Dawn strolled up the stairs into Micah's loft office, smirking at him and presenting the reports with a flourish. "Xander refused to write one. He said he's not on the payroll, he just helps out so ours and a verbal should be good enough."
"Not really," he said grimly. "What happened?"
"Xander had went on a scouting and implanting mission. Charley had worked out something so we could control the diggers by remote, but then Greasepit hit on him." Micah shuddered. "He ran home with his tail between his legs and hid under Vinnie's blanket," she said with a grin. "Vinnie's got the sniffles by the way. So we got him calmed down and downstairs again when Rimmy and I went to scout the tower because Xander *really* wanted to destroy it." She shifted some. "We got there and they used some sort of sonic cannon on us, taking us hostage. Then they attacked the garage and got them the same way as far as we know. Xander and Throttle were both a bit injured and Vinnie's still sneezing. Xander woke up in the cell, and of course no one had frisked him. Since he likes to carry around plastic explosives, well, he blew the door enough for Modo to get them out. They went for the bikes first, realized that there were others, freed us, Xander got the last one out through the ventilation system, then we magiced the tower into looking like we poured acid on a clay model, then we went home to patch up and Xander nearly killed a mouse who didn't like him because he's still got a human eye."
"Wonderful. That mouse is...."
"On his way here. He's the special envoy."
"Gee, then he'll really love me, huh?" he said fondly, grinning at her. "You okay, kid?"
"I'm fine." She handed over something from Enamel. "I'm on medical leave though unless it's an emergency. Nothing that could make me bleed harder." He looked at it then at her, raising an eyebrow. "Yeah, we went through the shots and I got kicked in the stomach when I was freeing Modo."
"That's okay. It's for the best. We agreed on that." He nodded. "So, Rimmy's downstairs with Lorne. He wanted to make sure you felt threatened by him."
"Oh, I certainly do." He leaned back, pulling out a drawer to put his feet up on it. "As a matter of fact, unless it's a real emergency I can't see you having to go on one of those again and if possible I'll send you with Lorne."
"Um, eww. I'm not that good of an actress, Micah."
He chuckled, shaking his head. "Fine. If you can figure out how to put an illusion on Rimfire that can't be broken, I'll send you two together, as long as you can calm your possessive and protective streak down. Him too, he's even worse than you are about your man."
Rimfire came up the stairs, grinning brightly. "You know I'm going to whip your tail if you do that again, right? At least outside of an assignment?"
"I know. I got that message. Max was very nice to hand it over," he said patiently. He smirked at him. "If she can figure out a way to put a non-breakable illusion on you, I'll let you two go together as long as you can stay focused on the job. That means that she may have to get into trouble sometimes."
"Does she have to?"
"Yeah, I do," Dawn said firmly. "This is my job. Just like yours is going to be running the intelligence network on Mars some day." He nodded, putting an arm around her shoulders. "So therefore I get to get into trouble and danger and you can only clap and cheer me on, babe."
"If I have to."
"If you can calm down that overprotective streak, I'll let you two go together," Micah offered. "As long as she can figure out how to do an illusion on you." He nodded. "Then we'll work on that after she comes off medical leave."
"Speaking of medical leave. Any good news on the birth control front?"
"I got the email, I asked a few people hypothetically, and they said it's the better shot. The way it works is it irritates the lining so you can't have one implanted." Dawn nodded at that. "So it's not hormonal or anything like that. It can cause some discomfort and a lot more cramps though."
"Most likely I'd sneak and be on the shot or something as well, just to control the stupid period anyway. I hate those things."
"I don't know of a woman who likes them," Max said as she came up the stairs. "So, when are you coming back?"
"In six weeks. I'm on medical leave." She grimaced and looked at Rimfire, then at Max. "Unfortunately, we can go through the shot too."
"Oooh, I'm sorry."
"I was kicked in the stomach when I was getting Modo out of his nightmare," she said with a small shrug.
"We agreed, it was for the best anyway," Rimfire offered gently, giving her a gentle squeeze. The screen beside them came on with a few bars, the Presidential seal, and a voice.
