Dream Escape
By Varish Mouse

The disclaimer blurb thingy: Well, let's be reasonable, we all know which characters Disney owns. How could I claim any rights to them? For those who haven't figured it out yet, or some lawyer jerk who has to see it in black and white, here goes. The characters Monterey Jack, Zipper, Gadget, and of course Chip and Dale and Foxglove are all copy written to Disney and who ever else may have rights to them that I don't know about.. But that would be anyone that is NOT me. I just used them in a story for something to do at the moment. I am not trying to make any profit off of these writings, I'm not overly concerned about them being flamed or put down. Don't try to give me money for posting this.. Ok I know I don't have to worry about that. But I gotta say it. I have not nor will I ever recieve a single penny for these fanfics, and I'm not trying to. Proto is a character of my creation but he's not legally copy written to me, and that's OK. I'm not too worried about him being stolen. If someone likes him enough to put up the time and money to go through those legal processes, then I guess that's the greatest form of flattery.

Part One

The autumn came, and went. Now snowflakes seemed to linger in the air as winter gained it's peak. The Rangers, had made sure to stock up on food this was going to be a long, and cold winter.
            "I don't even think Fat Cat is nuts enough to try something in weather like this." Chip said turning up the electric heater that Gadget had built last winter. At that time Dale staggered in with his arms full of acorns. "Where do you want these Chip?" He asked eager to put them down. "Put them with the rest of them, in storage you dummy." At the moment Chip and Dale were the only ones at the H.Q.. Monty, Zipper, and Gadget were out looking for some parts that Gadget needed for one of her new inventions. Foxglove was in her room, which they finally got around to building. So Chip took the opportunity to get in a little insulting toward Dale. He had to slack off lately, but he really did miss their quarrels. Strangely enough they seemed to get along best when they weren't getting along. Since Foxglove had walked into Dale's life he seemed to busy to even talk to him. He missed the days when it was Chip, and Dale, not Dale and Foxglove. This time Dale didn't say anything in his defense. He put the acorns away, and sat on the couch. Chip suddenly turned downcast. Dale didn't even notice. Chip plopped down beside him.
            "Hey Dale we need to talk.." Chip said. Dale turned off the TV. He knew by the sound in Chip's voice this was important. "Yeah, what's on your mind?"
"Well it's just that.. Well we never argue anymore." Dale laughed a little. "You sound like you miss arguing." Chip was surprised, Dale had certainly grown up lately. Even so with his extra maturity there was still the traits that set him and Chip apart. Dale was still shy, and playful. Chip looked down. "I never meant it like that...I mean I never seriously meant those things I said about you." Chip said quietly. Dale nodded. "I know Chip, but that doesn't make it hurt any less when you say them." Dale replied. Chip felt ashamed of himself now. He had never known that Dale took everything he said so personally. He thought that he understood that a lot of times he didn't really mean it. Even though he never sounded like he wasn't serious.
            "Gee.. I never knew you took it so personally." Chip said ashamed. "well now you know." Dale said. At that moment the others walked through the door. Gadget first followed by Monterey and Zipper who were carrying spare parts.
            "Hi guys. Why does everyone look so down?" She asked seeing the expressions on Chip and Dale's faces. "Nothing.." Chip finally answered, and then they both tried to look cheerful, though it was hard. They would have to start getting along if they were to get through this winter. It was supposed to be especially brutal.

