Part V: Big Machine
Written by James Simonds
Still in love with all your sins
Where you stop and I begin
And I'll be waiting
Living like a house on fire
What you fear is your desire
It's hard to deal
I still love the way you feel
Now this angry little girl
Drowning in this petty world
Oh who you run to
Swallow all your bitter pills
That's what makes you beautiful
You're all or not
I don't need what you ain't got
I'm torn in pieces
I'm blind and waiting for you
My heart is reeling
I'm blind and waiting for you
-Goo Goo Dolls, "Big Machine"
Monty wasn't too keen on Chip flying just now, but what were the choices? Dale? Zipper? Roight. As if Chip was going to let anyone else handle this- even if Monty wasn't so beat up he could hardly see straight, and his ribs still sore. Still, the way he was hunched over the Ranger Plane's controls... Monty checked his seat belt for the tenth time.
"Stupid, stupid, STUPID..."
Dale gingerly patted him on the shoulder. "'s not so bad," he said with forced cheer. "Y'get used to being stupid!"
Monty winced, as whether Dale was entirely serious at the moment or not, he didn't think it was the BEST time to try and 'comfort' his pal, but Chip just ignored him. The chipmunk looked about as focused as Gadget did- no, worse than that. As focused as this 'Tegdag' character Dale had told them about.
"We'll find something, Chip," Monty assured him quietly. "This all started out at Geegaw's. We're bound to find SOMETHING... out... here...."
His voice trailed off. As the Plane turned slowly to the side, everyone became completely silent- Monty thought Chip might have stopped even breathing.
Dale gulps after they'd flown in silence for long moments. "M-maybe not, Monty."
The abandoned runway where Gadget had kept her father's home as a veritable shrine was empty. The broken down plane was simply gone.
The huge space was pitch dark for another few moments, then was interrupted by a brief sparking flash.
"$%^&," a voice said noncommittally.
Another few seconds passed- another crackling noise of shorting electricity, and large lights feebly glimmered into life, shining into the central area.
The viewing was still not good, but a watcher could see enough to make out the mouse in the middle. She was surrounded by a maze of wiring that snaked off everywhere into the vague outlines beyond the middle of the room. Some led to several human-sized devices sitting nearby: a monitor; a phone; a VCR; and what looked very much like a partially salvaged Modemizer, although at least half of it appeared to have been rebuilt with pieces from the other three appliances.
"There. Don't blow any more fuses until I'm done," she scolded it.
The mouse was breathtakingly gorgeous, even slightly scorched from what was apparently excessive recent tampering with electrical forces. Long orangish-blonde hair; large incredibly expressive eyes which were darting impatiently over the assembled items, checking last details; curves that would be stunning even in a jumpsuit that covered most of her body.
At the moment said curves were in no such thing.
She tugged with somewhat distant approval on the sleeve of the new coveralls, glancing at it. "Should have switched to black leather years ago," she muttered absently. "Doesn't even show the burn marks, really durable... feels kinda nice, too. It's just the sensible choice." The comments sounded almost rehearsed, as if this were the tenth time she'd repeated them to herself in an attempt to convince herself of the line of reasoning.
She glanced down at the zipper open down to just a hair below her navel, and squeaked in more uncertain tones, "Breathes much better, too." She trotted towards the controls to the massive amalgam of devices, scratching her head slightly. "...right." She shrugged- she just knew it was a good idea.
Tegdag took a deep breath. Her new outfit liberated from the boxes back at HQ enhanced it considerably. "Okay! Time to find out if this thing works."
Teg flipped switches, pushed buttons. After a bit of crackling, her image flickered to life on the monitor, and lights and readouts glowed on everything else. The VCR dully blinked / 12:00 / in barely visible numbers, as there's some things even a genius can't figure out.
"Yes. Is this thing on? Well, obviously it is, but I'm supposed to say that," Tegdag told her image onscreen. Presumably a camera was buried somewhere in the collection, allowing her image to be recorded. "Um, Entry, gosh, 000001. This is Gadget Hackwrench, recording my notes and observations for posterity; however, until I can conclusively prove my identity, hopefully with the help of my very first taped experiment, I will be using the name 'Tegdag'." She paused, considering this. "I'm... not exactly sure why, because I know who I am," she affirmed, "it just... I like the sound of it." She looked thoughtful. "Possibly I can look into legally changing my name. Um, if there was such a thing in current mouse society. As legal name changes, that is, not names. There's such a thing as n-"
She stopped, rubbing her eyes with her palms, and breathed in and out slowly. "Focus," she said softly. "FOCUS, girl. They'll figure out where you are eventually, and we don't have time for this."