"Micah, why is the news saying something about Chicago again?" the president's voice demanded.
"Because we had to assault the bad aliens and that required us to destroy their residential domicile," Dawn said dryly.
"Dawn," Micah chided.
"Well, it did!"
"Who's that? A new agent?" the president asked.
"Actually, sir, that's Dawn Summers and her mate, Rimfire. They're agents in training. They were just in to deliver a report on last night. If you'll give me about an hour to debrief them, I'll gladly submit the reports to you."
"No, you can tell me now. Those reports give me a headache. What happened?"
"Limburger, the bad guy, kidnaped us and our families. We retaliated, it caused property damage," Rimfire told him. "We won."
"Succinct, I like that," the president offered. "Are the girls okay?"
"First, I may be female, but I can kick ass with the best of them," Dawn said dryly. "Secondly, the two mothers in our group were better protected than the rest of us fighting. *Women* on Mars do fight in the front lines and have forever, *Sir*. I'm not any different."
"Oh, then you're a furry one too?"
"No, I'm a human, I'm just good," she said smugly, glaring at Micah then rolling her eyes.
"She's also just about to start her formal training while she's doing a language degree, sir," Micah said, writing a note and holding it up. "Calm down, don't piss him off," it read. She shrugged and flipped the screen off. "She'll be eighteen in about six weeks so she's starting them, after a brief medical leave."
"Medical? She all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Nothing broken or too serious, just needing some rest."
"Oh. That's good then. You didn't have an abortion or something, right?"
Dawn stared at the screen. "Sir, with all due respect, that's none of your fucking business. My body is my body, not yours. I do have the right to make that decision for myself when and *if* the time comes to it. As for why I'm on medical leave, no I didn't have an abortion, but thanks for asking. I'll tell the person who bruised my intestines while kicking me that you thought so highly of his work. Right after I revive him actually. Now I know why I'd never vote for you. Max, I'm going to go blow shit up."
"Go ahead. We're doing another weapons lecture today anyway," she said with a grin, patting her on the back. "You okay?"
"Pissed. Fortunately taking cabs and pissed," she muttered. "Otherwise we'd be blowing up another building." She headed down the stairs.
"I agree," Rimfire told Micah. "That was uncalled for and none of his business in the first place. We might tell you these things because you're our boss and our friend, but he can butt the fuck out and nibble my tail." He headed after his wife, dragging her back up the stairs. "See what I'm going to be paying her back for?" he asked, holding up her left hand and the ring on it. "It was my graduation present to her but she got to pick it out." He beamed and took her back down the stairs.
"Well," the president said. "No respect in these young kids."
"Sir, you were way out of line," Micah told him. "You don't say shit like that to a woman. If you don't believe me, you might ask your wife." He did something he never did, he hung up on him. Then he looked at Max. "She' on medical for six weeks."
"I heard. It's fine," she agreed lightly. "I agree, he's a tool." She handed over her report. "From the people at General, on that kid. Enamel faxed it."
"Thanks." He grinned at her. "Warn Lorne about this too. He'll probably spar with her later even though she's not supposed to."
"Sure." She headed down to talk to Lorne, who Dawn was leaning on and chatting with. "Micah said no sparring today."
"Thanks, I'm still tender and sore," she admitted. Lorne looked at her. "Martian mice go through hormonal methods, but I got kicked in the stomach when I was being the exit key for Modo from the nightmares."
He gave her a hug. "I'm sorry, Dawnie. It'll be okay. Six weeks?" She nodded. "Then I'll start gently to make sure you haven't forgotten then." He let her go. "Pretty ring."
"Rimfire was pouting because he wanted to buy me one, he wanted to do the human engagement thing too, but his uncle wouldn't let him have the cash. So he's working at Xander's former construction site to pay me back and I got to pick it out. It's very pretty," she said, holding it up for him to see. "See?" He nodded, grinning at her. "Any idea on where Giles is now? He left before we could recover enough to find him."
