Yet Untitled RR Adventure

by Cliff Grimm

CHAPTER 2 | 3 | 4

Ch. 1 Won't you join the dance?

Dale was bored. Not just regular boredom, industrial strength family sized boredom. The Rangers had been invited to a fancy dinner/reception honoring somebody Dale never heard of. He'd ask Chip later who and why later.

Why did I agree to come to this? Dale thought to himself. Guy's name doesn't ring a bell, the food's lousy, the band doesn't seem to know how to play anything lively, and I'm missing a good movie!

Everything Dale had though was true. The food was indeed terrible, for it was a last minute replacement cook. A large orchestra type band was playing slow background music. On top of all this, Dale was missing THE BANEFUL UNDEAD. Dale's thoughts could be seen plainly on his face as he looked across the room for his friends. Gadget was in a spirited conversation with the guest of honor.

Must be a scientist or something he thought.

Chip was at the other end of the room listening to a very impressive looking squirrel wearing a military uniform. Neither conversation seemed particularly interesting, and both probably would have went over his head.

Well, conversation's out.

Monty hadn't even come. He elected instead to meet a cheese ship coming in from Paris. For a moment Dale wondered why so many ships came in carrying just Cheese. The thought slipped his mind as he glanced at the real reason he came. Foxglove was sitting to his left, looking around in wonder at the fancy decorations and well dressed people all around her. She had never been to a big event like this, and had groomed herself especially well. This fact was not lost on Dale.

"You sure look nice tonight Foxy" he said with a smile.

"Thanks, Cute stuff! I wanted to look my best tonight. This is my first banquet." Foxglove said with spirit. "I'm so glad you said I come with you."

Well, I couldn't say no after you got so excited about it. Dale thought. "I new you'd enjoy it."

For Dale, the evening dragged on. For Foxglove, however, the evening was a rush of talking with interesting people, sitting close to Dale, and generally enjoying herself. She wondered about Dale's lack of interest, but didn't know what to do about it.

Eventually, the band started to play waltzes, and the floor gave way to couples who wanted to dance. Foxglove was ecstatic at this development.

"Dance with me Dale!" she blurted suddenly.

This snapped dale out of his boredom induced stupor. "What?"

"I'd like it very much if you would dance with me." Foxglove repeated.

"Awe, Foxy you don't want me to dance with ya'." Dale evaded.

"Of course I do! That's why I said so. And why wouldn't I?"

"Because I'm clumsy. I'd be stepping on your feet, or I wouldn't do something right, and I don't know how to lead."

"Come on sweetie, Please?" Foxglove started fluttering her eyelashes at Dale.

Looking for a way out, Dale came up with the best excuse he could think of. "I uh....I...gotta go to the bathroom."

Dale then stood up and walked away, leaving Foxglove alone at the table. I just wanted a dance She thought. Her sprits a bit crushed, she watched as other couples danced. As she began listening to the music, Foxglove began to daydream a bit. I bet he'll walk back, place his hand on my shoulder, and very suavely ask me "Would you care to dance my dear?" Then he'll take my wing and lead my out onto the dance floor.

Footsteps interrupted Foxglove's happy dream. She could tell someone was approaching her and waited, assuming it was Dale. Much to her surprise, a voice she did not recognize called to her.

"Excuse me, Miss."

Foxglove turned to see a who was talking to her. Standing there was a light gray colored young mouse dressed in a black suit jacket, black shirt, and dark sunglasses. He stood with his hand behind his back, waiting for a reply.

"Yes?"

The mouse took a nervous breath before saying, "I hope you don't mind, but I was wondering if a beautiful woman such as yourself would care to dance."

Foxglove was a bit taken back. Not ten minutes ago, she was trying to coax Dale into dancing. And now, this stranger had walked up, called her beautiful, and wanted to dance with her. It was unexpected to say the least. Her brain told her to decline politely and try again with Dale. That was the best thing to do.

"I'd love to."

