Disclaimer: The disclaimer is always greener in somebody else's lawn.
Oh well, 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.
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!
Well, Bingo finally finished her epic tale of woe, revealing that the
mice in Ash had been gassed to death at the order of Dahmer Abrahams.
This was shocking in and of itself, but then Throttle made the sudden realization that the same exact hole cut into Ash's wall to let the gas
in had been the one they had escaped through when the three elder
Biker Mice began their little excursion to Hellfire. The meaning is
obvious: someone (probably the Plutarkians) means to kill every
single mouse in the Shelter in the same way they killed the mice at Ash!
Can the reunited Biker Mice make it to the Shelter in time to save
their friends and family?
"Is it clear?" Throttle asked cautiously.
Bingo peered out the window for the fiftieth time that morning and nodded.
"Great!" he shouted, dashing into the bathroom and closing the door behind him.
"You guys are awful self-conscious about takin' a whizz, you know that?" Bingo asked, grinning.
"You would be, too, if you were standin' there with it all hangin' out with that damn hole right behind you!" Modo quipped back. "Ah mean, you don't want anyone seein' you there in the first place, let alone a Plutarkian!"
The toilet flushed, and out came Throttle, tucking his t-shirt in again and throwing his vest on.
"Okay. Everybody went, right?" he asked. "We don't wanna have t'make any rest stops on the way."
"Yes," Vinnie, Modo, and Bingo all sighed, like bored children.
"Good," Throttle said, nodding firmly. "It's gonna be a few hours, anyway, and the sooner we get back to the Shelter, the better. Those fish-heads could be ready to pipe the gas in right now!"
Vinnie shrugged on his jacket and asked, "So how're we gettin' there, anyway? If we go the same way we came, we're gonna have to deal with the Army. Again."
I wouldn't mind, Throttle thought to himself, grinning. Maybe me and Carbine could pick up where we left off....
Okay, bucky-boy, I see I'm going to have to--
"Dammit! Okay, okay, we're going!" Throttle shouted, grabbing the sides of his head.
"Who're you talkin' to, bro?" Modo asked warily.
Sighing, Throttle replied, "No one."
"Methinks Throttle's goin' screwy on us," Bingo muttered to Vinnie, who didn't even attempt to stifle a snicker.
"Hey, I didn't ask to have a little voice in my head!" the young mouse snapped angrily.
"You've got a little voice in your head?" Vinnie asked curiously. "That is so cool! So do I!"
Curiously, Throttle, Modo, and Bingo asked, "You do?"
"Yeah! Does yours tell you to burn things up, too?"
Mental note, Throttle told himself. Keep Vinnie away from the matches.
Bingo said thoughtfully, "Are we gonna take train tunnels?"
"Yup," the gold-furred mouse agreed. "All the U-Trains were taken off the rails after Hellfire was captured by the Plutarkians. The tunnels run from here to Mireblock. We'll get out of them there, then scoot our tails over to the Shelter. Should only take about ten minutes from there."
"Question," Bingo said, raising her hand.
"Yes, Bingo?" Throttle asked.
"Why don't I just black hole us there?"
Throttle started checking the mice's packs to make sure they were ready and explained, "Two reasons. One--you've already told us that a long-range black holes tucker you out. We'll need you ready to fight once we get to the Shelter, not being a faux narcoleptic. It'll be hard for you to avoid gunfire if you're asleep."
"We have to avoid the gunfire?" Vinnie whined.
"Yes. And, Bing, if for no other reason, we can use you as evidence of what the government is doing to its own people. I mean, if you don't mind my sayin' so, you're thin as a rail and you look like Hell."
"Fair enough," the orange-furred mouse replied. "You know, if all else fails, thin as I am right now, I could probably become a model."
Modo pondered the idea and said thoughtfully, "Well, y'haven't hardly eaten in two years. You're already half-way there."
"Now if you only had some boobs," Vinnie said, grinning.
Bingo stuck out her tongue at her older bro, who returned it.
After a ten minute raspberry war, the four young mice worked their way down to the basement of the apartment building. Throttle had decided it would be safer if they exited that way. Vinnie had protested, but Throttle was in charge, after all, so he finally caved in and agreed.
The basement was dark and fairly stank of Plutarkians. Indeed, near the doors of the huge, open floor, were the young mice's fish-faced foes, tearing open the doors of the numerous storage units and looting them.
"Damn!" Modo hissed as the foursome hid behind a pile of boxes stacked near one wall. "They're blockin' the way out!"
"Another brilliant plan down the drain," Throttle muttered.
"I dunno," Vinnie said, grinning. "This is even more dangerous than jumpin' off the roof! I love this plan!"
Bingo squinted into the darkness and said quietly, "Looks like they're about to take off for lunch."
"How can you tell?" Modo asked. "Got some kinda infa-red goggles or somethin'?"
"Nope. I saw the food truck parked outside."
Throttle nodded and hissed quickly, "Okay. We wait until they go outside, then we're gonna blast out of here faster than greased lightning, o--"
"What the Hell?" Modo asked.
A bright blue light flashed in the dark. It struck the far wall near the mice, blinding them temporarily. When their sight returned, they saw clearly the shape it made, one very farmiliar and nearly sacred to them.
The mouse-head emblem so popular with Martian motorcyclists.
"They've got a bike in here!" Bingo whispered.
Throttle's bike and Lil' Hoss began to buck nervously, eager to rush to the aid of their unseen compatriot. Both Throttle and Modo found it nearly impossible to keep them under control while Bingo and Vinnie tried to get a better look at what was going on.
"They're tryin' to wrestle it to the ground!" Bingo hissed to Vinnie.
Vinnie, meanwhile, was straining his ears to hear the Plutarkian shouts.
"Damn-blasted contraption!" a Plutarkian gurgled. "I hate these horrible things! It's like they have a mind of their own!"
"Poor fella," Bingo whispered sympathetically.
Vinnie listened to the whine of the engine and whispered, "It sounds so.......... farmiliar....! Where've I heard that engine before?"
"Wow!" Bingo shouted suddenly, hardly able to mask her excitement. "Bro! You gotta see this bike! It's beautiful! Like a tameless, wild horse or something!"
The white-furred mouse poked his head up over the top of the boxes and got the shock of his life (You'll see tons of shocks of Vinnie's life in these stories. Trust me.).
It was, as Bingo had said, a beautiful bike. Vinnie had never seen a motorcycle that wasn't, to his eye, enticingly beautiful. Seductive.
Especially if it could go from zero to two-hundred and seventy in six seconds.
This one was not only beautiful, but sleek. Specifically, it was a racing bike, with a low, aerodynamic shape and a high tail. The shocks were clearly of the highest quality. A pair of jets sat unused at its tail end. Its surface was gorgeous, all curves. The cherry-red paint job looked as clean as if it had just been sprayed on by the most skilled of Martian motorcycle artisans. The mouse-head headlight sparkled like a diamond in the darkness, it's blue-white beam striking the shadows of its Plutarkian assailants against the walls and blinding them even while they fought against it.
And its energy! By God, how it fought! This angry hog reared like a wild mustang, ripping at the ropes the Plutarkians had cast over it, dragging them behind it as it tore through the darkness trying to free itself. It was pissed! It was alive!
"Catch it!" one Plutarkian shouted as the others struggled to hold it. "We can melt it down for scrap and make hideous costume jewelery out it!"
"You bastards," Vinnie growled, teeth gritted so firmly that hours later, his head would still be aching.
"Bro?" Bingo asked, reaching out to put a hand on his shoulder. "What're you--"
Vinnie suddenly leapt out from behind the boxes and charged at the Plutarkians, his handsome face a mask of untamed fury.
For it was not the motorcycle's raw beauty nor its incredible personality that was forcing him to risk certain death on its behalf (though he would do it for lesser reasons, as we all know).
It was who the bike had belonged to first.
"LEAVE IT ALONE, YOU SONS OF BITCHES!" he screamed, landing a powerful punch on the chin of the nearest Plutarkian. "YOU SO MUCH AS SCRATCH THE PAINT AND I'LL RIP YOUR HEADS OFF!"
"Huh huh, huh huh," Bingo laughed. "Cool."
But even as Vinnie fought, he was quickly overwhelmed. The Plutarkians ganged up on him, throwing punches left and right. Before he even had a chance to get in a second strike against his aqueous aggressors, one Plutarkian, the one who had shouted the fate of this bike that was apparently so precious to Vinnie clasped his hands tight together and brought them down on his head. The white-furred mouse fell forward, unconscious.
"VINNIE!" his bros shouted.
Instantly, Throttle and Modo lost control of their bikes, which raced to aid their rider's bro. Both laid down heavy laser fire at the Plutarkians, turning them into a walking fish-fry in no less than 2.4 seconds. The giant living sushi dashed, crying for their mothers (who probably wouldn't have cared one way or the other), out the open door and into the street.
The other three Biker Mice ran to their fallen comrade, who was just coming around. Their bikes were sizing up the one they had just saved. Lil' Hoss made a careful circle around it while the red motorcycle seemed to watch nervously. When Throttle's ride advanced, the two popped up onto their back tires and lunged at each other, challenging for superiority. The black hog apparently won out, and the red motorcycle bared its gas tank in submission. Satisfied, Throttle's bike and Lil' Hoss coasted over to their riders, their new chum following reluctantly behind.
