by Matthew Kirby
Walking through the hallways Gadget was overcome by an odd feeling. Even
though she was functioning in an alien environment, and an alien body for that matter,
she found herself feeling a certain ... rightness about it. She didn't run into many people
in that part of the complex but when she did she would simply nod and pass by. Nor-
mally her automatic reaction to seeing a human would be to run for cover or press her-
self flat against a wall. She also didn't require special climbing tools. Signs were all at
eye level. Doorknobs and light switches were conveniently placed.
"I could get used to this," she thought.
By the time she had reached more populated areas she had become quite confi-
dent of her ability to impersonate a human being. Of course, it's often during our times
of greatest confidence that fate steps in to trip us up. To be fair it wasn't entirely
Gadget's over confidence. It was Alex who convinced her to make the detour to his cu-
bicle. If they had gone straight to Data Processing they would have avoided the run in
with Kearney and the subsequent... But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Cubicles are one of the innovations of the modern office. They're supposed to
create the illusion of privacy so that even the lowliest employee can feel as if he has his
own private office. What they actually do is create the illusion of working inside a large
cardboard box. Alex didn't use his much. His job as troubleshooter kept him moving.
But this one had been assigned to him and he kept a few belongings there. It was one,
or rather two, of these belongings that they were after now.
When Evans had taken up jogging he had made a gift of very expensive running
shoes to some of this closer friends. Looking back on it Alex realized he had probably
been hoping to find a jogging partner but no one had taken him up on it. Alex's sneak-
ers (he refused to call them running shoes because he figured this was a name the
stores used to charge more) resided in the bottom most drawer of his desk. They had
remained there, unused, since he'd gotten them. However, now he saw a use for them.
After all, sneakers weren't gender specific were they? So, he reasoned Gadget would
look far less conspicuous in them.
Gadget, for her part, was just glad to make the change. The sneakers felt better
than shoes, although they were still uncomfortably confining. Thus, newly shod, they
continued their mission.
Every large people grouping, such as a corporation, will have a certain allotment
of jerks. The proportions remain fairly constant despite lay offs and downsizing. They
protect themselves by possessing indispensable job skills or being well connected
within the company. Optimum Technologies was no exception. OT's resident jerk went
by the name of Edward Kearney. As he enters our story he is engaged in his favorite
activity. Loving himself.
Edward took out a comb and ran it through his hair, admiring the reflection star-
ing back at him from the polished steel doors of the elevator. A moment later the eleva-
tor "pinged" and opened it's doors, spoiling his self adoration but presenting him with a
sight he found almost as pleasing.
Gadget was uneasy. The man who had just entered the elevator made her ner-
vous. He hadn't said anything beyond a simple "hello", but some thing about the way
he looked at her made her skin crawl. Rat Capone looked at her like that. Even the
way he had said "hello", stretching out the vowel sounds, was creepy.
Peeking out of his pocket, Alex had seen Ed enter.
"Oh, great," he said. "Edward Kearney, our corporate issue letch."
Fortunately, only Gadget could understand him. All Edward heard were indeci-
pherable squeals which he attributed to the elevator.
"So, you're new here aren't you?" Ed asked. "I make it a point of knowing all the
lovely ladies in this section."
He gave her what he had always thought of as his most devastating smile. To
his credit, Edward was what was usually referred to as "ruggedly hansom". Few women
found his looks reason enough to endure his attentions, though.
"I just started today," said Gadget, truthfully.
"Perhaps you could use some one to show you around?" Ed leaned in closer.
"It's easy to get lost around here if you don't know where you're going."
"Thank you , no." Gadget sidled away from him. "I'm just going down to Data
"No, don't tell him that," Alex moaned. The last thing they needed was for Ed-
ward to decide to tag along.
"A pity. That's a bit too far out of my way. Maybe we can get together later, say
around two, in the executive lounge?"
"Uh, yeah. Maybe."
Gadget's situation was becoming increasingly awkward and she would have said
just about anything to get out of it. Fortunately it was at this moment that the doors
"pinged" open again revealing a lobby full of people.
"It's a date then," said Edward. Gadget hadn't actually accepted his offer but he
knew you'd never get anywhere waiting for a woman to make up her mind. As he
stepped off the elevator he placed a well aimed swat on Gadget's rump.
When looking back on it later, Gadget was never able to explain exactly what
happened. This wasn't the first time she'd had to endure unwanted attention but this
time it was as if something inside her snapped.
"Hey!" she called out, attracting the attention of just about everyone in the lobby.
Edward turned towards the sound and managed to catch a glimpse of Gadget's
face in full fury just before her fist connected with his nose. The punch was clumsily
thrown, Gadget was no fighter, but Ed was taken completely by surprise. He stumbled
back a few steps, tripped over his own feet, and fell flat on his back.
