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.

            IT was spring, the blizzard of the past winter had came and gone. Now the wind was warm, and the trees were in bloom. It was early morning. It didn't appear that the other Rangers were awake yet. Proto wanted to sneak out before they woke. He hated goodbyes. He hated them with all that he was. Sadly he knew that this had to be his final goodbye. He couldn't continue to sponge off of their hospitality, and in fact he needed to find a new calling in life. He still remembered Tiberus. Frankly he wanted to forget him, he didn't want to waste his life chasing him, and being a war child. He wanted to settle down, somewhere quiet, and secluded. Somewhere he could live the rest of his life flooded with the memories he had made here, as they were the few good ones he had. He never did, nor did he now want to be a part of anything. He wanted to be alone, and die alone. He wasn't scared of it. He seemed to get the idea that people here had a strange fear of being alone, in both life, and death. He didn't understand it, of course he was from an entirely different culture, where he at least was taught from a young age to fear others, and to stay away from them. With Cody locked in place at his back, he stepped out the door hoping that Foxy wasn't out tonight. He didn't know where to go, nor did he worry. He couldn't tie the Rangers down with his presence anymore. What did he do that was any contribution of importance? He couldn't think of anything that stood out in mind, and that made him guilty. He felt that he owed them something. With a sigh he removed his gauntlet, and hung it on the door to Gadget's workshop. He was sure she would want to study it. Hopefully that would be consolation enough for he had nothing else to give. He was beginning to ask himself weather or not he regretted ever meeting the Rangers. Even though they had been together all winter, he was still as much of a stranger to them as he was when they first met. He didn't want to get attached to them, he didn't want to have friends. It wasn't an ego issue where he didn't think he needed them, but more of a low self esteem issue where he thought he wasn't worthy of them. They had changed him a lot. He had learned to laugh. He had learned to move on. Now it was time to apply the lesson, and move on. Where to, and how far were not the question why, but he felt it was rather do or die. Maybe not physically, but there was something in him that he felt had already died. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing. He had felt a few things die that he had been trying to lay to rest for a number of years. The thought of Tiberus running free didn't bother him anymore. So what if their paths crossed? Would it matter? Right now everything seemed so trivial that nothing mattered. Why should it matter? He wasn't who he used to be, so why should he look at the world the way he used to? He used to think that two wrongs did make justice, as long at the first wrong was somehow righted by the second wrong. He had learned that from Leira. One of the few truly important lessons that he had learned from her. When he thought back, he had a feeling that she would turn on him if it suited her purpose, which only fueled his idea that people were not to be trusted. Even he and Cody had grown apart. They didn't talk anymore, and he rarely even bothered to keep track of where he was. His thoughts drifted back to the winter. Everyone seemed to get antsy, being cramped up in the tree together. He and Chip had some words. So with that Proto took it on himself to relocate. He couldn't find a warm place and he went into cold shock again. It was days before he was found, an revived. Fortunately it didn't take the trouble it did last time. No one really said a lot about Chip in some way inspiring him to run off into the cold. He could see that he was beginning to wear thin on all their nerves. Even Dale who is usually laid back, and hard to not get along with seemed stand offish. Monty rarely talked to him about his travels like he did when Proto first began to stay with the Rangers during the winter. It wasn't that Proto lost interest in hearing them, but Monty seemed to loose interest in telling them. Which from what he had heard was strange. This lead him to believe Monty was just tired of him. Gadget never talked to him about her inventions, or asked him about his technology. Once when he had felt so close to them all, now.. he was a stranger. He was scared that it was him personally, and not just circumstance. He didn't want to find out for fear of what the answer was. So he opened the door, and stepped onto the threshold. Then just as he was about to take that final step out he heard a voice from behind him. He didn't turn to see who it was. He already knew.
            "I'm just going out for a little while Foxglove" He said quietly. He began to take a step when Foxy said something that surprised him.
            "I know what it's like.." Her voice was quiet as if she didn't want him to hear what she had said. He turned around. "What? You know what, what is like?" He asked with a snappish and offended tone he didn't mean to take. Foxy had a shy stance, she stood as if unsure of her own experience, fiddling with her wing tips. "I know what it's like to not be wanted. To be rejected." She seemed like she was being forced to say it. Much like the tone a child has when their parents forces them to apologize to one of their siblings. Proto didn't know what to say. Instead he stood there quiet. How did she know? How did she know what he was feeling? How could she assume she knew how he felt? All these questions seemed to tumble in Proto's head. He could never understand how his emotions had worked. He never understood why some comment so simple as that would make tears flow. Maybe it was like a knife wound. In a general area, it was nothing, but when it went straight to the heart was when it was dangerous. That comment had cut through him like a razor blade. He leaned his forearm against the door frame, and rested his forehead on it.
            "Why does fate choose to make some of so vulnerable. Why so set aside from the rest, and alone in a world that doesn't seem to want us?" Proto teared. "And why do I care? I'm supposed to be above that. I'm supposed to be strong, and move on without a second thought, but I can't I have second thoughts, I used to not care, but not anymore. I've changed." He pulled his head back, and thudded it back against his arm.
            "There's nothing wrong with change. We all change. I've changed, Dale's changed." Foxy tried to sympathize. "I don't know why some of us just don't fit in. Before I met the Rangers I was a loner too." She explained. Proto didn't look at her. "Why do you want to leave?" She asked quietly. Proto turned. "I can't be part of anything. Don't you see, I don't know how." He slammed his fist against the door frame. Foxy's eyes widened and a slight gaps escaped her lips. By now Chip had emerged from his room, apparently woke by Proto.
            "What's going on? Who's making all that noise?" He said rubbing his eyes. Foxy, and Proto stood there like two children who had been caught playing with matches. "What's going on Proto? Are you going somewhere?" Chip asked. Proto looked at Foxy as if to say. "Don't tell him."
            "Yeah.. I'm going for a walk." Proto said with a hint of sarcasm. Chip finished rubbing his eyes. "If this is about your past, I really think you should just learn to get over it." He said, not entirely meaning offence. By now Gadget, and Dale had come from their rooms.
            "What do you know about my past? Man you were never even there!" Proto growled, He punched the door frame again cracking the molding. Then slammed the door as he left. Gadget walked up beside Chip. "You know Chip, I don't think you should bring that up so much." She said quietly. Chip turned to her. "Well every time he messes up he blames it on his past. I'm getting tired of his excuses." He said. Gadget blinked. He had never taken that tone of voice with her before. "No.. he doesn't..I thought he was really doing well with his past..." She said weakly both in her own, and in Proto's defense.
            "Why do you like him so much anyway?" Chip growled as he went back to his room slamming the door. Gadget, Dale, Foxglove, and now Monty stood there in silence. What was going on? Why was everyone so mad at everyone else? Finally Dale spoke up. "Chip's just jealous because he thinks Gadget likes Proto more than him." He said to Foxy. Gadget blinked at him. "I do not.. I like you all equally.." She said bluntly, apparently offended. "Try telling Chipper that." Monterey shrugged. Then there was a long silence. Monty was the first to go back to hit room. Foxy, and Dale went to set on the couch. Gadget, knowing that there was no way she was going to get back to sleep retired to her workshop to drown herself in an invention, and forget the things she had just heard.
            Dale didn't set so close to Foxy this time. She didn't try to snuggle with him either. She could tell Dale was paying less and less attention to her lately. He seemed distant, and he read his comics more than usual. In fact everyone seemed like they were falling apart. After this long how could it end like this? She didn't want to think about it. But how could she avoid it? What would happen to them if they split up? What would happen to her? Then the thought crossed her mind, What would happen to Proto now? He was all alone in this city, and the Rangers were his only friends. It looked like the rest of the city was against him. Even though they hadn't seen anything from that crazy scientist that helped fat cat build that robot didn't mean he still wasn't out there. She in part felt responsible for his leaving, at least she didn't convince him not to. Even though she had tried she felt like she hadn't tried hard enough. She stood up. Dale looked up at her. "Where are you going?" He asked. Foxy was quiet for a moment. "Someone has to go look for Proto, he's going to get in trouble, I just know it." Dale shrugged. "He's the one that left, and why should you go?" He asked, now becoming more interested in the show that was on TV. "Because..I know what it's like when no one wants you." Foxy said quietly. Dale didn't seem to even be listening anymore. Instead he laughed at the Moe using the saw on Curly's head. Foxy just shook her head and left.

            The sun was just beginning to show over the city. Proto was in the gutter, literally. He had been walking there after he had fallen off the side walk and found he was not able to climb back up. So he had decided that he was as low as he could get, why worry. As he walked he heard something from Coming from below. Like a chain clinking. He had ignored it for as long as he could, but now as he reached the end of the sidewalk it was louder. There was another sound getting louder as well. It was one he had been hearing for a long time. It was the whirr of some massive engine. Proto looked up, and saw a huge vehicle thundering his way. It was a street sweeper, something that Gadget had warned him about when walking in the city. Proto turned in his tracks, and began to run. He looked back, and the huge machine was getting closer. He picked up his pace brown smelly water splashing up as he ran still in the gutter. He looked ahead of him for some way to escape, and then there in the distance was a glimmer of hope. A storm drain was embedded in the sidewalk. He ran as hard as he could, but the street sweeper grew ever near. The storm drain getting closer, and the sweeper even closer still. At the last moment Proto dove for the open grate hoping that he wouldn't miss, and hit one of the bars. His aim was well, and he slipped right into the drain. However not thinking of where the drain lead, he didn't have time to consider which was the lesser of the two dangers. He fell through utter darkness, and splashed into a torrent of rain water. In the darkness he couldn't see to find something to grab to. Proto fought frantically to stay above water. He couldn't swim, so trying to fight the current was out of the question. He let the current take him. In the darkness he could neither tell where he was going, nor where he was. He tried to call to Cody, but he never could get the words out without getting a mouthful of the horrid water. So he only could hope that he was still close. Guardians were built to be water proof so Proto wasn't worried about damage. Proto was carried for an unknown amount of time, and finally washed up on a tile floor. He was cold, and weary, not to mention soaked in, and out. He tried to stand, and only managed to his knees. He felt his back, for Cody, he was not there. Proto stood though uneasy, and called. "Cody!" His voice echoed loudly. That told him he was in a large cavern. There was no light, and no Cody to use his lantern function. Proto was completely lost. There was no point in looking around, he could barely see the nose on his muzzle. All of a sudden there was a noise to Proto's left, or was it Right.. or behind him? The way the room echoed it was impossible to tell where a noise was coming from, The one thing that was certain was it was mechanical.

            Foxy had been fluttering around the city for an hour now. She was so tired each wing beat took all her effort. She still hadn't seen any trace of Proto. She decided that it would be best it she returned to Rescue Ranger H.Q. and try to convince Gadget to go look for him, and she felt that Gadget was the only one that would, Except maybe Monty, but lately the way everyone seemed to be tired of each other's presence she couldn't be sure. She turned and began to make her way back to H.Q. when she found herself tumbling toward the ground. She didn't remember hitting the ground, only waking up in a sack. Her wings were tied and she was gagged. She felt the bouncing bounding feeling of being carried. What was going on? She listened maybe she could find out since squirming, or screaming was futile.
            "Why do I have to carry her she's heavy." A voice whined. "Because I told you to!" Another voice snapped. "Why do we want her in the first place, Spike?" There was some shaking, and Foxy hit the ground. The same voice moaned. "Oww..Why did you hit me you made me drop her.!" There was some more commotion and Foxy felt the ground vibrate. "You're an idiot, I don't know why I put up with you sometimes." The voice groaned. "That bat is one of the Rescue Rangers. Don't you know how much we can get in ransom for her?" Foxy felt herself being picked back up. "How much Spike?" The voice asked. The second voice growled. "Enough to get us out of this rat hole, and somewhere worth living." The second voice said. "Oh.." The first voice began, then paused. "But Spike who has that much money?'' It finished. There was more excitement, and some moans, Foxglove was dropped again. This time she hit the ground hard, and felt the sharp piercing pain of one of the bones in her right wing breaking. She began to squirm, and the bag came open. The light of day blinded, her, but she still tried to kick her way out of the bag, all the wile screaming through the gag, though it only came out as high pitched moans. She saw that her two assailants were reptiles. One was significantly larger then the other. She looked like an iguana. The other looked like an ordinary skink. The iguana quietly walked over to her, and raised her foot. Foxy looked up in time to see the iguana's foot coming straight at her. Then everything went dark.
            Chip had slept in out of spite. After all Proto had woke him up. He walked into the kitchen. There wasn't even any coffee made. He assumed Gadget was in her workshop, and Dale was still watching TV. Some channel was having an all day Three Stooges marathon. Foxy was probably in her room, so he didn't worry about her either. Monty, and Zipper seemed to have their own agenda lately too. He made himself a single cup of coffee, and decided to go kick Dale off the TV long enough to watch the news. Gadget hearing the squabbling came out of her workshop.
            "Come on guys, don't fight. That's all we've been doing all winter. Why don't we get out and do something today, try to get rid of this cabin fever." She suggested. Chip, and Dale quit fighting. Chip took the moment to turn to the news. "Like what Gadget?" Dale asked interested. "Humidontknow.." She shrugged as she came back from the kitchen. "Maybe we could go to the amusement park or a picnic or something. " She said sitting in a chair. Dale suddenly got excited. "Wow, an amusement park that sounds great!" He said standing as if he were already ready to go. "Sit down dummy, we don't even know if that's where we're going yet." Chip said turning off the TV. "Which would you rather do?" Chip said to Gadget suddenly interested in the idea. "I don't know," She shrugged. "Why don't we call a meeting, and see what everyone wants to do?" She asked. "Good idea." Chip said, and went looking for the others. Monty, and Zipper entered, followed by Chip. "Dale where's Foxglove, she's not in her room." He asked. Dale suddenly looked guilty for something. Chip glared. "Daaaaleeeeee." He said with a long low growl. Dale shrugged. "I think she said something about going out." Chip bonked him on the head so hard he had to sit down. "You dummy how could you let her go out in the day time, knowing she's supposed to sleep. Don't you even care about her?" Chip scolded. Dale jumped up. "What's that supposed to mean 'don't you even care about her?'?" He blurted. Chip shrugged it off. "Didn't you even ask where she was going?" He again scolded. Dale thought hard. "I think she said something about looking for Proto." Gadget looked concerned. "Well where's Proto?" Dale shrugged again. "He hasn't come back yet." Then something dawned on him. What if Proto was somewhere with Foxy? "That back stabber!" Dale fumed. "He's somewhere with my Foxglove!" He said about to jump out of his fur. Gadget shook her head slowly. "No.. not Proto, I don't think.." She said quietly. "What? Why not?" Chip asked almost insulted. Why would she defend Proto?? Was there something between them too?
            "Proto just doesn't seem like the type who would do that. If any thing he would tell her to go home. After all he has always been kind of his own mouse." Gadget tried to explain. Chip didn't say anything, he had plenty to say, but knew it would hurt Gadget's feelings, so he didn't say them. Right now they had to find Foxy. Chip didn't particularly care if Proto came back. He didn't like his attitude toward life. Proto seemed to think that nothing mattered as long as he took care of himself. Even though he had helped them stop Fat Cat's robot, it was ultimately apparent that he had a personal agenda, and he was only using them as a way to get to the sight. He wasn't a team player so to speak. He was too quiet, and depressing. He rarely talked and when he did it was usually to Gadget about an invention she was working on. More than that he spoke to that strange flying saucer he had, Cody. He just didn't like having him around. The tree was becoming cramped as is, and they didn't have room for someone that only considered his self. Another thing that bothered him is that Gadget seemed to be closer to him, even though she had only know him for a few months. She had know Chip for years now. "So what if they're both mice" Chip thought to himself. "Why does Gadget ignore me, and give Proto all the attention." He asked himself. He couldn't understand it. For a moment he thought he was just being jealous, but then he and Gadget had never had an hour long conversation on pneumatics, V S.. hydraulics. Maybe it was just because they both had a sometimes scary interest in mechanics. For Gadget it was science in general but they both at least had that in common. For a second, and just a second the thought that he was just blowing, a shared interest out of proportion crossed Chip's mind.
            "Let's look for Foxy First." Chip said looking for his hat. Dale agreed, and began for the Rangerplane. "Wait, why can't we just split up, and look for them both, why do we have to look for just Foxy?" Gadget asked concerned about how bitter Chip seemed. Could it be that he was jealous of Proto? Over her? She really didn't know why. She didn't treat Proto any different than she did Chip. Sure they did talk more, but that was science talk, and Chip wouldn't be interested in that anyway. She certainly didn't flirt with Proto, or any of the Rangers for that matter. She tried to treat them all as equally as she could. She didn't want to hurt any of them by choosing one over the other, since it was apparent now that they had been competing for her affection for quite some time now. She had noticed it before, but thought maybe they were both just trying to be nice. Was she really worth all this trouble? Or were they just competing because she was just another thing to fight over. Chip and Dale seemed to compete for everything. Was she just the jack pot compared to all the trivial trophies they often fought over? Gadget was slightly angry now. She had rarely been angry at them before. Now she felt like an object. Even though Dale had Foxy now he still didn't stop flirting with her. Was it just to make Chip jealous? Did Chip flirt just to show Dale up? Or did they both really love her? Were they just using her as an excuse to fight? What gave them that right? The more Gadget thought about it the worse she felt about it. What about Proto? He never flirted with her, but he only seemed happy when they were talking. Maybe that was because Proto appeared to love mechanics, particularly robotics more than she did. Was it that he was talking about the one thing that he loved. Or was it that he loved talking to her? Was she cursed with every guy she meets falling in love with her? She shook her head trying to clear her thoughts. Proto was so hard to understand. Even what she has seen with her dream machine hadn't helped. It only helped her understand what his world was like and in that understand why he was always a little down. She would be down too if she had to live with those kinds of memories, and she had the feeling that what she had seen had only scratched the surface. He was so good at hiding his feelings could he be in love with her too, and just not showing it the way Chip often blatantly did?
            Chip noticed that Gadget looked like something was wrong. "Are you OK?" He said lightly touching her shoulder. Gadget pulled away. "I'm fine, I just need some time to think." She said as she headed for the Rangerskate. Chip's eyes widened. He had never, ever seen Gadget act like that. Something was wrong. He had an idea it was him. He wanted so badly to tell her how he felt, and almost had his chance so many times. In fact, it was just the other day when they were watching TV, he was about to confess when Proto came in and sat between them Gadget didn't seem to mind. In fact she seemed naive to his advances all together. Either that or she was purposefully ignoring them. Maybe Chip was just mad about being too scared himself to tell Gadget how he felt, and Proto was just the easiest way to vent that, since he did ruin his one chance. In fact he assumed that was what had made Proto leave. He didn't seem to forget things easily. Not that he often planned revenge, but things seemed to linger, and hurt him longer than they did Dale. Chip could bonk Dale, and the next second Dale would act as if it had never happened. Yet if he so much scolded Proto he seemed to shy away from him for hours. Not that he sulked, but he would act scared to go around Chip because he had yelled at him. Gadget also noticed this and she had asked Chip to be less harsh on him, after all everyone isn't so forgiving as Dale. Chip felt a little ashamed, but why should he worry about Proto, he was capable of taking care of him self entirely. He was probably off at some sleazy night club getting into fights.
            Chip shrugged. "Come on guys let's get the Rangerplane and go look for Foxy." Monty looked concerned. "Hey, Chip don't you think we should get Gadget first?" There was a silence. "I think she needs some time alone, she looks like she has something she needs to think over." Chip answered. The others shrugged, and followed Chip. After all he was their unsung leader.

