Part III

Revised 8/24/1997

Copyright 1996,1997 JWC. All right reserved.

It was the middle of the Martian day, and the Sand Raiders were still trying to dig out the remains of the Transporter Centerline and Harley had used to escape. On a dune not far away a single Freedom Fighter scout watched the activity with interest. Carbine had gotten word of the Sand Raiders activities in this area and she had sent Rimfire to check it out. Rimfire still wasn’t sure why Stoker had insisted on coming along, but it was good to have company.

"So what’s going on down there Rimfire?" Stoker was laying on his back with his arms folded behind his head looking at the sky.

"Nothing new, they’re still digging in the rubble. I wish we knew what they were after." Rimfire was still watching the scene through binoculars.

"So do I kid. This place has been abandoned for over 20 years, I can’t imagine what the fish heads would want from here now, but we better find out."

"Stoker, what was this place." Rimfire had lowered the binoculars, but he was still watching the Sand Raiders work.

"A Plutarkian lab."

"There sure isn’t much left. It must have been some battle." Stoker slowly rolled over and looked at the ruins for awhile before he answered. "Wasn’t a battle kid, at least not the kind of battle you’re thinking about."

"What happened then, the Plutarkians blew themselves up?" Rimfire’s gaze had shifted to Stoker.

"In a way. They created something they couldn’t control, and it got away from them. He didn’t leave much behind." Stoker kept watching the activity of the Sand Raiders.

"HE?" Rimfire’s question got Stoker’s attention. Stoker eased up on his side and looked at Rimfire. Rimfire could see from the look on Stokers face that he was thinking about something. Stoker went back to watching the Sand Raiders before he spoke. "I guess it’s about time you knew the truth." Stoker reached over and took the binoculars from Rimfire. He checked on the Sand Raiders progress before he continued. "What I’m going to tell you is something you can never repeat, to anyone. You’re joining a very select group kid, only 4 people on Mars know about this. It’s a secret we’ve kept for over 20 years so far, and one that has to be kept forever."

"So why tell me?"

"Because kid, it’s about your father, Centerline." Stoker looked over at Rimfire to see how he would take the answer.

"If it’s about my father I’d rather not know. Not after what he did." There was a touch of anger in Rimfire’s voice.

"It’s about time you knew the truth about that too. Your father is no traitor, he was the Resistance’s contact with a group of Sand Raiders that were loyal to Mars and opposed to what the Plutarkians were doing. What Vinnie saw that night was Centerline getting information on where Mace had taken Harley."

"Well if that’s true then why didn’t you say something when Vinnie accused my father of being a traitor." Stoker knew that no matter what he said Rimfire wasn’t going to be happy. "I couldn’t risk exposing our contacts inside the Sand Raider camp. The information they were giving us was too important. Your father knew the risks. I know that it doesn’t make what happened any easier Rimfire, but the information we were getting was saving Martian lives, and that was all that mattered to your father."

"So who else knows about this?" Rimfire was upset.

"Only Carbine, and she only found out about it a year ago." Stoker could see this was rough on Rimfire. "And I’m afraid that you can’t tell anyone else about it, either. Sorry kid. I know this stinks, but it’s the way it has to be." Rimfire thought about it while he stared at the horizon.

"Thanks for telling me Stoker. At least I know my father isn’t a traitor to his own kind."

"Ya, well, there’s more. You see your father is the one who trashed that lab down there. Well him and that bike of his." Rimfire looked at Stoker with disbelief, then shifted his gaze to the remains of the lab below. "Oh, mama" was all he could say.

"More like ‘Oh, papa’."

Rimfire suddenly turned to Stoker "I thought you said something the Plutarkians created trashed the lab."

"That’s what I started out to explain, kid. Centerline, your father, he isn’t, well, Martian." Stoker could see that Rimfire didn’t believe him. "Don’t get me wrong, your father is all mouse, he just wasn’t born that way. He wasn’t even born on Mars. He was born a Human, on Earth."

Rimfire stared at Stoker for a long time before he spoke, "Stoker I don’t get this. You’re trying to tell me that my father is a Human? That doesn’t make any sense. You must have your wires crossed."

"’fraid not kid, and I didn’t say your father IS Human, I said he was Human. He’s as Martian as any of us, now. But Karbunkle did some pretty awful things to him to make him that way. I know it’s tough to accept, but it is the truth. Your father is a Human that Karbunkle transformed into a Martian, and it happened in that Lab below us." Rimfire didn’t want to accept it "I’m sorry Stoker I just don’t believe you."

