten since the day before, and just hung there, crying
       Gadget had tried to help them both, but this kind of pain was beyond anything she knew. "Golly Monty, is there anything we can do?"
       Chip spoke from his bed, semi-delirious. "I didn't know, Dale! I won't bonk you again, I promise!"
       Monty looked in the door sadly. "We've gotta get 'im through this--make 'im see it weren't his fault!"
       Gadget began crying again. "But Monty, it was our fault!"
       "That's what I mean, luv! It's was all of us, but 'es takin' the full load on himself!" Monty said.
       "Dale, I was wrong!" Chip said, flailing his arms.
       Gadget looked on sadly. "But you know well enough that it's Chip's way to bear the whole burden himself."
       "I know lass, but this is diff'rent. We've gotta turn 'im from this--it's not good a'tall!" Monty said.
       Gadget looked up into his eyes. "But how, Monty? And what about Foxglove? That's a crisis waiting to happen."
       Monty thought it over. "That might be jus' the thing!" Monty ran outside.
       Foxglove was still crying when Monty found her. He picked her up and took her inside to Chip's room.
       "No, I don't want to!" Foxy argued, as Monty shut the door.
       Gadget looked again at Monty, confused. "Monty, I don't understand. What will this accomplish?"
       "Wait Gadget-luv...." Monty said, and indicated they should listen at the door.
       Chip barely knew that anyone else was there. "It was all my fault...."
       Foxglove shook her head. "No, I should have been the one!"
       Chip stirred weakly and looked up. Foxy came over to him. "You were.....his friend but I LOVED him!"
       Chip sat up on his elbows. "I loved him too! He was more than a brother to me!"
       "And he loved us!" Foxy said. Chip and Foxglove embrace, comforting each other's pain.

       Outside the door, Gadget smiled at Monty. "Monty, you're a genius!"
       "Not really, Gadget-luv. Just experience...misery loves company," Monty whispered.
       Gadget fought back the next round of tears. "We all loved Dale, and he loved us. That's how I'll always remember him."
       Monty crept away from the door. "We'd best leave 'em be for now, Gadget. They'll be all right."
       Monty hid his tears as best he can as he headed to the kitchen with Gadget. She made herself a cup of coffee. "What happens now, Monty? Can we go on without Dale?"
       Monty sat down next to her. "I dunno lass. Ya never know how important someone is till they’re not there. It's goin' ta take Chip and Foxy time to get over this blow--not to mention the rest of us." Monty blew into his hanky
       "It just seems that my life is nothing but saying goodbye to people I love," Gadget lamented. Monty hugged Gadget hard.
       "I know it's hard, lass. Been through a lot of it meself. But it's better to have loved someone than not. Otherwise, you'll be mighty alone in the world," Monty said.
       Gadget stared blankly at the table. "This all just seems like a terrible nightmare. I just want to wake up and hear Dale again, see the television on with Dale asleep in front of it and a million other things about him that annoyed me that I'll miss for the rest of my life."
       "I know. Me too. C'mon--I'll make you a cheese soufflé," Monty offered.

       Monty got some food on to cook as evening turned to night. Unknown to the others, an extra pair of eyes had watched everything from outside and an extra heart had suffered with them. Suddenly, Dale saw a small flash of light at the base of the tree that he'd been waiting for. Dale raced down as the stranger began to look for him.
       "Friend? Friend, are you here?" a voice inquired.
       Dale grabbed the little man by the shoulders. "Make me stupid again, I beseech you!"
       The stranger pushed Dale away. "So you found that being intelligent was not the answer to all your problems, eh?"
       Dale nodded, his appearance now ghastly. "It is a torment to my soul and has brought ruination upon me and nothing but suffering to those that I love! I beg you, turn me back."
       The stranger looked Dale over hard. "Are you sure? Do you really want to return to your past life, where you were the object of ridicule?"
       "For the great and terrible misdeeds I have inflicted on my loved ones, I can never go back to them. Change me back so that I may nevermore menace others with my intellect!" Dale pleaded.
       The stranger smiled. "Good--you have learned that wisdom is better than intelligence. I will change you back. But you may learn that it is much easier for others to forgive you than for you to forgive yourself. Nevertheless, you are what you are. It only remains for you to discover it."
       The stranger took a pinch of powder from his pouch and threw it into the air over Dale. Dale felt disoriented for a few moments.

