It was late afternoon on Mars. Spark was standing with his back against the rock wall that separated Stunts and himself from the two Plutarkian guards that Spark was listening in on. Spark is a 7 feet tall Martian Mouse covered in fur as black as coal with a single white star burst on the top of his head. Stunts, Sparks sidekick of sorts, is dark brown, and just over 5 and a half feet tall. While Spark is listening to the conversation he is watching Stunts. Stunts is polish his motorcycle, nothing new, the kid was always working on his bike. Spark looked at his own bike. It could use a good cleaning too, it had been a while. The two Plutarkian guards werent aware that Spark was listening to them, he was half a mile away, this new long distance listening device Kickstart had given him was working perfectly. Normally Spark wouldnt bother with doing favors for the Freedom fighters, but Carbine had asked him personally, she said it was important, and he didnt have anything better to do today. So far he hadnt learned anything that would make the trip worth while. The Plutarkians conversation was everyday stuff, and it was boring Spark. His mind was wandering. He was thinking about Stunts. He was always amazed that Stunts could be so focused when he was working on his bike, and be a such a total basket case the rest of the time, it didnt make sense, but then very little about Stunts make sense. They had been riding together for more years that Spark could remember. Everyone else thought that Stunts was just too crazy to be allowed on a bike, Spark knew differently. Stunts might have a hard time staying focused on reality, but with the reality they had to live in who could blame him. The Plutarkians hadnt left much of Mars. Stunts had always been a few bricks short of a load, but he was the best rider on Mars, better that that Vinnie and his over inflated ego, better that anyone. Stunts just couldnt stay focused long enough to prove it. Spark had seen the kind of things Stunts was capable of, and with that half nuts, over tweaked, bike of his, the two made one dangerous pair. Stunts was a good kid. Kid, Spark thought, Stunts was only a few years younger that he was, but Stunts was, well, an Earth phrase came to his mind, Toys in the Attic, that was Stunts.
Something one of the Plutarkians said brought Spark back to reality, he concentrated on the conversation.
"I am looking forward to getting off this dirt ball." One of the guards was saying.
"Yes, me too, pretty soon we will be on Earth." It was the other guard.
"The new troop Transporter is almost done. When it is completed the invasion of Chicago, and then Earth will take only minutes." Now Spark was interested.
"And the best part is that these stupid mice dont even know what we are doing." The guard was laughing, Spark hated Plutarkian laughter.
"And even if they did, there is no way to get near the new fortress in the middle of the desert." Now the other guard was laughing.
A higher ranking guard came out and yelled at the two Plutarkians, they were supposed to be on watch. The two ended their conversation and went back to patrolling the perimeter of the complex. Spark thought about what he had heard, if it was true the Plutarkians were close to a full scale invasion of Earth, that didnt bother Spark much, was did was that the Plutarkians might just pull it off, and he hated letting the Plutarkians get away with anything. He gathered up the equipment and put it back in the packs on his bike. "Stunts, time to go."
"Go where?" Stunts was looking at him over the seat of his bike.
"Its just time, come on." Spark was use to Stunts asking meaningless questions, it was just part of who Stunts was. Stunts had put on his helmet and was ready to go. He followed Spark back to the base.
Carbine wasnt happy with what Spark had to report. "A troop Transporter, here on Mars. This isnt good."
"It may also be a trap, Carbine." Spark was never one to accept anything at face value.
"Either way, we need to check it out. Thanks Spark." Carbine turned away from him and started down the hall.
"Carbine," Spark wasnt sure why he cared, but for some reason he did. "Ill check it out."
Carbine stopped dead in her tracks. She turned around and looked a Spark to make sure it was really him. "You? Why?"
"I dont know. I guess I just want to see it through. I like finishing what I start." Sparks fur itched. His fur always itched when something big was up. "I have a feeling that this is, well, important. And anyway Stunts and I know that area better than your people."
"You and Stunts. Spark this is important, I cant trust it to a rouge mouse, and a half wit. Sorry, Ill have my people check this out." Carbine had started to turn her back on Spark again.
"Then why did you ask me to see what I could find out in the first place?" Spark knew Carbine. She just wanted to see if he was serious about the mission.
Carbine turned back to face him. "You always were too smart for your own good. All right, the job is yours. But leave Stunts here."
"Stunts goes where I go, no deal." Now it was Sparks turn to walk away from Carbine. She didnt miss a beat in calling him back.
"Spark. Fine, but keep him out of trouble. Just scout out the base, see if it is for real, and report back. Well take it from there." Carbine was doing her best military command voice. Spark had heard it hundreds of times before.
