I don't own the Biker Mice in any way, shape or form. I am making no money from this blabbidy blah blah. Yadda, yadda yadda, you know the drill. Sorry for the delay in part two, needed to work out some stuff. And thanks to my friends. This is going to be a long part two so please read with an open mind and heart.
Throttle awoke the next morning, feeling better than he had in days.
'Maybe getting to bed early once in a while won't kill us after all.'
He sat up and looked over at D.T.'s bed. It was empty and made up, but he
was there, doing a handstand on the foot, just wearing his jeans, the medallion
hanging down from around his neck. Throttle watched as he slowly bent himself
so his legs were over his head. Then just as slowly straightened up, turned
and lowered his legs to the floor so he was standing.
He then picked up the knife sitting on the foot of the bed and started to knife fight. Throttle pushed himself up as quietly as he could and watched this deadly display. The moves were mixed with kicks, blocks and punches that flowed together smoothly, as though from practice than had been done for so long, they were like second nature.
Throttle watched, totally enraptured as the moves got faster and deadlier, until the knife was tossed high, spinning and flashing in the morning light. D.T. then did a rapid series of punches and blocks before stepping back and grabbing the descending knife out of mid air, then dropped into stance with the knife held blade down, feet apart and arms crossed in front of him. He held that for a moment, then stood, brought his feet together and arms to his side and bowed once.
Throttle let out the breath he didn't know he had been holding with a whoosh. D.T. spun and dropped into an attack stance, then relaxed. "Good Morning. Sleep well?"
"Morning. I feel a lot better than I did yesterday. Amazing what a few solid hours worth of sleep can do for a guy." D.T. stretched and walked over to his bed and sat, re-sheathing the knife.
"They teach knife fighting at the Academy?"
"Uh huh. Plus the fighting style I was just doing." He set the sheathed knife aside.
"I was watching it." Throttle scratched his face fur.
The guy just smiled. "I know. I heard you moving around and saw you out of the corner of my eye." His shades were sitting on the side table.
A shuffling from above and a yawn indicated Modo was awake. "Morning bro, D.T." and yawned again.
"Morning." The two chorused at him.
Modo sat up. "What time is it?"
"About 8." D.T. looked at his watch before grabbing his shirt and pulling it on, then put on his shades.
Modo flipped the blanket off and sat up, dangling his legs over the side of the top bunk, wiping the sleep from his eye. "What time did you get up anyway?"
"Before 6." D.T. stated, reaching for his socks and boots.
"6!" Modo and Throttle gapped at him.
He pulled his socks and boots on. "Don't look so surprised. I've always had an internal alarm clock that's gotten me up at that time, no matter what." He stood and put on the knife harness, then grabbed his blaster and pouch, strapping them on.
"You mean you have been working out for two hours?" Modo slid off the top bunk and he and Throttle put their boots and upper body clothes on.
"No. I was working on my log somemore, then meditated a bit and did some stretching and exercising for a while." D.T. shook his shoulders to settle the harness, checking the blaster and pouch placement.
Throttle and Modo had their clothes and weapons on, then looked over at Vinnie, who was still sound asleep. The two looked at each other. "So who gets the honor of waking him this time?" Modo asked.
"What's up?" D.T. came over to them.
"Mighty mouth over there can sleep all day if we let him." Modo jerked him thumb in Vinnie's direction.
D.T. looked over at the sleeping mouse and did an opened mouth grin, tonguing one of his fangs. "Back at the Academy, Mike had some sure fire methods for waking us up."
"Oh?" Throttle gave him a grin and Modo soon joined in.
"One was a bull horn, the other an air horn or anything loud to pound on. A bucket of ice water was also used at times and snow in the winter. But this occasion calls for the, 'Patented Method.'"
Throttle and Modo grinned wildly at him. "And what, pray tell, is the 'Patented Method?'" Throttle was starting to like this.
D.T. just grinned wider. "Watch and learn." And walked over to Vinnie. He leaned close by the mouse's ear. "Viiiiinnnniiiieeee." He said, softly and gently. Vinnie groaned. "Oh Viiinnniiiiee." The mouse moaned and tossed a bit. "Come on Vinnie. Time to get up."
"But Ma, I don't want to go to school today." Vinnie whined, burrowing under the covers.
Throttle and Modo were just holding in their laughter and D.T. was grinning like a maniac. He leaned close and, in a voice that would have made any drill sergeant proud, bellowed, "UP AND AT'EM OR I'LL DRAG YOU OUT BY YOUR TAIL!"
Vinnie jumped, fell out of his hammock, hit the floor, then stood at attention, saluting. "Vinnie vanWham reporting for duty, SIR!"
D.T. chuckled. "At ease, Vinnie. Nice to see you decided to join us." Throttle and Modo started laughing their heads off. Vinnie looked at D.T., growled and tackled him and the two went down, fists flying. Throttle and Modo went over and got pulled in to the melee. This went on for a while before they ended with Modo pinning Vinnie and Throttle doing the same to D.T..
"HA! Got you now!" Throttle gloated, sitting on D.T.'s stomach.
D.T. grinned. "Rule One!" And flipped his right leg up and across Throttle in a move that seemed impossible. He pulled and the tan mouse went over backwards onto the floor. D.T. wasted no time and jumped on top of him, pinning him. He leaned close to Throttle's face. "Rule two." And a feral grin spread across his face.
Throttle laughed and D.T. laughed with him. Just then, another memory floated up. D.T. and someone else wrestling, but it was gone before he could see more. "Where'd you learn that maneuver?"
D.T. sat up, still sitting on him. "Just comes from being unusually flexible." He rolled off Throttle onto his back. Then did a back arch that had the mice wincing. He walked his hands and feet closer together, then flipped his legs up and over onto the floor and stood. "Who's up for some breakfast?" And extended a hand to help Throttle up, who gladly accepted, albeit somewhat surprised by D.T.'s strength.
"Oh Yeah!" The three chorused. Vinnie hopped around getting his boots on and grabbed his bandoleers and gloves. D.T. went to his bags and grabbed a comb, running it through his hair a few times, before retying it back and combing his sideburns. He set the comb on the side table, then grabbed his jacket, helmet and gloves. The guys were ready and D.T. was ready in a few seconds and soon they were on their way to the garage.
They rode in the light early traffic until they came to a sight where, at first glance, construction was taking place. But the L on the side of the machines meant destruction was taking place. "Limburger is at it again, bros." Throttle activated his bike's weapons.
"AOOOOOH! Just the morning workout I was hoping for!" Vinnie activated his own weapons and sped off.
D.T. and Modo activated their weapons. "Is it just me, or is Vinnie crazy?" D.T. looked at Modo.
"No two ways about it, he's crazy." Modo smiled.
"Figured as much." D.T. smiled back, before plunging into battle beside him. Dune buggies appeared and started firing. Throttle took out one and had another on his tail, before loosing it by jumping over another, causing the two to crash. Vinnie was taking on one of the digging machines, peppering it with weapons fire before it exploded, the goon operating it jumping clear at the last second.
Modo had two goons on his tail, before taking them out with missiles. He looked back, then one of the digging machines lowered its bucket, colliding with him and knocking him off his bike. Modo lay there slightly stunned as the bucket lowered intent on squashing him. An explosion against the body of the machine knocked the bucket off course and it crashed beside him. Modo rolled over and looked up to see D.T. fire again at the machine, blasters flaring. The explosion knocked the machine sideways, before erupting in flames.
D.T. rode over to the gray mouse. "You OK?" He extended his hand to the mouse, helping him to his feet.
Modo was surprised by the strength he felt in the grip. "Yeah, Just a little winded." He whistled for Little Hoss and she rolled over to him. "Let's help the others clean up." He got on and revved the engine.
"Roger Dokey." D.T. gave him a thumbs-up and they sped off. In no time, the rest of the machines were scrap and the goons were on the run.
"Now that the workout is over, lets grab some chow." Vinnie popped a wheelie and they sped off.
The garage was soon in sight and the guys rolled in. "Morning guys." Charley called from her workbench.
They all called "Good Morning Charley." back as they parked and took off their helmets, then came over.
"Whatcha doing, babe?" Vinnie stood beside her.
"Rebuilding a carburetor, I'm just about finished. I suppose you bottomless pits want breakfast?"
"Need you ask?" Throttle replied, stomach growling. Charley snorted delicately and finished, before washing up and heading for the kitchen. Over breakfast, they told Charley about their battle with Limburgers goons before getting to the garage and how D.T. handled himself. He just waved it off, saying it was no big thing and that he was glad to help.
Modo had been sitting back and digesting, when an itch on his side got annoying and he scratched it. It felt wet and when he brought his fingers to his face, they were stained green. "Oh Mamma." And twisted to look at his right side. He couldn't see anything and pulled off his chest protector. There, just below the edge of it, was a palm sized green patch.
Charley saw this and went to get the First-Aid kit. She came back and gently cleaned off the blood, revealing a gash about an inch-and-a-half long and, thankfully, not too deep. "Looks like you got nicked by something. Probably a piece of shrapnel."
Charley pulled out a bottle of antiseptic and wet a cotton ball. "Ready Modo?" Modo braced himself and nodded. Charley applied the ball and he hissed as what felt like fire raced from the wound. He was hard pressed not to move his bionic arm, but just managed to keep it still. The pain faded quickly, making him sigh in relief. "Good thing you mice heal up fast. It shouldn't bother you for too long, Modo. Just keep it clean."
"Will do Charley-ma'am."
Charley packed the rest of the kit away and Modo put his chest protector back on, then they headed for the garage and D.T. went over to his bike and looked at the screen on the tank. "Ah Fragit!" he exclaimed and sighed.
"What's wrong?" Charley came over.
He sighed again. "I had my bike do a complete system diagnostic while we had breakfast. Looks like I have to re-calibrate about half the systems, including weapons. I thought she felt a little off this morning."
"Is that a major job?" She asked
"No, just time consuming. It'll take me all morning to get them set right. Might as well get started." He typed in a series of commands into the bottom of the screen. Several panels on the bike popped open and he knelt. Some had objects fastened to the back of them.
"Need a hand?" Charley knelt down too, getting a good look into the bike.
D.T. grabbed a screwdriver from the toolbox inside one panel. "Depends, can you retune a phased plasma blaster?"
Charley rolled her eyes "Are you kidding? I can do that in my sleep." And knelt down on the other side of the bike. D.T. grinned at her.
Vinnie went over and turned the radio on, finding some music to work by. Finding a suitable heavy metal tune, he headed for his bike and the time passed. They all finished and were having lunch. "So, is your bike ready to ride?" Throttle asked, polishing off his hot-dog.
D.T. took a swallow of rootbeer. "Just about. All I need to do is a field test to check everything out. Know of any place where I can cut loose for a while?"
Charley thought for a bit. "The old quarry outside town would be good. No one around for a about five miles."
D.T. nodded. "Sounds perfect. Like the old proving grounds back home." And downed the last of his soda. "Oh, I was wondering if I could get some fuel? I will pay you back for it, somehow."
"Not a problem." And Charley stood, the guys following her. The headed for the garage and all of them fueled up and then left, heading for the quarry. Once there, they were treated to a display of just what D.T.'s bike could really do.
He handled the bike like he had been riding most of his life. Rocks were pulverized with either missiles or blaster fire as he put the bike through various maneuvers. This went on for over an hour, before he rode over to them, stopped and pulled him helmet off. "Oh YEAH! This baby is cocked, locked and ready to rock!" His face was flushed with excitement. Modo tossed him a soda. "Thanks." He opened it and took a big swallow.
Throttle leaned forward on his bike's seat. "That about all you need to check out?"
D.T. took another swallow. "Pretty much. I just need to do a speed run and check out the Hyper Thrust."
"What's Hyper Thrust?" Charley came over from where she had been sitting.
"Computer guided, high velocity travel mode. Think of it like speed, intensified. The bikes themselves are fast, but this makes them faster still." He patted the cowling on the bike.
Vinnie was practically crackling when he heard this. "Well what are we waiting for!" And revved his bike.
D.T. smiled. "I was wondering if one of you wanted to ride with me?" The bros looked at each other, then got into a knock down wrestling match, while Charley and D.T. looked on. He laughed. "They act just like big kids, but they got good hearts."