I guess I wanted a dance more than I thought I did. Her answer shocked herself as much as it delighted the mouse. His smile stretched from ear to ear. He withdrew his right hand from behind his back and extended it to Foxglove. She noticed that it had a large scar on it that extended from between his centermost fingers to the back of his hand. Pausing a moment, Foxglove extended her wing, and let herself be escorted to the floor by the wingtip. She considered asking some questions before they danced, things like What's with the sunglasses? How'd you get this scar? But she settled on "What's your name?"

"Gray." The mouse replied, "Dan Gray. And whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to?"

"I am Foxglove Fairmont." She said proudly. Foxglove was trying to match the proud tone this mouse was using. It wasn't an overly proud or pretentious tone. It merely seemed like he was trying very hard to be polite.

"It is an honor to meet you, and thank you for accepting my invitation."

By this time, they had reached the center of the dance floor. The current song had just ended, and the mouse raised his left hand to try to get the band leader's attention. Foxglove noticed that his left hand had the same type of scar the right hand did. Dan had succeeded in gaining the band leader's attention, and he had a rather surprised look on his face.

"The tune I requested, please." Dan said in an even tone. He turned to Foxglove and continued, "Normally this is played with a full orchestra, but I have the utmost confidence in this group."

Glancing at the band, she noticed that several had changed instruments, and were quickly flipping through their music sheets. They seemed nervous. The leader of the group now took a conductor's stance and started the music.

Unsure of what she should do, Foxglove let her dance partner start things of. He bowed, so she curtsied. He took her wing in one hand, and placed his other on her shoulder. Then the dance began. The music was slow at first but picked up quickly. Foxglove stopped thinking on what to do and simply started to move on instinct. Slowly, the dance became more lively, with both partners reacting to each other with great speed and agility. With each twirl, each pause, and each step, Foxglove began to loose herself more and more to the moment. She didn't notice that most of the other dancers had stopped to watch her and her partner. Several times, the music slowed to the point where the song seemed to have ended, but each time it revived with more furor.

Elsewhere, Dale was feeling guilty for leaving Foxglove alone at the table and so rudely declining her request. Stupid Dale, real stupid, he told himself. It was a simple little thing. Dance with her. And you couldn't! She'll forgive you, though. Foxy always forgives you. Dale though about going back and asking her to dance, but that would look like he was just doing it so she wouldn't get mad. Foxy wouldn't like that....

Dale stated walking back to the table listening to the music. He remembered this tune from one of the stranger space movies he'd watched. Arriving at an empty table, Dale wondered where Foxglove had gone. He didn't have to look far. There she was, at the center of the floor, dance with someone else. Dale heart skipped a beat. All at once he felt remorse, anger, sadness, and developed a close personal knowledge of Envy. (Turns out his first name is Bob, but we won't go into that.)

Back on the floor, Foxy had completely lost herself in the moment. She had even closed her eyes for brief periods of bliss. Then the mouse whom she had been dancing with drew her in close. "Big finish." he whispered. The music picked up for one final time and the two launched into one more twirl then on the final beat, they bowed to each other in unison.

A low applause broke out, and Foxglove finally realized that they were the only ones still there. He face blushed a deep red as she heard the clapping. Dan escorted her back to the table, where a fuming Dale waited for them. Dan either didn't notice or didn't care to acknowledge it. "Thank you for a most memorable evening. I hope to see you again real soon." He said as he bowed, then lightly kissed her wingtip. Foxglove's face turned an even deeper shade of red, not having recoverd form her earlier blush. Dan then turned away and walked back to his table.

Ch.2 A Mystery?

"Who was that?!" Dale asked with an angry edge in his voice.

"Someone who asked me to dance." Foxglove replied as casually as she could muster. Her dance had left her a bit winded and light headed, but she could still tell the Dale was angry.

"Why'd you dance with him?!" came another angry question.

"Because you wouldn't!" said foxglove, annoyed. One dance wasn't something to get this worked up about.

Dale was about to ask another question, but stopped when he noticed that Chip and Gadget were approaching the table. Gadget arrived first, with a look of awe on her face.

"Golly Foxglove, that was terrific! I didn't know you could dance that well."

"Neither did I." Foxglove replied softly.

