Gadget in Chains
Written by: Loneheart
Disclaimer: In recent times the proliferation of a certain kind of lawyer has made copyright disclaimers necessary on most, if not all, fan produced material that relates to any kind of character that someone, somewhere, might possibly have thought of before. As anyone likely to ever read this story will know, almost all the main characters in this story (in particular, the cast of Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers and Basil the Great Mouse Detective) have definitely been thought of before, copyrighted, and used in various television and cinema productions that are owned by the Walt Disney Company. The author makes no claim to have any rights of any kind to these characters and is not making any money from the creation or distribution of this story, in whole or in part (I should be so lucky). Readers may copy and distribute but not make money from this story and are asked not to alter the content (like I could find you and stop you if you did). Just in case all that's not enough, I should point out that suing me would be highly unprofitable for anyone except a certain kind of lawyer.
The Redreach Mouse
Gadget Hackwrench, mouse, inventor, rescue ranger and "wonderfully sweet girl", had never looked better. The bright sunlight was doing things to her hair colour that would have made a goldsmith weep with envy and the crisp blue of her simple dress brought out every sparkle of light from her corn-flower eyes so clearly that even the people at the back of the crowd could see Gadgets gaze skip and dance from one person to another.
The crowd was mostly made up of young males, some unattached, others with women folk clinging possessively to their arms or glaring from the sidelines of the celebration. Not every one would be sorry to see this beautiful celebrity leave on her mission of mercy.
Mayor Castlebridge, a tall mouse who wore a top hat in an effort to seem even taller and therefore not as overweight as he actually was, stepped away from the podium and reached out in her direction. It was Gadgets turn to speak.
Gadget rose gracefully and walked to the centre of the stage. She took her time and was careful to run her eyes over the faces of the mice in the front row, which was made up of those mice who had worked hardest since Gadget had arrived. Coincidentally, they were all currently single young males, though not all of them had been single when Gadget dragged herself in the small town two weeks earlier, able to do little more than identify herself and tell them of the wildcat attack on a neighbouring township where the other Rescue Rangers were co-ordinating the survivors.
Gadget herself had been sent to their town to get help, she had told them, but half way into the journey her improvised hang-glider had buckled in a sudden gust of wind and she had crash-landed. Forced to make the rest of the journey by foot, Gadget had driven herself onward for two days and nights without stopping. She smiled at each of them.
"Id like to thank you for the welcome you gave me a few days ago- when I arrived in your town alone and looking for help I was dirty, tired, battered and bruised. In the big city no one would have spared me a second glance except to shoo me away. Instead you welcomed me with open arms, picked me up from where I had fallen and helped me to recover in record time." Here she paused in thought and most of the crowd took a time to congratulate themselves on their kindness in helping strangers and their wisdom in not living in the big city.
When she began speaking again the elderly couple that had taken her into their home leaned forward, interested. They had felt forgotten in the activity of the last few days and Gadgets many admirers had taken the best seats, leaving them with the last places at the back. Perhaps now they were about to be remembered, mentioned by name, applauded even.
"I wanted to thank each and every one of you, but that would take far too long- there are far too many people here today who have given their time and other things to make the terrible tragedy in the next valley so much better than it might have been." The old couple sighed. The young mousemaid they had nursed was right, of course; but it was still disappointing.
Gadget turned her face skyward and brushed her hand over her eyes. When she looked back down again the crowd was deeply effected to see tears in her eyes. "Those poor, orphaned baby mice in the next valley. Theyre so young and yet theres already been so much sadness in their lives. I lost my mother at a young age and that was hard enough, but to grow up without any parent- the only thing worse than that is not growing up at all. Thanks to all of you these children will grow up! And they will have a second chance at being part of a family!"
Gadget gazed at the crowd with pride and satisfaction in her eyes. The assembled mice cheered. Gadget spread out her hands to call for calm and drew in a deep breath to speak. The towns mice fell silent, waiting eagerly to hear what she had to say- and a voice shot out from the centre of the crowd:
"Dont listen! Shes a fraud!"