"I did an exit records search, he was on a flight to London," Max told her. "Ethan was on there too, but he never showed up."
"Wonderful. Would it be *really* wrong to go there and blow him up, repeatedly?" she asked with a sweet, gentle smile.
"Yeah, it'd get us in trouble with MI-5," Lorne told her. "They're a bit uptight about that stuff." He patted her on the back. "Okay, so you've got the weapons lecture, strategy lecture, then what?"
"Then home. I've still got to figure out what I'm wearing under my cap and gown and how to do my hair so the cap doesn't slide off. You guys are coming, right? We got you tickets." They nodded. "Cool. Micah?"
"You're coming to graduation, right? We got you a ticket. It's in two days, at ten in the morning."
"I'll be there."
"Thanks." She grinned at Max. "Do I wear something long or not under a robe like that?' she asked as they walked off to deal with the weapons.
"My last one I wore a sundress actually," she told her. "Ours was outside and it was hot." She opened the range's door, letting them inside so she could go over the new toys with them. These two were very good at weapons work so far so they were getting the advanced stuff.
Lorne shook his head. "At least she's good in unarmed combat too," he said dryly, going back to his latest report. He printed it and carried it up the stairs. "I'm not going back to Cleveland. When is Bob getting out of the hospital?" Micah gave him a sideways look and a small smirk. "Three of the slayers hit on me, Micah, it's not happening."
"Bob's getting out today and he'll be back on duty next week. Which ones?"
"Caridad, Marissa, and the Chinese one I can't remember the name of." He shrugged. "They're all too young for me."
"Yeah, they are," Micah agreed with a smirk.
Lorne frowned at him and looked around, then back at him. "Should I even mention a certain assignment to free us in the nightmare and what you had to do?"
Micah shook his head. "Probably not. Rimfire's still pissed. They both knew though, he was listening."
"It is, but she said they had talked about it in the past," he sighed, getting comfortable again. "They're fine with it. I'm making it so they can work together if they can get that overprotective streak under control. That way they can go on those together."
"Fine. I'll work on that. He's a good field operative," Lorne admitted. "She's a bit wild but fairly good so far. Casual relationships are usually a bad thing in the field, but those two are too tight to do that to each other." He glanced around again. "Any luck finding a new girlfriend?"
"No and my ex laughed at me," he admitted. He stuck his earpiece back in his ear and smirked at him. "I have options. When are you and Max going out again?"
"We're not. It's not one of those we can handle in the field."
"Yeah, right," Micah snorted. "You two could end up that close."
"Maybe but it's not right and I'm distracted so it's not happening." He left, going back to his desk to update Dawn's files since she was about to graduate.
Micah flipped on his computer, going back to searching the personals since he had nothing to do until the President, or his wife, called back. That only took a few minutes.
"Micah?" the First Lady asked gently. "What happened?"
"One of my newest agents in training is having to take a few weeks of medical leave, which basically will bridge the gap until she's eighteen. Your husband asked if she just had an abortion."
"Ah. No wonder. Did she yell at him?"
"Yes, and she had every right to," he said patiently. "As did I. You don't say that stuff to women. Not in my office and not around my agents especially."
"I understand. It was in very poor taste of him. I'll have a talk with him. I'd like to meet this young lady and her gentleman friend if you could. She sounds quite good."
"I would but she's got to leave later tonight. She graduates in two days, ma'am."
"Just for tea?"
"If we can work it in," he said, holding in the sigh but rolling his eyes. "They've got two lessons today and then the flight back. Let me check with Max. Hold on." He put her on hold and called the range. "Max, the First Lady wants to have tea with Dawn and Rimfire. She thinks they sound nice. Do they have time today?" He heard Rimfire mutter in the background. "No, just with her. Sure. Thanks." He hung up and took his boss's wife off hold. "Ma'am, Agent London said they may be able to squeeze in an hour. Did you want to do this away from the White House? It's been a while since you got out."
"If it's not too much trouble," she agreed. "Thank you, Micah. I'm always interested in learning how women handle things like combat."
