Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers: Once Upon A Dream
By John Roberts
Gadget was working in her shop in the big tree in the park. It was her favorite place to be, here among things that she could see, understand, and control. Gadget had, as she put it, a “mind-bashingly high” IQ, and got bored easily. So whenever she wasn’t helping Chip and Dale solve mysteries, she would retire to the solace of her workshop and invent things. There were problems there to be sure, but for the most part they were her own creations; she’d come up with them specifically to challenge herself. Gadget derived a great deal of enjoyment not just from the triumph over the challenge, but from the process of discovery that accompanied it.
A wisp of smoke rose from her workbench as she carefully soldered a component in place onto a printed circuit board. She put the iron in its holder and waved the smoke away, reminding herself for the umpteenth time to install some sort of fume handling ventilation in the shop, then cleaned up the scorched flux with some alcohol and inspected her work. Smooth concave fillet, bright shiny surface, no measling in the laminate, perfect! She pushed her goggles up on top of her head, shut off the soldering iron’s power supply and stretched. She realized it was almost dinnertime, and wondered idly what sort of culinary disaster Monterey Jack might be whipping up this time, but then she realized it was her turn to cook tonight.
With a wry grin, she went to her laboratory sink to wash her forepaws. She’d once heard Dale complain that when it was her turn to cook, everything tasted like machine oil. She’d been mad at first, until she thought about it and realized that the problem might be that she simply hadn’t exercised enough care to wash her paws off between the shop and the kitchen. So these days she took care to make sure that her paws were good and clean before she began cooking.
Gadget shut off the water and dried off on a small towel she had hung next to the sink, then went to the door to her shop and pulled on the handle. The door, however, refused to budge. Gadget tugged at the handle a couple more times, but the door still remained resolutely stuck shut. She began to suspect that Dale was playing one of his practical jokes on her.
“Okay Dale, ha-ha, very funny. Now please unlock my workshop door.” There was no answer, and no sound at all from the other side of the door. “Dale?” There was still no answer. With a sigh, she knocked on the door. She was starting to get annoyed now. “Monterey? Chip? Zipper!” On the other side of the door was only silence. She pounded on the door a couple of times. “Anybody!” Something was wrong. Even Dale wouldn’t carry a joke this far, no matter what the provocation. Worried now, Gadget took a hold of the handle and pulled for all she was worth, but the door did not move. Angry now, she released the handle and kicked the door in frustration. The door came completely off its hinges and drifted away.
Gadget looked through the doorway and gasped, because there was nothing on the other side of it. There was no hallway, no slide, no steps, no tree, and no headquarters at all, just the drifting door spinning by itself in an inky black void.
“What the . . .” Gadget backed away from the ominous darkness, and then the workshop began to shake. Just a little vibration at first, but it soon built into a powerful tremor. Tools were dislodged from their places and clattered to the floor, and her projects slid around on the bench. Gadget lost her footing and dropped into an awkward seated position. Carts and stools toppled over, and all of the sudden the whole room flew apart; walls, floor, ceiling and contents drifting lazily away into the void, leaving Gadget floating in the darkness by herself.
As her workshop spun noiselessly away, the silence of the void became oppressive. Gadget could hear nothing except the apprehensive beating of her heart, and could do nothing except watch everything vanish into the silent sable space. She tried swimming in the air, but it didn’t work so she gave up the attempt and wondered what she was going to do next. Presently, Gadget became aware of the sound of wind, and the sensation of a breeze at her back. She twisted around, flailing for purchase against nothing, and then she saw it.
At first, it was only a disturbance, the suggestion of something unknown, but as Gadget watched, she could see it was a storm, below her rather than above, but how could she be sure? The void gave no point of reference, no indication of which way was up or down. It felt like she was looking at the top of it though. The wind grew stronger, and at the center of the storm she could see motion, the clouds swirling in a circular pattern. Gadget was well enough acquainted with meteorological phenomena to recognize a funnel cloud when she saw one, the genesis of a tornado. They occurred frequently in the Midwest, where she had grown up.
