Ready... Aim... FIRE!!!

A Chip N' Dale's Rescue Rangers story by Morgan Kohl

Chapter Eleven: The Last Shot

"Widget, NO!" Chip shouted.

Blood arced through the air as Widget's foot smashed into Deveraux's chin and sent the crumpled chipmunk flying backwards. She shot her arm out and caught him by the throat before he hit the floor. She squeezed, producing a very satisfying gurgling sound. She released him for a split second, just long enough to send him crashing back to the floor again with a vicious backhand slap. Widget threw back her head and laughed.

The rangers had never seen anything so brutal. They stared in shock as Widget tossed the zoot-suited chipmunk around like a hacky sack. Her laughter grew even more maniacal with every hit. Chip was about to rush in and save what was left of Deveraux, but Gadget grabbed his arm and held him back. "What are you doing?!" He shouted at her. "She's going to tear him apart!"

Gadget looked into his eyes. Her expression told him to not get involved. She leaned closer and whispered in his ear. "Chip, he molested her when she was eleven," she said softly.

Chip's mouth hung open at the revelation. He froze, stepped back and said something inaudible over the chipmunk's screams and the mouse's laughter.

"What was that, Chip?" Gadget asked.

"I said, when she's done, she'd better give me a turn."

A powerful uppercut sent Deveraux flying down the hall. He landed hard on his back. He managed to turn himself over and run on all fours away from the one-armed nightmare. Widget let out a howl at his escape that was almost feline in its ferocity. She scrambled after him and the rangers followed.

Deveraux was chased into a corner. To his left, a flat wall. To his right, a steep staircase he knew he would trip on if he tried to run down. At his front was the charging albino abomination. But to his back... Deveraux's grin reappeared in an instant. He whipped around and threw open the doors of an ornate wooden cabinet filled with dozens of guns. He grabbed one and pointed it squarely at His attacker. "Hah!"

Widget skidded to a halt in a defensive stance. Her breath was labored. She hadn't fought with this intensity in a very long time. She stared daggers at Deveraux and allowed a tiny smile at seeing his condition. She'd blackened an eye, knocked out three teeth and ripped his suit and his skin in innumerable places. Blood trickled from his fur and from his grin. He looked as if he'd lost a fight with a blender. "This is fitting. Now your outside appearance matches your inside," she taunted him.

"Ah'd suggest shutting that ugly mouth of yers raht now 'fore Ah blow it OFF!" Delacroix spat back at her. His words were marred from the loss of his teeth, making his speech even more slurred. He aimed the hefty double-barreled shotgun directly between Widget's eyes. Even in his rattled condition, he was still a crack shot. Widget stood firm.

"Thing's probably not even loaded," Monterey Jack muttered under his breath.

Delacroix heard him. "Oh, Ah assure you it most certainly is. Wanna demonstrayshee-own?" With that, Deveraux yanked the trigger and sent a round rocketing through the wall over the Rangers' heads. Everyone ducked immediately. Chip tossed himself over Tammy and Monty did the same with Gadget. Wood shards fell all over their backs.

Only Widget didn't flinch.

Delacroix gave the gun a kiss. "Packs a whallop, don't she?" he said. He gestured at the guns in the cabinet behind him. "These're mah mastahpieces. Mah very first 'uns. Each 'n everyone handmade by yers truly. And they's all loaded. Good fer protection." He snickered. "Hell of a corner y'all backed me into."

He reloaded the shotgun and aimed directly at Widget's chest. "Ah'm puttin' you out of my way fer good, bitch."

Widget narrowed her eyes.

Deveraux pulled back the hammer.

He pulled the trigger.

And something extraordinary happened.

The air was filled with an earsplitting bang as the gun went off and something enormous crashed through the wall at the same time. Wood and wallpaper flew everywhere. A giant orange blur sailed inbetween Deveraux and Widget at just the right moment. The bullets found their targets somewhere in the center of the orange streak and it tumbled through the railing and crashed to the floor below.

Gadget rushed to the railing and looked down. "Crisscross!!" she shouted in alarm.

The foxbot laid on the floor in an awkward position. A golf-ball sized hole was in his side and sparks danced from the wound. Chris shook his head, looked down at the hole in his belly, then up to the pretty mouse above him. "Looks like I'm gonna be in the shop another few days, huh?" He said with a smile.

"I thought Deveraux shut you off!" Zipper cried out.

"Me too. I don't know what happened but suddenly I turned back on. I heard a shot and came running. Looks like I got here right in time." He winced as a shower of sparks burst from his side. "-to get mangled again," he added under his breath.

"That's impossible!" Delacroix wailed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the black device. It was smashed to bits. His face fell.

Widget grinned. "I thought I heard something crunch."

Terror filling his eyes, Deveraux spun around to reach for another gun. And a second extraordinary thing happened.