            The wind was picking up. Proto wrapped the cloak he had made from a scrap of cloth closer around his shoulders. He had tried to leave many times. He wanted to travel west, and see California and Arizona. Something kept him here. Something he couldn't understand made him say. Some feeling of loneliness that gripped him when he tried to leave. He looked around. There was frozen crystalline precipitation in the air. They called it snow. Proto had never seen snow, nor had he heard of it. In fact it never got this cold in the city. He didn't know if he could stand it anymore. He felt his body going into shock. He only had a few more meters to go. He could see the hollow stump he was staying in. He quickened his pace. He could make it, he had to make it. The stump was getting closer, but his legs were numb, and he could feel his bones aching like a toothache. Closer, it was getting closer, but he was slowing down, each step took an eternity. It was pure torture to even try to move. Only a few more feet, only a few more steps.
            He fell through the canvas flap that was the door into the warmly heated hollow. Proto coughed and gasp for breath. The cold air felt like it was ripping his lungs out. His entire chest hurt, and he felt like he was going to die. Cody rose up and scanned his body. He was on the edge of going into shock. But he was getting warmer. He would be OK. Cody commented that maybe he shouldn't stay out so long next time. Proto couldn't answer, he was still trying to breathe. His vitals were low. His normal body temperature was 99 degrees, but his had dropped to 96. This doesn't seem like a significant change. However his species has a rather low tolerance to cold. They would go into shock if their temperature dropped below 95 degrees. Proto lay there for a minute trying to regulate his breath. He had never felt this cold. He didn't understand why his kind had their low tolerance to cold. He assumed that it was a flaw in their genetic code. They had about the same heat tolerance as earth creatures, but they couldn't stand the cold. He didn't have any winter clothes, and this cloak wasn't working. The wind cut right through it like a razor. Finally he was able to move, but his bones would ache for hours to come. He didn't count on the it getting cold. He had no concept of seasons, or weather being that the city was climate controlled. He had seen rain on Luxz, but that was the only form or precipitation he had seen. But flakes of ice falling from the sky to him was unheard of. He hadn't seen the Rangers, and for a moment wondered how they were coping with this. What was happening? What this a normal occurrence, or was it the end of the world? He didn't know this was going to happen or he would have prepared for survival. He would have made a stockpile of rations, and found warmer clothes, much warmer clothes.
            How was he supposed to know? Cody reminded him for the third time that if he had spent more time learning about the planet, and not it's music then maybe he would have predicted this. Proto just shrugged it off, he didn't have time to argue. He didn't feel like arguing. He was tired, he wanted to sleep. He knew he should try to stay awake, but he couldn't, his eyes felt like they were being forced shut by weights. Before long he drifted off into a deep sleep.
            Proto woke with a start. A bead of cold sweat ran down his muzzle and dripped off his nose. He wiped his eyes. The visions of his dream still fresh in his head. He had nightmares more frequently now. He had been having them as long as he could remember, but they really started after he became an officer. For a while he thought he had learned to control them. Now however he say just how at their mercy he was. He tried to think about something else, but nothing seemed to push the memories out of his head. He let his head fall back against the pile of cloth that was his pillow. He held his eyes tightly shut. The thoughts were beginning to fade. He knew that some how he was going to have to come to grips with his past, before he went nuts. He knew how the others dealt with it. They quit caring, they let themselves grow numb and cold. He didn't want to be like that, he didn't want to be a statue. He knew that when he lost his ability to feel then that would be the day that he would be dead. He would be like so many burned out faces he had seen on Luxz. He would be dead at heart, and waiting for the body to follow. That wasn't what he wanted. He didn't want to let his emotions die. He wanted to be able to love, and hate, and feel remorse. That scared him, to think that he could be like the other officers. They only did their job to get paid. They didn't care any further than that. Every time he thought of how much he hated living in that place he remembered how glad he had left it behind. Why was it still bothering him though? He thought that by now he would have gotten over it. For a certain amount of time he would forget, but somehow it still managed to give him nightmares. Thinking back he could understand why he would drown his thoughts with loud music and pain. It was that place. That city, and everyone in it. He was doing it to try to get away from that reality, now he was truly as away from it as he could get, so why was he still beating himself up over it? Certainly he didn't want to go back. Maybe he just hadn't learned how to be different yet. Old habits do die hard. He sighed. "One day I'll be free of it entirely, one day I'll learn to change." he muttered to himself. "If I survive long enough."
            He looked outside, there was a veil of white on the ground. Everything was dark. He must have slept right through the evening. A cold breeze blew into the hallow stump and sucked the warmth right out of the air. Proto felt the sharp cold like a giant hand grabbing him, and squeezing all of his body heat out. He quickly threw the flap shut, and pulled the cloth tighter around him. He couldn't take much of that. He had the feeling that his body temp had dropped at least two degrees just from that quick breeze. He couldn't afford to loose any body heat, especially since he had such a low tolerance to it.
            He decided to keep himself busy, for a number of reasons. He began to stitch in a few extra layers of lining into the cloak he had thrown together. As he did his thoughts began to wander. What would the Rangers be doing now? Probably sleeping he reminded himself. Well maybe Foxy would be up. Would she be flying around in weather like this? He hoped not, it was pretty cold, and even though she may have a better tolerance to it, it would still be hazardous to her health.
            In fact she wasn't out flying about this night. It would be insane to be out with a record snow storm being reported on the news. They predicted that they could get as much as two and a half feet of snow by morning. Even Dale was in bed sleeping peacefully. Which left her alone, and extremely bored. She turned the TV off, and moped around for a while. There wasn't a lot to do when everyone was asleep, and she had to make sure not to wake them up, so she had to be extra quiet. After wandering from the living room to the kitchen countless times she threw herself back on the couch with a sigh, and turned the TV back on. The rest of the night had went much like that. She wandered around until she was too bored to think, then would go back to watching the late night infommercial. Finally she fell asleep on the couch waiting for the others to wake.
            Monterey was of course the first up, however even he had slept late. He found Foxy asleep on the couch. He decided to leave her alone, and let Dale deal with it. He and Zipper began making breakfast, hoping that the smell of it would rouse the others. As usual he was right, and not long after the others began to stir. Chip staggered out of his room still in his pajamas, and still mostly asleep. Dale soon followed, then Gadget. Dale seemed excited as he bound out of his room wearing a big coat, and toboggan. He instantly ran to the window, and threw back the curtains letting the sunlight in, and revealing the white snow frosted park. He looked like a child on Christmas. He seemed to glow with excitement. They hadn't had this much snow in who knows when. He couldn't wait to try out the new sled that Gadget had made for Christmas last year. Chip's voice finally got his attention after the third time. "DALE!" Dale turned around. "Yeah Chip?" Chip sighed. "Now that I've gotten your attention, are you going to take Foxy to her room or do I have to get Monty to do it.?" Dale hadn't even noticed Foxglove asleep on the couch. He was so excited about the snow that he didn't even think about anything but it. He felt a little ashamed, and carried her to her room and put her to bed. Then rushed out as quietly as he could and headed for the door.
            "Hold it there. Where do you think you're going?" Monty asked sternly. "I was going out." He answered. "Not on an empty stomach." Monty said. "Yeah Dale Monty took all the time to fix us breakfast the least you could do it eat a little something." Gadget said "Besides it's your favorite acorn pancakes" Finally they convinced him to set down, and have breakfast. He wolfed the pancakes down almost in one bite, and was out the door. Gadget sighed. "Well at least that part of Dale hasn't Changed."
            Monterey finished a mouthful of pancake, and remarked. "You know I was thinking why should we let him have all the fun? Why don't we go use the sled too?" He asked? "You're right, Gadget made it for all of us not just him." Chip added.
            "Oh come on now guys, let's not become rivals over something so superficial as a sled." Gadget commented. Her point was well taken. "Besides I'm sure Dale will let you use it if you ask nicely" Chip felt a little ashamed for over acting so much. He knew that dale would share. Thinking about how ready he was to just go and take the sled made him think of how greedy he could be at times.
            After breakfast they all bundled up, and headed out. "Gee I sure hope the lake is frozen over, it's been a long time since I've been ice skating" Gadget commented as she shut the door behind her.
            Proto finally choked up the courage to look outside. The storm had stopped, and everything was still. The white landscape looked like something he had read about in a fairy tale. Everything was hushed in a deafening silence. Not even the sound of birds chirping could be heard. Every sound he made seemed to be amplified twice it's normal tone. Should he venture out into this new world that has sprung up over night? He was so curious, but so scared. He wanted to make sure that the cloak he had made would keep him warm enough. It was think, and heavy. There was no way to find out unless he tried it out. So he threw the heavy robe of various quilted shreds of fabric over his shoulders, and stepped out. He told Cody to stay there. Even though he had been here for four or five months, and knew the park, and city like the back of his hand the snow had covered all the landmarks that he had remembered. It was like he was on another world. He could see for as far as the horizon, nothing but a white stillness. Off in the distance the duck pond was a pale whitish blue sheet sparkling in the morning sun. The humans weren't out today. Everything seemed to be asleep. He took a few more steps away from the stump. There wasn't any wind, so he was relatively warm. Maybe he could explore further from the stump without having to worry about cold shock. As he walked about tracing his way by the larger landmarks he remembered it was like he had been away for a long period of time, and was returning to find all the familiar memories still there, yet in some small way changed. He stepped out to the edge of the pond. The water was hardened. He had heard of ice before, but had never seen it, at least not manufactured ice. He thought about it for a moment. Ice was a common thing here on earth. To him it was something new and strange.
            Suddenly he heard some voices coming from across the sheet of ice. He ducked behind a dune of snow and watched. Two, no Three figures began to appear in the light fog. At first he didn't know who they were, but after a closer look Proto recognized them. It was Gadget, Monty and Zipper. They were so bundled up that he had to look hard to even see their faces. Proto stepped out from behind the dune. He began out onto the ice half running.
"Hey Gad.." He was cut off as his feet shot out from under him, and he fell flat on his back with a thud. "Ow what just happened." Gadget, and Monty turned at the voice. "P...Proto?" Gadget said surprised. She thought that he had went west. She thought that they would never see him again. "Proto are you OK?" She yelled to him. "No." He yelled back Gadget skated over to him, and even though she wasn't wearing ice skates it still some how worked (as it usually does on cartoons). "Gosh do you need help getting up, you took quite a slip." She said offering her hand. "No I think I'll just lay here and hurt for a while." He said jokingly though it sounded serious. Finally after some help he managed to stand.
            "Gee I thought you were gone forever." Gadget commented after a short silence. Proto shrugged, and spoke a line of shy babble but couldn't explain why he couldn't bring himself to leave. By now Monty had come over. "Hey paly, how have you been?" Proto sighed, his breath forming a white cloud then dispersing. "Surviving, just surviving." He answered. "Yeah that's how the single life is, why when I was traveling through." Gadget cut Monty off. "You know this is going to be one cold winter I hope you're prepared for it." Proto looked confused. "Winter? You mean this happens every year?" He asked astonished. "Well we don't usually get this much snow, but it always gets cold." Gadget answered. Monty looked surprised. "You mean to say you don't have seasons where you're from?" Proto shook his head. "Seasons no...The city was climate regulated. It stayed one set temperature all the time, well there was the one time the generator went on the fritz, and it got really hot, but it never, ever got this cold." He explained a little more than necessary as he took a trip down memory lane. They seemed to understand though, so he didn't press the issue. There was another short silence. "So.. where are those two crazy chipmunks?" Proto finally asked trying to lighten the mood. "Probably fighting over the sled somewhere" Monty answered. "Last time I saw them they were over there." Gadget pointed her comment directed more to Monty than Proto.
            There was another short silence, then Monty broke it. "Well you two nippers have fun. Me and Zipper here are going back to H.Q."
            "OK Monty." Gadget said briefly, and watched Monty and Zipper disappear in the distance. Monty never was the type to "play" too much, so it was normal that things like sledding, and skating wouldn't appeal to him. She then turned to Proto. "Proto, do you know how to ice skate?" Then she thought about her question. "Oh.. silly me, of course you don't, this is your first winter." She then added. Proto just shrugged, and stood there awkwardly.
            "Well come on, I'll teach you." Gadget said tugging at his hand. He protested, but with little effect. Before he knew it Gadget had pulled him out to the middle of the lake. He looked around and all he could see was a flat plane of ice. There as no way out now. it was sink of swim, so to speak, which didn't make him feel any better because he couldn't swim either. Gadget circled him a few times. "See Proto, it's easy. you just let your feet do all the work." She said stopping crisply in front of him. Proto shrugged, and began to try to mimic Gadget. For a short time it worked he successfully propelled himself forward a few feet before his feet decided that they would be better off out from under him. Once again Proto found himself on his back, shivering cold, and hurting. "Oh my gosh! Proto!" Gadget gasp as she slid over to him. Proto lay there looking up at her with his arms crossed. "What? why are you looking at me like that?" She asked. "I've been shot at by plasma weapons, and had less of a chance of getting hurt." He muttered sarcastically. Gadget sighed. She had watched him fall, and fall very roughly twice now. If the trend kept up it was obvious that he would hurt himself before he would learn to skate. She didn't want him to get hurt, she didn't want anyone to get hurt. She just had her hopes up that she could find some one to skate with. Chip and Dale were off sledding somewhere, and even if they were here skating with her, they would be too busy making passes at her. So with that in mind she would most likely not have any fun. It was ironic how some one could be surrounded by friends, and yet get so lonely at times. Proto however seemed to be perfectly comfortable. Loneliness seemed to be so common to him, that he preferred it, but then again how could she know what he was feeling inside. He could be the most lonesome person in the world. He was so good at hiding things she would never know. Of course she tried to hide things too. She was lonely, she missed her father, and wished that for once she could find a friend that wouldn't flirt with her all the time. There was Monty, but he was like an uncle, or at least an older brother to her. She didn't want a boy friend. Things like that just got in the way when she was busy, and would distract her. In all it's selfishness when really wanted some one that would be there to talk to her when she needed them, and disappear when she didn't.
Proto finally managed to get up. He felt that his body temperature had dropped a degree, maybe a degree and a half. his cloak was wet, and he began to shiver. He knew that the longer he stayed out in the cold with wet clothes on the colder he would get. Then inevitably he would go into cold shock, and loose part of his memory. The memory loss would be indefinite. it could last a few minutes, or a few years. There was no way to know how long it would last, or how much memory he would loose. He didn't turn to go. Even though he knew that he would regret it he was determined to learn to ice skate. He didn't know why, some thing made him want to prove to Gadget that he could. This was a new feeling to him. He had never wanted to prove anything to anyone but himself, possible Cody on an occasion when they made a bet. He took a deep breath, feeling the cold air burn his lungs, and let it out watching the mist form out of his breath. "I'll regret this later.." He muttered to himself. He began pushing himself toward the edge of the lake as hard, and fast as he could. Just as he neared the edge he locked down and slid to a stop. He was terribly cold. The wind from sliding so fast had tore at his body heat. He was nearing 95 degrees. Gadget watched, admiring Proto's determination. She waved for him to come back to the middle of the lake. Proto's vision was beginning to blur, and he was getting dizzy. The only thought that managed to dawn on him through his racing thoughts was that he felt like he would die. Before long he wasn't able to stand. The last thing he remembered was everything spinning, he didn't remember hitting the ice. Gadget's eyes widened as she watched him pass out. She skated to him as fast as she could, and stood there wondering what to do. Proto lay on the ice shivering violently.