"You okay, bro?" Modo asked, elevating Vinnie's head.
Vinnie rubbed his face, sore but otherwise okay, save for a bloody nose, and nodded.
"That was a damn dumb move, bro!" Throttle snapped furiously. "For God's sake, you don't even know that bike!"
"Yes, I do," Vinnie whispered.
"You do?" Bingo asked.
"It was my Dad's," the white-furred mouse replied.
While his bros swallowed that unexpected piece of information, Vinnie rose shakily to his feet and walked toward the red motorcycle.
"Are you sure?" Throttle asked, still unsure. "That could be anybody's bike! Just same make as--"
"It's my Dad's, bro," Vinnie said softly, taking another few steps. "I'd know it anywhere."
"Careful, bro," Modo shouted quickly. "If it ain't bonded to ya, it probably won't letcha touch it!"
Vinnie gently reach out his fingers and stroked the cowl. The motorcycle purred and drifted closer, much to Modo and Throttle's amazement. They knew that a bonded motorcycle could, would, and often did kill those who would try to ride it unless its owner was obviously allowing them to, yet Vinnie wrapped his arms around it like a beloved pet.
"It knows me," the younger mouse laughed quietly, tears in his eyes. "Remembers me." He kneeled in front of the bike and asked, "Where've you been, sweetheart? I didn't think Mom kept you after Dad died."
The motorcycle whirred and moved closer into Vinnie's embrace.
"Must've been in one of the storage things," Throttle said thoughtfully, joining Vinnie by his father's bike's side.
"I can't believe she kept anything that reminded her so much of Dad," Vinnie whispered, half-unaware of Throttle's presence. "Especially you."
"Care t'introduce us in, bro?" Bingo asked, arms crossed over her chest.
Nodding sheepishly, Vinnie rose to his feet.
"Bros, this is my Dad, the late, great Howitzer VanWham's, bike. Bike, these are my bros. You know their rides already."
"Charmed," Modo said, offering a short bow and chuckling.
"Dad used to race her on the Rock N' Roll Racing circuit," Vinnie continued, patting the bike's soft leather seat. "He was the baddest biker there!"
The young mice all knew of Rock N' Roll Racing. It was the most dangerous sport known to Martian-dom. Competitors came from all over the galaxy to test their mettle on the most hazardous courses in the universe to the most heart-pounding music ever written , racing for the finish line, and more often than not, their lives. For in Rock N' Roll Racing, not only was the use of weaponry permitted, but bonuses were offered if you took someone out completely.
One thing, though.
"Doesn't everybody race in those souped-up cars?" Modo asked.
"Everybody but my Dad," Vinnie sighed, smiling happily. "He said it made it more interesting when everyone else had these huge tanks and he just had his little bike. Less protection equals more fun."
Puzzled, Bingo suggested aloud, "Must be somethin' in the genes."
Vinnie snorted, "That's probably why Mom can't stand me. I'm too much like Dad. I wonder whether she's gonna pound my brains out or just shoot me. Or both."
"Two great tastes that taste great together," Bingo chuckled.
It didn't take much work on Vinnie's part to convince his bros to take Howitzer's bike with them. After all, it was clear both of them had a firm bond established. The motorcycle had already defended Vinnie once before, and steadfastly refused to leave his side now that it had found him.
"And I've already had practice on your bikes," he added. "It'll only take a second to learn to ride Dad's!"
"You let him ride your bikes by himself?" Bingo shouted, aghast. "You never let me ride your bikes!"
Modo could hardly supress a chuckle as he tried to explain to Bingo that she had barely been eight the last time they had seen her, unable to even get on either Throttle's ride or Lil' Hoss without assistance, let alone ride one of them.
"We'll teach you sooner or later, Bing-bro," Throttle said, smiling. "For the time being, let's just worry about keeping Vinnie from turning himself into pavement pizza."
"Few quick pointers," Modo said, turning to Vinnie, who was already astride the bike and barely able to stand waiting one more second. "First, always give her premium. Treat her like a lady."
"Second," Throttle added, "you get frustrated, you never take it out on your bike."
"I think he knows that much," Bingo hissed sarcastically. "Remember the whole `abusive mother' thing?"
Throttle grinned sheepishly and giggled, "Oops."
"Three," Modo concluded, "always wear your helmet. It'll save your skull."
Vinnie nodded, threw his biker bonnet over his head, palmed on the clear blue screen, and shouted, "Let's go let's go let's GO!"
They did. Despite the differences between the two bikes he had practiced on (both essentially street bikes and not the racing style Vinnie's new ride was), the white-furred mouse caught on easily.
Except for his complete and total inability to stay upright during turns.
"I think he's gonna make it this time," Throttle said anxiously as Vinnie started leaning in toward the trashcan on the make-shift obstacle course they had set-up.
"Y'think?" Bingo asked, nibbling on a carton of popcorn. "Double-or-nothing says he crashes again."
Just as the two mice shook hands, Vinnie lost his balance and plowed into the aluminum cans. He and his bike slid a few feet before skidding to a halt. Throttle grumbled and dug a ten dollar bill from his pocket, which he handed to Bingo as they walked over to check on Vinnie.
As always, the white-haired hellion's only injury was a bruised ego.
"I can't believe a walkin' paragon of perfection like yours truly can't make it around a stupid turn!" Vinnie groused, dusting himself off.
"We can't afford to wait around here much longer," Throttle said pensively. "The tunnels are mostly straight, but--"
"Found `em!" Modo shouted, emerging from a sporting-goods store with a box under his arm.
Nodding, Throttle said, "Bring `em over here, bro. Let's put `em on and go."
"You guys can't be serious," Vinnie moaned. "I'll look like such a geek!"
As Modo opened the box and handed one-half its contents and a wrench to Throttle, the older mouse said sagely, "Bro, everybody starts out with trainin' wheels. You know that."
"On bicycles, yeah!" Vinnie cried. "But not on motorcycles!"
Carefully screwing one into place, Throttle explained, "These are specially designed for our kinda bikes, bro. See? They've got shocks and everything. Just try to think of `em as a `learning aid'."
"I feel like one of the kids on the Special Ed bus," Vinnie grumbled.
Bingo grinned and said, "If it makes you feel any better, bro, I'll ride with you."
Vinnie asked with a curious grin, "You know I can't corner and you still wanna ride with me? Bingo, are you insane?"
"No more than the rest of you three," she replied, "which is to say yes I am, but still, yeah. I wanna ride with you."
"Now that's what I call blind faith," Modo chuckled, tightening a nut.
"More like the blind leading the blind," Throttle corrected. He stood up to admire his handiwork. "Okay, they're on. Vinnie, give it a go. Bing, get on with him. He's gonna have to get used to the extra weight."
The two young mice hopped on. Vinnie wrapped his tail around Bingo's waist to make sure she didn't fall off, then jetted over to the far end of the obstacle course.
"Here goes nothin'," Modo said, watching his youngest bros nervously.
"Or quite possibly Bingo and Vinnie's lives," Throttle sighed, wiping a few drops of sweat from his forehead and crossing his fingers.
Vinnie gunned the engine, even popped a wheelie, and began screaming through the course.
VHWOOM! Over the jump.
"So far, so good," Throttle whispered, fingers crossed.
VISHHHHHHHH! Through the puddles without a problem!
Modo wrung his hands nervously.
PHEE PHEE PHEE! Lasers operational.
"Here comes the hard part," Throttle whispered as Vinnie approached the garbage cans. He bit his lower lip in suspense.
Vinnie rounded the first can without a problem.
"He's doin' it!" Modo cried happily. "He's doin' it!"
Around the second.
"Ah think he's gonna make it!"
Banked around the third.
Suddenly, Vinnie started to tilt hard to the left.
"NO!" Throttle shouted.
But before yet another tragedy was written into the annals of Vinnie's early bikerdom, he suddenly jerked hard in the opposite direction, righted himself, and managed to pull to a hard stop, leaving a long skid mark behind him. The stop was so fast he and Bingo both nearly flew off the bike.
"AOOOOOOOW!" Vinnie howled. "I LOVE bein' a BIKER MOUSE!"
Throttle smiled and said, "You learn fast, grasshopper-san."
"Look closely, and you can see his ego swelling as we speak," Bingo commented.
"Ah guess we're ready t'go then?" Modo asked, mounting Lil' Hoss and pulling his helmet on.
Nodding, Throttle threw his leg up over his bike and said, "We've gotta hit the road now, or we might be too late.
"But, before we go, there's somethin' we gotta take care of."
Throttle pulled a box from behind his back and passed it to Bingo.
"F'r me? Aw, you shouldn't have!" Bingo giggled, tearing it open. She reach inside through layers of styrofoam packing pieces and pulled out a silver helmet with green accents on the round.
"Don't want you breakin' your head open or nothin'," Modo explained, shrugging.
Bingo, smiling, touched the side and turned on the helmet's screen, which was dark green. She grinned and put in on. Instantly, the helmet, which was too large by far for Bingo's head, slipped down and covered her field of vision, spun around, and nearly fell off.
