Xander finished tightening the last bolt on the digging machine and checked the new implant, then smirked and slid out from under the machine, hopping to his feet so he could pack up his gear. Now if he had done everything right, like Charley had taught him, then they'd be able to track the machines and control them by remote control.
"Hey! Whatcha doin' in here, mousie," Greasepit said, scowling at him. "Youse look familiar."
"I'm one of the slaves," he said grimly, mentally thinking up any and every excuse he could. "I had to fix a few of the machines so they'd work right."
"They trust youse guys to do that?"
"Well, yeah, since they've got this explosive chip in my head," he said, with a general wave toward his scalp. "It's not like I can fight 'em." He backed up when Greasepit moved closer. "There's no need to get that close."
"I like youse. Youse cute for a mousie," he said with a leer. "Since you've got to behave and all."
"No one said I couldn't fight back," he said quickly, backing off further. "After all, my chip's only to make me fix things, not do people. I'm not that sort of slave, dude."
"Fine. I'll ask Karbunkle about youse, see if I can have youse." He smirked at him. "Then we'll sees what sorta slave you are." He looked him over. "You done?"
"No, I've got to hike to the next site and work on a few that're broken down in the field."
"I'll give youse a ride."
"Um, no thanks. I'm not taking that chance," he said, backing away further. "Really, walking's good for me. I used to smoke and all, I need the exercise."
"Yeah, but I'd be much more fun," he leered. "I've even got my own lube and stuff."
Xander gave him a once-over. "I can see that," he said dryly, shuddering. "How would you get it out?"
"Youse won't need ta, I'll take real good care of ya if ya goes with me."
"Um, no. Because they could explode the chip for me not going to my next assigned task, really. Not that it wouldn't be a good thing at the moment, but I don't want my brain to explode so I'm going to disappear and do my work. You have a nice day." He turned and ran out.
Greasepit went up to the main office. "Mr. Limburger, sir, I've got a request," he said formally. "One of the slaves is really pretty and I'd like him."
"Why should I?" he asked coldly.
"Because my contract's comin' up again, Mr. Limburger sir, and I could ask for that as my pay," he offered. "He's a pretty white mousie and everything."
"Ask Karbunkle if he's done with him," he sighed with a wave of his hand. "The first time your performance starts to slip again, I'm going to kill him in front of you."
"Fine, sir, thank you, Mr. Limburger sir." He headed down to the lab. "Er, Doc, you got a minute? Mr. Limburger said I could have one of the slaves if you were done with 'im."
"Which one?" he asked, looking at him. "We've only got three."
"He was white."
"White? We've only got gray ones." He walked over to the computer, pulling up the files. "Unless he's on loan, we did borrow a mechanically inclined one."
"No, that one," he said. "Go back." Karbunkle looked at him and flipped back. "Not the one with the mask, the one before him."
Karbunkle pulled up the file, looking it over. He pushed a button with a sigh. "Your lump of melting cheesiness, we've had a rodent infestation," he reported. "Greasepit saw the one that's the little brother to the one who wears the mask and rides that stupid racing bike."
"WHAT!" He came down on the elevator, looking at the file. "That's the one you saw?" Greasepit nodded, flinging grease off his head. "Where was he?"
"He said he was a mechanical one and he was fixin' machines, that he was supposed to be in the field. Can I have him?"
"If we can catch him, you're more than welcome to him," Limburger Junior, Marshal, said grimly. "He must be with the others." He looked at the file. "He's listed as the protege of the tan one, correct?" Karbunkle nodded. "Then capturing either of them should net us that one. Do so." He stomped off. They could not ruin his latest plan. They simply couldn't.
Karbunkle studied the files. "Greasepit, if you see him again, have him come up here, even if you have to carry him. I don't care what condition he appears in," he said smugly. "Just get him up here within an hour of finding him."
"Thank youse, doc. That's very generous of youse. Hes cute." He walked off, going to order the other goons to bring him that one if he was seen again.
Xander walked in the back door of the garage and headed up to the couch, climbing in with his big brother, who had the sniffles and had been banished to this couch to whine away from Throttle. He climbed under his blanket and hid. "I need fur dye."
"Why?" Vinnie asked, lifting the blanket. "You know I'm nearly naked down there, right?" Xander shrugged and burrowed against his stomach. "What happened with your brilliant plan, bro?"
"Greasepit propositioned me. He wanted to buy me from Limburger."
"Eww." He shuddered. "Oooh, Cheese, that's nasty!"
"Yup, which is why I need fur dye and I'm not moving from the house without an escort for a very long time. Hopefully he's got short-term memory damage."
"Not really," Vinnie offered. He picked up the phone, calling Throttle, letting Xander hide for now. "Hey, bro, Xander's back. No, he's hiding and said he needs fur dye. Apparently Greasepit wanted a Xander toy of his very own and went to ask Limburger for him." He snickered. "No, he's over here hiding under my blankets." He sneezed. "Thanks." He hung up and shifted down to cuddle him. "It'll be all right. We'll protect you from Greasepit. Even if we do have to set him on fire or something." Xander shuddered and snuggled in as hard as he could. "Ease up on the chest, little bro, I need those ribs." Xander eased up some when he heard footsteps coming up the stairs. "Hey, Modo."
"Where's Xander? He okay?"
"He didn't touch me, I told him I had an exploding chip in my head and they'd set it off if I didn't go to my next job," he muttered.
Modo reached down to pet him on the back. "It'll be okay, Xander."
"No it won't. He went to ask Limburger to give me to him." He uncovered his head to look at the big, gray mouse. "He made a joke about having lube."
"Eww," Vinnie muttered, shuddering again.
"Yeah, my feelings exactly. I need fur dye." He covered his head again. "You shouldn't get chilly."
"You're plenty warm enough," Vinnie assured him, patting him on the back. He looked over as Throttle came up the stairs. "He's fine. Just freaked."
"I'd be freaked too," he agreed, looking under the blanket. "Want a cuddle?" Xander lunged at him, wrapping himself around Throttle's waist and neck. "Sure." He sat down, holding him, patting him gently on the back. "You feeling better yet, Vinnie?"
"Not really," he admitted, sneezing again. He coughed a bit. "I need medicine."
"We'll call Enamel later, when he gets home," he promised, stroking Xander's back. "He can't have you. I won't let him." Xander shuddered in his arms. "It's all right, it can't be that bad."
"He made a joke about having lube and how he'd take good care of me. He went to ask to be given me."
"We've got to find Greasepit a date," Modo said grimly. "That's too horrible a fate for anybody." He covered Vinnie back up so he didn't have to see his red lipstick kisses boxers.
"I need fur dye."
"Sure, babe. We'll look into a temporary dye job," Throttle promised, stroking his back to calm him down. "Did you get it done?" Xander nodded. "Good job, did you get any of the ones in the field?"
"No, I ran really hard back here," he admitted. "They'll know I'm not one of theirs."
"Point," Throttle agreed, patting him on the back. Baby Anya crawled up the stairs, then used Modo's leg to stand up. "You're not supposed to be anywhere near the stairs, young lady. Your father's going to get tail shedding if he sees you doing that." He let her crawl into his lap and she wiggled between them, giving him a triumphant grin. "Some days, I wonder if you're not really her. My Xander." She started to fuss. "You can cuddle him but he's still mine."
"Is my daughter up there?" Stoker yelled.
"Yeah, she wanted the Xander for her own personal use," he called down. Stoker walked up there to repossess his daughter. "Greasepit wanted to keep Xander. Made a joke about lube and everything."
"Need a shower, mini punk?" he asked patiently.
"No, I told him they'd explode the chip in my head if I didn't get onto my next task. He went to ask Limburger for me."
"Hopefully he says no. How many did you get?"
"All the ones in the garage. Last night I did the ones we found on those three blocks, but I can't get to the last few sites now with them probably knowing who I am."
"He was thinking a temporary fur dye," Throttle told him.
"It might work once," he offered. "We need to try those out."
"I did what Charley told me," Xander defended.
"Yeah, but it's still experimental, we don't know how far away we can be," Throttle reminded him. He gave him a squeeze, then looked up at their mentor. "Anya walked up and wiggled between us and gave me this look like she had stolen him from me," he said with a small smirk.
"She'll have to get used to not having a Xander of her very own," he said grimly. "We'll try some of them out tonight," he promised.
"They've got to be on and we've got to be within a hundred feet," Charley said as she came up the stairs. "You okay, Xander?"
"Greasepit freaked him out by wanting him," Vinnie told her, sneezing again. "I hate being sick."
"Don't worry, bro, we hate you being sick too," Throttle assured him. "You're the only one who fusses worse than Xander when you're sick."
"I just wanted to be left alone," he defended. Then he belched and groaned. "Sorry."
"What did you have for lunch?" Vinnie asked, sounding amused and grinning.
"Calamari." Xander put his head back down. "Can I be a tan mouse for a few weeks?"
"Sure," Throttle agreed, smirking down at him. He looked at Charley. "Calamari, isn't that like sushi?"
"Deep fried squid rings actually," she said dryly. "No steak places?"
"Ah. Better you than me," she said with a shrug. "We're having raspberry ice cream for dinner. The son demands." She went to change clothes then down to the kitchen to get something to eat. She heard the doorbell and looked out there, frowning. "Modo!" He came jogging down the stairs. "I believe his suitor is back. I'm letting you guys handle this one." She walked back to the bottom of the stairs. "Guys, guess who's here."
Vinnie hopped off the couch and walked down the stairs, going to make sure the slimeball didn't touch his little brother. Greasepit stared at him and he smirked, crossing his arms over his chest. "Yeah, I'm pretty, I can still kick your tail." He coughed a bit, then spit outside. "You touch Modo and I'm going to prove it."
