Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers

"Soul Searching, part I"

Written by Michael Demcio

Characters herein are © Walt Disney corporation. Distribute freely, but do not modify.

Once upon a midnight dreary,...while I pondered, weak and weary.....

Soul Searching

By Michael Demcio

Part I: Touch and Go.

     It was close to midday when Gadget poked her head out from under
the console of the Rangerwing to see that the fog was finally
beginning to burn off. Having rolled in from the bay in the wee hours
of the morning, shortly after she had woken up, the heavy mist had
completely enveloped the park. So incredibly thick the fog had proven
to be, even the view of the tree nearest to their own had been
blocked off. Having stepped outside once during that time to get a
breath of fresh air, she'd refrained from doing so again. Only a few
moments time in the dense moisture and she was nearly soaked to the
skin under her fur in a little over a minute, creating a chill in her
body that lingered there. Changing into a spare set of coveralls and
drying her hair, she continued her work in silence. Pausing from her
repairs and tinkerings only to grab a clean rag every now and then,
she'd worked through the night and the morning, the sometimes visible
swirling tendrils of vapor outside and her thoughts as her only
     She was not able to sleep much that night, though as to why, she
really didn't know. Nothing was troubling her and no disturbing
dreams had brought her back to wakefulness. So to have woken after
only two hours of blissful sleep and not being able to slip back into
unconsciousness was an event that was more than just a little
frustrating to her. She'd awakened shortly after 12:30, and after a
long bout of tossing and turning, she finally sighed in resignation
and made her way to her workshop. <Might as well get some things done
if I'm staying awake anyway,> she thought to herself, a bit grumpily
at her plight. As it turned out, she was able to get quite a *number*
of "somethings" done during that time, getting a good deal ahead of
herself in her own long list of projects, which at least had
alleviated her frustration. Inventing and tinkering always helped to
cure a bad mood, she normally found. A curious thought kept tickling
in the back of her mind though, as to when some form of fatigue would
begin to settle in. After all, with yesterday having involved a very
long, wild and frantically-paced case which left them all exhausted,
she thought without a doubt that upon going to bed, she would sleep
like a baby mouseling. 
     Still not feeling anything akin to drowsiness or
muddleheadedness that would insinuate dreamland's calling her to
visit, she checked her final adjustments to the Rangerwing's control
panel and stood up in the cockpit. Withdrawing the heavily oil
stained and grime smeared rag from her back pocket and cleaning off
what she could of her hands upon it, she descended from the
Rangerwing. Leaving the adjoining hangar and entering her workshop,
grabbing a fresh rag from a nearby box while tossing the used one
into a "laundry" pile in the corner, she made her way to her
worktable. There, leaning upon the table, she paused to look over a
set of blueprints anchored there before her. The schematics were for
a new helicopter that she was due to build. Having taken on the
project as a pro bono commission for the S.A.M.A.R.I.T.A.N.S.,* they
had turned to her as this was a vehicle that they had need of
immediately. Being renowned as she was throughout the entire bay area
for the most reliable, as well as the quickest made inventions, it
was really little wonder why.
     In addition though, even though she was glad to help out the
"Sams" as the work they did was so commendable in her view, this
project was a special treat. As this was due to be a completely new
helicopter design she had come up with for their specific needs of
rescue and treatment of medical emergencies, she was eager to get
started on it. New invention ideas normally had her *itching* to get
her hands dirty on them. However, as the hull of the craft still
needed to be forged and shaped, there was nothing else she could do
at the moment. She'd already obtained all the other necessary parts,
and wasn't due to meet with some of the other "Sams'" until tomorrow.
It was then when she and Monterey were to help two of their strongest
members bring the needed metal to a nearby blast furnace to forge it,
with which the construction would then begin in earnest. Losing
herself in the beauty of the design she had created for a moment,
dwelling upon how many animal lives would be saved by this new
vehicle, Gadget thrilled to a warm feeling of pride as well as a
shiver of excitement as well, tingled through her fur. Checking back
her anticipation then, lest it distract her from the other projects
she still wanted to get done, she reached over to gently roll up the
plans for the helicopter. Placing them to one side of the worktable,
another sheet of architect's paper was exposed underneath. This sheet
however, was completely blank. 

     Taking a small, whittled down golf course pencil in hand, and
nibbling upon the tip of it thoughtfully for a few seconds, she began
to jot down a few numbers upon the paper, from some quick
calculations she had just done in her mind. This set of plans was
destined to be for an additional double sized room, due to be cut out
of the interior of the tree in another few days or so. As Tammy was
now spending more and more of her time with the Rescue Rangers,
helping them out on cases, it looked as though they might soon be
bringing in a new member full time. Beyond that though, as she
herself had her workshop, she felt it only fair that Foxglove as well
should have someplace where she could practice her craft as well. For
this, the room would double, on one side as a bedroom to the young
bat and teenage squirrel, were Tammy to move in with them, and upon
the other as a workshop in which Foxglove would have sufficient room
to practice her magic. Enough space was needed as well in the plans
to accommodate all her books, potions and other tools, Gadget
reminded herself, jotting it down on the plans. As Foxglove had
already been living with Tammy and her family in Chinatown for the
past number of months, having them room together would not present
any sort of unforseen problem that she could guess. She was all too
happy to share her room with Foxglove as she was doing now, but with
all of the various items that she used in her witchcraft, the room
was more than a bit cluttered and unwieldy. An addition such as this
would certainly help matters. <Now to take a few measurements
and-*huh?*> Gadget began, beginning to turn toward where she kept her
tape measure, before abruptly stopping in her tracks. Upon the other
side of the work table, as she had not bound it, a portion of the
blueprint for the "Sams'" new helicopter had unrolled as she had been
looking down, revealing a curious sight. "Golly," she stated to
herself as she picked the plans up in her hands to study them closer.
