Broken Glass
Part I: Father's Day

/ June 16th. Continuing observations of test subject. /

/ Subject is having the dream again. As per prior log entries, if she does not take
appropriate behavioral response after this session, direct interference in the experiment
will be scheduled. I dislike taking this route, but it is the ten-year anniversary, and the
subject's psychological defenses show no signs of deteriorating. As yet she has failed to
even consciously recollect the dream upon waking, thus noticeably limiting its usefulness
for further behavior modification. /

/ Have already drawn up appropriate plans for the likely eventuality this scenario
continues, and have made all necessary preparations. /

/ 1:16 AM. Following usual lack of nighttime routine, Subject # 4 Gadget Hackwrench is
entering REM sleep. /

/ She has one last chance to perform. /


Gadget wasn't sure where she was yet, but it was very familiar. She'd been here a lot

The small figure playing on the floor- well, technically speaking it had to be a 'floor', as
it was underfoot and served the purpose of working against gravity's effects for the
benefit of those on it; but with the lack of walls, ceiling, or any lighting other than the
single spotlight picking out the young girl as reference, it had to be pretty much taken on
faith- was singing softly to a doll. The girl was very familiar, too.

"You were the sweetest thing... that I ever knew..."

Gadget placed her after a moment as a rather small version of LaWhinie- wait. No. This
would be her, wouldn't it? She had an odd notion her double never wore anything as
modest as the child's nightgown, and never looked that innocent even at this young age.

"Since you abandoned me... my whole life has crashed..."

Gadget knelt by her, studying the- again, awfully familiar- doll curiously. "Aren't you a
bit young to be singing lyrics like that?" she asked curiously. "Gosh- that's years before
your time, I'm pretty sure. Where did you even learn them?"

The girl giggled, hugging the doll to her chest. "'s okay. Daddy doesn't know I know
them," she said, grinning in delight at having a Secret. "And Hack taught me. Hack
knows a lot of things!"

The older mouse was abruptly aware she absolutely, positively did not want to meet
Hack. "If Dad wouldn't like it, you shouldn't really be doing it," she explained

The child sighed, and nodded. "I know. Just- every once in a while-" she looked around
the absolutely barren darkness surrounding the two of them in the spotlight, then leaned
close to whisper. "Once in a /very little while/, I want to do something... naughty." She
sighed, getting up. "Daddy wouldn't like it, though, you're right. I'd never do
ANYTHING to hurt Daddy," she said solemnly, her wide eyes gazing into Gadget's as
she nodded seriously.

"... besides," she squeaked cheerfully, "that's Hack's job. You know you have to meet
her before you go. You have to meet EVERYONE. It's in the rules!" She leaned up and
kissed herself on the nose, giggling. "Tag! Your turn!" she turned and fled into the
darkness, her laughter lingering.

Gadget had frozen the moment Hack's name was mentioned. Her legs didn't seem to
work properly- she couldn't get up from her kneeling position in the spotlight, next to
where the younger her had been sitting.

The laughter started coming back towards her.

The octave seemed to start changing at random, breaking up the sound's smooth flow, as
if tapes of dozens of people laughing separately had been made, then clumsily spliced
together, a few split seconds devoted to each person.

Something sharp ran slowly down along her spine, twirled around the base of her tail.

Hack leaned close, whispering into her ear from behind, claw still tracing her tail base.
Around... and around.

"tag yOU'RE it"


Gadget scrambled away as she felt her ability to move return, gulping desperately for air.
Clumsily, she managed to turn over to face it, only because the only thing worse she
could imagine was having it behind her where she couldn't see.

A figure knelt just as the edge of the light, squatting. A long tail slithered lazily over the
ground in front of it, snakelike, lashing back and forth slowly.

Oh... gosh. The tail looked familiar, too.

Leaning forward onto hands and knees, Hack... crawled into the light, and smiled at

"I DONT care foR sugar honey IF I CaNT haVE yoooo," she crooned softly. Seeing
Gadget's eyes helplessly locked on it, she arched her back in blatant display, clearly
reveling in the simple action of being seen, a soft rrrr of pleasure rumbling from her

It... was her, she was pretty sure, Gadget thought. Most of the time. Most of it. When
you weren't looking at it *very carefully*, any bit of it you let out of sight kept changing,
just a little. The tail was more rat like, then just as suddenly a perfect anatomical
specimen of mouse beauty. Teeth glinted out of the pristine muzzle, and vanished.
Dainty paws had chilling, razor-sharp claws, then were once again unadorned.

Hack was completely naked, of course. This was about the only thing that didn't shock
Gadget. Nothing seemed more obvious.