Later people would say that there was silence, but they would be wrong. Twelve hundred people gasped, gulped or said "Huh?" with in the space of two seconds and the sound they made doing it was not silence. Half the crowd stared at the young mouse maid whos identity was now in doubt, the other half turned their faces away trying to see the person who had spoken out.
The voice had been unfamiliar, strong, male and angry. Who amongst their neighbours could have the confidence to speak out in such a way? And the angry certainty in the voice! Which of their neighbours could have come to know such a thing when they did not?
Those still looking up at the stage saw Gadgets face, frozen. Then she blinked as if coming out of a trance. She gave a short, quiet laugh that was probably inaudible except to those on the stage with her and then forced a polite smile on to her face.
"Ah ha. Im sorry. Who said that and whom are you referring to exactly? Are you talking about me?"
Some of the crowd who had been unable to find the source of the accusation looked back at the lady behind the podium. She seemed to feel awkward suddenly, but then again, who wouldnt under these circumstances?
As if sensing that something would have to be done to get the show moving again, Mayor Castlebridge stood and moved smoothly across to the podium. He placed one hand on the closest shoulder of his honoured guest and leaned forward to speak.
"Would the person who said that please come forward and make themselves known to the crowd?"
Slowly, as the entire crowd shifted uncomfortably on their feet, a path appeared from the dead centre of the gathering. Looking a little like an ancient mariner from some long forgotten poem, a tall, yet deeply bowed mouse made his way forward. He wore only a canvass storm cape and a ragged and patched jacket that had clearly seen hard times lately, as had its owner, who took each step towards the mayor with great reluctance.
Mayor Castlebridge surveyed the figure with narrowed eyes and a hard mouth. This outburst had come from a stranger, an interloper and, most especially, not a voter. He noted the strangers ragged whiskers and unkempt fur, which and clearly been neglected for several days. There was something about the face that was vaguely familiar. Unsettling, almost. It reminded Mayor Castlebridge of someone he knew. Who was it now...? No, never mind. Time for that later.
"Young fellow," Mayor Castlebridge began, choosing a phrase that would immediately signalled his disapproval of the stranger to those who knew him. (Which was everyone present, except for Miss Hackwrench, he reflected.) "Look about you. Do the people here look foolish enough to be taken in by an impostor?"
There was a subtle shift in the crowds focus. Instead of being divided between the alleged Gadget Hackwrench, his honour the mayor and the interloper, all eyes were now turned to the mouse in the makeshift storm cape. Under the weight of so many eyes, full-grown humans had caved in and begged for forgiveness.
The silence was long and uncomfortable, as the strange mouse pointedly didnt look around at the people who surrounded him. Eventually, he said: "Well, they dont look any less gullible than the folks at Redreach, I guess."
"Thats where Im from." He added challengingly, as though daring anyone to say there was something wrong with that.
Mayor Castlebridge searched for an answer. With annoyance, he realised there was no reply that would end the confrontation. "Well, then. What do you mean by that?" he demanded.
"Thats where I come from." The stranger declared. "Thats where she was, not three weeks ago."
The crowd murmured in surprise. Redreach was at the far end of the valley their own town was built in, but the valley was long and wild and, with no human transport to borrow rides from, the journey to it would take two weeks. This ragged wonderer could well have made the journey in that time. It certainly explained his appearance; the valley was a dangerous place to travel and many suffered misfortune between the two towns.
"But you must be mistaken." Mayor Castlebridge reasoned as he turned these facts over in his mind. "This young lady has been in our town for more than two weeks now and no-one could cover the distance in less than two weeks."
There was a murmur of agreement from the crowd, though many of the townsfolk were simply moving their lips and staring into space as they did the arithmetic. Two weeks from here to Redreach, three weeks since the stranger claimed to have seen her there, two weeks since she had arrived in their town... even the slower townsfolk were soon nodding their heads with renewed certainty.
The Redreach mouse remained unbowed; in fact he straightened his back and met the mayors eyes with a fierce glint. "Then she had transport. An aeroplane, perhaps!"