"I don't remember drawing *this* in here." 
     Situated within the schematics for the motor for the chopper, a
new detail had been added, one that she had somehow overlooked upon
glancing over the plans moments before. The addition was not
significant, it was simply an oval of sorts, forming something
similar to two elongated parenthesis that had been connected at each
end. <That's because I *didn't* draw this in here,> she realized with
certainty. <Chip probably did it, but golly, I wonder why?> As Chip
often worked alongside her, helping her in the workshop, even more so
than Zipper did, he was the most logical choice. Even so though, he
had never altered any of her blueprints in anyway unless he asked her
about it beforehand or if she was dictating the change for him to
make. He always respected her place as head of technical matters in
the team and was always respectful of the fact that this was *her*
workshop. So for him to make an alteration on one of her blueprints
was a bit out of character for him. Moreover though, the alteration
didn't make any sense. The change was just a simple outline, with no
notes to explain it, or arrows to associate it to anything else. From
its shape, it didn't appear to be anything that she could recognize
that would be functional to the engine in any way. It almost looked
like some sort of doodle. Yet to her mind, it didn't seem to have
been some absentminded drawing on someone's part, or an accident
caused by a slip of the pen. The shape looked too precisely drawn for
it to be that, she realized, frowning slightly as she continued to
stare at the lines.
     <Oh well,> she shrugged slightly to herself as she glanced back
to where her eraser lay on a nearby table. "I'll just erase it for
now and be sure to ask Chip and the others about it," she told
herself, making a mental note to herself to do just that. Reaching
over toward where the eraser lay on upon a shelf behind her, she took
it in hand and turned back toward the blueprint. Leaning over the
table, the eraser poised in her hand toward the altered section of
the plans, her eyes abruptly widened in surprise. Starting slightly,
she blinked hard once, and then once again, staring hard as a shocked
look instantly appeared on her face. The marks were gone. 
     "Huh?!" she exclaimed, immediately dropping the eraser to pick
the blueprints up in her hands. Her eyes narrowing, she scanned
carefully now over the entire area of the engine, and then over the
rest of the helicopter itself. Still though, the mark she had seen a
moment before was nowhere to be found. <I *know* I didn't imagine
it...did I?> she wondered. Carefully, she reached out a hand to touch
the area where she thought the alteration had been, rubbing a finger
over the section, and neither felt nor saw anything to show how the
marks had disappeared. Rubbing her eyes and looking in disbelief at
the now blank area once more, she looked up at a watch that was
hanging on the wall of her workshop. <Golly. Maybe I *have* been at
this a little long,> she mused, her mind thinking back to Monterey's
warning of a short while ago that she might need a break after having
been working for so long already. As she had been buried within the
cables and wires of the Rangerwing at the time though, she had
absentmindedly said that she would, while only half realizing that
she had said it though. She realized that the phantom drawing could
have been caused due to lack of sleep, and yet, even with all her
work, she *still* didn't feel tired enough to go to bed. 
     <Well then,> she thought to herself with a shrug, a thoughtful
look crossing her face, <maybe I can *make* myself that tired,> With
this, opening the door to her workshop, she headed off toward her
bedroom, making a quick change into a pair of shorts and a tee shirt
before making her way down to the exercise room. Although much of
what she did in her workshop could be considered a workout in itself
with the amount physical activity she exerted during her projects, in
a way, she never found her inventing or tinkering to be draining in
any way. She simply had too much fun doing it and was too immersed in
it for it to be tiring to her. On the other side of the coin though,
although exercising was fun sometimes, especially with her friends,
she *knew* it to be hard work to keep in shape, and never failed to
feel something of a drain on her energy afterwards. <It's really all
in the mind I guess,> she grinned to herself, believing that this was
just the thing she needed to help her get to sleep. 

     After a comprehensive bout of rigorous stretching, she set up
the record player that functioned as their treadmill to a comfortable
speed. Tuning the radio to some music, she positioned herself upon
the record before pulling the switch beside her which started the
turntable moving. Getting into a good rhythm, she let the music play
over her ears, humming slightly in tune to the tempo as she let her
gaze drift out the window. Outside, the fog was still continuing to
burn off, and in its wake, what looked to be a blustery, but sunny
day was beginning to take shape. Listening to the howl of the wind as
it wove its way along across the outside of the tree, watching as
birds swooped, soared, and sometime struggled against the onrushing
gale, she wondered how well the new chopper would hold up in strong
winds like this. 

     She hoped that a similarly blustery day would come along soon
upon her completing the craft, so that she could field test it under
those conditions before giving it over to the "Sams". The last thing
in the world she wanted was for one of her inventions to hurt any one
of her friends, or an innocent bystander, due to a mistake on her
part. Making a mental note in her mind to make a mark upon the
blueprints to test the machine under high winds, she turned her
attention back toward the toggle switch for the speed. Curling her
tail down and alongside her to wrap around it, she was about to pull
it to increase the speed, when she abruptly swung her gaze back to
the record beneath her feet. Drawing in a slight gasp of surprise,
she looked to find what she thought she had spotted from the corner
of her eye. The *same type* of mark that she had seemingly seen upon
the blueprints in her workshop, now appeared to be etched ever so
lightly into the vinyl of the record beneath her. Even more though,
now there were two of them, side by side. 