            At first all Proto felt was the feeling of drifting away. A feeling of weightlessness, and a pulling as if he were drifting on the currents of ocean waves. Then slowly he began to feel fuzzy, as if his entire body had went to sleep. The tingling became more violent, he had the sensation of thousands of ants crawling though his fur. All the while he could see nothing but darkness. He had no way to measure the passage of time, so there was no way to know how long this feeling had lasted. Just as he couldn't stand it any longer there was a bright light as if he had just opened his eyes for the first time. He felt wet all over, and cold, clammy. He looked around himself, and for a moment didn't recognize where he was. Then the memories flooded him. He was back in his room, on Luxz. The cold made his muscles ache, but he managed to pull himself to his feet. There was a broken piece of mirror hung on a nail on the wall to his right. He jumped at the image he saw. It took him a few seconds to realize who was in the mirror. It was him, but substantially younger. He shook his head. What was going on? Was everything a dream? Had he really made it into the academy, and went to earth? Or was this a dream? He didn't know what was real anymore.
            All of a sudden he heard the familiar voice of his father. He barely had time to scramble under a broken table before the door to his small barren room was kicked off it's hinges. His father staggered in, drunk, and angry. There was no escape Proto was drug out by his tail, and thrown against the wall. He hit with a loud thud, and dropped to the floor. The drunk was on him in an instant, and began kicking him while he was down. Proto felt his heavy boots pounding against his back. The pain was real, and at the moment he was certain that his entire life as he had known it was nothing more than a concoction of his head injury. He knew he had a head injury. He couldn't understand how, but he had the feeling that all this had happened before. He had the memories of all this happening, but at the moment it was indisputably happening. In his pain and confusion Proto let go of consciousness with his father's words still ringing in his head. "You killed her! It's your fault, you took her from me!" The same feeling of being eaten alive by ants came again after un undistinguishable amount if time drifting on the cool currents. As before just as Proto felt like he was going to explode, the tingling stopped, and the bright light came. He found himself lying on the cold bare floor in his room, still confused, and hurting. Everything was quiet. He slowly got up, and crept to the door. He slowly pushed it to the side. It was broken and hanging by one hinge, where he had tried to fix it after his father had kicked it in. He looked into the familiar hallway cluttered with clothes, and empty bottles that once contained liquor. Quietly walking toward the main room looking in every room as he did hoping with all he was that his father wasn't home. Once he rounded the corner entering the main room he was startled by the voice of his older sister, and two of her friends.
            "Surprise!!" Proto ducked back into the hall. Then after a second or two he looked out. His sister was there, and so was her boyfriend, and his sister. They had a happy birthday sign. Was it his birthday? What day was it, and how old was he? Proto couldn't remember. He didn't know when he was born, and he had been hiding in his room for who knows how many days. He didn't know what day of the week, or the what month it was. His sister walked over to him and hugged him. She had forgotten how scared Proto always was. Proto didn't even realize he was crying until he heard his sister comfort him. "It's OK, dad's not home...we're going to take you to a friend's house for a while. Everything is going to be OK." Proto sniffled a few times and wiped his eyes. "Go get dressed" His sister said. and he did. They hurried out of the house. Their father hadn't come home the night before, and was probably drunk. Proto tried to think. He knew what was going to happen next. He remembered everything. How could he remember this day? It hasn't happened yet? He couldn't begin to understand, instead he took comfort that his father wasn't there to beat him.
            After a short party, Proto's sister announced that she had some very good news. She retrieved from her pocket a small letter. She handed it to Proto. It was the reply to Proto's application to the Academy of Peace Enforcement Officers. His hopes weren't too high. His application the academy of robotics, mechanics and engineering was turned down, so was his application to the academy of astronautics. Reluctantly he tore open the paper ouch with his thumbnail and unfolded the letter. He read out loud.
            "Dear student. Due to the ever growing need for law enforcement agents, and your interest in the field we have decided to go over your test scores at the academy of basic knowledge. Though you never completed the academy your test scores show that you are a intelligent and hard working student. So on behalf of the entire staff of the academy, and with great personal pride I cordially accept your enrollment application, and look forward to seeing you on campus in the weeks to follow. Signed Commander Lewis Wilks. Dean of Cadets."
            As the last words rolled off of Proto's lips a great grin swept across his face. He was accepted, all his hard work had paid off. All his studying, and all the letters he had written. He had finally paid his ticket to paradise. His sister was ecstatic. She hopped up and down laughing. Her little brother had finally found his own way out. Everything would be OK. She would move in with her boyfriend and Wildrax would live on campus. He would finally be getting away from that monster that took the place of his father.
            All of a sudden Proto looked depressed. His sister asked him what was wrong. He shook his head, and simply replied. "I can't go, I'm too young. and weak. How will I compete with the rest of the cadets?" She sighed and answered. "Will, you're going to regret the chances you don't take." Proto didn't understand what she meant but later that night she told him that she was moving out. He had no choice but to go to the academy. He couldn't stay at home with his father alone. Who would stop him from killing him? He realized that he had one way to get away from the abuse, and that was the academy. No matter how scared, or out of place he was, he would have to follow through. He would have to work ten times as hard as the other cadets, and he prom iced himself that he would.
            The same feeling of drifting came after he fell asleep, followed by the insane tingling, and bright flash of light. This time he found himself on the main hall of the city, which was built like one huge office building, with floors and halls rather than houses, and roads. He was leaned up against a wall, the surface was flaking off revealing the brickwork underneath, There was one of the many gang logos that festooned the walls on this side of the city. The words "No Hope for Tomorrow" seemed to flaunt themselves in the blue and orange, and green paint which they were drawn in. There were many gangs in the city. No Hope for Tomorrow was the largest. Without Mercy, and the Neo Argonauts were a few other well known gangs. Proto remembered all of this. Everything was as he had left it, if he had left it. He couldn't understand what was going on. He had went to sleep a child, and woke a man. He still didn't rule out the possibility that this was all a dream, and yet it was so real, and every thing else he remembered felt like the dream. What does this mean? Did he come back to Luxz? Or had he never left?
            All of a sudden he heard bullets whizzing by his head, and a shower of dust from one hitting the wall beside him shook Proto from his thought. He heard the words as they came over the pursuing officer's radio. "Suspect spotted, west wing third floor, All units in the area stay tuned for further instructions." Proto's legs reacted before he could think. He ran, fast and hard, and he realized what it must be like to be the criminal. Apparently as far as they were concealed he was. He faintly heard the officer in pursuit call into his mic, "Suspect mobile heading west on corridor thirteen, officer in pursuit." Proto turned down an intersection that lead into a slum community. He didn't have much time to think. He ducked behind some Crystal God junkies, and covered himself with an old newspaper. He heard the officer run by proclaiming that he had lost the suspect. He would probably get a demerit for that. Proto waited for another minute or two, to make sure there wasn't another officer, then slipped into the housing complex. He searched for an open door, and finally found one on the last floor. He opened the door to an empty apartment. there was no furniture that was intact. Instead there was a chair with no legs, that sat directly on the floor, an old matters for a bed, and a wooden box for a table. He heard a noise, and turned to see what it was. He heard something in the hall, and edged one eye out to see what it was. A small child was pushing his way down the hall. He was sitting on a wooden square that had the wheels from an office chair attached to it. The child had no legs. Proto blinked, and looked closer. The child looked so familiar. Then the young boy looked up, and their eyes met. The face Proto saw was like something from a drug induced nightmare. The boy was him. He was looking at himself, or what he would have been if he had taken the drugs in the vial that he had found when he was little. The child's face was little more than a skull with mangy fur draped across it. His eyes were a dull dead green, sunk into their sockets. The child extended his hand, and in it was an empty Crystal God vial. "Please sir.. I'll sell you my arms for just one more vial." His voice was faint, and hoarse. Proto covered his eyes, and yelled. "No!! That's not me! I didn't take the poison." He turned around, to the room. There as out of nowhere stood Gadget. Proto shook his head, and wiped his eyes. "G..Gadget? how did you get here?" He asked shuddering. She giggled girlishly, something that was not like her at all. "I'm not.. this is all a dream." She giggled some more. "Wake up Proto. It's time to wake up." She giggled. A voice then drew Proto's attention from behind. "That's right Proto." He turned to see a large mirror leaning against the wall, and his reflection was in it. The reflection was of him in a dark room, even though the room was well lit. He stood with his hands behind his back, looking sinister, and evil, yet with a hint of innocence. Proto watched as his reflection, that wasn't his reflection spoke to him. "Wake up, wake up, wake up Proto." It laughed evilly. "Wake up if you can." Proto threw the box into the mirror, and shattered it. The same image of himself flashed in each shard of broken glass, and they laughed at him. Proto covered his eyes, but couldn't get the sight of his dark half mocking him out of his mind. Everything seemed to be spinning in one insane nightmare. He fell onto the mattress, and for a moment found refuge in the lazy floating feeling that came soon after, but still frightened at the thought of what nightmare he would wake up to next.

            Chip was a little worried when he saw Gadget frantically running up over the dune of snow. However he was relieved to find out that she was OK. Then he learned that she had been ice skating with Proto, we was a little jealous.
            "Gee Gadget if you wanted some one to ice skate with all you had to do was ask me." He commented. She seemed to disregard it. as she tried to explain, and catch her breath at the same time.
            "It's Proto, I mean he's in trouble. He fell, but not because he didn't know how to skate, well he did fall because he couldn't skate but that's not what's wrong with him. Although I'm sure it didn't help. But he passed out, and I don't know why. It may have been the cold, but he seemed fine."
"Slow down Gadget luv you're going to tie your self in knots." Monty said putting a hand on her shoulder.
            That's how Proto once again came to be lying in Gadget's room. Chip began to wonder why he was always hurt or in trouble when they met. Maybe he just had bad luck. Of course on the other hand Gadget said he was fine a while ago, maybe the cold had gotten to him. So once again they found themselves waiting to wake up from a coma. This time the reason was unknown to them. It was obvious why he was unconscious the first time they had met him, but this seemed to have no explanation.
            Gadget emerged from the room as if in deep thought. "How is the little guy luv?" Monterey asked, with a hint of concern. Though Proto was a little strange, and extreme he was none the less a friend. "Well he's still not awake. but he's sweating pretty badly, and looks like he's troubled, or uncomfortable. Since he appears to be in REM I speculate that he's having nightmares." Dale looked confused. "REM? Isn't that a band or something?"
Gadget chuckled a little. "Yeah golly, I think it is, but I meant rapid eye movement."
            "Oh." Dale said bluntly. Chip just looked at him and shook his head. There was a short silence, and then dale piped up again. "You know Gadget, I still think it would be really neat if you could build a machine that lets people see what others are dreaming." Gadget suddenly began to glow. "Hey that's it!"
            "What's it?" Chip asked confused. Gadget began to explain. "Well remember a month ago when Dale tried to tell us about his dream, but he couldn't explain it? He said he wished that I could make something that would let people watch other's dreams."
            "Yeah." Chip answered as if not interested. Dale got extremely excited. "Zowie! Did you really do it? Did you really make the dream machine Gadget?"
            Gadget smiled coyly. "Well actually yes I did. At first I thought that it would be an invasion of privacy, but then I thought that if the other person didn't mind it would be alright. So I built it. But I haven't been able to try it out yet." Dale began to jump up and down on the couch, chanting "Me first, me first." Chip bonked him on the head, and told him to get a grip.
"So what do you plan to do luv?" Monty asked. "I was just getting to that Monty." She said. "I didn't just make the dream machine where you could see other's dreams, but interact in them too! I was thinking that maybe if it worked then I could talk to Proto, and find out what's wrong, and how we can help." Chip stood up "That's a great idea, but who is going to do it?" There was a short silence.
            "Well like I said I don't know if it works, so I'm going to be the one to try it first." Dale looked sad and began to pout. "But why?" He asked quietly. Gadget gave it some thought, she wanted to word it as politely as possible. "Well....if something goes wrong I don't want any of you to have your brains fried because I had a loose connection or something." She explained. All of a sudden none of them were so eager to try Gadget's new toy out. Monty looked a little concerned. "Well Gadget luv, you know the risks more than any of us, so I guess it's your decision." He said putting a hand on her shoulder. She nodded, and looked a little down. "I know, but I don't know how else to help Proto." Chip put a hand on her other shoulder. "Just do what you think is right, and we'll be behind you all the way." He said. Gadget seemed to cheer up a little. "Gee, thanks guys that's really sweet." She took a deep breath. "Let's get this over with." She said as she turned and opened the door to her workshop. She returned with two tennis ball helmets that were connected by a bundle of multi colored wires. The wires lead to various places on the helmets. One of the helmets had a wire that connected it to a remote control. It looked pretty impressive.
            "How does it work?" Chip asked. "Oh, it's pretty simple actually it just synchronizes the two user's brain waves along the temporal lobes of the brain, and transfers between the two." She shrugged. "Well in theory that is." Even though she tried to explain it as simply as she could it still left the others with dumbfounded faces.
            Gadget sat in a chair beside Proto, and placed the second helmet on his head, and the first on hers. Her eyes were covered as the tennis balls were cut to fit over the eyes. "now listen guys if it looks like anything is going wrong just push the blue button on the remote." She said holding up the remote. "But never push the red button she then added."
            "Why what does the red button do?" Foxy asked, who dale had woke up, and brought in to watch the new invention in work.
            "Oh, nothing really, I just thought it should have a red button. I mean doesn't everything have a red button you're not supposed to push?" She said jokingly. They had a short laugh and the mood lightened a little, which was her intent. She took a deep breath and then let it out. "OK here goes." She said, as she pushed a green button on the control pad.
            At first there was a weightless feeling, and no visions at all. Then Gadget closed her eyes. It was dark, and she had forgotten they were still open. Slowly she began to see something. It was like she was looking at a TV. She could see what looked like the inside of a rundown office building. She reached for the control, and turned a knob. The lights on he two helmets began to flash faster, and hum. "What is happening Gadget?" Dale asked excitedly.
            "Well I can see something, but it's fuzzy, It's not what I expected, maybe I'm not on the right frequency." She began to fiddle with the knob some more. "Got it!" She said all of a sudden.

