Disclaimer: Look, I know you're all sick of these damn disclaimers, but if I don't tack this on, this doesn't go up for your reading enjoyment, so let's get it over with.
Here it goes: I do not own "Biker Mice From Mars" (if I did, I'd probably be rich by now, or at least setting Throttle, Modo, and Vinnie up on dates with members of the Unofficial Biker Mice From Mars Fan Club), and I make no profit from this story save the hopefully bounteous joy of my bros in said Fan Club when they read it. This story was written for pure enjoyment, in honor of the show. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
Also, in this section, the Order of St. Dumas is introduced. This has nothing to do with the DC character, comic book, etc., of the same name. I make no profit from using the names which I use in this story.
Note: The characters and situations created in this story do belong to me (thanks to the copyright, ha ha!), so please restrain from writing any FanFics using them. All the subtle foreshadowing I throw in could go straight down the tubes with one well-meaning little story. Please respect this wish and don't be mad. You're welcome to try your hand at sketching any of them, however!
Okay, fight fans, here's what was going on when we left off:
The Biker Mice discover Hellfire is under siege, and a terrified Modo
leads the charge to the city's suburbs to find his mother, who he fears
may be long gone. After a series of mishaps that throw the mice from
their rides, they suddenly find themselves at the mercy of the evil
How will they get out of this mess?
"Oh Momma," Modo muttered as a gun barrel was shoved in his nose.
"I second that," Throttle agreed.
"Can I get a second opinion?" Vinnie asked.
"You're a brash egomaniac," Bingo replied, gritting her teeth nervously.
One of the soldiers turned to his leader and asked, "Your orders, sir?"
Smiling, Scamorze replied, " `Kill and scalp all, big and little...Nits make lice.' "
Puzzled, the soldier explained, "Um, sir, these aren't nits or lice. They're mice. Martian mice. Are you feeling okay."
Sighing extravagantly, Scamorze asked, "Am I the only one who studied Earth history here?"
"I guess so, sir. That's why you always clean-up when we play Trivial Pursuit."
Shaking his head in frustration, Scamorze muttered, "Kill them and be quick about it. We need to be ready for when they retur--"
His words were cut short by a flurry of lasers flying down from the hill crest. Most of them made a cozy little homes for themselves inside the chests of Scamorze's soldiers just before said rib cages exploded in bright red bursts of blood.
"Cool!" Vinnie shouted as the Plutarkian's blood fell in a scarlet rain (as opposed to "Purple Rain") on his face.
The other Plutarkians, similarly drenched by their late comrades, began backing away as one cried, "THEY'RE BACK!"
Someone pointed to the top of the hill, and Throttle, Modo, Vinnie and Bingo whipped their heads around to see their mysterious savior (or saviors).
There, on the crest, a huge, glowing moon at their back, was a single, solitary mouse. He was astride a powder blue motorcycle with large yellow stripes, a motorcycle built for speed but throbbing with raw power. In one of the stranger's hands was a pistol roughly the length of a person's forearm, smoke curling from the barrel. Moonlight gleamed off his the face-shield that hid his features from any intrusive glances. A pair of long ponytails hung out of his helmet, one lying over his shoulder, the other twisting in the breeze.
If there had ever been any doubt in the minds of the four young mice facing certain oblivion at the bottom of the hill that they would someday become full-fledged Biker Mice, it was instantly erased.
"That guy is so cool!" Throttle whispered, voice trembling with awe.
Modo hissed, "Whatta bike!"
"Kick ass!" Bingo whispered in appreciation.
"I wanna be him when I grow up," Vinnie cooed, face alight with adoration.
The Plutarkians were a bit more skeptical.
"Where'd that big moon come from?" one asked. "Mars hasn't got a moon half that size."
"Probably put their for dramatic effect," another said, shrugging.
"If I were you, I wouldn't waste my time worryin' about that," the mysterious mouse on the hill growled, his voice simultaneously amused and threatening. "'Cause you ain't got much time left for anything."
Suddenly, his bike's engine screamed and raced down the hillside, turrets blazing white as lasers flew from it in droves. The Plutarkians dashed for cover but most were instantly struck down.
The biker jumped suddenly from his bike and allowed it to plow into the Plutarkians like a bowling ball. Those who remained standing weren't in such a state for long, as the mystery mouse, falling from the apex of his jump, was able to land several good kicks and punches before ever touching the ground.
Within seconds, the threat that would have destroyed the four young protagonists of our story was rendered moot. Those who hadn't been knocked unconscious or outright killed ran with Scamorze in a desperate attempt to flee.
"Again, kick-ass," Bingo said, nodding, generally summing up the group's sentiment.
As the unknown hero finished the job, Throttle took another look out at the battlefield and realized that this wasn't the only motorcycle-mounted-mouse there. That lightning-quick streak that had nearly cut Throttle off earlier had been one of many Martian Mice fighting off the Plutarkians. Before he lost count, Throttle had picked out twenty zipping through the sandy fields.
Presuming his work there to be done, the biker turned to the young mice behind him and looked them over, almost as if, Throttle would later remark, he was appraising them. But for what (for their sake, Throttle prayed that it didn't have anything to do with the sex-slave trade the had always been a rumor in Hellfire)?
In the meantime, the young mice were busily examining their rescuer.
He was tall, lean, and rather lanky. Probably somewhere in his middle-years, not old, but decades older than the mice he stood before. Although his face was still hidden behind his helmet, brown ears and bare brown arms made his fur color evident. The ponytails that had flittered in the breeze moments ago were dark brown, nearly the color of dark chocolate, were joined by long shanks of hair around his ears. Guns crisscrossed at his hips, and both holsters were filled. But even though he seemed dressed for battle in his green fatigue pants and boots, there was something about the stranger that suggested independence. Fun. Like somehow, in this place of death, blood, and exploding rib cages....
.....he was enjoying himself.
Finally, Throttle broke the silence.
"Thanks," he said, extending a hand in greeting. "You really saved our tails."
