The Time Has Come

"Your crazy inventions could hurt somebody!"

Chip's words had been echoing in my mind all night, intermingled with memories of the other events of the day. Over and over, I relived everything that had gone wrong - the moment the brakes fell off the Rangermobile, the malfunctioning magnet-ray that had prompted Chip to snap at me, the moment the Gyromobile fell apart as I was driving it across the ceiling at the Cola Cult's headquarters . . . The latter was the last straw; we would more than likely have fallen to our deaths had it not been for Zipper. And he was injured himself while saving us. That was when I came right out and said it: "I'm through inventing!"

Golly, I never thought I'd say that. Gadget Hackwrench, the mouse who has been building contraptions ever since she was old enough to handle tools saying she was never going to invent anything again? But it was the only thing I could do. I didn't know what had been going wrong lately, but it seemed that I'd had one malfunctioning invention after another to deal with. And, after what happened with the Gyromobile, I realised that Chip had been right; my inventions could end up causing someone serious harm.

But that wasn't the only thing that kept me awake. No, I had spent the greater part of the night trying to think what I could do for the Rangers if I wasn't inventing any more. But, no matter how hard I thought, all I could come up with was my inventions. If we needed any kind of machine built fast, I was the one the others looked to. I was the one who built the Ranger Plane, the one who improvised a submarine after Chip and Dale were pulled under the ocean by the Pi-Rats, the one who . . .

Realising I was never going to get to sleep, I slid out of bed and crossed to the window. I stood there, a small figure in a lilac nightgown, feeling a gentle night breeze on my face as I counted the stars the way my father taught me when I was younger. He always said that, as a pilot, it was important to know something about the stars in case you ever had to use them to navigate. I tried to teach my friends to do this once, but Chip was the only one who seemed interested. Monty had already learned about it long ago and Dale . . . Well, Dale was more interested in reading his comic books. Gosh, I've never known anyone as obsessed with space aliens as that chipmunk!

Oops, I'm rambling again. I'm always doing that. Now, where was I?

Oh yes, as I stood at my bedroom window, I tried to clear all the unsettling thoughts out of my mind. Normally, I would have gone down to my workshop and worked on a few inventions; there was something about putting one of my machines together that really helped me to focus. But I'd sworn off inventing for good. I'd vowed that I would never touch another tool as long as I lived . . .

But then, if my mind was made up, why did I feel so unsettled? Why had I spent the greater part of the night tossing and turning, my mind filled with troubling thoughts?

Because the fact was that I didn't belong anymore, not to the Rescue Rangers at any rate. Inventing had been my contribution to the group and, now that I had given it up, I had nothing else to offer. I wasn't a natural leader like Chip. I wasn't strong like Monty or speedy like Zipper. I didn't even have Dale's insatiable zest for life. All I had were my brains and what I had thought was my way with machines, but that would be a fat lot of good if I was no longer putting those skills into practice. "Golly," I said to myself, wiping my eyes with the back of my paw. "Maybe they would be better off without me . . ."

But that only brought on a fresh outburst of tears as I realised what this meant. I would have to resign from the Rescue Rangers, leave the place that been my home since our little group of crime-fighters formed. I thought - we all thought - we would be together for a long time, four rodents and a fly dedicated to helping those in need. But now . . . now it looked as though I no longer had a place in our team. If I stayed, I would just get in the way, but where would I go if I left? I buried my face in my paws and tried to muffle my sobs. If any of the others heard me, they were sure to come and ask what was wrong. And that would make this even harder than it was already.

For you don't join a team and not develop some sort of bond with your team-mates. We had always looked out for each other, always helped each other out in times of trouble. My mind flashed through all our adventures together, adventures in which we had faced many dangers. I recalled the day Monty (an old friend of my father's, whom I hadn't seen since I very young) turned up at my old workshop, bringing with him two chipmunks and a fly. They had been trying to retrieve the Clutchcoin Ruby and Monty had planned to enlist my father's help, unaware that he had died the year before. I had been pretty much on my own before they showed up, so I was more than willing to join their little gang. That had marked the beginning of the Rescue Rangers as we know them . . .

Or at least until now. Because of my foolish inventions, we were still no nearer solving the mystery of the Cola Cult than we had been at the start of this adventure. And that was why I had to go. We had been lucky no-one was seriously hurt when the Gyromobile broke, but I knew only too well that, the next time one of my inventions went wrong, someone could be badly injured - even killed. And that was the last thing I wanted on my conscience.

But, golly, I was going to miss the others. Monty had always held a gruff affection for me, even if we didn't see eye-to-eye on certain things. Zipper? Well, I'd never known anyone as brave as that little fly; he was by far the smallest of us, but few could match his courage. He was also useful for getting into places the rest of us couldn't reach. And, as for Chip and Dale, I had never met anyone like them before, both so different in personality that clashes were almost inevitable but, at the same time, fiercely loyal to each other. On more than one occasion, I had walked in to find them yelling at each other over something one had said or done to annoy the other. And, yet, moments later, they would be laughing and joking together. These four were the closest friends I had ever had and, after tonight, I might never see them again. For I was going to leave first thing in the morning . . .

That, however, left me with one more problem - what was I going to say to the others? Should I leave a note for them and go now? No, it wouldn't seem right to leave without actually saying goodbye. "Goodbye," I murmured, feeling the solemn sound of those two syllables. It sounded so final, as if this marked the beginning of the end of the Rescue Rangers. But how was I going to explain why I was leaving? And what if the others tried to stop me?

But I wasn't going to let them. I no longer had a place in this group and I knew deep down that they wouldn't break up just because I was gone. Maybe it was best if I told the truth as quickly and as simply as I could. I was no use; without my inventions, I had nothing to offer. I slowly pulled away from the window and went to sit on the edge of my bed, looking down at the floor as I rehearsed what I was going to tell my friends. One thing was already certain, however. I was not going to take the Ranger Plane; it would be needed by the others and, besides, I had vowed never to touch anything mechanical again.

Lost in my thoughts and memories of my life as a Rescue Ranger, I failed to notice the sun rising until the room suddenly grew light. It was the start of a new day, a new chapter in my life. And starting a new chapter means ending the previous one. As of now, I was no longer one of the Rangers; that part of my life was over, but I would never forget the bond that had existed between the five of us. Slowly, I began to dress, hoping as I did so that things would turn out all right . . . somehow.