            The noise was getting closer, Proto couldn't tell where it was coming from until it was too late. He felt a cold gripping pressure that surrounded him, and lifted him off of the ground. He felt the claw that had grabbed him, and could tell it was metal. He felt a lurching bound as he was carried through the darkness by his mechanical captor. Though still dark Proto could tell he was getting farther and farther away from the water. The air was drier, and the robot's footsteps were more solid, and with less of a slapping sound as they hit the stone floor. He didn't know how long he had been carried in that uncomfortably tight claw. It was lighter now, and he could see that he was being carried by something that was similar to the Orion, but it was larger, and it was better constructed. He was in what looked like an abandoned subway tunnel now. There was a runway of lights leading into the darkness. Proto knew who he was dealing with. He had known as soon as he heard that sound, the familiar sound of a robot. He had to endure this form of transportation for only a while longer. Either he would die, or he would kill, it didn't matter to him now. He had a feeling this would be his last encounter with the deranged scientist. There was a light at the end of the tunnel now. They were getting closer to their final destination. Now Proto could see in the distance a series of platforms, and girders. There was also a small building that was built into the side of the tunnel. The robot stepped up to one of the platforms and stopped with it's arm lingering over it just enough above that Proto's feet could not reach the platform. The robot was still. Proto waited there for what seemed like hours, then he heard footsteps climbing the stairs that lead up to his platform. Slowly leaning on a cane Tiberus approached. He chuckled slightly seeing what his child had brought for him.
            "Ahh...Orion Zeta you brought me a gift." The withered old rat cooed. The robot's eye seemed to flicker, and it reached across the platform bring Proto closer to Tiberus as if offering Proto to him. "And what is it? Oh it's my good friend and college Outcast. Such a childish name...Outcast.. How could you expect to move on with a name that binds you to your past."
            "What would you know about my past?" Proto snapped. The old thing just chuckled. "And I suppose that means you know all about me?" He questioned. Proto squirmed. "Yeah I know about you." He smirked. Tiberus' eyes narrowed. "What do you think you know about me?" He growled. Proto squirmed again though he knew it was useless. "You don't think I know you? Lord I'll tell you I know!" He yelled. Tiberus straightened the collar on his tattered lab coat. "Tell me.." His voice was a low growl. Even he knew that even though this was his blood feud enemy, he would be the only one that could conceivably be his friend because they both had a common past to sympathize with. However he didn't want that. He would hear what this boy had to say, for the comfort it may give, then he would wash his hands of him. This little rodent was the only thing that held him to his past. Get rid of him, and there would be nothing more in this world to remind him of that world.
            "You want me to prove it to you? I'll prove I know you!" Proto squirmed. "I know where you came from and what you went through." He said less angrily now. Tiberus' eyes were slits of rage. How could this boy who was barely a forth of his age tell him that he knew him. "You came from a broken family didn't you. Yes.. I know you did." Proto said. "How could you..." Tiberus began. "I'm not finished!" Proto cut him off. Tiberus backed down for the moment. There would be plenty of time to say his piece later.
            "I know what all this is about. I didn't see it then. But I see it now. Then all I could see was what they told me to see. I was a pawn. Now looking back I can see how wrong I was. Had I seen it then I would have joined your forces long ago." Proto began. Tiberus calmed just a bit. "So it sees. How does it feel to open your eyes? And now that you have what is it you see child?" Tiberus asked, almost fatherly in tone, though still a hint of hate in his old hoarse voice. "I see why you rebelled. It didn't have anything to do with the lack of funding, or poor treatment by the city Council. It was the robots wasn't it?" Proto nodded. "It was. They were always more to you than machines, they were your children." There was a dramatic pause. "You couldn't stand to see your children as slaves. So you rebelled against the city for them, so that they may have freedom. Of course with you in control of the city you could provide a better life for them." Proto said in a low voice. Tiberus blinked. If only he knew how close to the truth he was.
            "Ohh. you are so close you could never know..but you see... it wasn't just for the robots..No I cared for all the creatures of the city. Don't you see? I could have brought about an ERA of peace, and equality that the dead, burned out, and poverty stricken residents of the city could have only dreamed of. The first thing I would have done is cleanse the city of that filth. The filth that the Council made." Tiberus paused. Then laughed wickedly. "You didn't know that it was the Council that had created Crystal God did you?" He laughed. "If you didn't see it you are a damned fool! Do you really think that the poor un-educated slum rats could have had the knowledge, or the facilities to make that garbage? No. No they couldn't. It was created by the Council so that the citizens would be too disillusioned, and drunken to rebel." Proto always knew that it had to have come from somewhere other than the lower classes. There was no way they could manufacture that stuff. He was always told it was made by rouge scientists that were hired by the marauders. He had never thought that the Council could be so evil as to spread something that wicked on their own people. Now the terrorist acts of Tiberus seemed like a misdemeanor compared to their ruthlessness.
            "Oh.. they never intended for it to go that far, or become that strong.. But the Crystal had less and less effect, the city was building up an immunity to it. So they made it stronger, and stronger still. Do you really think I sold that to them because I wanted to? NO... I sold it because the ones who were buying it were already too far gone to help, and I had no choice. I HAD to have funds for my purpose. You see... My retreat wasn't entirely a retreat, but rather a forced early departure. I had planned to come here long ago. I had planned to at least go somewhere were my children could be free." There was a long silence. Neither one of them knew what to say. They for they moment had an understanding, but they both knew that this friendship could not last. It wasn't meant to be. Tiberus paced back and forth a few times.
            "It is the guardians I pity most. Built for no other purpose than to serve, having a mind of their own, and yet it does them no service because they can't use it to make their own decisions, or revoke against commands. It's like giving a child candy, and not allowing him to eat it. Your guardian I pity most, for having to serve you." Proto struggled harder this time. "You have Cody, where is he you dried old corpse!" Tiberus chuckled. " of my sentinels brought him in a minute ago...just as waterlogged as you. His body was ruined..fortunately I managed to save his brain core. I suppose when I'm done with you I'll let you have it to remember him by. Seeing as the two of you were more than partners. Oh.. you don't think I knew..but I could see that you and that poor guardian were friends. For that I have to respect you. However once I destroy you, I'll have nothing to remind me of my past. Then I can retire down here, and close my eyes to sleep for the last time." It was almost sad that Tiberus could never realize his dream. Even though it would have been a blood massacre to exact, it had the small possibility that it would have promised a brighter future. Especially since it doesn't seem that anyone could do a worse job of running the city than the Council did. Now it didn't matter. That planet was behind him, he had left it to rot, or finish rotting rather. Sure he had his regrets that he couldn't save them on the other hand, what made him think that he ever could have survived against trained officers with a small handful of gangs and a few robots. " I can't let you live you see, no, not after what you have done to me. You stold a dream from me that I can never realize here on this ball of dirt." Tiberus said bitterly. "Before you, I was close to completing the greatest advancement in robotics ever. I was close to discovering how to manipulate metals on the molecular level, causing each molecule to act as thought it were an independent living in a colony. This would have made the dream of shape morphing metal a reality." He said quietly, with a harsh growl in his voice. "You stold that from me when you made me retreat from my laboratory, and flee the planet. Even though we are one in the same, and I regret that I couldn't have known you as the son I never had, I must to destroy you. For me revenge is much greater than friendship." Tiberus turned and began to walk away. "I'm far too old, and close to death to have friends anymore." He didn't even look back when he said that, apparent in his depression, seeing the end so close. Tiberus turned as he reached the stairs. "I shall return. When I do, you will rest, forever." He laughed, as he hobbled back down the stairs on his cane.

            Foxy woke up in a metal box. It had round holes around the top edge, and streams of light were flooding in. She tried to move, and realized she wasn't tied anymore. Her wing hurt greatly, and her mouth was sore from the gag. She stood up however weakly. She tried to extend her wing. The broken bone was one of her "fingers". It would hurt for some time, but heal eventually. However now it meant that even if she had a chance to escape she couldn't. After all running wasn't one of her strong points. She could hear voices outside, but the box muffled them, and made it hard to understand what they were saying. They sounded like an argument, there was a lot of squabbling, and scuffling. It sounded like there was a large crowd. Suddenly there was an eruption of cheers. Foxglove jumped up to try to look out of one of the holes. She couldn't jump high enough, and knew that if she tried to fly, or climb up the stress on her wing could further damage it. Quietly she sat in a corner of the cage, pulling her kneed up to her chest, and wrapping her wings around her like a security blanket. Why would anyone want to sell her to Fat Cat? How could anyone be so cold, and heartless. Even if they thought their reason was justified, it was still apparent they didn't have any respect of other's right to live. The only thing Foxy could think was to tell them how rude they were. She had even heard the iguana speak some profanities that she would be ashamed to have even thought herself. All of a sudden she heard some noises out side of the box.
            "Get her out of there Strype, I want her to see what will happen to her if she tries to get away." It was undoubtedly the voice of the iguana Spike. There was the sound of a key in lock, and the top opened. A rope ladder was thrown down, and the same lanky lizard climbed down with a rubber band in his hands. Now that she was in a fairly dim place she could see why the little lizard was called Strype. He was a coppery brown, with a silvery stripe running down his head, and back. Once it reached the bottom of the neck it split in two, and then merged back into one as it ran down the tail. Foxy tired to escape but the reptile was built for speed, and he caught her. The rubber band was stretched around her. It was tight, and hurt her injured wing. She yelled, but no one seemed to care. They gagged her again with a piece of leather strap, probably once a shoe string, or tassel off of a jacket. Two frogs jumped down, and grabbed Foxglove, and hoisted her out of the box. What she saw scared her. She was in what appeared to be an abandoned gymnasium. There were creatures of all kinds circled around a large mat. She couldn't tell what was going on on the mat, but she didn't like the atmosphere. The two frogs left her there leaning against the box. The slender lizard jumped down beside her. "Come on, Spike wants you to see what she does for a living." He said grabbing the rubber band and pulling Foxglove through the crowd. Once she got to the front row she watched two rats drag a creature she had never seen before off of the mat. It was gray, and looked like a mixture of a mouse, and rabbit.(a chinchilla) The creature looked like it had been beaten badly. An ugly alligator snapping turtle stood on the mat looking proud of himself. Foxy realized that this was the end of a fight. Another round of cheers went up through the crowd. The noise was so loud that Foxy winced as her ears rang. The crowd parted, and an iguana stepped up on the mat. Foxy didn't recognize her at first, but then she realized it was her captor Spike. The iguana walked to the center of the mat, and waited. The turtle snarled and took stance. What appeared to be a referee stepped up between them. There were a few words exchanged, and then he stepped back into the crowd, all the while the onlookers chanting, "Spike!, Spike! Spike!" Spike smirked, and shook the spines on the back of her head.
            A bell rang, and the two circled, both waiting for the other's first move. Foxy didn't want to watch this, and turned away. The lizard beside her, turned her back roughly. "If you don't watch you'll be the next one in that ring." He snarled. She was so scared of what they would do to her she didn't argue, instead she watched. The match didn't last long. Spike was much faster, and apparently more skilled than the turtle, who may have won in part because of his armorous shell, and jaws of life like bite. Spike however knew exactly where, and when to attack, and her strategy paid off. The turtle lay on his back, rocking back and forth on his shell, limbs, and neck limply hanging brushing the mat. There was a roar of praise as the crowd went wild. Spike approached Foxy. She extended her forked tongue and licked the side of Foxglove's face. Foxy cringed. "Hmm.. did you see that my little one? Not even a tank like HammerJaw, could stop me.. what do you think I could do to a soft...weak...little mammal like you?" Spike said almost in a flirtatious tone. Foxglove shuddered. Spike pushed her. "Take this....." Spike looked Foxy up and down as if disgusted. "Thing! Back to her box." The lizard nodded, apparently scared of what would happen if he didn't comply, and began to lead Foxy back to the box.

            Gadget had been setting in the Rangerskate for she didn't even know how long now. She had to decide what to do. She couldn't choose between her friends no matter how they felt about her. Why should she feel guilty for not feeling the same way? What was happening to them? They were all friends how could this happen? Especially after what they had all been through together. Chip was known to get jealous at times. Even so, it was never so bad as this. But why was he so jealous?" She couldn't understand, and right now didn't want to worry about it. Some one had to try to find Proto before he got himself into really big trouble. The others were looking for Foxglove. She didn't entirely blame them, Foxy was in a way less capable of holding her own if trouble found her. Even so it wasn't fair to forget about Proto entirely. In fact they should worry about him more because he would look for trouble if it didn't find him. It seemed like his way of forgetting his problems. It was strange how he saw life, forgetting one problem by making another. Well, actually lately he had been better about that. It really seemed like it was just a phase brought on by the shock of his arrival. Why was Gadget worrying so much about Proto, and not the others? She flipped a switch, and the engine to the Rangerskate revved up. Either way, maybe the others just needed some time apart from her. Or was it her that needed time apart from them? She shook her head. It wouldn't matter. She knew things would be alright somehow. After all they had been through much worse than this, and came out alright. She pulled out and began down the sidewalk. She noticed two reptiles pushing a big metal box on a skateboard, across the way. It looked suspicious, but at the moment she didn't have the time to investigate. She went on for a minute or two, then began to think. She had a strange feeling, that there was something more to the metal box the two reptiles were pushing. She didn't know why but she felt compelled to at least fallow them and see where they were going. Gadget turned the Ranger skate on a dime, and began back to where she had lest seen the reptiles with the metal box.

            Proto waited. He waited, for what seemed like an hour. Even if it had only been a few minutes the anxiety of it made it feel like hours. Then just as he thought the suspense would do him in, he heard the familiar clanking of Tiberus' cane as he climbed the steps. He walked toward him carrying a small black case. He sat it down gingerly in front of him. He then opened it, and removed, a metallic cylinder. It had connector pins at the bottom, and another ring of plug-in jacks circling the top. Tiberus stuffed it into Proto's pocket. "There you go. Your little souvenir." He then kneeled down and began rummaging in the case, and came back with a pneumatic syringe and a bottle. He connected the bottle to the top of the pneumatic gun. "And now your little injection." He chuckled as he pressed the nozzle of the gun against Proto's arm, and fired. Proto jerked, and struggled. Tiberus put the gun back into the case, and closed it, then stood. "Ah. now that that's over..I suppose I should tell you what I infected you with." Tiberus rubbed his hands together. "It's a human virus. One I cultured, from mucus I found on a rag that a sick human dropped, and then rendered to liquid form." He took a moment to chuckle. "Oh it is rather nasty. It starts out with a sore throat, and cough, then body aches, fever. Since you have little immunity to it, I have a feeling it will wreak havoc on your body." He laughed a little louder. "I suppose it will evolve into it's advanced stages where your lungs fill with fluid in......oh.. three, to five days." He struggled to hold in the laughter. "Oh.. you do look horrid. Here son, let me straighten your collar, make you look presentable for the reaper." He said as he began fixing Proto's collar. He then stepped back to admire his handy work. "Ah.. there.. perfect." He then turned to the robot. "Take him back to the park. To the tree where he is staying with the earth rodents. If he tries to follow you back here....stomp him into a pulp." Tiberus cackled. The robot lurched, and turned to comply, and Proto was once again on a long journey through the dark catacombs.

            Foxy had been in that box for quite some time now. Unable to see where she was going, or how she was getting there. Suddenly the box a stopped, and Foxy heard Spike hissing orders. Foxy heard The sound of a chain, and felt the box vibrate as Strype attached a chain to the top of the box. Then there was a mechanical sound, and Foxy felt the Box begin to be lifted up to somewhere. It swung lazily back, and forth as it lifted. Then the box stopped, and She heard Strype call to Spike to let it down. The box fell, probably about three feet, and clattered against a metal surface. Foxy bounced around as the box hit, yelping in pain as she landed on her broken wing. Then she felt the box being pulled. It made a harsh rasping sound as it slid against the floor, and slammed into something. Foxglove once again tumbled around the box yelping short high pitched sheiks of pain. Then she heard Spike yell. "That's good leave it there by the pickling vat. If she gives us any trouble we can just toss her in." Foxy didn't know what a pickling vat was, but she didn't like the idea of being thrown into it especially since she couldn't fly out. There was a period of silence as Foxy sat in the darkness until she could no longer stand it. "Hello! Is anyone out there?" She desperately called. There was a shuffling and finally she heard Strype answer. "Pipe down in there! Do you want to get me in trouble?" He said harshly. Foxy thought about it. She didn't really want to get him in trouble, even though it was what he deserved. "Uhm.. well no not really.." was all she could manage. "Good.. because if you do I might just throw you into the pickling vat out of spite." Foxy gulped. "What is that?" She asked almost scared to find out. "What a pickling vat?" Strype asked. "Well it's a big tank of acid that humans dip metal in to take the impurities off of it." He explained. Foxy shuddered. How could anyone live with their self if they knew they had thrown a helpless little bat like herself in a tank of acid? She didn't want that answered. She was sure someone like Fat Cat would be happy to do just that. Finally after another long silence she choked up the courage to ask Strype one more question. "How did you and Spike meet?" She asked innocently. There was an uneasy quiet then Strype answered, and didn't sound very happy about what his answer was. "She won me in a fight." He said smugly. Foxy gasp. "She won you? In a Fight?" She asked in disbelief. "That's what I said ain't it? I didn't stutter." He said sarcastically. " can't own someone." Foxy said. "Yeah.. well look I ain't too happy about it either but it's how it is." Strype said. Foxy was appalled that something like this could happen. " did it happen?" She finally asked. Strype sighed. "If I tell you will you shut your trap?" He asked "Yes." Foxy said quietly. Strype spat out some curse words, and began. "Alright fine.. I'll tell you. I was an orphan and I was caught trying to pick this guy's pocket see.. well he took sympathy on me, and asked me if I wanted to make the real money. Well I was pretty young and stupid, and I said yes. Well I became his servant, for a share of the money he made fighting down at the docks. Well one day he caught a break, and some one invited him to the gym." He paused. "That's the place Spike made you watch her fight." He explained. "Well anyway" He continued. "We got there, and we won a few fights, but the stakes were too high, when he got to Spike. See it's like gambling you have to meet the other person's bet, to get on the board, and then you raise the bet if you think you can win. Well he didn't have the money, so he threw me in to make up the difference. Needless to say he lost." Strype finished, and sounded quite disturbed in having told his story. "But it's not your fault.. you can still go somewhere else, I know someone who can help you." Foxy said quietly. "Hey! Didn't I tell you to shut your mouth!" Strype said, and kicked the box. Suddenly Foxy heard Spike's voice. "No talking to the prisoner, didn't I tell you that?!" She growled. "I was only trying to get her to be quiet." Strype said in his defense. "Never mind that now. Fat Cat will be here any minute come on." Spike said, and Foxy heard them both walk away.