"I guess I did," the stranger replied cockily, not taking Throttle's hand, which the young mouse pulled to his side in embarrassment.
An uncomfortable silence passed before the biker flipped up his helmet.
His face was unremarkable as those of mice went--no major scars, gold-red eyes, a slightly squarer chin than most, but nothing amazing. The only thing that stood out about him were the whisker spots on his muzzle, which fewer and fewer mice were born with every year. No one had been born with them for well over thirty years, according to some records. Either this fellow was that rare one in a million case, or he was older than he looked.
"Are we done with the intense staring?" Vinnie snapped, suddenly annoyed.
Snickering, the biker said, "I wasn't looking at you, kid; I was looking at those bikes. Cherry rides you got there."
With that, he whistled, summoning his own ride, slightly war-torn and freckled with dents from lasers, but otherwise fine. He threw his leg up over the seat, and disappeared with a cry of, "Ride free, citizens!"
" `Ride free, citizens,' " Throttle mumbled, smiling a bit. "I like that."
Modo remembered his mother and threw himself on his bike, jetting for the caves, leaving his bros in the dust.
"Who was that guy?" Vinnie asked, jumping onto Throttle's hog behind its rider.
"No clue," Throttle replied, shrugging. "I guess he's Army."
Bingo opened a black hole that brought the young mice almost instantly to Modo's door. The older mouse had already done a survey of the entire house and had found no trace of his mother. No sign that violence had come to her; in fact, the door had still been completely locked when Modo entered. Doing a key-card check proved that no one had left or locked up since he had that morning for Throttle's home.
"Ah don't get it!" Modo wailed. "She isn't here, she isn't outside--where'd she go?"
Vinnie shrugged and asked, "I don't suppose this is her night for Bingo?"
Bingo raised an eyebrow and asked, "Huh?"
Modo snarled, "Naw, that's Thursday. Besides, it's still afternoon!"
Suddenly, the phone sprang to life. Modo dashed over and pressed the button for both voice and video as he picked up the receiver and shouted, "Hello?"
The blank screen suddenly began glowing, and in the illumination, the mice saw an obscured image of Rose staring back at them. Static crackled around her image, but not enough to obscure her tired, but still somewhat relieved face.
"Momma!" Modo cried, relieved. He sunk down in a chair near the phone and wiped the sweat from his brow. "You're okay!"
Smiling sweetly, Rose replied, audible without the receiver, "Of course I am, Modo. I was hoping to catch you here. There wasn't any answer at your little friend's cave, and I was afraid you might have run into some trouble somewhere along the line."
Thinking back on the events of the afternoon, Modo shook his head and sighed, "No, no trouble at all. Where are you? An' what happened?"
Rose shrugged and said, "It's a long story, son."
Too long, it seemed, for over the Vidcom, so Rose directed her son to come immediately to an area about about ten miles south of Hellfire. There, they found a slap-shod Transporter terminal set up, surrounded by Army personnel and under heavy Army guard. After the unsettling trip (Modo was sure he had been wearing underwear before he went into the booth), the young mice were at their destination. The pink sky had darkened to a bruise-like purple as the time grew closer to dusk.
They found what appeared to be a huge black bubble rising out of the surface of Mars. A faint light emanated from inside, where there was apparently a large set of doors. Towers, each around forty feet tall, had been erected in a semi-circle around the bubble.
And all around it, in a huge swarm, were Martian Army personnel. All around the walls were soldiers, most of them heavily armed and in full battle dress, complete with the large red Martian Army symbols on their chests like all-too inviting bulls-eyes. Some stood in the towers, cradling larger guns in gloved hands and just waiting.
But for what?
Is it just me, or are there too many questions in this story?
Why are you asking me?
Immediately upon their arrival, Throttle and Modo's bikes were commandeered.
"Hey!" Modo growled as Army officers struggled to keep his ride under control as they guided it away. "Where're you goin' with my bike?!"
A soldier, more heavily decorated than many of the others, strode forward confidently. Cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, he muttered coolly, "Easy, kid. Don't have a heart attack."
This was a mistake, for while the officer was roughly twice Modo's age and just as tall as the young mouse, he didn't have half the strength.
Not only that, but you didn't call Modo a "kid" at sixteen anymore than you would call him a "rat" in the future. At that point, of course, he still wouldn't like be called a kid, but he'd like being called a rat even less. And you certainly wouldn't call him "Boy George".
With a speed that seemed unlikely for such a large mouse as he was becoming, Modo's hands grabbed the soldier by the shoulders and lifted him up off his feet.
"Ah said, where're you goin' with my bike?!" Modo snarled, fire in his strangely-catlike eyes.
"I'd answer him," Throttle said coolly. "There're dead mice who would kill for that chance."
"Assuming someone reanimated their lifeless bodies," Bingo chimed in.
The officer gurgled and sputtered that it was being taken to a storage shack nearby, and hastily put a small card with the number 293862-29384 on it into one of Modo's crumpled-up fists. The younger mouse dropped the soldier, who scuttled away, terrified.
"See?" Modo said, smiling. "We coulda avoided that nasty little scene if he just woulda cooperated. Like my dear-old gray-furred Momma used t'say--"
"Modo! There you are!"
Well, Modo's mother had said that plenty of times, particularly when the gray goliath had been a toddler and had an awful tendency to get lost from his mother at the department store, though it wasn't what Modo had meant to say. He spun around on his heels and saw Rose rushing up to meet him. Modo wrapped his arms around her, shouting out his relief and lifting her up off the ground.
"Easy, honey!" Rose chuckled sweetly once she was safely back on the ground. "Oh! I was so worried about you!"
"Ah was worried about you too, Momma," Modo replied. "You okay?"
Nodding, Rose added, "Those nice young Army lads on the motorcycles got me out of the cave just in time, and--"
"Army guys? On motorcycles?" a stranger's voice asked.
All four mice turned to the sound of the voice, which belonged to a young, raven-haired mouse who had been helping with vehicles to be taken to the storage sheds.
