C - G : A Romance
By Ronnie Rabbit

Part II: A Bedroom Scene

Chip dreamt, but he didn’t remember the dream. He just knew it was the same one he’d had for the last seven months; ‘knew’ it the way you sometimes just know things about what you dreamt last night. ‘There was stuff about Mars in it,’ maybe.

Chip knew he had to save Gadget – save her from a terrible monster, more awful than anything they’d actually fought on their adventures; a monster who made her do terrible, terrible things. But the monster wasn’t what terrified him; that wasn’t what made it a nightmare. He couldn’t even remember anything about it, after all. No, it was something a lot worse.

Gadget had left the Rangers only six months ago.

When he came to, Gadget was carefully holding the back of his head, lifting it slightly upward, as she nudged a spoon full of something unpleasant tasting at his mouth.

She peered at him closely. “…Chip?” she said in a cautious squeak. “Are you back? Anyone in there?”

The leader of the Rescue Rangers mumbled. “What happen’…?”

She beamed down at him. “Golly, it’s wonderful you’re not in a decades-long coma! I was wondering. With luck me and my amazing fixit skills can take credit for your recovery. What a fantastic paper! ‘Mechanical Engineering as Applied to Rodent Recovery, by-‘”

“My head’s still killing me, you know. It’d be nice to not listen to that for the next two hours.”

Her expression of delight faded, and her lips pulled into a narrow line.

“I was worried,” she said, putting the spoon somewhere off to the side of his- bed? Well, there was a bed canopy over him, and what felt like a sheet on top of him, and some propped up pillows that caught his noggin as Gadget abruptly let it go (ow,) so yes, he’d assume there was a ‘bed’. Assumptions were okay if actually looking around the room would make him feel like throwing up. “I talk a lot when I’m worried about things. I thought you knew me better.”

“So did I,” Chip muttered. He refused to look away, and hoped he had a sufficiently severe glare on his face.

Gadget was seated on the edge of… yes, a bed. Chip was pretty sure he must have still been imagining things, though, because she had on a dress. The only reason Chip knew she HAD dresses was because she’d worn them twice as disguises. But this was most definitely a dress, precisely the same color as her normal lavender jumpsuit. It was open at the neck something like her jumpsuit would be, too, only there wasn’t exactly a t-shirt on under it.

*Must be LaWhinie,* he thought vaguely. *Yeah. That’d make all of this really easy, wouldn’t it? It’s just LaWhinie. Gadget’s locked up somewhere, waiting for me to rescue her, not gallivanting around the city stealing everything not nailed down and blowing up buildings. And wearing dresses.*

“You’ve got that ‘evil twin’ look on your face,” she said mildly, propping her arm on her leg and resting her hand on it. “Why don’t we get this out of the way first? It’s me. Go on, ask me some questions about things only I would know. That’s pretty traditional!”

Chip wasn’t going to do it at first. That NEVER worked; a sufficiently determined impostor could come up with good answers to pretty much any question you could think of, if they were prepared. And the one thing he definitely knew about this mouse, just from watching her work – she was ALWAYS prepared.

But then he thought of something.

“ANY question,” he said. Cautiously, he eased up into a sitting position. There, now that his head was clearing, things weren’t so bad. He’d keep looking as helpless as possible, though; it might give him a little bit of an edge when he made his escape attempt.

“That’s what the offer sounded like to me,” she squeaked. She was actually smiling again! Eager for a challenge, to rattle off an answer, show what she knew, that she could counter the hardest possible question put to her. Just like she’d always been.

But she wasn’t, was she? And that’s what he actually asked.

“What happened?” Chip said bluntly.

The smile melted. Cautiously, she leaned back, propping her weight backwards now, paws on the bed behind her. “Um. Well, you broke my fall, but you’ve taken worse hits in one of our old plane crashes, so you still came out pretty well! Little bit of a concussion, maybe,” she said with a hint of nervousness. “But I wasn’t sure at the time, and I couldn’t just leave you lying there knocked out, especially since Dale was probably halfway out to Texas by then, last I saw he’d found the nitro button by accident, and-“

“You know that’s not what I mean. What happened to YOU? What happened to the Rangers? What happened to Gadget?”