Gimcrack yelped as Deveraux tripped over him. The chipmunk howled and tumbled into the gun cabinet. He landed on his head with enough force to start the cabinet wobbling. Before any of the rangers could stop it, the cabinet skidded on the carpet and tipped towards the stairs. It leaned past the point of no return and started down.

Time slowed to a crawl as the rangers watched, helpless to do anything.

The heavy cabinet crashed down the steps, a gun going off with each bounce. The stairs splintered and cracked. The air filled with smoke and ear-shattering bangs. Bullets flew in all directions like drunken bees. Down and down the cabinet-turned-coffin cascaded, completing three complete cartwheels. It hit the floor with an upsurge of dust and splinters and at least a half dozen gun blasts.

A cloud of smoke rose from the still, wooden box.

The rangers stared in horror.

Widget dropped to her knees and scooped up Gimcrack in a motherly hug. Her tears fell on his face as she let out all the fear she'd been holding back at the sight of the gun leveled at her. "Oh Gimmy, are you okay?!"

"Boom, momma!" Gimcrack said happily.

Widget held him tight and kissed his fine, dark fur.

The rangers took their time descending the creaking stairs. Crisscross swiveled his head around to look. The cabinet had more holes in it than a block of Swiss.

"You don't think he survived, do you?" Tammy asked Chip.

"I wouldn't bet on it," he replied.

"Waitaminute guys." Dale squeezed his way to the front of the crowd. "I've seen every horror movie ever made. And I know that at the end, just when the villain seems deadest, he always comes back for one more scare." Before anyone could stop him, Dale ran to the cabinet and flung the doors open.

Dale looked in. His eyes bulged. He turned a deep green. He slammed the doors shut and ran off to find a discreet place to hurl.

Widget leaned over the railing. "Oh yeah, those guns are great for personal protection, aren't they, Deveraux?" She descended the stairs and slid Gimcrack back into his harness. The rangers stepped away as she calmly approached the cabinet. She pulled her cape over Gimcrack's face and lifted the lid. She winced for a second at the sight. Then her expression smoothed. It was over. He was dead. Very, VERY dead. And a part of her had died as well; a part that she wished had never lived inside her in the first place. She took a cleansing breath. The scent of blood filled her nose. And her heart felt a fleeting peace. She shut the lid, and at the same time, shut an open door in her heart.

Gadget hurried over to Crisscross. She held his snout in her arms. "Are you okay, Chris?"

Crisscross smiled to see the tear in her eye. He knew, at least, that she did care about him. "I'm fine Gadget, really. None of my major operating systems were affected. It's mostly surface damage. It didn't even go through the other side."

"But you were hit with a shotgun blast! Doesn't it hurt?" she fretted.

The fox smirked. "You forget, some of us can turn off our pain receptors when it suits us." Chris gathered his strength and managed to get to his feet. He did an internal systems check and found that he was in pretty good shape, considering. He crouched down to Gadget. "Wanna give me your diagnosis, Dr. Hackwrench?"

"For my favorite patient? Always!" Gadget hopped through Chris' side and looked things over. Chris smiled. There was something different in her words this time. Not quite love yet, but with a little push...

Tammy stared at the cabinet. A little pool of blood had leaked from it. She shivered. She turned to Chip. "I don't know what to feel about all this, Chip. I mean, it was pretty awful how he died, but he did kinda deserve it, and he did kinda bring it on himself. And we certainly can't blame Gimcrack... "

Chip glanced over at the baby in his mother's arms. 'Can't we?' It was *Widget's* baby after all. He shuddered. Best not to think about that.

Tammy sniffed away a sob. "I just don't know..." she repeated softly.

Chip smiled bittersweetly at her. "Ditto." He took her shoulders in his paws and looked deeply into her soft, dark eyes. His voice was strong and reassuring. "But Tammy, don't worry. This isn't what being a rescue ranger is about. Most of our cases are much less, uh, explosive. Hopefully, this will be the worst thing you'll ever have to see while being a ranger."

"I hope so, Chip."

Meanwhile, Dale came back from his little trip to pukey-land. He held his stomach and groaned. "I will never watch a horror movie again," he lied.

The rangers gathered around Widget then. Chip patted her on the arm. "You okay? You went a little psycho back there. Gadget told me why, so I do understand."

"What do ya mean, Chippah?" Monty asked.

"Later. If I told you now, you'd want to yank Deveraux out of that cabinet and start beating him up some more," Chip told him.

"How do you feel, Widget?" Zipper asked.

The grey mouse's expression was blank. "I... I don't feel anything, really. I hated him and he's dead and I don't feel anything about him anymore. I got my revenge. I guess it's all balanced out inside now."

Her ears suddenly perked up at a sound coming from across the room. "But I still hate *him*!!" she shouted, then slipped Gimcrack out of his harness and handed him to Dale in one swift motion, and ran off. The rangers looked in the direction she was headed and saw, way down the hall into the factory, Pyro trying desperately to open a rusty exit door.

