Part II: A Few Small Repairs
Chip came up short as he sauntered out onto the HQ's launching platform, and had to suppress the urge to bonk himself on the head. He wished Dale had been there, too, so he could have done something with the impulse.
How could he have POSSIBLY forgotten it was Father's Day? he thought, chagrined. Well, so much for suggesting they do something together today...
Gadget looked like she was just about finished packing up for her annual visit to her father's old place, in fact. Actually, it looked like she was prepared to do a complete overhaul this year, instead of just touching up a couple deathtraps and a vigorous few hours of 'tidying up' by Gadget's somewhat dubious definition of the phrase. Chip was sure she didn't usually carry THIS much along; could the Ranger Plane actually lug that much cargo? He couldn't tell what most of the oddly shaped packages even were.
The chipmunk was just opening his mouth as Gadget turned around and he promptly forgot what he had to say. It was such a STUPID reaction he had an even stronger urge to bop himself upside the head; it was only three tears in her jumpsuit, after all, and they didn't even go through the t-shirt underneath, but still... Gadget's obvious total ignorance of even this small reduction from her usual total coverage and the rarity with which Chip got even this kind of a look made it look like the sexiest thing in the world, somehow. Chip resolved angrily not to look at it or mention it in any fashion to her- this was a /serious/ day for Gadget, and there was no place for his involuntary impulses.
Even if Chip hadn't been distracted it's doubtful he would have noticed Gadget 's expression was more distant and vague than usual. "You guys have the fort today, right?" she squeaked absently, holding a nut up to the light and squinting through the hole as she spoke. "I'll probably be gone a little longer than usual-" she paused, lowered the nut, and with a thoughtful expression began polishing it, slowly, with a small rag. "... I doubt I'll be back when you expect. Maybe... maybe not even tomorrow. I'm not sure i- when I'll be back, actually. ...kay?"
Her teammate had managed to calm himself down and refocus by this time, and nodded seriously, as if he'd been paying close attention to her every word. "Sure thing, Gadget!" he said with a winning (he hoped) smile, diligently not looking below her neck. Fortunately this was extremely easy to do in its own right. "Installing something new this year? You look like you've got enough to rebuild the whole place with you."
She tossed the nut up in one hand. She bounced it off of the back of her paw, imparting a precisely calculated flip to it without conscious attention, and on its next descent caught it and flicked it into the back on the plane.
Gadget shook her head, forcing a smile. "Oh, no. I just-" she paused, then said firmly, "I just need to make a few small repairs."
PART II: A FEW SMALL REPAIRS
Written by James Simonds, Jr.
Gadget examined her checklist. It was getting dark, and she needed to get the plan started.
She ran her eye over the room, turning in a circle slowly. It had taken her all day, but she'd installed, modified, and confabulated everything necessary for what she had to do tonight... she hoped.
The chances of this all working like it was supposed to the first time seemed so freakishly unlikely it scared her half to death... but it had to be today. She knew it in her heart, knew it from what- what /she/ had told her.
Father's Day. It had to happen on Father's Day, or the plan wouldn't work.
And there was no way Gadget was living another year doing nothing, knowing what she knew now, what she remembered.
Gadget made a check off her list, and tucked it away. Carefully, she pulled up the small comfortable chair she'd made for herself, and arranged herself in it.
She'd gotten the last preparations done just in time, she realized, her eyelids feeling incredibly heavy. She inhaled deeply, breathing the fumes from the chemical mixture she'd spread so liberally through her old home. Groggily, she fumbled in the pocket of her jumpsuit, and pulled out a small metal box. Set into the top was a single button, as large and as red as she could possibly make it.
Gadget put her finger firmly on the button, a hair's breadth of pressure from actually pressing it, and felt herself fall asleep.
"Mmmn. At least you move rapidly when someone can get you motivated."
Gadget opened her eyes to look into Ms Hackwrench's dispassionate face.
"And about time, too," the other mouse noted. Gadget had a much better look at her than she'd had in the dream last night- no, she corrected herself, extremely early this morning. Most obviously, Hackwrench had a slight color tinge to her hair Gadget was /pretty/ sure she wouldn't have for another twenty years at least, the slightest hint of white and grey. And while Gadget wasn't terribly observant of such things, even she was very sure she had /some/ chest, simply because a) it occasionally made certain tight spaces and reading blueprints at certain angles inconvenient and b) people looked at hers an awful lot. Ms Hackwrench appeared to have roughly the outline of a lead pipe, in contrast.