Charley nodded. "You got that right. You should see the garage after one of their friendly fights." She winced at the memory of the friendly mayhem.
"My condolences." D.T. grinned at her and she grinned back. The battle on the ground finally ended when Throttle got both Modo and Vinnie pinned, with some effort.
D.T. walked over and lifted his arm. "The winner." And helped him up.
Vinnie sprang up. "Come on! Best two out of three!" Then yelped when Modo grabbed his tail and yanked.
"Chill bro. Throttle won fair and square." Vinnie sulked.
"Cheer up Vinnie. You and Modo can ride with me another time. Promise." And crossed his heart.
Vinnie brightened at that. "That's cool."
Throttle walked over with D.T. to his bike. "Charley, you can take my bike." And got on behind him.
"You going to be warm enough? In HT, the wind can get pretty cold."
"Hey, we ride all the time like this. I'll be OK."
D.T. nodded and put his helmet back on. "You might want to hold on tight. We will be moving."
"Just how fast are we talking here?" Putting his hands on D.T. sides and found a strap on either side of his jacket, so he grabbed these instead. "Handy feature."
"Fast enough to make getting hit by something feel like a bullet. The straps make it easier for a passenger to hold on. Just lean in close to me and I'll try and shield you from the worst of the wind. Just let me know when you've had enough. Okay?"
"Okay." Throttle tightened his grip on the straps and D.T. fired up. The soft growl from the bike went through the frame, making it feel like the bike was purring, like some big jungle cat. He put it in gear and they moved out, Modo, Vinnie and Charley riding beside them.
"Broadcast on your radios. I can lock on and let you know where and when we stop." Modo sent a signal. "Got it. See you guys in a bit."
"You two be careful. And you take care of our bro or." Modo lifted his metal fist.
"Relax Modo. He will be safe or I will personally turn myself over to your tender mercies. Just remember to visit me in the hospital afterwards." He grinned at Modo who grinned back.
They started to accelerate, the guys and Charley keeping up with them. "If that's your Hyper Thrust, I'm not impressed." Vinnie bragged.
"No. THIS, is Hyper Thrust." And pressed a button on the bikes console. The soft growl of the bike got louder and deeper, until, with a roar, they took off. Throttle tightened his grip even more and huddled close. He looked back at his rapidly vanishing friends and looked down. The dotted line down the center of the road seemed to slow, stop, then move backwards. "Look ahead. Keeps you from getting confused." Throttle forced himself to do so. The scenery was almost a blur as they leaned through curves at speeds that seemed impossible.
"As Vinnie would say, this is such a RUSH!" It felt like they were flying.
"Tell me about it!" D.T. replied, excitement in his voice. They stayed at this velocity until Throttle felt him arms start to shiver.
"My arms." Throttle said, the trembling getting worse.
"Hold on a bit longer. Decelerating now." And the roar diminished, then stopped, leaving only the purr/growl of the original engine noise, then that too faded as D.T. pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. Throttle let go and dismounted, his arms numb. He started to rub them, getting some warmth back. "Here." And felt D.T. slip his jacket over his shoulders, adding some extra warmth to him.
"Thanks." Throttle sat beside the bike as his arms warmed up.
D.T. sat beside him, his helmet was off and rubbing his own arms some. "Sorry about that. I'm sorta used to it after so long plus the jacket protected me. I forgot what it's like for a first timer."
Throttles arms were warming up nicely. "Was it this bad for you the first time."
"Worse. I couldn't even move my arms the first time. Took two days before they felt normal. Better tell the others where we are." He stood and fired off a message and got a reply. He sat back down. "They'll be here in about a bit. Might as well relax till then." He slid forward and lay back, hands behind his head.
Throttle felt back to normal and slid the jacket off and pulled his own helmet off and lay back, hands behind his head as well and relaxed. The sounds of nature surrounded them as they lay there, watching the clouds drift by, waiting for the others to catch up. "Can I ask you something?" Throttle rolled onto his left side so he was looking at the human.
"Sure." He rolled so he was looking at the mouse.
"What exactly is a Blood Oath?" he dipped his shades.
"A Blood Oath is our most sacred and binding of oaths. We only use it for something really, really important. Or to swear secrecy on something. What it involves is I would have made a cut in my left hand, then gotten down on one knee in front of you, extending my hand and knife, handle first, to you. Then said, "I, Dejahken Talberson, do hereby swear by my blood, my life and my knife, to do you and your kin no harm." You would then taken the knife and gripped my left hand in yours and said, "I, Throttle, do hereby accept your blood, your life and your knife as bond." You would then have pulled me to my feet and returned my knife to me."
"I wouldn't have to cut my own hand?" Throttle pushed his shades up.
"No. You would only have to do that if we were becoming Blood Brothers. Or if the two of use were swearing a Blood Oath to the other."
Throttle mulled this over for a bit. "You would really have done that?"
D.T. had a gentle look on his face. "Throttle, I've tried hard all my life to keep from hurting those close to me. My family and the few real friends I have, I care for. You guys and Charley are my friends and family now. I never thought I would have a new family or be on a new world, and I am a little strange to you and you to me. But I will promise you this; I will protect you, your kin and your friends."
"I guess we both have a lot to learn about each other. And I think I speak for all my bros and Charley when I make the same promise to you, D.T." Throttle said, smiling.
"Thanks, that means a lot to me." The human smiled back at him.
"Hey, what are friends for anyway?" and pushed D.T. on the shoulder. He pushed back and it quickly degenerated into a wrestling match. Neither wanted to hurt the other, just having fun. Throttle's tail gave him an advantage and D.T.'s surprising strength and flexibility made them about even. They were laughing and wrestling when Modo, Vinnie and Charley rode up.
"Nice to see someone is having fun. Took us a half-hour to catch up to you two." Vinnie groused, unhappy he'd missed out on the fun.
The two got up and dusted themselves off. "Half an hour? We must have been moving?" Throttle picked up D.T.'s jacket and his helmet.
D.T. accepted his jacket. "In HT, you are moving." Putting it on.
"I'll say. All we saw was Throttle's tail and a jet of flame out the back of your bike before you were out of sight." Modo dismounted and walked over, giving Throttle a once over to make sure he was OK, then looked at D.T..
"So, do I have to make a reservation at the local emergency ward?" D.T. grinned at him.
"Nah, your safe. THIS time." Modo grinned back.
"You have no idea how much better that makes me feel. I hate hospitals. How're you doing?" Pointing to Modo's side.
"Pretty good. A little itchy, but I'll be OK." Modo lightly fingered the wound. It was little tender, but healing nicely.
Vinnie looked at D.T.'s bike with envy. "I'm more interested if Charley-girl can put that Hyper Thrust gizmo on our bikes."
"It is a pretty simple piece of equipment." he walked over to his bike and punched in something. Panels' along side the seat opened and the seat unlocked and he removed it. "It's basically a high output, vectored thrust jet. The bike's computer scans the road for obstacles and road conditions and guides the bike around them and makes the necessary adjustments to the steering and suspension. The only real drawback with it is that it does pull on the fuel pretty good, so I can't use it all the time, just when I have to." Charley was looking closely at the various parts and the nozzle assembly. "Charley, if you think any harder, your going to have smoke pouring out your ears." D.T. chuckled.
She stood. "Hmm. It is pretty simple. You got a schematic I can look at?"
"Sure." And brought it up on the screen on the bike's fuel tank. "Just press here when you want to advance it. Now, if you will excuse me." And headed for the trees. When he was out of sight, Throttle related what D.T. had told him.
They were shocked to say the least. "Whoa. He was serious. Would you really have had to kill him if he broke his oath?" Modo asked.
"Not necessarily." They all jumped when D.T. was suddenly there behind them.
"How do you DO that, sweetheart?" Vinnie got his heartbeat under control.
D.T. just shrugged. "Just comes from being naturally quiet. Freaked out quite a few people back home when I did my Cheshire act."
"Cheshire? As in Alice in Wonderland?" Charley asked. The guys remembered something about the cat in the story that could disappear. D.T. just nodded, then looked at something to his right and they all looked. Nothing was there and when they turned back, he was gone. They all looked around in confusion, when a soft cough made them turn. There he was, behind them, arms folded casually across his chest.
"Sweetheart, I don't know how you do that, but I'm glad I don't have you for an enemy." Vinnie put his hands on his hips.
"Vinnie, if you had me for an enemy, there would be no place you could hide from me." And gave a predatory smile that had Vinnie feeling slightly uneasy.
"What did you mean by not necessarily?" Modo couldn't help comparing him to a cat.
"It means, that if Throttle had decided to be merciful, I would be indentured to him and you guys for however long as he felt was required."
"You mean, you would be our slave?" Throttle said, a bad taste in his mouth. D.T. just nodded sadly. (The various thoughts that raced through their heads at this revelation are too numerous to be printed separately. Plus it saves me a swack of typing. Hey I can't help it. Even I get lazy at times.)
Modo walked over to D.T. "Throttle told us what you told him earlier. You care about us enough you would've given up your freedom, even though we've know each other for less than two days?"
"Yes." Was all D.T. said.
Modo grabbed him in a bear hug that had the guy gasping for air. "Even though you aren't from Mars or this earth, you're a bro through and through. Willing to give up your own freedom to help others, like a true Freedom Fighter would." Modo hugged tighter and D.T.'s face took on a slightly bluish tinge
Throttle ran over. "I think he got the message, bro. Now let him go before he becomes a past bro." Pulling at Modo's arms.
"Sorry." And let go. D.T. collapsed into Throttle's arms, gasping and dragging in much needed air. "Forget my own strength sometimes."
The blue colour was leaving D.T.'s face and he was breathing easier. He drew in several deep breaths, coughing some before he could stand on his own. He walked over to Modo. "Thanks Modo. That means a lot to me. And just to show there are no hard feelings." He grabbed Modo in a bear hug that had him gasping, before he let go.
Modo got his breath back and started laughing. "Not too many people can do that to me. How come you're so strong?"
"Just born this way." D.T. smiled mysteriously, before going over to his bike and closing the panels and putting the seat back on. "Think you can duplicate it Charley?"
Charley stood there, thinking for a minute. "Hmm. Might take some time, but I think I can do it."
"Babe, if anyone can do it, you can." Vinnie crooned.
Charley looked him as she got on behind him. "Flattery will get you dinner, Mr. vanWham."
"I second that. Lets ride." And they all pulled out, heading for Chicago. Throttle looked at D.T. for along time as they rode. More images floated up in his head. Faint, like an old movie. Riding with someone he had deep feelings for, a chase and an explosion of some kind. 'I might not know everything, but I know you're a bro. When you want us to know all your secrets, you'll tell us. That much I know.' And looked at the road as they headed for home.
Time passed (neat way of saying I don't feel like typing a bunch of stuff) for the bros, Charley and D.T.. He was a good fighter, as Limburgers goons found out. He might not be a team player at times, but he was no hot-dog. He followed orders and learned the guy's maneuvers and he taught them a trick or two about hand-to-hand combat.
Charley was able to equip the guy's bikes with her own version of Hyper Thrust and D.T. suggested they get a good jacket each. Vinnie stated he was too cool for something like that. The first time he used it, he wound up with arms like lead. D.T. spent sometime massaging them to get them back to normal. After that, jackets were a priority. And it did pull on the fuel pretty good, compared to their jets, so they used it only when they had to, unless a refill was readily available. Charley was also able to install Martian designed booster jets on D.T.'s bike. They weren't as fast or powerful, but didn't hog the fuel as bad.
D.T.'s parcel from his own earth arrived. A shielded box, three feet square on the ends and six feet long. The site chosen was outside Chicago, so the electrical discharge wouldn't scramble electronic equipment. When they got back to the garage, he unpacked. Equipment for his bike and some personal items, and a scroll wrapped with a red ribbon and a red wax seal that looked important. Eliminating all the embellishing, (meaning a way to stretch out a single paragraph into several paragraphs) it stated that D.T. had been granted special status as an OutRider and was officially released from his vows of telepathy. The rest of the scroll went on to wish him good fortune and may the Ancestors guide him, plus well wishes from the rest of the OutRiders.