"That was amazing." Chip said with a smile. "Who was that you were dancing with?"

"I don't really know. He said his name was Dan Gray. He's over there." Foxglove said, pointing across the room at the gray mouse. He was sitting at his table, alone.

Dale was still fuming, but had calmed himself down enough to appear unaffected by Foxglove's dancing with someone else. Inwardly, he was in turmoil. How could she dance with somebody else. This guy's really asking for it. No, she only danced with him because I wouldn't. It was just a dance anyway. No problem. What does this mean? Nothing. But what if it means more? No, no it can't. But what if it does? She looked so happy.... His thoughts continued in this circular pattern.

The group was surprised when one of the waitresses, a middle aged squirrel, came up to Foxglove and asked, "Do you know who you just danced with?"

Growing a little tired of that question, she answered "No I don't! What do you know about him?"

The waitress glanced over at Dan, and said "That's the great mystery guy. He comes to a lot of these events, is always on the guest list and sits at that table. He rarely joins in any conversations, and this is the first time he's ever danced with anybody."

Chip's detective skills started to fire as this new information reached his brain. "How long has he been coming here?"

"About a year and a half. He's..............Uh oh." The waitress had paused and looked over at the manager who was standing by the entrance. He was glaring at her and didn't look happy. "I got to get back to work."

Somebody doesn't want us to know about him. Chip thought. He smelled a mystery. "I'm going to go mingle a little bit more before the evening ends." Chip then got up and began walking toward the manager. Gadget caught the look on Chip's face and stood up.

"Excuse me guys. Hey Chip! Wait a minute." She said as she tried to catch up with chip. This left Foxglove and Dale alone at the table. Gadget caught up with Chip just after they got out of the couple's hearing range. "Don't even think about it." she said, standing in his way.

"What are you talking about?" Chip asked, feigning innocence.

"You've got that ‘There's a mystery to solve' look on your face. You're going to try and get the owner to spill his guts about the mouse Foxglove danced with, aren't you?"

"Well, doesn't what the waitress told you strike you as a bit odd? Plus, the manager gives her one dirty look, and she gets scared off. I think something's going on."

"Maybe. But I think you're over reacting. He may be just a nice young person who wanted a dance with another young person. That's all."

"That may be true. But I just want to find out a few things."

"We were just supposed to enjoy ourselves this evening, not work."

"Well, detective work is fun, for me anyway."

Gadget rolled her eyes in frustration. "Fine. Just don't go making a case out of this, all right?"

"OK. This just for my own curiosity."

Chip continued walking toward the manager, leaving Gadget standing there staring at him. I don't know why he's so suspicious. Guys ask pretty girls to dance. That's what happens. Gadget thought, then without knowing it, added aloud, "Would have been nice if someone asked me to dance." Then she slowly turned and made her way back to the ranger's table.

Meanwhile, Dale was trying to make up for acting like a jerk. "Foxy, I know this'll sound ....you know.......too little, too late but.....I was wondering if we could uh....."

"Are you asking me to dance now?" Foxglove said hopefully. She still wanted a dance with him, even if it was just envy prompted.

"Yes.. You know, a nice ugh.....slow dance?"

Dale wants to slow dance with me! He wants to be affectionate in public! Yes! Finally! "Oh Dale I'd..."

It was that precise moment that the band decided to call it a night. A voice said over the intercom "I hope you enjoyed yourselves tonight. That was the last dance of the evening. Everyone have a safe trip home." This effectively crushed Dale's hopes. About half the guests had left already, and the event was beginning to wind down. Gadget arrived at the table just in time to hear Foxglove say, "It's been a lovely evening Dale. Thank you very much for inviting me, but it's getting late, and I think I'll be going now."

"Gee Foxglove, wouldn't you like to come back with us? I thought there was some movie on that you two were going to watch tonight."

"That's long over." said Dale glumly. He was more disappointed that Foxglove had a better time dancing with a stranger than she had with him all night. A movie would have felt real good about now, especially with Foxglove pressed up against him the whole time. "Would you like me to walk you home?" he asked hopefully.

