Disclaimer: I do not own `Biker Mice from Mars' and I make no profit from this story. It was written for pure enjoyment, in honour 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. I don't mind you using the people created in this story as long as you ask first. You are however, welcome to draw any of them `cos I can't draw for toffee.

This story follows on from A Touch Of Stone.

Paradise Lost

By Thorn

Copyright 1998

The vast black of space went on and on and on. Two lonely starships punctuated the emptiness heading for a small pinprick of light. Mars.
The pilot of the smaller vessel sat in his flight chair mulling over the events of the last few days. His life had been changed irreversibly. Only a few days ago he had been one of the honoured few to command a pulsar class starcruiser, the second most powerful class of ship in the Alliance fleet. At over a hundred miles long and home to over 150,000 people, they were equipped with powerful shields and devastating weapons, second only to the quasar class megacruisers. There were only fifteen of these ships in the fleet. Stone's ship, the Icon, had been a monument to twenty-fifth century Earth technology. It was a symbol of the strength of the Alliance, the governing body of Earth and its colonies. At the sight of the Icon's majestic hull enemies would tremble in fear, knowing it was their day to die, whilst allies would rejoice at their salvation.
But that life was gone. The Icon had been sent out to investigate a spate of commercial ship disappearances a few light-years from Sol. After two days of scanning the sector they had found nothing except a small energy anomaly. Stone had decided to take out a fighter to go investigate further, anything to relive the boredom of such a dull assignment. His second in command had warned him against such a course of action, but knew better than to press the issue when Stone was determined.
Manoeuvring out of one of the Icon's immense fighter bays, Stone headed for the anomaly, planning to get detailed sensor scans of it, even though it was doubtful that such a small disturbance could be responsible for a ship disappearing.
He arrived at the co-ordinates. There was nothing there visible to the naked eye but Stone's sensors could detect a small ripple in the space-time continuum. He moved in closer, recalibrating the sensors for a more detailed scan. Suddenly the cockpit of the small fighter was bathed in bright light. Space infront of him had ripped open forming a rift, its huge maw engulfing the tiny fighter. Coils of energy poured outwards into normal space. The fighter lurched.
<AFT STABILISERS HIT. RAISING SHIELDS> The computer transmitted into Stone's brain.
Full reverse, engines to maximum, he had ordered.
The little crafts powerful engines had sprung to life but it was no good, the very fabric of space was being pulled into the rift and him along with it. The mouth of the rift closed behind him. The ship was caught on an energy current, being dragged deeper into the anomaly. Consoles sparked and crackled as the energies of the rift overloaded their circuits. The display console infront of him exploded, blowing up in his face. He remembered seeing the console fascia flying towards him, then blackness.
He awoke sometime later. Twelve hours later the computer told him. It was a miracle that the computer was still online.
He was back in normal space. A long-range scan confirmed that Sol was still where it should be, but where was the Icon and where were all the Alliance navigational beacons.
He looked at the ship's status. Its energy levels were low. He had just two hours of life support left. A breach in the hyper-drive fuel pod had released most of the antimatter it contained. The release of antimatter must have somehow freed him from the rift. As a result of the breach, the fighter was far too damaged to attempt to go back through the rift. Stone had a choice. Wait for help to arrive, while he slowly ran out of air, or make a run for Earth hoping that he had enough Antimatter to make the trip. He decided on the latter. If help did come, which would be extremely unlikely, they could find him on Earth.
Recording a message of what had happened and attaching the record of the ship's passage through the rift, he dispatched a buoy. He watched as it disappeared into the now small mouth of the rift.
He set course for Earth. As it turned out he'd had just enough antimatter to reach Earth and to attempt a crash landing. Meeting up with three aliens and their human friend, he had become embroiled in a conflict against the oppressive Plutarkian Empire. Having already fought a battle on Earth, he was now heading for Mars.
Its funny, he thought, In my universe Mars was a dusty airless rock but, we terraformed it into a utopia. The Mars of this universe is becoming like Mars used to be in my universe. A lost paradise.
Stone sighed and changed position in his flight chair. At least I have an opportunity to try and change that, he thought.
He gazed out of the cockpit into the blackness of space. The little red pinprick of light had become a little bigger. Stone sighed again and tried to get some sleep.

Clouds of red dust bellowed upwards into the thin Martian atmosphere. The planet's low gravity exaggerated the effect. Two ships touched down on the surface. The dust began to settle, covering them with a thin layer of red.
Stone got out of his fighter, stretching his legs. He looked around at the base he had landed at. There was little to see. Most of the base was constructed underground, where it was protected from the sandstorms that frequently ravaged the planet. The main entrance was cut into the hillside to the right of him. A low wall ran round from the entrance to the end of the landing field. To say that this was the headquarters of the Martian Resistance, it didn't look much from the outside.
A stern looking male mouse greeted Stone. The mouse was heavily built and towered over Stone. He wore the same kind of uniform as Carbine.
"Welcome to Mars. I'm Lieutenant Scorch. General Carbine has ordered me to brief you on our current situation. I'll then show you to your quarters."
Stone shook the Captain's hand. "That would be wonderful. Lead onwards Lieutenant."
The Martian lieutenant led Stone into the base.