Briskly, she began attaching straps to her wrists, and gingerly affixed what might be part of the phone's transmitter or receiver into the generous depths of her ear. "Tegdag resuming observations," she squeaked in businesslike tones. "I'm obviously undergoing some sort of bizarre psychological reaction, which appears to have begun the night I went to visit Daddy's place a few nights ago. As I'm not a qualified hypnotist or psychologist, and non-humans of that profession are stunningly rare, AND I don't have time for years of therapy, I'm taking a much simpler approach and getting under the hood."
She glanced over the setup, satisfied, and settled into a makeshift metal chair she'd constructed. "The Tegdag Psyche Analyzer," she said proudly, "will allow me to explore my own subconscious much more efficiently than traditional methods. Furthermore, with the recordings made, any reasonable animal will be able to see I'm totally sane, and exactly who I say I-" she frowned. "Wait. Didn't I just say was having some kind of psychosis, and wasn't sane? ... no, of course I'm sane," she affirmed.
Tegdag took a last look over the snaking nest of wires and dismantled pieces that led toward her, like arrows pointing to the rat trapped in the middle of a maze, and said proudly, "Gosh, I'm SUCH a genius."
Tegdag flipped the switch on.
Chip stood on the runway, looking out into the distance, rubbing his head. He held his hat in one hand, slapping it rhythmically against one bare leg.
"Cleaner than me ma's griddle," Monty said quietly as he walked back towards him, dusting himself off. "Other than th' big burn marks- somethin' hot enough to burn up parts of th' bloomin' tarmac- there's not a hint ta even show there was anything here. Other than there being a big bunch of stuff /missin/, there's not a clue here, Chip. I'm sorry. Me n Dale 'ave looked fer hours..."
"It all looks like it happened days ago- I'd take a wild guess n' say Father's Day," he said sadly. "If there was anythin' to be found, it got taken by scavs or blown away ages ago."
Chip didn't seem to be listening. Quietly, he curled his hand up into a fist, and began repeatedly bonking himself against the forehead with it.
"Chip, me lad-" Monty said nervously. "I don't know that blunt trauma is gonna help yer thinkin' any- believe me, after that thing Gadg- Teg- dropped on me, I know-"
"Come on," Chip muttered, furious. "Come ON. THINK. You're missing something. You KNOW you're missing something. Get it out. Get it OUT."
He squeezed his fist tightly into his brow, eyes clenched tightly. His knuckles showed white through his fur as he clutched at his hat like a drowning man clutches the rope he's thrown.
"Darn it, Chip," he choked, barely able to speak, "Gadget NEEDS you, how many times do you have to let her DOWN again, like-"
Chip dropped the hat, his head jerking up. He stared blankly off into the setting sun.
"Chip...?" Dale said uncertainly, coming over, paws fidgeting nervously. He couldn't think of a single thing to say to try and break the tension- wasn't sure he wanted to.
Chips' eyes glanced back and forth rapidly several times as it fell into place inside his head. "No," he said miserably, "no, no, NO, what in the world have I done??"
He grabbed Dale, shaking him furiously by the collar. "That WAS Gadget!!" he yelled at him, eyes almost insane. "I- what an IDIOT I am! The only person who could POSSIBLY have known where she'd put in the new traps was her! Stupid, stupid, STUPID, I was too busy being angry and the STUPID hero and the STUPID detective to see what was under your big red honking nose!!"
"Chip? Chip, calm down," Monty said nervously. "First of all, yer gonna shake young Dale there t'bits, and second- you SAW. That can't possibly be-"
"...eliminated the impossible, whatever's left HAS to be the truth," Chip mumbled, dropping Dale and grabbing for his hat, "no matter how stupid it sounds."
"I don't know takin' advice from some fictional detective's such a good idea in yer current condition, lad-" Monty said dubiously as Chip leapt back into the seat of the Ranger Plane.
Chip locked eyes with him. "That's not from a book, Monty," he said. "Gadget told me that."
He quickly started the vehicle as Dale, still struggling to walk, fell into the back. "Get in. Gadget's the same place she's at the LAST time we - I- let her down, the last time she became someone else.
"She's at the Coo Coo Cola bottling warehouse. We don't have much time," he muttered, hands tight on the wheel. "I don't know how I know, but we don't have any TIME."
Written by James Simonds, Jr.
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