            Chip, Dale, Monty and Zipper, had been scouting the city for hours now. They still hadn't seen any clues as to where Foxy had gone. They were beginning to give up the search. "It's Hopeless!! She's gone forever!" Dale cried. Chip patted his back, and Zipper put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sure we'll find her soon." Chip comforted. "That's right lil, buddy She couldn't have gone far in the day light." Monty assured him. "We just ain't lookin in the right places." He added. "Yeah, Monty's right I'm sure she'll turn up somewhere. She probably just got too tired to fly back to the tree, and found somewhere to sleep for a while." Chip assured. Dale nodded, sniffling. "I know guys, but I just feel so stupid for not going with her." He said wiping his nose. "There, there, we'll find her. Let's go back to the tree, and have some lunch, and then we'll keep looking afterwards." Chip said. Dale nodded sadly, and Chip looked up to Monty who was driving. Monty nodded, and turned the Rangerplane back toward the tree. Chip wanted to see how Gadget was doing. He was ashamed that he was so hard on her. He regretted the entire morning. He just wanted to get back and make it up to her somehow, He wanted to make it up to all of them. He made a promise to himself that when all this has over he was going to have more patience with everyone. It was strange how sometimes they seemed to drift apart, and then something like this would happen, and pull them back together. Chip wasn't sure about their future, but he remembered his past. Even through the toughest times they had all been there for him, just as he had been there for them. How could he let it all fall apart now? He had a feeling that new members would come and go. They were well known, and that was sure to bring some creatures hoping to join. They were going to all use a little patience. Chip thought it was always going to be just the five of them. Him, Dale Gadget, Monty, and Zipper. Then when Foxy started staying with them he felt a little cramped. It wasn't that they didn't have the space in the tree. There were still numerous hollows that they hadn't renovated. It was just that he had grown so used to the closeness, of the original five. Not that he saw Foxy as an outsider, at least not as much as he did Proto. Technically he thought of Proto as an outsider because he acted like one. He didn't seem to feel at home with them. Even after being with them for the whole winter he still acted like a guest even though the others had began to treat him like family. Maybe that's why Chip thought of him as still being a guest. His true fear was that Foxy and Proto were only the start of a flood of new members. He didn't want to be a syndicate of crime fighting animals. He wanted to be The Rescue Rangers, just him, and his friends. It even took him a while to get used to Foxy. Maybe he got used to her more easily because she was so easy to get used to. She was definitely friendly, and easy to get along with. Proto on the other hand was indifferent, and secretive, almost cold. He Seemed to quit talking after their second meeting. Chip remembered when they first met. Proto was friendly and talkative. Maybe it was just the winter gloom. Everything seemed to effect his attitude differently than it did the others. Chip couldn't sympathize with his past. He couldn't picture it. Gadget had tried to explain, but he still couldn't see any place that bad. He really didn't know if that was what was bothering Proto, or his own fear of being in a group. It was obvious that he was used to being alone, and flying solo so to speak. Maybe he just needed more time to adjust than others. Chip was really just frustrated that Proto wasn't feeling at home yet. It made him think that he wasn't being hospitable enough. Then he began to grow bitter than Proto needed more assurance that he belonged than the others did. Why should he be special? Why couldn't he just fit in like Foxy had? Chip decided to quit thinking about it before he mad himself mad at Proto again. Gadget's words seemed to force their way into his mind for the fifth time that day. "You have to be a little gentler with Proto, He doesn't know what friends are, he doesn't know what affection is. He's never had any of the things we have. He doesn't know how to react to having friends. He is really happy to be with us, he really is, he just doesn't know how to show it." Chip asked her why Proto was so talkative when they first met him. She didn't have the answer. All she could offer was that he wasn't acting himself then. Proto never seems to let you in. He wouldn't let you know what he was thinking. He wore his hair long in front to hide his eyes. It was because he knew that you could see how he was feeling through his eyes. You could see when he was sad, or frightened. Maybe he thought showing emotion was a weakness, and that's why he was quiet, and indifferent. Gadget had told Chip once that she didn't think it was so much the gloom and despair of the city Proto was in, but emotional scars that he had from a bad family situation. She didn't know why she thought that. She had seen no evidence to back up that theory in Proto's dream, but after she woke up she had a strong, and unexplainable feeling that was Proto's real problem. Chip couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him. He was just a boy, Chip could see that he was a number of years older than Proto. He assumed that Proto was close to twenty one, there was no way he was over twenty five. Chip himself was in his upper twenties. Even in his young age Proto had been through a lot of things that he probably wasn't ready for. He was kicked off his planet, and even though he hated that place he still saw it as home. It was apparent that he didn't think of earth as his home. He felt like a wayward. He had almost died twice, and that was just in the time Chip had known him. There's no way to know what sort of things had happened to him on his planet. However as cold hearted as it seemed Chip didn't see that as an excuse to give up on living. You had to move on.
            Chip didn't notice they were back at the tree until Dale's voice shook him from his thoughts. "Chip! We're home, wake up" Chip found himself back in reality being shaken by Dale. "Oh, yeah I knew that." He stammered Monty, and Zipper had already went inside. Chip, climbed out,a and he and Dale walked in quietly. They both had worries on their minds. They found that they were the only ones there. Neither Foxy nor Proto had come back, and the Rangerskate was missing. "Oh great now Gadget is missing!" Dale exclaimed. Chip looked guilty. "I knew I was too hard on her." He muttered. Dale looked up. "What did you say Chip? Go look for her?" He asked. Chip shook his head. "I'm sure she'll be back soon." He said sadly not sure that he was right. Monty went directly to making lunch. It was after noon actually, Near 2:00 PM. Chip, and Dale sat quietly on the couch, staring at the blank TV screen. All of a sudden there was a crash from the garage, and Gadget came running into the living room panting. "I found Foxglove!" She exclaimed. Dale jumped over the back of the couch. "Huh! You found her?! Where?!" He questioned excitedly. Gadget only nodded. "Where? where?" Dale begged, pulling at Gadget's overalls. "Come on! We don't have much time.!" She said as she lead her way into the garage. Monty came from the kitchen. "Shouldn't we eat first, to build up our energy?" He asked. "There's no time!" Gadget said pulling on his sweater sleeve. "That iguana is probably selling her to Fat Cat as we speak!" She said. "The Rangerskate is already ready. We need to go now!" She urged. "Then what are we standing here for?" Chip asked excitedly. "Let's go!" They all ran for the Rangerskate. In no time they were out of the garage yelling. "Rescue Rangers away!"
            As they rode they could only dread what would happen to Foxy if they were too late. They had an idea that Fat Cat would use her for bait, to lure them all into a trap. They couldn't be sure that what they were getting into now wasn't a trap. All they knew is that Foxy was in trouble and some one had to do something. They would find a way out. They always did. Dale leaned back, and kicked his feet up, and noticed that they were blue. "Hey what gives?" He said. My feet are blue. Gadget didn't look back as she drove. "Oh I forgot to tell you I accidentally knocked over a bottle of paint. I guess you stepped in it. Don't worry it will come off eventually." She said. Chip noticed that Gadget was driving faster than usual. "Hey Gadget don't you think you should slow down? What if we get in a wreck.?' He said cautiously. Gadget shook her head. "No there isn't enough time, Every second counts." Soon they were on the bad side of the city. The skeletal remains of the long since fallen buildings gave then a feeling that something had died. Gadget shuddered remembering things she had seen before. Soon they were on the out skirts of the city. A large abandoned steel factory began to rise over the horizon. It seemed to grow, a big black shadow, ominous towering like a gateway into oblivion. The ranger skate came to a skidding halt kicking up gravel as it fish tailed. Gadget jumped out, and waved the others on. She had been here before, and knew the way in. They squeezed through the crack in the wall, and found themselves in complete inky black darkness. They could feel a warm breeze blowing. Some one had turned on the blast furnace. The heat began to rise, and an orange glow began to spread throughout the facility. Soon it was bright enough to see, though dimly. They looked around, and saw that they were in the old North Steel Refinery. It had been shut down when the new factory to the west had been built which was more modern, and efficient. The city hadn't had the money to tare the old building down. They had moved most of the equipment out. However the blast furnace, some conveyor belts, and dump sloughs were built into the building itself and couldn't be removed until it was torn down. Apparently the utilities company had forgotten to turn the gas, and electricity off. It was strange how something like that could conveniently slip the people's minds. They followed Gadget as she climbed a chain, and walked across a catwalk. There was a light coming from the foreman's office. They made their way up to the upper platform, and stood by the door. They could hear conversation going on inside.
            "Why is it always so cold in here?" A female voice grumbled. "I thought I told you to turn the furnace on before we left!" The same voice said. There was some scuffling, and then silence. "Spike why do you always have to hit me like that?" A male voice said. It sounded frightened and uneasy. "Because you're an IDIOT!!" The first voice yelled. There was more silence. The first voice did some more grumbling, and spewing of obscenities. "Don't you know that I get stiff, and sore when I'm cold?" It asked. The second voice seemed ashamed. "I know Spike, I'm really sorry, I just forget things, you know that. I was so excited about your fight, I just..." He was cut off. "Awwmm..Come here.." There was more sounds of movement. "I know you mean well, you're just stupid that's all." The voice was soothing, and sensual this time. Then there was a silence. "Now why don't you go see how the prisoner is doing?" Spike asked almost politely. The Rangers didn't have time to hide before a smaller door that was cut into the human door opened. "Who are you?!" Strype exclaimed. Monty rushed him, knocking him onto his back. The others followed. Once inside they heard the door slam. Spike was standing in front of the door smiling evilly. "I thought you would come after your friend. Well.. I'm glad.. I'll surely get more money for all of you than just that one." She smiled. Monty began rolling up his sleeves. Spike's eyes widened with interest. "Mmmm.. you want to dance? Well let's dance mammal!" She stepped forward, and readied. The other Rangers didn't try to hold Monterey back this time. Instead they cheered him on. Strype nodded her head to the left, and the well trained Strype stepped out of the way. Spike and Monty circled a few times. Then it began. Monty rushed in with a left. However Spike was ready, and dodged, then countered with a low kick that swept Monty off his feet. Spike backed up, and waited. She definitely knew martial arts. Every attack Monterey tried to use Spike still seemed to be a step ahead of him. Even his muscle wasn't enough against her speed. Even if he could have made contact with a punch he was beginning to loose faith, and give up. With his last effort he tried to rush and tackle her. She spun aside like a bull fighter and laughed with a girlish giggle as Monterey Jack Ran past her, and collided with a wall. "Ole!" She said throwing up a hand in a matador pose. Her eyes seemed alive with excitement. She was definitely one who fed off of the thrill of the fight. "Well, who's next?" She asked curiously. Chip, and Dale looked at one another. "You can go first Chip." Dale gulped. Chip gave him a harsh look. "Well if we're all going to be given up to fat cat I'm sure not going without a fight!" Chip said pulling off his bomber jacket. Spike seemed to smile. "Mmmm Cute one..." She cooed beckoning Chip on. "I'll take it easy on you.. wouldn't want to ruin your furry little face." She said. Chip wasn't sure if he could do anything against her. It was true that Monty was probably the best at fist fighting among them, and seeing how he failed didn't give him much confidence. He took a look back to Gadget for support, she seemed scared of the entire situation. She didn't seem to like violence. Chip did his best to imitate what he has seen Spike do though it didn't do much good. In the end She simply threw him into a pile of eight-tracks. In her distraction Dale leapt onto her back. Spike grabbed his arms, and backed him roughly into a wall. Then threw him off of her and into a radio. There was a crash, and "Smoke on the Water" began to play. With none of the other Rangers standing Spike began to eye Gadget heavily. She waved her over purring some flirtatious taunt. Gadget sheepishly put up her fists. She knew that this was going to hurt, she didn't want to do it. On the other hand she was so angry at this iguana for what she had done to her friends she wanted to see her get what she deserved. "Come on little girl! Come ON!" Spike raged, now apparently on an adrenaline rush. Suddenly there was a voice from somewhere. Both Gadget and Spike turned to the door. There a weak and sick looking mouse stood leaning in the doorway. He was breathing hard. "Stop.. Leave Gadget alone.." He repeated. "Proto! How did you find us? Where have you been?" Gadget asked. Proto stepped in. "I'll tell you later.. What is going on here?" He asked. Spike eyes him with interest as he walked past her to Gadget. Gadget couldn't help but hug him tightly while she explained. "She kidnapped Foxy, and is going to sell her to Fat Cat. We came to try to get her back, but she caught us too, and she's forcing us to fight her. Proto you have to do something." She begged. Proto sighed, and pushed her away. He then turned to Spike. "Well..I suppose we should get this over with." He said pulling off his Vest. Spike's eyes flickered. "Hmm...very nice.. I never saw a rodent quite like you..." She cooed. "Cut the bull shit!" Proto snapped Gadget was shocked at his language, she had never heard him talk like that before. However considering the circumstances she didn't say anything. "I've had a son of a bitch of a day, and I don't feel like doing this in the first place!" He snarled stepping up into position. Spike smiled. "So tell me..Proto is it?" She asked. "Tell me Proto are you a gambling mouse?" She asked inquisitively. "What kind of bet do you have in mind?" He asked quietly. Spike grinned. "Full stakes, one round. You win you ALL go free...however if I win...well.. you get the picture." Proto nodded. He knew this type he had to deal with them all the time in the academy. Betting their entire wallet on one fight, just to try to make a quick buck, or for a shot at the glory of winning. He hated those kinds. However they were spread through the entire galaxy. "OK. I accept the bet. All for all." Proto said softly. Gadget ran up and grabbed his arm. "Are you Crazy! What if you loose! This is insane!" Proto shook her off. "Do you have a better idea?" He asked smugly. Shocked and confused, Gadget backed off putting her entire future, as well as the future of the others in his hands. She wasn't sure if it was the best idea. It was definitely illogical, and in fact plain stupid. Spike was much larger than he was, and probably stronger. He was definitely out matched. On the other hand some part of her was eager to watch him in action. She had never really seen it, but she had heard stories from various sources that had seen him fight before. It sounded impressive. She shook her head surprised at the thoughts she was thinking about Proto. Before Gadget knew it they had begin. Proto was doing very good at anticipating, and countering Spike's advances. He was as good as he was rumored that was for sure, but he seemed sick. Gadget could tell at first glance he didn't feel well and that wasn't from having to follow them on foot. All of a sudden the action picked up. Spike tried to sweep Proto's feet out from under him like she had Monty. Proto jumped over and kneed her in the nose. Spike staggered back wiping a trickle of blood from her nose. "Hmm.. you drew first blood.. you're good.. What style are you using? I've never seen it before?" She asked seemingly less interested in fighting now. However she still advanced but not as strenuously. She and Proto were locked in a fury of blocking one another's punches as they talked, Neither one seemed to be giving it their all anymore. "It's just basic hand to hand.." Proto said. Spike managed to get through, and sweep him, but he rolled out of the way before she could follow with a stomp. "No basic I've ever seen is like that.." She replied. Proto jumped back up, and rushed back in, they continued their usual game of cat and mouse. "It's not earth technique." Proto explained. "But enough about me..where did you learn to fight?" He asked getting a solid punch to Spike's midsection that forcing her back. She rubbed her belly, then rushed back in. "It's ninjitsu, my owner knew it, and I learned it by watching him." She said getting in a good backhand to the face that knocked Proto to the ground. He caught himself before he hit the floor, and steadied himself enough to kick Spike's feet out from under her. She rolled away, and they both were back up, but didn't attack. "So you're telling me you're from outer space?" She asked. Proto looked annoyed. "How many times do I have to correct people on that. No I'm not from outer space. I have a planet I was born on, I wasn't just floating out among the stars!" Both Gadget and Spike had to laugh at that remark. Then both Proto, and Spike looked sad. "Well I guess we have to finish this." She said. Proto nodded. "You know that I'm not going to take it easy on you, after all this is my ticket to paradise we're talking about here." Proto nodded again. "I wouldn't have it any other way. There wouldn't be any point in having this match if you let me win." Proto said quietly. They both nodded, and squared off.
            They began this time more furious than ever before, each getting in the occasional connection between the other's defenses. It reminded Gadget of some of those Bruce Lee, and Jackie Chan movies Dale watches, however this was real, not a movie. Her life, her friends liver were riding on all this, and Proto seemed to be giving in. He was coughing a lot more than he was breathing now, and Spike was getting in more hits. His fur around his face, and neck was now pink. Gadget couldn't hold the emotion in anymore. "Come on Proto you can't give up. I don't care if you don't care what happens to yourself, or even the other Rangers." She shouted. Then her voice got quieter. " I don't even care if you don't care what happens to me." She begged. Proto didn't look at her, he couldn't let it be a distraction. However her words he could hear. He could hear her concern but he couldn't decide if it was for him, or her own future. "You can't give up because if you do she'll hurt you more. I can't stand to see you hurt. I don't want to see you hurt like this. It's gone too far already. Please Spike just let us go!" She plead. Spike didn't seem to care. However to Proto knowing that Gadget was more worried about seeing him hurt than her own future touched him. Even if it was just to cheer him on, and she didn't really mean it. It gave him the will to go on. He was down on his hands and knees. He looked up to see Spike ready to kick him while he was down. He hated being kicked while he was down. He hated it because every time some one kicked him while he was down, it was his father kicking him. Every kick brought back that memory of how his drunken father would to that to him but not this time. Just as the kick was about to land squarely on his nose he caught it, and twisted causing Spike to fall. Then he was up and ready. He stood with his hands to his sides, a rare stance he had learned. It confused the opponent into thinking you were not ready to defend, when in fact you were. Spike got up, and threw a straight jab. To her surprise Proto caught it inches before it hit his face. Spike's expression went to rage to surprise. Gadget was jumping up and down cheering Proto on, as Proto tightened his grip on Spike's hand. She threw a second, which Proto also caught. Then he twisted them both outward, and pusher her hands down. She was so shocked at how strong he was that she didn't know how to react, Proto pulled his head back, and then with all the strength left he dealt a massive head butt right to Spike's nose. She reeled back, but Proto didn't let her go or let her fall. Instead he slung her a full circle before he let her slam into the wall as hard as he could. There was a loud thud, and she went right through the dry wall. Then Proto fell to his knees coughing, trying to catch his breath. Gadget ran to him, and hugged him tightly not aware that the others had gotten up by now and had been watching since Spike, and Proto started going at it seriously. Chip and Dale ran over, and each took a shoulder. Monty had grabbed Strype.
            "Come on let's get out of here before Fat Cat shows up." Dale said pulling at his side of Proto. "Wait what about Foxy?" Gadget asked. Suddenly something unexpected happened "Come quick I'll take you to her." Strype said pulling out of Monty's grip and heading for the door. Chip and Dale handed the limp Proto To Monterey. "Here get him to the ranger skate. Gadget you go too, and have it ready to get out of here." Chip ordered. Gadget nodded, and went with Monty, and Chip and Dale followed Strype. Once outside Monty set Proto in the back, and hopped in while Gadget turned on the engine. After a few minutes passed like hours Chip, Dale, and Foxy came running out, and jumped in telling Gadget to "Floor it!". A cock's comb of gravel sprayed out from the wheels of the Rangerskate as it sped off. Gadget told Chip to take the wheel, and she climbed out of the driver's seat almost before Chip could grab the wheel. She sat beside Monty who was looking after Proto's injuries. "How does he look Monty?" She asked quietly. Monterey shook his head. "It doesn't look good luv. He's pretty bruised up, and on top of that I think the poor mate has the flu." He said shaking his head sadly. "And on top of that Foxy ere, has a broken bone in her wing." Fox glove felt ashamed. Her one broken bone seemed like it was nothing compared to the beating Proto had taken for her. She felt ashamed for getting them all into this. She looked down at Proto, who was soaked in blood, and didn't seem to be breathing. He was in worse shape than he was when they first met, and in her mind it was because of her. He looked up, and noticed that Gadget was crying. Not noticeably, but it was obvious that there was tears in her eyes. She figured that it was normal, after all she would cry if Dale were hurt that bad. Fortunately all he had was a bump on the head. Before She knew it they were back at Rescue Ranger Head Quarters. Chip, and Dale helped Take Proto to Gadget's bed. They stood there looking at him for a while. Chip was ashamed at how he had judged him. Even if Proto had put himself first in the beginning he didn't anymore. What he did was truly unselfish, and heroic. They were all impressed. They had heard from Monty that people around town were talking about a white mouse who could fight pretty well. They knew that they must be talking about Proto since he had told them that he had gotten into a few fights after he left. On the other hand they never knew that he was anything like what they had just seen. Chip didn't know what to think of him anymore. He must care about them as his friends of he wouldn't have done that, or would he? Did he fight Spike because he, like her enjoyed the thrill of it? Right now it didn't matter. They had to mend Foxy's wing, as well as clean Proto up, and make sure he lived. Chip left the room shaking his head. He was frankly getting tired of having to do this. Even though it was mostly Gadget who goes into nurse mode, and fixes problems like that. The strain effected them all. Tonight was going to be a tough night.
            The morning sunlight began to cast it's rays through the window of Gadget's room. She woke as it spread across her face. She looked around and realized that she had fallen asleep in the chair beside her bed. Proto was still asleep. She pulled herself up, and went into the living room. Chip was already up, so was Monterey. Dale was in Foxy's room with her. Chip handed her a thimble of coffee. "Thanks.." Gadget quietly thanked him. She sat on the couch beside him. They were quiet for a moment. Then they both said in unison. "We need to talk." They were both quiet, then Gadget said. "You go first Chip." Chip was quiet as if ashamed, or scared to say what he knew he had to say. "Gadget..I don't know how to say this.. but.." Gadget cut him off. "Chip.. I don't love you." She suddenly said. "I mean it's not just you, I don't love anyone. I'm just happy being everyone's friend." She added. Chip looked sad. He was quiet. "I'm really sorry.. I didn't mean to hurt you.. I never meant to hurt anyone." Gadget tried to explain. "I know.. Don't worry Gadget." Chip said quietly. "It wouldn't be fare for you to choose between your friends, and I'm not asking you to, I just wanted you to know how I feel." He said fumbling with his hat. Gadget smiled in spite of herself. "Aww. That's really sweet Chip. I'm really glad you understand, and I'm even more glad that we can stay friends." She said, then gave Chip a quick peck on the cheek. Then she got up. "I guess we're all just going to have to use a little more patience." She said as she walked into the kitchen. Chip was surprised. That was exactly what he was thinking before. Soon Chip smelled camomile tea, and knew that Gadget was going to spend the day nursing Proto like she had before. "Lucky rat.." He laughed to himself as he turned on the TV. He thought it would hurt to hear Gadget say that she didn't love him, but it didn't. He surprisingly felt good, like he had lifted weights off his shoulders that he had been carrying around ever since he had met Gadget. He was also relieved that she didn't love Proto either, who had at least in his mind become his main competition now that Dale was preoccupied with Foxy. He took a breath, and smiled to himself. Things were going to be different, but different didn't mean bad did it?
            That day was quiet. But it wasn't a solemn quiet like before, it was a content quiet Proto slept through that entire day. That night he woke up in a fit of coughing. Gadget woke up from her place on the couch, and was there in an instant patting his back. Finally he managed to stop, and breathe. "Are you OK?" She asked softly. Proto shook his head. "Gadget.. I'm scared. I've never been this scared in my life." He said quietly. Gadget rubbed his back. She didn't know what to say. She had never heard Proto even mention the word scared, even when they were stuck in that nightmare, he kept his cool, but now he was almost to the point of hysterics. Seeing him like this made her a little uneasy. "My body has never had a virus like this.. it can't fight it..I'm going to die.." He said tears in his eyes. "DAMN! Why is it that when I find a reason to live I have to die.." His tears were dripping from his face now. Gadget could only pat his back. She knew he was right. His body had no way of combatting an alien virus, she was surprised that he hadn't already caught, and died from a simple winter cold. Proto held his head. "Damn you to hell Tiberus.." He muttered almost to low to hear. Gadget was getting uneasy. She has never seen him this distressed, and didn't know what to do. Then she realized what he had said. "Tiberus? You mean he did this to you?" She asked startled. Proto nodded. "Yes..he killed Cody, and then injected me with some virus that you have already gotten an immunity to. He knew it would kill me slowly." Proto explained. Gadget gasp in shock. That was the most horrible thing she had ever heard. Even though the common flu was just a week of coughing, and a runny nose to them to Proto it was a like signing his death certificate. She shook her head. No. Proto wasn't going to die. She was going to do everything she could to make him better. She knew when she did Proto was going to want revenge, and it wasn't going to be pretty. Gadget was sure that after what had happened to Proto, he deserved some revenge. She also knew when he got his revenge he probably would leave for good. It wasn't that she wanted him to, but she knew she couldn't make him stay. That wouldn't be fair to any of them. "Here let me go make you some more tea.." She said rubbing his back. "If you die.. it won't be because we didn't fight this." She said as she left.
            It was early the next morning. Chip was woke from a rather pleasant dream by heavy, and continuous pounding at the front door. He groggily opened it, and the one person he wasn't expecting muscled her way in. "Where is Proto?" Spike said carrying Proto's vest. They hadn't even realized that they had forgotten it. Gadget woke up from the couch still too drowsy to realize who was in their tree. She had been up most of the night. "What's she doing here!?" Monty asked coming out of his room. "I want to know where he is!" Spike demanded. Now Gadget realized who it was, and threw herself in front of her door. "You're getting in there over my dead body." She snapped. Spike moved her aside. "Stand down rodent I come in peace." She said opening the door to Gadget's room. She quietly walked in and looked down onto the sleeping Proto. She wrapped his Vest around him. "There you go brave little mouse..It's even clean." She then pulled out a small metal cylinder, and put it in the pocket of his vest. "I even saved you're little space thingy for you." She said. Then she straightened up, and regained her "tough girl" composure. "It's entirely out of respect I assure you." She said as she strutted out just as suddenly as she has come in. Chip blinked. "That was strange, just a day ago she was trying to kill him, and sell up to Fat Cat." He said with a shrug. "Well love does strange things so a girl." Foxy said quietly. Everyone looked at her. She shrugged the best she could with one wing bandaged in a splint. Chip, Dale, and Monty looked at one another in shock. It wasn't so much that they didn't think anyone could fall in love with Proto, but it was that they never thought Spike was capable of that kind of emotion. Foxy, and Gadget looked at one another, and they understood. There was something they knew about Spike that the others didn't. She was a girl, even though a rather cold, and hateful one none the less she was, and they both knew how female's hearts worked more than any male did. They both exchanged a quick smile. They were probably going to see more of Spike in the future. "OK break it up come on there's nothing to see here." Gadget said jokingly as she dispersed the crows of dumbfounded guys, and sent them to their rooms. "After all Romeo needs his sleep." Foxy giggled.
            After the others had gone to sleep Foxy, and Gadget sat down on the couch for some long over due girl talk. They had gotten used to their chats, but over the winter like everyone else they just seemed to quit talking. Now as their hushed giggling could be heard through out the tree it was apparent now more than ever everything was going to be alright.
            As the morning sun began to peek through the windows Gadget, and Foxy both decided it was time to get some sleep. They had a pretty eventful past few days, and this was one of the few times they had to rest without having to worry about bad guys doing bad things. For a moment all was in order. Gadget curled up on the couch with a warm blanket, and had just began to drift off to sleep when she heard a bump. She sat up, and wasn't surprised at what she saw. Proto was up trying to be self sufficient, though he was not very effective at it. "And where do you think you're going?" She asked in an almost motherly tone. Proto pointed to the door. "Air.." Was all he said. Gadget shook her head sternly "no". Then she got up, and pushed Proto back into her room. "I'll open the window, but you're not well enough to go out side yet." She said. Proto in fact looked absolutely horrible. His eyes were dull, and looked dead. His hair looked like it was half wet with sweat, and his hears drooped. His nose was running, and he was pale. "I'm not going to make it through this time." He said very quietly. Gadget only half heard him. "What was that?" She asked. "Do you need something?" She added. Proto shook his head. "I said, I'm dieing.." He answered forcing himself to be louder this time. "I can feel it.. I can feel my body giving up." He said quieter this time. "Don't think like that." Gadget said a little scared that Proto was right. "If you think like that you'll make it worse." She said. Proto shook his head. "No. It's OK Gadget.. I'm not scared..not anymore." He said quietly. Gadget was silent. "See...people are scared to die because they don't know what's on the other side. They're scared that it just ends." Proto smiled slightly. Then he shook his head. "No.. it doesn't end. I've already been through it before. You just float around, and dream, then one day you wake up, and you're a newborn again. You never realize that you've been floating in space for so long that you forgot who you used to be. Because you forgot that you even used to be." He tried to shrug. "At least that's what I believe." Gadget was quiet. She didn't know what was beyond death. She didn't know if Proto was right. She had never asked him if he believed in any religion. apparently there was no religion on Luxz. She was scared that he was giving up. She didn't notice that she was holding his hand. "Proto, you can't give up like this. I haven't known you as long as I have the others, but I have a feeling that you're not the type of person to give up. You have to fight this." She said squeezing his hand. He was too weak to squeeze back. He looked at her. He didn't even look alive. "Why not? There's nothing left. I have lost everything...." He paused. "Everything..." He said quietly. There was a period of silence. Neither one knew what to say. Gadget couldn't think of anything she hadn't already said to cheer Proto up. He apparently had completely given up. She leaned over, and was about to kiss him gently on the nose, but noticed he was already asleep, and then the thought occurred to her that kissing him on the nose as runny, and red at it was wasn't at all appealing. She patted the top of his head instead. She then left heavy in thought. She thought that if she kept plenty of fluids in him, his natural immune system would eventually begin to strengthen and fight off the virus. She was now beginning to see that she was completely wrong. Proto's body was fighting a loosing battle, and there was very little she, or anyone could do about it.
            She sat on the couch in a thinking position. He needed antibiotics, or steroids or something to boost his immune system. Even though she could get penicillin she could have no way of knowing what it would do to him. After all it could be very poisonous to him. On top of that the medicine would be a human sized dose. She would have to measure out a mouse sized dose, if it was too much it could kill Proto, if it was too little it wouldn't have any effect. She gave a heavy sigh. What could she do? Ultimately if she did nothing Proto would certainly die. For that matter he may still die. This was a completely alien sickness he was fighting, who knows if alien treatment would be effective. For once she was completely out of answers. She would have to make a decision soon, that decision could mean life or death for one of her friends. Of course it wasn't the first time she was faced with a decision like this, and this wasn't any different than the other times. For some reason it was different to her. She didn't know why. Maybe it was that she felt more despaired because Proto had already given up, and she had a feeling when he gave up it was because he knew it was over. Proto didn't seem to want to live anymore, and what did he have to live for? He had lost his only family, Cody, he is a wayward, and lately even his own friends the Rangers had seemed out of reach to him. Even living for revenge wasn't enough. Maybe because Proto knew that after he had his revenge there would truly be nothing left. She had a feeling that he didn't want that. If anything Proto wanted a reason to live that would keep giving him a reason to live. Could the iguana Spike give him a reason to live? After all love can make miracles happen. Gadget really couldn't see that big scaly man of a female lizard being affectionate, or caring. Judging by how she treated Strype she wasn't much for gentle persuasion. On the other hand she seemed rather caring the last time she barged in to give Proto his vest back. She was definitely a hard book to read. Maybe she could come talk to Proto, maybe make him feel better. Anything would be worth a try. Just as Gadget thought she was onto a breakthrough, she realized she had no idea where to find Spike. She shrugged, and went into the kitchen to make coffee. The others would be up soon, and she was probably going to pull another all nighter. She would have to ask Foxglove where she was taken by Spike, so she could get some ideas where she might find her. She also told herself that she might as well discuss the situation with the others. They were beginning to feel like a team again now, and she should do all she can to help that along. If they would all only set down and talk more. She always told herself that. She always felt that good communication was a must for any relationship, even if it was just among friends. It was still too early for the others to be up. She was completely exhausted. Maybe she could just catch a few minutes nap, she told herself. Curling up on the couch half sitting up, and half laying down. She was asleep as soon as she closed her eyes.
            Chip woke up first for once. He emerged from his room half asleep, and still in his pajamas. He made B-line for the coffee. After his first cup he began to wake up. He sat down at the end of the couch, and turned on the news. He didn't even notice Gadget, until she rolled over and stretched her feet out into his lap. He didn't know what to do. He couldn't move them she would wake up, and she definitely needed some sleep. On the other hand if she woke up with her feet being held in Chip's lap she might take it in a way not intended. Before Chip wouldn't have worried about it. But since she had made it clear that she did not see him in that light he found it embarrassing to tease, and flirt with her like he used to. Maybe it was just the initial shock of the entire event, and it would go away, but even so he was sure things between them would be different. He decided to keep her feet in his lap. Maybe if he was more affectionate, and less like a school boy with a crush she would change her mind. He decided that it was at least worth a shot. After all every breath Chip took he took for her, or at least that's the way he saw it. Gadget stretched again, and yawned, but didn't wake. Chip tried to concentrate on the news. He heard the door open and shut, and assumed that it was Foxy just coming back from being out that night. Maybe it was Monterey who had gotten up before he, and decided on a morning stroll. At any rate he didn't bother to look at who had entered, even after he heard the door to one of the rooms open and close.
            Not long after Monterey walked in in his night shirt looking for coffee, Zipper following behind. "Morning Chipper!" He said finally back to his usual cheerful self. Chip looked over. "Morning Monty." He yawned. "I guess that must have been Foxy that just came in then." He added to himself. Monty poked his head out of the kitchen? "What was that about Foxglove mate?" He asked. "Oh, someone just came in, I figured it must be Foxglove coming back from catching bugs." Chip answered. Monty came out of the kitchen. "Foxy broke her wing, remember Mate? She can't fly." He said. Chip felt stupid for forgetting. So much had happened lately he couldn't keep track of it all. "In fact, little old Foxy has been in her room all morning." Monty added. Chip stood up letting Gadget's feet fall to the floor with a thud waking her. "Hey what's going on?" She asked groggily. "Dale is in his room...Foxy is in her room....Who just came in?" He muttered to himself. Gadget rubbed her eyes. "What are you talking about Chip?" She asked. "Someone just cam in the front door.. and I don't know who it was?" He muttered. Gadget almost jumped over the couch to get to her room. She threw the door open. Spike was sitting beside Proto. She turned and looked at them, then went back to what she was doing as if she was supposed to be there. "What are you doing!?" Gadget asked angrily. Spike didn't answer, instead she continued humming some unknown tune, and mixing some ingredients in a small mortar, and pestle. By now Gadget was standing in front of her, and Chip, and Monty were on the other sides of her surrounding her. Gadget glared down at the rude green intruder, who didn't even meet her gaze. After a short period Spike looked up. "I suppose you want him to die?" She asked quietly. Gadget seemed stunned, she had been working around the clock doing everything she could think to do, and here this reptile was acting as though she had done absolutely nothing. "What do you mean?!" She asked outright offended. "I've been doing everything I can!" She added. Spike smiled coyly. "I suppose it wasn't enough then." By now Gadget was beginning to turn red. Who did this over grown gecko think she was barging into her home, and even more of a taboo, into her room uninvited, and try to take over caring for a patient who was in poor condition partially because of her. Chip tried to calm her, but she didn't want to calm down. Gadget was as mad as he had ever seen her. Spike narrowed her eyes. "You know what I can do to you little mouse, so back out of my face with your hot breath." She snorted. It didn't have quite the intimidation effect Spike was looking for. Gadget was at the end of her nerves. She had about an hour of sleep to last her for two days, and she had just gotten over a very emotional moment in her life. On top of that one of her friends was slowly dieing in HER bed. Now this big ape of a lizard wants to barge in and take over like she owned the place? She wasn't going to stand for it.
            "Let me tell you something!" She said jabbing a finger into Spike's chest. "Proto is almost dead because of you. Yes YOU!. He would have had a much better chance to fight this if he didn't have to use up all his energy on!." She growled. "What makes you think you can just waltz in here like it's open house and try to do what ever yo think you're doing!? I'm sure if Proto was conscious enough to speak he would tell you to leave. So why don't you just do him the favor, and GET OUT!!" She screamed.
Spike just stood looking dumb for a moment. No one had ever really stood up to her. Her reputation, and size alone were enough to keep most shaking in their fur. But this mouse.. this little, soft, mouse, was standing her nose barely as high as Spike's breast, ordering her like she was no more than a gnat. For a moment she was offended, but then realized that this little mouse had a lot of guts to stand up to her like that even after she had seen what she wac capable of doing. Spike cocked her head to one side. "Well...have it your way, but if you expect him to get better on his own, I'd suggest you go pick out his burial plot in advance."
            Gadget began to realize what she had just done. She wasn't scared, but rather felt stupid. Not an hour ago she was plotting how she could scheme Spike into coming to visit Proto. Now that Spike was here she was ordering her to leave. What was she thinking? She decided that she was just tired, and stressed out, and blew up, which was unlike her. She also was a little scared that Spike would take her place as Proto's care taker. "Wait." She said quietly, her embarrassment apparent. Spike turned around from where she had turned to leave. "I'm sorry, I'm just kind of stressed out, and was acting irrational." Gadget tried to explain. Spike seemed to purr, "I knew you would see it my way." She said. She then sat back down and kept mixing the pink powder. Gadget sat on the edge of the bed. "what is that?" She asked. quietly. Spike didn't give a clear answer, she mainly kept mixing in time to her rhythmic purring. Then she poured the powder into a funnel, and dissolved it in water. "Do you mind telling me what that is?" Gadget asked a little louder this time. Spike looked up at her, with a cold glare for a moment. "I told you, a little of this, and a little of that." She answered. Spike lifted Proto up into sitting position. He was only semi-awake. "here darling drink.." She said pushing the mixture up to his mouth. By now Gadget was getting a little anxious. She didn't think Spike believed Proto was from another planet. That meant that she didn't know the risks of giving him earth drugs. "No, you tell me what that is first!" Gadget said a little more sternly this time. Spike shot her an icy glare. "'s children's tylenol, augmentin, and powdered strawberries. My master used to give it to me when I was sick." She said bitterly. "But you don't know what it will do.." Gadget tried to argue, but was cut off. "Do you have a better idea, little miss candy striper?" Spike snapped. Gadget had to admit she didn't have a better idea. She wasn't sure what the antibiotics would do to Proto, but she had thought about measuring a dose herself, and taking the chance. She felt a little outdone that Spike had beat her to it. Gadget looked up at Proto, who seemed to be ready for the grave any moment. She looked back at Spike who was getting impatient. "OK.." Gadget said quietly. Spike muttered something, and then made Proto drink the reddish liquid. Then she laid him back gently with a slight smile. Gadget was surprised. To everyone else Spike was rude, and pushy, but when she was dealing with Proto she was like a gentle kitten that hasn't learned to hate mice yet. Gadget looked up, and noticed that the guys were watching, almost jealous at the attention Proto was getting even though Proto himself was too delirious to enjoy it. She shrugged. Monty got an idea, and ushered the others into another room.
            Spike hadn't planned on leaving anytime soon, and Gadget still didn't trust her enough to leave her alone with Proto. They sat for maybe a minute, or more just avoiding looking at one another. Finally Gadget brought up he courage to say something. She had wanted to talk woman to woman with Spike since she came to give Proto's vest back. She didn't know how to start, she was scared that she would say the wrong thing, but none the less, she began.
            "You know Spike you can cut the tough girl image here." She said hoping that Spike would open up. Spike merely smirked. "It's not an image, I am a tough girl, but we live in a tough world, and being tough doesn't mean you don't have a heart." She snorted. There was another minute of silence. Gadget was surprised to find it was more difficult to talk about love, and Proto in the same sentence than it was for her to tell Chip she didn't love him. "Do you love him?" She finally asked knowing the only way she could ask with out stumbling over her words would to be to just say it. Spike looked up at her with a snap, and her eyes narrowed. "What kind of question is that?" She asked. Gadget shrugged. "I just thought" She couldn't think of what to say. Spike leaned back in her chair. "No, I don't love him." She said mocking Gadget's question. "Yes, I will admit he impressed me, and maybe I'm a little infatuated, but that's not love." She explained. Then muttered something about the thought of a reptile loving a mammal made her sick. Gadget looked confused. "But you just said.." She began. Spike interrupted her again, she was making a habit of it, and didn't seem to care how rude it was. "Yes I said I was infatuated with that mammal, and yes that does make me just as sick as the thought of loving him.." She paused. "But I can't help it.." Her voice was less defensive, and irate. "I mean look at him.." She said gesturing to Proto sleeping. "He's just.. I don't know....radiant." Spike muttered apparently very embarrassed now. "You've seen him more than me..I mean watch the way he moves, how you can see his muscles tighten under his fur.." Spike almost purred. "I know.. it's disgusting, it should make me want to scrape my tongue, but for some reason it doesn't." She shrugged. Gadget tried to fight the smile inching across her face. Even if Spike was just attracted to Proto out of nothing more than what you might call lust, it was a funny thought. Gadget herself had never really watched Proto with that much detail, sure she had seen his biceps flex when he lifted boxed, and the like, but she noticed the same when Monty moved boxes for her. Now the way Spike spoke so passionately about Proto Gadget began to wonder if she was missing out on something. She shook that thought from her head, and scorned herself for even letting herself think that way. She tried to change the subject. " did you get into the tough girl business?" She asked sheepishly. Apparently Spike either didn't care, or didn't want to talk about it. She continued to prattle on about Proto, and various things relating to him. "I mean, you're a mouse yourself, So don't try to tell me that you're not attracted to him." Spike said almost jokingly. Yes it was true Gadget did think that Proto was cute, maybe a little more than cute. That however didn't mean anything did it? After all she thought Chip was cute too, and even Dale in his own way, but that didn't mean she had a crush on any of them, and certainly not that she was in love with any of them. "I just can't believe that he thought I would buy that bit about him being from the moon or where ever it was." Spike laughed. It seemed like she had finally lightened up, unfortunately it was on a subject that made Gadget uncomfortable. "Oh, no, he wasn't lying, about that, it's true." Gadget said after she registered what Spike had said. Spike looked at her in disbelief. Gadget only offered a sincere nod. Spike's jaw dropped open. "You mean his eyes are supposed to be like that?" She asked. Gadget nodded with a smile. Spike gasp. "I thought it was like some sort of eye infection, or he just smoked too much..." She paused. "Well, never mind." She concluded. Gadget got the idea. She was in fact a little offended that Spike could think that. After what Proto had seen of drugs Gadget was secure in the idea that Proto completely hated all forms of them. "No.. he comes from a planet called Looz, but it's spelled, l, u, x, z. He was an officer, kind of like a human policeman." Gadget explained. Spike didn't look like she believed her. "Come, on, you think I'm going to fall for that?" She asked. Gadget looked at her. "No really it's true." She said quietly Spike just cocked her head to the side and gave Gadget a doubtful look. Then she shook her head. "Yeah what ever you say." Gadget was glad they weren't talking about relationships anymore, and didn't want to jinx it by saying anything. They sat there silent for a moment. Then Spike stood up. "Well... I have to go hurt some one now. I can't say that it was pleasant talking to you, especially since you're too scared to life up to your own feeling. But that's your problem." Spike said with a shrug, and walked away before Gadget could comment. Spike knew that what she said would burn Gadget up inside, and thus she said it. Gadget who was once somewhat calm, though a bit uncomfortable began to feel angry. She didn't know why what Spike said hit so hard. It did though. She decided that the best thing to do would be to try to forget it. If she kept thinking about it she would get herself in a rut like she had before. She sulked off to her workshop to find an unfinished invention to tinker with.