Part Two

            Proto found himself in a familiar room. It was his room, Not his room in his father's house, but his room he had rented after he graduated from the academy. It wasn't the way he remembered it, though it was his room. The walls were bare, and the plaster had been knocked off in places revealing the brickwork beneath. His bed was broken apart, the mattresses were gone. In fact most of his furniture was gone as well. Piles of his belongings lay scattered about. What was going on? What was real, and what his mind had confabulated, seemed to run together, with no way to tell the two apart. He suddenly felt a presence behind him, and felt compelled to turn around. Once he did he saw Gadget standing there, as if she had been there forever. He blinked, once, but then paid her no mind. After all the last time he had seen here she had been an illusion, sent from who knows what regions of his psyche to confuse him. Instead he began to search the room. He was looking for something, it had to be here somewhere, he always had it hidden in a safe place. He couldn't remember though, he was so confused he wasn't even sure he could remember his name. He felt something on his shoulder, and turned. Gadget was still there.
            "What do you want from me? I can't wake up, I've tried, now leave me alone." He said solemnly. Gadget looked hurt. "But Proto, don't you recognize me? It's Gadget." Proto became angry, and pushed her away. She fell back onto a mattress that was on the floor. "I know you. You can't fool me. You're not real, you're just an illusion sent from who knows where to taunt me." He turned around. "I'm not even sure if there is a real Gadget." Gadget stood up, and brushed herself off where the dust from the mattress had wafted up and covered her.
            "Proto it is me. You have to believe me, I'm here to help. I built a invention that let's two people have the same dream. I need to know why you passed out, and why you can't wake up." She explained. Proto seemed to ignore her, and went on searching for something. Quietly without even looking at her, he muttered. "Prove it." She thought for a moment, How could she prove it? Everything in this dream world was composed of his memories. Anything she told him to try to prove it was her he could just say that it was his own memories talking. If she told him something he didn't know about her, he could say his mind had made it up. If she did something she wouldn't normally do he definitely wouldn't believe her.
            "I can't prove it, it's impossible. You'll just have to trust me." Proto turned around as if surprised. He wasn't expecting her to say that. He couldn't understand why, but he believed her. He stopped looking and sat down on a overturned dresser. "OK. I trust you. How do you think you can help?" He said quietly. She sat down beside him.
            "Is this your home world?" She asked. He nodded. "Everything is how I remember it. Except for a few things." He held his head in his hands. He didn't even realize he was crying. Gadget didn't know what to do. She rubbed his back. "It's going to be OK. We'll find out how to wake you up." She said half heartedly. She in fact was a little skeptical if she could. "See..it's like I remember it, but it's not how it was. It's like it would be if I had ran instead of being charged with the crime. I'm a fugitive, and the peace officers are after me. I don't know what to do. I can't wake up, I've tried. For the sake of hell I've already died three times. But I keep coming back. I keep waking up in this same room and it starts over! It's a loop, a circle, I can't break it. It's an endless cycle!"
            Gadget was speechless. She had always thought of Proto as calm and steady, he seemed to have the will of a mountain, but here she was watching him have a nervous breakdown. It scared her. What if he was permanently scared from this experience, and when he finally did wake up he was a nervous wreck, and couldn't even function in normal everyday activities? She shook the thought out of her head. Proto was pacing around the room. He kept going on and on about being trapped in his own nightmare. She covered her ears, and couldn't take it anymore. She stood up, and without even thinking she slapped him. He stopped in his tracks, and stared at her blankly. "Y..You.....hit ..me?" He said in astonishment. Gadget put her hand over hear mouth, in shock of her own actions. Acting in violence like that was completely unlike her. However it got his attention.
            "I.. I'm sorry.. but you.. you.." She began. Proto blinked, and rubbed his cheek. "Thanks...I guess I needed that." He said. They stood there for a few minutes, and stared around the room, not sure where to begin. Then Gadget broke the silence. "If I'm going to help, I need to know some things." She said. Proto nodded. "OK, let's talk." He said sitting back down on the dresser. Gadget sat back down beside him. "I need to know why you even passed out in the first place. If I knew that then I can try to wake you up back in the real world." She said. Proto thought for a moment. He could vaguely remember.
            "What was I doing before I passed out?" He asked hoping she could help him remember the details. Gadget looked embarrassed. "Well...we were ice skating together.. or I was teaching you to rather." She finally said, in a hurry. Proto seemed to be thinking. Then he nodded. "No wonder." He muttered to himself. "What? No wonder what?" Gadget asked interested. "I was too cold." Proto said. "See if my temperature drops too low I go into a coma like state until I wake up." He seemed to be thinking. "I really think it's a protective reaction, because all of my body functions either slow down to a drag or quit all together, kind of like hybernation." He explained. Gadget nodded in understanding. In fact it wasn't so far fetched. Frogs have been known to go into such deep hybernation that they can actually be frozen all winter and wake up the next spring. Bears also hybernate, maybe Luxzans were supposed to hybernate too? "Well how do I wake you up?" She asked with a shrug. Proto scratched his head. "Well.. I should wake up as soon as my body temperature is normal again."
            "Well what's normal?" Gadget asked. "Ninety nine degrees." Proto said bluntly. Gadget looked surprised. "Oh.. no wonder I thought you had a little bit of a fever." She said. More to herself than to Proto. Proto thought hard for a moment. "Well if I'm warmed up then there should be no reason that I can't wake up." Gadget stood, and began to pace back and forth as she thought. Proto watched her. She acted just like he remembered her, of course on the other hand everything else was as he remembered it too, so that in itself was no proof that this was the real Gadget. sure she appeared to not know everything that he did, but that could be his mind making a accurate representation of her.
            "I've got it!" She said all of a sudden holding up a finger. Proto could almost see a lightbulb above her head. "Well.. let's hear it." Proto said anxiously. Gadget began to explain. "You did say that the same dream kept looping right?" Proto nodded. "Well then maybe your mind wants to come to some closure." She had read something that was similar to this in a psychology book once when she was bored. "What do you mean closure?" Proto asked confused.
"Well see you have a lot of troubled thoughts in your mind. And your subconscious wants you to clear them out. It wants you to solve the problems that your mind is facing. That way it can function peacefully with out all these bad memories, and regrets."
            Proto began to understand. He was running from a the peace officers, but it wasn't his fault. He didn't know. He was told everything was OK. He had to make it right. Some how he had to expose the real criminals. He had to show everyone that he was framed, but how? What puzzled him more was why he had to prove this to himself. After all this was his mind, and he already knew that he didn't do it.
            "Why? I mean this is my head, I already know that it wasn't my fault, why should I have to set things right? Nothing is wrong, and even so it's not going to change how things back on Luxz are." He said. Gadget shook her head. "I don't know Proto, the mind is a strange thing. In fact I heard somewhere we know more about outer space than we do about our own minds."
            Proto held his head in his hand for a moment. Then he looked up. "OK. let's do this. Let's get this over with." He stood up. Gadget stood up too happy that Proto was finally motivated. "Great where do we start?" She asked.
            "First I need to find the key card to my safety locker. I have some things in there that will help us out." They both began looking. After some time of looking Gadget looked up at the sound of Proto's voice. "Got it!" He said holding up what looked like a metallic red credit card with a shiny black strip across the bottom. "Is that it?" She asked. Proto nodded. "This is it." Proto had been looking for the same item for some time. He had tried to make it appear thinking that he could control his own dreams, however that had not worked. Apparently he was being forced to play by the rules. Or maybe his mind was so accurate in recreating the world as he had remembered it the same laws of physics applied, meaning that he could not make things appear at will, or fly, or breathe water, or break any of the other rules that the dream world over looks. It was in fact so real when he died he felt it, and the feeling was accurate. He had died before in the real world. He knew what it was like. They readied themselves to go, then Proto stopped Gadget at the door.
            "Gadget, before we go on you have to make me a promise." He said. She looked at him not understanding what he meant. "OK, what is it?" She asked unsure of what promise she had to make. "You have to promise me that when I tell you that I don't want you to see something you have to close your eyes, or do what ever you have to do. But don't look." She nodded. "OK sure, but why?" She asked. Proto looked her in the eyes, dead serious about what he was saying. "There is a lot of horrible things in this head. A lot of bad things that I don't want you to see. This world is a nightmare as is without my own demons from my past haunting it. It's my nightmare, not yours, and I don't want it to hurt you." She could tell by the way he said it that he was serious, more serious than she had ever seen him before. She nodded. "I promise." She said quietly. Proto seemed satisfied, and He lead the way out into the hall. The structure of the city was like one large building, with smaller sub buildings in it. It had large main hallways that were about the size of a street would be on their level. They had two lanes that were marked by arrows showing the traffic direction. They were obviously in the slum portion of the city. The halls were lined with trash, and broken furniture that had been discarded by it's owner, and adopted by the homeless as some sort of shelter. An old bathtub was being used as a fire pit to prepare food with. The food was some unrecognizable animal that was put on a metal rod, probably once part of a chair, and was roasted. It didn't appear to have been obtained through a food outlet, and rather looked like it had been caught, and processed by the poor soul who was cooking it. Others just lay in the halls covered in whatever shreds of cloth or paper they could find, either sleeping or dead. There was graffiti everywhere.