The door to the stalker ship opened with a hiss and the ramp extended to allow thirteen weary Martians to exit. Stoker walked down the ramp talking to Carbine.
"So are you coming to the victory celebration." He said. "I know you're military an' all, but you're all welcome to join us. After all we are on the same side."
Carbine sighed. "Sorry Stoker, I've got these reports to get in. The others are free to go though."
"Forget reports! Let's celebrate!" cried Stoker exasperated.
"Stoker, they're important. Command needs to see them in order to build up the big picture. We need to plan for our next offensive. You freedom fighters think that war is just fighting and drinking. We need to work out our strategies if we're to win."
Stoker sighed. There had always been a rivalry between the military and the freedom fighters. Both sides had the same goals but went about achieving them in different ways. Stoker had been hoping to get Carbine to lighten up a bit. No chance, he thought to himself.
He decided to try a different angle.
"Ok Carbine, but try and come later on when you've finished. It'd really make my day." He said employing a bit of emotional blackmail.
Carbine stared at him hard. I'll give him this, he's stubborn, she thought to herself.
"I might come down in a couple of hours if I get time. I'm not promising though."
Stoker smiled. "I'll see you there." He said happily.

The freedom fighters, consisting of Stoker, Rimfire, and two other Martians set off towards the bar. Carbine watched them go. She noted the expectant faces of the soldiers waiting at the foot of the ramp.
"If anyone wants to join them, they'll be welcome to." She relented.
The squad of soldiers set off after the freedom fighters all except Dagger.
"Major, not feeling in a party mood?" asked Carbine.
Dagger shrugged. "I just thought I'd give you a hand with those reports, so you'll be able to get to the party ma'am."
"I can manage." Said Carbine stubbornly.
Dagger sighed. "Permission to speak freely ma'am."
"You've been non-stop ever since we got that message from Throttle. With all due respect ma'am, you need to wind down and relax." Dagger said matter-offactly.
"Thankyou for your advice, I didn't know Cyclone had been giving you medical lessons." She said sarcastically.
Dagger just looked at her with a do as your told expression on his face. Carbine relented.
"Oh, come on then." She said making a face at him and stomping off towards the base.
Dagger smiled and trotted after her.

Stone lay on the bed in his newly assigned quarters. Scorch had only just finished his briefing. It had taken an hour and a half for him to explain the Martian's situation. It wasn't good. The Plutarkians still held much of Mars. The Martians were squeezed into a few small areas, secret bases, underground shelters and that sort of thing. They were thus limited to making small attacks, guerrilla warfare and sabotage. To add to this problem the Martians were divided into two groups, the military and the freedom fighters. From the way Scorch had said the words freedom fighters, Stone could tell the two groups didn't exactly see eye to eye.
Stone glanced at his watch, Oh well, better get to the party, he thought.
The rest of his thoughts were interrupted however by a loud crashing sound. The room began to shake and dust fell from the ceiling.
"Oh no, not again." Moaned Stone to no-one in particular.
This time however, the ceiling didn't collapse on him. He sighed with relief as the building stopped shaking just to start shaking again as another loud crash was heard. Stone decided to check it out, He had left his disrupter cannon in the ship, but had brought his pistol. He quickly loaded it into the quick-draw mechanism in his left sleeve. He checked the blades attached to his right forearm. They were working fine.
Confident that he was properly equipped to defend himself, he walked over to the door and opened it briskly. A fat and ugly Plutarkian soldier stood behind it facing him. Stone's lower jaw dropped in surprise as the Plutarkian raised its gun and fired.

Stoker stood by the bar, Rimfire at his side. He was recounting the tale of the battle at the Last Chance Garage to a mixed group of military and freedom fighters. He had just got to the part where Cyclone had taken out one of the Plutarkian commandos with a hypodermic of anaesthetic.
"It was nothing." Shrugged the doctor remembering the incident.
In actual fact, Cyclone had misjudged the jump down from the roof of the building that he had been hiding on and fallen off his bike, losing his laser in the process. A Plutarkian soldier had grabbed him round the neck as he was trying to get up, intent on strangling him. Cyclone had panicked and grabbed the nearest weapon he could find. A hypodermic from his kit bag.
Stoker's tale was interrupted suddenly as the building began shaking. The doors at the far end of the room burst inwards and several Plutarkian soldiers burst in. A dozen more appeared at the other end of the room in a flash of transporter light. Shocked mice tried to draw their lasers but were cut down where they stood.
Stoker and Rimfire jumped over the bar top to land on the other side. Rimfire noticed Cyclone still stood at the other side frozen to the spot. He grabbed him by the waist and hauled him over the bar top.
With all the commotion the Plutarkians hadn't noticed the three mice that were now hiding behind the bar. Stoker looked through a crack between the wooden panels making up the front of the old bar. The Plutarkians had overrun the place already and had begun filing prisoners out of the room. The bar mistress stood behind the bar with her hands in the air. She gave Stoker a sharp kick with her foot and then tapped it on a piece of carpet covering part of the floor. Stoker looked up at the cream furred female making an ok sign as she moved away to join the other prisoners.
If only I was a little younger, he thought looking at her pretty figure and her gorgeous long blond hair.
Stoker moved the bit of carpet. It covered a hatchway. Lifting it quickly he dived down into the dark hole quickly followed by Rimfire and Cyclone. He landed hard on the unforgiving cold stone floor of wherever he was. Rimfire and Cyclone landed on top of him, knocking the wind out of him. He lay on the floor trying to get his breath back. It was pitch black, Rimfire had closed the hatch on his way down so that none of the Plutarkians would follow them.
Rimfire looked around the room they had landed in. He could see that it was probably once a wine cellar of some sort. A passageway led off into the distance from one of the walls. He looked round just in time to see Cyclone walk straight into one of the walls.
"Doc. Over this way." Rimfire called
Stoker was still laid on the floor. Rimfire noted the pained expression on his face, he, was obviously hurt.
"Stoke. You ok?" He asked.
"Yeah lad, just give me a minute to get ma breath back. Shesh, its dark in here. I can't see a damn thing"
Rimfire looked at Stoker puzzled. "Its not that dark. I can see everything just fine."
Stoker raised his eyebrows. "Must be those nani-what's-its that Stone gave ya. It looks like your goin' ta have to lead us outta here lad cos all I can see is black."
"Me too." Said cyclone stepping on Stoker's hand.
"Aaarrh!" cried out Stoker.
"What is with you two. First ya fall on top of me, sticking ya bony elbows in ma belly, and then ya stand on ma bloody hand. Who needs Plutarkians with friends like you" Stoker moaned as the three of them set off down the passageway, Rimfire in the lead.