"Oh, yeah," she sighed. "I feel so much safer."
"You'll grow into it," the gray-furred mouse laughed.
Nodding, Throttle added, "If we're lucky, within the next twenty minutes."
Twenty minutes later, of course, Bingo had yet to grow into the helmet, but the Biker Mice were one step closer to getting to their families trapped in the Shelter as they arrived at the station that lead into the U-Train tunnels.
The station building was a huge, one story square. The trains loaded directly below it, in the basement, to zoom off to their exotic locales at speeds unimaginable.
Unfortunately, the Biker Mice were finding their own progress slowed by the huge locks and chains someone had thrown over the doors.
"Looks like the Army didn't want the Plutarkians using the tracks for their own transportation," Throttle said, looking all over for an alternative method inside the building.
His search was fruitless. The windows had been covered with huge Martian steel plates, and all of the other doors were locked, more tightly than the front one in some cases.
"Now what do we do?" Modo asked.
Throttle rubbed his chin thoughtfully. He looked at the three Martian motorcycles, specifically the high-powered laser canons mounted inside each one. Thoughtfully, he unhooked his holster and pulled out the laser pistol Carbine had given him, and at the adjustable power settings on the grip.
"We're gonna take the most direct route, bro."
A few minutes later, the four Martian mice stood around a large X Throttle had traced in the sand with his foot.
"You sure this is gonna work?" Modo asked, raising an eyebrow as he released the safety on his gun.
"In theory?" Throttle asked. "Yeah. The tunnels are twenty feet underground. Vinnie's got one grenade left. We'll use that to get rid of much sand as possible. Then, we use our lasers and the bikes to blast a hole down through the top of the tunnel. Then, we go into the tunnels, zip our way through to Hellfire, and....Well, I'll figure out the rest as we go.
Vinnie nodded and pulled the pin out of his solitary baseball grenade, then dropped it on top of the X. The mice quickly dashed away and threw themselves down a safe distance from the grenade (Vinnie wished they had been closer).
Throttle began the count-down.
But before the grenade blew up, the unexpected happened.
From the north, a strange shape began to ripple through the sands at incredible speed. It darted left and right as it went on a steady course just a few yards from where the young Biker Mice watched in horror.
Suddenly, it leapt up out the sand.
It was a huge Saber Squid, the multi-headed scourge of Martian deserts. A creature blind as a bat but more sensitive to sound than a tabloid reporter is to gossip. Legends said the creatures could sense vibrations as far as four miles away in any weather.
Even as it leapt, it seemed to fufill its mythic proportions. Sand fell from its back as it glided through the air, revealing its gigantic red belly, encased in a hard exoskeleton. From head to tail it was easily fifty feet long, and possibly of greater proportion across its breadth. It opened its mouths and filled the air with a shriek that punctured nearby eardrums.
One of its mouths closed around the Biker Mice's carefully positioned grenade.
"NO!" the foursome howled futilely.
The Saber Squid disappeared back into the sands and began to glide away.
"You jerk!" Vinnie shouted. "Hope you choke!"
The creature leapt once again out of the sands, as if it had heard Vinnie's shout, elegant as a porpoise.
A tearing sound filled the air as the grenade in the Saber Squid's stomach exploded. It ripped the beast apart in mid-air. Huge chunks of the creature rained down upon the young Biker Mice, who were pelted by them as if in a hail storm. Its green blood spattered the sands and turned it the color of mint candies.
"DAMMIT!" Throttle shouted, frustrated, as he rose to his feet.
Bingo pulled a huge piece of green glop from where it had landed on her head and found it to be the goop-covered skull of a Martian mouse who had once served as Saber Squid's meal.
"Ugh," she muttered, sticking her tongue out. "Leftovers."
"Ah don't suppose you got another grenade on ya, bro?" Modo asked hopefully.
Vinnie shook his head sadly.
"Don't I wish."
Throttle sighed and heel-sat near the X.
"Without the grenade, there's no way into the tunnels," he said sadly. "Even if we turned our lasers up to max, all it would do would be melt the sand and fuse it into glass."
"But glass breaks!" Vinnie cried. "I've put enough baseballs through enough windows to know that much!"
Throttle chuckled softly and corrected, "Not when it's twenty-feet thick."
"You'd need alot of baseballs for that," Bingo added.
"So now what do we do?" Modo asked.
Peering out to the horizon, Throttle said, "I guess we're gonna have to start ridin' up to Hellfire the long way." A breeze picked up the long hair on his neck and whipped it in the air. Curious, he looked out further into the desert, where thin pink clouds were gathering ominously.
"Whatcha see, bro?" Modo asked.
"I think a sandstorm's coming up behind us. Looks like a big one, too."
"Fabulous," Vinnie muttered. "Nothing I like better than ridin' through twenty-mile per hour winds."
Despite their misgivings about riding through a sand storm, the mice made good progress for about an hour, until the sands grew too thick for them to see the ground in front of them. They also couldn't see each other, which made for some interesting little fender-benders.
As the wind's speed picked up, the grains of sand began cutting into them, tearing any piece of uncovered flesh open and bloody.
"We gotta find shelter, fast!" Throttle shouted, holding up his arm to block some of the sand that flew into his face and built up on his helmet, to little avail.
Bingo, slightly shielded from the sands by the grace of being behind Vinnie, cried, "What about that?" as she pointed into the swirling sands.
At first, no one could see what she was pointing too.
But as they neared it, it came into focus.
About two hundred yards away, atop a huge, battered crag of rock, a grouping of large white brick buildings capped with red stucco rooves, most easily five stories tall, stood against the raging winds. They looked as though someone had thrown together several dozen boxes willy-nilly, one on top of the next, with total disregard to style or architectural principles. A pair of large wings jutted out from the back of the front-most structure. The single, narrow road which lead up to the gated opening was lined with huge boulders. No ornamentation decorated the buildings, nor was there any sign which denoted its purpose. It could have been a Motel 6; it could have been a Plutarkian base; it could have been Santa's workshop (save for the absence of elves). It was impossible to tell.
Which made it all the more appealing to the young Biker Mice.
"Think it's safe?" Modo asked no one in particular.
"I hope not!" Vinnie crowed, gunning his engine and leading the way up the road which wound its way around the hill like a corkscrew.
As the young mice jetted quickly up the road, they noticed small, fenced-in places with tiny gardens inside. No one was tending them at the moment, of course. A well, likely a few hundred feet deep, sat in the center of the small gardens.
After a few minutes more in the driving sand, the mice stood outside the safety of the huge building. Dismounting their bikes hurriedly, they dashed to the door. Throttle knocked and immediately put his arm back up to shield himself from the blowing sand.
"Hope somebody's home," he muttered grimly.
"Least the lights are on," Modo suggested hopefully.
Bingo waggled a finger and corrected, "It could mean that the place is on fire inside."
"Cool!" Vinnie shouted.
"Not if we have to spend another two hours driving in this crud," Throttle snapped.
Vinnie nodded and pulled on a corner of his jacket. Out tumbled a foot-high pile of sand.
The door flew open, catching the young Biker Mice by suprise
In the doorway stood a pale-furred mouse about the same height as Modo. He wore a floor-length red robe and kept his hair in the close-cut Friar Tuck style so commonplace among monks, which was what he obviously was. All four of the young Biker Mice noticed his conspicuous lack of antennae and sky blue eyes.
"Welcome, travelers--" he began, face serene, as if to say, "I'm going to honor my commitment to hospitality, right here, right now!" But upon looking at the four Biker Mice, his face sank and shoulders slumped in disgust.
"What are you doing up here?" he snapped angrily.
Puzzled, Vinnie asked, "What're you talking abou--"
Sighing, the monk grabbed Throttle's arm and drug him inside, snapping, "Hurry up, all of you. You're letting the sand in!"
Shrugging, Modo, Vinnie, and Bingo followed, their motorcycles in tow.
Obviously mad (though not in that cool, Rasputin kinda way), the monk began leading the four mice through the main hall of the monestary at a speed of roughly fifty-five miles per hour, never giving them a chance to stop and ask why he was so upset.
"Thought we had an agreement," the monk growled, teeth gritted. "They stay downstairs, we stay upstairs. You go about your business, and we'll go about ours. But what happens? They come up here, tracking sand all through my nice clean monestary--
"What is this guy talkin' about?" Modo hissed to Throttle.
"Not a clue, big fella," Throttle whispered back. "Just play along."
As they traversed through the halls, Bingo happened to notice a banner on one wall with a symbol on it that bore a suspicious resemblance to the hilt on her sword. Just to check, she popped a small black hole just in front of her eyes, then one under it. The Inferno Sword slid through them both slowly, until she saw just the blue stone and the tiny crescents surrounding it. A glance at the banner revealed that the design was the same.
"This ain't a Dumasian monestary, is it?" she asked their unhappy host.
Beneath his grumbles, he replied in the affirmative, then added, obviously in reference to the Biker Mice (in case you couldn't tell), "They're getting younger every day."
Bingo nodded thoughtfully.