"I don't want him. I want the other white one, he's pretty and untouched so far," he said smugly. "Doc said I could have him. So hand over our mouse."
"I don't think so," Modo said dryly. "Throttle?"
"Getting undone by squid-boy." He walked down the stairs, brushing the shed fur off his stomach. He looked at Greasepit. "Touch my man," he encouraged, activating his nuke knucks on the back of his gloves. He hit him, sending him flying across the street. "Try it again," he encouraged.
"Ya know, for this we should go destroy the tower again," Vinnie said, grinning at him. "Can we? It'll make me feel better."
"Sure," he agreed. They smirked at Greasepit in unison, backed up by Rimfire and Dawn, who were on the road. "Cars, kids." They parked and he got off his bike, leaning against it. "See, Greasepit, you're not touching one of us."
"I'll have that white mousie yet. Mr. Limburger said so," he warned. "He's mine now!" He saw Charley came out and gaped. "Youse pregnant," he said in awe. "Wow. I've never been around one of you."
Vinnie hit him this time, following him down to beat the snot out of him. "Mine, don't touch," he growled. Throttle and Dawn pulled him off and he smirked at him. "You're not good enough to touch any mouse, Greasepit. I'd leave sooner instead of in a body bag."
"He'd just slide home," Dawn told him with a small shrug. She took a running kick at his side, cracking something by the sounds she heard. "There, I feel better now. That's almost as good as sex."
"I can give you better," Greasepit offered.
She shrieked and pulled a blaster, going to beat him with it and her hands. He nearly caught her but she wiggled free and got him in the nuts, making him groan and fall to the ground. Then she shot the tip of his nose, making him howl. "I'd leave, slimebag. I'm not the most nice woman."
"Are youse having one of those girl moments?" he asked.
"Your pitiful dick is next, then you won't have to worry about having someone to force." He knee-crawled backwards, guarding that part of him before she shot him there. "You've got about ten seconds before I fire again." He hopped on his trike and headed away as fast as he could. "Pitiful, absolutely pitiful," she sneered after him. "I say we go destroy the tower and turn it so it hits him."
"Hasn't killed him yet," Throttle said, taking the blaster and tossing it to Rimfire. Rimfire looked at it then tossed it back to her. "We can go take the tower down tonight." She nodded, walking inside on his arm. "Charley?"
"Can I have some?" Dawn asked as she walked into the kitchen. "After I clean up of course?" she asked dryly, heading for the bathroom to clean up the nastiness he had left on her. She came out in her bra tanktop and a pair of boxers of Rimfire's. "Sorry, now have to do laundry." She took the bowl Charley handed her with a grin. "Thanks, babe. How's Xander?"
"Hiding," she said dryly. "Greasepit wanted him to be his love muffin."
"Eww. That's nearly enough to destroy my appetite for the next year." She ate a bite of ice cream, looking at Throttle. "How can we destroy it tonight, Brain? Narf!"
"You're weird," Rimfire said, shaking his head but he was grinning.
Throttle chuckled. "We'll figure that out after dinner. We'll do it after hours. Xander could use some excitement to calm him before bed." She grinned at him. "How you feelin', kid?"
"Nasty and sore. The same as yesterday, but a bit better. Oh, Micah wants me in tomorrow. I reminded him about graduation being in two days but he said it'd only be for the afternoon. He's flying us in."
"That's fine," Throttle agreed, sitting down at the table. "Xander, how did you want to see it dissolved this time?"
"Can we drop something on it like acid?"
"Let them hallucinate it to death?" Dawn called back.
Xander came down the stairs. "Not a bad idea, but fairly mean," he said dryly. "Besides, they won't get to see Spike like you did."
"Yeah, remind me of that again," she said dryly, smirking at him. She winked. "Who did you see?"
"Satan telling me I'd make a pretty consort and bedtoy. Made sure I didn't do acid again," he quipped, sitting down with the baby. "Stoker's in the bathroom having a prostate moment. He really should get that checked."
"We don't have one of those, little brother," Vinnie assured him. He patted the baby on the head. "Hi, Anya." She babbled and grinned at him but kissed Xander on the nose. "Yeah, you love him. What're you gonna do when you've got to go home again?"
"Wail the whole trip," Stoker said as he came down the stairs. "The same as last time." He took his daughter back, weathering her fussing and hitting him, but grabbing her little fists when she tried to knock his teeth out. "Keep it up, have a nap," he warned. She settled down to pout at him. "You can't keep Xander, Anya. He's Throttle's. You can only borrow him on occasion." He looked at Dawn, then shook his head. "Can't you wear clothes?"
"I just kicked Greasepit, I got nasty," she defended. "Be thankful I'm wearing underwear at all."
"As noted during the bungee jumping incident, we'd like for you to continue that," Throttle said dryly. "Please."
Modo nodded. "Yeah, we would. Nothin' more pitiful than a woman who doesn't wear drawers when necessary."
"Bet me," Rimfire snorted. "Doesn't bother me a bit, guys."
"More than we wanted to know, nephew," Modo said calmly, patting him on the back. "Like the others, I don't need ta know what you two get up to."
"Sure, Uncle Modo. Hey, Dawn, after we wreck the tower, wanna go clubbing? We can nap on the flight."
"No, no helping tonight, kids," Stoker told them. "You guys can destroy the tower next time. This time let the older mice do it."
"And you're going to be doing what, daddy?" Dawn taunted, smirking at him. "I'll have you know I could probably destroy the tower by concentrating really hard."
"Yeah, but it's not as much fun for the rest of us," Vinnie complained. "But teach me that."
"Sure," she agreed happily, kissing him on the cheek. "You've got a fever."
"No I don't. I'm just hot and studly," he said smugly.
Charley sighed and picked up the phone, calling Enamel. "It's me. He's sneezing, coughing up crud, and he's got a fever. Yeah, he's complaining too. Fine, but I don't need the cold." She smiled and handed over the phone. "Enamel said if you're sick, you can't even kiss me until you're well."
"Aw, man!" Vinnie complained, taking the phone. "I'm fine, it's just a case of sniffles." He listened. "I'll take medicine if you give it to me," he promised. "Please? I can't do without cuddles of my girl." He beamed. "Sure, we're going to destroy the tower tonight. Wanna help?" He beamed and bounced a bit. "Sure. See ya there." He walked around to hang it up. "Shell and he'll be along to help or watch. They said it sounds like fun, better than a movie."
"Could be," Dawn agreed, grinning at Rimfire. "You realize it's been three weeks since either of us have been kidnaped?"
"I hadn't, but it's a nice change," he admitted, pulling her closer for a real kiss. "You're warm for totally different reasons," he assured her smugly.
"Thank, babe." She dug back into her ice cream. "We've got to deal with the birth control thing while we're in DC. I've had enough of this bleeding crap already." She ate another bite of ice cream. "I can't believe he fired you, Xander. It's not your fault you were attacked."
"Yeah, but I didn't call in," he sighed. "That's a big no-no in the world of work. Fortunately we're still getting the discount on the rest of the project." He looked out at the bulk of their new addition. "Only a week more and then we can move books."
"I'll teach you the floating spell," Dawn promised. "Are the bookcases built in?" He nodded. "Decent. Will it be wired?" He nodded faster. "Cool. Any word yet on where Giles is or what he got off Wolfram and Hart?"
"Not yet," Xander said, looking at her. "You can't help there. I don't care if you help with the tower, but you can't help us with Giles, Dawnie. He does know more magic than you and Ethan would love to keep you."
"Over his dead body," she snorted. "I don't care if the world was going to end. His ass is toast when I find them."
"Dawn," Xander said firmly. "My fun."
"Fine," she sighed. "Let me be there and be threatening? I'll do the shields?"
He considered it. "If we can." She smiled and nodded, finishing her ice cream and putting the bowl in the sink, running some water into it. "You'll need clothes to destroy the tower."
"I know." She walked Rimfire over to their house, going to find an outfit to put on. They snuck out, going to scout the tower for everyone else. Of course, Xander knew they were going to, he was smart and knew what she was like.
Throttle looked out as the bikes roared to life. "Scouting only!" he shouted.
"She likes you, she's calling you pet names," Xander said with a grin.
"Wonderful. Is she staying in the dorms or not this fall?"
"I'm leaving that up to her. It'll be more expensive if she does, but at home she's going to miss out on some of the college life stuff." He shrugged. "I was going to sit down and talk to her about it this weekend."
"Sure." Throttle looked at the baby, who was pouting at him. "What?" She stuck her tongue out. "Don't do that. I might snatch it." She withdrew it and smirked at him, then hid her face in her daddy's chest.
"She's being a bit cranky today," Stoker pointed out, shaking his head. "I never imagined me having kids."
"I felt the same way a few months ago about having cats," Modo offered as he sat down. Vinnie took his usual seat and pulled Charley into his lap. "Should you should do that? You can give her your cold and then she might sneeze the baby out."
"Then we'd have to use all the baby gear on you," Throttle agreed, smirking at Vinnie. "Put her down, bro. At least until you've had medicine."
"Fine," he complained, letting her get into her own chair. "You do it to Xander."
"He's not pregnant."
"Are you sure? He's the one who had squid for lunch."
"I like calamari," Xander defended. "Once I tried it and no one told me what it was."
"Word of advice, man, anything like that will be treated like the sushi and fed to the cats," Modo warned. Xander beamed at him. "Oh, no. Already?" Xander beamed and nodded. "When?"
"Those really chewy onion rings," he said smugly. Throttle reached over to pinch him. "What?"
"That's mean. Be nicer to us or we can't go on our road trip."