The crowd choked with amusement. Even Miss Hackwrench, who had been looking worried before allowed herself a smile. An airplane. "Of course, the real Miss Hackwrench would have an aeroplane!" The Mayor yelled at the mouse in front of him. "Everyone knows that!"
"Well, she aint the real Miss Hackwrench, shes a fraud, a liar and a thief!" the Redreach mouse shouted back.
Several members of the crowd were ready to lay hands on him when the Mayor reached out to fall stall any unpleasantness. "Steady there!" He roared. "Young mouse, if she were an impostor she would not have an aeroplane in order to get here in the time you claim she did!"
"Well, maybe shes an impostor with an aeroplane!"
The Mayor threw up his hands in despair.
"Fine. Have it your way, but well soon settle this! In a few minutes her friends will arrive in their very real aeroplane and Chip, Monterey Jack and Dale themselves will vouch for Miss Hackwrench, here.
"And then," Mayor Castlebridge roared, leaning as far forward as he could with out falling of the makeshift stage, "you will apologize to her! Is that clear, young fellow?"
The Redreach mouse looked sullen, but found his voice easily enough. "If it happens the way you say it will, Ill be happy to."
The Mayor glared furiously at the unshakable youth in front of him. After a moment, the older mouse straightened and twitched his whiskers. Clearly, it was up to him to put things back on track.
"Under the circumstances, I hardly think it would be fair to ask our guest to continue her speech. I doubt she feels up to it. However, there is a picnic set out for us that the ants havent manage to completely devour, yet."
The crowd agreed with nervous laughter but as they made their way towards the picnic a babble of excited chatter and, Mayor Castlebridge feared, of bets being placed was all that could be heard. For a moment he watched before turning to the young mousemaid he shared the stage with and offering her arm. Together they followed the rest of the towns inhabitants and left the strange mouse standing alone, unnoticed and ragged in the middle of the town square.
Not more than one hour had passed since the strange mouses outburst. For the most part, the townsfolk acted as if nothing had happened from the moment there was food in front of them. Miss Hackwrench, as her hosts still called her, seemed apprehensive and declined to put more than a grain of corn on her beer-bottle-cap plate. The Mayor made polite small talk with his voters, proving that he could still put names to faces and staying close to their guest at all times so that he could either claim to have been supporting her or standing by to grab her if she tried to run. The Redreach mouse stood at the fringes of the celebration and ate nothing, though he watched the food hungrily and no one would have objected if he had helped himself.
The first person to see the black dot up in the sky was one of the youngsters, who pointed it out with a great shout. Hawks and other birds of prey were a constant threat to mice and all small animals, so there were boltholes and camouflage nets around the picnic site. As all eyes turned skyward, there was a terrified shush.
"Please, everyone! Be calm." Miss Hackwrench stood upon the Popsicle stick bench she had been sitting on a heartbeat earlier. "I think, if you look closely, you will see it is the Ranger Plane."
An entire town shielded its eyes against the suns glare and squinted, trying to make the dot assume the shape of a bleach bottle, a balloon and a pair of cardboard wings. Yes, the shape hovering above them was an aircraft. There was something like paper fan acting as a tail and the body of the craft hung from a silver balloon. The sharp eyed amongst the watchers could just barely make two battery operated handheld fans mounted on the rear of the plane.
"I think theyre having difficulty. The winds must be against them." The young blonde turned her magnificent blue eyes on Mayor Castlebridge. "I need to guide them in so they can land safely."
The Mayor hesitated for a moment, but it wasnt doubt about the young mouse maids identity that knocked his thoughts off track. "Go on. Do what you have to." He ordered in a voice far louder than was strictly necessary given that he was talking to someone an arms length away.
"Does anyone have something I can use as flags? I need to signal them to guide them in." She waited a heartbeat and when nothing was offered to her a mischievous glint lit up in her eyes. "I have it!" She announced with a smile and then she snatched two hats from the heads of the two most refined ladies at the head of the table.
Before they could protest she was running down the centre of the table, sending potato salad and dip flying over the still seated guests. She jumped from the end of the table and came down running, ignoring the outcry behind her. There was a bald spot in the meadow that she had set aside for the landing and when she reached the centre she stopped dead. To her right there was the huge bundle of food and supplies the townsfolk had gathered, bound up in a red polka doted cloth.
