Return to Part 2

Black and White

A Fan Novel in Three Parts

By McPoodle,
Erik (Ice) Berg and Roxor

Edited by ModernTimes

Please see the end of the story for acknowledgements and credits.

(Show all multimedia, Hide all multimedia)

Table of Contents


Chapter 24: Graduation

Chapter 25: Cross-over

Chapter 26: Norris Nulton

Chapter 27: The Fandom United

Chapter 28: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Chapter 29: The Rescuers

Chapter 30: Hartford City Jail Blues

Chapter 31: Too Much Theta

Chapter 32: Truth or Consequences

Chapter 33: Searching for Meaning in a Meaningless World

Chapter 34: End Game

Chapter 35: Re-Introductions

Chapter 36: Homecoming

References and Acknowledgements


That's not the beginning of the end
That's the return to yourself
The return to innocence.

Love - Devotion
Feeling - Emotion

Love - Devotion
Feeling - Emotion

Don't be afraid to be weak
Don't be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart my friend
That will be the return to yourself
The return to innocence.

If you want, then start to laugh
If you must, then start to cry
Be yourself don't hide
Just believe in destiny.

Don't care what people say
Just follow your own way
Don't give up and use the chance
To return to innocence.

That's not the beginning of the end
That's the return to yourself
The return to innocence.

Don't care what people say
Follow just your own way
Follow just your own way
Don't give up, don't give up
To return, to return to innocence.

If you want then laugh
If you must then cry
Be yourself don't hide
Just believe in destiny.

--"Return to Innocence", Enigma

"Return to Innocence" music video on YouTube.

Chapter 24: Graduation


Triangle News Service
Over 20 Million Sites Purged of Objectionable Material, Including Every Trace of Rescue Rangers

AUTHOR'S NOTE: "Purged"? "Purged"??? But I was using that fandom! Now what am I going to do? Alright, readers, let's go look at the website for this random fandom over here while I re-group:

Adventures of Pochacco & Keroppi Website

browser header
browser footer

Hmm, on second thought, let's stick with this fandom and see where it takes us by entering the chat....

                                     _          8888888
                                   ,d88         8888888
                            ____  d88' _,,      888888'
                           (8888\ 88' d888)     Y8888P
                           ___~~8 ~8  88~___    d8888
  _______              ,8888888        ~ 888888_8888
,8888888888===__    _,d88P~~               ~~Y88888'
88888888888888888888888'                        `88b
8888888888888888888888P                          Y88
`~888888888888~~~~~ 88                            88
    ~~~~~~~~        88                            88
                    88                            88
                    88                            88
                    88                            88
                    88    ,aa.            ,aa.    88
                    88    d88b            d88b    88
                  ,=88    Y88P            Y88P    88=,
                ,d88P'     `'     _aa_     `'     `Y88b,     ___ 
                88P'             (8888)             `Y88  ad88888b           
                88                ~^^~                88 d88Y~~"Y8b      
         _______"Yb._                              _.d8"d8Y      88      
|      88        88                                                   |
|      88        88    Welcome to the Adventures of                   |
|      88ba,___,d8P    Pochacco & Keroppi Chat                        |
|       "888888888     ___PANDK System v1.2___                        |
|          ~~~~~~                                                     |
|   You are entering private property.                                |
|   Membership is by application only.                                |
|                                                                     |
|   Apply for a login at the HELLO KITTY Fan Node :                   |
|     MM's Adventures of Pochacco & Keroppi : Membership.             |
|                                                                     |
|   Unauthorized access is considered trespassing                     |
|   and will be prosecuted.                     |\      _,,,--,,_  ,) | 
|                                               /,`.-'`'   -,  ;-;;'  |
|_____________________________________________ |,4-  ) )-,_ ) /\______|
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'---''(_/--' (_/-'~~~~~~
> The date is Friday, June 12. The time is 23:08 EDT.

> Login: MourningDove
> Password: ************

> Welcome to the chat, MourningDove.
> MyMelody is already here.

> 4096-bit encryption has been engaged.

MyMelody: Greetings, MourningDove. Welcome to the Pochacco & Keroppi chat.
MourningDove: Hi.
MyMelody: I see you are a new member. There is a task I like to give new members, to gauge how much they will be able to contribute: please come up with a new character for the series.
MourningDove: A test, huh? Hmm...well, I don't know which Sanrio character would be best, but how about a neighbor and best friend for My Melody who keeps her crush from getting too out of hand? They both graduated from high school today.
MyMelody: That will work. :) Glad to see you found us, Honker.
MourningDove: Thanks, QQ. So, a test to distinguish the "true believer" from the merely curious. Good idea. But I'm still worried. Are you sure that you-know-who won't find out about this? The one who pointed me here said she was pretty confident she could use "his" computers without him catching on. Who is she, anyway?
MyMelody: That was ConMouse. I know as little about her now as I did before. But she's proven her worth many times. The guts of this site are all her work, although the basic idea was mine. I've been planning this ever since "he" got his job.
MourningDove: But you don't know who she is? You may have even met her.
MyMelody: Wouldn't be surprised. But I'm not going to pry. ConMouse guards her secrets well, and the last thing we need right now is to drive her off by being too nosy - this movement will end when that happens. How was graduation?
MourningDove: A complete and utter blur. I know I said something between "I've been curious about how the world worked" and "the key to contentment is to always try whatever makes you uncomfortable", but I'll be darned if I can remember a word of it. How was your graduation?
MyMelody: A complete and utter disaster. I don't want to talk about it.
MourningDove: I wish I could have shared it with you.
MyMelody shrugs.
MourningDove: It's been less than two weeks since the edict. You and ConMouse must have been busy. I suppose that means you haven't had any time to write.
MyMelody: I've been writing. Don't have a choice - my counterpart lives her life regardless of what happens to us.
MourningDove: So how far are you?
MyMelody: I'm finished! Other than waiting for you, my main reason for logging in tonight was to tell the fanfic news to anybody who would be willing to hear.
MourningDove: Congratulations!
MyMelody: To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd ever have the patience to follow this thing through for four years.
MourningDove: Can I see it?
MyMelody: Sure. Go to the Fanfiction section on my node, and then add "Academy Days Chapter 12" to the address.
MourningDove: Reading it now.

In his room in Harford, Connecticut, Herbert d'Foote, Jr., one-time next-door neighbor to the Emperor of Earth (and known to his closest friends as "Honker"), sat at his Navi and downloaded the last chapter of a four-year saga covering the high school years of the Sanrio character My Melody. A series of search-and-replace operations later, the document was now about Tammy Chestnutt. The final section of the chapter read as follows:

"Don't take too long with that breath of fresh air," Foxglove told Tammy, who nodded. She then turned and returned to the party.

Tammy took her promised breath, then sat down to wait for the end of the party. As she sat, she thought back on the tumultuous last four years of her life. Years of joy and heartbreak, of new friends and self-discovery. Four years ago, Tammy Chestnutt entered the Allegheny River Academy not knowing who she was. Well, now she knew who she was, she knew her destiny, and she was determined to make the most of it, to reach out her hand like her father had, and to serve her fellow animals like the Rescue Rangers had. She was ready.

A chipmunk's hand came to rest gently on her shoulder.

Tammy turned her head, smiling. "Yes, Chip?"


> You have been inactive for 5 minutes. Do you wish to log out?
> Disconnected.

Tough security system, thought Honker. But then again, I certainly can't blame her.

Honker logged in again as MourningDove.

MourningDove: OK, read it.
MyMelody: And?
MourningDove: It's good. Better than anything I can write.
MyMelody: Well, you draw much better than I can, so I say we're even.
MourningDove: Point taken. I do have bad news, however: your site's been hacked.
MyMelody: What?! Let me check.
MourningDove: It's the background image on your pages.
MyMelody: Yes, I checked the logs, and it looks like that's all that was affected. I'll let ConMouse know. "Have you ever seen the lain"? What does it mean?
MourningDove: It's Japanese. Something weird has been going on in Japan for the past couple of months, but I haven't been able to get a straight answer on any of the English-language nodes. Something about a new "God of the Wired".
MyMelody: Creepy. Are you going to be on much longer?
MourningDove: Yeah, I was thinking of staying online all night. Maybe ConMouse will log in.
MyMelody: As far as I know she hasn't created an account yet. She said she was going to be very busy this week. Well, I'm barely conscious, so I'm going to bed. Be sure to ask any new people that character question I asked you, and treat anybody who fails as a potential spy.
MourningDove: Will do.

> MyMelody has logged out.

> You have been inactive for 5 minutes. Do you wish to log out?  No
> You have been inactive for 5 minutes. Do you wish to log out?  No

MourningDove: BRB

> You have been inactive for 5 minutes. Do you wish to log out?  No

MourningDove: Unbelievable. And nobody here to tell.

> You have been inactive for 5 minutes. Do you wish to log out?  No
> You have been inactive for 5 minutes. Do you wish to log out?  No
> You have been inactive for 5 minutes. Do you wish to log out?  No

> Amnesia1983 has joined.

Amnesia1983: Hello?
MourningDove: Welcome to the Pochacco and Kerapi chat. I take care of the place when MyMelody is away. I see you are a new member. There is a task we like to give new members, to gauge how much they will be able to contribute: please come up with a new character for the Pochacco & Keroppi series.
Amnesia1983: I'm rather attracted to Mimmy Kitty - a Hawaiian lookalike of Hello Kitty who happens to be a con-artist and Hello Kitty's dark side incarnate. Who did you pick, BTW?
MourningDove: The neighbor and best friend for My Melody who keeps her crush from getting too out of hand.
Amnesia1983: Err...I don't remember that character in the cartoon. Oh wait, Herbie? That was a fanchar in QQ's fiction, right?
MourningDove: Bingo.
Amnesia1983: You know, I've been trying to ask QQ about this for the longest time, but she keeps avoiding the question: Where does she get her material? That Academy Days series has been going on forever, and near as I can tell, she's got the characterization nailed. I've never seen anything like it. What's her secret?
MourningDove: I'm sure she's mentioned the subject of "counterparts" before - that ring any bells?
Amnesia1983: Oh, wow. You're kidding. Well, if you're going to share something that big with me, the least I can do is to give you my identity - I'm "her" pilot.
MourningDove: I know.
Amnesia1983: You do?
MourningDove: You already said you work for "them", and you're the only one of their employees that could create all this.
Amnesia1983: Thanks.
MourningDove: That, and you don't sound anything like Lou.
Amnesia1983: Well, if you're going to be that way about it, no more secrets for you. ;) Seriously, though, after what I went through tonight, I'd really like to get in touch with QQ - is she going to log in tonight? She really needs to hear what happened.
MourningDove: She's been and gone, and is not coming back tonight. I can't imagine your news beats mine, though.
Amnesia1983: Oh? You first.
MourningDove: Not twenty minutes ago, "she" dropped out of the sky in a helicopter and stole my pet bat! Can your story beat that?
Amnesia1983: Yes.

Carolyn Maughlarde was sound asleep. Physically, Carolyn was in her bed in a small apartment in Inverness, Florida, that bordered Withlacoochie State Forest.

Mentally, Carolyn Maughlarde was outside amidst the trees in broad daylight, having the time of her life, leaping from branch to branch hundreds of feet above the ground, the wind rushing through her hair. The trees were immense, not only in height, but in every dimension; the average branch was much bigger than she was. Her method of travel was to leap off of a branch, arms and legs outspread, and let wind resistance slow her and the next branch stop her. Something else was helping, though, a steady pull from behind that kept her from slamming into the tree too fast. Carolyn looked back, and saw her tail.


With a start, Carolyn was suddenly awake. The dream had been so vivid that for a moment she had to check herself to make sure she was still human. She thought back on the dream, and she recognized the tail, and the animal it belonged to. Turning on a bedside lamp, she got out of bed. The outer layer of her bedclothes consisted of an extra-large white tee shirt, on which the following had been silk screened many years ago:

Where Will the Little Green Man Be Next?

Enter the Contest, Daily in the Chronicle!

The back of the shirt read "Ragle Gumm Knows."

Carolyn walked to the closet, opening it to reveal a red football helmet adorned with antennae, wires and various electronic attachments. The helmet was a top-secret prototype, developed by Doctor Elena Irwin for The Company. She called it the Kaon-Emission Paravoyant Neurolyzer, or KEPN. It was designed to read the brainwaves of anyone in the world and to relay those thoughts to the person wearing the helmet. However, on testing it on Agent Drew Maughlarde, it was discovered that the helmet actually detected the thoughts of the user's counterpart in an alternate universe (this meant that the "P" in the acronym had to be replaced with an "E", for "Equivoyant"). While still locked on Agent Maughlarde's avian counterpart, the helmet was stolen by agents of T.H.E.M., who accidentally lost it. From there it passed through the hands of E. Thaddeus Rockwell, who used it to create Darkwing Duck, and, after accidentally changing the frequency of the device, The Rescue Rangers. Rockwell had surrendered the helmet to Maughlarde in return for a chance to hide from the IRS. Carolyn's use of it had resembled Rockwell's, with two differences: she wasn't trying to get rich or famous, and she had tuned the device to her own counterparts in the worlds depicted in the two cartoons.

Suddenly, the door to Carolyn's bedroom burst open and her father pointed an accusing finger in her direction. "Don't you dare!" he cried.

"What?" she protested.

"You were going to put the KEEN on," he said. "Less than six hours after the last time."

"And so what if I was going to put it on?"

"I won't have you abusing this device!"

"You're one to talk--how many versions of yourself have you spied on since we got it?"

"That's different."

"That's different because using it changed you but it didn't change me. You used to be the Masked Marvel. That was your true identity. 'Drew Maughlarde' was just a disguise you put on when you needed to pretend to be normal. What happened to you, Dad? Did you see so many other you's fail that you decided to follow their example?"

This was an argument the two of them had had many times over the past few years, and Drew simply brushed it off. "This isn't about me, it's about you, young lady. Staying on one counterpart and one universe for too long has long-term consequences. The fate of poor Rockwell proved that. That's why you're limited to one session per day. It would have to be an exceptional circumstance before I'd allow you to use it again."

"It is exceptional! I think she's trying to contact me."

"You think Tammy has her own neurolyzer?"

"Yes. I can feel her watching me right now." Carolyn gestured over her left shoulder for emphasis. "Gadget must have invented the device independently while Tammy was in school."

"W...well, that's even more reason to be concerned! We have no idea what would happen if two KEENs got together! I might end up with a squirrel for a daughter!"

"And then maybe you'd get off your behind and save somebody for once! Look, it's perfectly safe. I've practically been in her head for four years now, off and on, and I'm the same person I was before, right?"

"Well, yes, as far as any eighteen-year old can be said to be the same as the fourteen-year old she used to be."

"There, you see?" Picking up the helmet with one hand, she led her father to the kitchen table. She sat him down in one chair, and she took the adjacent chair. "You watch everything that happens, and if you see anything go wrong, you turn it off, OK?"

"You're sure you want to go through with this? Now?"

"Yes and yes, and you're not going to be able to dissuade me." The Masked Marvel would have had a chance, but Drew Maughlarde was hopeless.

And he knew it. "I know that from bitter experience. Good luck, and be careful."

"I will." And in one motion she pulled on the helmet and flicked the switch at the side.

Chapter 25: Cross-over


At that moment, the chair vanished, causing Carolyn to fall right through the linoleum.

She landed on the floor of a slowly descending freight elevator, the sound of its antique pulley system simultaneously squeaking and roaring in her ears. She descended mostly in darkness, past rows of shelves containing puppets, playing cards, an oil lamp, a metronome, animal skulls, and jars of preserves. Some of the jars appeared to be using the preserves as a preservative: a large one contained sheep intestines, another pocket watches. Carolyn reached out and picked up a jar, to see that this one was preserving thumbtacks. She looked down to see that her bedclothes had been replaced by a faded pink dress, shoes and socks. Her normally braided hair was hanging loose around her shoulders, and she was no longer wearing the KEEN. She placed the jar back on a shelf beside a stuffed and mounted jackrabbit.

"Jan Svankmajer", concluded Carolyn.

Rabbit Hole scene from Jan Svankmajer's Alice, no longer on YouTube.

"Said Alice," her own voice echoed.

The descent appeared to be endless.

Carolyn turned around to look out the side of the elevator opposite the shelves. She spied a distant light far below illuminating what looked to be the walls of a proper Victorian sitting room. However, this room was shaped like a well, and seemed bottomless. Also, the walls looked like they came out of an illustration rather than real life.

Carolyn crouched down to try and get a better look. She saw portraits on the walls, but they were all hung upside down. In addition, there were little tables and desks floating in mid-air, also upside down. Also, something was rising towards her, going about the same rate as the elevator was descending. It was a perfectly round circular object, ruffled like the underside of a mushroom. In its center were two black smudges. No...actually, more like two black fruiting bodies attached to white stalks. Oh dear, that's really not right, either. Better to say that it was a young woman in a powder-blue dress, large white petticoat, white apron, white stockings and black shoes, falling up towards her. A young woman with a large fluffy squirrel tail. In fact, it would be best to say that this was Tammy, if Tammy were playing the lead character in a 1951 Disney feature and was voiced by Kathryn Beaumont.

Rabbit Hole scene from Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, no longer on YouTube.

"I say," Carolyn called down jokingly. "Have you seen a white rabbit?"

Tammy pushed her dress aside to look at Carolyn. "Oh! Is that...?" Unfortunately, this act caused her to fall a lot faster.

Carolyn braced herself and stretched out her arm, catching Tammy and pulling her into the elevator. The moment she crossed the threshold, gravity reversed itself for Tammy, and she fell down on the floor of the elevator with a thud.

It was an odd thing, sitting next to a cartoon character. Lighting had absolutely no effect on colors; or rather it had a very extreme effect. Objects in light were one shade, and objects in shadow were a distinct shade. There was no graduation. Also details, like the texture of Tammy's dress, were completely missing. The squirrel's hair was a single orange color, differentiated only by a mass of thin black lines. Like Carolyn, Tammy's hair was straight, to increase her similarity to Lewis Carroll's iconic character.

During this time Tammy was silent, engaged in a similar study of the live-action young woman beside her. Indeed, it appeared that Tammy had some difficulty distinguishing Carolyn from her surroundings.

" did I get here?"

"A shared dream world," Carolyn speculated with a shrug. She held her hand out. "Hi, I'm Carolyn. "

"Said Alice," her echo replied from above.

Carolyn looked up, annoyed. "Alright, Mike, that was a funny-once joke, so you can stop now."

Tammy, who was trying to see Carolyn's hand in order to shake it, looked up in confusion. "'Mike'?" she asked.

"It's the name of a self-aware computer from a book," Carolyn explained. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress."

"Oh," replied Tammy, not getting the reference. Squinting, she finally found Carolyn's hand and grasped it with her left hand. "Hi, I'm Tammy. Wait, you know that already. What's next?"

"Your Gadget impression needs work," Carolyn laughed. She noticed that Tammy's right arm was stretched out before her oddly, like the hand was resting on an invisible object. She also noticed that Tammy's hand in her own felt like warm rubber. "I hope you didn't mind my spying on you for the last four years."

Tammy broke contact as soon as she could politely do so. The touch of Carolyn's hand was even more disorienting that her physical appearance. "I...don't mind. The watching, that is. Made me think there was somebody else watching over me, even though I knew you couldn't do anything."

"I never judged you."

"I know."

"Perhaps I can even things out by telling you about myself. I started like you, the daughter of an adventurer and his stay-at-home wife. Only my father eventually convinced my mother to join him on his travels, leaving me with my grandfather. As a result, I remained an only child. I lost both of them when I was six, and then Grandfather got in over his head with some gangsters...long story short, I was in an orphanage at eight. And my time was running out--the men who had targeted Grandfather thought I knew what he would never reveal, so they came after me."

Tammy's eyes had been getting wider and wider as she soaked in this story. "And then what happened?"

"And then I met the Masked Marvel, the first person in my life whose ideals were matched with the wit and strength to make those ideals reality. The Masked Marvel saved my life, in every meaning of that word. Together, we defeated Terrance Barra. And then, he adopted me.

"I learned later that this act was at as significant for him as it was for me. The Masked Marvel had been nothing but the Masked Marvel for decades. His original identity of Drew Maughlarde was dead to him, for reasons too painful for him to ever tell me. He brought that back, he became normal again, for me."

"'Drew Maughlarde'..."

"In your world he was Detective Drake Mallard."

"Detective Drake was your stepfather?" The story kept getting better and better in Tammy's eyes.

"Was, and still is. The Masked Marvel rid the city of crime, and as Drew Maughlarde, Agent of The Company, he was largely responsible for the defeat of the evil T.H.E.M. organization." Carolyn decided to end her tale there, feeling reluctant to say any more to the innocent squirrel before her. "Do you have any questions?"

Tammy nodded eagerly. "I have so many questions. Your world, how does it operate? Is it filled with a sense of purpose? Are there other creators with separate worlds they have created, or is mine the only one?"

"Wait, one at a time, one at a time! First our world stumbles along as best it can, with whatever purpose we can guess for ourselves. To say that it is filled with any more sense and purpose than that, beyond some artist's feeling of purpose, is hard to say; then again, that assumes that it was created. And while I don't know for sure, I would suggest there are many separate worlds that have been created by various artists, probably including my own."

Tammy realized that Carolyn did a much better Gadget impersonation than she did.

"Your own?" Tammy interrupted. "If yours is not the Real World, where is it?"

"Well who's to say that any of these worlds are the original one? How would we even know? It could just be a never-ending chain of created worlds."

"This creator, he sounds like he has too much free time on his hands. And I'm not sure about your theory, since your world has a TV show depicting my world, while my world does not have a show about your world. That implies that your world created mine."

"That's just a theory though, it may be that neither created the other. What if the show wasn't a creation but rather a window into your world?"

"A window? And is that metaphorical pane of glass still in existence, or was it smashed long ago? Is that pane what you're using to talk to me now?"

"I suppose so, after all it feels like we've met through the looking glass almost." Carolyn chuckled.

"My world may have an independent existence, but your world could still be the Real World." Tammy speculated.

"No! Because I look like this, you might think I'm from the Real World, but I know better now. I live in a mad, out of control world, a world far too wrong to possibly be real. This cartoon series I mentioned, the one about the Rescue Rangers--it should have included an episode about you, but it was never completed. You know why? Because there are no squirrels on my world. No squirrels! How can a world be real without squirrels?"

"No squirrels?"

"No squirrels, and no doves."

"So Herbie's counterpart, is he human? Do you know him?"

"Yes, he's human, and I know him. We're very close, but also about a thousand miles away from each other. A world with no squirrels, and no doves. If given the choice which world to live in, I would gladly choose yours. Your world is governed by the laws of drama, while mine is controlled by the cold hand of science. The difference is like black and white. In your world, anything is possible, so long as the villain rises to a position of great power, in order to be toppled in an even more improbable victory by the powerless but stalwart hero. In my world, evil is done with good intention and what little good exists only happens by accident. A world that drives heroes to give up and retire to Florida, to spend the rest of their lives wallowing in the past. It is a world of gray, dim hopelessness."

Tammy's brow furled. "I don't think the difference is quite as stark as you describe," she said, hesitantly. "In, wait. I contacted you for a reason, Carolyn."

"You did?"

"Yes. I desperately need your help. I believe that Nimnul's loose on your world, and he's captured the Rangers of my world. Is there any way you can find him?"

Carolyn chuckled, a pained look in her face. "There isn't a man, woman or child on my world that doesn't know where Nimnul is. He's emperor now, emperor of the whole world!"

"Emperor? Emperor?! But he's crazy! Who in their right mind would give him that kind of power?"

"We were desperate, and he was able to save our world from utter destruction, not knowing or caring what the price for our deliverance would be. Even now, the majority of humanity supports him. He allows the world to run itself the way it was run before, just so long as he can have his way with anyone on his list of personal enemies."

"Are you on that list, Carolyn?" Tammy asked, wide-eyed.

"Fans of The Rescue Rangers just went to the top of the list," Carolyn told her. "So what you're asking me to do is to break into the most famous home on Earth to rescue a group of animals from the Emperor, knowing that I will hounded by a billion loyal subjects."

Tammy nodded mutely.

"I like those kinds of odds! I'm in. And I'll rally as many fellow fans as I can to help me. But you have to help me, too."

"What can I do?" Tammy asked.

"Tell me more about how Nimnul stole the Rangers."

"Well, it's Nimnul, so the default answer applies: he invented a whatsit. The first time he used it, it swapped his mind with that of his counterpart on your world. He must have rebuilt it to swap the minds of the Rescue Rangers with their counterparts on your world."

"Can you get a hold of the machine in your world?"

"Nope. It blew up when he used it."

"Oh. The same thing probably happened to the machine in this world. We'll have to force Nimnul to build another one."

"Not necessarily. Foxglove was swapped a full half-hour after the other Rangers."

This brought two thoughts to Carolyn's mind: to ask Tammy the significance of the word "other", and the realization that she would have confirmation of this story by asking Honker about his pet bat. She decided to bring up neither point for now. "Get in touch with Nimnul's counterpart on your world and find out everything you can about him and his wife--he's married to the counterpart of Winifred the Witch. Any piece of information we can use against them would help."

"Already on it."

"Try to find out about Nimnul's machine. If you find plans, try to rebuild it. That way you can fix things from your side even if I fail."

Tammy nodded, then added, "but you won't fail, Carolyn. I believe in you."

