Contents Warning: Some violence, nothing more.
Music: Nirvana.
Author's Notes: Whew! Had to rewrite a whole page of this 'cause I'd overlooked a plot point that contradicted an earlier plot point. Stupid me. **slaps self in face**
I know it get weird near the end, but I 've been experimenting with styles and I was tryin to 'paint' something surrealistic, like Dali, or more like "L'empire des Lumieres' by Delveaux. I hope it worked out.

 

Chapter Two: All the King's Men

Night was already starting to fall when they finally brought Rimfire back. He looked battered and bruised, his nose bleeded, although not as bad as the cut in his forehead.
The guards ignored his condition and just dragged him to the cell, opened the door and threw him in. He didn't even try to land softly, but just dropped on the floor and laid their while the guards closed the door and left.

As soon as the door closed, Mac went to Rimfire and turned him on his back to survey the damage. Nothing really broken, luckily, but there were a lot of nasty bruises and the blood that trickled out of the lad's mouth might be a sign of internal bleeding. Well, there was nothing he could do about that anyway.

He shedded his jacket and folded it into an improvised pillow which he put under Rimfire's head. He used his handkerchief to wipe away most of the blood and then wetted it with some of the water they had gotten with their food and put it on Rimfire's forehead to try and stop the bleeding.

It took Rimfire several minutes to come through. He tried to sit up, but a wave of nausea and dizziness quickly told him otherwise. "Ouch"
"Easy, kiddo," Mac's voice came out of the darkness, hands gently pressing him down again, "Just stay down for a while. That's quite a cut you got there."
Rimfire brought his hand up to his aching forehead and felt liquid. Blood? He brought his finger to his mouth and carefully licked them. Blood, thinned with water.

"So what happened to ya, lad? Why'd they beat y'up like that?" Mac sounded worried.
"For fun, partly," he answered, trying to get his eyes focused on the ceiling. "But mainly because I have some information they want." The haze in front of his eyes was starting to fade away and he could make out some contours already.
"See, some time ago, I think it was a couple of months ago, although you lose all sense of time in here, I was still one of the 'normal' prisoners, working in the mine. A small group of us tried to escape, planning to get to Mars, get reinforcements and then return to free everyone. But we got caught and only one of us escaped. The other three were killed while trying to get away, so I'm the only one that knows how she got out. And you can understand that Nikata wants to know how she managed to break out of his 'escape-proof' prison."

"Well, either it was less than a couple of months ago, or the woman never make it to Mars, 'cause as far as I know, nobody ever heard of Runneymede Prison.
Rimfire rolled on his side and slowly got up. "I'm pretty sure it was some months ago. But it's probably gonna take her even longer to get to Mars. She only had a small ship and she's gotta hide for the plutarkians. She can't go straight through plutarkian area."

"Well, we can't just sit here and wait! Ah mean, what if she didn't make it? We gotta find a way outta here!" Mac had got up and was pacing back and forth in the small space of the cell.
"Mac, sit down, you're making me seasick. If she hadn't made it, we'd have known. Nikata is all too keen on giving us the bad news. That's how I knew uncle Modo'd been captured. And about Vinnie. And about every time you guys lost a battle."
"Yeah, okay, but still," Mac said, standing still now, but still looking ready to tear the place apart with his bare hands. "I want to do something!"

Rimfire chuckled and shook his head. "You haven't changed a bit, have ya, Mac?" Then, suddenly realising something, he said: "Hey, wait a minute!" He studied Mac as closely as he could in the dim light of the stars and moon. "How long has it been since I got here?"
Mac did some quick algebra and said: "About 25 years, I'd say. Why?"
"You really haven't changed in these 25 years. I mean, you must be .. what, 60 by now? And you don't look a day older than when I last saw you." All his bruises were momentarily forgotten. This was interesting. "Explain that to me, will ya?"

Mac grinned and decided that sitting down was easier than tiring his legs standing up. "Well, I'm probably getting a lot of facts wrong here, but when we get back, you can ask Terrence to explain it to ya. See ..." And he went on explaining, getting most of the facts right, surprisingly. He kept his voice as low as he could, not wanting the guards to hear this.
"Wow," Rimfire commented. "Eternal youth. Better not let the plutarkians find this out. They'd squeeze you 'till the last drop of blood. Literally."