The mice passed through a dining hall with long picture windows that offered a spectacular view absolutely nothing, as the landscape was obscured by the storm, a large library filled with thousands of hand-copied volumes, and stopped, finally, at a small wooden door, which was locked. The monk pulled a skeleton key from inside his robe and opened it.
To reveal, behind it, another door, this one solid Martian steel, equipped with a computer keypad and heavy-duty lock.
Methinks there's more to this place than meets the eye, Throttle thought to himself.
The monk extracted another key from his robe, this one far more modern with a small clear strip running through the center. He inserted it into the lock and turned it three times, typing in a five-digit number as he did.
There was a hiss of air as the door opened, revealing a small rock-hewn staircase that disappeared into blackness.
"Now, get down there!" the monk spat, pointing into the seemingly endless darkness therein.
"But--" Vinnie started to say.
With that, the monk began tapping his foot impatiently.
"You heard the mouse," Throttle sighed, shrugging. Throttle, Modo, and Vinnie whistled for their bikes. They told them to turn their headlights on and lead the way. As the motorcycles cool blue headlights illuminated the stairs before them, the four Biker Mice followed their bikes carefully down the stairs.
Before they had gone more than ten feet down into the darkness, the door slammed behind them. The staircase was now completely dark, save for the splinters of light the motorcycles' headlights provided.
"That guy is the worst tour guide I've ever seen," Vinnie said snottily.
"I'm gonna give him a `1' for customer service on my card," Bingo added.
Throttle felt his way down to where his own bike sat idling (resulting in one very unpleasant suprise when he accidentally grabbed one of his bros in a place where they did not want to be grabbed (at least not by Throttle)) and let it begin guiding him down the stairs. Modo, Vinnie, and Bingo did the same.
"Stay close, bros," Throttle ordered.
"Yes, mother," his bros cat-called.
After a few moments on the winding staircase, the mice arrived at yet another door. Faintly, they could hear the sounds of music and laughter coming from behind it. Rock and roll pulsed through the wood and into the ears of four appreciative young mice.
Not what you'd expect to find beneath a monestary, eh?
"Ah think ah smell fried Saber Squid!" Modo cried in suprise.
Vinnie snickered, "Hope it was our buddy from the U-Train tunnels!"
"So just where are we going?" Bingo asked.
"Not a clue, bro," Throttle admitted, reaching for the door knob. "No way to know."
"That's what makes it fun," Vinnie explained.
Throttle pulled the door open. The young mice were immediately blinded by lights behind the door, save for Throttle, thanks to his sunglasses.
Slowly, the four of them walked through the doorway, their bikes close behind.
Modo covered his mouth with his clasped hands, made a sound like static, then said, sounding as if he was coming in over the radio, "That's one small step for Biker Mice, one giant leap for mouse-kind."
They stood on a small cement platform in a tunnel carved from the rock beneath the monestary. Large fluorescent lights hung high on the walls, illuminating a long staircase leading to a stone-floored space below. A second staircase met the one the mice stood on before meeting a second platform and, presumably, yet another staircase.
All the sounds the mice had heard behind the door, as well as the odor of food, was stronger here. It seemed that whoever or whatever the stimuli was coming from was close by.
Throttle led the way down the stairs.
At bottom, the young mice were treated to quite a site.
They came into a huge room, torn from the rock just as the tunnel had been. Large brown tiles covered the floor and blended seamlessly into the walls. Around most of its edges ran a small balcony, reinforced by concrete but also carved out of stone. Blue metal support beams held the ceilings in place. Along one wall without a balcony ran a huge computer screen, easily fifteen feet tall. Nearby was a large video screen showing the wind whipping around outside. Tables, some equipped with computers, some covered with weapons and ammunition, had been thrown seemingly helter-skelter through the chamber.
But it wasn't the architecture of the room which caught the young Biker Mice's eyes. Rather, it was the scores of mice inside the room, all partying like it was 1999, which it obviously was not.
All were dressed as if for combat in what appeared to be Army hand-me-downs, only worn in ways that would horrify the most conservative seargents and officers. Some wore vests with plain cotton t-shirts underneath. Others were clad in flak jackets with the cuffs rolled up to their elbows. Most had fatigue pants, loaded with pockets.
They sat at large wooden tables thrown on the right side on the room, near the computer screen. Some sat with plates heaped up with large fried chunks of Saber Squid (Modo was right about the smell), while others held mugs filled with something that smelled suspiciously like beer (and probably was).
Someone was standing atop one table, telling a story in a boisterous voice, full of bravado and merriment. His gestures were lively and animated, as he acted out punching someone in the face, then whipped out a laser and pantomimed taking a careful shot at something or someone. Others listened and added their own thoughts to his tale, often downplaying whatever he was saying. The four Biker Mice couldn't hear a single word over the music.
Except for those two, which were spoken in a relatively close proximity to the four mice.
Vinnie was first to turn and, he would later tell Bingo, was thusly (though he wouldn't say "thusly"), "the first one to gaze upon her effervescent beauty."
A girl, somewhere in her late teens/early twenties, stood behind them. Her curly, sweet potato-orange hair was drawn back into a ponytail with bangs hanging over her forehead, though a few strands fell onto her khaki jacket. Underneath the jacket was a blue shirt of some kind. Green fatigue pants covered long legs, capped in brown boots. Blue eyes smiled at the young mice gently.
At that moment, Vincent VanWham fell in love for the first time.....
.....with someone other than himself.
"Guh," he said, mouth hanging open.
"Hi," she said. "You four new here?"
"You could say that," Throttle agreed.
Extending a thin hand, she said, "I thought as much. Otherwise I would've recognized you. I'm Harley."
"Throttle," Throttle said. "That's Modo, Bing, and the one with the drool dripping out the side of his mouth is Vincent."
The white-furred mouse shook himself out his trance and corrected, trying with all his might to be cool, "That's Vinnie. Vinnie VanWham. Baddest Martian mama-jammer on Mars."
"Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!" Bingo shouted. "Ego swelling out of control!"
Harley snickered and said, "I think you've got a few rivals for the title here, cutie."
She turned to the other three mice.
"Listen, you may be new here, but you should know how picky Stoker can be about bikes being here in the main hall when we aren't about to go out and whip Plutarkian tail. Why don't you come with me down to the garage? You can stow them there."
Whip Plutarkian tail? Throttle wondered.
"Sure," he agreed. "Come on, bros."
Modo and Throttle started walking behind Harley.
Bingo was about to follow when she saw Vinnie standing beside her, frozen, with an idyllic look on her face.
"Bro?" she asked. "Are you okay?"
"She thinks I'm cute," Vinnie cooed, seemingly in another world, which, for Vinnie, isn't that unusual.
Grinning, Bingo said, "I think this calls for the `Sitting in a Tree' song!"
Vinnie clamped a hand over Bingo's mouth and drug her after their bros.
Harley led the mice down the far left side of the room, chatting all the while.
"Aren't you guys a little young for this?" she asked, smiling.
Still wondering Too young for what?, Modo said, "Well, ah'm nineteen myself, ma'am. Throttle there's sixteen, Vinnie's thirteen, and Bingo's ten."
"But I'm mature for my age," Bingo added.
Snickering, Harley said, "I just can't believe you managed to convince everyone that you were old enough, though!"
Before the others could reply, Harley shouted, suprised, "Oh! Here we are!"
She pushed a button on the wall.
A huge, thick rectangle of rock slid away, revealing a lit room inside. Harley entered and indicated for the Biker Mice to do so.
Inside was a multitiude of motorcycles. Some were plain brown military cast-offs, reconditioned, but for what? Others were custom jobs, or true Martian hogs, like the motorcycles the Biker Mice were proud to call their own. All looked a little battered, some clearly dinged by lasers or dented in places.
But all of them were gorgeous.
"Oh Momma," Modo whispered, blown away by the sight.
"Just park them over there," Harley instructed casually, pointing to a small clear space along the far wall. "They'll be okay."
Throttle coasted his bike over, but noticed its resistance to stay put, as Modo did with Lil' Hoss. Vinnie's bike flatly refused and stayed close to its rider's side.
"They don't want to be here alone," Throttle realized, stroking his bike's crankcase gently.
"Ah guess they're afraid of bein' in a new place," Modo added.
Harley puzzled this over, hand in chin.
"You guys must have really good bonds with your bikes," she decided finally, shrugging. "There aren't many riders here whose rides are as close to them as that."
Modo smiled and said, "It's a gift."
Throttle huddled all four young mice for a moment.
"Modo, bro," he said, "you stay here with the bikes. Keep them company. Me, Vinnie, and Bing'll take a look around, capice?"
Nodding, Modo sat down beside his bike and said, "Bring me some o' that Saber Squid, will ya?"
"Original recipe or extra crispy?" Vinnie asked as the four mice left the room with Harley.
Harley led the young mice to the table where a young, muscular mouse with black hair and a ponytail over a coat of pale brown fur was serving up the Saber Squid in breaded portions. Each one took a plate and filled it. Bingo took two plates and double portions on each.
"You hungry, kid?" the pony-tailed mouse asked.
"Naw," Throttle interrupted. "She's just getting for our bro. He's a big eater."
