The Knight and the Jester


McPoodle (f.k.a. Newton)

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

"Scully, let me tell you about the Great Thing from Beyond.

"It was born in the seething currents that attended the birth of the Known Universe. It was the first life form to ever exist, a being of pure energy. It has witnessed the birth and death of countless civilizations. It has traveled from star to star over the eons, leaving a swath of despair and devastation in its wake. Then it came to Earth, and here is where it has decided to stay, because Earth is so full of life and so vulnerable to its monstrous appetite.

"The Great Thing is capable of possessing human hosts and using them to spread horror and misery. It has been recognized throughout human history, and it has been given many names: Tiamat, Loki, Shiva, the Trickster, the Greek god Chaos, and a host of others. It is responsible for the Fall of Troy, the Assyrian Empire, the Burning of Rome (and Chicago), the Alibigensian Crusade, the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, the Salem Witch Hunt, the Black Hole of Calcutta, and the cancellation of 'Flash, the Wonder Dog'. It has possessed Caligula, Heliogabalus, Wu Tsung, Peter the Hermit, Caesare Borgia, Ivan the Terrible, Robespierre, and possibly the evil puppet Trego the Terrible (although I have no proof of that last one). Now it is occupying the body of Timothy Bouffant.

"In all of its activities it has been steadfastly pursuing one ultimate objective: the self-destruction of the human race, in the most horrific manner possible. Now I think I know how to stop it. At 6:45 tomorrow morning, the two of us will storm the governor's mansion..."

"Hold it right there, Mulder. Before we break into yet another government building, satisfy my curiosity by answering a few questions."

"OK, shoot."

"First, if trying to destroy us, how did the world make it through the Cold War? Don't you think it possible that we may be dealing with two creatures: a Little Thing from Beyond and a terrific press agent?"

"Laugh if you want, it won't save you in the end. As for the Great Thing's recent activities, there's a theory that a noted archeologist in New England defeated it in either the late 30's or early 40's. The Great Thing was weakened and exiled to a parallel dimension. It is thought that it must have regained its strength in that dimension and found a 'door between dimensions' to return here."

"Very well. The only other thing I want to know is where you obtained your information about this 'dire threat'."

"From the Lone Gunmen."

"I thought as much. Mulder, there is no such thing as the Great Thing from Beyond. They were just pulling your leg, again."

" can you know that? The Thing explains so many...things!"

"'Great Thing From Beyond' is the name of a song by the heavy metal band Iron Goose. It's from their latest album, which I believe is called Trego the Terrible Puppet."

"But...but...just because it's a song doesn't mean it can't be based on reality!"

The Great Thing from Beyond lived in the largest walnut tree in the park. It was still recovering from its latest defeat in a strange universe parallel to our own. It had only just managed to escape from that place to Limbo, and after a timeless interval, it had made its way through an almost-closed door between dimensions to return to this universe and the planet Earth. After nearly a year of feeding off of the life force of this tree, it was finally strong enough to possess the mind of a weak-willed woodland creature and begin its rise to power and destruction once again.

Mepps the cat was the first to spot them. "Hey, boss!" he whined. "I found the Rescue Rangers!"

The animal crime lord Fat Cat looked up the walnut tree Mepps was pointing to, then turned to the rest of his lackeys. "Well don't just stand there, you dolts! Get up there and re-steal my diamond!"

A few branches up, Chip cast a withering glance at Dale. "'They'll never find us up here', huh?" Dale shrugged sheepishly. "Okay, men, man the walnuts!" As Dale, Monterey Jack, and Zipper rushed into their prearranged positions, Chip scanned the canopy of the tree for Gadget.

"Hey, Chip!" she cried.

"What is it?"

"I think I've figured out an entirely new way to harvest walnuts!"

"Uh, will that help right now?" Chip hated it when he had to pull her back to reality.

"Well, no, not really. I guess I could follow up on it later." She went back to work on her secret weapon. Chip looked down at the rapidly climbing Mepps, Wart and Snout and hoped she would finish it before their time ran out. With a glance at the large stolen diamond at his feet, he ran to one of the piles of picked walnuts and began throwing them at Wart.

The fourth of Fat Cat's cronies, Mole, shaded his blinded eyes and tried to look up the tree. "My, that's awfully high!" he exclaimed. "Do I have to climb the tree too, Fat Cat? I'm afraid of heights!"

Fat Cat sighed. "No, Mole, you don't have to climb the tree. Your job is to catch the diamond when they drop it. Or," he added as an afterthought as a stray walnut beaned Mole, "anything else that may fall, for that matter."

Mole got up, shook his head to clear it of cobwebs (as if that will do any good, thought Fat Cat) and held his hands up. "I'm ready for that diamond any time, guys!"

The battle waged on. Fat Cat stood calmly as each of his minions was knocked down off the tree, brushed themselves off, and climbed up again. Mole, whose arms were getting tired, turned his head back to Fat Cat. "Isn't this the point where you give up on us and get it yourself?"

Fat Cat gave Mole a strange look. "That was remarkably close to an intelligent thought for someone as mentally myopic as you are. Actually, I was waiting for those rodents to run out of walnuts. Which they...just did."

Fat Cat rapidly made his way up the tree towards Chip and the diamond, pushing his flunkies aside as he did so. Monterey alerted Chip to the danger and made a flying leap for the massive feline, but was swatted in mid-air. He hit Mepps on the way down, and so had something to break his fall.

Chip never heard the warning, being too busy urging Gadget to hurry up loading her invention, a walnut-shooter. Suddenly Fat Cat's paw grabbed Chip's legs. Chip tossed the diamond to Dale. Fat Cat's eyes followed his prize, but he did not let go of the Ranger.

"I'm getting something out of this tree," growled Fat Cat, "if not the diamond, then one of you."

Chip wrapped his arms around the branch above him and held on for dear life as Fat Cat began pulling, harder and harder. Dale quickly looked around him. He saw Zipper come in for a dive, but Fat Cat saw him as well and ducked at just the right moment, causing Zipper to crash into the branch. Monterey was climbing, but not fast enough, and Gadget was still not ready yet. Dale watched the struggle between his best friend and the team's worst enemy, and felt that if he didn't act soon it would end in injury for Chip...or much worse. So he reached for the only thing left to throw and pitched it. Fat Cat cried out in surprise. He lost his footing, suspended now only by Chip's grip. The cat's tonnage was too much for the chipmunk, and the two of them plunged downward. Fat Cat's paw banged against a tree branch, causing him to release Chip. Fat Cat crashed the rest of the way through the branches to the ground, landing unconscious. He was picked up by his employees and hustled out of the park and onto the back of a passing human pickup truck. On his paunch rested the diamond Dale had thrown.

A voice drifted down from the top of the tree, "Okay, I think I'm ready now! Oh, where did Fat Cat's gang go?" It was then that Gadget saw Dale cradling the form of Chip, who had bounced his head off of the side of the tree after being released. She quickly made her way to his side, to be joined by Monterey and Zipper.

Dale tried desperately to wake him. "Chip, Chip! Are you all right! Speak to me!"

Chip opened his eyes in disgust and sprang to his feet. "Of course I'm all right, numbskull! How could you throw away the diamond like that!"

Dale gaped for a second before responding. "I did it to save your life!"

"I could take care of myself! Fat Cat is probably half-way to the docks already--we'll never catch up with him now!"

At this point the argument degenerated into a rapid stream of chipmunkese. Monterey, Gadget, and Zipper looked at each other wearily. Zipper flew towards the two chipmunks, but at that moment Chip's knees failed him and he fell down.

Chip woke up on his back. He remembered arguing with Dale, and then the world turning the color of lightning. Where am I? he thought. Maybe I was hurt, a little. He tried to turn his head, but the pain in his skull soon stopped that. He closed his eyes and just lay there for a while, recovering.

Even in this state his mental gears kept whirling. I feel sheets, the ceiling was metallic--I must be in an animal hospital. He ventured to open his eyes again. Feeling no pain yet, he slowly turned his head to look around him. He was in the corner of a room. The wall at his feet was painted white, while the one on his right side was blue with a strange swirling pattern that seemed to move slowly as he looked at it. He was lying on some sort of gurney, with low panels of burnished metal on either side to keep him from rolling out of bed. The panels kept him from seeing the rest of the room without sitting up, something he felt he would not be able to do for several minutes. His body was covered with a sheet. He slowly raised a paw to see how weak he was, and was dismayed by its unexpected weight. He noticed that he was wearing a white bodysuit, hardly the expected attire for a patient.

Just then he heard the sound of a door open to his left, followed by the footsteps of a woman in heels approaching him. Probably a mouse, he thought, I've only met one doctor before who wasn't a mouse. I wonder why? The woman stopped before she reached his line of sight and sat down on a cushioned chair. "I see our guest is awake," she said.

"Where am I?" asked Chip. "This doesn't look like any hospital I've ever seen." He was already feeling well enough to tackle a mystery.

"This isn't exactly a hospital, although we are here to help you. My name is Doctor Verbena Beeks, and I'd like to start by asking some questions."

I'm not in a hospital, and apparently the other Rangers aren't here. What's going on? Have I been captured? And if so, by who? Chip had been in far more bizarre and threatening situations than this, and he knew there wasn't much he could do in his current state anyway, so he remained calm and alert for clues to his current situation.

"Um, sure, go ahead and ask."

"First of all, what is the current date?"

"August 15th."

"And the year?"

He told her the year. Why does she want to know the date? he thought. The only time a doctor asks you the date is if... I was hit hard on the head--am I suffering from memory loss? "Is that right?" he asked the doctor. Not a medical doctor...a psychologist, probably. I wonder what sort of things I might have forgotten--maybe I'm married to Gadget and don't even know it! He grinned broadly at that possibility.

Chip heard the psychologist write his answers down on a clipboard before answering his question. "Of course it's the right answer. Now the next thing I need to know is your full name."

"My name is Chip, Chip..." At that moment he was interrupted by the sound of a second person coming through the door.

"Good morning, 'Bena," the new arrival said, a rather tired-sounding man.

"Good afternoon, Al," answered the psychologist.

"Anything on our guest?"

"Our patient is doing fine. I've gotten the date and name from him and I was just going to..."

The man interrupted. "Let's have a look at the arrival. I always like to know who I'm dealing with."

Chip turned his head towards the footsteps of the man. As the face appeared over the edge of the side panel, Chip was shocked to discover that the man was a human as small as he was. Chip threw his arms up in front of his face to defend himself. Chip's next shock was to discover that the human was even more afraid of him.

The human shuffled back, falling against what was probably the chair the woman was in. "It's a monster!" he yelled. "We've got to get out of here before it gets us!"

He heard some more scuffling. "Sit down!" cried the woman. "I don't care what you see, this appears to be a perfectly rational being, at least so long we act perfectly rational ourselves. I told you I already got his name and the date. Now you come with me to apologize to Chip."

