I do not own the Biker Mice From Mars, but I do own Rave- blah blah blah-
you can use her with permission-ect.ect.ect- sexual implications, graphic-
yadda yadda- I make no profit.
"Yeah, pull the other one." Danni groused, hot, tired, foot
sore and still slightly nauseous from Space Mountain as she leaned, with
the other girls against the side of one of the arcade stands while four
mice did their macho shooting thing in Frontierland.
"Y'know, I was here last year with Tom's youngest kids and this trip bears a striking resemblance." she continued, fluffing the hair off the back of her neck.
"I warned you. I told you last year that nothing has as much energy as these guys." Charley plopped down onto a bench.
"That was before I believed you." Danni defended.
"It's like troopin' around with Energizer bunnies on mass steroids." Rave gasped, trying to wipe the sweat from her brow around the scabbed over mess on the right half of her face. He comment set the other two off, laughing fit to bust.
Vinnie appeared around the corner, a huge grin on his face.
"Energizer bunnies? Good one, Rave." he quipped, then he was gone, leaving them again to resume shooting little metal ducks.
"Hey, Charley, what time is dinner?" Stoker called without making an appearance.
"2 hours, 27 minutes and 40 seconds from now." she replied, glancing at her watch.
"Is it that late already?" Danni seemed surprised.
"Yeah. We've been here 7 hours already. The only parts we've missed were too packed. I still wanna go on Indiana Jones again." piped Rave, which got a quick response from Modo.
"Cool. You wanna go now?" he strolled over.
"Only if you promise: One. No more trying to blow surprises away with your cannon. Two. We get to go on Haunted Mansion next, and Three, no more Small World. We been on that 5 times already." Rave stood in front of him with her feet planted and arms crossed.
"Aww, okay." he blushed.
"Ice cream first!" bellowed Vinnie, pulling Charley up from her seat.
Stoker and Throttle weren't far behind, taking up their `escort' positions on either side of Danni.
By the time they had reached the end of the line for Indiana Jones, they had consumed several ice creams shaped like Mickey's head, much to the delight of Vinnie, who seemed bent on removing each ear in one bite.
"Somethin' sick about that, punk," Stoker decided as he finished his own.
"Nah." Modo spoke up, "He's just slightly bent."
Throttle choked on that, leaning on Danni. Stoker leaned around her back to pound on his.
By the time they got thru the line and off the ride, it was time to eat. Danni, Charley and Rave dragged their unsuspecting significant others to the Blue Bayou, the fanciest place in the park, situated overlooking a good chunk of Pirates of the Caribbean.
They were seated in the darkest corner away from the doors, overlooking the people getting on the ride.
Vinnie jostled Modo, pointing, "Hey. All those other rides y' got off where y' got on. This one, the things' already empty. Where're the people goin?"
"How'n'Hell should I know? Ask Danni." Modo settled himself more comfortably and tried to make sense of the menu.
"Yo, Danni what do they do to the people on this one? I mean, where do they go? They get on, then they're just gone!" Vinnie demanded of Danni, seated opposite him.
"S' matter, Vin-man? Nervous?" Throttle couldn't resist the dig.
"Not." Charley stuck up for her beau, "In fact, we're gonna go on right after we're done."
"We are? I mean, yeah! We are!" Vinnie than sat avidly watching the line.
Sated and content, the seven ambled out of the restaurant into the glory of Disneyland at night. Everything was lit up and aglow.
"Ready to brave the pirates' lair?" queried Rave, her hand in Modo's as they strolled along toward the tunnel entrance.
"Sure am, darlin'. I can't wait." he replied drolly, and glanced back over his shoulder at Vinnie. "Well, son? Ready to see where the people end up?"
"No doubt, no doubt. Ready for anything, bro." Vinnie chirped back, arm around Charley's waist.
"Amazing what a full belly'll do for the faint of heart," Stoker nudged Throttle as they waited for Danni to come out of the bathroom.
Inside, just before the first drop, where the skull proclaims "Dead men tell no tails," Vinnie began bouncing.
"Oh, yeah, oh yeah! Right on!" he whispered loudly, and that was all she wrote. He was in love with the ride. Outside, after they had discovered what happened to the people, Modo, Throttle, and Vinnie were singing the pirate song. Badly. Stoker, his fingers in his ears, winced and said to Charley, "I was never that young. Or that off key."
Rave, getting impatient, demanded, "Now can we go to the Haunted Mansion? We been on everything else."
"Okay, sweetheart. Don't get yer panties in a bunch." Vinnie retorted, and was some what surprised when Charley pinched him, hard.
"Cool yer jets, turbo. She waited patiently all day." she reminded, and he settled, a quiet "Sorry" headed in Rave's general direction.
"S' alright," She returned, "No harm done."
By the time they actually made it into the foyer of the mansion, Rave was telling Modo, "We're not gonna repeat the Matterhorn oopsie, right, lover?" she stared him right in the eye, and he nodded.
"Cross my heart, babe. Relax. The thing just surprised me, reachin' out like that." he promised, and in they went!
Mid Ride, Stoker was a giggling, guffawing fan, even mushed into one car with Danni and Throttle.
Mainstreet, near closing. The throng was like a tide, irresistible and primal. They joined it and were swept out.
"So that was Disneyland, huh?" Throttle posed, staring back into the park.
"Yep. Now do you see the `attraction?'" Danni asked him, her head tilted to one side, arms crossed over her chest.
"Well..." he laughed when she mock-punched him, "Reconfigure the mice, y'know, up the coolness factor, maybe they got somethin," he ruffled her hair.
Stoker scoffed, "Great Good Gods! Has he lightened up?"
Throttle grinned at his compadre and jumped into the R.V.
* * *
"This is our last night here in Cali." Rave mentioned as she stuffed belongings into a backpack.
"So? There somethin' you had in mind?" Modo asked as he unbuckled his boots.
"Nah. Just kinda wishin' we had more time." she said wistfully, scouting the hotel room for any stray belongings.
"What's on yer mind, Raven?" he pulled her gently down beside him on the bed.
"Aww, I dunno. Just... this time with you has been really great, y'know, an' I... I know it'll be over when we get back. You got Chi-town, I got my turf." she leaned her head on his shoulder, his arm going around her.
"It don't have'ta be like that. There's gotta be some happy medium..."
"What, you wanna play house?" she half-joked.
"Well..." he began, but she put her fingers over her mouth.
"We'll burn that bridge when we come to it." she whispered, and pushed him back onto the mattress.
"Gimme some sugar, baby..." she whispered, turning the light off.
"It's about time for me to vamoose, kids. Much as I'd love to stay and hang out, I got responsibilities back on Mars." Stoker informed Danni and Throttle well into the night.
"Well, Stoke, I gotta tell ya, this is definitely the strangest relationship I've ever been in, but it's been great. I'll miss the Hell outta you." Danni hugged him hard, and Throttle cleared his throat.
"Yeah, bro. I never figured on playin' threes with anybody, but, hey, it's been a slice. Come back soon, huh?" Throttle gripped his wrist, then pounded him on the back.
"Same t'you, boy. I'll be back sometime." He rose from the bed and headed to the shower.
"Not to prolong a huge bummer, luv, but I gotta get my ass in gear and head back to real work real soon. I'm not gonna be able to go all the way back to Chicago with you." Danni said quietly.
Throttle covered his shock well. "Why not?" he asked softly.
"Time, babe. It's gonna take a few days there, a few days back, and I gotta be at Warner Studios on the 12th, ready to work." she said softly, not enjoying this.
"But we have the time, Danni. We have the transporter. It's instantaneous. No problem." he pointed out.
"That'll work here, too?" she was incredulous.
"Yeah." he grinned.
"Okay, I'll say good bye in Chicago, then." she grinned back, and began pulling on clothes. Throttle followed her lead, just in time to toss Stoker's to him as he exited the bathroom.
"I'm gonna miss the ridiculous amount of water here, too." Stoker said as he dressed.
They walked in silence out to the R.V. and remained quiet as Stoker radioed a code and activated the mini transporter.
Hey, Stoke, look me up when you come back down," Danni instructed, folding a card into his hand and giving him an end of Casablanca kiss good-bye. Throttle executed the dreaded macho hug with his old mentor, and then he was gone. Just like that.
The radio chirped, and Throttle touched a key.
"Keep yer noses clean an' yer powder dry, kids. See ya." Stoker's voice came faintly, and they signed off.
"Geez, that was unexpected." Danni sulked, until Throttle put his arms around her from behind.
"He hates long, mushy good byes. Very uncool. Maybe next time we'll go visit him. Scandalize Mars." he said, a certain glint in his eye.
"Make your old flame's jaw drop, you mean," she elbowed him in the ribs lightly.
"Yeah, that too." he was honest.
"I can get behind that." she led him back to the room by his tail.
Vinnie woke Charley when the hum of the transporter died away.
"Stoke's gone back." he whispered, to which she responded,
"In the middle of the night? We didn't even get to say..."
"I know." he hushed her, "He hates good byes."
"But...but..." she searched for something to say. Vinnie just kissed her words away, drawing her back down under the blanket.
* * *
Rave and Modo were, miraculously, the first ones out next morning, and laid claim to the R.V. for the day. The truck was unceremoniously junked for $50 first thing and then they were off, Lil'Hos much more comfortable strapped down by herself in the back.
Modo, at the wheel, played caboose to the convoy, driving in silence, which Rave finally broke.
"You're ticked at me." she stated, staring expectantly at him.
"Naw. Just slightly annoyed cuz yer so damn- well- stubborn." he returned.
She thought a moment, then, "You wanna come live in my trailer with me?"
"Kinda far from my home plate, ain't it?" he said, then after a few minutes, "how about you come live in the scoreboard?"
She snorted, "Oh, Throttle's gonna love that."
"Yeah, I see yer point. Kinda hard for the likes a' you `n' me t' get a home loan."
"Or a lease." she reciprocated.
"So that leaves us where?" he wanted to know.
"About five hours drive from each other." she shrugged. "It's not so far."
"I'd like t' be able t' see you more'n once a month." he growled.
"We could trade off weekends. I'll come to Chi fer one, you come t' Minneapolis next- like that." she looked over to him.
"I guess. Fer now." he shook a finger at her. She bit at it playfully.
"You'll chip your teeth on that one." he laughed, his metal fingers cool one the side of her neck as he stroked it. She joined him in laughing, and relaxed for the first time since they took off that morning.
"You know, I'd kind of like to see the Grand Canyon on the way back." Charley said at lunch, toying with her coleslaw.
"Yeah?" Vinnie grinned across at her.
"Okay, I'll bite. What's that when it's at home?" Modo asked in between pieces of popcorn that Rave lobbed into his mouth from across the picnic table.
"Only the coolest, biggest, deepest natural canyon on dry land." Charley enthused, "It's supposed to be awesome- y'know, beautiful..."
"Right. Natural land marks to see on the way home. Check." Throttle laughed, dodging a handful of popcorn which Rave launched at him.
"Mr. Too Cool, how about if I nominate the Carlsbad Caverns?" Danni added with a little bite to his shoulder.
"How about you darlin'?" Modo encouraged Rave as she stared off into space. He didn't respond, just sat as if tranced.
"Rave? Raven?!!" Modo waved hid hands in front of her face.
"Huh?" she shook her head, "What? Sorry-zoned out."
"What's your vote for scenic tours of America?" Modo repeated.
"Hmmm... I'd have to say that dinosaur mountain museum, whatever, Montana, North Dakota, somethin' like that." Rave finally elaborated to which everyone else groaned.
"Sounds way too educational for me, Ms. Blackstone, ma'am", giggled Vinnie, who then received the same as Throttle, a shower of popcorn.
"Just `cuz yer head's hollow, Vin, don't mean y' can't fill it with something." Modo laughed, ducking as Vinnie lobbed the remnants of his chips at him.
"Awright! Throw down! Guys against girls!" howled Charley, pelting any mouse in range with chips, pretzels, and whatever else was near to hand.
In the end, neither side won, since they all ran out of ammo eventually. As the melee came to an end, Modo, who had fallen on his rump from laughing so hard, said, "So, did we decide where to go?"
"I dunno. Did we?" Charley looked around at the others.
"Well, I'm with drawing suggestion, cuz it'll take too long. I'm gonna wanna spend a couple of days there," Rave brushed crumbs and bits of food off herself, then went to pull Modo up off the ground. He declined and pulled her down on top of himself, tickling her.
"Just you'n' me'll go sometime, Rave," he whispered, and she writhed around to plant a little smooch on his nose.
"Okay, so where are the other two places?" throttle asked, glancing back and forth between Danni and Charley.
"Uh, Grand Canyon's in Arizona," Charley volunteered, and Danni offered, "Carlsbad's in New Mexico."
"All right. Those're in the right general direction, I guess," Vinnie nodded, dragging the map he had driven Charley crazy with on the trip west from her saddlebag, where she had hidden it.