As the mice walked away to a lonely table and departed from Harley, Bingo corrected, "I thought you were getting Modo's stuff, Throttle. I really am this hungry. If you just spent two years in a concentration camp, you wouldn't ever pass up the opportunity to stuff yourself!"
Shaking his head, Throttle sat down and hissed, "Keep your ears open, bros. We've gotta figure out exactly what's going on here."
Vinnie and Bingo nodded and cocked their ears as they ate. They managed to catch short snippets of conversations.
"....man, that was great...."
".....looks like a pimp...."
Bingo's face blanched as she cried, "It's a whore-house hidden deep within the bowels of a monestary!"
"No wonder that guy didn't want to let us in!" Vinnie added angrily. "He wants to keep all the action for himself!"
Throttle put his head in his hands and sighed, "Now you're jumping to conclusions."
"Hey, are you saying this place isn't full of horny monks?" Vinnie asked suspiciously.
"He's in denial," Bingo said, nodding.
Just then, a gold-furred mouse at the next table, mustached and bearded, stood up and said, "Stoke, you did not take out that entire Plutarkian platoon by yourself! You had some help, as I recall!"
"See!" Throttle said, pointing at the mouse. "He ain't talkin' about sex in any way, shape, or form.
"Unless it's a metaphor."
Next to him stood a slim brown-furred mouse with hair a few shades darker than his fur. His arms were bare as he threw them up in joyful resignation and laughed, "Okay, Jim, you got me!" He grinned and told the crowd, "Yeah, you should've seen Jim-Jim the Dog-Faced Boy here in action!"
Much to the other mouse's suprise, the biker grabbed him and hauled him up on top of the table.
"Jim grabs the fish-head's arm, like this!"
The biker grabbed Jim's arm around the bicep.
"Then, he does this!"
Flip! The gold-furred mouse was thrown flat onto his back in the middle of the table. He hit it laughing, though the mouse whose food Jim's boot landed in was nowhere near as amused.
"Okay, Stoke," Jim laughed, rising to his feet. "I give, I give."
"Stoke" nodded and said, mile-wide grin on his face, "Yeah, you just sit down, bro. I'm the best biker that ever lived, no contest!"
"What an ego," Vinnie muttered, pushing the food around on his plate, as if bored, while simultaneously thinking, He is so cool!
"Does that guy seem familiar to you guys?" Bingo asked, raising an eyebrow.
Throttle squinted and continued to listen.
"So," the brown-furred mouse continued, stepping back up onto the table's top and speaking in a booming voice to be heard, "I grabbed the fish-face's guns and jumped back on my bike. Tore out of the canyon faster than greased lightning. BAM! Down went a Roller-Cannon! BAM! There goes a tank! BAM!"
He punctuated each "BAM!" with a gun-firing action.
"I dig my foot in when I start around the turn. Plutarkian lasers are singin' my tail!"
He leapt down from the table and stood before the video screen, against a shot of the now-clear night sky. Phobos was artificially huge against it, and the square-chinned biker stood in its glow, the two long tendrils of hair falling down over his ears, blown about by some invisible breeze......
Instantly, Throttle made the connection.
"Bros!" he shouted.
"What?" Bingo asked, sounding slightly annoyed. "You find a bone? I found six in my food already, and that was in the applesauce!"
"No! I know who that guy is! He's the one that saved us back in Hellfire!"
Modo, meanwhile, was taking a careful inventory of his surroundings.
Man, he thought to himself, scanning the room. This place has got everything! Tools galore! Vinnie's gonna go nuts when he sees all the different crap in here! Gotta be sixty different wrenches! Maybe he can fix that right rear laser for me. I know he couldn't fix Throttle's, but that was a year ago, and--
A pair of thin, delicate hands touched Modo's shoulders.
"Hey, handsome," a sensual woman's voice, thick with a New-Yorkish accent, cooed. "You been avoidin' me?"
The fingers began to massage his shoulders.
"We were supposed t'take a shower," she continued, the grin in her sensual voice nearly tangible as her fingers stroked Modo's chest. "Together."
Modo's chin dropped. He turned to see who had just proposed the oh-so-
She was a tall, gorgeous mouse, white furred, with short, bouncy black hair. Her limbs were thin but muscled. One ruby red eye looked seductively out at Modo through her black curls, while the other was hidden or gone behind a black eyepatch. She was well-proportioned: the Cleavage Fairy had definitely paid her a visit. Several, it seemed. Maybe it was just her low-cut purple shirt, but she was very well-endowed.
"Kiss me, ya big lummox," she said, grabbing his head and pulling his mouth down to hers.
Had she not been so breath-takingly sexy, Modo likely would have gotten his wits about him sooner and said something quaint but kind, like, "Ah'm sorry, ma'am. Ah think you mistook me for somebody else."
But hot diggity damn, this mysterious female had whacked Modo over the head with the two-by-four of her sexiness.
What the Hell? he thought to himself, wrapping his arms around the mystery mouse.
So Modo obliged her, returning her passionate kiss in what seemed to be a lip-lock that would never end.
Emphasis on the "seemed."
Something struck the back of Modo's skull with suprising suddenness. He let go of the girl immediately and dropped to the floor, wondering all the while if his skull was broken, and if that would be a bad thing.
Suddenly, a hand grabbed him by the back of the shirt and hauled him to his feet. Modo found himself staring at a mouse who was his mirror image; gray-furred, square-chinned, and tall. Their faces were identical, save for a small scar on the left side of the assailant's face.
The only truly noticeable difference between them was the fact that this guy was trying to kill Modo. Modo would never try and beat his own face into a pulp.
"What do you think you're doing?" the other mouse growled through gritted teeth, barely keeping his rage in check. Modo had never seen a mouse so angry in his entire life.
"Ah--" Modo started to say, sputtering.
"Smoke!" the girl shouted, rushing up to the other mouse and grabbing his shoulders. There was a hint of anger in her voice. "It wasn't his fault! I thought he was you!"
"So?" Smoke growled, rounding on her, still keeping Modo a foot or so off the ground. "He kissed you back! No one kisses my girl and gets away with it!"
Hanging there, Modo thought to himself, Okay. What would Throttle do? What would Throttle do? Oh Momma, ah wish ah had a little voice in my head, too!
Suddenly, some of Modo's Momma's motherly advice popped into his head.
Never kick a mouse when he's down, Modo.
But if he's got you a foot off the ground and he's ready to kill you, feel free to whip his tail.
Shrugging, Modo landed a swift kick in Smoke's groin.
"UGH!" the other gray-furred mouse grunted. He dropped Modo immediately and fell to the ground, nearly in tears.
Modo stood there a moment while the woman looked at her apparent boyfriend, who was already getting himself under control and trying to stand.
The girl saw Modo looking at her.
"Run, kid, run!" she shouted, with fearful eyes.
And with that, he did.
"I can't believe it's the same guy!" Vinnie hissed to Throttle. "Funny, but this place doesn't look Army!"
Throttle nodded thoughtfully.
"So what do we do now?" Bingo asked, looking up from her plates, now empty. "I mean, it's great to have some food in my belly and to be outta that storm, but we still got a long way to go before we make it to the Shelter."
Blowing the bangs out of his face, Throttle sighed, "I don't know. Gimme a minute to think."
Vinnie and Bingo both shut up.
Despite this silence, however, that minute was cut tragically short when someone shouted, from off to the right, "I'M GONNA KILL YOU, YOU LITTLE BASTARD!"
The three youngest mice in the room turned quickly and saw a mouse who bore an uncanny resemblance to Modo (if he hadn't been wearing bandoleers and combat fatigues, they wouldn't have been able to tell the difference) grab Modo and slam him into the floor, hard. He then proceeded to try and land a flying knee in Modo's chest, but the younger mouse managed to roll out of harm's way. The other mouse hit the floor and cried out when his kneecap struck the hard stone. While his guard was down, Modo landed a haymaker on his chin, sending his deadly doppelganger sprawling.
"MODO!" the other three mice shouted.
The crowd had begun chanting.
"Fight fight fight fight fight fight......"
Throttle, Vinnie, and Bingo leapt from the table and dashed down to where Modo fought his identical twin, just in time to see their bro get knocked half-way across the room, nearly into the excited crowd, who threw him back into the small circle they had made.
"Fight fight fight fight fight fight....."
Modo laid there, wind knocked out of him, a bruise rising on the arm he had feebly used to block Smoke's punch.
"Now you're gonna die," Smoke snarled, charging at Modo.
Oh Momma! Modo thought weakly, trying to push himself up off the floor. Ah'm dead meat!
But just before Smoke could reach Modo, planning to pull the younger mouse's adulterous lips from his face, Vinnie dashed out of the crowd and slid across the floor, leg extended.
Smoke, caught off-guard, tripped and started stumbling forward.
Throttle jumped into the fray a few feet ahead of Modo's unbalanced assailant and planted his feet firmly. As soon as Smoke was close enough, the tan-furred mouse grabbed the gray-furred giant's arm and, using Smoke's own momentum, swung him in a wide arc, away from Modo, and actually sent him flying in the opposite direction.
