Part VII: You Don't Know Me At All
Written By: James Simonds
And after all these years,
I think it's time to say goodbye
I'm doing you a favor,
I will not help you live a lie
and believe me
if you think I'm gonna catch you when you fall
you don't know me,
you don't know me at all
I closed up the curtains
learned to confess
baby, I knew better
but you were such a pretty mess
you took my breath away
and now I want it back
Ah, you should've killed me,
you always looked so good in black
And after all these twisted roads
that we've been down together
I think it's time to say goodbye
and believe me
if you think I'm gonna get down and crawl
you don't know me,
you don't know me at all
/Something black and twisted and ugly, shaped in terms only the most vivid and brilliant of imaginations could possibly construe to be a plane- blurred, indistinct, barely visible- smashed through the cockpit window, sending shards of broken glass flying through the room.
Then there was -
Suddenly, the 'camera' angle shifted. The image wobbled, as if someone had physically jerked the device being used to film away from its normal operator.
Instead of the picture being seen from somewhere behind Gadget, it was a near close-up of Ms. Hackwrench, arms spread, beckoning towards the shadowy form that was no longer in the shot. Gadget was barely visible, over her shoulder.
Ms. Hackwrench smiled, and winked at the camera.
Then there was nothing./
"That..." Monty said slowly, frowning. "I don't understand half of what I'm seein' here, Chip my lad, but if that was a GOOD thing, then I'm-"
"She's gonna kill her," Chip said, staring at screen where the viewpoint had shifted to what passed for normal. "That, that /person/ Gadget's talking to-"
Chip stared into nothing for a few seconds, then darted forward, and feverishly began rummaging through the piles of wires and debris, heedless of the occasional sparking electricity.
"If Gadget kills- whoever she's supposed to kill- that's it," he said, scrabbling madly. "That scientist girl wins- even if she IS dead- there won't be anything of Gadget /left/! She may still walk around, but- but Gadget won't be in there... it'll be something like Tegdag, or, or-" he gulped- "something worse."
Dale blinked a few times. "Wait a minute... this isn't just a really weird movie?" he said suspiciously.
"If I didn't need both my paws, and yours too, you'd be SO..." Chip growled, then with a visible effort resumed his frantic search. "The message we saw when we came in- she said not to come in. That means there IS a way in- Gadget, whatever was left of her when Tegdag was in control, she left us one- I KNOW it, b-because-" because if she hadn't, Chip knew, he'd never see Gadget again. "There HAS to be!"
Monty suddenly emerged from somewhere several yards away in the thickest part of the debris, carrying something- three somethings, in fact. They looked like the wired straps Gadget, sitting in the chair, had on; but rougher, even more hastily thrown together than the rest of the chaos of machinery around them.
"Monty?" Chip said incredulously, "How in the-"
"My girl," he panted, "bless 'er, she's got cheddar rubbed on these things- I KNEW I smelled somethin' the moment I came in the bloomin' room-"
"Hurry!" Chip snapped, grabbing Dale unceremoniously by the collar and thrusting him forward. "Get those things on help me figure out how they work before it's too late!"
Behind them, on the monitor, Gadget crawled through the broken window, crossbow in hand.
Gadget decided she had been through a terrible lot this past week.
She wobbled slightly as she walked forward. She felt like she'd spent hours since she went through the cockpit window and left the safety of her father's home. Maybe she had. Time was relative, wasn't it? Relative time, Father Time, father-time, ha ha.
She squinted. There. Just up ahead- that must be it. The glowing light.
Gadget walked closer.
No features at all marked this new place Gadget found herself in. No walls; no ceiling; no debris; no fragments of her past, or her present. It was just the darkness, and Gadgie.
The young girl stood, waiting. Light poured from somewhere behind her, as if through a large door, casting her in stark silhouette- all save her eyes. Gadgie's eyes were intensely bright, sheer white circles. The rest of her body was just the black backlit outline, devoid of detail.
Gadgie watched her come closer. When Gadget was in range, she stopped.
Wearily Gadget raises the weapon and sighted it at the middle of the figure. Gadgie said nothing; did nothing. She just waited.
Gadget's hand trembled slightly. "I'm... I'm sorry," she said softly. "I'm just- I'm SO tired..."
She pulled back the cocking mechanism, and re-aimed. Always load your crossbow before firing... her hand steadied, giving her the perfect shot.
"I'm ready, Daddy..." she squeaked softly. "I'm ready to come home with you."