Chip heard a dragging sound and guessed that the woman was pulling the man towards the bed. "I take back what I said before: I don't want to look at it! Please don't make me, please..." At that point he was shoved into Chip's line of view. "Oh, uh, hello, Chip. Sorry about that outburst." He seemed to be looking anywhere but at Chip's face. Chip looked over at the woman, Verbena. She was also human, but seemed to have no problem with Chip's appearance. He noticed that Verbena was wearing an unbuttoned white lab coat over a plain yellow dress. The man, Al, on the other hand, was wearing a florescent-green sports jacket over a black shirt. His purple tie was adorned with red polka dots armed with rapiers and apparently fighting each other to the death.

Al stepped back a bit, narrowing his eyes and looking Chip over, head to toe. "Wait a second," he finally said. "You're a woodchuck, aren't you?"

Chip sighed as his species suffered yet another blow to its self-esteem. "Chipmunk, actually."

Verbena turned to Al with a confused look. "I thought that chipmunks were little things."

It was then that Chip realized who in the room was their rightful size.


Sam Beckett had been fulfilling the job description of "time traveler" for several years now, leaping from one odd condition to another. He had impersonated children, women, and even a chimpanzee. To the best of his recollection he had never leaped into a space alien...until now.

He didn't have much of a chance to study his own appearance in a mirror at the moment, because his personal space was being invaded by another alien that appeared to be angry with him (assuming of course that alien and human emotions are depicted in a similar manner--it could be overjoyed or crying for all Sam really knew). The creature was a mammalian-type biped, covered with brown fur. Al would probably suggest that this was Bigfoot. It was attempting to communicate with him using a rapid form of spoken communication. Sam knew that he was supposed to know several languages (the leap in had swiss-cheesed his memory again, so he couldn't recall how many he knew at the moment), but obviously this wasn't one of them. Sam desperately looked around for something useful. His eyes met those of a second type of alien, a green insectoid suspended in the air by its rapidly-buzzing wings.

"He did save your life." The voice came from the second alien, and to Sam's amazement it was in English. By this time the first alien had stopped talking and was looking at him expectantly.

Sam decided to trust his instincts on this one. "I guess you're right. After all, you did save my life."

The first alien grinned wide, which allowed Sam to learn that there wasn't too much threat to him from that direction. It reached out a hand and Sam shook it.

Now everyone was looking at him expectantly. Am I their leader? he thought. Besides the two he had seen already, Sam noticed two other creatures of a third type. Sam blinked a few times looking at the pink one in the purple jumpsuit.

"You don't look at all well," this one said, coming up to him and feeling his forehead. "We need to get you back to Ranger Headquarters as soon as possible!"

"Leave it to me, pally," said the largest of the aliens, picking him up with no effort.

The group made their way down what Sam suddenly realized was a tree. He practically fainted with the realization of his true size and of the fact that these were not aliens, but normal animals. Normal except for the fact that they're talking in English. And also for the fact that they're wearing human-style clothing. The big one wore a pullover sweater and a jacket, the fly was wearing another pullover, and the one who had been arguing with him was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. That's when Sam looked down and saw that he was wearing a bomber jacket... and nothing else. "Oh, boy!" he squeaked in embarrassment.

Sam had been left in the bed of the leapee, the top of a bunk bed shared with Dale (the one in the Hawaiian shirt). He looked around and marveled at how human the furnishings of the room were, especially considering that they had been put together out of human trash. There was even a rodent-sized copy of the latest album by Iron Goose. Most prominent in the room was a large tin-foil mirror, so situated that Sam could see his reflection from practically anywhere in the room. After trying in vain to solve the mystery of what happened to his reflection's ears as he donned and doffed the fedora he leaped into, Sam turned away from the mirror to try and figure out some of the stranger aspects of the leap so far. He had been left to recover by the other animals, apparently from whatever happened to the leapee just before Sam leaped in. He was also waiting for Al, but he had learned to expect the Observer to be late.

"Sam! Sam, are you alone?"

Sam sat up and looked around for Al. "It's okay, Al, you can come out. Where are you?"

"Down here."

Sam looked down at the bottom bunk. He tried to suppress a laugh, but the sight of his friend less than knee-high was far too good an opportunity to pass up.

"Very funny." Al jumped off the bed onto the natural wood floor and began working with the control device in his hand. "Gushie, didn't I tell you you had me too small?!" He turned back up to the huge head of Sam. "Get down here so I can get the scale adjusted properly."

Sam remembered his attire just in time, creating a makeshift toga out of his bed sheet before hopping down to the ground. "So let's see... are you a shoemaker's elf, or do you work for Santa?"

"Ha. Ha. Ha," Al deadpanned. He held his free hand out flat at about the level of his forehead. "Go ahead, Gushie, I'll tell you when to stop."

Al gradually increased in size until his hand was level with the top of Sam's head. "Okay, stop."

Sam frowned suspiciously. "Aren't you a little shorter than that?"

"Not for this leap."

Sam shrugged it off. "So what do you have for me?"

"You are a talking chipmunk named Chip." Al rolled his eyes as it suddenly hit him. "Chip the chipmunk. Of course. If I'm lucky, this will all turn out to be a very weird dream."

"Anything else? Does Ziggy know why I'm here?"

Al gave Sam a sarcastic look. "I knew I forgot something. Ziggy, by any chance could you look in your 'chipmunk database' and tell me everything you know about Chip Chipmunk, since I'm sure they lead such interesting lives.... Hey, don't use that tone with me, I was just kidding!" He addressed that last remark to the ceiling. "Have you figured anything out?"

"Well, Chip belongs to a group called the Rescue Rangers. They help people and animals out of trouble, just like us!"

"Sort of like an animal rescue aid society, huh?" Al shook his head in amazement. "This just keeps getting better and better. So if they're all animals, do they see you as Chip or as Sam?"

"I'm apparently Chip to them, but I have no idea why. Maybe it has to do with their being sentient."

"I guess that means they won't be able to see me, either. Weird. Let's see...the other two categories of people that can see us as we really are are children and psychics. Any of them around?"

"Children, no. Psychics...I don't think so."

The observer nodded. "That simplifies things. So, who else is in this 'Rescue Ranger' group?"

"Well, there's two mice named Monterey Jack and Gadget, a fly named Zipper..."

Al shook his head. "Ooo! The teasing those three must have gotten in school because of their names!"

Sam ignored that remark. "There's also another chipmunk... "

"Wait, let me guess, the other chipmunk is named Dale, right?"

"That's right! How did you know?"

"They're two chipmunks. What else do you name them besides Chip 'n' Dale?"

"Chip 'n' Dale? Oh, you mean like the furniture?"

".... Uh, yes, that's the furniture." Al sighed and put a hand to his forehead. "All I've got to say is this had better be a bad dream, or else I'll be lying on a piece of 'Bena's furniture before this leap is over, specifically her couch. Okay, what else?"

"They are currently trying to recover a stolen diamond from a crime lord named Fat Cat."

"And he's called 'Fat Cat' because he's an overweight tabby, right?"

"Stop interrupting! The other Rangers said they thought that Fat Cat was going to exchange the diamond for a device to drive all dogs from the city."

Al put a dumb look on his face. "Makes sense," he said in a moronic voice then broke out in a giggle.

"Are you all right?"

"Oh, I'm perfectly all right. You're in a chipmunk, and all the animals speak English and wear bomber jackets and work off the caseload of Unsolved Mysteries. They've probably been doing this for years, and no one in the human world has ever noticed. Perfectly fine with me!"

"Maybe you should have Verbena talk to Chip alone to try to find out what's going to happen. You need a rest."

"Oh no, I couldn't think of missing a word of what Mr. Chipmunk has to say. I'll be right back." And with that Al was gone.

Sam worried about Al sometimes.

"...and while he's taking my place, this Doctor Beckett is supposed to prevent something awful from happening, something I wouldn't be able to handle myself?"

Doctor Beeks nodded. "That's right."

Chip was sitting on the edge of the bed, his legs swinging and bumping against the lowered side panel. "You have to admit it's hard to swallow."

"I could bring the mirror back," volunteered Al.

Chip shuddered. "No, I believe you." He was suddenly very grateful that all metallic surfaces in the Waiting Room were burnished to block clear reflections.

Verbena spoke up. "So, can you think of anything bad that you or your team might encounter in the future?"

"The only thing the Rescue Rangers have had to worry about is being destroyed." Al made an odd face at this, but Chip ignored it and continued. "We have picked up a lot of enemies over the years, many of whom would like to see us dead. I've done quite well dealing with all of these threats so far, so whatever's going to happen to your Sam in my place, it's going to be big, really big. I don't see how he could possibly handle something I can't."

Verbena made a notation in the electronic case history. Al leaned over to see that it was "over-inflated ego". He whipped out a stencil and added the word "hugely" in front.

Chip continued on. "If I can't go back right now, and if Doctor Beckett is going to have to handle this in my place, you're going to have to let me out of here, so I can find out what happened to me." He hopped down from the bed.

Admiral Calavicci stood up. "Where do you think you're going?"

"I'm going to solve this case. I am a detective, after all."

For some reason Al suddenly imagined the voice of the leapee introducing his own television show: "It was a dark and stormy night. The dame was beautiful. She was also dead. That's where I step in. The name's Chip Chipmunk, Private Eye." With an effort, Al managed to control himself. "There are plenty of good reasons why you can't do this yourself. First of all, your mind is swiss-cheesed."

"Actually," interrupted Verbena, "his memory appears to be completely intact. I have no idea why, though."

"Maybe it's because I've traveled through time before," volunteered Chip.

Al face-faulted. "Don't tell me about it, I don't want to know! Alright, well, second, you're wearing the face of Doctor Sam Beckett, and if anyone recognized you during your investigation, this project would be in serious jeopardy." Chip didn't appear to have an answer for this one. Al continued on. "Third, if you got hurt or worse, I don't know what that would do for Sam's chances to leap out--which would leave you stuck here and now. Finally, and I think this is the clincher, you are wearing the body of Sam Beckett and I doubt that will give you any advantage over any other human being when it comes to asking any of your animal friends their alibis for the night of the 12th."

Chip sat back on the bed with his head bowed, defeated. "So I suppose you are going to go out there, instead."

Al shook his head. "I can't go, 'cause I'm the only link with Sam."

"And I don't think I or anyone else on the staff can be spared," volunteered Verbena.

"So what are we going to do?"

Al sat back down again to think. "I've got a friend I could call. Only thing is, I can't see how I can do it without the secret of animal intelligence leaking out."

Chip nodded. "I know what you mean. There's a human I can trust in the FBI that I could call to investigate my disappearance, but I don't know how to brief him without his learning about your project, and I don't think this is the sort of secret he would keep." He looked up to see Al grinning at him.

"Oh, I think Agent Fox Mulder can keep a secret, don't you?"

Chip gasped. "How did you know that's who I was talking about? Oh, I see--so he's the person you were talking about. What do you suppose the chances are that he'd know about both of us?"

"If I know one thing about Mulder, it's that he's very good at attracting the unusual."

"I still can't accept your theory. What about the security guard?"

"That's where the ectoplasm comes in. You see if the phantasm resonates at the proper frequency, when it passes through living flesh..."

At that moment the phone rang. Scully was sitting on Mulder's desk, so she was the first one at the phone. "You've reached the X-Files division of the FBI, where our motto is, 'We're ready to believe you!'"

"Give me that! This is Special Agent Mulder. Please ignore my partner. What can I do for you?" Scully grinned and stuck her tongue out.