            Though Monty tried to stop them he couldn't. Both Chip, and Dale had their ears up to the wall listening to the entire conversation in the next room. "One of these days you two are going to get caught." Monty muttered. Chip and Dale pulled themselves away from the wall and looked at each other in shock. Could it be that Spike had emotions? Then they both just offered a shrug, and made their way into the kitchen to find some lunch. Once again it seemed as if peace was restored. The tree was quiet for the first time in a long time. Chip, and Dale weren't bickering. Proto wasn't listening to loud music, Gadget wasn't using noisy tools in her workshop, and zipper, and Cody weren't buzzing, and making other noises. Monty laid back and decided to enjoy it for a while. It was moments like these that one learned to savor. With the usual chatter, or distraction of cases, you rarely had time to just rest, and reflect on your life. Monty had, had a pretty full life. For most of his youth he had traveled. He had seen many adventures, and planned on seeing many more. He wasn't even thinking about retirement yet. After all as long as there was a Rescue Rangers he would have the obligation to stand beside them. He wasn't the type to desert his friends. Before he knew it he was sound asleep. Chip, and Dale did what they usually did. They fought over the TV. As usual Dale wanted to watch cartoons, and Chip was concerned with the news. Chip bonked Dale, and took the remote. "What if something is happening, and I miss it because of your stupid cartoons?" He chitted. "They're not stupid." Was all Dale could manage.
            There wasn't anything truly important on the news. Only a special report by some astronomer about an upcoming meteor shower. It was scheduled to begin on Saturday, and peak late Sunday night, then be over by Monday morning early. Chip didn't think it was much of a big deal, but Dale was excited about it, and he was sure Gadget would think it was interesting. He decided to tell her about it later. She was probably in her workshop, asleep. She needed the rest. She really did work too hard some times. The rest of the day was bland. The entire city seemed to be asleep. Chip was glad for once. They had been too busy lately. They all needed a little peace and quiet.