Except this one was green.
It wasn’t totally green, but as the clouds gathered and began their wild whirling dance, the kinetic energy of the clouds seemed to manifest itself as a glowing green light. There was something sinister about it, and as the wind grew in intensity, Gadget thought she could hear the tornado growling and snarling like some hungry predator, as the storm advanced in her direction.
Gadget awoke with such a start that she knocked her alarm clock and one of her pillows onto the floor. She had worn her mother’s Victorian flannel nightgown to bed to ward off the early spring chill and it was clinging to her because she was sweating, even though the room was perceptibly chilly. Gradually she reoriented herself, and the frantic beating of her heart slowed to a healthier pace.
Hesitantly, she threw her blanket aside and swung her legs out of bed. She put the pillow and her clock back, glancing at it as she did so and noting that she’d slept a bit later than was her normal habit. Brushing her hair out of her eyes, she hopped out of her bed and went over to the door to her room, eyeing it cautiously. She could not remember the last time she’d had such a vivid dream, and she wasn’t sure she wasn’t still dreaming. As she put her paw on the handle and pulled, the door swung easily aside.
Beyond was the hall, with the doors to Chip and Dale and Monterey’s rooms. Beyond the hall was the common area, where someone, probably Dale, already had the television on. She could also hear Monterey Jack cheerfully fussing about in the kitchen. It smelled like he was making his famous pecan waffles.
With a sigh of relief she closed the door and leaned against it for a moment, then crossed to her window and opened the curtains. Bright sunlight immediately flooded the room and was picked up by her hanging prism in the window, which scattered dozens of rainbows around the room. Outside, children were playing in the park because school was out. Smiling, Gadget held out her paw to catch one of the prism’s tiny rainbows in her palm.
Nightmare or not, today was going to be a beautiful day.
Chip winced and braced for impact. Tammy ran into him, not as hard as usual this time, and took a hold of his arm and pulled him away from the stoop, where he’d been sweeping up. It had been a while since they had first met the squirrel family sisters, Tammy and Bink, during the case of the Maltese Mouse. Tammy had grown up and graduated high school, and was now a freshman in college studying criminal justice. She had been a late bloomer, but her originally boyish figure had blossomed, and she was now even a little taller than Chip. The passage of time had apparently done nothing, however, to cool her schoolgirl crush on Chip. Chip, for his part, still found her attentions disconcerting; he still regarded her as a “kid”, even though he and Dale were barely out of their teens themselves. Tammy was a frequent visitor these days, since her school was on Spring Break.
“Hi Tammy,” Chip said, trying to be a gracious host at least.
“How can you just sweep up dust on a beautiful morning like this?” Tammy asked somewhat incredulously, waving a paw at the sunlit park.
“It’s easy, watch,” Chip said, disengaging his arm from hers and picking up the broom from where it had fallen. With a few deft strokes he swept the dust pile off the branch entirely. “Just like that. It didn’t even take that long.”
“You’re making fun of me,” Tammy said, mock hurt in her voice.
“No I’m not,” Chip said. It was a little white lie. “Why, what did you have in mind?”
Tammy went up to him and took hold of his arm again. “Well, I thought we could go for a walk in the park or something.”
“Right now? But it’s almost breakfast time,” Chip said, becoming a little nervous as Tammy took the broom away from him and leaned it against the steps. “It’s the most important meal of the day,” he pointed out.
“Oh come on Chipper, I just want to talk about some things I learned in class this semester.”
“Well . . .” It was a reasonable enough request, and Chip was desperately trying to come up with an excuse to get out of it when Binky, Tammy’s younger sister, made a fortuitous appearance. Well, not that fortuitous exactly. Bink was also a frequent visitor, partly because she really enjoyed Monterey Jack’s cooking, but mostly because she trailed her older sister everywhere. No matter what Tammy was doing, Bink was almost certain to show up sooner or later.