The voice on the phone was nervous. "Um, I doubt you recognize me, but I need your help."

"Why of course I recognize you, Doctor Sam Beckett. How could I possibly forget you?"

"What was that noise I just heard?"

"That was my partner falling off of my desk. I've just about finished telling her everything you did the time you occupied her aura."

Scully popped up from the floor, her eyes wide. "You didn't tell me everything?" she mouthed to Mulder.

"Oh, I haven't even started on the really embarrassing stuff," he answered with a grin. He turned back to the phone. "But it doesn't really matter that I recognize your voice, because of course you're not really Doctor Beckett."

"No, you're right," answered the voice. "This is Chip. Do you remember me?"

Mulder thought for a bit. "Not Chip from do I know it's really you?"

There was a pause at the other end of the line. "Well, there was that one night when you admitted you had a crush on Gadget...."

Mulder heard a high-pitched laugh from someone else on the other side of the line. He looked over nervously to see if Scully overheard that embarrassing little revelation, but fortunately for him she was sitting rather primly in her chair, casting her eyes back and forth as if looking for invisible people. "Okay, I believe you," he said. "But I'm still a little confused. Project Quantum Leap is very good at taking care of its own matters. What do you need us for?"

"Well, being a chipmunk means that the Project doesn't have the edge it apparently has most of the time. Do you know if anything has happened to me and the other Rescue Rangers over the last seven years?"

"Seven years years ago...I believe it was business as usual for the Rangers seven years you remember anything, Scully?"

Scully rolled her eyes. "You could mention the break-up."

"What was that?!" cried Chip.

Mulder covered the mouthpiece with his hand. "That was three years ago, not seven. I thought the rule was to keep as much of the future as possible from the subject."

Scully shrugged. "Maybe the root cause was seven years ago."

"You're talking about a four-year grudge, Scully."

"I'm talking about Chip, Mulder."

Mulder grimaced and removed his hand from the phone. "Chip..."

"What's this about a break-up?!" Chip practically screamed.

"It's probably nothing...I said it's probably nothing, but there is a chance that the Rangers broke...or should I say are going to break...or has been nearly broken...Scully, you're the time-travel expert here--what's the correct tense of 'to break up' when the subject is in the future but came from the past in relation to an event that is in the past for the object but..."


Mulder held the phone a few feet away from his ear with one hand while rubbing the hearing back into his ear with the other for a few seconds. "Sorry about that, Chip. Let's just say that from your point of view the Rescue Rangers have four years left as an organization and it might be possible that something you did or didn't do on the day Sam leapt into you had something to do with it."

There was silence on the other end of the line for nearly a minute. When Chip spoke again the voice was so faint Mulder had trouble making it out. " you know why..."

Mulder handed the phone to Scully. It was easy enough for her to guess Chip's question. "We remained friends with all of them after it happened, to a greater or lesser extent," she said. "None of them would tell us why. Now look, Chip. You now know what to look for. With your help, and with the admiral's help, Sam should be able to set everything right. It's what he does, and he's very good at it. In the meantime, Mulder and I will go and interview the present day versions of the Rescue Rangers to see if we can find out what happened. It may not be necessary, but I couldn't stand by if there was a chance of helping you out. Just have Admiral Calavicci give us a number where we can contact him. We should be in the city in a few hours."

A few minutes after Al had left, Sam came to the conclusion that the best way for him to figure out what he needed to do was to talk with the Rescue Rangers, and just hope he didn't give himself away. After going through Chip's closet and finding a more modest outfit to wear, Sam headed for the door of the chipmunk's bedroom. As he was opening the door a nearby bookcase caught his attention. The top two shelves of the bookcase were stained in a tasteful mahogany, while the bottom shelf had been spray-painted in Day-Glo Orange. Judging by the appearance and clothing of Dale, it was more than likely that the bottom shelf was his. Sam stopped for a moment to peruse the volumes on the shelves, in hopes of learning more about Chip and Dale.

Dale's books looked like they had been thrown onto the shelf. Each of them was oversize and heavily illustrated. They also had cracked ribs from frequent re-reading. One of the books was an episode guide to The Red Badger of Courage, which was apparently a Saturday morning cartoon from the mid-1980's that only lasted one season. There were a few comic book compilations, a book about Shazaam called (amazingly enough) Shazaam!, a huge history of animation, and (hiding behind the history), a book called The Secret History of Vampires.

Chip's books filled his two shelves to capacity. They were neatly ordered alphabetically by author. There was a mix of adventure stories and classics, most written before 1900. They also looked dusted, a good sign that they hadn't been read for ages (if indeed they had ever been read--they could have been for show only). The sole exception was a collection of nine old books at one end. Sam was astonished to discover that they were the complete Case History of Sheerluck Jones series by Howard Bass. The books had had so few printings that Sam had been sure he was the only person in the world to own a complete set. On impulse, Sam removed Volume Three and flipped to "The Case of the Upturned Nose". He noticed that Chip had penciled in a correction to a mistake Bass had made in his chain of logic.

Sam was startled by the sound of the door hitting the back wall as Dale barged in, a paper-wrapped package under his arm. The chipmunk passed without noticing him, sitting on the lower bunk and ripping open the package to reveal a colorful chipmunk-sized comic book.

"Oh boy, oh boy!" Dale exclaimed. "Kablammo Man, number 285! I wonder how he will escape the clutches of Doctor Claw?" He then turned and saw Sam. "Oh, uh, nice pants, Chip! Glad to see you're doing better. Monterey is working on dinner right now." He flopped himself face-first onto his bed and started reading the comic book.

Sam stood up and put the book in his hand back in the bookcase. "So, Dale, any idea what we should do about the stolen diamond?"

Dale looked up. "Huh? The diamond? Well, Monterey wanted to just barge in, but Gadget had a better plan, so we went with that."

"What was her plan?"

"She was going to spear the diamond with a fork...or something like that. You better ask her yourself." He went back to his study.

"And what do you think we should do?"

This question took Dale by surprise. "Me? You want to know what I would do? Are you sure you're OK, Chip?"

"I'm all right. I just want to hear what everyone thinks."

Dale sat up in the bed, deep in thought.

"OK, first, we follow some of Fat Cat's henchmen to his secret headquarters, then we knock them out and put on their uniforms (although it might be hard finding a henchman in Zipper's size), and then go in to hear Fat Cat give his speech about how he's going to destroy the world or whatever, and then Fat Cat discovers us and we're captured and put under this 'laser' while Fat Cat goes to carry out his master plan, but we break loose just in the nick of time and use Kung Fu karate moves on all the henchmen, but we're in an all-out fight with Fat Cat inside of the missile as it is being launched, so we have to divert it into the ocean and leap out with the only parachute right at the last second on a deserted island, and only just outrun the explosion. Then MI5 gives us our medals and...I forgot what happens after that."

Sam now knew why Chip never asked Dale for advice.

Once Dale was safely absorbed back into Kablammo Man, Sam left their room and looked around to figure out which room was Gadget's. He was about to knock on the next door down the hall when it suddenly became a glowing doorway and Al stepped out of it.

"So," Sam asked the hologram, "any good news yet?"

"Yes and no. You're here to prevent your little group from breaking up."

"That's good to know."

"Only they won't break up for another four years, so whatever happens today would probably have to be pretty subtle to take that long to do its work."

"That's bad."

"It turns out we share mutual acquaintances by the names of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, and they agreed to find out what you have to prevent."

"That's good."

"But they're in Washington and chances are whatever's going to happen will happen before they get here to find out what's going to happen, so that means you're on your own."

"That's bad. Anything else?"

"Chip's got the idea in his head that if he was here in the Imaging Chamber, he could somehow help out."

"That's good?"

"No, that is extremely bad. He'll get in the way and since he can't see what I see, he'll slow everything down. I tried to get Verbena to tranquilize him, but she doesn't know the correct dosage to use on a six-foot chipmunk." Al shook his head. "This is definitely one for the books, Sam." He stopped and took in Sam's attire, gasping in shock. "Tan slacks and a brown bomber jacket? Have you no sense of taste?"

Sam resorted to the little joke he had invented for this all-too-frequent scenario. "So, Pot, what do you think of Kettle?"

"Ha, ha, got me again. So, any luck on your side?"

"I think the reason I'm here might have something to do with the stolen diamond, or rather, what might happen when we try to recover it. I just talked to Dale about it, and I'm about to talk to Gadget, as soon as I figure out which door is hers."

"Which one is Gadget?"

"She's the inventor for the group. She has a plan for getting the diamond back. She's the smartest member of the group, so I have to be extra careful that I don't give myself away."

"An inventor? In that case, your best bet is to go for the sound of explosions."

"Don't be silly, Al."

Just then there was a bright blue flash under the door Al and Sam were closest to, accompanied by a loud "zap" sound and the smell of ozone. From behind the door a voice exclaimed, "Oh I hate when that happens!"

Al grinned. "See what I mean?"

Dale poked his head out of his door just as Monterey came around the corner to see what caused the loud noise.

Sam knocked on the door. "Are you all right in there, Gadget?"

Through the door he heard the sound of broken glass being swept up. "No problem, Chip!"

"No problem?" asked Dale and Monterey simultaneously in fear. In a second they were both at Gadget's door.

"Gadget-luv," cried the large Australian mouse, "are you hurt? Have you grown too big to move? Have you sprouted a second head again?" At this Al and Sam turned to each other and mouthed the word "again?" to each other in utter confusion. "Please, Gadget, speak to me!"

The door was suddenly opened by Gadget. There was a fierce look in her eye, but everyone's attention was more on her soot-covered overalls and the hair that stuck out in all directions. "Look, I said I was fine. And will you stop bringing up the second head incident?"

Monterey hung his head in shame. "Alright, Gadget, I'm sorry. We were just worried about you, that's all."

Gadget's expression softened. At the same time, the static charge began to drain away from her and her hair began falling back down. "That's okay, Monty. I'm sorry I yelled at you like that. Say, aren't you supposed to be making dinner right now?"

"The cheese!" cried Monterey as he ran back to the kitchen.

Dale grinned and shrugged as he headed back for his room. "I guess this time 'no problems' means 'no problems', for once," he said, to no one in particular.

Gadget was closing the door when Sam spoke up. "Gadget, can we talk?"

"Sure, Chip. What about?"

"I thought we could talk about your plan for getting the diamond back." Sam noticed that blue sparks of electricity were coming out of the doorknob that Gadget's hand was on.

"Sure. That's what I was working on just now."

"Of course," commented Al dryly.

Al and Sam followed Gadget into her workshop. Small inventions were strewn everywhere, some moving about under their own power. Gadget sat down in a sort of office chair constructed out of two wrapped pieces of Bubblelicious bubble gum and some plastic wire casing. The casters were four pomegranate seeds. Sam spotted a sort of rocking chair facing Gadget, so he tried to sit there, only to find himself flat on his back.

Gadget jumped up and came to his aid. "I'm sorry, Chip, I forgot to tell you that the rocket escape chair is not finished yet." She reached out her hand to help him up. Seeing by the state of her hair that she was still electrically charged, Sam grabbed a Lynden jar near his head and held it up so her hand made contact with it before she touched him. The two limp metal leaves in the jar suddenly sprang apart as Gadget's hair returned to normal.