"Yeah, well, all good an' well, but we're still stuck here. How're we gonna get outta here?"
Rimfire sighed and answered: "We'll need a miracle for that."

^^^^^


What Rimfire didn't know and couldn't even hope for, was that at that very moment, a miracle was happening. Neither of the two people involved realised it, but the conversation they were having was the key to freedom for the prisoners in Runneymede Prison.
These two persons were Edward Nikata, director of Runneymede Prison, and High Chairman Camembert.

"Nikata, I am not very happy with the way you exploit these mines. I have been told that you don't use all the manpower you have at your disposal."
"That is correct, your smellyness. Some of these prisoners are highly subversive elements and would slow down the work rather than speed it up."
"And why, may I ask, do you have guards but to make sure that such problems don't occur?"
"Yes, your cheesyness, but ..."
"No buts! I order you to immediately put all prisoners to work. Now!"
"Yes, your superious stenchness."

But the High Chairman had already cut the connection. 'Damn plutarkian ego-blasted ...-' Nikata thought, 'This is a prison, not a mining facility!' He sighed and hit the intercom to order all 'dangerous' prisoners to be set to work. After all, orders were orders.

^^^^^


Down in one of the deepest mines, a group of rats were digging metal out of the vein. At first sight, they all looked alike, but if you'd look closer, you'd see that one of them wasn't a real rat.

Her build alone betrayed that she had mouse blood. She stood straighter than most rats and was more inclined to be muscular, although due to her long-time stay at Runneymede she was just skinny now. But her tail, her longer snout and her sharp claws clearly showed her rat roots.
She was dressed in rags, covering dark brown fur, and her long, dark-copper-coloured hair was tied in a pony tail.
Her black eyes continually searched the shadows for possible danger and her muscles were constantly tensed, ready to run should any danger occur.

"Dhow," she whispered to the medium-height [for a rat] male next to her, "That human over there, wasn't he taken up a few days ago?"
The man addressed as Dhow glanced in the direction the girl indicated and said: "Yes, I think so, Little One."
"Then how come he's back down here?" Before the man could answer, she added: "And he's not alone. I've seen at least five other 'dangerous' prisoners that returned here. Do you think this means maybe Rimmy will come down again?" Her voice sounded hopeful.
"I don't know, Little One. Perhaps he will, perhaps he won't."
The girl made a face and said: "Big help you are, Dhow." The male just smiled as an answer.

"Hey! No talking during work!" a guard shouted at them and let his whip crack right over their heads. Hurriedly they started to load stones in the carts.
"Hey freak," a voice hissed at her. She cringed at the loathed nickname. "You trying to get us all into trouble? Shut up and work, that's all you're good for, you freak."
She slumped further and worked even harder. As soon as the owner of the voice, a big male rat, had gone, Dhow bent over to her and whispered: "Remember, Little One, you're not a freak. You're a person and you have a name. Remember?"
She nodded and repeated the words she had said to herself every time someone had called her out for being a mouse/rat hybrid.
"My name is Nikki Nemo."

^^^^^


As they were being led through the tunnels to the place where they'd be working that day, Mac whispered to Rimfire: "I still don't get it. If we're 'dangerous', how come they're letting us down here? I though they wanted to keep us away from the others?"
Rimfire, who was still slightly leaning on Mac, shrugged and answered: "I dunno. But somehow I don't think it was Nik's idea. Probably someone from higher up who wanted to use all the manpower available.

The prisoners were working in teams, divided by race. Several races within one group rarely occurred, only when it was absolutely necessary, like now. A group of rats, who had the job of loading debris into carts, were short a few hands and since the mouse groups were 'full', Mac and Rimfire were put in the rat group.

Mac saw Rimfire's face brighten as he apparently recognised one of the rats. "Dhow! Good to see you, bro," he said, his voice low.
"The feeling is mutual, my friend. And I'm sure Nikki will be glad to see you, too."
Since both continued to work during this conversation, Mac started loading debris too. "Hey, Rusty," he suddenly heard Rimfire say. As he looked up, he saw a young girl whose face lightened up as soon as she spotted Rimfire. 'I wish I had that effect on women,' Mac mused.