"Ask your mom, she knows." Stoker’s voice was calm and quiet, and left Rimfire with little choice except to believe him. "So why tell me this now?"

"Because I think your old enough to know, and because I think it has something to do with our friends down there." Stoker hooked a thumb toward the Sand Raiders below. Just then the Sand Raiders started yelling. At first both Rimfire and Stoker thought they had been seen, but when the Sand Raiders didn’t come storming up the dune, they took a closer look at what was going on. Stoker still had the binoculars and was scanning the area the Sand Raiders had been digging up. "Looks like the found what they were after."

"Can you see what it is?" Rimfire couldn’t make out any details in the rubble below.

"Yes, it’s a Plutarkian Transporter, or at least what’s left of one."

"What would they want with a demolished Transporter?" None of this made any sense to Rimfire.

"Wait, I see some one new down there. Well I’ll be, it’s my old friend Mace, and as ugly as ever. What say you and I invite ourselves to the party. You up for a little tail whipping kid?" Stoker was already starting to get to his feet.

"Am I ever!"

Rimfire and Stoker headed their bikes for what was left of the lab. The Sand Raiders were so involved in salvaging the Transporter that they didn’t notice the two mice until they were inside the remains of the lab. Stoker headed for Mace while Rimfire kept the others busy. Mace turned around when he heard Stokers motorcycle coming toward him. Stoker noticed that Mace was holding the control panel from the Transporter, "I’ll take that." And Stoker landed a solid hit to Mace’s chin knocking Mace backward. Stoker grabbed the control panel before it hit the ground and took off with Rimfire right behind him.

Once Stoker was sure they hadn’t been followed he stopped to take a look at the controls he had taken from Mace. Rimfire had pulled up along side him. "So why did the Sand Raiders go to all that effort for a piece of junk."

"I’m not sure kid, but I think this might have something to do with Centerline and Harley." Stoker was examining the settings on the control panel.

"Harley, what’s Harley got to do with this?" Stoker smiled as he looked at Rimfire. "Guess I forgot to mention that I got word your dad had rescued Harley from Mace a few months back."

"A few months?! Why didn’t you say something sooner. We’ve got to find them."

"Hold on kid, that’s exactly why I didn’t say anything before now. Centerline knows Mace is after them. When he feels it’s safe he’ll find us. Right now we need to get this ‘piece of junk’ to someone who can tell us what it means. If Mace and the fish heads want this so much it must be important." Stoker’s voice was stern. "Anyway all that rock the Sand Raiders were moving came down pretty recently, and since the last report on your fathers location put him near here, I suspect that this may all be connected somehow."

"Well then what are we waiting for, let’s get moving."




"Jayce a traitor?!" His mother was outraged. "I can’t believe it."

"Centerline isn’t a traitor, everyone just thinks he is. He was trying to get information about where Mace had taken me, unfortunately he didn’t know that Vinnie had followed him. When Vinnie saw Centerline talking to a Sand Raider he jumped to the wrong conclusion. By the time Centerline returned to headquarters, Vinnie had already told Throttle, Carbine, Stoker, and Modo, what he had seen. Centerline didn’t get a chance to explain, before Vinnie started throwing punches. Centerline’s bike ended the fight with a few well placed shots and Centerline took off before anyone could stop him. He spent the next three years looking for me." Centerline was glad Harley was telling the story, it wasn’t a tale he looked forward to repeating, and it made him uncomfortable not telling the whole story, but even here on Earth, Centerline did want to risk saying too much.

"I thought we’d taught you never to run from a fight." Even with out looking at her Centerline could feel his mothers eye’s burning holes in him.

"I didn’t have the time, I had to start out after Harley as soon as possible, or risk loosing the trail." It was the truth, just not all of it, and it left Centerline with a way to change the subject. "Anyway, I knew I could explain once I’d gotten Harley back, and brought Mace to justice."

It seemed like forever before his mother finally spoke. "Well, we’ll get this matter cleared up later." Centerline was amazed by how his mother could still make him feel like a 10 year old in trouble. "But for right now I imagine that you two would like some breakfast."

"It’s been a long time since either of us has had real food. We’ve been living off field rations for the past three months." Harley was excited by the prospect of hot food that actually tasted like something. "And I’m not sure when the last time Centerline actually ate something was."

"Well then we better get you two fed." Centerline’s mother started for the door that led upstairs. "Oh, and after breakfast we’ll see about finding you two some clean clothes, ones that aren’t quite so, fragrant."