Carolyn smiled. "Thanks. Contact me if you find anything--I'll keep the 'window pane' with me at all times. You take care of my world's counterparts of the Rangers, and we'll get everything sorted out on our end. You'll see."

"Good luck!" Tammy lifted her right arm, and instantly vanished.

Carolyn lifted her helmet, and found herself back in the kitchen.

"Well?" Drew asked.

"There's hope."

Chapter 26: Norris Nulton

Triangle News Service
Reward of $2M for Accurate Identification of "QQ" and "ConMouse"


The beige Plymouth came to rest in a narrow spot at the rear of the large parking lot behind the mental institution. Traffic had been horrible.

Winifred adjusted her watch. "Hold on," she told the pink purse, "I have to get something from the trunk." A few seconds later, she returned with a glass rod wrapped in a silk scarf. She placed the rod in her handbag and then picked up both bag and purse.

"Could you turn me, please?" the voice from the purse asked. "I'm facing the wrong way."

Winifred obediently reoriented the purse.

"What was that, anyway?"

"Something Doctor Rogers asked for. You better keep quiet when we get closer to the building. Some of the inmates are very paranoid about animals, which led to the creation of some very strict rules about what can be carried inside. Am I going to be able to open that thing for inspection?"

"Yes," Herbie answered from inside. "But don't let them look too close."

"In that case," she replied, "let me make it useful." She opened the top of the purse, revealing a small cloth compartment edged with what looked like a lipstick container, a coin purse, a wallet, and several other items. None of these surfaces were real--they just gave the illusion of a very full purse. Digging through her handbag, Winifred found a few small items to place in the available space. "That should do it," she said. "Anything else I need to know?"

"I'm allergic to X-rays."

"I'll keep that in mind," Francine said with a smile, as she began a rapid walk between the parked cars towards the rear entrance. The low heels of her shoes made a distinct clack-clack-clack sound on the blacktop.

Inside the purse-shaped command center, Herbie the dove sat strapped into a small chair, monitoring a large screen showing the scene captured by a tiny camera located at the top front of the purse. A speaker over his head allowed him to hear Francine's shoes and her gentle breathing, while a second screen showed measurements that included altitude, velocity, compass direction and several others that were as yet a mystery to him. He had tried consulting the manual Gadget had written during the drive over, but it had been a bit much for him. In the center of the control panel before him was a microphone grill, its switch set to off.

Flicking another switch, the first screen now showed a view straight up at Winifred's head. It was not a flattering angle. Herbie was still not entirely sure about this human. From her ramblings on the car trip, it appeared that she had jumped spontaneously into witchcraft one day after trying out a spell in a book and discovering that it worked. It was obvious to him that there was a lot she wasn't telling him, of what drove a self-professed animal lover into being the violent and hate-filled person the Rangers had encountered. Also unexplained was the nature of her sudden transformation in the wake of her defeat. She had mentioned the small animal group known as the Prisoner's Aid Society, which had approached her during her time in solitary confinement, so perhaps they were a factor. Undoubtedly, so was Norris Nulton.

Herbie sighed. Perhaps he was being too cynical. Foxglove had had a change of heart. Even Nimnul had gone straight for a while. He put the matter out of his mind.

"Where are you?" a new voice emerged from the speaker. "No, there's no change; he's still in Fantasyland."

Herbie returned the view on the screen to the world in front of the purse. He saw a woman with straight short red hair, a pale complexion, and dark clothing, talking into a cell phone and sitting in a white Ford Taurus rental car with the window down. Winifred had stopped, and was looking at her. The woman seemed to notice Winifred out of the corner of her eye, and turned away, cupping a hand around the phone. "Could we talk later?" she whispered.

Winifred turned without a word and continued walking. "I swear I know her from somewhere, but I can't remember where," she told Herbie when she was out of earshot.

"Anyone important?"

"I think so," she replied, hesitantly.

"But..." Herbie prompted.

"But, I can't remember for sure, OK? That explosion-thing at the end of my run-in with the Rangers, the one that made me magic-free, did a number on my memory when it ripped all the spells out. I sometimes have trouble remembering stuff from before then. That woman must have been from that part of my life. Or maybe I saw her on a commercial--she could be a spokesperson for all I know."

A hundred feet later, Winifred reached the door. She removed a card from the purse and slid it through a reader to gain entrance. Inside she turned a corner into a locker room and exchanged her coat for a plain gray jumpsuit.

"OK," she said as softly as possible. "This is it. Inspection is just beyond that door. Any last words?"

"What are you going to say if they find me?" Herbie asked.

"I could say you're another exhibit for Doctor Rogers, but only if you can convincingly impersonate a stuffed dove. Otherwise, I lose my job and my parole, and you get fed to the alley cats."

"I can do stiff and motionless," Herbie said, a little nervously.

Emerging from the locker room, Winifred turned a corner into a small room, occupied by a folding table and a walk-through metal detector, and sighed. There were two men in the room, wearing jumpsuits similar to Winifred's. One of them was nearly bald and was absorbed in watching the small black and white television mounted in one corner of the room. His nametag identified him as Ernesto. The other, named Bernie, wore an obvious toupee and was staring fixedly at the red-haired woman. Herbie recognized that look from his brother Tank. In his case, that look usually meant that Herbie would be spending the rest of the day walking funny.

"Morning, Freddie," Bernie sneered.

Ernesto looked up. "Ah, good morning, Señora Winifred," he said, getting up. "I think you are late."

Winifred ignored Bernie and turned to Ernesto, handing him her handbag. "Unavoidable, I'm afraid," she said. "Has Doctor Mitford-Pritchard come by?"

"Not yet," replied Ernesto as he put the handbag down on the table and started searching through it. "I heard him bellowing in the North Ward, so you might want to avoid that."

"Will do. How is Olivia?"

"Her fever broke last night."

"Thank goodness for that."

Bernie was becoming annoyed at the lack of response to his earlier taunt. "I say, Freddie, how's your cat?"

"I did not know you had a cat," said Ernesto.

"Of course the witch has a cat, Ernie. A black cat. And whenever it sees her it goes like this: MREEOWW!"

Winifred and Herbie both blushed--Bernie had accidentally said a rather bad word in Cat.

"I still don't think the señora has a cat," Ernesto said, confused. He turned back to the bag. "I'm sorry to be taking so long, but you have an awful lot in there today."

"Yes," Winifred explained. "Doctor Rogers asked me to bring in some items for the inmates to play with."

Ernesto glanced up at the wall clock. "I...I trust you, señora. I think that's good enough."

"Well I don't," interrupted Bernie, pushing Ernesto aside. He pulled out the glass rod and silk scarf. "Aha! This wouldn't happen to be a magic wand by any chance, would it?"

Winifred took the rod and scarf out of his hands and started rubbing them together. "Actually, Bernie, this rod is only magical if you think the triboelectric effect violates the laws of Nature."

"Don't you go using your big words on me, you old..." As Bernie's hand reached for the rod, a blue spark of electricity leapt from one to the other. With a gasp of surprise, Bernie fell flat on his bottom.

"She turned you into a newt!" Ernesto joked, pointing.

"What, really? Get me a mirror, Ernie! Somebody get me a mirror! I can't feel my rear!"

Winifred quickly picked up the handbag and swinging both bags high, walked through the metal detector into the hallway beyond. She managed to suppress a laugh at Bernie's expense. "You know," she confided to Herbie with a smile, "I think he'd make a rather handsome newt."

After obtaining a cart of janitorial supplies, Winifred made her way to the common room, where the calmer inmates were gathered. The pink purse was placed on a lower shelf where Herbie could still see what was going on. At the far end of the room, Herbie spotted Nimnul, or rather Nulton, sitting in a nook and staring out the window. Winifred went first to a different corner, where a man and a woman in white lab coats were consulting in low voices. Winifred waited patiently until she was noticed.

"Ah, Miss Cadwallader," the woman, Doctor Rogers, addressed her. "Do you need anything?"

"I have those toys you asked me for. I even had a chance to try one of them out."

"Very good. Put them on that table over there. I'll gather the patients at 8:30 for the demonstration."

"A moment, there, Miss Cadwallader," the man said in a superior tone. "Did you come straight here after signing in?"

"Yes, Doctor Mitford-Pritchard," Winifred said meekly, looking down.

"It is now 8:14," Doctor Mitford-Pritchard said, consulting his watch. "Given the walking time from the check-in station to here, that makes you ten minutes late."

"I am?" Winifred asked innocently. "I have 8:08 on my watch."

Doctor Mitford-Pritchard examined Winifred's watch and compared it to his own. "Yes, it appears that your watch is slow. It is now 8:15." He watched as the janitor adjusted her watch to the correct time. "Let's not see that this happens again, yes?"

"Yes, Doctor Mitford-Pritchard," Winifred said, backing away slowly.

"Honestly, Philip," said Doctor Rogers. "Sometimes I think you treat her worse than the patients."

"The patients do not have criminal records," muttered Doctor Mitford-Pritchard.

After placing half of the contents of her handbag on the table, Winifred came up behind Norris Nulton.

"It's such a beautiful landscape out there," he said without turning around. "So few colors are needed to render an entire world. The soil is the perfect shade of brown, the foliage is the perfect shade of green, the sky is the perfect shade of blue, and the clouds are titanium white. The hills are made up of sine curves, and those happy little clouds would make Bob Ross proud. It's all so simple--no distractions. There's only what is necessary, and no more."

"Norris?" she asked, quietly.

Nulton turned and looked at her, smiling. He had allowed a scruffy orange beard to grow in. "You shouldn't call me 'Norris'," he said in a near-whisper. "All evidence indicates that I am Professor Norton Nimnul."

One look at those gentle eyes were enough to convince Herbie that this was most definitely not Professor Norton Nimnul.

"But that's not true," Winifred countered.

"If I'm ever going to leave this place and get away from the constant questioning, then that's who I have to be. I am Norton J. Nimnul, scientist. I own a ray gun and a lab."

"Norris, I went to see the Rescue Rangers."

"The Rescue Rangers are a figment of my imagination."

"The Rescue Rangers have been kidnapped. Well not 'kidnapped', exactly. It's rather complicated. Professor Nimnul stole them."

"I am Professor Nimnul. And I can invent anything I set my mind to. When I'm released, I'll come up with brilliant inventions for the good of mankind. I think I'll start with Super Toast."

"You are not Professor Nimnul. Professor Nimnul's in your body right now, in your universe."

" my body? W...with Francine? What is he going to do with her? Who's going to defend her? I have to go back! I have to go back, immediately! That man is a monster, and he must be stopped!"

The other inmates were looking at the two of them curiously. Luckily, Doctor Rogers was involved in setting up the morning's demonstration, and hadn't noticed. Doctor Mitford-Pritchard was long gone, having better things to do than interact with his patients.

Winifred took Nulton's hands in her own, an act which did a lot to calm the man down. "It's alright," she told him soothingly. "I met Tammy, and she has a plan."

"Tammy?" Nulton asked, his eyes wandering. "Ah yes, Tammy. Never got to air that episode. A shame, really. I put a lot of work into that conveyer belt. Of course, I warned Mr. Rockwell that nobody would believe a can that small could hold such a big cat, even as a joke."

Winifred reached out and grabbed Nulton's chin, forcing him to look at her. "Focus, Norris, focus. We need to know if there's anything we could use against Nimnul."


"I brought Herbie, a friend of Tammy's." Winifred picked up the purse and sat down, her back to the other inmates.

"I don't remember a character named Herbie in the show," Nulton declared. " neighbor's kid is named don't mean to say that Gadget mastered the Szalinski process to shrink a human boy into that tiny space?"

"I'm not human, Mr. Nulton," said the voice from the purse, "I'm a dove."

Of course Nulton could not understand what the voice from the purse was saying. "Sounds like a pigeon," he remarked.

Herbie's opinion on being mistaken for a pigeon resembled Chip and Dale's opinion on being mistaken for squirrels.

"A mourning dove, actually," Winifred corrected Nulton. "Counterparts between the same universe are not always the same species. I can translate for him."

"Well!" Nulton took a few seconds to absorb this. "Wow, that explains a lot. I think I'm going to have a long talk with that girl that used to live next door to the d'Footes when this is all over."

"We don't have much time," Winifred urged.

"Yes, well, let's see. How to stop Professor Nimnul? I dunno. He's in my body, right, just like I'm in his. And last night I accidentally ate some crab linguini with no ill effects, so maybe you could try using my shellfish allergy against him."

"Shellfish allergy," Winifred repeated, disappointed. "Is that all?"

Nulton shrugged. "Sorry."

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Doctor Rogers announced. "If you'd gather around, I've got something interesting to show you."

Winifred sighed. "You better join them, Norris," she said.

Nulton opened his mouth to apologize once again, then shut up and walked meekly to join the other patients.

Winifred wheeled her cart to an abandoned corridor, then picked up the pink purse and brought it close to her face. "I have to stay here for the rest of my shift," she whispered. "Do you have a way of getting back to Tammy?"

"I'm a bird, remember? I think I can trust you with the purse. Besides, I think it's best if we kept you updated about what Tammy found out."

"I'll be at the tree around 5:30, then. Now then, you need a working window. There aren't too many in this place, for obvious reasons. Let's see if we can find one."

After a bit of searching, she ended up in Doctor Roger's office, opening the door with her card key. Closing the door behind her, she walked to the window, opened it, and put the purse on the sill. The back of the purse opened up and Herbie walked out with a single-button remote control. Herbie pressed the button, which caused the purse to lock itself up with an audible "chirp". With a nod at Winifred, he took to the air and flew out the window.

Eleven hours later, Winifred returned to the park. Given what she had gone through at work, she would have much rather gone straight to bed, but she had promised to show up. She was startled to see the rental car from the asylum parking lot here at the park, with the same woman sitting at Winifred's usual bench, talking on her cell phone. At one end of the table before her was a large metallic box with rods soldered on either side, next to a strange device consisting of an upright cylinder wrapped in thick copper wire, topped with a thick metal donut, and letting off sparks every few seconds. The device seemed to resemble something Winifred remembered from the Mister Whizzer TV show, but much smaller in size.

As Winifred cautiously approached, she saw that Tammy, her hand resting on one of the silver box's bars, and Herbie were also standing on the table, and that they also appeared to be part of the cell phone conversation. Standing between the animals and the human was a black plastic box, nine centimeters by four centimeters by one centimeter in size. Attached to the top of the box was a black microphone, while the front of the box acted as a speaker. Everything said by the animals was immediately repeated by the box at a lower frequency. To Winifred, this sounded like trying to hold a conversation in a box canyon, but hearing the woman (and the man on the phone) talking with a dove and a squirrel, she soon figured out that the box was an animal-to-human translation device of some kind.

Tammy was the first to notice her. "Winifred! We've been waiting for you."

"I'm sorry about that--there was a 'incident' at the hospital, and it took quite some time to restore calm to the patients."

The woman stood up and walked around the table to greet Winifred. "Dana Scully, FBI," she said, in about as gentle a way as you can say something that ends with "FBI".

Winifred shook the outstretched hand. "I didn't think that the government was aware of the existence of talking animals," she said cautiously.

"They aren't. Our relationship with the Rescue Rangers is strictly off the record."

Winifred thought about this as the two women sat down on opposite sides of the table.

"We, that is, Agent Fox Mulder and myself..."

"Hey," said the voice on the cell phone.

"...became involved in this case by accident. At the FBI, we are usually assigned the more unusual cases, which means we were very familiar with the criminal career of Norton Nimnul. One day we noticed that an abnormally long time had passed since Nimnul had come to our attention. Some investigation revealed his current whereabouts and condition, and a little more digging showed that he had been in possession of the Dimensional Viewer shortly before the incident that landed him in the asylum." The object she was referring to was the metal box. For the first time, Winifred saw that a screen on the box was showing a moving image of a young human woman with a strange helmet on her head. Unlike everyone else who had encountered the Viewer, Winifred adapted to its strange display instantly, perhaps because of some of the things she had seen during her days as a witch.

Scully continued. "The Viewer had been constructed in 1940 as one of a pair, and Mulder possessed the other copy. From the remains of his laboratory, we recovered a notebook written by Nimnul filled with pages of settings for the device and observations of Nimnul's counterparts. The notebook concluded that one world in particular was 'ripe for conquest', and when Mulder set his Viewer to those coordinates, he learned that that world had in fact been conquered by Nimnul. I came here to see if Gadget might be able to help us to reconstruct the Dimensional Switcher that Nimnul had invented based on the Viewer, but as you know he had already reconstructed the device to use on the Rangers first.

"Mulder is now across the street at the police department's evidence room with Sparky, looking for clues to the construction of the Switcher."

"Sorry to disappoint you, Scully," said Mulder over the cell phone, "but we concluded our search a couple of minutes ago. No plans survived. We're heading back to you, so expect to see us in a few minutes."

Herbie turned to Winifred. "I told everyone what happened when we interviewed Norris. Did he tell you anything else after I left?"

"Well, he did, but I don't see how it can be useful. He told me that the Moon in his universe has a base on it, and that it might be used to attack Nimnul's bases on Earth. But from what you tell me, Nimnul is Emperor of Earth, so surely he controls all means of communication between the Earth and the Moon."

The eyes of Dana Scully and the girl on the Viewer display lit up simultaneously. "Actually," said Scully, "Mulder's counterpart, a government agent named Reynard D. Keigh, is currently on the Moon."

"'Reynard D. Keigh'? That's a very different name than 'Fox Mulder'."

"I didn't get it either, but Mulder did. 'Reynard' is the name of a famous fox, and 'D. Keigh', i.e. 'decay', is a synonym for 'molder'. Anyway, Keigh is in a position to really help us, and he has his own reasons for opposing Nimnul. Best of all, his mind is very susceptible to picking up Mulder's thoughts when he uses the Viewer. Therefore, I think Nulton's idea stands a very good chance of working!"

"I need everybody to please stay very still." All eyes went to Tammy to see why she said this, then followed her gaze to the end of the table opposite the Dimensional Viewer. There they saw a trembling Foxglove-A.

Hoping for this very eventuality, Winifred slowly removed a little jar of banana-flavored baby food from a coat pocket. Opening the jar, she scooped some of the food into the lid and then carefully slid the lid towards the bat. It took a couple of minutes for the bat to nerve itself to investigate the source of the fruity smell.

The woman on the Viewer tried to say something, but the machine was not equipped for sound, so Tammy had to repeat her words: "Foxglove's counterpart is domesticated. Perhaps she's calmed down enough to remember that."

After finishing the meal, Foxglove-A crept forward. To Winifred's surprise, the bat headed not for her but for Herbie, rushing forward and embracing the startled dove in her wings.

"She appears to recognize her master," said Tammy. "Or at least her master's counterpart."

"Yes, but I'd prefer if she were a little less tense," said Herbie.

Winifred took out her tin whistle. "Maybe music might help," she said, before starting to play the pavane from before.

"Oh, I hope that isn't the only song you know," said Tammy. "That one is pretty, but also rather depressing."

Winifred responded by launching into rather spirited version of "The Irish Washerwoman", following this with "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain", which soon had everyone singing along.

"I'm sorry, this doesn't appear to be helping," said Herbie. Foxglove-A appeared to be more confused by seeing animals singing than comforted. "Carolyn, do you know any songs that the Foxglove on your world liked?"

Carolyn nodded. "Honker taught himself 'The Inner Light' on penny whistle. Foxglove seemed to like hearing that whenever I'd visit." As before, only Tammy could hear this.

"Do you know 'The Inner Light'?" Tammy asked Winifred. "It was from Star Trek: The Next Generation."

"No, I'm afraid not."

"I know it," said Herbie, gently disengaging himself from the bat and walking up to the tin whistle. "I can feather the notes if you provide the lung power. I'll use my tail to signal the octaves, OK?"

Winifred nodded, removing her fingers from the holes and playing a middle C. Herbie signaled her to go up an octave, and then slowly used his wing feathers to play out the notes in the song. About halfway through they were joined by a wordless voice at a higher octave: Foxglove-A, singing in the ultrasonic range, but shifted down by the translator into a range that could be heard by humans and rodents.

(There are versions of the final scene of "The Inner Light" from Star Trek: The Next Generation on YouTube, but they're much longer than this.)

Everyone applauded at the conclusion of the song.

"Thank you."

"Alright, Mulder, I think it's safe to approach."

"Ah good. I've already been electrocuted twice just standing here." Agent Mulder stepped out of the shadows and took his place at the table. He was a tall man with black hair, a black trench coat, and an intense expression in between. From a pocket he gingerly extracted Sparky, getting accidentally sparked once in the process. He then placed another Dimensional Viewer on the table, identical to the first one. An image flashed on the screen of the new Viewer as soon as it was close enough to the Tesla coil to be powered, of the young man who was Mulder's counterpart on Earth-A.

"I wonder what my counterpart looks like?" Sparky wondered, reaching out his hand.

"NO!" yelled everyone in warning, but it was too late. As soon as Sparky touched the handle, the screen of the Viewer cracked and a puff of smoke rose from the Tesla coil as it too died. The face of Tammy's counterpart faded from the first Viewer, but other than the loss of power, it did not appear to have suffered any damage.

"Oh, I'm so sorry."

"That's alright," said Mulder. "I've got access to a full-sized Tesla coil, and I've been told these Viewers are very easy to repair."

"Did you manage to see anything?" Herbie asked.

Sparky's normally pale face was now even paler. "No," he said, "but I think I had a vision, or a memory, of the place I originally came from. A world with Nimnul but no Rescue Rangers. Guys, we can't let Nimnul come back here. It would mean the end of the world."

Chapter 27: The Fandom United


A Triangle News Service Exclusive
TNS Breaks Story of Trans-Dimensional Feat

                                     _          8888888
                                   ,d88         8888888
                            ____  d88' _,,      888888'
                           (8888\ 88' d888)     Y8888P
                           ___~~8 ~8  88~___    d8888
  _______              ,8888888        ~ 888888_8888
,8888888888===__    _,d88P~~               ~~Y88888'
88888888888888888888888'                        `88b
8888888888888888888888P                          Y88
`~888888888888~~~~~ 88                            88
    ~~~~~~~~        88                            88
                    88                            88
                    88                            88
                    88                            88
                    88    ,aa.            ,aa.    88
                    88    d88b            d88b    88
                  ,=88    Y88P            Y88P    88=,
                ,d88P'     `'     _aa_     `'     `Y88b,     ___ 
                88P'             (8888)             `Y88  ad88888b           
                88                ~^^~                88 d88Y~~"Y8b      
         _______"Yb._                              _.d8"d8Y      88      
|      88        88                                                   |
|      88        88    Welcome to the Adventures of                   |
|      88ba,___,d8P    Pochacco & Keroppi Chat                        |
|       "888888888     ___PANDK System v1.2___                        |
|          ~~~~~~                                                     |
|   You are entering private property.                                |
|   Membership is by application only.                                |
|                                                                     |
|   Apply for a login at the HELLO KITTY Fan Node :                   |
|     MM's Adventures of Pochacco & Keroppi : Membership.             |
|                                                                     |
|   Unauthorized access is considered trespassing                     |
|   and will be prosecuted.                     |\      _,,,--,,_  ,) | 
|                                               /,`.-'`'   -,  ;-;;'  |
|_____________________________________________ |,4-  ) )-,_ ) /\______|
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'---''(_/--' (_/-'~~~~~~
> The date is Friday, June 19. The time is 18:27 EDT.

> Login: Amnesia1983
> Password: ********************

> Welcome to the chat, Amnesia1983.
> MourningDove and 76 other members are already here.

> 4096-bit encryption has been engaged.

AnnaComnena: The character named QuiverwingQuack was the secret identity of the character Gosalyn Mallard from Darkwing Duck. The fan named QuiverwingQuack wrote several well-received works of fanfiction centered on Gosalyn, but was eventually ostracized from that fandom because her stories conflicted with the fanon established by the Quackerwitz brothers.
AnnaComnena: Welcome, Amnesia.
Amnesia1983: Hello, everyone.

> MyMelody is not in this chat.

TuxedoSam: Hi.
Wexler: Amnesia1983? Are you the chick that made this chat such a pain to use? I had to upgrade my software just to use it!
Tom: Thank you, Anna, for that report.
Wexler: And the user interface is awful. All the cool Japanese chats have video avatars and sound clips. We're just stuck with text!

> MourningDove is in this chat.

Tom: Oh, and good evening, Amnesia.
Amnesia1983 to MourningDove: Do you know where MM is?
Amnesia1983: Would you rather have a flashy interface and risk being caught by you-know-who?
Wexler: Oh, he's not so smart. He's just a cartoon, after all.
Amnesia1983: I'd like to see you say that to his face.
Amnesia1983 to MourningDove: Are you there?
AnnaComnena: I finished the tally, and it's official: there are more British than American fans of "P&K" on this board.
TuxedoSam: That's because most of the Americans from the first fandom are now "lunatics". Still, I am surprised - I thought the show never aired outside the U.S.
Tom: It didn't. I don't know about the others, but I've always been fascinated by American culture and being a citizen of the world's lone superpower does give one plenty of free time.
TuxedoSam: Oh sure, rub it in, why don't you. ;)
Wexler: Alright, you tell me: how much security is enough security to keep the "big bad wolf" from the door?
Amnesia1983: My local computer is set to a foreign keyboard, performs triple encryption on EACH keystroke, encrypts the message to be sent, sends it to a router that takes a virtual address and translates it into one for one of 16 proxy servers, encrypts that and sends it off to the proxy. The proxy then decrypts what it got and sends it onto another one selected from 16.
Amnesia1983: Repeat that another 7 times before it gets to the proxy server running the actual chat client, there the message and keystrokes from my computer are decrypted, mapped to a QWERTY keyboard and fed into the same software you use.
Amnesia1983: And you thought you had a hard time chatting without the wolf finding you.
Wexler: Whoa. Hardcore.