"Oh, God, not the damn map," Charley moaned, covering her face with both hands, "I knew I shoulda burned that."
"But we need a map, sweetheart!" Vinnie defended, trying to spread it out over the table top.
"We need someone with a sense of direction, Vin," Throttle informed him silkenly, lifting the paper and sweeping the table clear and into the trash can before replacing it.
"Humph!" Vinnie huffed, nose in the air and arms folded. He unbent momentarily, enough to join the others in their planning session over the much abused, crumply map.
* * *
That night as they camped at a rest stop in Arizona that looked exactly identical to every other rest stop off an interstate in the continental U.S., they grumbled tiredly and halfheartedly about once again being squashed together until Danni piped up, "Hey, it gets freakin' cold in the desert at night. Be glad we're not just sleeping on bedrolls out in the open ."
Her statement shut them all up long enough for sleep to claim them.
By the time everyone was up and ready the next morning, Charley was raring to go, hustling everyone else along with reminders like: "Only two hours till the Grand Canyon!"
"Babe, its been there forever, it'll be there long enough for us to have some breakfast before we take off." Vinnie yawned, pulling the tarp off his bike and wiping off the stray dew drops that had the bad taste to mar its paint.
"Yeah, we'll get there, girlfriend," Rave stretched and rubbed at her eyes, cursing mildly as she brushed away sleep and scab residue.
"Looks better every day, Raven," Modo assured her folding their pull down bed back up into its wall housing.
"Y'think? I haven't had the heart to look," she replied, pulling her boots on.
"Really. I didn't think it had a chance in Hell of healin' as nice as it has," Throttle seconded before exiting the motor home to get his bike and Danni's ready to be tied down, it being their day to drive the "beast".
By the time they actually reached the state park, Rave had fallen back to sleep on the back of Modo's bike , clinging to him like some mutant papoose. She woke when forward motion ceased.
"Rise and shine, darlin', We're here," He called, patting her left leg.
"Wow, history repeats itself, " she mumbled, referring to their first encounter.
"Ha ha, " he replied, "just don't point me at a microwave."
"Don't I just know it." she dead panned, miming a shove in his direction.
"Let's just go help Charley admire the scenery," Danni interjected, walking up arm in arm with Throttle.
"Yeah, then, with any luck we can make Carlsbad by tomorrow night," Throttle joined in, wondering aloud,"Anybody takin' odds on findin' a fleabag motel ?"
"I'm thinkin'....yeah," Vinnie supplied, trotting up with Charley in tow.
"That makes it unanimouse," Charley giggled, and everyone stared before breaking up completely.
Thanks in large part to Danni's seemingly inexhaustible supply of disposable cameras, the day's idyllic events were recorded for posterity. They called it quits when darkness fell at about 4:30. Vinnie, grimacing at the sky, which was rapidly filling with ominous looking clouds, made the observation, "Remember those odds you wanted on a motel,Bro?"
* * *
By noon the next day, they were annoyed. By nightfall, annoyance had turned to apathy. The storm that had been brewing had come on full force, sleet and rain falling in sheets thick as lead.
"Blah," commented Danni as she sat dispiritedly in a wretched little laundromat, seeing to the group's cleanliness.
"Huh. A woman's work is never done," Charley responded, chin on hands, watching the clothes swirl around in a glass door washer.
"Only because y'can't trust a man to do it without screwing up and coming back with Barbie clothes," Danni seconded, banging the back of her head ever so gently against the window, her hands jammed down into the pockets of the only baggy pants she owned.
"Not so glam today, huh, cuz?" Charley raised an eyebrow.
"Nah. All my yummy clothes are either back at your place or in the wash."
They fell back into silence. Eventually Vinnie wandered in from next door at the 5 and dime, where he had been playing pinball.
"Ladies!" he crowed, and they turned as one from folding the last load.
"You don't look thrilled to see me," he pouted.
"If you had been here to help sort the yucky drawers, we might feel a bit more charitable toward you," Charley sniffed, snapping a t-shirt at him.
"Safer for me not to touch anything. Safer for the clothes,too. Remember, sweetheart?" he sidled up to her, hopeful for a reprieve.
"Oh, you. Carry this stuff to the R.V., huh?" she aimed a kiss in his general direction as she handed him a stack of clothes.
Back at the ranch- er, fleabag motel, Modo was vacillating, to play his three queens or not. Rummy was the game of the hour, and, contrary to the opinions of the mice, it could be and was being played quietly.
"Rummy!" he announced, slapping down a deuce instead. He looked expectantly to Throttle, who drew a card and shook his head
Rave appeared ready to pounce, but was forestalled by the door flying open, sending in a gust of wind driven rain, scattering the cards.
"Shit!" Rave yelled, uncoiling from her seat at the end of the bed and securing the offending portal. She glared out the window at the leaden sky, jumping as a fork of lightning slashed down, very close by. An enormous crash of thunder came close on it's heels, drowning all other sound for a moment.
"Hot damn," Throttle marveled, coming to stand behind her, peering over her shoulder.
"It was a dark and stormy night.." Modo intoned ominously from the bed, his voice an octave lower than usual. The other two simply turned and stared.
"Tell me hie did not say that," Throttle demanded of Rave.
"Oh, yeah. He said it. Them's fighting' words, Mr. Biker,"she took a gunslinger's stance, then rushed him, leaping up, not only onto the bed, but him, grabbing a pillow as she landed. She began smiting him mightily with the aforementioned pillow, and he tried to fend her off, laughing heartily. Throttle just rolled his eyes and turned on the T.V.
"Flash flood warnings have been issued for all low lying areas, and all non-emergency traffic is being re-routed by local and state police. People are requested to remain indoors and off the roads until..."
Throttle turned the T.V. back off and considered joining the pillow fight, but turned instead to the door as it banged open again. This time a physical, rather than an elemental agency was responsible. Danni, Charley, and Vinnie trooped in, soaked and frozen, but carrying clean clothes in big plastic grocery bags, and equally big bags of fast food.
"We love you!" the three dry individuals sang, then took their loads and helped remedy the cold and wet problems of their friends and loved ones.
"So I guess Carlsbad's out," Danni sighed, flipping channels to find a news show.
Throttle just pulled a pillow over his head.
"C'mon, Fuzzy-butt, gotta get up, get moving," she urged, trying to decide about the sweatshirt, leather jacket combo she had set out.
"Nope, not even close," he mumbled sleepily.
"Up, now, or I'm gettin' the wet towel," she threatened mock severely, deciding that comfort was better than fashion and opting for the combo as is.
"He sat up zombie-like and groaned, "I don't wanna ride in the rain,"
"Rain's stopped for now, handsome. We gotta go." she dropped clean clothes for him on the end of the bed and grinned as he flopped back down.
Despite the rain, or perhaps because of it, they made excellent time, making Texas by night fall. Charley, in charge of the motorhome, deftly piloted the land barge into the parking lot of the first Super 8 motel she saw after crossing into the Lone Star State, shaking Vinnie into wakefulness.
"We're here, Vin." she said, leaning over to kiss his cheek.
"Home?" he queried groggily.
"No, loon. A motel. We're in Texas."
The following day dawned, bright and sunny, and marked a breakthrough in traveling plans.
"It's what?" demanded Danni, totally unprepared.
"It's the eleventh, babe." Throttle announced, again.
"Shit! Dammit!" she hollered, pissed off royally. "How the Hell did I let the days slip by!?"
"Time flies when you're having fun?" Throttle couldn't resist, grinning impishly at her.
"Oh, very cute." she seethed, and began grabbing things and stuffing them into her saddle bags.
"Hey! Hey, ease back, Danni. We're cool. We've got time, remember?" he took hold of her shoulders and shook her gently.
"Okay. Okay. Yeah." she drew in a deep breath.
"C'mon, babe. We can get some breakfast, get you packed, and then send you thru the transporter. You'll make it just fine." he soothed, hugging her tight.
Modo watched, sleepily rubbing his eye, as Raven did some very wierd things. She called it yoga, and he had never seen anybody twist and bend in such a way.
"You haven't done this around me before, darlin'." he marvelled as she stood on one foot and bent at the waist, bringing her other foot straight up behind her and, bending her knee, placed her toes on the back of her head.
"It hurt too much to do till now. I gotta get back in shape." she replied serenely.
"Looks good from here." he returned.
"Voyeur!"she laughed good-naturedly, releasing the pose.
"Yeah. I could watch you do this all day."
"Charley!" Vinnie yelled unable to find his pants.
"On the radiator!" she yelled back from the bathroom, the water running.
"How does she do that?" he wondered aloud, as he often did. Then it struck him; she knew him better than he knew himself. He shook his head and retrieved his clothing, putting them on, then searching for his boots.
"In here, Vin!" she called, and he just grinned.
Danni hugged her cousin, then Rave, then the mice, each in turn, till she got to Throttle. She smiled into her own reflection in his shades, then took them off. He blinked, then surrendered into her embrace.
"Gonna miss you." she whispered, then let him go.
"Well, as the saying goes, it's been swell, but the swelling's gone down. I will be back. Count on it." she said to all around, then rolled her hog onto the transport disk.
"Do me, baby," she winked at Throttle, and he did, before he replaced the sunglasses on his face.
"Well, shit." Rave said unhappily, "Now we're outnumbered again."
* * *
"Y'know, I kinda lie this `on the road' stuff." Modo remarked, off handedly as he once again drove the R.V.
"It's not so bad when you can stay in a motel, or this thing. Really sucks in a car, tho." Rave returned, squinting at the map unfolded across the dash in front of her.
"I bet." He reached over and pointed to a spot.
"You are here." he informed her.
"Need an X to mark the spot, y'know?" she growled. "We're nearly home." she supplied, and he glanced at her.
"And?" he finally asked.
"Nothin'. Just thinkin'."
The Big sign, reading: "Now Entering Chicago, Ill." and the population number was a sight for Charley's sore eyes. She needed to get back to her business, her belongings, and her bed.
"I'll be glad to have my own stuff around me." she told Vinnie over the helmet mic.
"Yeah, beautiful. I like motels and all, but it's not for me." he responded.
The road crested over a hilltop, and Chicago lay sprawled before them, a layer of smog over it like a haze. And a layer of smoke, and a smell.
"Oh, no." Throttle groaned, "We're hosed. He made it back before we did."
"Damn." Modo snarled, surveying the mess. "Let's scope out the damage."
"It figures, don't it?" Charley moped, "Just when you think it's safe to leave for two weeks, the shit hits the fan."
They drove on, and their worst expectations were confirmed. Pot holes the size of city busses were gorged out of the streets, buildings were half demolished or on fire, and the city appeared deserted.
"This is definitive Bad Craziness." Modo stated, a pinched, grim look on his face.
"Son of a bitch must pay." Raven said quietly from beside him, and for once, he had to agree.
Finally, Charley's street. Then Charley's address. Nothing but a smoking pile of rubble.
"NOOOOO!" Charley screamed, leaping off her bike and stumbling forward. Where her double roll up doors had been, a twisted, half melted tangle of steel lay.
She fell to her knees in the debris and wailed.
Vinnie, a look like hell itself on his face, ran to her and picked her up. She buried her face in his shoulder and just sobbed, "It's over....it's gone..."
"Get her outta here." Vinnie growled, shoving Charley into
Rave's arms, where she stood, barely.
Rave hustled Charley into the R.V. and closed the door, watching as the mice roared off. She ground her teeth in frustration, but turned to helping Charley adjust.
"It's gone. My whole adult life - gone." Charley moaned, rocking back and forth. Rave wrapped a thick blanket around her shoulders, made sure she was settled, and jumped back out the doors, glaring at the property that used to be the Last Chance Garage. Hands stuffed deep into her pockets, she trudged around the wreckage, then into it, trying to remember the layout. Then she began digging.
Three very angry mice screeched to a halt in the exact spot where Limburger Tower should have been. It wasn't.
"What the hell..." Throttle was incensed even more. How could he fight something that wasn't there?
"This ain't right. What if them stinkfish sent somebody tougher to beat than ol' drippy drawers?" Modo pondered, shading his eye with one hand and surveying the area.
Vinnie said nothing. He glowered, he hopped off his ride and stalked around the ex-perimeter of the tower, searching for any hint of Plutarkian presence. "This is bullshit." he finally spat, and, collecting his bike, took off toward his woman. The other two shared a look of complete understanding and followed.
Rave was shoulder deep in the remains of the garage when they returned, and Vinnie barked, "What's wrong with you? Why aren't you taking care of Charley?"
"Hey, ease off." Modo backed him down - a bit.
"Charley's inside, and I'm being more useful here. Her important papers an' money're in that lock box. If we can find it, maybe we can be of some real help. You go hold her hand, Vincent, I'm trying to find her peace of mind." Raven snapped back, her face and hands filthy, her clothes trashed.