"Actually, her sister's the top girl in Cleveland. She's been doing this her whole life," he admitted.
"Ooh, that's interesting. Thank you, Micah."
"You're welcome, ma'am. You have a nice day and have your guards call if there's a problem."
"Of course. You too." She hung up and he sat back, groaning and shaking his head. He called the range again. "Is Dawn dressed appropriately for a tea house? I don't remember." He listened to the rundown of their clothes. "Get Rimfire into something decent, they're having tea out today. She wanted to get out of the house and talk to Dawn about combat and how she was standing it and stuff." He hung up, grabbing his bottle of aspirin to take a few. He'd need them by the end of that tea.
Stoker looked at the suggestions Staff had made, then at her. "That's pretty extensive."
"There's not too many of us left who can build a bike from raw pieces," she noted quietly. "It'd take a few machines to start the process. I know two other people from the plant survived, including one of the designers. He worked his way up from the paint shop if I remember right. The main problem is that we don't have anyone to build brains."
"Can we use one of the ones we found that's not working as a prototype?"
"Yeah, but it took special equipment to build something that complicated. We don't have the facilities anymore for that."
He sighed and nodded. "Okay, so what we need is a plant with a place to build electronics as well?" She nodded. "Would the munitions factory do?"
"The laser building areas, yeah, but they need those."
"Yes, but they've got an extra room we could fix up," he pointed out dryly. "What about our other allies? Some of them are more technological than we are at the moment."
"They'll want favors," she pointed out. "Even the humans."
"Or you could make a deal with some of the bike companies down here for some stock models and customize," Throttle said from the doorway. "That would cover any gap between now and when we could do the factory."
"That wouldn't solve the brain issue," she offered. "Plus we'd still have to arm and plate them."
He nodded. "I know. But starting from stock, even just the basics like the frame, seat, and engines, would help get us over that gap." She nodded, accepting that. "Plus, you know, economy in a slump and things on both places."
"It would be cheaper to start that way and then use the profits to build the plant," she agreed. "We'd still need someone to work on brains."
"We've got contacts who can build computers if they've got the specs," Xander said, leaning around Throttle's shoulder. "Some of Meg's online buddies can, like Gregori. A limited contract wouldn't be that bad and you could state what they could and could not keep of the technology afterward." He grinned. "I'm one who's hoping for a bike soon." He disappeared again, going to check on Meg and Oz's progress on Limburger's system. "Hey, anything good on me?"
"Your file's kinda thin," Oz told him, giving him a look. "They think you're Throttle's protege and too young to bike on your own."
"I look that young?" Meg nodded. "Wow." He beamed. "Cool. No wrinkles yet." He looked. "Anything on the guys?"
"We're saving their files fully down on a DVD each," Meg told him. "That way they can reference back to them. Fortunately, Karbunkle was using Power Point and other Microsoft Office products," she said dryly. "How's the designing going?"
"I got fired for being attacked and not able to call in," he sighed. "So I'm doodling now and then."
"Design the bike plant on Mars," Oz suggested. Xander beamed and went to work on his computer, kicking Stoker off it to do that. Oz looked at Meg. "He's bouncy today."
"Hmm, someone needs to be laid soon," she agreed dryly, smirking at him. "We're buying season passes with them this year. So we can go to Six Flags whenever we want."
"I like that," Oz assured her, giving her a quick kiss. "Who do we know that can build bike brains?"
"Gregori and his company can. Talina probably can but she's more weapons people. Then again, she's got the major hots for Throttle's tail," she shared with a grin and a nudge to her boyfriend. "Gregori wants Vinnie. He wants to protect and sooth the pain from losing part of his face."
"I can't see Vinnie allowing himself to be babied," Oz noted dryly.
"Huh?" Modo asked from the doorway.
"We were talking about who we knew who could help with the bike building stuff," Meg told him with a grin. "A few of our online friends in the Paranoid Network like you guys a lot. We've got one friend, Gregori, who wants to baby Vinnie and make him all better from his injuries to his face. He even posted a short note saying he'd gladly take the poor guy in and coddle him until he was all better."