She had been listening with half-an-ear to Modo and his mother's conversation, and walked over once her voice had been heard.
"Yeah," Throttle agreed. "Bunch o' guys with real kick-ass rides. Man, those bros had serious style."
The girl snickered, winking one olive eye at the tan-furred mouse beside her, and laughed, "You sound like a Biker Mouse yourself."
Shrugging coolly, Throttle answered, "I can dream. Halfway there myself. Throttle."
"Carbine," she answered, taking his outstretched hand.
Carbine nodded proudly, strands of her black hair flying as she did.
"A little young, aren't you, dearie?" Rose asked suddenly.
Snapped away from Throttle, Carbine stammered, "Not really. I mean, I'm fifteen now. I've been in military school for five years. This is one of my first actual combat experiences."
Looking upward, she added, grinning lightly, "Such as it is."
Vinnie, becoming frustrated with waiting, snapped, "Anyway?"
Flustered, Carbine answered, "Well, I was just saying that the Army doesn't use motorcycles. Most of our battles are fought on foot, and troop transport is either by sand skimmer or teleporter."
Arching his eyebrows, Modo asked, "But then who saved our tails back at Hellfire?"
Before Carbine could answer, or rather, speculate, as she had no clue whatsoever about her newfound-acquaintances' mysterious saviors, a voice shouted, "Soldier! Get your tail over here! We've got work to do!"
Carbine shouted back, "Yes sir, Sergeant Scabbard! I'm on my way!"
She turned to the mice, most specifically, Throttle, and said, "I gotta go."
"Maybe we'll see you again some time," the tan-furred teen replied, with a slight grin at the corners of his mouth. Years later, Carbine would tell a friend that Throttle could have passed for Brad Pitt at that moment, once she had seen "Legends of the Fall".
But, smitten or no, Carbine dashed away, her hair whipping in the breeze.
Throttle watched her as she caught up to a tall buzzcutted mouse, who shot Throttle a dirty look that chilled him to his still-growing bones.
Throttle sighed, smiling.
"Oooooh," Modo cooed. "Looks like Throttle's in love!"
"Shut up!" Throttle snapped, turning on his bro. "I am not!" Disconcerted, he quickly explained, "She's got a nice ass, that's all!"
"Oh, ah agree with you on that one," the older mouse replied, cocking his head carefully as if appraising a fine piece of furniture. He grinned slyly and added, "Ah saw that look in yur eyes!"
Throttle snorted huffily and replied, "What look?"
Vinnie nodded wholeheartedly and crowed, "The look of amore, bro!"
Bingo chuckled, "Let the torment commence!"
As Vinnie, Bingo, and Modo started crooning, "Throttle and Carbine sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G", the tan-furred mouse sighed and shook his head in frustration, then left his bros to find his family.
Conversely, Vinnie tried to stick to his two remaining bros like glue, avoiding any contact with his mother until it was absolutely necessary. But the time came that his gray-furred bro wanted to be alone with his mother, and Bingo had left Vinnie to go to the registry to find out if her guardian was there, so the youngest of the threesome walked away slowly to find Glib.
It wasn't a long search. There were three major bunkhouses in the shelter, each one representing a certain range of the alphabet. But few mice had last names anymore, a custom which had faded as the long-forgotten clans of decades past intermingled and dissipated among the others, so the bunker a family was assigned to was decided by the first name of the head of the family, or, if it was a single mouse, by their own name.
Glib, then, would be in the first bunkhouse, which ran A-G. Like the other two, it had been built primarily underground, Vinnie discovered as he looked over a map handed to him as he entered the aboveground lobby. The young mouse was still pondering the diagram as he entered, the last light of day streaking away into oblivion behind him.
Inside was pure chaos. It had only been hours since the first Plutarkian lasers had zipped through Hellfire, and still no one seemed to know exactly what was going on. Members of fragmented families were crying for soldiers and administrators to tell them the whereabouts of their missing members. Others had demanded that they be able to keep the belongings they had brought from their homes in their rooms and not have to leave them in the storage sheds, which led to huge piles of clutter through the lobbies. Everyone was screaming about something or other, or crying, or complaining. There was no room to move, breathe, or to do the funky chicken, which severely depressed a group of younger mice in roller skates with a record player tuckered under their arms.
Vinnie, who normally enjoyed pandemonium, shook his head in disgust and started for the beginning of the line.
"Halt," a soldier snapped, pointing a gun in the young mouse's face.
"Is that a rifle in your hands or are you just happy to see me?" he asked, grinning weakly.
For his attempt at levity Vinnie got a cuff upside the ears and a small yellow ticket with the number 297 stamped in black ink on the front. The soldier pointed one black-gloved finger at the rear of the long column of mice that stretched out the door.
Crud! he thought miserably. I gotta wait in line? I hate this!
Frustrated, Vinnie looked up at the screen which displayed who was currently being served, so to speak.
"Oooooh!" he howled. "I can't wait that long!"
Vinnie stepped out of line and dashed to the front, causing shouts of anger from those he jumped ahead of, most of them telling Vinnie where to go (though not where he wanted to be at the moment), or making statements about her mother and her occupation.
The young mouse squeezed in between the current leader of the line and the clerk.
"Young mouse, wait your turn," the mouse behind the makeshift wood desk said in a firm and extremely bored voice.
"But I just need to know where my--"
Vinnie found himself jerked back suddenly by the collar of his shirt and lifted into the air by the soldier who had given him his ticket. His broken arm sang an operetta of pain, and the young mouse found himself biting his lip to keep from screaming.
"Didn't I just tell you to wait your turn?" the older mouse snarled.
"Yeah," Vinnie agreed hoarsely, eyes narrowed in anger.
Suddenly, something popped into Vinnie's head. It scared him at first, because he wasn't sure what it was, exactly.
Then he calmed down when he realized it was an idea. A good one, it seemed.