Modo asked about that and D.T. explained that all OutRiders believed that ones ancestors watched over their descendants and guided them. Vinnie had scoffed at this, until D.T. told them how he had been in a firefight with some outlaws and someone had yelled, "DUCK!" at him. He had and a blaster bolt pulverized a rock right there his head had been a split second before. When the fight ended, there had been no one within 100 feet of him to shout the warning. The only thing he found was a red bandanna with the initials L.J. stitched into the corner. He had taken it home and it was identified as belonging to what would be his great, great, great grandfather, Loren Justin; who had passed away about 200 years ago. All of them got a slightly spooky feeling at that and looked around a little self-consciously, expecting a specter to materialize. D.T. just grinned at their unease, before continuing to unpack.
Some of the equipment for the bike would be stored at the garage, the rest at the scoreboard. Among the personal items was a security box (like a safe, shaped like a small briefcase). In it was some personal letters for him and a heavy cloth bag. He opened the bag and out spilled a small handful of gold bars, each one weighting one-ounce. He handed two of these to Charlie, saying it was the living allowance each rider got, to pay for lodging, food and such. The rest he stashed, but not before converting some of it into cash and keeping a small amount with him for his and the guys use. He told them the job didn't bring in big bucks, but it was a satisfying and fun job to do.
The personal items were taken back to the scoreboard, as well as the remains of the crate. With the shielding off and it collapsed into pieces, he uses the parts to build a storage closet to keep his stuff in. He told the guys to install the shielding on their bikes; it would protect them from the Spike. Charley adapted some of the shielding to protect Modo's arm and their helmets. D.T.'s first encounter with Plutarkian stench made him almost lose his lunch. He had collapsed onto the sidewalk, trying to keep from heaving up. The bros said you get used to it after a while and he had given them a look that made liquid nitrogen seem warm.
(Information note: By the time the second package was due to arrive, the technicians on D.T.'s earth had figured out how to both send and retrieve items, so he could send back copies of his log and samples from this earth back for comparison.)
During this time, little things started to bug the guys. Things about D.T. that seemed to deepen the mystery around him. His inhuman way of moving silently, the way he seemed to disappear and reappear, his strength and flexibility. They just didn't add up for a normal human. But then, Charley had surprised them at times with what she could do. They had been at the beach just having fun and goofing off for a day and D.T. had gone for a walk on his own and came back about an hour later, saying he had been doing some running. Throttle backtracked where he had gone and found some very unusual tracks in the wet sand at the water's edge. He had gone to the library a couple of days later and partly matched the tracks to a member of the bigger cat family, maybe a mountain lion that had wandered, but they had been halfway washed away by the waves so a complete identification was impossible.
Another thing was his night vision. Where the guys saw pitch black at night, he could see clearly. And a couple of times at night, when he took his shades off, his eyes flashed when light hit them. Animals seemed to like him, cats in particular, and Vinnie's allergies kicked in with a vengeance. D.T. seemed a little surprised at this, but refrained from bringing in anymore strays, just looked at Vinnie oddly on and off for a while. And his soft snore bugged them. Modo had petted the cats a few times (once he was sure they weren't going to eat him) and couldn't help but compare it to their purr. No way he could be a cat, maybe the humans on his world were just different is all. But the pictures of his family and friends showed humans like here. But then he had said he was different when he was born, so they just put it down to a freak mutation, like some of the fur colours of the mice on Mars.
Charley had even seen some strange stuff also. Out behind the garage, there was usually some lumber waiting for the garbage collectors to pick up. A few times, she noticed shavings on the ground and just assumed D.T. had been whittling. But some of the curls were quite large, so she dug around a bit. A large plank had what looked like gouge marks running down the length of it. But there were five of them, side by side on each side and quite deep. She could almost swear they were claw marks, like what cats leave when they sharpen their claws. But whatever made these marks had to have been big and there was nothing on the news about anything unusual. Just something on a junky found scared half to death, claiming he saw a white cat the size of a Mac truck coming right at him. The police put it down as a hallucination caused by the drugs he had been taking.
Summer was passing and fall was approaching and with it, D.T.'s mood seemed to change. He would often sit for long periods of time, looking at nothing, holding the medallion in one hand and gently tugging on it so the chain lightly dented his neck. Throttle had mentioned he would break the chain doing that and he replied that the chain would take his head off before it broke, saying it was a special alloy, a lot stronger than gold was. He also worried more about the guys in battle. Throttle had chewed him out for getting distracted when one of them had gotten knocked down and immediately went over to check on them, leaving whoever he was partnered with unprotected. He had apologized and the incident didn't happen again, but he still worried about them. They all wanted to ask him just who and what he really was, but Modo spoke up and said he had a lot to get used to. This world looked like his, but was very different. The guys knew what it was like to get used to a different place, they could go home, but D.T. couldn't. Not without risking dying in the process, so they held back on their questions. For now. But they would soon know more than they bargained for.
It was the end of the first week of September and the leaves hadn't begun to change colours yet. The guys were hanging with Charley around the garage. Limburger was still rebuilding his tower from the last time, so they used the time to relax for a while and get ready for next time. Vinnie and Modo were arm wrestling, Throttle was getting the finer points of knife throwing from D.T. and Charlie was tinkering with a new version of a rocket launcher. D.T. had mounted a butcher-block target on the one wall of the garage and it was showing signs of wear and tear. Seems the human could throw just about anything. Knives, screwdrivers, axes, tomahawks, even six-inch spikes. Every time Modo won, D.T. would toss another spike at the target. There were four of them stuck off to one side of the target. A crash and a fifth one joined the other four.
"Why don't you just give up Vinnie?" D.T. walked over and helped the white mouse up. Again.
Vinnie shook himself. "No way! He has to get tired sometime and then I, am going to triumph!"
Charlie laughed. "Yeah, but not sometime this century." And Throttle, Modo and D.T. joined in on the laughter while Vinnie looked steamed and walked back over to the table and sat, left arm ready to go.
Throttle walked over and got ready to start them again, when D.T. cocked his head and closed his eyes, turning his head and lifting it some. "Something big is heading this way." And sheathed the knife and drew his blaster, moving over beside a window. The others didn't hear anything for a bit, then a familiar rumble filled the air and they smiled.
"It's OK, Cub. Some friends of ours are dropping in for a visit." Throttle and the others had gotten in the habit of calling D.T. by his Academy nickname from time to time and it seemed to relax him. He holstered his blaster and followed them out the backdoor. A familiar looking dark coloured ship was slowly descending into the empty lot behind the garage. The landing gear lowered and the ship made a perfect landing.
"They still won't let him land it." Charley chuckled and Modo chuckled with her, while D.T. looked confused. The engines shutdown, a ramp descended and the hatch opened. A very familiar female mouse with long black hair and a scar across the left side or her muzzle walked out.
Throttle walked over and hugged her. "Welcome back to Earth, Carbine."
Carbine hugged him back. "Good to be back, handsome." Vinnie and Modo made kissing noises in the background. A male mouse with short brown hair with a yellow streak down the center was next out. Modo walked over and hugged him.
"Rimfire." He said warmly.
"Hi Uncle Modo." And hugged his uncle back. Another mouse, light brown with long wheat-coloured hair and a metal tail got to the top of the ramp, then did a flying tackle at Vinnie, taking him to the ground.
"Still riding free, punk?" Stoker said, sitting on Vinnie and holding his arms.
"As always coach." And threw Stoker off him with a flip. Throttle, Modo and Rimfire got in on the rumble, which left the two humans and Carbine watching this male bonding ritual, which to D.T. looked like a cross between tag-team wresting and a rugby match.
Carbine sighed. "Something's never change."
"You got that right. Welcome back Carbine." Charley extended her hand.
Carbine grasped it and gave her a handshake. "Nice to be back, Charley. Who's your friend?" Indicating D.T.. Before he could introduce himself, the melee had rolled closer and Stoker snared him with his tail, pulling him in.
"Back in a bit." He managed before going down under the mice. Carbine dove forward, intent on pulling the human clear, but Charley stopped her and just smiled.
"Just sit back and watch the fun." Carbine looked a little dubious, but settled back and watched. Her fears were unfounded as she watched the human hold his own in the fight, which wound down with all of them laughing. D.T.'s shades had been knocked off and he was keeping from looking at anyone until he found them.
"Looking for these, citizen?" Stoker was holding the shades in his one hand and D.T. kept his head lowered.
"They'll have to find out sooner or later, D.T.." Throttle walked over to stand by his mentor. Modo brought Rimfire over and Charley brought Carbine. D.T. stood, but kept his eyes closed, then opened them. Stoker, Carbine and Rimfire jumped a bit, then he did an open mouthed grin, fangs gleaming.
Stoker was speechless and D.T. plucked his shades from his hand. "Thank you." And put them on and closed his mouth. All three were still in a state of shock. D.T. reached out and closed Stoker's mouth for him. "Careful or your jaw will lock like that."
"But wha..who..how..?" Stoker managed, while Vinnie just about bust a gut laughing at seeing Stoker stunned and speechless.
Throttle put his arm around the elderly mouse's shoulders. "I think some explanations over hot-dogs and rootbeers is in order." And steered him towards the garage with the others close behind. Over the next hour, D.T. related his story to them. The three had recovered from their own shock and had relaxed.
"Those are your real teeth?" Rimfire was getting a closer look at D.T.'s mouth and eyes.
"Yep. Throttle asked me the same thing the first time I showed them." He slipped his shades back on, then picked up an unopened can of rootbeer and punched two holes in the top using his fangs. "Rootbeer?" he held the can out to Rimfire.
"Cool." Rimfire could see the holes were real and D.T. opened his mouth, tapping his fangs to show they weren't glued on.
"And you're telepathic?" Stoker was sitting on a barrel. D.T. walked over and put his hand on his arm.
~Yes. But I have to be touching someone for it to work. I can talk over a distance with the guys some now, but I have to concentrate to do it.~ he heard in his mind. Throttle relayed what was said before D.T. broke contact.
Stoker chuckled and shook his head slowly. "And here I thought I'd seen everything."
D.T. chuckled with him. "No matter how much you think you have seen, there is always something out there to surprise you. I know I was when I first saw these three furballs." Vinnie punched his arm, grinning.
"So now that you know about our friend here, what brings you three to earth?" Charley asked from where she sat on the couch.
Carbine answered her. "We launched a major offensive against the Plutarkians and gave them some heavy losses. It's been quiet ever since, so I arranged a two week leave for us."
"Meaning she twisted a few arms and cracked a few heads." Rimfire whispered, making Throttle grin and the others chuckle softly.
"Same old Carbine." Throttle walked over and hugged her.
"You'd better believe it, babe." And slipped out of his arms and twisted one of his arms around behind his back. "And you are going to show me good time while I'm here or I will personally put your tail in a sling." She growled.
Throttle acted like it was hurting him. "Sir, yes Sir!" He yelped. She let go, smiling at him while the others just grinned. The rest of the afternoon was spent talking and getting to know D.T. better and he them. His bike jolted Rimfire and he scanned them into the memory and they spent some time going over it thoroughly. Day quickly turned into evening and they had dinner, talking more comfortably with each other. The subject of sleeping arrangements was brought up and it was decided Carbine would stay at the garage with Charley while Stoker and Rimfire would go back to the scoreboard. They did some riding around, Stoker, Carbine and Rimfire having brought their own bikes. They stopped at the overlook to the lake and just watched the sunset for a while.
A faint howl came to them. "You got wolves around here?" D.T. looked at Charley.
"No, but we do have coyotes. You sometimes see them around. Why?"
He smiled. "I wonder if they feel like serenading us tonight?" Charley was going to ask what he was talking about, before he lifted his head and let out an incredibly realistic howl that had hair and fur on the backs of necks lifting. They sat there as howls, yammers and barks came to them, washing over them in an eerie concert.
The sounds ended after a while and they just sat there, a little stunned. They had heard music before, but this was wilder, more primal and touched something deep inside them all. "It's been a long time since I did that." He said when the last howl faded.
"Sweetheart, where did you learn to howl like that?"
D.T. smiled softly at Vinnie. "I learned back home and did it in the OutRiders. Plus a little practice."
"Can you teach me to howl?" Rimfire came over and sat.
"Sure." And did a long, low howl.
Rimfire tried it and couldn't get the pitch right. "Relax your throat and tilt your head back more. You're forcing it. Let it echo in your chest." And D.T. repeated it.
Rimfire tried it a few more times and got it right when another coyote answered him. The others tried it and soon had the coyotes howling again. "Very good class. Next, we learn how to do a puma scream."