"Hey lad," he said, "are ya gonna introduce me to yer girlfriend or what?" Nikki softly giggled.
"I'm not his girlfriend," she said, blushing.
"Ah, you're still single, then? Even better," he said, his eyebrows wiggling, making Nikki blushing even brighter.
Rimfire came to her rescue and said: "Mac, this young lady is Nikki Nemo and this is her adoption father, Dhow." Mac nodded at the male rat, who smiled in return.

Before he could ask anything, Rimfire whispered: "I'll explain later. Better not talk anymore, you'll need your breath." He was right, it turned out to be a very long day.

^^^^^


In the Martian freedomfighter base all was dark and quiet. The halls were dark and quiet, the rooms were dark and quiet, the corridors were dark and quiet, Throttle was dark and quiet, wandering through the base, struck with a case of acute insomnia.
Mac missing. He couldn't believe it. That tall, cocky, bragging bunch of bravado, ... gone? Just vanished into thin air? How?

He rounded a corner and found himself in one of the exercise rooms. He halted in the doorway when he heard a sound coming from a far off corner. As if someone was working out. Granted, that was what you'd expect in an exercise room, but at this hour of the night?
Carefully, he approached the figure, until he suddenly recognised the form.

"Vinnie? That you bro?"
"Uh-huh." **grunt** "Couldn't sleep. Decided to stop tossing around in bed and do something more or less useful."
"Same here," Throttle said, taking a half-hearted swing at one of the punch bags.
As if it had a will of its own, the bag suddenly swung forward. Throttle jumped aside just in time to bvoid being hit by the bag.

"Whoa!"
"Sorry," a deep voice said, sounding about as down as the two of them felt.
"Hey, Modo. Lemme guess. You couldn't sleep and decided to come and exercise a bit, huh?"
"Basically, yeah."
After a short silence, Throttle suddenly chuckled a bit sadly and sad: "Look at us. The dynamic trio. We're sitting here like three old geezers."
"You mean two old geezers and an old-but-still-good-looking macho mouse," Vinnie cut in.

Neither of them noticed the figure hiding in the shadows in the other corner of the room. Black eyes took in every detail of them, especially Vinnies mask and Modo's eye and arm.
'It's them. It's gotta be. They're exactly as he described them.' The shadow drew in a deep breath. 'Here goes nothing.'

Throttle and Modo were in the middle of an interesting discussion about the size of Vinnies ego, when they were disturbed by a small cough from the shadows. When they looked in the direction of the sound, they saw a blue-furred female, quite small and nazi-death-camp-skinny, dressed in something that was more accurately described as 'a rag' than as 'clothes'.
"Are you three Modo, Throttle and Vinnie?"
"Yes, we are," Throttle said, putting on his most charming smile, "Can we help you?"
"I'm supposed to give you this," she said, handing Modo a small silver necklace with a round symbol hanging from it.

Modo took one look at the necklace and jumped up, grabbin the woman's arm and asking in a shaking voice: "Where did you get this?"
Throttle laid a hand on his larger bro's arm. "Chill, big fella. What's that necklace?"
Modo didn't answer, but released the woman's arm and showed them the necklace. It was a silver circle with the Martian letter 'R' engraved in it. He turned it over to reveal another inscription: 'For Rimfire, from your uncle Modo. Ride free, citizen,' and a Martian date. " This is Rimfire's. I gave this to him when he came of age."

"Where did you get this?" Throttle repeated Modo's earlier question to the woman.
"It was given to me by a man named 'Rimfire Kadi'. He said to show it to his uncle Modo. That you?"
Modo nodded and the woman said: "Is there somewhere private where we can talk?"

^^^^^


They found a room in an abandoned part of the base, which was empty except for some chairs. When they were all sitting down and sur no-one was listening, she started: "My name is Atheling Cithara. My friends call me Athel." And she told them the whole story about Operation 'Puppet String', about Runneymede Prison, about the spy.
[Note: Okay, ppl, I'm not gonna repeat all that info yet again. Just click here to see a summary of what she's telling, okay?]