"He doesn't know Vinnie very well," Modo said dryly. "I'll have to tell him that."
"We've got another one who wants to tie Throttle down and suck his tail all the way to the root," Oz told him.
"I don't think that's possible," Modo said, shaking his head to tease his bros about that. "Bro," he called, earning a look from Vinnie. " Did you know that one of Meg's friends wants to baby you and coo over your injuries?"
"Wonderful. Let's hope Charley doesn't hear," he said happily. "Cooing?"
"Cooing, babying you, all that good stuff."
"Hmm, spoiling. I like spoiling but she'd kill me," he decided, shaking his head.
"Yes, she would," Xander called. "I'll spoil you later, big brother. Come look!" Vinnie got up and came to look over his shoulder. "Not totally industrial, can fit in with the landscape. How's it look?"
"I like that," Vinnie said. "Stoker, look at this design."
"Oz suggested I submit for the new bike plant," he said proudly.
Stoker looked, nodding. "I like the outside. We've got a few places we could put that against a few cliffs. That way we could tunnel and use the raw materials." He nodded. "Finish those and print them out, I'll submit 'em for you, kid." Xander beamed at him. "Work on housing next. We had a lot more round designs."
"I saw," he agreed happily, going to work on the inside plans. Both for a free-standing building and one built into the cliffs.
"How do you know what goes in a bike shop?" Vinnie asked.
"I watch that customizing show on tv and I did the virtual tour of the Kawasaki plant," he said proudly. He went back to fiddling with things. "An overhead moving rack for frames, Staff?"
"It could work," she agreed. "It'd keep the ground clear." She looked over his shoulder. "Switch those around," she said, pointing at a few machines. He switched them for her. "I like that a lot." She patted him on the back and went back to talking with Stoker. "He's good."
"He's experienced," Xander agreed. "He still needs to know if we're going on our trip," he called. "Last day to cancel is today."
"We're going," Throttle promised. "As long as my bike doesn't care."
"Why would his bike care?" Staff asked.
"We're flying out to Frisco then driving back," Xander said proudly. "That'll mean about three hours of her being cargo but she can pretend for that long for a good reward. All the hills and stuff out there. We're going to spend a few days then drive back." He clicked on another thing, saving it, then went back to shifting things where he wanted them.
"That's a great trip," Vinnie agreed. "A long ride back, but a great trip."
"We'll bring you guys pictures," he said proudly. "We might even hit Sturgis the week before the rally." He beamed and went back to work. "Are we thinking apartment style housing, condo style housing, or housing development houses style housing, Stoker?"
"All three, Xander."
"Sure." He started on a new screen and got to work on that too. He had all sorts of ideas after what he'd seen in Throttle's and Vinine's minds. Vinnie sneezed but continued to watch him work. "Oh, Oz and Meg said they know people who can help build brains, and all they'd probably ask for was a long cuddle from studly here and my stud."
"Yeah, one wanted to baby me," Vinnie said smugly.
"Why?" Charley asked as she joined them. "That's pretty, Xander."
"Thanks," he said happily. "Part of the Paranoid underground has the hots for these guys. Two of which could help building brains and stuff."
"You could just wait four months and go raid Plutark," Charley suggested. "The latest reports we've gotten said that they seem to be dying off in alarming numbers."
"That's what happens when you drop vampires in an all-you-can-eat buffet without a slayer present," Xander said dryly. "They gorge because they don't farm for later food use."
"Then they starve and die?" Vinnie asked.
"They could go into something like a hibernation for a while I guess. The books say that some who were sealed in places did that. I'm guessing since these are Bringers and not normal vamps, but they might head back into the hellmouth again too. You'll definitely have to quarantine the planet."
"Some people have suggested rescue missions for the rest of the Plutarkians," Stoker said grimly. "I don't know why."