     Reacting slightly to this discovery, Gadget reflexively jerked
her tail upward, sending the the turntable into a higher rpm setting.
Watching wide eyed for a moment as the two faint markings disappeared
at certain points in the revolution, the lights in the room shining
upon certain parts of the record to swallow them, she was caught
unawares at the sudden change in velocity. "Whup! *Whoa!!*" she cried
as she lost her footing at the sudden new speed. Stumbling and
falling upon the record, she was whipped to the floor a short
distance away in a slingshot effect. Righting herself, and grateful
that she had not been thrown into any of the other pieces of heavy
equipment in the room, Gadget quickly sprinted back toward the record
player to shut the power off. Mounting the turntable once again, she
looked around upon the vinyl for the marks she had seen. Slowly
turning the record, she made certain that every portion was visible
to her and had cleared the streaks of light which lay upon it. Yet,
as before, the strange markings had yet again vanished. <I *know* I
saw it!> Gadget swore to herself, even attempting to recreate the
same conditions upon which she had seen the markings through running
upon the record, only to hop off a moment later and shut the power
down again. 
     Kneeling worriedly upon the surface of the player, Gadget could
only stare in disbelief at the record's surface for a few moments
before she picked her gaze up, a thoughtful expression on her face.
<Low blood sugar?> she wondered, shaking her head in bewilderment,
shrugging as her incredibly brilliant mind was at a rare loss to
explain what was going on. As she knew she wasn't terribly hungry,
not enough to start hallucinating, this explanation was more than a
bit unlikely, but at the moment, she could come up with nothing
better. She could only guess. She had gone without sleep for longer
than this during her time as a Rescue Ranger, and never before had
she started seeing things. As she knew she didn't feel ill in anyway
to account for this oddity either, the fact that she had not eaten in
almost fifteen hours was the only conclusion that came to mind.
Remaining in her tee shirt and shorts as she made her way to the
kitchen, her furrowed brow clearly communicating her continued
pondering of the situation, she prepared a small meal for herself.
Heating a cup of the leftover soup that had been left in the
refrigerator, as well as a steaming cup of hot chocolate for later,
she snagged a small hunk of cheese from a secret compartment in the
new refrigerator she had made. A compartment in which she, Chip,
Dale, Zipper and Foxglove kept a tiny private stash, safe from
Monterey's reflexive and uncontrolled eating of it. Her repast in
hand, she headed toward the living room. 
     Hitting the power for the television, Gadget quickly flipped her
way through the channels, wondering what the science channel had on
at the moment. Flicking past a certain channel though, she hurriedly
backtracked to it a moment later, as a memory clicked in her mind
about the scene which had flashed before her eyes, making her recall
just what the scene was from. <Not every day that *this* comes on,>
she thought, smiling contentedly to herself as she settled back
comfortably on the couch, curling her tail upon her leg as the
science channel was swept from her mind for the moment. <Glad I
caught it so close to the beginning.> The movie on the screen was an
old one, from the black and white era when most of the movies made
then, were made with a charm that was noticeably absent to her in
many of the movies put out in the last few decades. She remembered
first seeing the film on television with her father, many years ago
when she was but a young girl. With a very romantic atmosphere to it,
along with well defined characters and a strong story around which it
revolved, the tale had made a very vivid impression upon her. So much
so that she had committed every moment of it to her memory. An
impressive feat admittedly, as she had only seen it twice. 
     The second time she had seen it had been a few months after her
father had died. Though she had continually felt like crying upon
watching it that second time, and *had* quite violently in a few
places, remembering her viewing it the first time with him, the movie
had nonetheless comforted her in a way. The film allowed her to
capture in a way, one of the many fond moments she had spent with
him. One thing beyond her father that she centered upon with this
movie though, was the romance between the main characters within it.
Even at that young age in which she had first seen it, she had been
enraptured by the love story presented to her, sweeping her away with
fairy tale visions of meeting someone whom she would fall in love
with so happily as the characters in the movie had done. Even at that
young age, she hadn't been much of one for love stories, but this
movie had proved to be an exception somehow. Though she had barely
thought that much about that childhood memory upon her second viewing
of it, if at all, due to her still recovering from her loss, this
time was noticeably different. It was as it had been the first time.
And more. At a time in her life when she was quite happy and content,
living a life filled with meaning as a Rescue Ranger that made her
feel quite satisfied and proud, watching the story unfold, she could
barely keep from giggling aloud with a contentedly giddy joy. Smiling
brightly, her mind and heart immediately connected with the child she
had been in her past, recalling these memories to realize a wish
fulfilled. As she had envisioned so happily, she *had* fallen deeply
love with someone as completely as the two lead characters in the
movie, making her life as close to complete as she wouldn't have
imagined possible. <I wish Chip were here to watch this *with* me,>
she thought to herself, her heart going out in yearning for her
teammate as she took a quick glance at the door from the corner of
her eye. <Hope he and the others get back from the market soon.>
     For many more minutes, now having stretched herself out and
snuggled in upon the couch, Gadget continued to watch the movie in
silence, giving the screen her full attention as she slowly sipped
the soup from her mug. Absently stroking the fur upon her leg with
the motion from her tail, her ears cocked themselves over every now
and then. Swiveling, she listened as well to the occasionally strong
gusts of wind which sometimes blew with a haunting and hollow sound
around the oak tree. <I wonder if they're having any trouble with
that wind out there?> she wondered, taking another glance toward the
outside, through the windows around each side of the front door.