He glanced over his shoulder to see the charging mousette. "Aw, dangit!" he whined and redoubled his efforts.

But Widget was too quick for him. She spun him around, grabbed him by the collar and fixed one of her Smiles Of Doom on him. If it was possible for the albino squirrel to pale any further, he would have. "So, we meet again," said Widget with delicious malice.

Pyro was mortified. "Aw, come on, man! Don't kill me! Please!!"

Widget gave him a shake. "And why not?"

The rangers caught up to them. "Widget, leave him alone!" Chip shouted out.

Widget pouted at him. "He made fun of my arm! Can't I at least disembowel him a little?"

The albino squirrel squeaked in terror. He writhed pathetically in Widget's iron grip. "I'm just a pawn in all this, man! My name's Jay Roans, I'm studying acting at SSU. The guy with the accent hired me to play a villain. I thought he was shooting a movie or something, man! Honest!!"

Monterey came up and poked him in the chest. "You really didn't know what was going on? Don't lie now, or I may just let Widget 'ave her way with ya."

The grey mouse gnashed her teeth for emphasis.

"No! No! I swear!!" Jay shouted. He pleaded with the rangers. "He just told me to put on this wacky costume and act all evil. I thought you were in on it! It sounded like a really cool storyline so I went with it! I didn't even know he sold guns until tonight!"

"I'll bet Delacroix chose him just for being an albino squirrel," Zipper said to Chip. "The acting thing was probably just luck."

"I'm sure loyalty wasn't a consideration," Chip said dryly. "Since Bernie was in no condition to make any public performances, Dev needed a doppelganger to take his place. Pretty clever idea. Lucky for us his eyes gave him away." Zipper nodded.

"He's just a dupe, Widget-lass," Monterey said. "Let him go."

Widget looked miffed. She was still in the mood for some head-stompin'. "Oh all right." She released Jay, who almost passed out in relief. Then she suddenly grabbed his arm and pulled him close. She whispered something in his ear that made his eyes widen. His expression grew more and more horrified. He wailed in terror and fell to the floor, backing away from Widget and gibbering mindlessly. He crouched in a corner and squeaked uninteligibly in heart-squeezing fear.

Chip gawked in disbelief at the destroyed squirrel. "What in the world did you say to him, Widget?!?"

She grinned naughtily at him. "If you don't want to end up like him, I'd better not tell you." She surveyed her quaking handiwork with glee. "He'll be like that for a few days at least. Who says words can never hurt you?" she said with a jaunty smile.

Each of the rangers at that moment renewed their vows to never get on Widget's bad side.

Just then, Dale realized "Hey, where's Foxy?"

Foxglove was very tired. She panted as she lifted yet another load of guns into her wings. There seemed to be an endless supply. She turned around and saw Bernie Withers laid out on the ground by the furnace, unmoving. "Bernie! Ohmigosh!" The guns clattered when she dropped them and she fluttered over to the squirrel's side.

She shook his shoulders. "Bernie? Oh please be okay!"

Bernie blinked and sat up. He yawned. "I was tired. I wanted to take a nap."

Foxy sighed loudly in relief. "Don't scare me like that!"

He blushed. "Sorry," he said bashfully.

Foxglove's amazing chiropteran ears perked up and swiveled around to catch the sound of footfalls on the stairs behind her. She detected Dale's distinctive footsteps amongst them. "Here come the rangers!" she shouted happily.

And in a few moments, there they were. Dale saw her, passed a giggling Gimcrack back to Widget, and ran over to sweep her up in a hug. The bat and chipmunk added one more kiss to the day's total. "Watcha been doin', Foxycakes?" he asked.

Foxy nuzzled his nose. "Oh Cutie, you'll be so proud! Bernie and I have been getting rid of all of Deveraux's nasty guns!"

"We throw them in the furnace," Bernie said. "Fire make them go away."

The rangers applauded Bernie and Foxglove's efforts and pitched in to help. They were all still pretty wired from the hectic events of the day. It was nice to have a simple task to work on to use up the extra energy. Foxy and Bernie sat against the wall and took a breather.

Suddenly, across the room, the wall near their cage exploded!

"What now?!?" wailed Chip.

When the smoke cleared, two handsome heroic figures, and one chubby one, stood in the rubble. Their weapons were at the ready to do battle. Their piercing eyes surveyed the scene; the rangers were apparently okay and the guards were all tied up.

"Great feems of lightning!!" exclaimed Wesley-Scott Vance Atticas.

"I think we're too late," said Leviathan Walker.

"I told you guys we shoulda come sooner!" Don scolded them. "We don't always have to work after dark, ya know."

"Crap. I was really looking forward to wailin' on somebody, dadgum it." Wescott pouted. He swung his hornbeam bo at some imaginary enemies.