"Where did you get this?" Throttle asked.
"And what has this got to do with Rimfire?" Modo demanded to know.
"Rimfire was one of the first mice captured, even before the Earth wing of the operation started. I guess it was an opportunity they couldn't let go, getting their hands on the nephew of one of the greatest Martian freedom fighters."
Under normal circumstances, Modo would've blushed for being called 'one of the greatest Martian freedom fighters'. The fact that he didn't even colour the slightest bit showed how stressed he was.
"I was able to escape thanks to Rimfire and a few others. I know the others got killed while we were trying to escape, but Rimfire was caught alive. That means he probably still is. Nikata's probably trying to get him to tell how I managed to get out.

"So how did you manage to get out?" Vinnie asked, unusually intelligent for once.
"There's a flaw in the security system of the tower and we managed to sneak past the guards."
"What kind of flaw?" Throttle asked, already thinking how they could get in.
"An electronic one. I'm afraid that, unless any of you are computer experts, you won't understand any of the 'how'. Let's just say I can de-activate the system for about 5 minutes without leaving any traces."

Modo, who had been quiet for a while, suddenly asked: "How's Rimfire doing?"
"Fine, I guess," the woman said, "As fine as anyone can be after almost 25 years in Runneymede."
Modo was about to ask more questions, when Throttle cut in. "How long ago did you escape?"
"I don't know. I'm guessing about four months ago." When she saw Vinnie frown, she added: "I had to get through plutarkian territory to get here and Runneymede ain't exactly next door, you know. Why?"

The last question was directed to Throttle, who shook his head and answered: "Nothing, it's just that one of our leaders has recently been kidnapped by a certain Mark Sharpman and I was wondering if maybe ..."
"He was taken to Runneymede," she completed his sentence. "Well, I'm afraid I couldn't help you there. But I know Sharpman, several other people were captured by him. If this missing mouse is really important, he's at Runneymede."

Before either of them could ask another question, the woman said: "Listen, I know that you probably have loads of things you want to know, but right now, I'm really, really tired and hungry and in need of a shower. So if you don't mind, could you wait for about 15 hours?"
Throttle hurried to say: "Of course, miss. I'm sorry, I forgot my manners. Modo, go ask Charley for some clothes and Vinnie, you go get some food. I'll scrounge around for some blankets and stuff. Sorry we can't offer more comfort, miss, but from what you've told us, it's vital that no-one but the three of us knows about your presence here."
The woman shrugged and answered: "Everything is better than Runneymede, trust me."

^^^^^


"Hey, ouch, easy, will ya?" Mac shouted at the guards who were playing their favourite game, Mac-pong, again.
"Shut up, you gerbil," one of them snarled.
"Fishface," Mac grumbled. He had a lot more where that came from, but at that moment they reached the cell and were thrown in, followed by something unidentified, possibly bread although he doubted it, and a can of water.

"Don't waste your breath on them, Mac, they ain't worth it.
"No," he admitted, "But it's fun from time to time." Rimfire just chuckled.
"Oh, shut up an' eat. Here." He broke off a piece of the whateveritwas and handed it to Mac.
Mac took it, although reluctantly, and studied it closely. He felt it. Spongy structure. He smelled it. No smell. He tasted a small piece of it. No taste.
"What the hell is this stuff?" he said.

"We call it 'cram' . It's tasteless, but it's edible and nutrient. Eat or you won't last another day.
Mac eyed the stuff suspiciously, but ate it anyhow. Three big bites and his part was gone. Rimfire swallowed the last part of his own, grinned and said: "Of course you don't wanna know what's it's made of …"
Mac frowned, thinking of the plutarkian habit to save as much money as they could, and paled. "You're kidding, right?" he asked. All he got for an answer was a broad grin.