Turning back toward the screen once more, she grinned widely once
again, seeing as one of her favorite parts of the movie was rapidly
approaching. Leaning forward slightly with an eager anticipation, a
sudden, curious look washed over her face a moment later, replacing
the smile that had lit up her eager face. She blinked once, and then
squinted towards the screen.
<Gosh,...I guess you see something new in a movie every time you
watch it,> she shrugged to herself mentally, <I sure don't remember
about *that* from the last two times I saw this.> 
     Within a crowded tavern and eatery, the camera was focused upon
a number of tables occupied by dining couples. Seated at one of these
tables, as the camera began to move in upon them at the scene's
opening, sat the leading man and lady. Sitting fairly close to one
another, the pair were seen laughing at some unheard joke as their
voices were still indistinguishable from the chatter within the noisy
room. This though, was not what had drawn Gadget's attention. What
had, was a small movement in black. The camera had just begun to move
through the crowd and towards the couple, singling them out from
among the other patrons. It was here when something caught her eye.
Along the shadows which played upon a staircase, situated along the
wall, a number of feet in back of the couple, something now moved.
Descending two of the stairs slowly to emerge inconspicuously into
view within the scene, a cat's head and front paws now appeared.
Stopping for a moment, it turned its head toward the camera, its hind
quarters still hidden by the ceiling of the room, as it looked out
upon the people within the restaurant. Then without further ado, it
turned back to speed down the remaining steps, its presence barely
visible within the shadows. Rounding the edge of the staircase in a
blur, it was instantly lost from view behind the edge of the nearest
table. <Huh. I guess I was too fixed upon the characters last time to
notice,> she mused with a small grin, quirking an eyebrow at the
sudden cameo. Focusing upon the two main characters once more as
their voices could now be heard, the same smile of anticipation
spread across her face again, waiting for the scene to take place, as
a few moments passed in the movie. Then she froze. 
     Abruptly and with no warning at all, the same cat from a moment
before had reappeared.Gracefully leaping up onto the table, it stood
on four paws between the two main characters,freezing in place as
well as it stared directly at the camera. *At Gadget.* The characters
in the movie seemed unaware of its presence at all, continuing on
with their conversation. 
     "Oh," she whispered in shock, the fur on her body
standing on end with a tingle.Further deviating from the movie, she
sat spellbound as the camera now began to move in. Centering upon the
black and white cat, the main characters were cut off from view as
the television now closed in upon a close up of the feline, its face
filling the entire screen. For a moment, time seemed to stop as the
two continued to stare at one another with widened eyes, neither one
of them blinking while Gadget could only form one line of thought
within her terrified mind. <Th-Those eyes...> she trembled slightly,
her mouth agape as she sat rooted to the spot, viewing the two 
familiar, black, elongated ovals, gleaming in the lights within the
restaurant. <*That's* what I was seeing..! This...> The picture
sharply dissolved to static as she opened her mouth to speak.
"" the words hung upon her parched tongue, unable to come
out even if she had wanted to whisper them. Bounding from the couch,
the mug of broth still curled reflexively in one hand, her other hand
streaked forward instinctively to hit the button for the power, fear
overtaking her mind. Her hand never made it though, as the power to
the television was suddenly cut before she could perform the deed,
changing the picture upon the screen from snow to pitch black.
Drawing herself up short, Gadget curled her hand back upon her chest,
staring at the screen as she backed up a few steps. 
     Whirling about, her gaze then shot nervously around the room
from floor to ceiling, and every point in between. Glancing back
toward the television screen every few seconds, she seemed to try to
take in everything there was around her. Nothing. <Where..?> she
asked herself, unable to form a more complete thought. Trembling, she
slowly turned around to face the television screen once more, before
hesitantly sitting down upon the couch. Her eyes once more darting
around her to various points about the room, she finally focused them
upon the television screen, unable to free her mind from its near
petrified state. A few moments passed before she acknowledged the
warmth upon her hand to look down and realize that she was still
holding her mug full of soup, watching as the steam swirled through
her fingers. As the whipping wind howled even louder against the tree
and front door, her ears swung reflexively over toward the sound. As
they did, another chill ran through her fur and down her spine that
was even colder than the one the fog had left in her last night. 
     Slowly reaching her other trembling hand down to wrap itself
around the mug, she slowly raised it to her lips, intuitively seeking
to banish some of the chill with a wave of warmth from the broth.
Steadying her hands to keep them from shaking as she kept her eyes
glued to the television screen, she took in a small mouthful of the
soup, barely tasting it as she let it wash over her tongue, gulping
it down. Feeling the sensation of warmth fill her stomach and begin
to spread through her as the soup made its way down, she smiled
slightly, albeit nervously, and glanced down at the liquid as if to
give thanks to it as she prepared to take another sip. Looking down,
she found a wavering image of the cat's face staring back up at her,
filling the borders of the mug.