> You have received an invitation to a private chat room by MyMelody. Do you accept? Y

> Welcome to the Administrator Lounge, Amnesia1983.
> MourningDove, MyMelody and Monkichi are already here.

> 4096-bit encryption has been engaged, and this chat is not being logged.

This chat room resembled a text editor from a decade ago, with only one line of text displayed at a time.

MyMelody: MourningDove, what is this?
MourningDove: What is what?
Amnesia1983: Hello.
MyMelody: The file you sent me.
MourningDove: It's the mathematical proof I promised you.
Monkichi: Good evening.
MyMelody: Yes, but what is it?
MourningDove: It's mathematical proof that the probabilities in a Sum of Histories can't add up to more than a hundred percent.
MyMelody: But why did you sent it to me?
MourningDove: Because you told me that...hold on, when did you tell me? I could have sworn...I'm confused.
MyMelody: MourningDove, you're a dear and all, but you're also very strange. Now get back to the main chat.
MourningDove: Yes'm. Hello, Amnesia. And bye. ;)
MyMelody: Ah, welcome, Amnesia.
Amnesia1983: We should be safe to speak freely in this chat. So, who is Monkichi? I've been out of the loop the past week.
MyMelody: My father. He will be representing The Company.
Amnesia1983: Was he the one impressed with Nimnul's robot dog?
Monkichi: Well, it was a pretty good trick.  Nice to meet you again, virtually speaking.  I'm still not very confortable with this internet thing, so expect some mistakes every time I open my mouth.  Or type.
Amnesia1983: That was no trick. I examined the software and hardware for that robot myself. Dual CPUs and self-modifying code.
Monkichi: Except self-modifying code of that complexity had never been accomplished in my time.  Unless you've seen otherwise?
Amnesia1983: Err...not that I can remember, but I think it's clear that he's sitting on the border to creating artificial sentience.
Monkichi: It's not a border I'd like to see him cross.  I've heard rumors that he's up to something in that field, something big.  Yet one more reason why we need to act fast.
MyMelody: Honker will be busy with the crowd out there, but he'll be keeping an eye on this chat in case he is needed. He's told me that you've been informed about the KEEN, my version of Nimnul's Dimensional Viewer.
MyMelody: It turns out the Rangers got a hold of Nimnul's viewer after he left their world, and Tammy used it to contact me. Thanks to her, I think we have a way to defeat Nimnul.
Amnesia1983: So what's the plan, Fearless Leader?
MyMelody: War.
Amnesia1983: Fearless, indeed. I'm in. What's the plan?
MyMelody: Nimnul's control of Earth depends on the Moon, which he is just about to lose. Our job is to make sure that Nimnul does not interfere before the transfer of power is complete.
Monkichi: The Company has taken control of the Vostaach airfield and rigged it to explode at a moment's notice. We have contingency plans for any other space port Nimnul might choose to use.
MyMelody: "We", meaning Assistant Director Klaudaine and his cronies.
Monkichi: No, "we", meaning my hand-picked team.  I'm coming out of retirement, starting today.
MyMelody: ...Dad, you didn't mention this before.
Monkichi: I didn't truly know how much this show meant to you before I finally went on the Internet and saw it with my own eyes.  This is a level of organization to rival anything at The Company.
MyMelody: Thank you. You don't know how much this means to me.
MyMelody: Well, sorry to distract you all with that little family saga, but we still have a war to plan.
Amnesia1983: And what's the fandom's job in this plan? Distraction?
MyMelody: Distraction in the form of taking the Rangers out from right under Nimnul's nose and returning them to their own universe.
Amnesia1983: You're planning to just waltz into Gogol?
MyMelody: The fandom in the main chat is made up entirely of volunteers that have agreed to gather in front of Gogol and provide a distraction while I break in to get the Rangers. One of those fans is Thomas Grey, the Earl of Dorset, and he insists on paying for all of the plane tickets and bus fares. Those fans are even willing to be deported to the Moon if this whole plan fails, which is why it cannot fail. We must succeed, for the fans' sake as much as for the Rangers' sake. If you agree to join me, I'm sure together we can do this.
Amnesia1983: You're forgetting something. The bunker that contains the Dimensional Switcher is several hundred feet from the mansion. Once Nimnul knows what you're up to, he'll head straight there. I propose that I take control of the bunker at the same time as you get the Rescue Rangers. We will rely on Honker and the fans to keep the way between the mansion and the bunker open.
MyMelody: What about getting past Gogol's security?
Amnesia1983: Nimnul re-wrote the software from scratch after The Company disappeared, and he thought of nearly every angle.
MyMelody: So do we have a chance?
Amnesia1983: That depends. Are you still interested, Lain?
Lain: Yes, this sounds like fun. You can count on me to take care of security.
MyMelody: You brought Lain in here??? And how come I can't see her in the list of members?
Amnesia1983: I couldn't exactly stop her - Lain goes wherever she wants to. She also only allows people to see what they want to see of her on the Wired, hence her invisibility.
MyMelody: Well, Lain, if you truly believe in our cause, then I welcome your help.
Lain: This Rescue Rangers program interests me, especially the strong feelings of loyalty it inspires in its fans. For such a small fandom, you have quite a large body of work. More importantly, I do not desire for any person to control humanity, even if the majority of them appear to welcome their chains.
MourningDove: But aren't you in just such a position?
Lain: Not by choice, Honker. I do not wish for power over others. I am ready to give up everything I hold dear to guarantee freedom for humanity, and expect to receive only oblivion in return.
MyMelody: I trust you, Lain. Is everything in the main chat arranged?
MourningDove: Yes.
MyMelody: Then in the words of our heroes and inspiration: Rescue Rangers, away!

Chapter 28: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch


It was a black sky with stars, and a blazing sun hung just over the horizon. It was morning on the far side of the Moon.

A figure in a spacesuit emerged from a crashed Eagle shuttle and started loping across the barren landscape at top speed, not once looking back.

All Francine could hear was the sound of her own labored breathing in the suit.

Minutes passed in monotonous travel, then a voice cut in on the radio:

"I see you." It was Norton Nimnul's voice. The voice was not addressed to Francine alone. "I see all of you, people of Earth. Here in the limitless reaches of space, I can see Eternity. And compared to that, you are a contemptible lot of vermin."

Francine ignored the voice. All of her attention was focused on the ring of lights ahead that marked the position of Nuclear Waste Disposal Area 2. Slowly, far too slowly, it edged closer.

"I have raised you from darkness into light, from ignorance into reason. And yet you resist me. You flaunt my laws, reject my inventions, and spurn my invitation to conquer the universe. In this you are aided and abetted by those I would call my closest friends. Friends like Francine Nulton, who has made a habit of subverting my guiding instructions at every turn."

Francine reached the entrance to the complex. A clumsy glove danced across a keypad. "REJECTED." She tried another code, and another.

"I never asked for much: a little respect, no interference, and your firstborn children to man my army of conquest. Is that so much to ask?"

The door finally opened, and Francine passed into the airlock. She stood there impatiently as the lock cycled, continually checking the chronometer on her arm. It informed her that it was September 13th, 20:39 Lunar Time. She did not bother to remove her suit.

"Well I have taken the only part of Earth worth taking: its technology. And that leaves me free to pronounce sentence."

The lock opened, and Francine rushed forward through seemingly endless corridors at an impossible speed, towards a single flashing green light on a panel in a darkened room at the other end of the control center. Above the panel, through a wall-sized window, lay miles of radioactive waste buried underground. Waste that has been rigged into the biggest bomb Man had ever made.

"For the crime of failing my expectations, the penalty is: Extermination. And 'The Moon' will be the name of your exterminator."

Francine's hand fell down towards the abort button, but was a second too late. The field before her erupted into light, and the window splintered into dust. Francine instantly blacked out.

She awoke in space. By all rights she should have disintegrated, but somehow Nimnul was keeping her alive long enough to witness his revenge on humanity in full. Francine could not move a muscle, could not breathe, could not even will her eyes to close or look away.

She saw the Moon, propelled by the blinding extended explosion on its far side, begin to move, first nearly imperceptibly, then gradually faster and faster, heading for the Earth. She could hear the screams of panic from all of humanity.

But before the Moon could collide with Earth, Nuclear Waste Disposal Area 1 on the Moon went up in a distinctly smaller explosion than NWD Area 2. Since this was on the near side of the Moon instead of on the far side, this explosion served to steer the wayward satellite into a course that took it past the Earth instead of into it. It continued on into deep space, seemingly only a little scorched but otherwise intact.

The result of this course correction on Earth, however, was to change an instant doom into a long, drawn-out one. Immense tidal effects caused massive earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions that overwhelmed the Earth, ironically causing the clouds to clear for the first time in a half-century. Vast cracks in the ocean floor caused the oceans to drain, exposing the lost, and now dead, continent of Atlantis.

And above it all she heard the screams, the groans, the gasps of every living thing on Earth, as she saw its atmosphere turn a deep red in color.

The date was September 13th. And there never would be a September 14th.

With an audible snap, Francine woke up. For a minute she lay still, listening to the sound of her heart. Then she opened her eyes and found herself looking into the impassive green face of Sparky. The mouse's cage had been placed on her nightstand next to her glowing Moon rock. The clock told her it was 2:18 am on the morning of June 26th.

She turned on the light and sat up. Nimnul's bed was empty. Francine noticed that the cage had a false bottom. She pulled it out to discover a tape recorder. She made sure to lock the bedroom door before she hit the "play" button.

The recording began with an electronic voice announcing the date and time the recording was made: yesterday afternoon, while Francine was out dedicating an elementary school. The same voice then continued: "Call for Francine Nulton from Vostaach Space Center."

"Francine's not here," said Nimnul.

"Shall I take a message?" the computerized voice asked.

"No, I'll take the call."

"Mrs. Nulton, this is Doctor Russell."

"You've wasted a trip to Earth, Doctor. There's no way I'll let you get me back into a hospital."

"Emperor Norton...this is an honor. I do wish you'd reconsider. I've finally found the results of the tests performed on you when you were admitted to the hospital and..."

"Those tests were an invasion of my privacy, given without my consent! I demand the results be destroyed immediately!"

"But Your Excellency, the CT scan shows a subarachnoid hemorrhage of the right frontal lobe, accompanied by high ICP! You must undergo surgery to relieve the pressure!"

"I will not have you, or any other doctor, cut me open!"

"Please, Your Excellency! Untreated, your TBI is liable to affect your personality, leading to emotional instability, paranoia, mania and inappropriate rage."

"I think my rage is very appropriate at the moment, considering that you wish to play around with the very gray matter that made me emperor! If you contact me again, I will have you arrested for harassment."

"I'm begging you, Nimnul! Just look in a mirror--if your pupils are still of uneven size, it's a sign of serious damage!"

"End call!"

"Call terminated," replied the electronic voice. "Shall I save this call?"

"No, delete it. No one must ever hear it."

The recording finished, Francine put the tape recorder back in the secret compartment in Sparky's cage. After all, it was the last place that Nimnul would care to look.

Francine heard the sound of excited voices and rapid footsteps walking through the hallway outside the bedroom door, and judging by the brightness of the light under the door crack, every fixture in Gogol was on. Putting on slippers and a robe, she headed to the command center to see what was going on.

The room, although gigantic in size, was so crammed with computers and humans to operate them that there wasn't room to move. Dominating the proceedings was Norton Nimnul. The shell of his hover-pod was now a deep black in color, with silver hemispheres studded over its surface. His goggles were the same colors. He was floating a full ten feet in the air, turning constantly to keep his hidden eyes on the walls. Those walls were covered with Nimnul's plasma screens. Some of them showed news programs, while others showed the views from Nimnul's numerous cameras. All were focused on the Moon. The sound from the screens was muted, but the headline was clear enough: Nimnul's prisoners were free, and they were converging on Moonbase Alpha and demanding independence. One photo appeared over and over in the news coverage, the likely Pulitzer Prize winner of this story. Across the rubble of a collapsed wall, the diminutive form of Alice Wentworth in a yellow spacesuit led an enthusiastic rabble onward. In one hand she gripped a laser rifle, and in the other was the home-made flag of the Loonies: "a black field speckled with stars, a bar sinister in blood, a proud and jaunty cannon over all, and below it the motto: 'TANSTAAFL!'" The photograph was attributed to "J&M B."

The private cameras showed the current stage of the revolt, as the crowd gathered in a corridor in front of the Main Mission area of the moon base. About seven of the large mountaintop lasers were trained on that corridor.

"All lasers locked on target," announced a technician, one of dozens sitting at posts in the large room.

"You can't!" cried Francine, stepping forward. "The only allies you have are in Main Mission, and an attack of that size will kill them as well!"

"I must make an example!" said Nimnul. "Fire!"

The technician pressed a button, and the corridor exploded. The technicians cheered.

"Silence!" yelled a suspicious emperor. "Aim the Number 6 laser at a random patch of ground."


"Just do it!"

"Laser aimed."

Nimnul floated down and pressed the button, then frowned as the patch of lunar surface instantly exploded. "We've been duped!" he told them. "These displays are faked--it should take two and a half seconds for anything we do down here to have an effect on the Moon. How come none of you idiots noticed that during the drills?"

"Um, we thought you had increased the speed of light."

"What do you take me for, some kind of miracle worker? Nobody can increase the speed of light!" An arc of electricity shot out of one of the silver domes on the hover-pod, and the technician fell unconscious. Nimnul dived down to take his place, and a rapid series of schematics started appearing on one of the monitors. "Ah, there it is! The source of the false signals. Now let's see what's really going on."

The scenes changed, to show that Nimnul no longer had control of anything on the Moon. The revolutionaries, led by Rescue Ranger fans, had been given control of Moonbase Alpha by a willing public, and the lasers were no longer accessible from Earth. Commander Koenig and his staff had surrendered without a fight, and were currently in detention. And Nimnul's hand-picked representative on the Moon, Reynard D. Keigh, appeared to be the mastermind behind it all.

"Treason! Treason, treason, treason, treason, TREASON!" The hover-pod rotated erratically, as Nimnul's blood-shot eyes dared someone to give him an excuse to try out some more of the pod's armament. Everyone's eyes wandered nervously.

Nimnul returned to the Navi. "It's time to bring out my ace in the hole. The robot army is not finished, but there's more than enough of them to recapture the Moon before it's too late." The screen showed the contents of a large artificial cave containing tens of thousands of humanoid metal figures, with the form of Emperor Freewheel's robot soldiers, and the minds of Emperor Nimnul's robot dog.

"Emperor!" Bud announced from the doorway. "There are protesters gathered on the front lawn!"

Nimnul flicked a switch. The large center screen showed a group of several dozen people, chanting and marching with signs. A zoom showed that one of the signs read, "Release the Rangers!"

"Rescue Ranger fans?" asked Nimnul incredulously. "Now?"

"Maybe you should take care of them first," said Francine.

"Are you nuts? I may have a vendetta against them, but the situation on the Moon is life or death right now!" He turned to Bud. "Is the convoy ready to move?"

"Yes, your Excellency."

"Then we move, now." He floated out the door, followed by most of the technicians.

"But what do I do?" Francine asked.

Nimnul snapped his fingers, and Bud gave him a manila folder stuffed with papers, which Nimnul then passed to Francine, leaning in close. "These procedures are in charge while I am gone. All you have to do is follow them, to the letter. Bud, your job is to make sure she never deviates from my instructions. Let's see if you can do that right, Empress."

"Yes, your Excellency," Francine replied through clenched teeth. She wasn't sure, but from what she could see of Nimnul's eyes through the reflective lenses of his goggles, it appeared that his left pupil was considerably larger than his right.

Chapter 29: The Rescuers

"I think you should switch to the dress now."

"I am not putting on that dress. Not until it becomes absolutely necessary."

"But it's just a dress."

"It is pink, and frilly, and I hate it."

"Well, how else are you expecting to enter Gogol?"

"That's what the other box is for."

"The other box? No competent guard will fall for that!"

"That's what you don't seem to understand. I know these men. They used to work for T.H.E.M., every one of them. They are all idiots, as the Masked Marvel has proved again and again. This plan will work."

"The henchmen of Japan are much more competent."

"I'm sure they are."

It was early morning at Gogol, and the guards standing at every door and window were tense. For the past four hours they had stood and watched as a group of nearly a hundred angry Rescue Ranger fans had marched up and down before them, waving picket signs with slogans using clever puns based on the words "Rescue" and "Ranger". The police had refused to arrest them until a decent hour, so Francine had taken out her frustrations on the guards, making frequent circuits of the mansion accompanied by Bud and his manila folder. Once the police and their paddy wagon arrived, however, she returned to the control room, allowing the guards to stop holding in their guts. There was the mysterious matter of the unmarked ambulance driven by Lou, which arrived at the mansion at a perfectly respectable rate of speed, parked in the garage, and was then covered with a large tarp. Lou and his passenger, a commanding woman with platinum blonde hair, disappeared into Gogol, after which any questions asked about the matter were answered with a blank look and the words, "Ambulance? There was no ambulance." On top of this, the mechanical dog was patrolling the grounds, and seemed to have trouble distinguishing between the protesters and the guards when deciding whom to apply its tinny bark to. The guards had been on duty for six more hours than they were used to, and hadn't eaten for those six hours. Now they were stuck watching the lone paddy wagon come and go--there were a lot of Rescue Ranger fans to arrest.

The two guards posted at the servant's entrance were sitting on the ground playing marbles when their sunlight was suddenly cut off. Looking up, they saw a teenage girl wearing penny loafers, cut-off blue jeans, a white tee-shirt, and a white baseball hat. The girl's incredibly red hair spilled out in a ponytail from the back of the hat. Two pink cardboard boxes were stacked at her feet. A tiny radio was clipped to her hip, and two wires led up to buds in her ears, from which the song "I Think We're Alone Now" could be heard.

The two guards quickly stood up and grabbed their rifles, which had been so far away that the girl could have easily grabbed them before they did. "Halt! Who goes there?"

The girl grinned. "Hi! Like, the police sent me, or some such junk."

One of the guards thought for a bit, a process that looked rather painful. "Shouldn't you have a pass or something?"

"Well, yeah, duh, but like, I lost it. I've got donuts."

"Did she say donuts?" the second guard asked, drooling.

"Yeah, they're donuts. The cops sent them to the Empress to apologize for taking so long."

"Well, I don't know..." said the first guard. "We had strict orders not to let anybody in or out."

"I suppose you could ask her..." the girl suggested, looking cute and holding out a cell phone the size of her head.

"BRING ME MY DONUTS--NOW!" screamed the voice of Francine Norton from the cell phone, followed by a loud dial tone.

Sitting at a cafeteria table in Los Angeles, Tress McNell looked over at Jay Cummins as she hung up the phone. "I'm going to get in so much trouble for that."

The first guard sighed. "Alright, you can enter. I'll need to escort you to the main entrance, so you can be fingerprinted and photographed for the log."

"Uh, you don't really have to do all that for a donut delivery, do you?"

"Regulations, miss. Backup regulations for when we have to break the strict orders."

"But the cinnamon rolls will get cold!" Seeing that this got no response, the girl looked around dramatically to be sure they weren't being observed, then continued in a low voice. "I've got band practice in less than an hour--couldn't you see it in your hearts to just let me in? I mean, there's an awful lot of donuts here, and I'm sure the Empress won't eat all of them. Maybe I can let you two split one if you let me in."

"One apiece!" said the second guard.

"Very well. The good ones are in the top box."

The greedy guards reached for the box.

"No, I think it's the bottom," sang the voice of a Japanese girl in the girl's ears.

"Oh wait, wrong box. The top one has all the plains."


The bottom box was opened.

"They're beautiful!"

"Now, who wants chocolate, and who wants maple?"

"I can't believe those two just sold out their employer for donuts," said the voice of Lain in Carolyn's ear.

Carolyn had stepped into the cook's quarters and locked the door. "I told you they were idiots. Now hold on while I put this thing on." From the top box, Carolyn gingerly removed the pink frilly maid's uniform, like it was made of plutonium.


The first guard at the servant's entrance was sitting on the ground, rubbing the jaw that had just been punched by Francine. The other guard had been less lucky, and had been knocked out.

Francine rubbed the remains of a chocolate old-fashioned off of her hand. "Come on," she said to Bud. "I know exactly where she's going."

"Hold on," Bud said, removing a piece of paper. "It doesn't matter what you know, your first step is to gather a force of ten guards, then..."

"Give me that!" Francine looked over the paper, titled "So You Couldn't Even Keep a Rescue Ranger Fan Out of Gogol." "Well, at least there are only five steps. Follow me, everybody. Everybody who's conscious, that is."

"Attention, intruder!" announced the voice of Francine blaring from speakers scattered throughout Gogol. "We have the exits covered and are now searching room to room. Surrender now, or face the wrath of Nimnul." Francine switched off the microphone in the Control Room. "Is the script really necessary?"

"Yes," said Bud.

Francine sighed, and then pointed at the display before her. "Well, I don't know if I'm reading this correctly, but the guards are the only people in the hallways. The doors are all electronically locked, as are the double doors leading to the west wing of the second floor, where we both know she's heading. At least for now, nobody's in the master bedroom. Why can't we go right there and wait for her to show up?"

"Because that's Step Five, and we're still on Step Three."

Francine groaned.

Carolyn was in fact standing in a hallway, but thanks to a programmer that thought that connecting the security system to the Wired would be a good idea, Francine was only seeing what Lain wanted her to see.

Carolyn stood in front of the door to the second-floor master bedroom, looking about her nervously. So far, her disguise had served to keep the guards from paying attention to her, but she wasn't sure how long her luck would hold out. She looked out the window at the end of the hallway. Loading the paddy wagon were Officers Lee and Murphy, a couple of beat cops. Carolyn used to hang out with them during the long nights when she wasn't sure if the Masked Marvel would be coming home or not. If she failed tonight, she'd have to explain herself to them, not to mention to all of the friends she'd be dooming to spend their lives on the Moon. "How much longer?" she whispered.

"This lock is particularly complex," the voice of Lain said. "In addition, the floor of the bedroom is pressure-sensitive, so I need to have that deactivated, and video loops prepared for the two video cameras so they won't see you enter. All of this takes time."

Finally there was a click, and the automatic door opened itself.

"About time, Mike," Carolyn muttered under her breath as she walked in.

The door suddenly swung back and lightly bopped Carolyn in the nose.

"Don't call me Mike."

Carolyn rushed over to the cage containing the Rescue Rangers. "Thank goodness I found you guys! I was so worried."

"Those are the Rescue Rangers?" Lain asked, using one of the room's cameras to look at them. "They look like any other group of mindless animals."

"That's because they are bound by the laws of this universe. But I'm sure their true personalities are locked inside their brains." She kneeled down and peered into their frightened eyes, as if she could summon them forth by her gaze alone. "If only I could free their minds, find some way so we could communicate."

"I can not, I dare not, help you. There are consequences for every action, and what you ask would be the Reset a hundred times over. Besides, as interesting as it would be to see woodland creatures speak and perhaps even sing 'The Best of Everything', may I remind you that this is not required? You only need to get them to the Dimensional Switcher, regardless of their current mental state."

Carolyn sighed. "True, but where's the fun in that? Besides, as long as you control the mansion's security and use it to act as my eyes and ears, why should I worry?"

"You need to worry that our enemies will do something clever."

At that moment, all power to the mansion was cut.

"Clever? Maybe not. Inconvenient? Yeah, we just hit that."

Seeing the unpowered door swinging shut, Carolyn picked up the cage and made a run for it, but it swung shut before she could get there, the lock clicking.

"Crud! Lain, have you got a Plan B or C? Or J? Heck I don't care, just get us out of here!"

"Uh, most of my plans require Internet access. Or electricity. Yes, electricity is very good to me."

"Any unpowered plans?"

"Well, you don't happen to have a key or lockpick? Failing that, can you get the cage out the window?"

"Ahhh, window! Yes, we have a window! It's too small for the cage, and I don't think I can scramble down from the second floor anyway carrying it. We need a different plan, one that doesn't end with Rangers going splat."

"Well, if the Rangers were in their right minds, they could just ride in your pockets."

"I'll give it a try." But as soon as she tried to open the cage, "Gadget" bit her, hard.

"Ow!" she cried, closing the door. "This had better not be about that 'Chipper' business!"

"Then I'm afraid my usefulness to you has ended. You should escape, then we can come up with a better plan."

"No, I'll take my chances with my fellow fans. You should go ahead and leave, before anybody figures out your part in this."

"Good luck, Carolyn. If I think of any way to keep you from a nasty fate, I will contact you."

"Thanks. Though somehow, that doesn't feel very comforting."

Lain's voice in the earbuds was replaced with New Order singing "True Faith". Carolyn ripped the buds out of her ears.

A few minutes later the door burst open, revealing Francine with a key in her hand, surrounded by guards. "Step Five!" she proclaimed. Bud held up the piece of paper. "A-ha!" Francine obediently read. "Arrest him/her/them!"