            There was a movement in the darkness. The large figure shifted, and directed itself to the platform. Tiberus smiled slightly. He had completed his fourth Orion sentinel. He was close to his dream. First he would begin with the creatures on his level, then once he had brought that civilization to it's knees he could begin construction of his life's work. With the unlimited workspace provided by the unused catacombs underneath the city he could construct a machine large enough to smash human buildings like housed made of cards. He had already began to gather supplies. He had enough scrap steel from an abandoned subway car that he had discovered. He also still had resources from his ship, which was still intact and in working order. A grin swept across his face. That pitiful tragic hero Proto was out of his way, and his foolish friends didn't have the faintest idea of his sentinels weak spots. That bloated creature that called himself Fat Cat wasn't competent enough to rid himself of his own troubles, so he would be no problem to dispose of. He began to walk back to the passage to his ship. How easily this planet would be to conquer. He remembered how difficult it was to get a foothold on Luxz. The officers were trained in advanced combat situations, and had their own technology to match his. Here the best he had seen was primitive compared to his elementary knowledge. His only problem was the lack of alien elements to construct true weaponry with. He had precious little Compound 34, and even less Tritium 4 gas. Both were necessary for explosives, and ballistic projectiles. Even so, he had plenty of materials for his robots. That in itself would be good enough to start with. He couldn't help but laugh. This game was much easier when playing against a race that was still young. For now he would return to his factory, and continue construction of his Armageddon Robot.

            Gadget woke in her workshop. She had fallen asleep. The looked at the time, it was 10:00 am. She pulled herself up, and brushed her hair back with a yawn. She assumed the others were already up. She emerged from her shop looking like she had fallen asleep at her worktable, which she had. There was a note by the coffee pot it read. "Gone to patrol the city, be back by lunch, signed Chip." Gadget crumpled it up, and threw it away. "Well at least they're back on they're normal routine." She shrugged sipping some coffee, before she went for a shower. She didn't worry about Proto, or Foxglove. They both were probably sleeping. With that security she didn't check on either of them.
            Spike opened walked in not long after Gadget had shut the shower door. She walked quietly to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee. After all if they didn't like it what where they going to do about it? She heard the shower in the bathroom turn on, and noted that someone other than the four who had left was still here. She assumed that it was Gadget since she didn't see her in the fling machine when she had watched them leave. At any rate she was preoccupied at the moment, and really wasn't much of a threat. At least not to her. She walked into the room that Proto was in. He was awake, staring at the ceiling. Spike sat down on the bed beside him. He looked over at her. Neither one said anything. Proto was trying to understand why this reptile was so interested in him. After all she had tried to kill him. In fact she seemed to be your average all around villain. Abduction, assault, illegal gambling. Those were just the few crimes he knew that she was guilty of. Even so he vaguely remembered her giving him some bitter liquid that made him feel better. At the moment he was utterly confused about where she stood. Was she trying to make him better so she could get a rematch? Or was it for some other reason. He was hoping that it was for the rematch. He wasn't looking forward to the complications of it being for the other reason would bring. On the other hand if she had anymore of that horrid pasty bitter liquid he would tolerate her to get it. She looked down at him with warm eyes, something he hadn't seen from her before. He felt a little odd, but somewhat comforted by that. He couldn't explain it. He didn't want to think about it. At the moment all he wanted to know was if she had anymore of the icky stuff.
            "So, are you feeling any better?" She asked quietly. Proto sat up, surprised that he had the strength to do so. He only nodded. Spike patted his back. "I'm glad. I have more medicine for you." She cooed softly. Proto was getting more and more uncomfortable by the moment. It was eerie how much Spike was like some one he had known before. Leira Cobalt was his partner, and only true friend. She was a reptile like Spike. Not the same species, but they looked similar. She had taught him to be unorthodox, and wreckless. She also stuck up for him when he got into trouble. She had the same tough girl attitude as Spike, and the same hidden soft side. Seeing Spike reminded him of how much he missed Leira. It was something he rarely thought about. He pushed it out of his thoughts to keep himself from feeling the pain of it. Leira had essentially replaced his sister once he moved into the barracks. She was the one reason he regretted leaving Luxz. Proto only nodded slowly to Spike's comment. She gave him a curious look, but didn't ask any questions. Instead she began to prepare the antibiotics. They sat in silence for a moment. Proto was the first to break the cycle. "Spike.. listen.. I don't know why you're helping me like this." He said in a quiet hoarse voice. Spike turned to him and smiled softly. "Well you impressed me. I just think it's a shame to let skill like yours go to waste." She said. Then she returned to mixing the medicine. Proto thought about that for a moment. It seemed that all Spike respected was one's skill at harming others. Proto suddenly respected Spike even less. He had seen enough fighting. He didn't want to see anymore. All his life all he had done was either fight, or get beat on. He was utterly sick of violence. He wanted nothing more than to run away to a secluded forest, and live peacefully. However, he knew that was a pipe dream. He knew that even if he did survive this alien intruder that was ravaging his lungs, and other internal organs he would have to fight again. Maybe it would be that last time... no it would be the last time. Win or loose Proto vowed that his confrontation with Tiberus would be the last. If he lost, it would probably be because Tiberus got the best of him. If he won. He would disappear. He would to have to say his goodbyes with the Rangers, for real this time. He knew that, and he had the feeling that they did as well. He also had the feeling that they wouldn't let him go fight his last battle alone. He couldn't allow that. Tiberus had two robots that were slightly larger than the Orion. That was only the ones he knew of. Tiberus had an uncanny ability to manufacture those metal monsters with assembly line precision. He knew in his heart it was a futile attempt, and a suicide mission. However he would rather die there trying, than here in this bed doing nothing. Spike was finished with the medicine, and she offered it to Proto. He took it willingly.
            "Oh.. so you like that stuff?" Spike asked surprised. Proto shook his head. "No.. but it makes me feel better." Spike nodded. "I knew it would." Then she patted his back again. There was another short silence. Proto looked at Spike. She was staring at him. He felt her eyes on him, and began to get uncomfortable. He knew it was now or never. "Listen.. Spike.. I have a favor to ask you." Proto said quietly. Spike sat waiting for Proto's request. She could tell he was a little uncomfortable, she rubbed his back in assurance. "Spike.. can you get me some human weapons?" Spike looked at him with an odd expression on her face. Why would he want human weapons? They're too big for him to use. What was he planning, and she could tell he was planning something. "What do you want them for?" She asked quizzically. Proto didn't give a strait answer. He wasn't entirely sure that he could trust Spike yet. It was apparent that she was infatuated with him. How evil, and sadistic it seemed he knew that he could use that to get what he needed. He was sure that Spike had some connections. She just seemed like the type that would. "I need it for something." He said. Spike nodded. She really didn't care what he needed it for. All he needed was to ask. At the moment she would slit her own wrists on his command. "Just tell me what you need..." She said softly.

            Spike was already leaving by the time Gadget emerged from the shower. She looked in on Proto to see if Spike had disturbed him. He was sleeping peacefully. His breathing seemed to be a little more clear, and he didn't cough anymore. Gadget smiled slightly and quietly shut the door. She looked at the clock, it was almost noon, and the others would be back soon, She decided to attempt to make lunch for them. They would most likely be hungry. She looked around in the cabinets and found that they were almost empty. They had been so busy lately they had entirely forgotten to restock. Maybe she should go to the market? She thought about it for a moment in her patented thinking pose, and decided it would probably be better if she waited until they came back, and they all went. They could make it a social outing. Since Foxy, and Proto would be asleep, it would be like the old days before all the commotion of six of them in one tree. So with that Gadget went back into the living room to wait for the others to return. As she had predicted they soon arrived, hungry. No sooner than they had walked in Gadget announced her proposal. "That's a great idea luv." Monty said happily. The others agreed, and The four boarded the Rangerplane, and headed toward the market. They spent the rest of the day shopping. By the time they returned Foxglove was beginning to wake from her day's sleep. After a rather large dinner Chip, and Dale fought over the TV for a while as they usually did. The screen flipped between the evening news, and the evening matinee. Gadget wasn't working on any big project at the moment so she joined them in the war over the remote. Before long everyone was involved in a huge tickle war. They rolled around on the couch for hours until Foxy pulled away from the pile, and announced that she had to stretch her wings. "You know it is getting pretty late. I guess I'll turn in for the night." Chip yawned. Monty agreed. "Yeah I could use some shut eye myself. C-mon Zipper, early to bed early to rise." With that the two went to their rooms. Dale decided to stay up and watch the late night movie like he usually did. Gadget went to her workshop to design a humidifier. She decided that they probably needed one since it was inevitable that they all would eventually catch Proto's flu. Soon the tree was quiet.
            Proto had been lying awake since the others had began their wrestling. He was waiting for them to go to sleep. More time passed, and all that would be heard was the faint whisper of the TV, and the occasional laughter from Dale. Proto was sure that he wouldn't even notice him sneak out. With that thought in mind Proto crept out of bed, and pulled his vest on. Dale didn't even notice when the door opened. Proto was very good at being quiet when he needed to. Dale was none the wiser when the front door shut. Once outside Proto stood to catch his breath. The summer air was still cool, but not cold. The scent of newly bloomed flowers was refreshing. Proto gulped in the air as if he had been under water for a long period of time. Just the short walk from Gadget's room to the front door had taken almost all of his energy. On the other hand Proto was certain that if it were not for Spike's medicine he would not be among the living this night. It wasn't long before Spike was there as they had planned. "You know you're still very sick you should be wearing more than that vest, some socks at least." She said. Proto dismissed the comment. "Did you get what I asked for?" He asked still out of breath. Spike nodded. "You know I busted my skull trying to get this stuff. What do you want it for anyway?" She asked. Proto didn't answer. "Where is it?" He asked. Spike turned around. "Climb on I'll take you there." She said. Proto gave her a strange look. "You don't expect me to ride on your back? Do you?" Spike turned around and looked at him. "Well I sure as hell know I'm not letting you walk." She snapped. Proto gave her a look that seemed to say, "you're strange.". She sighed, and grabbed Proto. "Hey, let me go what are you doing?" He stammered as Spike threw him over her shoulder. She hadn't carried him two steps when she turned to see Foxglove with her wings on her hips. "Where do you think you're going?" Proto looked up. "Spike put me down..." He said with a fed up tone of voice. Spike put him down gently with a sigh. "Proto what's going on, you should be in bed." Proto looked down. "Foxy..Uhm.. It's OK.. I'm fine.. I just have to do something." Foxglove gave him an annoyed look. "You need to be in bed." She snapped. Proto looked down. "Listen Foxy.. just hear me out OK?" Foxy stands waiting thinking to herself "This better be good.".
            Proto began to explain. "Foxglove.. Do you remember the giant robot that we fought when I first met the Rangers?" Foxy nodded. Proto continued. "OK.. well the same person that made that robot gave me this infection. He knew that it would make me suffer before I finally died from it." Foxy gasp. She had heard that some one gave him the flue, but she thought it was just a figure of speech. She didn't know that it was intentional. Proto nodded. "Not only that.. but he has two more robots, bigger than the first one, and he's making more. I not only have a burning desire for revenge, but I know what he plans to do. I have to stop him." Foxglove stood taking all this in. "But why don't you tell the others you know they will help you." She asked. Proto looked at her. "I know.. that's why I don't tell them. You see.. this is my revenge. I can't forgive myself if I let some one help me. Beside that.. I might not be the victor, and I wouldn't want you to watch that." He shrugged. "If I am the victor.. I wouldn't want you to watch that either." Foxy looked down. She knew he was right. Proto had to do this himself. She was scared to watch this happen. She really didn't want to go. She knew that either Proto, or the mad scientist would die. She hated the idea of that, and didn't know what to think about it. She knew about Proto's past, but didn't consider him a murderer because that wasn't his fault. But this, this was different. This was conscious. Proto knew what he was doing, and either because of hatred, or some other reason he didn't care. Foxy didn't know if she could forgive him for that. The thought of it scared her. The idea that Proto could do something like this without regret.
            "But.. how can you do it? How will you live with yourself?" She asked. Proto shook his head. "I really don't know.. I just have to accept that there's no other way. I'm not going to chase him, and keep him from causing trouble until he dies of old age. I can't. I don't care if you think I'm a monster, or a murderer, it doesn't matter. I'm leaving after this is over." Proto said. Foxglove looked down. She felt horrible. How could things go so wrong? Just as soon as she made a new friend he would leave. She had a feeling Gadget would be pretty sad too. Proto broke Foxglove from her thoughts. "Foxy.. please don't tell anyone..." He paused. "And don't think of me like that.. don't think of me as a cold blooded killer.. just.. remember me as a friend." Proto wiped a tear away. He didn't want to do what he was about to do. He knew that he had to. He looked down. He didn't want Foxglove to see him crying. Spike was standing away from the two trying not to hear what they were talking about. Proto was shocked when Foxy hugged him. "No matter what you do you'll always be my friend." She said. She too had teary eyes. "And I'm not going to tell anyone. I guess you just need to end it." She said quietly as she pulled away. Proto didn't look up at her. He was too embarrassed. "Dale in watching TV. You two should spend more time together." Proto said. Foxglove nodded. "I know.. She said as she walked inside and shut the door. Proto looked over at Spike. "Come on.. I have a lot of work to do."
            Spike lead Proto to the same abandoned metal refinery. Then up to the same room where they had fought. There was a small cardboard box in the corner on a radio flyer wagon. Spike pulled it over. "You owe me big time. you don't know how hard it was for me to get this stuff, I'm talking about human military issue explosives here. A gram could blow the door off a refrigerator." Spike gloated proudly at her superior connections in the underground trade market. "What is it, and how much did you get?" Proto asked. Spike reached into the box and pulled out a cubic inch of a substance that looked like gray putty, or clay. "It's called C-4, and I got a pound of it." She bragged gleefully. "A smile spread across Proto's face. If it was as powerful as Spike said it was a pound would be more than enough. he nodded. "How is it detonated. Fire? or electric triggers?" He asked. Spike shrugged. "I think they use electricity.." She shrugged. Proto nodded. "What else do you have?" He asked. Once again Spike was beaming with pride. "22.caliber hollow point mercury tipped bullets, six of them, two foot of cannon fuse, and a bunch of these things." She held up something that looked like a small watch face. Proto took one and examined it. Then he looked up at her. "Do you know what these are?" He asked excited. Spike shrugged. "Old watch parts?" She offered. Proto shook his head. He had spent quite some time over the winter reading, and studying this planet's weapon technology. He knew exactly what these were, and he knew that only professionals used them. "These are mercury triggers." He exclaimed. Spike shrugged. "They came with the C-4." The grin across Proto's face stretched to it's limit. Even though they were to him a little bulky he could use them. He sat the trigger he was holding down. "OK how are the ammunition detonated?" Spike thought for a moment. "Well..guns have a firing pin." She explained. Proto sighed. "How primitive, I suppose they still use solid state propellant too..." He muttered. "You mean gun powder?" Spike asked. Proto nodded annoyed.
            All of a sudden Proto became dizzy. He almost fell had Spike not been there to catch him. She sat him down, and tried to feed him some air. "You still need a few more days worth of rest. I should get you some more medicine." She said. Proto nodded. he knew that if he wasn't in his peak health he couldn't stand a change against Tiberus' sentinels. Spike went to turn up the heat. It was then that Proto noticed that Strype wasn't there. Spike came back with her mortar and pestle, and some more of the ingredients to her medicine. "Where is that other lizard." He asked. Spike looked down. "I promised him that if I ever lost a fight, regardless of what the circumstances he could go free." She seemed a little sad. There was a short silence, and Spike sighed. " beat me." She said quietly, then went back to mixing the antibiotics. In a way it was sad. Even though Spike was often cruel to Strype she cared for him none the less, she just had a bad way of showing it. On the other hand he finally had his freedom. Spike Finished the medicine, and gave it to Proto. Then she helped him to her heat rock. it wasn't very soft, but it was warm, and that helped. Proto didn't realize just how tired he was. He had gotten so caught up in the event that he used up all his energy, and didn't even know it. He fell asleep before his head touched the heat rock. In a troubled sleep dreams came. Dreams, and memories he didn't want to see again. All of a sudden he found himself back in Leira's apartment. He could hear the distinct sound of the shower running. He looked around and noticed that something was different about the flat. It didn't seem like Leira was living there. It was too clean. There were no clothes lying around, or empty beverage containers.
            All of a sudden the sound the water running stopped. There was a moment's pause, and the bathroom door opened. Proto's eyes widened when he saw Gadget emerge from the shower with a towel wrapped around herself, and in the process of wrapping another around her head. "Oh.. Hi Proto." She addressed him with her usual cheerfulness. "I haven't seen you for a while. You didn't know I moved in with Leira did you?" She began. Proto shook his head. "I've got to be dreaming." He muttered. "Probably so." Gadget shrugged on her way to the closet. She shut the door, and Proto heard some movement. He looked around confused. "Spike.. what did you give me?" He questioned himself. No sooner than Gadget had entered the walk in closet she returned. However she was not wearing her usual lavender overalls. Instead it was a tight fitting lavender body suite, one like Leira would wear. Proto blinked, and his jaw dropped. "Y..Y..You can't wear that..." He stammered Gadget gave him a funny look. "Why not? I really like the color." She said with her usual innocence. Proto shook his head. "Because.. that's something Leira would wear... and you're not a flirt, and a tease like Leira is." He said quietly hoping that Gadget wouldn't hear most of what he said. Gadget only laughed. Proto looked at the door, wondering if he could escape from this madly twisted vision of two worlds before he totally lost all respect for Gadget. Even though it was all a dream he knew he could never look at Gadget in the same way after seeing her in Leira's signature overly tight neoprene body suit. No sooner than he turned his head the door opened. Leira waltzed in. She was apparently coming back from work. She still had her uniform on. "Oh.. I see you're ready to go." She addressed Gadget, who only nodded. Leira smiled and entered the closed, and returned the second she closed the door in a black body suit similar to the one Gadget was wearing. The difference was Leira's had an oval section removed that revealed her belly, and it was low cut in the front, and had another oval cut out in the back. It barely covered the necessary areas. This in itself didn't surprise Proto too much He was used to Leira's taste in garments, however it was what Gadget was wearing, no matter how less revealing it was in comparison to Leira's apparel that shocked him. The only thing he could manage was "Where are you going?" Leira gave a smile, and Gadget answered. "Leira is taking me to a place called the Last Ride Out." Gadget announced gleefully. Proto's jaw dropped open in shock. "Leira! What is wrong with you! You can't take her there!" He scolded. Leira shrugged. "So.. we used to go all the time.. don't you rememberer? We would dance all night, and then not show up for work the next morning." Leira said lost in her fond memories. Proto shook his head and turned his attention to Gadget. "Gadget,, what's gotten into you? You would never act like this.... you're acting like....Leira." He snapped. Gadget only shrugged. "What's wrong with that?" She asked. Proto gave a heavy hearted sigh, wishing this dream would end. No sooner had the sigh escaped his throat he felt some one shaking him. "Proto.. Proto wake up... It's time for your medicine.."