Vinnie chilled, ashamedly muttering, "Sorry, I'm just edgy. Thanks." before slipping into the R.V. Throttle and Modo waded in to help in the search.
"That was good thinking, Raven." Throttle commended her, giving her a pat on the back.
"I just don't have a real good bedside manner. After holding a hand for five minutes, I get bitchy and tell people. `Hey, get over it'." she shrugged, digging again.
"I hope the damn thing survived," was Modo's only comment, but he gave a little tug on Rave's braid as he passed her.
"It should. It's a little safe. They're supposed to be real tough." she grinned back at him.
By the time they had finally excavated the box slightly scorched and very dented, Charley was pulled together enough to make an appearance. She was pale and wan, but perked up considerably when Modo hefted up the two foot by two foot square safe and showed it to her.
"Thanks, you guys. This really saves my butt." she sniffled, tucked neatly into the crook of Vinnie's arm. He no longer looked like a class clown. He looked protective, he looked adult. He also looked mean.
"Who has the key?" she looked to each of them, expectantly. Throttle finally looked up at the sky. "Stoker."
"You're kidding, right?" Charley's face fell. Throttle had a really chagrined expression on his face.
"I'm..." he began, but Rave cut him off.
"Don't sweat it." she grinned, a gleefully sly gleam in her eyes. She began going thru her pockets, eventually extracting a slime leather case.
"Just a holdout from my misspent youth." she explained, enjoying the dropped jaw looks from everyone. Then she got to work, on her knees in front of the box. Every so often, she would let out a curse and trade one of the lock picks for another from the case, but for the most part, she just concentrated on her work, eyes closed, tongue poked between her teeth. Just when Modo was about to break the heavy silence by suggesting a crowbar, she sat back on her heels with a loud "Aha!" that made them all jump. With a flourish, she flipped open the top.
"Yes!" Modo high fived Rave, and Charley took Rave's place in front of the box.
"Cash, bank books, ledgers, paper work...oh, yeah! Insurance. I'm gonna just have to rebuild. If that piece of shit fish can rebuild, so can I!" Charley cheered.
The others joined her, and helped pack up the box and its contents into the R.V.
"Scoreboard?" Vinnie suggested, and they headed to Quigley field.
Quigley field was still there. The scoreboard, however, was not. I huge sign across the entrance to the stadium advised the general public: UNDER CONSTRUCTION.
Three mice sat in stunned silence on their trusty steeds, helmets off, faces utterly blank.
"We've got nowhere to go." Throttle finally stated, flatly. He hung his helmet on his handle bar and slouched, fuming.
"They really upped the ante this time." Modo commented, rubbing the back of his neck, "We got no base to fall back to. We got no..."
"Limits." Rave supplied, walking up to stand beside him.
"Huh?" They all turned to stare at her, totally glazed over.
"You got no more limits. No more home plate to guard. They don't know where to find you to hit you. A moving target is the least easy to hit, right? So now you guys are really mobile. Strike and run. Odds are, they've just moved their hidey-hole. Find it and you're one up on'em. Keep shifting your asses, you're two up on'em. Can't nail what you can't see." Rave shrugged, outlining her life style of the past several years.
A slow, unpleasant smile grew on Vinnie's face, and he nodded.
"But we've always had a bolt hole, a safe haven, even when we were at war on Mars." Throttle was thoughtful.
"Maybe that's why this fight's gone on so long." he finally admitted, and Modo sniffed, deep in consideration. "Maybe it's time to become a little less civilized." the tan mouse finished quietly.
Limburger sat gloating loudly in a huge, golden chair festooned with pillows. In front of him, in a mismatched array, several video monitors displayed the gutting of downtown Chicago, each screen showing a different area in various states of demolition.
"Karbunkle, my dear debauched doctor, do be so kind as to fetch me a fresh bowl of slime worms and send our current load of Earth to Plutark." he cooed, wiggling his fingers at the hunched henchman.
"Of course, your esteemed excrecense." Karbunkle snarled, glaring daggers at the Plutarkian. He performed the menial chores, then slunk away, neglecting to inform Limburger that he had noticed the return of the mice. Karbunkle hid a nasty smile as he slunk away, overjoyed that vengeance would soon be his, and the mice would execute it for him. He had plans for Lawrence Limburger.
The nondescript looking, if enormous R.V. pulled to the curb outside The Zip Gun, Charley's pal's bar. She quickly climbed out, noticing the emptiness of the place.
Ducking inside, she called into the dark, "My? Myron?"
"In the back!" came the reply, and she trotted to the back room. Myron was there, but he didn't look like he'd be staying long. Everything was packed up.
"What's happening?" she demanded, and her friend stopped his industry to answer.
"Pretty lady, everything's gone to hell in a hand basket. I'm outta business. Most everybody's gone from this part'a town, building's're bein' condemned and torn down left an' right... Bad Craziness. Some developer bought a few well placed city officials, an' boom! They're calling it `urban renewal', but I'm thinkin' it's..." he broke off and stared at Vinnie, silhouetted in the doorway.
"Limburger." he finished, that new, dangerous person coming out in his voice. Myron just shrugged and went back to his work.
"D'you know where this developer is? Where the `main office' is? Vinnie pursued, a hard, cold note in his tone.
"Yeah. New commercial building where the old police station used to be. Big complex, seemed to pop up overnight." Myron informed them, ready to dolly the last load out the back door.
"Thanks, My. You take care." Charley said sadly, and hugged him. His craggy face softened, and, for a brief moment he looked close to tears, then he clammed up, gave her an awkward pat and a peck on the cheek, then took his leave.
"Damn. He was a good friend." she mourned, then putting more steel in her spine, she lifted her chin and faced Vinnie.
"No more pussy footing around. No more letting the bad guys off light." she said softly, and he nodded, jaw tight.
"This is the final round, babe." he replied, and they headed back out the front, not exactly touching, not needing to.
Modo slept curled up on the back bunk. Rave gently untangled herself from him and slipped away, after pulling the blanket up over his shoulder and tucking it in. She grabbed her coat from the seat of his bike, which peeped at her, quietly.
"Sshhhh!" she put her finger to her lips, winked and gracefully wound her way out of the R.V., silent as a ghost.
Outside, a totally unobtrusive trailer park, into which they had disappeared. Rave shivered and stuffed hands deep into pockets. She squared her shoulders and headed off to do what she did best.
Two hours later, she was riding the interface in an all night, on-line coffee house, her long fingers flying over the keyboard. She printed whatever she found as she hacked Limburger's supposedly secure system, which was standard Plutarkian crap, the same as the Minneapolis boss' security. Once she had learned a little Plutarkian, it had been a snap. In and out, no muss, no fuss, no traces. She logged off with a tiny sigh of satisfaction, collected her printouts from the desk, and became a phantom in the night again.
She walked quickly, ducking up alleys at random, over roofs via fire escape, and then cut straight for the trailer park and her favorite Martian. No one was following her, but she wanted to get back into the habit of staying alive. As she snuck in the door, pulling it softly closed behind her, she looked up to see Throttle, Modo, Vinnie, and Charley, all staring and tapping fingers, toes, or tails in annoyance.
"Is this what yer parents are supposed to look like when y'come home late from a date?" she demanded, and Throttle graced her with the "we are not amused" stare over the rims of his shades.
"We were worried," Charley began, but Vinnie stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.
"You should have told somebody you were going." he said quietly, almost crossly.
"Yer not my dad, Vin." Rave was starting to become irked, annoyed that she hadn't at least left a note, annoyed that they were calling her on the carpet for it. She had lived alone too long for this.
"We're supposed to be a team, Raven." Throttle interjected, looking straight at her, and then he just left, went back to his own bunk.
Her jaw locked, her spine went ram rod straight and her eyes narrowed. She pulled the papers from her back pocket and flung them on the floor, turned on her heels, and stalked out, slamming the door shut.
"Aww, shit." Modo finally said something, wrapped a blanket over his head and shoulders like a cloak, and stomped out after her.
Vinnie groused while Charley bent and collected the sheaf of papers Rave had thrown down, "That woman needs a big attitude adjustment. She coulda been followed, she coulda been jumped; If they caught her, our whole unit coulda been in jeopardy - she's a psyco- a liability..."
"She's a genius." Charley shut him up.
"Huh?" was Vinnie's brilliant reply. He looked slightly dazed.
"These're Limburger's private files, plans for demolitions, proposed excavation sites dated next week, the works. This is his whole operation, in a nutshell." Charley beamed, and added, "and his personal itinerary, where he'll be and with whom for the next two weeks."
Throttle had materialized behind her as she read, and gently removed the papers from her hand, scanning them quickly.
"How in Hell did she do this?" he rasped, then his shoulders drooped. "Fight smarter, not hotter." he quoted Danni, and massaged his forehead with his left hand, his right clutching the papers.
"Ooops?" Vinnie looked sheepish, more like his old self, and Charley hugged him.
Modo came back in, royally pissed. He glared at them all equally, tossed the blanket on the floor, and unhitched his ride, sending it out the double wide door.
"What is it?" Charley finally asked, and recoiled as Modo swung back around to face her. She had never seen that look on his face, fury and desolation.
"She's gone." he growled, and exited the R.V., not even waiting for so much as a peep from any of them.
"Shit." Throttle had the urge to start pacing, but the confines of the motor home were too cramped. He grimaced and followed Modo out. Vinnie and Charley tagged along.
"We can't all go haring off after her," Vinnie pointed out, and Throttle looked at him as if he had suddenly started speaking in tongues.
"Either you're real sick, or your brain is finally full of something besides your ego." Throttle finally said, and Vinnie just shrugged, "What ego?"
Charley covered her face with her hands, pretending to blow on them to hide her laughter. She knew Vinnie had had this in him, but she hadn't expected to see it surface so soon. Or so much. He was testing his wings, so to speak.
"I wouldn't know where to look anyway." Throttle admitted, and crouched down, staring at the papers still in his hand.
"We need to go over this stuff. When Modo brings her back, we can apologize, but we need to start planning."
Modo had finally found her. More accurately, she had let him find her. Her anger had cooled quickly, and she felt foolish about her tantrum.
He had been cruising alleys slowly, and stopped abruptly at a sharp, loud whistle. Looking up, he saw her perched halfway up the side of yet another condemned building, her clothes blending in almost perfectly with the urban decay around her. He could only see her hair, which disappeared under a knit cap before she slipped down the ladders of the fire escape.
"You really do just fade away." he complimented, a little lame.
"Yup." she wasn't going to help him.
"We really were worried." he added, head cocked to one side.
"I guess so." no assist there, either.
"Well, dammit, Raven, we're a single unit. We say something, generally, so people know we're going..." he faltered, thinking back to how he met her. She ignored his embarrassment and took over with a sharper tone.
"I've never been a part of a `unit'. I've never been on a `team', or a gang, or part of a family, so hey, forgive me if I don't know the etiquette of asking permission to do a thing. Besides, none of you could have helped me out."
"Oh? I don't even know where you were, what you were doing..." he raised his eyebrows and waited for her to fill in the blanks.
"Information retrieval. Hacking Plutarkian computer codes." she supplied, some what defensive.
"You said something about that when we first met. How?" he gave her a hand up onto the back of his ride.
"To get Muenster in Minneapolis, I had to do a lot of serious code breaking and pirating. I had to learn a certain amount of Plutarkian, and then figure out what passes for writing the language. After that, it was easy. Their arrogance kinda precludes any creativity in computer security. It's all the same." she informed him, curling her hands in his fur. His tail took it's accustomed place around her waist, and off they went.
Their arrival found the others burning the midnight oil over the data she had collected, and Vinnie was the first to apologize.
"Sorry I was an asshole." he offered with a goofy grin, and she punched him in the arm, none too gently.
"I'll get over it." she assured him, and gave a flaky half salute to Throttle before doffing her coat and cap and joining them. Modo sat close to her, their legs touching.
"So whaddaya got there?" the grey giant asked softly, glancing at each in turn.
"Bro, we got game." Throttle grinned, tipping an imaginary hat to Rave in a semi-apology.
"Life - is just a - bowl of - slime worms..." sang Limburger as he pranced happily into his boudoir, his orange and purple striped silk bathrobe flapping ludicrously about his ankles. He twirled his human mask around on one webbed finger and continued humming as he slithered into his ostentatiously huge bed and cuddled down, his own rancid aroma soothing him into dreams of avarice.
Elsewhere in the new, one story, sprawling complex, Karbunkle was stewing in his lab, poking the ever masochistic Fred with a whole tray of unpleasant looking instruments.
"More!" pleaded Fred, as a printout caught the doctor's attention, causing him to desist the aimless torture.
"More." demanded Fred again, and Karbunkle casually flung a scalpel at the mutant, piercing his third eye, knocking him off the lab table to the floor.
"Thanks..." Fred sighed, twanging the end of the embedded blade.