The guards sprung forward and grabbed Carolyn, who put up no resistance.

Francine looked up from the page, to see the girl she had once baby-sat, who she sometimes saw as the daughter she would never have. "Why did it have to be you?" she asked in shock.

"Congratulations, Empress," Carolyn addressed her coldly. "You have succeeded in capturing the nefarious QQ."

Francine sighed deeply before resuming her expected role of interrogator. "If you're QQ, then that leaves your fellow conspirator ConMouse. Where's Laurel?"

"Laurel? Should I know a Laurel?"

"Don't play dumb. She was a fan of the Rescue Rangers, she had the technical know-how, and she's gone missing."

"Maybe you arrested her already."

"She hasn't shown up in the reports."

"Maybe she's using another alias."

"Perhaps. Well, boys..."

"Wait! My clothes are in the cook's quarters." She looked like being seen in public with a pink dress was a worse fate than lunar servitude.

"Get this woman her clothes. It would look bad if we appeared to arrest one of our own."

"Thank you."

Three of the guards escorted Carolyn out of the room. Francine walked over to the cage and looked inside, then sighed when she saw the animals in the same state that she had left them. "Bud?"

"Yes, your Excellency?"

"Get the car. We're driving to Hartford."

"You're going to taunt the prisoners? I have a page for that."

"I'm sure you do. Yes, we'll be doing that, but first I need you to take me to the library. I have some arrangements to make."

Chapter 30: Hartford City Jail Blues

Lee and Murphy's silence on the long trip across Connecticut was unbearable. When they finally arrived at the Hartford City Jail, Murphy opened the door and just stared at her in disappointment for a few seconds before finally asking, "Should we be expecting a breakout attempt by your father?"

Carolyn hung her head. "No heroics. I'm on my own."

When Carolyn was booked into the Hartford City Jail, the entire building was reverberating from the sound of seventy-eight prisoners singing:

Piano cover of "Bette Davis Eyes" on YouTube.

Her hair is no-one-knows,
Her brain is over-size
She wears old greasy clothes,
She's got Gadget Hackwrench eyes!
She'll turn her naiveté on you,
You'll think her veins hold ice
She just don't understand,
She got Gadget Hackwrench eyes!

Carolyn noticed that most of the police officers were wearing ear protection of one kind or another. "Mighty generous of you to let them sing song parodies like that," she told Sergeant Detweiler, her booking officer.

"Those Imperials brought it on themselves when they set up the monitoring equipment. It's supposed to broadcast to Gogol via the Wired, but the tech must have gotten a wire crossed, because all of our electronics have been on the blink ever since."

Carolyn looked around at the station, which still looked much the way it did in her childhood, although there were a few people she didn't recognize. Confirming Detweiler's story, everything was being done with pen and paper, and the computers were all turned off. In one corner, Detective Tenchure was explaining to the dispatch officer his theory of how the Emperor's missing Moon expert had actually been a Danaan spy disguised as a human, the truth covered up to protect Nimnul's reputation.

Her brief survey of the room also brought to her attention a mysterious man in a trench coat sitting in a dark corner. He appeared to be looking calmly at her. There was something oddly disconcerting about the man's appearance, like he was slightly out of phase with the rest of the universe.

She was not allowed to examine the man long before she was taken to the cellblock.

Seventy-eight Rescue Ranger fans were the only occupants of four large cells. In the center of the hallway between them was a pair of television cameras and boom microphones, all obviously appropriated from station WHCT-46, which was hooked up to a boxy device with a long wire antenna that had been attached to the far wall with industrial-sized staples. The transmitter gave off a strong smell of ozone, and was apparently responsible for causing the television sets mounted from the ceilings of all four cells to simultaneously change channels at random intervals.

Instead of being intimidated by the smell, the television malfunctions and the loss of what little privacy they had left, the prisoners considered the existence of the equipment a very good omen. Although WHCT currently only broadcast home shopping and other paid programs, back in 1989 it was one of only eighteen stations in the country to broadcast every completed episode of The Rescue Rangers.

She will drive you,
And arrive you
You'll be lucky you're still alive, You!
She's not porous, and this chorus
Has me using my thesaurus
She's gonna make some poor chipmunk die,
She's got Gadget Hackwrench eyes!

The crowd, gathered in front of the cameras, erupted into cheers when they saw Carolyn join them, not knowing the significance of her presence here. Carolyn forced a smile and waved as she was let into one of the cells. The only look of shock and dismay came from Honker, who was sitting on the floor with a large sketchpad and pencil. His uncompleted sketch showed every Ranger character and fan avatar imaginable acting out a vast Broadway musical showstopper for the WHCT cameras.

Standing around Honker was his entire family.

"Honker!" cried Carolyn. "You never told me you'd be bringing them along!"

"They insisted," said Honker sadly.

Honker's brother Terence put his hand on Honker's shoulder. "Yeah, first decent thing the shrimp's ever done."

"The poor dear looks cold," commented Honker's mother. "Let me knit you a sweater." And pulling a pair of knitting needles and some yarn out of nowhere, began to do just that. By some strange law of opposites, this made Carolyn think of Madame Lafarge from A Tale of Two Cities.

Carolyn pulled Honker aside. "I'm so sorry..." she began.

He put a finger to her lip. "Not another word. Saving them was a long shot in any case. We need to regroup. But first..." Honker turned to address his fellow inmates in song. "This is not the end / We don't have to pretend / I'm one of many online friends / Of rodents who go find problems to mend / For I am..."

Synthesia cover of "Birdhouse in Your Soul" on YouTube.

Catching the cue, the crowd launched into "Ranger In Your Soul", a song composed especially for the fandom by an unfortunate duo that were now spending time on the Moon. I think they called themselves Doctor Spock's Backup Pair.

With the singing guaranteeing that their further conversation would not be monitored, Honker and Carolyn walked back through the crowd, receiving greetings on all sides.

"First of all," said Honker, "there's still your father and The Company. We may not have to do anything if they succeed."

"I'd rather not take that chance, to be perfectly honest with you," Carolyn replied.

"Well, if you have any ideas for escape, I'd love to hear them."

"I'm working on it."

They were approached by a young man wearing a tailored suit. "Excuse me," he said with an English accent, "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."


"Oh dear, I am interrupting. Sorry, I'll just come back another time. It's just that, you are MyMelody, aren't you?"

"Try Carolyn, but what can we help you with?"

"Oh, you are her. I'm Tom, Tom Gray, and I'd just like to take a moment to thank you profusely for this entire experience. More fun than I've had in my entire life."

"Carolyn, this is the Earl of Dorset. You remember, the fellow who kindly agreed to fund this entire venture? I'm sorry, no refunds."

Tom looked at the young man in shock, before finally breaking out into laughter. "Oh, you Americans and your dark humor!"

Carolyn meanwhile stood very still. The words "thank you" echoed around in her head for several seconds, until they finally found a match in a recent memory.

"Honker, you remember when I was telling you about the last time I contacted Tammy?"

Honker found himself trying to carry on two conversations at once. To Carolyn, he said, "that was the one that ended with a song for my pet bat, I believe." To Tom he said, "Seriously, though, I didn't expect you to actually show up in person. The funding was above and beyond the call of duty for a Ranger fan."

"Oh it was getting frightfully boring being a lord," explained Tom. "I'm hoping news of my arrest provokes a response from Parliament. Perhaps a declaration of independence."

"Yes," said Carolyn. "Somebody said 'thank you' at the end, right before the connection was broken. I never could figure out who it was. It was your Foxglove!"

"Wait, what?" said Honker in response to both of them.

Tom looked at Carolyn. "Go ahead."

"Thanks. Yes, in the Rescue Rangers universe, your bat can talk."

"But her mind came from this universe. Shouldn't she be lacking the, um, capacity needed for that kind of thinking?"

Carolyn shrugged. "You've watched the show. Leaps of logic are commonplace there. Your Foxglove is in a cartoon universe, so she obeyed the laws of that universe. Just like the Rangers are here, and obey the laws of mundane reality. At least it appears that way."

"Well, appearances can be deceptive," volunteered the Earl of Dorset.

Not to put too fine a point on it
We are the biggest fans on this planet
Keep a Rescue Ranger in your soul!

"Will Carolyn Mowlardey please step forward?"

"That's pronounced 'Mallard', by the way," said Francine from the other side of the bars. Bud and his faithful folder were beside her. "Do you represent this group, Carolyn?"

"I'm never one to back down, so yeah."

Tom stepped forward. "If you're here to single out Miss Maughlarde for additional punishment, know that you'll have to go through me, first."

Francine smiled. "Very touching, Sir Knight. Don't worry; I'm not here to dole out punishment. I came to satisfy my curiosity as to why you would throw away your freedom over such a ridiculous cause."

"Oh, and Nimnul banning a cartoon isn't ridiculous?" asked Honker.

"Nimnul could ban breathing on the surface of the Moon as well. Does that mean that somebody should go out there and prove him wrong?"

"If he can get away with banning one cartoon, he'll move onto banning more and more until won't be able to think without his say-so. Do you really want that?"

Francine shrugged. "That's the chance you take when you put one man in charge of an entire planet."

"Well, there's your answer," said Carolyn. "We followed our principles."

"Ah, 'principles'. I remember having those, once. Here, this is for you." She handed Carolyn a Hartford Public Library copy of Waldo & Magic, Inc. "I'd appreciate it if you read it--it has a certain significance to me."

Carolyn took the book and glanced at it. "Yes, I remember this book well. Here, Honker, a little light reading for you."

Bud offered a page of taunts to Francine, who brushed it away. She was about to offer up the taunt she had been preparing on the drive up when she was interrupted by the voice of the shadowy man from earlier.

"May I have a minute of your time, Empress?"

Francine turned to face a man she had never met before, kneeling before her. A rolled up document was in one hand.

"Get up, get up!" she said, annoyed. "Who are you?"

"Just a simple citizen, your Excellency."

"Sure you are." Francine tried to study the man's face, but found for some reason that trying to focus on it gave her a headache. "What is your business with me?"

"I have an anonymous petition to present to the ruler of Earth. Technically, I believe you have that role at present."

"Yes, I am regent," Francine said, taking the document from the man. "Let's see what you, you can't be serious!"

"Oh, but I am, Empress. These prisoners are being grossly over-punished for a frivolous offense. I request the right to have Imperial Law 567423 referred to a public vote."

"No citizen has the right to challenge Imperial law!"

"Actually, I have included documentation of my precedents," the man said, pulling out one of the latter pages in the pile Francine was looking at. "See, The State vs. Prince Richard, 1948. Emperor Albert interrupted the trial by putting the terms of the treason law before a public vote. The public overturned the bloodline clause, and the prince was freed. This precedent was confirmed by Emperor Norton with the public trial of Anton Gorski."

Francine glanced over at Bud, who was frantically digging through his file folder. "Is it possible that the Emperor's ability to anticipate every situation has met its match?"

Bud sighed in defeat. "I've got nothing."

Francine beamed. "Finally! Mister Citizen, I owe you a debt of gratitude, so I will do you a favor by expediting this matter. Believe me, you do not want the Emperor involved. I'll tell you what: I'll arrange for worldwide coverage of a one on one debate on the legality of Imperial Law 567423 tomorrow between noon and one, to be followed by public vote via the Wired and telephone during the following hour. Is that agreeable to you?"

The man bowed. "It is."

"Good. I'm appointing myself as advocate in favor of the law. I look forward to meeting you on the field of rhetorical battle."

"Not me, Empress."

"Oh? Who do you appoint as your advocate?"

"Carolyn Maughlarde."

Francine fixed the young woman with a piercing stare.

Carolyn didn't blink. "What will be the specific terms of the debate?" she asked.

"First, is the television show Rescue Rangers treasonous in and of itself? And second, is fandom of Rescue Rangers a form of treason?"

"That is acceptable. I propose Galt Braunbight as moderator," said Carolyn.

"Accepted. You do realize that even if you do manage to overturn this law, you are still guilty of trespassing?"

Carolyn nodded. "We respect the law, and fully expect to pay the fair penalty for our actions."

"Principles again, huh? So be it. That book is due on the fifteenth, by the way." And with that, Francine turned and walked out of the station, followed by Bud.

Carolyn looked long into the face of her rescuer. "Are you going to tell me your name?" she asked.

The man shook his head.

"Very well, I shall name you 'Plato'. Thank you, Plato, for saving my life."

The man smiled. "Then the debt has been repaid," he said.

Chapter 31: Too Much Theta

As usual when you were hiding in an underground bunker and wanted to know what was going on in the world, you turned to the BBC. Here was the news at the top of the hour:

"The confrontation between Emperor Norton II and the renegade faction known as 'The Company' enters its second straight day, with the Emperor's army of automatons in that rocket prevented from taking off by a constant missile barrage. Updates on the standoff will be reported when they occur.

"In related news, the alleged ringleader of the 'Rescue Ranger Rebellion', Carolyn Maughlarde, has challenged Empress Francine to a debate on the legality of the very law for which she is being held. The debate will be held tomorrow at..." There was more, but Laurel tuned it out.

She was busy with the Dimensional Controller, the device that set the destination for both the Dimensional Viewer and the Dimensional Switcher. Nimnul had created personalized tracking devices for hunting down the Rescue Rangers' counterparts based on the Viewer. The particular device used to hunt down Monterey Jack's counterpart was never returned to the Emperor, and a reverse-engineered circuit diagram had appeared on the Wired a few days later. Laurel had a printout of this diagram and had heavily annotated it before she had come anywhere near the bunker. With its help, an electrical meter and colored tape, she was able to decipher operation of the Dimensional Controller in record time. Once this was complete, she started replacing the knobs of the device, in an order that made more sense to her than the one used by Nimnul. She then got out some resistors and made some modifications: the Theta control did not go far enough in the positive direction for her tastes, and the Omega control was too wonky and needed a finer grain.

"Hey Laurel, guess who I look like?"

Laurel looked up to see Lou, his hand on the spark generator. What little hair he had was sticking up in all directions.

"If only you had the brains to go with the Emperor Albert look..." replied Laurel with a grin.

Lou chuckled and removed his hand to pick up a small cage with a guinea pig in it. "I decided to pick up Buzz while I was getting dinner. Of course, just because I named him 'Buzz' doesn't mean that he's the real Buzz's counterpart. I mean, what are the odds?"

"Of course that's Buzz. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. It's how I maintain my sanity at night."

Laurel put the control back together. Like the original Dimensional Viewer, the control was made up of ten rotary dials. Instead of handlebars, there was a metallic panel. There were catches on the side of the panel to allow a small lab cage to be slid into place.

She reached over and flipped a switch that connected the Controller to the Viewer. She zeroed all the controls, and then placed her hand on the panel. She was disappointed to see only a dark mess of lines. She reached over with her free hand to make an adjustment, watching how the display changed in response.

"Well, the viewer seems to work, in a fashion," she told herself. "The question is: what's wrong?" A second subject wouldn't hurt. "Lou, you try placing your hand on that panel."

Lou placed his hand where he was told and the screen showed a shot of the back of his head, about a foot back.

"Interesting," she said. "It appears to be working for you but not for me, almost as if the scale...hold on, I got it." With a few adjustments, she was able to see herself properly. She then used her notes to set the controls to the Rescue Rangers universe. She replaced her hand on the plate, to see Lahwhinie standing on a beach at night, her hands on her hips. Far out at sea, Shaka-Baka was trying to surf in near-total darkness. Laurel nodded in satisfaction.

Lou glanced back and forth between the display and Laurel. "Well, one of the great questions has finally been answered, or near enough. I've seen lots of fanart of human Gadgets, and nobody drew anything like you."

Laurel shrugged and removed her hand from the panel. "You want a try?"

"No-no-no-no. Human's good enough for me. Try Sparky instead."

Laurel picked up a nearby cage with Sparky in it and slit it over the pad. The scene on the Viewer changed to show the cartoon Sparky talking to Buzz. She switched cages with Lou, and got the other end of the same conversation.

"See, what did I tell you?" Laurel handed the two cages to Lou and picked up one of the sandwiches he had brought from the store. "Why don't you play with them for a bit? I've got a few things to work out here."

"Oh, sure thing."

When Laurel was sure Lou was no longer in sight of the Viewer, she reset the controls, then turned the Theta control to its new maximum setting and lightly brushed her finger across the plate. For that instant, her face was bathed in a deep red glow the color of blood.

It took a few moments before her heart resumed beating. "Too much Theta," she gasped.

Chapter 32: Truth or Consequences

10 CPTV (PBS, Connecticut)
The New Stoicism

"The Twentieth Century has taught us two important lessons.

"First, the universe is populated by a multitude of strange and wondrous species, many of whom are far superior to us in intellect and technological progress.

"Second, they all despise humanity and wish we were dead.

"How is the thinking person to respond to this?"


39 TBS
Movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark

"Get back to Cairo. Get us some transport to England: boat, plane, anything. Meet me at Omar's. Be ready for me. I'm going after that truck."


"I don't know, I'm making this up as I go."


20 WTXX (UPN, Waterbury)
People's Choice Movie of the Week

"We now return you to the movie voted Connecticut's favorite for the fifth week running: Soylent Green."

"You've got to tell them! SOYLENT GREEN IS..."


19 WGN
Magnum, P.I.

"As you may have noticed, I have fired the groundskeeper. Until I find a successor, Magnum, I'd like you to assume some of the responsibilities."

"But Higgins, I don't know the first thing about gardening!"

"I assure you, the kind of work I had in mind requires no intelligence whatsoever."

"Like what?"

"Like distributing fifteen hundred pounds of recycled vegetation that was delivered this morning."

"Recycled vegetation? What do you mean 'recycled vegetation'? Recycled how?"

"Through a cow, of course."


Senate Subcommittee On the U.S. Auto Industry

"Chairman, the picture you paint of your company is indeed dire. What do you think needs to be done to save the auto industry?"

"Save it? There's nothing that can be done to save it. All things must inevitably end. Sure the American auto industry had a good run, but it's time for others to take over, as we sink into inevitable obsolescence."

"...oh. I guess you're dismissed, then."


82 HBO
Movie: Real Genius

"I never sleep, I don't know why, I had a roommate I drove her nuts, I mean real nuts, they had to take her away in an ambulance and everything, she's okay now, but they had to transfer her to another school, but I don't know if that had anything to do with my fault, but listen, if you ever need someone to listen when you need to talk you just let me know, because I'm just a couple doors down from you guys and I never sleep, OK?"


36: ESPN

"Today's Career-Ending Move of the Week is brought to you by the Life Insurance Industry. When your career inevitably ends in failure, isn't it comforting to have a good life insurance plan?"


41 TNN
Movie: "Crocodile" Dundee

"Mick, give him your wallet!"

"What for?"

"He's got a knife!"

"That's not a knife. This is a knife."


53 MTV
Total Request

"'Cause it's a bitter sweet symphony, this life
Trying to make ends meet
You're a slave to money then you die
I'll take you down the only road I've ever been down
You know the one that takes you to the places
where all the veins meet yeah

No change, I can't change
I can't change, I can't change
But I'm here in my mind
I am here in my mind
But I'm a million different people
from one day to the next
I can't change my mind
No, no, no, no, no."

music video for "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve on YouTube.


27 Disney
Movie: The Rescuers

"Oh, it's that poor little young-un. She's trying to run away again."

"It's Penny. Oh, how terrible. Hurry, we've got to find out where they're taking her!"

"You need a boat. Evinrude's got the fastest boat around here. Evinrude, wake up! Start up the engine, boy! Send Evinrude back as soon as you need help."


70 CNN
Headline News

"...there were no survivors. We now turn to Greg Evans with the latest update of 'The Emperor Under Siege'."

Finally hearing something that interested her, Carolyn turned to look at the television, hoping that she would hear something useful before the channel randomly changed again.

Underneath the image of the news anchor at his desk, the scrolling tickertape read "SERBIA SEALS KOSOVO'S BORDER WITH ALBANIA."

"Yes, this is Greg Evans, here in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the siege enters its second day."

"LIAR" read the tickertape. "IF THE SIEGE WAS STILL GOING ON . . . "


05 WNYW (Fox, NYC)
Sam & Max

"Death from above!"

Oddly for a Saturday morning cartoon, Sam & Max had a news ticker identical to CNN's. It read, ". . . WHERE IS THE SOUND OF THE ASSAULT?"

"Lain?" Carolyn asked the television. "Is that you?"


Carolyn and Honker positioned themselves so they could watch the television and still be heard by the Emperor's monitoring equipment, which Lain had managed to commandeer once again.

"Is the Emperor's robot army defeated?" asked Carolyn.


18 WHCT (Independent, Hartford)
Pinky & the Brain

"Well I think so, Brain, but if Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why does he keep doing it?"


"How are you doing this?" asked Honker. "That's an analog set."



Extreme Dinosaurs

"These dinosaurs...are extreme."


"Stop showing off," said Carolyn. "Just out of curiosity, how was Nimnul defeated? How was my father involved?"


86 TMC
Movie: Rustler's Rhapsody

"Rex is coming! He's coming! And he's standing in the saddle!"

"Standing in the saddle?"

Yup, standing in the saddle.


"The Masked Marvel!"


03 WFSB (CBS, Hartford)
The "Weird Al" Show

"This just in: 'ping pong' spelled backwards is 'gnop gnip'."


"Not the nuclear-powered robo-bees?"


"Nuclear-powered robot bees?" asked Honker. "That sounds impossible, even for Dr. Irwin. Did any of her inventions work before?"

"Well, the KEEN worked, but not as she planned. The stuff she made based on other people's designs worked. Otherwise, nothing she invented worked...before the day she met Nimnul."

Honker looked down at the copy of Waldo & Magic Inc. in his hands. "You're not saying..."


48 Sci-Fi
MST3K: Invasion of the Neptune Men

"A tiny stick! No! Cancel the invasion!"

"Yes, of course! Why didn't I think of that before?"


"Nimnul changed nothing! Magic is loose in the world!"


"The world is pleuripotent, and reality is just a consensus opinion."


"Carolyn Maughlarde?" asked Officer Lee.


"Your transport is waiting for you outside. There's also a package waiting for you."

"And it's not even my birthday! Goodbye, folks!"

"Good luck!" said Tom.

"You know what, I think I'll make my own luck."



48 Sci-Fi
V: The Series

"You know, I never lost in mortal combat."

"Idiot. If you had, you'd be dead."


There was a steel cage on the mahogany table.

The cage was three feet across, two feet high, and two feet deep. It was made up of steel bars spaced a half-inch apart. The door of the cage was secured with an ancient brass smokehouse padlock, the keyhole covered with a sliding panel in the shape of a lightning bolt. The floor of the cage was covered with woodchip bedding, and a full glass water bottle was attached to an inside wall. Inhabiting the cage were two chipmunks, two mice, a small turtle and a pink bat. Hanging inside the cage from the back wall were five plastic doll hangars. The first held a little faux-leather jacket and a matching fedora with two slits cut in the top, the second held a little Hawaiian shirt, the third a not-so-small aqua pullover sweater, duffel coat and aviator's cap, the fourth held an oddly-shaped red pullover sweater, and the last held a small lavender jumpsuit, belt and blue goggles. Sitting behind the table and looking at this clothing in some confusion was Galt Braunbight, a veteran newscaster who thought he had seen everything strange and unusual in the course of his career. On the opposite side of the cage was a television camera. Seeing that the camera was transmitting, Braunbight pushed the cage to one side.

"Ah, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. What you just saw is the center of the controversy that brings the world today to Gogol Mansion, in picturesque northwestern Connecticut. Those were the Rescue Rangers. Please note that I am only allowed to say the words 'Rescue Rangers' today because I am discussing the law that forbids their utterance together. Under any other circumstances, saying those two words is considered a felony. And having any closer association with these Rescue Rangers is an act of treason against Emperor Norton II. The statute that instituted these rules, Imperial Law 567423, has been brought up for review by you, the people of Earth.

"This is a very unusual procedure, only used once before, when this hair of mine was still its natural color. Back then, the voting procedure was done with telephone and plain old mail. Those methods will still work, and the appropriate addresses and phone numbers should be scrolling at the bottom of your screen. The preferred method, however, will be by way of the Wired, using the '567423 Review' node. This method will verify your identity and employ a whole host of other anti-fraud measures that an old fogey like myself couldn't begin to understand. That node also has the complete text of the law and statistics regarding how it has been implemented and how much has been spent to enforce it. By one of these three means, you will be asked to decide whether this law should continue to stand, or if it should be overturned and all individuals convicted of violating it should be pardoned.

"That brings us to the main purpose of this broadcast, to provide a debate between advocates arguing to maintain or to abolish this law. The debate has been sponsored, with limited commercial interruptions, by Coo-Coo Cola ('Bottled in Pensacola') and Coin/Clutch Jewelers ('When You Simply Must Be Wearing the Largest Gem in the Room'). I, Galt Braunbight, will be the moderator of this discussion to present the different sides of the issue. Arguing in favor of the law, we have Francine Orlac Nulton, daughter of millionaire industrialist Peter Orlac, empress of the world, and one of the most intelligent and cultured women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Mrs. Nulton, it is an honor to meet you once again."

"Why, thank you."

"And may I also note that you have done an excellent job of maintaining and restoring this mansion? This place is absolutely spotless."

"Oh, well thank you once again. I try to do my best to keep the forces of decay at bay in my home."

"And that dress..."

"This? Oh, it's nothing."