It hearkened back to his days in pre-school when it had been an all too common occurrence that Howitzer VanWham's little boy was excluded from playing with the other children because he was, in the words of a little sandy-furred girl named Bubbles (the popular little priss who looked down her nose at Vinnie because of one isolated incident when he hadn't been able to make it to the little boys' room in time), "a stinky poo-poo head."
For well over a week, Vinnie had taken his teacher's advice to be kinder to his fellow tots, to share with them, to be the best little fellow he could be.
Of course, Vinnie had a quick temper, and, one day, after a seemingly endless round of "The Stinky Poo-Poo Head Song" (sung to the tune of "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" and with the recurrent lyrics, "Poo-poo head"), he proceeded to break the noses of every kid in the entire preschool.
Even his own.
An hour later, a grumbling Glib found herself summoned to one of the small above-ground offices of the bunker. She had just settled herself into the tiny room she and her son had been allotted when word came from upstairs that she was needed.
Somehow, she knew it had something to do with Vinnie before she ever opened the door and found her son sitting on a bench surrounded by a small battalion of armed guards.
He was in leg irons.
Oh, geez, Glib thought miserably.
"Hi, Mom!" Vinnie said, cheerfully. Secretly, he thought to himself, Yes! It worked! Get in trouble, they call Mom up here! Easier than lookin' for her!
"Mrs. VanWham?" asked one of the soldiers.
"It's Miss," she hissed back. "I'm a widow."
Bowing his head, the mouse replied, "My condolences. Did he die in the invasion?"
"Howitzer's been dead for years. Now what'd he do?"
A bit suprised by Glib's instant accusatory mode, the soldier explained, "Your son here caused a disturbance in the lobby. He apparently became irritated at waiting in line and starting busting heads."
"That sounds about right," she muttered, crossing her arms.
The look she shot her son sent a chill down his spine as he realized that perhaps he hadn't picked the smartest approach to his dilemma. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he was probably going to end up with a black eye to go with his broken arm, along with a myriad of bruises on his neck, back, and arms to match.
Shit, he whimpered mentally.
Glib spoke with the mouse in charge of the bunkers and, due in part to the fact that he was one of Scarp's supporters and was impressed by what she had done for him, Vinnie was let off the hook. Soon, the gold-haired mouse and her son were on their way to the small room ("more of a cubbyhole", Glib had explained tersely) that they would be sharing.
She was silent during the walk to their room, which Vinnie carefully noted the location of. He knew what was going to happen for his ignorance already; he didn't dare risk the same punishment a second time.
Vinnie watched his mother while she walked. Her face was stern, set. She walked quickly, and the faster she strode, the faster she pumped her arms. The faster she pumped her arms, Vinnie knew, the madder she was getting.
They stopped outside of a small room. Glib calmly opened the door--there was no lock--and stepped aside, obviously meaning for Vinnie to enter first.
He took a deep breath and stepped inside two steps. Glib entered and closed the door quietly behind her.
There still may be time to apologize, Vinnie thought to himself hopefully.
He turned and said, "Mom, I'm really sor--"
Glib nailed a direct hit to Vinnie's face with the skill of a boxer. The force of the punch knocked him off his feet and sent him flying (non-cannon Biker Mice trivia: during her days in college, Glib played baseball and was a pitcher. She was well known for her upper-body strength as well as for her sharp mind). Vinnie skidded all the way to the rear wall of the room, between its twin cots. He laid there for a moment, barely conscious.
Addled, he was barely aware of Glib striding across the room until she had picked him up by the shirt collar and slammed him into the wall, holding him several feet off the ground.
"You little shit," she snarled. "I should've just left you there in the irons! Son of a bitch! What possessed that tiny mind of yours to make you do something so stupid, you brat?!"
"I'm sorry," he whispered, head down, shoulders slumped.
Suddenly, a hand grabbed Vinnie's chin was jerked it up painfully to meet Glib's fearsome face. In the darkness, she looked like some fierce creature with glowing red eyes.
Vinnie was certain she was just such a monster.
Since his father's death, Vinnie had seen those eyes staring at him often, filled with that horrible fire, suspended in the caliginous black, and had felt the fists attached to them just as often.
"Look at me when I'm talking to you! Would waiting in line really have killed you?"
Glib's knee suddenly connected hard with Vinnie's stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Vinnie cried out, eyes bulging, before Glib covered his mouth with her hand to keep him quiet.
"No! Of course it wouldn't have! You're just like your father! Too damn impatient for your own damn good! And for mine!"
Gasping, Vinnie cried, "Mom, I can't breathe--"
"No! Now shut up and listen to me, you stupid little bastard! I'm gonna give you some advice, and you'd better pay attention. We're gonna be in tight quarters for awhile, so make yourself scarce, or you're gonna get alot worse than this!"
Vinnie nodded, understanding the thinly-veiled threat completely.
Glib dropped Vinnie to the floor. The young mouse put a hand over his eye. It would be black and blue before the sun rose tomorrow morning. Years of having them had taught Vinnie what an oncoming black eye felt like.
The sound of Glib's heels clicking across the floor made Vinnie look up. His mother stood in the doorway, little more than a silhouette in the darkness.
"You stay put," Glib snarled.
"Where're you goin'?" Vinnie asked, coughing.
"None of your concern."
With that, the door closed.
Vinnie sat on the floor for a minute, then pulled himself weakly up onto the bed. It's ancient, rusty coils moaned as they absorbed the young mouse's weight. Vinnie felt the ends of the springs push into his back and shoulders through the thin mattress and thinner covers all too clearly.
It was times like this that he truly hated his mother. He knew now that what he had done hadn't been the brightest move in the world, but at the time, it had seemed right. Surely Glib understood that. According to popular fiction, she had been young once herself.
And yet, as he knew she would before his tormentor even arrived, she yelled at him, cussed him out, and beat him. Vinnie knew he wasn't stupid, wasn't a son of a bitch, wasn't a bastard, or any of the things his mother called him. He knew that he didn't deserve to be hit, punched, or slapped around. Howitzer VanWham had made sure, in his strange, strange way, to instill a sense of self in his son, unaware that little Vinnie would grow up to have the largest ego in the known universe (narrowly beating out Rush Limbaugh).