At that, Bingo slipped into the fight and gracefully popped a large black hole, gesturing toward it like a Vegas showgirl. Smoke flailed his arms wildly, trying to stop himself, but flew into anyway. The hole disappeared as the tip of his tail disappeared from sight.
A split-second later, another hole appeared about ten feet off the ground, just outside the crowd. Smoke fell out and landed hard on the brown floor, barely conscious and unable to move.
The crowd was shocked into silence. This was clearly an upset victory.
"I can't believe this," Smoke murmured, trying to push himself to his feet.
A foot dropped down on top of his back, pushing him down.
"Believe it, pal," Vinnie snapped, pushing the barrel of his pistol into the back of Smoke's skull.
The three other Biker Mice stood nearby.
"You okay, bro?" Bingo asked.
Modo nodded, rubbing his head and wishing in vain for an aspirin.
The girl ran up suddenly and shouted, "Smoke! Oh my God!"
Vinnie stayed still and said, "You'd better step back, lady. This guy's nuts."
She pulled a pistol from her holster and screamed, "You'd better step back, kiddo, or you're gonna be breathin' through your TORSO!"
Her gun being much larger, and her eyes even harder than Smoke's had been, Vinnie carefully stepped back and away from the beaten mouse. The girl knelt beside him, cradled his head in her lap, and shouted, "HARLEY! GETCHA TAIL IN HERE PRONTO!"
Almost under her breath, she whispered, "You idiot. Why'd you have to go and do that?"
As the crowd gathered around the young mice, Bingo turned to Throttle and said, "I guess this puts the skids to your `be inconspicuous' plan, doesn't it?"
"I'd say so," Throttle replied, sighing. He took a deep breath and said in a reassuring voice, "Keep cool, bros."
The brown-furred mouse who had been telling of his heroic exploits and Throttle had recognized suddenly ran through the crowd, shouting, "Move it!" to clear the way. The crowd parted like the Red Sea around the mouse as he arrived at the front of the crowd, with his gold-furred companion and a younger mouse, a white-furred chocolate-haired female (though thoroughly un-curvaceous), by his side.
He looked from the four young Biker Mice, who tried to put on their bravest faces, and then at Smoke, who was currently being patched up by Harley, a blackened eye being the main complaint. Vinnie's heart skipped a beat when he saw her again, so he nearly missed it when the brown-furred mouse asked, "Okay, Haywire. What happened? Or should I ask, who put the move on you?"
The black-haired she-mouse holding up Smoke's head, obviously the one the mouse doing the questioning was speaking to, said firmly, "Nobody did nothin' to me, Stoker." She sighed. "I saw the gray-furred kid over there, thought he was Smoke. So I kissed him, and, small wonder, he kissed me back." She chuckled. "Who could blame him?" Once again serious, she continued, "Smoke saw `im, got mad. They started fightin'. That's pretty much it."
"Other than the fact that we whipped your tail!" Vinnie cried, grinning.
Haywire, Smoke, Throttle, Modo, and Bingo all shot him a look.
Vinnie shut up quickly.
"Y'know, Smoke," the brown-furred mouse said, neither angered nor permissive, "this isn't the first time this has happened. You put four Fighters in the hospital in the past four months."
"Not a bad average," the gold-furred mouse as the brown-furred mouse's side joked.
"Jim," the brown-haired girl hissed. "This isn't the time."
He nodded in deference.
"You know how I feel about this kinda thing, Stoker," Smoke snarled, eyes hard and cold.
The girl stepped forward and said, "We all know how you feel about Haywire, Smoke. But you can't try and make chop suey out of every guy that gives her the once-over."
"HE WASN'T GIVIN' HER THE `ONCE-OVER,' CHAOS!" Smoke shouted, frustrated. "HE WAS KISSING HER, YOU DUMB BITCH!"
Chaos jumped backward, green eyes wide, not so much from fear as from suprise. Moving with incredible speed, Stoker grabbed Smoke by the shirt, pulling him away from where Harley was applying an instant-ice compound to his black eye.
"You don't call her that," Stoker snarled in a voice so low that only Smoke could hear him. His teeth were bared like a wolf asserting its dominance. His tail flicked back and forth angrily. "You don't call any woman that, but you especially don't call Chaos that, capice?"
Smoke nodded nervously, at which point Stoker dropped him back to the floor.
"We've warned you about this before," he continued, voice now calm, showing no sign of the agression he had just shown. "Smoke, you're a great biker, and you're an asset in the field, but you're supposed to take out the Plutarkians, not the other Freedom Fighters!"
Haywire shouted, "Stoke, please! Give `im another chance!"
Biting his lower lip, Stoker turned to Chaos and Jim. They retreated a few feet away from the rest of the crowd and held a small, private council.
"Barring his previous comment about me," Chaos said, in flat and even tones, "he's no use to the cause if he keeps spouting off like this. One of these days, he's gonna kill someone. You're right, Stoker; he's good, but..." She shook her head. "He's had this coming."
Stoker nodded, then turned to his other confidante.
"What do you think, Jimmy?" he asked.
"Much as I'd like to agree with Chaos," he said, rubbing his bearded chin, "the fish-heads are on the move again. They're close, too. We need every fighter we can get, at least for now. Once the threat is past, then yeah, we gotta get rid of him, but..."
Suddenly, another voice commented, "He's got a point, Stoker."
The three mice turned to another with dark orange fur and hair that fell down over his collar.
"You think so, Mace?" Stoker asked, raising an eyebrow.
Mace nodded, the gold hoops on his ears jingling as he did.
"You've got to expect some conflict in a group of mice this big," he added, blue eyes calm as the small seas that speckled Mars' cratered surface.
And if it keeps the Freedom Fighters from functioning, all the better, Mace thought to himself, smiling sinesterly inside.
Silently, Stoker nodded and pondered the situation for a moment.
The small triumverate walked slowly back over to the combatants, where Stoker passed judgment.
"Smoke, this is your last chance. You blow it, you even so much as think about throwin' a punch that doesn't hit a scaly blue face, and you're outta here on your tail, you got that?"
Smoke nodded, eyes cast downward.
"Haywire," Stoker continued, "you keep an eye on him. You see him pull anything, you say something."
"And you four," he said, turning to the Biker Mice.
Throttle, Modo, Vinnie, and Bingo all snapped to attention.
"Just who the in the Hell are you?"
The four young mice looked to each other, uncertain of what to say.
"You're the introductions-mouse," Modo told Throttle, pushing him forward.
Shrugging, Throttle said, "I'm Throttle, this is Modo, Vinnie, and Bingo. We're on our way out from Hellfire to the Shelter in the North. We're Biker Mice."
There was a long silence.
Broken suddenly by laughter as the entire room began cracking up. Gales of laughter filled the Main Hall. The noise was so loud, one of the monks upstairs picked up a broom and began banging on the floor, in hopes of shutting the Freedom Fighters up, obviously to no avail.
Most every mouse was unable to contain his laughter.
"Y-you," Jimmy said, snickering, "three punks--are Biker Mice?" He giggled like a school-girl.
Smoke's belly-laughs hurt Modo, but Haywire's cut deeply into his soul.
Stoker, curiously, was not laughing. He just stood there, eyeing up the embarrassed young mice, and thinking.
"SHUT UP!" he shouted finally.
The laughter stopped. Not a chuckle was to be heard.
He took a few steps toward the mice and looked them over thoroughly. The silence became unbearable to the four young Biker Mice. They almost felt as though they were under military review.
Finally, Stoker said, obviously directing it to Throttle, "You say you're Biker Mice. Well, I gotta admit, kid, I like the shades, but where're your bikes?"
Throttle, Modo, and Vinnie all whistled loudly. Within a second, their bikes had rushed to their sides, ready to defend their owners to the death, if need be.
Though no such drastic measures were necessary.
At least, their young owners hoped they wouldn't be.
Everyone began buzzing, gossiping about the motorcycles and their riders. The Biker Mice just stood there, looking calm but all feeling as if someone was doing jumping-jacks in their stomachs.
Stoker, meanwhile, took a long, hard look at each bike, examining each appreciatively. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Vinnie's ride.
"Who's is this?" he asked, jerking a thumb at the bike.
"Mine," Vinnie snapped. "Didn't you read the last sentence in the above paragraph?"
Not replying, Stoker stared Vinnie straight in the eye and asked, "Kid, where did you get this bike?"
"It was my Dad's," the white-furred mouse sputtered, intimidated. "My mom squirreled it away in Hellfire--"
Eyebrows arched, the brown-furred mouse querried, "You're Howitzer's kid?"
Vinnie nodded, a proud smile on his face.
"You knew him?" Throttle asked.
"Of course I did," Vinnie answered. "He was my Dad, remember?"
"Not you, smart-ass, I mean him. Stoker. You knew Vinnie's dad?"
Stoker nodded, a grin on his face. "Howitzer VanWham was the baddest Martian motor-jammer I ever knew. Besides myself. We used to race together all the time." He snickered and added, "Probably my best friend."
Chaos and Jimmy looked to each other, obviously upset, and coughed loudly to get Stoker's attention.
Sighing, Stoker threw up his arms and corrected, "One of my best friends. Plural."