"That's the beauty of being unemployed and semi-wealthy. I can go on road trips." He got up and called Cleveland, bringing the phone back. "Hey, Fred. Any ID on where Giles and Ethan are, or why?" He listened to her babble. "Yeah, I know Gunn's tired. I was hoping you had done the computer thingy again." He beamed. "Sure. No, tell Wes I'm going to splurge and go on a road trip this summer with the watcher money." She called that and he called back that it was now his, to do what he pleased with it. "That makes me happy," he cooed. "So, no idea on where those two are hiding so we can go kick their asses over this?" He listened to her as she searched, then made writing motions. Charley slid some paper and a pencil down, and he wrote very clearly and plainly, then showed it to the group, who smirked back. "Any idea why?" He snorted and shook his head. "No, it's protected. I had Meg protect it and I told the bank I knew hackers. Sure. Thanks, babe. Laters."
He hung up and got up to put the phone back. "Not only are they in *town*," he said with a cold, cruel smirk, "but they decided I'm the next one to sacrifice to make the world not end, with no reason for it." Throttle looked at him so he smirked at him, a bit warmer this time. "Apparently one of Ethan's demons told him that they were going to destroy the world if they didn't get a powerful witch. So they picked *me*." He flopped back down. "They're checked into a local hotel. Wolfram and Hart wanted me out of the way, I'm not sure why though. And then the good part comes in, they actually accepted a fee for it. A globe that Fred's presently researching. She thinks it's a container. So I'm a good, powerful sacrifice and I'm apparently still on the top ten list for demon hunters. So, where are we going on our roadtrip, Throttle?" he asked with a grin.
"We'll go next week, after you've straightened out Dawn and them. Why not Dawn?"
"Giles said he couldn't. Too many people protect her, including Willow's final act before she was sucked off world." He gave Stoker a bland look. "She really did want to see Spike again, old guy. She was in my dreams last night with the real Anya pleading for someone to come play with her."
"Maybe we can find Anya's shade and send her up," Stoker said firmly. "My son's not going anywhere near that seal or the M'dreth."
"Sure. Just expect her to show up instead," Xander told him. "She and Spike always had this strange relationship." He looked around. "Speaking of the vampire mouse...."
"Mom's feeding him," Stoker told him. "He's still scowling at her for doing it that way." He shifted and his daughter clutched his fur, letting out a small snort of irritation. "I can move." He finished moving and got comfortable. "There, now sleep." She glared up at him but went back to her nap. "You think she'll do that?" Everyone nodded. "Cheese."
"Probably while you're trying for baby number four," Modo said with a grin.
"There's got to be a way to stop those," Stoker said dryly.
"You and Dawn both need them," Vinnie agreed with a grin.
"Me too, once this one comes. There's not going to be another one for a *very* long time, if ever, Vincent." He smiled at her and she pushed him away. "Don't even think about it."
"I can't have a daughter too?"
"No!" she snorted. "She'll end up like Dawn."
"She's a neat kid," Throttle offered. "Kinda wild though."
"She'd fit in with his family," Stoker agreed.
"My cousins will love her and Xander," Vinnie agreed smugly. "I can't wait until we take them back for a visit."
"If you do, I'm going to hand Throttle my seat on Council," Stoker said smugly.
"Do it and watch me freak out," Xander said simply. "Taking my baby from me will make me cause mayhem and chaos like you've never seen before," he warned. "My biker stud. If you want one of your own, find one." He stared Stoker down, making him shiver. "Besides, that would mean I'd have to *stay* on Mars. Can't you just imagine that?" Stoker and Modo both shuddered at that thought. "Yeah, and I'd get to visit with Willow *alllllll* the time."
"Xander, you need a nap too," Throttle said calmly. "No more threatening Mars."
"He was going to steal you!"
"He can't steal me. I'd quit."
"It's part of your oath not to quit," Stoker said grimly. "They handed me the paperwork like it was another requisition and I signed it before reading it."
"That's one of those big no-nos," Xander said smugly. "How many times did you pull that on others?"
"On Carbine, all the time," he said smugly. "Then again, that's how they got her too." He looked at Throttle. "You got me once or twice with that too."
"Authorizing leave for us," he agreed. "Including for Carbine once or twice." He smirked at his mate. "Which way did you want to head?"
"That means we can't leave," he said, looking a bit confused.
"Wrong home. I want to go to Frisco." He grinned and pulled something out of his bag, handing it over. "I picked it up during lunch. I've already talked to your bike, she'll agree to let us put her on the plane for three hours, and then pretend to be harmless. Then we can ride back."
"All the way to San Francisco?" Throttle asked, looking at the tickets. "Wow. Hotel on the Bay too?" Xander beamed at him. "Sure. If she'll agree, Xan."
"She already has. I told her she'd have to act like a human bike for about three hours and then we'd ride her up and down so many hills she'd think she's on a roller coaster. We'd even take her out on the ferry if she wanted. I did promise we wouldn't go to Oakland so she didn't have to worry about being jacked."
"Fine," he agreed, smiling at him. He stole a kiss. Anya poked him and growled. "He's still mine, kid." She growled again and her father swatted her gently. "Behave," Throttle reminded her. "Or no bedtime story from him." She sniffled, doing her best impersonation of pitiful. Of course, that's when the rocket went off outside.
Stoker got up and took the baby back to the lair, which was reinforced heavily, going down to the bunker Xander had dug a few days prior. His son was found and brought down with him.
"Let's Rock..." Throttle ordered.
"And Ride," Modo agreed smugly. They whistled and their bikes headed over, going out to deal with the stupid people. "Didn't your momma ever teach you not to bother places where there's kids and pregnant women?" he called as he rode down one of the dune buggies and shot it with his arm cannon.
Xander stood in the doorway with his laser rifle, getting select targets. How dare someone shoot anywhere near them! Especially with kids and pregnant women! He felt a shot hit him on the shoulder but he grabbed onto the doorway and continued on. Most of them were gone when he blacked out.
Throttle looked back and frowned, hitting the next goon back toward the tower. "Protect the garage, our backup's down!" he shouted. Vinnie got the next few, then spun back to protect the more vulnerable area. He was watching Vinnie maneuver and missed the person with the blaster firing at him, for all of about three seconds. Then a bolt hit his leg and he blasted him out of his seat and the dune buggy to pieces. "Modo, 42 red," he yelled. He fell back to let Modo go forward. They needed to break the line. He hit his radio. "Rimfire, could use you," he called. "Get back to the garage." Silence. "Damn it!"
Vinnie shuddered. "Twice in one week, I'm going to mark this on the calendar." He moved forward, getting more of them, letting Throttle guard the garage since he was clearly injured. He didn't see the person with the sonic cannon on the roof of an adjacent building. He felt it though. It cut a wide path through their resistance. He blacked out from the vibrations rattling his brain, and saw Modo going down too. "Maybe I should swear too," was his last thought for a while.
Xander woke up with a jerk and looked around at the cell. "Wonderful." He stood up and noticed Modo was quietly singing. He slapped him upside the head, getting his attention. "Are we helpless?"
"More or less. We can't cut through the door," Vinnie told him from the bunk above where he'd been laying. "So far Greasepit hasn't come for you."
"Huh. I'm impressed. Is this a sliding door or a door with hinges?"
"Sliding. Why?" Throttle asked.
"None of the goons here have mastered the art of frisking anybody," he said grimly, putting the things in his pockets on Vinnie's bed. "Of course, I went with stuff just in case I had to escape earlier," he sighed, looking them over. "And I forgot my detonator. Or a lighter. Wonderful." He looked at the door, then at his watch. "Oh, well. Time to improvise. Any idea where everyone is?"
"Two guards outside," Vinnie told him. "One on rotation besides them. I can kinda hear the bikes fighting and stressing out on the next floor up."
"That's where the lab usually is," Throttle pointed out. He looked at the stuff on the bed, then at his spouse. "How do you carry all that?"
"Trade secret." He blew on his hands, considering the door. "Okay, lock is about where?" Modo got up and pointed at it. "Electronic?" Everyone nodded. "Too bad we don't have a taser. I'll have to remember that for next time." He got to work rolling out the small ball of explosives he had been carrying earlier, sticking it next to the lock and then in a few spots next to the sliding area. "It should bow out, then Modo can knock it out." Modo smirked at that. "You can?" he made sure. Modo nodded. "Cool." He took the last few bits of explosive and then his pocket knife, undoing the back of his watch. He attached a few wires to the battery, holding them in place with a bit of the putty-like explosive. He checked the time, setting the time for two minutes later, then made sure everything was set up before backing away. "Duck," he announced, and the watch beeped, and nothing happened. "Fucking hell. I know I did that right," he complained. He started to move forward but Throttle pulled him back and the second alarm went off, which made it explode. "Thanks." He grinned at Modo, getting out of the way in the small cell. "All yours, big guy."
Modo stepped up to the bowed-out door, then moved to the side and hit it backhand, which made it hit one of the guards but left the other one firing. He reached out and grabbed him, dragging him inside. "I don't like you," he snarled. The guard went limp and dropped his gun. "Good idea. Our bikes?"
"Upstairs," he whispered. "Lab. They don't pay me enough for this."
"Are there other prisoners?" Xander asked, coming over to frisk him. He got the gun, a backup battery, and his discman. "Thanks, I was missing this earlier, wondered where I had left it." He checked the CD and snorted. "Not exactly the most genial music to assault by. Sorry, guys, it's Pop music again." He looked at the guard, making him look at him. "Other prisoners?" he repeated.
"I don't know."