     "KLK!" Crashing to the floor, the mug shattered into tiny
fragments as Gadget tossed it away, a strangled, incomprehensible cry
catching in her throat. Skittering back only to be stopped by the
corner of the couch, Gadget gripped the backrest and seat cushions of
the armrest to either side of her tightly. Her claws threatened to
burst the inflatable rubberized material that made it up as she dug
them in without thinking, a palpable terror once again clouding over
her mind. Trembling even more violently, her body flushed with the
blood coursing rapidly through it from her pounding heart. As she
looked on, feeling her breath catch in her throat in a shallow gasp,
the steam from the dispersed and evaporating liquid rapidly changed.
From a dancing cloud of ever changing patterns, the swirling matter
folded around and quickly reshaped itself into another image of the
wide eyed cat, its haunting visage locking its gaze with hers once
again as it rose from the floor as it began to float over toward her.
It was then that the front door opened.
     "Crikeys! This is some kinda *wind* we got going, here!"
Monterey's voice uttered as he stumbled through the door. Whirling
toward the sound of her friend's voice, Gadget found whatever spell
or state of mind that had been holding her fast now broken as she
flung herself around the edge of the couch toward him, the scream
that had caught in her throat before, now tearing forth with a
chilling sound. Barreling into the burly Australian as he moved from
the door's edge down the steps, the fog swirling around him, Gadget
nearly knocked him over with her charge as she twisted him around.
Frantically pointing behind her toward the area of the couch, she
held tight to his trenchcoat lapels, staring wildly into his eyes. 
     "M-M-Monty! Over -t-the-!!" she croaked in an almost hoarse
sounding voice, unable to finish the sentence.
     "Gadget! What-?!" He turned to look in the direction that she
had turned him toward, and was so insistently pointing.
     "Gadget luv, what is it?!" he exclaimed worriedly, turning his
head back toward her as Chip, Foxglove, Dale and Zipper rushed in to
crowd around her in concern, excitedly asking, more or less the same
question. Turning her own gaze back toward the area between the couch
and the television, only to find the misty image of the feline now
gone, Gadget could only gape at the sight in disbelief and
astonishment for a moment. Releasing Monterey's trenchcoat, she
hesitantly moved over to the back of the couch, the other Rangers
watching her as she placed her hands gently upon it, leaning over it
to look where she had last seen the apparition. All that greeted her
sight was that of an *unbroken* mug, sitting upon a now dry wooden
floor, as a gentle plume of steam arose from the liquid she could see
within it. Letting out something akin to a small, hysterically choked
off sob at the sight, she raced around the couch to look into the
mug, finding only the vegetable soup she had been drinking before as
she picked it up in her paws to stare for many moments into its
     Lifting her head up at the sound, she found Chip now leaning
upon the back of the couch, looking at her with concern and
confusion, while Dale, Foxglove, Monterey and Zipper stood close
behind him, the same expressions on their faces as well. Closing her
eyes for a moment to let out a shuddering breath, trying her best to
return her breathing to a normal pace, a single tear of fright and
frustration trickled down the fur on her cheek before she slowly
moved herself forward. Starting to move past her assembled teammates,
she smiled thankfully at a sensation, opening her eyes to look at
Chip. One of his paws he'd placed over hers, which were still curled
upon the mug, the other draped gently upon her back. Leading him
toward the open doorway, Gadget stopped at the foot of the domino
staircase. The feeling of the wind and the cool dampness of the fog
rushing through the doorway onto her, the sensation helped to comfort
and to steady her as well.
     "What's wrong? Are you hurt?" Chip asked in a low, soft tone,
trying not to sound overly anxious, though his worried expression
clearly communicated that emotion to a high degree.
     "I-..I'm okay." Gadget nodded assuredly, her breathing coming
much easier now.
     "Then what happened?" Chip asked, gently urging her. Taking a
deep breath, realizing that her other teammates were now standing
behind her, waiting for an answer to that same question, she took a
moment more to calm down before she turned around,...and let out a
another terrified scream of fright once again. Standing directly
behind her friends, towering over them as it sat upon the floor with
its head touching the ceiling, and filling up nearly the entire space
from the back of the couch to the door of the kitchen, sat the black
and white cat once again. Falling back against the domino steps as
she cried out, Gadget could only point with a shaky hand a split
second later, pointing upward toward the silent feline as its wide
eyed and unrelenting gaze locked onto hers once more. During that
same split second as she watched her teammates begin to whirl around
toward what lay behind them, though, a hand that was not Chip's
suddenly placed itself on her shoulder as a voice called out her
     "Gadget! What's wrong?!" Tammy's voice asked urgently as she
leaned in to place her head next to Gadget's, looking at her with
     Startled by her friend's sudden, unexpected contact, Gadget
whirled her head around behind her to meet Tammy's gaze, barely
recognizing the young squirrel in her frightened state, before she
whirled her head back in the next split second to find...*nothing.*
Foxglove, Dale, Zipper, Monterey and Chip as well who now crouched
beside her, were standing there, looking toward the empty air beyond
the doorway which led to the other areas of the treehouse. Looking
all around at the area before them, she watched as Foxglove, Dale,
Zipper and Monterey then looked questioningly at one another, their
gazes clearly communicating their curiosity if either of them saw
something different. Taking the initiative to bound toward the open
doorway before them then, Monterey swiftly looked in through the
doorway, first to the left and then to the right before poking his
head back out. Taking an extra step to look over toward the area of
the television and the couch in case he had missed something, he
turned his perplexed and concerned gaze back toward Gadget with a
shrug. Raising his hands in the same gesture, he shook his head,
looking directly at her. "What luv? There's nothing here."