Leviathan clapped him on the shoulder. "There'll be others. In this world of outlaws and evil hearts, there will always be others..." He cupped his hands to his mouth and called up to the rangers. "Sorry guys! Wish we coulda been here sooner!"

"No problem," Chip shouted back. "We've got everything under control here."

"Okay then. See ya later." The three vigilantes turned around and walked back through the gaping hole in the wall they'd made.

"Let's get some donuts," Don suggested.

"Yeah!" agreed Wescott.

"Weirdos," Dale assessed.

"You're one to talk, Mr 'Lizard King'," Monty ribbed him good-naturedly.

"That Wescott guy's kinda cute," Tammy said. "Oh, but you're *much* cuter!" she immediately reassured Chip and smooched him.

Widget bent down to pick up a handgun. She looked it over in the orange light of the furnace. The handle was carved in a design that had obviously taken a lot of patience, time and work from the carver. She tossed it in the fire and smiled softly to herself as the flames leapt on it. She watched it burn and gave Gimcrack a nuzzle. He burped and then giggled. Widget giggled too.

Chapter Twelve: Dancin' Machine

Crisscross Alexander Flaversham
Journal entry #266
(partial entry)

...and boy, were we ever tired afterwards! Deveraux must have had enough guns and bombs in that place to blow up the world twice! We managed to get rid of them all before sunrise if you can believe it. Widget's really a whiz at diffusing bombs. She lined up a bunch of scary-looking explody things and just went right at 'em; snipping wires and never even breaking a sweat! She was chatting with Gadget while she was doing it, too!

Speaking of getting rid of Deveraux's private stock, Bernie was a really big help last night. He worked the hardest of any of us. He was like a machine, tossing guns into that furnace. I guess Deveraux must have been really mean to him, and he wanted to do his best to get back at him in any way he could. He's changed a *lot* since we first met him in the cage. At the end of the night, he was a lot more sociable. His grammar even improved some!

When all of Deveraux's stockpile was gone, we all went back to headquarters and conked out. I plugged myself into the power lines and had a nice nap. Gadget fell asleep inside me, still tinkering with my wires to the end. It was a really nice feeling, knowing she was snoozing safely within me. I also let Dale and Foxglove snuggle up in the fur of my non-blown-up side. They stargazed for a while and nodded off in each others arms. Awwww. :) They're such a cute couple!

Gadget woke me later and started work on the hole in my side. I've said it so many times, but GOLLY does it ever feel nice when she fixes me up! Feeling the swift patter of her little bare feet over and inside me is like heaven. She was able to salvage most of my fur and what she couldn't, she replaced with some from a stuffed fox we'd found earlier that I'd saved for just such an occasion. Now I have a little discolored spot on my right side. She fixed up the holes with some aluminum plating. (She's so adorable when she's welding!!!) I'm proud to say I'm now related by blood to the G. Nelson Toaster Company! LOL!

Widget and I had a long talk while Gadget went about her repairs. Widget's a really complex mouse. I'm a good judge of character, as you know, but trying to figure out her emotions is like reading a copy of "A Clockwork Orange" without a jargon list! She's kinda hard to get to know since she tries so hard to act all intimidating and dark. She calls it being 'byronic'. One more entry in my vocabulary! However, when we started talking mechanics, she warmed right up. She talked a lot about her sub, the Albacore. I had no idea a dryer could power a sub! She also told me that she's planning to get rid of all the guns on her submarine. She said just the thought of them being there makes her feel dirty now. Good for her!

Later on, I got to meet Albacore's crew and Widget's husband, Juergen J. Hackwrench. He was a submarine captain during the war. And he's a lot older than Widget too, but they seem to really love each other, in a subtle, knowing sort of way. (If one Hackwrench sister can marry someone a lot older, could the other marry someone a lot bigger? Hmmm... ;D)

While we were off saving the world from eminent destruction, he and the crew turned out to be having the time of their lives! I guess if you spend months cooped up in a sub, when you finally get out, you go nuts! The crew were all talking about going dancing and all the good food they'd eaten and flirting with girls. They also went to a special showing of Jurgen's favorite movie, "Das Boot". He said it was the original six hour version, and that he's always liked the guy who played the captain. He also said the crew spent the whole time MiSTing it! And I found out also; it's absolutely _astounding_ how many dirty jokes sailors know! ;)

But the best news of all is that I finally have an idea that's guaranteed to win Gadget over!!! Yipee!! :) I was watching Dale and Foxglove when I got it. They had the radio on and Dale was boogieing to a song by that new band 'Two Wong Fooh and the Devilburgers'; "I Wanna Lick Your Feet". Dale was really going to town! Foxy was laughing and cheering him on. That's when I remembered a song I'd heard a while ago that I thought was perfect for Gadget and me. I grinned from ear to ear as I asked him if he knew how to disco dance. "He's funkadelic!" Foxy said. Dale took me aside and taught me everything he knew. Admittedly, it was hard adapting the moves to an animal of the four-footed variety, but I think I've got it down pretty good.