She closed her eyes, and let out a long breath. “I’d hoped you could answer that yourself by now, Chip,” she said quietly. “You’re the detective, right? You really haven’t seen all the clues… put them together? Even when you knew me better than anyone except my dad ever did?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, how could-“

And Gadget opened her eyes, looked at him, and said in a barely controlled voice, “Just… shut UP. Please. Just for a few minutes. Stop talking, and LISTEN.”

Chip gawked at her. She leaned forward again, restless. She began molding the air in front of her with her hands, gesturing, as if she could build something from nothing at all by sheer force of will.

“I’m going to tell you about the worst disguise ever,” she said in that same carefully controlled voice. “Worse than a chipmunk in a dress. Worse than a girl in a daring red outfit she's not very comfortable in, badly dyed blonde hair, and too much makeup. Anyone with half a brain could see through it. There’s a girl- um, for the sake of illustration, we’ll call her ‘Gidget’.”

“Now, Gidget has roughly the personality of a blueprint. It’s very thin. Not like cardboard, because there’s a lot there, it’s very carefully detailed, like a schematic. But only the most necessary parts to outline what it’s supposed to be, and… as thin as the paper it’s drawn on.”

Chip couldn’t possibly stop her. He wanted to. Mostly because she was saying things his mind had been trying to tell him an awful long time, but he hadn’t wanted to listen. And he had the feeling about seven months ago it had started yelling at him, desperate to get his attention before it was too late; and he still hadn’t wanted to listen.

“Now what this blueprint illustrates-“ her voice flowed more smoothly now, easily. She was in full lecture mode; she was comfortable. “-it illustrates a Hero. A girl of immaculate, perfect morals and standards - impossible standards of Goodness no real person could ever have. Also helpful – intelligent. Brilliant, even! And really amazingly useful to any team of crime fighters.”

“So useful… they’d ignore the fact the first thing she tried to do was chop them to bits with incredibly lethal traps. So useful, they’d ignore that nothing she built worked right the first time, even though she WAS impossibly brilliant, because-“ she took a deep breath. “Because, although she couldn’t even tell herself the truth for a really long time, she LOVED seeing things break, you see?”

Chip’s hand was curled tightly in the sheets, clenching.

“They’d ignore what she loved working on more than almost anything was weapons. Hours and days on clever crossbow contraptions, constantly refining. Because she only used them to save people, and the pointy tips had big plungers on them, right? They’d ignore that every single part in every single thing she built, and half of what she hadn’t built but brought to their headquarters, was stolen. Like, um… ‘Dell’s’ huge comic book collection. Because it was convenient to have all those things… They’d ignore it when every so often the perfect moral stand against violence slipped, because after all, whenever it did, she ended up saving everyone, right? So it was okay. And besides-“

Her hands stopped moving, squeezed together tightly, knuckles white.

“She was beautiful,” she whispered. “That was all anyone cared about. Flutter an eyelash, a kiss on the cheek, and a year of unanswered questions would vanish. It’s never a burden to have a beautiful girl living with you.”

Gadget looked away, and murmured, “She was too much of a convenience to question. To wonder if that blueprint-thin disguise was covering up someone more complicated. Less simple. Less… beautiful.”

She stood up, brushing off the long skirt of her dress, and announced cheerfully, “Besides, she had a mind-bashingly high IQ, and she bored easily. She needed to do something new.”

She moved to the door, the fabric swishing about her concealed legs, and briskly tapped something into a keypad next to the exit. “Well! I hope that answers your question,” she squeaked as the door slid open. She glanced back at Chip, lying stunned on the bed.

“Don’t go anywhere,” she said. “You need to rest. And we still have a LOT to talk about.”

She walked away, and the door CLICKED decisively shut.

Next Part

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