“Hey sis, what are you up to? Hi Chip!” Bink had become quite vocal as she grew. She sniffed the air. “Hey! Monty’s making pecan waffles! Can we stay for breakfast Chip? Please?” she pleaded, flashing her brilliant smile at Chip while Tammy frowned, flicking her long bushy tail in irritation.
Seeing Tammy’s expression, Chip decided a sort of compromise was in order. “Sure, why don’t you both come in and have breakfast with us? I’m sure Monterey won’t mind.” Bink clapped her paws with delight, and Tammy brightened considerably and nodded. Saved by the Bink, Chip thought to himself with relief.
Monterey Jack didn’t mind extra guests for breakfast at all, he loved to cook and he loved it when others enjoyed his cooking, so having Tammy and Binky as guests was just fine with him. He had plenty of pecans anyhow. Gadget was just entering the room when Monterey came out of the kitchen carrying two steaming platters piled high with warm pecan waffles. “Here we go, mates!” He set one of the platters down in the center of the table, and the other one in front of Bink. “And there’s some for you, Princess,” he added, rubbing her head affectionately. Bink giggled and tucked right in. She had a very slight appearance for someone with such a considerable appetite, and even Monterey Jack, himself no stranger to good eating, was at a loss to guess where she put it all. He chalked it up to vigorous growth.
Dale shut off the television and bounded from the sofa to the table. “Oh boy, pecan waffles!” he reached for the platter, which got him bonked by Chip.
“Wait your turn,” Chip admonished him.
Dale rubbed his head. “All right, grouchy,” he retorted.
“Here now, no fighting at the table. There’s plenty for everyone,” Monty put in good-naturedly. It was interesting that a personality as impulsive as Monterey Jack would be the stabilizing influence in any group, but oddly enough that was where circumstances had placed him ever since he’d first met the chipmunks aboard that old freighter. As impulsive is Monterey Jack tended to be, Chip and Dale in the same room could be downright volatile. Just as odd, that trait seemed to be their principal strength, rather than a weakness as one might expect. Their lack of predictability often tipped the balance in their favor on their many adventures, but in the home it could be nerve-wracking.
“Hi Tammy, hi Bink,” Gadget greeted the guests as she took her place at the table.
“Hi Gadget,” Tammy responded. Bink, who had her mouth full of pecan waffle, merely waved her fork in greeting. Monty hung up his apron and joined them. Zipper flew in behind him carrying the syrup, and breakfast was served without further incident.
“So anyways Chipper,” Tammy began. Chip rolled his eyes slightly; he disliked being called that in front of the others. “Right before the break, we were discussing the interaction between groups like the Rescue Rangers and the court system.”
“Golly,” Gadget observed, “I had no idea that our adventures had become the subject of academic study. I mean, I guess it’s natural enough in the context of Tammy’s Criminal Justice major, considering that we’ve interacted with the city’s animal and human criminal elements so often, but still it’s kind of flattering, don’t you think?”
“Wow,” Dale said with his mouth full, “who knew?”
“Anyways,” Tammy said, “Professor Johnson, he’s our Constitutional Law instructor, was pointing out how in those cases where you tangled with human adversaries, like Professor Nimnul for example, even if the cops got them, a lot of times they would get off or get a reduced charge, because the Rules of Evidence usually don’t allow the court to admit your evidence, since the police have no provenance for it.”
Chip swallowed a bite of waffle while he thought about this. It was entirely true, and accounted for their frequent tangles with Professor Nimnul. Even though the things he did could have put him in prison for a very long time, without strong evidence or human witnesses the cases brought against him didn’t stand up in court, and he was frequently back on the street without so much as an indictment being returned against him. “Yeah, it can be a problem,” he agreed, “but the last time we stopped Professor Nimnul he was committed. I think the judge got tired of listening to him carry on about a bunch of rodents foiling his plans.” This statement brought knowing smiles from around the table.