It's just gotten dark enough and Gadget doesn't seem busy. Time to put my plan into action!

Wish me luck!

More to come tomorrow; same fox time, same fox channel.


* * *

"Gadget, I've got a surprise for you."

"Really, Chris? What is it?"

Crisscross gently picked up the little mouse in his jaws and trotted her over to a little seat he'd made for her from a matchbox and some cloth. "Just wait right here and you'll find out." The sly fox dissapeared off into the shadows of the night, leaving Gadget alone to wonder about the surprise.

Peering into the darkness, she could see that Chris had made a clearing in the junkyard. The ground was covered in square tiles. Not a soul was around. "What in the world is he planning?" Gadget mused aloud.

She heard a whirring and saw something spherical rise out of the junkyard darkness before her. It rose higher and higher, suspended by a long, articulated lifting arm, like from a crane. 'Now what could that be?' Gadget wondered.

She squeaked in surprise as two powerful lights came on. She blinked away the brightness and gasped at what she saw. The round thing was a disco ball! It spun slowly, sending sparkling dots of light all over. The lights had come from two Toyota headlights. Wires ran from them to a putting generator. Then the ground itself lit up! Multicolored Christmas tree lights were placed under a floor of glass tiles, creating a makeshift disco floor!

A short drumroll sounded. Then a pulsing bass beat. Then a funkified electric guitar spoke up.

A low voice growled "Ooh-ooh-ooooooh yeah!"

And out sprang Crisscross! Covered in glitter, dressed in a white fox-styled leisure suit and a slicked-back fur-do, the foxbot looked right in her startled eyes, winked, and began singing. His voice resonated out from within his body cavity in several different pitches, creating four part harmony in one voice. Gadget laughed out loud when she recognized the lyrics.

I'm just a love machine...and I won't work for nobody but you!(Yeah baby)
I'm just a love machine...a huggin' kissin' fiend!

Chris busted a move, dancing as if he was born groovy. His four fox paws slid across the glowing floor as if he was walking on air. He spun around and sung to her, with all his heart in his words;

I think it's high time you knew, whenever I think of you...
My mind blows a fuse. (baby)
When I look in your eyes, my meter starts to rise
And I become confused.

The beat was addictive. Gadget couldn't help bopping along in her seat.

My motor's cranked and my engine coos...
When I'm sitting next to you.
E-lec-tric-i-ty starts to flow...
And my indicator starts to glow! Woooo!

Chris launched himself up and did a double backflip in the air. Gadget clapped from the stands. Strings and horns played all around. Tamborines jangled.

Ah-ah-I'm just a love machine...and I won't work for nobody but you!
Ooh-ooh-ooooooooh yeah!

Gadget giggled as a delicious shiver ran up her spine from Crisscross' low bass growl.

I'm just a love machine (yeah baby!) a huggin' kissin' fiend!"
I'm gentle as a lamb, I'm not that hard to program...
There's no way that you can lose! (Doo-doo-wah!)
My chassis fits like a glove, I've got a button for love...
That you have got to use!

He gave her a sly grin and a suggestive eyebrow wiggle as he sang "Push it, push it!"

If you look into my fi-ile...
I am sure you can find out ho-ow...
To turn me on, just set my di-al...
And let me love you for a little while!

With that, Chris got up on his hind paws and imitated some of John Travolta's moves from "Saturday Night Fever". The music pulsed through both of them. The guitars and drums blared through the air.

I'm just a love machine...and I won't work for nobody but you!
Ooh-ooh-oooooooh yeah!
I'm just a love machine...a huggin' kissin' fiend!
Ah-ah-I'm just a love machine...I won't op-er-ate for anybody but you! (Yeah baby!)
I'm just a love machine...a huggin' kissin' fiend...

The refrain repeated several times. Chris put everything into his dancing. He spun his body around like a top, moving in ways he wasn't even aware his program allowed him to. He was an orange blur of electric energy. He moved as seamlessly as the wind. As the music faded out, he moonwalked back into the junkheap he'd emerged from. The lights dimmed and the only sound now was Gadget's energetic applause.

Had Crisscross been organic, he would have been absolutely breathless. Regardless, he still needed a recharge. He sucked down some tasty voltage from the generator and prepared himself to go back out there and see her again, see the look in her eyes as she finally understood how deeply he felt about her. The foxbot shed his leisure suit. He poked his head out into the cool night air and padded forward.

Gadget was still clapping. "Oh Chris, that was wonderful! I had no idea you could dance like that! I didn't even know you could sing so well!"

Crisscross' CPU felt ready to leap from his chest in joy. Her eyes sparkled with happiness. She understood! Chris smiled ear to ear.

"You should show that routine to the guys!"

