Gadget's Quest
Written by: Kevin (KS) Sharbaugh

Chapter Seven: The Door to Her Past

"If we're going to make an example we'd better do it right," the mouse in charge of Capone's mercenaries declared.  Giving a quick whistle, he alerted the two rats that weren't keeping Gadget and Dee detained, those being the only other two remaining.  "Get a couple a' knives from the armory and start lining up the other prisoners," he commanded as he drew his own knife from his shoulder scabbard, "We want to make sure they all get the message."  Once properly armed, the two guards opened the cell doors and ordered out the captive rodents.  "Not a bad seat in the house," the mercenary leader smirked as his lieutenants finished positioning their captive audience.

With everyone in place, the mouse in the suit and fedora spoke up, "Alright, I want you all to pay attention!  What youse is gonna see here is a little demonstration of what happens to anybody that crosses Rat Capone."  Turning to the rats holding Gadget and Dee, he commanded, "Ok, boys, do your thing."

In the time leading up to their intended execution, both Gadget and Dee had worked out strategies necessary to thwart the effort for as long as possible.  As a result, the rats met a surprising level of resistance from the bound beauties.  However, the girls' position and the relative disparity in size and strength to their assailants began to take it's toll.  Being slammed into the ground in the effort to soften her up Dee caught sight of the other captives.  Many were gawking at the predicament she and her sister were in while others refused to look, but one stuck out more than any other.  Aching from head to toe and with exhaustion setting in, from deep within, a terrified child, one she had forgotten was always hiding in the shadow of her bravado and pride, cried out in desperation, "Mom!  Help!"

Like a key sliding into a lock, the plea drove deep into Samantha's subconscious.  As the tumblers fell into place, the lock was rendered null and the door to her past flew open.  Her name wasn't Samantha, it was Amanda... and there, in the flood of memories, she saw them.  The little infant with big blue eyes and wisps of golden hair that would nurse on Mommy's tools and squealed with wordless glee when she discovered what a gear did, the baby she had to walk away from never knowing if she'd see her again.  The black haired and brown eyed tomboy forced to grow up too soon but willing to face her new responsibilities, the broken hearted daughter she cried with when she had to say goodbye to her own children.  But now two heartless thugs were laughing at the prospect of doing unspeakable things to her babies, one of whom was crying for help.  That would not stand.  Not as long as there was an once of blood in her veins or a single breath in her lungs.

Amanda, nearly half a century old, strained against her shackles.  Logic and common sense would have told her that it was a futile effort, but logic and common sense were finding no sympathetic ear.  Even her almost unnaturally high pain threshold, a characteristic all her young had inherited, was being pushed beyond it's limits.  Her muscles and tendons begged and cried for her to stop, but Amanda's heart cried ‘never'!  From one paw to the other, across her chest, it felt as if she were being engulfed in flames as the metal shackles seemed to dispassionately ignore her struggle.  But pain and shackles be d*****, her children needed her!

With a ‘tic' the weak link failed it's brethren.  All in all, the sound of Amanda's arms sailing through the air, freed from their artificial restraint, made more noise.  For that matter, so did the gasps of the captives who witnessed her feat.  The mouse who led the mercenaries who'd shanghaied the mass made the mistake of dismissing the gasps as those born of despair, not surprise.  Had he not made this mistake and turned to verify the cause of the crowds' reaction he might have had time to intercept Amanda before she'd laid her paws on the metal rod her eldest daughter had been using earlier.  Not that his subordinates were of any more help, being so preoccupied by the ‘show' that they didn't see the activity until the eventual cry of "Hey boss!" came too late for him to defend himself.  As it was, he turned just in time to get a very good look at the business end of the crude yet effective weapon that was to put his lights out.

One down, four to go.  Amanda charged the guard that had tried to warn his leader.  His knife didn't concern her.  She had calculated the combined length of her arm and weapon and the comparative length of her opponent's arm and weapon and found that matters were in her favor, especially given that her weapon could deliver the greatest kinetic force at it's far end.  The rat didn't make that conclusion until it was too late.  His compatriot, who had been racing to assist, learned from his very painful mistake.  Unfortunately, by the time the lesson hit home his forward momentum had led him right into batting range, and Amanda was already taking her swing.  He stopped.  He was tensing his muscles to make a desperate leap back.  But he didn't quite make it in time.

With the three thugs who were in the best position to stop her taking forcibly imposed naps, Amanda's way was clear.  Once more catching sight of her children vainly struggling against their fetters, her maternal rage again reached a fever pitch.  "LET GO OF MY GIRLS, YOU B*******!" she hollered as she charged the brutes.  A brief moment of indecision was all it took for the first of the last two rats to fall victim to Amanda's assault.  Having seen his colleague go down from a blow to the head, the other immediately used his arms to shield his own when he saw the mouse prepare to strike.  Doing so, however, left his sides vulnerable, an opening his attacker took full advantage of.  Then, as the rat doubled over in agony, Amanda brought her staff above her head and brought it down on his upper back with such force that she was lifted from her feet.