"No, that's OK," she replied softly. "I'll see you all tomorrow." And with that, she got up and left, Dale escorting her to the door.

Elsewhere, Chip had finally caught up with the manager, whom seemed to be avoiding him. "Good evening." he said with a friendly tone.

"Good evening. I hope you enjoyed yourself tonight."

"Oh, I did. It was a marvelously well organized event." complemented Chip.

The Manager began beaming with pride and said, "Yes it was, wasn't it? I excel at these things you know. However, our cook was in an accident recently, and our replacement chef was sub par. Still, it went well."

Chip then asked about how the chef was injured, trying to ease the conversation over to the Gray mouse. Turns out the chef was looking for some special ingredients in the park when he heard some sort of explosion and got hit with debris. No serious injury, but he still decided to take the night off. Chip changed the subject and reminded himself to tell Gadget to be a little more careful.

"What do you know about the mouse in the sunglasses over there?" asked Chip, glancing over at where Dan was sitting.

"You mean Mr. Gray? Oh.....well....not much really. Well, I'm not a liberty to say, really."

"He must be really popular to be invited to every event, wouldn't you say?" asked chip, his tone implying something was up.

"You see, that's my doing. He...he....let's just say he did me a favor, and I repaid him by giving free access to the facility."

"What kind of favor?"

"I can't tell you." All this time, the manager had been growing more apprehensive. He began to speak again in a very soft and hushed voice. "Listen, I have my instructions regarding him. I can't you any more than I have. I suggest you either ask him, or the leader of that band over there. He's a bit more loose tongued than I am." This effectively ended the conversation, as Chip watched who he was talking to walk purposefully away.

Dale was sorry to see Foxglove go, and had walked her to the door. He turned to go back inside, but instead followed her out. Once alone outside, Foxglove paused, as if waiting for something. Dale took this time to say, "I'm glad you came Foxy."

"I had a very nice time tonight." She replied. Then she spread her wings and got ready to take off.

" I'm not talking about just tonight." Dale added, catching Foxglove off guard.

Wordlessly, Foxglove turned and gave Dale a very long and very passionate kiss. They embraced, and she said "Thank you." very meekly.

She then stepped back, took off, and headed for home. Leaving Dale standing there watching her. Even after she was long out of sight, he still stood there. Watching.

Ch.3 Home Again

"Dale?"

 "Daaaale" Gadget snapped her fingers in front of Dale’s eyes, still getting no reaction. He was still dreamily staring off at the night sky with a smile on his face. Gadget was trying to figure out how to get Dale out of this state.

"Hey look, it’s Godzilla!"

"WHERE?!?!" shouted Dale, a look of panic on his face. He looked around frantically, then calmed down after he realized the city was not being attacked by a giant atomic powered lizard. Then he finally noticed Gadget standing there. "Oh, hi Gadget."

"Dale, you followed Foxglove out here twenty minutes ago. Have you been just staring out into space this whole time?"

"Mostly." Dale said, then added "Is it time to go?"

"Well, it is getting late. That’s why I came out looking for you. Come on, let’s go get Chip." The two then reentered the building to begin the search for Chip.

Elsewhere, Foxglove was enjoying a leisurely flight home. She reviewed the night’s events with spirit. I mingled fairly well, I listened to a long yet interesting war story (Monty would have liked him!), and I spent most of the evening sitting close to Dale. But two events showed through like shining jewels. The first was THE KISS! Foxglove relived that moment three times before she reached home that night. Each time enjoying it more. The second was THE DANCE! She never realized dancing could be so much fun. Dan sure seemed nice. He probably just likes to be polite, like some old style gentleman. But why’d he choose me to dance with? There were other pretty girls there. The waitress said he’d never asked anyone to dance before. Foxglove suddenly felt special, like she was chosen over all others, which in effect she had been. This feeling caused her to reanalyze the dance itself. He put his hand on my shoulder, not my waist. Maybe he didn’t want to get too personal. In never really got close, but there was something...intimate about it. Foxglove couldn’t figure out what it was, but she new there was something about this mouse that interested her. There was a mystery about him that tweaked her imagination. The Glasses, the scars, the unusual fur coloration and the black suit. All that, added to his mannerisms and the way everyone reacted to him made for a memorable evening. On top of that, he made Dale three shades of green with envy!