And Vinnie knew this wasn't the way mothers were supposed to be, even though he also knew they couldn't all be as kind as Rose or as supportive (if often-times absent) as Jewel.
He didn't know why his mother did what she did, but he usually knew better than to cross her. Vinnie had known since the night he had seen her empty two rounds into Howitzer's head and chest as her son watched, horrified and unnoticed, from the hall.
How long do I have to deal with this? he wondered, stroking his broken arm. It seemed he always had some broken part, or a black eye, or a nasty bump. Dammit! One of these days...I gotta get away from her. I gotta. She's gonna kill me if I don't.
The next morning, all the mice in the new shelter were called together for a meeting to, as a memorandum that was sent to all the rooms said, "to explain away some of the chaos and calm the public."
They got their work cut out for `em, then, Throttle thought to himself as he exited the bunker his family now called home and walked into the open commons at the center of the shelter. I see plenty of chaos and no calm in this public.
He looked above and saw not the pale pink sky of Martian morning, but rather, a strange silvery framework made up of pentagons and hexagons. Over this was another silvery layer. It formed a black dome that went from the gates ahead to the rear of the shelter and encompassed the entire structure.
Looks like Martian steel, he thought to himself, but....different somehow.
Huge lights hung from the inside of the dome, making the inside as bright as noon outside. The intensity hurt Throttle's eyes, which had always been sensitive to light.
As he continued out into the open, he saw a stage had been constructed at the end of the commons closest to the gate. Large speakers had been placed nearby and surrounded the grassy field in a semi-circle.
I don't suppose we're lucky enough for a concert. Wonder what's going on?
Among the crowd he easily located his bros. Vinnie was off to the far left, sitting alone and eating one of the boxed breakfast rations that was provided to the civilian mice in the shelter from a long line of tables thrown up nearby. He explained to Throttle as he joined him that his mother had told him she wanted to talk to some friends of hers she had found from the law firm where she worked. He was free (not to mention encouraged) to find his friends and wander about.
"So where're your parents?" the younger mouse asked as Throttle picked up his breakfast.
"Somethin's wrong with Rush," Throttle replied, shrugging his gold shoulders as he picked up one of the breakfasts he had seen Vinnie eating. "He started wailin' in the middle of the night. High fever. So Mom took him to the infirmary. Dad's got a migraine, and he asked if I'd go find some way to keep myself busy."
"Any idea what's wrong with him?" Vinnie querried, scanning the crowd for his mother so he could avoid her.
"Nope," Throttle replied, shrugging his shoulders and opening the lid of his breakfast. Inside was something that vaguely resembled eggs and what the Army wanted the mice to believe was pancakes.
"Is this stuff any good?" the gold-furred mouse asked his companion. He speared a piece of egg on the small plastic fork inside the kit and sniffed it. Reeling in disgust, he then added, "Or at least digestable?"
Vinnie muttered, "Good? No. Digestable? Well, I've been hearing stories all morning from the bathrooms, and they ain't good."
"Thanks, no," Throttle sighed, dumping the box into a trash can and continuing walking.
Suddenly, Bingo rushed up out of nowhere and joined her bros.
"Bing!" Vinnie said, grinning. "Didn't see much outta ya last night! What happened?"
Bingo replied, clearly troubled, "That's what I wanna know! Wallenczech isn't here!"
"He isn't?" Throttle and Vinnie asked in perfect synch.
Red hair flashed as Bingo shook her head no. "I mean, he's probably okay; `Czech can handle anything, but....."
Throttle and Vinnie looked to each other, unsure of how to reply. They had all seen yesterday's carnage, and if someone wasn't in the shelter by now....it seemed unlikely that they could have survived at all.
Oughtta try and cheer her up, Throttle thought to himself. It took a moment, but suddenly, he had a brilliant idea, which he whispered to Vinnie. Vinnie nodded and grinned.
"Bro," Vinnie said to Bingo, smiling, "wanna see a trick?"
Bingo said quietly, "Okay, but I ain't pullin' anybody's finger."
"Not this time. Can ya get me a calculator?"
"You want fries with that?" Bingo replied, casually putting her hand, palm up, into the vacant air in front of her, waiting for something to drop into it.
She froze, startled.
"What's wrong, bro?" Throttle asked.
Bingo didn't answer but turned to her side and reach her hand out again.
Clearly frustrated, she gritted her teeth and looked as though she was trying to tear the very air apart.
"I don't get it!" she snapped. "Why won't it work? I can't make a black hole!"
"You can't?" Vinnie asked, suprised.
Shaking her head no, Bingo said quietly, "This hasn't ever happened before."
Vinnie knew what the young mouse meant (though the readers don't). Ever since he had known her, and, according to Bingo, since her birth, tiny black holes appeared around her. After several years of carefully observing them but never touching one, she finally realized that she herself was creating them whenever she wished she had something she needed which was temporarily inconvenient. Merely reaching into one usually got the required object, though she didn't know why. Sometimes, one would open and would be completely empty. It seemed only personal items, things she owned or that were in Wallenczech's cave, would come.
Bingo didn't understand how many laws of physics she broke doing opening the small cosmic anomallies, or why her black holes didn't suck things into them like those theorized by Martian astronomers. If they had any other purpose, she didn't know it, and might never learn; she had repeatedly been discouraged from having anything to do with them, even for their beneficial qualities. Especially was she cautioned against entering one.
Never before had she been unable to at least create one, though. Never. Oh, it was harder when she was weak or tired, but there had never been a day when the hellfire-haired mouse could not force space to tear itself apart for her.
"Try not to worry about it too much, bro," Throttle said, patting her on the shoulders. "Maybe it's just one of those delayed-stress reactions. We did almost get killed yesterday."
"But that wasn't stressful," Bingo corrected, tail thrashing about as mice's tails have a tendency to do when they're upset or worried. "That was fun."