"What's a puma?" Modo asked, rubbing his throat some. It took a little practice to get it right, but it was fun.
"Another name for a cougar or mountain lion." D.T. replied, whittling on a stick he'd found.
"What does that sound like?" Stoker shifted where he was sitting. D.T. smiled, then let out an inhumanly blood curdling scream that had hair and fur standing on end.
"I don't even want to know how you did that." Stoker started to smooth his fur down, as did the other mice.
D.T. grinned toothily. "You'd be amazed just how well it wakes people up in the morning. It really bothers some people to do it, but it doesn't me. You guys would probably end up with sore throats from trying it."
Rimfire attempted it and did end up with a bit of a raw throat. D.T. reached into the pouch on his hip and pulled out a palm sized, blue plastic box. He hit a button on the side and a small black oblong dropped into his hand and passed it to Rimfire. He put it in his mouth and tasted licorice, honey and something he couldn't identify. "These are good."
"Just a candy from back home. I like how they taste and they do help heal a sore throat." Rimfire sucked on the candy some more and felt the soreness in his throat ease. They sat there, talking quietly as evening darkened and the stars started to appear and the moon came up. Charley pulled the jacket she had brought with her a bit tighter as the evening cooled off. They talked some more before riding back to the garage. Charley and Carbine bid Throttle and the others good night and they headed for the scoreboard. D.T. said he would use his bedroll and Throttle gave up his bunk for the couch. They settled in, Rimfire in the bunk and Stoker using D.T.'s bed. Both were out in seconds.
Modo looked happily at his sleeping nephew. ~He's grown so much. It seems like only yesterday I used to hold him in my arms.~ he tucked Rimfire in.
~For as strong as you are Modo, you probably still can.~ D.T. stood beside him, talking with them over the link they had. Modo chuckled softly. ~Time seems to fly at times. One day, you were teaching him how to ride a bike, now he's learning to field strip weaponry and fight for his life.~
Modo sighed sadly. ~Yeah, but I would give anything to be able to go back in time and change things, so he could grow up happy and not have to worry about all the fighting going on now.~
~I second that.~ Throttle added, getting a couple of blankets and a pillow out of the closet and headed for the couch. The old one had finally bit the dust after one too many football games, so they scrounged around and found one just about like new that was going to be thrown away. And it was a lot more comfortable than the old one was.
~Me too. And stopped this from happening.~ Vinnie tapped the right side of his face.
Modo and Throttle nodded sadly. ~What about you, Cub? Anything you would want to go back and change?~ Modo looked at D.T..
~The past can't be changed, we can only learn from it. If we could go back and change things, what effect would that have now? Charley would never have met you guys. I would never have met you guys. We have a saying in the Riders; learn from the past to help the present to stop a problem in the future. There are things I wish I could go back and change, but I can't. I can only learn from them and try and keep it from happening again. ~ Modo sensed he was holding something back, but didn't pry.
He yawned and stretched, with the others following suit. D.T. grinned. ~Modo, if I could bottle that yawn and sell it, I could make a fortune.~
~Sorry, he's our client. You'll have to talk to my associate and me about marketing rights.~ Throttle put his arm around Vinnie's shoulders, both of them grinning.
~Lets do lunch and crunch some numbers.~ D.T. grinned back at them and they headed for bed. Everyone had slipped off to sleep, but D.T.. He lifted the medallion up and ran a fingernail around the edge. A soft click and it opened, revealing two pictures inside. He looked sadly at the one image for a long time, before closing it and settling down to sleep. If anyone had still been awake, they would have seen a single tear slowly run from his eye.
Modo awoke to the sounds of grunts and soft thuds. He came instantly awake and popped the laser cannon in his arm, sweeping the room. He relaxed when he saw Rimfire and D.T. sparring, using a combination of hand-to-hand combat and gymnastics. Throttle, Stoker and Vinnie were also watching. "Morning bros." He flipped the blanket off himself and got up, hopping down from the bunk and walking over to them.
"Looks like sleeping beauty decided to join us." Vinnie chuckled. Stoker put him in a headlock.
"Morning bro. Don't mind the punk." And squeezed, making Vinnie squirm.
"Morning Modo." Throttle hi fived him, then turned back to the two combatants.
"What's up?" he looked at his nephew and the human. Both were just wearing their pants and were barefoot (or mousefoot in Rimfire's case) and squaring off at each other, slowly circling.
"Rimfire and I woke up here a while ago and saw D.T. awake. Rimfire watched him workout and decided to join him and it got turned into a combination lesson and contest to see who could knock the other first." Stoker let Vinnie go.
"How they doing?" Modo watched as Rimfire did a series of flips towards D.T. and tired to knock him down with a flying kick. D.T. simply dropped and rolled under Rimfire, extending his leg upward to hit him. The mouse twisted in mid-air so the kick missed and both of them ended up squaring off again.
"Pretty evenly matched. They've been at it for about twenty minutes now and neither has managed to beat the other." D.T. leapt forward with a combination of a strike to the chest and kick to the legs. Rimfire blocked both and grabbed his arm and pulled, throwing D.T. across the room. He twisted and spun in mid-air, landing in a crouch facing Rimfire.
"Not bad, Rimfire. Now we get serious." And did a series of hi-speed flips and handsprings towards the mouse. Rimfire braced himself for a blow, which never came. When D.T. was about six feet from him, he jumped up and over him, clearing him by three feet easily. He twisted in mid-air, before landing and diving forward to take the younger mouse down with a foot sweep, then pinned him. "Got yah." He rolled off him and did a handspring to his feet.
"Oh man." Rimfire groaned as he to did a handspring to his feet. D.T. bowed to him and Rimfire returned it after a brief hesitation.
D.T. came over and patted his shoulder. "Cheer up. You did real well. Not many people can throw me their first time against me."
"Yeah, but I thought I had you with that throw." Rimfire stretched to loosen his shoulders up.
D.T. smiled at him. "Like I told the guys. Rule one; never underestimate me. Rule two; study rule one closely." And headed for the storage closet he had built. He pulled the one door open and rummaged inside for a minute, emerging with a clean T-shirt, black with a leopard done in blue on the front and back. "I'm about ready for some breakfast." The others stomach started snarling. "Sounds like feeding time at the zoo." He chuckled.
"Breakfast sounds like a great idea." Stoker headed for the bed and the rest of his clothes. Everyone got dressed and headed for the garage. Carbine and Charley were already up. "Morning ladies." He walked over and bowed to them.
"Good Morning Stoker." Charley giggled.
"Morning Stoker." Carbine answered, finger-combing her hair back. She was wearing Charley's extra bathrobe as she had just had a shower. The others said their greeting to the ladies and were answered. A wonderful smell hit them and they started to drool. Charley walked over to the counter and retrieved two large covered platters. She pulled the lids off, revealing pancakes, eggs, sausages and hash browns, enough for an army, or five hungry mice and one human. They dug in and the food rapidly vanished. Charley stood to clean up and the mice and D.T. pitched in, but not without some grumbling from Vinnie about how un-macho this was.
Rimfire spoke up. "Uncle Modo? Could we go to the zoo? I've always wanted to see what Earth animals looked like for real, not just pictures and movies."
Modo smiled. "I don't see why not." Rimfire let out a whoop. It had been along time since the two of them did something together, like a normal family.
"Why don't we all go? We could use a break and you guys haven't been to the zoo before." Charley suggested. It sounded like a terrific idea and they agreed to make a day of it. They all cleaned up and the mice went to the closet and grabbed longer coats to hide their tails and were off. The trip didn't take long and soon they were walking around the zoo. Throttle and D.T. had left their blasters and holsters stored in compartments on their bikes as to not attract attention. The mice were amazed at seeing, for the first time, animals they had only ever seen in books and TV. D.T. had left his helmet with his bike and was wearing a black baseball cap with the OutRider wolf logo in white on it.
Sounds of various animal came to they walked and looked at the various exhibits. Lunch was held at the snack bar and they decided to split up and meet later at the snack bar. Modo and Rimfire, Throttle and Carbine, Vinnie, Charley and Stoker and D.T. went solo. Charley hooked arms with Vinnie and Stoker and took off with them. Throttle and Carbine walked off hand-in-hand. Modo asked if D.T. wanted to join them. He said this was his time to get to know his nephew again and said he would be okay and wandered off, but Modo couldn't shake the feeling he wanted to join them, but was afraid to, but put it out of his mind as Rimfire tugged him off.
The day went on with all them enjoying themselves and learning more about earth wildlife. One way or the other, they all ended up at the tiger exhibit, which is where they found D.T., leaning on the railing and watching the tigers in the enclosure. "They are so beautiful." He said, watching one tiger slowly walk across the enclosure. Vinnie sniffled and sealed up his visor, his allergies starting to act up. "All that power and strength, but tempered with tenderness. Jaws that can crush bones and claws that can rend flesh, but can carry and play with a cub so gently. Like steel wrapped in silk." He started to say something softly under his breath.
"What's that you're saying?" Carbine leaned forward on the railing.
"A poem I learned in school."
"Mind saying for us?" He smiled shyly, then started to repeat it, with Throttle and Modo joining him.
Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deep or skies
Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? And what dread feet?
What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp?
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make thee?
Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
A small round of applause started from the other zoo patrons near them, making D.T. blush and Throttle and Modo sketch a bow. The tiger that had been pacing stopped and sat in front of them and did that slow blink that cats do, like he approved of the poem.
"I didn't know you guys knew poetry?" Charley looked at Throttle and Modo.
"We don't." Throttle and Modo had told the others about the surge that they'd experienced after D.T.'s call home and the brief flashes of memories they'd been having ever since. "The poem must have come across and just popped up now."
Carbine wrapped an arm around Throttle. "Well wherever it came from, it was beautiful."
D.T. smiled slightly. "Kind of surprises people to think a rough and tumble OutRider would know poetry." He pulled his cap and shades off to wipe his eyes, then turned his head sideways at the same time the tiger did. The resemblance was uncanny. The same white cheek ruffs, the same chin, even the same unreadable expression at times. He caught them staring. "What? Have I got something stuck in my teeth?"
"No, just that it's been a long day. We should head back to the garage." Charley said, elbowing Vinnie before he could say anything. D.T. flipped the cap and shades back on.
"Okay. I'll catch up with you guys at the front gate. I want to checkout another exhibit before we leave." D.T. started to walk away.
"Meet you there in a few." Charley called out. He waved back and kept walking.
"What was the elbow for?" Vinnie barked.
"To stop you before you could say what you were going to say." Charley looked hotly at him.
"What? That he looked like a cat? Come on! We all could see the resemblance." Vinnie stated and they all nodded agreement.
"Yeah, but did you want to insult him? He doesn't really insult you? Sure, he comes up with some good-natured insults at times, but he never hurts you guys. He has no where else to go? He can't go home without risking being killed in the process. He accepted you guys and you him. Sure, he is a little strange at times. You guys are also. But he doesn't care. Why should you?" Charley finished heatedly.
Vinnie was a little taken back by Charley's speech and backed off a step. "She's right punk. You bros fought alongside all kind of folks during the war and didn't care, why start now?" Stoker stood beside Charley.
Vinnie sighed, knowing he'd been beat. "Your right. But there is still something about him that bugs me."
"Well, keep it to yourself for now. We can talk about it if it becomes a problem." Throttle said. "We should get moving. He'll probably be waiting for us at the front gate by now." They had been talking for several minutes and started out. Sure enough, he was standing at the entrance to the zoo.
"I was wondering if I was going to have to send out a search party for you guys. Take a wrong tun at the polar bears?" He joked.
"Nah, wolves." Modo chuckled. He smiled at them and they headed for their bikes and headed home.
The rest of the week passed with them all just relaxing and having fun. Modo and Rimfire went fishing like they used to do back home. Vinnie and Charley showed Stoker around and the two mice wrestled whenever they got a chance. Throttle and Carbine went off to be by themselves (Hey, this is a family oriented fic! YOU figure out what they did.) a few times. D.T. was left the odd man out, staying at the garage and taking care of business so Charley could have a break from work. They had invited him a few times, but he just said they all deserved a break so to think nothing of it. The leaves had started to turn brilliant shades of orange, yellow and red and D.T.'s mood changed even more. They had come back Friday afternoon and found him sobbing softly, holding the medallion tightly in his hand so his knuckles were white. But he said it was nothing and brushed them off, going for a ride and not getting back until noon Saturday. Even then he didn't say anything, just stared at the wall, holding the medallion tightly in his hand.