"Oh, rapture..." Karbunkle cooed to himself, noting the breakin to Limburger's private files. He personally torched the evidence, the only proof the break in had occurred, and hugged himself as it burned.
"Hey, gimme a break." Rave waved her arms as though clearing the air. The others backed off a discreet distance and watched as she manipulated radio dials, typed in commands, and basically fought with the Plutarkian technology arrayed in front of her. The mini transporter behind her hummed on, then off.
"Shit. Wrong glyph, huh?" she raised her eyebrow at Modo, who grinned back at her and shrugged.
"We're gonna have to move after this. They could trace the signal to us with triangulation, so..." Charley advised.
"Yup. Hit and Run." Rave muttered, fingers busy.
"What, if anything, is this gonna accomplish?" Vinnie wanted to know, cup of coffee permanently grafted to his hand.
"You hate that stuff." Throttle pointed out, wrinkling his nose at the distinctive aroma.
"Caffeine, bro. Gift O' the bean." Vinnie returned, sipping the nearly white beverage.
"Yeah, with half a cup of sugar and a pint of cream to kill the taste." Charley needled.
"Well..." Vinnie grinned, and downed the cup.
"Blah." was Throttle's comment.
"To answer yer question, bro, this is basically confusion to our enemies. Ms. Hacker here," he pointed at Rave, "is going to input contradictory orders about demolitions and excavations. The orders will give us a chance to sabotage the machines when they're not looking, and drag the bad guys out into the open. See, the orders are gonna be in Plutarkian, just like everything else in their central computer, and no one the wiser." Modo was some what puffed up with pride over his lady's accomplishments, when Raven herself growled, "Awww, shit."
Everyone leaned in close, "What?"
"Well, it's a glitch. Their program, not ours. It accepted the orders, but changed the order in which it accepted them."
"Is that gonna scrap the plan?" Vinnie was apprehensive, finally losing the huge coffee cup.
"No - the orders were in random sequence anyway, but..." Rave began, and Modo breathed a sigh of relief.
"Yer just a perfectionist." he ribbed her.
"Throttle, you wanna go disconnect our borrowed phone line?" Rave asked after making a rude face at Modo, and stretched.
"Right." His tail was a flash of tan as he darted out the door and onto the roof of the R.V. He was back in in a minute, and hopped into the driver's seat. In a few moments, the computer and radio area was stowed, Modo and Rave were outside on his bike, and the others holding on for dear life. With no more ado, they left.
Modo had bowed to necessity and was enveloped in a less than cool looking but very warm parka, and Rave stuffed her hands into his pockets instead of his fur. He missed that.
"Where to?" he called back over his shoulder, and Rave stood on her pegs to answer in the open visor of his helmet, "Head to the south side! Find a crappy motel!" she directed, and settled back to the seat. The others followed them.
In Limburger's command center, the computers whirred to life for a moment, processing new input, and no one noticed. All was silent, and the machines died down to their usual subliminal hum.
Dawn broke on - nothing. The scheduled demolitions never happened, and the excavators, huge Plutarkian digging machines, began taking large chunks out of Limburger's complex, they were, of course, completely computer automated.
Limburger spent the whole morning sending most of his staff via transporter to the Plutarkian slave pens, and then trying to replace them. Rave's encrypted virus commands were never discovered, and remained buried in data files, waiting to finish their work.
Karbunkle stayed far away from his employer, preferring to bully Greasepit, who had been demoted to janitor, why, no one, knew, since he spewed oil where ever he was supposed to be cleaning.
Around noon, Vinnie emerged from the room he and Charley occupied, alone. He surveyed the silence around him, stretched, and yawned, then trudged across the street alone to the Dairy Queen. He returned with trays full of junk food, and kicked at the bottom of Modo and Rave's door. The door creaked open, and Rave sleepily relieved him of a tray with a mumbled, "Thanx, man,".
The white hero then deposited a tray in front of his and Charley's room, and trudged out to the R.V. where Throttle had elected to stay, in the parking lot. After he had made his delivery, he disappeared back into his room. No one stirred till nightfall, when they regrouped in the R.V.
"How do we know if it worked - uh, is working?" Vinnie wanted to know, and Throttle turned on the radio, zeroing in on Limburger's frequency.
"We eavesdrop, Vincente', we snoop. By avoiding own usual tactics, we keep heat off of us." Throttle explained, then turned to Charley, who was listening on the headset. She gave him a grin and a thumbs-up!
"We've never been afraid `a heat before." Piped Modo, braiding Rave's hair for her.
"Yeah, but this one's not about stalemate, bro. This one's about finishing the dance. For good." Vinnie supplied, leaning his hip against the chair Charley occupied.
" `Kay. Got that. Next step?" Modo tied off the end of Rave's braid and pulled her back against him, arms around her.
"Next step should be taking out his support while my viruses keep screwing up his production." Rave volunteered, her hands over Modo's.
"Okay, how?" Vinnie returned, giving her his full attention, as did Throttle.
"What are you willing to do? How far are you willing to go?" she demanded, and pulled away from Modo so she could turn and gaze at him.
"I don't follow." Throttle grew suspicious, and grim.
"The question is simple, dude. What are you willing to do to win?" she stared at him alone now, and even Charley took off the headset, feeling the tension in the room mount.
"I'll do what I have to." he evaded, knowing with absolute certainty what she was referring to.
"If you mean kill, we've had to do that. In battle." Vinnie told her, hugging himself as though cold.
"I don't mean in the heat of battle. I mean cold, calculated strikes. Can you do it?" she prompted, and got empty eyes staring back. Her gaze locked with Throttle's.
"I don't know." Throttle finally admitted, and the others backed him.
"Then what do you want to do?" she relented, not moving her eyes from the stare down.
"Capture, for trial back on Mars." he sighed with relief.
"Unrealistic, but it's your call. Next question. What are our acceptable losses? Who's expendable?"
"No one!" bellowed Modo, so tense he was vibrating.
"Also unrealistic. That's why you've been at stalemate for so long." she said softly, and Throttle swung away, unable to continue looking into those cold, uncompromising grey eyes any longer.
"Could you?" Charley spat, disliking the whole conversation intensely. Rave gave a long, sad look and whispered, "Yeh. I have."
"The bounty." Vinnie murmured, and goggled at her.
"I wanted revenge. I wanted justice. When no one would help, us orphan kids who were left took it for ourselves." she stated, and rose, walking toward the door. She stopped and turned to them.
"I don't care much for religion at all, but one thing written in the bible has stayed with me since I was 9. `An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life!" she walked out and let them think, while she headed for a shower.
"Whoo." Vinnie sagged against the wall, and Throttle had crossed his arms and was trying to pace in about a two foot square space. Modo had his eye shut and seemed to be holding his breath.
"She may be right." Charley broke the tableau, and her response was, "Huh?" in a chorus of three.
"She may be right." she reiterated. She stood slowly, and stared at the closed R.V. door. "We have been hedging our bets. Playing hardball, yes, but..."
"But not taking that last step. I still don't know if I could just...kill someone. I - really don't want to know." Modo interjected, his eye still closed. He continued, "I never thought I could love somebody who could." his jaw tightened, "I guess - I thought wrong."
Throttle said nothing, just watched Modo get up and follow Rave's path to the room. He looked tired.
"She's a sociopath." Throttle decided quietly.
"Yeh, but she's still right." Charley sighed and patted Vinnie's shoulder. He shook his head, patting her hand right back.
"She may be right, but I - won't do that. In a stand up fight, to save my own skin, or my bros, or yours, yeah. No way am I am assassin." he looked pale, if a white mouse could look pale; more of a tightness around his eyes and mouth.
"Kinda harsh, don't ya think, darlin'?" Modo asked quietly, sitting on the lid of the commode and washing Rave's back. He rinsed and she leaned back in her bath before answering.
"There's only one way to say a really unpleasant thing. You get it over with - just come right out and say it."
"But Raven -"
"Look, Mr Biker. Life's hard. It's dirty, and nasty, and it hurts, but sometimes you find something good in it, and you don't want it destroyed." she ducked her head under water so she wouldn't have to talk anymore.
Modo reached in and pulled her up by her forelock.
"I love you too, Raven." he told her, and she smiled at him, saying nothing. She then toppled him into the water with her. His shouts were soon joined by her laughter.
Charley was having a debate with Vinnie and Throttle. They were unmoved by her points from their position.
"Look, intellectually I can see the - the - necessity... possibly, but I can't condone it. I certainly can't see myself doing it." Throttle shook his head, and Vinnie had to make his final word known.
"I don't know what's gonna happen, what I'm gonna have to do or not do, but I can't see myself killing for expediency."
"Fine. Let's just drop it for now. I'm getting a monster headache." Charley finally threw her hands up in disgust.
"C'mon. I'll take you out for dinner." Vinnie put his arm around Charley, and they headed for the door. Before they exited, Vinnie turned back to his tan bro and asked, "You want us to bring you anything?"
"No thanks. I'll just head across the street later. I've got a lot to think about."
Dawn found Limburger again sending most of his staff into slavery, human, alien, whatever. He raged about what was left of his complex, blundering around until he stumbled up on Karbunkle, whom he immediately kicked into a cabinet.
"Can I (cough, wheeze) help you, your vapid venomousness?" Karbunkle staggered up right.
"Yes, you hydrocephalic hazard. Find out what's wrong with my machines. They've gone berserk. Over half my lovely new plaza has been destroyed. We only just now stopped this morning's debacle."
"Of course, your hideousness," the doctor sneered, and tried to leave. Limburger got a handful of smock as he passed.
"And find me some competent staff. Now." Limburger scowled so fiercely his mask began to tear, and he ripped it off, hurling it into Karbunkle's surprised face.
"You're kidding, right?" Rave bitched from under her pillow.
"I never kid this early in the morning." Throttle was crouched beside the bed. Modo peered over Rave's shoulder and yawned hugely.
"I intercepted a communique from Camembert to Limburger. If Limburger never gets it, and he never will, we can be sure all support from, Plutark will be cut off. He'll be alone here. As of tonight, he's cut off." Throttle grinned.
"So you're saying we move tonight?" Rave pulled her head out from under the pillow and squinted at him.
"Yeah. Time to throw down."
"All or nothin', darlin'," Modo sighed, and Throttle left to let them dress.
They sat, all of them, not in the claustrophobic confines of the R.V., but inside the Dairy Queen, going over strategies and stuffing deep fried burritos in their faces.
"So -" Vinnie paused to swallow, "If we come in after dark, over the rubble, at the north side of the main building..."
"We can get in - silently - and maybe finish this." Charley raised both eyebrows as she made the statement, hoping for confirmation.
"Yup. From these transmissions, there are four armed guards outside each entrance, and an alarm switch. If we can manage the silent ops, get in, get your `captives', and get out, then it's over." Rave said, and Modo buried his face in his hands.
"It's the quiet part." he groaned. Throttle slammed down his questionably flavored malt and barked, "This is it, bros. If it takes quiet, then by all our ancestors, we'll damn well be quiet."
They spent the day and afternoon resting, relaxing with the company they found most congenial, and getting ready.
When they all gathered together again, only Rave looked different. She wore dark greys and blacks, and her head was covered with a ski mask, shoved up on her forehead. Very thin gloves covered her hands.
"You scare me." Charley told her as she took Rave aside, and Rave nodded, saying, "Sorry for that. I kinda like you."
Charley shook her head, "I wasn't finished. You do scare me, but I'm damn glad you're on our side. And I kinda like you too. When you're not scaring me. And I agree with you."
Rave's eyebrows rose. "About?"
"About that whole necessity thing." Charley rubbed her nose, and left Rave to her own thoughts. Modo, however, did not.
"What up with that?" he asked, ignoring her outfit.
"Girl talk, Mr. Biker." she replied, an odd, uncomfortable, but somehow pleased look on her face.
* * *
Two halogen lights left inky shadows just outside their brilliance, and the four guards seemed unwilling to leave the small circles of illumination just in front of the single door. Throttle, Charley, and Modo were to the left, and Vinnie and Rave were to the right. Throttle flung a handful of pebbles off into the field of rubble, and four heads came up. Three of the guards took off at a trot, while the forth moved up close to the alarm button set to the right of the door.
Charley remained in hiding, while Throttle and Modo went stealthily after the guards. Vinnie turned to Rave to tell her to keep watch on the remaining goon, but she was gone. He hadn't heard her leave. Cursing to himself, he hesitated a moment, then slipped away to cover his bros, hoping Charley was on the ball.
The single guard shifted uneasily, his hand reaching out to his side, searching for the button. Charley hissed a curse from off to his left; and he turned toward the noise, his mouth opening to yell. Before he could, two hands reached out from the darkness, one clamping over his mouth, the other drawing a long, slim blade across his throat. His eyes bugged, and he sank to his knees with barely a gurgle. Rave stepped into the light and wiped the blade on his clothes as he fell onto his face, the dirt under him turning to scarlet mud.