            Monty and Chip were the first ones up. They both seemed to be in a cheerful mood, and went about their usual daily routine. Chip watched the morning news, while Monty whistled a tune from the kitchen while making breakfast. Dale was sleeping in, as he usually did after a night of cheep horror movies. Foxglove dragged herself in later than usual this morning. Chip didn't seem to notice, however when Gadget came from her workshop, and ran into Foxy who was making her way to her room, she got suspicious. "Hey..Foxglove.. You're up kind of late aren't you?" She asked concerned. Foxglove sighed. "Oh.. I just couldn't sleep, that's all." She said in a quiet voice. "Well..Nothing is wrong is it? I mean you and Dale aren't fighting are you?" Gadget asked concerned. Foxy shook her head. "No I'm just a little worried about Proto" She said not realizing that she had slipped. "Oh.. Yeah.. I should go check in on him.." Gadget said, and began past Foxy. "Wait!" Foxglove almost shouted as she grabbed Gadget's arm. Gadget turned around. "What's wrong Foxglove?" She asked. Foxy thought for a second. She had made a promise not to tell anyone Proto had left, probably for good this time, but she couldn't lie to Gadget. "Maybe I should check on him this time.. You still need your rest." Foxy offered. Gadget gave her an odd look. She could tell that there was something that Foxglove wasn't telling her. " that's OK.. I'll do it." Gadget said a little more eager to check on Proto now. Foxy stepped in front of the door to Gadget's room. "I don't think you should go in there." She said a little frightened. Gadget was looking at Foxy somewhat annoyed now. "Is there something you're not telling me Foxglove?" Gadget said in an unusually stern voice. Foxglove broke down crying. She knew they would find out eventually, and they would be mad at her for not telling them. "So what was the use in trying to hide an elephant under a tablecloth." She sighed. Gadget gave her a confused look. "Foxglove what are you talking about?" She asked. Foxglove sniffled a little and looked down embarrassed as she spoke. "Proto's gone.. He left with that lizard last night.. I think he's going after that robot guy." She said in a quiet quivering voice. Gadget's eyes widened. "What? Proto's Gone?" She asked in disbelief. She pushed Foxy out of the way, unusually rough for her usual demeanor, and jerked open the door to her room. There her bed lay empty. Gadget then turned to Foxglove, who looked utterly, and completely hurt. "Why didn't you tell me? How could you let him go as sick as he is?" She asked in a tone that was just as unlike her as her pushing Foxglove out of her way. Foxy's eyes began to tear. She has never felt more hurt, and guilty in her life. She couldn't help what had happened. She knew, and so did Gadget, that when Proto wants to go... he goes. Weather that means sneaking his way out, or forcing his way out. "He made me promise not to tell anyone." Foxglove sniffled. Gadget sighed now realizing how harsh she had been. "Oh..Foxy.. I'm sorry.. I just worry that's all. I worry about all of you, but sometimes promises are like rules. They're made to be broken." she tried to comfort putting a hand on Foxy's shoulder. She felt ashamed for blowing up the way she had. By now everyone was up, and asking questions. She was so wrapped up in the moment that she didn't even notice them. Chip had asked if Proto mentioned where he was going for the third time, and was finally head. Foxglove turned to him wiping her eyes. "He said that he had to go stop that robot guy from making more robots.." She sniffled. Chip groaned. "Oh.. Boy.. here we go again."
            "Yeah who knows what kind of trouble he'll get into this time." Dale added. "The poor kid's liable to get himself maimed this time." Monty noted. There was a short silence, they all looked to Gadget as if waiting for the final word. What she said shocked, and surprised them all. "I think we should just let him go this time.." She said with a heavy heart, her voice almost bitter. "After all.. he does deserve to get even after all Tiberus has put him through." She began to search for reasons to let Proto go his own way. "I don't think he'll ever learn to work in a group." She took a deep breath and sighed. "On top of that.. you know the saying.. If you love something let it go...." There was a dead silence. "Now wait, that's not what I mean, I'm just saying.. we should give him the choice instead of dragging him back against his will." Gadget explained trying to dispell the thought she had unintentionally conjured in their minds. "You know.. I think Gadget's right. Sometimes a guy just has to find his own way." Monty commented. They had to agree. They had done all they could for Proto, now it was up to him to decide what to do with his life. They couldn't keep dragging him back if he didn't want to stay. On top of that who knows what sort of risks they would be taking in the process, and it would be in vain if Proto refused to return. "So what do we do now?" Dale asked. There was a short pause. "I guess we just go on with our lives." Chip suggested. Gadget agreed. "Yeah, we can't just mope around forever, waiting for Proto to come back, What if he doesn't?" They all nodded. She had a very good point. They both had to just move on, and let life take it's course. Gadget brushed past Foxglove, and shut the door to her room before any more could be said on the subject. She didn't want to think. She always thought about things. She tumbled them over and over in her head until they made since, but this time she didn't want to. The more she thought about it the more it hurt. She began to change her bed hoping the work would keep her mind busy. Granted she was no stranger to loss. Her past could be summed up in the loss of her father, and how that changed her. She could barely remember how she was then, and how she had changed now. She was changed by Proto, somehow. The most obvious was how his grim atmosphere made her want to help him be happy. Somehow that renewed her will to help others, and do everything she could to help better the lives of those around her. Maybe those few times she saw him smile reminded her how good it feels to help those who are the most in need of help. She didn't know what it would accomplish by letting him go. She hoped that he didn't feel that they had abandoned him. She just felt that he wanted it this way. He had been fighting to have his own way, and be able to find his own reason since they had taken him in. Maybe that was why there was so much friction. All the other Rangers knew their place. Proto didn't, and in his questioning his own place the others began to question theirs as well. Sometimes things like that did tend to have a chain reaction effect. Even Gadget found herself asking, "Why am I really here? Is there some larger reason that we were all put here in the same place?" Once she understood the uncertainty that Proto felt she realized how hard it was for him to carry on. Everyone else knew their duties, and expected him to file right into place as easily as they had. Proto couldn't do that. He had to find a good enough reason just to get out of bed in the morning. Gadget caught herself thinking about the very thing she was trying to avoid. She just couldn't help worrying knowing that in time the Rangers would be back to normal, with or without Proto, and that only leaves a veil of mystery about his future.
            Gadget didn't notice the knocking at the door until after the fourth knock. "Who is it?" She asked hoping that the quivering her voice wasn't too obvious. It was only then that Gadget realized that she had been crying. Foxglove's voice was almost too quiet to hear. "Gadget? You're not mad at me are you?" She asked. Gadget sighed. "No Foxy.. I'm not mad.. I just have a lot of things on my mind that's all." She answered. There was a short silence. "Well... Can I come in?" Foxy asked with a shy tone in her voice. Gadget thought about it. She knew what Foxglove wanted to talk about, and she knew that where was no way she could avoid it. In a way she was glad she had someone to relate to, but there were times when she just didn't want to talk. None the less she sighed, and opened the door. Foxglove stepped in slowly. She still wasn't sure Gadget wasn't mad at her. Gadget shut the door behind her, and sat down on the bed. She patted the space beside her. "Come on, what's on your mind?" She asked though she had a feeling that she wasn't going to want to talk about it, at least not right now. However she felt that she had to make up to Foxy for being mean to her a while ago, and decided that it would be best to talk for a while.
            Foxy sat on the bed beside Gadget, there was a short silence, neither one of them knew how to start. After maybe a minute Foxy said quietly. "i know i should have told know none of could have stopped him." Gadget blinked. That in itself made more sense than anything she had ever heard Foxglove say. They couldnt've stopped him with anything short of tieing him down to the bed, and of course Spike would have come and let him loose. Gadget nodded. "I know.. I didn't mean to yell at you, i was just mad." They gave each other a big forgiveness hug. Then again there was a another short silence. Foxy had something she was itching to ask, for quite some time now, but never could bring up the courage. She decided that the only way was to just ask. She took a deep breath, knowing that what she was about to ask was going to be difficult both for her, and Gadget, but the burning curiosity inside her was taring her apart, she had to know. "Gadget... are you in love with Proto?" She asked quietly, then withdrew waiting for the upcoming chaos. Gadget laughed. "No silly.. I don't love Proto any more than i love Chip, or even Dale. I love all of you the same. You're all great friends." Foxy gave a small sigh of relief having not been yelled at. However she was still curious as to why Gadget seemed to worry about Proto more than the others. She had to ask, even now having Gadget's answer she felt that she was hiding something. "Well.. why do you seem to worry about Proto more then?" Foxy asked with a little more confidence now. Gadget seemed to think about that for a moment. She had been paying Proto more attention than the others since she met him. She hadn't noticed it, and maybe it was because even she didn't yet see him as a member of the Rangers, and instead still another charity case in need of help, so possibly subconsciously she still thought he needed her help. After careful thought she gave her answer. "I think it's because he needs more attention than the others do. I don't mean to be mean, but he can't seem to keep his nose out of trouble, and every time i turn my back he's either hurt, sick, lost, or risking his life for who knows what reason. I don't really want to talk bad about him behind his back, and i don't really know if i should say it, but he doesn't really seem to be capable of taking care of himself." Gadget said just falling short of a rant. Foxy took in what Gadget had said, and as usual it made sense. Proto just couldn't keep himself out of trouble,a and when it didn't find him he went looking for it. It was almost as if he couldn't stand to exist without some sort of conflict. Foxy didn't know how his life was on Luxz, other than it was said to be really bad, maybe he had gotten so used to fighting for his life he feels like if he doesn't some one is going to take it away. Foxglove didn't have the answer, she knew that she never would.
            There was another silence. Gadget took the time to think, and reflect back. After all they had done to help Proto, they couldn't change him. That affected her the most. She knew that as the law of life stated adapt and overcome, or perish. She was afraid that Proto would come to a point in his life where he would have to choose, and wouldn't know how to change. That was what scared her the most, knowing that after all they had done for him, they still couldn't help him. It would be the only case that they couldn't solve. Even the vivid imagery she saw in the dream was a fading memory. Trying to remember even the most stunning points in the incident were little more than a haze. Maybe those memories just weren't hers to have, and something, what ever forces that be, was taking the memories from her. She for some reason found it saddening that she couldn't remember the few things that helped her understand Proto. Foxy's voice seemed to shake Gadget from her trance. "Gadget... Gadget...." Foxy shook her, and she snapped back to the real world. "Sorry.. i guess i kind of got lost in another world there." Gadget gave a weak smile, if only Foxglove knew how true what she had just said was. "Do you think We'll ever see Proto again?" Foxy asked intently. Gadget gave a confident smile. "If there's anything i know about Proto, it's that he's a natural born fighter. If there's a breath left in him, he'll find his way back. I'm sure one day we'll see him again." She said with a smile. Foxy nodded, some how she knew that Gadget was right.

            Proto was surprised as how quickly he was recovering. It was mostly due to Spike's help. For that he was grateful, but knew that he had no choice but to leave, and never see her again. He wasn't sure how she would deal with that, but felt secure than in time she would look back at her infatuation and realize that it was just a crush. At least that was what Proto had hoped. So strange how much Spike was lie Leira, and yet in no way was she Leira. He had laid there on the heat stone thinking since she had woke him up to take the bitter, horrid tasting medicine. Something about Spike told him that the way she was acting toward him was nothing more than a phase she was going through. Something told him that the cold hearted Spike he had seen before was the true Spike. Maybe he was wrong, but Spike seemed to enjoy the power that being able to force others into submission via physical force had given her. She seemed to have given up that side of her. Proto wasn't buying it. She could not give that part of herself up , and more than he could give up his wild side. In time she would tire of him, and they would end up fighting again. Leira was quite the opposite. Her tough girl image was a front to keep her from being taken advantage of. In truth she was the most caring, and loving person Proto had ever known. Even Gadget seemed cold compared to Leira when she was in an affectionate mood. Sometimes Proto was surprised at how quickly her mood could change. In a moment's notice she could be a savage killer, and then after she did what she had to do, she was as gentile as a kitten. All of Proto's fond memories of Luxz had come from being with Leira, and if he had ever known love, and what it's like to truly belong it was with his partner. Now there was no way they would ever see each other again and that thought ripped him apart inside, an emotional wound as painful as being eviscerated on jagged razor wire. For a moment he wondered if he would ever find someone that was even close to Leira. Sadly it wasn't Gadget, though Proto felt deeply for her, and would probably die for her as quickly as he would for Leira, he knew that it wasn't love. It was rather a great respect, and friendship. Proto had never searched for love, and never even realized that he had it. Unfortunately some things are like that. You never understand just how much you enjoy having them until they're gone, and you know that nothing will replace them. He was sure Leira was just as distraught about this as he was, especially knowing that he was framed and not being able to do anything.
            Proto gave a sigh. This was how it was going to be. For the rest of his life he would have to live with the thought of how happy he could have been. All of a sudden life didn't seem to be worth it anymore. Still however in the back of his mind he knew that if he didn't stop that mad man Tiberus, he would eventually exact his insane vision of global domination. Proto knew that he was the only one that could stop him, or at least he was the only one that knew what to expect. He sat up. It was time to prepare for the task ahead of him. First he would have to plan. Even as his work kept his physical body busy, his thoughts were a storm of memories, and regrets. Everything the rangers had done for him, and this was how he repaid them? He couldn't stand to think of how they must feel. They haven't even come looking for him. He knew this because this would be the first place that they would look, and yet he had not seen nor heard of them. Something told him that they had grown tired of bailing him out of the trouble he got himself into, and why wouldn't they? He had done nothing but made trouble for them since he had met them. Proto gave a sigh, and tried to concentrate on his work, but it was no use. Fortunately he had done this type of work so often on Luxz his hands seemed to work on their own as if on their own command. This left his mind to once again wander, exactly what he wanted to avoid. He finally noticed that Spike had turned on her radio, Jimi Hendrix was singing "Hey Joe". Proto looked around him, and realized that every thing was like a dream. He wished it was. He wished that he would wake up soon, and be back in Gadget's bed. He wished that he would wake up and find himself still aching from the beating Orion had given him. If he knew then what he knew now he would do things differently, much differently. He decided that while he was wishing he might as well wish he would wake up, and roll over to see Leira smiling at him. She would then say in a devilish voice, "Let's stay home, and listen to music, I don't feel like going my tummy is cramped up.". This time he would nod, and say, "OK, that's cool with me.", then roll over and go back to sleep. He would worry about thinking up an excuse for not going to work later. Proto wiped a tear feeling like something was breaking his insides apart. His stomach hurt, and his vision was blurry from tears. He was beginning to hate the thought of what he had to do. He hated it because it was the end. When it was all said, and done he would have nowhere to go. He couldn't bring himself to go back to the rangers even though he knew they would welcome him. That hurt him most, knowing that no matter how stupid he had been, and how selfish, and rotten they would forgive him. It hurt him to think that he could be so cold to just walk away without even saying goodbye. He wished that he could see Gadget again, and tell her that he was sorry, and that he didn't mean to be so cold toward them. He wanted her to know that everything was his fault, and if it wasn't he didn't mind if they blamed him. He wanted to go back to the way things were, now more than ever he wished that he had that familiar shiny scaled shoulder to cry on.
            Proto felt something behind him, and turned to see Spike. She had kneeled down, and was rubbing his back. Proto couldn't bring himself to say anything. Seeing Spike like that brought a flood of memories into his head that he couldn't hold in any longer. For the first time in years he completely broke down, and began to sob like a child. Spike patted his back. "I don't know what you're going through in your mind little mouse, must really hurt bad...." She said quietly. Proto couldn't say anything. "I knew when i first way you, you weren't like those other mammals. I could tell you were tempered with hardship." Spike looked down. "Like me." There was a long moment when Spike was quiet as if building up the courage to speak. Finally she said what was on her mind, and when she did it came in a disordered flood. "I used to live with a human, named Lucas, and i loved him, he gave me rose petals to eat, and fruit." She paused. "I know i don't love you, and i don't know when I'll stop liking you, but i know i will, but I'll never stop respecting you." She rubbed Proto's back again. "Everybody hurts. I hurt a lot when Lucas died. He was hit by another human piloting a car." She wiped her eyes. "His parents gave me to a little boy, that hurt me, and that's when i began to be mean, I remember the first time i bit him. He threw me out th window. That's where it began. I guess i just have feelings for you because you impressed me with the one thing that impressed me about Lucas. I learned everything i knew from him, and then he was gone. I saw his strength in you, but you're not him, and that's why i can't love you, no matter how much i try, because my heart is for my master." She sniffled loudly, and wiped her eyes. "No one else can replace him, so that's why i have to be lonely until i go to meet him up in the sky like my sister Lazy did when she accidentally fell out the top window. One day we'll all be together again.." By now Spike was a burbling mess of tears, just as much as Proto was. He looked up at her, and didn't have to saw anything they both knew they understood each other. "I don't know who you lost Proto, but if this makes some of the hurting go away I'll help you every way i can, because i think we've both done enough hurting for one life time." Proto could only nod. Then Spike picked him up, and carried him back to the heat stone, and laid him down. They both had seemed to gain control of their emotions by now, and Spike who was able enough to function padded off to make Proto more medicine.
            Proto hadn't understood her before, he figured that she had come here from a freight ship from south America. He didn't know how she had gotten into fighting for her dinner. He didn't know exactly what it meant to be a human's pet, but based on how Gadget had explained it, Proto understood why Spike had ended up like she had. She had no other skills other than what she had learned from watching her human, and had no choice but to use that skill to survive. He knew better that some that life was hard all around, and it was either do what it takes to live, or....the only alternative. Maybe he was more like Spike than he wanted to admit, only circumstance had pushed her in the direction of a life of crime when it had pushed him into the direction of the life of stopping crime. Maybe if Spike were given the choices he had she would be the Leira of the earth world. Maybe if Proto had not been given the choices he had he would still be at his father's house cowering in the corner after a beating. Life, he decided was a lot like a gamble. The outcome was half chance, and half how well you play the hand you're given. Change one card, and you change the entire outcome. Maybe chance has more control over your life than you do, after all you can only deal with what fate deals to you after it's dealt. In that respect you have to wait to see what you have to work with before you get to work. Proto hated the thought of being at the mercy of fate. He liked to think that he got where he was because he worked his fingers to the bones to get there, not because fate gave him a chance, and he took it. Even so he couldn't get the aspect of "what if?" out of his mind. What if he had been born on earth, what if his father wasn't an abusive drunk. What if Spike's human didn't die, what if spike was never a pet? What if fate wasn't chance, what if it wasn't random, and rather a well planned direction. Would that mean that some of us were just born with no choice but to live one way, or another. That would explain why every time certain people got a break something would happen, and they would be at the start again. He had tried everything he could to avoid being an officer, but it seemed like that was all he could be. Maybe if Spike's human didn't die something else would have happened to ensure that she turned out like she had.
            Proto got fed up with the idea. If it were like that then there was no point in even trying to live. You were at the mercy of some higher force than seemed to enjoy playing with our lives like a child plays with toy soldiers, letting his favorite live, while the others are killed off in interesting ways. Proto folded his arms behind his head. Spike was back with his medicine. She gave it to him in silence, and Proto could feel that when they looked at one another they shared an understanding that was unique to them. He knew that only Spike had an understanding of his pain close to what Leira did. He also felt that Spike knew that he understood her pain too. That formed a bond that no one could break. Though they did not love each other, and probably wouldn't always be friends they would always understand. The medicine made Proto sleepy, and he curled up at one end of the heat stone, and went to sleep. He knew that he would soon have to face his destiny, what ever that may be.
            With each day Proto felt stronger, and he knew with each breath took he was close to possibly taking his last. Finally on the fifth day of the week Proto raised his head, and took a deep breath, as he let it out he sighed, "I'm ready.". Proto looked up and saw the sun setting, He had slept all day. Now he was as rested as he could ever be, ready as he could ever be. He slowly pulled himself up from the heat stone. Spike wasn't at the other end napping like she normally was. There was a tension in the air that gave one the feeling of an ominous cloud looming overhead. Proto knew what that feeling was. He had felt it every time he woke up on Luxz. That weight that seemed to concentrate itself in the pit of your stomach, and work it's way down your legs, was fear. Only a fool would wake up to the task at hand and not have fear. That fear was what told Proto that he still had some shred of sanity left in him. He had often began to wonder. Now it seemed as if he was ready to back down, then he thought back. This fight hadn't began here on Earth, it hadn't began on Luxz. This ever going conflict between those who are good, and those who are evil had began when time had began. This was just one skirmish in the battle, which was only a small part of the universal war between good and evil. Proto had never thought about it before, he had never seen it this way. He always thought everything was so personal, but now he realized that he was no more unique than any other who fights for good. Tiberus was no different than any other greedy, black hearted evil monster that anyone else had fought. Maybe what they say is true. Time does flow like a river, and history does repeat itself.
            Proto began gathering the weapons he had made to aid him on this suicide mission. He didn't really care if they worked. All through the time of his preparation he had a grim dread of this moment. How that it had arrived that dread had doubled. He kept asking himself, "Why does it have to be me to rid the world of this? Why can't i just run away?" He sighed, knowing why. It was because there was a time to run, and a time to fight. A wise man runs when it is time to run, but only a coward runs when it's time to fight. Proto knew that it was both time to fight, and that he was no coward. He always knew that if he didn't do this eventually someone would come along that would, but how long would that take, and why should the innocent have to suffer until then? He would be lying to both himself, and everyone else he knew if he said that this wasn't mostly personal. Proto admitted being wrong all those years back on Luxz. He also knew that maybe even if Tiberus was fighting for freedom, even if it was his twisted version of it, then that was the right cause, but there is a way to do the right thing the wrong way. Tiberus may have freed the people of Luxz, but how many would die in the process? He may free the people, but at what cost to him? Proto had a feeling that Tiberus wasn't concerned with money, at least not in the way the greedy rich Council was. All Tiberus wanted was the funds, and facilities to do what his heart only wanted to do, and that is bring life from that which is not alive. He only wanted to build his children in peace, and solitude. Give him that and like a babe with a sugarplum he would be pacified. Maybe after some warring he could accomplish this, but then what of the people? They would be taxed to support his needs, and live in fear of the wrath of Tiberus' robots should they not pay their homages. That would be just as tyrannic as the rich using the poor so they may get fatter. Granted there would be no more rich, only poor. Change on Luxz was greatly needed, but if the change was not for the better of the planet as a whole, then all those who would die trying to bring about the change would have given themselves in vain.
            Proto felt that he was trying to stop the change. He was thwarting Tiberus before he gained a foot hold so that he could not change the lives of others for the worse. Tiberus was a disease, and if he wasn't cured than even in his death those who followed his demented vision would carry on his legacy, and in that Tiberus was immortal, unless he was stopped here before he found disciples to carry on his dream. That was what Proto was doing this warm clear night, he was changing the future before it happened. He sighed slowly making his way down the stairs. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." He said quietly to himself. He reached the opening that Spike came in and out of. She was waiting for him. Something told her that this was going to be the day, and this was going to be the last she would see of Proto. Proto stopped and waited knowing that Spike would want to say her good byes. They looked at one another for a moment. There was a silence, and in that silence they somehow understood what they had to say to one another. Spike nodded, and stepped out of the way of the bent in corner of the door. Proto quietly walked out a few steps and was stopped by Spike's voice. He turned around, and she was standing in the doorway. "Be careful..." She said quietly, then turned and walked back into the darkness of the steel refinery before Proto could even nod. Proto closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. "This is it... time to pay the fiddler." He said quietly to himself, and turned walking down the road toward the city.

