By the D23 Team
Fans of the Rescue Rangers, meet the Mouse Watch. Under the direction of mouse inventor/all-around genius Gadget Hackwrench, exceptional mice work together as a team to solve BIG problems using SMALL gadgets. Their mission: Save the world from an evil plot orchestrated by the Rogue Animal Thieves Society (R.A.T.S.). Want to know what happens next? Check out this exclusive excerpt from The Mouse Watch by J. J. Gilbert, which is available for pre-order now.
Don’t look down!
It wasn’t just the terrifying drop that bothered Bernie, it was also the fact that the plan she’d come up with to impress her idol, Gadget Hackwrench, wasn’t being recorded by someone she trusted to do it right.
She glanced at her young helper and rolled her eyes.
Being the youngest child in a poor family meant that Bernie knew how to make the most out of a little. The young mouse had been born very sick and although her health improved as she got older, she was still quite small for her age. It was a fact about herself that she hated, but had also learned to live with. And her helper was only a little smaller than she was, even though he was much younger.
Bernie was twelve.
Paul “Poopie” Longtail was only two years old, and Bernie knew that the little tyke wasn’t supposed to be out at night with his babysitter having adventures. She watched as he tried valiantly to hold up a human-size smartphone with his baby-mouse arms, but he was clearly losing the battle.
It was also way past his bedtime.
“Hold it still, Poopie!” shouted Bernie. “Just get this one shot!”
“I… I’m twying,” stuttered Poopie. “Thith themes weally dangerouth Mith Bernadette. Maybe you thould get thome help!”
“No!” said Bernie. “I’ve got this. And please, Poopie, it’s Bernie, not Bernadette.”
“Thorry,” said the baby mouse.
Bernie’s long whiskers twitched in annoyance. She hated her full name. The only time she heard it was when her mother was upset and she was about to get in big trouble.
Her tail was stiff and stuck straight out like a knitting needle, the usual sign that she was angry and about to lose her temper. Most of the time, when this happened, her family ran for cover.
But she wasn’t angry.
She was scared.
The large paper clip she’d brought was attached to a fishing line that extended from the top of a rain gutter to a trash-can lid far below. She knew if she was going to try and get the attention of the most secret and elite mouse organization on the planet, she had to do something amazing… something that would set her apart from other recruits.
A warm wind ruffled her fur and rattled a set of wind chimes in the backyard below. Bernie breathed in the scent of dry earth and chaparral. It was a typical California night in September, but for her this night needed to be anything but that. It needed to be special.
Bernie thought of everything she’d tried so far to get the Mouse Watch’s attention. She’d written letters. She’d created her own channel on MouseTube, the private, secure internet server created by, and for, mice. She’d posted several videos to the Underweb, a little known MouseTube channel that most fans believed the Mouse Watch organization secretly monitored. Bernie had tried doing crazy stunts, attempted to prove her intellect through solving puzzles, and had even resorted to begging in order for them to give her a chance.
So far, nothing had worked.
I’ve gotta make this one count, she thought.
She sighed, remembering all the bumps and bruises that she’d gotten along the way. Good thing “giving up” wasn’t in her nature or she would have quit a long time ago. Coming into the world both sickly and small hadn’t stopped her. Hadn’t she’d surprised everyone, including her parents, with her courageous spirit?
But why hasn’t it worked yet? Bernie wondered. What’s it gonna take to get Gadget to notice me? She glanced down at the ground far below and suppressed a shudder. Would this finally be the thing that did it?
She thought of her older brother, Brody. He would have told her not to give up, and to never take no for an answer.
She missed him so much.
The wind picked up, slightly cooler now, cutting through the camo pants and black special ops sweater that Bernie always wore, a castoff from an old Commander Cody action doll. Her hair, dyed blue and worn high and stiff in the front, always looked windblown whether there was a breeze or not. It also added to her height, and the way she saw it, she could use any help she could get. Usually, the electric-blue color made her feel tough and daring. But the truth was, right now she didn’t feel that way.
Bernie shivered, not from the cold, but from her nerves.
Then, steeling herself, she took a deep breath, adjusted her grip on the paper clip, and called down,
“Are you recording?”
“Yesth!” Poopie lisped. “Ith been on for three minutes! Hurry, Misth Bernie! My armth hurt!”
It was time.
Bernie tried to calm her racing heart. Then, while forcing herself not to think about how crazy she was being, she launched herself forward from the dizzying height and shouted,
“FOR THE WATCH!”
The speed was faster than anything she’d ever imagined. Every muscle in her arms ached as she held on for dear life. The wind howled in her ears and her whiskers were plastered to both sides of her cheeks as she rocketed toward the trash can below.
As she sped down the line, wobbling back and forth, she could see Poopie growing closer, the little tyke struggling to keep the phone from falling over as he recorded the stunt.
The glow of the screen came close.
For a nanosecond, she caught a glimpse of her own terrified but triumphant expression reflected back to her.
Then the fear faded away.
She was right on track.
Her plan was going to work!
All she had left to do was extend her feet and execute a perfect tumble, landing like an Olympic gymnast right in front of the smartphone.
But as it turned out, that idea was much harder than it looked.
Later, when she recalled her inglorious landing, she remembered hearing two voices screaming in perfect pitch. Some part of her brain was amazed that she, a tweenaged mouse, could make a screech that was as high-pitched as a toddler’s.
She remembered a terrifying moment of slipping, sliding, banging, and shouting. Then, the world spun as she and Poopie went flying off the trash can into a thorny rosebush. Miraculously, Poopie landed in the middle of a big rose, and the petals cushioned his fall.
Bernie wasn’t so lucky.
Before everything went black, Bernie remembered hearing her leg crack when she hit the ground and feeling the agonizing pain that shot all the way up her back.
And when she woke up in the hospital, she found that her leg wasn’t the only thing that had cracked. Her parent’s smartphone, a rare, lucky find that they’d scrounged from inside an electronic recycling bin, had shattered on the sidewalk. The phone was the most expensive thing that her family possessed. It served as their wide-screen TV and internet connection to the larger world. It was also the only way Bernie could upload videos so that the Mouse Watch might find out that she existed.
Losing that phone effectively removed her very best (and most dangerous) attempt at impressing her hero, Gadget Hackwrench.
The Mouse Watch would never see the video.
And the hurt Bernie felt at that realization made her broken bone and her bruises pale in comparison.