'Ello there, fellow Inspector Gadget junkies! -ahem- To be completely honest, I'm a 90's kid and didn't actually grow up watching this show. However, I was sick one day and browsing the interwebz since I had nothing better to do and just happened to stumble upon it, and I immediately became hooked! I don't know what it is about the show, but I absolutely love it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this short fic and I hope I do Penny's character justice- she's such a doll! :)
P.S. I made the cover image for this story using screenshots from the episode and the editing programs PicFrame and Instagram. (Good ol' Instagram. xD ) Full view please, and no stealy!
"When ze clock strikes five, you von't be alive!"
The demented old man cackles maniacally before sweeping out of the room. His ginormous minion shuffles behind him, slamming the door on his way out. My insides seem to rattle with the resounding bang that follows their dramatic departure.
Once the lunatics are gone, my mind immediately turns to the predicament at hand and I begin calculating my chances of escape. I'm alone in a room within a fairly large clock factory, bound and strapped to a table above which a giant hammer bearing the M.A.D. logo is poised. Beside me, a red and blue clock casually ticks away the seconds until said hammer will be freed from its position and crush me into bite-sized Penny pieces.
Believe it or not, I've actually found myself in equally perilous situations before. They're sort of an everyday occurrence for me, and I'm not exaggerating in the slightest. Every time something like this happens to me, I'm able to phone my trusty sidekick Brain in to come save me, or at the very least call for help until it arrives.
However, seeing as the clockmaker who put me here made sure to gag me before leaving the room, the odds of being rescued aren't looking as promising as they usually do.
Squirming beneath the metal bar that confines me to the table, I try in vain to shout through the white handkerchief around my mouth. But my cries are so muffled that even if someone did happen to hear them, they would have no clue what I was trying to say.
After a few more seconds of struggling, I give up on trying to free myself and warily sneak a glance at the clock beside me.
Tick, tock, it chimes happily, and I gasp to see that it's already a quarter of five. In less than fifteen minutes I'll be nothing but an oddly shaped slice of salami.
For the first time since I began tagging along with my uncle Gadget on his crime-solving ventures, it begins to dawn on me that I might not make it out of this case alive.
A strange, cold feeling settles over my body, numbing every part of me but my mind. I can't even cry over my realization; it's like I've gone numb from the crown of my head to the tips of my toenails.
Then again, that might just be the ropes cutting off my blood circulation.
Why hasn't this thought ever occurred to me before? Even while dangling in the belly of a volcano about to be filled with explosives, I had still clung to the hope that somehow, someone would find me. It had happened plenty of times before, after all. Why should this time be any different?
Because this time, there's a giant clock counting down the last seconds of your life.
As soon as the realization wriggles its way into my mind, I know it to be true. All the other times I've found myself in similar predicaments, it seemed like there was endless amount of time until the danger struck. All I had to do was wait patiently for my savior to arrive, be it dog or cyborg or random passerby. There was no limit to my mortality. I was invincible.
But as I look again at the clock on my right, I see that it is not so with this case. There are ten minutes until five, and I'm still just as helpless as ever. This time, my own time might actually run out before someone realizes I'm even missing.
This time, there might actually be a final strike.
The seconds are passing by agonizingly slow, and yet it seems like every time I blink, the minute hand inches a little bit closer to twelve. I try closing my eyes in the hopes that blocking out the sight of the clock and the M.A.D. logo above my head will help, but this only makes the panging sound of the second hand seem even louder, drilling its steady rhythm into my head until I want to scream.
I try yet again to activate Brain's honing signal on my wristwatch, but no luck. My arms are tied so tightly to my sides that I can barely move them, much less press a button on my watch.
Well, Brain's out. Perhaps Uncle Gadget will be the one to save me!
The thought fades from my mind as quickly as it came. What a silly idea. My uncle can't walk (or spring) two steps without falling flat on his face. Not exactly savior material. Besides, he has no idea that I accompanied him on this mission in the first place. By the time he realizes I'm in danger, it'll surely be too late.
Despite the fact that these thoughts are rather morbid, a smile graces my lips as I think about my uncle Gadget. As bumbling and oblivious as he is at times, I would never want anyone to replace him.
When both my parents died in the aftermath of a scientific experiment gone wrong, Uncle Gadget immediately volunteered to take me under his wing. Although admittedly I had been somewhat afraid of him at first (it's not everyday you encounter a man with extendable arms and a nose as big as my uncle's), it didn't take long at all for me to warm up to him. His demeanor was just so... friendly and welcoming, not at all what you'd expect from a police detective. Even his occasional blunders were lovable.
Uncle Gadget quickly became like a father to me. I began to see past his metal limbs and straight to the soft, warm heart of someone who didn't have a single mean bone (or bolt) in his body.
Although he tried to keep his detective work a secret from me for as long as he could, Uncle Gadget has never been a master when it comes to hiding things. I began to notice his frequent and poorly explained absences, and once my mind got a whiff of suspicion, there was no stopping me from doing some investigating for myself.
I soon stumbled upon my uncle's long-forgotten computer book, a digital log of all his case information disguised as a boring novel. Unbeknownst to Uncle Gadget and with the help of Brain, I began to follow him on all his missions. Most of them involved a villain who went by the pseudonym Claw, the ruthless leader of an evil organization called M.A.D. and whose only goal in life was to get rich and exterminate my uncle in the process.
Although he had good intentions, oftentimes it was out of pure luck that my uncle evaded Claw's clutches. The more I watched him from afar, the more worried I became. It seemed like only a matter of time until Uncle Gadget took a wrong step and turned into a measly pile of springs and screws. After one too many close calls, I silently vowed never to let my uncle go on another mission alone.