The onlookers stared at Gadget in shock as the doors closed on her.
"You decked him! How could you do that? Not that half the people in this com-
pany wouldn't like to take a poke at Kearney, but you're supposed to be keeping a low
Alex was half out of his pocket, staring up at a face that looked just as confused
as he was.
"I...I don't know. It was like I was suddenly remembering every unwanted pass
and suggestive comment ever made at me and I just lashed out."
Alex climbed up the coat, his paws finding easy purchase in the loosely woven
fabric. He positioned himself on her shoulder, arms akimbo, and went into lecture
"Look, I know we don't know each other that well, but if you make a habit out of
slugging anyone who gets on your nerves you're going to have a lot of trouble getting
through the day. You've got to have thicker skin."
As Alex continued Gadget felt a wave of aggravation sweep over her. As if she
hadn't already been through enough today, now she had to listen to this rodent lecture
to her on the proper way to behave in a civilized society. Suddenly her hand shot up to
her shoulder, trapping Alex in a steel grip.
"Listen, I've got enough problems to deal with already. If you think you ..." she
trailed off, her expression changing from anger to shock as she realized what she was
doing. She loosened her grip and lowered Alex shakily to the floor. Backing up into the
far corner she slid down to the floor, holding her knees tightly against her chest.
"What... what's happening to me?" she asked, miserably.
Alex approached her cautiously, more than a little wary after having the breath
squeezed out of him.
"Stay back! Please!" Gadget warned. "I don't want to hurt you."
"Just calm down."
"Let's see how calm you would be if you were losing your mind. Maybe that's
what metamorphosizing does to you. Nimnul wouldn't have noticed. He's already
Alex, however, had another explanation. Humans, as a species, have always
been prone to excessive violence. Both in their dealings with each other and with ani-
mals. The why of it is something that humans themselves have long debated. Perhaps
back in the caveman days intelligence alone wasn't enough. To make up for their defi-
ciencies in the area of tooth and claw humans had had to rely on pure mean. Whatever
it's origin it had stayed with them down through the ages. Even modern man had to
deal with this evolutionary excess baggage.
"You've got a human body now and that means you're susceptible to all our in-
stincts and impulses. Like it or not, until we straighten this mess out you're a card carry-
ing member of Homo Sapiens Sapiens."
"You mean humans feel like this all the time?" she asked. Seen in this light
some human behavior made more sense.
"Well, I think you might have it worse than most. We spend years learning to
keep our tempers under control and for some even that isn't enough. You haven't had
Gadget began to relax a little. Alex still seemed to be calm and rational so it was
unlikely the metamorphosizer had caused her fits of anger.
"You're sure?" she asked, still a bit apprehensive.
Alex nodded. "And now that you know what the problem is you should be able to
handle it better. If you feel aggravated try counting to ten. People say that's supposed
Gadget collected Alex and got to her feet. As they exited the elevator he found
himself experiencing misgivings. Not about Gadget, but about himself. He couldn't help
wondering if his own new body had similar surprises in store for him.
Meanwhile, Chip's search was proceeding apace. After wandering around aim-
lessly for an hour he realized he was going about his mission all wrong. As soon as he
found an appropriately sized aperture he went into the walls and made contact with the
local animal community.
Nearly every structure built by man has been infiltrated, to one degree or an-
other, by animals. Rodents in particular had found it quite beneficial to co-habitate with
humans. The OT complex wasn't exactly a residential district but a few rats and mice
had carved out a niche for themselves.
"So you haven't seen this mouse around?" Chip asked, showing Gadget's picture
to a small group of mice. There was a chorus of low whistles.
"Nope, haven't seen her," said the leader. "Wish I had, though."
Chip slipped the photograph back into his jacket. It had become crinkled and
torn from being shown around so much. A pity since he had gotten a lot of milage from
it in his rivalry with Dale. He enjoyed alluding that Gadget had to like him better since
she'd given him her picture. The truth of the matter was that Gadget had only given him
that picture for one reason. He had asked for it. Chip had no doubt that she would give
a photo to Dale if he ever thought to ask for one. Just as he had no doubt that it would
mean as little to her.
As he turned away, dejected, one of the mice called after him.
"You could try lab A12. It's on the fourth floor. If any humans found her they
might have sent her there."
Getting the notes was almost an anticlimax compared to the previous events
the day. With Alex coaching her from hiding Gadget had no problem bluffing her way
through security. The papers themselves were easy enough to find. Most of the
bundles were still tied so the few loose papers were obvious. With these secured safely
in a manila envelope they began their trek back to lab 5.
