That Wuz Dale, This Wuz Now

By AQD Robert

Dale's nose twitched. He clenched his paws and stormed out of his bedroom into the main gallery of the Rescue Rangers headquarters.

"Dale! What's got you all worked up?", asked the bat, Foxglove, in her delightful Midwestern drawl. She regarded Dale as one of her best friends, and rarely saw him in any mood other than happy.

"That KID, Pandeaver, opened up my sealed, mint-condition copy of 'Crimson Avenger #1' -- and he's actually reading it.", he grumbled. "It's listed in the Understreet Price Guide as worth over $5,100 at the last comic book auction."

Foxglove's sensitive ears folded protectively as a loud crash assaulted her hearing. A moment later, a muffled, "Sorry, dude. I'll just have to fix that.." emanated from Gadget's otherwise unoccupied workroom. But, that voice did not belong to the inventor mouse Gadget.

"See, Foxglove? That Wuzzle, Pandeaver, is not just half-beaver and half- panda -- he's an over two hundred percent black, white and blue-furred, paddle-tailed, winged demolition squad." grouched Dale.

"Dale! I'm surprised at you.", chided Foxglove. "Dear, sweet little Pandeaver won a Land Of Wuz contest to spend two weeks training with the Rescue Rangers. He wrote that darling little ol' essay about how you are his most favorite Ranger. Give the little guy a chance, will you, honey?" Foxglove's pleading expression calmed down the excitable Dale just a bit, but he still clenched his paws tightly as he gritted his teeth.

"Gee, lucky him.." , grumbled Dale, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Unlucky me. Wonder why all the other Rescue Rangers hightailed it out of town when our little hero came to visit?"

"Dale, you know very well that Chip, Gadget, Zipper and Monty left on a business trip to the Land of Wuz to show the Wuzzles how to start their own public safety and crimefighting teams. Even with a zero crime rate as far back as the Wuzzles remember, they still have hurricanes, tropical fruit storms, motor vehicle accidents, and injuries. Anyway, Dale, if you can't stand only one little ol' Wuzzle that adores the ground you walk on, how could you stand an entire island of his people?" asked Foxglove.

Dale harrumphed, and relented. "Oh, all right, Foxy. I will try to have patience with the kid, but he still drives me batty.uh, sorry Foxglove.I mean he just gets into stuff, pays no attention to what I'm trying to tell him, and treats everything like it's some sort of game. How can anyone get through life like that?"

"Dale, you just described yourself, and why I love you so much. Pandeaver sounds just like one of your long-lost relatives.", said Foxglove with a warm smile.

It was too quiet for Dale. He heard nothing from Gadget's workshop, saw no activity in his bedroom, and wondered what kind of mischief the young Wuzzle was planning.

A loud, happy shout assaulted Dale's ears, as Pandeaver charged into Dale, squeezing the wind out of the chipmunk with a crushing bear hug (or, more accurately, panda- beaver hug). After letting Dale drop, gasping for breath, he ran towards Foxglove to hug her, too, but she anticipated his affectionate attack by flying to the ceiling, hanging upside-down from one of her bat perches that Gadget thoughtfully installed for their chiropterid friend.

"Mr. Dale! I'm done with all that boring Ranger manuals and books you gave me. I wanna go outside and do some real Rescue Ranger rescuing and crimefighting. Please?" pleaded the Wuzzle.

"Oh, all right. What do you want to do next?", asked Dale.

"In Gadget's workshop, I saw that really cool parafoil power glider. Gadget's notes called it her 'Ranger Parawing'. I've flown paragliders back in Wuz before, and just love them. Can I please take the plane up for a spin? I'm just a little bigger than you Rescue Rangers, so it should lift me easily." asked Pandeaver.

"Well.I dunno. Gadget may get mad at me if we don't ask her first. Maybe in a couple of weeks when the rest of the gang gets back..", said Dale. He mused that in two weeks Pandeaver would have left for Wuz, and Dale hoped, would have forgotten about the aircraft.