     "No....." Groaning this singular word in exasperation and near
despair as she stared agape at this same sight for many moments,
Gadget could only let out another slight sob as she clapped a hand
over her eyes, trying desperately to collect her thoughts. Removing
the hand from over her eyes as she felt Chip place his paws upon her
once more, one over her own hands as one brushed over her hair,
trying to calm her down, she looked up after a few moments to lock
her eyes onto Foxglove. Setting down what was left of the mug of soup
upon the steps as she got up, trying to ignore for the moment, the
broth that had spilled upon her as she had fallen back, she walked up
with a tired determination toward her friend. "Foxy,...*I need your
help.*" she asked with a weary note in her shuddering voice, still
trying to calm down her breathing again as she looked directly into
the young bat's eyes. Nodding her understanding, though confusion
still played heavily upon her face along with the comfort she tried
to convey, Foxglove placed a soft, leathery wing around her back and
motioned her towards the doorway, leading her back towards the room
she shared with Gadget. 
                    *         *         *
     "And then just as you were turning around, it disappeared
again." Gadget finished with a sigh, having finally settled down
enough to tell her story, with a little help from one of Foxglove's
potions that had helped to calm her as well. "Any idea of what's
going on?" she asked with a shrug and a confused shake of her head, a
hopeful look in her blue eyes as she looked up at the young witch.
"Am I hallucinating, or is this thing really out there?" she
finished, waving her paw out to indicate the room they were in and
the entire treehouse.
     "We-elll," Foxglove began thoughtfully pursing a finger over her
lips as she looked Gadget over from head to toe. "I have a few ideas,
but I need to check a few things out first before I say
anything...for which you guys are going to have to wait outside," she
stated in a professional manner, looking over toward her teammates
that had gathered in a group within the bedroom. Nodding their
understanding as Foxglove placed a small stethoscope around her neck,
beginning to take out a few medical instruments as well, Chip, Tammy,
Monterey, Dale and Zipper filed out of the room, each of them
sporting a curious look of wonderment at the story they had just
     "*Zowie,* Monty!" Dale exclaimed with excitement as he left the
room. You don't think this could be that the ghost of the Canterville
Cat that we never saw in England, do ya?"+
     "I doubt it mate, if this *is* a real ghost we're dealing with
here," Monterey answered with a shake of his head, "The Canterville
Cat was a right ugly *monster* of a feline, but what Gadget here,
described..-" the rest of Monterey's reply was muffled though, as
Foxglove shut the door behind them before turning toward where Gadget
sat upon the bed... 
                    *         *         *
     "Well, Foxy?" Gadget asked anxiously some time later as Foxglove
finished performing her last test upon her, the bat having checked
her aura for the possibility of some sort of illness as well as some
type of curse. Having remained silent throughout the examination so
as not to break her concentration, her teammate had tested her first
with the more well known medical tools, and then with the various
medicinal methods of magic at her command. Now, having posed the
question that had waited on the tip of her tongue throughout the
entire time, she watched as her friend sighed lightly, packing the
last of her tools away. 
     "To tell you the truth, Gadget,..." Foxglove began, a hesitant
look upon her face as she turned toward her,"...I'm really not sure.
You don't seem to be sick in any way that would cause a hallucination,
that much I *do* know. The rest of it though, is kinda debatable. You
said you hadn't eaten or slept in quite some time," Foxy began,
touching one of the digits on her right paw with one of her left,
counting off the evidence on each side, "two hours really *isn't*
enough, not after all that happened yesterday, and you hadn't eaten
for quite some time either. You went to bed right after we got back,
not even wanting a snack."
     "I wasn't hungry," Gadget replied simply, shaking her head, "my
body just wanted to sleep...or at least I *thought* it did." she
frowned slightly.
     "I know," Foxglove smiled in understanding, "but then you got
involved in your workshop, and forgot about your hunger and your lack
of sleep again. This could be your problem right off, a drastic
imbalance in the body can normally make any animal see things th-"
     "But...!" Gadget began to protest in frustration, standing up
slightly from the bed."
     "Shh. I know," Foxglove replied softly, smiling gently and
placing her wing gently on Gadget's knee for a moment as she sat on
the floor beneath her, leaning an elbow on the mattress. "you said
you didn't *feel* that drained, and you've gone for longer periods of
time without eating or sleeping, but each case is different.
Sometimes we can feel pretty much normal when the body starts playing
with perceptions. Think about it. As Rescue Rangers, we often have to
push past fatigue, especially *you* with all you do involving
machines, in and out of the workshop, so you might feel used to it,
but like I said, each case is different with an imbalance. The last
time you did that, were you involved in a day long, frantic chase?"
     Blinking, Gadget could only frown thoughtfully at that as the
point sunk in, quirking an eyebrow as she thought back upon the last
time she had let her energy reserves burn so low. "No, I guess not."
she shrugged, conceding to the point. 
     "Right." Foxglove nodded. "Now its also very possible that it
*was* a ghost and not just some phantasm you saw, but considering
that it was popping up at pretty much every opportunity before, I
don't know why you haven't seen it even *once* during the entire time
we've been in here. Also, I've never heard of a ghost doing what you
said it did, with bringing that mug back together but...I'm no expert
on ghosts either. Not yet at least." she shrugged with a small smile.