       "Could you say that again? I understood you a few moments ago. But now...I'm dumb again."
       The stranger tipped his hat to Dale. "Precisely. Well, good fortune to you my friend. I must be getting back to my village."
       The stranger opened the portal again and another small being similar to him poked his head and shoulders through. A heart was just visible on his upper arm.
       "Hefty! What is it?" the stranger asked.
       Hefty grimaced. "Who else, Papa Smurf?"
       The blue-skinned elder knew immediately. "Brainy again. Well, farewell friend! Have a smurfy day!"

       The two unique beings disappeared into the portal and Dale was alone again. He returned to Ranger Headquarters and could see Monty and Gadget hugging Chip and Foxy. The group went to bed, and Dale waited for a few hours then sneaked into headquarters. He looked around sadly, knowing how much he would miss them all.
       Dale crept to the room he shared with Chip. He quietly gathered together a few belongings and looked at the pictures on the wall. He wanted to take them with him, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He knew it would only help to forever remind him of his betrayal. He gathered together some of his belongings and made his way to the kitchen and finding a piece of paper he sat at the table and composed a note

       Dear Everybody,

        At first I wanted it to appear I died in the explosion, to spare the Rescue Rangers and my family the shame of my deeds. But then I realized that you might feel sorry for me, which you did. I didn't want that. I don't deserve that. I want you all to hate me forever for what I did, just as I'm going to hate myself forever for what I did. I hurt the people I love most in the world and I'll never even be able to face myself in a mirror again.
       I know that nothing I say or do can ever make up for what I did, but if it's any consolation, I'll never smile, laugh or be happy ever again. I'm not smart anymore. I had the guy that made me smart reverse that. Now I'm almost like before, but now I can't be like before. I'm wiser now. So for the good of everyone I'm going far away where I can't hurt anyone ever again.


       Your worthless, backstabbing, untrustworthy, former friend, Dale

       P.S. I just took some of my clothes and things. I didn't steal anything.

       It was before dawn the next morning and it was Foxglove who was up first, strangely enough. She hadn't slept well and hadn't eaten much in the last two days. Hunger drove her to the kitchen. But it was forgotten when she saw the paper
       "He's alive....." The paper began to shake in her wings and she tried to get a louder voice out but couldn't. Fortunately, Monterey came in at this moment and caught her before she hit the floor
       "What is it, Foxy? You sick?" Monty asked. Then Monty saw the paper.
       "EVERYONE! COME QUICK!" he shouted.
        Chip had already gotten up, and was on his way into the living room when he’d heard Monty. "What Monty?" Chip asked in a monotone voice.
       Gadget ran in, with her nightgown on. Zipper buzzed inquiringly.
       Monty's tears were overflowing, as he showed the letter to Chip. "HE'S ALIVE!"
       Chip collapsed to the floor.
       "Alive...." Foxy muttered, shaking all over.
       Gadget read the letter. "Oh, heavens!"
       "And the poor bloke blames 'imself for everything that 'appened!" Monty said.
       Gadget ran toward her workshop. "We've gotta find him!"
       "Find him..." Foxy mumbled, still in shock.
       Zipper brought a thimble of water and dashed it in Chip's face and then brought another for Foxglove.
       Monty pulled him up. "Don't just lay around, Chip! We gotta find Dale!" He gave him a swift kick in the backside
       Chip snapped out of it. "Dale....Dale! You're right! To the RangerWing, pronto!"

       Soon the heroes were scouting high and low for a depressed chipmunk. Gadget set the RangerWing in a zigzag searching pattern. "We've got one chance, Chip! His note said he took some of his clothes."
       "So?" Chip asked.
       Gadget changed direction again. "So he's likely changed into his old clothes! And my super-sniffer has the scent of those clothes!"
        Chip brightened up like a lit candle. "Gadget, I could kiss...uh, I mean, that's brilliant, Gadget!" Gadget flipped on the sniffer, and immediately a blip came on the screen.
       "There he is! He's a mile or so out, north by northwest!" Gadget said, turning the plane in the right direction.

        Dale was getting frustrated. He had just gotten used to being brilliant and now he wasn't smart any more. **Where do you go to get away from people?** As he was walking, he heard the unmistakable sound of the RangerWing above.
       Gadget noticed a flash of red. "There's something moving down there, Chip! It's got to be Dale!"
       Dale began running, and then Chip saw him too. "No, Dale! Please don't run!"
       The RangerWing hugged the treetops as Dale tried to elude them. Gadget’s skill was too much for him though, and Dale put his hands up in surrender. He was shaking badly when the Rangers landed and jumped out of the plane.
       "Don't hurt me, I give up! NO, I deserve it, hurt me!" Dale said.