A large hand gripped her shoulder tightly. "Luv..." a voice said, sounding very far away. "Gadget... Gadget, my girl... don't. Please don't."
A brownish blur stood in front of her, spoiling her view. It was saying something, too, something she couldn't quite make out, begging, pleading. It was okay, though- she had the shot lined up properly, and she knew Gadgie wasn't moving. She'd just go ahead and fire anyway, she was sure the crossbow had enough penetration to-
Dale's face popped up in front of her. "Not to worry, Gadget!" he said proudly. "We'll help."
Gadget's hand quivered. The brown blur seemed to be screeching something at Dale at high speed.
Dale just grinned wider. "Hey! Hey! I remembered what movie this reminds me of now! Th' Wizard of Oz! Heehee! See, an' I'm The Cowar- er, the Lion- an' Monty, well, he's GOT to be the Tin Man, cause he's so big an strong, right? An Chip is the Scarecrow cuz he's got no brains, and you're Dorothy, of course, cuz-" the smile wavered a fraction. "Cause you don't remember how to get home... and there's an evil witch, see, and-"
"Where..." Gadget said slowly. Speaking seemed to be very hard; her mouth was so dry. /Maybe the Tin Man has some spare oil./ "Where's... Toto?"
Dale's face fell. "He- he got knocked 'round pretty bad, Gadget, he couldn't come with. Monty says he said he'd be with us in spirit, tho- mmrph?"
Gadget nodded solemnly, as a blue blur wavered, and flickered into solidity, buzzing overhead. "Well! That means a lot... in here, I think." She peered up at Zipper, and slowly, she smiled.
"Dale's right, Toto," she said softly, lowering the crossbow. "You're the only one who can show me...
"Go open the curtain, Zipper. Please."
The fly saluted smartly, and buzzed off towards Gadgie, still as implacable as ever. A short distance away, the blue dot suddenly jerked, hard left, into a black patch utterly indistinguishable from every other black patch in the non-room.
Zipper pulled with all his strength, and tore open the curtain only he could see.
Gadget started giggling. Not her usual, hide-it-behind-the-hand titter, as if she was ashamed of being heard or seen actually laughing; and not helpless, insane laughter, as Chip had been afraid for a moment it might be. Just... laughter.
Gadgie sparked, and flickered, and in one last show of special effects, vanished in a crackling burst of electricity.
Behind the open curtain a mouse smiled at the group happily.
"Congratulations, Gadget," Gadget said happily. "You won!!"
Gadget- our Gadget, Chip reminded himself- wobbled, smiling blissfully, and crumpled. Monty, behind her, caught her as she fell.
"Get her back on out," the other Gadget said warmly. "She's been through enough for, um, one lifetime. Maybe 2.6 lifetimes." She walked forward across the intervening distance, every movement utterly effortless, and crossed the space before Chip had even realized she'd begun. She squeezed Dale's shoulder, looking into his eyes with a smile. "You, too, Dale... oh, I KNEW I could count on you!" she squeaked, giving Dale a hug so tight she lifted him off the ground as he gurgled faintly.
"Oops! Sorry. Ah, and check your ribs when you get out," she said in concern. "...watch her, you two. Remember, apart from all of this, she hasn't eaten or slept in ages! Golly, I didn't know I had it in me." She opened one of the unconscious mouse's eyes and peered briefly inside with a penlight. "Hmm. I think it'll mostly be physical now, but the sooner she gets out of here, the better. Shoo!"
Gadget made ushering motions, and within a few seconds Monty, Dale, and the exhausted Gadget had disappeared. Chip realized Zipper had vanished as soon as Gadget- well, Gadget #1- had fallen down, and-"
Chip rubbed his forehead. "...would... you mind telling me EXACTLY what's been going on here?" he said angrily.
Gadget nodded vigorously. "Oh, yes, of course! That's why I shooed them off. Oh, golly, Monty's wonderful, and he's got common sense, but I think the psychoanalysis would leave him pretty cold. And Dale, um- well, Dale. Yes. I recommend telling him there was a bunch of evil twins involved, and leave it at that."
The mouse whistled contentedly, trotting slightly past Chip, and flicking with her fingertips as if at invisible switches. A bit hesitantly, then with growing luminescence, lights came on.