"I forgot to ask: how has your quest to regain control of Orlac's Machines gone?"

"As a matter of fact, the judgment came down this morning: I am now president of the company."

"Congratulations! If I may ask, what are your plans?"

"Well, once I have the company reorganized to my satisfaction, I intend to replace the current product line with something worthy of the Orlac name. But enough about me. Surely you need to introduce my opponent in the debate."

"Well, if you insist."

"I do."

"Very well. Arguing against the statute is Carolyn Maughlarde, high school graduate, in some parts of this country not even a legal adult."

"I suppose I should resent that."

"Ah-ah-ah! It's not your turn to speak yet, young lady."

Francine Nulton was indeed impeccably dressed and coiffed. Carolyn, on the other hand, despite her best efforts to the contrary, still looked like she had spent the last twenty-four hours in jail. The two women were standing behind podiums on a raised stage at one end of the conference room. Next to Carolyn's podium was a head-sized cardboard box. Peter Orlac had included the conference room in his 1958 renovation of Gogol, but it had rarely seen any use. Peter Orlac had preferred his New York offices for announcements, while Harold Largess preferred more grandiose locations, like standing on the head of the Statue of Liberty. Above their heads was a large skylight, relic of an era when people actually had a reason to look up at the sky. All it showed currently were gray clouds and a steady torrent of rain falling vertically.

"Do I get a turn to speak?"

"The debate will be in two parts," Braughnbight continued. "The Empress will begin by stating her position on the first topic for debate for three minutes, and then the challenger will be allowed to express her position for two minutes. This will be followed by a five-minute period where the two debaters will be allowed to question each other. It will be my job to make sure this part of the debate remains civil, and I may extend the time limit at my discretion. After that, the challenger will have three minutes to sum up, and the Empress will get two minutes to have her final word. After a brief intermission, the second topic for debate will follow, with the order of speaking reversed. Finally, if the debate has raised any additional topics worthy of discussion, those will be covered one at a time in the same format as before. With the rules established, let us begin.

"The first topic of debate is the Rescue Rangers television program. Imperial Law 567423 holds the contents of this program to be treasonous to the Emperor. Would Your Excellency care to explain why this is the case? You have three minutes."

Francine nodded. "Galt, ladies and gentlemen of the world, I bid you welcome to Gogol, the home of Emperor Norton Nimnul. The deeds of Norton Nimnul do not need to be stated; they are known by every one of you. And his work for the world continues today. Even as we speak, the Emperor is risking his life to personally lead an expedition to recover the Moon from the band of miscreants who have seized it, a group that if not stopped will be in a position to indiscriminately lay waste any spot on Earth they should choose.

"Norton Nimnul's job is to protect the world from any sort of extraordinary danger it should face, and, in addition, he considers it his obligation to use his genius to serve this world, to improve the quality of life of every person living upon it. In return for this responsibility, he is granted certain rights not given to most people on Earth. For example, he has a security force, paid for with public funds, to protect him from the deranged individuals that always tend to fixate on those more powerful and beloved than themselves.

"With Imperial Law 567423, the emperor has requested another privilege: the right to protection from slander. The emperor has made the details of his past public knowledge. The Rescue Rangers program, on the other hand, was made without the emperor's participation, and without his consent. How, then, can it be trusted to truthfully portray the details of his life, especially as this show casts the emperor as one of the antagonists? The answer is that it cannot.

"In addition, the very existence of this program is suspicious. So long before Norton Nimnul's arrival, how could anyone have known about his existence? The creator and head writer of the show, E. Thaddeus Rockwell, always claimed in interviews that the show was completely fictional. Now that the presence of Norton Nimnul has revealed this claim to be a lie, Mr. Rockwell is nowhere to be found. He has become a fugitive from the law.

"So where did Mr. Rockwell learn about Norton Nimnul? We can only speculate, but the emperor has a theory. He believes that Mr. Rockwell was contacted across the dimensions by the evil genius of the Rescue Rangers, Gadget Hackwrench. This Gadget must have invented a device that allowed her to communicate with individuals on parallel Earths, and she used this to propagate her lies about those individuals on her enemies list. Norton Nimnul was especially targeted, because of his genius, of which she was understandably jealous. Is it any wonder, then, that on the Rescue Rangers show that resulted, this same Gadget is portrayed as a nearly-perfect character? While Norton Nimnul, on the other hand, is shown as grotesquely short and hunchbacked, a stereotypical mad scientist complete with lightning-equipped mountaintop laboratory?

"In short, The Rescue Rangers is a tissue of lies, deliberately designed to harm the reputation of Norton Nimnul, and hinder him from carrying out his work for humanity. For this reason, the show should be banned, and all recordings of it destroyed."

Braunbight turned to Carolyn, picking up a stopwatch. "You may begin your rebuttal to the Empress and the seven hundred million people currently watching this"

It took a moment for the young woman to find her voice, as the weight of all those people sunk in. "Ladies and gentlemen," she finally began, "our world has been graced with The Rescue Rangers, which we thought was a fictional TV show. The critics of the time thought it was, the people who watched it thought it was, and yet here we stand in a world ruled by a character from that show. It was not fiction, it was news, and news is exempt from prosecution.

"This TV show was not staged, it was merely a person reaching out and somehow seeing the adventures of this group of animals, in another parallel universe. The show was not one that was built as a 'tissue of lies', rather it was merely as if someone recorded real life, and that is exactly what it was. The fact that it seemed to come out episodic was just a byproduct of the sorts of adventures that this group of animals were having. In that, the show is reality, the show is truth, the show is real. The events that happened within the show are reality, true and real, and the fact that they are not flattering to Nimnul is an unfortunate consequence of that reality and the events of another dimension. If he acted badly in that world, then that should be his problem, not ours for knowing what he did."

"Time's up."

"I'd like to know in what universe that was two minutes," Carolyn muttered.

Braunbight ignored that remark. "You now have five minutes to address each other."

"Nice speech," said Francine. "One problem though: your theory is just as speculative as the Emperor's."

"Ah, but I have proof." And with this, Carolyn picked up the cardboard box at her feet and removed from it a red football helmet with wires and lights attached.

"Was that part of your Halloween costume last year?"

"Yes, it's a blender and an inter-dimensional viewing apparatus, all in one! Nimnul himself said that he did not invent the Dimensional Viewer. It was created in the 1940's of his world, and it was very easy for him to reproduce it when he arrived on this world. Therefore, it should be no surprise that it was independently created here, on this world. It's called a KEEN, for Kaon-Emission Equivoyant Neuralyzer. Like the Dimensional Viewer, it shows you what your counterpart on another world is up to. E. Thaddeus Rockwell, contrary to his interviews, used it to create The Rescue Rangers show, and I managed to get my hands on it around the time of his disappearance."

"Does it still work?"

"It works wonderfully, and I'd be happy to demonstrate its use. Hopefully that will convince you that the show was based in fact."

"If the KEEN is what you say it is, then I myself will make a much better subject. My counterpart was the antagonist in an un-produced episode of the Rescue Rangers. I managed to find a copy of the script on the Wired, and it was quite prejudiced against me. I did not want to bring this up before, because the law was created to protect the Emperor, but I should point out that the Rescue Rangers had other antagonists on their show besides Norton Nimnul, any of whom might have counterparts with reason to not want to see this show aired."

"I'll certainly give you the chance to try this device out to view your counterpart. May I first ask her permission before I give you access to her mind? She's currently sitting right next to my counterpart." Carolyn put on the KEEN and flicked a switch, causing several lights to start flashing. "Hello, Tammy, are you receiving me?" As she said this, she turned a dial on the side of the helmet.

"Receiving you clearly, Carolyn," said a voice which emerged from the helmet and which was caught by Carolyn's podium microphone. The voice sounded similar to Carolyn's, but different somehow, like it was coming out of a smaller voicebox. "Winifred is with me. She's on lunch break, so we have to make this quick. I'll put her on the Viewer now."

Francine's eyes narrowed as she realized that this whole scenario was planned in advance. "On second thought," she said, "I'm not sure I want to place a strange device on my head. I hope you understand."

"Well then, we are at an impasse. Without a demonstration, how can I prove my claim that the Rescue Rangers show is based on truth?"

"The answer is simple. If the KEEN is truly based on the same principle as the Dimensional Viewer, we can move the venue of the debate to the bunker where the emperor keeps that device, and I can safely contact Winifred from there."

Carolyn reached up and turned down the volume on the KEEN, using this gesture to hide her momentary look of apprehension at the thought of Laurel being discovered.

Francine looked down at the podium and spotted a speck of dust. Noticing that the camera was now pointed at Carolyn, she got out a cloth and some wood cleaner and proceeded to scrub the speck into oblivion.

"Can we get all this television equipment down there?" Carolyn stalled. "I saw an interview with the Emperor soon after the switch, and it looked awfully small." She stopped to hear something from Tammy before continuing. "That's right, Tammy! The dampness down there will probably fog up the cameras. And the smell! It was converted from a bat cave, after all. Have you ever been down there, Your Excellency?"

Francine shuddered, and then started writing something on a scrap of paper. "You know, I wouldn't want to delay the debate just to move to another location. We are already taking up the valuable time of the people of the Earth by having this discussion, so let's not waste it. The Emperor originally constructed a working model of the device he used, before creating the machinery in the bunker. That model, and the Tesla coil that powers it, is still locked in a safe in the second guest bedroom. I'll have somebody retrieve it." One of Francine's guards passed her on the way out of the room, receiving the piece of paper with the safe's combination on it.

A few minutes later, the Tesla coil was sitting in the center of the conference room, spitting sparks in every direction. The television producers were not very happy with the amount of noise it produced, and had to take care never to have the coil and anybody in the same shot, as the brightness of the sparks drowned everything else out. After cameras were repositioned, more-appropriate microphones were substituted, and Francine triple-checked the settings on the model Dimensional Viewer on her podium, the debate could continue. Francine turned the device around in her hands. Unlike the original, this Viewer had a speaker attached.

"Tammy? Tammy?" asked Carolyn, still wearing the helmet.

"Yes?" the voice of Tammy replied.

"Change of plans. We'll be doing this one-way only. Winifred is not to use the Viewer. Just have her try to stay calm and keep her mind open."

"Done," Tammy replied after a pause.

"Go ahead," Carolyn told Francine.

Francine lightly rested her hand on the Viewer's handlebar. And saw the face of a red-furred cartoon character on the screen. It looked like no species she had ever encountered in the real world. She was seeing this character over the shoulder of a red-haired cartoon woman, who was sitting on the ground in the middle of a stereotypical mad scientist's laboratory. Of course, Francine thought glumly. Nimnul's old laboratory, straight out of the cartoons--where else would you go to make me look like an idiot? Thinking about turning her head caused the display to move accordingly, revealing a man and a woman in black trench coats, as well as a bird, a pink bat, two chipmunks, two mice and a fly. The last five characters were obviously the Rescue Rangers, even unclothed, while the bat was Foxglove. They were all looking at the red-haired woman when she suddenly spoke.

"I think that's her," she said, in a voice very similar to Francine's. This woman was Winifred.

Francine saw now that Winifred's head appeared to be semi-transparent. With an effort, she plunged inside it. The image on the screen continued to show the group in Nimnul's lab, but now superimposed upon Francine's vision was the landscape of Winifred's mind, a pink void in which floated memories and stray thoughts (one of which was "Whoa. That was weird."). Francine "grabbed" the most interesting memory and "spread it out" so she could "read" it.

The scene was pitch black.

"Winifred Cadwallader," said the voice of a mouse.

"Who said that?" Winifred asked, quietly, remembering what the guards did to her the last time they thought she was talking to herself.

"We are the agents of the Prisoner's Aid Society. Our first duty is to help all of those poor souls who have been wrongly imprisoned."

Winifred paused here. There was something that needed to be said, but she didn't want to say it. "So you think I've been wrongly imprisoned?" she asked, finally.

No response.

Winifred sighed. "I haven't been wrongly imprisoned. I have sought to impose my will on other sentients without their consent."

"It is good to have admitted this," replied a second murine voice. "You are now ready for our services."

"But you said..."

"The first duty of the PAS is to assist the wrongly imprisoned. The second duty is to rehabilitate Speakers who have been rightly imprisoned."

"The guards are coming with your dinner," the first voice said. "One of them has bet the other that they can provoke a temper tantrum out of you by calling you 'Freddie'. If you arrange for him to lose that bet, we will return in two hours."

"I will," vowed Winifred, having for the first time in years a good reason to behave.

"Interesting..." said Francine. The turn of an imaginary knob caused the vision of Winifred's mindscape to fade most of the way out of existence, returning the world of the conference room to the fore, a reminder that she had to watch what she said, as well as what Winifred said, as both were being picked up by the microphone on her podium. It also appeared that time had ground nearly to a halt while she was exploring, as the expressions of those around her looked identical to before. Francine turned the knob back to its original setting, returning focus to the inside of Winifred's head.

She grabbed another memory...

Winifred was wearing a shapeless lavender dress, a purple vest with white stars, and a headband. She was sitting astride a canister vacuum, which had decided to violate the law of gravity by floating a foot above the roof of a museum.

"Straggly scrub-brushes," she swore to herself. "What's taking those two so long?" She looked up to see Foxglove, hovering through more natural means. "Well, look who's shown up at last. It's about time!"

The bat landed on the end of the vacuum's hose attachment. "I...I brought you the list of ingredients, Winifred," she said, holding out a piece of typing paper on which was written a list of five items. The first two had been crossed off, leaving "Lightning Bug Bulbs", "A Chieftain's Hair" and "A Moon Rock".

Winifred grabbed the list. "Oh, some helper you are," she snapped. "I don't need this list anymore! Now get in there and help the others before I turn you into a Louisville Slugger!"

"Yes, of course, Winifred! Right away!" The bat took off and flew down over the edge of the building. Less than a minute later, she returned, with a slightly glowing rock clutched in her feet.

"Well, well, Foxglove!" she declared. "You succeeded! Maybe you'll make a decent witch's assistant after all!"

"Really? Do you really think so?"

"Once I complete my spell and become a real witch," said Winifred, taking the rock, "no one will stop me!"

"Haaaay, look at that balloon!" interrupted the spider Lou, who had climbed up onto the canister vacuum with the snake Bud.

Winifred looked to see a strange contraption, a flying bagpipe attached to a hardhat. The vehicle was somehow propelled by the song being emitted from the pipes. A mouse in overalls was visible playing the song on the pipe, while a mouse and two chipmunks were riding in the hardhat.

"I'm not afraid of a bunch of rodents in a bagpipe!" exclaimed Winifred. She leaned forward on the vacuum, causing it to fly down to a fountain. She used the hose attachment to vacuum up some water and stones. She turned around and handed the moon rock to Bud, ordering him to "hold this until I tell you different!" Then she leaned back, which caused the vacuum to fly straight up towards the flying bagpipe.

"What are you going to do?" asked Foxglove.

Without answering, Winifred flicked a switch on the canister, reversing the suction and blasting the bagpipe with water and rocks, nearly causing it to crash.

"They didn't do anything to you!" the bat protested, flying up into the face of Winifred. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because I enjoy it!" the would-be witch cackled.

Francine now had the evidence she was looking for, but one memory looked particularly interesting...

It was the back room of the abandoned Laundromat, one second after midnight on All Hallows Eve. The windowless room was illuminated by flickering candlelight. Only the candles had just been melted by the blast of heat from one second earlier, so the flames were floating unsupported above the cracked concrete floor.

Winifred shook her head and slowly got up. She reached to the back of her head to feel something wet. Just touching it made her head ring like a gong. That head felt curiously light, like something had been removed from it.

"WINIFRED CADWALLADER," a spectral voice intoned, and the whole room shook.

It occurred to Winifred that the most important moments in her life always seemed to begin with someone saying her full name. More importantly, there was something different in this voice. In latter years Winifred trained herself until she could identify the species of anyone purely by their voice, but she never before and never again encountered someone with the same species as this voice. It wasn't even really a voice, in the sense that a voice is the vibration of a column of air altered by tongue, lips, nose and cheeks. There was nothing organic about this voice. It was as if the concrete floor was speaking to her, the four walls and the broken light fixtures shaping the sound. Winifred's world was speaking to her and yet at the same time, it seemed that Winifred was speaking to herself.


"What have you done to me?!" Winifred demanded, surprising herself with her daring.


At that moment, the dream contracted down until nothing could be heard, and all that was visible was Winifred's right shoe. Everything else had apparently been wiped from Winifred's mind. A few seconds later the memory picked up again:


The memory was suddenly torn away by a ghostly Winifred. "Stay out of there!" she cried, crumpling the memory into a tiny ball and stuffing it under a metaphorical mattress. "I spend every waking moment trying to repress that memory...and the other one...and you just drag it out! You've seen enough, haven't you?"

"Yes," said Francine, "I've seen enough."

Francine removed her hand from the Dimensional Viewer's handlebar and turned off the switch.

"I am willing to concede on the first point," she said.

Chapter 33: Searching for Meaning in a Meaningless World

The commercial began when a girl and a boy, both about ten years old, rushed into the kitchen of an idyllic suburban home after a long day of having fun, followed by their faithful dog. Waiting for them there was their dutiful mother.

"Mom!" the children cried in unison. "We're thirsty."

The mother turned from the refrigerator, holding a tray with a bottle and two filled glasses. "Well, I've got two glasses of Sun Fizz, coming right up!" The bottle was labeled "Sun Fizz" and depicted the drink's mascot, a cartoon sun with doe eyes, a bow tie, and white hands and shoed feet.

The kids sat down at the kitchen table as the mother placed their drinks before them. "Sun Fizz! That's our favorite!"

The six-inch tall Sun Fizz mascot leaps off of the bottle and onto the table. "That's because there's a delicious ray of sunshine in every drop!" he warbled.

The children screamed in terror!

"Come on!" urged the frightened mother, pulling them away from the table where this monstrosity of nature still stood.

"Mom!" the children cried to their protector.

Mr. Sun Fizz giggled and hopped down to the floor of the kitchen, causing the dog to flee out the back door. "I'm filled with Nature's goodness!" he proclaimed cheerfully, then turned to the hallway to chase after the fleeing family, laughing playfully.

The family had nearly reached the safety of the parent's bedroom.

"Hey, what's with you people?" asked the tiny ball of incandescent gas. "I've got vitamins and minerals!" Yeah, and thermonuclear reactions.

In their panic, the children accidentally knocked over a vacuum cleaner in the hallway, which caused Mom to stumble.

The daughter looked back, and saw that the mascot had nearly reached the fallen adult. "MOM!!!" she screamed.

"Run!" urged the mother, the last words she would ever utter.

It is at this moment that the narrator of the commercial finally stepped in. "Trust your gut," he intoned, "not some cartoon character." The screen displayed the lesson of this little morality play: "Image is nothing. Taste is everything. Obey your thirst. Sprite." The laugh of Mr. Sun Fizz is the last thing heard.

Spike Jonze's "Sun Fizz" commercial on YouTube.

"Welcome back," said Galt Braunbight, addressing the television audience. "We are ready to move on to the second topic on the debate over Imperial Law 567423: whether fans of the Rescue Rangers television program should be considered enemies of the state. Miss Maughlarde, you may begin with your argument against the statute. You have three minutes."

Carolyn looked pointedly down at her watch, noting the time, then looking up at Braunbight, before she finally addressed the camera. She was still wearing the KEEN helmet. "People of the world," she said, "Mr. Braunbight has urged you to consult the '567423 Review' node of the Wired for more information about this law and how it has been enforced. I had an opportunity to look at this node during the commercial break, and I noticed that the names of all Rescue Ranger fans arrested under this law are listed. Since our anonymity has already been compromised, I urge you to use the search capabilities of the Wired to find out who we are. Some of the fans are children or young adults like myself, 'in some parts of this country not even a legal adult', as I believe someone said. But take a look at the older members of the fandom. Our fandom includes schoolteachers, software programmers, social and health care workers. You probably already know that one of us is a member of the British House of Peers. We are astronauts and journalists, farmers and singers, public defenders and copyright attorneys, and yes, sons and daughters. Before May 16th, we were all law-abiding members of the community. The only reason we are considered criminals now is because what was our hobby has been re-defined as treason. We were not fans of this show because of how Norton Nimnul was depicted. We were fans because we enjoyed the stories, empathized with the characters, and felt like we were part of the world of the show, a world whose attractions are all the stronger now that we know that the world is real.

"Mrs. Nulton over there is biting her tongue right now because I have neglected to mention the one apparent exception to this rule, the one person that appears to justify the entirety of Imperial Law 567423: Harold Largess, the man who tried to use the unconscious body of the Emperor to take over the world. Well, I'm here to tell you that that man is not, and never was, one of us. It's true that after he was arrested, a videotape of Rescue Rangers episodes was found in his bedroom, but the very title of that tape reveals his opinion of the show." Carolyn reached down into the cardboard box the KEEN was in and removed a printed screenshot and a pocket magnifying lens. "This is from the press conference where the existence of the tape was first revealed. As you can see, the tape was clearly labeled 'Loathsome Rescue Ranger episodes, Tape 1'. I ask you, what kind of fan would treat the source of his devotion so poorly?"

"Let me see that!" demanded Francine, snatching the printout and lens and using the latter to examine the former closely. She sighed in defeat upon confirming that her brother-in-law had indeed been the victim of a clumsy plant by the Emperor, using one of the tapes she had herself prepared for him, labeled in her handwriting.

"Do you have anything else to add?" Braunbight asked Carolyn.

"No, I'm done," said Carolyn with a grin.

"Mrs. Nulton, you have two minutes to defend the law."

Francine paused for several seconds as she re-considered her strategy. Her thinking was interrupted by the sound of Dale scrambling up the walls of the cage. Smiling deviously, she began. "I have no defense. As far as I'm concerned, this debate is settled, and the arguments to overturn the statute are completely convincing."

Braunbight blinked, uncomprehending. Carolyn grinned from ear to ear and stretched out her hand. "Thank you for being so magnanimous. It has been a pleasure..."

"However," Francine interrupted, still facing the camera, "there is one matter I would like resolved..." Francine turned to face Carolyn. "...if you would be willing to explain it to me."

"Anytime," Carolyn said wearily to Francine, putting her hand down.

"Why are you fans of the Rescue Rangers? Liking the show is one thing, but you have devoted a substantial part of your lives to it, even before you knew it was based on a world that actually existed. For the child fans, I can understand. The show depicts a bright, optimistic worldview that is necessary to grow into a well-adjusted adult. But at some point, children must leave their fantasies behind, and learn to live in the real world. You told us of your occupations, so you appear to be mentally stable enough to hold regular jobs. And yet your free time is dominated by your obsession with a world that, even if it is real, has no bearing on this world at this time. You appear to be optimists, all of you, yet Optimism has not been a viable philosophy for the last sixty years. In that time, Earth has been invaded by aliens three times, has been struck by innumerable natural disasters, plagues, and one 'limited nuclear engagement'. The last iteration of Wired, the Internet, completely collapsed under the weight of endless computer hacking, nearly bringing down the whole of society as we know it. The population of the world in 1925 was two billion people. The population today is barely half of that number, and it is still steadily declining. At this rate there will be nobody left to greet the dawn of the Twenty-Second Century. The time when adults could waste their days in childish pursuits is gone forever."

"Isn't that even more of a reason for us to look at these optimistic points of view?" asked Carolyn. "Hope and dreams, caring and adventure, don't have to be forgotten just because things seem dim. If nothing else, we can at least fight for the right, like I did here, and in that way the Rescue Rangers may be thanked for showing me from an early age that fighting for what you believe in is the right thing. You say it can't change the world but isn't that what I've just done?"

"Yes, but you wouldn't have even needed to fight this fight if you hadn't already decided to write your little stories and paint your little pictures that the majority of humanity would never recognize and which you can't even use to become professional writers and artists! This path you are following is the path of self-deception. You will throw your life into it, until one day you wake up and realize the best years of your life are behind you, and you must forcibly readjust your perceptions to reality. I know this path well, for I have traveled it. The temptation of a fantasy world is so strong, the temptation to reduce the world to black and white. A world of absolute good and absolute evil, where your cause is just and you have the power to make everything better. The world of the Rescue Rangers may be black and white, but not this one. This world is gray; gray through and through. And in this world you cannot hate your enemies, no matter how much you wish to, because they are your father and your sister, and despite their wrongs they have also loved you, in their own way, and you cannot find it in your heart to strike back at them, even if the power to strike back at them was anything more than lies written in old books.

"My years of self-deception were years when I was not myself, but a role from a fairy tale. I only discovered who I truly was when I abandoned the lies, and it was only when I abandoned the lies that life became worth living. You are so young, Carolyn. You have so much of your life ahead of you. Don't make my mistakes. Accept the world for what it is, and live in it."

"I didn't know how personal this was for you," said Carolyn. "I'm sorry, but I still choose to be a fan, despite your bad experience doing something you think was similar. I do accept this world, but the trick is that I accept it, and at the same time live in it in whatever way that makes me happy, and my way of 'living it' is to write the stories that no one notices or cares about, because it makes me happy, and in the end I think that is what's more important than anything, making oneself pleased in the world of black, white, or gray.

"We are fans because we treasure what The Rescue Rangers taught us. The number one thing they taught us was hope. You seem to think that this world has no place for hope, but there is always a place for it, even now. Especially now. Humanity is still far from achieving its true potential. The truest source of hope is by seeing the hope of others. Our hope comes from a more optimistic world.