"That's fine. You just cower in here under the bottom bunk and I'll leave you living, this time," he said coldly. The guard got down and went to hide under the bunk. Xander picked up the rest of his stuff, popping a stick of gum into his mouth and heading out into the hallway. "Lab is which way?" he asked before turning on his CD player. He didn't need the distraction of hearing the gunshots. Throttle nudged him and he followed, snapping a bubble and smiling at Vinnie when he sent him a dirty look. "What?" he mouthed. They made it up the stairs and into the lab before anyone realized they were there. Then Throttle hit one, Vinnie hit one, and the other one ran off. Xander used the blaster, getting him in the foot. "Not so fast now." He looked at the lock and sneered. "Hairpin?" He got another set of dirty looks so he sighed and took a pin off Throttle's vest, working on the lock. "The things you learn dealing with crying girls who lock themselves in the weapons closet," he complained. He popped the lock and they walked in. Something came toward them and Xander picked it up, punting the little freak alien. "I don't like you." He flipped on the lights. "Whoa. Many other prisoners." He pointed at the other bikes.
"That one's Rimfire's," Vinnie said grimly.
Modo nodded. "There's Enamel's and Shell's," he agreed.
"I don't recognize the last one," Throttle pointed out. "Doesn't much matter. They're coming with us. One way or another." He looked around but Xander was playing on the computer. "Now's not the time for that, Xander."
"Bite me, honey. I'm looking for other prisoners and where they might be." He pulled up the map, turning to suddenly shoot something coming through a grate. "Hey, it's you again. Do you like being hurt? I can recommend a nice place for that."
"Oh, please, I need it," Fred said happily, clapping his hand and tentacle. Karbunkle had made the little mixed up alien creature and he loved pain. "Doc doesn't hurt me enough anymore."
Xander wrote out an address. "Go here. It's a vampire club. Talk to the midget vampire. He's a Dom." He looked at him. "Where are the other prisoners?"
"I'm not supposed to tell you that," he said, still sounding happy. "The mice aren't supposed to know."
"Well, that's fine, because I'm not fully a mouse." He looked down at him. "Look at my eyes, little guy."
"They're brown. Did the doctor make you too?"
Xander grinned. "No, a witch did. Which way to the other prisoners?"
"They were below you."
"Cool beans. Go there and talk to the midget vampire, and if he's not nice to you, you talk to Boris. He's my former boss and he'll set you up with someone," he said, patting him on the head. "Thanks, little guy." He looked at the bikes they were freeing. "Who's going for the others?"
"We all are," Vinnie told him.
Xander whistled and the bikes all looked at him. "Three floors down is the holding area. There's a few different people down there, bikes. I don't care, they all come out. Got it?" That got some beeps. "Then let's head down there." He shot Fred again, grinning at him when he giggled in pleasure. "Hey, little one, give the good doctor a message. Tell him Xander's coming for him and he'd better make a will or run screaming like the girl he is." He climbed on behind Throttle and they headed out. He shot behind Shell's bike. "You too, baby." She fired up and followed. He held on as they went down the stairs, wincing at the jarring going on. "I want a backrub tonight."
"Sure," Throttle agreed. "You deserve it. I never thought about turning Fred."
"You just gotta know some people's prices." They found the guards waiting on them and he hopped up, firing on them as they came down the hallway. He grabbed a light on the way past, flipping off once all the bikes had gone past. He'd guard the doorway for them. He heard more guards and started to fire, backing into the cells. "Come on, people. Let's head. There's more coming."
"Who're you?" one male mouse asked.
"God. Get on a bike and let's go," he said firmly. "We can destroy it on the way out." He glanced at him. "Rimfire, you're in charge of this one."
"Done, Xander," he called. "Dawn?"
"Here!" She lifted a hand and started to chant, then planted the hand against the wall, leaving a glowing spot. "That'll explode in about three minutes, people. Let's move!"
"You're military?" Shell asked.
"Special agent under Micah," she admitted. "Used to slaying." She got on the back of Rimfire's bike, and grabbed one of the kids wandering around. "We've got little people."
"Wonderful. We've got ten guards," Xander called back. "I want a grenade launcher."
"So call one," Throttle yelled.
"I can't, there's not enough time." He continued to fire. "I'm losing charge. Someone make an exit, there's more coming."
"Done," Modo called, blowing out part of the wall. He checked the remaining cells, grabbing a stunned woman and the two kids in there with her. An empty bike beeped and he put her on it with the kids, and they headed out.
Xander looked around, checking the cells, then smirked and looked out the hole. "Can I fly this time?" he called.
"Shit!" Throttle yelled.
"Three times? Man, you're becoming a regular Marine," Vinnie joked.
Xander took off his shirt and shook his head. "I'll meet you guys down there. Give me a few." He headed back inside, doing a last check. He found a smaller female mouse under a bunk and grabbed her, taking her up into the ventilation system. "Quietly," he ordered in a hiss. They crawled fairly quickly, only pausing when the explosion happened. He got them into the main air shaft and down the rungs of the ladder, using his shirt to stop the main fan. He got her past it and out the maintenance hatch, taking her by the wrist to lead her out the side door. "Wonderful thing to scout this place," he told her. "Working construction is a great thing." He met up with the others, handing her to Vinnie since he looked more empty than most. He looked back and waved. "We *really* need to make it explode."
"Sure," Dawn agreed, taking his hand. She whispered in his ear and he nodded, getting the words to the spell from her first round of chants. He followed along behind her and the tower started to melt, slowly turning into a pile of molten metal. She saw Limburger and gave him the arm-chopping-one fingered-salute with a sneer then they were off.
Xander followed along behind them, whistling happily as he decided to walk. Since everyone else was full and his mate had forgotten about him. He slapped the other battery into the blaster and started on the goons trying to escape and recapture them. Careful shots made the battery last and their engines were not shielded. "Stupid of them," he said, getting one that passed by him's tire. He turned and got the last two, then ducked a grab attempt by the one behind him, getting them at point blank range to the driver. He shrieked and headed into a building. "Damn, I hope Meg's not home tonight," he sighed, shaking his head and continuing on his stroll. It was only a few miles and it was a pretty night for a walk. About a mile later, Throttle came back and he hopped on, giving him a hug. "Are we going to be able to go on our trip?"
"We'll see. That depends on who the new mice are," Throttle said grimly.
"I'll need to know so I can cancel stuff so we don't have to pay for it." He stole a kiss then spit out his gum and turned off his CD player, tucking it into the saddlebag. "For the next time we're on a ride and blow up mission," he said happily. They pulled up outside the garage and he looked at the damage. "Well, I'm going to have a busy day tomorrow. How's the addition look?"
"Fine. There were only a few stray shots," he offered, heading into the lair. The bikes were all parked in the bottom level. They'd never get to their room without moving something. Upstairs, the four kids were gathered together in the kitchen with Anya and Spike, getting a drink from mommy Switch. The adults were staring at each other. "We're back," Throttle announced. "What's going on?"
"A special envoy to Micah," Vinnie said, pointing at the young man who had questioned Xander's authority. "A few captives, and we can't get one to talk."
"Cool," Xander agreed. "Dawn, call Micah at home. It's too late for him to be actually working now." He picked up the one staring at her feet, tipping her chin up and giving her a small smile. "Hi, I'm a Xander mouse." She gave him a hesitant smile. "It's cool here. We're protected. If he comes back, I get to blow more stuff up." That got a bigger smile. "You got a name?" She nodded. "Can you speak? Or should I go rip someone a new asshole for taking that from you?"
"Staff," she said quietly, staring at him. "You're not a real mouse."
"Yeah, but I'm more than close enough for it to be my life now," he said with a small grin. He looked around. "Modo!" He looked up. "Come help Staff with her bike. She's a bit shy." He released her and went to talk to the other two women, who were staring at Dawn. "Eyes off my daughter, or else," he said calmly. "Dawn's a great young woman."
"She's dating a mouse."
"No shit," he said in awe. "You are observant. Speaking of, Vinnie, Charley?"
"Garage. I already checked. She's getting bandages and stuff."
"Thanks." He looked at them then shook his head and walked off. "Hey, Rimfire, any good news?"
"Yeah, only minor injuries to the bikes from what I can tell." He looked at him. Then at the number of people. "A few must have been captured."
"I figured as much with the kids, man. At least we're experienced babysitters." He looked in the office at Dawn. "You're helping Switch and Charley."
"Of course." She listened to Micah rant. "Listen, it wasn't my idea to be kidnaped tonight, Micah. Of course I'm still going to be in tomorrow with Rimfire," she sighed. "I'll even have a report for you. Can't say as it'll be good. Sure, I'll have Xander do a summary statement too."
"I blew up the door, tortured the little freak masochist alien for information, then blew up more guards, got the last person out through the ventilation system, then we dissolved the tower." He shrugged. "Good enough?"
"Micah said no. He said he wants more details, written down, preferably typed so he doesn't have to read your handwriting." She listened to him. "Fine, Micah. Thanks. Yeah, there's an envoy too. We'll give him a map. No, he challenged Xander." She snickered. "Sure, I'll let Stoker deal with that." She hung up, following Xander back into the main room. "Whoever came to see Micah, find Stoker later so he can arrange for you to get there!" she yelled. "Rimfire, we're still on for tomorrow and he wants a report."
"Wonderful," he said grimly. "I was hoping for some sleep tonight."
"Yeah, well, we can sleep on the plane, babe," she reminded him. She looked around. Then at Throttle. "With all due respect, I'm going to go out to the new addition and see if it's habitable tonight." He nodded. "If so, Rimfire and I are crashing out there and someone polite and nice can have our rooms." She headed that way. She could probably ward a single room but not the whole building tonight. Besides, they could take turns writing their reports so they could stand guard. She came back and whispered in Xander's ear, getting a nod. "Rimfire, grab the laptop and let's head next door."
"The garage is going to be full," Charley called.
"I meant the addition," Dawn told her, shifting closer to grab a few sodas, some sandwiches from the plate Switch was putting out, and a roll of bandages. "Thanks. We'll be in the library if anyone needs us." She walked out with Rimfire, and his bike followed.