Foxglove smiled warmly. "That's no worry at all, Dale. Gadget built that plane just for you and the new Rescue Rangers we are training, and she gave me a permission note allowing you to take up the aircraft for a spin.", said Foxglove.

"What do you mean, Foxy? Did she actually want me to fly this thing?", asked Dale, clearly worried.

"Oh, silly, what did you think?" Foxglove spread the webs of her pinkish wings. "You think I'm going to fly the plane with these? Gadget built the controls for rodent paws, not for bat wings nor toes."

Dale groaned. Pandeaver laughed with joy as he ran out of the Ranger HQ over to the waiting parafoil power glider. Pandeaver examined and checked off the pre-flight list as Foxglove and Dale nodded approval and surprise. The Wuzzle did indeed know how to prepare and fly an aircraft like this.

Dale gingerly stepped into the rear seat as Pandeaver unfolded the parachute wing carefully. Pandeaver then leapt into the pilot's seat, gunned the engine, then cheered as the compact aircraft leapt into the air obediently. Dale clenched his teeth, squeezing his eyes shut, while wondering how Foxglove could have talked him into agreeing with this project.

"Hey, Dale!" yelled Pandeaver over the motor noise. "Don't worry. This plane looks just like the enemy spy planes from that video game, 'One Acorn Is Not Enough". I aced the paraglider round in less than 23.7 seconds, so I know all about flying these types of aircraft."

Foxglove sailed ahead, motioning Pandeaver to follow. Dale panted with panic, as he began to feel nausea from all the rocking. Having Gadget fly him in the Ranger Plane, or even having Foxglove lift him up with her toes was one matter, but having this kid pilot him gave Dale the shivers. Dale grabbed a small airsickness bag, put it over his mouth, and tried to breathe slowly and deeply. "Uh, Pandeaver, can you just fly level?"

"But, Mr. Dale, I am flying level. Want me to do a wingover?"

"NO!" shouted Dale.

"I'm just kidding, Mr. Dale. You don't like my flying, do you?"

"Uh, well, yeah, I guess. I just don't want you to wreck Gadget's plane. By the way, Pandeaver, if you are part panda and part beaver, what part of you likes flying a plane? Sounds more like you would enjoy making dams out of bamboo." asked Dale.

"Actually, all of me likes to fly a plane, Ranger Dude, uh, I mean, Mr. Dale, sir."

Dale worked up the courage to look out of the plane. He grabbed a small telescope, and looked down. In a low spot in the park below, Dale noted the irrigation valves were open, and gushed torrents of water. With the park flooded, few humans remained, but Dale noted various water birds such as sandpipers enjoying the bounty of insects attracted by the standing water.

To her dismay, Foxglove heard a squeal from a small animal. When the three flew closer, Dale recognized the source of the noise. His squirrel friends, Tammy and Bink, who lived not far from the Ranger HQ, splashed around in the water as the level of the flood rose higher. To any humans looking at the rising water, the stream was about ankle deep. To these small animals, it was a flood that would give pause to Noah.

Pandeaver sent the plane into a nosedive that forced Dale's innards into his throat. Dale screamed louder than Tammy or Bink.

"Mr. Dale! We have to rescue them." Pandeaver leapt out of the plane, leaving Dale to scramble for the second set of controls. Pandeaver sailed out of the plane, then generated a large splash. He swam rapidly over to the two young squirrels, then said, "Don't worry. We are the Rescue Rangers, and we have come to rescue you!"

The two tree squirrels looked at each other in confusion. "Thanks, I think, but we don't need rescuing." said Tammy, the elder sister of the two squirrels. "Bink and I saw the flood, and decided to go swimming before the humans shut down the water flow in a few hours. It was nice of you two for your concern, though. Besides, cutie, what is your name?"

Dale grinned. "You two know me. I'm Dale of the Rescue Rangers. We babysat Bink not that long ago."

"No, not you, Dale. I mean the CUTE guy, with the blue fur."

Pandeaver liked that. Dale fumed. Foxglove smiled, then flew down. "Dale." she warned. "You already have a cutie. Leave Pandeaver alone with his new friends."