He decided to change the subject and said: "You still have to tell me about that Nikki-lass, ya know."
"Well, actually, it starts with Dhow and Dhow's story starts when I first got here …"

25 years ago

… The first thing he sees as he opens his eyes is a rat. Instinctively, he scurries away from the vile creature, but his wounds stop him.
What happened? Last thing he knew, they were rescuing citizens from that bomber and suddenly he's here.
Where
is here, anyway? A cave, but not a Martian one. Nowhere on Mars were there rocks of this kind. …

20 years ago

… A baby? What were those plutarkians up to now? A mouse/rat hybrid, parents unknown, left down here for them to raise. Thank the gods for Dhow. He knows how to take care of children. Though Mars knows how. Why won't he talk about his past? …

15 years ago

… Dammit, what is wrong with these people? Why are they so mean to Nikki? Like she can help it her parents weren't the same race …

"So Dhow took of Nikki and me. Well, mostly of Nikki, of course, but he's helped me a lot. I don't think I'd have gotten through the first five years without him. He was also the guy that got some of us working together 'interspecies', so to say.
They're doing everything they can to keep the hatred between rats and mice going, and to keep the humans afraid of us 'aliens'. But some of us trusted each other enough to start working together.
Our plan was that Athel –she was our computer expert- would disable the security system so we could escape, and we'd all get reinforcements to get the others out. We managed to sneak past the guard pretty easily …

"Hayden, I'm supposed to be guarding the entrance."
"Aw, c'me on, Towsie, no-one's gonna notice. These stupid furbies wouldn't even
dream of escaping. They're too stupid to even think about it."
**sigh** "Oh, well, all right. But just for a little while, okay? I gotta be back when release comes."
"Okay."

Two shadows disappear around the corner and a voice whispers: "That was easy."
"Shhht!" another voice hisses. "Let's go."

"We got caught getting on the ship. Athel managed to get away, the others got shot. They grabbed me from behind while I was covering for her."

^^^^^


"So, what do we do now?" Vinnie, as always eager to start with the action.
"I'd say the first thing we need to do is eliminate everyone who cannot be the spy," Throttle said. "Then, we can tell those people and get a plan."
"Yeah but who can we trust?"
"Well, according to the lady, this guy has been spying on us for almost 20 years. So we can rule out everyone who's only here, say ... 15 years."
"That rules out them street punks," Vinnie put in.
"Yeah, but can we trust them?" Modo was having his doubts. Just 'cause they weren't spies didn't mean they were okay.
Throttle sighed: "I'm afraid, Modo my mouse, that we'll have to. Who else?"

"Charley-girl?"
"Absolutely. If there's anyone we can trust, it's her."
"That Ludwig-kidmight help, he's smart enough. Maybe Rogue, she can do computers. Stoker?"
Throttle shook his head. "As much as I hate to say it bro's, no. We can't rule him out, not really."
"Then we can't rule you out, either," Modo pointed out.
"No, and that's why either one of you should always be with me."
"WHAT?!,!" they chorused.
"Bros, look. I already know about this, so I'm in anyway. But we gotta make it clear to everyone that we don't use double standards. Otherwise, they'll all say: 'But we can trust him or her,' and we'd never see the end of it. Okay?"

After a short silence, he continued: "So that leaves us with what? Ten people? Eleven if we include the lady and I doubt if she'll be of much assistance, she's on the verge of collapsing. We're never gonna get over 15 000 people outta what's probably the best guarded prison in the galaxy."
"Can't we get some of the lower freedomfighters?"
"We can't risk them accidentally blurting this out in a drunk haze, Vincent. Besides, we need the best for this."
"I can't believe I'm suggesting this, but how the military? I mean I can't imagine Strain drunk and neither he or Carbine would ever betray us."
"I dunno, Vinnie," Modod said, slowly, "I think you're right about Strain, but Carbine ..." His voice trailed off and he glanced at Throttle.

"No, you're right, Modo. Everyone's got a dark spot, even Carbine. Strain's darkness is directed towards the plutarkians, but we can't really prove that he's clear.
"Aw, man," Vinnie exclaimed, for a minute forgetting the woman that was sleeping in the next room, "Why did Mac have to go and get himself caught right now we could use hi-"
"That's it!!!" Throttle exclaimed. "Vincent, you genius, you! You just made my day!"
"That's no need to wake the lady, bro," Modo tried to calm him down, "Now how 'bout tellin' us what yer talkin 'bout?"
"The prisoners, bro! They may not be strong and they might not know how to really fight, but there's over 15 000 people in there."