"HERE to walk ON bRoKeN glass AGAIN?" Hack inquired sweetly. "HERE every
YEAR. should be TIRED ofitbynow," she squeaked, her voice speeding up.
"Tiredtiredtired of KEEPINGMEALL lockedup??" The claws lashed out, the thing's
face contorted in anger, slashing deep rips through Gadget's jumpsuit.

The mouse simply couldn't do anything but stare. Every instinct yelled, begged, a dozen
different responses from her, from the most instinctive to carefully reasoned schemes to
put this thing DOWN, for good. Nothing. The only thing she could listen to was Hack.

"WHYWHYWHY," she/it whimpered, curling in on itself, tail wrapping around its bare
body. "HURT evERy ye... ar... stoppit..." with the same wide eyes the child had, it
looked at her, tears forming. "jusgoway," it whispered, turning, and crawling back into
the darkness. "jus... go way..."

Gadget felt like someone was squeezing her gut. Reminding herself of the physical
impossibility of this did little to relieve the sensation. "I never hurt anyone... on
purpose..." she whispered, her own eyes watering. "I- I didn't mean..."

/ Subject continues classical denial routines. No noted variance from dream event
schedule to date.../

Gadget vaguely felt like she, in fact, knew something of the routine being spoken of
already. Watch. Someone new, except they weren't really new, of course, as for some
reason they were all her, walks into the light. Try and do things but not be able to. It
felt- er- well, like everything else... familiar.

A mouse, hair cut short, attired in a lab coat long enough to nearly reach the floor,
entered, speaking in a near monotone into a small handset. A cord snaked to a recorder
attached to her waist.

/ Will be leaving recording online on off chance 'Section 3: Introductions and
Explanations' fails to follow normal procedures. / The lab mouse glanced down at
Gadget almost expressionlessly, the slightest frown crossing her face, just for a moment.
/ Mental note, colloquialism: don't hold my breath. /

She snapped the handset onto her belt, next to the recorder, and offered Gadget her paw.
"Come on. Get up. I can't believe you still haven't learned a modicum of controlled
dream imagery after all this time. Even some humans have worked that one out," she
intoned. "Still can't even properly control your motions when Hack's online, and she's
the weakest of the lot? Unacceptable."

She pulled Gadget to her feet, and began walking away. The spotlight followed her, and
Gadget hastily trotted to keep up, not wanting to find out what happened if she left it and
fell into the darkness.

"My persona is Ms. Hackwrench. I do wish your subconscious had a bit more artistic
creativity," she said crossly. "Keep moving. We have a lot to see."


"And if you're trying, to hurt me, I know that you'll succeed," Ms. Hackwrench recited
in bored tones. "I don't understand the musical elements in the slightest, not after ten
years of this. The imagery is clear enough, certainly, but our total lack of artistic or
musical aspiration otherwise indicates- there." Hackwrench took firm hold of a large
switch set into the floor, and with a slight grunt flipped it.

Lights came on from all directions, with a series of firm clumping noises, like the lights
in a large sports stadium make in movies and commercials, illuminating Gadget's old
home, the one she'd shared with her father for so many years.

None of the other Rangers would have recognized it immediately. The floor was
immaculate, save for a few simple toys scattered about. No inventions, no work in
progress, not even a single salesman trap or defense; a few simple necessities a mouse
needs for everyday life. Tables, a human radio- a few of the chairs that would be so
conspicuously missing when Gadget lived here alone, even. The cockpit window let
bright sunlight stream cheerfully into the room, begg-

"Begging the question of where all this light was a few seconds ago," she mused, pre-
empting Gadget's thoughts. "Yes. Now, in... 1983, I believe, we had a lengthy routine
explaining the subconscious persona, but fortunately for my sanity you began picking up
psychology texts along with the other books you used for your little self-education
programs, and we could use your primitive understanding of the topic, no matter how
simplified and outdated, to excise it for the much simpler standard we've had since."

She pointed at herself, explaining in patient tones as if talking to someone mentally
challenged, "Ms. Hackwrench. Superego. Obedience, control, order, repression. In your
particular instance, I also incarnate your technical abilities for somewhat involved
reasons not pertinent to the current discussions."

Gadget couldn't argue with this. Hackwrench continued, "Hack- I'd prefer to have the
visual aid, but generally you have her so ludicrously repressed she's fortunate to get the
one meeting with you- Id. Unrestrained emotion, the things you feel need to /be/
controlled- gratification of selfish desires. This covers in your case a truly astonishing
variety of sins besides the obvious sexuality and violence that I won't attempt to list
definitively at the moment, as we're on a schedule." She glanced out the window,
measuring the angle of the sun precisely by eye, and nodded to herself.