Charley covered her mouth with one hand, gaging, the other braced against the side of the building.
Rave sheathed the knife behind her back and pulled the ski mask up off her face. It was hard, an awful blankness. She turned and spat into the darkness. Then she bent her tall frame and dragged the guard off into the night by his boots.
When she came back, Charley had recovered, but she seemed to be in shock.
"Did you enjoy it?" she croaked, to which Rave replied, "No." in a dry, hollow voice.
The mice eventually returned, to find Rave and Charley working on the alarm, disconnecting it and bypassing the system.
"What..." Throttle began, but choked back the question when he stepped in the blood.
"Did you have to?" demanded Vinnie, disgust plain in face and tone.
"He was on the alarm, about to shout. No way I could shut him up in time any other way." Rave clipped on the bypass.
"I saw it. She - she did it quick." Charley gulped.
Throttle bowed his head, then was all business. Modo said nothing. He did nothing. He shivered once, looking into the dark, then brought his chin up. "All `r' nothin'." he whispered to himself, and pried at the door, now safe to open.
They were in.
Vinnie took point, but stalked in sideways, refusing to give Rave his back. She followed, some paces back, the others behind her.
"Limburger's probably in his office, or private rooms. Lab for Karbunkle, everyone else is just fodder." he whispered, giving Rave a dark glance over his shoulder.
"It's nicer on the moral high ground, ain't it, Vin?" Rave hissed back, and slipped around him, claiming point for herself.
"Hey!" he growled, still attempting to be quiet.
"Back off, Vinnie," Charley said quietly, coming up to his side. She was still pale, but coping.
"Quiet." ordered Throttle, hushing them all. Modo was silent, in tail guard position, walking in backwards, then pausing, then catching up.
Limburger was eating his solitary meal when a chill ran up his spine. He hesitated, then rose from his ornate table, picking up an antique Tommy gun from it's stand by the door as he crept into his office. "Something's amiss." he muttered to himself, and flipped on the surveillance cameras hidden in all the ceilings of the complex. At first he saw nothing out of the ordinary, then checked the outer hallways. There. Five intruders, three of them his arch nemesis. His breath hissed out between his flabby lips, and he began cursing in Plutarkian.
"No more Mr. Nice Fish." he snarled, and headed to the Lab to collect his `good doctor'.
Modo was in distress, but kept it to himself. He tried to keep his mind on track, his eye vigilant, but the plain fact kept assaulting him. It was easy to ignore the fact that his lover had killed before, but this brought it home; having it happen while they ere together. His mind wandered, till he brought himself back to reality with a sharp mental kick.
Throttle dropped back to walk beside him, blaster drawn, but down at his side.
"I've been thinking. Maybe I was wrong. This is a war, just not the kind we're used to. No bombs, no strategic surface to surface strikes." he whispered to his grey buddy.
"I can't get a grip on it, Throttle. It's got me spooked." Modo admitted, "How can I love a ..." he couldn't bring himself to label her.
"Every soldier faces killing." Throttle reminded him.
Modo stopped dead, "She's not a soldier. She's my girl." he refused.
"Take another look. She reminds me a little of Carbine." there was a reluctant note of admiration in the words.
Modo said nothing, and Throttle moved back up to his place.
Up ahead, a door yawned open, and Rave flattened herself against the wall behind it. Vinnie moved in beside her, Charley and the others taking the other side. It was just a rectangle of blackness.
"In or not?" hissed Rave to Vinnie, who shrugged and looked to Throttle, who scanned their faces.
"Scared?" Vinnie asked Raven, who looked calm and peaceful.
"Scared shitless. Let's do it." she replied, low and tight.
She went first, and he followed, the others joining them. The door slammed down like a trap. It was. Lights blazed on, revealing a labyrinth, a maze. The ceiling was very high, and the walls of the maze were seven feet tall, four feet from the lights.
"Shit." Throttle said flatly.
"Exactly so, vermin." Limburger's voice rang from the center of the room.
Limburger elbowed Karbunkle, who, still half asleep, found himself armed with a 70 year old simi-automatic weapon. Karbunkle shuffled off into the maze, Limburger on his heels.
"You had better not blow this, you hermaphroditic head case. You built this maze, you'd better remember how to navigate it." he snapped, swatting Karbunkle.
Throttle ground his teeth, pounding a fist against the portal. "Glass steel." he grated, then spun and gestured to Modo, "You and Raven go left, Charley and Vinnie go right, I'll take center. Keep your heads low."
Heads nodded in assent, and they were off, running the maze.
Modo and Rave trotted side by side, she on his blind side. The hallway they were in zigzagged and hair pinned back on itself, with turns in odd places, and off shots that dead ended, forcing them to turn back.
"Hey, boost me up. Maybe I can find a clear path." Rave chucked a thumb at the wall. Modo complied, and she crouched atop the partition, searching the walled enclosure. She hopped back down, landing with knees bent.
"If we go right at the next "T", we can get a little closer to the center. I couldn't make out much past that. There's so many zigs and zags it made my eyes cross." she reported, and he nodded tersely. They continued in silence.
Alone, Throttle strained to hear the others, or potential enemies, but the glass-steel walls made great sound buffers; all he heard was his own breathing and footsteps. It was really beginning to bug him.
Karbunkle wished he dared to turn the Tommy gun on Limburger, who jostled him from behind. What passed for his stomach churned with suppressed rage, and veins throbbed in his strangely huge head. Just a little longer....
"How ya doin' sweetheart?" Vinnie asked with concern as Charley hurried to keep up with him.
"Fine, Vin. I'm just kinda scared." she answered, and he took her hand in a reassuring grip.
"C'mere, Raven." Modo called cautiously, beaconing her to join him as he stopped in front of yet another series of zigzags. She turned away from a side path she was looking down and went to his side. He put his hands around her waist and lifted her, boosting her to the wall top again. She crouched, staring off into the distance, and heard him move forward, toward the next zig. As she turned to call out, she saw movement, and the barrel of a gun thrusting up. Without even thinking, she moved on pure instinct and adrenaline, throwing herself into thin air just as Modo moved into the path of the gun. Her booted feet connected solidly with his upper back as the first shots rang out. Modo went down, more out of surprise than from her weight landing on him, and he lay stunned a moment, before registering the form laying on top of him, not moving.
Rave felt the impact of the bullets, hard slaps against her side and head, then the pain started.
Limburger was ecstatic, capering in glee, and Karbunkle lowered the gun, amazed at himself. He stared in wonder at the two, mouse and human, in a heap.
Modo sorted himself out, then noticed blood running down his cheek. He wiped it off and looked at it. Red. A sharp buzzing blotted out all sound, and he heaved himself over, arm cannon out, teeth bared in a grimace of fear and fury. He barely saw Limburger and Karbunkle, just two forms and a gun. He fired without thinking about it, without aiming, cutting Limburger in half, and taking off the top half of Karbunkle's head. He almost didn't notice what happened to them. It was automatic - remove the threat, protect the injured.
His mind cleared, and he clutched at Rave, pulling her into his lap, willing her eyes to open. They did, and searched for him.
He brushed futilely at the blood streaming down her face, and her hands flapped weakly, her eyes losing focus.
"Don't leave me, Raven," he choked, trying to rock her unresponsive form. She coughed, teeth gritted, and pink foam covered her lips. She was lying in a rapidly widening pool of rusty red, and he tried stuffing her jacket into the hole in he side.
"Please, babe, stay with me..." he begged, tears pouring from his eye, falling on her face. Her right hand fluttered up to his face, her long fingers drawing smudges of crimson down his cheek. She coughed again, and red fountained from her mouth, choking her. A small smile made her look ghastly, and she gagged, saying, "Modo - love y -" her eyes rolled up white and she went limp.
"RAVEN!!" he howled, clinging to her, sobbing. Vinnie appeared over the top of the wall and ducked a blast from Modo's cannon.
"It's me!" he cried, and dropped down, just as Throttle skidded around a corner. He took in the carnage with a huge intake of air, and let it out. It was over. And the cost was way too high.
White room, white furniture, dark grey machines, beeping and blinking and flashing. Modo sat in a chair that was too small for him, his mind full of white noise, his hand wrapped around a much smaller, limp one.
Throttle's hand came down on his shoulder, and he shook it off. "Not leavin'," he croaked, his voice gone. Throttle decided to try, one more time.
"You can't help her with this. You haven't eaten or slept in a week. She wouldn't thank you for that." he said gently, and caught sight of Vinnie and an orderly in his peripheral vision.
"G'way Throttle. I'm stayin'. She took the shots for me." Modo was adamant.
"Okay, bro," Throttle's only response, and he nodded to the orderly, who moved in silently behind Modo with the largest hypo any of them had ever seen. The man darted in and the massive sedative administered before Modo could even begin to react, when he did, it was explosive; he was out of the chair and turning on them, even as he was falling on his face.
Throttle caught him and let him down gently, while the orderly, clearly terrified, fetched the wheelchair hidden in the hallway. They loaded the grey mouse into it, and wheeled him away.
"I'll take him home, to his mama. When he's better, we'll be back." Throttle promised, as they strapped Modo onto his bike, who supervised with admonitory hoots.
"Vinnie'll help me with the reconstruction. I just talked with my insurance company, and not only are they paying up, the city will be making reparations for illegally seizing and destroying my property." Charley was more subdued than she felt, looking at Modo's wasted and unconscious form. "We'll keep tabs on Rave's condition. If anything changes, we'll let you know." she promised, and hugged Throttle hard. So did Vinnie, and then he activated the transporter in the R.V.
"Bye. Take care..." Charley waved, Vinnie's arms around her as they disappeared in a blue glow.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Modo awoke with a groan, certain he was still in his Mama's home and for something important. His eye creaked open, and he stared about an unfamiliar room.
"Mama?" he called out timorously, unsure of his surroundings.
Throttle poked his head in the door, "Nope. Back in Chi-town, bro."
Reality crashed down on Modo, bringing back the enervating depression. He fought it off and swung his legs out of the bed, wriggling his toes in the soft carpet.
"Right, I'm on it." Modo assured his friend, and stood, wondering where the bathroom was.
"Tour time?" Throttle prompted, and Modo grimaced in embarrassment.
"Naw. I'll remember. Just gimme a minute to wake up." he yawned and stretched hugely his grey velvet-like fur bristling. Adjusting the band of his boxers, he ambled toward the door, where Throttle made way.
"I'm gonna go roust Danni 'n Stoke. Yell if you need anything." Throttle grinned, and Modo shooed him off.
"Yeah, go bug them." he grumbled, scratching under his jaw.
Throttle took off up the hall to the room he had shared with Stoker, his mentor, and Danni, their lover. It still made him smile to recall the competition, and the out come. He burst into the room, intent on scaring them. He was disappointed. They didn't even move - not even a twitch from either naked body.
Harrumphing, he flung the heavy drapes wide, letting in the searing morning sun. Their reaction was not what he was expecting. Both Danni and Stoker exploded from the bed, diving to the floor on the side away from the light and pulling the sheet down over them, cursing fit to burn the fur off his ears.
"Close'em! Close the friggin' drapes!" bellowed Danni, and he did, quickly.
Stoker rose cautiously, staring at his arms and chest, the portions of his body most exposed to the light.
Danni followed his lead, examining her flank and shoulder. "That shouldn't have happened." she said shakily, over joyed that neither of them showed effects of damage, but horribly aware something was way way wrong.
"The lamp didn't hurt yesterday." Stoker sighed, and walked to the window. Throttle stood quietly, hoping someone would explain something to him.
Danni moved to stop him, but was too late to keep the long haired mouse from gingerly moving the curtain and standing in the light. He shut the radiance out quickly and turned to her. "Any change?"
"No. Still as young as Throttle, no burns, no blisters." Danni reported, recovering from her wincing, her eyes watching.
"Hurts, though." Stoker confirmed, and flopped on the bed.
"Will one of you please decode the past few minutes?" Throttle finally demanded, freaked.
"Vamps fry in sunlight, Throttle. He was an almost vamp. It looks like may be I was too." Danni shuddered at the thought.
"I thought he was cured." Throttle's tail drooped. His idea of stealing a few hours of good, and dirty fun with them dashed.
"He was supposed to be." Stoker lay on his back, one arm over his eyes. He rolled up on one hip and his mechanical tail twitched angrily, like a cat's.
"I thought I was uninfected." Danni pondered, then her eyes went wide in horror, "Oh, No. When the albino fell on me, he was spraying that black blood all over - in my hair, face, mouth, everything. I must have swallowed some." She ran naked out of the room, heading for the bathroom. Throttle leaned out the door and watched her forcibly remove a very wet Modo, towel around his waist, surprise on his very red face. She leapt in and slammed the door. They all heard the water running and the sounds of frantic tooth brushing.