And his smile shattered into a billion pieces. She DIDN'T understand!!! He couldn't believe it. His circuits fried. His transistors popped. His neural net exploded. How was it possible she could be so dense?!? He'd given her his entire heart! He'd done everything possible! He'd used up his ideas and everyone else's! And SHE STILL DIDN'T GET IT!!! Crisscross tossed back his head and screamed. A scream of total anguish that was so loud it shattered streetlights a block around.

Gadget gasped. Her features filled with worry. "Chris... What's wrong?" she asked quietly.

His eyes bulged. His claws dug into the glass tiles. "WHAT'S WRONG?!?!?" he bellowed. "What do you think's wrong?!? I've been trying for over a week now to tell you how much I love you and you haven't reacted to anything!!! The compliments, the flowers, the disco! It was all for you! I LOVE YOU!!!! Why can't you get that through your HEAD!!?!?" Chris flopped over on his side, completely spent by his tirade.

He suddenly realized what he'd just done. Firstly, he'd actually managed to tell her, in the purest words, that he loved her.

And secondly, he'd yelled at her. 'Oh dammit.'

In a nanosecond he was at her feet, apologizing so fast and so emotionally that Gadget couldn't understand a word of it. He wished so hard that his program would allow him to cry. When he looked up, her face was completely blank. "Gadget?" Nothing. "Oh please don't be mad at me, Gadget! I'm so sorry I yelled!" Nothing. He waved his paw in front of her eyes. This was stating to scare him. "Gadget! Wake up!" 'Oh no, I think I snapped her mind!'

Gadget blinked as if coming out of a coma. She slowly looked up to Crisscross' dark amber eyes. Her mouth hung open. And suddenly she lunged at him. She hugged his muzzle tight and rubbed her cheeks over his soft, soft fur.

And when she spoke, her words almost made Crisscross' circuits overload from pure joy.

"Oh Crisscross!! I LOVE YOU, TOO!!!"

He froze for an instant, unable to believe his sensors. He had to rewind and replay his internal audio track seven times before her words sunk in. Those wonderful, miraculous, golden words!!! 'She loves me too...' The foxbot put his paws around Gadget and hugged her tight. He laughed and laughed. "Oh, Gadget! Beautiful, supergenius Gadget!! You love me too, you love me too!"

"I do love you, Chris!!!" she shouted back.

He cupped her in his paws and looked down into her tearful blue eyes. The smile on their faces were identical, both filled to bursting with bliss. "Gadget, my love, I'm so sorry I yel-"

Gadget stood up and took his lips in her paws, silencing him. "No, Chris, _I'm_ sorry. I'm so sorry I didn't see until now. I feel like smacking myself in the head and saying 'duh'!"

"You, of all people, would never say duh." Chris joked. Their laughter was like angel's music.

Gadget put her arms around Chris' thumb, hugging it as best as a mouse could. "It all makes sense now. I remember all your compliments. You were so romantic and I didn't even see... You've been the kindest, sweetest, most thoughtful, selfless fox I've ever known!" She suddenly remembered something from earlier and gasped in horror. "Oh Crisscross! That flower! I must have broken your heart when I ripped it up!"

'She remembered the flower!' Chris thought with delight. "Well, it did kinda break a little." He smiled warmly. "But when you said 'I love you, too' that acted just like krazy glue!"

Gadget giggled and tossed herself into the fox's fluffy chestfur. How had she not noticed before how wonderfully warm and soft it was? How had she not noticed everything... Well, to be honest, she did know. When it first became clear that Chip and Dale had been fighting over her, she didn't know what to do about it. She did love them both, but as friends and teammates only. She couldn't think up a sollution that wouldn't hurt at least one of them. So she just ignored them, hoping they'd think she was the problem. And over time, her act became a reality. She spent so much time not seeing their advances that eventually she *couldn't* see them. She became as immune to flirtation as she was to chicken pox. She scanned back over her memories of the last week. There were so many times when Chris had tried his heart out to win her over. Only now could she understand. His direct declaration of love had broken the spell over her as surely as Prince Charming's kiss.

Gadget looked up to Crisscross' eyes and saw the adoration there. She could barely believe a machine could show so much emotion. Technically, Chris was no more than an animatronic computer, but she never had been able to see him that way. His every motion was filled with life. Her heart defied all logic and reason by it's stubborn belief that Crisscross was as alive as she. But hearts had a way of doing that, didn't they?

Crisscross looked down into those stunning blue eyes. He saw the tears drip down her cheeks. He knew what she was feeling; knew she was finally seeing all the signs he'd thrown at her all this time. All that was in the past now. She knew. And that was all that mattered. She knew. And he knew. That they loved one another.

He cradled her in his paws and lifted her closer...

She leaned over as far as she could, getting closer...

And they kissed.