Half way back they were again detoured. This time so Gadget could answer a
call of nature. Alex waited, perched on a sink, starring into the mirror. Was that really
him? A small, furry, bucktoothed rodent starred back. He wondered if Nimnul had had
these problems. Maybe it was an experience like this that had finally driven him over
Gadget emerged from a stall. As she began to wash her hands she glanced up
and caught her reflection. Immediately she was as captivated as Alex. Until now Gad-
get hadn't given any thought to what she looked like. Now she stared intently at the im-
age in the glass, trying to see the mouse she had been in the human she had become.
The most striking change (apart from her size, of course) was her lack of fur. Not a
complete lack but the sparse scattering of hair she saw on her arms hardly constituted a
decent pelt. And her face looked flat and pushed in with only her nose sticking out.
Alex was also taking the time to reappraise her. As he originally thought, she was very
attractive. A bit tall and gangly, but then all humans were like that.
"Hey," he called up, "did you ever have any cavities?"
"Huh?" asked Gadget, surprised. "Uh, yes. One. Why?"
Alex had been starring into the mirror with his mouth wide open. "Because I
think we traded dental work. I should have ten fillings and a root canal." He grinned
weakly. "F'raid dental hygiene wasn't my strong point as a kid."
Gadget checked and saw that all her molars now sported filings. One looked like
it had been capped.
"That's strange. Although, our clothes didn't change when we did. Maybe the
effect doesn't extend to inanimate objects."
"So since it couldn't change them to fit our bodies," Alex picked up her train of
thought, "it swapped them instead. Well, I guess it's better than trying to cram all that
into a mouse sized mouth."
They were interrupted by a voice from the hall.
"Sure, just give me a few minutes and I'll be right there. Save me a seat."
Carol Nolan, secretarial supervisor, walked in. Gadget immediately grabbed
Alex and, much to his discomfort, stuffed him into his accustomed pocket. The tall bru-
nette glanced over at Gadget.
"Just need a few minutes to fix my face and..." she stopped, a lipstick halfway to
"You're her!" she accused, turning to face Gadget. "The one who punched out
Gadget hemmed and hawed. "Um, yeah. Well I... I mean... That is..."
Carol grabbed her hand and began pumping it up and down.
"Let me be the first to shake your hand. I was there when it happened. One
punch and down he went. I'm Carol Nolan. And you are?"
"Hackwrench. Gadget Hackwrench."
Carol didn't even blink at the odd name. The woman was probably a technician
and she knew they sometimes used hardware-esque nicknames.
"There probably isn't a woman in this company Ed hasn't hit on," Carol said, turn-
ing back to her cosmetics. "Though, none of them would have been stupid enough to
"Oh, I didn't mean that as an insult. It's just that he's said to have friends in high
places. A few years back a woman brought him up on sexual harassment charges.
She lost her case and her job. The scuttlebutt is that some one on high pulled some
strings on Ed's behalf. That punch may have cost you your job."
"Well, I'm just here for the day. I hope."
"A temp, huh? Lucky. He could still try and make trouble, though. I'd watch my
back if I were you."
"Well, he had it coming," said Gadget.
"Oh, I don't doubt it. I know some girls who - say, I'm having a late lunch with
some friends. Why don't you come along?"
"I don't think I can. I have some work to finish."
"Oh, come on. I'm sure it can wait. They'd love to meet the woman who put
Kearney in his place."
Well..." Gadget wavered.
To properly understand Gadget's next course of action one must take into ac-
count her social life. Or rather, the lack thereof. As has already been explained she
was effectively isolated from her peers as a child. In her later years, and particularly
since she had joined the Rangers, she had met a great many people. However, there
were few outside the Rangers she thought of as friends and even fewer of them were
There was Melody, who would go on to such success in her racing career. But,
Gadget had always felt she owed this friendship to the fact that they spoke the common
language of mechanics. There was also Tammy. The young squirrel was almost as
much of a tomboy as Gadget was. Unfortunately, she got the feeling that Tammy, if
only on a subconscious level, still saw her as a rival for Chip's affections. As for Fox-
glove, well, the purpose of her visits to RRHQ had nothing to do with Gadget.
She had often seen how a large gathering of people would break up into smaller
clusters, mostly all male or female. Try as she might she could never seem to insinuate
herself into their midst. Now, here was a women practically begging her to join them.
Their mission was pretty much accomplished, after all. They had the notes. As-
sembling the metamorphosizers wouldn't take long.
"Sure. Why not?", she said, her face breaking into a broad smile.
A sharp squeal came from her pocket, "What?!"
As far as Alex was concerned the job was only half done. They couldn't consider
it finished until he and Gadget switched back, and the sooner this was accomplished
the better. Gadget, it seemed, had other ideas and considering his current position
there was nothing he could but go along for the ride.
