The Biker Mice From Mars and the characters from the show are the property
of the companies that produced and copyrighted them. I make no profit from
these fanfics, they are for the reading enjoyment of other Biker Mice fans
Centerline and Kickstart are the property of JWC and are used with permission. I would like to thank JWC, for it was his fanfic "Family" that gave me the inspiration for my fanfic and the origins of Tracer.
This is the first of many fanfics that I will write in my "All The
Voices" Saga. So far I have four fanfics planned, each with several
parts. I hope everyone likes enjoys these fanfics.
Stoker and Carbine stood side by side overlooking the Academy's obstacle course. The Martian Mouse Training Academy was part school, part Freedom Fighter pretraining center. Most of the students were orphans from the Plutarkian wars on Mars, and it was expected that most would join the Martian Army or the Freedom Fighters upon graduation, and if not, every Martian Mouse could use the survival skills and training.
As Stoker watched the various young mice his eyes were drawn to one in particular. But then, Tracer was a hard one to miss. Tall even for a Mouse she had fur that was the exact same color as the Martian sand, in fact, to look at her one would swear that her fur color had been lifted right off the Martian landscape. Her long hair was a gold-brown with an off center streak of white hair with a smaller streak of yellow hair in it. She was slim for a mouse too, which hid her incredible strength. By far the fastest and most agile of the students it was her place far ahead of the rest with her graceful jumps, flips, twists, and dives that eventually drew any observer's eyes to her. Again Stoker wondered about her parentage, as she looked like no mouse he had ever met on Mars, and had a physique unique to her.
At the end of the obstacle course Rimfire timed the young students. Tracer jumped from the beam, flipped twice with a twist and landed perfectly on her feet, standing up to her full height. Then she turned to Rimfire.
"Well?" she asked.
"Another record," he replied, once again marveling at her height. She's taller that Uncle Modo, taller even than dad, he thought to himself, "two minutes and three seconds."
"Good," she said.
"Maybe you'll beat it next time," Stoker said, coming on to the obstacle course.
"Next time?" she asked, almost challenging. "You mean you want me to continue with the training program."
"Yes," Stoker said to the statement.
"What, I haven't proved my physical capabilities yet?"
"We feel you still have more to learn," Stoker replied, looking squarely into her eyes. He could see the smoldering anger in her eyes, eyes unlike any Martian's. One was dark green and the other was gold, both had flecks of every color in them.
"Fine," she said, then she shrugged and walked off, displaying a calmness that rivaled Throttle's.
"Stoker," Rimfire said later when all the mice were through the obstacle course and gone, "you know she's about ready to leave the program. In fact, she should've left it a long time ago. Why don't you guys let her complete the training?"
"Because, kid, we want to make sure she really is ready. Besides, she goes for the final test next weak."
"You know, kid, she's been through a lot. If she should leave before we find out something important......"
"If there was anything important to find you would have found it by now." Rimfire looked at Stoker and an idea came to him. "This wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that she was a Plutarkian captive, would it?"
"Yes kid, it does. Let's leave it at that, okay?" Stoker said before Rimfire could continue.
Realizing that the conversation had been ended Rimfire shrugged and walked away. Stoker sighed and went to talk to Carbine. They had many things to discuss and he knew there would be few answers.
In her room Tracer lay down on her bed, wishing for some peace and quiet, real peace and quiet, and knowing it would never come. For as many times as her height had been compared to this Modo and Rimfire's father, Centerline, Tracer wondered just who they were. She knew that Modo was Rimfire's uncle, but no one ever said anything about either him or Centerline to her, and she never asked. Too many questions would have to be answered on her part. Tracer smiled wryly, she doubted they even knew how awed their thoughts about Modo, Centerline, and her height were. Then she frowned. And sometimes it was a curse, because she couldn't ever shut all the thoughts out, like the ones about her parents, or what the Plutarkians had done to her.
She sighed. At least for now the other rooms were empty and everyone else was in more distant areas of the small complex, so all the thoughts were distant, a little quiet. This was the closest to peace and quiet she ever got.
Tracer sighed again. She had never told anyone that she could hear thoughts, although everyone knew that Tracer somehow always knew where in a room someone was in relation to her. No one could surprise her from behind. After being with the Martian Mice for a few years Tracer had realized that no one had ever had her ability before. Yet she had always been able to hear the thoughts of others. She supposed it was what had saved her from the Plutarkians.
No, she thought to herself, I won't think of that, not now.
She forgot again. The thought, faint but approaching reached her and with her mind she reached out to the mouse approaching her room and smiled when she recognized hem even as she felt a pang of guilt. She was supposed to practice leg fighting and kicking with Kicker. As he approached her room she lay still and waited. No need to bring about suspicion by stepping into the hallway just now. A few seconds later there was a firm knock at her door.
"Tracer, we are supposed to be practicing," Kicker called through the door without any preamble. Tracer got up and opened the door, a sheepish look on her face as she faced the dark brown mouse with short, black hair.
"I'm sorry, Kicker, I came here for a couple minutes of peace and quiet and completely forgot. Come on, let's go," she said, stepping into the hallway and heading down the hall.
As they headed to the practice rooms they passed several other mice. Though the two were an odd sight, Kicker at 6' 5" and Tracer at 7' 2" with slightly longer fur than was normal for a mouse, they were a familiar sight. Most mice knew that Kicker and Tracer practiced leg fighting and kicking together. Those who knew Tracer knew it was because Kicker was the only mouse who had a physical ability that matched Tracer's. The two practiced as equals, where the rest of the time Tracer's abilities surpassed all the other mice's.
That day as they practiced Tracer's mind was on the obstacle course and what Stoker had said. In her disappointment and anger she had gotten very little from Stoker. How she wished she could screen the voices without excessive emotion, especially lately. She had noticed that even without trying she was picking up deeper thoughts and thoughts from mice farther away. It had began to scare her because she couldn't really control it, she didn't know how.