Foxglove giggled at the thought. Then her thoughts returned to the dance and drifted over to the music.

Foxglove’s thoughts were so wrapped up in the music she had listened to, that she began to sway in the air humming. Soon she began gracefully doing arcs and dives to the music in her mind. She had wandered into a field of power lines, but by some strange coincidence, did not collide with any of them. Foxglove wasn’t even looking where she was going, or paying too much attention to her echolocation. She only swayed and dodged in tune with the music, narrowly missing wire after wire. The song ended in her mind and she thought, I like Dan’s taste in music, I need to find out what that..... her thoughts were interrupted when she caught a glance of where she had been flying. It was a veritable maze of steel towers, wires, fences, and other obstacles. "How’d get through that?" she wondered aloud. Flippantly dismissing the question, Foxglove continued home, reviewing THE KISS and THE DANCE several more times.

Back at the reception hall, Chip had decided to continue his investigation of Dan Gray, despite his lack of success with the manager. OK, analyze the situation. You have Dan Gray, a secretive mouse who comes to this establishment regularly. Sits alone at the same table, talks to very few, and doesn’t socialize. He’s done a "favor" for the manager, but he won’t tell me what. Apparently, he’s been ordered not to tell anyone too much, but he can refer me to others, or even to Gray himself. This is getting very interesting. Lately, Chip had been starved for mental stimulation. The rangers had been busy as of late, but not with the kind of cases he really lived for. No mysteries, nothing that required any real brain power. Sure, there were exciting rescues, criminal schemes, but they were all relatively strait foreword. Now, anything slightly mysterious caught Chip’s attention. This was just what he felt he needed.

Taking the manager’s advice, Chip went to talk to the band leader, who was helping the rest of the band to pack up. Instrument boxes of various shapes and sizes were scattered about the little band pit. Chip noted the high quality of the cases and the instruments themselves.

"Hey there." Chip said, tying to sound friendly. He was addressing a young chipmunk that was putting away a violin.

"Greetings!" came a spirited reply.

"Your group did a really good job tonight. You played beautifully."

"Why thank you! It’s nice of you to come by and say so. "

"I was wondering if you could answer...."Chip began, but he was stopped short.

"Hey I know you! You’re one of the Rescue Rangers aren’t you?"

"Well..." Chip started, but again he was interrupted by his companion.

"Yeah, you’re the leader guy, the detective, ummm.....CHIP! Yes, Chip. Am I right?"

"Yes. Yes I am, and I was hoping you could answer a few questions I had." Chip said a quickly as he could, his patience running a bit thin.

"Sure! Dude, this is so cool. I’m being questioned by a Ranger. I’m Mike by the way."

"All right Mike, what do you know about a mouse named Dan Gray?"

The color visibly drained from the young Chipmunk’s face. Silence ensued for a few moments. "I don’t know nothing. Well gosh, look at the time. We’ve got to be going. OK guys! Snap to it! Show’s over."

"Now wait a minute! You said you would answer my questions, now spill it!" Chip said, a bit louder than he meant to. In a hushed voice Mike replied " I said I don’t know anything."

"Why don’t I believe you?" Chip replied, shooting him an icy stare.

Mike shot a nervous glance to look at Dan. Chip turned and saw the black clad mouse still sitting at his table, stirring his drink as if he had nothing better to do. Mike then returned his gaze to Chip and said, "All right. Come with me." He turned and headed to a door, carrying two instrument cases. Chip followed the nervous chipmunk to a small storage room where the there were numerous more cases. They stared at each for a moment before Mike closed the door and began talking.

"A few years ago, me and the guys were just starting this musical group. We played and did OK, but our equipment was terrible. The instruments were low quality, the sound system we used stunk, and we didn’t sound to hot either. Thus, we weren’t hired to play very much. We played here once, back when this place was just starting out. The guy who owns to place couldn’t get a reputable band to play for him, so he got us. He almost fired us anyway."