            Gadget shuddered. It looked like something you would expect to see in a movie about an apocalyptic future. "This is how things really were?" She asked quietly. Proto simply told her not to look at it. His voice was distant, and almost too quiet to hear. "But... why doesn't anyone do anything about this?" She asked outraged that any so called civilized leaders could let their people suffer like this. Proto turned around. "These people are too far gone to help, Death would be more humane. If you want to know how they let it go this far I'll tell you. If everyone was equal then the rich would have no power. Their money wouldn't be worth the parchment it was printed on. If no one had the power to change things then the entire city would be like this. They designed this city to have an upper and lower class." He took a breath. "They just didn't think it would get this bad." Proto turned around and kept walking. He seemed a little bitter about it, and had good reason to be. He stopped a moment, but didn't look back. "Stay close, don't wander off, and keep your eyes low. People don't like it when you look at them like that. As well as the fact that you have to blind in. You stick out like a red feather on a crow when you look around like that." Gadget took a few quick steps. "Look around like what?" She asked a little offended at his tone of voice, after all she was here to help him, and he was getting snotty with her. "Like it's your first time in Disneyland." He answered smugly. He started walking but Gadget pulled him back by his arm.
            "Hold on, why are you mad at me? I'm here to help you. If you don't want my help just say so." She said, surprised at her tone of voice. Proto turned and looked at her. "I'm doing this for your own good." She looked at him with a question on her face. "What do you mean for my own good?" She asked. Proto took a deep breath. "Breath in the air. Go ahead. Take a good smell of it. Do you smell that? That sour metallic smell?" Gadget nodded. Proto nodded as well. "I thought so. You are part of my dream, and your mind is borrowing my memories to fill in the gaps where your own memories and experiences fall short." He paused. Gadget already knew what he told her, after all she had intentionally designed the machine that way. Proto continued. "That smell is the smell of death. Now you may never have died before, but I have. If something happens here, and you get hurt, you'll feel it." He pinched her arm. She flinched."Ouch, what was that for?" She asked. "If you die....you'll feel it, and it will be as real as that pinch was, only it's about an infinite amount worse." Proto turned and kept walking. Gadget caught up, and thought about what he said. She wasn't in any hurry to experience death. She was also sure Proto was being strict to make sure she listened, and that he really did care. He just had a strange way of showing it. There was what felt like an eternity of silence. They continued down the large hall until an intersection. They turned right, and walked a while further and then turned left. The monotony was getting to Gadget. She had a head full of questions, and couldn't stand that she had no answers to them. On top of that the entire city was getting to her. The paint was drab gray, at least the paint that hadn't already peeled off. It was depressing, and the islands of creatures that looked like pictures she had seen of people that were starving, or in concentration camps. They looked dead, but they moved every once and a while just to prove they were alive. She looked up and watched one inhale something he(?) was smoking out of a glass tube. His ribs spread apart as his lungs took in the thick purple smoke. He held it until blood ran from his eyes like tears, then let it out, and slumpt down with a half smile on his face. He dropped the tube, the end still glowing orange. Three others scrambled for it. They began to fight over it. All of a sudden her vision went blank, and she realized that Proto had put his hand over her eyes. She was surprised at how gentile he was this time. "Please Gadget.. don't ruin your precious mind with my memories. Come on...don't." He said as he began to lead her his hand still over her eyes. However she could still head the death choke of one of the rat like Luxzans as the other took his life for the sake of the continents of the glass tube. Her heart was pounding, she had never seen anything like this before, and the smell of that noxious purple smoke burned her sinuses. She felt her eyes get wet, and quickly pulled Proto's hand away. She wiped her eyes then looked at her hands relieved that it was only tears. Proto hugged her. She buried her face in his shoulder crying. "This place is so horrible. How could you stand to live here. She pulled at his vest wiping her eyes. Proto closed his eyes, He felt a tear roll down his cheek. He felt so ashamed for letting Gadget see this. From the moment he saw her he had an attachment to her. He wanted her to be safe, he wanted to make sure of that. Now he had done to her something that he wouldn't do to his worst enemy. He had allowed her to experience the cold, and pain of the city he had grown up in. "I'm so sorry... I should have made you go as soon as we found the card. I never wanted you to see this, you never should have seen this. I'm sorry I hurt you like this, I never wanted to hurt you." He said. There was a moment of silence. Gadget backed away, and wiped her eyes sniffling.
            "It's OK. I let myself see it. I should have done as you told me, and looked at the floor." She said quietly. Proto hated himself now. He sighed. "Gadget, it's only going to get worse from her. I know I can't force you to go. I will however plea that you go on your own will. You've seen enough of this world, no you've see too much of this world. I beg you to go." Gadget for a moment considered it. This place was so horrible, she had a tight knot in her stomach. It smelled like a dead animal that was hit by a car, and looked worse than any slum she had ever seen in real life. She glanced back to the four creatures Two of them were on the floor They didn't move. The other was laying slumpt over on his side, red blood running out his nose where he had overdosed on whatever was in the ominous tube. The tube lay still only a short distance from his hand where it had rolled when he dropped. it. She turned away and covered her eyes. Tears again came, and she found herself once again crying on Proto's shoulder. He led her away from there. She had seen enough of the horrors of Crystal God.
            They walked in silence, Gadget still had the pit in her stomach, and her whole body felt numb and tingled. Her face was sticky with tears. This was all a dream but how was it so real? How could anyone live like this and not go insane. How did Proto stand this? She now more than ever understood why he was so depressed when they first met. She now understood why he was bitter inside. She wanted to go, she wanted to get back to the safety of her room, and her friends. Then she thought of her friends. Proto was her friend. She became angry at herself. How could she be so selfish to desert him when he needed her? How could she call herself a Ranger if she would abandon her friend in his most desperate time of need? She took a breath. "It's my duty. How can I live with myself if I go, and something happens to Proto because I'm not here to help him?" She thought to herself. "No Gadget you're not going anywhere, you have a job to do."
            Finally Proto stopped at a set of double doors. He turned to her. "You can go now. I won't blame you. Your nightmare can end here. This doesn't have to be your dream, you don't have to live with anymore of this. What you've seen was too much already." He said quietly, but seriously. Gadget shook her head. "No, I have to stay. I couldn't live with myself if something horrible happened to you because I was too scared to be a Rescue Ranger. I'm staying with you until this is really over." She said with confidence, and strength. Proto looked at her, then turned away to hide the wide smile that crept across his lips. He was touched to the point of tears that she was so courageous to stay her to help him. This was a true friend. To him there was no greater sacrifice than what she was doing for him. He wiped his eyes, and with effort pulled the smile off his face. Then he turned around and quietly nudged her inside.

            What had seemed like hours to Gadget and Proto was in fact only a handful of minutes in real life. The rest of the rangers were just beginning to get both tired of waiting for some reaction that everything was OK, and for Proto to wake up so they would be sure they were both alright. Apparently the invention was working because Gadget had gone into some sort of trance, and quit responding to their questions. So after a while they quit talking to her. Instead they questioned among themselves.
            "I wonder what's taking so long?" Dale asked puzzled scratching his head. "I don't know but I hope Gadget's OK." Chip added. Monterey tried to lighten the mood. "C-mon pals there's no reason to get worked up in a tizzy. I'm sure Gadget luv is OK." Foxglove cocked her head to one side trying to see under the helmet. "She looks OK." She shrugged. In fact Gadget did look "OK" There was no obvious trouble. She seemed quite relaxed. If she was in pain, or trouble she would squirm in real life wouldn't she? The truth was she wouldn't. The body has a natural defense against hurting itself thrashing around while sleeping. It causes the body to lock up so you can't move and hurt yourself during dream states. Gadget knew this so she didn't bother to invent some form of restraint. She however didn't know that the machine would trick her body into thinking that she was also asleep and in a dream state, and restrain her as well. She was hoping that she could communicate her experiences to the other rangers as she went along. However now she found that she was trapped in the dream and couldn't get out until either Proto woke up, or one of the other rangers turned the invention off. Since she didn't appear to be in any distress they probably wouldn't turn the machine off.