"Yes, General Sir." Spark make a purposely sloppy salute.
"Go!" Carbine was annoyed with him, he still knew how to get her mad.
Spark found Stunts waiting with the bikes just out side the door to head quarters. It had been a long day, and he was hungry, and tired. He caught Stunts by the shoulder and headed for the mess hall. Since he was working for the Freedom fighter, they could by the two of them dinner. A few people looked up when they entered but no one said anything. Spark didnt see any faces he knew, it made him feel a little more comfortable. He sat Stunts down at an empty table and went over to get the two of them some food. He was relieved when Stunts was still at the table when he came back, Stunts had a way of wandering off sometimes. He set the food down in front of Stunts and settled into the chair. Stunts was wolfing down the food, the kid was hungry. Sparks at most of what he had gotten, Stunts finished the rest of what was on his plate once he had cleaned his own plate.
While Stunts was polishing off the contents of Sparks plate a couple of Mice in military uniforms walked up behind him, Spark could see trouble coming.
"So when did we start letting little kids in hear." The first uniform nudged the second one.
"I dont know, seems kinda small. Maybe we should though him back." The second uniform started laughing. Stunts either wasnt aware of them or didnt know they were talking about him. Spark watched the two closely. Stunts had take worse verbal abuse, and these two didnt seem to be serious about a fight. When one of them reached for Stunts Spark moved. The look on the uniforms face was worth it. Spark had him by the wrist, in a grip that must have hurt. Talk was one thing, but when it got physical, Spark wasnt going to let it go. "Apologize" was all Spark said. The uniform tried to pull away from Spark, but it didnt work. The second uniform start to move to his friends aid. Spark had his weapon pointed at his head before he had completed one step. "I said Apoligize." Sparks voice was a little louder this time.
"Im sorry, I didnt mean anything." The uniform was scared. Spark was a good three inches and at least 50 pounds bigger. Spark let go of him, and eased back into his seat. He set his blaster on the table. The two backed away. When Spark looked back at Stunts the kid had just finished off the plate, unaware of what had just happened, as usual. "Come on kid, time for some sleep."
Spark put his blaster back in the holster, and he and Stunts walked out to their bikes. It was a short ride to where they were staying, a close friend of Sparks, Starblaze. She and Spark had been seeing each other for a long time. Some day when things were better, Spark intended to ask her to marry him. They pulled into the garage. Starblaze was standing in the doorway.
"About time you two showed up." She walked over and ran her hand over Stunts head. "You get something to eat kid?"
"Yes, Starblaze." Stunts was always there when Starblaze talked to him. Another of the quirks that Spark didnt understand.
"Good, get some sleep, its late." Starblaze always treated Stunts like her son, even though Stunts was her age. Stunts was unrolling his bedroll on the floor of the garage, next to his bike. It was where he always slept. Spark had once tried to get him to sleep inside, but it was like trying to push water up hill. Stunts ended up back in the garage next to his bike. Spark had never tried again.
"And how about you?" Starblaze had slid her arm around Sparks waist. "You get something to eat?"
"Yes mama I did."
"Good" Starblaze lead Spark inside.
The sun was just starting to show over the horizon. Spark had been up for an hour already. He made sure that Stunts got breakfast. It was going to be a long day of riding. He packed extra supplies for the two of them and made sure they both had full tanks.
"So why is this mission so important to you?" He had tried to explain it to Starblaze, but it difficult since he didnt understand it himself.
"Starblaze, it just is, thats all." He didnt want to talk about anymore. They were going around in circles and headed for a fight. "Starblaze, there is something I want to tell you." Spark had lain awake for hours thinking about this. "When I get back, I want us to get married." It wasnt quite what he had intended for a marriage proposal but it was said.
"Well, its about time." Starblaze was smiling. She hugged him.
"Look, well be back in a few days. Well get things sorted out then." Spark was glad he had finally asked her.
"Ill be here. Just make sure that both of you come back." She gave Stunts a kiss on the back of his head.
"We will, I promise." Spark took the lead, with Stunts close behind.
They had been riding for a couple of days. Spark had a good idea of where the Plutarkian fortress would be, from what he had heard and the information Carbine had given him, they were close. They had stopped on a small rise, Spark was checking the surrounding area with binoculars. As he was sweeping the horizon he saw something. On closer inspection it was what they were after. About two hours ride distant. Spark rode down to the bottom of the hill and stopped. Stunts pulled up along side him. "Well stop here for a while Stunts. It will be dark soon. Well go on then."
It was just starting to get dark. Spark had been watching Stunts for the past hour. He was concerned, Stunts had been way too quiet ever since this mission started. "You OK kid?"