Chip began to wonder where this story was going. I wanted answers, not your life story. Cut to the chase. And so he did.

"It was after that first night here that I met Mr. Gray. He came up to us, much as you did, and applauded our efforts. He then started talking about us having great ‘potential’ and where we could go if we had better equipment. It was getting kinda creepy, the way he was talking. I told him we couldn’t get our hands on that kind of stuff. He said he could. He was as good as his word, too. Within a week, we had all the stuff you see here, and we’re the house band at a now-reputable establishment."

"What was the catch?" Chip asked, finally becoming interested.

"That I can’t tell you. In fact, I’ve told you too much already. He wanted an absolute secrecy thing. He was pretty vague, but I got the impression that I wasn’t supposed to tell much. He radiates that presence. The only other thing I think I can get away with telling you is that he did something similar for the owner. He had problems, and Mr. Gray made them go away."

His story ended, Mike ushered Chip out of the storage room without he excuse that he had to check to make sure everything was there. Chip began wandering around the room, debating whether or not to simply ask Dan himself what all the mystery was. Where’s the fun in that? Chip asked himself. Well, you may never see him after tonight, so this may be your only chance. I mean, what else are you going to do, follow him and see what else he does? Chip paused a moment as smirk slowly spread across his face. By this time, Gadget and Dale had found him.

"Where’ve you been Chip?" asked Dale, "It’s time to go."

"I think you guys should go ahead. I think I’ll walk home."

"You want to walk home? It has to be at least five miles back to the park. What could possibly make you want to do that at this late hour?"

"He’s trying to figure out the little mystery behind the guy Foxglove danced with." Gadget said.

"Oh." That was a subject Dale wanted to hear nothing more about.

"It’s turning out to be more promising than I expected." Chimed in Chip, trying to get some of the others interested. This failed however.

"I really think you should just drop it and come home Chip." Gadget said, repeating herself from earlier that evening.

"Let him do what he wants, Gadget. Neither your or me’ll be able to change his mind." Dale said, starting to walk towards the door. "See ‘ya tomorrow Chip."

"Just remember what you said earlier, this isn’t a case."

"Right. Just my own curiosity."

"All right then. Have fun!" Gadget said. Then she turned and followed Dale to the roof exit, where the Ranger Wing was parked.

Chip said goodbye and then turned back to look for Dan. He glanced at his table, and saw that the odd colored mouse was just getting up to leave. Let’s see if you have anything else in store for the evening Mr. Gray. Chip then did his best to follow him across town without being noticed.

When Gadget arrived on the roof, Dale was lounging across the back seat, looking half asleep already. Gadget climbed into the Pilot’s chair, and started the engines. "I’m surprised you’re OK with Chip going off like that to investigate a guy you’d probably like to hear as little about as possible." she said. Dale just looked at her and said, "If he comes back all dead tired tomorrow, that means we get the day off." He smiled and drifted off to sleep.

"Well, that’s a creative way of looking at it." gadget said, allowing herself a little chuckle.

Ch. 4 Arrival

Foxglove arrived home tired, but in good spirits. She had been living in the rafters of an old apartment building. It was a little run down, but there were still tenants. Foxglove had found a small area that was bricked up in a past renovation, but decay had caused a crack to form that was big enough for her to fit through. It was indeed a very small area, but Foxglove felt that she didn’t need much room. The rangers had helped her settle in there after the incident with Freddie. There was no furniture, save Foxglove’s perch, which hung down from the ceiling.

Foxglove took to her perch as soon as she arrived and began to doze off. She looked over the pictures that adorned the wall opposite her, which were all hung upside down so she could see them properly. There was a group shot of her and the rangers, a picture of just Dale, grinning sheepishly at the camera, and several of her and Dale. In most of these, Foxglove was either hugging or kissing or flirting with him in some way. Dale’s expressions ranged from shock to discomfort to enjoyment. He’s such a cutie! Glancing at the wristwatch she used as a clock, Foxglove realized how late it was. Well, it wouldn’t be late if she was keeping normal bat hours. She turned out the light, which she only used to look at her pictures anyway, and fell asleep. She expected that Dale would be in her dreams.