Vinnie wrapped his arms around Bingo's shoulders and cooed, "And that's why she's my bro."
Throttle shook his head and said, "Anyway, as luck would have it--"
He dug through his pockets and found a slim black card in one, which he handed to Vinnie.
"--I got a calculator on me."
Bingo smiled and watched as Vinnie typed in a sequence of keys, tongue stuck out of his mouth to make sure he did it right. When he was finished, he showed Bingo the display, which she read aloud.
"One-one-three-four?" she asked quizzically. "I don't--"
Throttle flipped it upside-down.
Bingo snickered and said, " `Hell'. I get it now. Not too bad. Do you know this one?"
She snatched the calculator and pressed in a series of numbers, which she then showed her bros proudly.
" `Boobless'," Throttle chuckled. "Good one."
"Check this out."
Tak-tak-tak-tak went the keys as Bingo began banging away at them at fantastic speed. For a full minute, she went at it, before showing her handiwork to her puzzled bros. Throttle took the calculator and read it aloud.
" `It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair'..."
Vinnie gaped at the calculator and asked in disbelief, "How did you do that?!"
Bingo just shrugged, then said, pointing, "Hey! There's Modo!"
Indeed, there sat the gray-furred mouse with his mother on a small grassy hill near the rear of the gathered mice. Modo caught Throttle's gaze and motioned for his bros to join him.
"Mornin', bros," he said, smiling.
"Hey, big fella," Throttle replied, sitting down next to him. Bingo and Vinnie followed suit. "What's up?"
"Not much. Ah just got off the VidCom with Kathe. She--"
Rose interrupted suddenly, "Have you three eaten yet today?"
The three youngest Biker Mice looked at each other, then shook their heads no. "Hmph! Well, that isn't right!" the matronly mouse snapped, digging through a bag at her side. "You three are growing mice! You need to eat!"
She dug for another moment, then triumphantly pulled out three small silver packs, which she passed to Throttle, Vinnie, and Bingo. Upon opening them, they discovered the Martian version of Pop-Tarts, which they readily consumed.
"That's my Momma," Modo said, hugging her tightly. "Always prepared for an emergency."
"Like the grub here," Vinnie added, spraying crumbs everywhere as he spoke, speckling his bros.
Throttle licked the crumbs from his fingers but found his stomach was still nearly empty.
"I don't suppose you, um, have any more, do you?" he asked Rose timidly.
Rose casually pulled out another package and passed it to Throttle, smiling.
Just then, a voice boomed over the recently set-up PA system.
"MAY WE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE?"
The young Biker Mice looked at each other, then towards the stage at the front of the camp and said, in perfect unison, "No."
Putting a finger to her mouth, Rose silenced them all and forced them to look ahead to the stage, where a rather nondescript mouse in Army garb, holding a sheaf of papers in his hands, stood, flanked by armed guards.
"MANY OF YOU HAVE COME TO US ASKING VARIOUS QUESTIONS, SO WE'RE GOING TO TAKE SOME TIME TO ANSWER SOME OF THOSE QUESTIONS AND TO ASSUGE YOUR FEARS.
"IN THE FIRST PLACE, THIS CAMP WAS BUILT JUST IN CASE THE PLUTARKIANS DID MANAGE TO SLIP PAST THE ARMY AND STORM HELLFIRE, WHICH, I'M AFRAID, THEY DID. FORUNATELY, THIS FACILITY WAS READY.
Someone in the audience shouted something (possibly a ligitimate question, but more likely "Freebird!"), and the mouse on stage answered, "WE DO NOT KNOW WHEN YOU WILL BE ABLE TO RETURN TO HELLFIRE. THE CITY IS BEING FOUGHT FOR, BUT WE CAN NOT BE SURE WHEN IT WILL AGAIN BE SAFE FOR HABITATION."
The audience was stunned into silence, but not for very long.
"We can't go home?" someone shouted.
"What about my skimmer!" cried another.
"My children are still there!" a mother screamed.
"PLEASE, EVERYONE, CALM DOWN. YOU MUST REMAIN CALM. THIS IS A TRYING TIME, I KNOW. THIS ISN'T EASY FOR ANY OF US."
"Funny," Vinnie muttered. "That guy doesn't seem to be sweatin' any."
"WE'RE AFRAID THAT YOU WILL ALL HAVE TO STAY HERE, WITHIN THE SHELTER, UNTIL HELLFIRE IS SAFE ONCE MORE, OR UNTIL YOU CAN BE RELOCATED TO ANOTHER CITY. THE RELOCATION PROGRAM WON'T BEGIN FOR ANOTHER THREE WEEKS, SO PLEASE BE PATIENT. YOU CAN SIGN UP IN THE LOBBY IN YOUR INDIVIDUAL BUNKER. FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE.
"WE NEED EVERYONE'S COOPERATION TO MAKE THIS WORK."
A mouse in the crowd asked, "What about my job?"
That brought up more resounding questions about money still in Hellfire's banks, and about expensive personal property still in the city, along with a few isolated inquiries about school (the children in the crowd, including the adolescent Biker Mice, found these mice and wrestled them to the ground in an effort to silence them).
"AS WE'VE SAID, HELLFIRE IS CURRENTLY UNDER PLUTARKIAN CONTROL. THE ARMY CAN NOT PENETRATE THE FORCE SHIELD THAT HAS BEEN PLACED AT THE CITY'S BORDERS. ANY MONEY OR PROPERTY LOST TO THE PLUTARKIANS WILL BE REIMBURSED TO PRIVATE CITIZENS ONCE THE CITY IS RE-TAKEN.
"AS FOR ANY OTHER QUESTIONS, PLEASE SEE A REPRESENTATIVE IN THE BUNKERS, WHO WILL DO THEIR BEST TO ANSWER YOU.
The mouse onstage started to walk away, and was halfway downstairs before questions from the crowd finally forced him to go back to the microphone to make one final statement.