"We've got to do something, bros. He's starting to give me the willie dees." Modo looked at D.T. sitting at the table. A crushed rootbeer can sat beside him. Instead of opening it, he'd ripped the top off with his fangs and chugged it before making an aluminum pancake out of it.
"I know what you mean." D.T. had snarled at Throttle earlier. A deep, throaty snarl that had made him back off in fear.
"I'll talk to him." Stoker came forward. The bros respected Stoker as their old unit commander, but also as a surrogate father at times when they needed advice or someone to talk to.
"You sure coach? You're taking your life into your hands if you do?" Vinnie, for the first time in his life, was actually worried.
"Hey, I've lived my life. Might as well go with gusto." He walked over to the table and pulled a chair around and sat on it backwards, resting his arms on the back and looking at the brooding human. "So, something bothering you Cub?" He was met with silence. 'No snarling. That's good, I hope.' "Look. Your bros are worried about you and they can't help you if you don't let them." He stared at D.T.
D.T. at there in silence for several minutes and the others waited for the storm to break. "Your right." He said softly. Stoker motioned the others to come closer. D.T. opened his hand and took the medallion from around his neck, for the first time since meeting the guys. He ran a fingernail around the edge and it opened, revealing it was a locket. He passed it over to Stoker. Inside were two pictures. One was of D.T. Hair loose and hanging in thick waves and curls about his shoulders, with a broad toothy smile on his face.
The other was another human male. Long, slightly wavy black hair cut off to just above shoulder level. A narrow but handsome face that had that eternally young looks to it. Green eyes that were so intense, but also gentle. And a smile that seemed to light up his face. "Nice looking guy." He passed the locket around. Throttle and Modo recognized it as an image from a memory. "Who is he?"
Tears started flowing from D.T.'s eyes and his voice cracked. "His name is . . Was, Aaron Sanders." He accepted the locket back from Charley and held it tenderly.
"What do you mean, was?" Throttle had a feeling he knew the answer, but wanted to hear it from D.T..
He cleared his throat. "He . . Died, six years ago today."
"I'm sorry." Stoker reached across the table and patted D.T.'s arm. He smiled sadly at him. "He must have been someone special."
"He was. You couldn't have asked for a better friend or partner." Stoker heard the slight emphasis on the word partner and pieces fell into place.
"You cared for him?"
"Yeah. He was going to ask me to marry him." D.T. touched the picture gently.
"WHAT!!" Vinnie bellowed, Then started to rant. "Oh man! I can't believe you! To think we had a guy who was gay among us all this time and didn't even know it! I knew there was something not quite right about you!" He pointed his finger accusingly at the human.
D.T. put the locket back around his neck and grabbed his helmet. "I need some air." And put it on, heading for the garage.
Vinnie followed, keeping up his verbal assault. "Yeah! Get out of here! Man! I can't believe I was friends with one of THEM!" you could hear the venom dripping from his voice.
D.T. stopped dead in his tracks, then started to shake. What happened next defies description. He spun and threw the one disc on his jacket. But instead of making the usual soft whooshing noise when it flew, this one screamed as it streaked across the room and embedded itself in the wall beside Vinnie's neck. All this happened in a fraction of a second. They all noticed this disc had blades extending from around its circumference. Vinnie looked at the disc stuck in the wall a fraction of an inch from his neck, then back at D.T. who was walking over towards him, a fierce look on his face. He paled even whiter than his fur was.
"IF I EVER, hear you talk about people like that again I'll.." his voice faltered when a tiny spot of green appeared on the side of the mouse's neck. D.T. got back out of Vinnie's face, shock and fear showing. He ripped the disc out of the wall with a screech and stuck it back on his jacket. "I..I..I need to get out of here!" and vaulted onto his bike and peeled out, the scream of the tire sounding extra loud in the silent garage. For a full minute no one moved, then Rimfire headed for his bike.
"I'm going after him!" And fired up.
"No Rimfire! He'll hurt you!" Modo ran over to his nephew
"No, he won't. Trust me on this one Uncle Modo."
Modo looked at his nephew. "When did you get so stubborn?"
Rimfire chuckled. "Must run in the family." Modo patted him on the back.
"Just be careful." Rimfire nodded, then took off.
The other's shock was wearing off and Charley got out the first aid kit and guided a shaky Vinnie over to the couch and cleaned the side of his neck. "Looks like he just scratched you. He could have taken your head off." Vinnie flinched when the disinfectant hit the wound. Throttle and Modo were over inspecting the gouge in the wall. The fact that the wall was concrete made it all the more amazing.
"I didn't know those discs had blades in them." Throttle saw that the blades had cut the concrete, not broken it.
Modo sighed. "I did. I came back the one-day and found D.T. practicing with them. He was bouncing them off the walls and ceiling hard and fast. Then he threw them at a couple of boards he had set up, shearing them off before the discs stuck in the wall. He pulled them out and noticed me and told me that it was a part of the discs he didn't like to use, but had to from time to time."
Throttle nodded. "I hope he'll be OK."
"Man, I still can't believe he didn't tell us. He's probably been watching us all this time. I'm surprised I didn't notice it sooner." Vinnie spoke for the first time.
Stoker chuckled. "Right, just like you didn't notice back on Mars?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Vinnie stared at Stoker.
"It means, punk, that there were mice in the resistance who liked guys and you fought and partied alongside and never even noticed. One of them even carried you off to bed when you fell asleep after the one bash." Vinnie got a look of disgust and shock on his face. "Ramp down. Nothing happened. They told me they would never force themselves on anyone and I think D.T. is the same way."
"I kind of think he likes both men and women." Carbine walked over to Stoker. "The other day at the zoo, I watched how he looked at people. I could tell when he saw someone he liked."
"But, why didn't he tell us?" Modo looked puzzled.
"Maybe he was afraid of getting this kind of reaction. Don't forget his world is different from ours. And like he said, the earths in the different dimensions might look the same, but are slightly different from the other." Charley put the kit away.
"He's holding back a lot of pain. What he needs is some understanding friends right now, not someone who'll judge and hate him." Stoker glared at Vinnie, who shrunk back into the couch, holding his hands up in defense.
"So, I guess we just wait for Rimfire to call us." Carbine sat down on a bench and the others sat or stood.
The silence lasted for a few minutes. Then Vinnie looked at Stoker. "You knew?"
The older mouse smiled. "I suspected, but didn't want to say anything. He was obviously trying to keep from telling you guys because he was afraid of your reaction. Plus, I think he's home sick and the anniversary of his friend's death is gnawing at him. It just chose now to come to a head."
Vinnie looked at Throttle and Modo. "You two also?"
Throttle answered for the both of them. "I had a feeling, but he never came on to any of us or made any move. He was more afraid of us than we were of him. He has no friends right now other than us. I think he's been alone for a long time, too afraid to make friends for fear of hurting or loosing them. Remember what he told me after he tested the Hyper Thrust? We're his friends and family right now. He cares about us and wouldn't hurt us. He gave me his word on that. He left because he hurt you Vinnie and was also scared he would hurt us. I also think he respects us too much to try anything."
"I got that feeling also. It was like he liked us, but was afraid to loose the only friends he has right now by saying or doing something stupid. I know I couldn't handle living alone for the rest of my life." Throttle put his hand on Modo's shoulder.
"Your right, big fella. No one deserves to live the rest of their life alone. Everyone needs their friends and bros."
The silence lengthened to feel like several years. When the radio finally beeped, they almost hit the roof. Modo recovered and dove for the mike. "Rimfire!"
"I'm here, Uncle Modo."
Modo let out a loud sigh of relief. "Are you okay and where are you?"
"I'm fine. I'm about forty miles outside town in the conservation area." Crackled from the radio.
"What's D.T. doing?"
"He's just sitting, looking at the forest."
"We're on our way." And broke connection and everyone scrambled for the bikes. They pulled out and headed for the area; not aware a pair of unfriendly eyes was watching them.
The ride seemed to take forever, but they soon spotted Rimfire's and D.T.'s bikes and then Rimfire. They parked and Modo ran over and checked his nephew over. "I'm fine. He never touched me."
Modo relaxed. "Where is he?" The rest of the group joined him.
"Follow me." Rimfire headed for a trail and they followed. Time seemed to slip away as the hiked and soon came to a small clearing overlooking a view that was spectacular. D.T. was sitting with his back against a tree, looking out over the forest.
"Hey gang." He said softly.
Throttle moved forward. "Hey yourself. Mind if we join you?" D.T. just shrugged and they all sat. The silence lengthened before Vinnie stood and walked over.
"Umm, D.T.?" Vinnie was fidgeting. He turned and looked at the mouse. "I.. just want to say.." D.T. lifted his hand.
"Don't. I'm the one who should apologize. I didn't mean to take it out on you. My worst fault is that I have an explosive temper when I get really ticked off. Can you forgive me?"
"Only if you can forgive me for having a big mouth." Vinnie extended his hand.
D.T. smiled at him and extended his hand, grasping the mouse's. "Forgiven." Vinnie smiled back before releasing the hand. They all sat for a while, the tension they felt before leaving the area. Vinnie kept acting like he wanted to say something to D.T. but didn't know how to say it. "You're wanting to know if I'm gay?" The question shocked Vinnie and he jerked to look at D.T.. He chuckled. "No, I didn't read your mind. It was obvious you wanted to ask me. No, I'm not gay, I'm bi. Means I like both men and women." Carbine smiled smugly.
"Why didn't you tell us sooner?" Throttle came over and sat.
D.T. sighed. "I was afraid to. I was so new to this world; I didn't know how you guys would take it. I didn't want you to hate me. You accepted my eyes and teeth, but I didn't know how you would accept this, so I just kept quiet and didn't say anything. I just didn't expect it to come out quite like this." He pulled the locket out and opened it, looking at Aaron.
"How did he die?" Throttle asked quietly.
D.T. drew a deep breath. "An explosion. It was also the day I found out he wanted to marry me."
"You want to tell us about it?" Throttle hoped he hadn't pushed too much.
D.T. looked at the picture for a long time. "I guess if you know this, you might as well know the full story. I met Aaron four years before he died. Before that, I was strictly a loner, teaming up from time to time with other Riders when I had to. I met him at the one seminar and we got along great and decided to become partners, then later we became lovers. Those were the happiest four years of my life. Everything seemed more perfect when he was around. I wanted to ask him to marry me, but was afraid to." He drew in a deep breath.
"I still remember like it was yesterday. We had just rode into town as we needed supplies and to check our mail. We also had a few errands to run so we split up and agreed to meet later at the local burger joint for lunch. I got my stuff done and headed there. Aaron was there showing something to two other OutRiders, Nicky and Terri."
"Who are they?" Vinnie had sat down beside Charley.
"A mated pair of OutRiders. Two of the most beautiful and deadly ladies you would ever want to meet."
"You mean two women were married?" Stoker asked, slightly surprised.
"Back home, same sex and regular weddings are common. We are taught love is love and it didn't matter whether you loved a man or a woman. That is how we are brought up. This world is so different in that regard. You look on same sex relationships as unthinkable or unnatural. I was brought up to accept it."
"So why did you get so mad at me?" Vinnie asked.
D.T. sighed. "Back home, there is a group of religious fanatics called The Order of the True God. They believe that same sex relationships are unholy and that the people are unfit to be seen by the True God. What makes them so bad is that they will torture a person to death, saying they are purifying that person to be accepted into the Gods loving arms." Charley gasped and Modo looked repulsed.
"Can't you stop them?" Modo's eye began to glow.
D.T. sighed. "We try, but there are just too many followers. The first time I ran into a group was when I got a call about the abduction of two little girls they had found experimenting. I rode after then as fast as I could and found them with one girl tied to a stake that had been lit on fire." His face took on a hard look.
"I battled my way through and got the girl off the burning stake and then untied other one." He sobbed. "She had burns to almost all of her body. Bad ones. I was going to call for an ambulance when she asked me to end her suffering. She was in so much pain and was trying not to cry. It is the one thing an OutRider hates to do is the Mercy Shot. The one duty no one is ready for, Mike told us." He sobbed again. "I pulled my blaster and set it for the strongest stun setting it has. I asked her if she was ready and she just nodded. My hand was shaking as I held the gun to her head and pulled the trigger." His voice had faded to a ragged whisper and tears were streaming from his eyes.