Harry the cat, or Whiskers as he was known in the human world, was anticipating
a fine meal. And with very little effort on his part. The commissary at he O.T. main
building opened out onto a large patio for outdoor dining. They always left the doors
propped open this time of year so he simply walked in and started making rounds of the
tables. Those who recognized him were sure to throw him a tidbit. Sometimes even
those who did not. Harry didn't consider this begging. As he saw it, if humans were
foolish enough to give away their food they might as well give it to him. He was at the
rooms far end when Carol and Gadget carried food laden trays to their table.
"OK girls, listen up. We have a special guest joining us today", announced Carol.
"A big hand please for Gadget 'One Punch' Hackwrench."
There was a moments pause while the women already seated puzzled over the
strange introduction. Then the entire table erupted in cheers and applause. Harry
heard the commotion and started making his way towards it. It sounded like a celebra-
tion and that always meant choice hand outs.
Alex was fuming. They should have been back at the lab by now assembling the
metamorphosizers, not engaging in a coffee clatch! He leaned out of his pocket and
called up, "As long as I'm stuck here could you at least pass down some food? I haven't
eaten since breakfast."
Gadget waited for an opportune moment then slipped a cookie off the table and
dropped it down to him. It slipped through his hands and landed on the floor.
"No, that's OK," he grumbled under his breath. "I can get it myself. I certainly
wouldn't want to upset anyones meal."
He climbed out and began making his way down. If Alex had kept in mind where,
as well as what, he was rather than wallowing in self-pity he would have realized how
risky this little jaunt was. He reached the floor just as Harry came into sight and froze.
He was not merely still, he was paralysed. Alex had been frightened before in his life
but never like this. This went beyond simple fear. It welled up from the deepest most
primitive parts of his brain. The instinctive fear of prey for predator. There was a mo-
ments hesitation while his body decided which of it's fight or flight options to select and
then he shot out of the room at top speed.
Harry had been aware of a rodentine presence but Alex was in no real danger
from him. There was plenty of food around and he wasn't in the mood to play. Besides,
some humans had a negative reaction when he demonstrated his prowess as a
mouser. Instead, he went under the table and began weaving around the numerous
limbs there, twisting his body in ways that only a cat can.
Any human would immediately know the feeling of a cat rubbing against their leg.
To Gadget it was a new experience. She looked down and saw a feline face staring
back at her in a wordless question.
Where's the food?
"I see you've found whiskers," said Carol. "She reached down and picked up the
animal. "Or he's found you."
Gadget was well aware of the feelings and instinctive reactions mice had con-
cerning cats. And, like all mice, she learned to suppress and control them. But now
she felt only their complete absence. In fact, she found herself thinking, 'He's kind of
cute. Just a big fluffy ball of fur. And that purring is kind of soothing. How could any-
one be afraid of a creature like this?'
Alex was, by this time, completely lost. Once out of the commissary he, or
his body, had run a twisted route. Changing directions whenever he encountered hu-
mans. He had finally regained control of himself and was now pressed flat against a
wall trying to catch his breath. He reflected that he was probably in a part of the com-
plex he knew but it all looked so different from a mouse's perspective. Perhaps if he
gained some elevation. Found a desk or something to climb up on.
"Gotcha!", a voice from above sounded as a hand closed over him. He'd been
so intent on his problem he hadn't heard the human coming up behind him.
Jacob Normally didn't play the part of exterminator. He'd simply been taking his
usual afternoon tour through the complex, checking up on various projects, when his
attention was drawn to an old dust rag on the floor. What had attracted his attention
was the fact that it was moving. A moment later a toga clad mouse starred up at him
from his hand. It didn't struggle or try to bite him so it was obviously used to being
handled. That fact, coupled with the improvised clothing, told him all he needed to
"Now they can't even keep them in their cages," he grumbled and set off down
"And they're coming into the final lap," the announcer droned as
the two cars
continued to jockey for position.
The rat in the driver's seat of number five looked back to seen the mouse in car
eleven coming up fast. As it pulled along side it swerved sharply into the other car
sending them both into a spin and off the track.
"Wipe out, dude!"
"You can't wipe out on land. That's surfing."
"A wipe out's a wipe out, and that was a total wipe out."
"Rodent racing again?" came a voice from the door way.
The two racers, Chuck and Paul by name, immediately shot to attention.
"Well," said Jacob, exasperated, "go on, pick them up."
The two youths quickly gathered up their RC cars and removed the "drivers".
They were hampered a bit by the jury rigged seat belts which were more for keeping the
animals in the car than for safety. After the rodents had been returned to their cages
the two resumed their "at attention" stances in front of Evans.
Jacob regarded the teens for a moment and then looked past them. Stacked
against the wall were several racks of cages containing various test animals. Across
the room from them were work tables littered with what appeared to be large skeletal
rats. Closer inspection would reveal that they were actually robots. If the Terminator
had been a rodent it would have looked like these.