As they practiced Kicker watched his friend. She seemed preoccupied by something. No doubt it had to do with Stoker saying that she would continue in the program. Kicker knew that Tracer was ready to leave the training program. When they were done Kicker turned to face Tracer.
"Tracer, I'm sorry. I heard about what Stoker said."
Tracer turned her head, then she looked back at Kicker. "Hey, I enrolled in this program and I know that being allowed to be finished depends on what the instructors and Stoker feel. If they don't feel that I'm ready, well, they have been around longer than I and they know more about this than I do."
"Perhaps so, but we all know you're ready, and so do most of the instructors. I just want you to know that your friends are here for you. Heck, you're a hundred times better in everything than all of us, including our instructors, and the most any of us have left is two years, most of us only have one."
Tracer knew Kicker was right. Then she smiled. "Better in everything except kicking."
"Well, somebody's got to be as good as you in something," Kicker teased back.
Tracer put a hand on Kicker's shoulder to stop him from leaving the practice room.
"Kicker, wait. You are my closest friend and there is one thing about me that you need to know about Stoker's decision to keep me in the program longer."
"What? You mean about the fact that you were a Plutarkian prisoner? I already know that. Most of us do."
Tracer shook her head, happy with her friends perceptiveness, but wishing she knew how he would respond to what she had to tell him.
"Yes and no, Kicker. It has to do with the fact that I was a Plutarkian prisoner, but there is more than that." Tracer took a deep breath, "Kicker, I was a prisoner of the Plutarkians for four years," Tracer caught Kicker's intake of breath and his surprised thought. "There's more. I have no memory of any time before my imprisonment, not even the vaguest of impressions."
Kicker was openly staring at her now and his mind held utter astonishment.
"Nothing?" he finally managed to ask.
"Absolutely nothing," she answered.
"But that means......"
"I know," Tracer said, cutting him off and turning her back. It was the same fear that Stoker and Carbine had voiced and thought of in the past and Tracer preferred at least not to hear it again. "That's what Stoker and Carbine believe could be a possibility." Tracer squeezed her eyes shut for a minute. I hope they never know how close to the truth their fears really are, she thought.
"Well, hey," Kicker said, standing in front of her and facing her, "I don't know how bad it was, but you know what happened, and knowing you I think that everything will be okay. Come on, why don't we go relax in the yard." Kicker motioned towards the door and left. Tracer followed him, marveling at how much he believed what he had said, how sure he was, and wishing that she could be that sure that everything would be fine.
As they walked into the yard Tracer gave a small sigh of relief. There were very few other mice in the yard. That meant that it would be relatively quiet. Tracer found a short tree with plenty of shade and leaned against the trunk while Kicker followed suit nearby. As she relaxed Tracer felt a sense of calm come over her. As she did her mind wandered and then settled on her memories. As she fell asleep Tracer's mind went deep into memory, all the way to her very first memory.
As Tracer remembered all the way back to the first memory she smiled mentally. She had been so confused. Now she knew what she had felt.
When she first woke up she was aware of light and the fact that she was wet and cold. something was clinging to her. When she opened her eyes to look at it she was half blinded by the light. That was when she became aware of sound. It took a moment to realize that there was a pattern to the sound. Someone was speaking to her. It took her another few seconds to understand the sounds as words, and then to understand the words.
"Can you hear me? Can you understand what I am saying? Nod your head if you understand what I am saying," the clear, deep voice said.
She nodded her head slowly, hoping she had understood clearly.
"Good. Now, don't try to open your eyes yet, they are not yet accustomed to such bright light." The voice paused for a second. "There. Open your eyes now."
She did as she was told. At first everything was still bright, then it all looked very dark, and then her eyes adjusted to the dim light and she looked at her surroundings. There were all kinds of blinking things around her with blank squares of brightness. It took her mind a few seconds to find the right words. Machines, that was what they were, scientific equipment. She turned her head and saw the creature that had produced the voice. He was short with pink, uncovered skin. He had a rather large head and was skinny, and he was wearing a long, white lab robe.
"Come, follow me."
She did what she was told. She followed him down several hallways. As her fur started to dry she began to shiver from the cold. Finally he stopped in front of a small door and opened it.
"You may dry off and change your clothing. I will collect you later." He let her walk in, then closed the door behind her and locked it. She walked to the end of the room to where a bed was standing. On the bed she found some clothes. Behind a nearby door she found a bathroom, with towels. She dried herself off, then dressed in the clothes. The black pants and blue tank top fit well and were comfortable and allowed a freedom of movement. At the foot of the bed she found black boots. She put them on and discovered that they were sturdy and comfortable.
A few minutes later the man returned. When he had unlocked her door he opened it, looked at her, and turned around and left.
"Come with me."
As she followed him she realized something that she had not mentioned.
"I'm sorry," she began, "I don't know who you are."
"I am Dr. Drakor."
She knew that he didn't want her to continue to ask questions, although she didn't know how she knew, but she continued anyway.
"Dr. Drakor, I don't remember who I am, or how I got here."
She knew he was trying to figure out what to say to her.
"I don't know who you are either, but I saved your life and I am going to help you get back in physical shape."
True, almost, and untrue. Curious, how do I know that?
"Then how do I know when you are talking to me? What do I do about a name?"
"For now I'll call you Prototype."
Well, she thought, he sure seems to think that name is appropriate. Wait, how......hmmmmm, she thought.
After following Dr. Drakor for a couple more minutes through more hallways they stopped in front of a pair of large doors. At a touch from the doctor on a side panel the door slid open to reveal a huge, cavernous room. Inside were many machines, some for testing strength, some for endurance, some for agility, some for coordination, and various machines to build each of these traits. Which, she thought, is exactly the point.
Through the rest of the afternoon the doctor tested each of her physical abilities, then he tested her sight, smell, and hearing, both impressed and pleased with each. She knew that he would use the results to make a program to improve each of her physical abilities. When he was done he had her follow him to a small room. In it was a desk and a board with a white square in the center of it.