"I looked at her and she had the most beautiful smile on her face, like she was sleeping and having the most wonderful dream. She was only twelve years old." He trembled and drew in a shuddering breath. "I knelt there on the ground, gently stroking her face while her friend knelt there and cried. Then the Head Priest and his acolytes came up, saying she has been forgiven and was now with the True God and saying some other garbage. I promptly lost it and beat him and his acolytes to within an inch of their lives. I would have killed him if another Outrider hadn't stopped me." D.T. stopped and wiped his eyes before continuing.
"There were other Riders there, securing the prisoners. I looked at the little girl, then leaned over and threw up. I kept at it until all I had was the dry heaves and my stomach was cramping. The Rider who had stopped me got me over to the side and set me down. He said don't worry, you get used to it. I asked him if you really did. He looked at me sadly and said no, you don't." Throttle, Modo and the others were trying to get rid of the bad taste in their mouths at what they had been told.
"They would harm a little kid!" Modo's eye was blazing and he had popped his arm cannon. D.T. put a hand on his arm.
"I felt the same way Modo, and wanted nothing more than to kill the scum myself. But I realized that would have made me no better than them." Modo's eyes slowly dimmed and he retracted his cannon. "Our laws back home may not be perfect, but I still swore an oath to follow them."
Modo lowered his arm. "I know, but to think that scum like that got away with what they did."
"Who says they did?" D.T. grinned at him. "In prison, one by one, they all met with mysterious accidents that were never solved, so justice was served." Modo grinned back at him. "Now you know why I got so mad, Vinnie. People are more ready to fear something than try and understand it."
Vinnie nodded. "I might not understand it all just yet, but give me a little time, Okay?" D.T. gave him a thumbs-up and nodded.
"What happened after you met up with Aaron?" Rimfire prompted quietly.
"Whatever he was showing Nicky and Terri he quickly put in his saddlebags and waved to me. I rode over and parked. He'd order me a monster burger, a load of fries and one of the best strawberry milkshakes you could ever have. I can still taste it, even now." He paused for a minute.
"We were talking and joking some, when we got a call about a theft of a truck load of produce. It was not far from where we were, so we mounted up and took off. We caught up with it on a lonely section of highway. There was two 4x4's riding shotgun on it. We pursed them and they turned off onto a side road and rammed through a steel gate. We followed and proceeded with the takedown. Nicky and Terri got the one 4x4, I got the other while Aaron took the truck." His voice cracked slightly, then continued. "Aaron headed for truck and I stopped and was walking over to the 4x4. Something made me turn and watch Aaron pull up by the truck's door, when the brightest flash I had ever seen went off in my face and what felt like a freight train hitting me, throwing me backwards. I don't even remember hearing anything before I blacked out." Tears were once again streaming down his face.
"I came to, it must have only been a few minutes I was out. I managed to stand and looked around. The 4x4 was lying on its roof, the people inside were unconscious. I looked at the truck where Aaron had been and all that remained was a pile of flaming wreckage and a bunch of craters around it. I staggered over and my foot hit something. It was a small wooden box. I dropped to my knees and picked it up." He stopped to choke back a sob. "My hands were shaking as I opened it. Inside were two simple rings with a single diamond set in them. I don't know how long I knelt there and everything was a blur until I woke up in the hospital. I was pretty banged up. Three cracked ribs, a concussion, minor internal bleeding and lacerations to my legs."
"It wasn't until a couple of days later I found out what happened. Seems we stumbled into an old Government run weapons testing area that had been forgotten. What was set off was an insidious little device called a chain mine."
"What's that?" Carbine sat beside Throttle with an arm around his waist.
"It's like a regular mine, but a field of them can be linked by a radio frequency and they can be programmed to detonate in any pattern you want. Aaron must have hit the triggering one. There wasn't much left of him or the truck." He sobbed quietly and Throttle reached out and patted his arm. "We had a ceremony for him, then I went to his parents to deliver his personal effects and the Last Letter."
"What's the Last Letter?" Modo had an arm around Rimfire's shoulders.
"It's a part of our log we keep that is for our parents if something happens to us. I rode to his parent's home. Shawn and Sarah, his parents, came out and hugged me and we went in. Joey, Aaron's little brother also hugged me as he knew how close his brother and I were. I sat on the couch with Joey keeping me company while they read. They asked me if I had read it and I said no. Shawn said I should so I did. It was the usual, what we had done and were doing, personal thoughts and just chitchat. When I got to the last part, it floored me. In it, Aaron was saying he was going to ask me that evening if I would marry him and that he knew you (meaning his parents) would approve. I had met them not long after we became lovers. Joey liked me cause I was like another older brother to him. Sarah sat on the couch beside me and just held my hand as I broke down and cried for the first time since getting out of the hospital." He removed his shades and wiped his eyes.
"I don't know how long I cried for, Sarah sitting beside me and soothing me and I eventually tapered off and just sat there. Joey suddenly piped up, saying he would marry me and I had to smile and laugh. I told him wait until he was older. He said he was older, he had just turned thirteen. I told him lets just wait a while, he might find someone else. I got up and said I should go. His parents said I would always be a part of their family." He looked around the forest. "We buried Aaron in a place a lot like this."
"In a forest?" Stoker asked.
"OutRider tradition. We protect the land, so it is only fitting we be buried in the same land we vowed to protect. I carved the inscription in the stone marker myself. Every year, on the anniversary of his death, I go back and talk to him and visit his parents for a while. I guess I won't be going back this year." He leaned back against the tree.
They sat in silence for a while. "If your thoughts can reach Mike, couldn't your words reach Aaron?" Charley spoke up. D.T. looked at her, when a leaf fell off the tree and landed in his lap. He looked at it and smiled.
"It would seem that the Ancestors say they will." He stood and walked over to a rock off to one side of the clearing. He knelt and removed the locket from around his neck, opened it and hanging it on the rock. "Hey Aaron. If you are hearing from me, that means another year had passed. Hope you are doing OK. Thing for me have changed quite a bit." And went on to tell how he came to be in a new world and meet the Biker Mice. "Yeah, I can hear you now, you have been just a tad busy. Yeah I guess I have been. I still haven't found anyone who could replace you, and I probably never will. But I have new friends now and I guess you could call them my family as well. It's making it a lot easier to adjust to being here. You'll always have a special place in my heart Aaron, but maybe it is time I make room for some other people who I have come to care for. Take care of yourself and, as my new friends would say, Ride Free Citizen." He then touched the first two fingers of his right hand to his forehead, his chest, lips and then moved them forward toward the picture. He picked up the locket, closed it and put it back around his neck before walking back towards everyone.
"What was that with your hand?" Vinnie and the others had stood as he got closer.
"Old tradition when you say goodbye to someone. It means, you will always be in my thoughts and in my heart and may my words always reach you and comfort you."
"How are you feeling now?" Modo looked at him.
D.T. smiled at him. "Surprisingly, like a huge weight had been lifted off me. I haven't felt this good since I was with Aaron. I guess I'm starting to heal, but it will be a long time before I'm over it completely." Throttle came over and put his arm around his shoulders.
"Anytime you feel like talking, we'll be here for you." And they all crowded close. A smile it up the human's face and a tear ran down his face.
"Thanks guys. And the least I can do is return the favor. But right now, lets go home."
"Oh, I'm afraid you vermin and company are not going anywhere." Said a repulsively familiar voice. They all spun and saw Limburger, Karbunkle, Grease Pit and an army of goons with weapons pointed at them. They all jumped and spread out, but could see there were more goons than even they could handle, unless they had their bikes. The mice whistled. "Don't bother. We secured your bikes not long after we got here. They can't help you, now." Limburger started to laugh and Modo started to get mad.
"Easy Modo. There's too many for even us to handle." Throttle put his hand on Modo's arm.
"Wise decision. Grease Pit, if you would be so kind."
"Sure ting, Boss. All right! Hands up where we can see them, and move!" Grease Pit pointed with his blaster back down the trail. The mice and humans complied and started back down the trail. When they got to the bikes, they could see they had been effectively tied down with what looked like a heavy metal mesh anchored to the ground. They were herded over towards a large metal cage off to one side and forced in. As soon as the door clanged shut, Modo launched himself at it and bounced back, landing on his tail. Rimfire and Vinnie helped him up. Throttle was over pounding on the door lock with his Nukenuks.
He gave up after a second. "Plutarkian glass steel. No way we can break it."
"And the cage is too well anchored for all of us to lift." Stoker motioned to heavy spikes that had been driven deep into the ground along the sides of the cage.
Limburger chuckled evilly. "Yes, and now you mice and friends will have a front row seat to your own demise. Plus, I get rid of two of the Freedom Fighters leaders as a bonus. Doctor, would you be so kind as to inform our "guests", of what is in store for them."
"Yes, you're Aged to Perfectioness. We are going to start a few fires up wind of you. When they reach you, we will have some nice fuzzy mouse-kabobs." Karbunkle wheezed and rubbed his hands together.
"But, why destroy a forest?" D.T. was standing against the side of the cage, farthest from Limburger.
"Toothpicks." The purple suited Plutakian pulled one out of his pocket and picked at something in teeth.
"TOOTHPICKS!" D.T. bellowed and launched himself at Limburger, the cage clanging loudly. "You slimy, despicable!" and launched into cursing in a language they didn't understand but it sounded extremely vulgar. Throttle and Modo had to drag him away from the bars, it was like trying to hold onto a wildcat, but they eventually got him calmed down. "Sorry. My temper got the better of me."
Throttle patted is shoulder. "No sweat. With ripe pike over there, it's understandable." D.T. nodded and settled back against the side of the cage, arms crossed, but never took his eyes off Limburger.
"Doctor, I wish to have a video record of this moment. Have a camera set up to record them to the last. Once I show it to High Chairman Camembert, he is certain to give me a promotion." The fish rolled the head of his cane between the palms of his hands (fins?) with glee.
"At once, your Individually wrapped Sliciness." And ordered a goon to see about it. "But, what if the mice somehow escape?" he wheezed.
"Hmmm. There is that slim possibility." And ordered a goon to keep watch. When the fire was close enough, he would radio and they would send someone to pick him up. "Oh, and just to make it more interesting." He handed the goon the key to the cage. "See how well those rodents can beg for their lives when the fire gets close. That should add something to the show." He laughed malevolently before him and the rest of his entourage sped off, leaving the one goon standing watch. Afternoon slowly turned to evening and the occupants of the cage spent some time going over it carefully, looking for some tiny flaw they could exploit, but none were found so they just sat and waited. This evening was getting cooler than average and Charley had forgotten to bring a jacket so she was feeling the cold more than the mice were. D.T. handed her his jacket.
"But you'll freeze?" Charley said, shivering despite having Vinnie holding her.
He just smiled. "Cold doesn't bother me that much. Now put it on, please?" Charley looked skeptical, but accepted the added warmth the garment provided. They all huddled against the one corner of the cage for warmth. The mice not feeling it as bad, but for Charley's sake. D.T. wasn't with them; he was squatted on his heels, watching the goon who was pacing back and forth well out of tail reach of the cage.
If it weren't for the odd plume of vapor coming from him, you would almost think he was a statue. Watching, waiting with infinite patience, like a jungle cat on the hunt. He finally stood and walked over to the mice and knelt. "I think I see a way out, but I'll need some help to pull it off," he said quietly. The mice were going to ask him how when he waved his hand and reached out and touched Throttle. ~This way, it's safer.~
~What've you got in mind?~ Throttle answered him. Because they were all touching, they all heard what was said.
~I need Rimfire's help and for you guys to keep an eye out in case some goons show up. And whatever you do, don't freak out by what you are going to hear or see. Vinnie, you might want to put that bandanna of yours over your nose.~ D.T. picked up three small stones from the ground in the cage and handed these to Rimfire. ~When I tell you to, toss these one-by-one into the bush in the directions I tell you.~ Rimfire nodded and moved over to the side of the cage and D.T. joined him.
The moon was full and shining brightly, illuminating the area with a soft, silvery light. "Nice night, huh?" He called out to the goon.