Gadget looked from Sam to the jar. "Golly! Thanks for finding that, I thought I lost it." She took the jar and placed it on a shelf next to a short-wave radio.

Gadget turned around to see Sam had gotten up. "So, what were we talking about?"

Al, who had been watching all this from just within the room, shook his head. "I don't think you have to worry much about her realizing you're not Chip."

Sam had long since gotten used to this kind of wisecrack, so he just ignored it. "You were telling me how we could get back the diamond Fat Cat stole." He found a somewhat-stable pile of things to sit on.

Gadget sat back down and picked up a strange device that was at her feet. "That's right. It's based on the principle of harmonic resonance. You see, every substance vibrates at its own frequency, which produces a musical note. If you bombard that substance with sound waves at its natural frequency, it will give off its note, magnified. I've set up an electrically powered tuning fork to give off the special frequency for diamonds. We just have to go to Fat Cat's hideout and this invention should have the diamond telling us where it is!" Al noticed that the more she talked, the faster she got.

Sam picked up at the same speed as Gadget. "But that won't quite work. The diamond will resonate at an amplitude inversely proportional to the distance from the emitter. Anything in the way will also serve to dampen the waveforms."

"That's true," Gadget answered, speaking still faster, "but the diamond will also give off sound at higher frequencies than the sending note, and these overtones will cause a second tuning fork, attached to a powerful amplifier and mounted on a swivel bracket, to resonate and provide the distance and direction to the diamond. That's what I meant when I said that the diamond would be telling us where it is. I didn't literally mean that the diamond would be talking."

"Oh course not, since diamonds don't talk."

"So you see what I mean?"

"Oh I see exactly what you mean, although of course I don't actually see it, I understand it."

"Yes, that's what I meant to say."

"Okay. On the other hand..."

"Yes?" asked Gadget. By this time, the two of them were talking so rapidly that Al, in looking from one of them to the other, had the distinct impression that he was watching a verbal game of tennis, and out of boredom decided to provide his own sound effects for the occasion.

"Well, you see, the returning tone itself is also a resonating tone for the emitting substance."

"Bokk!" said Al, impersonating a tennis ball being hit by a racket.

"The diamond?" asked Gadget.


"Yes, the diamond," said Sam.


"No, I'm pretty sure that the returning tone is not resonating."


"Not the returning tone itself, but the overtone."

"Bokk!" Sam thought he heard a distant sound at that moment, but the "bokk!" drowned it out, making Sam especially annoyed.

"The overtone of the returning tone? Which overtone?"


"Um, the fifth, or perhaps the fourth, if there are any flaws in the diamond."


"The diamond is flawless."

"So the fifth then."

"Bokk, bokk!" They were so fast now it was hard for Al to keep up.

"But that is so weak it can be disregarded altogether."


Dale entered the room, unnoticed by anyone.

"Not when you amplify it. The SID-PID amplification algorithm increases the amplitude of the fifth overtone by 25 % while shifting the phase by one over pi."


"And the SID-PID algorithm is the basis for all amplifiers smaller than 1000 Volts. But that change shouldn't matter..."

"...unless the diamond is in contact with a resonating board..."

"...such as the metal walls of a safe..."

" which case the amplification and phase shift will be enough to cause a 37,468 % positive feedback loop..."

"...and hence the weakest setting of my amplifier would be enough to break every piece of glass in the lab!"

"Actually, there is an 86 % probability that the effect had a radius of 2 miles or more."


"Golly!" And that apparently ended the conversation. In the lull, Gadget tossed the invention over her shoulder in disgust. Miraculously, it didn't break anything.

Dale chose this moment to make himself noticed. "Wow!" he exclaimed, "I didn't know Gadget could speak chipmunkese! Dinner's been ready for a few minutes now, guys."

When no one was looking, Sam tried to bonk Al on the head. Sam's fist passed through the hologram's head, but the act had its desired effect, since Al was so startled he fell straight down.

Gadget nodded. "Go on ahead and we'll catch up with you." After Dale left she turned to face Sam. "So," she asked casually, "how did you learn so much about acoustics all of a sudden?"

Sam spent a few moments racking his brain for a plausible answer. "Uh, well, it was in the Sheerluck Jones mystery 'The Mark of Five'."

"Oh." The mouse adopted a thinking pose. "We've just got to get that diamond back, Chip. I heard on the news that the police have arrested the security guard at the museum, Avery Mann."

"Everyman?" asked Al, getting up. "What is this, a medieval morality play all of a sudden?"

Sam looked carefully around at the equipment in the room. "Do you remember if any of Fat Cat's gang can see in the dark?"

"Hmidunno. Cats can see well in poor light, but in absolutely no light, I think most of them would be totally helpless. What are you thinking?"

Sam pointed at two items near him. "Well, if those are infrared goggles, and that is an infrared lamp, we could sneak in by night after cutting the power to Fat Cat's hideout."

"That's a great plan, Chip! I'm so glad we'll be able to get that poor innocent guard out of jail and reunite him with his wife and three children, Faith, Hope, and Charity!"

"That's it!" yelled Al. "I'm out of here before Good Deeds shows up. It looks like you'll be able to handle things around here until nightfall anyway." He walked through the portal without another word.

Al stamped his way from the Imaging Chamber to the Waiting Room, complaining to no one in particular the entire way.

"Has the whole world gone mad, or is it just me? I sure hope this animal thing isn't the beginning of a trend, 'cause I really don't think I can take much more of this. A crime-solving chipmunk! Ridiculous! What next, a ghost-busting Great Dane?"

A voice from a speaker overhead answered him. "Actually, there are reports from the mid-1960's onward of a strangely-painted van that has been sighted in the vicinity of..."

"Please, Ziggy, haven't you heard of such a thing as information overload?"

"I'm sorry, Admiral Calavicci, I was just trying to be useful. For example, analysis of current traffic patterns show that Agents Fox and Scully should be approaching their destination. You may wish to prepare means to maintain contact with them while in the Imaging Chamber."

"Hmm...sounds like a good idea. Talk to Gooshie and get back to me."

"Very well, Admiral Calavicci."

Al continued on to the door of the Waiting Room, then froze with his hand on the doorknob as a dark suspicion occurred to him.

"Agents Fox and Scully? She's up to something."

Fox Mulder had the passenger-side car seat of the rental car reclined back about as far as was legally possible. His eyes were closed as he stepped through his latest theory.

"Now of course you realize that November of 1956 was, by the fact that he voted, one of the few periods in Joe DiMaggio's baseball career when we can be certain that he was not under the mental influence of aliens. Put that together with his batting record, and it becomes quite clear that the entire team was being controlled by the Shadow Government in that season."

Scully was trying her best to screen out the stream of talk coming from her partner. Every few miles she would curse herself for ever wondering what her partner was like when he was not obsessed with a case.

A couple of stop lights into the city, Mulder opened his eyes and looked around.

"We're nearly at Chip's tree, Scully. Why don't you drop me off there and you can go ahead and visit Gadget, then pick me up and we can compare notes before proceeding."

"Yes, but..."

"No, I think this is for the best. You could always keep up with Gadget better than I could, and you know how impatient you get around Chip. We're only a few blocks away, so you can drop me off here."

Scully smiled craftily. "If you insist." She let him off then continued on towards the airport.

Mulder started walking down the street, humming the theme to some forgotten 1930's cartoon and waving merrily at the hunched-over men and women that passed him by on either side. It seemed that the sun shined on him but not on them.

Mulder praised his quick thinking in getting out of a meeting with Gadget. He could never trust himself around her, and was afraid of embarrassing himself in front of his partner. The inventor's brilliance dazzled him and often left him speechless (a strange condition for him). Why, she even invented the device that allowed humans and animals to communicate with each other. She was very protective of the device after the one and only time she had lost it, which was why she never let it out of her sight anymore.

Mulder stopped suddenly in the middle of the street. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed his partner.


"Yes, Mulder?" There was a sort of feline purr of triumph in her voice.

"Gadget has the translator."

"That's right, Mulder."

"Do you think she'll let you take it back with you when we interview Chip?"

"I'm sure we can arrange something. Are you going to be able to take care of yourself till I get back?" Condescending sarcasm dripped from her voice.

"I'm sure I'll find something to do," he growled, and then hung up.

Immediately the phone rang again.

"What is it now?!" he demanded.

"Agent Fox, this is Ziggy, at Project Quantum Leap. Am I interrupting something important?" There was something almost sultry in her computer-generated tone.

"No, Ziggy, is there something I can help you with?"

"Admiral Calavicci requested that I inform him of the progress of your investigation."

"We are just about to begin our interviews of the former Rescue Rangers."

"Very good, Agent Fox."

Mulder waited for Ziggy to hang up. After a few seconds, he hesitantly asked, "Is there anything else I can help you with?" wishing desperately that the answer would be no.

"Actually, I've done some more research on that theory you mentioned, and I think you might be greatly interested by the results I have uncovered."

This was what he was afraid of. "What exactly have you found?" he sighed.

"Eating habits of the world's population between the years of 1643 and 1987, adjusted for population growth and tribal taboos, show a high correlation with sunspot activity on Sirius in real-time, implying a trans-light linkage of some kind centered in Lancashire, England. Combined with my earlier research, this shows strong support for the possibility that 0.032 % of human genetic material is Sirian in origin. I have 473 other correlations that bear out this theory. After this case is over, how about coming over to the Project to compare some notes?"

Mulder knew a pick-up line when he heard it, even when delivered by a super-computer. He panicked. "Um, well, that's very interesting, but I'm being watched right now and I think I have to be very careful what I say. Plus there is the fact that you can't believe everything that happens in Lancashire. So with all that in mind I will have to decline your gracious offer, for now, mind you, until I have time to check my fact file. Until then I wish you a jolly good day." He snapped the phone shut then glared at all the people staring at him until they looked back at the pavement.

"I swear," he said, shaking his head, "why is it that all the weirdos are attracted to me?"

When Al returned to the Imaging Chamber, he found Sam washing the dishes and wearing an apron over his clothes. Through the window he could see a waning crescent moon dominating the night sky. "So," he said casually, "are you any closer to figuring out what to do for this leap?"

Sam was too busy scouring the small plate in his hand to look up. "I think I've got a handle on Chip's relations with the other Rescue Rangers over dinner. He really needs to loosen up. The other Rangers expected me to tell them how to do everything constantly, even when they know better. I think he needs to respect the others more, and be more willing to listen."

Al nodded grimly. "That's about what I figured, given what I've heard."

Sam frowned. "Heard? From whom?"

Al said nothing, but instead tried to gesture with his eyebrows.

"What are you.... oh. Chip's here with you."

Al grinned and nodded again. "I'll see what I can do about your little observation on my end. In the meantime, how's the case coming?"

"We're planning to raid Fat Cat's hideout tonight, as soon as Foxglove shows up."

"And that's when the fat will hit the fire, huh?"

Sam nodded as he put the last cup on the rack to dry.

Al moved aside to allow Sam to hang up his apron. "And who's Foxglove?"

"She's a bat that works for the Rangers part-time. She sleeps during the day."