Carbine quietly walked to the end of the corridor and peered around the corner. It was all clear. She waved to the other three members of her little group. They quietly joined her. Dagger moved in front of her.
"My turn to go first." He said moving down the next corridor. Carbine was left with the other two mice in her group, one male one female.
The female was known as Diamond. She was just a couple of inches under six-foot tall and of slim build. Her fur was pure white. Her hair was also white but with a bluish sheen. Her eyes were crystal blue. Like her namesake she was one hard mouse. Carbine had been training her personally and had the utmost confidence in her.
The male however was a different story. Known to everybody as Spit, he was a bit of a loose cannon. He was just over six-foot tall and of average build for a Martian. His fur was a dark grey and his short cut hair was an even darker shade of the same colour. His eyes were as black as night and had a hint of craziness in them. The army had rescued him from a Plutarkian prison camp a few years back. The Plutarkians had tortured him for information but he wouldn't talk. So, they ripped his vocal chords out, while he was still conscious and without anaesthetic, as a lesson to others. Thus, he was now practically mute. A long scar ran down his throat from under his chin. The torturing process combined with what they did to him had left him slightly unhinged. As a result he could be unpredictable. In Carbine's eyes that made him a danger to them.
Dagger waved at them from his forward position. Carbine, Diamond and Spit made their way over to him. Dagger put his finger to his lips to silence them.
"Two Plutarks guarding the door round the corner." He whispered.
Carbine held up her laser. "We'll take `em by surprise." She whispered back to the Major.
The four mice burst round the corner, weapons blazing. The Plutarkians were nailed before they even had a chance to draw their blasters. Spit went over to the nearest Plutarkian corpse and spat on it in disgust.
Suddenly there was a flash of light to either side of the group of mice. Temporarily blinded by the brightness the mice shielded their eyes.
"Hold it." Said a voice.
Carbine's vision returned. She found that she was looking down the business end of a blaster. She dropped her laser to the floor. The other three followed suit.
Spit let fly another glob of saliva, hitting the lead Plutarkian on the face. The Plutarkian growled and signalled to one of his men. A rifle butt made contact with the back of Spit's head. He yelped as he hit the deck. The Plutarkian he had spat on looked down at him.
"You don't feel so clever now, do you rodent."
The soldier gave Spit a vicious kick to the stomach, doubling him over.
"Take them away for execution."
Plutarkian hands grabbed the four mice and dragged them away.

Stone awoke to find he was laid on the floor. He sat up and around. He was in a large room cramped with Martians. The Plutarkians must have stunned me, he thought, looking over at the dozen heavily armed Plutarkians guarding the exit.
Stone checked his sleeves. The pistol was still there as were his blades. They must have thought him to be unarmed and mustn't have checked for concealed weapons. Stone smiled at his good fortune. Still one gun against a dozen rifles was not good odds, he would have to bide his time.
Thinking of a plan he absently gazed up at the ceiling. He frowned. It looked much lower than it ought to be. Looking around he saw why. It was a fake ceiling, he could see a panel of it was missing about twenty metres from where he sat. There was a space between the true ceiling and the false one, the fake one being there to hide all the girders holding the real roof up.
Stone smiled again; this was his way out. He shifted position so that he was crouched down, then with all his strength he leaped upwards. His nanite enhanced physique and the low Martian gravity aided him as he crashed through the fake ceiling. Grabbing a girder he pulled himself up and made his way to the nearest ventilation shaft.

The Plutarkian guards looked round just in time to see a pair of legs disappear into the ceiling. One of the guards blinked in disbelief. The others began to watch the rest of the prisoners much more closely.

Carbine, Dagger, Diamond and Spit were led into a small room. It was dark and dingy with just one small window. The guards forced the prisoners to kneel in a line facing the far wall of the room. They were then forced to put their hands on their heads and to wrap their tails around their ankles.
Three Plutarkians stood in the room. One stood by Spit to the left; another stood by Carbine to the right. The third, the one spit had christened, stood behind them. It was this one that did all the talking.
"You four are charged with crimes against the Plutarkian Empire. Your sentence is death, execution to be carried out immediately. Carry on men."
The two soldiers stood by the prisoners put their blasters against the heads of Carbine and Spit.
"That one first." Said the third soldier pointing at Spit.
The mute mouse closed his eyes. His teeth were clenched waiting for the inevitable. A bead of sweat ran down the side of his face. The soldier laughed and began to pull the trigger.
Suddenly the window smashed inwards as a black clad figure dived through it. Landing on his hands, Stone flipped over to land on his feet again by the third Plutarkian. Extending his blades, he plunged them into the soldier's chest. The blades cut all the way through, the tips sticking out of the Plutarkian's back. The other two guards turned at the sudden appearance of the intruder, bringing their weapons to bear. Stone triggered the fast draw mechanism in his left sleeve and his pistol popped into his hand. Using the impaled soldier as a shield he shot the Plutarkian nearest Spit, blowing a hole through his chest. The other soldier near Carbine fired his blaster but just succeeded in hitting the corpse shielding Stone. Carbine shoved into the soldier, knocking him off balance. Stone turned and fired, taking the Plutarkians head off.
The four mice got up off the floor while Stone extracted his blades from the fish he had speared. The tall one-eyed major came across and shook Stone's hand.
"I owe ya one fella."
"No problem Dagger. Your just luck I was passing this way." Replied Stone.
Spit came over to join Stone and Dagger after christening the body of the Plutarkian laid next to him in his own customary fashion. He grabbed Stone and bear hugged him, a big grin on his face.
"I can see you're grateful." gasped Stone. "But thankyou would be quite sufficient."
Spit put Stone down and begun to sign at him.
"He's mute" Diamond stated. "He was just expressing his appreciation."
"Yes I can see." Said Stone, making a sign back to Spit. Spit gestured a thumbs up and grinned even wider than before.
Carbine interrupted them. "Well anyone got a plan."
Dagger was the first to speak. "I think the best course of action would be to get out of here and regroup with any other escapees. The five of us are no match for the five hundred or so Plutarks that must be here."
"I agree with Dagger." said Stone
"What about the prisoners." Asked Carbine.
"The Plutarks will transport them to a prison camp or a holding camp once they've secured this base. Our best bet is to gather our forces and attack that. All the prisoners are in the same place. At the moment they're distributed all over the place, we'd need hundreds of men to get them all out."
Carbine considered the plan. "Very well, We'll head for the ships. They should be our best means of escape."