"Well, that's a bit less crowding," Xander offered. "Staff, honey, you're taking Dawnie's room. Arrogance boy can sleep up here on the couch, one of the other females can take Rimfire's bed, the kids can sleep in the big bedroom up here." He looked at the other two. "Charley's got a couch and a spare room for you two."
"Who are you?" the arrogant mouse demanded.
"Xander. I'm the mouse who owns this place. The same as I own everything in these few lots but the garage. That belongs to Charley," he said, pointing at her. "I wouldn't try your crap with her, kid, she's pregnant and having mood swings." He looked at Throttle. "I need to know by tomorrow if I should cancel stuff."
"Sure, if at all possible," he agreed, giving him a small smile. "Ease off," he said quietly once the other one was gone.
"I hate bigots, no matter what their form," Xander said firmly. "I refuse to put up with it in my own house. He can fucking sleep on the lawn for all I care."
Throttle nodded. "I can agree to that, just tone it down a bit. We don't have the room for a fist fight in here."
"Oh, honey, it won't be a fight," Xander said dryly. "That little boy has an asskicking coming his way and I can take him out onto the lawn to do that too." He looked at Enamel as the doctor walked over and grabbed him. "What?"
"Two shots, Xander. They did some field patching but now it's time for real bandaging."
"I'm fine, I can't even feel it."
"Yay. Argue again, get a shot." He sat him on the table, taking the cotton balls soaked with alcohol to clean the wounds. "Strip down, Xander."
"Fat chance. Not wearing panties today," he said sarcastically.
"You really probably should wear those more often," Charley quipped. "They'd be harder for Throttle to get into."
"Yeah, well, it's my own fault for not doing laundry," he sighed. "Maybe that's why Greasepit hit on me earlier." He shuddered. "Did we kill him?" Everyone shrugged. "Throttle, did someone kill Greasepit for me? Or am I going to be stalked now?"
"I didn't see him, Xan. We'll deal with him when he shows up again." He looked at his mate. "Quit fussing and let him clean those."
"I didn't do enough laundry," he said dryly. "Of course, if we all want, I can gladly take off my pants and go without anything on like Donald Duck."
"If you do that, I'm going to have to protest," Vinnie said, shaking his head. "Go down to your room."
"I can't get near my room with all the bikes." He looked at Enamel. "I'm good, man. I can't feel it, I'm not bleeding. I'll bandage it later if it gives me crap. Go work on Vinnie or someone." He slid off the table, letting Charley bandage the easily reachable injury on his shoulder. "Thanks." He looked around, then groaned and pulled out a soda to start on. "We'll survive this week too," he noted, going to help with the kids for a few minutes. "Switch?" She looked up, smiling at him. "I know you and Stoker have the room up here, can you put up with the kids?"
"Sure, Xander. They need an adult around. That okay with you guys, if you sleep with me and my man and our kids?" The kids all grinned at her. "Okay, let's head that way. It's time for a bath and then a bedtime story."
"You might have to kick someone out of the bathroom," he told her. "Feel free to." She nodded, going to do that. In fact, she walked in there and hefted the arrogant mouse out, tossing him out the door. "Okay, go bathe, kids. We've even got *bubbles*." They ran in there to see what those were. "Stoker, I'm appointing you and your wife sitter for the kids."
"Sure. They can lounge on the floor. I know where the spare linens and pillows are," he called back. "Where are they now?"
"Bathroom playing with bubbles."
"Cool." He grabbed Spike off Vinnie's tail and carried him in there, handing him over then went to find their daughter, who was trying to get out. "Not a chance, daughter. You can leave Dawn and Rimfire alone. They need to cuddle." He carried her up there, letting her help the others take a bath. She was very good at bathing and never did more than splash people. She'd probably try to drown her brother when he was older.
Xander walked over to where Staff was, smiling at her. "Hey. Need patched up?" She shook her head a bit too quickly. "Enamel's a real doc, even though he's banished. Shell's a shrink doc but she's pretty decent at that stuff too. I promise, I'll swat him if he makes you do more than flinch at the stingy, cleaning stuff." She nodded, letting him help her up and over to the table. "One more for you, docs. This is Staff, she's shy. I promised to swat you if you made her do more than flinch at the alcohol."
"Fine," Shell said with a smile for the girl. "You can have either one of us work on any injuries," she promised. "Whichever you feel more comfortable with." She pointed at Enamel and grabbed Shell's hand to hold. "Sure. Do we need privacy to look at your injuries, dear?" She nodded. "Then let's go into the office. Enamel?"
"Let me grab some stuff. Go ahead." He looked at Xander, then at the young woman. "Stitching kit?"
"Bathroom with the little ones." He walked off to find Modo, who was down looking at the bikes. "Shell and Enamel have Staff to work on her injuries in the office. When she comes out, she gets Dawn's room. I've already promised her. It's got a lock on it." He nodded. "The kids are staying with Stoker and Switch so you'll probably get crawled in with." Modo grinned at that. "You okay? No bad stuff?"
"A few things but not too bad," he admitted. "I'll be fine. You?"
"Two small burns. One under my pants. I can't even feel 'em at the moment." He heard the shouting start and groaned. "One of us is going to have to sleep on the lawn," he said, heading back up the ramp. "Shut up!" The fighting stopped. "Thank you! You're giving me a headache and I refuse to be driven from my house by it!" He looked around. "Okay, I assigned rooms. Those of you who have a room, go to it." He looked at the unroomed female who was heading. "Uh-huh. You're next door. You can stay for now. There's a security system on over there." He stopped the other one. "You too. You guys get to head back with Charley and Vinnie." He looked around, not seeing him. "Van Wham?" Vinnie's head popped up from his old bed. "These two go with you when you go."
"There's still two empty rooms down here," one woman called.
"Honey, one's mine and Throttle's. The other is Staff's when she's done getting patched up," he called. "You're taking the one with the pinup calendars."
"I know Rimfire, I figured out which one was his," she admitted, coming back up the stairs. "Do we have somewhere else to park the bikes? Modo wanted to know."
"If Dawn can ward the addition or the garage, yeah. If not, no." She nodded, going to check with Modo and then with Dawn and Rimfire. Staff came out of the office, tears in her eyes. "Oh, hey," he soothed, taking her to hold. "It's all right. Did it hurt? Should I swat him?"
"No, it's okay," she whispered. "Can I clean up and go to bed?"
"Sure, this way, Staff. You're taking Dawnie's room. She may have to wake you up later to grab some clothes but otherwise it should be fine." He walked her down the ramp and around the bikes, taking her to show her the room and then the bathroom. "The hot water might be a bit scarce for a bit if you wanted to wait. All the kids are bathing first." She nodded, going back to Dawn's room. "If you need me, come find me. I'm good for talking to." She nodded, giving him a small grin before going into Dawn's room and locking the door. Xander looked at Modo. "Is she one of the ones without?"
"Yeah, she said she was support personnel and doesn't ride," Modo admitted quietly. "She was on a ship rescuing some of the kids upstairs and they got attacked. Most everyone else got saved but she protected them, even against Karbunkle."
"Then the woman deserves a medal." Modo nodded. "You're sure you're okay?"
"Go fuss over your man," he chided. "My gray furred momma doesn't fuss as much as you do." He gave him a swat with his tail. "Go, shoo."
"Fine. Dawn's bike?"
"In the garage. I already checked. They took off on his."
"Tactically sound, I like that about Rimfire," he said dryly, heading back up the stairs. He saw Enamel wincing because of the loud mouse and went over to him. "If you're done and wanted to head home, we'd understand," he said quietly, right next to his ear. "Modo's got the bikes arranged so yours is near the door. Only Vinnie's is in the way."
"I can't. I've still got to check the kids."
"Modo said Staff told him that she protected them."
"Wonderful," he said with a grin. "Thanks, Xander. I'll check with Switch."
"Not an issue. After a night like tonight, the best thing in the world is a cuddle. It should be a drug." Enamel smiled at that and he went to find Shell for him. "Hey," he said, leaning against her arm. "Enamel's checking on the kids, then he may head home since he won't have a bed here." She smiled at him. "Modo's got you guys next to the door." She nodded, kissing him on the cheek before heading off.
"Why is he giving orders?" the loud mouse asked from behind him.
"Because it's his house," Throttle told him.
Xander turned to look at him. "Listen, kid, it's a bad idea to fuck with a man in his own home. I don't care if you don't like the fact that I'm not a full mouse. I don't care if you don't like the fact that I can whip your tail repeatedly and not break a sweat. This is my house and if you don't like the rules, go sleep on the fucking lawn," he finished slowly and clearly. "I can point you in the direction and I can guarantee you'll be left alone. Dawn and Rimfire won't bother you. Charley and Vinnie won't bother you if you wanted to sleep on your bike. Neither will we. Now, get over your puny ass or get out." He looked at Throttle. "Enamel and Shell are heading home since they won't have a bed. Enamel, she skipped down the ramp," he called. He got a grin and a wink before the doctor left.
"Who're you to give anyone orders?" the mouse demanded.
"I'm the person who managed to get these three free so we could save the rest of you," Xander told him. "I'm the one who found out where you were so we could save you while the others were working on getting the bikes free. I'm the one who's going to kick your ass in about thirty seconds if you don't shut up."
"He's still hot from the battle, kid, you should leave him alone," Throttle warned, walking off.
"You couldn't have," he sneered. "No one can get out of those cells without help."
"They never learned how to frisk someone. I had plastic explosives on me from an earlier scouting and messing with things mission. It was more than enough to knock the door out of the locked state so Modo could knock it in. I'm also the one who got the last person out when you guys missed her because she was hiding." He went pale. "So I suggest you shut up and take the good advice your elder gave you. I'm still calming down after the fight and if I have to take you, we'll have to call the doctors back." He looked at Stoker. "You know this brat?"