"'Foxglove the Bat'? That may the first clever name I've heard this leap."

"Al, have you ever heard the old saying that begins 'if you can't say something nice...'"

"No," Al deadpanned. "Can't say that I have. So is this Foxglove by any chance a vampire bat?"

Sam and Chip sighed simultaneously in exasperation.

"Al," Sam said wearily. "Foxglove is an insectivore, not a vampire bat. But what would it matter if she were a vampire bat? How many times are we going to have this conversation, Al? Why must you see Bela Lugosi in the eyes of every chiropteran we come across?"

Al let a slow breath in and out. "I'm sorry, Sam. I was trying to be funny, and that was in bad taste. I promise I'll treat this Foxglove with no preconceptions, O.K.? Now, why don't you tell me what else you learned over dinner?"

Al turned and walked fifteen feet away from Chip. Chip silently picked up his folding chair and the phone and moved them next to Al. He noticed that the white room they were in was lit in such a way as to eliminate shadows and make the walls nearly impossible to see. As a result, Chip felt like he hadn't moved at all. He sat down and put the phone in his lap, being careful not to trip over the extra-long cord. He had finished looking it over soon after he had entered the Imaging Chamber and now spent his time trying to mentally fill in the half of the conversation he wasn't hearing. Given what he had been told about the Quantum Leap project, he wondered how Al and Sam could have survived the stresses of all those years. The two of them couldn't even touch each other! After a few minutes of difficult silence he adjusted himself on the hard aluminum seat. "What's happening now?" he asked quietly.

Al turned around. He had a cigar in the hand not holding the com-link. He looked from it to Chip with a dour face, and then put the cigar back into his jacket pocket. "You don't have to whisper. They can't hear you." He frowned for a second and waved his hand dismissively in the other direction. "We're watching television. Is this Blather guy always such an egotistical nozzle? He just covered the diamond theft and anyone with half a brain could have figured out that this wasn't an ordinary robbery."

"A 'nozzle'? No, he seemed normal to me, for a human." Chip looked in the direction Al had gestured towards earlier. That must be where the TV is, he thought. "Where is everybody?" he asked aloud.

Al looked up from the invisible broadcast. "Hm?" He started walking in a circle in front of Chip. "Sam is here, Gadget is here, Dale is.... Hey! I remember this commercial--it's a classic! 'Crumbly Crunchies are the best; look delicious on your vest. Serve them to unwanted guests, stuff the mattress with the rest!'" He noticed he was getting the same incredulous reaction from both Sam and Chip. "What?" he asked indignantly. A moment later he was back in the swing of things: "As I was saying before, Gadget is here, Dale is here, Monterey is here, and Zipper is...oh, Zipper is over there next to his...hey, that's one nice room the fly has! Let's see, who have I forgotten?"

"Foxglove!" cried Dale. "Are you all right?"

The bat stood on the doorjamb, clenching the sides of the doorway with her wings. She seemed to be shaking, like the room before her had been transformed into a phantasmagoria of horror.

Everyone in the room was frozen, Dale with a handful of caramel popcorn in front of his gaping mouth. Even Stan Blather seemed to shut up in shock. Foxglove slowly scanned the room, seeming to spend an inordinate amount of time looking at something behind Al (must be Zipper's room, he thought).

"Chip!" she cried. She walked up to Dale and briefly grasped his paws in her wingtips. "I'm so relieved it wasn't you," she said, gazing warmly into his eyes.

Gadget, a little confused, guessed at the root of Foxglove's concern. "We ran into Fat Cat and his gang today, and yes, Chip was hurt. In fact, Dale saved his life. Chip has made an amazing (perhaps even strangely accelerated) recovery, and there's nothing stopping him from joining us tonight."

Foxglove seemed to ignore everything else as she stepped a wing's breadth away from Sam. "It's Chip, right? If you're here, then he must be in mortal danger. What's wrong? Do you know what you're supposed to do? Is there anything I can do to help?"

Sam started getting worried, very worried. "Um..." Nothing seemed to come out after that.

Al was perplexed. "Is something going on here that I, your observer, should be aware of?"

Dale, having somehow finished his popcorn, saw this as an opportunity to tell the story. "You should have been there, Foxy! Fat Cat stole this huge diamond, and 'though we didn't catch him, we did stop him. You see, he, Fat Cat that is, wanted to sell the diamond to this wizard on the docks so he, the wizard, could drive all of the dogs out of the city, and his office hours were 10:45 to a quarter to eleven, so now Fat Cat will have to wait 'till tomorrow."

"I think that was 10:45 to a quarter to four," corrected Gadget.

"Isn't that what I said?"

"Gadget suggested a night raid," added Sam, cautiously. "So we thought we'd see if you're interested."

Foxglove thought this over carefully for a few seconds. Sam meanwhile tried to nonchalantly tilt his head to one side while looking intently at her. He then straightened his head in shock, his eyes wide.

Foxglove looked Sam in the eye. Speaking slowly and precisely, she said, "It'll be dangerous. Fat Cat is sure to have the place rigged with traps after all of the other times the Rangers have broken in."

Sam matched her tone. "I know," he said. "But it has to happen sooner or later. Besides, it's what I do." He then looked up at everyone else. "It's what we all do," he added in a normal tone of voice.

Al looked back and forth from Sam to Foxglove. "Sam, Sam, you're scaring me here, Sam!"

Gadget stepped towards the pair. "Well, what are we waiting for--we've got a job to do!"

Zipper flew overhead, sounding the charge. "Rescue Rangers, away!" everyone (but Sam) cried, and they ran out to the Ranger Plane.

Chip saw Al start walking again, so he picked up the phone and chair and followed him. He had to tug a little on the phone cord. Al walked around what Chip imagined was the side of the tree and suddenly stopped short. He looked first up, then down, a quizzical expression on his face.

"Um, Chip," he said, pointing ahead of him. "That thing doesn't actually fly, does it?"

"Which thing is it?"

"The one with the balloon and the...beach bottle?"

"Oh, the Ranger Plane. That works fine."

"Are you sure?"

"Sure I'm sure, unless Gadget worked on it lately."

Al started forward and looked up at nothing at a 45-degree angle. "Sam, do you know if Gadget worked on the Ranger Plane today?" He turned back to Chip. "He says yes. Hey, Chip, why are you looking so nervous--didn't you tell me she's a good engineer?"

"Well, yes, I did, but sometimes she lets the occasional bug slip in."

Al looked sternly at Chip. "Bugs are never introduced by experienced engineers. Anomalies...possibly. Sam, do you remember her using the words 'should' or 'no problems' when describing her improvements?"

Chip could do nothing more than gape at Al. Just what I need, he thought. Another engineer.

Al walked forward a few steps, then turned. "Okay, Chip, put your chair right there on the wing," he said, pointing at a spot in front of him. "That way it won't look like you're floating in mid-air. Gooshie?"

A voice came out of the speaker in the ceiling. "Yes, Admiral Calavicci?"

"Sam's going to be moving soon, so be sure to keep me centered on him."

"Yes, Admiral."

Al sighed. "So formal. Reminds me of Marcie and Peppermint Patty."

Mulder exited the Quickie Mart, munching on sunflower seeds. Under his arm was issue 284 of Kablammo Man. Dale had first turned him on to the comic a decade ago, when it was being published by a mouse outfit for small animals--it had done so well that the publishers set up a human front operation to reprint for the "big kids". He was walking across the street to his rendezvous point with Scully while mulling over some of his last conversations with the Rangers when he got an idea. He wanted to make a call, but needed to keep the cell phone free, so he walked back to the pay phone next to the Quickie Mart.

After about five rings, the phone was picked up by Langley. "Hi Mulder. What's up?"

Mulder was bored enough to pay attention to what he just heard. "Hey, how'd you know it was me?"

Myers answered the question with another question: "Who else would be calling us from a pay phone located 2 feet, 3 inches from your cell phone?"

Mulder glanced down at the pocket containing his phone. "Don't you guys have better things to do than track me around the country?"

Frohike decided to field this one. "And don't you have anything better to do than call us while you're waiting for your stunning partner to show up?"

"By the way," added Myers, "she hasn't moved an inch for the last fourteen minutes, so you probably have a long time to wait."

"Well," started Mulder, rubbing the back of his neck with his free hand, "since I am waiting for Agent Scully to report in, I was wondering, out of pure curiosity, if you might have come across anyone on the 'net with a handle of 'Gadget'."

"'Gadget'?" asked Langley to himself. "There have to be about a hundred 'Gadget's on the web. Male or female?"

"Female, but she probably wouldn't emphasize it in conversation. She's an engineer and inventor, a bit on the scatterbrained side, but very passionate about certain issues, such as animal rights. She..."

"Hold it right there," interjected Frohike. "Do I detect the note of love in your voice? Am I alone? Did you hear it too?"

"Oh I heard it," said Langley. "Shall we make it unanimous?"

"I'll go along for the sake of argument," added Myers, reluctantly.

"So love it is," concluded Langley. "Who's the sweetie, Mulder? Data entry clerk or chief programmer for the CIA?"

Mulder was taken back by the sudden turn in the conversation. Then it suddenly occurred to him that once Sam Beckett successfully changed history, this conversation would never take place. "I wouldn't call it love," he said, grinning. "More like respect and admiration."

"Oh yes, I'm sure that's all it is," Frohike said in his most insinuating voice. "So tell us peons who she is."

"Well actually, she is a small white mouse with genius intelligence who invented a device for taking to humans. I've lost track of her and..."

"You need us to find her before she takes over the world," concluded Myers, dryly. "You know, Mulder, if you wanted to get back at us for all the times we've hoodwinked you, you could do a little better than an intelligent mouse! You didn't even leave the slightest hint that this 'Gadget' could be a shape-changing alien..."

"...or an escapee from NIMH..."

"...or a super-realistic robot built from self-evolved nano-technology..."

"...or anything else remotely believable. Now don't feel too down on yourself: you had us going there for a little while at least."

Mulder could make out Langley whispering "not really" and Myers hissing "quiet! do you remember how much he moped around here the last time we got him down?" Mulder sighed in resignation. "Never mind guys--sorry to have wasted your time." He hung up before any of the Lone Gunmen would have a chance to apologize.

As he was re-crossing the street for the second time, Mulder's cell phone rang. He stopped right where he was, pulled out the phone, and flicked it open.

"Mulder!" cried the voice on the phone.

"Scully!" answered the agent in concern.

At that moment Scully realized that she had shouted her partner's name from nothing more than force of habit, so she grinned and cried out "Tetsuo!"


They both laughed for a bit, then Mulder pressed the speed dial button he had programmed with Al Calavicci's number.

"...and so that's what you do if you're ever shot down over enemy territory." Al leaned back and waited for a reaction.

Sam and Chip both had reactions, but they were entirely different from each other. Sam marveled that his friend could tell that harrowing tale so calmly (especially considering what he knew of what happened after the point where Al stopped). Chip on the other hand was amazed that anyone could survive the kind of stress he had just heard about.

According to Al, the Rescue Rangers were currently in the air en route to the Happy Tom Cat Food Factory. Foxglove was flying on the opposite side of the Ranger Plane from where Sam perceived Al to be floating. Sam had asked for a story of Al as a pilot mostly to switch him from his earlier topic, which was of his days as a guano collector. The stories had been quite gruesome by bat standards.