       The Rangers all surrounded him and Dale shut his eyes, waiting for the pounding he knew was coming. Instead they all hugged him as one. Never in his whole life was Dale more shocked.
       "Dale, that plan of yours was the craziest, kookiest, most wonderful thing I've ever heard of!" Chip said.
       "You were magnificent!" Gadget said. "You stopped Fat Cat and Nimnul and destroyed Nimnul’s lab all in one fell swoop!"
       Monty patted him on the back. "Right-o, pallie! You pulled off the greatest operation since the time I stopped the great Siberian Husky Strike!"
       Foxy hugged him hard. "Dale, you're back! Oh, my cutie"
       The words were like knives in Dale’s conscience. He lowered his head in shame and began sobbing. "I'm so ashamed!"
       Chip grabbed him and hugged him. "So am I!"
       "We all drove you to this, and it shouldn't have happened!" Gadget said.
       Foxy got on her knees. "Please come home, cutie! Please!"
       Dale was completely astonished at all this. "Are...are you saying you don't hate me?"

       Monty drew back a step. "Hate you? Why would we?"
       Dale looked down. "Well, for all those mean things I said and for making you all stupid and being mean to you while you were stupid."
       Gadget put an arm around him. "But Dale, you could have walked away and left us stupid, but you didn't! You risked your life for us! You've got to forgive yourself, and let it go!"
       Suddenly the words of Papa Smurf returned to Dale. "But….but how can I put doing such terrible things behind me?"
       "Well, I think Gadget made a good suggestion. Forgive yourself first! We love you, and we're not going to hold it against you, so why should you?" Chip asked.
       Foxy hugged Dale and kissed him. Dale was beginning to waver, but was still totally aghast at their reaction. Monty could see it in his face, and came over to him. "This whole thing came 'bout 'cause we weren't honest with each other. From now on, we've all gotta be more open and honest. Right?"

        Dale just looked at his friends in astonishment. It was too much to believe that they could forgive him of such offenses! He looked into Foxglove's beautiful eyes, which just a short time ago had been filled with sorrow and were now filled with joy. Dale still held Foxglove in a tight embrace.
       Dale dried his tears. "Yes, we must be honest. I've been an idiot over the years. That will stop. I'm no Einstein, but I am smarter and wiser than I have acted."
       Chip felt the guilt pangs again. He couldn’t stay silent. "Don't you understand? We know what happened was partly our own fault! We should have known you were hurting all this time but we didn't. I'm so sorry, Dale. I'll never bonk you like that again, my friend. I promise!"
        Dale looked pained, and a similar measure of guilt came up in him as well. "Chip, I'm sorry I broke my promise to you. I hope you can believe me when I say that when I realized I had broken that promise I did hope I would die."
       Chip took his hand and shook it. "I believe you, Dale! But why didn't you ever speak up before now?"
        Dale looked still more pained, but he saw encouragement in Foxglove’s eyes. "I was…I was afraid that if I said anything you would all reject me."
       Gadget was shocked at the words. "Reject you?!"
       Dale hung his head. "I felt I had so little value to the Rangers that if I didn't let you all abuse me you would just kick me out."
       Chip raised Dale’s head. "Dale, we'd never do that! You're more than just a team member--you're the heart of the team! Without you...the Rangers wouldn't be the Rangers!"
       Monty patted Dale on the back. "Hear, hear!"
       "There's no fun if you're not around!" Gadget said.
       Dale's eyes filled with tears again, and Foxglove wiped them away. "Haven't I told you you're the light that fills up my day? Well, I'm not the only one that's true for, cutie!"
       Chip smiled at the words. "I'd hate to think what my life would have been without you, Dale! I wouldn't be who I am now!"
       "Yer the only one who can make me laugh when I'm down, mate!" Monty said.
       Dale smiled and laughed. It felt good to be able to do that again.
       Gadget felt her tears forming too. "And you're the only chipmunk that can play Double-O-Dale so well!"
       Monty held out his big hands. "Aw, c'mere pallies!"

