I'M WITH YOU
I'm With You
To Everyone. To Celebrate the New Year.
I'M WITH YOU
by James Simonds, Jr.
Gadget stood on the bridge, leaning on the railing, looking out over the edge at nothing.
Rain spattered down over her. Gentle, but cold. It always rained now. She couldn't remember when-
She couldn't remember a lot of things these days.
It was closer today, wasn't it? Although- it was always so cloudy, so dark. It was hard to tell when the days were, anymore. Where one stopped and another began. If they even bothered to. But it was closer, now, she was sure of it. She could still do sight measurements by eye with as much accuracy as ever.
It was going to take the bridge, soon. Then where would she watch from?
Gadget reached into the pocket of her jumpsuit and took out the picture. She stood staring at it for a long time, then she inhaled deeply, and started to explain it all to her father.
"I'm so lonely, Daddy," she said quietly to the photograph. "I think- I think I'm the only one left now. I think I'm the only one keeping... anything... still here. Since they stopped watching us."
Gadget looked up, into the sky, where there used to be a shimmer. Like a reflection off of glass, the merest glint. You could JUST make it out, once, on clear days, when the people had still been watching, from the other side of- Something. But it went away-
-such a long, LONG time ago-
"I'm so lonely," she whispered. Water wandered down her face as she continued looking up into the dark sky, into the rain.
"I miss helping people, Daddy," she said, looking back down, running her fingers over her father's face. "I don't know how I know, but what I did- what we ALL did- back in those days. It helped some of them, the people who used to watch. Gosh, maybe it helped a lot of them. I hope it did.
"Then... one day it just stopped. There weren't any cases... we never got hungry, or, um, anything else. It was a week before Chip realized none of us had left the park, or had even wanted to. It wasn't until then I noticed that glint in the sky was gone..."
Her fingertip traced over the photograph, and she squeaked softly, "And the next day we couldn't find Zipper."
The mouse took a deep breath. "And we all went to the gate of the park- we looked all over inside the park, you see, and we didn't find him, or, or any humans, or- or animals- and we looked out through the gate, and-"
Gadget looked out over the edge at Nothing.
As far as the eye could see, in all directions, it stretched. It hurt her eyes just to look at it, as it always did. Deep, dark... Nothing.
"Monty was next," she said softly. "I don't remember how long... I think- I think he left the park to look for Zipper. You know Monty, dad- n, n, nothing could scare-"
She held the picture tightly to her face, shaking, hiding herself for a few long minutes.
"Chip," she said, voice barely controlled. "I thought he'd be the last one. He never did need anybody. That's what he told me, anyway- I know he wouldn't lie to me, but...
"It was Dale who was there with me the longest."
She inhaled again, returning to absently stroking a paw along the photograph. "There wasn't much left but the tree, by then. We stayed inside all the time, of course, never looked out. I boarded up all the windows. And we'd play games all the time, and Dale made more goofy faces than I thought really existed and I know more than anything else he didn't want me to be alone. It always broke his heart when anyone was upset."
Gadget watched the emptiness for a while, judging its distance. "The tree went away when he did, and gosh- there just wasn't much left, then," she said, almost in a monotone. "I hadn't even tried building anything in ages- I just couldn't, no matter how much I worked at it- I couldn't make anything new anymore... so I didn't even miss my workshop. Much."
The pretty young mouse sighed. "This used to lead out to one of the Ranger Wing launch platforms- the bridge, I mean- it's all I have left. The bridge, and you, Daddy, and... I can't make it stay anymore... my head hurts all the time, and-"
Gadget looked down at the picture of her father, and said weakly, "I'm so lonely."
She closed her eyes, hugging the photograph to her chest, shaking, wondering if it would hurt as Nothing roared in soundlessly, eating all that was left of her old world. "S... so... lonely..." she whispered, as she felt the wood fall away from under her feet and she was in the air, flying, for the very last time.
Until the strong arms caught her.
"Wrrrf!" a voice wheezed. She still had her eyes squeezed tightly shut- she couldn't look- this couldn't be happening. "I guess the rescue mission won't be necessary after all!"
"Heh. Should have known she didn't need any help making it here. Not like the guys..." an amused female voice.
"Are you certain it's HER?" a suspicious voice objected. Gadget couldn't for the life of her tell if it belonged to a man or a child. "She does not wear GLASSES, but I do not trust her OBVIOUS FEMALE POWERS!"
The mouse cricked open one eye worriedly, and looked up at someone who apparently had taken fashion lessons from Chip. Who else would wear a battered old Indiana Jones hat like that?
The man- a human, but her size, which of course made no sense at all- grinned down at her in his arms. "Hi there, Miss Hackwrench. Welcome home."
Gadget looked around in growing amazement. A crowd of people was gathering, most of them from the direction of a large building proudly marked with a neon sign:
THE ACORN CAFE
"ZowiiiEEEE!!!" bellowed a voice from somewhere nearby, one she never ever thought she'd hear again. "ShediditshediditITOLDyou-"
"You hickory nut! *I* told youfirstshewasgonnabehereanytimenothankstoyou-" *BONK*
Gadget began to shake again, then started frantically rummaging in her pockets. "Daddy? My picture-" she squeaked in growing alarm.
A hand squeezed hers, pressed something into it. "We couldn't find your old picture of your father," a young female human told her, "but some of the people here made you some new ones."
Gadget looked at the seemingly endless supply of drawings in wonder. There were far, far more than just pictures of her father here, and-
-and in some of these, she was hugging him, and she was the age she was NOW, as if it had just happened, and Daddy was- was-
-and she *remembered it happening*, now, as if that was how it had always been. How could she have forgotten Daddy was st, still-
The hand squeezed hers again, and Natasha said softly, "Look up, Gadget."
Gadget Hackwrench looks up, and you look down from the other side at her- through the slightest shimmer, like a glint off of glass, and her eyes meet yours as finally she loses control and starts to cry.
Written by James Simonds, Jr.
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