"Lock-pick!" Dee gasped, "Top left pocket!"

Amanda immediately set to work freeing her girls.  First Dee, having been the closest, then Gadget.  In an almost autonomic reflex, Amanda handed the diminutive implement back to her youngest without having to look back.  Dee snatched the lock-pick and, re-energized by the tangible hope of freedom, sprinted over to the other captives to loose their chains.  Before Gadget could retrieve her own pick and join in the effort she caught her mother's gaze, then was the recipient of an embrace that was twenty-eight long years overdue.  "I missed you!" Amanda cried, "I missed you!"

"Mom, this can wait," Gadget protested, being freed of her mother's arms, "We have to get out of here!"  Looking about, she spotted the exit... and the heavy iron grate that blocked it.  "There has to be a way to open it," Gadget thought aloud.

Looking over the series of pulleys and counterweights affixed to the gate, Amanda spied a cable running the length of the chamber along the ceiling.  "There's the lever!" she pointed out, having located the cable's terminus near the entrance of one of the side tunnels.

"You get that," Gadget called out, "I'll help free the other prisoners."

Mother and daughter immediately set about their respective duties.  While Gadget helped alleviate Dee's load of anxious prisoners seeking release, Amanda made for the lever to open the gate.  Peering down the near tunnel she checked for any of Capone's lackeys that might have been coming to investigate the ruckus she'd caused.  The coast was clear so she threw the lever.  Doing so, however, made her staff-swinging rampage sound like a quiet evening.  The creaking of the iron hinges echoed throughout the tunnels as chains attaching it to the counterweights clanked and rumbled.  The vibrations alone were enough to shake dust and other materials loose from the ceiling and walls.  Once the gate had swung inward enough to allow escape, the former prisoners poured out, the soon to be freed increasingly anxious that the noise would alert their captors.  Fearing intrusion as much as the others, Amanda quickly retrieved the metal staff and was preparing to buy them time.

"Can't a guy sleep off a headache around here?" Capone grumbled as he left his quarters.  "Would youse lugs knock it off?!" he shouted as he walked in on the escape, "What the...?"

Amanda, who had been distracted checking on the progress of the de-shackling, spotted Capone as he stood in the tunnel entrance.  She realized she couldn't get close enough to knock him cold on foot before he could call for assistance, so she hurled the staff like a javelin hoping for a head shot.

Capone, however, had not lived as long as he had by just standing around and promptly dropped to the floor like a lead weight.  "Sugar Ray!  Mousenegger!" he called to his flunkies, "Get out here!"

Unlocking the last few shackles, Dee called to her mother, "C'mon, Mom, let's go!"  Amanda immediately rushed to join the others.

Capone wasn't about to let go of his captives so easily and rushed to get to the lever.  "Oh no you don't," he muttered as she yanked the lever down.  As it happens, the gate was far more swift falling into place than being pulled open.

Amanda dropped to all fours in her effort to beat the gate.  In her haste, however, she had forgotten about her left shoulder.  The Sisters that had treated her five years earlier had told her that her shoulder had been dislocated and likely endured further aggravation before they'd found her.  She'd been warned not to push her left arm too much.  Breaking loose from her shackles and clubbing five gangsters unconscious was already far more than she should have expected of her left arm, but using it as a foreleg to fun full speed was the last straw.  In the instant she put serious weight on her left arm she crumbled to the floor, tumbling to an ungraceful stop.

On instinct, both Dee and Gadget turned back to assist, only to be knocked back over half a foot by the gate slamming shut.  The sisters quickly righted themselves and raced back to the gate.  Together they tried forcing it open.  They were soon joined by Terry, having turned back after realizing Amanda wasn't with the others.  Gadget, thinking more clearly on the matter than Dee, realized the futility of using muscle power alone.  "It's no good," she pointed out, immediately trying to concoct a mechanical means of assistance.  Dee kept pushing.  Terry simply stood clutching the bars, silently condemning himself.

"Get moofing!" Amanda hollered to Terry and her daughters, fearing their recapture.  As Arnold pulled her off the floor, she repeated her command, "Go!"

Reluctantly accepting the situation, Dee called out the promise, "We're coming back!" before joining her sister in their withdrawal.

Terry still stood there at the gate.  In his effort to prevent losing her to a pair of strangers who might be her family he had lost her to a gang of mercenaries.  "I'll return," he whispered before departing.

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