            Gadget suddenly found that she couldn't turn the machine off. She hadn't thought about it enough to realize it until she saw the four crystal god addicts. She vaguely remembered trying to lift her real arm to push the "off" button but only had control of herself in the dream world. It was as if she was asleep though she knew she wasn't. That was a part of the reason for her emotional outburst. She was slightly panicked. She didn't mention it to Proto but instead followed him through the maze of hallways and doors. Finally they got to a long hallway that looked like the hallway in a school. It was lined with rows of lockers. Each was numbered, and the sections were color coded. Proto didn't take long to find his locker. It was in the red section. Red-536 to be exact. The locker was a little bigger than a high school locker would be on that level, and they were more sturdy made. It would definitely be near impossible to break into one of them by force. Proto slid the card through a small reader, and the sound of metal tumblers could be heard. Then he pulled the door open. You could hear the soul of air being pulled in. Apparently the locker was vacuum sealed as well. Once the door was fully open Gadget could see that it was more than just a locker, but more like a small walk in storage garage. There was a room just large enough to take maybe two or three steps into and turn around in. The walls were lined with shelves. The top two rows were pull out drawers. There were a few things on the shelves like articles of clothing, and what looked like tools, or spare parts for Cody. There were also a few medals, and certificates, and books. Gadget stepped in and Proto looked back at her. "Don't let that door close. If it does we're dead, and we'll have to start all this over. As soon at it closes this thing will become a vacuum, and our lungs will collapse." Gadget took a step back into the doorway just to make sure the door didn't close.
            Proto began rummaging through the clothing, and pulled out a heavy mesh vest that had numerous pockets, and attachment straps on it. He pulled his vest off. Gadget covered her eyes. Proto didn't seem to care. He put on the other vest, and then began taking these black rectangular objects off of the shelves, and putting them into his pockets. Then he took a few cylinders from the shelves, and pocketed them too. Then he opened one of the drawers,a and pulled out some sort of weapon. It was some kind of handgun. Gadget shuddered at the sight of it. She had seen on TV what the human versions of those could do. She didn't want to know what Proto was planning on doing with it. He then took another weapon out of a second drawer. He attached both of these to his vest after sliding one of the rectangular objects in the handle of one, and one of the cylinders into a place in front of the handle of the other. Then he opened a drawer and polled out a gauntlet. He strapped it to his arm, muttering how he knew a second would come in handy. All of a sudden Gadget was amazed at how real all this was. Everything was as it would be in the real world had this scenario had been real. For the most time she had comforted herself by reminding herself that it was a dream, until she realized that to Proto this was all very real. Everything that happened actually happened how it would happen based on how he knew his world would react.
            Proto finally turned to Gadget. She could see the tuft of fur on his chest poking through the mesh vest. He looked like he was ready for the battle of Armageddon. "Listen Gadget, there's something I need to tell you before we leave here." She nodded ready to hear what he had to say. "In this world there's no such thing as a penalty for killing a fugitive of the law. Especially one who escaped from prison after his sentencing, like I must have in this dream, or nightmare, or whatever you want to call it. These officers are going to shoot to kill, and they are going to shoot at me, and anyone that is associating with me. So if things get scary, get down. Lay down on your stomach and cover your head like you do in a storm. You don't want to share my memory of what death is like." He explained. Then he went to step out the door, and she stopped him. "Wait tell me something first." Proto stopped. "What?" He asked. Gadget looked down as if embarrassed. "How did you die?" She then looked up. "No, don't tell me if you don't want to, I just wanted to know how it happened, and how you came back." Proto gave a sigh. "OK. I'll tell you, but it ends with you, OK? Don't share anything you have seen or heard here with anyone. Promise me that." Gadget nodded. "OK I promise." She said quietly. Being here in this gloomy depressing, hopeless world had effected her spirit. She wasn't like she was in real life. She only hoped that it would end when the dream ended.
Proto began. "I was out on a routine patrol. Everything seemed as normal as they could. There was a drug raid being called for B. Section. That was out of my jurisdiction, so I didn't bother to respond. Apparently the drug raid was a staged diversion. Weather it was staged by a drug lord, or from someone on the inside I don't know. Either way, I had a feeling that something was amiss. So I went to one of the loading bays on the other end of B. Section. Since all the officers were called to the drug raid there was no one to monitor the loading bay. As I had expected in the wake of the confusion two suppliers were using a loading robot to load five hundred unit crates of Crystal God into a transport tube, and send them to the drug lord's warehouse. To make a long story short. I got slammed around a little to rough and when I woke up I was in the infirmary with the doctors telling me I've been unconscious for two days and I was lucky they resuscitated me when they did, or I probably would have never woke up." Gadget felt a lump in there throat. She tried to swallow it down. She stepped out of the doorway, and let Proto through. He shut the door, and slid the card back through the scanner, and the door sealed.
            "Where are we going?" Gadget asked as she followed Proto through the halls. "I know someone who might help me. It's a long show but she owes me a really big favor." Before long they were making their way through an apartment complex. They had to do some sneaking to get past the guards, then they took an elevator up to the penthouse level. The ride was in silence, and it seemed to take forever. Gadget was beginning to feel useful. After all this was Proto's world, and he knew how to survive in it more than she did. She felt like she was only slowing him down. If only she knew how much support she was giving just from being there, she would be truly flattered. Proto didn't need the kind of help she expected she would give him. He however relied on her for emotional support. There were a few times that he felt like he should just give up and live the rest of his live in a coma. However when he turned and saw Gadget, and remembered that he would never see here again if he didn't wake up, he had a renewed will to go on. He only wanted to somehow tell her that it was going to be OK and that he was going to fix everything. He wanted to tell her not to be scared, and that he was touched that she had decided to stay. Unfortunately the words never came. all he could do was look at his feet, and glance up at her every once and a while. Gadget caught him glancing at her, but didn't say anything. She wished that she knew how to tell him that she couldn't leave until he woke up. She just didn't know how. She didn't want to pressure him to rush and make a mistake, especially not one that would make them have to start over. The lift came to a stop. The doors slid open, and Proto cautiously looked out before moving on. The halls were mainly empty. They didn't guard the penthouse level very heavily, if at all. Most of the guards were concentrated on the lower three levels. Access from above was impossible. They turned left and walked down a long corridor, then turned down an intersection to the right. Proto stopped three doors down. He waved his hand in front of a lens, and waited. Then a voice answered. It sounded annoyed.
            "Who is it?!" The woman's voice groaned. Proto shifted his weight to the other foot, a little impatient. "Come on Leira you know who this is now open up!" He snapped. There was a short wait and the door opened. A emerald green reptile stood in the doorway wearing a bathrobe, Apparently she was in the middle of doing her nails. He leaned in the doorway, striking a seductive pose.
            "Well, well well, if it isn't billy the kid... How are ya doin kid?" Then she spotted Gadget. A hint of jealousy flashed in her reddish orange eyes. "So.. who's the cutie?" she asked in a drab un-impressed tone. Proto just brushed past her and entered the apartment. Leira stood off of the door. "Hey! Aren't you even going to introduce to the girl that took you away from me?!" She wined, in a depressed tone. Proto shook his head.
            "Look it's nothing like that. Plus there was never anything between us anyway." He explained in borderline rude tones. Gadget finally came to her senses. She had never pictured Proto to be the dating type, and yet it appeared that this was a former girlfriend of his.
            "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude. I'm Gadget Hackwrench." She said extending a hand. The lizard just nodded, and turned her attention back to Proto. "You know you're a cube now.(cube meaning fugitive in Luxzan) I can get arrested for housing a criminal." She said brushing past him, and going into another room.
            "yeah, like you never broke the law. If you would kindly recall the Section D-4 incident." Proto smirked. "Hey I'm not the one in trial here." Her voice came slightly muffled from the other room. Proto sighed, and leaned against a support beam. "Look, are you going to help me or not? Because if not, I have to get out of here before I get discovered." He said in an annoyed tone. Leira emerged from the room wearing a tight blue body suit, that looked like it was made from rubber. Her nails were painted a glossy red. "After all you do owe me one mother of a favor." Proto added. Leira grumbled under her breath a little. "Yeah, OK I'll help you. But keep little miss muffet over there out of my way." She jabbed a claw in Gadget's direction. Gadget crossed her arms, and used all her composure to keep from making a comeback remark. She didn't like this female at all. She was bossy, rude, and snotty. She wondered how Proto even chose to associate with her in the first place. It seemed like he could do so much better.
            Proto could tell there was some rivalry between Gadget and Leira, and in fact he didn't blame Gadget for not liking Leira one iota. He didn't like here either when they met. She has what humans call a constant PMS problem. Proto didn't know what that meant exactly but he understood it was used to describe women like Leira. However she did have a soft side. it very rarely came out, but none the less, he had seen it once or twice. She didn't mean a lot of the things she said. Particularly when it came to her and Proto being an item. Leira assumed that Gadget and Proto were going out, so her flirting with him was purely directed to irritate Gadget. In fact Gadget was more surprised by the idea of Proto dating than being irritated by it. Leira brushed bast Gadget giving her a "stay away from my property" glare, and proceeded into what appeared to be a storage room.
            Proto rubbed his eyes, and brushed the hair out of his face. "Don't even pay attention to her, she's just trying to get on your nerves." Gadget stepped closer to him so Leira couldn't hear the conversation. "She doesn't like me very much." Gadget then shielded one side of her mouth and leaned closer. "And the feeling is mutual." Proto chuckled a little and shrugged. "She's a fungus. Give her enough time and she'll grow on you." Gadget had to laugh, though very little. "How did you meet her anyway?"