The judge who’d presided over Professor Nimnul’s arraignment had a reputation for being notoriously short on humor, imagination and temper, and on being confronted with the excitable professor’s tales of having his schemes thwarted by rodents, had threatened to hold him in contempt. Nimnul’s lawyer had desperately seized on the embarrassing (and legally admissible) statements made by his client as grounds to move for a determination of sanity. The judge had reluctantly concurred, and turned Professor Nimnul over to the State Psychiatric Hospital. He’d been there ever since, where the staff found his complaints about rodents similarly unbelievable. Though there was no provision in human justice for their activities, it occasionally worked in their favor.
“Well, doesn’t it bother you that the human criminals you stop don’t go to jail?”
“Not really,” Monterey Jack remarked, “the key thing is that they’re stopped. Problem solved, at least for the time being. Even ol’ Nimnul takes a while to cook up a new scheme after we put the botch on his plans.” Zipper buzzed in agreement with his friend.
“Well what about Klaudaine then?” Tammy asked.
“That was different,” Chip pointed out. “When the police got there he was literally surrounded by mountains of physical evidence, not to mention that he confessed after being read his rights. Twice.”
“Yeah,” Dale said, laughing. “Not even Johnny Cochrane could have beaten that case.”
“It’ll be a long time before he makes any trouble again,” Gadget observed. “About 17 years with good behavior, to be exact.”
“Okay, point taken,” Tammy conceded. “But Nimnul escaped that time, and went on to try to blackmail the city with his static electricity lightning generator.”
“And we stopped that plan too,” said Monty.
“I know, but the point is that when he doesn’t go to jail, he tries a new scheme.”
“And every time he tries a new scheme, we put a stop to it.” Chip stated.
“Ol’ Nimnul’s been running out of money to cook up these schemes with,” Monty pointed out. “After the police seized his laboratory he was working out of abandoned warehouses, and his schemes since then, like that flying carpet caper for example, were really nothing more than technologically advanced larceny. He’s not as much of a threat to the city any more.”
“But he’s a criminal genius!” Tammy said. “Doesn’t it worry you that he might be cooking up some other evil scientific plot, like the coma epidemic, for example?”
Everyone stopped eating and looked at Tammy, except Bink who was only half listening to the conversation anyway. The coma epidemic had come up in conversation before, and by mutual agreement it was no longer discussed, though of course Tammy had no way of knowing this.
“Nope,” Chip said, breaking the uncomfortable silence that had descended over the table. “We have definitive proof that Professor Nimnul has nothing to do with that.”
“What kind of proof?” Tammy asked. Clearly she thought she’d already solved this mystery, and seemed annoyed to have her theory challenged.
Chip leaned back in his chair. “Well when news of the epidemic first broke last month, we thought maybe Nimnul had escaped from the State Hospital and might be behind it. So we went to the hospital to check, and sure enough he wasn’t in his cell.”
“So you were suspicious of him too, Chipper?” Tammy asked.
Chip ignored the name business. “At first we were, especially after we discovered he wasn’t in his cell. But when we went to check on his laboratory, it was still closed up.”
“Yeah, it was all dark and spooky and stuff,” said Dale. Nimnul’s hilltop laboratory had been a natural first stop to look for the missing madman, but when they’d gotten there it was immediately apparent that there had been no activity there for quite some time. The electricity and other utilities were still shut off, and looters and vandals had broken in and trashed the place in open defiance of the yellow crime scene tape that still hung in fitful strips from the building. The county had posted a Notice of Condemnation on the structure, and was planning to demolish it later in the month.
“Well what about his other hideouts?” Tammy asked.
“I was getting to that,” Chip said. “They were all empty too.” An exhaustive search of the city, including a check with their informants had also failed to turn up any clues as to Nimnul’s whereabouts or activities. “Nobody we talked to seemed to know where Nimnul was.”
“So did you find him?” Tammy asked.
“After a while. It was easier than we thought.” Chip picked up his coffee and drank some.
“Where was he?”
“Right back where we started. He was in the hospital.”
“What?” Tammy exclaimed in surprise. “You mean Professor Nimnul is running a scheme from the State Hospital?”
“Right now I‘d say Professor Nimnul isn’t running much of anything,” said Monty.