"I never knew she was that fanatical about dental hygiene." was Modo's only comment as he dripped his way back into his room.
"I don't think it's gonna help. All this shit was supposed to stop once Aaron was dead." Stoker shook his head, "Shit," he grumbled, and, retrieving his skivvies from the floor, went to make Danni share the bathroom.
Throttle flung up his hands and sat down on the bed, profoundly disturbed.
"I AM NOT HAPPY!!!" screamed Lord Camembert, pounding on the arms of his throne until one broke. In disgust, he stomped down off the platform and began beating subordinates with his webbed, blue-green-fists, statuary, anything that came to hand.
"My lord, please..." whimpered one courtier, his gills weeping pus green blood from Camembert's ire.
"WHAT?!" Camembert whirled and advanced on the gold bedecked lackey, swinging an obscene statue by it's neck.
"There must be a way we can restore your happiness?" the wounded Plutarkian quavered, cringing away.
"First Venal Muenster, then Limburger, now we hear that those damned Martians have Ricotta, what is this occupation coming to? Two of my regional bosses killed! Outrageous!" he wheezed to a halt, drawing his robes about him in a show of dignity.
"I'll tell you what you can do. Send out word to my brother's boy, Marcel. I want him on this planet, in this room by next week. And I want him sober."
Vinnie finally managed to stop snickering at Modo's description of Danni's alarming assault on the bathroom, and dish out bowls of Charley's breakfast efforts. Oatmeal. It took all of Modo's will not to flee screaming from the tan/grey glop.
"Uh, Vin, gimme some `o that sugar. An' some syrup. An' some milk." Modo started to disguise the substance in his bowl.
Charley rapped his fingers with a clean wooden spoon after the sixth tablespoon of sugar buried the surface of the hot cereal. "Enough! Gimme a break, Modo. Just eat it. I promise it won't bite."
"Aww, Charley." he moaned, but obeyed at her stern look.
"Where are the dynamic trio?" asked Vinnie, eating his own more than slightly altered gruel.
"Present." Throttle called as he led the other two in. They were wearing dark glasses - all three of them. In the house.
"Is this a fashion statement?" Charley asked, hands on hips.
"Yeh, the new fall line from Cydonia?" Vinnie chimed, grinning.
"Keep it up, brat." Stoker growled, pulling out Danni's chair and dropping into the next. Throttle took the one on her other side.
"What's up?" Modo wanted to know, alarmed.
"Slight problem. Sunlight hurts. I think when we tangled with the monster, we got some of him on or in us." Danni ventured, head down.
"After matters are copacetic here, we're goin' back t' London and try t' figure this out." Stoker informed them, glaring at the goo in the bowl in front of him, as did Danni. Throttle dug right in.
"You got any meat in the fridge, gorgeous?" Stoker asked Charley, and Danni looked expectantly at her cousin.
"Eeew!" Charley grimaced, and pushed away her bowl of cereal.
Carbine turned angry eyes to the radio operator and snapped, "You, out."
The young mouse was gone in an eye blink, glad to be out from under her gimlet eye.
She sat in his place, making an urgent connection to Earth.
After a half hour of waiting the bounced and piggybacked hail was answered.
"You rang?" Throttle was feeling perverse.
"Where's my mouse, Throttle?" Carbine was in no mood for jokes.
"I'm not your anything, Carbine." Stoker's authoritative voice pinned back her ears.
"You were supposed to have contacted me over a week ago, Stoker. I don't think I like your game." she tried to ride over him.
"I know I don't like your attitude, lady. The transporter is screwed. It landed my ass in trouble on the other side of the planet." Stoker was beginning to get hot under the collar.
"Look, old man, don't make me order you..." Carbine's voice began to rise not in shrillness, but in volume, but Stoker boomed at her, "Cut the shit, woman! I don't take orders from you. You are not in command of this soldier. I'm retired, and you can take my reserve and trainer status and shove'em up your ass! We'll finish this if I return to Mars."
Throttle hid his grin well. Danni was absolutely stone faced, except for ah amazing twitch that appeared in her jaw.
"So, how's life Carbine?" Throttle asked cool as an ice cube. Carbine sputtered, and he continued, "I hope Wire's feeling better."
"Throttle," she growled, warningly.
"Yes?" he responded brightly, and she cut the connection.
Danni lost it, laughing so hard she began coughing. Stoker patted her on the back.
"That girl is one hell of a commander, and one hell of a pain in my tail." Stoke grinned, and Throttle smirked.
"What the hell was that?" Charley was aghast.
"Carbine's become a bit of a control freak. I think married life is disturbing her sense of proportion." Modo informed from his discreet position at the sink, dumping his oatmeal down the disposal while pretending to rinse the bowl.
"Serves her right for marrying a nerd." Throttle sniffed, and Danni raised an eyebrow at him.
"Oh, believe me, beautiful, I'm more than glad things worked out the way they have between us." he reassured her, and she sniffed, winking at Stoker from behind lowered shades.
"I saw that, Danielle." Throttle grinned, then noticed the time.
"Let's go, ladies and others. Time to go." he sighed, and Modo nodded, drying his hands. He had a date to see Rave.
Same white room, white walls, same machines. Modo was looming in the doorway, unable to make it over the threshold. Charley gave him a little push, and he was in. The other five made as if to follow, and were blocked by a white uniform. The individual inside said white uniform was more daunting than any human they had collectively seen. Five feet tall, four feet wide, white haired, and wearing sensible white shoes. And a scowl.
"Only two at a time. Those are the rules." her fists rode on her ample hips, and no one felt the slightest urge to try and argue the point with her.
"Yes, ma'am." Stoker said respectfully, and headed for a row of chairs down the hall. The others followed, except Charley. She joined Modo in the room. He knelt beside the bed, staring sadly at Rave, tubes going in and out, I.V.s dripping.
"They said she's physically healed. They've even kept her muscles from atrophying with electrical manipulation, but they can't wake her. The bullet in her head didn't do a great deal of damage, since it mostly lodged in her skull, and she's breathing on her own. That's all I can tell you." she said quietly, pulling a chair on the other side of the bed.
"I've spent months sortin' this out, gettin' things straight in my head." Modo said softly, head bowed.
"The hit she took in the side was the worst. You saved her life by sealing it off so fast." Charley was trying hard not to cry.
"This is saved? Rave didn't deserve this. This is worse than dead. Shoulda been me." he muttered morosely.
"She obviously didn't think so." Charley rose and left.
"Aww, Raven." he sighed, trailing the fingers of his left hand down her cheek. He started talking, telling her stories, all the jokes he could remember, anything that came to mind. He held her hand, smoothed her hair, which had grown out considerably, and tucked in her covers gingerly, cautiously, aware of tubes and wires.
When the nurse came back to announce that visiting hours were over, he looked up with a start, unaware that the day had passed.
"Uh, sorry, ma'am." he cleared his throat, and stood up, his knees creaking in protest.
"That's all right young - uh, man." she gave a half smile and escorted him out to his friends, who were sprawled all over the waiting room, half asleep, hypnotized by the drone of some nature program on a T.V. set up high on one wall.
"Are you guys awake?" he demanded, halfway between annoyance and gratitude that they had waited all day.
"Yup." replied Stoker, laid out flat across a row of chairs, his head on Danni's lap. She in turn was lounging against Throttle. Vinnie was snoring in a big armchair across from Charley, who looked up from the crossword puzzle book she had almost finished.
"Sorry, guys." Modo made an uncomfortable grimace.
"Not a problem, bro." Throttle said in a lazy voice, and they all began to rise. Except Vinnie, till Charley, pinched him. He leapt up, blinking, looking for danger.
"My hero." said Charley drily, and he chuckled at his own expense.
"Food?" Danni asked, "Meat food?" she looked hopeful.
"Yeah, meat food." seconded Stoker, and the rest bowed to their wishes, Modo even suggesting a barbeque.
"There's gotta be a way to wake her up." Modo had their complete attention on the way out of the hospital. Throttle shook his head sadly, but Stoker was thinking. Thinking hard. Something Throttle had once told him nudged at his memory, but refused to become a clear memory. He decided to wait until it did to open his month.
Camembert sat disconsolately, his fists propping up his head while scantily clad slave girls of many alien races danced before him.
He ignored them, toying with the slime worms in a bowl held in front of him, then waved everything away.
"I didn't know you felt so strongly about losing your underlings, High Chairman," simpered one of his concubines, a hideous Plutarkian wench wreathed in voluminous robes and gold.
"I don't give a hot damn about the idiots under me, Phinelle, I mourn for the lost revenue - the resources. Now get out of my sight."
She huffed off, leaving Camembert alone with his misery.
It was late, and everyone was so stuffed with the "meat food" they could barely move.
"At least I can still eat," sighed Stoker in gloating satisfaction, to which Danni added a petit belch that rattled the windows. Charley laughed and commandeered Vinnie and Modo to wash the dishes.
"Me?" Modo squeaked, but allowed her to push him into the kitchen, Vinnie on their heels.
Stoker used their absence to drag Throttle away, needing to make a point.
"Couple'a years ago, you mentioned you got into Charley's head t' tell `er a story. Remember?"
"Uh..." Throttle began thinking.
"What I can't remember is how you did it." Stoker made a show of knocking knuckles against his skull.
"Damn. Couple years ago..." Throttle, was silent. They'd been through so much, how was he supposed to remember a story? "I'll get back to ya." he finally said, staring for a moment at Stoke. It struck him then; the youthful looking mouse could have been his brother, his angrier, more prone to exploding brother. He shook his head in wonder.
"What?" Stoker demanded, suspicious of the bemused look that had come over Throttle's face.
* ----- * ----- *
It was 2 a.m.. Nothing was stirring not even a - well, a mouse was stirring. Stoker sat bolt upright unable to figure out how Danni had gotten her upper body over both his legs, and her own legs across Throttle's stomach. Wait, Throttle?
"Ugh. Oh, yeah." He said softly, scrubbing his hand over his face. He shifted Danni gently off him and attempted to rise from the bed, only to find his tail firmly in her grip. He tried to pry her fingers off, and thought briefly of electrifying it for a short jolt, then gave up and shook her.
"Mmmph!" she grunted crossly, and turned on her belly, the last foot of his tail trapped now not only in her hands, but under her breasts.
"That can't be comfortable." he muttered, and tried again.
"What?!" she cried, and he shushed her, one hand over her month.
"M' tail, gorgeous. I need you to let go." he whispered, and glanced over at Throttle, hoping he hadn't been awakened.
Throttle was propped on one elbow, tracing abstract patterns up and down Danni's legs.
"Okay, if we're all awake, maybe we can discuss this." Stoker sighed.
"What this? This what?" Danni was groggy.
"I remembered the story `y told Charley. `Bout the tug transformer on Mars." Stoker stared expectantly at Throttle, who was still preoccupied with Danni's legs.
"Huh?" he glanced up at Stoker.
"What d' you mean?" Danni sat up, drawing her legs away from Throttle fingers.
"How he did it?" Danni scratched her head, then snapped her fingers, "Charley left me a hideously long message about that, couple `a years ago. She said the antenna thing you did freaked her, but it was kinda neat, like you were in her head."
"Antenna thing...Oh! Oh! Yeah! That's how we learn new languages, or transfer information really fast, when there's no time for talk." Throttle smacked his forehead with his palm, like he hadn't even thought about it.
"Would that work?" Stoker was shocked and excited, finally remembering the tale Throttle had passed on.
"ON what?" Danni wanted to know, her gaze traveling back and forth between her two mice.
"Raven" they answered in unison, and began dressing.
Marcel Camembert was completely unprepared for armed Plutarkian guards to board his pleasure cruiser and drag him away in chains.
"What is wrong with you cretins?" He demanded, still in his lounging outfit and slippers, part of his wine glass still in his rather unplutarkian looking hands.
"No questions," came the reply from a surly faced centurion.
"My ass." returned Marcel, smoothing down his rumpled clothes. He didn't look right, for a Plutarkian. He was more grey than green/blue, and he was tall, slender, and intelligent looking, rather than paunchy, pouchy and dumbly over fed.
"Half breed." sneered one of the guards, and Marcel smiled sweetly, his not quite fish face betraying nothing. He had been brought up by his mother, a lovely alien slave with a unpronounceable name. She had taught him the art of deception. His father, High Chairman Camembert's `perverted' brother, had finally done the unthinkable and married her, making him legitimate, and heir. He hated Pluktark, but was so good at disguising his passions, he was - overlooked. Till now, it seemed.
"You realize, of course, that you're ending your careers?" he grinned happily at his captors.
"Lord Camembert summoned you. We're bringing you." growled the centurion, the ranking guard.
"In chains? The heir to 1/3 of Plutark's holdings?" he tisked, and made a distasteful face.
"Uh..." the guard tried to think, and that made his gills hurt.
"I will of course, inform my father. He'll have your spines for torch mounts." Marcel was still smiling.