            "She's an officer." Proto breathed. Gadget became concerned. "But..won't she turn us in?" She asked. Proto shook his head. "No.. She owes me a favor. Plus she was a wild cannon like me. She never agreed with the system she just went along with it to keep out of trouble she couldn't weasel out of." Leira's voice came from the other room. "You wouldn't be talking about me in there would you kid?"
"Yes." Proto bluntly answered. There was a short outburst of laughter. "Well I'm glad I'm on your mind." Proto sighed. "Leira give that a rest. You know you make me want to find a hole to lay down and die in." Leira came out wearing a mesh vest identical to Proto's over her body suit. "I love you too kid." She said jokingly patting Proto's head as she sauntered past him and plopped down on her bed. "OK, I'm ready, where are we going?" Proto turned. "it's great that you got all dressed up, but we're not going to war here." Leira seemed disappointed. "Well look at you. You're sure ready for Armageddon." She shrugged. Proto shook his head. "Yeah, and I'm with a shoot to kill label on my head too." Leira shrugged. Proto turned and looked at Gadget. He wanted to make sure she was still there. She had been so quiet lately he had almost forgotten that she was here too. "Hey..you OK?" He asked her in a sympathizing tone. She sighed. "Yeah, I guess so. This place is just beginning to get to me. I mean the colors are so drab and depressing. It reminds me of an overcast stormy day." She said. Leira took the chance to make a comment. Gadget ignored it. Proto tried to explain.
            "They paint the walls like that on purpose. The idea is that boring, and drab colors won't inspire excitement like bright flashy ones. With the lack of excitement there will be fewer riots." Gadget thought about it. It did make sense. She certainly didn't feel like being too active anymore. "Does it really work though?" She asked. "I've never seen a riot." Leira almost mumbled. "Of course that also could be because most of the people around here are to high on Crystal God to even stand up let alone invoke a riot." She shrugged. Gadget had a feeling that Crystal God was what the four creatures were smoking in the hall. She shuddered. How could something even consider doing that to themselves? Couldn't they see what that stuff had turned them into? They were little more than zombies.
            "Well back on the problem at hand. I need to clear my name." Proto tried to change the subject before it took an even more depressing turn. "So what I need you to do Leira is get into the file archives, and get the record of me making that request for evacuation, and being told that the area was clear." He explained. Leira shook her head. "Won't work. I've already tried that. They erased the file from the archives." Proto looked at her with confusion on his face. "Huh? How do you know?" He asked. Leira shook her head coyly. "Willy, willy willy, You know as well as I do that I know you called for that evacuation. I tried to get the files for evidence in your favor in the trial, but they hacked them before I could pull them out."
            Gadget looked confused. "Willy?" She asked Proto. He nodded. "Yeah it's short for Wildrax. Well Will is short for Wildrax, but Willy sounds better." He explained, Then turned to Leira. "In fact I'm surprised you used my name it's usually Kid." She shrugged. "Well you are a kid." She smirked. Proto pulled them back to the subject at hand.
            "Well, back on task. Who was the request operator that day?" He asked, knowing that Leira would know being that she had been thrown behind a desk due to a sprained hamstring. She thought about it for a moment. "Lewis Binton. Yeah I'm sure it was Lewis, I could small that sour cologne he calls a bath a mile away." She snorted. Proto nodded. Gadget seemed to light up. "Hey.. are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Proto looked at her. "Hmm.. What are you thinking?"
            "Well Leira could ware a recorder, and trick Lewis into confessing everything!" She explained excitedly. Proto scratched his head. "Well I was actually thinking about kidnapping him, and beating the confession out of him, but I think you have a better idea. Especially since abduction, and assault is a crime." He said. Leira nodded. "I was thinking what the kid was thinking." Gadget chuckled to herself. She had an idea that Proto was such an extremist because he had been around Leira too long. After all she looked like she was at least twelve years older than him. "What's so funny sweety?" Leira asked, in question to Gadget's laughing. "Oh.. nothing, I was just thinking how much you two are alike." Leira seemed proud of that, and complimented by it. She filed her nails against her chest then blew them off. "Yep...I taught the kid everything he knows." She said proudly. They all had a short laugh at that, and for the moment the mood was lightened.
            Leira then brought them back to the subject. "Yeah cutie has a point. It will seriously hurt your character, as well as defeat the purpose of clearing your name if you commit one crime to acquit yourself of another. After all two wrongs don't spell justice." Gadget seemed proud of herself. She really was beginning to be some help, and that was all she ever wanted.
            "But....it's not that simple.." Leira continued. "See, I'm a wild card too, and since I was known to be." She paused "Well...close to the kid, they wouldn't admit anything to me. so we're going to have to think of something else. Maybe an adaptation of the plan." They sat and thought for a moment. then Gadget got another idea. "Hey.. they don't know me. maybe I could wear the wire, and get them to confess." She offered. Proto nodded. "You have a point, and if we do it right you won't even be put in a bad situation." Leira agreed. "Yeah good idea. I could take you in posing you as a witness to a crime there for questioning, while you're sitting in the waiting room I could direct the conversation among Lewis and his lackeys to the situation concerning the kid."
            Proto became ecstatic. "This just might work!" He shouted hugging Gadget. He picked her up and spun her around. Then he realized what he was doing, and put her down. He looked embarrassed, and was visibly blushing under his fur. Gadget seemed to blush a little too. Leira noticed but bit her tongue to keep from making a comment about how she wanted to puke. "Well at any rate, we can't do anything today, I'm not supposed to be in for duty until tomorrow. So you guys can crash here, and get some sleep." She said instead. Gadget took the chance to politely thank her for her help. Leira laughed. "Hey no problem cinnamon buns, I'm doing it because I owe the kid a favor anyway." It sounded kind of crude, but Gadget had already figured out how Leira thought, and that was her way of saying "make yourself at home".
            So with that a disappointed Leira went back into her closed to disarm herself, and get ready for bed. Once she came out and looked around she realized that she only had one bed. She was after all living in a single's apartment. She looked around. "Well I guess we can let sweet cheeks sleep on the bed.. she doesn't look much like the floor type anyway." She shrugged. "No it's OK, really I'll sleep on the floor.." Gadget protested. Proto looked at her. "Just take the bed Gadget. You're lucky she offered it to you. She doesn't even let me have the bed." He said grabbing an extra blanket out of the closet. Gadget shrugged, and pulled back the bed covers, and climbed in. She had just closed her eyes, and didn't realize that she was asleep when she hit the floor quite roughly. She was tangled in the blankets, and someone was holding her down. She squirmed frantically yelling for Proto. Leira's harsh voice came, and sounded close. "She must be the one on top of me." Gadget thought to herself.
            "Be still and keep your pretty little head down or you'll get it shot off." She said. Then the pressure was lifted from Gadget, and she squirmed out of the covers making sure to keep on the floor behind the bed. In the commotion she hadn't even heard the loud cracks from the weapons being fired, and the whizzing zing of the projectiles cutting through the air.
            "Proto what's going on!" She yelled still on the floor, covering herself with the blanket. "Marauders.." Proto yelled. "There must have been a security breech." He yelled back. Gadget was scared. She had never been this scared in her life. Everything was happening so fast, and she didn't understand any of it. The one thing she understood is that it would hurt to be hit by one of those bullets, and she hoped that neither her nor Proto had to go through that. Just as she finished that thought she heard Proto yell out in pain saying some very harsh, and wrong words. Then she heard the enraged voice of Leira.
            "You lawless bastards!!" There was a series of cracks and then silence. It was an eerie silence, A dead silence. "Proto what's going on...?" She asked her voice quivering. She was utterly confused. She had no idea how to act in a situation like this. She never imagined that this could be a reality. She had seen things similar on the TV, but those were just movies. Movies aren't real. Then Proto's voice broke the silence. "Son of a dirt eating snake that hurts!!" Gadget looked up from the floor. Leira and Proto were standing behind a support pillar, There was blood all over Proto's arm. There was blood on the floor, and the walls were full of holes. Leira wiped her hand down her face.
            "Thank destiny the city insurance covers marauder attacks."She groaned. Gadget looked up again and saw the door was open and the hall was full of officers zipping up body bags. "Proto.. what if they see you?" She said in between breaths. Proto and Leira looked at each other, and Leira pushed Proto into the closet and sealed the door. She cussed under her breath. "Some ****** night this has turned out to be." Gadget pulled herself up. her legs were like wet spaghetti noodles. Leira sat her down on the bed and wrapped the blanket around her, just as a guard came in to investigate. "Is everything OK here? Is anyone hurt?" Leira walked to an dresser, and opened a drawer. She pulled out a silver card. She handed it to the guard.
            "I'm an officer. Just some shock that's all. I have everything here covered, check further down I can handle this." The guard scanned the card, and nodded. "Yes Lieutenant Marks." He gave some strange salute, and left. Leira quickly closed the door, and pulled Proto out of the closet. He was holding his arm. Gadget could see tears in his eyes. She felt sorry for him. he must be going through horrible pain. Leira sat him down on the bed and went to her bathroom, and returned with a red box. She opened it, revealing that it was some sort of medical kit. It was full of scary looking instruments. The grabbed a pair of what looked like needle nosed forceps. "Come on kid. You know we have to get that out of you." She coaxed, her voice was surprisingly soft, and comforting. Proto only nodded, and took his hand off of the wound. He looked at Gadget. She didn't say anything but the look of concern on her face was enough to calm him. Leira still watching what she was doing spoke to Gadget. "This can get messy morning glory, so if you want to look away now I won't blame you." Gadget nodded, not really wanting to watch anyway. She turned around shuddering every time she heard Proto gasp in pain. After about a minute he quit groaning, and Gadget looked back. Leira was finishing the dressing the forceps lay on the bed still gripping the projectile. She shuddered imagining how that must have felt to have that hot piece of metal driven into the bicep of Proto's arm. She couldn't think of anything to do but rub his back. He seemed comforted by this, and she was somewhat satisfied.
            "Well hunn, it looks like I won't have to lie about you being a witness to a crime. You are one." Leira chuckled her comment directed to Gadget. Proto lay back and took a few deep breaths. It was going to be much harder that he thought to sleep.