"LADIES AND GENTLEMICE, I REPEAT; YOU CAN NOT LEAVE THIS SHELTER. WE'RE SORRY, BUT THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS."
With that, with an ease as if he had been reading a weather report, the mouse climbed off the stage and disappeared.
"They can't do this!" Vinnie shouted, hands balled into fists. "They can't do this! How can they do this?" He was on the verge of hyperventilating,
The Biker Mice were as stunned as anyone in the shelter. You didn't hope to spend your life roaming the barren desert surface of Mars and then cope easily with someone telling you that you were forbidden to leave the confines of a single building, not matter its size.
Modo said nothing but was boiling with rage. Throttle was unsure of what to do. Bingo just gritted her teeth in anger.
"This ain't fair!" Vinnie cried. "How're we supposed t'ride free if we can't get out of this stinkin' place?!"
"Simple," Throttle snapped back. "We can't."
No one had a witty reply to that.
After the initial shock of their imprisonment wore off, the Biker Mice found themselves facing a new enemy. Not Plutarkians, something even less tangible. Something that couldn't be hurt by a punch, or fried into nothing by a laser pistol.
An unconquerable foe.
There was nothing to do whatsoever in the entire shelter. Oh, certainly, the adults would discuss their frustration at being trapped, and while the Biker Mice did sympathize, they weren't allowed to participate in the discussions, but even if they were , they would probably just become bored again, anyway.
"I hate to say it," Throttle sighed one terrifyingly boring afternoon between one and two o'clock, the most boring hour of the day (anyone who stays home sick and can't find anything good on TV will agree with me on this one), "but at this point, I wouldn't even mind goin' to school. "
"Pretty scary," Vinnie sighed. He was the most ennuyé-d of any mouse in the shelter. There was nothing to stimulate his always overpumped adrenal glands, and he was bored to tears.
Bingo nodded sadly and asked, "Got any twos?"
Vinnie looked over his cards and said, "Yup."
They both placed their cards face down on the floor, laid down on their stomachs, and placed their elbows on the floor in front of each other.
"Do we gotta do it lefties?" the white-furred mouse asked.
"Come on, bro," Bingo said. "I'm just a weak little kid, remember? You'd beat me using either hand. Let me use my smart one."
Modo added, "Yeah, bro. Be fair. You can beat her south-paw."
Nodding, Vinnie clasped Bingo's left hand in his. Throttle put a palm overtop theirs and said, "On three. One....two....three!"
Bingo and Vinnie put all their strength into it, and for a moment, neither made any headway. Much tooth-gritting and growling accompanied this stalemate.
Suddenly, an arm was slapped hard against the concrete floor.
Much to Vinnie's suprise, it was his.
"Damn!" he snapped. "Beaten by a girl! I feel like such a wuss!"
"Bitch bitch bitch," Bingo chuckled, taking the two's from Vinnie's cards and matching two pairs.
"This game sucks."
Just then, a rat entered the hallway, dressed in full military garb. Guns hung on his hips. And boy, did he look pissed.
The four young mice froze instantly.
"Easy," the visitor snapped, handing a sheet of orange paper to each of the young mice. "It's just an info sheet." As he walked off, he muttered something about, "Those fish-faces better have somethin' better lined up for me than this."
Throttle looked over the sheet, which read:
Below it were a list of criteria. Several had to do with income, specifically, those who had enough money to make Bill Gates put his head under the covers and cry. Some cited government employees. The broadest category was for all male mice over 20 but below 100. According to the sheet, those who would be running the camp needed to get an idea of what the mice who were encamped there were like.
"Hmmm," Throttle mumbled thoughtfully. " `School-age mice'. That doesn't sound good."
"Damn!" Vinnie snapped. "We're in the middle of a war and they're gonna make us go to school? That ain't right!"
Modo bit his lower lip as he looked over the sheet and wondered if it wasn't some attempt to draft young mice like himself. If called, he wouldn't mind fighting, but at the same time, he didn't want to break his promise to his mother.
Suddenly, Bingo, who had been reading the sheet herself, asked, "The Order?" "Why in the world they wanna meet with members of the Order?"
"Yeah," Vinnie chuckled. "Whaddaya think they want with those weirdo freaks?"
Eyes narrowed, the hellfire-haired mouse snapped, "I'm one of those weirdo freaks, bro."
While Vinnie tried to apologize, Throttle asked, "Bing? You're Dumasian? I never knew that."
Shrugging her thin shoulders, Bingo explained, "Well, my Dad was, anyway. And his mother before him. And so on and so on. Wallenczech's one of them, too, and he's been groomin' me to be one myself. There's nothin' wrong with bein' Dumasian, though. Near as I can tell, anyway. Other than the facts that the monks have to cut off their antennae."
"Ouch!" Throttle cried, clapping a hand over the two red stalks atop his head. "Why would they do that?"
"You got me," Bingo replied. "It's ritualistic or something. Sick."
Modo raised an eyebrow and asked, "What does it mean, anyway? Bein' in the Order?"
Biting her lip, Bingo asked, "Well, what've you heard?"
Throttle and Modo, trying to figure out how to be tactful in their answers, took a moment to think.
Vinnie, less fond of subtlety, said quickly, "That the Order is full of kooks and nimrods who wanna overthrow the government."
"Who doesn't?" Throttle interrupted, smirking.
"Anything else?" the youngest of the foursome querried.
Throttle muttered, "That the Dumasians are into all kinds of witch-craft."
Modo opened his mouth to say something, then closed it just as quick. He seemed unwilling to say whatever had crossed his mind. It took five minutes of prompting from his bros before he admitted, "Ah heard there are tons of rats in it."
Bingo nodded thoughtfully, fully understanding Modo's hesitation as fear he would be considered prejudiced for his statement. He didn't like rats, and probably never would.
"Well," she began, "you're all partly right. Near as I can tell, the Order's just a religious sect, that's all. There are some zealots in the Order, some who're obsessed with morals and everything like that, and alot of `em don't like the way Abrahams runs the government. But as far as I know, anarchy's not a basic part of the Order's structure."