Just then the phone in Chip's lap rang. The chipmunk shot six feet into the air, and Al had to lunge to grab the phone and the headset before they hit the floor. Cradling the phone in his hands, he pressed the speakerphone button.

"Hello, is anyone there?!" the phone squawked.

"I can hear you just fine, Scully," said Al. "Have you found something already?"

Al heard the sound of Agent Scully flipping through her notepad. Wish the government would buy me a cell phone good enough to pick up sound like that, he thought glumly.

"Let's see," she said, "Seven years ago...she was in her 'pomology phase' for a cucumber-sized cucumber pickler that uses the hull of the brazil nut as...and then...well, she said she couldn't remember what happened on the night in question. It's possible that whatever happened was so traumatic that she blocked the memory to preserve her sanity."

"Well that's encouraging," remarked Al sarcastically.

"I asked her about the break-up, and she said that it was caused by Chip taking over more and more of the work of the cases over the years, until there was nothing for the rest of them to do. She said that Dale was probably more likely to know what was bugging him, and directed me to St. Nerses Shnorhale Armenian Apostolic Church to talk to him. She said not to bother with Chip, because he would be a 'hard nut to crack'. Mulder, are you still there?"

"Yes, Scully."

"The church is a lot closer to me than you are, so I'll tackle this alone. Find some way to amuse yourself till I get back."

Mulder chuckled. "Already taken care of. Sorry we couldn't be more help, Al."

"You did what you could. Good luck, Scully." Al hung up the phone, and then paced a bit, thinking. "I've seen cases like this before, Sam, especially during the war. I think Chip was going to mess up tonight, mess up really bad and in front of his teammates. If we don't change things, Chip is never going to get over this failure, and that's what breaks up the team." He glanced over to see Chip sitting in a dark mood on the chair. He wasn't sure if the object of Chip's anger was Al or Chip himself. It appeared that Chip honestly wanted to change, although from bitter experience Al knew how hard this sort of thing was. After a moment he turned back to Sam.

"Did they say what they're doing now?" Sam asked.

"Scully's going to a St. Nerses Shnorhali church to talk to Dale. St. Nerses Shnorhali Church...why is that name familiar? Don't tell me, I'll get it....Oh, I know. Sam, didn't you leap into the bishop of that church a few months ago?"

Sam nodded grimly.

"Heh, I remember that leap because there was that one funny little bat that kept watching everything we did. You see, Chip, it could see me and it didn't like the way I kept swearing in the church,, Sam, I'm in trouble right now, aren't I?"

Sam nodded again. Al quickly but quietly positioned himself so that Sam was between Foxglove and himself. "A psychic bat--who knew? I feel like I'm on probation this leap," he grumbled. "First the cigars and now I've got to watch my mouth!" He looked around then handed the phone to Chip. "Leave the phone on the chair and follow me." He then looked up at the ceiling. "Okay, Gooshie, we've landed, so you can turn off the homing program. Sam, let me know when the power's off and you're ready to go in." He then turned back around and walked slowly around what Chip concluded was the Ranger Plane. When he finished he let out a low whistle. "This has got to be the most incredible piece of aeronautical machinery I've ever seen! However would a mouse build such a thing out of nothing but household materials? Chip, did she go to some kind of rodent university?"

Chip was lifted out of his gloom by this praise of his teammate. "Nope," he answered. "She's one hundred-percent self-taught."

"Unbelievable!" Al then looked over his shoulder. "Uh-oh."

"What?" asked Chip.

"Sam tells me that the power to the factory was already turned off when we arrived."

"So this is a trap."

"Are you surprised?"

"No, not really. But we need to go down there anyway."

Al smiled. "That's what I thought you'd say. Gadget put a timer on the power supply to restore the lights in five minutes. That should be long enough to get us to Fat Cat's office."

A few minutes later, the Rescue Rangers made their way down the stairway of the Happy Tom Cat Food Factory towards the cat-sized casino. Their plan had gone smoothly so far: Guided by Gadget's infrared goggles and Foxglove's echolocation, they had proceeded into the building to find Fat Cat's office on the top floor abandoned. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Foxglove put her ear to the door. After a few seconds, she formed a huddle with the team.

"They're all down there, " she whispered, "but they're breathing too slowly."

Sam furrowed his brow. "You mean like they're expecting us?"

The bat shrugged. "Maybe."

"How close are they to the door?"

"I think they're at the opposite end of the casino."

Sam stood there, imagining how the room beyond the door would look and how they could turn the situation to their advantage. He kneeled down and peered through the tall crack under the door. "They have absolutely no light on in there, so..." he said.

"...that means that only Mole can see," finished Gadget. "At least until a little light is introduced, then both Fat Cat and Mepps will be able to see. Of course, at that point only Wart and Snout are left in the dark--although, if they're in on the trap, they aren't 'left in the dark', only left in the dark. Oh, that didn't sound very clear--you see..."

"A very interesting point of semantics, Gadget, but right now I'm trying to form a plan," said Sam.

"Even though right now you're in the dark," suggested Al.

Sam jumped at the voice. Since everyone was in complete darkness, he had forgotten all about Al. "Hmm, this would all go so much more smoothly if I knew what was going on out there..."

"Hmm? Oh yeah, Sam, I'll go scout around a bit." With that Al walked through the door. There were a few advantages to having your audio and video inputs hooked up to a parallel-processing supercomputer, and one of them was the ability to give yourself night vision. Al walked slowly through the casino, looking every once in a while at the com-link to check on Sam, Ziggy, the timer on the lights, and whatever else might drop out of a clear black sky.

Ten seconds later, Monterey Jack had run out of patience. In a barely-controlled whisper he murmured, "It's only Fat Cat, fellas! Why can't we just jump out there and thrash 'em?"

Sam and Foxglove simultaneously tried to provide a good excuse when Al walked back onto the platform scratching his head. "I saw two cats, one lizard, and one rat, all asleep. Mole must have gone back to The Wind in the Willows, I guess."

Sam made up his mind. After all, he already knew that Fat Cat was not going to be the real problem. "You're absolutely right, Monterey, the direct approach is best. At the count of one, go!"

With that, he burst through the door onto the casino floor alone. He ran straight ahead into the darkness, trusting Al to direct him.

"Okay Sam, hold your arms out at waist level, 'cause that's where the tables are. Turn left at the first one, which you'll hit! That's it; now follow the table around to your right. Keep on going, Sam, you're half-way there already!"

"Chip!" cried Dale. "Wait for us!" He ran randomly into the room and immediately smacked into a baccarat table. Gadget donned her infrared goggles and followed the sounds of the groans. After that, Dale held on to the back of Gadget's jumpsuit and she ran after Chip, followed by Foxglove, who held Monterey Jack's hand firmly in hers. Zipper had the sense to find a seat on top of Gadget's goggles when the descent began, so of all the sightless, he was the least likely to get lost.

When he got halfway across the casino, Sam started to make out the sounds of Fat Cat and his gang sleeping. He slowed down, stopping when he was a few paces behind them. He could barely make out that they were in the fetal position, and noted that their snores were interrupted by the occasional whimper. "I don't get it, Al," he said. "Where's the trap?"

"There is no trap, not that I can see. You better be careful, though, because you only have a few more seconds before the lights go on. Hey, Sam, do you hear that?"

"That low-pitched humming sound? I didn't notice it before."

"Neither did I. I have a bad feeling about this. Sam, the lights are going to kick in--close your eyes."

Sam did as he was told, and therefore was the first to recover from the sudden change in illumination. The first thing he noticed was that the humming had stopped. Then he saw that the lighting in the room was turned down a great deal, making it hard to see any details. Most puzzling was the apparent fuzziness of the far wall, behind the still-sleeping Fat Cat gang. He followed the tan wall up, and up, and up. He stopped when he reached the face.

Al, leaning back, fell on his back in shock. "It's Mole!"

Indeed it was Mole, or at least it was a thing that once was Mole. Its form was tremendously bloated, and its head nearly touched the ceiling. Its eyes were two portals into a whole cosmos where light was forbidden, and its lips were curled into a sadistic snarl. Its attention was focused entirely on Sam. "Another visitor!" he bellowed in an impossibly deep voice. "Stay awhile, stay forever!"

Chip rushed to Al's side. "What about Mole?" At that moment the phone rang. Chip trotted over to the chair and retrieved it. "This is Chip," he said, after pressing the speaker button.

"Chip, this is Scully. The Rangers are about to be attacked by..."

"If you mean by the big giant Mole, we know," answered Al, taking the phone so Sam could hear the conversation.

"Mole's been possessed by the Great Thing from Beyond," volunteered Mulder. "The Thing feeds off of your life force."

"Well this leap has officially gone from bad to really, really ugly." remarked Al. "Any idea from the master of the macabre on how we stop this thing?"

Scully interrupted before Mulder could get in his response. "According to Dale, Zipper escaped and used the translator to call us. Mulder, you're the one with the photographic memory, do you remember anything like that happening? Because I don't."

"No, and you'd think facing off against the most evil thing on Earth would be somewhat memorable. As for Zipper calling us, we've gotten lots of anonymous tips over the years and I have no idea what Zipper would sound like with a human voice, so it could have been any one of the X-Files. Gimme a second, I'll try to see if I can remember anything useful."

Sam for one wished that Mulder would remember pretty quickly. The monster before him apparently possessed some kind of mind control power, because they were now surrounded by the illusion of a cramped cage too strong to be broken by disbelief. Luckily it had overlooked Zipper, who had already managed to escape. In reaction to their sudden imprisonment, Dale started looking wildly around in confusion, calming down when he saw Sam. Gadget had backed herself into the corner farthest from the Great Thing and was hyperventilating, while Monterey spent his time battering his frame against the bars again and again. Next to him was Foxglove, who clutched the bars and stared at their foe.

Looking around at his teammates, Sam decided that what was needed just then was some leadership. "It looks like it's time for the Rescue Rangers to show what they're made of! Anyone have any suggestions what we should do?" The Rangers looked at him from their scattered positions.

Dale started leaping up and down, waving his arms and crying, "I know what we should do! Pick me! Pick me!" He leapt so high, in fact, that he hit his head on the top of the cage and knocked himself out.

"Let me 'at him!" yelled Monterey Jack, referring to the demon.

"Golly," said Gadget flatly, "I would say I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought, but I think that line's been used already."

Foxglove waved her wings back towards Dale's prone body. "He knows what we should do! Pick him! Pick him!" she cried. Then she turned for the first time and saw that he was unconscious.

"So nobody has a good plan, then," summarized Al, who was standing next to the bat. In response, Foxglove swiped at his head with one of her wings, then knelt to see to Dale's injuries.

The admiral had dodged out of the way. "What's going on here? That's the second hologram today who's tried to bonk me on the head!"

Sam looked into the faces of his (conscious) comrades. "Well, I have a plan, if you'd like to hear it." When he had their attention, he continued in a voice hopefully pitched too low for the monster to hear. "The important thing is to distract this creature until help arrives. I'll try to distract it enough for it to lose concentration. Monty, as soon as the bars become transparent, get around to the stage. Foxglove, when Monty's in position I want you to grab the heaviest thing you can fly with and get above it. When I give the signal...."