"Sit," he commanded. She did. The doctor pressed a button and the lights dimmed and a picture came up in the center of the white square.
"Do you know what this is?"
She looked at the picture. Light brown fur, large round ears, and two red antennae. She knew what she was looking at.
"It is a Martian Mouse, like me."
Not as much as you might think, not by a long shot.
"Yes and no," was the answer he spoke. Tracer was surprised. The two comments were different, and he hadn't even SAID the first one. It was then that she got a thought. The comments he didn't say and the way she knew what he seemed to be thinking. She realized that she was hearing his thoughts, hearing his mind. It was the only explanation she could think of. The only one that made sense.
"I am going to teach you all about the Martian Mice. First: The Martian Mice are your enemies."
The Martian Mice are my enemies and I will make them yours.
As she got through the door it all became too much and her legs gave
out under her.
"No," she moaned lowly, sobbing, "it's too much. Too many voices, too many minds, too many thoughts. Make it stop. Please, make it stop."
Tracer knew she had to get away from the mess hall. Somehow she found the strength to stand up and she stumbled along the hallway to her room. By the time Stoker got outside the mess hall Tracer had left.
"Only one place she would go," he said, and headed for Tracer's room.
When he got there he could see that her door was ajar, and he could hear low moaning. He carefully opened her door and saw her tossing and turning in her bed. From what he could tell she wasn't awake, and she wasn't doing well. He didn't know what to do. He sighed and closed her door. As he turned to go down the hall he saw four mice coming his way, all of them with worried frowns. Before any of them could speak Stoker held up a hand.
"She's in there, and she's sleeping. Though not peacefully. We should leave her alone for now."
He saw Kicker about to protest.
"Right now we should let her rest. She has suffered a bad experience. She needs her rest. You can see her in the morning, but let her get a good night's rest." When the three young mice didn't move Stoker glared at them. "That was the order to go," he said with authority. When Kicker looked like he was going to protest Stoker scowled at him. "Now," he said, more firmly as he pointed back down the hall. "Move," he added as the three young mice seemed to hesitate. All three, with one last glance to Tracer's door, turned and headed back down the hall. When the three young mice were out of sight Carbine turned a face both worried and amused on him.
"Well, sir, I think you just showed them what orders are for."
"Yeah, being obeyed," Stoker answered, smiling a little.
"Will she be okay?" Carbine asked, getting serious.
Instead of saying anything he motioned to the door behind him. Carbine looked in and frowned. She could see that Tracer was not sleeping well, moaning and moving around a little. Carbine slowly backed up and closed the door quietly. She looked at Stoker and shook her head.
"I've seen students sleep uneasily, but this is completely different," Carbine said. She looked at Stoker, "What do you think?"
"There really isn't much we can do. She is at least sleeping." Stoker sighed, "I have never seen a student have such a reaction to a simple crowded room. I think we should leave her alone, let her sleep. This is the kind of thing she has to deal with on her own."
Carbine sighed, but Stoker was right.
"Very well. We can check back in on her tomorrow morning."
"Stoker nodded his agreement, and Carbine closed the door tightly. Then she and Stoker walked down the hall.
A few hours later Stoker, having kept an eye on Tracer's three friends, followed Kicker towards Tracer's room. At the end of the hall he caught up with Kicker.
"Look, kid, I know you care about her, but when I said earlier that she needs rest I meant it. Carbine and I have been checking periodically to make sure she's at least resting somewhat. We've decided that we'll leave her be for the night."
"But Stoker, sir, she's..."
"Kicker, I mean it. And the best way for an evening of rest to be beneficial is for her to remain undisturbed. You can check on her yourself tomorrow morning, but tonight leave her be. Do I make myself clear?"
Kicker hung his head in defeat, "Yes."
Stoker's face softened somewhat as he looked at the young mouse. He laid a hand gently on Kicker's shoulder and Kicker looked up at the soldier, worry for his friend showing on his face.
"Look, son, I know it can be hard to know that a friend is hurting, but we have to let her deal with this on her own. Tracer's a strong mouse, she'll be okay."
Kicker sighed and looked at Stoker, his face showing a small smile tugging at his mouth.
"You're right," he said to Stoker. Then he turned down the hall and headed back to his room. Stoker sighed and headed for the command rooms.
Several hours later almost all the mice were asleep, except for a few on guard duty, and one or two doing some late work. All the mice were sleeping peacefully, save one. Unknown to Stoker, Carbine, Kicker and the rest of her friends, Tracer had gotten worse through the evening. The pain and mental pressure had continued to torture her. Finally it became too much for her tortured mind to handle. Her mind just have up, letting all her pain radiate out in an empathic wave.
All the mice in the compound were struck with incredible pain. Those sleeping curled into balls and either whimpered or tossed and turned. Those who were awake suddenly grabbed their heads in pain and doubled over. All around Mars all other mice experienced the same pain. As the empathic wave spread mice on the moons felt the pain too. And 23 million miles away three heroic mice riding their bikes suddenly grabbed their heads in pain, and, in the process, lost control of their bikes.
As Tracer radiated pain she also began to feel the pain of the mice around her. As she felt more pain it caused her to send out waves of greater pain. This became a vicious cycle and Tracer's mind headed for overload and burn out.
Somewhere on earth a sensitive, what most people refer to as a psychic, was suddenly brought out of her idle daydreaming by a mental cry of pain. She could tell that the sender was empathically sending pain. The strange thing was that it wasn't affecting her, though she could feel it being sent. She could also tell that the poor thing was in terrible pain and was tortured. She had to help this mind. The earth sensitive, using only her strength, tried to follow the waves of pain to the source, but found that the mind was out of her reach.