"Shaddup!" The goon growled, returning to his patrol.
D.T. looked at the moon. "Full moon tonight. Some say animals in the forest do strange things under its influence. Strange and terrible things." The goon paused briefly in his patrol, before starting again. His voice had taken on a slightly unreal quality. He barely moved his lips, but the words seemed to be louder than what they should be. Soft, but they still carried across the clearing to the goon who was looking around. D.T. did a feral grin and crouched beside Rimfire. He pointed to the right when the goon looked left and Rimfire threw the stone. It crashed into the brush, making the goon jump and sweep the area with his weapon.
"The coyotes are the worst. I've seen them attack a human being." He crooned.
"Yeah right. Those mangy flea-bags wouldn't dare come near me while I got this!" He brandished his blaster.
"Ahh, but a pack is different. There can be from five to fifteen in a pack. Can you shoot them all when they come from all directions?" The guys were starting to get the creeps, but said nothing and kept watch. "They are out there you know? Watching from the shadows. Waiting for right time to strike. To them, you are just meat. They have more patience than you realize. They will wait until you are unaware and strike. You might get three or four of them, but can you get them all when they get to you and pull you down?" The goon was looking around nervously and a D.T. signaled Rimfire to toss another stone. The goon whipped around and you could see he was starting to panic. He was looking at the forest and slowly backing up without realizing it.
Throttle spared a glance at D.T. and his jaw dropped. The guy normally wore a loose-fitting T-shirt, but this was tight on him, muscles that weren't there before stretching the cloth like a drum so he looked like Modo. He reached over and tapped Modo and he looked, shocked. The others noticed and were astonished. The muscles were slowly building on his arms and upper body. He stood and now had shoulders anyone would die for. His arms were as big as Modo's real one. They watched as white and black striped fur grew out of his arms. Vinnie almost sneezed if Charley hadn't caught it in time and he pulled his bandanna over his nose.
He kept up his monologue. "Pushing you down, tearing at you until you are too weak to fight back, feasting on your warm, bloody flesh." He signaled and Rimfire tossed the last stone over the goon's head into the bush in front of him. He jerked and you could see he was terrified. He backed up, keeping an eye of the tree line until he was within arm reach of the cage. D.T. moved, grabbing the goon around the neck and pulling him back against the bars. "You scream and I will feast on your heart!" He snarled in his ear, extending a hand in front of the goon's face that was now tipped with long, black and very sharp looking claws. The goon did the only sensible thing he could do. He fainted. "Hmph, they don't make goons like they used to." And quickly searched him for the key.
He found it and by now his arms and body were back to normal. He let go of the goon and went over and unlocked the door. "Lets go." They were all to stunned to move. "Move!" He growled. "We don't have much time!" That jolted them out of their paralysis and the filed out of the cage and headed for the bikes.
"What the?" Throttle started to say.
"I'll explain later, we have to move and stop Limburger before he can start the fires." Charley was over inspecting the mesh.
"This is going to take some time to cut off. It's pretty dense stuff." Modo was burning it through with his arm cannon when D.T. whipped his head around, sniffing deeply.
"Oh no! He's started the fires! I can't wait for my bike. Charley, you ride it and catch up to me!" He got ready to head off.
Throttle grabbed his arm. "I'm going too. You're going to need help." D.T. looked at him for a moment, then nodded.
"All right. But you'll never keep up to me on foot. You're going to have to ride." D.T. was visibly twitching now, eager to head off.
"What? My bike won't be free for a while." Throttle asked.
D.T. smiled. "Not what, who."
"What do you mean? Who am I going to ride?" Throttle was starting to get annoyed by not getting a straight answer.
"ME!" D.T. roared. Bones audibly cracked and stretched, skin and muscles reshaping themselves and expanding as D.T. grew in stature, clothes flowing like water to disappear. Thick white and black striped fur rapidly covered his body. His change made them all back off as he grew to an eight-foot tall monster of a tiger on digitigrade legs. But the change didn't stop there. He fell forward onto his arms as they and his legs thickened, his body lengthening and deepening. His black and white tail was shaking as the change continued to rip through him. It finally ended after a few seconds.
What was standing before them was a white tiger, as tall as Modo at the shoulders. They watched dumb-founded as it shook itself and slowly padded over to them. Vinnie was digging at his bike and managed to get his helmet off and put it on, sealing it up before his allergies got the better of him. Throttle reached for his blaster and Modo brought his arm cannon up. The cat stopped and lay down, regarding them with calm, ice blue eyes.
Throttle stopped himself before he pulled his blaster and held a hand up to Modo, stopping him. He slowly walked forward, his hand held out in front of. He reached the cat and it leaned forward and sniffed his hand, then extended a washcloth-sized tongue and daintily licked it. Throttle then reached up and scratched the animal behind the ears, a deep rumble rewarding his efforts. "D.T.?"
~ Cub, to my friends.~ came to his mind as the cat leaned into his fingers. Throttle was shocked again, but realized the tiger wouldn't harm him.
"Its OK. It's still D.T., I think." He called back to the others and they slowly came forward. Throttle scratched somemore. "But how?"
~I'll answer all your questions later, but right now, we need to stop those fires and Limburger. Throttle, grab your helmet, you'll need it. I'm carrying a homing beacon so the others can follow me. Tell Charley to activate the scanner on my bike and homer, it'll lock on to me and you can track us.~ Throttle relayed the information to Charley and grabbed him helmet. He walked over to D.T. ~Get on my back, just behind my shoulders.~ He jumped up and onto the cat's back, feeling steel-hard muscles under surprisingly soft fur.
~Scoot back a bit.~ He did. ~Purrrfect. Now lean forward and get a good grip on my fur.~ Throttle did and the cat stood up. The tan mouse shifted a bit and got his balance as the cat walked around to allow him to adjust. ~Please hurry. Time is of the essence.~ The tiger walked over and gave each of them a gentle nuzzle, making Vinnie squirm, before turning and starting to run in the direction of the fires.
Throttle held on tight as they flew through the forest, trees streaking past them. The only sound was an almost silent thump of the cat's paws as they hit the earth. The mouse leaned low on his back, feeling muscles' undulating under him instead of the throb of a cycle's engine was a very different experience. The cat dodged and leapt over trees that Throttle could just see. He almost let out a shout as they came to a ravine and effortlessly sailed up and over it, the tiger never missing a stride in its run as he landed. ~Some hiker is going to have a field day when he finds my tracks.~ D.T. laughed in his mind. Throttle laughed and let out a whoop. This was what he glimpsed from the memory. Racing trough a silent forest under a full moon. It more exhilarating than he realized and started to laugh from the shear joy of it. He then threw back his head and howled. Laughter filled his mind and he leaned down more, almost lying on the furred back. Soon the smell of smoke reached him and D.T. had slowed to a trot. Flames were visible to them both. D.T. was sniffing and trotted off to one side. ~What's up?~
~I smell water, I'm thirsty.~ D.T. soon reached a spot where a small spring bubbled gently from the earth. He stopped and Throttle slid off his back to the ground, his legs a little sore. The cat lowered its head and lapped at the water, tongue making a soft plop as he did. Throttle walked around to loosen his legs up and felt his own throat was a bit dry. He walked over and retracted his visor and knelt. The tiger lifted its head and licked its muzzle and moved back. Throttle scooped up a cupped palm of water and sucked it down. It was cold and fresh and quenched his thirst. A low moan reached him and he watched a reverse of the change D.T. had gone through until the human was lying there on the ground.
"You OK?" Throttle asked softly as he helped D.T. stand.
"Yeah." He wobbled a bit. "A major change like that takes a bit out of me. I'll be OK in a minute." He leaned against Throttle for a bit, then stood on his own.
"Why didn't you stay in that form? Would have been better to fight the goons?"
"Too big a target. I can move better like this, plus white fur sticks out real well in light." He motioned Throttle to follow him and set off down a trail, keeping low. The mouse copied him and they soon came to where Limburger and his goons were working. "They're using napalm. I can smell it." He pointed towards a trailer off to one side of the area. A goon emerged with a flame-thrower strapped to his back and headed for an unburned section of forest and proceeded to ignite it, the flame-thrower making an eerie whoosh as it spewed flames over the trees.
D.T. tapped his shoulder and pointed to a trailer behind one of the buggies. Fire extinguishers were loaded on board. "Must be to save their own bacon if there's an accident. We can use them. Follow me." And slipped out of cover, Throttle right behind him. They made a fast dash to the trailer and crawled under it. D.T. slipped out and checked the contents before sliding back under. "Foam. Perfect. If we toss them into the fire and puncture them with our blasters."
"We can snuff part of the fire from here and slow it down until the others arrive." Throttle completed the sentence. D.T. just grinned at him and slid out, grabbing two of the big red cylinders with Throttle doing likewise. "I'll go right, you go left."
"Roger Dokey." D.T. gave him a thumbs up and, after checking that the coast was clear, sprinted towards the fire to the left with Throttle heading right. He reached where the fire was burning brightly. He stopped and heaved one of the cylinders into the blaze, then pulled his blaster, aimed and fired. A blossom of white foam erupted from the ruptured canister and quickly snuffed the fire. He did the same with the second and the fire diminished. A shot streaked by him as the goons finally noticed him. He dove for cover behind a burned out stump, returning fire.
Limburger appeared from the one trailer. "Blast! Those rodents must have escaped their fiery fate!"
"Dere's only one of dem, Boss!" Grease pit came over with a flame-thrower strapped to his back.
"Well then, since it is only one. Grease Pit? Offer our guest a home-cooked meal."
"Quite simple, <INCINERATE HIM YOU DRIPPING DIMWIT!!" Limburger bellowed, almost making Grease Pit loose control of the weapon and flambe' him.
The dripping goon advanced on Throttle, the other henchmen keeping him pinned down. No other cover was in sight and he couldn't run, he'd be ash before he took two steps. An inhuman scream made the dripping goon stop and a red cylinder arched over his head before rupturing and dousing the flame-thrower and covering him with fire foam. Another arched and burst, creating a smoke screen for Throttle to make a break for it. Blaster fire gave him cover as he headed for the trailer Limburger had emerged from. D.T. was around the side, firing at the goons to keep them distracted. Throttle slid in beside him. "Safe!" D.T. said, then fired a few more times at the goons. "You OK?"
"Yeah." Throttle crouched beside him and started firing. "Almost became the blue plate special though."
"No one barbecues my friends." He fired at a flame-thrower a goon had dropped and it exploded, sending a brilliant fireball into the sky, scattering the goons. "That should buy us some time. Where are they?" As if on cue, a howl reached them and a pair of missiles also, blowing one of the buggies to pieces followed by seven hi-tech bikes. Six with riders, one without. The riderless bike rolled over to Throttle and beeped it horn and flashed it's lights.
"Hey Lady. How's my girl?" The bike revved it engine and Throttle got on board. D.T. headed for his bike, but instead of getting on board, he punched something into the console and a panel along side the engine opened and he removed a plastic wrapped package and a black box.
"Can you guys keep them occupied for a while? I need to take care of something." And gave a feral grin.
"No problem." Vinnie popped a wheelie and sped off.
Throttle looked at D.T.. "What are you up to?"
"Oooh, just a little surprise for fin fanny." And grinned wildly. Throttle grinned back and he and the others sped off to do some major mayhem. The goons were trounced and Limburger was on the run in his limo. Throttle showed them the trick D.T. had thought up and they did a little skeet shooting with the rest of the cylinders and soon the fire was extinguished.
"Well, that was fun, but Limburger got away." Modo groused. D.T. walked over and patted him in the shoulder.
"Cheer up. I left him a little surprise." D.T. smiled at him toothily.
"What?" Modo smiled at him.
"I'll tell you later, but right now, I'm starved." That was the general consensus of everyone. Charley got back on behind Vinnie and D.T. pulled on his helmet, but motioned Charley to keep the jacket, saying he would be OK. They headed back to Chicago and an all night diner and proceeded to put on the feed bag. After a very late dinner, they swung by Limburger Tower. D.T. pulled a small black box from his belt pouch.
"What's that?" Rimfire looked on with interest.
"Oh this? This is a remote detonator." He extended the antennae and armed the device. He then punched something into keypad below the screen on his bike.
"Hello?" Said a familiarly fishy voice.
"Greetings tuna tush. I am ever so sorry that things didn't work out for you. Some friends here want to say hi."