Well, my harmless eavesdropping soon turned into full-blown investigating, and soon I became the one completing my uncle's assignments (along with Brain, of course.) However, I always made sure that Uncle Gadget was the one who received credit for it at the end of the day. After all, I didn't want my uncle to lose his job if the police department discovered his nine-year-old niece was the one solving the crimes. Besides, it was kind of fun to watch him bluster in confusion as Chief Quimby congratulated him on another success while Brain and I watched from the shadows. My life soon became an ongoing adventure, and I can't say that I minded.
Of course, being Inspector Gadget's secret assistant had often gotten me into tight spots with the M.A.D. agents before, but since most of them were about as clever as my uncle, they were nothing I couldn't figure my way out of.
The minute hand had reached eleven, which meant that there were five minutes left until the clockmaker's statue dropped its arm and finished Penny Gadget off for good.
Tears begin to well in my eyes and spill down the sides of my face, soaking the ends of my pigtails. It's not that I'm afraid of dying- for one thing, I believe in God; for another, the size of the hammer looming above me indicates that my demise will be fairly swift and painless.
No, the worst part about all of this is that I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to my uncle Gadget. To throw my arms around him and tell him just how much he means to me and how I'm going to miss his silly antics in heaven. To thank him for all the times he's made me laugh and wiped away my tears and made me feel safe and smart and special... just by being himself. To wish him luck with all his future cases. To tell him that I love him.
And Brain. Oh, Brain! Talk about a girl's best friend. How I wish I could wrap my arms around his neck and bury my face in his sweet-smelling fur one last time. That dog has been there for me during all the times when my uncle was too busy or distracted to pay attention to me. It breaks my heart to think that I won't get to hear that trademark bark of his or feel his sloppy wet tongue caress my cheek just one last time.
Well, if there's one thing I have to be excited about, it's that I'll get to see my parents again soon. I wonder if my mom still wears that lily-scented perfume she never left our house without, and if she finally got to grow her hair out as long as she wanted now that Locks of Love isn't chasing her down. I'll have to get a good look at my father's eyes- Uncle Gadget always said they were identical to mine, only smaller and with thinner eyelashes. I wonder if he still has rumpled hair and forgets to tuck his shirt in at the waist. I wonder if they'll recognize me right away or if I'll have to introduce myself to them all over again. Wouldn't that be awkward?
With less than two minutes left on the clock, I finally release what little hope of escape I was still holding onto and instead allow my mind to drift back to the first time I told someone my secret.
My school library is the place where I eat lunch and have pretend conversations with my imaginary friends. If that statement didn't make it obvious enough for you, I've never been very popular among my classmates. My advanced intellect often makes me a target for bullying, and all the time I spend investigating crime leaves little room for developing relationships. Ms. Bender, the middle-aged school librarian who's rumored to practice witchcraft in the basement, is one of the few people who appreciates my quirky personality and passion for literature.
It was the day after a particularly rough night of investigating, and I was utterly pooped. After being teased by my classmates for being the only student to receive an A plus on a science project we turned in the week before, I retreated red-faced and sobbing to the library.
Ms. Bender found me crying into the fifth chapter of a Sherlock Holmes book. After brewing a cup of chamomile tea for each of us, she sat down beside me and gently took my trembling hands in her own.
"What's wrong, buttercup?" she asked in her faint southern accent, her kind brown eyes imploring me to pour out my troubles to her.
And so I did. I don't know how it happened, but it all came out right then and there, down to the very last detail. I told her how I was sick of getting picked on for being different and how stressful it was trying to keep up with both schoolwork and detective work and how my uncle could be so clueless at times and how sometimes I just wished my life could be normal for once.
Amazingly, Ms. Bender didn't seem shocked at all by my confession. She sat in silence for several minutes and waited until I cried my last tear before saying something I would never forget.
"Sweetheart," she whispered, her wrinkled mouth curving in a smile as wide as the Mississippi, "I believe God has a plan for all of us, and He's got an extra special one for you. You just keep trusting Him, and it'll all work out for good someday. You'll see, honey. You'll see."
As I mull over Ms. Bender's words again, an inexplicable sense of peace settles over my body. If this is how God intended things to happen, then so be it. I've done everything I can to help my dear uncle Gadget, and despite the bad things that have happened to me along the way, I have no regrets. All the good that has come out of it, the evil plots foiled and the countless lives saved and the sheer enjoyment of following the the footsteps of a man I adore, far outweigh the bad.
In the end, I'm happy with the way things turned out.
One minute left. I close my eyes and wait patiently to meet Mom and Dad.
"Goodbye, Uncle Gadget," I whisper as my head rolls to the side and the gag falls from my lips.
It takes a moment to register what just happened.
The gag! My mouth is free!
I begin shouting as loud as I can, my voice hoarse from being unable to properly swallow for so long. Just because I'm okay with dying doesn't mean I'm going down without a fight.
"Help! Oh, heeeelp! Help, please!"
Ten seconds left. I shake my head and grit my teeth, listening as the clock counts down the final seconds until the hammer's blow.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, to-
Relief floods my body as Brain's familiar bark fills the room, drowning out the droning of the clock. He rushes to the table and unstraps me just as the second hand hits twelve.
Scooping me up in his arms, Brain leaps out of the massive hammer's path just as it crashes down upon the table, splitting it in two.
Sobbing with joy, I throw my arms around Brain's neck and kiss his furry little head all over. Then, linking my arm through his, I stroll out of the room to find Uncle Gadget and continue our marvelous adventures together.
Apparently, God isn't quite finished with me yet.