"And we have not wasted this hope. We have strived to live as our heroes, those heroes" (gesturing at the cage containing the Rescue Rangers) "have lived. And in doing so, we have brought hope to those we have encountered in our non-fannish lives. Even if the people we inspired never knew about the Rescue Rangers, the show has indirectly helped their lives."

Carolyn reached up and switched off the KEEN helmet, then walked over to the Dimensional Viewer prototype and turned it on, causing the back of Tammy's head to appear on the Viewer's screen. "Let me tell you about these heroes," Carolyn said. "Let me tell you about Tammy. She's not a Rescue Ranger, but this makes it even clearer that it is their entire world that influences us. Tammy, let's get a look at you." Tammy reached out a hand and received a pocket mirror from Winifred. She held it up so the Viewer could see her face. "There's no need to be embarrassed, Tammy. Tammy has known about the Rescue Rangers for most of her life, and has always tried to live up to the ideal they represent. She's also a good friend, a fun sister and a dutiful daughter, an optimist despite the loss of her hero father at an early age. In short, she's everything I wish to be, and I'm not sure if I would be here today before you if it wasn't for her example to guide me through some dark times in my life."

"You're modeling your life after a mutant chipmunk," Francine said.

"I am modeling my life after a red squirrel, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, 'hoarding squirrel of the Hudson Bay', a species sadly missing from our own world."

"Then you're just making my point. The world of the Rescue Rangers is so different from our own that it can have no bearing on how we live our lives here."

"Does it? Francine, you've said before that this world is not a positive place, things are bad, and problems arise. But at the same time there is hope, for so many the Rescue Rangers have provided that hope, and if they were actually in our world would it not be a better place? Not perfect by any means, but improved certainly. Our world could use all the help it can get, and whether it be the fans, or the actual Rangers themselves, they can help provide hope for the future to bring color to this gray world."

Francine pointed at the cage. "There are your Rescue Rangers, Carolyn. Where is their shining example now? Let the Rescue Rangers be heroes on their world, and animals on this one. Animals like all the rest on this planet, mindless creatures of instinct."

"'Mindless creatures'? I think you're fooling yourself. I think we all are fooling ourselves. I mean, look at the animals of our world and ask yourselves the question: Do animals think like human beings? Do they have souls? You might think you know the answers, but I know I don't. I know that mated pairs of animals love each other, and that they sacrifice their happiness to guarantee that of their children, just like us. I know that some of them show altruism towards perfect strangers, just like some of us. Ask any pet owner, and they will tell you tales of animal behavior that go far beyond training or mimicry. Ask any police or fire rescue unit in the world that uses dogs trained to save lives in ways their instincts never provided for. I like to believe that animals are like us, because so often they show us the way. We humans have been feeling like victims for sixty years now, and we tell ourselves our golden age is behind us and will never return. But the mice and chipmunks are also victims, and just look at how much happiness they manage to find in their lives.

"Would it be so very wrong if the animals in that cage could think like us, could wield tools and talk? Can you, for one brief moment, close your eyes and entertain a world of hope, a world of talking animals, a world where the sun can finally shine?"

And at that moment, the clouds overhead broke, and the sun shone down upon northwestern Connecticut for the first time in sixty years. The cameras and the eyes of the people in the conference room were directed up through the skylight in wonder and awe, and the people of the world re-learned for the first time in sixty years that you're not supposed to stare straight at the sun.

It was while everyone was recovering from temporary blindness that the silence was broken by the sound of an old brass smokehouse padlock being picked by the tail of a mouse and falling off of the cage to the surface of the table.

Bud, who had walked into the conference room during this spectacle, finally found his voice. "The Emperor has been spotted on the grounds," he announced. "He's headed for the bunker where the Dimensional Switcher is being kept."

"Rescue Rangers, away!" cried a quintet of voices.

In the entire world, only Bud had sight enough to see the sources of those voices run past his feet and out the door.

"Nobody's going to believe this," he muttered.

Chapter 34: End Game

Laurel looked up from Nimnul's notebook on hearing the distinct four-pulse pattern of static on the two-way radio. Putting down her pen and closing the book, she retreated into the shadows.

Above her, the door to the surface opened, and onto the platform floated Emperor Norton Nimnul, dressed all in black and sitting in his black hover-pod with silver weapon systems. Many of those silver hemispheres were fractured or shattered, and Nimnul's red hair was somewhat grayer than normal thanks to a heavy mixture of dust and debris. It took a few seconds for him to adjust to the lighting in the bunker, as there was this strange bright yellow orb floating in the sky behind him. Resting on a bracket on one edge of the hover-pod was a cardboard box filled with components, many of them obviously explosive. His attention was drawn to the brick wall at the end of the room, which looked like it was made of gravity-defying mercury.

"You'll never get away with this, Davros."

Nimnul, who had left the platform and had begun his descent, stopped the pod so it was hovering twenty feet above the ground. "It's about time that somebody caught the reference. Although I am disappointed that I had to go completely black before anyone recognized it. So I have a would-be hero to face, do I? Show yourself!"

Laurel stepped into view, watching as Nimnul continued to descend. "Oh, I'd say the resemblance to the Doctor Who villain was pretty obvious. I'm surprised you haven't started screaming 'Exterminate!' yet." While they were talking, she noticed the outer door quietly reopen to admit the Rescue Rangers into the bunker.

"It's more of a homage," said Nimnul. "More importantly, unlike the original, I know that sometimes the best reaction is to run. Now is one of those times. Now stand aside so I can leave this world. Surely you have no objection to that?" The emperor had piloted a diagonal course to the ground, putting the Dimensional Controller between himself and Miss Weir. After setting the controls, he removed a makeshift time bomb from the box he had brought, and attached it to the Switcher. He placed his hand on the scanner, but was annoyed to see that the screen remained black. "What have you done to the Viewer?"

"It's the scaling circuit. You shouldn't have used sub-standard equipment." Laurel began to slowly approach Nimnul, her eyes fixed on his goggles. "What I object to, Nimnul, is you avoiding your responsibility. It's quite an apparent character flaw you have. You fled your world to ours because..."

"...because my world had no place for me, was unwilling to reward me as I deserved. As your television show has taught me, I was living in a world where the universe revolved around a team of vermin. So I came here, and it took a while, but I found that this world is not for me, either. So I leave your world saved from alien annihilation, my victims unharmed. You ought to thank me for what I've done for you all, so why are you so disappointed?"

Nimnul was answered by the voice of David Kano. "We are disappointed because you squandered your potential. You have no idea how much we gave up to put you in this position, and what did you do once you got it? You planned to invade the Galaxy rather than take the perfect retirement! How could you not foresee that this course of action would doom the Earth even more thoroughly than the Danaans could ever dream? Does your arrogance have no bounds?"


Laurel held out an arm. This was the signal for Sparky to emerge from the safety of her hair.

"Gah!" Nimnul sputtered, pointing. "You must both belong to that race of shape-shifting aliens from the show!"

"We're not Fleeblebroxians," Sparky, or should I say David, replied. "I simply reproduced your Metamorphosizer. When I was injured on the Moon, it must have gone off before it was destroyed, trapping me in this form."

"You're lying!"

"Can you come up with a better explanation?"

"" He then noticed how close the two of them had crept while he was pondering this. "I would appreciate it if you stepped back a foot or two."

"What if we don't want to?"

"You should know that I'm armed with six different doomsday devices..."

"You abhor killing!" exclaimed Laurel. "Why else would you abolish the death penalty as your first act after the war?"

"...six different doomsday devices, and fifteen different ways to cause pain or unconsciousness." He flicked a switch on the hover-pod's control panel. "If you make one more move, they'll start firing. Now to get that scaler fixed...."

Laurel and David saw Foxglove landing on the back of the Dimensional Switcher. "What alternate Earth will you flee to?" David asked in hopes of distracting Nimnul. "The one where the Roman Empire never fell, or the one where men are ruled by apes?"

"You've been reading my notes, then. No, I'll return to my home dimension. I've learnt enough here to be able to take over that world even easier than I gained this one, and this time, there will be no rebellions. Even better, there will be no Rescue Rangers to stop me, because they will be stranded on this world... forever!"

Laurel snorted. "Why are you even bothering with explosives? The plans for that equipment are already posted on the Wired. We'll be able to rebuild in days."

"Even the Dimensional Switcher?" Nimnul grinned at Laurel's momentary scowl. "The Switcher is my invention, and there isn't a man on this planet who will ever be able to reproduce it!"

"You can't go back there, I'm warning you!" David exclaimed. "We have been told of the future of your world, and you will destroy it if you return. You will not mean to do this, but that is the inevitable result."

"Who told you this?"

"My counterpart, Sparky."

"I knew I never should have trusted that rat! He's going to the top of the enemies list when I return."

"See, that's the sort of attitude that will destroy your world. Sparky knew that would happen before you messed up his memory. We only found out about the fate of your world should you return due to a moment of clarity he had when he saw me."

"Destroy the world? Don't be ridiculous! I'll conquer the world, and bring it the peace and prosperity it always deserved. Why would I want to destroy the Earth? It's where I keep all my stuff!"

"You don't get it, do you Nimnul? You're too self-absorbed to really try and help anyone if there's nothing in it for you. You won't take responsibility for your actions. You run away from them instead. It's your selfish streak that threatens your world. No. You're not going to escape this time. We'll personally see to it."

"Over my dead batteries! Eat amperes!"

CLICK-CLICK went the button on the control panel, but nothing happened.

"Uh..." Nimnul looked worried now and tried several other controls with the same results.

"Looking for this?" asked Foxglove, holding a crucial circuit board from the hover-pod.

", it can't be! You're not supposed to be able to talk!"

"She had a little help from her friends," said Chip as he and Dale hopped down from the hover-pod.

Laurel resumed her approach to the hover-pod, stepping around the Dimensional Controller. Nimnul backed away from both the Rangers and Laurel, putting him next to the Switcher. He looked over at the timer on his bomb in time to see Gadget finish pulling apart the timer.

"The bomb's deactivated, guys!"


"Oh, hello, Nimnul! You know, you really should have asked us before bringing us here. I mean, it's nice to see a new universe, but being stuck 'half-there' in your head for a week is rather awkward. You know what I mean?"

"Gah! I was so much better off when I couldn't understand you!" He reached out and pulled Laurel close to him, not noticing her lack of resistance. She allowed David to leap to safety. "I'm going back home, and I'm taking a hostage! You will not use the Switcher to follow me, or I will hurt her!"

Laurel grinned wickedly. "A Switch? What a great idea!" Before Nimnul could react, she shoved the hover-pod into the barrier, causing both of them to fall unconscious.

Gadget and the Chipmunks ran for the barrier.

"STOP!" screamed David and Lou simultaneously from opposite ends of the bunker.

"What is it?" asked Chip.

"Allow me to fix the scaling circuit, and then you can see the sort of world where Laurel truly sent him," explained David.

The Rescue Rangers converged at the Dimensional Viewer. Gadget stepped onto the metal plate. A few seconds later, an image finally appeared on the screen. The complexity of the visuals looked to be halfway between the worlds of Earth-1 and Earth-A, in a style resembling high-end computer graphics. The screen showed the Rescue Rangers on patrol in...well, it at least looked vaguely like a car, but with Gadget's distinct touch to the design. The scene they were traveling through resembled a war zone. Debris and broken buildings could be seen in every direction.

Gadget gasped. "Perhaps it is our world, and something horrible happened while we were gone."

"That's not our world, Love," Monty replied. "Those are the remains of a war decades old. Look how Nature is reclaiming everything. I think Laurel sent Nimnul there for punishment."

"That is correct," said David, turning off the Switcher. Alongside him were Lou, Bud, Francine, Dr. Helena Russell and Carolyn. Carolyn moved to take care of the two unconscious figures, while the others joined the Rangers. "Laurel called that place Earth-C," David explained, "for 'Catastrophe'. We agreed that Nimnul is to stay there for three days."

Chapter 35: Re-Introductions

"Ugh," said Nimnul-C upon awakening. "Did Gadget just run us over again?"

Gadget's fur bristled. "Hey, that only happened one time! Why do people keep bringing that up?"

Laurel-C rubbed her head, saying nothing but carefully looking around her.

Carolyn stepped forward, hand outstretched. "You would be visitors to our fair world, yes? I'm not sure if our Laurel had any way of informing you what she had in mind. My name's Carolyn." She had her KEEN helmet on and operational, so Tammy and her friends could see this historic moment.

Laurel-C offered her hand. "Lahwhinie."

"Professor Nimnul, the one and only." He took a minute to examine himself. "Good heavens, what's happened to me?"

"You're in the bodies of your counterparts on this Earth," replied Carolyn.

"Am I...yes, I am human! Finally, I get the chance to tower over the lot of you pathetic mental midgets! Bow down before your master! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!"

Being in the body of Norris Nulton, Nimnul-C failed to tower over anybody.

Lahwhinie promptly hit him upside the head. "Knock it off!"

Nimnul-C collapsed. "That's funny," Lahwhinie remarked. "I didn't hit him very hard."

Dr. Russell rushed forward and removed Nimnul-C's goggles, revealing a nasty unhealed wound to his left temple. She then lifted each eyelid to peer at his pupils. "As I suspected. Nimnul here is suffering from brain damage. He needs surgery as soon as possible."

Lahwhinie looked extremely guilty at this revelation, and had to be assured that the damage was incurred months earlier.

"If that's the case, shouldn't your Nimnul have had it looked at sooner?"

"He was stubborn," explained Francine.

"And hey, shouldn't he be dead by now?"

"He was very stubborn."

"Just how stubborn was this particular Nimnul?" asked Lahwhinie incredulously.

"Laurel considered him stubborn enough to send to your world," Lou explained. "She said if any place would break him, your world would be it. Um... no disrespect meant towards your home planet."

Lahwhinie looked thoughtful for a moment. "Maybe. The shock of changing species might do it. I'll admit my world is rather unpleasant, but there's hope for the future, just one we probably won't live to see."

Francine nodded as she easily hefted Nimnul-C's unconscious body upright. "I'd love to hear all about it. It's two hours to Hartford from here don't know how to fly a helicopter by any chance, do you?"

Lahwhinie shook her head.

Lahwhinie looked at the crowd around her once again, finally stopping to address Francine. "I don't think I know you on my world. Carolyn for some reason makes me think of the Rangers' medic, Tammy. She's a good shot with a crossbow."

"I am Francine Nulton. We are currently on my estate."

Lahwhinie shook her head. "The name doesn't ring any bells."

Francine shrugged. "My ego's not so big that I care which worlds include me or not."

"On at least one of those worlds, her name was Winifred," added Carolyn.

"Nope. Still drawing a blank. Depending on what my world's version of you does, Nimnul might know her."

"I'm a businesswoman," answered Francine.

"She was a witch," answered Carolyn.

"And you, miss, are a gossip. 'Failed witch' is much more appropriate, anyway."

"There's no real economy on my world, so 'businesswoman' doesn't help. What is a witch, anyway?"

"If you don't know, then you probably don't have one," said Carolyn. "Witches break the rules of physical reality on a regular basis."

Francine shrugged. "By that definition, Nimnul was this world's witch, not I."

This only served to confuse Lahwhinie. "You can't break the rules; you can only overpower one rule with another."

"That's the way we thought our world worked as well," said Carolyn.

By this time, Bud and Lou had secured Nimnul-C to the gurney that came with the ambulance. "Shall we be going?" Francine asked Lahwhinie.

"Yes. My world needs its Nimnul more than I'm allowed to tell either him or anyone else."

As the gurney was pulled through the outside door of the bunker, Carolyn kneeled down to talk to the Rescue Rangers. "So, I suppose you could go home now, if you wished."

"Well, I think we better wait those three days to find out what will happen to Nimnul," Chip said, staring at Carolyn a bit oddly.

"Yes, and that will give me an opportunity to study this world in some detail," added Gadget.

"I was hoping you'd say that," Carolyn said with a grin. "Bear Mountain is only a few miles from here. Would you be interested in a visit, Foxglove?"

"Oh, could we? Perhaps my family is there."

Chip, after studying her face for the last minute, suddenly dashed over to Carolyn and put his head right next to her eye. "Tammy, are you in there?"

Carolyn sat up. "Great, you made her faint. Are you happy now?"

Chip looked sheepish.

"When she wakes up, you ought to thank her. We would not have been able to save you without her detective work."

"How exactly did you save us?" asked Dale.

"Ah, Storytime! Well, once upon a time there was a TV show called The Rescue Rangers..."

"We are lost," announced Bud from the passenger seat of the ambulance.

"We are not lost," countered Lou, who was driving. "I know exactly where I'm going."

"What are you two talking about?" asked Francine. "There's only one freeway between northwestern Connecticut and Hartford. It's impossible to get lost."

"In case you didn't notice, we're not on the freeway."

Since the back of the ambulance didn't have any windows, Francine carefully made her way to the cab to get a look. "Where did you find this road?"

"It's a shortcut, OK?" Lou replied.

"You and your shortcuts," muttered Bud.

"I'm going to agree with the tall human...err, the tall person," said Lahwhinie. "We are driving into the sun."

"Well, it has been half-blinding me for the last twenty minutes, but other than that, what difference does the sun make?" Lou asked. "You know what would be a good invention? Something you could pull down in a car to cover up the sun."

"Yeah!" Bud chimed in. "And also something you could put over your eyes so the sun doesn't hurt so much."

"Oh, I see what the young lady meant," said Dr. Russell, after some thought on Lahwhinie's remark. "The Earth rotates counter-clockwise, so therefore it would be in the western sky in the afternoon."

Lahwhinie looked at all of them like they were insane. Francine had to explain to her about the perpetual cloud cover of the past sixty years.

Faced with this evidence, Lou pulled over and started consulting a road map.

"To figure out where we need to go, it would help to know where we are," Bud said with a smirk.

"Don't you need to check up on the patient?" asked Lou.

Lahwhinie groaned. "Why doesn't somebody go out and ask for directions?"

"Because we're in the middle of nowhere!"

Lahwhinie opened the back door of the ambulance and hopped out. A few seconds later, she could be heard asking, "Say, friend, do you happen to know the way to Hartford, Connecticut?"

"What do I look like, the AAA?" answered a small voice with a Brooklyn accent. "Forty-Four is two miles that way. You can't miss it!"

Francine grinned inwardly at the fact that Lahwhinie's faith in Lou's directional ability was so poor that she wasn't even sure what state they were in any more. Then she wondered whom she could have found to ask so quickly and looked out the open door. She saw Lahwhinie conversing with a strange creature standing on a tree branch, and the hair on the back of her neck stood straight up. She waited until the young woman was back in the ambulance before asking, "W... what was that?"

Lahwhinie pointed over her shoulder. "Who, George? Are you telling me you've never seen a squirrel before?"

"As a matter of fact, no, I never have."

"This is a very odd world you have here, if you don't mind me saying."

Chapter 36: Homecoming


Over the next three days...

...Professor Norton Nimnul-C underwent brain surgery. Afterwards, he appeared...somewhat saner than before. He was still Norton Nimnul, after all, so it was too much to hope for a complete cure.

...the Rescue Rangers were shown all the usual tourist attractions by Carolyn and Honker. They received a great deal of attention everywhere they went, and as a result the Hello Kitty web server was twice knocked offline as a result of too many people trying to join the RR fandom at once.

...Lahwhinie also became a tourist, although of the technological variety, tearing apart and rebuilding numerous useful devices that did not exist on her world, and committing their workings to memory.

...Gadget spent her nights experimenting with some of the same technology. In addition, she found and fixed the design flaw in the Dimensional Switcher that had caused the Rangers to lose their memories in the hours preceding their switch, and spent a good deal of time with a device worn on Lahwhinie's left wrist.

...the human interest sections of newspapers and Wired sites started filling up with odd stories of animal behavior.

...Francine locked herself in the Hartford Public Library and spent her time researching a wide variety of topics. One book in particular, How Fiction Works, was read cover-to-cover.

...Drew Maughlarde, Aldus Klordaine and Reynard D. Keigh spent their time behind closed doors with a couple replicas of the KEEN helmet. They were observed to be speaking with people who weren't there, and volumes of papers labeled TOP SECRET were produced and disseminated to the governments of nations around the world and, in the case of the Lunar Republic, off of it.

...hundreds of Rescue Rangers fans were returned to Earth.

...and Dr. Helena Russell returned to the First Lunar Hospital (as it was now named). A few days later she led an expedition to Clavius Crater, where she miraculously discovered the last human survivor of the battle, David Kano. In the story told to the press, after Emperor Norton left him for dead, Kano had stumbled from the scene with a damaged and leaking spacesuit and had managed to reach a forgotten supply depot before his air had run out. He had done so well in his enforced refuge, in fact, that instead of the expected rags, he was found wearing a stylish suit that completely covered his wrists.

Finally, the big day arrived.

Emperor Norton Nimnul left Earth-A in the middle of a fight. Citizen Norton Nimnul returned to Earth-A sitting in a chair in the bunker with about a dozen members of The Company pointing guns at his head. Nimnul stood up in shock then sat down in shock when he realized he could stand. He reached up and felt the scar on his head left by the brain surgery that had cured him.

Laurel, who had returned to her body at the same time as Nimnul, blinked a few times and looked around. "Do you really think he's that much of a threat? I think he's learnt his lesson."

"Have you?" Assistant Director Klaudaine asked him.

Nimnul gulped and stared wide-eyed at the men with guns.

Maughlarde started, suddenly feeling guilty at seeing the look. "Stand down, men."

"Considering what he did this afternoon, I'm surprised he was scared," remarked Laurel.

"I was provoked," explained Nimnul, sheepishly. "Now, my thanks to whichever brilliant neurosurgeon re-attached the nerves responsible for regaining the ability to walk, but..."

"Actually, we didn't," said Francine. "Dr. Russell fixed the brain damage that was making you increasingly erratic since the Battle of Clavius. That your paralysis was cured as a side-effect was a complete surprise."

"Oh, this is brilliant!" exclaimed Laurel with a laugh. "He was never really paralyzed in the first place, he just induced a reverse placebo effect on himself! You must feel quite the fool now, Nimnul! Ha, ha, ha, ha!"

Nimnul tried to summon a good glare, but he failed and just sighed. "As I was saying, thanks for the fix, but now what's going to happen to me?"

"We had a good deal of discussion of that," said Assistant Director Klaudaine. "Some of us were perfectly willing to let the Rescue Rangers take him back to their world, but rational minds prevailed."

"I should hope so!" exclaimed Laurel. "Prophecy or no prophecy, I don't trust him not to revert to his usual imbecilic behavior if left alone on his original world."

"Agreed. In addition, this planet is still vulnerable to alien attack, and Nimnul, you have been the best defender this planet has ever had. We will now do you the favor of swapping your two titles. You will now be Norton II, Emperor of the Moon and Protector of Earth, although the former title will be largely ceremonial. The astronomical observatory on the far side of the Moon has been expanded into your palace. Mr. Kano here will be our liaison."

Nimnul's mouth hung open, stunned, mostly at the fact that he would not be spending the rest of his life in prison, but also at seeing that David, who was busy entering the coordinates for Earth-1 into the Dimensional Control, had regained his humanity. Laurel, however, seemed to have guessed where this was headed. "I'd like to join David on the Moon, if you'll have me."

Klaudaine nodded his assent. "Professor, we will provide you with the means to explore and invent to your heart's content between invasions. We also expect that you will be able to come up with a truly-useful alien detector."

Nimnul's expression remained unchanged. Laurel's face took on a smirk. "Anybody home, Professor?" she asked, waving a hand in front of his face.

"Uh-huh," replied Nimnul slowly.

"What will happen to Norris Nulton?" asked Carolyn.

Agent Keigh, wearing his KEEN helmet, responded for the X-Files division of Earth-1's FBI. "Mr. Nulton will be settled on a South Seas island owned by my counterpart's government. It's one of the few places left on that world utterly devoid of technology. He was very insistent on this point. They will provide him in a state similar to Nimnul's, with art substituted for inventions."

"And what about me?" Francine asked, in a tone that suggested she knew the answer.

"Yes," Keigh said, "about that. We cannot force you, or your counterpart, to do anything, but Nulton has expressed his preference for having his wife accompany him 'into exile', as he calls it."

"We are both willing." Francine answered almost as soon as Moulder finished.

"Really?" asked Carolyn, incredulous. "You'd give up your fortune and your position as Empress, for life on a little island? And Winifred will legally be you--she can do anything she wants with your possessions and reputation!"

"We have settled the matter to our satisfaction," said Francine.

"But why?"

"You may not believe this, but I actually do love my husband. And between the two of us, this planet is about to become very uncomfortable."

"Uncomfortable?" asked Laurel. "It seems to me this world is better off now than it has ever been in human memory."

"Ah, that's the key word there: human memory. We humans have been exploiting the animals of this planet for thousands of years. I'm not sure if you noticed, but the 'gift of gab' the people of Earth so graciously bestowed on the Rescue Rangers didn't stop with them. For the first time, animals have the ability to demand the rights they deserve as sentient beings. Will the humans give it to them? Perhaps, and perhaps they need a persuader, someone with first-hand experience of working with animals both feral and sentient."

"Winifred Cadwallader?" asked Carolyn. She echoed Tammy's voice in her head by saying, "Good choice."

"Yes. She shall use my fortune to avert a possible 'War of the Species', while I get a vacation."