"For the same reason I had to warn them because I couldn't condone genocide." Xander looked over at him. "Some of us can't help genocide or let it happen. Even if they're your raping, murdering, torturing enemies who deserve to be boiled alive in the fat of their kin. The same as doctors have to treat everyone, even if it's someone who just tried to kill them. Now, that's not saying that you can't rescue them and do to them what was done to you guys. That's not saying you can't take back some of what they stole and use it to rebuild Mars either. At the very least you'd get a lot of building and raw materials." Stoker nodded at that. "But you'd have to bring a slayer to fight with the Bringers."
"They won't eat mice. We taste funny," Vinnie said smugly.
"Then put the remaining half dozen or so plutarkians on a ship and send them toward a further colony world where they've already done enough damage that it's worse than Mars, and strip mine their planet."
"That makes us no better, kid," Stoker said firmly.
"Not really. They won't have a native population and half of it was yours anyway."
"Send 'em toward Octet 4 and take the rest. It's a decent plan," Vinnie admitted.
"Octet 4 was mined bare years ago and the native population destroyed," Stoker reminded him.
"Serves. Them. Right," Vinnie said firmly. "Let them live like we have, cobbling together things and scavenging things left over from their mining and stuff. Send the Sand Raiders with them and let them go."
"That's still cruel and mean," Staff pointed out gently.
"Well, it's going to come down to letting them all die off or not anyway," Xander told her. "The Bringers won't leave anyone alive while they're hungry. I warned Junior and he laughed. Oh well," he said firmly, going back to his designing. "I did my duty."
"You did," Stoker agreed gently, looking at Vinnie. "That still make us no different."
"Not if they're already gone. We won't be destroying their native population. They did that all on their own by not listening and not respecting things."
"The humans call that karma," Xander pointed out. "Payback for all the bad shit you did." He saved that design and printed it out, handing it over. "How's that for a house? I'm not sure that it's the right scale."
Stoker looked at it, then shook his head. "Too small. How many bedrooms?"
"Three upstairs, one downstairs. A sitting room. A kitchen, a room for laundry and stuff if necessary. A closed off entry way for defensive purposes. Bunkers underground for hiding if necessary."
"It still looks pretty cramped. Give them more room, like here, Xander. We like to wander at night too."
"Sure. I was trying to save on materials." He went back and expanded the design, giving it more room inside. He printed that one out and handed it over. "How's that?"
"I like that," Stoker admitted. "Ours is a little single floor thing at the moment. What's this material?"
"Adobe. It's a cement-like mud mixture that the desert people in our South West use. Especially the natives. It'd probably be easy enough to make from some of the badlands. Some make sun-dried bricks, some just coat the walls with it. That's up to you guys and your personal styles. I can also see cut-stone construction, like they use in the North East. There's a lot of it up there because there's so many stones laying around. I can pull references and samples if you want."
"Please. If we can do it from native materials, it'll go better." He smirked at him. "You're good."
"I'm trying to be," he admitted. "When I come up there, I want to see Mars recovering, not in a desperate struggle to save herself." Stoker nodded, punching him on the arm. "Want to go to home depot with me tonight? I've got to buy lawn furniture."
"For the outdoor seating lounge and grill," he said smugly. "It'll be finished next week." He grinned at Charley. "On break to watch my brilliance?"
"On break," she admitted. "I had no idea you were being so brilliant." He grinned at her. "I like adobe. It's a pretty thing and it'll blend in very well with the land. What about windows?"
"You make glass out of sand. I'm guessing they've got sand and heat enough to melt it." Stoker nodded firmly. "Then they can make glass. I just wouldn't build a building out of it."
"Me either, it'd shatter in a good windstorm," Throttle agreed as he walked in. "I like that," he said fondly. "Designing our retirement home?"
"I started out on the bike plant but then Stoker and Staff wanted me to work on housing for a bit. You like it?"
"I do," he agreed. He looked at the older one and shook his head. "Too small to wander or get away from the kids, but this new one's nice." He smiled at him. "My bike agreed, she can pretend for about three hours as long as we get a long ride back."
"Oh, we will. It's close to two thousand miles back," Xander said with a grin. "I drove it in two days on greyhound. On a bike it should take about a week. Plus we'll be going past Sturgis about a week before the rally. That way we can get some of the early fun without too much exposure."