“Professor Nimnul had been transferred to a different ward of the hospital,” Gadget explained gently. “He was in an unexplained coma as well.”
“So you see Tammy, in this instance Professor Nimnul was a victim himself,” Chip said. They’d stopped by briefly, but the sight of even an enemy like Nimnul lying quietly in a hospital bed, watched over only by machines, and with no flowers or cards such as other hospital patients might receive had proven depressing, so they left quickly.
Tammy sat back and folded her arms in disappointment. “Well, there goes my theory.”
“But the investigation reminded us of something, and it should remind you too,” Chip said.
“What’s that?” Tammy asked.
“The Presumption of Innocence. It’s an important legal concept, and it states that everyone is innocent until proven guilty by due process in a court of law. Even a habitual offender like Nimnul is entitled to the full protection of the law.” Chip wrapped up his lecture looking pleased with himself while Tammy nodded thoughtfully.
“So who do you think is behind the coma epidemic then?” Tammy asked.
“Golly Tammy, I don’t think anyone’s behind it,” Gadget answered. “Medical science is looking into it, but there’s been no evidence that it’s the result of criminal activity. It’s just something they’re going to have to find a cure for. At least no one’s died form it.” This was true. Although enough of the nation’s population had been affected by the coma epidemic to attract the attention of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, it didn’t appear to be a fatal disease. People afflicted with it simply didn’t wake up. It also seemed to be affecting the animal population. The problem was disturbing, but essentially beyond their ability to do anything about it.
“I’ll say one good thing for the epidemic though,” Monty added. “So far it’s been a real quiet year for us.” This was also true. Apparently a good deal of the city’s criminal element had also fallen victim to the mysterious plague.
“Still, I hope they find out what’s causing it soon,” Gadget added. Bink burped, having cleaned off her plate.
“Binky! Excuse you,” said Tammy reproachfully.
Monty laughed. “That’s all right Tammy, compliments to the chef and all that,” he beamed and tossed Bink a broad wink, causing her to giggle.
“Compliments to the chef!” Bink said. “Thanks Monty.”
“Any time princess.”
Dale had finished his breakfast, and looked at the clock, an old wristwatch face tacked to the wall. “I wonder what’s keeping Foxglove? She’s usually back by now.”
“Oh yeah,” Monty said, “She came in just as I was starting breakfast. You were crashed out on the sofa, and she said to let you sleep. She went to watch the sunrise by herself, said you’d know where to find her.”
“Thanks Monty!” Dale said, and dashed off.
“Hey!” Chip yelled after him, “Clear your place!” But with a slam, Dale was already out the door.
“That’s all right Chipper,” Monty said, picking up his and Dale’s plates, “young love and all that,” he finished with another broad wink in Tammy’s direction and headed off to the kitchen. Tammy smiled and blushed while Chip tried to hide a pained expression. Gadget, for her part, was doing her best not to laugh, unlike Zipper who was laughing openly.
Dale knew exactly where Foxglove would be all right. There was a sturdy branch high up in the boughs of the massive oak tree that seemed to have been custom-made for the purpose. For a while now it had been their special place, where they would sit together most mornings and watch the sunrise. The spring buds were just growing out into healthy green leaves that would become greener and broader as summer came on. Sure enough, there was Foxglove, seated on the branch and leaned up against one side of it facing east, where the sun had already begun its journey across an azure sky streaked with lazy white puffs of cloud. Here eyes were closed now, and she gave the appearance of having dozed off. Dale crept up on her as quietly as he could and tickled her ear. She twitched some but remained asleep, so he did it again. This time she woke with a start, squinting in the daylight, then turned and focused on him, smiling as she did so.
“Good morning cutie,” said Foxglove, sitting up straight and stretching the kinks out of her back. Bats prefer to sleep hanging upside-down, and any other position inevitably gave her small pains.
“Good morning Foxy,” said Dale giving her a hug. “Sorry I missed the sunrise.”
“Well, you looked so peaceful on the sofa that I didn’t want to wake you up,” Foxglove explained.