Rimfire walked down the passage slowly. Stoker held onto his tail as a guide. The doctor in turn held onto Stoker's replacement bionic tail. They had been walking for what had seemed like forever. The passage twisted and turned every ten yards or so and it was still pitch black. Several times the doctor or else Stoker had tripped over something and sent them all crashing into one another.
The tunnel turned to the left and at last light shone into the tunnel from an adjar manhole (mousehole?) cover.
"Thank the Gods!" Cried Stoker as light shone down to illuminate the tunnel.
"Hey Stoke, gimmie a leg up. I wanna see what's goin' on outside."
Stoker grunted as he struggled to lift Rimfire's weight. Hell he's heavy, he thought, must be feeding him too much.
"Yo, Doc., Gimmie a hand would ya."
The doctor held onto Rimfire's other foot taking some of the weight. Rimfire shoved the manhole cover back quietly and poked his head through.

Stone, Carbine, Dagger, Spit and Diamond were crouched behind the small wall funning around the base, about fifty yards from the two ships. A group of twelve Plutarkians stood guarding them.
Carbine sighed. "We're never gonna take that lot out."
A movement suddenly caught Stone's eye. He smiled. "Rimfire, you beauty." He said quietly.
"What?" asked Carbine confused.
"Manhole cover behind the Plutarkians."
Carbine and the others peered over to a familiar orange striped head stuck out from a manhole
"I'm gonna distract them." Said Stone. "Take out as many as you can. Hopefully Rimfire'll get the idea."
Stone sprang over the wall and began to walk towards the Plutarkians, carefully keeping himself out of the line of fire of his comrades. Rimfire saw him and gave him an ok sign,
"Hey sewage breaths." Called Stone. "Over here!"
The Plutarkians looked over and began to fire. He dived to the floor and produced his pistol.
Carbine, Dagger and Diamond began to fire the weapons they had taken from the three Plutarkian soldiers Stone had slaughtered. They took out five of the guards. Stone took out another two with his pistol just in time to see Spit running past him, a nasty looking knife in his hand.
Rimfire jumped up out of the manhole and began firing his laser rifle. Four more guards fell. One guard remained, he hesitated, who should he shoot first. Too late, Spit stuck him in the chest with his knife. The guard looked into his assassin's crazed eyes surprised, as the Martian withdrew the blade and calmly slit the guard's throat.

Stone got up from the floor and walked over to his fighter. It was a mess, panels had been ripped off, consoles were smashed and equipment was strewn everywhere. The computer was non-responsive. Stone sighed, the ship was grounded. He called over to Rimfire. Spit heard his call and came running over too. Looks like I've got a new friend, thought Stone.
"My ships been damaged. I need to transfer as much equipment as I can to your ship. Can you give me a hand."
"Sure Stone." Replied Rimfire.
Five minutes later the salvaged equipment was stowed on the stalker ship, which had fortunately escaped damage.
Stone pressed a small button below his command chair. A console popped up from the floor. Placing his hand against the screen he set the timer for five minutes. He left the ship and entered the stalker ship taking one last glance back at the sleek lines of the Alliance fighter.
The door to the stalker ship closed and its engines came to life. Slowly lifting off it headed away from the doomed base.

The take off was seen by a troop off Plutarkians who ran over to the landing field just in time to be obliterated as Stone's ship exploded in a huge fireball. A small crater was left where it once stood.

About half an hour later the Stalker ship landed in a remote valley.
"What now?" asked Stone
"Now we ride" replied Stoker, opening the ship's storage bay containing several Martian bikes.
Stone grimaced as he looked at the large black bike propped up in the corner of the bay.
"I suppose I'll have to ride that thing again." He said gesturing to it. "You know it doesn't like me."
Stoker grinned remembering the time on Earth when it had taken Stone three hours to get it to let him ride it. "It'll get used to ya if ya treat it right. It just misses Turbo and Astral. Go talk to it."
Stone cautiously walked over to the bike. It revved its engine menacingly. Stone tried to think of something to say.
"Look bike, your being very silly. Your last owners are dead and nothing can change that. I understand your loss but I need you to work with me."
The bike's engine died down. Stone put his hand on the handle bars, the bike stood quietly. Cautiously Stone sat on the bike. Still the bike did nothing.
"Now were getting somewhere." He said. "I think you need some modifications, Galactic Alliance style.

A couple of hours later the mice were ready to go. Stone sat on his new bike. He had replaced the laser cannon on the front with the ionic pulse cannon from his combat armour and the bike now sported the logo `Heavy Metal' tastefully inscribed along its sides.
Stoker smiled. "Let's rock."
"..And RIDE!" chorused the others. The eight riders tore away, heading for the nearest freedom fighter base.