This project wasn't Jacob's baby but it did have his support. The idea was to
build better robots by observing how living creatures moved and behaved. Once per-
fected these machines could be used, for example, by archeologists to safely explore
ancient ruins and caves. Or by rescue workers to search through collapsed buildings
for survivors. One could even be included on a future Mars lander.
Chuck and Paul, however, were a completely different matter. Normally the ani-
mals were cared for by the researchers in the course of their studies. Recently some
bean counter had decided it would be more efficient to hire minimum wage help for the
task. Jake's first sign that it wasn't working out was when he had walked in one day to
find them playing Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots with the prototypes.
"No. No lectures this time. No threats. Just carry on as usual, that'll give me all
the reason I need to fire you. Till then I only have one thing to say." He held out his
right hand revealing a mouse wrapped up in an old rag. "No more toga parties!"
He deftly stripped the animal of it's clothing and deposited it in a nearby cage.
He turned on his heel and departed without another word. Now, anyone else would
have been taken aback by Jake's lack of temper, but this was Chuck and Paul.
"Killer, dude. He didn't even yell at us this time."
Even if the two teenagers had been the observant types, and they weren't, they
probably wouldn't have noticed the commotion taking place in one of the cages.
After Alex had been unceremoniously dumped in his cage he found himself im-
mediately the center of attention as a mouse rushed over to him.
"Are you all right? Talk to me!"
Alex tried to respond. "Uh, yeah. I think..."
He was pushed roughly aside.
"Bob? Are you OK Bob?"
Alex now saw the true cause for concern. In dropping into the cage he had
landed on another mouse. The mouse slowly stood up. And up. And up! This mouse
could have easily passed for a small rat. He grabbed the smaller mouse.
"What are you trying to pull, Mike," he asked angrily.
"It wasn't me, Bob. It was the new guy," he pointed nervously at Alex.
Bob dropped Mike and shifted his attention to the new arrival. His look was pure
"You trying to make trouble?"
"Big Bob don't like people makin' trouble." Mike peered around the bulk of his
friend. "Big Bob don't..."
"Shudap!" Bob backhanded Mike. It was a casual motion, like a man swatting at
a fly, but still sent the smaller mouse flying across the cage. He was up in a moment
and back at Bob's side.
"Sure Bob! Shutting up, Bob!"
The mouse grabbed Alex and hauled him up to eye level.
"Listen pal, around here there's humans and then there's me."
Alex had never been the confrontational type. Truth be told, he usually took
pains to avoid them. However, the events of the day had worn down his usually passive
nature. He drew up his feet, which weren't touching the floor anyway, and kicked hard
against Bob's chest. The larger rodent immediately dropped him and reeled back, try-
ing to catch his balance. Alex plopped down on his rear and found himself at a loss for
what to do next. Bob had recovered and was coming towards him with murder (or at
least severe maim) on his mind. Alex resigned himself to his fate. He was bracing him-
self for the punishment that was to come when a strong, clear - if somewhat high
pitched - voice sounded.
"Rescue Ranger away!"
Why, Chip wondered, don't humans post signs and directions in these ventilation
ducts? Of course, there were no rational reasons for humans to do this but after making
his fifth wrong turn in as many minutes he needed some one to gripe at. Finally he
caught sight of a vent grate up ahead. A good strong push and it was open.
Lab A12 spread out before him. He saw two young humans at the far end of the
room and racks of caged animals directly below him. It was the work of a moment to
secure a line to the vent frame and slide down to land on top of the stack. His attention
was immediately drawn to a commotion taking place below. A large mouse was ad-
vancing menacingly on a smaller one. Chip didn't know the details of the altercation but
he knew a bully when he saw one. Kicking open the cage door he sounded a battle cry
and swung down.
Bob found himself taking a chipmunk full in the face. As testament to the big
mouse's strength he didn't go down. Alex, though not a fighter, knew how to take ad-
vantage of an opportunity. He dove at Bob's legs causing the embattled mouse to drop
"Find me some string. Fast!" Chip ordered. He knew that once Bob regained his
feet they'd have a real fight on their hands. Their best bet was to finish this now, while
he was still down.
Alex scanned the cage and saw the string Chip had swung in on. Giving it a
sharp tug to dislodge it's safety pin grapple, he carried it back to Chip. In a few mo-
ments they had Bob hog tied.
"When I get loose I'm gonna..." Bob's threats of retribution were cut short as Chip
wound a loop of string around his snout and pulled it tight.
With the battle over Alex directed his attention to his rescuer. The chipmunk put
him in mind of a small Indiana Jones. With his battered fedora and bomber jacket...
"Hey, you're Chip aren't you? You're just like Gadget's description."
Suddenly Alex had a chipmunk hanging off him.
"Gadget? You've seen her? She's alright? Where is she?"
