Contents Warning: Nothing, not even pre-slash. Just a lot of foreshadowning.
Music: The soundtrack of 'Dangerous Minds', some Joan Baez ['Forever Young'!], 'Knocking on Heaven's Door'.
Author's Notes: The very first thing I wrote in 1999. Very short, since it's just a prologue. Foreshadowing abound and don't ask
me what's gonna happen next, 'cause I have no idea.
Disclaimer: Oops, silly me, did I say they were mine? I didn't? Good, then I didn't lie. ;-) Throttle, Modo, Vinnie, Stoker, carbine, Harley and Rimfire belong to the creators of BMFM, whoever they are. All the SL characters belong to Decembergirl. But everyone else is mine. I made no money off this and I don't think I ever will. Bummer. ;-)


Prologue: Down the Rabbit-Hole

"Mac!" Bordeaux' crackled hiss could hardly be heard over the roar of the wind that blew over the dry desert plains.
He picked up his radio and whispered: "Yeah?"
"As far as we can see, these are all the sandraiders miles around."
"And you're sure that Sharpman guy is in this camp?"
"For 200% sure. We've surrounded the camp, just say the word and we'll attack."
"Okay, when I yell 'now', everyone charges. We can use the advantage of the surprise."

He lowered the radio a bit and looked out over the camp.
Nobody seemed to be suspecting anything. Apparently, they hadn't been spotted yet.
He turned around and peered into the desert for long seconds, before deciding that there were indeed no other sandraiders or rats around.

He brought the radio to his mouth and after taking a deep breath, he shouted: "Now!!!!". Then, he rode into the camp, bringing death and destruction to these loathed enemies.
Although they didn't think twice about killing any and all sandraiders that got in their way, or even just within reach of their gunfire, the FF's primary goal wasn't the raiders.
According to their information, Mark Sharpman, one of the universe's most feared assassins, was in this sandraiders camp, waiting for his orders from the plutarkian government.

The entire goal of this mission was to capture Sharpman for trial at the Militay base or, if that wasn't possible, to kill him. It was probably going to be the latter, because Sharpman wasn't the kind of person to let himself be captured. Nobody had ever even seen him and lived to tell about it.
"That might be so," Mac had grinned when they were being briefed on this mission, "But he hasn't had to face me yet." The smug expression on his face had made everyone laugh.

He didn't look so smugly amused now. His face was frozen in a determined expression, determined to be done with this murderer, this ruthless killer who didn't fight for a conviction, but just for the money. Mars knew how many Martians he had already killed, how many other people he had killed, good people, people who had only wanted to defend themselves, their families and their friends against an invader, or a cruel dictator.

As he raced through the camp, killing every sandraider in sight, he kept his eyes open for anyone that might look out of sorts. Anyone that looked different, colder, greedier then even the sandraiders, someone with the eyes of a professional killer.

The fight was beginning to quiet down again, as most of the sandraiders were either killed or captured, and they could finally look around the camp. Systematically, the searched every tent thoroughly, making sure Sharpman wasn't in it, then sealing it so he wouln't be able to get back in.

Mac was searching his last tent, carefully shifting through the pillows, looking for any trace of the assassin. Nothing.
Nor the pillows, nor the trunk held any clues. Just as he was about to consider the tent empty and have it sealed up, a motion at the edge of his visionary field caught his eye.

Cautiously, he moved towards the back of the tent. He slowly pulled away the curtain, gun ready to fire, and …

The next thing he knew, he came to on board a spaceship, seeing white rabbits hopping around his head.
He rubbed his temples and tried to sit up, but the falling feeling quickly taught him otherwise.

"Aha, our sleepy-head is waking up," a voice from the cabin said. "Glad to see you back among the living, my friend."
Carefully sitting up, Mac looked at the dark shadow that manoeuvred the ship through an asteroid belt.

"Who are you?"
"Now, now," the shadow laughed, though it was a cold, heartless laugh, "Don't tell me you don't know me. I'm the one you were looking for in the camp."