Centerline looked sheepishly at Harley, "Aren’t you glad we took showers now?"

Harley gave her brother a dirty look and followed after his mother.

Centerline stood there for a moment still surprised by how things were going. After the past three months, it looked like they’re luck had finally changed. He just hoped it went this well with his Bros.




It had been a hard ride but Rimfire and Stoker had made good time getting back to base. Stoker took the Transporter controls to a couple of mice he knew could work out the settings, then collected Rimfire and went looking for Carbine. He found her watching the sunset from a balcony. "Carbine, we found out what the Sand Raiders were doing." Stoker paused to see what Carbine would say, when she didn’t respond he continued. "They were salvaging a Transporter at Karbunkles old lab."

"Did you find out why." Carbine was still watching the sunset with her back to Stoker and Rimfire.

"Not exactly, but I can make a good guess."

"It’s what you thought then. The Sand Raiders were after Centerline and Harley." Carbine closed her eyes and lowered her head. She was exhausted.

"It sure looks like it. There aren’t many people who even know that lab existed. And only one I can thing of who would actually go there. There’s something else, Mace was there with the Sand Raiders."

"That confirms it then. So do we know where Centerline and Harley are now?" This was the closest they had come to catching up with Centerline and Harley in months, another near miss. This was getting old.

"Not yet. It looks like they used the Transporter to escape and rigged it to self-destruct afterward. The explosion brought the walls down on top of what was left. The Sand Raiders found the control panel but Rimfire and I convinced them they should let us have it." Stoker was rubbing his knuckles, they were still a little sore from the blow he’d given Mace.

"Where is the control panel now?" Carbine knew that Stoker would take care of getting the control panel to the right people, she was just trying to keep the conversation going, it was difficult when all she could thing about was sleep.

"I have a couple of people working on it, they won’t say anything."

"Good." Carbine turned to face Stoker and noticed Rimfire was there too. "Rimfire what are you doing here."

"I told him." Stoker knew that Carbine wasn’t going to be happy about it.

"You told him, you told him what?" Carbine was wide awake now. She hated problems like this.

"I told him the truth. He’s old enough to know and he’ll keep his mouth shut." Stoker knew that what he’d done was right, now he just had to convince Carbine.

"How much did you tell him." Carbine was worried. She, Stoker, and Rimfire’s mother had talked about tell Rimfire the truth, but Carbine wasn’t convinced that Rimfire could handle it yet.

"Most of it. He knows his father isn’t a traitor, and he knows where his father came from. It was time Carbine. We’ve talk about ‘when’ to tell him too many times, he’s old enough now."

"I’m not sure that was such a good idea Stoker."

"He has a right to know the truth. After all Centerline is his father."

Rimfire had all he could take. "You two are talking about me like I wasn’t even here. I know, so what, I understand that I can’t talk about it, and I won’t. It may not be the best news I’ve ever heard but I’m not sorry I know. Centerline is my father and nothing is going to change that. So what’s the problem?"

"I’m sorry Rimfire. I know you’ll keep this to yourself, it’s just …"

Carbine stopped in mid-sentence when she noticed someone approaching. Stoker turned to see what Carbine was looking at.

"Oh, hi Kickstart, what can we do for you." Stoker had expected Kickstart to show up, just not this soon. "I’ve got that info you wanted Stoker."

"So what did you find out?" Stoker was surprised that Kickstart had been able to decode the Transporter setting this fast.

Kickstart hesitates, looking at Carbine and Rimfire.

"It’s OK. They’re part of this." Stoker knew he could trust Kickstart to keep what he had found out a secret.

"OK, it took us a while until we noticed that the destination settings were preprogrammed, and the controls were locked out. From then on it was pretty simple to decode." Kickstart was proud of himself, there wasn’t much left of the control panel that Stoker had brought him. It was a sheer luck that the Transporters memory module was still intact.

"Good work, so what’s the answer." Stoker was trying not to seem in a hurry for the information.

"Earth, Chicago to be precise." Kickstart was startled by the response he got. Stoker, Carbine, and Rimfire all spoke at the same time, "Chicago?!"




Centerline had almost forgotten how good a cook his mother was, and what Earth food was like. He and Harley finished off everything his mother made. After helping her with the dishes they went upstairs to find some clean clothes.

"I doubt that we are going to find much that is going to fit you Centerline, but Harley is about Charlene’s size, I sure we can find something that will fit. With some minor alterations of course." Centerline’s mother was digging through a closet in what had been Charlene’s room. There were pictures and miscellaneous knickknacks around the room that Centerline assumed belonged to his sister.