“Aw, you can wake me up any time,” said Dale, sitting down beside her.
“Were you up late watching those movies again?” Foxglove asked.
“Yeah, they had a good one on last night, with these really big monsters fighting and leveling a whole city. It had great special effects!” Dale enthused.
“Oh really?” Foxglove wished he would spend less time watching these silly movies and more time with her, but in a way his child-like enthusiasm for them was one of his endearing traits, as far as she was concerned.
“Yeah, but it’s nothing compared to the movies they’ve got on tonight. You’ve gotta watch at least one of them with me. It’s their annual Christopher Lee marathon.”
“Who’s Christopher Lee?” Foxglove asked.
“Aw c’mon, you don’t know? Dale asked. Foxglove shook her head. “He’s the best actor that ever played Dracula!”
“Ick,” said Foxglove, making a face. She knew who Dracula was, but the subject matter didn’t exactly appeal to her. She had never watched any movie about vampires because the reputation they had given bats by extension was just awful. It was really hard to make friends when you had to convince people that you weren’t interested in drinking their blood.
“Oh c’mon, this stuff is classic! You should try and watch it at least once. Besides, you don’t have to be scared, I’ll be there with you.”
The last perked Foxglove’s interest. “Well,” she said uncertainly, “as long as you’ll be there . . .”
“Of course I will! I wouldn’t miss this.” Dale was clearly pretty worked up about watching old scary movies. Foxglove decided to see if she could turn the situation to her advantage.
“Well okay,” she said with a smile, “but after the movie, what do you say we take a moonlight stroll through the park? It’s a full moon out tonight.”
“At night?” Dale asked in alarm.
“You don’t have to be scared,” Foxglove said, batting her eyes at him, “I’ll be there with you.”
“Uh, well . . .”
Foxglove could see that she needed to crank up the charm a little bit more to close the deal. She leaned in close to Dale and took a hold of his arm. “Besides, if a girl’s going to go for a walk in the moonlight, she’d be much safer with a big, strong man there to protect her.”
“Er, you want me to get Monterey Jack to come with us?”
“No, silly. Just you and me.”
“Oh. Oh, yeah . . . well I’d be glad to be your protector any day or night, Foxglove,” Dale said, making a muscle with one arm to add weight to his words.
“You would?” she asked, batting her eyes again for effect.
“Sure I would.” Dale seemed pretty pleased with himself, but noticed that Foxglove seemed to be about to kiss him, a concept he was still not completely comfortable with, at least not in public. “Foxglove, what would you do without me?”
Foxglove was taken aback by the question, and looked momentarily downcast as she considered the possibility of life without Dale. Foxglove was a firm believer in love-at-first-sight, and had known in her heart of hearts from the moment she first saw Dale that she always wanted to be with him. Suddenly she brightened as her answer occurred to her.
“I’d look for you,” she answered, beaming.
Dale was nonplussed, her answer wasn’t exactly what he’d been expecting. “Well, what if you couldn’t find me?” he asked.
“Then I’d look some more,” Foxglove answered.
“And if you still couldn’t find me?”
“Then I’d keep looking and looking, all my life, until I found you.” Foxglove answered, leaning in close to him again.
Dale knew when he was beaten. He leaned over and shared a quick kiss with Foxglove. “Thanks,” he said. He still found it amazing that every time he kissed her, it was like someone set off fireworks inside his head.
“Well, if we’re going to watch movies and go for a stroll tonight, then I’d better go to bed,” Foxglove said, rising. She was sorely tempted to add something to that, but resisted the impulse. She didn’t want to scare Dale off.
“Yeah, goodnight Foxglove,” Dale said, completely forgetting that it was now mid-morning.
Foxglove grinned and waved to him before taking off down to Ranger HQ. Dale was momentarily lost in reverie when Chip’s voice floated up through the branches at him.
“Dale! C’mon, we’ve got to get going if we’re going to catch the morning briefing!”
Dale snapped out of it and started down the branches. “Coming!”
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