"Another possibility is that this is all some kind of sophisticated
hologram of some sort that someone's been projecting into the
treehouse, somehow, making you think you've been seeing this cat. A
drug of some kind that might have gotten into your system somehow
from our last visit to Nimnul's lab is a forth, something you might
have accidentally inhaled there. A post hypnotic suggestion is still
*another* possibility as well, but we haven't had any cases involving
that since that city wide mass hypnosis case we tackled a short while
back, and no *animals* were affected. Only humans, so I don't know
how you would have gotten the idea put into your head."
     "Ivana?" Gadget suggested worriedly, "She could have put the
idea in my head somehow when she kidnaped me and the others two
months ago. She does have cause to hate me more than the others," she
shivered at the suggestion.
     "And she's good with technology for the possibility of a
hologram, you're right. It's a distinct possibility, but so are the
others. Like I said, its kinda debatable." Foxglove shrugged.
     "So how do we find out which one it is?" Gadget asked with
     "Well with this, luckily, we can check out more than one
possibility at once," Foxglove stated, rising to her feet as she
tried to convey an assuring look to her teammate, "to try to find
out. The best way *I* can think of, not to fall for a hologram unless
you know something better, is to close your eyes, and that's just
what I want you to do for right now." she stated, resting her wings
on her friend's shoulders. "Lie down and try to get some sleep for
right now if you can. I'll be checking out the other possibilities."
     "Well, okay," Gadget returned hesitantly, not wanting to be left
out of the investigation, but not resisting Foxglove's grasp as her
teammate gently laid her back on the bed. "but how?"
     "Well right after I check out the blood sample I took from you
under the microscope in your workshop," Foxglove began, nodding
toward the bag near the door which contained the small vial, as well
as some of her other instruments, "if nothing turns up there that I
can find that would cause you to see things, I'm going to check out
the living room. Since that's where you saw the cat most noticeably,
I'll try checking the mug you left there and the television for any
residual spectral energy I can pick up if this is a ghost. While
that's going on, I'll ask Chip to run your blood sample over to the
"Sams", just in case. They've got a lot more equipment, being in an
animal hospital, to find any sort of drug that might be there, as
well as a lot more knowledge of what to look for. Some of those guys
have been studying medicine a lot longer than me." she smiled humbly.
"Need anything before I get started?" Foxglove asked, looking at her
curiously as she made her way to the door.
     "No thanks," Gadget smiled up at her, folding her hands
comfortably upon her stomach. "I'll be okay,..I guess." she added, a
slightly worried look in her eyes about all the possibilities as to
what might be going on. 
     "Don't worry, we'll figure it out quickly," Foxglove returned
with an assuring note in her
voice, giving a confident smile over to her teammate as she opened
the door and began to close it behind her, "If you see that cat again
in any way in the room, even one of its eyes like before, call out."
     "Don't worry, *I will.*" Gadget chuckled nervously in return,
smiling back at her friend. 
     Hearing as the door shut behind Foxglove with a click, Gadget
sighed deeply after a moment, going over all the possibilities in her
mind that Foxy had mentioned, knowing that she probably would have
felt better being involved in the investigation herself. At least it
would help to take her mind off of worrying somewhat, but still, she
couldn't deny the fact that what Foxglove had said made sense. Maybe
it *was* something so simple as a lack of sleep and food. <I hope
so,> she thought to herself. Taking one last, quick look around the
room and spotting no sign of anything resembling the eyes or the face
of the cat that had appeared almost without respite just a half hour
or so ago, Gadget closed her eyes and tried to relax. Outside, the
sound of the howling wind still whipped closely around the tree.
Listening to the sound as it stirred her memory, for many minutes
Gadget tried to fill her mind with other thoughts, *any thoughts,*
trying to keep at bay the one that now kept playing at the edge of
her mind, the one that she didn't want to see, that of the black and
white cat....*staring at her.* 
     It quickly began to shape up as a battle of her will against her
mind's eye as her brow began to furrow slightly in concentration, as
the picture of the cat or at least parts of the feline, began to
weave their way into her thoughts. A complex mathematical equation
suddenly sported one of its elongated pupils in the parenthesis, the
angle of a part upon a machine would shift into the triangular shape
of the cat's nose or ears before its face began to be seen as well.
Even a memory of her father was not a safe haven as his waving flight
scarf, wrapped loosely about his neck, would suddenly turn black in
color with a touch of white upon the side of it, looking like the
cat's tail. Hoping that sleep would overtake her soon, as least from
the increasingly rapid mental exercise that she was performing,
Gadget sighed through gritted teeth and continued to shift her
thoughts from item to item hoping the infiltration of the feline's
image would stop soon. Her hopes proved to be unrewarded though, as
many more minutes later, she pounded a curled fist heavily upon her
mattress in frustration. <It's no use,> Gadget thought in
frustration, shaking her head. The image of the cat would just not
let her be. <I'll just have to deal with it, and hopefully get to
sleep with it anyway,> she finally conceded. Relaxing her mind as
best as she could, trying to control the fear she had felt as the
same emotion played slightly upon her stomach, she thought back to
her encounter with the cat's image in the living room, when it had
appeared on the television screen. Focusing upon that instance, she
let the image of the staring cat fill her mind, it's haunting gaze
looking out at her as it had before. Locking its gaze onto hers, the
black and white cat-
     -Was now waiting for her outside the treehouse.