"That's me." The shadow turned towards him and in the light, Mac could see his face.
"You're one of ours," he gasped.
Sharpman turned back to watch where he was flying and said in a grave, serious tone, even the mock smile now vanished from his voice: "No, I ain't. I may be a cavemouse at form, but not at heart. Not anymore."

Mac decided that changing the subject might be a good idea and asked: "What do you want from me?"
"That depends."
"On what?"
"On your name, for example."
Mac decided that it wouldn't hurt to give his name. "MacCloud."
"MacCloud, huh?" Sharpman said as he apparently searched a database on the ship's computer."Skyrime or Anakin MacCloud?"

Silence. Then sharply: "Both"

"Well, well, what a rare specimen," the mercenary grinned. "A mouse with two first names. Well, Mr MacCloud, praise your lucky stars. Your name is on the plutarkian list of 'useful' mice. That means you get to live."

Mac slowly raised until he was standing upright. He moved his arms and legs a bit, experimentally. Didn't seem like anything was broken, the dizziness was gone, he was ready to roll again.

"Tell me something," he said in the direction of Sharpman. "What makes you think I won't just come over there, bust your head and take this ship back to Mars, with you in it to bring you up for trial?"

Sharpman merely chuckled and said: "Go ahead, try."
Mac frowned and started to make his way to the steering cabin, cautiously, weary of what he might encounter, expecting anything from hidden plutarkians to acid showers spraying on him if he'd step to close.
Three steps and no booby traps. Four steps, still nothing. Five …

Suddenly, he felt as though he was trying to walk through a gigantic sheet of slightly elastic plastic. He could walk one more step, but only with great effort, and no more. He didn't even get close to the cabin.

"What the-?" he said, stepping back.
"A force field," Sharpman explained, "Handier then ropes or chains. Some people can break ropes or chains, but nobody can get through this."

'Damn,' Mac thought to himself, 'I have got to get this thing to the base. Terrence and Ludwig could do miracles with this technology. I bet we could win this bloody war in a year's time.'
He mentally shook himself. 'Mac, Mac, Mac! What the hell are you thinking? You can't get this thing to Mars. You're captured by the most dangerous mercenary in the galaxy! Wake up and smell the fish-faces, lad. You're not gonna see the red surface of home for a loooong time.'

Unless …. Maybe he wouldn't be able to beat this guy, but perhaps he could talk him into freeing him. After all, he was a mouse, wasn't he?

"Why are you doing this?" he asked, carefully keeping any accusation out of his tone.
"Doing what?"
"This. Killing for money." When he was answered by a silence, he took a chance and said: "Why don't you join us? Fight for a cause. For the freedom of your people."

Sharpman gave a cold, sharp laugh. "My people. Right! I don't have a people, MacCloud. My people died when I was 16.
We were the last clan of nomads on Mars. When the long winter came, 50 years back, they all froze to death. Our Clan Elders turned to the government for help, but they did nothing. Nothing. Then we tried to get some help from the common people, but everyone just shut their doors in front of our noses.
I watched them die in front of my eyes, MacCloud, one by one. My mother, my father, my brothers, my sister, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, everyone.
Only a handful of us survived and we fell apart. There were too few of us to stay together and form a new clan. I went to Brimstone and tried to settle down, but the 'civilised' mice never accepted me as one of their own.
So don't you give me that crap about 'my people', MacCloud. They never cared about me, so why the fuck should I care about them?"

"There's gotta be someone out there that cares about you," Mac tried to reason, although he knew there wasn't a chance he was gonna convince this guy, "Someone you care about …"
Sharpman's answer was cryptical: "They're better off without me."
"But -"Mac started, but was cut off.

"Will you shut up? You're starting to annoy me, MacCloud, and if I'm annoyed enough I might forget about the price the plutarkians are willing to pay for you and waste you. Understand?"
He nodded silently and sat back, waiting until they arrived wherever they were going.

"Nice foreshadowing, lass."

"Thanks, Mac, I do my best."

"Just one thing ..."


"Couldn't you think of another name for that mercenary? I mean, really."

**chuckle** "Sorry, couldn't resist."

To the next part