Chip found himself standing a place that looked exactly like Gadget's workshop... if it was about the size of a human stadium. Steam puffed softly from devices all over the room; Jacob's ladders crackled with regular bands of electricity. Everything was made of brightly polished pipes and clockwork gears, and although it had no visible order whatsoever, Chip felt immediately as comfortable as he did in his own small separate 'office' space at HQ; the reassurance of knowing the moment he needed something, he had only to turn and put out a hand and it would be exactly where he knew it was.
In the distance Chip thought he could make out more floors, smaller areas set up flush against the walls, each with their own chugging machinery, perched at the top of spiraling staircases. Directly before him, though, was the largest: a large metal globe that looked like some kind of Victorian era submarine dangled from pipes in the exact center of the room, high overhead; the largest staircase of all led up to it.
Gadget beamed, as happy as Chip could ever remember seeing her. "Neat, isn't it?"
Chip shook his head. Something about this room, about the person... whatever... he was talking to made him calm; he just couldn't imagine being angry at her. "Gadget... you ARE Gadget?"
"Oh, yes! I am now. Golly, Gadget made it HARD, though," she said, fiddling with a small whirring mechanism on a table nearby. "For years and years I've just been- well-"
She gestured vaguely. Chip got the exact impression he did when Gadget tried to explain a particularly intricate contraption: SHE knew exactly how everything worked; the problem was saying it so he could understand.
"I've only been a /potential/ person inside Gadget's mind. Everyone has one! You've got one," she said, lightly tapping Chip's forehead with a wrench. "The person you dream of being. That you COULD be, if only, if only this, if only that. Gadget had more if onlys than about a dozen other mice put together.
"That other mouse you saw- Ms. Hackwrench. The one who was so happy that Gadget was going to finish killing herself by shooting Gadgie- that's the little girl with the light show," Gadget explained. "She spent most of her time inventing new 'if onlys', just to hurt Gadget... she's the reason all of this had to hurt so much."
Gadget looked crestfallen. "I wish I hadn't- Gadget hadn't- given her so much control over things in here. I had to plan and plan for YEARS to trick her into doing even a little of what I wanted, and she kept twisting it up- using it to hurt her as much as she could, instead. I knew she would, of course- knew it'd hurt Gadget so, so much... but if I didn't, it would have gotten worse, and worse, every year, until... I don't know."
She gestured vaguely again. The small device she'd been working on spun a small propeller on its top, and drifted upwards, into the room. Gadget didn't seem to notice.
"Maybe Hackwrench would have done all of this then, anyway... except I wouldn't have been around to help her. Maybe Hack would have come out, like she does sometimes- only for good. Maybe she would have become Tegdag. Nothing good."
Chip tried to maintain a sense of vague suspicion in the face of her beaming countenance and the soothing hum of the room. "But... how? Why? Gadget's a little scatterbrained, maybe... she has some mood swings... but she wasn't THAT out of whack inside, was she? What happened to make her that way, if none of those bad things she was talking about, that Hackwrench told her, really happened?"
Gadget's expression sobered, and she spoke more softly. "It... doesn't matter, Chip. Maybe Gadget did have to watch her father die."
She turned, and began making her way up the stairs. Chip followed as quickly as he could. "Maybe something happened to her mother... maybe Geegaw did get mad... maybe /just once/- and did something to her he shouldn't have...
"Maybe she just found out the world wasn't perfect, like her father had always tried to tell her. Maybe she found the world her father had always worked so hard to protect her from... and it frightened her. She was only a little girl when it happened, Chip, and I wouldn't even be a thought of a notion of a glimmer for years and years after. There's so much to be scared of when you're only 6..."
Gadget came out onto a large open platform. The top of the globe was entirely open to what appeared to be open sky, far, far, overhead. She leaned on a railing, staring out over the room- although they'd only seemed to be walking for moments, they were dizzyingly high up.
"But-" Chip shook his head. Maybe it was being away from everything down below, but his anger was boiling up again. Maybe it was hearing about all those things that 'might' have happened to Gadget, things he didn't want to hear might have happened, that he knew, no, couldn't have happened, that didn't happen to people like Gadget. "You don't even know if she ever WAS hurt- but I know YOU did hurt her. She almost died- almost lost herself! How can it be worth it? Why?"
Gadget turned, staring at him with those wide, perfect blue eyes, for a long time. Quietly, she stepped forward, and held Chips' cheek.
"Chip... you know Gadget wants to help everyone. Seeing ANYONE in trouble... in pain... you know how much it hurts her. You know, better than anyone else. Maybe better than she does.