Stunts looked up from working on his bike, "Im doing fine, Spark."
Spark wasnt so sure. "Come clean kid, whats bothering you."
Stunts stopped what he was doing. He was quiet for a long time. "Are you really going to marry Starblaze?"
Spark was shocked. This was the first time he had ever seen Stunts actually
keep one thought in his head for more than a minute. Spark stopped to think
about why. "Stunts, I love Starblaze, you know that." Spark suppected
that there was actually a thought in that empty head of Stunts. "Kid,
nothing is going to change between us. Youre part of the family, you
always have been. Starblaze feels the same way. So dont worry."
Spark wasnt sure he was getting through to Stunts.
"I know that sometimes Im different. Sometimes I know whats going on, sometimes I dont. I like Starblaze, Im happy that you two are finally going to get married. I just dont want to be in the way. Thats all."
Now Spark was worried. "Stunts, you have never been in the way, and you never will be. I want you riding with me, and so does Star. She knows you watch out more me. Trust me, nothing is going to be any different, OK?"
Stunts was smiling. "OK"
"Its gotten dark enough, we should be going." Spark started to get up.
"Going where Spark?" For a moment Spark thought Stunts was joking, but when he looked at his eyes he new he wasnt. The moment of clarity was gone, the old Stunts was back.
"Come on." Spark took off toward the Plutarkian fortress. Stunts followed along.
They were following a ravine that ran in the general direction of the fortress, it seemed to lead to within a few hundred feet of the other walls and it was deep enough that it kept them hidden. Spark was uncomfortable, this was too convenient, the Plutarkians wouldnt have gone to this much effort to build a fortress in the middle of know where and then have an unguarded way in. But in the distance they had covered he hadnt seen a single trap, or monitoring device, it was way too easy, but it was also the only way. There was no cover within a mile, just lots of flat sand.
They were about a half mile away, Spark had stopped to check the layout of the fortress. He could see the main entrance and the four guards standing at it. There were also patrols close to the walls, he could see at least another ten guards total, and you could bet there were a lot more inside. The ravine they were in started to narrow a few hundred feet ahead, they wouldnt be able to take the bikes if they went on. Spark decided to leave Stunts with the bikes while he scouted ahead. He turned around to tell Stunts only to find he wasnt there. Spark looked back along the path they had followed and saw Stunts about a hundred yards back down the ravine. He had found a ledge that went from the bottom of the ravine to the level of the ground about. He was working his bike up the ledge. Spark wanted to yell at him, but knew it would bring the Plutarkians in force, so he backed his bike up as fast as he could to the spot where Stunts was.
By the time Spark got there Stunts was already out of the ravine. Thankfully it was pitch black, the only way Spark could see was with the aid of the infrared mode in his helmet. He got his bike up the ledge, and found Stunts a couple of yards ahead. As he eased up behind Stunts, Stunts took off. Within seconds he was at top speed, heading for the fortress. Spark knew he couldnt catch him, there wasnt a bike on Mars fast enough, and what ever the kid was up to he was going to need backup, so Spark took off after Stunts making the best speed he could. Ahead he could see Stunts taking out the Plutarkian guards, he was moving so fast that the Plutarkians didnt have time to react. In the couple of minutes it took Spark to reach the fortress, Stunts had made it completely around, and taken out all the guards. Before Spark could reach Stunts, he had entered the fortress. There was nothing Spark could do but follow his lead. He followed the trail of skid marks and unconscious Plutarkians down the hall. He couldnt see Stunts, but he was leaving a clear trail. He followed Stunts trail into a large empty room. There was nothing in the room except bare walls and a bare floor. The space was enormous, this one room was easily half the size of the fortress. Stunts was on the far side, it took Spark a moment to figure out what he has doing. Stunts was planting explosives around the perimeter of the room. Spark had no idea what was going through Stunts mind. Stunts was almost all the way around the room when Spark heard a noise in the hallway behind him. As he turned to look he saw Plutarkian guards coming from both ends of the hallway. More guards than they would be able to handle. It was time to leave. Stunts had just pulled up along side him. "Time to blow this pop stand kid."
"Why?" Stunts was gone again, what ever had set him off, had left him high and dry.
"No time to argue, that way." Spark was pointing to the far side of the room. As the started across the room he armed a couple of missiles to blow a new door in the far wall. They had just started to cross the center of the room when there was a blinding flash of light.
The Plutarkian guards that had entered the room were just about to open fire on the two invading mice when they suddenly disappeared. As the guards started for the center of the room, the explosives that Stunts had planted went off bringing the roof down on their heads.