Everyone crowded around his bike and bellowed. "HELLO, STINK CHEESE!!"
"As you can hear, everyone is just fine. And now I want to say, good bye." And pressed the button. A loud whump and a fireball raced up the tower with a bellowing fish in the background, leaving behind only a metal skeleton, before collapsing.
"Oooh. I like it, sweetheart, I LIKE IT!! What was that?" Vinnie was practically drooling.
"A little something a friend showed me how to make. It's called a French Kiss. A mixture of napalm and plastique. Does a great job of incinerating stuff." D.T. put the remote away, then yawned, his jaw cracking. "I don't know about you guys, but I need some serious Z-time right now."
"I second that one." Stoker replied, yawning himself. Everyone was in full agreement, so they headed off for bed, D.T. saying he would answer all their questions in the morning. Charley returned his jacket to him at the garage and the bros, Stoker, Rimfire and D.T. headed for the scoreboard and crashed, big time.
They all slept in late that day and had a late breakfast/early lunch at the garage. They were all finished and were sitting back with rootbeers, except D.T., who was drinking a large glass of milk, saying he needed the calcium. An uncomfortable silence stretched out before Throttle leaned forward on the table and fixed D.T. with a stare. "OK, no more secrets. Just what are you?"
D.T. looked at his glass of milk before speaking. "I'm a weretiger." He lifted his glass and took a drink.
"So we just have to keep an eye on you when there's a full moon?" Vinnie leaned back and crossed his arms. D.T. smiled around his glass and before it hit the table, a human sized white tiger was sitting between Rimfire and Stoker, wearing D.T.'s clothes and shades. They all jumped and Vinnie sneezed.
"You've been watching too many horror movies. The full moon has nothing to do with the transformation. I can trigger it whenever I want. Or however much I want." A human was once again sitting there at the table, but he flipped up a white and black tail to rest over his shoulder, the tip twitching gently in front of his chest. They all looked at it. "I felt left out with you mice having tails, so now we're even." Stoker leaned back and saw there was a hole in the seat of D.T.'s jeans for his tail, before the tip flicked across his nose, making him jump. "Take a picture, it'll last longer."
Stoker chuckled and rubbed his nose. "How come your clothes don't rip?"
"We can bond the clothing to us, making it like a part of us. This way, it can also alter itself to fit us when we partly change to a point. When I change fully, it becomes a part of me, saves on the tailor bill. I used to go through a pair of pants a week before I learned to bond them to me. You should be around the Academy somedays, it's like a zoo."
"You means all OutRiders are weres?" Charley asked. D.T. reached for his saddlebags he had brought with him and pulled out a photo album. He opened it to a picture that showed a group of people wearing jackets like D.T.'s. All of them were clustered around a sigh that read, OutRider Class of 1986. D.T. was very recognizable and he pointed out Mike and several of his classmates. "These are all weres?"
D.T. flipped to another photo. This one showed several different colours of wolves. Cats of various species, and a couple of bears, all standing on two legs and grinning toothily at the camera. He pointed out Mike, a big old grizzly. "That's partly how he got the name Poppa Bear." He flipped to another picture that showed a jet-black wolf with green eyes standing beside a white tiger.
"Aaron?" Rimfire asked, pointing.
D.T. nodded sadly. "Yeah. They said we were two of a kind." He saw the puzzled look on their faces. "Coats of fur as black as Aaron had are quite unusual. His fur was so black; it looked purple at times when the light hit it right. And to be born a white tiger were is extremely rare. I'm the first were born in my family tree in two generations and the first white period."
"What's so special about a white tiger were?" Modo looked at D.T..
His tail flicked slightly and he petted the tip. "To be born a white, the chances are 1 in 100,000 births. And even then it's still a fifty/fifty chance among the people carrying the cat gene for weres. Pure white hair and/or ice blue eyes are the most noticeable traits. I got the eyes and some hair, plus the fangs. We are also stronger, faster and more agile than a normal were in human form without having to do a little subtle shifting." And he had a build like Modo, then went back to normal. "They said when I was born, I was closer to our cat ancestors than most. My eyes for one, then the hair and fangs."
Throttle put the pieces together. "Then your snore really isn't a snore then?"
"Yeah. I..purr. I do it in my sleep and when I'm content or just to comfort myself at times if I don't catch it." He ducked his head, blushing slightly.
They understood now why he acted like a cat at times. The way he would stretch, how he would lay in the sunshine at times or curl up somewhere comfortable. "So your closer to being a cat than a human at times." Carbine asked from across the table.
"It's my blessing, and my curse at times. But I've learned to live with it. It's part of what makes me, me. Just don't get me near catnip." And picked up his glass.
"Why?" Vinnie asked, grinning.
"Don't even think about it, fuzz face. It blitzes me out big time. I was at a party at a friend's house and they had a cat. Someone, I don't know who, tossed me the catnip-filled mouse toy. All I can remember is the smell, then I woke up on the couch with a hangover. Since then I never go near the stuff." He sighed. "Look, I can understand if this makes you uncomfortable and if you want me to, I can leave."
Throttle looked at Modo, Vinnie, Charley, Carbine, Stoker and Rimfire in turn. Each one smiled and nodded. "You won't have to leave. Your family now. We learned in the Freedom Fighters that friends and family are important. You've been alone for a long time, never letting someone get close to you for fear of loosing them. Now you have us and we have you. Your family, now and forever, bro." D.T. had tears running from his eyes, but he was smiling.
"You must be a mind reader in your off hours. You got it all in one. I have been alone for a long time since Aaron died and I was afraid of getting close to someone for fear of loosing them, but when I met you guys, even that first day, it felt right somehow. And with you calling me bro, I guess I can admit to myself I do have a real family now." He reached across the table and bumped fists with Throttle, then grinned. "I just have one question for Stoker."
"What?" The older mouse asked cautiously.
"Can I borrow the keys to the spaceship, Grandpa?" Stoker groaned and tackled him, with the other guys joining into the battle royal.
Charley sighed and looked at the ceiling. "Why me?"
"Why not?" Carbine answered from her place at the table, before leaning back and watching the guys try and put each other in the hospital. The rest of the last week of their stay was a lot more relaxed. D.T. went with them now when he was asked. He gave them all tiger back rides in his big cat form and played with them in his normal sized cat form, even though Vinnie grumbled about cat hair getting into everything. He did give D.T. some catnip the one-day because he didn't believe him. They all watched him get totally stoned on it and lay around blissed out for a couple of hours, purring and mewing. They picked him up with some difficulty and deposited him on a cot in the back room to sleep it off. [Ever tried to pick up a totally relaxed cat? Like picking up warm Jell-O.] He had come out much later hungover slightly and grumbling about getting back at Vinnie. A day later, he did.
He was working on his log and munching a candy of some kind and Vinnie asked if he could have a piece. D.T. gave him one and Vinnie bit down, then headed for the kitchen and gulped water. Seems he was eating Candied Ginger, his favorite munchie. They all tried it and found it to be quite hot.
He still had his mood swings, but they weren't as severe and they helped him, even it was just to sit with him for a while and keep him company and he did the same for them. It seemed to bring them closer. The week passed far too quickly for their liking and soon it was time for the Stoker, Carbine and Rimfire to head home. The bros, Charley and D.T. had splurged a bit and put on a huge spread for them instead of the usual hot-dogs and rootbeer. After the meal, they sat around for a bit, relaxing and talking, trying to make the evening last a bit longer.
"I guess we should get going." Carbine stood with them all doing the same.
"Where'd the time go? Seems like you just got here." Modo looked down at his nephew.
"I know Uncle Modo, but there's a war on. We can't forget that. It was great seeing you again. It was just like the old days." He hugged Modo tight. Modo returned the hug and held him, patting his back.
Throttle hugged Carbine. "You take care, pretty lady." He flicked her bangs back out of her face.
"You too, handsome." And kissed him. He ignored the sounds the rest were making; Carbine was all that mattered to him right now.
Stoker put an arm around Vinnie's shoulders. "Keep riding free, punk."
"Always coach. Always." And gently punched him in the stomach. D.T. stepped back so as to not disturb them. "And where do you think you're going, mister." Stoker went over to him.
"I didn't want to disturb you guys." D.T. ducked his head at the older mouse.
"No way. You're family now. Remember?" All of them came over and huddled around him.
"Yeah. I forgot for a second. You all take care." He moved his hand to forehead, heart and lips. The three returned it and then Stoker hugged him, patting his back.
"Keep an eye on these guys for me till I get back." He let go, then punched D.T.'s arm lightly.
"Will do. You just come back in one piece, bro." He held out his hand. Stoker gripped it, like they were going to arm wrestle. A memory of playing in the first snow of winter with a black wolf came to him.
"Whoa, what was that?" Stoker looked at D.T. with amazement.
"My happiest memory. Aaron and I used to do it and I figured he would want me to pass it on. A memory back home is the greatest gift you can give someone, because it comes from the heart." They all touched him or Stoker and experienced the memory. Sights, sounds and smells came to them as real as if they had done it themselves. They all slowly let go. "I give you all this memory to thank you for giving me new memories."
"You gave us something too. New worlds to think about and a new friend and bro to help us out with the fight. You'll always have a home with us. Always." Stoker tightened his grip and D.T. returned it, before they let go.
"Yeah. SOMEONE, has to keep these three out of trouble." D.T. grinned and the bros pulled him down. Stoker and Rimfire looked at each other, them dove in.
Charley stood beside Carbine. "You know something? I get the feeling things are going to be just fine around here now."
Carbine nodded. "I think your right." The fight ended and they all picked themselves up and dusted each other off, before heading outside to the ship. The three entered the ship and appeared in the cockpit window. The engines fired and soon it was starting to lift. D.T. threw back his head and howled, with Throttle, Modo, Vinnie, Charley and the mice in the ship joining him. Soon the ship was out of sight, but they kept howling, until someone yelled knock it off. D.T. turned to see an overweight, balding guy leaning out the window of a building a ways over. He grinned toothily, and then did a puma scream that made the guy blanch and pull in, shutting the window with a slam.
Vinnie chuckled. "You are definitely one bad mammajamma." He pounded D.T. on the back.
"Always, Vinnie. Always." He thumped him on the back and they headed in. They helped clean up and soon the guys headed for the scoreboard after saying good night to Charley.
Throttle woke up partway through the night for some reason. He looked over and saw D.T.'s bed was empty. He heard something just on the edge of his hearing and followed it to the top of the scoreboard. D.T. was sitting, wearing just his jeans and looking at the stars. "Hey Throttle."
"Hey yourself. Mind if I join you?" Throttle stood climbed out of the hatch.
"Be my guest." D.T. indicated a spot beside him. Throttle came over and sat. He noticed a small candle burning in front of him and a flask sitting beside the candle.
"What are you thinking about?" he settled in.
"Just how much things have chanced for me. I now have friends on another world other than home." He started to sing no words, just soft sounds and tones. This was what Throttle had heard and settled in and just listened. The song faded after a few minutes.
"What was that?"
"Tone singing. Just something I do. Makes me feel better." He looked at the candle.
"What's the candle for?" Throttle pulled his knees up and hugged them.
"A tradition in the OutRiders. When a rider dies, you light a candle and have a bottle of whiskey nearby. When the candle goes out, you offer up a kind thought and have a drink of whiskey." A slight breeze sprang up and the candle was extinguished. D.T. picked up the flask and opened it. He held the flask to the stars before taking a drink. He handed it to Throttle. "Care to join me?"
Throttle took the flask and thought of all the Freedom Fighters who had died in battle and the friends he had lost, then lifted the flask to the stars before taking a drink. His throat ignited as the liquor made contact and he coughed. D.T. patted him on the back and supported him. He handed the flask back and it was capped and the candle picked up. The two headed back down to bed.
~Think you'll ever get back home?~ Throttle pulled his blanket over himself.
~I don't know, but, if I could right now? I don't think I would. I have a family here now and I feel like I truly do belong. I'll stay for as long as you guys can put up with me.~
Throttle chuckled softly. ~That could be a very long time.~
D.T. purred happily. ~I truly hope so. Pleasant dreams, bro.~
~You too, bro.~ Throttle settled in and, with D.T.'s purr rumbling softly, drifted off to sleep, dreaming about the future and what it might hold.