She relaxed her mind. How can I help that poor mind? she thought. Then, just for the heck of it she decided to try something. With her mind she touched the thought of the empathic wave and tried to see if she could draw power, energy from it. Amazingly she was able to, and it was an impressive amount too. Using the power from the thought she followed it back towards the source. She finally found herself at the mind, and gasped mentally at what she found. The poor mind was in turmoil with pain. She instantly detected the vicious cycle. She carefully navigated the mind and discovered the problem.
She has no shields, she thought. She could see how the weight of many minds had over burdened the mind. She went to the area where the shields needed to come from. Then she whispered a thought to the mind. Here, these will help. You now know my mind. When you have control seek me out, and I will teach you what you need to know, and I will teach you control. Then she touched the part of the mind and made the mental shields come up. The shields slammed up and threw her mind back towards earth, as she no longer had the power to extend so far. For one moment as her mind was flung back to her she had no connection, no awareness, and it scared her. Then her mind slammed back into her body. She sat in the chair for several minutes before she even tried to open her eyes. Her mind felt stretched, not damaged, or burned out, just stretched. As she waited for the composure to move and stand she thought about that mind. So powerful. She must be to each so clearly from so far away. She sighed mentally. I hope I can give her the help and training she needs. Oh, goodness, let me have the strength to help her.
On Mars a young mouse gave both a mental and an audible sigh of relief as the pain ceased. And, without the thoughts of all the mice around her, Tracer settled down and finally had a truly peaceful night's sleep, her first in over two years. As Tracer settled down for sleep Martian Mice around the galaxy breathed a sigh of relief as the mysterious pain in their heads suddenly disappeared. Those who were sleeping managed to slip back into peaceful sleep. The guards at the Academy each straightened and continued their watch, each wondering whether or not to report the incident.
On Earth the Biker Mice each got up, looked at each other, picked their bikes up, and rode to the Last Chance Garage to see if they could find out what had happened.
The next morning Kicker walked to Tracer's room. He still remembered the intense pain from the night before. He had heard a few others mentioning feeling the same thing the night before, but in his concern for his friend he didn't dwell on it.
When he reached Tracer's door he stopped and listened to the room behind. He could hear nothing. No movements and no sound. He knocked lightly, but got no answer. That's odd, he thought, she always answers after the first knock. He tried again, but still no answer. Slowly and quietly he opened the door and breathed a sigh of relief at what he saw. Tracer was sleeping peacefully and quietly. He walked to her bed, placed a hand on her shoulder, and shook her lightly.
Tracer became aware that she was shaking. Odd, she thought, not quite awake, I'm not cold. It can't be anyone, because I can't feel anyone around. Then she woke up fully and discovered that someone WAS shaking her awake. She recognized the voice as Kicker's and opened her eyes to look at him while she hid her alarm at not being able to sense his mind, or anyone else's for that matter.
"Hey, how are ya' doin'?" he asked, concern in his voice.
"I'm doing okay," she replied, sitting up.
Kicker gave a sigh of relief. "I'm glad to hear that. You were in rough shape yesterday. Well, I guess I'll go and let you get ready. I woke kinda early this morning, so you still have plenty of time left," he said as he rose and headed for the door. At the door he stopped and smiled at her. She smiled back and then he left, closing the door behind him.
Tracer flopped backwards onto her bed. Then she listened and listened carefully, but still she couldn't hear anything. She was at once happy and afraid. It meant the thoughts would no longer invade her mind. Yet, at the same time, it was a feeling of losing a part of herself. She couldn't imagine never hearing anything again. All at once she was very afraid.
Then Tracer thought back to the night before, and she remembered it. The cool gentle mental touch of another. What had that other said? Ah, yes, 'Here, these will help.' And then she did something and then ...Tracer trailed off. And then the pain stopped. Tracer went in her mind to the place that other person had gone. There she found something. She couldn't explain it, but she knew that it was what kept the thoughts of others out. She examined it as best she could and decided it worked like a kind of shield. She decided to try it out. It took some mental experimenting, but she finally found a way to lessen the shields in her mind. The more she practiced, the more she thought of it as being similar to a glass type material. When it was all there, nothing could get through. As she lessened and lessened her shield it was like allowing more and more thoughts in, like light through glass. Weaker and quieter thoughts. With her shield completely down, she was shocked at all the thoughts she could hear. She'd never been able to hear so much before. When Tracer decided she had a good handle on her shield she put it at a strength, or thickness as she thought of it, that allowed only close or really loud thoughts in. That way she'd know when someone was near and who they were. Then she realized that she'd better hurry or she'd miss breakfast.
At least this time, she thought, it'll be easier to deal with. I hope.
When she was ready she walked down the corridor to the mess hall.
Tracer woke up and laid there staring at the ceiling of her room. She
sighed in contentment. It had been a couple of weeks since she had developed
her shields. She had contacted the sensitive on earth a couple of times
and had learned a lot about her shields and how to use them. Things had
gone so well after that. She was no longer assailed by the thoughts of everyone
Only one thing would make this complete, she thought, and that would be my final test.
She sighed. Her final test had been cancelled due to a large battle. She was supposed to have done a week alone in the desert as a survival test with a single-mouse mission. Now it would be at least two or three more weeks before she could take the final test.
Tracer sighed again. Then she rolled off her bed and got ready for the day. Because she hadn't had her final test she was still required to attend all the classes and training that the other mice attended.
After breakfast she decided to head to the gym to do some exercise practice. As she headed away from the mess hall she saw a small group of mice led by a light brown mouse walking deliberately towards her. Tracer groaned inwardly. She didn't care for Jerak and the feeling was more than mutual. Everyone knew that Jerak didn't like Tracer because she was the reason he was second in everything except kick fighting, which he was third in.
Tracer could see a smirk on his face. She kept walking, having decided to ignore him. It didn't work. When he got to her he stopped directly in front to her.
"Hey, Tracer. Ya know," he began.
Gee, she thought, at least he gets right to the point.
"No, I don't know. Why don't you tell me,"she said out loud, causing Jerak's smirk to lessen some.