     Gadget's eyes snapped open as she lay stock still upon the bed
for a number of moments, staring up at the ceiling, even her
breathing having stopped. She didn't know how she knew this almost
oracle like announcement, the thought having suddenly sprung into her
head, but there was no denying it's truth. She knew it was as factual
as any scientific principal that she had ever learned. The cat was
out there, *waiting* for her. Swinging her legs over the side of the
bed, Gadget looked over hesitantly toward the door. Letting out a
shuddering breath of nervousness, blinking a few times at the door,
she rose to her feet and made her way over to it. Placing her hand
upon the knob, she let it rest there for a number of moments before
she finally turned it open to walk through into the hallway. "Monty?
Zipper?" she called out, halting in her tracks abruptly to stare out
towards the other end of the hallway. "Monterey! Zipper!" she then
yelled out, sprinting forward toward them. 
     At the other end of the hallway, seeming to have just emerged
from Monterey's room, her two teammates now stood. Like statues it
seemed. Suspended in midair, his wings normally blurred from the
rapidness of their motion in flight, Zipper's delicate wings now
appeared as still as the rest of his body, positioned just off of
Monterey's left shoulder as the fly looked over at him. Monterey in
turn, was caught in midstep, his head turned over toward Zipper as
his mouth stood partially open, as though poised to speak. Not even
their eyes moved she observed, as she waved a paw before Monterey's
and then Zipper's stilled vision. "Guys..?" she uttered in a slightly
timid, awestruck voice, standing back for a moment before placing a
hand gently upon Monterey's. His fur wasn't cold, in fact, it seemed
a little warmer than usual, indicating from what she could tell, that
he was still alive, but almost frozen in place somehow. Placing her
head against his chest, she could hear the thump of his
heartbeat,...though only after nearly fifteen seconds had passed, the
singular sound drawing itself out for many moments in a dull, slurred
tone. Almost as if his heart rate and metabolism had been slowed down
to almost nothing. *How..?* she thought to herself in astonishment
before turning her head over toward the direction of the front door,
where her instincts were now pointing her. <Out there,> she thought
to herself, knowing, <whatever's going on, I think the answers are
waiting for me outside.> Pausing for only a moment more to look over
Monterey and Zipper with another worried glance, she made her way
down toward the living room. 

     Arriving there, she found Tammy, Dale and Foxglove in the same
state as Monterey and Zipper. Standing near the young bat, the pair
held some magical talismans in assistance as Foxglove stood before
the television screen, the mug the cat had appeared in standing near
her as well. As she watched, patterns of alternating light and dark
flickered and flashed upon the screen at intervals, with no clear
picture coming through to her eyes that she could see. Looking around
about the room, she could not see Chip anywhere nearby. <He must've
left for the "Sam's" medical center already,> she surmised, looking
toward the window to the right of the front door, in the direction of
the veterinary hospital. <Golly!...Is the whole *world* like this?>
she wondered with a light shiver, as her head turned toward the front
door. <Only one way to find out, and if it is like this, why. I have
to confront whatever this thing is,...and I'm going to have to do it
alone,> she thought, drawing in another deep breath as she slowly
ascended up the domino steps, placing her hand upon the knob of the
front door. 
     Opening it, and looking out, Gadget slowly stepped through the
doorway, staring wide eyed about her in horror and awe at the view
that awaited her, looking into an *entire world* frozen in time. As
Zipper had been, birds were similarly caught in mid flight, their
flapping wings halted as they stood suspended in the air. Other
animals in the park around her as well as any humans that she could
see, stood similarly halted in their actions. Strikingly, even the
natural world seemed affected, as her eyes spotted a singular leaf
caught in mid air from its fall from one of the nearby trees. Caught
between life and death. For a number of moments, she could only stand
fixated by the sight of everything around her before she was finally
able to shake herself free, a new realization now overtaking her as
her mind put all the facts together. <It's me...?> she thought,
<Somehow, I've been phased out of time itself? I'm moving too fast to
realize any significant motion....but how in the world...?> with
this, she turned to hesitantly move toward the edge of the platform,
a frightened look clearly readable in her eyes as she cast her gaze
over the edge of the platform toward the ground. 

     Here at the base of the tree, as she knew it would be, the black
and white cat sat, looking up at her with those same shinning,
slitted eyes. As silent as before, it stood waiting for her, as
though *it* knew *she* would be coming. Mostly black, with only a
small patch of white upon its chest region as well as its paws and
the side of its tail, it wore no clothes like Fat Cat or any of the
other felines that he associated with. It simply looked like an
ordinary, everyday cat that one could find in any part of the city,
save for the softly radiant aura about it. "Why did you do this to
me?!!" Gadget cried out toward it, finding her voice to finally vent
her pent up frustration and anger, having had enough of whatever game
this thing was playing. "Why are you haunting me?!! What do" At this Gadget stopped herself, the last word falling
off her tongue in something akin to a tone of realization as she let
her gaze settle upon the eyes of the feline before her. This time, as
she looked into the slitted eyes of the black and white cat, she now
noticed something. Her mind flashing back, she realized that what she
now saw before her in the cat's wide eyed stare had been there all
along upon each time that she had encountered this specter. It hadn't
been as obvious as it was now, but it had been there indeed. It had
been her irrational fear upon each occurance though, that had made
her miss all those times what was now communicated to her in that
very same stare, with a quiet and calm sense of urgency behind the
look as well. A statement. It said simply,..."*Help.*"
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