"Pity," Throttle chuckled.
"And yeah, there's definitely some mystic stuff, but I don't know about out-and-
out witchcraft. It may be where my black holes come from."
Modo interrupted, "Can you make them yet?"
Bingo shook her head no and sighed, "I still don't know why. I could probably finish up with this exposition if you guys would quit interrupting me."
"Sorry," all three apologized.
"Anyway, part of the Order involved extending hospitality to all creatures of all races, unless they've wronged the Order in the past somehow. We've always been anti-Plutarkian, according to the stories. But we do offer safety to rats if they join us and uphold the Order's teachings and all that. Thing is, lots of them don't. They won't give up material wealth and carnal pleasures in search of the spiritual.
"But then, who would?"
Nodding, Throttle asked, "But why do you suppose the administrators want to know if there are Dumasians in the camp?"
Shrugging her thin shoulders, Bingo replied, "Who knows? Maybe they're gonna set up worship services or something. Geez, I hope not. I hate goin' to church."
After a week, Bingo discovered that the call for members of the Order had nothing to do with any kind of organized service, which relieved her, perhaps prematurely. There was another reason.
She dropped the bomb about three months after the mice's initial imprisonment in the Shelter.
"Whadaya mean, you gotta go?" Throttle snapped.
Bingo laid a t-shirt she had borrowed from Vinnie into her small suitcase and replied, "Last night, the rat in charge of personal relations grabbed me before dinner--"
"You could probably nail him with a sexual harassment suit for that," Vinnie interrupted.
Forcing a smile, the orange-furred mouse continued, "Anyway, he said that Wallenczech's safe up North, and that I have to go to him since I'm his ward."
"Ward," Modo chuckled. "Makes ya sound like Dick Grayson."
"You little Dick," Vinnie said, grinning.
They all broke out laughing. But when the laughter stopped, all the merriment left the room stage right.
"Can'tcha stay here with us?" Vinnie asked, suddenly somber. He would miss her more than any of them.
"Ah can't say for sure, but ah bet Momma wouldn't mind keepin' ya in our bunker a little longer," Modo added. "An' anyway, Hellfire's gonna be safe soon, so you wouldn't be here long."
Years later, an older and wiser Modo would chuckle at his own naivite.
"I got no choice," Bingo sighed. "See, that's why they were askin' about the Order on that paper. Apparently, there's some kinda camp built especially for Dumasians. Don't ask me why. Everybody here's goin' up, whether they want to or not. But who knows? Maybe it's a good thing.
"And anyways, Wallenczech--he--well, I'm all he's got. I don't want him to be all alone."
"Gonna miss ya, lil' bro," Modo said gently, putting a hand on her arm. His fingers were crowded on Bingo's much smaller shoulder.
Closing the clasps on her suitcase, Bingo sighed heavily, turned and faced the door.
In turn, all three of her bros followed her, and walked with her to the main gate of the camp. It hung open, showing a blowing windstorm outside. Other members of the Order were marching out the gate, to a black skimmer-van waiting there.
"I guess that's my ride," Bingo sighed, biting her lower lip and turning back to her bros briefly.
Suddenly, a voice said from behind, "Little Knight?"
The mice turned.
There stood a tall, stoic figure in a long cloak. His face was hidden away from view, as was every other part of his body, save his tail, which blew freely in the wind. Perhaps it was the way he stood, or the clasp on his cape, but Bingo recognized him immediately.
"Wallenczech!" she cried happily, rushing over to him.
He stooped and knelt, catching her as she ran into his open arms. They embraced tightly for a moment, before Bingo's guardian pushed her away gently.
"We haven't time for this now," he said softly. His voice had a raspy quality that would have unnerved others but comforted Bingo. "Do you have all your things together?"
That guy is so weird, Throttle thought to himself. Why's he all covered up?
Bingo nodded and held up her suitcase.
"Good. You stay here while I go give this to the fellows in the van."
Wallenczech walked off and disappeared once more into the swirling sands.
"I guess this is it," the orange-furred mouse muttered sadly, biting her lip.
The others nodded slowly.
Without warning, one of the mice broke into tears, and years later, they were unsure of just who it was. They all fell into each other, and soon, all four were crying.
"It won't be forever," Throttle reminded her through hitching breaths as the foursome drew slowly apart. Hands on Bingo's shoulders, he shook her as he repeated himself.
"Won't be forever. We'll be back together soon enough. You just wait and see."
"Take care o' yourself, lil' bro," Modo added, nodding and trying desperately to swallow the knot in his throat.
Vinnie clutched Bingo's hand tightly in his and said nothing. He couldn't, or he'd start crying again.
Bingo turned, wiping away her tears, to see Wallenczech once more behind her.
"Do I have to go?" Bingo whispered hopefully.
The rat nodded sadly and said softly, "If I could leave you here, I would. In a heartbeat"
Weird, Throttle thought to himself, wiping a tear from his eye and wishing once again that he had sunglasses, cool mirrored ones, so that others couldn't see him crying. She wanted to go with him just so he wouldn't be alone, and he says he'd gladly leave her here?
Wallenczech picked Bingo up easily in one arm and started to leave. He stopped suddenly in his tracks and turned to the other young Biker Mice.
"Are you her friends?" he asked inquisitively. "The ones she is always speaking of?"
Modo and Vinnie both looked to Throttle before nodding.
The mysterious guardian extended one large hand to them.
"Then I owe you a debt of thanks. You saved her life in Hellfire, and kept her safe for me all these months. Thank you."
"N-no sweat," Throttle replied, shaking Wallenczech's hand on behalf of his bros. Throttle couldn't help but notice the stranger's fingernails digging into his hand.
All things must come to an end, and so, Bingo waved a final goodbye to her bros as Wallenczech carried her away, between the gates, and into the whirling sands. The two of them stepped quickly into the rear of the large black skimmer-van there, where other members of the Order who had been in the shelter already sat with their bags. The doors closed, and the skimmer disappeared into the sunset.