"Well, I was going through the group scores and I discovered that you have no shooting scores. Have you even been to the firing range at all in the last two years?" he asked in a mock sweet, patronizing voice.
Tracer shrugged. He wasn't going to get to her.
"Lack of logged scores doesn't mean anything Jerak, you should know that. I just choose not to have my firing scores tracked." As Tracer answered him she quickly took a look at his mind and saw his intentions. Well, she thought ruefully, no way out of this one.
"I don't believe you," he said clearly. "I want proof that you can shoot. I want to see how good you are, if you're any good at all, that is. We have time to practice what we choose. Let's say, meet at the firing range in 10 minutes? Of course, if you want to spare yourself the embarrassment we can call the whole thing off."
Tracer sighed inwardly again. It was accept the challenge, or allow Jerak to look down on her. She couldn't let him do that, his ego was more inflated than anyone's. Besides, he needed this lesson. So, against what she would have liked, she said yes. As soon as she did she saw the self satisfied smile appear on his face.
Ha! I'm going to beat her and that'll put her in her place, he thought, having caught the hesitation in her answer.
As he turned and he and his group left Tracer had to smile. Won't he get a surprise, she thought. Tracer knew she would beat him. Knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt, but she hated to fire in front of others.
As she walked down the hall she saw Kicker running up to her and she didn't need to read his mind to know that he had found out. He stopped in front of her.
"What do you think you're doing accepting a challenge like that from Jerak? If he wins...." Kicker trailed off and shook his head. "I don't know how we'll deal with him if he wins. It's one thing if no one was sure, but should he beat you...."
Tracer gave him a questioning you-doubt-me glare, one eyebrow raised.
"Well," Kicker began, studying his feet, "no one has ever seen you at the firing range or ever seen you fire a blaster."
Tracer smiled a secretive smile.
"Don't worry Kicker. One of us will be put in his place today, and it's not going to be me."
Kicker smiled at his friend's confident tone. Even with the reasons he had just given her, he knew that tone of voice and knew that Jerak and his friends were in for a surprise.
Fifteen minutes later Jerak, Tracer, and over half the students were at the firing range. Everyone was waiting anxiously for the two mice to begin.
Tracer and Jerak had both agreed on four relatively neutral mice who would judge the shooting. It had taken Jerak and Tracer a few minutes to agree on just what they would use to determine who was better. Jerak had started by pointing out that no one thing could unrefutably decide the best. Tracer had agreed. They had finally chosen three "events". One was pure aim. Three cutouts, one Plutarkian, one Sand Raider, and one Rat. Three areas were marked on each, the head, chest, and blaster hand. They would both have to shoot all three areas. The range's computer would keep track of which area was shot first and the cutouts were to be in random order. The second was to shoot at small clay clumps--moving target practice. The third was to shoot a number of objects from an array which would require some bumper shots. Tracer had almost commented on the simpleness of the exercises, but stopped herself. After all, to the rest of the mice present this was somewhat tricky (they couldn't do anything more difficult without a supervisor and they didn't want the adults to know what they were doing). She was also displeased at having to use standard blasters with standard beam width, but, it had to be even. Before they started Tracer reminded herself to tone her shooting down.
Even at that she did incredibly. With the cutouts she hit all three areas dead center, one shot each, before Jerak had hit his second one.
For the second "event" she hit every projectile before him with only one shot per projectile.
The third she averaged less than one shot per object and never missed once.
When it was all over Tracer recharged the blaster she had used and stepped out into the center of the large group of mice. Jerak joined her after a few moments, his face dark with anger. Tracer could tell he was angry at being beaten. He had been so sure. The little rat, he thought, she was hiding her ability the whole time. Probably planned on something like this.
As the four judges proclaimed Tracer the best at shooting Tracer managed to keep a perfectly straight face, keeping a smug smile from escaping. No sense in making him any angrier. He wouldn't do anything after the last time, but still.... Behind her, however, she could tell that Kicker and several others had smug smiles.
Tracer looked at Jerak and gave a friendly smile, and said, "See ya later Jerak." She then turned and left, knowing that Jerak had wanted to get away from her, and soon.
As she headed for the classrooms Kicker, Jumpstart, and Chase caught up with her, elation showing in their faces.
"I guess Jerak got put in his place," was all Kicker said.
Tracer said nothing, only smiled at her friends, and together they continued to their classroom.
Later that day Tracer was sparring with a classmate in one of the practice rooms. She didn't see Stoker enter and look for her. Once he found her he circled the room to where she was. Tracer had just downed her partner when Stoker laid a hand on her shoulder. Tracer grabbed the hand, turned and twisted the attached arm. She then gently released the arm.
"You know, Stoker," she said and turned to face him, "you're lucky it wasn't some other student who wouldn't have known it was you."
"Yeah, I know," he answered, once again awed at her ability to know who was behind her. His face became serious.
"Tracer, you're excused from the rest of today's classes and activities. I want you to pack a light pack with supplies for a mission and meet me in room 14D for orders in ten minutes. You will be excused from classes until further notice. Dismissed."
Tracer straightened in attention, "Yes sir." She turned and walked briskly out of the room. Stoker nodded at the class instructor and left.
In her own room she grabbed her Academy assigned blaster and holster, a blanket, some food rations, and some medical supplies. She also grabbed a few items of clothing. She took out her personal blaster and looked at it, wishing she could bring it with her, but she knew better. Any way, the one assigned and given to her by the Academy had been modified by her to a satisfactory level.
When she was ready she left her room, locked it, and made her way to room 14D with a minute to spare. She could see that they were getting ready for a mission. In the course of one minute many other mice entered the room. Carbine and Stoker walked to the front of the assembled mice and the room grew quiet.
"This is a short mission, only a day or two. There have been reports of a small group of Plutarkians terrorizing a small village several miles to the northeast. The village is relatively secluded. We believe that this group may be scouting for resources or for Freedom Fighter outposts. You will investigate and stop them as needed. You move out in 30 minutes. Stoker will be the field commander. Any questions?"