"He's my secretary."
"Gods, you trained the others so well, why not him?" Xander asked.
"I didn't pick him, I was assigned him," he said grimly. "Kid, shut up. You don't pick on Xander, especially not when he's hot from the battle. You should know better. It's like picking on me after a run through the badlands." He looked at Xander. "One of the kids does have some scrapes but we cleaned 'em off. One's bleeding though."
"Enamel's number is on speeddial on the main phone. Press and hold the 3 key until it dials. Bleeding how?"
"Rectally. I don't know why. I'm not sure I want to know why," he said quietly.
"I'm hoping it's something like starvation," he admitted. "I'll make sure we've got some soup in the cabinets for the little one." Stoker nodded, going to take the phone from Charley and use it. "Shit," he muttered, walking off. "Fucking Plutarkians and their fucking tortures and that fucking doctor all need to go to fucking hell before I send them there without a ship or a building this time."
"Oooh, now you care," the mouse sneered.
Xander turned and hit him, knocking him into the wall, then he followed the future body, going to turn it into paste. And no one was going to stop him. At least until Throttle and Vinnie jumped him and brought him to the ground, Vinnie knocking him cold in the process. At least the kid was injured when he fell.
"Bad idea," Vinnie told him, getting up to get him himself. Throttle got in his way. "I want him gone. He can travel to see Micah without a map."
"It's only for one night and he can sleep on the roof or on the lawn," Throttle said quietly. The kid started to open his mouth so he backhanded him, still staring Vinnie down. "I mean it, bro. You and Xander leave him alone. He's got a smart mouth and someone else can whip his tail for it."
"No," Xander groaned. "I'm going to sleep on the roof. At least falling off will be more pleasant." He pushed himself up off the ground, noticing the sneering. He found the blaster from earlier and pulled it, shooting him in the stomach. "There, I feel better now. Fortunately the battery's running out." He handed it to Vinnie, then headed up the ramp to the roof.
Throttle kicked the kid. "Do you honestly think I'm going to sleep alone tonight?" The mouse looked stunned. "That's my man you were insulting. It's Vinnie's sworn brother. You've just made some very powerful enemies and I'd be begging for forgiveness later if I were you," he stated, then went to get Xander and take him down to their room. He found him hitting the side of their old ship, denting it in a few spots. "Come on. We have a bed and a room with a locking door."
"It's safer if I'm up here."
"Yeah, well, I'm not sleeping alone," Throttle told him, picking him up and carrying him over his shoulder down to their room. He had to wiggle past most of the bikes since Enamel was back. "He shot the idiot with a low powered blast. One of the kids is bleeding according to Stoker."
"I heard. I'll deal with the idiot later, possibly. I may let him suffer," he sighed, heading up to check on the kid. He hoped it was something simple. He really did. He couldn't deal with a horrible thing tonight. He found the kid on the bath mat and got down to smile at him. "Hey. Why didn't you tell me you hurt there?" he asked gently.
"Been hurting, I'm ignoring it."
"You shouldn't ignore pains like that, mouse cadet. Let's go into the office and we'll check you over, okay?" The kid nodded, taking his hand. "Want Switch or Stoker with you to hold your hand? I'm gonna have to look."
"You're not the first."
"Were you bleeding on Mars?" The kid nodded. "Did they say why?"
"I have an ulcer."
"Well, that's not uncommon when you're stressed and the war did that to all of us in many ways." He walked the kid off, taking Modo with him to hold the kid. He was great with kids. He pulled out his scanner and put it on the kid's stomach, smiling at the results. "Yeah, you've got a big, huge ulcer, kiddo. I'm not sure if we've got stuff for that. Let me call Micah, see if he's got a doc who can help us some more, okay?" The kid nodded, giving him a trusting look while Modo held him. "Phone?" Modo handed it over and he sat down to call him. "Hey, it's Enamel. No, small problem. One of the kids has a large intestinal bleeding ulcer. No, large and in his large intestine. He's bleeding rectally. I'd suggest surgery but he is a mouse."
"No needles," the kid said. "I hate shots."
"No, hopefully no needles and you wouldn't get to see them anyway," Enamel promised, patting him on the foot. "Yeah, that bad. Surgery. Really? Sure, call 'em and then me back. Thanks." He hung up. "He thinks the local hospital can and will help. He's going to call the surgeon who helped with Xander's stuff when he fell and talk to him." He looked at the kid. "That may mean an overnight, but we'd be checking on you all the time." He patted him on the foot again. "Do you have parents we should call?" He shook his head. "You're sure?"
"Yeah, we were on Plutark."
"Okay, then I'll get Stoker to authorize it," he assured him. "Stoker?" He stuck his head in. "Bleeding ulcer, needs surgery."
"Oooh, costly," he winced. He came in and closed the door. "No other options?"
"Not with the way he's bleeding. Micah's calling the guy who helped with Xander's surgery."
"What happened to him?"
"He fell in a big hole and got poked about twenty six times with metal rods," Modo told him. "Part of that gas thing." Stoker winced. "He had to stay for a few days."
"They were pretty good about it," Enamel promised. "But he's an orphan so we'll need someone to authorize treatment. That's the way the human system works."
"Sure. I still don't have the budget to do a lot of this."
"So far, he and Staff are the only ones who could use it and I stitched her here," he promised. "I can't go into his stomach here, the risk of him bleeding to death or getting an infection are too great."
"If it's that necessary, I'll find room in the budget," he decided. "I'm not letting the kid die from this." He came over to give the kid a hug. "We'll protect and watch you all we can and the doctors down here are mostly pretty nice."
"I'll be going in with him. This hospital has seen me before," Enamel told him. "Even in surgery for Xander." The kid nodded, grinning at him. "Do you remember your daddy's name?"
"Nope. Just that he used to call me mouse cadet too."
"Cool. I call Switch that all the time," Stoker said with a grin. "What about your mommy, little one? That way we can see if you've got any relatives left on Mars."
"Mommy's name was Margarine. She was a tan mouse."
"Sure. We'll look her up," Stoker promised, giving him another squeeze. The phone rang and Enamel answered it, listening then nodding and hanging up. "It's set?"
"Micah called the ER and they said there's probably a surgeon there who could handle him being furry since the one we wanted isn't in tonight. Come on, little man. We can ride on my bike and everything." The little boy smiled and let himself be picked up, only wincing a bit. Enamel put all his equipment away then nodded at Modo. "If that other one starts bleeding, toss him in the lake or something. Come on, let's go get that tummy of yours fixed." He walked out with the baby, sidestepping the idiot holding his stomach. "The kid's got an emergency that's life threatening, you only need bandaged," he said at the opening mouth.
"I can't believe you're letting someone like *him* take that child!" the secretary told Stoker. Who got out of the way so that Throttle, who was fixing a snack, could have him again. Vinnie took the snack, only eating a few of the chips while watching Throttle nearly kill the other mouse. "Ow, please!" he begged.
"I'm not the one you should be begging. He sleeps on the lawn or on the roof. Not in our ship, but he can sleep on the roof." He took the plate and drinks back, smirking at Vinnie. "She won't feed you?"
"Yeah, she will," he said with a grin. "Jut nibbling. I am a mouse." Throttle whapped him upside the head with his tail, walking off shaking his own head at the weak joke. Vinnie looked at the kid and smirked. "Hey, Modo, where do you think we should stuff his body? That way Micah doesn't get any more calls in the middle of the night?"
"But...but you're Freedom Fighters," the mouse said in awe. "You can't do that."
"We took out traitors before," Modo said grimly, cracking his knuckles. "We can do it again."
"Then why do you hang out with freaks and that banished guy who hurt people!"
"Enamel didn't hurt people, he was trying to help, he just couldn't save a patient who was worse than expected because we didn't have the equipment or the medicine," Stoker said firmly. "It says something when this planet's defender, Xander, has him over all the time for non-medical reasons. As for Xander being a freak, as the Council stated, even one *drop* of Martian blood makes you a Martian and welcome on Mars. The fact that the mini punk downstairs has a human eye means *nothing* to me. Do you think I'd let him watch my kids otherwise?" His secretary groaned and shook his head. "Good. Now, when we get home, you're going to be having a *long* talk with someone."
"Maybe Modo's momma should give lessons in how to get along with others," Switch said, coming out to kiss him. "The rest of them are down. That one?"
"Bleeding ulcer, Enamel took him to the ER." She nodded, walking him off. "Hit the roof or the grass, kid. You're not fouling this house with your shit." He heard a giggle and grinned at Staff. "Yeah, even I swear on occasion," he sighed. "You okay?" She nodded. "Good, eat something, you're too skinny." Switch drug him into their room and shut the door gently, turning him to kiss him. "What did I do to deserve that?"
"You didn't whip his tail like you should have," she said with a small smile. "Come cuddle, Stoker. I need a cuddle."
"Sure, mouse cadet." He got them into the bed, mostly still dressed in case the kids snuck in with them. Which Anya did a bit later but she was more than content to sleep against her father's back.
Enamel carried the little kid into the ER, nodding at the receptionist. "Micah called?"
"Yeah and we've got a room ready for him," he promised. "Carol!" She came trotting out. "This is the one."
"Sure, this way, doc." She smiled at the little boy, taking him from the big doctor. "My name's Carol and I'm a nurse. I'm going to do some stuff and then we'll get someone in to look at your belly, okay?"
The little kid nodded. "No shots? I hate shots. Shots are mean and they make me ache more."