"Here we go these should fit you Harley. I’ll have to make a place for your tail, but that should only take a few minutes. This shirt should fit you nicely." His mother had always been one of those people who believed in helping others. Centerline was glad she hadn’t changed. But now Centerline knew he had to ask a question he had been avoiding all morning. "Mom, where’s dad?"

His mother stood looking at him for several minutes before she spoke. "He passed away almost 10 years ago Centerline. I’m sorry, It hadn’t even occurred to me to tell you." Centerline wasn’t surprised. He had hoped that his father might still be alive, but when he hadn’t seen him around the house he had begun to suspect. "It’s OK mom. I just wasn’t sure."

"Son, your father forgave you a long time a go. He knew you didn’t run away, you would never have left your motorcycle behind. He loved you very much and all he ever wanted was for you to be safe." Centerline quietly walked out into the hallway to give his mom and Harley some privacy while Harley changed, and to be alone for awhile.

Harley started to get up to go after Centerline, but Centerline’s mother stopped her. "Harley, this is something he has to work out on his own."

When Harley emerged from Charlene’s room she was wearing a pair of brown leather boots, faded jeans, and a work shirt that was a couple of sizes too large. "You look good." Centerline smiled at his little sister.

"How are you doing?" Harley was concerned about her brother.

"I’ll be all right. I just need to get my mind off things, that’s all." Centerline was leaning against the wall, looking at his little sister and still smiling.

"It’s good to see you smile again, it’s been a long time." Harley slid her arms around her brother and hugged him. Centerline hugged her back gently.

"Well if you want to get your mind off your troubles there’s nothing like a little hard work." Centerline laughed, that had always been his mothers favorite saying.

"I guess your right. I should most likely start by washing my bike, I did promise it I would give it a bath today." Harley let go of her brother, and looked him over. "And just what are you going to wear?"

"I guess what I’ve got on will have to do until I can clean my other clothes. Anyway I expect I can find a pair of shorts in my old clothes that will fit." Centerline headed for the stairs "I’ll be in the back yard, if anyone is looking for me."

Harley was left standing in the hallway. She looked over at Centerline’s mother who was standing in the doorway. "Thanks for the clothes, is there anything I can help you with around here?"

"Yes, actually, you can help me get out the family photo albums, so you can learn about the other half of your family. That is if you want to."

"I’d like that."

It didn’t take Centerline long to find a pair of shorts. He grabbed some old towels and headed for the garage where his bike was parked. "Hey bike time for that bath I promised you." As Centerline walked past his bike, he grabbed a bucket, brush, wax, and polish, and opened the outside door. He headed up the ramp with his bike following him. Centerline walked to the back yard and filled the bucket with water from the garden hose, then set to washing the years of dirt from his motorcycle. The clear blue sky and the warm sun make the job even more enjoyable.

It took Centerline hours to clean the dirt from his bike. Once he has he set about giving his bike a much needed wax and polish. When he was finally done his bike looks like he remembered it, paint as black as midnight, and chrome so bright you can see yourself in it. He could tell the bike was happy to be clean, it is almost purring. "Just like old time, eh bike?"

Centerline stood up, his knees were stiff from the hours of work. As he headed toward the house he saw his mother and Harley sitting on the back porch, looking through photo albums. Centerline settled in on the top step, his back against the railing. His bike had followed along and moved into a shady spot. His mother looked him over. "Looks like you need another bath." Centerline looked down at his chest and noticed that he was covered with red Martian sand, and spots of wax and polish. "I guess so." He rested his head against the railing, and enjoyed the warm sun, absentmindedly flicking his tail.

"That’s a beautiful bike you have. I’m surprised you’d let it get that dirty." Centerline smiled, his mother had no idea what he and his bike had been through and he intended to keep it that way. "I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to keep up on that kind of thing." He decided a change of subject was in order. "So what have you two been doing?"

"I’ve been introducing Harley to the other half of her family. I’m surprised at how little you’ve told her." Mom being mom again, Centerline thought.

"Considering I’ve never told Harley that I was once Human, I’d think it would be understandable." Centerline was astounded by how quiet his mother got. He had expected her to admonish him for not tell Harley. As he thought about it he wondered how Harley was doing, considering how she found out about his past. "Harley are you mad at me for not telling you?"