Four Martians sat round a small table at freedom fighter base gamma-five.
Ice slammed his fist down on the table. "Those Plutarkian skunks are gonna pay. If they've so much as laid a hand on my Satin I'll rip their guts out and feed them to the saber squid."
The big white mouse was shaking with anger, quite unlike his usual cool, calm, collected self.
"Calm down Ice." Said Starline, a tan furred female. "We've all got family or friends at headquarters. We need to work out a plan."
"Starline's right, we gotta thick about this properly or else we'll end up as prisoners too." Said Hammer, a huge grey mouse.
Ice put his head in his hands. The anger turned to sadness. "I'm sorry. Its just me an' Satin had a bit of a bust up before she left for headquarters. Its probably my fault she went in the first place. I'll hate myself if anything happens to her."
"Hey Ice, don't blame yourself Bro. Satin's a grown woman, she knows how to look after herself." Sidewinder said, the group's leader.
Suddenly the door burst open and two mice rushed in, Harmony and Strobe.
"Hey! A group of bikers are headed this way." Shouted Harmony. "Make ready you lot."
"Positions everyone." Shouted Sidewinder.

The group of freedom fighters arrived outside the base
"Looks deserted." Stated Stone looking around.
"Oh, they're here, somewhere." Said Stoker. "Probably waiting to see who we are."
Stoker got off his bike and walked towards the entrance to the base.
"Hello! We come in peace." He shouted.
Suddenly the sand erupted beneath Stoker's feet. He fell crashing to the ground. The eight freedom fighters found themselves surrounded by five other mice all brandishing lasers.
Stoker finally caught sight of the face of his assailant. "Sidewinder you old snake!" cried Stoker grappling with his old time friend.
"Stoker? My God, its really you. I'd thought you'd killed yourself years ago." Sidewinder laughed out loud. "Its okay people, they're on our side."
The five Martians lowered their weapons.
"Lets go inside and you can tell us what ya doin' here." Said sidewinder.
"Yeah good idea Sidey, its freezing out here." Replied Stoker.
Stoker looked at his one time best friend. The years had been kind. It was hard to believe that Sidewinder was almost eighty years old. His fur was the colour of the Martian sands as was his long hair. Just a few small flecks of grey showed his age.
Ice turned round to the visitors. "You lot hungry?" he asked.
He was answered with nods and murmurs of ascent.
"I'll go get ya something then." He replied.

Stoker and Carbine explained the situation to the base's inhabitants over a meal of fried saber squid and ale.
"So you've not heard of anyone else escaping." asked Carbine
"No. You're the only ones so far." Replied Sidewinder. "Strobe's radioing the other bases now to tell them about you." He said pointing to the black mouse with a shock of white hair working the radio equipment in the corner of the room.
"We're gonna need to gather our forces together if we are to stand a chance of freeing the prisoners." Said Stoker still chewing a piece a saber squid.
Sidewinder frowned, thinking. "Well there's six of us here, plus gamma-four could probably provide us with another six. Apart from there the only other place to get people from is gamma-prime and that's miles away. It'll take `em a while to get here.
"Do you know where they're taking the prisoners."
Stoker sighed. "Not exactly, but I have a good hunch." He said not wanting to tell them.
"Spill it Stoker." Said Ice impatiently.
"What" That place is worse the Galitepp!" Ice shouted distraught. He got up from his chair and left the room.
Starline followed him out.

Ice sat looking out of one of the windows in the small kitchen. It faced out into the desert. Tears flowed down his face. He closed his eyes wishing that the pain would go away.
Starline walked up behind him.
"What?" He said, not turning to face her
"Look Satin will be alright, she can look after herself."
Ice finally turned to face her. "But its Magderaad, the place where if you see the inside, you don't live to talk about it. It's an impenetrable fortress. I'm never gonna see her again."
Tears flowed free down his cheeks. Starline couldn't bear to see her friend this way. She held him in her arms as he buried his face on her shoulder.
"I promise I'll help you get her back."

Six freedom fighters arrived from gamma-4 early the next morning. Another twenty were due from gamma-prime in the evening. Carbine had radioed a small military base located near headquarters. Infact it was little more than an observation post staffed by three soldiers. They had been missed by the Plutarkian invaders and had been observing the base. She found out that Stoker's hunch had been right, the prisoners were being transferred to Magderaad. One of the three soldiers had followed a transport to the prison camp.
Carbine slumped in her chair. Depression had claimed her. Here she was away from the army with a bunch of undisciplined misfits, about to try free a couple of thousand prisoners from an impenetrable fortress. Her only consolation was that Dagger and Diamond were here with her. At least they knew how to follow orders.