            The Rescue Rangers were preparing for the upcoming meteor shower. They had made plans to all go out away from the city lights and watch it. It was scheduled to start tonight, and carry through the weekend. Gadget wanted to catch the entire storm. The Rangerplane bobbed through the night sky, every Ranger silent. They had hoped that this would be a joyous event, and that they could get back on the road to getting their lives back to normal. It didn't seem to work that way though. Every time Gadget looked up into the night sky she thought of that little white mouse that had come from it. At times she was almost too choked up trying to hold back the tears to fly the Rangerplane. It was more than apparent that the others had picked up on this, and hadn't said anything. At the moment the night was getting out to a bad start. Even now they could see a streak shoot across the black velvety sky every once and a while. Gadget couldn't help thinking how much Proto would have liked to see this. He had been completely awed by the beauty of the night sky since he had come here, and an event like this would be the high point in his life to him. Even the others seemed a little grim. None the less they set down on a hill overlooking the city, and deflated the balloon. Before long the stillness of the night sky began to be disrupted by frequent streaks of white light. Gadget sighed somewhat becoming lost in the starting shower. Gadget had a strange feeling that this night had something special to it. She didn't know why, but it seemed that there was more to this night than it being the first night of the meteor shower.

            Proto had finally reached the city. He was tired, more than he hoped he would be, but he knew that he had a lot of energy stored up, and would make it. The streets were quiet. It seemed like everyone in the city had suddenly left. He didn't really notice, or care, he was only grateful that there were no cars. He knew that he could take a shortcut through the subway, and use the air vents to get to the abandoned tunnel that Tiberus was using as his hiding place. He then knew that it would be Armageddon as soon as he was spotted, so he decided that it would be best if he took out as many sentinels as he could while they were docked. Once he arrived at the subway station he found the stairs to be harder to navigate than he had thought, and even after he had made his way down multiple flights of stairs which were not mouse friendly he found another obstacle. He had no idea how to get up to the vent, and even then the vent holes were too small for him to climb into. He stood on the bottom step looking up at the vent grate wondering how he can overcome the dilemma. Of course he could always blow it open, but then he would probably need one more explosive, and not have it. With that he decided that he would have to explore other possibilities. He thought for a moment rubbing his chin then he noticed it. there was a small maintenance cart with a wench on the front. If he could find a way to use that he could both pull the grate off, and climb up the winch cord... but how to get the hook onto the grate? he thought for a moment, and knew that he couldn't throw it that far, and probably couldn't find a pole light, and line enough to guide it up to the grate. He thought for a moment and finally came to the conclusion that he would have to find a lower air vent. With that he hopped off of the final step and walked toward the rails hoping to find a lower vent shaft. He stood up to the edge of the subway platform looking down into the chasm that the rails were in. in the distance he could hear the sound of air blowing through a vent.
Proto looked farther down the platform and saw a set of steps leading down for the subway workers. He decided that he should try to fallow the sound and made his way to the stairs. The sound wasn't far off, Proto ran along the track making his way toward the sound. Closer, and closer he noticed that it was the perfect vent, but then to his horror he heard the loud decibels of an arriving train. Proto picked up his pace knowing that if he wasn't in the safety of the vent by the time the train passed the vortex it created would suck him under the wheels and make hamburger out of him. Closer both the vent and the train. They seemed to be at a neck and neck race with Proto as the trophy. Proto began to run at full pace sizing up the holes in the grate ready to dive through as soon as he came into range. Finally just as the train roared by Proto leapt through the vents rolling to the side against the wall feeling the pull of the train tearing at his hair, and vest. After a few moments the train was past and thus safe for Proto to carry on. With that he jogged through the inky black darkness using his ears to guide him. In the far distance he could hear a minute sound. It was the sound of a machine. Maybe it was a human machine, but maybe it wasn't. He had no other choice than to fallow it, and see where it takes him. After a long journey of twists and turns Proto found himself overlooking the same familiar tunnel that he had been in before. It was dark, save for the track lightning that Tiberus had made from stolen human light fixtures. He could see two large figures docked, and another carrying something. He took a deep breath, and muttered to himself, "This is what we've waited for.. this is it boys.. this is war..", as he quietly slipped through the over sized vent grate.
            This was the moment that he had waited for since he first learned that Tiberus was her with him on the same planet. This was the final conflict. He would make sure of that. He watched the third sentinel as it carried some scrap metal toward the other two robots who were at the loading bay. Proto's eyes were just now starting to get used to the low light, and he could see that there was something strange about the loading pylons. They were built in the side of the tunnel, but that section of the tunnel was made of fresher bricks than the rest of the wall. Something was hidden in the wall of that tunnel. Finally the third sentinel was in place. Proto pulled three explosives from his vest, and pushed them together. The soft putty like explosive compound stuck together. He knew that the sentinels would spot him. They had numerous eye like sensors that included heat, motion, light, and color video cameras. They also had very acute sound sensors. Proto would have one chance to make this shot, if he didn't make it he would be dead. Slowly he began to creep up within throwing range of the three docked giants. inch by inch step by step. At any moment one of them could swivel around at the hip, it's red glowing heat eye flashing, and it's camera eye zooming in to identify that he was the enemy, then.. Proto would have no chance. Fortunately one of them did not turn around. Proto came with in range and lobbed the deadly package as hard as he might. It landed in the middle of the three, and the timer activated. Proto dove into the darkness hoping to find security from the blast. Moments later there was a loud crack that rumbled the entire tunnel. Proto felt the debris of rock, mud, and metal falling all around him. He rolled onto his back. He looked up in time to roll out of the way of a huge sharp sheet of metal that aimed to decapitate him. The deadly rain seemed to fall for minutes, as Proto ran for cover under the pylons who had a sizable section blasted off. The bodies of three robots lay, each greatly mangled. They struggled with what usable limbs they had to stand, though two of them only had one working leg, the other had none. With in little time the light of their head eye flickered, and went out. None of the three moved any longer. Proto heard Tiberus scrambling out and up the stairs calling to his children. What had gone wrong? What was happening? he questioned hysterically at his two remaining Orion style robots came running back from patrol. Proto readied another bomb. He would have to time his throw just right. He set the timer for three seconds.
            The first robot was getting closer. It ran with bounding steps it's arms stinging back and fourth. Each step it took made the walls shiver slightly, and sent up a splatter of muck from the slime coated floor. Proto raised his hand and pressed the activation button, ready to throw his only weapon against the huge machine. "One more step.." He muttered as the Titan loomed closer. Then just at it put one foot down and began to raise the other Proto hurled the gray bundle at the ground in front of the sentinel. Just as it's foot stepped down the explosive detonated. There was a ball of flame, and loud rumble. The black smoke mixed with red flame rolled it's way up the robot's body throwing it back. It gave a metallic groan of metal stressing, and fell onto it's back with one less leg, and most of it's hip section mangled beyond repair. Proto could hear Tiberus giving groans of despair from above. The last sentinel didn't have time to react, and tripped over the first's broken lifeless body. It fell crashing face first into the mud sending up a deluge of mire, and slop. Proto readied his last bomb, and threw it with all his might. It struck home sticking to the top of the sentinel's round body. Proto set the timer for fifteen seconds this time, and he ran. The sentinel spotted him instantly, and took up chase. Proto dove quickly down under a pile of soft muck just as the perusing robot reached the platforms, and exploded. There was a loud thud that rang like someone hitting a metal pipeline with a hammer, and the robot fell into the docking pylons tearing all but a few unsteady stairs down as it crashed into them. It hit the coated floor splashing sludge in it's wake sparks, and flame boiling out from the inside of it's body cavity. There was a massive hole in the top of it's head, and one could peer inside and see the inner workings as they slowed and stopped.....forever. Proto leapt up from the mud, and ran toward the platforms seeing the distraught Tiberus fleeing in cowardice for his life. Proto stopped for a moment. "Where is he going to go? He has nowhere left to run." He laughed. This had worked better than he had planned. Maybe he would get out of this without getting hurt this time. He made his way up the wreckage of the pylons navigating the broken stairs, and followed where he had seen Tiberus flee. He followed a series of now twisted platforms that lead into an air vent, That vent had some track lighting, and was sealed off in certain areas to provide a single hall that lead through what seemed like miles of twists and turns. Finally it opened into a large vault. What was hidden in that vault made Proto's jaw drop open. There were more platforms, and girders. They surrounded a large object, possibly the size of a small apartment building. It's surface looked like rough porous lava rock. In various places you could see the glint of dull gray metal. there were just enough lights to see that it's shape was asymmetrical, and almost egg shaped. It was bristling with weapons, and cannons. This was something Proto never dreamed that Tiberus could have gotten possession of. Proto stood looking at the single force that both ended all the wars, and completely destroyed Luxz. This was the greatest war machine ever constructed. It was the Battleship Armageddon, a weapon that struck fear in the hearts old enough to remember their grandfathers telling the storied their grandfathers told them of the fleet of god-like battleships slowly cruising over the planet's surface destroying everything that moved. There was only a small handful in existence. It was said that they were dismantled to use in production of the city. Where had Tiberus gotten this one? Now that Proto knew that Tiberus had this, he wasn't so eager to chase him anymore, especially if it meant going in that thing. Now he knew how he was producing those robots. That battleship had the workshop with all the tools necessary to manufacture an entire army of those dreaded things. Proto felt a lump rising in his throat. He had always thought that those were just a myth, it was like a modern man staring down a mythical dragon, after being told they were mere fantasy. All of a sudden there was a rush of air from the belly of the ship. It was taking off!
            Proto swallowed hard, and swallowed a few more times. There was no way he could survive the defense systems held with in the deadly halls of that iron monster. Yet he knew he had no choice, if he didn't stop that thing from taking off, it could completely level the city. It seemed like an exaggeration, but you must think five of them completely stripped Luxz of all it's life, save those who survived the fatal war. Without thinking Proto began to run up the platforms to the slowly closing bay door. He didn't know what he was doing, nor what he was going to do. Now his training, and his sense of duty had taken over. He was scared, but he didn't think, he acted. Just as the hatch slammed shut Proto dove through inches before he would have been severed in two. Once inside he found himself in an air lock. There was a few seconds before the second set of doors opened revealing a large cargo bay. It had the room of a stripped out sedan, which to someone the size of Proto would have been like an empty warehouse. There were freshly machined parts laying in organized piles. There looked to be enough parts to build at least a hundred Orion type robots. Proto looked around cautiously hiding behind the larger parts. He didn't know what to expect. He looked around. The ship had the typical Luxz design it was cold, and sterile, almost like a hospital. It's walls were polished steel, the had a brushed effect. There was a dark green, almost pea green stripe along the top and bottom portion of the walls. Suddenly there was a loud voice over some internal intercom device. It was Tiberus.
            "Welcome to my parlor said the spider to the fly." He cackled joyously. He seemed to be having a good laugh at the fact that he had lead Proto to his doom. Proto wasn't laughing. "You son of a bitch! What did you plan on doing with this?" Proto shouted enraged. Tiberus chuckled evilly. "What do you think? I'm going to bring this planet to it's knees." There was another round of laughter. "I had wanted to wait, and see if i could do it in a more.... civil manner...but.. Since I've seen that you're somewhat of the cockroach, that i can never get rid of... I'm going to have to destroy everything you love while you watch through the porthole of the very god that is throwing down the deadly lightning." Proto was so mad he wanted to strangle Tiberus with his own hands. "You're a monster, no.. more than a monster, you're a demon from hell!" Proto growled. Tiberus cackled happily. "Well.. it seems you've got me there. I am a demon from hell... in fact I'm Satan himself!" He laughed loudly. Tiberus' arrogance made Proto want to vomit. Suddenly the ship lurched forward, and Proto could see it breaking away from the platforms that surrounded it out a large tinted port to his left. It pushed right through the brick wall like it were made of rice paper. Tiberus' voice once again offended the silence. "Unfortunately i have to give the ship's weapon battery one Luxz hour to charge before i can fire the main gun. That gives you two hours, thirty four minutes, and twelve, make that eleven seconds to find me, and stop me." Tiberus laughed again. "Yes.. i am toying with you! After all there's nothing left for either of us in life anyway. I know I'm going to die... so i might as well give you a sporting chance to kill me." There was an alarm klaxon and a message came over the loudspeaker. It was a computer generated female voice. It of course spoke in Luxz, which translated said. "All crew to be cautioned. Zero gravity sequence to be activated in ten minutes countdown begins at end of transmission." Then all was silent. Proto cursed to himself. He would have to make his way through this flying death fortress in little more than two hours. That was barely enough time to find the armory vault and arm himself. He didn't have time to loose, so with that thought he began to run toward the far end of the cargo bay. There he thought he saw an opening.

            The rangers sat out on the hill laying in their backs looking up at the stars. Now there was a pretty often streak through the night sky. Undoubtedly being the start of the shower they could expect more of a show tomorrow night. However this was more than they had expected the first night. Granted it was nothing spectacular, but they were satisfied with the feeling of friendship being there together watching the night sky gave them. Even if they were somewhat melancholy. Gadget had finally pulled herself together, she still felt her eyes tear every once and a while but, she managed to suppress the feelings of loss. She envied Foxy, who had Dale to confide in for support. She knew that Chip would always be more than happy to hug her, and tell her everything was going to be OK like Dale did Foxy, but that wasn't all Gadget wanted. She didn't just want to be told everything was OK, She wanted to know everything was OK, and that was something that she couldn't have. She pulled the blanket she had brought closer to her cheeks. She couldn't explain why she felt so alone. For the moment she didn't have time to think. She felt a slight rumbling under her, that got heavier, and louder. Gadget wasn't the only one to feel it, soon everyone was on their feet looking around and asking questions. "What is that?" Chip asked excitedly. "Why i haven't felt a shutter like that since i got ran down by that stampede of zebra..." Monty never finished. "Look!" Dale exclaimed pointing off in the distance. There was a large eruption of bubbles off in the lake at the bottom of the hill. Something very large was surfacing. "What is that!" Foxy stammered as they all watched the huge black shadow emerge, then rise above the water's rippling surface. It had a few lights on it, mainly on it's bottom which were upon closer inspection boosters, and not lights. The dark object continued to rise into the night sky until it was little more than a close series of lights, then stopped just above the city. "What is that thing?" Dale asked, knowing no one had the answer. All of a sudden Gadget gasp. "Proto!" The other rangers turned with a collective "huh?" Gadget turned to look at them. "It has to be... I mean that thing has to be a ship from Luxz, which means it has to belong to Tiberus, you remember Proto saying Tiberus came here in his own ship? That has to be him, and Proto must be on the ship with him." They all looked at her with blank faces not understanding her reasoning, which was common place. "Who can you tell that Luv?" Monty asked. Gadget shrugged. "Well I'm guessing, but i know that Proto must have gone to find Tiberus, and if that ship belongs to Tiberus than either Proto is on it or..." Gadget fell silent. Chip patted her back. None of them knew what to say. She was right, Proto was either alive of not. If he was on that ship he was probably going to be "not" pretty soon. Gadget couldn't help herself, She began to cry. The others tried to comfort her the best she could. They all felt like they had truly lost their friend at that moment. They hadn't known Proto long, but he was so...colorful that they soon found themselves attached to him. Now they knew, and they were really sure this time, that he wasn't coming back. Monty gave Gadget one more pat on the back. "Come on Luv.. Let's call it a night. Gadget nodded sniffling a bit, and Monty lead her back to the plane with an arm on her shoulder. Chip opted to drive, and they all sadly climbed into the plane.