"Mad? No, I’ve known about it for a long time." Harley was so matter of fact about it, Centerline didn’t realize what she had said for a moment. When it did sink in he turned to look at his sister. "And just how did you find out?" Harley wasn’t supposed to have known about it, and it bothered Centerline that she had been able to find out.

"I overheard you and Stoker talking one night when I was about 15. I admit it was a shock at the time, but it did explain a lot of odd things about you. It took me awhile but I realized it didn’t change the fact that you were my older brother, and that I loved you." She looked up from the photo album. "And I still do."

"So why haven’t you ever said anything?" Harley smiled at Centerline. "Because you never brought it up, I knew it was a secret I wasn’t supposed to know, so I kept quiet. Anyway I figured you’d tell be when you were ready."

Centerline shook his head and settled back in against the railing. "You might have waited a long time."

Harley and Centerline’s mother went back to looking through the photo albums while Centerline sat and listened, sitting in the sunshine, half dozing, it was nice to be able to relax.

When Centerline opened his eye’s the sun had just started to set. He had slept for several hours. His fur had dried out and was dirty and matted. He headed around the side of the house and used the garage entrance to get to the shower in his room. He knew his mother would give him trouble if he tried to go through the house. His bike followed him, wanting to stay close to it’s rider, and unsure of how to handle the major change in it’s surroundings. Centerline closed the garage door after his bike had rolled in, he stood looking at it for a moment. "This must be tough for you. Everything has changed, no enemies, no battles, no running." Centerline knelt and ran his hand over his bike. "It’s all right, we’re safe here, this is home now." Centerline understood what his bike was going though, he felt it too. The confusion, the uncertainty. "We’re together in this, I am not going to leave you, I never have, and I never will. We were made in the same fire, by the same person. We will always be together." Centerline could see that his bike was calmer, ever since they had gotten to Earth his bike had had a certain tension about it, now that was gone. Centerline felt better too. Having said what he was feeling made it seem all right. He stood up, running his had over his bikes handlebars. "Get some rest. I’ll be close by." Centerline headed for the shower.

Once he was clean again, Centerline pulled the sweat pants back on. He had gone through his old Human clothes, but everything was too small. He had cleaned up his leather pants, but it was going to take time to get all the dirt and stench out of them. So for now he was stuck being bare foot, and wearing sweat pants.

He headed up stairs to see what Harley and his mom were up too. He found them in the kitchen relaxing and talking. He helped himself to a soda from the fridge and joined them at the table.

"Well I’m glad to see you up and around, and clean too." His mother was smiling, she reached over and patted his arm.

"You left me sleeping out on the porch."

"You looked so comfortable I didn’t want to wake you. Anyway Harley and I only came in half an hour ago. We were just about to go out and wake you."

Centerline doubted that, his mother had once left him sleeping on the back porch all night to teach him a lesson. It rained that night too, he was soaked to the bone when he woke up. Mom had a way of making her point. He decided not to pursue the issue. "So, Harley, you all caught up on the family?"

"Pretty much. At least now I understand where you learned to ride, and where you got your sense of humor." Harley’s smile make Centerline feel good. He had always loved her smile.

Centerline grinned. "That was dad’s doing."

"Don’t blame it all on your father, you came up with a lot of it on your own." His mother was pretending to be stern, she knew Centerline’s father had a great deal to do with his odd sense of humor but Centerline didn’t want to get his mother started on the pranks he, and his father, had pulled when he was a kid. "So what’s for dinner? Smells good."

"You’re actually hungry?" Harley sounded surprised.

"Good food makes for a good appetite, or so Modo’s gray furred mama always says." Mentioning Modo’s name reminded Centerline of what was eventually ahead but he didn’t want to destroy the happy mood. "So what is that wonderful smell?"

"Meat loaf and baked potatoes." The way his mother said it she made it sound ordinary, but after three years of survival rations, it sounded like a feast. "So when will it be ready?"

"Another half an hour."

"I’ve never heard you so enthusiastic about food." Harley was surprised by Centerlines sudden interest in food.

"Except for breakfast this is the first meal I’ve had in years that wasn’t condensed, freeze dried, or otherwise designed for long term storage and to be served at room temperature. I’m in heaven." Harley was laughing. She wasn’t sure why, but it felt good. Centerline’s mother had gotten up and was rummaging in the refrigerator. Just then the phone rang. "Harley would you get that."

Harley answered the phone before she realized what she was doing. The woman’s voice on the other end of the phone sounded confused.

Harley turned to Centerline and his mother, "She’s asking for a Mrs. Davidson."



Continued in Part IV