The chains came off.
Modo flatly refused to wake up, so Stoker swatted the bed frame with his mech tail, causing a mini-quake. Modo was up in a hot second, staring around wildly.
"Wakey, wakey," Stoker sang, and Modo collapsed on the bed, springs screaming in protest.
"This had better be real important or a bad dream." Modo gasped, waiting for his hammering heart to slow down.
"It took all three of us, but we have an idea how to wake Rave up." Throttle asserted, and Modo was all ears, his attention zeroed in on them.
"The antennas, boy. It's so simple we all forgot." Stoker imparted, and Modo was out of bed like a shot, lunging past them to his clothes, and then to the bathroom.
They stared at each other in open mouthed wonder.
"I never knew he could move that fast." Throttle was awed.
"Okay, can we go back to sleep now?" Danni yawned, and Throttle was torn between an aching desire to say yes, and a responsibility to support Modo.
Supporting his bro finally won out, even though he knew the chances were slim that even Modo would get in to Rave's room before 8 a.m.
"A full invasion would probably be a bad idea, so why don't you two stay, tell Charley & Vinnie when they get up. You can meet us when visiting hours start." Throttle advised, and they agreed.
They had been pretty lucky thus far - only one doctor had evinced an interest in examination and dissection, and he had been brow beaten into submission by the others, who were just glad the war for the city was over.
The new mayor, a jolly fellow, for a politician, had greeted them as the saviors of the city, given them all resident status (how, they had no idea) and somehow given them a white wash in the press. It seemed too pat to Throttle at the time, but he was preoccupied.
Modo was leaping down the stairs into the garage by the time Throttle was opening the door, and Throttle had to race to just keep up. They roared off, and Stoker closed the roll up door behind them, shaking his head.
"Now I'm never gonna get back to sleep." he groused, and Danni stretched, yawning.
"How `bout some a' those left over ribs?" she suggested, making a bee line to the kitchen.
"You keep munchin', yer gonna get chubby." Stoker joked, and she glared at him, "Bite me," she called.
"That can bee arranged." he growled, and chased her down.
"I'm sorry, sir. Visiting hours are...." the nurse began, but Modo cut her off, leaning down over her, "I think we can wake her up!" he tried not to yell, and she shrank back.
"Why don't you call Dr. Croyden and see if he'll okay our visit?" Throttle oozed charm, and she moved close to the phone, hesitating only a moment before hitting the speed dial. She punched on the speaker phone and they all listened to the ringing. Eventually, the phone was fumbled up and a sleepy voice croaked, "Hello?"
"Doc?" Modo bellowed, and then sheepishly tried again at the undignified squawk from the speaker, "Doc, we think we can wake Raven up."
"At - 3 in the morning?" there was disbelief in the voice.
"Please!" Modo was getting loud again.
"Fine! Fine, try and wake her, just let the rest of the hospital sleep!" Exasperation, then a dial tone.
"You heard the man." Throttle urged gently, and Modo was off to Rave's room while Throttle chatted up the nurse at the station, soothing ruffled sensibilities.
Over an hour later, when Modo had not returned, Throttle peeked in. The room was dark, except for the dials and readouts of the machines, and Modo's antennae, which glowed a tiny bit.
"Shit!" Throttle leapt to his friends side, pulling him up, breaking the contact between antenna and skull.
Modo toppled over, groaning.
"Modo! Speak t' me, bro!" Throttle was close to panic.
"Uh... She's there. She's lost - can't find her way out." the grey head drooped, and Throttle had to try and lever his partner off the floor. He managed, barely, and half dragged him out into the hall. The nurse noticed and hurried to their side with an ammonia popper. She snapped it and waved it under Modo's nose. He exploded backwards out of Throttle's grip with an inarticulate shout of disgust.
"What happened?" Throttle demanded, giving Modo a hand up off the floor.
"I reached her." Modo gasped, rubbing his nose to get rid of the numb feeling.
"And she can't wake up - she can't find her way," Modo groaned, "and I couldn't lead her - I started to get lost too."
"She knew me." Modo's voice was warm, and he smiled, but that smile faded when he began thinking - hard.
"Throttle, if I had an anchor, I could do it."
"Oh, boy." Throttle went to the nurse's station, where the young woman had retreated.
"Can I have some aspirin?" he pleaded, and she fished a package of two out of a drawer, pushing them to him across the counter.
He ripped open the paper and swallowed them dry, grimacing. "Call Stoker. Maybe he can tell us how to do that. He taught us to do the trick in the first place."
The call was made, and Stoker borrowed Charley's bike to join his bros at the hospital, still knuckling sleep out of his eyes as he walked up to them.
"Just got back to sleep when you bums called, and you better be glad Charley's a good and understanding woman." Stoker yawned, then looked intently at Modo. "What went wrong?"
"I wasn't strong enough to pull her out myself. I need an anchor in the real world so I don't get lost again." Modo looked expectantly at Stoker.
"So you want my help?"
"Can it be done?" Throttle demanded, grabbing Stoker's shoulders.
"Grab me like that, boy, you better be prepared to pay fer dinner and a movie," Stoker laughed, and Throttle gave a weak smile.
"What would Danni say?"
"She'd hurt y' both. Can you help me?" Modo finished the moment of silly word play.
"Maybe. Nobody's done anything like this for years, `cause it's so damn iffy. Might work, might suck us both in." Stoker was casual about it.
"You up for it?" Modo asked, seriously.
"If you needed me t' try it a month ago, no way. Now? Sure, why not?" Stoker strode to Rave's door.
Marcel was pushed along the hallways of Lord Camembert's palace, still in the lounging pyjamas he'd been taken in. With a final shove, he was deposited in the throne room. His `escort' took up positions at the doors.
"Buncha jack booted thugs." he muttered, and straightened his clothes as best he could, smoothing down the thin, long spines that hung like hundreds of braids from his head and down his back.
"Ugh. How can you be so ugly and a member of my family?" Lord Camembert demanded, coming out from behind the throne.
"Lucky?" Marcel smiled.
"You've been useless all your life - a dilettante. Now I have a use for you." Camembert ignored his nephew's riposte.
"Oh, the joy." Marcel muttered under his breath.
"Nothing, uncle. You were saying?"
Camembert cleared his throat, "Look boy. You went through the assassin's academy. You actually graduated. I have need of those skills. My whole power base is in danger here, and I want you to eliminate the problem."
"So I have value to you now? Is that it, uncle?" Marcel stood a head taller than his uncle, and was built like a dancer. His hair/head spines bristled in suppressed anger.
"Precisely. My operations on Earth are being compromised, and I can not allow my revenues to stop coming in. That planet's resources are necessary to me. The whole Martian debacle has weakened my hold here. The damned vermin won't stop fighting back."
"Fancy that." was Marcel's dry reply. He was admiring his nails, when his uncle slapped him. It didn't hurt, but it made him angry. His fangs bared in a warning, secondary talons sliding out under his own perfectly manicured finger nails. It was only a split second's lapse, and it went unnoticed by Camembert, who went on ranting about his power, his money, his acquisitions.
When his uncle finally turned back to him, Marcel was perfectly composed, placid even.
"So, you will go to Earth. You will exterminate any impediments to my occupational forces, and you will bring me the heads of my enemies." Camembert gave Marcel a snaggle toothed, empty smile. A politician's smile.
"Of course, uncle. And how many warships am I taking with me?" the sarcasm was heavy in his voice.
"None. You will transport in alone. When you have accomplished your mission, you will contact me and we will welcome you home. There is no repayment for failure but death."
"Of course, uncle. Give my regards to my father." Marcel gave his uncle back an empty smile, and wandered around the throne room. When he again stopped in front of Camembert, he looked down on his paternal uncle and said, "I will of course need a few things. Oh, and I'll give your warmest regards to my mother's memory, shall I?"
Camembert stared up into the unreflective, solid black of his nephews eyes, and remembered his secret, wondering if Marcel suspected that he had murdered his brother's wife and blamed insurrectionists. Then he dismissed the notion. Ridiculous. The boy knew nothing, suspected less. He smiled again and responded, "Of course, nephew."
Modo was kneeling by one side of the bed, Stoker on the other, Modo's antennae touching Rave's head, Stoker's touching Modo's. Both pair glowed softly.
Throttle had fallen back into his habit of pacing. He knew, intellectually that pacing helped nothing, but it was comforting to do something, physically, when he was unable to take decisive action. The sun was not far off when Stoker broke away with a gasp, and Throttle ran to his side. Stoker shook his head, and told him, "Modo! Push him away!"
Vaulting the bed, Throttle hauled Modo backward onto his butt.
"Hey!" Modo yelled, then looked up at his bro, and grinned.
"She's home." Modo was over joyed, and lurched to his feet, moving back to the bed side. He took Rave's hand in both of his, calling her name gently.
Slowly, ponderously, she turned her head in his direction, her fingers tightening for a moment, then relaxing again.
"She moved, she moved!!" Modo was up, leaping about. He grabbed Throttle, tossed him in the air and caught him, crushing him in a bear hug. Throttle staggered when he was released, a surprised grin going ear to ear.
Stoker got to his feet, his own smile a little sad. "Y' got yer wish, boy." he told Modo, who grabbed him up in turn, pounding him on the back.
"Is she - okay? I mean, mentally?" Throttle rained on Modo's parade.
"She knew me. She was glad to `see' me." Modo halted his one mouse celebration.
"I guess we'll find out when she fully wakes up." Stoker sounded cautiously hopeful.
"Thanks to you, Stoke. You made it happen." Modo was practically glowing with gratitude.
"Thank me when she's okay."
Marcel Camembert sat gingerly in the uncomfortable seat of the small, one person stealth fighter, staring down with undisguised loathing at the human-looking disguise he was supposed to wear. The mask and gloves were pasty pale and very wrong-looking to him.
"I think not." he sniffed, and flung them behind him. He brushed imaginary lint from the sleeve of his skin hugging black body armor suit, and sniffed the air delicately.
"Ghaa." he commented, and did another air recirculation once again, trying to purge the ship of Plutarkian stink. It helped, some.
"If only dear uncle knew." he mused, smiling to himself. For years he had been working toward his family's, no, his planet's ultimate downfall. Now it seemed he had carte blanche to repay them all for his mother's murder.
"First, a call to my contact..." he worked the communications system dials, scrambling the source, piggy backing the signal on several outpost's and satellite's own. Finally, a voice answered his from the void of space:
"Black jack? Is that you?"
"How many devils can dance on the head of a pin?" he replied in a deep, musical voice, a password.
"As many as it takes to empty your soul." came his reply.
"I'm headed for Earth. My cover is about to be blown." Marcel sighed with relief. End game was in sight.
"Plutark," he spat, "Camembert wants the trouble on Earth dealt with. Every boss he loses weakens him on the home world."
"You've helped us before, Black jack, we trust you, but how are you getting your information?"
Marcel let the static grow between them before answering, "I'm Camembert's half breed nephew, Martian. Why, do you want to back out on our deal now?"
There was no answer for a long while, then a female's voice took over, "You're a damn Plutarkian?"
"There's no name for what I am. I don't even know what my mother's people were. I know she raised me to hate my father's people, and I know my father's brother killed her. That's enough. Give me my contact on Earth, or let me find another network to work with."
"No way is this regular," the female voice rapped out, and he cut in, "Regular Army, right?"
"Please. All soldiers think alike. In straight lines." Marcel began tapping his extended talons on the commboard.
"Humph. Go to Chicago, Earth's North American continent. Last Chance Garage. Tell'em Carbine sent you." the female voice was clipped, and then she sighed off.
"Oh, how nice. See if I leak troop movements to you, again. Snippy mouse." he sniffed, and retracted the black talons under his nails. He plotted the new course, and lay back in the seat, breaking out a hidden hip flask and slugging down a gulp of Runaan whiskey. He sighed, and awaited the next obstacle to be hurdled.
Charley, Vinnie, and Danni were in the hospital waiting room, again. They joined Modo, Stoker, and Throttle at 8 o'clock sharp, and this time, Danni brought a deck of cards.
They were all on their 46th straight game of Five card stud when Dr. Crouden appeared in the doorway. He cleared his throat, and Modo started up, knocking their makeshift card table over.
"Well, Mr. Modo, it would seem your voodoo, or whatever you did, turned the page. Ms. Blackstone is sleeping normally now, and there appears to be no real cognitive damage. At least none shows up on the EEG."
Modo let out a whoop that deafened his comrades, and started shaking the doctor's hand, rattling the man's teeth.
Croyden held up one hand, and Modo's joy abated. He stared apprehensively at the medic.
"Now, you know she won't be up and around for a while. Her body will have forgotten how to do a great deal. Most fine motor skills will probably need to be relearned, as well as gross motor functions, like walking. Some people can pick up a great deal in a short time, but most take months. She'll need to stay here for - "
Modo shook his head, emphatically negative. "She stays till you can take out all the tubes an what not, then she's comin' home."