Rimfire was wandering the base aimlessly. He'd had a lot on his mind since yesterday. The incident in the tunnel had made him wonder exactly what the nanites were doing to him. He didn't fell any different in himself, but he kept noticing little things. He could hear things that he hadn't heard before, insects scrabbling in the sand, the sound of sand moving in the wind. His eyesight was getting better too. Not only could he see in the dark but he could also see much further away than he used to be able.
He spotted Stone sat with his eyes closed in a corner of the base and decided to find out as much as he could about the little machines keeping him alive.
"Captain Stone, am I disturbing you." He asked quietly.
Stone opened his eyes. "Its just Stone, and no you aren't disturbing me, I was just going over past events.
"Can I speak to you, in private." Asked Rimfire.
Stone stood up and smiled. He'd been expecting this. "Sure." He said.
Rimfire led Stone outside away from the now packed freedom fighter base.
Rimfire took a deep breath. " Back at headquarters the tunnel, me, Stoke and the Doc escaped from, was pitch black. Stoker told me he couldn't see anything at all, yet I could see everything as clear as day."
"Okay, what do you want to know?" asked Stone.
"I want to know more about what the nanites have done to me."
Stone thought for a moment before speaking. "Alright. Let's start at the beginning. When I injected you with the nanites you were dead. The nanites entered your bloodstream and dispersed. Once in your body they begin to replicate straight away. Their first priority is to get your heart and lungs working so that your brain is fed with oxygen. Once that is accomplished they migrate to any sites of injury and repair them. That usually takes a couple of hours.
"Once your body is fully operational again the nanites then progress to the next stage of their programming. They start by replacing your skeletal system with a titanium alloy. This can take up to two or three years for them to accomplish depending on your diet. Thus your bones are much stronger which is good as nanites find it very difficult to mend broken bones. The titanium endoskeleton they form also protects your internal organs from damage. It'll absorb most energy blasts and its also bullet proof.
"The nanites also increase your muscle strength by weeding out the weaker cells so that the stronger cells dominate. They also modify your muscle cells slightly making them more efficient. They also increase your lung capacity and the efficiency at which your blood haemoglobin is able to take up and release oxygen.
"Your senses of hearing, smell and sight will all become enhanced as the nanites modify certain cells and take your existing cells up to their top efficiency. Your memory will be improved too. You should find that eventually you'll be able to `play back' images of what's happened to you.
"One last thing, because the nanites are constantly repairing your cells you won't age. You may fill out a bit but you'll stay looking basically as you do now for as long as you live."
"You mean I could live to be a hundred and fifty and still look about twenty." Asked Rimfire.
"That's right. I look around twenty-five. Its my birthday in four days, I'll be two hundred and eighty seven."
"Wow 287. How long has the oldest person lived for on your Earth."
"Well the nanites were developed in 2037 by a scientist called Robert Thorn. He tested them on himself first and he's still alive today. Infact he's a fleet commander in the Alliance. He was born in the latter half of the twentieth century so that would make him over five hundred years old."
"What about, you know, having children. Won't the nanites get passed onto the child." Asked Rimfire.
Stone shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid not. The nanites are tailored to you body only. Once they leave they deactivate and break up. I'm sorry but your likely to outlive your children and everybody else you know for that matter. Except me of course.
"Back home everyone's enhanced so we rarely have to deal with death. Here it's a different story.
"Have you got anymore questions?" asked Stone
"No. That's it." Replied Rimfire extending a hand. Stone took it and they shook.

That evening forty riders were assembled outside gamma-5. Carbine stood at the front and addressed the crowd.
"Listen up fighters. I've radioed the military base at Hamden. They've got transport ships standing by. However they said that they weren't able to assist in the attack. Infact they told me that I was crazy to even think of going anywhere near Magderaad and as a general I should know that. So you lot better prove `em wrong and win or I'll be very annoyed.
"You'll be dead more like." Someone commented.
Carbine ignored the comment and continued. "The plan is to assault the camp at dawn. Our intelligence reports say that the Plutarkians are going to be shipping the prisoners out to Plutark in the afternoon so we can't attack any later. I'm afraid we'll have to ride through the night to get there.
"Once we arrive Stone will take down the wall. Sidewinders group will take out the nearest two gun towers, gamma-4 will take out the other two. As soon as the wall is down the rest of us charge in and take out the rest of the guards.
"Once we've secured the camp Hamden will send its transports to collect the prisoners. Is everything clear?"
Carbine was answered by nods of ascent and mumbled affirmatives. She sighed and looked down at the floor. She had something to tell them that they wouldn't want to hear.
"I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you. The base at Hamden also told me that the Plutarks have launched a full-scale military invasion. They've taken a large number of our population centres already. That includes the capital."
Loud murmurs circulated among the assembled fighters. Carbine wiped away a tear. She was thinking about the garden they had been growing. It was just starting to grow properly, a ray of hope for Mars' battered ecosystem. Now it would be gone.

It was dawn. The sun had not yet crept up into the sky. The group of forty freedom fighters had assembled on a hill overlooking the dreaded Magderaad prison camp.
Stone studied the thick steel walls surrounding the camp.
"Can yer blast through them?" asked Stoker.
Stone smiled. "Now problem for my little baby here." He said, patting the enormous pulse cannon mounted on the front of his big black bike. "I just hope the recoil doesn't take me out as well."
Carbine looked at the heavily fortified structure frowning. "We need a decoy to shift the Plutark's attention away from the attack point."
Carbine turned to a tapping on her shoulder. Spit gave her a big toothy grin pointing at himself.
"Alright, your it. Just make it simple okay." Said Carbine with a stern look on her face.
Spit made the ok sign and smiled. He turned the dark blue bike he was riding around and tore off to circle around the back of the camp so as to not give the rest of the freedom fighters position away.
A few minutes later the fighters watched in amazement as a lone rider rode round in circles at the camps far perimeter, popping wheelies and taking pot shots at the Plutarkian guards.
Stone smiled impressed. "You know something. I'm beginning to like that guy. He may be a little unhinged but he's a bloody good fighter."
"He's just like Vinnie." Said Rimfire. "Only quieter. He's giving the Plutarks a hard time though."
By now all the Plutarkian guards had migrated to the far end of the camp, pouring laser fire down at Spit, who was still dancing around on his bike.
"Yeah. Well seeing as he's got their attention, I say let's give `em a show. Here fella." Said Stone passing Rimfire his disrupter cannon. "You're with me. Let's ride!"
Stone raced off down the hill towards the camp. Rimfire looked at his new toy and grinned. He gunned his bike's engine and raced off after Stone.