Chip had been standing still, quietly listening, for a long time now as Al described what had been happening, but at this point he had to interrupt. "No, no, no! Tell Sam that he can't do that!"

"Why not?" asked Al. "It sounds like a perfectly-good plan to me."

"It is a perfectly-good plan. It's also exactly the plan I would have used if I was there instead of Sam, and we know very well that my plan will fail."

Al wrinkled his brow in frustration. "So we follow Monterey's plan and rush it?"

"No, we wait for Dale to revive and follow his plan."

"Are you ca-razy?" demanded Al.

Chip had no choice at this point but to bonk Al on the head.

The demonically possessed Mole, who had been looming over the Rangers the entire time, took this moment to break into their conversation. "Enough of this idle chatter! It's time for you to meet your doom!" He was wearing an enormous bib with the faces of the Rescue Rangers painted on it. A few of the Rangers wondered if he had borrowed it from Fat Cat. "Oh, your fears are all so delicious, I don't know where to start first! Shall it be the roly-poly strong-mouse? No, too easy. The claustrophobic inventor should last me for hours, so I'll save her for last. The cautious dreamer? No, she'd fall even faster than Mr. Cheese. The jester, oh there are so many ways I could get what I want from him. So, my knight in shining armor, I think you are next!"

Monty sprang at the bars of the cage. "You leave me pal Chipper alone! Take me instead!"

"All in good time, my dear. All in good time." The towering creature turned and cast its dark eyes upon Sam.

Sam decided that he now knew why he was here: to psychically die so Chip could live. He boldly strode forward to meet his fate.

The Great Thing From Beyond frowned at this display. "Oh, you're no fun anymore," he said. "Wake up, clown. Time to die."

"No!" cried Foxglove, cradling her love in her arms, "I won't allow this torture to go on any longer!"

The Great Thing grinned hideously, revealing a gaping maw as empty as his eyes. "Do you feel lucky, punk? Go ahead, make my day!"

The walls of the prison suddenly vanished. Enraged, Foxglove flew right at his face, but he swatted her aside. She hit the wall and slid slowly down.

"Go on, Foxglove, get up!" yelled Al. "Give him what's coming to him!"

Sam looked from the fallen bat to the monstrous mole. To his shock, he noticed that the demon was even bigger now than before. "No, Foxglove, wait! That's what it wants. The Great Thing from Beyond doesn't feed on life, it feeds on anger and fear!"

Dale, who was now awake, looked up in surprise. "You're the Great Thing from Beyond, the feaster of worlds, the sower of despair?"

The Great Thing puffed itself up in pride. "Look on, ye mighty," it said, "and despair!"

Dale started to giggle. Everyone looked at him in shock.

"Hey!" bellowed the Great Thing. "You stop that at once! You won't be laughing after I unleash your greatest fear against you!"

The giggles quickly built into gales of uncontrollable laughter. Dale tried his best to explain the joke between guffaws. "He's...he's...only three feet high!"

"Now I remember!" cried Mulder into his phone. "There was a prank call, about a giant monster that was going to conquer the world."

Scully laughed. "I remember that. We went all the way there in the car, only to find this ridiculous-looking dog on top of a factory. When we started laughing at it, it tried to attack us in a rather pathetic manner. I shot it, and it died."

"Only one shot?" asked Chip, incredulous.

"Only one. It was really pathetic."

Mulder sighed. "I guess it really did have a good press agent."

Foxglove was the next one to start laughing. "Destroyer of worlds, and you can't even destroy a bunch of small animals!"

"Hey!" complained the demon, which was now noticeably smaller. "That's not even funny, you know!"

The other Rangers took their cue from this, mocking and jeering the Great Thing until it had shrunk all the way to Mole's normal size, at which point his eyes cleared of darkness before he fell unconscious. The Great Thing had been forced out of his host body, defeated yet again.

The Rescue Rangers made their way back to the roof. Despite the fact that Foxglove had been hurt more than Dale during their encounter with the Great Thing, she refused his pleas that she and not he should get the comfy seat on the Ranger Plane. As they were about to leave, Sam remembered the reason they had come in the first place and ran back to get the diamond from Fat Cat's paws--he was still sound asleep, although the usual expression of contempt had replaced the fear on his face.

On the trip back to the oak tree in the Ranger Plane, everyone congratulated Dale for saving them, Gadget and Foxglove giving him a big kiss on the cheek. When they got back, Dale went into his and Chip's room, opened a large chest, and from its carefully organized and sealed contents pulled out a giant-sized issue of Kablammo Man Annual featuring the Great Thing From Beyond to show to his friends in the living room. Sam patted him on the back on the way into the bedroom. There he waited for Al.

"Hey Sam," said Al, "aren't you going to join the party? You should see everyone out there, dressed in their finest. And that Gadget, what a looker!"

"Did you hear what you just said?"

"Ack! I've been around the Rangers so long I find mice attractive! When will this leap end?"

"That's what I want to know."

"Any ideas, Mulder? Scully? Is anyone there? That's funny, the line's dead."

"They must have disappeared when Dale changed history."

"That must be it."

There was a knock at the door. "It's Foxglove. Can I come in?"

Sam opened the door for her and she closed it behind herself. "I'm sorry I nearly ruined everything," she said, quietly.

"Don't worry yourself about it," said Al. "It's what I would have done if I was there in the flesh. Besides, that thing never would have been defeated if you hadn't taken a stand."

Just then Dale burst back into the room. "Hey, Foxy, com'on! We're just about to break out the cake and ice cream!"

Foxglove stood up and held Sam's hands in her own. "Perhaps we'll meet again."

Sam smiled. "Perhaps."

She turned and walked out past the confused Dale. "But Foxy, you see him every night!"

Sam got up and started walking for the door. The departing Dale turned and held out a hand to stop him. "Haven't you got something to do first?"

Sam was confused. "Uh, the..."

"The journal, Chip! You've got to put tonight in the journal!"

Al turned to Chip. "Dale says you should be writing in some sort of journal right now. Do you know what he's talking about?"

Chip was surprised by this remark. "How'd he find out about my secret journal?"

Sam repeated the line fed to him by Al.

"Well, you don't spend years reading comics under the covers by flashlight without learning how to tell when someone else is up to the same thing."

Sam was hesitant. It was one thing for a leapee to return to vague memories borrowed from Sam about what he just did, quite another to have a written document that can be analyzed for foreign ways of thinking. "I'm not sure this is the kind of case to go in the journal."

Dale's eyes went wide. "Chip, you're joking, right? You remember what life was like before the journal, nothing happening every day. Then you started writing when Detective Drake was framed, and every day since then has been an adventure! If you stop writing, maybe everything will go back to the way it was, and we can't have that!"

Sam shook his head in confusion. "Okay, Dale, because you insist, I'll work on the journal. Be sure to leave me some cake."

"Sure thing; see ya later!"

Al was just as discombobulated as Sam. "Dale said that your journal was what kept all the exciting stuff happening to you."

Chip shrugged. "That's nothing--you should hear his 'syndication theory'." He sighed thinking that one over. "I worry about him sometimes."

With Chip's help, Sam crafted a remarkably Chip-like journal entry, emphasizing the fact that it was Dale who had saved the day. Sam leaped as he finished the final sentence.

Chip shook his head as the world came back into focus again. He was sure something interesting had just happened, but he wasn't sure what. He looked down to see his journal open on the desk in front of him. From the same vantage point he was also able to see his legs.

"Hey," he asked aloud, "where'd these pants come from?"

Admiral Al Calavicci woke up by the simple expedient of falling out of bed. He jumped up, looking wildly around him. Hearing a sound behind him, he suddenly turned around.

The television was on, as it had been on when he had fallen asleep the night before. On the screen were three identical cartoon ducks in red, green, and blue shirts and caps. What they said went something like this:

Red Duck: "Gee..."

Green Duck: "Unc'a..."

Blue Duck: "Scrooge..."

All three ducks: "What'll we do now?"

Al shook his head in bewilderment, picked up the remote, and shut the TV off. I guess there is such a thing as too much Disney, he thought. He walked over to the window of the little bungalow and threw open the drapes to look at his tiny garden. Just beyond was the edge of the New Mexico desert and scampering across the desert, crossing from one tree to another, was a chipmunk, an acorn grasped in its hands.

Aware it was being watched, the chipmunk stopped and looked around. When it saw that the observer was safely behind glass and paralyzed by shock for some reason, it picked up its parcel and continued on its way. Al for his part had only one thing to say at the striking resemblance between this chipmunk and Dale.


Credits and Acknowledgements

The series Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers and the characters Chip, Dale, Monterey Jack, Zipper, Gadget, Foxglove, the rock band Iron Goose, Flash the Wonder Dog, The Red Badger of Courage, Sheerluck Jones and Howard Bass, Kablammo Man, Stan Blather, the Happy Tom Cat Food Factory, Fat Cat, Mepps, Wart, Snout, and Mole (gasp!) are copyright 1989 Disney. I consider myself a fan of this series (I have all the episodes on tape, I've visited dozens of web sites (especially the RR Database), and I've read practically every fanfic and viewed every piece of fan art on the series ever made publicly available).

The series Quantum Leap and the characters Sam Beckett, Al Calavicci, Ziggy, Verbena Beeks, and Gushie are copyright 1993 Bellasarius Productions and MCA/Universal. I consider myself competent on this series (I have seen nearly all of the episodes once, I looked at three or four websites (especially the FAQ at the Quantum Leap Information Kiosk), and I have read through a somewhat random selection of fanfic at the alt.ql.creative Archive looking for the perfect Quantum Link-X-Files crossover story). On the other hand, I think I actually understand all the rules of Leaping, and that, in and of itself, may be grounds for classifying me as a fan.

The series The X-Files and the characters of Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, Langly, Frohike, and Myers (the Lone Gunmen) are copyright 2001 Ten Thirteen Productions and Fox. I consider myself familiar with this series (I have seen a lot of episodes once, especially from the first few seasons). I haven't really looked for web sites, but I have read a lot of (bad) fanfic via their MiSTings on Web Site Number 9. I have deliberately tweaked the characters of Mulder and Scully in this story for two reasons. First, I liked Mulder's sense of humor, which showed up a lot in the first season and appears to be almost completely dead now. Second, I despise all the (bad) fanfics that contrive to make the two agents fall in love with each other. I say, if you want to evolve the relationship between Mulder and Scully in a healthy direction, why not make them act like siblings?

No, I don't have permission to do any of this. If someone from one of the above companies can show me the harm I have done with this little story, then it will go away.

The original concept of this story (a cross-over of Rescue Rangers and Quantum Leap where Sam leaps into Chip) first appeared in "Quantum Chip", an as-yet unfinished story by Jeff Parkes I found on the internet about a year ago (you can and should visit his site, Rescue Ranger Adventure, and go to the "Other Contributions" page to read "Quantum Chip"). I hereby grant to Mr. Parkes as well the power to kill this story with a withering glance.