^^^^^


Ever seen what happens when you put four SkyWalkers, a Southern Belle novice scientist, a whiz-kid and three bikers in one room? Not a very pretty sight.
It wasn't until Throttle did his best imitation of Strain that all quieted down enough to introduce Athel and let her do her story. After that, they were all quiet as ... well, as mice.

"So why are we here? I mean, we're hardly the best freedomfighters, are we?"
"No, but you're the only ones we can trust."
"Um, not that I don't feel honoured," Rogue said, "But ah can't really fight."
"You can try to just cause some accidents," Ludwig suggested mumbling, but no-one heard him.
"We can use your computer talent, Rogue. One of us needs to get caught. Someone who will definitely be transferred to Runneyede. The question is: who?" Throttle looked to Athel. She was, after all, the one who knew most about it.

"Well, I'm out of the question, they'd put me in one of the secure cells if I'd be caught again. You'd end up there from the start, with your reputation."
"Well, them four" he nodded towards Rex Co, "Aren't useful. In the plans of the fishes, of course," he added quickly. They just grinned. "Same goes for Rogue, so I guess that leaves Ludwig. Since he escaped from them, he's probably useful for the plutarkians. I'm guessing they also know he's here and that they can probably get to Terrence through him, so he'd be sent to Runneymede. But knowing the fishfaces, they won't believe a kid could cause them much trouble, so they'll just send him down. Right where we want him"

"Think ya can handle it, doc?" Vinnie asked.
"As long as ya stop calling me 'doc', I can handle anything."
"Good. So, here's the plan. When you're in the mines, try to find Mac and tell him of the plans. But be careful. In three months time, we'll be there. Three months exactly, so you'll need to keep track of time. We'll land with a small spacecraft and sneak in. Miss Athel and Rogue will create a distraction by sounding the alarm on one side of the camp. That's the sign to attack. The prisoners have to take care of the guards as much as they can. Of course we'll help."
"Be my pleasure," Sliver grinned, toying with his knife.
"Anyway, after the guards are taken care of, we can get the prisoners outta there in the plutarkian cargo ship that's always in the hangar according to miss Athel. Any questions?"

"Yeah, how're we gonna explain the fact we'll be gone for so long?" Rex asked. "Ah mean, I don't think a lot of people're gonna miss us," he grinned, "But you three are a whole other thing."
"We could say that we're going back to Brier-Rose to get some more of your gang or something, and Rogue is coming along to help Ludwig with some sort of science thing."
"Help? She? They'll never buy that," Ludwig mumbled, but was ignored.

^^^^^


'One stone, two stones, three stones, ... I HATE STONES! When ah get outta here, I'm burnin' all my Rolling Stones records,' Mac thought, glaring at the debris. The hard work was bad, but the good news was: you got used to it. The bad news was: you got used to everything and that meant you got bored. 'If only something happened once in a while,' he wished. 'Like someone new coming in or something.'
"Go on, you pest, get moving." Looked like his prayers were answered. He risked a glance in the direction of the newcomer and nearly dropped the rock in his hand. Ludwig? What the-?"

The kid was put to work in a group of humans working in the same tunnel as they, so talking to the lad wasn't too hard. "Ludwig, what the hell are you doing here? How'd they get ya?"
Ludwig glanced around to make sure no-one was listening and answered: "We got a plan. Can you make sure the mice are ready to break out in three months time?"
"Break out? Ludwig, what are you up to?"
"Never mind, can you?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"I'll take care of the humans, but the rats have to be in, too."
"Don't worry, I've got connections."
"Good. Make sure everyone is prepared to work together, it's the only way outta here."

^^^^^


...
"You're asking us to trust these rats?"
"No, I'm asking you to trust me."
"Why should we? We don't know you!"
"But you know me. I've been here longer than all of you, longer than almost anyone else. I'm telling you, working together is our only chance to get out of here."
"I'd rather die here than to cooperate with rats."
"Well, I wouldn't. And I'm not letting my daughter spend her whole life here just because you're to stubborn and prejudiced to grasp a chance."
"She's right. Rats or no rats, we gotta get outta here."
...