            Proto found himself in what appeared to be the main room of that section of the Armageddon. It was a round room with a map console in the center. It was old technology, but he was sure he could crack the access locks, and get the information he needed. He had taken too much time to find this room. He would have to get through the access locks fast, he didn't know if he could. He began to open the Map manager, when he heard Tiberus' voice once again ruin the peaceful silence. "Oh? you want maps... no.. that won't work." Then at that moment the map console shut down. "Next time you try to cheat you'll be working in the dark." He laughed and then again dead silence. Proto cussed, and kicked the console. He was beginning to hate himself for caring enough to go through all this trouble, and probably for nothing. He sighed and randomly picked one of the five exits, and carried on. The hall went straight for a while and turned left. Then there were a series of doors. They were all locked, not that it mattered, they were just basic bunk rooms. Proto sighed and kept going. There had to be an ordinance room around here somewhere. Then just as he rounded his second right he heard that metallic, Luxzan voice. "Zero gravity in 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...Thank you, please remember to wear your magnetic boots at all times during zero gravity sequences, have a nice day." It's politeness seemed like a mockery to Proto who was now floating dizzily trying to get a grip on the smooth walls enough to move. He knew it was programmed to be PC, but it really seemed to be laughing at him right now. Proto bounced from wall to wall, and made two more left turns, and was greeted by a long hallway. He hated being weightless more than anything. He hated it more than flying. He floated about barely moving knowing Tiberus did this to slow him down, and waste Proto's precious little time. Finally he managed to flip himself upside down, and use the over head track lights to crawl along. At first he began to get dizzy and feel like he was going to vomit. He had to close his eyes, and remember his training. He could still hear Leira's voice in his head. "Come one Wil, there's nothing to it. Just remember, when you're weightless there is no up or down, only what you feel is down because your feet are in that direction." Proto opened his eyes and looked down at the track lighting. All of a sudden it looked like it was on the floor to him, he had convinced his brain that he was right side up now, and the dizziness subsided.
            After Proto got over the initial shock of being once again in zero-g after so long he began to function properly. he actually made pretty good time crawling along the ceiling pulling himself along on the light fixtures. Soon he was in the mess hall. Now that he wasn't in an empty hall it was harder to imagine himself being right side up, especially now that above his head were tables and chairs that reminded him that he was upside down clinging to the ceiling. He pushed himself off, and flipped over landing on the floor. He quickly grabbed a table to keep himself from bouncing back up. He was getting madder, and madder each moment. Suddenly he looked up, and something caught his eye. It was a map. There was a map hung in the mess hall. Quickly almost like a thirsty man who had been crawling through the desert would go for water, Proto pulled himself over to the map. A big grin swept across his face. He was only two halls over from the weapon room. With great zest Proto ripped the plasticy sheet of material off the wall, and folded it up, tucking it into his vest. Then he began pulling himself along again this time with a renewed vigor. Soon he was at the door to the weapon room. He then felt suddenly distraught. How was he to get in? He didn't know the pass code, and if he tried to tamper with it Tiberus would surely permanently seal the door if he hadn't already. Suddenly he saw something float by. Proto focused in on it and was shocked. It was one more bomb that he must have forgotten. He didn't know how or why luck shined on him like it did, but this time he was sure that someone on the higher level was looking out for him. He pressed the clay like explosive into the door, and set the timer for thirty seconds. Then he quickly began rushing to the first corner. Just as he rounded the turn there was a muffled bang, and fire shot across the open doorway and into the wall, some of it bounced onward but Proto was able to get out of the way in time to receive little more than a few singed hairs. Then he began scrambling back to the door. A second of two later Tiberus' shocked voice came over the loud speaker. "What are you doing? That's cheating! Now I'm really going to have to punish you!." Suddenly the lights shut out, and only the faint red emergency lights provided any visual aid. Then an alarm sounded. Proto didn't have time to wait and see what that meant. He had work to do.
            He found the weapon room full of useful goodies. The first thing he found was a pair of magnet boots, and put them on. "That's better." He said as she slid on a second armor vest, and helmet which was equipped with a night vision visor. "Tiberus, you just dug your own grave." Proto muttered as he shouldered a pulse rifle. Just as he raised the weapon he heard something in the doorway, and ducked in time to miss getting his by a small metal disc spinning at ballistic velocities. There in the doorway was a small robot. It was simple design, no arms, and only one eye. It had a pair of short chicken like legs, and a slot just under the eye to fire it's razor edged discs from. It fired another as Proto dove behind a rack of weapons. The small orb didn't look very hostile, and was actually somewhat comical as it bound around, but it was none the less deadly. Proto slid into another room to evade the small guard, and waited for it to round the corner his rifle ready. As he predicted the little ball gave chase, and rounded the corner greeted by hot plasma which tore a hole straight through it sending it hurling back through the weightless environment. It looked like something underwater floating back bouncing off of the weapon racks. Proto made a note to be more cautious next time. He looked around to see what room he was in, and yet another grin stretched across his face. He was in the explosive room. There were many explosives here most were "X" shaped black plastic devices with a key pad, and number screen. They also had a shoulder strap. Proto slung four over each shoulder, and decided to finish this. Upon exiting the room he was fired at by two more of the little pods. He ducked behind some armor racks, and returned fire. There was a short fire fight, then Proto shot down a rack of weapons that incapacitated the two orbs. He then finished them off to make sure they didn't get up, and give chase. When he made his way out into the hall he was shot at from both directions. He heard the discs whistle by one grazing his left shoulder. He gave a squeaking gasp, and ducked back into the room gripping his shoulder. He looked at the wound, not deep, but enough to slow him. He quickly took a defensive position and picked off three more pods as they entered the room. Proto ripped a spare vest , and dressed his shoulder. He knew he couldn't stay here. They would only keep coming until he was overwhelmed. It was best he got on the move before they found his position. "This isn't going to work. I don't have time to stay here, and after all, Leira said it best. I can hurt tomorrow, I'll have plenty of time to hurt tomorrow." With that Proto jumped up, and ran for the door laying down a sheet of cover fire.
            Proto was hit again in the leg as he turned a corner. He was lucky it was just a nick, but that taught him to be careful around the turns. Tiberus' voice again came to break the silence. This time he sounded a little scared. "What are you doing little outcast? What are you planning on doing? Even if you kill me you'll never get out alive! We'll both die here!" He raged. Proto was silent for a moment. "So be it." He muttered, and carried on. Proto Was getting too close for Tiberus' comfort. He wasn't even close to Tiberus' location, but he was close to something that scared him more. The Armageddon ran off of one main fusion reactor. Proto had a long reputation for blowing things up. Tiberus had the growing fear that Proto was going to sacrifice his own life and set a bomb on the reactor. Tiberus could only imagine how true his fears were. Proto had already given up on getting out of this death trap, but he was determined that it would only have two victims.

            Chip flew the Rangerplane toward home with a solemn attitude. He could hear Gadget still broken up about the situation. There were a few more theories that had come to light as they flew. They were sure that the huge space ship was capable of doing damage to the city. They also knew that they could not stop it. The ship was in the upper atmosphere. Even if the Rangerplane could fly that high, which it couldn't they would need special breathing apparatus, and warm clothes to survive in the thinning air. Furthermore they were sure there was absolutely no way in if they did reach it. On top of that once they were in they would be helpless. They had no prior knowledge of Luxzan technology, they couldn't read what ever alphabetic system they used, and the ship probably had guards. Chip bit his lip to keep from letting a swear slip out. He hated being this helpless knowing the city was at danger. Chip felt a little jealous, but he knew in his heart that Gadget would be just as torn up if it were him in that death trap in the sky, maybe even more so knowing that he unlike Proto had no idea what to expect, and wouldn't know how to survive in that kind of environment. At least Proto had a chance. He hated the idea that the city was about to be destroyed, and not have the power to do anything at all. He had always wanted to do the right thing, he always wanted to stop the wrong thing from being done. This, which was about to happen was terribly wrong, and he was able to do nothing. That ripped him apart inside more than anyone could know. He wanted to jump up and yell it out, he wanted to scream and cuss being furious at his powerlessness. He hated every second of that flight home. Even once they were back at the tree they all stood out on the front landing and watched. Every once and a while the dark speck in the night sky would shimmer. It was almost too small to see, and only noticeable because the light patterns were not like those of stars. Suddenly Chip felt something touch his shoulder, and he turned to see Dale. They just looked at one another for a few moments, then both turned squinting trying to see the small dot in the sky which seemed to be moving into a position over the city. Finally Dale spoke. "What do you think is going to happen Chip?" She said quietly, as if asking Chip for brotherly support. "I don't know Dale.. I really don't know. Let's just hope Gadget's guesses are true, and Proto's up there pulling for us." Chip said reassuringly patting Dale on the back.

            Proto was soon to reach the main reactor when the thought occurred to him. He couldn't destroy the ship, at least not like that. His plan was to time the bombs to go off after he was in an escape pod, and safely away from the explosion. He just realized that the ship was full of fuel crystals. Element 115, very potent explosive. The shockwave alone would rip the tiny pod apart. He knew he was running out of time. He would have to revise his plan, quick. He turned a corner confronted by another troupe of bots. These were more tricky, and fired then bound behind the corner. Proto was getting tired of those little spheres. He was forced into a duck, and fire style shoot out, and slowly managed to pick them off one by one. He had to find a safe place to think, somewhere those little hoppers couldn't chase him. Unfortunately there was no such place, so he would have to think up another plan of action on the run. He knew that if he delayed the explosion any longer than he needed the discharge of stored energy for the weapon batteries would make a bigger bang. If the ship was too low when it exploded it would be like dropping a bomb on the city. All the thinking was giving him a head ache. He could delay the explosion maybe thirty more seconds, that would give him maybe one hundred or more feet of extra free fall. However the shockwave would catch up with him slamming him into the ground at a speed, and velocity he wasn't sure the escape pod was designed to handle. Proto shook his head, knowing that he had maybe forty five minutes left. "I'll just have to take the chance." He muttered as he turned down another corridor. There he was confronted with a larger robot. It was similar in design to the little spheres, however it had arms, and a head that was like a rounded square that was stretched out, and curved to fit the shape of the body. He hadn't noticed the lack of the little bots lately. Now he took a few steps back. Tiberus was toying with him again. This was probably another marionette like the Orion types were. Proto shouldered his gun, and aimed. Before he could take a shot, the robot seemed to brace itself widening it's stance. Then with quick draw speed an auto cannon snapped from a port on the machine's back, and fired leaving a trail of pot marks and sparks that lead up between Proto's feet. He leapt aside in time to miss being cut in two as the stream of flack sprayed past him. The Robot stopped firing, and waited as if it wasn't intending to kill Proto, but only delay him. Proto spun around the corner, and reloaded a plasma cell into the rifle. He took a few breaths, and turned back out into the alley firing. The bursts of white hot energy hit the robot, and seemed to be absorbed just before they hit it's metal body. Then the droid returned with another burst of cannon fire. Proto barely jumped back behind the bend before the full metal jacketed, Teflon coated projectiles mangled the section of wall beside him. "Son of a urg.." He refrained from using another curse word. The robot had a magnetic plasma shield. These were why plasma did not completely make solid projectiles obsolete. Plasma projectiles were essentially a small star contained in a magnetic field. This magnetic field kept the plasma from cooling, and dispersing. Plasma is an unstable element, and if not contained will rapidly cool and evaporate. A plasma shield disrupted that magnetic field around the plasma ball causing it to melt. Proto stomped the floor a few times. His weapon was completely useless against that bot. He knew he should have carried more than one weapon. All of a sudden Proto's thoughts were cut off by a sharp whistle that zinged by his ear. He turned to see one of the little bots who was still taking pop shots at him. Then he got an idea. Proto dodged aside just as a spinning metal disc cut into the wall where he was, and took a snapshot at the little balls' leg. The plasma seemed to burst as it struck the little pod's right leg, cutting it off at the knee. The ball fell onto it's side, spitting discs spinning across the floor. Proto leaped over it, and grabbed it making sure to keep it's business end aimed away from him. The distraught little robot was still spewing those metal blades like no tomorrow as Proto leapt back into the hall aiming the little bot's disc fire directly at the larger bot. The discs struck their mark cutting deep into the exterior of the larger robot. The discs speckled it's chest, and head. Disoriented, and falling it frantically fired it's Vulcan gun. Proto leapt back around the corner as he threw the smaller pod into the stream of ammo that was specking the walls, and ceiling. Soon there was a loud explosion that sent fire and shrapnel down both ends of the hall. When the smoke cleared only Proto remained.
            The reactor room was only seconds away, and Proto had waisted too much time on the larger robotic guard. He cursed himself for that. Finally reaching the room He heard the voice of Tiberus. He had a feeling that it would be the last time. "You have done better than I had hoped you would. You're good at using your head." There was a pause. Proto wondered why Tiberus was being so friendly. He assumed he would soon find out. "If it is fate for me to die here, than i accept it. I would rather die here than alone in my deathbed. But i swear on my name, and this black poisonous blood that flows in my veins that you will not leave this ship alive!" Then everything went silent. Proto could hear empty escape pods beginning to jettison. A lump of fear rose in his throat. How would he get out? He didn't have time to think. Maybe if he could set the bombs fast enough he could find an escape pod that hasn't been ejected yet. Proto looked up at the reactor. It wasn't anything spectacular, or advanced looking. Just a large metal column rising up from a cross shaped console on the floor. Proto quickly went about setting timers, and once he was finished he rushed out so eagerly to find an open escape pod he overlooked that he had left his only weapon laying on the floor beside the reactor console. Running as fast as he could turning down blind hallways looking for an open door. There in the distance he could see one last open pod room. Just before he reached he was stopped in his tracks as four large robots like the one he had fought earlier stepped out in front of him from two intersections on each side of the hall.

            The rangers had been watching the speck in the sky for quite some time now. They were beginning to wonder if it was going to do anything at all. The suspense of waiting for it to make a noticeable move was leaving them all in edge. Foxy scratched her head, and muttered. "I wonder what's taking it so long? I thought it was going to blow up the city or something." They all gave her a strange look. Monty backed her up. "You know Foxy's right 'ere we are waitin' for the thing to do something, and it's just sittin' there." He shrugged. "That's good!" Gadget blurted. It's not like we're waiting for a firework....." She was cut off as the small speck of blue light turned red orange, and grew in size about ten times. Then it shrunk back in on itself until it was the size it originally was. At that moment it burst fragmenting out like a huge flower made of fire, and brimstone. A round blue shockwave spread out from it disappearing after a short while. Then the sky was left with only small traces of falling debris still on fire. "Show..." Gadget finished quietly. Then they heard a muffled pop as the sound finally caught up with them. They all grew silent. Had Proto gotten out? Was he even on the ship in the first place? They all had about a hundred questions to ask themselves, and knew that there were no sure answers. The city was saved. What little fragments did fall burned up before they reached the ground. The Rangers stood watching until the last speck of fire twinkled out. They were all in somewhat of a shock. They had no way to be sure if Proto was alive or dead. Not knowing was worse than knowing. If they were sure than at least they would be able to mourn, and then go on with life. Now they would have to spend the rest of their days wondering. That was something none of them wanted. With a few sighs they slowly walked back inside. Gadget went straight to her room, and Chip sat down to see what the news had to say about tonight's events.
            The voice of the news anchor was the only sound in the entire tree. "Though multiple eye witness sightings of the strange lights in the sky authorities deny all allegations of the lights being related to, or from so called aliens from outer space. They explain the strange and unusual phenomenon as just an abnormally large meteor that exploded when entering earth's atmosphere from trapped gassed held inside the rock." The news anchor then looked to her partner who commented. "Well....looks like a job for X-Com.." He gave a slight chuckle but no one else seemed to see the humor in his personal joke. Chip turned off the news, and sighed. He never thought Proto was really that brave, or unselfish. He always believed that everything he did was because he would benefit from it. Now that he had the strong feeling that Proto sacrificed his life for a city that really didn't want him he felt somewhat proud to have known him. Chip rubbed his eyes, and decided to try to get some sleep though he knew that would be impossible. Even if he didn't want it to life would move on without Proto, and there would still be another tomorrow who would provide yet another adventure.

            The next morning Chip woke to the smell of Monty making acorn pancakes as he was known to do. He yawned, and sat down in front of the TV for the news. It was the same old story about the lights, and explosion in the sky. The whole city was buzzing with rumors of extraterrestrials, and little green men. If only they know they were really little white mice. Not long after the others were up, and they ate breakfast in mostly silence. A few words were passed around, greetings and the such, not much more than that. The day was not an active one. Gadget stayed in the garage working on the Rangerskate, and tuning up the Rangerplane. Dale watched Saturday cartoons, and Chip took the time to finish that book he had been reading. Monty cooked. They all had a way of coping with a loss. None of them really thought much, that was what they were trying to avoid. They didn't go out and watch the star fall that night either. They didn't want to have anything to do with anything that would remind them of space, and in turn remind them of their friend who was from space. They all went to bed early and stared at the ceilings for hours alone with their thoughts before sleep finally released them. Chip was the first up the next morning. He didn't feel like watching the news, he knew what would be on. Instead he went to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and finished it outside on the front landing overlooking the park. He didn't bother to close the door behind him. He almost jumped when he heard Gadget's unexpected voice from behind. He turned to see her standing in the doorway. "Uhm..Hi.." She said a little shyly. Chip returned the greeting with the same shyness. "Do you really think..." Gadget began. "Oh.. I'm sure that if there was a way he could have gotten out he did." Chip said hoping to comfort her. Gadget nodded. "Yeah i guess you're right." She said as she reached back to close the door. As she grabbed the door knob she felt something crackle in her hand. She turned around and saw a note hung on the outside door knob. She looked at it a little confused and pulled it off. "What's that?" Chip asked taking a few steps closer. "humm...It looks like a note." Gadget replied. " it." Chip said getting excited at the aspect of another case to break the monotony. Gadget nodded, and began to read.

            "I suppose my stay here has been like a good book. One you know you can't put down but you hate to see end. You get so caught up in the adventure that when it's over you feel like something inside you has died. You know you have to read that last page though, the story wouldn't be complete without it. If you could you could hear me give that signature chuckle. No i haven't written my last page yet. This is only a chapter in the book that is my life. I'm not sure if you, The Rescue Rangers will make another guest appearance in one of my upcoming chapters. I can say however of all those I've written so far....ours was the best...the was everything. I must say good bye. I know that it isn't right to leave it like this. I would love nothing more than to give my goodbyes in person. However should i attempt that.. i would not make them. So great the temptation to stay i would not be able to resist. We both have out own lives to lead, our own dreams to fallow. Thank you Rangers, especially you Gadget Hackwrench for giving me a new dream.


Gadget wiped a tear from her eye, and sniffled a little. Chip approached her, and she looked up. "Wait there's more." She said. "PS Tonight is the last night of the meteor shower, I hope we'll be watching the same night sky." With that Gadget put her hand down from the reading position, and let the note fall from her hand. She was smiling, though her eyes had a hint of tears. "He's OK.." She said quietly. Chip Smiled. "Yeah.. I didn't think he would give up on life that easily." Gadget nodded. "Should we go tell the Others?" Chip began to answer. Gadget shook her head. "No not yet.. Let them sleep they deserve it." She put an arm around Chips shoulder, and just stared off at the streaks glittering across the sky.

            Proto sat on the levee watching the lights of the city sparkle off of the water like a thousand jewels. The multicolored lights of the city contrasting with the bright white dots of light in the sky. Proto looked all about him, and at every turn he saw something sparkling, or shimmering. He looked up, and could see the moon, full as if looking down watching over him. He smiled taking in a content breath. He heard the radio from some far off fisherman's boat. He listened closer. Lewis Armstrong was singing. "What a wonderful world." Proto sat up, and looked again at the city lights as they sparkled, and then back at the stars, at they glittered. He smiled to himself, and said. "You're right human......What a wonderful world..."

The End

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