Part III

            Though the night seemed to drag on forever Gadget found herself asleep curled up with her head on Proto's shoulder. She sat up as if in shock, and looked around. Leira came from the bathroom. "Don't worry sunshine nothing happened, I've been watching you two love birds all night." She said half jokingly. "We're really not like that, we're just friends." She tried to explain, though she could tell Leira didn't believe her. "Sure sugar, whatever you say." She remarked. "Either way it goes you'll have to give him a goodbye kiss because you spending the day with me. So go take a shower." She then added glancing in the direction of the bathroom as she went to her closet. Gadget climbed out of the bed, and groggily made her way to the bathroom. She found that Leira had some clothes already laid out for her. They weren't her style, color, or size but they were clean. She had given Leira little thought, but now that she had the time to think about it she wondered if she was real. She certainly seemed real, but was she a side of Proto that only resides in his subconscious? "No." She thought. "She's too realistic to be a confabulation." Gadget told herself. "She has to be rather a representation of a real person that Proto knew based on his memory of that person." So in that regard Leira was a different person that Proto. "I guess our loved ones really do live on in our hearts when we loose them..." Gadget mumbled to herself. Her thoughts were on her father, and she glanced in the mirror in time to watch a tear run down her cheek.
            Not long after She emerged from the shower, slightly refreshed. No sooner than she did Leira pulled her into the closet, and began hiding the bugging device under her clothes. Gadget then wondered if Proto could see what they were doing even though he was still asleep on the bed. Could Proto see what she saw, or just what he saw? She knew that she didn't see what Proto saw when he was looking around, but after all this was his dream and not hers. The invention borrowed memories to fill in what she had never experienced. So did it use her memories to fill in what Proto didn't know? Or did it have to be her dream to do that? She didn't know, and suddenly regretted using the dream invention without testing it first. Suddenly she felt extremely embarrassed, and hurried Leira along. What if Proto could see? Or if he didn't see but remembered? Maybe it was all subconscious and he couldn't see, or remember? She was so confused she didn't know what to think.
            "What's your hurry, it's just us girls." Leira said chuckling a little. "I'm just in a hurry to get this over with and clear Proto's name so I can get back to my life." Gadget answered zipping up the road cone orange body suit she had been given to wear. "Hey, I know what you mean." Leira remarked. "Well it's done. I guess we can go." She then added. They left with Leira leading. Gadget stopped, and looked back at Proto sleeping on the bed. he looked so peaceful, but she knew she would probably never be able to look him in the face again after this. In fact this was a horrible experience, for both of them. Gadget then knew that her first opinion about this machine was right, it was an unfair invasion of someone's privacy, and she vowed to dismantle it when this was over.
            They walked out onto the main halls, and an automated transit vehicle that looked much like a golf card pulled up. Leira pulled Gadget into the seat beside her just as the cart began to move. They rode for a few minutes, and then arrived in front of a huge set of double doors. Leira hurried Gadget into the building, that looked much like the police station back in real life. At least it was laid out in the same manner. A few creatures greeted Leira, and she ignored them. She led Gadget through a series of halls, to a room. It had a few desks and a row of chairs in the back. She instructed Gadget to sit on one of the chairs. Gadget went and sat down with her hands in her lap feeling quite awkward with the body suit sagging like a loose set of skin, and the tape holding the bug in place pulling at her fur. She was fairly uncomfortable. Not long after three officers entered laughing. One of them looked up, and greeted Leira half heartedly.
            "I've got a witness to the marauder incident here for questioning." Leira announced so they wouldn't get suspicious of Gadget. The larger, and distinctly unpleasantly aromatic of the three smirked. "Heh, yeah whatever. That was an open and shut case. You know we don't even investigate marauder attacks anymore." He snorted. Leira shrugged. "She wanted to make a damage report. I needed to make one too, and since we live in the same housing block I told her that I'd handle both of the reports." She covered quickly. The fat smelly gopher like creature chuckled cold heartedly. "Such a humanitarian." He commented. Leira sat down beside Gadget and waited.
            "What do we do now?" Gadget asked anxiously. Leira brusher her iguana like spines back. We wait for one of them to slip up. They waited for what seemed like hours. They talked about many rude, offensive, or just plain wrong topics except for Proto. Finally Leira got fed up, and began to talk to herself with the intent of them hearing her. "Yeah I know. Wildrax was too young to be banished, but things happen." The three laughed, and began to talk. Gadget couldn't understand what they were saying. Then all of a sudden one of them slipped up. "Oh! yeah!. I remember now. That was that kid we framed for the Sector Five incident." Leira grinned. "Hey Lurdon, weren't you working the request channel when the Sector Five incident happened?" She asked slyly not looking up from her fake paper work.
            "No, no.. that was Lewis." He said. "Yeah Lewis was working that day." The other added. Then Lewis got curious. "Yeah it was me why do you want to know?" He asked suspiciously. Leira shrugged. "Oh. no reason.. you just did a good job that's all." She said, then asked. "Oh, by the way, what's your last name again?"
            "Binton" He answered. "Lewis Binton" He said suavely. Leira shook her head. "Fool" She muttered under her breath. Gadget began to smile. She had gotten the entire conversation. Leira patted her knee. "Well thanks for your help I'll file this report right away, You can go now. Let me show you to the door." She said with a grin, which Gadget returned. On their way out they stopped by the ladies room, and removed the bug. "Here take this." Leira said giving Gadget her extra room card. "Go back to my room. Just slide it through the transit's card slot, and it will take you right to the place. I'll file this as evidence right away." She said holding up the small disc that the conversation was recorded on. Gadget nodded, and began to leave. Leira caught her arm, and Gadget turned around. "Take care of the kid for me OK?" She said. Her voice sounded kind of sad, and that touched Gadget. She nodded. "I'll look after him, don't worry." Leira nodded, and let Gadget go.
            By the time Proto woke Gadget was just coming through the door. She was glowing like a star. "We did it!. They confessed everything. Leira is clearing your name as we speak." She announced. Proto sat up, and blinked. "Then why haven't I woke up yet?" He asked. Gadget thought about it. "Hmm. I don't know, maybe it just takes time?" Proto looked around as if thinking about something. "No.. wait.. there's something else.." Proto said. "There's something else I have to do." He stood up, and began for the door. Gadget followed. "Wait. what is it something I can help you with?" She asked with a renewed faith in her ability. Proto shook his head. "No.. I have to do this by myself. You'll be fine here, so just wait here for a while until I either come back, or we wake up, which ever comes first." Gadget seemed worried. "Are you sure?" She asked. Proto smiled. "Yeah.. this is something I have to do alone." With that he stepped out, and the door closed behind him.

            Gadget sat on the bed, and let herself fall back. No sooner than her head hit the bed she found herself frantically trying to pull the helmet off. Once it was off she threw it away as if it were hot. She then realized that she was awake, and safe in her room in Rescue Rangers Head Quarters. Everyone was asking a hundred questions all at once. "What was it like?" Foxy asked. "Can I be next?" Dale beamed. "Are you OK Gadget luv?" Monty questioned. Cody was there too, he must have came looking for Proto. For the moment Gadget ignored them, and looked over at Proto, who was setting up looking around.
            "Are you OK?" He asked turning to her. Gadget nodded. "Yeah.. what about you?" A big smile inched across Proto's face. "Yeah, I'm OK.. for once.. I think I'm going to be OK." Gadget was surprised to find that she had only been out for a little more than an our, even though to her the entire experience seemed like a day and then some.
            "Come on guys give her some air." Chip said pulling Dale away. 'We have the rest of the day for her to tell us about it." He said dragging Dale out of the room. With Foxglove following behind. "You know now that you mention it, I could use some fresh air." Gadget said. realizing that she was still breathing hard, and sweating. "Monty could you open the window just a crack?"
            "Sure thing luv." Monty said opening the window just a little. "Do you want me to leave you two alone for a while?" He asked. "Yeah thanks Monty I would like that." Gadget said wiping her face with a cloth. "Well come on Zipper, let's go get some hot chocolate." He said leaving the room with an eager Zipper following behind. Proto told Cody to leave them, and he did.
There was an excruciatingly long silence. Neither Gadget nor Proto knew what to say. Gadget knew something about Proto that only he knew. They had shared something that no one else in the world, possibly even the universe had ever shared. Gadget became increasingly uncomfortable, and embarrassed.
            "Hey, Gadget" "Hey Proto" They both said in unison. "You first." "You First." They again said at the same time. "You go first." Gadget said before Proto could. "No that's OK, I'm sure your's is more important." Proto answered. "No I just wanted to ask you something. That's all." Gadget. said. "OK. well, ask." Proto answered.
            "Well, after you got hurt, and you went to sleep what did you see?" She asked a little uneasy. Proto Shrugged. "Nothing. everything just went blank for a second, and next thing I know you're running in the door telling me you cleared my name." He said. Gadget breathed a huge, sigh of relief. "So what did you have to say?" She then asked, a little more comfortable. "I just wanted to know what happened after I left? You know.. What did you see?" He asked, his embarrassment apparent in his voice.
            "Well.. nothing I just laid down on the bed, and woke up." She said thinking about what this meant. Proto nodded and seemed at peace. Gadget concluded, that while she and Proto were together their dream was the same, however once they were separated it became her dream. Her mind made the occurrences up based on what Proto's mind had told it about that world. Since Proto wasn't part of it, and thus not experiencing it, no images, or memories were transferred to his mind. The only memories transferred were the ones that were used to fill in what Gadget didn't know. Proto's mind was only told was that his name was cleared. This was probably what happened when Proto left. In the split second that Gadget had sat on the bed, and then let herself fall back, Proto did whatever it was that brought about the closure needed to wake up. Gadget hadn't seen that, so she was secure in the idea that Proto hadn't seen her in the shower, or the closet, which was true.
There was another long silence, then Proto said something that made Gadget feel bad inside. "I'm sorry you had to see that. I mean what Luxz was like. I'm really sorry that you had to go through all that. But I'm also deeply touched that you would go through that for me. No one else would. You're really special Gadget." Proto seemed distant as he said that as if he was thinking about something yet there was a particular sincerity in his words that made Gadget have mixed feelings. She could vaguely remember the images of Luxz. Maybe in time she would forget what it looked like, or what happened. However the memory of the feeling that place gave her would be with her forever. She was touched with what Proto had said, but was also guilty for stealing his memories. He didn't remember anything that he hadn't already known. Gadget now remembered things that she had never seen, or heard, or smelled, or in any way experienced. She remembered things that Proto experienced. In a way that would forever bind them. Gadget had a grim feeling of being part of Proto. It wasn't a happy feeling of having shared something, but instead a deep, and grim understanding of his pain. Then as she thought she had a new hope. She understood what Proto was feeling inside, that gave her confidence that she was qualified to help him cope with it.
            "Proto." She finally said her voice quiet. "I just wanted to say that...since I know sort of what you went through, back there, back on Luxz...If you ever need someone to talk to.." Proto cut her off. "I know...thank you.." He didn't want her to say anything else. He felt close to her now. He felt as if he was, for the first time in his life cared for. He realized he was crying until a tear hit his hand. He wiped hie eyes. There was another long silence.
            "I think we should go talk to the others before they think we fell asleep again" Proto said. Gadget just nodded, and they stepped out into the living room. The rest of the day was spent explaining what it was like to be dreaming some one else's dream. Every one had so many questions, and a lot of them either didn't have answers, or didn't have answers to be spoken about. Finally the sun was setting over the city. The rangers had settled down tired from the days events.

            "You know Proto this is a pretty bad winter. If you want to stay here with us it's OK." Chip said watching the news. "You know.. just for the winter." He quickly added. Proto glanced into the kitchen where Gadget was helping Monty with dinner. "You know.. I think I just might have to take you up on that offer." He said with a slight smile. "After all.. Three hots and a cot sounds like comfort to me."

The End

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