Chip, standing on a nearby table, looked up at Francine. "We should keep in touch," he said, cautiously. He still wasn't sure if he trusted her or not.

"I put myself in your hands, Hero," she replied in a tone half conciliatory and half challenging.

"The Switcher is ready," David announced.

Gadget bowed. "You first, Mrs. Nulton."

Francine smirked, reaching her hand out towards the pulsating wall of the Switcher. "Mrs. Nulton is so formal. Just call me..." And she fell unconscious.

Doctor Irwin stepped forward in the role of makeshift doctor to examine Winifred. As with Nimnul, the transaction took nearly an hour, as her senses slowly came "on-line" and adjusted to the different inputs from what she was used to. At the same time, Agent Scully on Earth-1 monitored Francine, who adjusted more quickly, just like Norris Nulton. Francine and Gadget had jointly insisted that they wait the entire time; to make sure that Gadget's adjustments to the Dimensional Switcher were not harmful, and Francine and Winifred had both agreed to make the potentially dangerous first switch after the modifications. Finally, both patients were proclaimed to be in perfect health.

"How was the trip?" Carolyn asked.

"Odd." Winifred sat up and wiggled her fingers before her eyes.

Carolyn introduced her to everybody, and then she placed her hand on the Dimensional Viewer so everyone could see Francine lying patiently in the City Park, being attended by a newly released and very happy Norris Nulton and Agents Mulder and Scully. Afterwards, as everyone was busy making their farewell speeches to the Rescue Rangers, Winifred experimentally brought her hands close together and concentrated, and then grinned from ear to ear when a magical spark leapt from one outstretched finger to another.

Chip waved Agent Maughlarde down to his level and pointed at Nimnul talking with Laurel. "Don't hesitate to call us if he starts acting up again. Or she, for that matter."

"Hey, Chip?" asked Laurel calmly. "I think you need to work on your snap judgments. I have done more than enough to justify which side I'm on."

And then it was Carolyn and Honker's turn to say goodbye. "And don't forget to get some real life in between all the fan stuff," Dale solemnly told them.

"We won't forget," Carolyn replied, grinning.

"Do you think you can say it, one last time?" Honker asked.

"But of course!" exclaimed Monty. "I don't know of any better exit line."

"Rescue Rangers, away!" cried Chip, Dale, Gadget, Monty, Zipper and Foxglove, as they simultaneously slapped their hands against the barrier. As one, they fell limply to the ground.

The two teenagers reverently transferred their unconscious bodies to a large pillow, and everyone stood and waited for them to wake up.

The waiting was interrupted when Bud burst in through the outer door of the bunker. "Bad news, folks--you better turn on the TV."

Lou picked up the remote and pressed the power button.

The live image on the screen depicted a burning downtown Savannah. From a glowing rectangular portal, ten feet high by one hundred feet wide, marched row after row of soldiers. They looked like men who had been subjected to the Rack, seven or eight feet long and impossibly thin. They were dressed very lightly for war, and were only armed with two-foot long wooden wands. Everything they pointed their wands at burst into flame, even if it was made entirely of metal or concrete. Meanwhile, a thick fog poured out at their feet, turning the pavement it touched into meadowlands.

Suddenly a man appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the street. He had the same bodily proportions as the soldiers, but was dressed in a wild parody of a navy admiral's dress uniform, colored in bright green. He removed his enormous hat to reveal a head of hair as pale and shining as thistledown, and approached the camera. Up close, he had pale fair skin, features that seemed just slightly askew, and slightly pointed ears that were mounted higher up on his head then they had a right to be. His eyes were cold and blue, and his dark eyebrows were long, dark, and ended with an upward flourish. "Ah, another scrying device!" he announced, and proudly threw out his chest. "For those few mortals who didn't hear me the first seven times, I hereby annex this realm to the Kingdom of Lost-Hope. We Faerie are your masters now! Resistance is utterly useless, although it is very, very amusing."

The inhabitants of the bunker were stunned into silence...all but one. "I've got this one!" cried Winifred, emerging from a utility closet with a scrub-brush and an Olac canister vacuum cleaner. "You can have the next invasion, Norton, I promise!" The silence extended until she had flown, yes flown, out the bunker door.

Foxglove-A, nestled in Honker's arms, roused herself enough to say, "She really shouldn't meddle in magic. That always ends badly."


Tammy ran out of the door of Rescue Ranger Headquarters and looked down at the humans. "Francine! Where are your magic books?"

Francine, sitting at the base of the tree with Norton's hand in hers, looked at the translator device at her feet, then looked back up at the squirrel. "She's started already, huh? I'm sorry, but I burnt mine. Maybe Winifred had some that we can get."

Tammy shook her head. "The libraries locked them back in their 'forbidden sections', and then had the nerve to send late fee notices to the prison where she was being kept."

"Wait, Winifred is a witch again on Earth-A?" asked Agent Scully. "I thought her earlier encounter with the Rangers ended with her powers being permanently neutralized."

"That is correct," said Francine. "But the effect was confined to her body, which is now mine. In my body, her powers are only limited by her willpower."

Agent Mulder groaned. "You two knew this from the beginning!"

Francine summoned up her sweetest smile. "Should we switch back?"

Mulder sighed. "No. But we're re-evaluating this after the current crisis on Earth-A."

Tammy turned around and returned to the Rangers' living room, where they were still recovering from their switch.

"Tammy," said a bleary-eyed Chip. "All this running around is making our heads spin! Sit awhile and talk--we have so many questions."

"I can't. Carolyn's waiting for my answer and besides, you're all so out of it you won't remember anything I say and I'll just have to repeat it later. Now lie back and relax!"

"Doctor's orders?" he asked, teasingly.

"You'd have to ask Herbie; I'm no doctor."

Tammy strode into the workshop from the elevator and put her hand on the handle of the Dimensional Viewer, putting her back in mental rapport with her counterpart. "Sorry, no magic books to be had," she said out loud, largely for the benefit of Herbie.

Carolyn silently mouthed something on the screen. "It's OK," Tammy relayed to the dove. "Before she left, Francine gave David a list of books in the public library that she believed to be accurate."

"What's going on between my counterpart and Foxglove-A?" Herbie asked, pointing at one corner of the screen.

"He's asking her if she still wants to be his pet now that she has free will."


"She's offering to pay him rent. She figures with a bat's abilities, she can probably get herself a decent job."

"I wonder how many similar conversations are going on right now all over Earth-A?"

"It gives you something to think about, doesn't it? If a world as seemingly messed up as Earth-A can handle animal sentience so well, why should we continue hiding?"

"I'm sure your grandfather can give you a long list of very good reasons to 'continue hiding' when the sophomore class gets back from their trip. Do you think he will be very disappointed when Gadget tells him she's abandoning her second paper?"

Tammy laughed. "No, I don't think he'll mind. Say, Carolyn, if you're finished writing about me, how about if I return the favor sometime? I think I'll call it The Adventures of the Quiverwing Quack! We can talk about it tomorrow, if you're interested."

"Sure, why not?" the voice of Carolyn in Tammy's head replied. "Only, not tomorrow. My boyfriend and I would like a little time for ourselves."

"Boyfriend?" Tammy asked, confused. On the screen of the DV, the view over Carolyn's left shoulder happened to include the shimmering wall of the Switcher, which no one had remembered to turn off. In its reflective surface, she saw that Carolyn and Honker were holding hands. "Oh! Yes, of course. You can contact me whenever you'd like."

Tammy took her hand off the DV's handle, watching the image of the two of them slowly fade. Then she looked over at Herbie, who was pretending he hadn't seen anything and had been working on a mathematical formula all this time.


Every time I close my's you.
And I know now who I am.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And I know now

There's a place I go when I'm alone,
Do anything I want, be anyone I wanna be.
But it is us I see
And I cannot believe I'm falling.

That's where I'm going, where are you going?
Hold it close, won't let this go.
Dream, catch me, yeah.
Dream, catch me when I fall,
Or else I won't come back at all.

You do so much.
But you don't's true.
And I know now who I am.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And I know now

There's a place I go when I'm alone.
Do anything I want, be anyone I wanna be.
But it is us I see
And I cannot believe I'm falling.

That's where I'm going, where are you going?
Hold it close, won't let this go.
Dream, catch me, yeah.
Dream, catch me when I fall,
Or else I won't come back at all.

See you as a mountain,
A fountain of God.
See you as a descant soul
In the setting sun.
You as a sound just as silent as none.
I'm young.

There's a place I go when I'm alone.
Do anything I want, be anyone I wanna be.
But it is us I see
And I cannot believe I'm falling.

There's a place I go when I'm alone.
Do anything I want, be anyone I wanna be.
But it is us I see
And I cannot believe I'm falling.

That's where I'm going, where are you going?
Hold it close, won't let this go.
Dream, catch me, yeah.
Dream, catch me when I fall,
Or else I won't come back at all.

--"Dream Catch Me", Newton Faulkner

"Dream Catch Me" music video on YouTube.

Black & White Acknowledgements and Credits

This story would not exist if not for the incredible work of my two co-authors, Roxor and Erik "Ice" Berg. I am also heavily indebted to my editor, ModernTimes.

Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers and the characters of Chip, Dale, Gadget, Monterey Jack, Zipper, Professor Nimnul, Foxglove, Tammy and Bink and their mother, Freddie the Witch, Queenie, Sparky and Buzz, Lahwhinie and Shaka-Baka, Bud and Lou, Fat Cat, Detective Drake, Aldrin Klordaine, and anybody else I missed are property of Walt Disney Television Animation, and were created by Tad Stones and the writers for the series.

Key to References:

Prologue: A Dark and Stormy Night

Once upon a time, in a world not too different from ours, four rodents and a fly band together to fight the forces of darkness. For their detective agency, no case is too big, no case is too small. They are: The Rescue Rangers.
Introduction to The Rescue Rangers cartoon on Earth-A.
February 15
The year of Part 1 is 1994, although I didn't see any reason to reveal that. Basically, it takes place four years after Tammy met the Rangers, and one year after my fanfic The Knight and the Jester. This sets the events of Rescue Rangers to 1990.
"Bonkaholics Anonymouse", twelve-step program
Alcoholics Anonymous, plus the reference to the ubiquity of mice in RR
Weird part of 2001
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, MGM). György Ligeti composed Atmospheres, used for the monolith scenes in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Note that the dimensions of the stone, 9 by 4 by 1, is also a reference to 2001.
"Francine, is that you?"
Part Two.

Part One: Tammy

Chapter 1: Homecoming

"All You Wanted" lyrics
Michelle Branch
Molly, Beth's name for Tammy's invisible friend
Molly Cunningham, Talespin--Note that Molly's middle name in the show was Elizabeth.
The sketch of Chip working on his casebook
Oblique reference to my Rescue Rangers fanfic The Knight and the Jester, which ends with a scene of Chip writing in his casebook. It's probable that Herbie drew the sketch.
Herb, Binkie, Tank and Herbie Tanglefoot
Herb, Binkie, Tank and Honker Muddlefoot, Darkwing Duck (1991, Walt Disney Television Animation)

Chapter 2: The Tanglefoots

"I'm X. What can I tell you about Foreverware today?"
"Forever Ware" episode of Eerie, Indiana (1991, Cosgrove/Meurer Productions / Hearst Entertainment / Unreality)
Gulliver's Island
Gilligan's Island (1964, CBS / Gladysys Productions / United Artists Television), which in Darkwing Duck is called Pelican's Island
A brand new car
The Price Is Right (1972, Freemantle Media North America / CBS / Mark Goodson Television)
F-104 Starfighter
Lockheed; used by the U.S. Air Force from 1958 - 1967 (Check Yeager's big crash in The Right Stuff was in a NF-104A variant; the bribery scandal associated with the sale of the F-104 to Germany in 1961 and other aircraft to other countries in following years, revealed 1976, nearly brought down Lockheed)

Chapter 3: Our Heroes

"The Great Dale-dini"
A reference to the advertising posters for magicians in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, especially that for Harry Houdini

Chapter 4: Gadget Makes Children Cry

Richard (and Isabel) Chestnutt
Sir Richard (and Isabel) Burton. Richard Burton was an English explorer of Africa in the Nineteenth Century. Unlike most of his fellow explorers, he actually tried to understand the natives he encountered (of course, he was also the first non-believer to sneak into Mecca and see the Black Stone, which, since he didn't convert to Islam first, shows a certain disregard for others' belief systems). He was continually put down by the establishment because of his middle class birth. Isabel Arundell belonged to one of the most prominent families in England. She became Richard's biggest fan after reading his books, and before long the two of them had wed, to the displeasure of her family (minus her father, another Richard Burton fan). At the end of his life, Richard wrote the best-known translation of The Arabian Nights. Isabel is mostly known for how much of her husband's unpublished work she burned after his death to protect his reputation from the truth. On the plus side, in his life she traveled with him wherever he went, making each stop into a little piece of England.
"Spumoni? Mascarpone?"
Oblique reference to Rat Capone, and an obvious shout-out to one of my favorite fanfiction authors.
"The Yankees can't win them all, kid"
The New York Yankees (1st place in the American League at 34 wins, 22 losses) were beaten at Toronto by the Blue Jays (10th place in the American League at 28 wins, 29 losses), 2 to 7, on Friday, June 10, 1994.
Pr. Julius Hoppernickel
Grandpa Waddlemeyer, Darkwing Duck (specifically "Darkly Dawns the Duck"); he didn't really have a character in that episode, so that is my invention.
String Theory
A theory of physics (controversial in 1994 but nearly universally accepted today) that holds that all phenomena in the universe can be accounted for by the vibration of one-dimensional strings embedded in ten-dimensional space; it is held by its supporters to be a "theory of everything", while its detractors like to point out the fact that the theory is so complicated that it is impossible to prove or use in a practical setting
String Theory term for ten-dimensional space.
"Special Theory" and "General Theory"
A reference to Albert Einstein's Special Theory and General Theory of Relativity (1905 and 1915)
John Nash
A Beautiful Mind (2001). Since the movie came out 7 years after this scene is set, the professor is referring to the actual events it is based on. The fact that Nash had just won his Nobel Prize justifies the facts being known to the scientific community.

Chapter 5: The Rescue Ranger Fan Club

"Cookie, cookie, cookie."
"Pizza, pizza, pizza" (from a really obscure radio commercial).
Gulliver's Island, again
Rescue From Gilligan's Island (1978).
"I sense something"
Darth Vader, Star Wars: A New Hope.
Michael and Jane
The kids from Mary Poppins, but with the age difference reversed.
Batman: The Animated Series (1992) was produced by Paul Dini. As for "I'm...Dale-dini"...
"Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!"
Running joke in Bullwinkle.
Clue: Master Detective
Parker Brothers, 1988.

Chapter 6: New Member

Foxglove's opinion of armadillos
Home Is Where You Hang Upside-Down, by The Enduring Man-Child.
"...a national park in northwestern Connecticut"
Mount Riga State Park.
Bear Mountain
An actual mountain in Mount Riga State Park. Also reminiscent of "A Night on Bare Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky.

Chapter 7: Appendix A

Tank's song
"Enter Sandman" by Metallica, which just happens to be the theme song to The Knight and the Jester.
TV Guide
Owned by News America Corporation in 1994 (currently Gemstar); it's largely irrelevant today.
"Don't anybody move!"
Typical Barney Fife dialog from The Andy Griffith Show.
Professor Dottmeyer's lost beetle Bubbie
Actually, I made this up.
"Lost Tribe of the Huachi"
Oblique reference to the hwacha, an ancient Korean weapon featured on the "Alcohol Myths" episode of Mythbusters.
"What's this do?"
GIR, "War of the Planets" episode of Invader Zim.
Mulder and Scully
Main characters in The X-Files (20th Century Fox, 1991). They were linked with the Rescue Rangers in the fanfic Home Is Where You Hang Upside Down, by The Enduring Man-Child, and also appeared in The Knight and the Jester.
"Many Worlds Hypothesis"
Hugh Everett, 1957
Tungunska Comet
The most-likely cause of the 1908 explosion over eastern Siberia.
Copenhagen Interpretation
Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, 1927
String Theory
Created by dozens of physicists from 1960's onward
Musical String Theory
Another oblique reference to The Knight and the Jester, which included an involved discussion of acoustics and using overtones to track a diamond.
"Earth-A" vs. "Earth-1"
The Futurama episode "The Farnsworth Parabox" (episode aired in 2003, so Bill Odenkirk must have ripped off Dale's idea!)
"Borg Earth"
The Borg first appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Q Who?" (airdate May 8, 1989).

Chapter 8: Exit Light

"Exit Light"
Lyrics from "Enter Sandman". Further lyrics will be used for the titles of Chapters 9 - 11.
"...because I can't remember the phone number of what's-his-name", and Gadget's translation device
"Home Is Where You Hang Upside-Down", by Roy Neal Grissom ("what's-his-name" is Fox Mulder from The X-Files).

Chapter 9: Enter Night

"the Bat Guy"
The Batman, DC Comics.
"Coo-Coo bottle"
Coo-Coo Cola, from the episode "The Case of the Cola Cult".
"Citrus Delight" and "purple stuff"
1980's commercial for Sunny Delight.
Secret Warehouse ID code. The letters mean this is an (O)bservation device that operates by modifying p(H)ysical law and must be (D)irected to work (the 0035 means there are 34 other objects in the warehouse with the same description).

Chapter 10: Take My Hand

I am thinking specifically of the one by Gabriel Fauré.
Winifred's last name from Home Is Where You Hang Upside-Down.
Guild of Calamitous Intent
A reference to Dr. Girlfriend from The Venture Brothers (2003, World Leaders / Astro Base Go! / Cartoon Network / Williams Street).
Dirk Suave
CDRR episode "Double 'O Chipmunk"
"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood."
"The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost, 1916
Plymouth Suburban
Marque of Chrysler.

Part Two: Francine

Chapter 11: We're Off to Never-Never Land

"Empty Is" lyrics
Frank Sinatra, based on a poem by Rod McKuen, from the album A Man Alone (1969)
The countdown
This is counting down to June 15th at 12:00:03 AM, the moment the Rescue Rangers were swapped in Part One. If you're having trouble with the math, remember that the change from Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time occurs during the span being counted down. The year for Parts Two and Three is 1998.
Bud and Lou
Based on characters created by Bud Abbot and Lou Costello. In particular, their characters from Buck Privates (1945). Of course, the reason I'm using these characters is because Freddie's familiars in "Good Times, Bat Times" were named and based on the pair.
his arm snaked out to one side
An obligatory snake reference for Bud.
"you're like Little Miss Muffet: a spider would give you a heart attack"
An obligatory spider reference for Lou.
The movies discussed
Titanic (#1 in the box office on the weekend of February 13, 1998, for the ninth of what would be fifteen weeks in a row)
L.A. Confidential (#10)
Wag the Dog (#12)
The Wings of the Dove (#21)
Blues Brothers 2000 (#9)
As Good as it Gets (#5)
The Borrowers (#6)
Great Expectations (#8)
Cracker Jacks
Property of Frito Lay.
Family Circus
By Bill Keane; property of King Features Syndicate
Commander Cellini, Ultra Probe
Character and spaceship from the Space: 1999 episode "Dragon's Domain". In a 1997 flashback during that episode, Cellini fought off a space monster that didn't appear on instruments. On Earth-A, that becomes a whole race of aliens that don't show up on instruments. Space: 1999 is a 1975 television series by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.
Captain Koenig
John Koenig, the main character in Space: 1999 (played by Martin Landau) was a captain during the flashback sequences in "Dragon's Domain", and a close friend of Cellini's. In the series he was the commander of Moonbase Alpha.
"Give me two tens for a five."
This skit is straight out of Buck Privates.
Francine Nulton
Earth-A's version of Freddie the Witch (hence "Frankie"). She's also influenced by the Darkwing Duck character of Ammonia Pine.
Vostaach Space Center
The link between the space center and Space: 1999 comes from a timeline by Shane Johnson

Chapter 12: Disappointment

Walter Mitty Army Medical Sanitarium, Pritchard-Mitford, and pocketa-pocketa-pocketa
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1939), by James Thurber
Norris Nulton
Earth-A version of Nulton Nimnul. As you can see, the Earth-A counterparts are sometimes similar and sometimes quite different then their Earth-1 versions
Nuclear-powered cars
One of the features of the Space: 1999 is the universal use of nuclear power. The waste was stored on the Moon, with catastrophic consequences.
Masked Marvel
Earth-A counterpart of Darkwing Duck. The "Masked Marvel" name is an alias used by Snoopy from Peanuts when he wanted to pose as a human, and also the name of one of my favorite compositions by composer Vince Guaraldi (you can hear it on YouTube as performed by George Winston.
Dinah and Emilio Largess
Dinah, Francine's sister (thus forming the second member of the "Rat Pack" after "Frankie"), is a version of Ample Grime from Darkwing Duck (Ammonia Pine's hated sister). Emilio Largess is based on Emilio Largo from the James Bond movie Thunderball. The Darkwing Duck character modeled on Largo is Steelbeak, and my version owes more to Steelbeak than to Largo. While I'm at it, he's also the counterpart of the Rescue Rangers character Ratso Ratskiwatski, from "Out of Scale".
Orlac's Machines
Inspired by Oreck, but also The Hands of Orlac (1924, remade as Mad Love, 1935, with Peter Lorre).
Earth-A counterpart of Allison Worthington, the bee fan from Chapter 7. I'm also sort of thinking of Goo from Fosters' Home for Imaginary Friends here, although she's a lot less hyper and three years older.
Yet another version of Honker Muddlefoot from Darkwing Duck.
Coo-Coo Cola
From the Rescue Rangers episode "Case of the Cola Cult", but also the Darkwing Duck episode "Dirtysomething" and the 1946 Tex Avery cartoon "Screwy Squirrel".
Herbert's shirt art
"Light as a Mouse", by Candy Courtnier, a work dating back to 1998 or perhaps earlier.
"The Spanish Inquisition"
This is a reference to an event in the history of the Rescue Rangers fandom: the Valentine's Day Massacre of February 14, 1998, aka Ranger War II.
Alice's shirt art
This specific fan art doesn't exist, but I'm imagining a variation on "Look at the Moon", by Matt Plotecher, which dates to 1997.
One of the major science fiction magazines, published by Dell; the editor at this time would have been Ben Bova. Per author George R.R. Martin, Analog had "the reputation of being hard-nosed, steel-clad, scientifically rigorous, and perhaps a bit puritanical."
Moonbase Alpha
Space: 1999.
Rockwell Studio
Cartoon studio from the Darkwing Duck episode "Twitching Channels", where Darkwing accidentally travels to the "Real World" and discovers that he is a fictional character. The pompous character of E. Thaddeus Rockwell is a self-parody by Tad Stones, producer of both Darkwing Duck and Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers.
Darkwing Duck's motorcycle.
The Rescue Rangers' skate-based means of land propulsion.
Herbert, Sr. and Elizabeth
Herb and Binkie Muddlefoot from Darkwing Duck
The Danaans
The alien menace, finally named. In the mythology of Ireland, the island was invaded several times before the Gaels arrived; the last two were the Fir Bolg and the Tuatha De Danann. The latter group were named after the Greek Danaans (the heroes of the Trojan War), and were considered somewhere between men and gods because of the magical artifacts they possessed.
Zenith television
Maker of many old televisions, and inventor of the remote control. Owned by the LG Group.

Chapter 13: Arrival

The eastern sister-station to KOLD, "music for the old and the old at heart", a radio station from Rugrats.
Emperor Freewheel
Earth-A version of the Ducktales character Gyro Gearloose, inventor for Scrooge McDuck.
New Haven's local billionaire and Roboman
Earth-A versions of Scrooge McDuck and Gizmoduck from Ducktales.
Nikolai Gogol (1809 - 52) was the author of "The Overcoat", a story of social status
Colt Park
An actual park in Hartford, CT.
Laurel Weir
Earth-A counterpart of Lahwhinie.
Industrial laundry
Winifred's base of operations in "Good Times, Bat Times".

Chapter 14: The Demonstration

A low ridge ten miles east of Hartford
Case Mountain, elevation 744 feet.
World Space Commission
The body responsible for administering Moonbase Alpha in Space: 1999.
The Company
Based on SHUSH from Darkwing Duck, and of course derived from the pet name CIA operatives gave their organization.
Based on F.O.W.L. from Darkwing Duck.
Assistant Director of The Company ("The Bear", Aldus Klaudaine)
An amalgamation of Agent Gryzlikoff from Darkwing Duck and Aldrin Klordaine from Rescue Rangers.
Head Scientist of The Company ("The Thinker", Dr. Elena Irwin)
Amalgamation of Dr. Sarah Bellum from Darkwing Duck ("Heavy Mental") and Irwina Allen from Rescue Rangers ("Risky Beesness").
Titanium Gander
Iron Goose from Rescue Rangers ("Risky Beesness").
Agent of The Company ("The Hero", Drew Maughlarde, aka The Masked Marvel)
Earth-A counterpart of Drake Mallard, aka Darkwing Duck. He is also the Earth-A counterpart of Detective Drake from Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers.
Carolyn Maughlarde
Earth-A counterpart of Gosalyn from Darkwing Duck, as well as Tammy from Rescue Rangers.
Norma Ray
Dr. Bellum's invention from "Heavy Mental", which increased the psychic powers of whoever used it ("just so long as they don't think!").
KEPN Helmet
Stands for "Kaon-Emission Paravoyant Neurolyzer". As the Maughlardes discovered, it's more of an equivoyant neuralyzer.
Head of The Company ("The Philosopher", John G. Houker)
J. Gander Hooter from Darkwing Duck.
Small mountain
Birch Mountain
Commissioner Simmonds, Commander Gorski, Professor Bergman and David Kano
All characters from Space: 1999. Gorski was commander of Moonbase Alpha before Koenig, and lost his job as the result of a botched cover-up.
Handy Navi
A reference to Serial Experiments: Lain.
"defensive science"
In Space: 1999, Professor Bergman would invent a forcefield that would get stronger the more it was attacked.
Dr. Irwin and the bee
Obvious reference to "Risky Beesness".
"Yes, Taurus Bulba"
Quote from the Darkwing Duck episode "Darkly Dawns the Duck".