The two mice nodded and let Stoker continue.
He addressed all four young mice and asked, "How'd you three slip in here without anybody noticing?"
"The monks upstairs let us in the front door," Modo explained. "Weren't too happy to see us, either."
"Must have thought you four were with us," Stoker speculated. "They hate it when we come in the front and drag sand or snow or mud in with us."
"So this place isn't really a whore-house?" Vinnie hissed to Bingo, slightly disappointed.
"We don't know that yet," Bingo assured him gently.
Jimmy stepped forward and asked, "You said you were on your way to the Shelter from Hellfire. What were ya doin' there?"
"We went for the night-life," Vinnie said, grinning.
"I like this kid's style," Jimmy told Chaos.
Chaos nodded, then said, "Seriously, though. What were you four doing in Hellfire? The city's off-limits to everyone."
Throttle sighed and turned to his bros.
"I suppose I have to explain this, too?" he asked.
"Go for it, Captain Flashback," Bingo said, giving him a thumbs-up.
Shaking his head, Throttle said, "Well, it all started when we found this hole..."
About twenty minutes later...
"....so then, this Saber-Squid jumps up and swallows our grenade! Bam! Just like that!"
"If I had a nickel for every time that's happened t'me...." Jimmy sighed.
Chaos elbowed him in the ribs, obviously interested in the story.
"That's pretty much it," Throttle concluded. "We got caught in the sand-storm and found our way here by accident."
Stoker nodded, then said, "So you think that what the Plutarkians did at Ash, they're gonna do at Hellfire."
"Ash?" Jimmy asked suddenly, face pale under his fur. "You mean that camp was in Ash?"
"You'd know that if you paid attention," Chaos chided. With a slight smile, she clarified, "Yes, they built a concentration camp in Ash. Probably right on top of your bar."
"NOOOOOO!" the gold-furred mouse cried, sinking to his knees.
"Ignore my friend's melodramatics," Stoker sighed, shaking his head. He rose to his feet and took a few steps away, obviously lost in thought.
Throttle was rather pleased. Every one of the mice around him had listened attentively, except for his bros, who had heard the story before. Although the tan-furred mouse had noticed a few who didn't exactly seem bothered by the fact that hundreds of innocent mice had been slaughtered in Ash, but only after they found out those mice's religious affiliation.
Now Stoker stood, alone, lost in thought. Undoubtedly the leader of the surrounding mice, he held all their fates in his hands, and couldn't make such a major decision as staging a rescue for a city's worth of mice without some major thought.
Throttle could respect that. But he couldn't respect it for long. Lives were at stake. Lives that he was very, very close to.
I'm not gonna let Dad and Rush die, Throttle thought to himself firmly. I couldn't help you, Mom, but I promise you they won't get the rest of our family!
"Stoker, you gotta help us," Throttle said, rising to his feet. "Otherwise, it's just the four of us against umpteen-hundred Plutarkians headed for the Shelter right now, not to mention the rats back there!"
"Which would be fun!" Vinnie said happily.
Bingo grabbed Vinnie's arm and added, "We're good, but we're not that good! We'd be laser-fried Mouse McNuggets in ten seconds. We need help."
" `Sides," Modo added, "somebody's gotta contact the rest of the Army to help us, and--"
"WHAT?!" the entire room shouted in suprise.
"You think we're Army?" Haywire asked, aghast.
Stoker crossed his arms and snapped, "I think we've just been insulted."
Chaos snickered, "We get too much done to be Army."
"There you go!" the brown-furred mouse laughed, clapping Chaos on the shoulders. "Exactly! Chaos, you're brilliant!"
She smiled softly.
"I had a feeling you guys weren't Army," Throttle said thoughtfully. "But if you aren't, then who are you?"
Stoker drew himself up proudly. He lived for introductions.
"We're the Freedom Fighters," he crowed.
The four Biker Mice looked at each other for a clue, then asked, "WHO?"
"We need a better publicist," Chaos suggested. Stoker nodded, then continued.
"We do what the Army can't," Stoker continued. "Everyone on the entire planet wants the Plutarkians outta here--except Abrahams, of course--as soon as possible. But the Army can't sneeze without government permission, let alone fight the fish-heads. Near as we've been able to see, they haven't even come close to a confrontation in weeks."
He gestured toward the crowd.
"Every mouse here has a story--"
Chaos sighed sadly. Stoker noticed and gave her a small shrug as if to say, "Buck up", then continued.
"--as to why they're here. They all involve the Plutarkians in some way or another. Jamespolychronopolus here lost his bar."
Jimmy nodded, his merry jester's face stone-cold sober, and sighed, "Jimmy's Beer n' Stuff was the last tavern left in Ash. I spent my entire life savin' and scrimpin' t'own my own place. Was the only refuge for alot of mice when the mines started dryin' up. " He clenched his fist tightly and said, "The Plutarkians stole it right out from under my feet. I'm gonna take it outta their hides."
Stoker pointed to a brown-furred mouse with an orange mohawk toward the back of the crowd.
"Chance here was Army, until the Plutarkians took out his entire unit."
"I was the only one who survived," Chance explained with trained indifference. "It occurred to me when I was lying in an Army hospital waiting for my tail to heal after watching all my buddies get torn apart by gunfire that the Army didn't seem to be doing anything about the Plutarkians. That was when I realized that the only way I was going to be able to kick some Plutarkian fin was if I went outside the Army."
Before Stoker could cite another example, Smoke rose to his feet and growled, "Those scaly bastards wiped out my entire family right in front of my eyes! All of them! My mother, my father, my brothers, my sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles...."
"What'd they do?" Bingo whispered to Vinnie, smiling. "Hit him at a family reunion?" Vinnie snickered in reply.
Haywire, who was standing nearby, whispered, "Ease up, kid. Smoke was close t'his family. They were real poor, so they all lived t'gether in the same cave. Twenty-some of `em in a place not much bigger than this here room."
Bingo, thoroughly chagrined, bowed her head.
Stoker turned to Chaos and asked, "Is three stories enough cited to prove how the Plutarkians are tearing up Mars and how the Freedom Fighters are motivated by their actions?"
Rubbing her chin, Chaos said thoughtfully, "Why not try for one more? Four anecdotes is still more evidence and support than three."
Nodding, Stoker turned to the sandy-furred black-haired mouse behind him.
"Scoot is....." he began, then paused. He puzzled the matter over for a minute, then asked, "Scoot, just why the Hell are you here? I can't remember. Was it because the Plutarkians destroyed your home or what?"
Shrugging, Scoot replied, "I was just bored. It was either join the Freedom Fighters and stop the Plutarkians, or start shooting heroin. The coin landed heads up, so here I am!"
Shaking his head, Stoker sighed, "Forget that last one. Basically, we're devoted to getting the Plutarkians off Mars for once and for all, whatever it takes. We can do whatever the Army does in half the time with a quarter of the effort and twice the style!"
"Is this a math question?" Modo asked, puzzled.
"I hate quizzes!" Vinnie moaned.
Bingo looked up from her scratch paper and shouted, "Seventy-two!"
Throttle shook his head and corrected, "No, eighty-two. You forgot to carry the one." He approached Stoker and said, "But this is gettin' off the point. We need help. You guys are just what we need. Will you do it?"
"You're asking me to risk the lives of all the mice under my command in a battle that would almost certainly be risky, dangerous, and threatening to both life and limb?" Stoker asked, raising one dark eyebrow.
Throttle dug his toe into the floor and said, "Well, yeah..."
"Sure, why not?" the older mouse chuckled, shrugging.
He turned to the other Freedom Fighters and shouted, "Whatcha say, troopers?"
His question was met by a chorus of cries to the affirmative, at least for the most part. Mace snarled to himself and thought bitterly, Limburger ain't gonna be happy about this.
Nodding, Stoker said, "Okay. Everybody hustle your tails! Gas up, stow your gear, and be at the main gate in two hours. No later. Check the maps over with Chaos or Mace, have them download it into your bike's comps if they don't have them in already. Make sure you're fully loaded and ready to roll when it comes time.
The crowd dissipated, running off to take care of individual matters before rushing off to battle. Some looked exhilarated, some looked nervous, but none could mask the excitement in their eyes.
"That was easier than I thought it would be," Throttle said, grinning, as they watched the Freedom Fighters dashing off.
"That's what you think," Modo murmured, rubbing his bruised arm. "Next time, one of you bros can get into the fight."
Suddenly, Haywire knelt down beside Modo and kissed his cheek.
"For bein' such a good sport," she said, winking, just before she disappeared out the doorway to the garage.
Modo felt a blush rise up over his gray-furred cheeks (face, not butt).
Hmm, Vinnie thought to himself. Well, if that's how you enamor yourself to a girl, then I'll do it! All I gotta do is find out who Harley's boyfriend is and let him beat the crud outta me!
Soon, the time for departure was at hand. In fact, according to Stoker's watch, only ten minutes remained.
So where's Chaos? he wondered, standing in the main hall. She's never been late before, even with the last-minute rush for map-software. Smiling, he added, I guess none of us guys with our incredible sense of direction want to admit we need maps until the absolute last minute.