Next to her stood Gadgie, doll tucked neatly under one arm, with her usual
"I'll be keeping the girl out of harm's way," Hackwrench said evenly. "If anything starts to go poorly, you /ensure/ she stays unhurt, do you understand? I'm not fond of her, but she's the fulcrum to your entire mental apparatus- without it, there IS no 'Gadget' to speak of. I doubt even Hack is insane enough to try and hurt her, but nothing is certain where she's involved."
Gadget got out of the dream-chair she was sitting in, nodding. "Gosh, the knockout fumes seem to be working great!" she affirmed, trying to display a bit more enthusiasm than she felt at the moment, not comfortable with what had to be done tonight. "I had no idea I knew so much about biochemistry."
Hackwrench snorted very slightly. "I know a very large number of things you don't display any interest in, Gadget, so you never get to USE them. I can only do what you truly want, remember? If you don't want to play with the chemistry set today, it doesn't matter if I'm up in your brain doodling DNA sequences, it doesn't go anywhere."
Gadget hesitated, and asked as Hackwrench coolly removed a weapon- it appeared to be an impossibly perfectly designed, miniaturized version of her plunger crossbow, small enough to fit on a belt loop- from her waist and examined it, sighting down its brief length. "I really don't understand a lot of the principles involved, Ms. Hackwrench. I spent as much of the day as I could reading up on guided imagery and psychology- golly, I'm SO glad I finally put in that internet hookup- but I've barely scratched the surface! This... WILL work?"
Hackwrench glanced up with a look of slight surprise. "Of course. It's
She put the hand crossbow back on its loop, and pulled on Gadgie's hand. "Say goodbye, Gadgie. If all goes well, we'll be moving out of... here..." Hackwrench looked around at the ramshackle representation of Geegaw's home. "...after tonight." Gadget thought there was just a hint of softness in her inner self's face as she glanced back at her. "She deserves better," Hackwrench told her quietly. "We've all been living in the past for much too long."
Gadgie beamed as Gadget knelt, and the little girl threw her arms around her in a tight hug. "Good luck, Miss Gadget!" she chirped, her smile the brightest thing in the gloomy, shadowed room. "Fluff wishes you luck, too-" she pressed the doll to Gadget's cheek, giggling, as the toy 'kissed' her. "-Fluff knows you'll be okay, cause you'll do the right thing. I'll see you soon!"
The Rescue Ranger squeezed back. For half a moment, a wistful fleeting thought- if things had gone differently, if she hadn't let herself be so molded by this time and place... she might have a daughter just like this to hug already. Those few mice she knew well had all been married and with their own litters by her age. But it was only a passing thought, and she pushed it firmly aside.
"I'll see you," she said tenderly, brushing at her younger incarnation's hair. Ms. Hackwrench, looking a bit bored by the proceedings, took Gadgie's hand, and gave Gadget a last nod.
"Just remember to give me the signal," she said softly. "If I devote all my considerable mental energies, I can help you as much as I've allowed in the plan, but no more. It's all I can do.
"/You/ have to be the one to kill Hack, Gadget."
"I understand," she replied, swallowing.
Gadget took a deep breath, and the room was empty, but she knew it wouldn't stay that way for long.
Slowly, cautiously, she bent down, and picked up the already loaded and cocked heavy crossbow she'd left sitting next to the chair. She double-checked it one last time, and stood. Her eyes watched the darkness, her body tense. She had faced so many enemies before, some in worse places than this, but- she could still barely control the shaking in her hands.
A deeper darkness separated itself from the shadows around the one well-lit area around the chair. Indistinct in form, it seemed to slither, rather than crawl, across the floor- low to the ground.
It approached the edge of the light, and paused. With apparent effort, it heaved itself off the floor, with a loose, flopping set of motions, as if every bone in its body was broken, torn from its ligaments. It drew itself up into a form Gadget's height, adjusted its 'head' with one last loud *CRICK*, and stepped forward.
"Evening," Hack said lazily, in tones as perfect and golden as her naked body. "I was starting to think you'd NEVER give me a fair fight."
Written by James Simonds, Jr.
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