"Um, well, she's unharmed. She's been through some changes, though. We got
separated so I can't say exactly where she is. The commissary, last I saw her."
Alex shied away from the details of her changes. How do you tell someone their
friend has been transformed into another species? Fortunately Chip didn't press the
subject. As long as she was OK all he was interested in was her location.
"You just point me in her direction," said Chip getting up. He went to the center
of the cage and then seemed to wander a bit, starring up at the ceiling. He turned his
attention back to Alex.
"Wasn't there a string hanging...," he trailed off, catching sight of the trussed up
mouse behind him and realizing what had happened.
Alex, still in the dark, stared up at the ceiling trying to see what was wrong.
Since he didn't know what he was looking for it was a few seconds before it clicked.
The line Chip had swung in on had been the only thing holding the cage open. Without
it the spring loaded door had snapped shut. He looked back down to see the chipmunk
glaring at him.
"Well, you said to get you some string," Alex said weakly.
Chip climbed the cage wall and spider walked across the ceiling to the door. He
spent several minutes fiddling with the lock only to find that the extra money O.T. had
shelled out on escape proof cages had been well spent. The door could only be
opened from the outside.
The were stuck.
Gadget was lost. Or rather, she had lost something. It had taken fifteen minutes
for her to discover Alex was gone. She immediately made some hurried excuses and
set out in search of him. The problem was she had no idea how to go about it. He
could be almost anywhere in the building complex. Why, with a cat around he might
even be... She pushed that thought out of her mind. Alex was alive and in the building.
He had to be because the only other alternative was something she wasn't ready to
She had stopped for a moment, leaning against a wall, when she saw it. She
hadn't been looking a anything in particular, just casting her gaze around, when her eye
lit on what appeared to be a tear in the sealing tape connecting two sections of wall
board. Humans have a rather stereotypical view of mouse holes. Usually as a large
circular hole cut into the baseboard. Of course creatures who are trying to remain hid-
den would never have such and obvious entrance for their homes. The large mouse
holes were rarely used, more than decoy purposes than anything else. True mouse
holes were carefully hidden though they could still be found if one knew what to look for.
Gadget backtracked a bit, recalling a vending machine she had passed. Shortly
afterwards she back at the hole. She peeled back the wrapper of the Nutty Bar(TM)
and dropped it in front of the opening. Now there was nothing to do but wait and hope
her human reflexes would be fast enough.
The wait turned out to be a short one. It was only a minute before a whiskered
snout poked out. Gadget tensed and flattened herself against the wall. Catching mice
bare handed is not some thing humans are generally good at. However, since this was
a hidden entrance her prey wouldn't be expecting her. The mouse took a few sniffs and
stretched out, trying to keep as much of it's body hidden as possible. Gadget bent
down and with one quick swipe of her hand caught the small animal.
The mouse, needless to say, was not pleased with this turn of events. It let loose
with a stream of invectives that brought a red flush to Gadget's face.
"Hey, watch your language! I understand every word you're saying."
The mouse was brought up short by this and eyed the woman appraisingly. Hu-
man/animal communication was rare but not unheard of.
"All I want is some information," said Gadget. "And," she picked up the Nutty
Bar(TM) and waved it just out of reach, "I can pay for it."
Some time later they had relocated to the vending machine. The top of it was
now strewn with empty wrappers and crumbs. The mouse, one Humphrey by name, sat
in the midst of it all working on his sixth candy bar. Monterey Jack had a well earned
reputation as a bottomless pit and Dale could certainly put away more than his fair
share. This little mouse put them both to shame.
"So, you haven't seen Alex?" Gadget asked.
"Nope. Although there was another person here today looking for a mouse."
He looked at her expectantly. Gadget hesitated, half of the information she'd got-
ten so far had been worthless and she didn't want to throw good candy after bad. Fi-
nally she handed him another bar.
"There was a chipmunk here earlier," he said, tearing into it. "He was looking for
some one named Gadget."
"Chip was here?"
This was a wrinkle Gadget hadn't counted on. She had to find Alex but on the
other hand she couldn't leave Chip wandering through the complex looking for her.
"Do you know where he went?
Again the expectant look. Gadget fished in her pockets and eventually turned up
a few coins.
"Alright," she said. "But this is the last one. I'm tapped out."
"I spy with my little eye something that begins with B." Alex waited
but no reply
was forthcoming from Chip. "Guess we're still not on speaking terms. Rosie, how
"Um, just a moment. You said B, right?" came a voice.
With Chip uncommunicative and Mike off sulking in a corner he had struck up a
conversation with a mouse in the cage below.
"Darn. I was hoping that was to obvious to guess. Got any other games? This
is getting boring."
"Considering some of the horror stories I've heard about other labs we should
count our blessings if boredom is our only problem," Rosie said. "At least they're not
cutting us up or pumping us full of chemicals."