Carbine turned to Stoker. "Well if you're ready old timer."
"Who you calling old." Stoker said popping a wheelie and racing down the hill after Stone and Rimfire. Carbine smiled as she raced down the hill after him closely followed by the other freedom fighters.

Stone aimed straight for the wall.
Here goes he thought, firing the pulse cannon.
He pushed the bike to full throttle at the same time to try and lesson the recoil. A huge discharge of energy flew towards the thick metallic wall of the camp. The impact blew the thick steel wall apart, large chunks of metal blew inwards or were vaporised, leaving a gaping hole in the camp's defences.
Stone's bike flipped over backwards with the recoil. The bike's rockets fired automatically sending the bike into a summersault, landing perfectly on its wheels.
"Wahoooo! Now this partnership is really getting somewhere." Cried Stone as he righted himself on the bike.
Rimfire caught up to him and gave him a high five.
"That was awesome Bro."
"Oh, just the usual greatness." Said Stone smiling. "Let's go kill us some fish."
Extending the blades on his right arm, he rode into the camp closely followed by Rimfire.
The Plutarkians had been caught by surprise at the far end of the camp where they had been trying to shoot Spit. The freedom fighters were now gathered behind them and the Plutarkians had little room to hide. The gun-towers were the main danger, but already two teams of mice were climbing up the superstructure to take out the soldiers inside.
Starline, Harmony and Ice began to climb the first gun tower. Sidewinder, Hammer and Strobe were busy climbing the second. Suddenly a burst of red laser fire came from the top of the tower they were climbing. It hit Hammer in the back and he fell from the tower. Starline, Harmony and ice looked on alarmed. They made their way up to the top of the gun tower as quick as they could, but not quick enough. Two more bursts of laser fire spurted from the tower hitting Sidewinder and Strobe.
The three mice burst into the top of the gun tower.
"You bastards just killed our friends." Growled Ice to the two surprised soldiers in the tower. Aiming his laser he shot them both.
Harmony quickly grabbed the laser cannon mounted on top of the tower and used it to blast the other gun tower into atoms.
"Harmony you stay here and pick off fish faces, Me an' Ice'll see if we can do anything for the others." Said Starline as she started to climb back down the tower to tend to her fallen comrades.

A Plutarkian soldier stormed out of one of the barracks, near the first gun tower, his weapon blazing. Rimfire calmly blasted him with the Disrupter cannon taking most of the building out as well. He smiled to himself. This new gun was cool. Spotting a Plutarkian bunker, he fired the disrupter again, blowing it apart. He didn't notice the Plutarkian crawling out of the rubble of the building he had just destroyed. The Plutarkian aimed the pistol at Rimfire, ready to fire. A motorbike tyre suddenly ran over his head. The Plutarkian lay dead on the floor, the laser still in his hand.
"Watch yer back hotshot." A tan female mouse called from her bike.
Rimfire turned around, noticing the Plutarkian laid on the floor by her.
"Thanks Starline, I owe ya one."
"Anytime cutie." She answered.
Rimfire blushed. Suddenly a Plutarkian rushed out of the building opposite them both, guns aiming for Starline. Rimfire blasted him with the disrupter, taking out another building in the process.
"I guess were even." Said Starline a little shocked. Revving her bike she set off for the other gun tower where her friends lay.

Dagger was a professional soldier. He could tell this battle was already won. He decided to get the prisoners free just in case any of the Plutarks decided to take revenge on them. At least if they were free they could fight back. Sneaking round the back of the camp he made his way over to the prisoners. They were being held in a large open compound with no shelter. A lonely guard stood watching them.
Dagger came round the corner and blasted him. He made his way over to the gate and blasted the chains keeping it closed. Noticing a familiar form, his heart stopped, Cutter, his son, lay on the floor by the fence. He rushed over.
"Cutter, is that you?"
The young grey mouse opened his eyes much to the relief of his father.
"Dad, I knew you'd come." Said Cutter quietly.
"What are you doing here. You weren't at headquarters. You were meant to be at Alpha seven.
"They took Alpha seven as well." Said Cutter slurring his words. " Killed most of the soldiers and brought the rest here."
Dagger helped his son off the floor. Cutter had difficulty standing.
"Son, what's the matter?"
"I was causing trouble for the Plutarks. They shot me with something."
Dagger looked down at his son's leg. A small dart was stuck in his thigh.
"Damn Plutarks have drugged ya." Said Dagger pulling out the dart.
Dagger picked his son up and carried him out of the compound, fighting his way through the crowd of prisoners spilling through the gate.
"Dad, I think there's more prisoners in the far building. I think they're meant to be the really important ones." Said Cutter; his words becoming less slurred as the effects of the dart wore off.
Dagger set off towards the building. Two Plutarks suddenly burst out of it. Dagger reacted on instinct. He dropped his son to the floor and grabbed his laser. A laser struck him in the shoulder. He fired back dropping one of the Plutarkians. Another blast hit him, this time in the chest. Dagger felt his knees go weak as he started to collapse to the floor. He managed to squeeze off another round taking out the other Plutark.
"Nooo!" screamed Cutter. The effects of the drug completely gone as his body reacted to his father being shot.
"Dad! Dad, talk to me, don't die."
"Sorry son." Dagger whispered weakly. "I don't think I have a choice in the matter."