The villain of this story, the "Great Thing from Beyond", was named in accordance with the H.P. Lovecraft convention for naming extra-dimensional entities (for information about the famed horror writer, see the H.P. Lovecraft Archive). The character was inspired by Paddywhack, the villain of the Darkwing Duck episode "The Haunting of Mr. Banana Brain," while his dialog was inspired by every over-the-top piece of dialog I have ever come across. His theme song, which should have been playing over the first two scenes, is "Enter Sandman" by Metallica (the original MIDI sequencing is by King Diamond; I changed the lead instrument to trumpet and transposed down an octave to give it more of a "growl").

This story makes rather-obvious references to "Home Is Where You Hang Upside-Down", an excellent Rescue Rangers/X-Files cross-over fan-fiction by Roy Neal Grissom. More obscure references are also made to two other Rescue Rangers-based fan-fictions: "There and Back...AGAIN?" by Matt Plotecher and "The Times of Their Lives" by Steve Hamrick. All three stories can be found at the RR Database. I have gratefully incorporated suggestions by these authors into this story, but any flaws that remain are entirely my own fault.

And now, for those of you playing along at home, here are the answers to the Obscure Reference Contest (this also serves as an excuse to get the rest of the copyright violations out of the way). Click on the asterisks to see the quotes in context.

*. Tiamat...Trego the Terrible Puppet
All are actual deities or historical persons/events with the exceptions of Flash the Wonder Dog (from Rescue Rangers) and Trego the Terrible Puppet (from my own twisted imagination). If you really want to get depressed, try looking all of them up in an encyclopedia.
*. A noted archeologist in New England
This was a veiled reference to Indiana Jones, with a nod to the archetypical setting for Lovecraft's stories.
*. Iron Goose
Iron Goose is a heavy-metal band in the Rescue Rangers universe (the episode "Risky Beesness").
*. an almost-closed door between dimensions
The door was definitively closed in the Rescue Ranger fanfic "There and Back...AGAIN?", by Matt Plotecher (here is the link to the story in the RR Database).
*. Sort of like an animal rescue aid society
The Rescuers (1977), The Rescuers Down Under (1990) (both movies are copyright the Walt Disney Company; links are to the Internet Movie Database).
*. Makes sense
MiSTing of Stephen Ratliff's Premier Ma[r]qui{s} by Loren Haarsma, Jarek Myszewski, and David Conner (located on The Stephen Ratliff Misting Archive).
*. Unsolved Mysteries
Unsolved Mysteries (1987) (copyright Cosgrove/Meurer Productions; the link is to the Internet Movie Database).
*. "Maybe it's because I've traveled through time before."
"The Times of Their Lives", a Rescue Rangers fanfic by Steve Hamrick (this is the link to Chapter 1 on Indy's Ranger Museum).
*. "There's a human I can trust in the FBI..."
The meeting between Fox Mulder and the Rescue Rangers occurred in "Home is Where You Hang Upside-Down", a Rescue Rangers fanfic by Roy Neal Grissom (Here is the link to the story in the RR Database).
*. The meeting between Fox Mulder and Sam Beckett
Actually, I haven't found this hypothetical fanfic yet. The closest I've gotten is Leap of Faith by "Livengoo" (Sam leaps into Scully, but Mulder and Scully are left with no memory of Project Quantum Leap by the time the story is over) and Top Secret by Julie L. Jeckel (Sam does not leap into either Mulder or Scully, but both characters end the story aware of Project Quantum Leap; also, the story is a crossover with Lois and Clark, and I object to Superman being in the same continuum with either Quantum Leap or X-Files on esthetic grounds--write me for the full rant on this one). You can visit the alt.ql.creative Archive for these and many other Quantum Leap fanfiction stories.
*. "Shazaam!"
This is what happens when I write something without doing research first. "Shazam!" is what Billy Batson says to turn into Captain Marvel (it's also the name of the wizard who gave Billy the ability to do this). Captain Marvel is an old comic book series started by Fawcett Comics and later continued by DC Comics. It's apparently still in print. There was a live-action series I vaguely remember from my childhood that was really cheesy (but then, every kid's show from my childhood was cheesy--the 1970's were not known for quality children's entertainment). Also, Shazzan was a Hanna-Barbera series from the 1960's about a couple of American kids in an Arabian Nights-type scenario who are helped by their genie Shazzan and the inevitable dumb animal sidekick (at least, that's what I picked up from the one time I saw it on Boomerang). Anyway, "Shazaam!" appears to be a common thing for people to say, because I had to look a long time to find a legitimate web site for either one of these properties.
*. "laser"
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). And yes, the joke was as stale when I wrote it as it is now. I'm sorry, I don't know what came over me.
*. "We're ready to believe you!"
Ghostbusters (1984) (copyright Columbia Pictures; the link is to the Internet Movie Database).
*. Bubblelicious Bubble Gum
Sadly, this was an unpaid product endorsement. "Bubblelicious" is a trademark of the Warner-Lambert Company and is not made from spider's eggs.
*. "It's based on the principle of harmonic resonance...." and the three pages of dialog that follow.
My limited knowledge of the terminology of acoustics is courtesy of The Theory of Sound, a two-volume book by John William Strutt, Baron Rayleigh (here is his biography on the Nobel Prize site--he won the Physics prize in 1904 for discovering argon). In case you are wondering how you too can produce high-quality scientific pseudo-babble, keep the following in mind when doing your research: Frequent the unused floor of university libraries. Look for multi-volume hard-cover books written by old men with strings of initials after their names, with first publishing dates in the Nineteenth Century, and bound in bent cardboard and cloth. If removing the book from the shelf releases a cloud of dust, you have reason to hope. If you open it at random and see more than one algebraic equation on the page, you may be getting close. If you can't read a whole chapter and understand it the first or even second time through, get out your notepad and start writing the terms down. If you read a paragraph out loud and suddenly find yourself transported to a planetary system located somewhere between the constellations of Hydra and Argo Navis, well, then I think you've gone too far and need to get a different book.
*. Everyman
The medieval morality play. Here is the text. This may be the only work cited in this story that is not under copyright.
*. A ghost-busting Great Dane
Scooby Doo, copyright of Time-Warner/Hanna-Barbera (the link is to Cartoon Network's Scooby Doo site).
*. The theme to some forgotten 1930's cartoon
Flip the Frog has a pretty catchy song--you can listen to it here. The cartoon was made by Mickey Mouse co-creator Ub Iwerks (I haven't found a good comprehensive site for this pioneer yet, so no link). I believe the Flip copyright is currently owned by Eric Schwartz.
*. Bela Lugosi
Here is a pretty good rendition of the famous stare (taken from The Chamber of Dr. Werdegast).
*. Crumbly Crunchies
"Haredevil Hare", a Bugs Bunny cartoon from 1948 (this is the first one with Marvin the Martian). Copyright owned by Time-Warner. For the life of me I can't understand why someone hasn't put a recording of this online.
*. His office hours were 10:45 to a quarter of eleven
"The Wizard and the Princess", ninth "surprise" in The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and His People (1903), which was originally written by L. Frank Baum four years after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (I think this one's in the public domain). Give yourself a no-prize if you recognized this one. If you took the trouble to actually follow that link, let me also recommend two other non-Oz books by Baum that I thought were even better: American Fairy Tales (1901) and The Enchanted Island of Yew (1903).
*. Marcie and Peppermint Patty
Peanuts by Charles Schultz. Copyright owned by the United Feature Syndicate, Inc.
*. Quickie Mart
The Simpsons (1989), by Matt Groening and Film Roman (early stuff by Klasky-Csupo). Copyright owned by Fox.
*. ...before she takes over the world
Somewhere or other I came across the questionable statement that no piece of fanfic is complete without a reference to Pinky and the Brain (1995) (copyright owned by Amblin/Warner Brothers; the link is to the Internet Movie Database). To my mortification I find that I got such a reference into my story without realizing it.
*. A shape-changing alien
A reference to the Rescue Rangers episode "Dale Beside Himself", where the alien was having fun. X-Files has a similar character, only this one killed people for a living--here you see illustrated the difference in outlook of the two series.
*. An escapee from NIMH
The MiSTing of Paul Lapensee's and David Gonterman's "The Rangers of NIMH", by Håkan Svensson and Kevin A. Pezzano (here is the link to the story in the RR Database on Svensson's site). There is a non-MiST'ed version of this story available, but I can tell you from personal experience that the reading of it causes permanent brain damage.
*. A super-realistic robot built from self-evolved nano-technology
I wasn't really thinking of anything when I wrote this line, but re-reading it, I'm reminded of a cross between The Iron Giant and Stuart Little (copyrights owned by Warner Brothers and Colombia Pictures, respectively; links are to the Internet Movie Database).
*. "Mulder!" "Scully!"
At least 10% of the dialog of X-Files: The Movie (1998) (copyright owned by 20th Century Fox; Internet Movie Database link).
*. "Tetsuo!" "Kaneda!"
At least 10% of the dialog of the movie Akira (1983) (copyright owned by Akira Committee Company, Ltd.; Internet Movie Database link).
*. St. Nerses Schnorhali Armenian Apostolic Church
"Home is Where You Hang Upside-Down".
*. "Unbelievable!"
This to be pronounced the same way it was in that commercial for Dragonball Z that was playing a lot on Cartoon Network during the time I was writing this story (copyright owned by Bird Studios; the link is to the Cartoon Network Toonami site for Dragonball Z).
*. The Wind in the Willows
A book written by Kenneth Grahame. Here is the complete text online. I think this book is also in the public domain.
*. "Another visitor! Stay awhile, stay forever!"
Impossible Mission (1983), a video game for the Commodore 64 computer by Epyx. Here is what this sounded like, and here is the site I got it from.
*. "Let me 'at him!"
I was tempted at this point to fulfill the quota of Monty Python quotations for this story by adding "I'll bite his legs off!", but decided at the last moment that it would be too gruesome, even for Monterey Jack. Monty Python copyright owned by the BBC.
*. "I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought"
Ghostbusters again.
*. "Are you ca-razy?"
Can anyone remember the name of the episode or episodes where Chip said this to Dale?
*. "All in good time my dear, all in good time"
The Wizard of Oz (1933) (copyright owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer; Internet Movie Database link).
*. "Oh, you're no fun anymore"
Title of a Monty Python episode, thereby fulfilling my quota of Monty Python references anyhow.
*. "Wake up...time to die"
Blade Runner (1981) (copyright owned by the Blade Runner Partnership, Columbia TriStar, and Warner Brothers; the link is yet again courtesy of the Internet Movie Database).
*. "Do you feel lucky, punk?" "Go ahead, make my day"
Dirty Harry (1971) and Sudden Impact (1983) (both copyrights owned by Warner Brothers; these are my last two Internet Movie Database links, I promise!).
*. "Look on, ye mighty, and despair!"
"Ozymandias" (1817) by Percy Shelley. Here is the text. Considering the age of this poem, I think it's safe to say it's in the public domain.
*. "Gee Unc'a Scrooge, what'll we do now?"
The Disney series Duck Tales (1988). I couldn't name the exact episode using this dialog, since it was used a lot in the series. The Internet Movie Database apparently doesn't have a link for this series.

The credits start here.

This page maintained by McPoodle43 @t Page last updated October 15, 2009 (updated reference links)