Taking a deep breath, she began to use the hats to send her semaphore message.
As the towns mice watched the ranger plane came closer and closer to the ground. When it was the height of a tall tree from the ground it stopped, the battery-powered fans pointing straight down to hold it in position.
On the ground, the mouse known as Gadget Hackwrench continued signalling.
"Whats she doing?" demanded the stranger from Redreach.
"Shes guiding the plane down, are you blind as well as mad?" Mayor Castlebridge bawled back.
"Then why is she still signalling when they are they just hovering? And how come the tree tops arent swaying if the wind is making it difficult to land?"
Something darted from the aeroplane like a snakes tongue before the Mayor could answer. People cried out as it struck the ground an arms length from Miss Hackwrench. Carelessly, she spun the hats away from her and grabbed the rope the airship had dropped. She cast a smirk and a wink over her shoulder to freeze the heart of Mayor Castlebridge and gave a yell to her accomplices above: "Haul me up, you bozos!"
"Stop her!" wailed the Mayor.
A group of the young men started to run forward but the Redreach mouse had not waited to be told what to do. He had a twelve-inch lead on the others when the first of three grappling hooks dropped out of the sky onto the bundle they had spent weeks preparing.
The Redreach mouse was less than three inches away from the fraud when the line she was holding suddenly lifted her out of reach. He was left staring upwards, stunned and breathless.
Far above, a beautiful mousemaid whose name he did not know looked down at him, her hair and skirt flying in the breeze. She laughed at him, and then clambered into the aircraft.
Still wearing the blue silk dress she had worn to imitated Gadget, Lawhiney pouted at the pile of supplies as her companions picked them over. Already Lorrie the mole was cooing over a working model aeroplane engine that had formally been used to pump the water supply of an entire town and the French water rat, Pierre, was combing his long waxed whiskers with one hand, while with the other he held a length of black silk across his chest.
Lawhiney made a mental note to make sure he made a dress for her before letting him start on a suit for himself. She cast a surly glare at Shaka and Brandon, who were sorting the best cheese, chocolate and dried fruit from the pile of food so their group could trade the rest for whatever took their fancy. No one had said anything nice about her since she had been rescued and at the last minute, too!
"I was almost captured, you know."
"Eh, heh heh, it was worth it, eh?" Lorrie giggled, unwisely.
Lawhiney closed her powder puff compact with a sound like a gun being cocked. Lorrie swallowed hard. Pierre lowered the bolt of silk he had found and moved to intercede between the two.
"Mon Cheri, you know he did not mean that the way it sounded." Pierre pleaded in his best phoney French accent.
"But he say it, Pierre." Lawhiney retorted, her accent showing as her temper shortened.
"Now, cmon on Law..." Nervously, Brandon looked at Shaka. Shaka shrugged to indicate there was little he could do about it.
"NONE OF YOU CARE ABOUT ME!"
The others instinctively cringed at the volume of Lawhineys voice. Brandon moved to put his paws over his ears and remembered too late that he and Shaka were carrying a king sized bar of chocolate. There was a thud as the bar landed on Brandons foot. "Yow!"
Lawhiney didnt miss a beat. "I RISK MY LIFE! MY FREEDOM! MY REPUTATION!"
Shaka, glancing over his shoulder, noted that Brandon was holding one foot instead of his end of the chocolate bar. With a shrug, Shaka dropped the other end as well. There was a thud as the rest of the bar landed on Brandons tail. "Yow! Why you clumsy...!"
"Dont ya mean youre risking other Lawhineys reputation?" Shaka asked.
There was a horrified silence as the other three males looked at him in disbelief.
"What was that?" Lawhineys voice had become a low, dangerous purr.
"Cmon here, Shaka baby. Come let Lawhiney whisper in your ear..."
As one, Lorrie, Brandon and Pierre closed their eyes and covered their ears.
"THERE IS ONLY ONE LAWHINEY!"
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