       The Rangers assembled for a big group hug around Dale. Dale looked into Foxglove's eyes again. He kissed her. Foxglove was overjoyed and amazed at the same time.
       "Dale! kissed me!" Foxglove said, trying to convince herself of it.
       Dale looked at her lovingly. "Foxglove, you are the best thing that's ever happened to me..."
       Foxy was more excited than anything. " Yes, darling?" she asked.
       Dale found his thoughts were clearer than they had been in some time. "I've imagined what spending the rest of my life without you would be like and..."
       Foxy's knees started to buckle.
       "Yes,...and..." she said nervously.
       "Foxglove, will you marry me?" Dale asked.
       Foxglove nearly fainted, but something in Dale's eyes gave her strength. A sound started forming in the back of her mouth that turned into a squeal.
       "YES!" Foxglove shouted. Foxy showered him with kisses.
       Monty patted Dale on the back again. "Way to go, pallie!" Monty gave the happy couple a bear hug.
       Gadget was overcome in the moment. "Oh, golly! This has got to be the happiest moment I've had in years!" Gadget joined in the hug.
       Chip looked at Dale in a sort of amazement. So much so that Dale couldn’t ignore the gaze. "What is it, Chip?" Dale asked.
       "Dale, you've matured!" Chip said. Chip reached out his hand to Dale, and Dale smiled at Chip. "Yes I have, Chip. It's been a painful journey, but the rewards were worth it all." Dale took Chip's hand and pulled him into a hug.
       "Welcome home, Dale!" Chip said wholeheartedly.
       "Y'know, I think we'd better get back to headquarters. We've got a weddin' t'plan!" Monty said cheerfully.

       Dale gave his arm to Foxglove. "So, to celebrate why don't we take all of tomorrow off, Chip?"
       Chip pulled his fedora down. "Great idea. Let's take off the whole week!"
       The rest of the Rangers nearly fainted. "A whole week?" Gadget asked in astonishment.
       "Crikey! The lad must still have a fever!" Monty said, checking Chip’s brow.
       Gadget came over to Chip. "Golly Chip, have you changed too?"
       Chip looked a little sheepish. "Guys, I realized when I thought Dale was gone that a lot of the problem was mine. I haven't been setting a very good example. Well, I'm turning over a new leaf! From now on, we'll do things in moderation."
       Dale nearly fainted, but Monty caught him. "Yeah...if we can strap you down long enough to keep you from goin' to the police station every day," Monty said.
       Chip blushed for the 4,868,932nd time.
       Dale was overcome at the turn of events. "It's unbelievable-less than an hour ago it seemed like my life was over, and now I'm the happiest chipmunk in the world!"
       Chip got into the RangerWing. "Well, it couldn't happen to better friend, Dale! And I expect you to help keep me in check, too."
        Dale helped Foxy in and then joined him. "And I expect you to keep me from going back to being a dummy."
       "Don't worry Dale--in my book, you're the best and wisest munk I ever knew!" Chip said.
       Dale got a humorous look on his face. "And speaking of books, Chip. Would you mind if I started reading some of your detective books? I need the practice."
       Chip nearly fainted. "Uh, sure, if you like! But what do you mean ‘you need the practice?’"
       Dale fastened his seat belt. "Perhaps it's time I started learning to be a detective as well as humor administrator and reading detective books is how you started out."
       Chip thumped Dale kindly on the shoulder. "Dale, I know you'll be a good one."
       Dale smiled at the gesture. "I'll never be Sureluck Jones, but just maybe I can be a good Dr. Blotson."
       "Dale, you can go as far as you can dream--and with you, that's a long, long, way..." Chip said.
       Dale’s look suddenly turned crafty. "True-I'll start with detective and work up to ruler of the galaxy!"
       Foxy giggled. "Now cutie, what would you do as ruler of the galaxy?"
       Dale thought it over a moment. "Oh, I dunno, plot to be ruler of the universe?"
       Gadget giggled at this one, as she started the RangerWing. "Okay, ruler of the universe. It's time to go home."
        "Uh, do you all know you're still in your jammies?" Dale asked suddenly.
       The Rangers all did a double take, and Monty shrugged his shoulders. "Well, nothin' like a pajama party to liven things up, what? Let's get back to HQ and bring out the cheese and popcorn!"
        "And I gotta call Mom and Dad! It's been ages since I saw them last," Dale thought out loud. He was so glad that he could call them. He’d nearly lost everyone he cared about, but he wasn’t complaining at how things turned out. Papa Smurf was right-wisdom was better than intelligence. And at that moment Dale felt wiser than he ever head.
       Everyone had a good laugh at their embarrassing clothes situation, and Dale joined in the frivolity. He found to his delight that he finally felt a part of the laughter and not the object of it. As the Rangers left for home--pajamas and all-Dale hugged Foxglove tightly and made himself a silent promise. He knew now that he would be more than able to keep it. The rising RangerWing caught the first rays of the sun as it rose above the horizon, and its brightness was matched only by the brightness in Dale’s heart and the smile on his face. A new day had begun for the Rangers-and particularly for one Dale Oakmont.

The Smurfs are copyright Peyo and used without permission. The Rescue Rangers are copyright Disney and used without permission, but with the utmost respect.

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Part One
Part Two