"If we have to draw blood, I'll do it myself," Enamel promised. "If we have to stick an IV, I'll do that too and I'll make sure it doesn't hurt. We'll be as gentle as we can and you know we're not going to pull a Karbunkle on you, kiddo."
Carol set him on the bed and took his shirt off, looking at the scars. Then at the doctor. "War zone?" He nodded. "That's fine, I can understand him not liking needles then. I'll do whatever I can to make it not hurt, little guy. Okay?" He nodded. "What's your name?"
"Hi, Racer, my name's Carol. That's Enamel if he didn't tell you. Sometimes he's just a bit uptight," she shared with a grin. The kid gave her a small one back. "Have you eaten recently?" She pulled off her stethoscope and put it in her ears. "This won't hurt, I'm going to listen to the gurgling your body's doing." She listened to his chest, then moved to his lungs. "Deep breath."
"We fed him earlier, a rootbeer and a few sandwiches," Enamel told her. "I didn't think this could wait until morning with the way he was bleeding. My scanner showed a few ulcers, one bleeding pretty well."
"That's fine. When was the last time before that one you ate, Racer?" He shrugged. "Hmm. Today?" He shook his head. "Okay, then it should be okay." She listened to his stomach, then nodded, writing something down. "Okay, now I'm going to take your blood pressure and this might squeeze a bit," she offered, getting the cuff down and putting it on his arm. "It won't hurt though." He nodded, giving her a very trusting look. "Are ulcers common?"
"He was being held on a prison world with his parents, ma'am. I'm surprised he's only got one bleeding," Enamel said gently. "He's an orphan too, but one of our Council members is down and Stoker agreed to treatment."
"That's fine." She wrote those numbers down too and looked at the boy, smiling at him. "Okay, I'm going to get the doctor. He's a bald guy but he's got a little girl who's about twelve at the moment so he's really good with kids. Okay?" Racer nodded, grinning at her. "Good boy." She gave him a gentle stroke over the head. "I'll be right back with him. You two stay in here." She walked off, going to find the doctor. "Mark?" He looked up and nodded, coming out of the office. "The kid we got called about is here. He's still bleeding, I can tell he's bleeding. There's a lot of noise in his lower intestine and he's got some marks from prior torture."
"He was on a prison world with his parents," she said quietly, glancing around. "He's another furry one."
He nodded. "Okay. Get me an ultrasound hooked up in there." She handed over the chart and he headed that way, walking inside and grinning. "Hi, I'm Mark. I'm a doctor." The little boy waved and clutched at Enamel's hand. "No, I'm not a mean guy. I'm here until the guy who's going to come in and fix you gets here. He's running a bit behind at the moment. He's upstairs taking a bullet out of another kid." He looked at Enamel. "Can we do it non-surgically?"
"I'd love to say yes, but not with how he's bleeding."
"Sure. I'm going to do an ultrasound. What that means is that I'm going to use a big machine with a little wand to look at your insides. It's like taking a picture in there."
"Will it hurt?"
"No," he promised the little boy. "I might have to press a bit, but if I hurt you, you tell me and I'll stop."
"The last time they took pictures I had to drink nasty stuff and it hurts. It still hurts."
"Carol, bring in a portable x-ray, it sounds like he's still got barium in his system too." He smiled and moved closer, letting the little boy hug him. "Thanks, little guy. It'll be okay. We're here to help you and if someone hurts you I want you to tell me so I can hurt them back, okay?" He nodded. "Good boy." He glanced at the name on the chart. "Racer. Do you like to go really fast?"
"Mommy said I was named after her brother," he said weakly. He didn't move, this guy was very comforting. He was obviously a daddy. He broke down, letting him hold him. It had been a very bad few days and he was still a little kid.
"Shh, it's all right. You're safe now. If the mean people who hurt you come back, there'll be adults there to stop them this time," he soothed, stroking his back.
"Kid, if they come for you again, Stoker and Switch will have their tails broken and bloody before they even see you," Enamel promised. Racer nodded, wiping off his tears. "That's normal. I've seen plenty of big mice crying too and they didn't have it as bad as you did. It's okay to cry." Racer nodded and slumped a bit, then groaned and laid back. "Okay, it's almost over with. That'll be fine soon enough."
Carol walked in with an ultrasound, a surgeon dragging an x-ray, and an older woman. "Social worker," she said needlessly. The social worker looked at the child, then at Enamel. "Like I said, he's got a caregiver and he gave permission."
"Then I'll leave it alone," she agreed, heading out again. "I'm sure it's good enough."
Carol smiled at Enamel. "She'll probably come back later and ask where on this planet there's a colony of giant mice."
"Up the street, next to the Last Chance Garage," Enamel said dryly. "We've got another injured one but he opened his mouth a few too many times on Xander. I left him there to suffer."
"Probably a wiser idea," Carol agreed. "I doubt he'd let us treat him anyway." She plugged in the machine, letting the surgeon take the x-rays first, then handed over the bottle of gel. The kid giggled when it hit his fur. "Yeah, it's a bit cold. Sorry."
"Tickles kinda," he said with a grin, holding her hand while the doctors looked at the machine's screen. Both of them swore and Enamel groaned. "Is it bad?"
"Yeah, kid, it's real bad," the surgeon offered gently. "But we can fix it and give you some stuff to help heal the rest of them." He looked at Enamel. "Can't we?"
"If we have to order it through someone down here, I will," he promised. "We do the same thing with baby vitamins. My scanner only read six large ones."
"This one's got six large, one looks like it's bleeding, and four smaller ones," Mark offered, pointing at them. "See the dark spot? That's what's wrong with your tummy, Racer."
"Wow. There's a lot of them."
"Yeah, but we can fix most of them," the surgeon promised, giving him a pat on the head. "You're coming in, right?" Enamel nodded quickly. "Good. We'll need to know about sedatives and things so we can prepare." He handed over the small book he had written out for these sort of things. "Thanks. Can we copy this?"
"That is your copy. I stopped to get it on the way in. I figured it was necessary. It has it by known mouse and their height and weight given in case you get a strange one."
"Thanks. That'll be the most handy thing yet," Mark agreed with a grin. "How's that white one doing?"
"Xander? He's fine. He's the one who nearly killed another guy earlier for opening his mouth. Again."
"Yeah, he didn't learn the first time tonight. Or the second," Enamel sighed, shaking his head. "Some mice never learn. I'm expecting him to be sleeping on the lawn when I check in tomorrow." He looked down at the kid, grinning at him because he was giggling. "You don't think he'll be on the lawn?"
"I think Throttle or Stoker will make him sleep on his bike across the street since he's such a grumpy tail."
"Possibly," Enamel agreed. "Can we take him now?"
"Sure." The surgeon looked at the book. "Good, we've got it in kid's strength too. How much does he weigh?"
"Maybe thirty pounds. He's not been fed regularly while being tortured."
"Fine. We'll start at the baby dosage and work our way up if necessary." They got the bed moving, taking the new x-rays up to work from them. They were a bit blurry but very bad to look at the gaps in.
"Do I have to have a shot?"
"We'll knock you into a nap first, Racer," Enamel promised. "You may wake up with an IV, that's a kind of permanent needle with fluids and medicine, but it won't hurt if you don't wiggle it." He nodded, gripping his hand. "I'll be right there with you. That Xander mouse trusts these guys and so do I. No Karbunkling."
"Good, I didn't like Kartbuckle either," he said firmly. "He was a mean doctor." The doctors looked at him. "He wanted to fix me pretty with spare parts."
"Remember the big gray mouse and the other white mouse's mask?" Enamel asked. "Those are what he considers fun and games. He did those."
"Oh. No, we'd never do that. You'll have a few spots on your stomach but nothing else, little guy," the surgeon promised. "No spare parts at all." Racer nodded, giving him a trusting look. "Can't you guys take care of those sort?" he asked quietly.
"We did, and we executed one, but he has a few clones. The one down here's one of the clones. We got him earlier actually." The surgeon nodded. "If you ever see someone with the wrong parts, feel free to call me to make sure it's not him. We'd like to eliminate all of them."
"Sure," the doctors agreed. Mark got them onto the elevator and waved. "I'll come up and see you before I leave tomorrow, okay?" Racer nodded, waving at him. "You behave." He grinned, looking at Carol. "We have a book now with weights, measures, and drugs for the known mice, plus a pediatric chart and we can easily refer to it. He's got it. Make sure it comes back later." She nodded. "I'll hope he'll be okay," he sighed.
"He'll be fine," she reminded him. "He's a good surgeon, he'll be fine." Mark nodded, going to see his next patient.
Xander walked onto the new construction site, smiling and nodding at the foreman. "Hey, I do some salvage work and I'm wondering if you guys wanted to sell anything. I'm looking for bike parts, computer stuff, anything like that."
The man looked at him, then at his custom sports car, then back at him. "We found some, we put 'em in a pile. How much you pay me?"
"Scrap weight? I don't usually get much more'n that."
"Sure. Come back tonight." Xander grinned. "We found some bike parts and some computer stuff, including a full system," he said, pointing at the console.
"Oooh, I know someone who'd love that," he said in awe. "How much it weigh?"
"Nearly a ton according to the guys who moved it. Say eight hundred for it and the bike parts?"
Xander nodded, going over to separate them out, finding two bike brains there and most of a bike as well. He groaned and stroked a set of handlebars. "You'll be fine." He grinned at one of the workers looking at him. "I know a guy who customizes. Let me get a truck." He looked back at the foreman. "Five?"
"We get off at six."
"Sure. That's cool. I'll be back then with a truck. Anything else I can have, just put it all together for me and I'll have someone come help me load. Unless one of your guys wants an extra fifty."
"Sure. Thanks, man, that's real decent of you."