Of course, he being eight times her size, it was a little awkward at first. But after a few moments, something clicked together, and the kiss became perfect. More perfect than either of them could ever have imagined. Their lips danced together like Fred and Ginger. Their love ran between them as surely as electric current. Their world ceased to exist apart from one another. Time stopped except for that moment. Fireworks filled their hearts. Heaven enveloped them.

And then it was over. When they looked again into one another's eyes, something was there that hadn't been before. Something they had passed between them; something shared. A spark that all lovers held dear in their gazes.

"I love you, Gadget Hackwrench..." he breathed.

"I love you, Crisscross Alexander Flaversham..." she purred.

"Really? You're absolutely sure now?" Chris asked with mock urgency.

"*giggle* I'm sure," Gadget assured.

Chris ran a finger through her hair, just taking a moment to appreciate her lovliness once more. "I feel both honored and humbled to know someone who's as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside," he said softly and truely.

Gadget shed a single tear at his eloquent compliment. "Chris... I- I'm not good at being romantic, but I feel just the same about you."

His heart filled with gladness at her words. "You don't have to be romantic, Gadget. Just be you. That's a more wonderful gift than I could ever wish for."

"Golly, Chris... You're my favorite wish too."

They paused for quite a while and were content to simply drink in the warmth and tenderness of one another's gazes.

"You know of course that our relationship might have some problems," Crisscross said seriously. "Society might not look too kindly on the union of an organic mousette and a cybernetic foxbot," he said not-so-seriously.

She smiled. "I don't care what anyone thinks."

"What a coincidence! I don't either!" he joked.

Then they both bubbled up with laughter. They hugged and hugged and hugged. Gadget nuzzled into his warm artificial fur and he breathed in her delicate mousey motor-oily scent. She tickled his tummy and he skritched lightly along her sides with his claws. They spun around, getting dizzy just for the fun of it. They collapsed with a crunch in a pile of rubbish and shouted out their laughter into the night. Gadget kissed his big black nose over and over. Crisscross covered her in friendly canine licks with his soft rubber tongue.

Still giggling, Gadget wriggled up Chris' chest to caress his cheekfur. She loved being so small compared to him. It was like being in love with a giant, furry beanbag chair. "Chris, do you have other songs in that internal jukebox of yours?"

Still grinning, Chris twirled Gadget's tail around his finger. He loved being so big compared to her. It was wonderful to think of himself as her protector; able to keep his precious jewel safe from any harm. "Of course, sweetiepie. My memory is flawless. I can recall and play back any song I've ever heard in my entire life."

She squirmed happily in excitement. "Got any Devo?"

Without even having to ask, he suddenly knew exactly what song she wanted. Their eyes communicated the title perfectly. She hopped up and ran to the center of the disco floor, beckoning him to join her. He skittered over, his claws clicking on the glass. They stood side by side, arms straight, unmoving. He let a little smile slip. "You ready?"

"Mmm hmmm."

"Are we not men?" he asked.

"We are Devo," she replied.

And suddenly that unmistakable hard, nasal guitar riff came blaring out of Crisscross' chest;

DA-na-na DAH BA-na BA-na da-NUH
DA-na-na DAH BA-na BA-na da-NUH

And then the synthesizer. And then the drums. And then the words;

She sings from somewhere you can't see.
She sits in the top of the greenest tree.
She sends out an aroma of undefined love.
It drips on down in a mist from above!

"She's just the girl!" sang Gadget.

"She's just the gi-irl!" sang Chris.

"The GIRL U WANT!!!" they sang together.

And together the mouse and fox got down and funky; Devo-style. They moved stiffly and jerkily in perfect unison. They moved their arms like robots and sung in a nasal, nerdy monotone. It was an amazing effort to not laugh, but through the whole song they stayed in perfect Devo synchronicity. The moment was magical and perfect and belonged to only them...

On a nearby trash pile, the other rangers watched intently while Gadget and Crisscross got their funk on.

"Attaboy, Chris!" Dale cheered with a mouthful of popcorn.

"Oh, I'm so happy for them!" Tammy gushed.

"They're perfect for each other, aren't they?" asked Foxglove rhetorically.

"Me little Gadget's all grown up now!" Monterey Jack said as he wiped a tear from his eye.

"We gotta get some girls, Monty," Zipper stated.

Chip sighed as he looked down at the former object of his affection, now happy on her own.

Widget just smiled as she watched her sister dance.

And Gimcrack spit up.


Bernie Withers smiled.

The nurse held his paw as she walked him down the hall back to his new room. For the first time since anyone could remember, he'd asked to eat dinner with the other patients. He even chatted with the orderly who'd led him there. The rangers had indeed kept their promise. They'd all spent hours talking with the doctors and telling them about the previous day's adventures. The psychiatrists were shocked to hear it. The change in the patient was so pronounced, they had to pawprint him to make sure he was the real Bernie Withers.