Hackwrench nudged the little girl- now where did she come from?- with her foot. She sat
on the floor contentedly, again playing with her doll, singing softly to it. " 'Gadgie'. Ego.
Defense mechanisms, our little window to the world. This six year old is what passes for
the core of your personality," the scientist squeaked, shaking her head. "SHE was around
years before the Event even happened, for heaven's sake. She's older than I am." She
looked down dispassionately. "I... if you allowed me to have any more emotional
response than a poor Spock parody, I'd say I am very, very close to despising the dear
little thing."

The two mice began walking toward the middle of the room as she continued explaining,
"Since Hack has no practical effect on day to day activities, with very rare exceptions,
Gadgie and I... share driving responsibilities, if you will. If we had the time I'd show
you the internal representation you have of your controls. You'd love them, of course,
since I built the model." Shading her eyes, she turned and looked out the window again.

"Hackwrench- MS. Hackwrench," Gadget corrected herself, finding herself able to speak
again for the first time in ages. (Apparently she didn't have much dialogue in the script.
She realized she found this vaguely annoying.) "This isn't... normal, is it?" she squeaked
gingerly. "Freudian archetypes- they're not this /literal/, not this separated." Gadget
remembered that much from the books she's last read some eight years ago. "They're just
metaphors for a complex psychoanalytic theory-"

Hackwrench was shaking her head. "Alert: someone please apply brakes to the world,
Gadget Hackwrench has ascertained she does not have a healthy, normal psyche." She
looked at Gadget with something like anger glinting in her eyes. "This is how YOU chose
to handle the Event, your... rationalizations, your defense mechanisms. A pawful of
mice none of whom can handle what happened adequately. Gadgie can't understand
because she's too young; my emotions are all useless to nonexistent- in addition to my
only having control when you have a project, and only under supervision from the little
girl; Hack can't do ANYTHING coherent." A shadow drifted across the sun outside the
cockpit canopy.

Hackwrench suddenly took hold of Gadget by the collar and SHOOK her, once, firmly.
"I'm tired of this," she said, her tones bland in contrast to her actions. "You're the only
one with the power to choose a different way of handling the matter. My hands are tied."
The scientist released her suddenly, and Gadget found herself overbalancing, tumbling
onto her rear.

Ms Hackwrench looked down at her, a trace of scorn twisting her upper lip. The dark
blotch was growing rapidly larger, crawling across the sun.

She shook her head in resignation, and removed the handset from her belt, speaking into
it. / 'Take me from the wreckage,' / she recited in disinterested tones.
/ 'Save me from the blast.' Subject #4 continues.... /

Gadgie looked up expectantly, smiling as she watched it grow. "Pick me up, and take me
back!" she sang cheerfully as the blotch resolved itself into the... familiar... form of her
father's old plane.

Her older self clutched at the floor in sudden terror. "Oh... oh gosh," she said
breathlessly. "Oh NO."

"don't let ME kEEp on WALKing," a voice breathed softly. Nearby, a tail curled lazily
from under one of the tables. Back and forth, back and forth. "KEEP on WALKing..."

Gadget's eyes widened, glazed. She stared helplessly out the window as the clearly out
of control vehicle plummeted rapidly closer.

"Oh gosh oh no I remember no, no, no DON'T, oh GOD," she wailed, voice crawling
higher in panic, despair, horror.

The plane practically filled the window, framing Ms. Hackwrench as time slowed to
nothing. She scowled down at Gadget.

"Fix. It." she said.

Her father smashed into her home, her place of perfect safety, sending shards of broken
glass flying everywhere in the confined space as the window and the plane and her world
and her mind shattered into neat, neat pieces.


Gadget woke up.

She trembled violently, jerking from her seated position at her workbench where she'd
drifted off for the umpteenth night, a scream choking off in her throat. She stared,
sightlessly, out the window of her workshop, then blinked once, twice, three times.

"Gosh!" she said, yawning. "I need to have this chair automated so it reclines into a
horizontal position when I fall asleep. That's four this week," she murmured absently.
She began to rummage among the plans on her bench in front of her. "Didn't I start work
on that five point six times already? I don't quite remem-"

Gadget froze, staring at the scrap from one of her plans in her hand.

Directly across the middle, perfectly centered, was her handwriting. If she had taken an
hour to write the two words, she /might/ have been able to match the precise lines. Still,
it was most definitely hers- she knew it without doubt or hesitation.



"Re... member..." Gadget whispered.

Her hand began to shake uncontrollably.

Written by James Simonds, Jr.

Written by James Simonds, Jr.


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