Xander beamed. "I used to do construction. I know how it is." They shook hands and he went to rent a truck and pick up some food. They had almost nothing in the lair. He brought back the food, walking it past the bikes. "Come help me carry these groceries!" he yelled as he walked. Throttle and Vinnie both came to help carry.
"Why did we rent a truck, bro?" Vinnie complained. "You didn't buy that much?"
"Because I went to look at the salvage stuff at the tower," he said smugly. "I've found a present for Stoker." He grinned at the mouse in question. "Be here around seven when I get back." He nodded, pointing at the kids. "No luck with the other one?"
"He's fine. They'll be sending him home in a few days. I've called Mars and they're checking on the kid's family. Find anything good?"
"Yeah, a bit," he said fondly. "You'll see later. Vinnie, I'll need Charley too." He patted him on the back and went to check the truck, then the time, getting in and heading back to the site. He got there just as the final whistle blew, hanging back a bit while most everyone left. When most everyone was gone he pulled up and the foreman smiled at him, nodding at the two guys. "Sure," he agreed. "Easy enough to pay for two as one." He paid the guys and backed the truck up into the cleared spot since it was closer, helping them load all the stuff they'd found. He found enough for a bike and a half, plus three bike brains, plus the big mainframe system from Karbunkle's lab. A few more odds and ends were added too. Including Fred the alien. He put him up front and then paid the foreman with a wink, adding a bit extra since there was more than he had expected. "Good enough?" He got a smile, a nod, and a hand shake. "Be safe, man, there's strange stuff said about this site."
"We rebuild it every few months," he noted. "We're kinda used to it."
"Cool. Laters." He got in to drive, shoving Fred over. "Couldn't find the club?"
"They wouldn't let me in."
"I can fix that." Xander drove them that way, stopping outside the club. He got out and grabbed Fred, letting him hang by his tentacle arm on the way inside. The bouncer gave him a dirty look. "He likes pain, he wants pain, he's a nice enough messed up person, therefore I was going to give him to someone who likes to give pain." He walked him inside, grabbing the midget vampire by the scruff of the neck and holding him up. "You're a Dom, right?" He nodded, smirking at him. He held Fred up a bit higher. "This one *loves* pain, begged me for pain, wanted me to kick his ass and piss on him pain."
"Oooh, that sounds like fun," Fred giggled. "Can we do that?"
The vampire looked at the alien, then at Xander. "I like him," he said with a grin.
"I suggested he come to see you anyway," he said, putting them both down. The vampire backhanded Fred, who cooed and nuzzled him with a happy, sated smile. "Have fun. His name's Fred. One of the bad guys in the city created him."
"I can see that. Your boss is in."
"He fired me for being attacked and not being able to call in," he said with a shrug. "It happens." He walked out, going to take the truck home. He got around the back and backed up to the new addition, beeping. Charley came out first. "I went salvaging at the tower for bike parts." She gave him a hug. "There's three brains and a few bikes worth of parts. I'm going back tonight."
"Vinnie went to look with Staff," she promised, opening the back of the truck. She gaped in awe at the computer. "Stoker!"
"Coming," he called, coming out from inside. "That's a computer."
"No, that's Karbunkle's computer," Charley told him.
"I love you, man," Stoker said, giving Xander a hug. "You find the best presents."
"Hands off my man," Throttle said as he came out, but he was grinning. "Good work, babe." He gave him a kiss and started lifting down bike parts. "Modo, he found a few bikes that were ripped," he called. "Come help."
"Coming." He came to come help heft and tote things into the new workshop. It was a good thing it was nearly done. They came out to find Stoker hugging the computer. "We still have to get it inside."
"We'll have to bridge the power cord too," Xander told him. "It's torn up. It can be replaced though." He pulled it out. "Standard computer cable."
"I know you've got a few extra," Throttle offered. "Let me call Oz and Meg."
"I'm hoping she wasn't home last night. One of the dune buggies crashed into her building."
"She was, she called to swear at you earlier," Charley assured him, grinning at him. "She said she knew you were a dangerous mouse to hang around with, that's why she dumped you for the more calm Oz." She gathered up the brains. "We'll have to find a way to put power to these."
"Staff may know. She's a mechanic," Modo offered, taking them gently from her to put onto a table. Then they got the computer inside and near a plug with a chair in front of it, just for Oz and Meg to work on.
Vinnie came back and was smiling, tossing another brain. "You missed one, bro."
"Hey, I let them sort," he said with a shrug. "Anything else?"
"A few struts, nothing non-replacable." He looked at the computer. "I know that thing. We got Karbunkle's computer?"
"Mine. He gave it to me," Stoker said quickly.
"I figured Mars could use it more," he said with a shrug.
"Ooh, yeah, we could use it and I'll even share with Micah and Enamel," Stoker promised, stroking it again. "This is a great present, Xander. Thank you."
"It's what I do." He took off his shirt and went to help Charley sort the bike parts out by color and style. "Modo, what did Staff drive?"
"Hers was taken during the ship's boarding. It shouldn't be down here. She said it was a loaner too. She said she couldn't bond to one and give the ones she was fixing enough attention at the same time, it wasn't fair to her injured ones."
"That's fine, but what sort?"
"A low rider, like mine."
"Cool. Any idea who these belonged to? Or will we have to mine the computer for it?"
"Probably have to mine for it," Throttle told him, getting down to help. "You poor babies," he said, patting one dented gas tank. "We'll fix you up as best we can and send you poor things home to be loved."
"Xander still needs a bike," Vinnie reminded him.
"Yeah, but I'm doubting any of these ones want to be anywhere near combat, Vin. I know I wouldn't." He stroked a seat. "You were probably well loved. You're well conditioned."
Charley gave him a hug. "It'll be okay, Xander. We'll fix however many we can and put the others together." He nodded, settling in to help her. He was learning a lot by helping fix all the bikes around them. They found mostly all of one bike together and parts from a few more, and she made a list of what they'd need to find for them. "Any idea if the brains will work, Stoker?"
"Staff's working on them now. How many bikes do we have?"
"Six, one mostly whole and five in pieces. If I construct from what we've got here, I've got three total bikes."
"We've got four brains," Staff offered quietly, coming over to look. "Cobble 'em together. They won't care and I can fix the brains. Do we have soldering stuff?"
"It's one of the first things I bought when I came back," Xander said proudly. "The iron and stuff is in the blue tool chest in the second drawer." She smiled and went to get it, coming back with everything she'd need. "If we need to make a wire run, we can. The shop's still open for another hour or so."
"I might," she said, looking at the supplies.
"I know where it is," Modo promised, taking her back to his bike so they could head out. He liked her, she was sweet. Not much to look at, just a fairly gray mouse with dark hair that covered her eyes. A bit pudgy around the middle. Callused hands. But she was sweet and she was kind and she didn't look at him funny for being nearly as metal as his bike. In fact, she had helped him fix a loose wire in his arm earlier when he had been fussing with it, without having to be asked. She may not be a great beauty but she was a wonderful girl. "So, Staff, anxious to get back?" he asked as they took off.
"Not really. All my family's gone. There's a lot of crackpots left on Mars. I don't know why they survived when so many good and decent mice didn't, but I'm tired of M'dreth chanting up the road from the base."
He grinned. "Yeah, we've had to deal with them a few times too. Then again, Dawn and Xander would get along really well with them. Dawn's already in their books because she worked on a paper with Carbine about some markings that looked like ours down here."
"Good. Maybe it kept them satisfied for a few days. That must have been the quiet lull we had." She gave him a squeeze. "I saw Dawn doing magic to clean her room," she said quietly when they stopped at a light. "I don't care about that stuff as long as it's participation optional."
"I don't do it either," he admitted, grinning back at her in the mirror. He sped on once the light changed. "We should go for a ride later to take a break."
"Sure, Modo." She gave him a squeeze. "I love your bike. She's nearly as mannerly as you are."
"My momma did a good job on me," he agreed happily.
"I don't think I've met your mother. What's she like?"
He beamed. "My momma's a great and wise woman. Who'll probably be down in a few days if you're still here."
"I don't have anything to go back to and I can easily help Stoker figure out what we need for a new bike plant." He nodded, pulling up outside the store. "I forgot to ask for money," she sighed, shaking her head.
"I've got it," he promised. "Hackers took Limburger's daddy's stuff and gave it to us." He got off and helped her off, walking her inside. "This is a mechanic working on some delicate instruments."
"Sure. What does she need?" the salesman asked, smiling at them.
"At the moment, batteries, wires, and a few tools," she admitted, picking out what she needed. "I've got an electronic brain that's totally disconnected."
"You mean like for a robot?"
"Nothing like the Transformers," she said with a small smirk. "But yeah, basically."
"Sure." He showed her the rack of batteries, letting her pick out what she needed. "Need any voltage meters or anything?"
"No, we've got that at the garage. We were stocked by someone who did mild electronic repairs. I'm just filling in the specific gaps." She paused, looking at something, then at Modo. "That too. It can help with other things." He nodded, adding that to her stuff on the counter. She did one last turn of the store then let Modo pay for it. "Thanks."
"Not a problem. We're used to doing little things like this for Charley ma'am." He signed the slip for his card and handed back the white copy. "Xander's first day back we were here to help him fix Switch's bike. She crashed from way too high up. It took us nearly a week to fix hers." He took two of the bags, letting her take the large case. "What's that?"
"Special tools for things like circuit boards. They're built to handle small, tiny places. Like your arm," she said with a grin. He grinned back and they got on the bike to head home.
The salesman stared after them, shaking his head. "Those two are so cute!" he cooed. He realized the man had left his card and called the number on the back to report it. They'd call him. He came back a few minutes later and took it with a polite nod and a grin behind his mask, then headed off again once it was back in his wallet. "Those will be some pretty hamster babies," he sighed in delight.
To Part 31