"Alex! Chip! You're both here. Golly, that's convenient."
Both Chip and Alex started and turned to face the woman regarding their cage.
With Chuck and Paul rushing around the room in an effort to look busy they had tuned
out human motion. Thus she had entered the lab and walked right up to the rack of
cages without being noticed.
"Gadget! Jeez, I'm glad to see you," said Alex.
"Why did you run off?"
"Well, it was really my body that ran off. I had no choice but to go with it."
Chip was trying to follow their conversation but his mind was still stuck on their
first exchange. Alex had looked right at the woman and called her Gadget. Now that he
took a good look at her there was something familiar about...
"Wait a minute," he spoke up. "You aren't... I mean you can't be..."
"One word," said Gadget. "Metamorphosizer."
Chip slapped a hand against his forehead.
"No wonder I had so much trouble finding you." He turned to Alex. "So you must
"I was until this morning."
"Hey, I don't know what you guys are talking about," came a voice from below,
"but if you're planning an escape I want in."
"Golly, I didn't expect all these animals. I'm not sure how to get them all out."
"All of them?" asked Alex. "Chip and I are the ones you came for."
"Well thanks a lot!" said Rosie.
"Hey, I'm sorry. I'm not unsympathetic but she can't walk out of here with her
pockets stuffed full of rodents. Someone's going to notice."
"No," said Gadget definitely. "I'm not leaving a single animal caged in here."
"I wouldn't bother if I were you," said Chip as Alex began to protest. "I've seen
her like this before."
One of Gadget's greatest assets as a Ranger, perhaps more so than her
mechanical skills, was her ability to empathize with other creatures. If others were suf-
fering or in distress she felt their pain as her own and would do everything in her power
"The first thing we have to do is take care of those two," she indicated Chuck and
Paul. "I can't do anything with them here."
The two teenagers were still engaged in their tasks, occasionally glancing side-
long at Gadget. Neither could remember seeing her before but she had on a white coat
so she must have belonged there.
Gadget put on a show of checking cages while they brainstormed. Finally Rosie
said, "Well, why don't you just vamp them?"
"Vamp?" asked Chip.
"Sure. Look, she's very attractive by human standards. If she turns on the
charm she could have them eating out of her hands." She addressed Gadget directly,
"Just use your feminine wiles."
Gadget looked confused. "I don't think I have any."
"We all do, honey. Some of us are just wilier than others."
Gadget was resistent to the idea. Oh, she knew what Rosie was suggesting.
She had put on such an act before, when they were playing out Dale's spy adventure.
There were things one did for friends, however, that one just didn't do for strangers.
The discussion continued until Gadget said, "I think we're making this a lot more
complicated than it needs to be. Let me try something."
She walked to the center of the room and clapped her hands sharply. Chuck and
Paul looked up from their tasks.
"OK." said Gadget. "Everyone out."
"Got some new tests to try on the animals. Top secret stuff. Eyes only."
She took each boy by the arm and ushered them towards the door.
"This could take a while so why don't you go get yourselves a snack and relax.
B'bye." With the last word she closed and locked the door. She took a small bow to the
smattering of applause from various cages. Everyone could tell something was up even
if they didn't know what.
Gadget set about searching the room and eventually turned up a dust mop left
out by the boys. Their liberal interpretation of their duties didn't include putting away
cleaning supplies when they were done with them. She unscrewed the mophead and
carefully propped one end of the handle against the still open vent. She set the other
end on the top row of cages. Now she got to work opening each one, taking care to
disengage the springs so that they remained open.
"There's no time to explain," she said, "but I know you can understand me. Just
climb up to the vent. You should be able to find your own way out. I'm sorry I can't do
She gathered up Chip and Alex and made her exit as dozens of rodents began
their climb to freedom.
"So all this," Alex gestured to a cluster of diagrams, "deals
reading the energy
states of the target organism, while this processor," he gestured to another section,
"sorts for those patterns concerned with physical form so they can be imposed on the
"And this," Gadget indicated another page, "handles shunting mass from one
subject to another."
They were back in lab five now. A workbench had been appropriated and
cleared of boxes only to be covered again by papers and various bits of hardware they
had cannibalized for parts. In the middle of it all lay two nearly complete metamorpho-
Chip was feeling a bit left out. Gadget had busied herself with assembling the
devices while Alex did his best to decipher Nimnul's scribblings. This left Chip with
nothing to do but stay out of the way.
Finally, after the last connection had been soldered, they were ready. A space
was cleared on the floor and Gadget and Alex braced themselves for the change. Chip
stood a good distance away. They weren't sure what would happen if a third creature
got caught up in the switch and really didn't want to find out. The transformation was
easier this time since they both knew what to expect. They found themselves in a re-
verse replay of the mornings events. Alex stood naked in his human form while Gadget
found herself buried in clothes.