Stone noticed the tide of prisoners coming from the far side of the camp and made his way over to them. Coming round the corner, he noticed Dagger laid on the floor. Stone quickly rode over.
"Dagger bro. What happened?"
Dagger beckoned Stone closer.
"Plutarks took me by surprise. More prisoners in far building." He gasped.
"Just take it easy fella. We'll get them out." Said Stone. He looked at the wound in Dagger's chest. There was no hope.
Dagger grabbed Stone's arm and pulled him closer.
"What is it fella?"
"Do me one last favour. Look after my son. He's no-one else left."
Stone looked over at the fifteen-year-old crying at his father's side.
"No problem Dagger." Stone said with a sad smile. Dagger had become a good friend in the few days they had known each other.
Dagger looked over at his son. "Go with Stone, son, and do me proud. Make Mars free again."
The Martian major's head fell back, his eyes closed.
"No. Dad, wake up, you can't die. I need you."
Stone stood up and looked down on his fallen friend's body.
"Goodbye friend." He turned to the boy. "Come on lad we've got prisoners to free."
Cutter still stayed by his father's side. Stone tried to think of something inspiring to say. Finally he thought of something. He bent down and held the boy's face up.
"You're fathers gone you've got to accept that." He pointed to the body. "This is just an empty shell of what your father once was. He'll always live inside of you. Come with me and make your father proud of you."
Cutter got up from the floor slowly. "I wanna free Mars." He said determined.
"Then let's go." Called Stone from the seat of his bike.
Cutter climbed on the back and they sped away to free the rest of the prisoners.

Half an hour after the initial attack had begun and the camp was securely in Martian hands. The majority of the Plutarkians had either been shot by the freedom fighters or bludgeoned to death by angry prisoners. Thus their bodies littered the camp. A few had managed to escape into the desert, but without transport they would be squid food.
The Martians had also lost many. Stoker stood by the body of his old friend, Sidewinder. He'd been hit as he climbed up one of the towers. The bodies of two of his comrades lay nearby.
"Ah guess ah managed to outlive ya after all Bro." He said shedding a single tear. He turned away. He'd seen too much death in these later years.

Carbine stood by Dagger's prone form. Cyclone was busy trying to bandage her arm where she'd been hit with a Plutarkian laser. Cutter stood nearby.
"He was a good soldier, one of the best. You should be proud of him Cutter." Said Carbine.
"I am." Cutter replied.
"So what do you plan to do now. The army could use you."
"I'm sorry but I'm gonna go with Stone. My father asked me to."
"Well I wish you luck. Your father's bike is by the far wall. He'd want you to have it."
"Thanks general."
Cutter went to go get his father's bike.

Ice wandered the camp in panic.
"Anyone seen a dark grey female with long black hair. Blue jeans, green blouse. Ring on her finger like this." He asked a group of freed prisoners frantically, holding up his own ring to show them.
The prisoners shrugged Ice rushed off to search somewhere else. He had just turned a corner when a voice came from behind.
"Hi there hunk. So ya came after me ya big white lummox."
Ice spun around. Satin stood there infront of him. He rushed over and hugged her madly, tears of relief falling from his eyes.
"Satin! I thoughtI thought I'd lost you. II was looking for you everywhere and I couldn't find you. II love you." He stammered.
Satin patted him on the back.
"Hey! Its okay fella. I'm alright. Now stop ya crying. I can't be goin' round with an unmacho mouse."
Ice smiled. "I'm sorry about the things I said before. I didn't mean any of it."
"I know. Let's just forget about it okay?"
She put her arms around his neck and they kissed.

Rimfire stood talking to Starline.
"Thanks for saving ma butt back there." He said to her.
"Hey! You probably saved mine as well, taking out that Plutarkian like that.
"Yeah, I guess we make a good team."
"Hmm. I just hope wherever we end up has a nice soft bed and a bit of privacy." She said with a smirk.
Rimfire blushed again. Starline took charge and kissed him. "My hero." She said.
"Hmm. My heroine."

The troop transports arrived an hour later to take the freed prisoners back to a safer area. Stone stood by the entryway to one of the ships.
"So you're not coming with us." Said Carbine
"No I've looked through some of the records in this camp. There are some places I'm going to have to visit. I'll keep a com-link in case I need a transport to pick up any more prisoners."
"Very well. Good luck Stone. Oh! Here."
She threw a small insignia over to him. He caught it. It was the Martian army symbol with stars underneath it."
"What's this?" he asked.
"Just in case you have any trouble with the military. You're now a captain again." She replied.
"Thanks but I don't plan on following any orders." He laughed.
"Didn't think you would captain. Oh well, Live long and prosper, or whatever you say in your universe." She said making the Vulcan sign out of Star Trek.
"Peace and long life." Stone replied chuckling as he returned the gesture. "And make sure you kick some Plutarkian butt."
"You too captain. I'll be expecting frequent reports about you."
Stoker walked over to them.
"I've just had a word with Rimfire. It seems he's intent on going with you Stone."
"Its his choice." replied Stone
Stoker smiled. "Just make sure you look after him or else you'll have Modo coming after you."
"I'm sure he'll be fine."

The transports took off for the military base. A group of nine freedom fighters watched as they went.
Stone sat on his large black bike studying a map. Rimfire and Diamond were studying it too. Diamond had stayed at Carbine's request to try and keep a military element to the group. Spit had also decided to stay. He sat tapping his fingers on his bike in boredom. Cutter was busy working out what all the buttons on his father's bike did.
The rest of the group was made up of the survivors of gamma-5, Starline, Ice, Satin and Harmony. Going home was too painful without the other three, so they had decided to stay.
The group watched as their three unofficial leaders argued over the map. Finally they came to a decision.
"Yep looks good."
"That's where we go first then. Let's roll people. Things are gonna change around here."


Que. Music-: Praying For A Change by Paradise Lost, Draconian Times.

Approaching a silence, a blur of subsidence

Time may heal all troubles, is that what I've found?
Joy entices all till deaths lonely shroud
But I know, its forever

Praying for a change

Our lives leading onwards, the essence is stronger.

Memories of life drifting further away, I must doubt that where
There's a will there's a way
But I know, its forever

Praying for a change

Life is all the pain we endeavour.