He was treated much differently now. And he treated life just the same. He talked with the doctors openly, telling them all about how he felt and why he was who he was. And for the first time ever, they began to understand him.

Dinner was wonderful. It was the same old hospital food as always, but having other people around seemed to add something to the flavor. He didn't say much, but that was only out of shyness. He sat by himself, watching all the other patients go about their meal and thinking about what he'd say to each one of them. By tomorrow, he planed to say hello to everyone at breakfast. And he blushed just thinking about that cute little black-furred squirrel that had smiled at him!

But now he had something more to be happy about. Before they'd left, the rangers told him that they had a special surprise for him as a reward for helping them so much. Gadget said it was her idea. He couldn't wait to find out what it was.

"Here you are, Bernie," The nurse, a round hamster with a singsong voice, said to him. "Why are you covering your eyes?" she asked.

"There's a surprise inside," he told her.

"Oh yes. Doctor Speck mentioned that." She opened the door to his new room. "Well, welcome back, Bernie. I hope you enjoy the view!"

Bernie stepped inside and uncovered his eyes. He gasped. He froze in happiness. A tear ran down his cheek.

There, in the top corner of his room, was a TV monitor. It was playing a video loop of a fireplace. A fire as beautiful as always, but one that he knew could never hurt anyone.

Taped to the side was a note that read: 'To Bernie from the Rescue Rangers. You can always count on us! Get well soon!' They had all signed it.

His lip trembling in disbelieving happiness, Bernie turned to the nurse.

"Pinch me," he said simply.


(for now...)

* * *


Featuring, in order of appearance, the voice talents of:

Charlie Adler -as- Bernie Withers

Gary Oldman -as- Devereaux Delacroix

Tress MacNeill -as- Chip Maplewood

Adam Sandler -as- Onan Rayleon

Corey Burton -as- Dale Oakmont

Deborah Walley -as- Foxglove Fairmont

Jim Cummings -as- Monterey Jack Colby

Joan Cusack -as- Widget Hackwrench

Kath Souci -as- Gimcrack Hackwrench

Johnny Depp -as- Stalker T. Olafsen

Matt Frewer -as- Pyro/Jay Roans

Matthew Broderick -as- Crisscross Alexander Flaversham

Tress MacNiell -as- Gadget Hackwrench

Corey Burton -as- Zipper Musca

Noelle North -as- Tammy Chestnut

Janice Karman -as- Trackball

Steven Wright -as- the 'Den of Beans' MC

Trey Parker -as- Ralph S. Mouse

Vin Diesel -as- Ice

Matt Damon -as- Wescott Vance Atticas

Ben Affleck -as- Leviathan Walker

Artie Lange -as- Don

Edie McClurg -as- the nurse

Also featuring the songs "Love Machine" by the Miracles and "Girl U Want" by Devo. Soundtrack available in my room

"Ready... Aim... Fire!!!" was started on March fourth, 2000 and finished on March twenty-fifth, 2001, over a year later.

This story is dedicated to the nicest person on the planet. A great rangery artist with wonderful, heartfelt ideas, who's a better writer than he thinks, a fascinating and wise conversationalist, and the best host I've ever known. Ray "JoneScientific" Jones, this one's for you. I hope you find a Gadget plushie. And give Imelda a big kiss for me!

Great big flaming heaps of thanks to everyone whose characters I stole-I mean used, including Matt Plotecher, Eddie Baird, Steven T. Stone, the Di$ney Empire and of course, John Nowak; master fanfic writer and creator of the lovely and lethal Widget Hackwrench. John, you have helped this story more than either of us will probably ever know. The nuanced wisdom and excellent added lines have been the perfect crowning touches to this story. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for proofreading this monstah.

And a special thanks to all the writers of the Rescue Rangers' original episodes, for starting the fic-honored tradition of being incredibly technically inaccurate for the sake of comedy and convenience. ;)

Routine Disclaimer: All characters, except Crisscross, Bernie, Deveraux, Onan and Pyro, are copywrite someone else, probably Disney, and are used without permission. (well, some of them were.) Please, Eisner, don't sue my lilly-white behiney since I'm only writing this for fun and I don't got no money anyway. Bla bla bla, yakety schmakety and so on and so forth ad infinitum. Quid pro quo, nolo contendre, vaya con diablo and may the force be with you.

Bonus Fun Rangery Activities: See if you can locate all the mentions of other Rangerphiles in this story. At least seven names and nicknames are sprinkled throughout the story. A hundred points if you find them all. Another hundred points if you find the total number of words I had to misspell to write Deveraux's phonetic accented dialogue. And 200 bonus points to whoever can correctly name the source of every one of Dale's pop culture references. Ones even I wasn't aware of get double points. Now go back and waste some time!

And I hope at least SOMONE'S seen the movie "Dune" so they could get the reference to it I made in chapter ten!

CRISSCROSS: I finally got Gadget! Yeah baby, YEAH!!!


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