No one had any.
"Good. You have your orders. Be ready."
Carbine and Stoker walked away from the front of the group as the group began to disperse. Tracer was wondering what to do when she saw Stoker heading her way. She stayed where she was and soon Stoker was standing in front of her.
"You don't have a bike of your own, do you?" he asked.
"No sir, I don't."
"Well, let's see what we can do about a ride for you. Follow me."
Tracer followed Stoker as his eyes scanned the assembled mice. As he looked Tracer finally got the courage to ask him something.
"Stoker," she said. He stopped searching and looked at her at the tone of her voice. "Why are you having me go on this mission.?"
"It's time you got some more demanding mission training with a full fledged group," he said, and returned to scanning the crowd. After another minute or so he seemed to find who he was looking for. As they approached Stoker's target Tracer caught sight of him. He was about 6' 4" and well built. He had soft medium caramel fur that had some grey in it.
"Swain," Stoker called. The older mouse turned and stood at attention. Tracer could see that he was an experienced soldier.
"Tracer here doesn't have a bike. She'll ride with you. She's waiting for her final test." With that Stoker turned and left. Swain looked up at the young mouse and smiled. He held out a hand. Tracer grasped it firmly in a handshake.
"Well, I guess we don't need to introduce ourselves, do we," he said with an amused grin and a twinkle in his eye.
"No, I guess not. Stoker did that already," she replied smiling.
Then, without warning, he chuckled. Tracer raised an eyebrow in question.
"Ah, I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. You have to admit that Stoker's a clever one. Don't take offense, but there aren't too many you could ride with who wouldn't be intimidated by your height. He's a good commander. Clever and sly too."
"That he is," Tracer agreed with a chuckle, liking the old soldier. She couldn't explain it but something about the old soldier made her comfortable in his presence.
"Come," he said, motioning to a standard issue Freedom Fighter bike, "I'll show you how to prepare for a mission and not get bored in the process."
Tracer smiled and followed.
Twenty-five minutes later they were riding across the desert-like landscape of Mars. After a few hours of riding they stopped. Stoker turned to the assembled Freedom Fighters.
"Okay, the village is another half-hour ride. I want Swain, Tracer, Anthor, Piston, Strap, Lands, and Gearing to come with me. We'll scout out the village and report back. Those that I just named I want to talk to now."
Tracer and the other named mice assembled in a small group around Stoker.
"Okay, right now we just want an estimate on how many stink faces are there and where they are. Tracer and Swain, you go around the town and check the other side. Anthor and Strap, you take the left side, Piston and Lands, the right, and Gearing, you and I will take the front. We'll have twenty-five minutes. I want everyone to be quiet. We do NOT want to be spotted. All right, let's move out!" Stoker finished.
The eight mice headed out towards the village. As they neared the village Tracer relaxed her shields so that she could detect where everyone was. She then cast her mind ahead to see if she could find the Plutarkians. She lightly touched several minds and managed to identify the Plutarkian minds. She counted eleven. Then she closed her mind a little and concentrated on her and Swain. As long as everyone was quiet there'd be no problems in the village.
Twenty minutes later they all assembled out of sight of the village. Each pair gave their report.
"So, we have ten, maybe eleven, Plutarkians in the village. All right. We'll return to camp and get rest. Let's move!" Stoker said.
The eight mice arrived back at camp where everyone watched them, waiting for orders. When everyone had taken care of their bikes they all sat in a semi-circle around Stoker.
"Okay fighters," he began, "we have ten, maybe eleven Plutarkians. They appear to be holding several villagers. We'll move out at dawn, circle and infiltrate the village. We'll take care of as many of the Plutarkians as we can descreetly, and wait until the rest are out in the open. When I give the signal, we attack. Now, let's all get to bed. We've got tail whippin' to do tomorrow!"
At that the small camp of Freedom Fighters cheered. Then everyone finished taking care of camp and they all crawled into their blankets and, except for Tracer, leaned against his or her bike and fell asleep.
Early the next morning all of the mice were up and ready. All the Freedom Fighters were in place in the village before anyone was up. By mid-day they had taken care of seven Plutarkians and they had headed for the center.
Tracer was torn. She knew that there was a fourth Plutarkian, and during the day two others had arrived without being noticed by the Freedom Fighters. Tracer knew that they needed to know this information, but she had no idea how she could explain her knowledge of the extra Plutarkians. Before she could solve her internal conflict Stoker gave the signal to surround the three Plutarkians and the small company of Freedom Fighters surrounded the center of town so that the three Plutarkians were backed against a wall.
Tracer could tell that Stoker was nervous. He was worried about the civilians. Behind a row of Freedom Fighters Tracer watched and knew that the other three Plutarkians had their guns trained on two Freedom Fighters and a young female mouse.
"Give up, you rotting carcasses," Stoker yelled, "you have no way to escape."
"Oh really, mousie? I think maybe not. Lot of people around, aren't there?" the Plutarkian in the center said. Then he lunged to the side where there was only one Freedom Fighter and several civilians. He knocked the young soldier out of the way, grabbed a young mouse, and held her to his body before anyone could shoot.
"What now?" he sneered.
Tracer picked her blaster out of its holster and aimed. She was about to fire, her blaster aimed dead center for the kid's heart, when she stopped.
No, some part of her mind said, that's not right. Not the little kid. She's a mouse. You shoot the fish.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, another part said, awakened by the training that had caused her to react, shoot the mouse. She's a mouse! Remember the training, shoot the mouse. Then shoot the leader of the mice. You're in the perfect position for it. No one will ever know it was you. Remember all you learned! You're supposed to shoot the mouse!!
No, the first voice said, remember how you feel, your heart.
Then her mind spontaneously opened, focused on the young mouse and the three Plutarkians. From the three Plutarkians she felt a twisted glee, and a hope of killing the citizens. From the center one she could feel that he enjoyed the little one's fright and that he loved the idea of killing her in front of everyone. He wanted it. And above it all she could hear the little mouse's fear and terror.