The Ranger Wing was speedily making it’s way home with Gadget at the helm. It was only her and Dale, and he had fallen asleep in the back seat. This left Gadget alone with her thoughts. This didn’t happen often. There would normally be someone there talking to her about a case or what her latest invention was. Now her thoughts could wander where they may as she was flying. Well this was a pleasant evening. The atmosphere was very relaxing. Maybe I should have dressed up for the occasion. Nah. My work clothes are just fine. I even changed into my cleaner set. It’s only got....1...2...3. Only three oil stains on it. Well, maybe that’s why nobody asked me to dance. Oh well. Live and learn. It’s not that I have anything against dressing up, but these are just more comfortable. And isn’t that the point of a night off, to be relaxed and comfortable? Well, I guess if I wanted a dance then I should have put on something nicer. Do I own anything nicer? I’ll have to check my closet. A dance probably would have been fun. Gosh Foxglove’s a good dancer. I never knew she had it in her. Then there was Dan. He sure was good at it, too. I wonder if either of them took lessons. They looked like they had practiced that. He sure is cute. If you go in for that dark and mysterious thing. I suppose I do, cause I said he was cute. Actually, I didn’t say he was cute, I thought he was cute. Anyway, I don’t put too much stock in physical beauty anyway. I mean, I know people think I’m pretty. Chip and Dale flirt with me because I’m pretty, or at least they think I’m pretty. Sometimes I don’t realize they’re flirting, but it’s a nice feeling when I do realize it. I guess I’m just oblivious that way. Of course, knowing you’re oblivious sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it. On the other hand, maybe knowing about your obviousness doesn’t stop you from being oblivious, but just reminds you to pay attention. On the other hand...Oh wait. I only have two hands. Well, they’re not really hands. I’m a mouse, so they I should call them paws. Actually, they have opposable thumbs, so I could call it a hand if I wanted to. It’s only an expression anyway. I suppose I could say "on the other paw" But then, I have four paws so my previous statement could have been correct. However, I can’t hold anything in my footpaws, so it wouldn’t be. Primates can though, and they have hands. At least, they’re always called hands. Their hands and feet are never called paws. I wonder why that is?

A snore emanating from the back seat derailed Gadget’s train of though. She glanced back to see Dale leaned up against the side of the plane. His head was face down in his arm, which was hanging along the side. Gadget figured that he’d been asleep since takeoff, and off in a daze since she found him on the roof. She smiled and turned back to her flying and began her landing run at Ranger HQ. I hope I meet someone who makes me feel that way.

Across town, Chip was growing tired and frustrated. The mouse he’d been following hadn’t done anything suspicious. He hadn’t done anything other than walk. Walking with a cane that was obviously just for show, Dan Gray had been traveling in more or less a strait line since he had left. Whilst he had been walking on the street, Chip had kept to the rooftops and overhangs, only occasionally daring to glance over the side, lest he be noticed. He knew Dan was still there by the tapping of the cane on the street, this sound being the only thing piercing the silence. Even Chip’s detective instincts were growing frustrated at the lack of anything suspicious. This abruptly changed as Dan turned down a dark alley and stopped. He stood there calmly, as if waiting for something.

"I know you’re there. Come out." Dan shouted. Chip froze, not wanting to admit that he’d been spied. Silence ensued for a few moments before Dan shouted again, "I think that if you want to talk to me, then you should show yourself."

Chip was about to give up and reveal himself when out of the darkness at the other end of the alley, a voice shot out. "All right. Fine." Out stepped a rather large muscular mouse clad in a black Ninja outfit. Bubbles!?!? What on earth is he doing here? Chip thought, both surprised at Bubble’s appearance and relived that he hadn’t been discovered.

Dan began speaking in a grave tone. "There are few steps you must follow when conducting business with me Mr. Bubbles. Am I correct in assuming you are Bubbles?"