"Show off!" grumbled Dale. "He just shows up one day, and thinks he's a Rescue Ranger. First he opens my mint comic book, crushes me in a bear hug like he's pretending to act friendly-like, gets into Gadget's workshop, and broke some stuff, then flies over here with the aircraft, and gets all cuddly with Tammy and Bink. Calling himself a 'Rescue Ranger' takes a lot of nerve. I need to take that so-and-so, and cut him down a few pegs before he gets a swelled head."

Foxglove stepped over to Dale. "Honey, you're taking Pandeaver way too seriously. He's just a kid, and I need to remind you that his essay specifically talked all about you like you are the most wonderful hero in all the world. Take a deep breath, calm down, and give him some room to breathe, too."

Pandeaver's grin shone like the sun as Dale noted the two squirrels snuggling up to him. Pandeaver's blushed, then he composed himself as well as possible when he met up again with Dale. The Wuzzle noted his wet fur, and shook himself off, drenching Dale in the process.

"See, Foxy! He's out to get me."

Foxglove took a deep breath, sighed, and shook her head.

When Dale made a motion like he was pointing to an invisible wristwatch on his wrist, Pandeaver said, "Sorry, ladies, but I've got to go. Rescue Rangers away!"

Dale snarled under his breath. "Let's see about Mr. New Rescue Ranger, and how he puts up with real training."

Dale shouted, "We are ready to go, RIGHT NOW! Get into the parafoil and let's head back to the HQ."

Pandeaver ran past Dale,. leapt into the parafoil in a single bound, gunned the engine, and took off, leaving Dale on the ground, speechless. The parafoil sailed higher until it was scarcely a spot in the sky, then it turned, and landed slowly.

"Sorry, Mr. Dale, sir. Want to come aboard?"

A little while later, now that he was safely aboard the parafoil, Dale grinned wickedly. "So, you want to become a real Rescue Ranger? Do I have some lesson plans for you, pal. Besides, you need to pay me back for that mint condition comic book you opened without my permission."

"Sorry about that, Mr. Dale, sir. How much do I owe you?"

"Not much at all, Pandeaver. It only went for $5,100 at the last CrimsonCon comic book convention. You should be able to pay that off in about twenty five years, give or take a few months. Maybe you can work some of the debt off, buddy."

Pandeaver swallowed hard, then his eyes turned red, as he was almost ready to cry. He barely whispered, "Sorry, Mr. Dale, sir. Uh, when can I get to work?"

Foxglove heard the conversation, and her heart sank. She was going to keep an eye on Dale, and wondered what she was going to tell him. Over $5000 for a comic book? Dale never told her that he had that kind of collectible.

Back at the Ranger HQ, Dale planned Pandeaver's long list with devious relish. He wrote it out, presenting it to Pandeaver, who read the list slowly, then began to weep. What were his Wuzzle friends and family going to think?

He read the list.

Organize Ranger Files by date and priority Do not open or read comic books Sweep and scrub all floors of the HQ Paint walls of my room. Do not miss a spot. Do NOT open or read comic books Trim overgrown leaves around Ranger HQ front entrance Do NOT open or read comic books (THIS MEANS YOU. DO I MAKE MYSELF PERFECTLY CLEAR??????)

Foxglove examined the list, too, and looked at Dale, concerned. "Isn't that a rather long list? How is Pandeaver going to finish that list before he has to go home?"

Dale said, "Who said he's going to go home?"

"You are so mean! I can't believe you are fussing so much about a silly ol' comic book.", said Foxglove, folding her wings in disgust. She stormed out of the room, leaving Dale scratching his head.

Dale grumbled to himself. "Now that little showoff just got me in trouble with Foxglove. Why did he ever have to come over to make my life miserable? First he ruins my rare comic book, tries to get me airsick with his crazy flying, shows off to Tammy and her sister just to embarrass me, takes off in the parafoil while leaving me behind -- and Foxglove gets mad at ME for trying to even the score. I better check on the little monster to see what else he's planning."