Finally she knew what to do. She aimed her blaster again, no hesitation or doubt in her mind and cold determination on her face. Two shots in rapid succession, so fast they were almost one shot, and the center Plutarkian was disarmed and falling, releasing the little mouse who ran to her mother. Before the Plutarkian could hit the ground Tracer had fired and hit the other two. Then she turned to a building on her left and fired off two shots. One Plutarkian fell forward and one fell back. Before they had fallen she turned to her right and fired at the last Plutarkian. She holstered her weapon before he even hit the ground. No one had seen her except Stoker and Swain. Stoker had seen her hesitation and her firing.
Stoker sighed. He'd have to take care of the situation before he could talk to Tracer. He took a deep breath and headed to the center of the little area.
"Gearing!" Stoker yelled.
A somewhat young, light brown mouse jumped to attention. He ran over to where Stoker was standing. Stoker said a few words, then Gearing turned to the group of Freedom Fighters. He raised an arm, brought it down pointing down the middle of the group, and sweeping it to one side. As he did so he said, "You half, return with me. The rest of you, stay here with Stoker." Then he turned and walked towards his bike. Tracer was relieved that she had been in the half chosen to leave even as Stoker was unhappy about the fact. A few minutes later Tracer was on her way back with half of the company.
When they reached the Academy they began to prepare for debriefing and to take care of the supplies they had brought with them. As she got off Swain's bike he lightly touched her arm.
"Some fine shootin' there," was all he said.
"Thanks," Tracer said, and nodded. Then she turned and left.
After taking care of her things in her room Tracer made her way to one of the lower levels. She found an entrance to a cave and she proceeded. This cave was far below the rest of the Academy and never used.
Tracer followed it far into its depths, farther than probably most would dare to go in the dark. When she felt she had gone far enough she sat down, pulled her knees to her chest and laid her head on her knees.
I almost killed an innocent kid today, she thought, I almost caused several innocent people to die. What was I thinking? Tracer continued to think about what had happened and what was going to happen. She knew she was going to have to face Stoker, but she was not sure what she was going to tell him.
As she sat there she grew more and more sleepy, and she finally slept shortly after Stoker returned.
Stoker had finally finished everything from the mission and had just finished reading the reports on the blaster fire. Only seven blaster shots were found. One had disarmed the Plutarkian holding the girl. The other six had hit the six Plutarkians, including the three they hadn't known about. But what bothered Stoker the most was that each blaster shot to each Plutarkian had been an instant kill. Every Plutarkian was dead before he had hit the ground from a precision shot, and each of the seven blaster shots came from a smaller diameter blaster beam than was issued in the Freedom Fighters.
Stoker got up and found Carbine.
"Carbine, have you seen Tracer?"
"No, not since the first half of the group returned."
Just then Kicker, who Stoker had sent for, arrived.
"Kicker, have you seen Tracer since she came back?"
"No sir. I didn't even know she was back."
"Okay, you can go."
Once Kicker had left Stoker and Carbine looked at each other.
"The Cave. I'll go find her," Stoker said.
In a short time Stoker was deep in the cave. He didn't use a light because he didn't want Tracer to see him coming.
Having fallen asleep, Tracer didn't even wake up and realize he was in the cave until he was halfway to her. So she just sat and waited. In his mind she could tell that he's gotten a report on the Plutarkians. Finally he reached her and sat down next to her.
"Tracer, I just read a report on the Plutarkians that were shot, and I saw you shoot them. We didn't even know that three of them were there." He sighed. "I have to ask you something. You're shooting, were you just shooting and hoping you'd do okay, or did you know what you were doing?"
Tracer looked into his mind and saw that he didn't even know which one he hoped for. If she had just been shooting then he had a mouse on his hands who had carelessly risked several civilians and Freedom Fighters. But if she had known what she was doing, if every shot was deliberate, then he had a young mouse who could outshoot Freedom Fighters more than twice her age who were considered the best and he didn't want to try to imagine how someone as young as her had managed to aquire such skill. Both ideas scared him.
"I'm sorry Stoker," she said quietly, "but I knew exactly what I was doing. It was deliberate."
Tracer sat in her room late that night and sighed. When she had answered
Stoker's question he had sat still and silent for several minutes, his mind
whirling over all the possibilities for such a thing until he had finally
let out a breath.
"I see. We'll talk later," was all he had said. Then he got up and left the cave.
Tracer took a deep breath as she came to a conclusion.
That's it. I'm tired of wondering what I am and what happened. I'm gonna find the truth about me once and for all.
Slowly and quietly she opened her door and crept down the hall. As she did she relaxed her mental shields to find all the guards, then she chose the best path to her destination. At the end of the hall she turned right and ran quietly to the end. She listened to the mind of the guard until he was looking the other way, then she dashed quietly across to the next hallway.
She had very few other guards until she came to the room that was her goal.
Hm, she thought, two guards and a locked door. Her brain then took a calculative look at it. Need to get in, undetected with no alarms. No casualties allowed, and can't have them suspect anything. If I had some sleeping gas this would be no problem, but then they'd know something was wrong. Maybe a secret way in? She went through the minds of the guards and found none. Then she tried Kickstart and Stoker.
Bingo! she thought, finding information about one in Kickstart's mind. She skirted the front entrance and found her way to a storage closet. Using a small pick she soundlessly opened the door and entered. Then she found the invisible panel and entered the access code. A small section of wall slid away and she walked down a minuscule corridor to another opening into a small room off of Kickstart's personal terminal.
She activated the terminal and used the access code from Kickstart to gain access to his files. After some looking she found the files they had found when the had rescued her. Kickstart had cracked about 20% of the encryption code on the files. Using the knowledge she had picked up in her years with the doctor and the codes she had learned (unknown to the doctor) Tracer set to work revealing the rest of the files.