...
"Mice? We're supposed to fight side by side with mice?"
"It's happened in the past, you know."
"Yeah, and look what happened. We ended up here and the mice just called our family traitors."
"They did not know about this."
"They didn't care!"
"We need to work together if we want to escape."
"Who needs those mice? There's only 50 of 'em."
"Then we'd need to work with the humans, anyway. There are more of them than there are of us."
"Those hairless monkeys?"
"You have a judgement for everyone, don't you?"
"He's right, you just say 'no' to everything. I want outta here. I'd kiss a plutarkian to be free, so working with the mice won't be hard."
...

...
"But they're aliens!"
"To us, yes, they are as alien as we are to them."
"And we're depending on a plan from some six feet mice to get outta here? Who says they're not working with the other aliens? They're all the same anyway!"
"Some humans are working with the plutarkians, too. Does that make all humans bad?"
"Who the hell do you think you are, anyway? You're just a kid."
"He's a kid who can get us out of here."
...

"... we have to..."

"... work together ..."

"... trust each other ..."

"... fight as one ..."

"... for freedom ..."

"... for our lives ..."

"... we're all in this together ..."

"... if we argue, the plutarkians win ..."

^^^^^


What do you get when you mix Sliver and Rogue flirting like there's no tomorrow, Rex and Nightstalk arguing, a bragging Vinnie, a quick-tempered Athel, an impatient Modo ["Are we there yet?"] and a brooding Jack, spice it up with boredom and let this mixture boil in a spacecraft for three months?
A very, very pissed-off Throttle.
"The first one that says another word will be locked up in one room with Bordeaux and an ostrich plume for a week, got it?" he yelled, one the verge of a nervous breakdown. A deadly silence spread across the spaceship when suddenly it was broken by a giggle. Rogue, of course.
"And you, my dear Striped Wonder, will be locked up with Terrence and a supply of books."
"I ain't saying nothin'."

^^^^^


'I'm warm, I'm very warm, I'm practically boiling in here. Man, is it hot here or what?' "Well, th-th-that didn't w-w-work."
"Huh?" Rimfire said, teeth chattering, wrapped into a little ball, fur all standing up, shivering.
"I was t-tr-trying ta make maself b-believe I was w-w-w-warm. N-n-n-no g-g-g-good."
Rimfire grinned a tired little grin. "D-didn't th-think it w-w-would."
"SHIT!" Mac said, more irritated with the trembling of his limbs than with the cold now. He jumped up and started pacing the room, waving his arms, trying to get warm.

"What are you c-c-complainin' 'bout, anyway? You got a nice layer of fat ta protect ya."
Mac opened his mouth to pretest that he was not fat, but then he noticed just how thin Rimfire was. Compared to him, Mac was pretty fat. He just grumbled.

Seeing that Rimfire was still shaking like a leaf, Mac took off his jacket and tossed it to the kid. "Here, you can use that better than me."
Rimfire looked at the jacket, then at Mac, clearly considering refusing it, but eventually the cold was harder then his pride. "Thanks."

^^^^^


"One million bottles rootbeer on the wall, one million bottles rootbeer, take one down, toss it 'round, …"
well, at least they were working together. Still, Throttle would be damn glad when they'd finally get there. Sneaking around in plutarkian territory was bad enough, but after a billion bottles rootbeer on the wall, he was looking forward to what still seemed to be a hopeless rescue mission.

^^^^^


"Aw, man, we gotta get some sleep."
"Yeah, tomorrow's the big day."
"Shit, you're colder than I am, what's the use in sharine body heat?"
"Keeping me warm?"
**grumble**

^^^^^



"This is it. I hope they're ready in there, 'cause if they ain't, we're all dead meat."


"This is it. Our last day in this hell-hole."

"… today …"

"… freedom …"

"… will they be here?…"

"… faith …"

"… believe …"

"… trust …"

"… today …"

**WHIEWWHIEWWHIEW**



"Yes! Finally finished!"

"You call that finished? That's not an ending."

"Of course not, there's still at least two parts left to go."