"Yes. What’s the first step?" Bubbles asked, beginning to close the considerable distance between the two. Dan held up a hand motioning him to stop.

"Rule one. We’re going to play a little game. I ask you questions or you volunteer information, and I tell you to step foreword. If you can make it close enough, then we’ll talk business."

"All right." Bubbles said confidently.

"Who am I?"

"You’re Mr. Gray. A mouse who I’ve heard could help me out."

Dan motioned for Bubbles to take a step foreword. "How did you find out about me?"

"A few rumors, a few questions, and a few well placed beatings."

Step.

"What else do you know?"
"You’ve done big jobs for Fat Cat and Rat Capone."

A few steps.

"Such as?"

Bubbles hesitated. Chip guessed that he wasn’t as sure of this information as he was of other things. "Fat Cat’s casino now has a near fool proof security system, designed to keep anything from a human to a housefly out if it doesn’t belong there."

Several steps.

"You set up Rat Capon’s new business front, which is some kind of bar."

Several steps.

Dan had kept a stone face and harsh voice throughout this conversation. This was starting to creep Bubbles out. He just keeps staring at me! At least I think he’s staring at me, it’s hard to tell with those sunglasses. Creepy!

"Actually, I only set up the bar, or speakeasy as he prefers to call it. I think he’s seen too many gangster movies. What other business he runs behind the bulletproof glass and steel back room is none of my business."

By this time, Bubbles had traversed most of the distance between them. By Chip’s estimate, Bubbles only had to come up with a few more pieces of information.

"I am impressed Mr. Bubbles. Your reputation as a blockhead was unfounded."

"I had to take a lot of time to get this far." Bubbles admitted. He was growing a bit more agitated.

"Just a little bit more Bubbles. Have you anything else?’

From the Chip’s perspective, Bubbles looked like he’d run out of steam. He was looking about as if the answer were scattered about in the alley.

"You..." he stammered, "You accept or demand strange forms of payment."

Dan stood there silent for a moment. Bubbles stood there seemingly confident. Slowly Dan extended his hand to Bubbles. "Congratulations. You’ve followed rule number1." Bubbles grasped Dan’s hand tightly.

During this exchange, Chip had been creeping down the side of the building and was currently listening from the fire escape. I knew it! I knew there was something suspicious about that guy. Being so secretive, the "favors", I knew it. Just what is Bubble’s part in all this?

"Now we move to step two. This is a choice you must make, Mr. Bubbles. Either you offer me something interesting, or you tell me what you need. If you offer something that strikes my fancy, then you will be rewarded. Tell me what you need, and you will pay me very handsomely for it, and you may not get what you expect."

"I think I’ve got something you’ll like." Bubbles said, no longer nervous, and somewhat proud someone was calling him Mr. Bubbles without adding "Would you please leave"

"Good. Now tell me, why have you sought me out?" Dan had lightened his voice a bit and sounded almost friendly.

"My gang needs help. We could hold our own in a fight, but we’re not as well equipped as the city’s other Crimebosses. We don’t have Fat Cat’s money, or Capon’s influece. I need an edge."

"What have you brought that you’re so sure will catch my attention?"

Bubbles smiled, turned, and whistled loudly to the darkness behind him. Six black clad Ninjas of varying species emerged from the darkness hoisting between them a large wooden crate. Chip heard many of them emitting groans of effort, telling him the box was extremely heavy. They carried the crate to where Dan and Bubbles were standing. The group then let it drop with a loud thud.

"CAREFUL!" Bubbles shouted. "If this is damaged, I am going to..."

His tirade was canceled when Dan tapped bubbles on the shoulder with his cane. Bubbles turned to see the tip of the cane, adorned with a silver dragon’s head.

"Let’s save the rant for now, and see what you’ve got. You may resume after we find out if it is damaged or not."

Bubbles agreed and got to work opening the crate. Several crowbars and one human sized bottlecap opener tore at the seams of the crate. With a resounding boom, the top was removed and the four sides fell. Chip gasped at what was inside.

Dan didn’t say a word for a few moments, then began to smile. "You have my attention."

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