"But the physical therapy - the -" Croyden was aghast.
"We can take care of it. We'll bring her in for appointments an' all, but she's been here long enough. She hates hospitals." Modo was quite firm on this subject. The doctor stared at him for a long moment.
"If that's the way it has to be, then...." Croyden let the sentence draw out. He shrugged. "When she wakes up, we'll see how much work she'll need."
A scream and a crash, followed by the sound of running feet got them all sprinting for the patient in question.
Rave was awake, all right, and still a pisser. She had managed to knock over her I.V. stand and was desperately trying to pull out all her tubes and I.V.'s with her teeth and broad, ungainly movements of hands and feet that wouldn't obey her. There was fear and desperation on her face. It lessened when she saw Modo in the doorway.
"Mmm - mm!" she tried, angry at her lack, then again, "Mo..." she screamed in frustration, and Modo was there, gently holding her down.
"Ow!" she demanded furiously, not an expression of pain, but an order.
"No, Raven. Soon. We'll take you out of here soon." Modo promised, giving the doctor an `I told you so,' look over his shoulder.
Dr. Croyden stared at the destruction of his I.C.U. room and agreed with Modo's plan.
"All right. You win. As soon as she's cleared, checked, and unhooked from all I.V.'s, catheters, and nutrients, she's all yours." he turned away, and then turned back, "But if anything happens, on your head be it."
Camembert worried. He knew his nephew was properly cowed, but was he capable of the task set before him? He swept his robes aside and hurried into his private communications room, the one he was absolutely sure was inviolate, secure.
"Jagues?" he called warily, searching the dim corners of the room. He was alone. He sat and began hailing his ship commanders. He had no idea his every transmission was being monitored and recorded by Mars command center, courtesy of his nephew, Marcel.
Marcel, commander of a ship of one, was rudely awakened by his fighter colliding with something unyielding and green. He struggled out of his chair and punched the sequence to cycle the hatch open. Bright yellow sunlight glared into his eyes, which watered immediately. He blinked and rubbed at them, and stepped out.
"Oh, my. I think I miscalculated." he said to himself, staring at his surroundings as his vision cleared. His ship was partially embedded in the side of a green hill. Stepping away from his craft and down the incline, he pressed a stud on his belt, and the small space ship - vanished.
"Good to see something works as advertised." he muttered, and stalked off toward a city he spied on the horizon. "Chicago. What an odd name," he smiled, at least it was warm.
"I'm telling ya' it was a ship." Vinnie asserted, arms crossed over his chest, a spark in his eye that Throttle was unfamiliar with.
"Look, bro - let's just go find out." Throttle tried again, and Vinnie informed him, "It was small, modified Plutarkian one man cruiser. Probably stealth capable. And it was on autopilot."
Throttle was speechless. He just stared at Vinnie.
"Where the hell is all this coming from?" he finally demanded, nonplussed.
"When we gutted the R.V. for tech, we installed everything in the garage. We're probably better equipped than command center. I checked the radar." Vinnie smiled slyly.
Throttle was appalled. What was the damn world coming to? Vinnie thinking before acting?
"So, Vin-man, what other universe altering things have changed while I've been gone?"
"That would be telling, bro." Vinnie winked, and revved his ride. Then he jumped the gun, jetting off, leaving Throttle to catch up.
Modo sat with Rave, keeping her calm. The doctor had authorized her move to a private room, and the addition of a cot for Modo, who told Charley, Danni, and Stoker that he, would call at the Garage when he knew anything concrete. They left, Danni and Stoker in shades and hats, hiding from the sun. Charley rode her own bike home, and the others took a taxi.
"Okay. What's wrong with this picture?" Throttle asked Vinnie as they sat at the crest of a hill. Coming up toward them was a male biped like none they'd ever seen.
"I think this guy's kinda lost." Vinnie supplied, and the alien looked up at them.
"Hey, citizen! You lost?" Throttle called down.
"Good parking is so hard to find, Martian." replied Marcel, hands spread out at his sides.
"Uh, oh." Throttle muttered as an aside, and waited for the new arrival.
"This must be Chi - ca - go, then." Marcel bowed, continuing as he came abreast of them, "I am Marcel Camembert, and I was sent here to kill - you."
A blaster appeared in Throttle's hand, trained on the center of Marcel's head.
"How rude. It's a good thing for you I never follow orders." he shook the spines back with a dry rattling sound and an unconcerned air.
"Perhaps he's not lost, just bug-nuts?" Suggested Vinnie, spinning a flare between his fingers.
"Carbine sent me." Marcel waited, watching them. His black eyes missed nothing.
"To kill us." Throttle looked at Vinnie, "She's vindictive, yeah, but not usually this bad."
"She was my last Martian contact. She said you would be my Earth ones. Specifically, those persons at the Last Chance Garage."
"Oh, yeah. She's vindictive." Throttle holstered the blaster, and, with a narrow look at Marcel decided, "We'll just have a little parley with Carbine, then." He took off, leaving Vinnie to give the assassin a ride.
Carbine couldn't stop laughing. Every time she thought about it, she couldn't help letting out a very unmilitary giggle. Her mate, Wire, was walking softly, wary of her violent mood swings. If she got like this every time she was pregnant, he was moving into another room.
"Wire, love, can you tweak the receptors from Plutark ? Camembert's transmission are coming in real staticy." She beamed at him in high good humor.
"Uh, sure. No problem." he smiled weakly, relieved.
She patted his cheek and ambled off, chuckling to herself, muttering, "Give me a ration of shit, old war dog? I'll give you a half-fish seeking political asylum."
Throttle was pinching himself. Hard. Nope, he wasn't waking up, it wasn't a bad dream.
"Right." he sighed, and waved Vinnie off his guard duty.
"You might offer a quest some food. Crust of bread, water, gruel, maybe." Marcel laughed at them all, and Stoker, who had just arrived with Danni, kept his mouth shut when he got the notion to offer some of Charley's oatmeal in lieu of gruel.
"I can't help who my relatives are, you know. It's not as if I chose them."
"Well, that's true enough. Okay, Carbine says you're our snitch-fish. Welcome to Earth." Throttle said, grudgingly.
"Oh, be still my heart. I adore being greeted with weapons. It's just like a family reunion." Marcel knew his attitude wasn't winning him points, and he didn't care.
"You could try being less of a snot." Charley admonished tartly, glaring in annoyance.
"I could, but that would be like false advertising. I am a snot." he returned sharply, then smiled charmingly, his spines rising like a crest, "Of course, for you, I will amend my manner."
Vinnie growled a little, but held himself in check.
"Don't do me any favors." Charley was antagonistic, and Vinnie gave a silent cheer.
"Well, this is real nice." Danni broke into the conversation, moving away from Stoker and Throttle. She did a slow once over on Marcel, walking around him, then returning to her place between her mice. She asked pointedly, "And you expected what?"
"I really don't know. Not even assassin training prepared me to be a traitor."
"We're all a big bunch of jolly funsters, heeh?" Stoker slapped his hands on his thighs and moved toward Marcel.
"You're not as old as your file showed." Marcel moved back, viably restraining himself from assuming a defensive posture.
"Worried, boy ?" Stoker grinned, and informed him, "You can retract those talons, Y' won't need `em. I knew yer mother, an' yeah, I'm that old."
Marcel was speechless. He blinked a few times, and relaxed his hands.
"You're the one she told me stories about. She begged me to find you."
"Hey, it's nice to be remembered." Stoker smiled and went back to his seat on the sofa.
"You would have been my father if she hadn't been taken as a slave. Father took her as concubine and eventually wife. I would've preferred you, I think."
Stoker shook his head." Those were wild days, boy. I was just a soldier, she was a lovely dancer in some off world dive. There was no real bond between us."
"She regretted not leaving Vega II with you when you asked." Marcel offered.
"This is real complicated," Vinnie felt like he was watching a pong game, his gaze bouncing between Marcel and Stoker.
"No shit." Throttle was done with the whole scene. "Hey. When you two head off for London, you think you'll need a third?" He asked Stoker and Danni.
"Why, junior, jealous?" Stoker grinned at Throttle.
"Hey, don't I get a say in this?" Danni demanded, and they both just stared at her before busting up.
"C'mon, Stoke, me? Jealous? Hell yes." Throttle punched him behind Danni's back.
Marcel watched the interplay, his amazement growing as he guessed the relationship between them.
"You're leaving?" he asked, alarmed.
"Yeah. We've got unresolved issues." Danni supplied, and slapped both Stoke and Throttle.
"Apparently. You do know how much Camembert fears and hates you?"
"Yeah. He sent you, right?" Vinnie was unimpressed.
"Yes." Marcel refused to rise to the bait, as it were.
"He's arranging an all out strike on Mars, but they've already got all his troop movements and battle plans. He's sinking in his own filth. Watch your backs. I've been engineering the demise of my whole race for years, but it won't all happen tomorrow. It'll take time."
"The - demise . . . . . of Plutark?!" Throttle, Stoker, and Vinnie all pounced.
Modo was deep in conversation with Rave, though he was doing all the talking. His questions were met with nods or head shakes, or stony silence and no motion.
"C'mon, Raven. Cheer up. You'll be outta here in a few days." he tried to make her do that half smile thing. He was thrilled that she was sitting up on her own, but the doctor wasn't.
"Doc Croyden says you need to slow down. You been in a coma fer seven months, an if you over do it, you'll just end up back in here."
She frowned and forced a "No." Out, taking him by surprise.
"I know you're tough, but, dammit, get a clue. I'll help you with the physical therapy, an all, but you still gotta heal.'
"I want but. Out." she corrected herself, getting frustrated.
"In a few days." he put his foot down. She glared.
"When are you guys leavin?" Vinnie wanted to know, installing Marcel temporarily in Modo's room, with the dire warning not to mess anything up.
"Not till we find out about Rave. When Modo can give us some solid info, then we'll get our gear together and split. We'll take the transporter remote." Throttle decided, and Danni piped up, "Hey, before we go, I need that little thing-ma-bot to get my hog outta storage and down here."
"No problem. Ten minute job." Stoker assured her, and then left to find Marcel. To have a discussion. He didn't invite anyone else.
"Great." Vinnie sulked a moment, then brightened, "Hey, when you guys are in London, bring me back some import C.D.s I need to find some Slade and Iron Maiden."
"You can get those here." Danni admonished, but he shook his head, "No, no, the British releases have different arrangements, some times a different song."
"Yeah, Vin. We'll see."
Charley was making a big fuss in the kitchen, and Vinnie went to find out why.
"Geez, this only gets weirder." Danni yawned, hanging her head on Throttle's shoulder.
"Regretting getting entangled with us?" Throttle asked, arm going around her waist.
"Not this girl. I miss the sun, though. Think I'll ever be able to get a tan again?" she asked softly, nuzzling his neck.
"If I have anything to say about it, yeah. Hey, you're not, uh, thirsty or anything, are you?" he definitely noticed her attention to his throat.
"You have a suspicious mind, Throttle." she grumped, and bit him gently.
He laughed nervously, and she released him.
Vinnie was still a kitchen menace, as far as Charley was concerned, but she welcomed his presence with a kind of long suffering angest, warning him away from her appliances.
"So, beautiful, when are you gonna make an honest mouse of me?" Vinnie asked, sidling up to her as she lifted a stack of dishes to put them away. Her jaw dropped, and so did the dishes, all over the floor.
She turned almost in slow motion, her shocked expression meeting his sly smile.
Throttle and Danni burst thru the door immediately after the crash, looking for trouble. All they saw was Charley fainting and Vinnie, cursing a blue streak, trying to catch her before she hit the shattered dishes on the floor.
Stoker was in the kitchen from upstairs and across the house a bare few seconds later, Marcel in tow.
"What?" he demanded, ready to rumble.
"It's nothing, bros, Danni. Shit. I didn't think she'd faint." Vinnie carried her out past their confused gazes.
"I take it this isn't the usual order of things?" Marcel observed, and the others just sighed, shaking their heads.
The phone rang, and Marcel jumped. Danni didn't laugh, much. Stoker answered, and said, "Yup. -- Uh, huh." he paused, then. "Yeah, okay. We'll see y' both when we get back, then. Kick ass, boy." he hung up.
"Well?!" Throttle was beside himself.
"He'll be bringin' Rave home in two days. She's eatin jello, an' goin' - you know - on her own, so doc's letin' her go. He'll stay there till then. Good thing the city's pickin' up th' tab, huh?"
Danni was over joyed. She hugged Throttle, Stoker, and even Marcel. Then she ran off to tell Vinnie and, hopefully, Charley.
"Let's go get her ride while she's busy." Throttle suggested, and Marcel asked, "Who, me?"
"Why not? Yer one of us now. Guess we should make you work."
* * * - * * *