Pandeaver worked throughout the night on Dale's list. Seems like the Rescue Ranger allocated little time to organizing or cleaning, so this would take a long time. Pandeaver's eyes began to water and grow red as he recalled Dale's angry words about that stupid old comic book. "What have you done, Wuzzle? That comic book just fetched over $5000 at the last comic book auction, and you went and read it." Dale seemed strangely gleeful at the chosen punishment, not at all like Pandeaver's preconceived image of Dale as the great and noble hero, forgiving and wise.

Pandeaver could not stay awake. Files and letters haunted his nightmares as he fell face down in the paperwork. But, Dale never slept any more peacefully. He dreamed of how he would never have to file anything again. The next morning, Dale smelled the sharp odor of fresh paint, as Pandeaver applied a second coat. That kid could sure work fast, thought Dale. I could get used to this, he mused.

Sleepily, "Good morning, Mr. Dale. I hope you are not still that mad at me. I finished your list, and also put Chip's stuff in order alphabetically, too. Finished painting the room, too."

"That'll have to do for right now. Keep working."

Dale stepped out his room, and found Foxglove wide awake, not hanging upside-down from her perch like she usually did after a night of hunting. Foxglove was indeed awake, and quite angry. In her wings was a copy of the "Understreet Price Guide" for comic books. Dale gulped, as he knew that now SHE knew the truth.

"Uh, hi, Foxy.." he began.

"Don't you 'Hi, Foxy' me, Dale. I'm ashamed of you, pulling a stunt like that on our poor little guest. You put Pandeaver through the wringer to get him to slave for you for free. That so-called $5000 comic book price is for a HUMAN sized copy, not your little rodent sized copy."

"Gee, Foxy, don't you think that it was great prank?", replied Dale, innocently.

"No, Dale. Go make things right with Pandeaver, or else.", retorted Foxglove, her golden eyes flashing with anger.

Dale did not want to find out what ".or else." meant. He ran to his room to find Pandeaver sound asleep, and Dale's room looking like a photo from "Better Burrows and Warrens" magazine.

Dale let him sleep.

Around noon, Pandeaver woke up. Next to him, he found a neatly wrapped box with a card from both Dale and Foxglove. He noted Dale's face was bright red, with Foxglove glaring daggers at Dale.

"Go ahead, Pandeaver." said Dale. "I'm really sorry for putting you through all that. My comic book was not worth anything, and I'd rather have you as my friend, than for me to have all the rare comic books in the world. I hope you like these gifts." Dale shuffled nervously as Pandeaver's eyes opened wide at the sight of the presents.

Pandeaver tore through the packages rapidly. In the first was a Rescue Rangers cadet uniform shirt and matching bomber jacket, with a certificate stating, "For excellent work beyond and above the call of duty, I, Dale and I, Foxglove affirm your accomplishments as an official Rescue Ranger Cadet, with all duties and responsibilities the title entails."

Pandeaver's mouth moved silently as he read the inscription. He said nothing. But, his eyes twinkled with delight.

"Open the next one." said Foxglove.

Pandeaver did. In the second larger package were stacks and stacks of mint- condition comic books.

"Go ahead, Pandeaver. Take them all. That's my whole collection, You worked long and hard -- too hard to not deserve the whole thing." said Dale, pausing briefly, only to add, "When you get done, can I have them back?"

Foxglove jabbed Dale in the chest sharply.

"Uh, just kidding, Pandeaver. They are yours, forever."

"And one more thing, Pandeaver, " added Foxglove, "Dale will take you flying again to get you certified as an official Rescue Rangers pilot. He just loves stunt flying. Don't you, Dale?"

Dale shook his head no, then at Foxglove's warning glare, he shook his head yes. Dale glared at Foxglove, who only smiled sweetly in return. She stepped over to a nearby shelf, picked up a small item, and handed it to Dale.

"Gee..thanks for the airsickness bag, Foxglove. You are all heart!"

Foxglove sighed, then ran over to Dale to give him a farewell hug as Dale hesitantly stepped over to the waiting parafoil glider. Pandeaver scarcely waited for Dale to step aboard before gunning the engine, sending Dale face first into the passenger seat.

"Dale, you are the greatest, honey..", thought Foxglove, as she took to the air to follow.


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