It took her almost two hours, but she finally had all the files at her disposal. She smiled a secretive smile.
Being able to read minds does have it's advantages.
As she skimmed the names of the directories she frowned. None of them applied to her. Then she read the last one. GENETIC RESEARCH. Doubting that it could have anything to do with her, but guessing that it was the most likely category (she did NOT fall into the category of torture device, mechanical weapons and the like), she opened it. She read the subdirectories, dismissing each one. Then she came to one that made her blood run cold. PROTOTYPE.
That's what the doctor called me.
She opened the directory and opened the first file, the description.
The Prototype Project is a genetic research project whose aim is to genetically engineer a superior warrior for Plutark from scratch. This warrior will possess the best and highest of all skills through careful genetic combinations, be grown loyal to Plutark, and appear as a Martian Mouse. These files are a record of all the research and analysis that has gone into the Prototype Project as well as the files and reports on the first engineered, grown, taught, and fully functional Prototype warrior. Upon the completion of a successful warrior the Prototype Project will be expanded to include an entire army of engineered warriors. They will infiltrate the Martian society and bring about it's downfall to leave Mars for Plutark. The project is headed by Dr. Drakor.
As Tracer finished reading the project statement she began to feel sick. She skimmed the rest of the files, reading reports on the research to determine which parts of the genetics of different species controlled which aspects of the full grown member. She found files on the learning program used during her growth, the solution used to grow her in, the results of physical tests, and the faults in her appearance and physique, to name a few. Then she came across the file that showed her genetic code. It was shown in a full three dimensional view. Then is was broken down with a symbol next to each group of genes and proteins etc. from each species. At the bottom was a list of which spices had contributed to her genetic code and which symbols stood for which species. As Tracer read the list she felt like her world was fading away. There were several Martian Mice, but what made her sick was the rest. Plutarkian, Sand Raider, Rat, Asklorian, and several others. Even an unidentified species. Tracer couldn't finish reading the list.
Almost automatically she returned the files to their coded state, and even undid the progress Kickstart had made.
I'm not even a Martian Mouse. I'm not really a Martian. What am I?
Tracer numbly got up and exited the room, silently making her way to her room undetected.
I need to get away, she thought, I need to be alone. Tracer sighed, then made up her mind. She packed her belongings, left a note, and made her way to a hidden exit. Blending into the desert landscape and sending to the guard to make him believe he saw nothing out of the ordinary, Tracer walked into the desert, never glancing back at the Academy.
Stoker was woken up by a light pounding on his door. Glancing at his
time piece he mumbled that it was too early to be woken up and that whoever
it was had better have a good reason.
"Come in," he said, his voice rough with sleep.
A young Freedom Fighter came in, looking nervous.
"Sir, Kickstart wants you to come to his personal computer terminal. He says it is very important."
"Thanks," he grumbled, "you can go."
The young Freedom Fighter stood at attention, then turned and left.
"What could Kickstart possibly need me for at this time. It's too early for him to be working on anything." Stoker paused and realized something. "Wait a minute, a lot of the time he works in the morning on those files we got when we rescued Tracer. Oh, no," he said, and dressed quickly. A few minutes later he approached Kickstart at his terminal at the same time that Carbine did.
As soon as they were both standing next to him Kickstart began to speak without preamble.
"Someone got into my terminal last night. I'm pretty sure whoever it was got into the files I've been working on from when you rescued Tracer. They added another level of encryption to the files and undid all the work I've done in the last two years. Two years of decoding down the tubes." He raised his hands a bit and let them drop back to his lap in a frustrated, hopeless gesture.
Carbine and Stoker looked at each other.
"Piston!" Stoker yelled. In seconds the young mouse was standing in front of him at attention.
"I want you to get Kicker and Tracer here immediately."
"Yes, Stoker," Piston replied and then turned and left.
"So," Kickstart said, "you think Tracer was the one who did it too, huh?"
"Yes," Carbine and Stoker answered. "She's the only one who would have even known about the files and cared enough to add another level of encryption. And she's the only one who would have gone after only those files with the level of access she had," Stoker continued. All three looked at each other, not raising the question of HOW Tracer got access without setting off an alarm.
Two minutes later Piston reappeared with Kicker behind him and a sheet of paper in his hand.
"She wasn't there," Carbine said, more of a statement than a question.
"No, General, only this note. I didn't read it though."
"Kicker," Carbine said, "did Tracer say anything to you or mention anything in the last few days?"
"No, General Carbine. I haven't even seen her in two days."
"Very well," she said. Then she took the note from Piston, opened it, and read it out loud.
I'm sorry. I have some things I have to work out on my own. I can't do it here. When I've worked them out, I'll return. I'm sorry to Kickstart for what I've done to the files, but I had to. I'm sorry to my friends and commanders for leaving without warning or even some other form of good-bye. I don't know how long I'll be gone, but when I'm ready I'll come back. And please, don't try to follow me or find me. It won't work.
Piston, Kickstart, and Kicker looked at Stoker and Carbine, who looked at each other. Then they looked at Kicker.
"Well," Stoker asked.
"I know her well enough to know that if she says you won't be able to find her, then you won't be able to."
Stoker sighed. Then he turned to Piston.
"Gather a small scout team. Look to see if there is any trace of her. If you can't find any in two days, call the search off and return here. Dismissed."
"Yes, sir," Piston said and left. Kicker turned to Stoker and Carbine.
"Sir?" he asked.
"I have to Kicker. I have to at least try to find some trace of her leaving. But I know you're right."
Two days later Kicker, Kickstart, Stoker and Carbine listened to Piston give his report on the short search for Tracer. Not even the smallest sign had been found to indicate a lone mouse travelling. When he was done Piston and Kickstart looked at Stoker and Carbine.
"Well sir, what do we do now?" Piston asked.
"We wait," Kicker answered quietly.
"We wait for her to return," Stoker said.
"It's all we can do," Carbine said.