He looked around.
Jimmy ain't around, either. We always leave together, the three of us. I don't like this.
Stoker glanced around a second time, and noticed a light on in the small computer room reserved for the base's most high-tech equipment, its tracker-jammers and illegal hook-up to Martian radar satellites.
There was nothing unusual about the light being on in the room; the monks upstairs were always hounding Stoker about his fighters leaving the lights on and running up their power bill.
Still, for whatever reason, it caught his attention, so he walked over to investigate.
He opened the door.
Just as he suspected, Chaos sat at the computer, fingers flying like tiny ballet dancers over the keyboard. Her green eyes were cloudy, as if she was entranced. On the screen before her was a map of the area the Freedom Fighters were traveling to, with the route highlighted in red. Jimmy sat nearby, nursing a bottle of something or other in a steel flask. Probably water; the former bartender never drank that which he dealt in. Those who guard the hen-house shouldn't develop a taste for chicken, he liked to say. Nearby sat Mace, arms crossed over his chest, looking frustrated.
Almost as if he were pouting.
Nothing in the scene suprised Stoker. Chaos was always busy in this small computer room. Jimmy was as close to Chaos as Stoker was to her himself, so it was no suprise that he was hanging out with her. And Mace was in charge of communications, so he was probably using the room to check out the comlinks on all the motorcycles before the Freedom Fighters left.
What did suprise Stoker was who was getting maps.
All four of the young Biker Mice were standing behind Chaos, waiting somewhat patiently. Their bikes were hooked into the back of Chaos's computer, taking in information.
"This is pretty cool," Throttle said thoughtfully. "You guys got maps of every square inch of Mars here?"
They waited for Chaos to give some sign to the affirmative, but she didn't move a muscle. Jimmy sighed, grabbed her head, careful to avoid the black cable running from the back of her neck into the back of the computer's tower, and made her nod, like a ventriloquist's dummy.
"Yup," he said. "Thanks to the satellites. It's Chaos here's connection to the Ultranet that lets us jack into them without someone tearing the computers a new a-hole."
Mace grunted, "I don't think you ought to be givin' such sensitive information to those kids, Jimmy. What's Stoker gonna say?"
"What's goin' on here?" Stoker asked, finally giving away the element of suprise.
"That's exactly what he'd say," Jimmy began, then looked up to see his compadre standing in the doorway. He grinned a wide, nervous grin and said, "Stoke! I didn't hear you come in!"
"Obviously," Stoker chuckled, but without a hint of humor in his voice. "Jim, Chaos, Mace, what's going on here? Why're you givin' these kids battle-maps?"
There was a beeping noise suddenly as one of the motorcycles signalled that the data transfer was complete. Chaos's eyes resumed their normal look as she unhooked the cable from the back of her neck.
"Chaos," Stoker said, hands on his hips, "what is going on here?"
Chaos wrapped up the cord and turned the computer off as she said, "Well, they need maps if they're coming with us, right? That's always been our policy. They could get lost without them, you know."
Stoker raised an eyebrow.
"Coming with us?" he questioned, looking at the Biker Mice. "You four? I remember saying that we'd get your family and friends outta Ash, but I don't recall saying that you could come with us."
Chaos turned a thumb toward Throttle and said, "He said it was okay. I just figured you didn't care."
Stoker turned toward the Biker Mice.
"You never said no," Throttle said feebly.
"This is ridiculous!" Mace shouted, leaping to his feet. "Do you even have any proof that the Shelter in Hellfire is in danger? All you've got is the word of these four kids!"
Bingo snapped, "Are you saying our word isn't worth anything?"
Before Mace could reply, Chaos butted in, "It's true, Mace. I checked the area with the satellite images." She picked up a print-out and showed it to Stoker, explaining, "You can see there's a mass build-up of Plutarkian forces heading toward the Shelter. Mostly troops, but a fair amount of digging equipment, too, which means they're after minerals or soil in the area. Seems that they're going to wipe out the camp, then go after that stuff."
"They're already at it," Throttle corrected. "The pits we told you about outside the camp, remember?"
"Oh, we're going, rest assured," Stoker said firmly
Mace snapped his fingers, as if disappointed.
"Thing is, I don't know if you four are going," Stoker continued, turning to the Biker Mice.
"What?" Throttle shouted.
"No way!" Modo cried.
"You gotta let us go!" Bingo snapped.
"You guys can't have all the fun!" Vinnie moaned.
Suddenly, Mace agreed, "He has a point. You four are awfully young for this sort of thing, aren't you? I mean, Harley's twenty, and she's the youngest of us. On top of that, she's not an active combatant, just a med."
"Which is crucial to the survival of the Freedom Fighters," Stoker interrupted firmly, canines flashing. "A Freedom Fighter with a broken back can't stop the Plutarkians."
Mace backed off.
"Ah'm eighteen myself," Modo said defensively.
Jimmy said, "That ain't so young. Old enough to be drafted; old enough to fight with us."
"What about the rest of you, then?" Stoker asked. "How old are the rest of you? Throttle?"
"Fifteen," he admitted, slightly abashed.
Stoker raised an eyebrow and said, "Hmm. You look older. Okay, Vincent. What about you?"
"Thirteen. And don't call me `Vincent'! I hate that!"
If the kid does come with us, Stoker thought to himself, grinning, I think I just found out a great way to pick on him!
"He's old enough to drive a bike legally," Chaos pointed out. "Even if it does have training wheels."
Vinnie blushed and gritted his teeth.
"Before anyone even asks," Bingo sighed, "I'm ten. But I'm mature for my age!"
"Having the maturity of a ten-year old makes you more mature than most of the fighters here, kid!" Stoker chuckled, ruffling her hair with his hand. He rose to his feet slowly and looked the four young mice over silently.
Tell him you'll do whatever it takes to free the Shelter! That you'll pledge your lives to fighting to free Mars, if that's what it takes!
"Don't you ever shut up?" Throttle muttered.
"Excuse me?" Chaos asked, suprised.
Shaking his head, Throttle said quickly, "Nothing, nothing." He inhaled deeply and pulled off his sunglasses. A cloak of seriousness settled on his young shoulders as he began. "Look, Stoker, I know we're young. We're really young. Crud, Bing ain't even hit puberty yet!"
"Thanks for revealing such a deep and private part of my life to a virtual stranger!" Bingo snapped, crossing her arms across her flat chest.
"And I know we're inexperienced," the young mouse continued, oblivious to his little bro's chagrin. "The closest we've ever come to being in an honest-to-God fire-fight, well, you where there. In Hellfire, the day the Plutarkians attacked."
Thought I knew these kids from somewhere, Stoker thought to himself, chin in hand.
"And we were on the defensive that day, just fighting for our lives.
"But we won't be young forever," Throttle said firmly. "And we won't get any more experienced if we aren't allowed to fight. We want to save our families. We want to fight the Plutarkians. We want to free Mars."
Throttle took a few steps forward and stared Stoker straight in the eye. "All we need is a chance. Let us join the Freedom Fighters, Stoker. We won't do you wrong."
Stoker stared back at him and said thoughtfully, "That was pretty damn elegant, kid. I'm impressed. Okay, you're in."
"YES!" the four young mice shouted, high-fiving each other.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Mace snapped. "I still say they're too young!"
Chaos answered softly, "Mace, this war has been going on four almost three years now. There's no telling how long it may last. Maybe the Plutarkians will just pack up and go home next week. On the other hand, maybe we'll all be cold in our graves and those four will be full-grown before it comes to an end."
Stoker shuddered. He was fully sixty-five years old, approaching mid-life, and talk of death had, in recent years, started bothering him in a way it never had before.
Not that his machoismo-ruled soul would allow him to admit it to anyone.
"There's no way to tell," Chaos concluded, rising from her chair and straightening her glossy green headband. "We need young blood."
"Besides," Jimmy chuckled, dashing out the room, "that was a really great speech!"
Once Chaos, Jimmy, and a rather disgruntled Mace had left, Throttle smiled and said, "Thanks, Stoker."
"No problem," he said, patting the young mice on the shoulders. "You guys never had anything to worry about, anyway; I wanted you four along the whole time."
"You did?" Bingo gasped, eyes wide as saucers.
"Then why--?" Modo began to ask.
Stoker explained, "Simple. I had a feeling some of my fellow fighters had doubts about you guys; what better way to convince them that you'd be okay than to have them defend you? Chaos and Jim will convince any other dissenters."
He reach into his pockets and pulled out four pale blue strips of cloth.
"Now, make sure you're completely full-up on gas, and stop by the ammo locker for guns, grenades, whatever you need or you think you can use. Some of the big guns have more kick; use your discretion."
The young mice took the headbands and knotted them around their foreheads.
"Hey!" Bingo cried happily. "My hair's not in my eyes!" She paused, then corrected herself. "Well, not as much, anyway."
"And stick close," Stoker concluded as he began to walk out the door. He paused and snickered, "I got a good feeling about you kids."
"Cool," Throttle said, smiling.
" `Kids'?" Vinnie snapped indignantly. "What does he mean, `kids'?"
We're comin', everybody, Throttle thought to himself. Just hang on.