Chapter 15: The Judgment

Men's size 10 tube sock
Reference to John Nowak's Under the Bridge, where the "Nimnul Effect" from the episode "Catteries Not Included" is used to power a rodent-scale submarine.
"I've developed [a generator] for use on Moonbase Alpha"
This is the Bergman Generator, which powers the force fields in Space: 1999.
The metal bulldog
From the Rescue Rangers episode "Catteries Not Included".
The Kensington Experiment, Professor Hodgeson and KIDS
All from Serial Experiments: Lain. My addition is to link this to the experiment that gave David Kano a neural link with computers (the Space: 1999 episode "Guardians of Piri").
Emperor Norton I
"Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico," self-proclaimed. Lived from 1819 - 1880. His delusional claims were respected by the amused residents of San Francisco until his death.
Gorski's brilliant idea
In Space: 1999, everyone has a small device called a commlock to communicate with each other and to open the doors and turn off the lights.
Robo-bee saboteurs
Another "Risky Beesness" reference.
"the Wired"
name given to an advanced form of the Internet in Serial Experiments: Lain.
"September 14th Society"
A reference to September 13th, 1999, the date in Space: 1999 when the Moon was accidentally blasted into deep space. It was implied in the series that the event was catastrophic for humanity back on Earth.
Sydney Greenstreet, the name of the actor who played a character known as "The Fat Man" in The Maltese Falcon (1941). Obviously, Greenstreet is Fat Cat-A.
The name of Klordaine's henchman from "To the Rescue".
"A Fly in the Ointment"
Episode of Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers.
The device on David's wrist
The Metamorphosizer, from the Rescue Rangers episode "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing"

Chapter 16: Coronation

"Arise, Sir Loin of Beef!"
Scene from the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Rabbit Hood" (1949, Chuck Jones).
The history of Gogol
A hodge-podge of the following:
Nikolai Gogol
See the Gogol entry for Chapter 13.
"Sending all those prisoners up to the Moon"
My father.
"A series of tubes."
Alaska Senator Ted Stevens' defense of a net neutrality amendment to the Communications, Consumer's Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006. Click here for a remix of the speech on YouTube.
Agent Reynard D. Keigh
Earth-A counterpart of Agent Fox Mulder.

Chapter 17: The Final Battle

"force field roller" and "Professor Bergman's contribution"
In the Space: 1999 episode "Black Sun", Bergman invents a force field that protects the station against a black hole.
Clavius Crater
Besides being one of the most prominent craters on the Moon, Clavius Base was a setting used in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
"My forces are boxed in at Theophilus Crater"
Another actual crater, and also a reference to how Space: 1999 frequently dealt with mystical and religious subjects.
Eagle shuttle
The short-range craft used in Space: 1999 and as beloved by fans as any of the cast members.
The primary prop in Space: 1999, used to open doors, turn lights on and off, monitor people for medical and location purposes, and as a general-purpose remote control. They were actually introduced prior to Commander Gorski's time, as they are seen in use during the flashback sequences in the episode "Dragon's Domain".
Galt Braunbight
The Earth-A version of Walter Cronkite, who was half of the inspiration for TV news anchor Stan Blather on Rescue Rangers (the other half being Dan Rather).
Dr. Helena Russell
One of the two lead characters on Space: 1999, played by actress Barbara Bain; she was the chief medical officer for Moonbase Alpha. At the beginning of the series she had been brow-beaten by Gorski and Simmonds into covering up a series of mysterious deaths, so here I have her brow-beaten by Emilio Largess into supporting his lies about Nimnul's condition.

Chapter 18: Voices in the Darkness

All speaking characters in this chapter are based on real people. To the best of my ability, I have attempted to portray everyone as I believe they are in real life. For some people (LaMarche and Paulsen) I have had the experience of seeing them in person at the San Diego Comic Con. Any mis-characterizations that remain are of course my fault.

The disembodied voice at the start of the chapter
Andrea Romano, voice director for Pinky and the Brain. Pupspals will probably kill me for everything I got inadvertently wrong about being a voice director, and for that, I humbly apologize.
Moe L. March
Maurice LaMarche.
Pinky and the Brain
Pinky and the Brain (1995-2001, Tom Ruegger, Universal Pictures). In Earth-A, fictional properties are identical to the real world (unless I made them up).
Jay Cummins
Jim Cummings
Orson Welles
Orson Welles
Rob Polson
Rob Paulsen
Pam Haydn
Pamela Hayden
Jeffery Burnet
Jeff Bennett
Gary Elway
Cary Elwes
Tress McNell
Tress MacNeille
Jane and Michael Banks
Earth-A versions of Michael and Jane Banks from Chapter 5.
Lassie's Rescue Rangers
An actual cartoon show from the 1970's.
Rockwell Studio
This is a reference to the Darkwing Duck episode "Twitching Channels", where Darkwing travels to the "real world", where a TV show based on his exploits is wildly popular. The creator of the show, J. Thaddeus Rockwell (a parody of Darkwing Duck/Rescue Rangers creator Tad Stones) got the idea for the show from using a mail-order helmet that allowed him to spy on the world of Darkwing. At the end of the episode, Darkwing returns to his own world and the helmet is damaged, causing it to re-tune to the world of the Rescue Rangers.
Mystery Mantis and the Clew Crew Review, Intergalactic Battle of the Network Stars, Three's a Crowd and Weeble Wobbles: The Animated Series
All made up shows, but considering the kinds of cartoons I grew up with in the 1970's and 80's, not entirely implausible.
Corey Button
Corey Burton
"all twenty-five of the scripts to the episodes that had never been completed"
If you add this to the 43 episodes that were aired, you get three more episodes than Disney ever aired. I wonder what they're about?
Another reference to Serial Experiments: Lain, this time to the desktop version of the "Handy Navi".
"A Hawaiian surfer character"
Hubba Bubba from "Gadget Goes Hawaiian".
"A witch character" and the quote that follows
Freddie herself, from "Good Times, Bat Times"

Chapter 19: Choosing Sides

Omsk Summer Time zone
Space Dock Centauri
Space: 1999.
The Grimemaster
Ample Grime, Darkwing Duck
Alan Carter
Leading character in Season One of Space: 1999, where he was the designated hero. Played by Nick Tate, who in the 1990's became one of the leading voice-over artists for movie trailers: Independence Day and Jurassic Park.
"Training: it makes the job look easy"
Commander Roger Houston's line from the Rescue Rangers episode "Out to Launch".
And thus is revealed the fact that Francine and Dinah Orlac were named by their parents after Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
"Shnookums or Buffy"
The latter was Ratso Ratskiwatski's daughter in "Out of Scale".
Brown and Hash, Emilio's goons
Counterparts of Spud and Fry from the Rescue Rangers episode "Short-Order Crooks", who are in turn clones of Moose and Rocco, Ratso Ratskiwatski's goons in the episode "Out of Scale".
"The Internet"
Standard excuse from The Fairly Oddparents.

Chapter 20: Where's Waldo?

This represents Lunar Standard Time. By Hartford standards, it is May 16th at 12:18 AM.
Paul Morrow (acting commander of Moonbase Alpha)
In Space: 1999, Morrow is Commander Koenig's second.
"The Underwater Menace"
1967 serial from Doctor Who, starring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. The scenes quoted here star Joseph Furst as Professor Zaroff and Noel Johnson as King Thous.
Seymour Travel
Throwaway reference to the villain from the Rescue Rangers episode "It's a Bird, It's Insane, It's Dale!"
The Librarian
Earth-A counterpart of the CDRR fancharacter Trackball, created by John Nowak. In particular, a piece of fanart by Morgan Kohl was used for the wheelchair.
Where's Waldo?
North American name for the Where's Wally? series, created in 1987 by Martin Handford.
Short story by Robert A. Heinlein, actually written 1946, but first published in book form in 1950, accompanied by "Magic, Inc.". The cover shown is from the 1986 reprint.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
1966 novel by Robert A. Heinlein.
Alice Wentworth, from Chapters 12 and 15.

Chapter 21 (Bad Moon Rising): no references

Chapter 22: Victory Speech

Fomorians and Firbolgs
Like the Danaans, these are names of mythical invaders of Ireland
"NIM!" "NUL!"
Do I even need to explain this one? Think Leni Reifenstahl.

Chapter 23: Substitution

"A super-weapon for destroying an entire planet with just one shot"
The Death Star from the Star Wars series.
Harvey the Wonder Hamster
Character created by Al Yankovic. Also an oblique reference to the television show Flash the Wonder Dog on the Rescue Rangers episode "Flash, the Wonder Dog".
Lou's recipe for almond cookies
Lou doesn't have one, but I do. They're called "Kifflings", and they are a Christmas tradition in my home:

Preheat oven to 400° F (205° C). Cream butter and granulated sugar in a bowl, then add vanilla, flour and finally almonds. Roll dough into 1 ½ inch (4 cm) balls and place on a baking sheet. Cook for 15 minutes. Roll balls in powdered sugar while still hot. Makes 10 dozen.

Note: Kifflings are Norwegian in origin. They are supposed to be crescent-shaped, made from tubes the size and shape of your little finger, but I find those to be too dry for my tastes, as well as far too much work.

Book of Asteroth and Substitutiary Locomotion
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971, Robert Stevenson, Disney).
The Chipendale chair
An oblique reference to my fanfic The Last Case of Detective Drake.
"The Giants win the Pennant!"
Reference to "the shot heard 'round the world", the game-winning play in the National League pennant baseball game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 3, 1951 (before Francine was born). The pitcher was Ralpha Braca of the Dodgers, and the hitter was Bobby Thompson of the Giants. The Russ Hodges radio broadcast was quoted for the famous line above, but nobody actually said the lines I used in that order.
Nimnul Security Agency
Uses the same acronym as the National Security Agency.
It's a Small World
Famous ride at Disneyland (and the other Disney theme parks).

Part Three: Carolyn

Chapter 24: Graduation

The web browser
NetPositive was the official web browser of BeOS, noted for phrasing its errors in the form of haiku. Here's one of its 404 messages:

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
The site is not found.

BeOS was a potential rival to Mac OS and Windows that was discontinued in 1997. The look and feel of the Copland operating system used in Serial Experiments: Lain is partially derived from BeOS. Since I could not determine which browser was used in that series, I decided to go with NetPositive.

The Memex was a theoretical information retrieval system proposed by Vannevar Bush in a 1945 article entitled "As We May Think". The device included many features that were later incorporated in the Internet, such as hypertext links. See this YouTube video for a demonstration. Bush and his invention are name-checked in Serial Experiments: Lain.
The Adventures of Pochacco & Keroppi
The Hello Kitty world of characters is copyright Sanrio. Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater was a co-production of Sanrio, DiC Enterprises and MGM/UA Television. It aired on the CBS network in America in 1987. The Sanrio characters of Pochacco, Keroppi, Sweet Coron, Badtz-Maru and Kuromi were not in the cartoon series.
Herbie's species, as well as a recognition of all the Rescue Ranger fandom had lost.
QQ and ConMouse
Mentioned in Chapter 15. "QQ" stands for Quiverwing Quack, Gosalyn's secret identity in Darkwing Duck.
"I've been curious about how the world worked ... the key to contentment is to always try whatever makes you uncomfortable."
Compare to Chapter 5.
Ending from "Academy Days"
Compare to Chapter 6.
"Have you ever seen the lain?"
A message that starts randomly appearing on the Wired in Layer 07 of Serial Experiments: Lain.
"I take care of the place when MyMelody is away."
A reference to The Hands of Manos (and the MST3K treatment of it).
Mimmy Kitty
Hello Kitty's near-identical sister. Amnesia1983 is of course referring to Lahwhiney.
"Not twenty minutes ago, 'she' dropped out of the sky in a helicopter and stole my pet bat!"
For those with short attention spans (or reading the story out of order), this refers to events in Chapter 23.
Inverness, Florida
Note that Inverness, Scotland was the location of the Battle of Culloden (1746), where the dreams of the Jacobites died.
"Where Will the Little Green Man Be Next?" and Ragle Gumm
References to Time Out of Joint, by Philip K. Dick (1959). This is a reference to a false reality (which is what Carolyn believes her world to be) and ends with the revelation of a war between Earth and a revolting Moon that resembles The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
The KEEN helmet
First referenced in Chapter 14. The portion of the helmet's history that involves E. Thaddeus Rockwell comes from the "Twitching Channels" episode of Darkwing Duck (watch the episode on YouTube).

Chapter 25: Cross-Over

Carolyn's fall
Alice by Jan Svankmajer (1988), the "lift scene"
"Said Alice"
All dialog in Alice was spoken in Alice's voice, and would always be followed by a close-up of her mouth narrating which character just spoke. It got rather annoying after awhile.
Tammy's entrance
Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951).
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Robert A. Heinlein, 1966. Mike is the name of a sentient computer that consults the main character about the nature of jokes.
Carolyn's story
Largely taken from the plot of the Darkwing Duck pilot episode, "Darkly Dawns the Duck". Terrance Barra is the Earth-A counterpart of Taurus Bulba.

Chapter 26: Norris Nulton

Prisoner's Aid Society
From the Rescuers series of books by Margery Sharp.
"Even Nimnul had gone straight for awhile"
Rescue Rangers episode "Rest Home Rangers"
Just to be safe, I will credit Disneyland with this one.
Ernesto and Bernie
A twisted version of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, with their roles reversed
Doctor Mitford-Pritchard
Earth-1 version of Doctor Pritchard-Mitford (Chapter 12)
"She turned you into a newt!"
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Bob Ross
Host of The Joy of Painting (1983, PBS). Ross frequently referred to the "happy little clouds" he painted.
"I am Norton J. Nimnul, scientist. I own a ray gun and a lab."
Parody of "I am Elmer J. Fudd, millionaire. I own a mansion and a yacht," from the Warner Brothers cartoon "Hare Brush" (1955).
Super Toast
Invader Zim, episodes "The Nightmare Begins" and "Future Dib"
The Szalinski Process
From the Honey, I Shrunk the series.
Chip and Dale's opinion on being mistaken for squirrels
Rescue Rangers episode "Out of Scale". This is also a callback to The Knight and the Jester.
Dana Scully and Fox Mulder
The X-Files (20th Century Fox, 1991). A running joke in the series is that the pair's rental cars are always white or silver Ford Tauruses. That and the constant cell phone use. The "spokesperson" reference is to actress Gillian Anderson's cancer-awareness commercials.
Mister Whizzer
Parody of Watch Mister Wizard/Mister Wizard's World (NBC, 1951; Nickelodeon, 1983) from the CDRR episode "Flash, the Wonder Dog".
The black box
This is the animal translation device from Home Is Where You Hang Upside-Down. It is described only as a modified bat detector small enough for Foxglove to wear it. See here for a bat detector built in a black plastic hobby box of the right dimensions. The exact dimensions (9 by 4 by 1) are once again a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Banana baby food
See "Helping Orphans Survive", an article for BATS Magazine, where young insectivorous bats are fed a diet of fortified milk, veal and banana baby food, and vitamin paste, until they are capable of eating mealworms.
"The Irish Washerwoman", "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain"
Traditional Irish and American folksongs, respectively.
"The Inner Light"
Name of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987, Paramount Television).

Chapter 27: The Fandom United

Anna Comnena
Byzantine princess and scholar. Believed to be the first Western female historian. Lived 1083 - 1153. [Ban Zhou, 46 - 116, has a better claim as first female historian, Western or Eastern]
Quiverwing Quack, Gosalyn
As noted, alias and character from Darkwing Duck.
The fanon last name of the Darkwing Duck character Quackerjack, as established by writer Sparky. Note that the idea that the Darkwing Duck fandom is controlled by anybody is false, at least on this world.
Tuxedo Sam and Monkichi
Characters from Hello Kitty. As established on the "Adventures of Pochacco & Keroppi" site, Tuxedo Sam corresponds to Monty, while Monkichi corresponds to Detective Donald Drake.
Annoying archeologist character from the Rescue Rangers episode "Throw Mummy From the Train".
Fearless Leader
Rocky and Bullwinkle
Serial Experiments: Lain. Lain refers obliquely to the Reset she performs at the end of the series, fixing the problems of the world at the cost of nobody remembering her anymore. Note that Carolyn instantly trusts Lain as soon as she says something; a common event in the series.

Chapter 28: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

The dream
This evokes the Space: 1999 episode "Breakaway", where explosions at the Nuclear Waste Disposal areas on September 13, 1999, launch the Moon into deep space. The detail about the exposure of Atlantis is a reference to the Doctor Who serial "The Underwater Menace" (see Chapter 16), where draining the Earth's oceans was the mad plan of Professor Zaroff.
The photograph
An evocation of Liberty Leading the People by Eugéne Delacroix, only with more clothes. Alice Wentworth appeared earlier in chapters 12, 15 and 19. The flag's description is taken word for word from The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. "TANSTAAFL" stands for "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch", the motto of Libertarianism in the book. "J&M B." are "Jane and Michael...Banks" (Chapter 17). The Pulitzer Prize is administered by Columbia University.
Nimnul's pupils
Different pupil size is an actual indicator of brain damage. In addition, I'm using this to push his character into becoming a counterpart of the Darkwing Duck character Megavolt.

Chapter 29: The Rescuers

"I Think We're Alone Now"
1987 song by Tiffany.
Officers Lee and Murphy
Counterparts of Kirby and Muldoon, the names derived as follows: Jack Kirby was a famous comic book artist, his best-known writer was Stan Lee. The name of the game warden in Jurassic Park was Robert Muldoon (his last words were "Clever girl..."). In the movie, he rescued Lex and Tim Murphy.
"the Reset"
Refers to the end of Serial Experiments: Lain, where Lain is forced to rewrite everyone's memories to remove herself from existence.
"The Best of Everything"
Song from the Rescue Rangers episode "To the Rescue: Part 1."
"True Faith" by New Order
Commonly known as "Morning Sun", released 1987, a song about loss of faith.

Chapter 30: Harford City Jail Blues

"Gadget Hackwrench Eyes"
Parody of "Bette Davis Eyes" (1974) by Kim Carnes, by The Enduring Man-Child (1998). This is slightly anachronistic, as the parody was first published about five months after the scene in question in real life.
Sergeant Detweiler
Counterpart of Sgt. Spinelli from Rescue Rangers. If you're familiar with the show Recess, you'll get the connection.
Detective Tenchure
Counterpart of my conspiracy-obsessed character Detective Chenture from The Last Case of Detective Drake.
Paxton Communications was the owner of the station in 1998. Today it's owned by Entravision Communications Corporation and as its current call sign, WUVN, shows, it is a Univision station.
"Ranger In Your Soul"
Extremely-anachronistic parody of "Birdhouse In Your Soul" (1990), by They Might Be Giants, by Mayhem (2007), but on Earth-A, I suppose "Birdhouse" is the parody. "Dr. Spock's Backup Band" is a lyric from the group's self-titled song.
A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens, 1859.
Emperor Albert
Albert Einstein. In Earth-A's history, he led the human resistance to the Fomorian invasion and was the first Emperor of Earth.

Chapter 31 (Too Much Theta): no references

Chapter 32 (Truth or Consequences)

Television channels
These are all actual television channels available to cable television viewers in Hartford, CT in 1998. At that time, Chris-Craft owned WWOR; Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Inc. owned CPTV; Counterpoint Communications owned WTXX; Fox Television owned WNYW; an 80/20 partnership between General Electric and Seagram owned Sci-Fi; the Meredith Corporation owned WFSB; the National Cable Satellite Corporation owned CSPAN; Time Warner owned CNN, HBO and TBS; the Tribute Company owned WGN; an 80/20 partnership between the Walt Disney Company and the Hearst Corporation owned ESPN; the Walt Disney Company owned the Disney Channel; and Viacom owned MTV, TMC and TNN. Today, Sci-Fi is unfortunately called SyFy.
Television programs
The New Stoicism, People's Choice Movie of the Week and Senate Subcommittee On the U.S. Auto Industry are invented shows; although they are typical of the stations I put them on. The quotes from SportsCenter, Headline News and Extreme Dinosaurs are also invented. The other programs all actually aired in June of 1998, albeit not all at the same time, and all included the quotes listed. Movie credits: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg, Paramount Pictures), Soylent Green (1973, Richard Fleischer, MGM), Real Genius (1985, Martha Coolidge, Columbia TriStar), "Crocodile" Dundee (1986, Peter Faiman, Paramount Pictures), The Rescuers (1977, John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman and Art Stevens, Walt Disney Productions), and Rustler's Rhapsody (1985, Hugh Wilson, Paramount Pictures). Television series credits: Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988, Donald A. Bellisario and Glen A. Larson, Universal Studios), SportsCenter (1979-present, Bill Rasmussen, Walt Disney Corporation/Hearst Corporation), Total Request (1997-1998, Carson Daily, Viacom), Headline News (1982-present, Ted Kavenau and Paul Amos, Time Warner), Sam & Max [or, to use the full name, Sam & Max: Freelance Police!!!] (1997-1998, Steve Purcell, Nelvana Limited), Pinky and the Brain [see Chapter 18], Extreme Dinosaurs [yes, this was a real show] (1997, Mattel, DIC Entertainment), The "Weird Al" Show (1997, Al Yankovic, Dick Clark Productions), Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988-1999, Joel Hodgson, Best Brains Productions), and V: The Series (1984-1985, Kenneth Johnson, Warner Brothers Television). The song featured on Total Request was "Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1998, The Verve, Urban Hymns). The movie featured on MST3K was originally titled Uchu Kaisoku-Ken (1961, Koji Ota, Toei Company, dubbed by Walter Manley Enterprises).
"Why???" [the question asked by at least one reader slogging through this section]
The even-numbered clips show the characters that inspired the creation of each Rescue Ranger: Indiana Jones (Chip), Magnum P.I. (Dale), Jordan from Real Genius (Gadget), "Crocodile" Dundee (Monty) and Evinrude from The Rescuers (Zipper). The odd-numbered clips contrast this with the hopelessness felt by the adult world in Earth-A.
Coo-Coo Cola ("Bottled in Pensacola")
A reference to the Rescue Rangers episode "The Case of the Cola Cult". Curiously, Coo-Coo Cola is also referenced in Darkwing Duck and the 1944 Screwy Squirrel cartoon "Happy Go Nutty".
Coin/Clutch Jewelers
A reference to Madame/Lady Clutchcoin, a standard rich character in several Rescue Rangers episodes, always with a different character design. The version in "Gorilla My Dreams" wore a diamond as big as she was and at least twice her weight.
"Straggly scrub-brushes..."
Lengthy quote from "Good Times, Bat Times".

Chapter 33: Searching for Meaning in a Meaningless World

Sprite commercial for "Sun Fizz"
Actual commercial airing in 1998 (directed by Spike Jonze for Lowe & Partners/SMS). And if you're asking "why" again, consider this a warning of what you could get if you let cartoon characters run around in the Real World.
"Limited nuclear engagement"
In the back story to Space: 1999, there was a brief thermonuclear war in 1987 caused by North Korean terrorists. This is used as the reason why humanity was united in the series. Also, the world's nuclear weapons were dismantled and the waste stored, first in Antarctica and later on the Moon.

Chapter 34: End Game

"four-note pattern"
This is the bass beat behind the current incarnation of the Doctor Who theme.
Prominent villain in the series Doctor Who, first appearance Genesis of the Daleks (1975).
The world where the Roman Empire never fell
I was specifically thinking of Aquila by S. P. Somtow--Somtow also wrote "The Carpetsnaggers" episode of Rescue Rangers.
The world where men are ruled by apes
Planet of the Apes (1968, 20th Century Fox).
Earth: "It's where I keep all my stuff!"
"The Tick vs. The Tick" episode of The Tick (1994, Sunbow Entertainment).
"Over my dead batteries! Eat amperes!"
Direct quote of Megavolt from Darkwing Duck.
"We agreed that Nimnul is to stay there for three days."
The events of those three days are covered in "The Switch", a fanfic by Roxor.

Chapter 35 (Re-Introductions): no references

Chapter 36: Homecoming

How Fiction Works
Title of two actual books written by Oakley Hall and James Wood, but those were written in 2001 and 2008, so Francine must have been reading something else.
The Faerie and their leader
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, 2004).
"Dream Catch Me" lyrics
Newton Faulkner


ILLEGAL INTERACTION DETECTED BETWEEN UNIVERSES Y435.456.5646/935489 AND J14.763.479.53567/456355




C:\> ACTIVATE AGENT -U Y435.456.5646/935489


The acknowledgements/credits start up there.

Return to McPoodle's Fiction
Page maintained by McPoodle @t Page last updated November 14, 2018. This site is a partner of The Neitherworld.