"Gadget would give up her life in a second to save a CAT, Chip. Without hesitation. You know that."
Gadget smiled sadly.
"How could a girl who loved everyone in the world THAT MUCH... not die to save herself?"
Gadget pulled down her goggles, looking up into the crystal blue sky overhead.
"It's time to go, Chip. Take care of her... it's not all over. She's just like everyone else, now- there'll be good days, and bad days, and regrets. Maybe even a little-" she wiggled her fingers at him. "EeeEEevil. It happens to normal people, Chip- only a doll can be perfect ALL the time.
"Help her, Chip. You, and the others. Just like you've always helped each other."
Chip felt himself being pulled back, and his vision started to blur. He couldn't be sure what it was he saw behind Gadget, her smile the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, or, he thought, ever would see. Did they have carefully shined, precise metal joints and plates? Or did he see white feathers?
Gadget beamed. "Right now, though, I gotta fly..."
And then there was nothing.
Gadget glanced up as Monty and Chip walked in. Books were scattered about her bed, some with a few schematics tucked into the pages. A painting sat on an easel by the window, well lit by the sun outside.
"Ello, luv! Ah, I'm only gonna be a moment, Gadget, I just wanted to, um,..." he coughed into his paw. "That is... I was a bit rough on you, with the whole evil twin thing- now, hear me out," he held up his hand before Gadget could interrupt.
"It's not the grabbin' and shakin' I'm so concerned about. I'm... I should have known better, luv." He took off his goggles, fidgeting with them as he stared at the floor. "I believed everything that lad next door told me about you, and I should have known BETTER. "Who better'n me knows how guys will brag about their amazin' adventures and ... conquests?" he said sheepishly. "'ere I was, going over to beat the daylights out of the poor idjit for takin' advantage of you in your bad times, and he spills the whole bloomin' thing out, petrified!
"The bad thing is, even when I knew it was really you... that it wasn't some girl pretendin'- I... still believed you might of done it. I shoulda known better, luv. It doesn't matter 'OW out of yer head you were- that just wasn't you. Forgive a stupid old rat, eh?"
Gadget grinned, squeezing him as he came to the side of the bed. "Golly, Monty- you know you never even had to ask. ...but I'm glad you did."
Monty grinned in turn, and nudging Chip slightly as he left, discreetly exited the room.
Chip cleared his throat. "I, um- I know we haven't had much chance to talk since we got... 'out', or wherever, or whatever. I just wanted to-"
"Chip?" she said curiously, tilting her head. "I'm sure what you have to say is very important, but, um, I think you might want to let me go first."
She inhaled deeply. "I decided as soon as we really got a chance to talk that I'd say this... Um. None of the books I've been reading really help with these social issues," she frowned. "Once I figure out how it works I should write one. "...I'd like to stop... our games. You know. Dancing around quite so much, with kisses, and dating, and things, and just... make a decision."
Chip looked as if he might lose consciousness soon, as if he didn't know whether to whoop or sob helplessly at what this might mean, so she hurriedly pressed on. "Not YET. I don't know- I don't know if I'm for or against us being together." She looked up at him, and said softly, "I just know I'd like to find out, so... I'd like to propose a little experimenting. Until we know. Okay?"
Chip nodded, speechless, then realized Gadget appeared to be waiting patiently for something. He took a deep breath.
At roughly the same moment the two decided it should be a REAL kiss... with disastrous results. Their muzzles BONKED soundly together, sending both wincing backwards and rubbing their noses.
"Gosh! That looks SO much easier in the movies!" Gadget complained.
Chip grinned sheepishly. "Well, humans have the advantage there... I guess we'll have to keep experimenting?"
Giggling, Gadget nodded. "Yes. Soon. Ah- I think maybe I should recover from my injuries more, first, just in case."
Later that evening, Gadget was flipping through one of the books she'd been diligently researching. She'd decided that Freudian psychology was for the birds- no offense to any birds she knew- and was looking into some slightly more modern alternatives.
Archetypes. The hero's journey of myth. The Shadow we all have inside us, fighting to get out. There were ideas, here, she decided, worth looking at... maybe it was time she had a new idea of what being a hero was all about.
A phrase caught her eye as she closed the book. She pondered it thoughtfully as her eyes closed.
"Maybe a Byronic Hero," she squeaked thoughtfully.
Smiling a secret smile, Gadget Hackwrench fell asleep.
Written by James Simonds, Jr.
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