Chip ran through the pile and began searching through it.
"Chip," he heard Gadget's voice, "over here."
She had wrapped herself in a shirt sleeve. "Um," she blushed, "Chip, I'm not
wearing anything under this."
Alex didn't have the communicator but it was easy enough to guess what Gadget
was squeaking about.
"Well, I'm not wearing anything at all," he said. "If some one were to walk
through that door I'd be out of a job."
He had tried to lock it but to lock and unlock the door required a special key card
which Jacob had neglected to give him. Alex was doing his best to maintain his dignity
with two strategically placed hands. The problem was solved easily enough by Chip
offering Gadget his jacket.
As Alex struggled into his clothing he noticed the Gadget wasn't at all comfort-
able with her brief attire. She kept slouching over and pulling it down as far as she
could. Chip, on the other hand, didn't seem at all embarrassed by the fact that he was
now naked save for a battered fedora. Her pushed problem from his mind. What mat-
tered now was that he was human again. He could ponder the nudity taboos of other
species some other time. He stood up, making a few final adjustments.
"I don't know about you two but right now I just want to get home, have a good
meal, a long soak in the tub, and pretend this day never happened. Say, you guys need
a lift? The park is right on my way..."
He never finished the sentence as Jacob Evans burst through the door. Chip
and Gadget ran for cover as he turned on Alex.
"We've had a security breach! Seal this lab immediately."
"An unknown woman calling herself 'Doctor Hackwrench' got through security at
Data Processing and took some of the Nimnul papers. She knew our protocols and
codes. And there's no telling what else she gotten into. I've heard rumors of some
mystery woman who laid out Edward Kearny.
Alex rushed to calm him down.
"Sir, there was no breach. I gave her the codes." He pushed on before Jacob
could respond. "I met her at lunch. We got to talking and it turns out she once worked
with Nimnul. I figured if we want to make sense of his work than some one who knew
the man's mind would be quite an asset. I guess I jumped the gun bringing her on
board but she was just here for the day. If we'd waited we could have lost her."
By now Alex was rushing the words out, trying to forestal any objections. Evans
held up his hand to stop him.
"Alright, alright. I know you well enough to trust your judgement. Just check with
me on these things from now on. So, this Hackwrench knows her stuff?"
"Oh, she's brilliant. Even if she hadn't worked with Nimnul I'd recommend her for
"OK then. I look forward to meeting her."
Meeting her? Alex was at a lost for what to say next. He'd just done his best to
make Gadget seem invaluable. How could he tell him she'd never be back?
"Uh, you know that rumor you heard was true. She did knock out Kearney. He
Jacob waved it off. "You let me worry about Ed. He's not the only one around
here with friends in high places."
He turned his attention to the rest of the room and saw the table which had been
wrecked by Gadget's earlier growth spurt.
"Uh, it just collapsed. Guess it couldn't take the strain. I'll talk to Maintainance
"You do that." Jake tossed Alex a key card. "Lock up after you straighten things
up. I'll expect to see you and this Hackwrench bright and early Monday morning," he
said as he left.
Alex stood there for a few moments pondering his options. He'd painted himself
into a corner and there was only one way out. By now Chip and Gadget had emerged
from hiding and looked up at him questioningly. He hunkered down to their level and
"So, you free Monday?"
Author's Notes: Ok, here it is. Two years in the making. I'd like to
dedicate this in
general to every one who's kept the Rangers alive for the last ten years. Whether you
drew pictures, wrote stories or just provided an audience; thank you. Specifically I'd like
to thank Robert Hollingshead, alias RoboNerd, who was the first to turn Gadget human in
"Sizable Chances". I liked the idea but I thought so much more could be done with it. This story
is the result. Thanks also to Roy Neal Grissom for reading an early draft and encourag-
ing me to continue; Charity and John Nowak for helping me with some plot points; and
the whole gang over at the Acorn Cafe.
I know I can't write long involved plots like Michael Demcio. I certainly can't put
as much emotion into my work as Meghan Brunner. However, I have tried to avoid the
annoying errors that I've seen in so many other stories. I guess that's another reason I
wrote this. We've all come away from fanfics thinking, "Hey, even *I* could do better
than that." So, I'm finally putting my money where my mouth is. This story is by no
means my magnum opus. I would greatly appreciate any comments or criticisms. And
if you don't like the story don't just send mail saying, "It stinks." Tell me what you didn't
like about it. I can't get better if I don't know what I'm doing wrong.
Regards Matthew Kirby
Disclaimer: Alex Spender, Jacob Evans, Carol Nolan, Edward Kearney,
Chuck and Paul are all copyright Matthew Kirby. All other characters copyright Walt
Disney and used without permission.
Back to the stories