"Throttle, can I steal him to plan our next vacation?" Vinnie asked.
"Sure, just as long as you don't steal him for real." He grinned at his mate. "Sure. We'll take it as it comes the rest of the way?" Xander nodded. "Cool. What next on the addition? Merle wanted to know."
"Home depot for lounge furniture and moving the warehouse here."
"Are they done?" Stoker asked.
"In about four more days," Xander said smugly. "Did they get the bathroom stuff?" Throttle shook his head. "Did I forget to order it?"
"No, it's just not come yet," he admitted. "That's why he wanted to know if there was anything else."
"Yeah, they can fix the garage again," he said with a happy grin. "Saves me from breaking out a ladder and probably falling off."
"Enamel said if your ears didn't ascend more, he could move them for you," Throttle reminded him. "That'll solve the rest of your balance issues."
"Yeah, I know, but I don't want to have an ear lift. I'm not that vain."
"You need one since they haven't ascended," Stoker told him seriously. "You can't bike if you're off balance and you can't learn the playbook until you can bike to my satisfaction. That means you've got to be proficient enough to play games on it, do bottles and brodies, and all that good stuff."
"Okay, I get the games...." Xander said.
"You put a bottle down on top of an oil slick, then rev up and speed toward it, skidding at the last minute to get the closest to the bottle," Vinnie told him. "We're all very good. Modo and I are tied at the moment but next time I'm going to win."
"You're not doing it on my bike," Charley ordered firmly. "I can just see the redone paint job now."
"Why do we play this game?" Xander asked.
"For the game and also for precision work," Throttle told him. "I know you don't understand, but it's one of those things biker mice do, Xan."
"Oh, okay. Then I guess I'll learn all the biker mice games and become a good little reindeer."
"Reindeer?" Stoker asked.
"You never heard of Rudolph, who had a shiny nose so the others wouldn't let him play reindeer games?" Charley asked with a grin. "It's one of the stories you hear around Christmas."
"Oh. Okay," he said in a tone much like Xander's a moment ago. "If you say so."
"We'll get you the tape," Xander said dryly. "Spike used to laugh at the animation. Talked about barbequing a few times too."
"That's just sick, Xander," Charley sighed.
"Hey, he was the vampire, not me," he defended. "I'm not a vampire mouse."
"Thankfully," Throttle agreed dryly. "What happened to Fred?"
"I took him to the vamp club and handed him to the midget vampire personally, the one who bit you and said you tasted like hot dogs." He beamed. "They hit it off very well."
"Wonderful," Stoker agreed, giving him an odd look. "Why?"
"Fred likes pain. The midget vampire is a Dom." He shrugged. "Works for them."
"Don't share stuff like that," Staff told him, swatting him on the arm. "Bad, Xander."
"I know," he said gleefully. He grinned at all of them. Then he let out a slight evil chuckle.
"Aw, cheese, he's in one of those moods and there's no tower to destroy," Stoker grumbled.
"No bungee jumping," Throttle ordered. "No rodeo camp. Nothing that could make me come to the hospital." Xander jumped up and hugged him, then ran off to find something fun to do. "No caffeine either," he called after him.
"Yes, dear. Modo, we've got to pick out furniture at home depot, wanna come?" he called.
"Sure. Let me find my boots." He stuck his head into the office. "Am I bringing back anything?"
"My mate," Throttle said. "In one piece. Please."
Modo gave him an odd look. "Furniture's going to break him?"
"No, but he wants to have fun so he may leave you at the store once everything's ordered. Try to bring him back," Charley told him.
"He's having one of his evil cackle days," Vinnie told him.
"Oh. Okay." He went to find his boots and take Xander shopping. True to form, Xander let him try out stuff since he was the biggest and most heavy, then he paid for it, had it delivered, and disappeared out the door. Modo brought back lunch instead.
Junior looked at the screen and the acting High Chairman. "We must have weapons," the other plutarkian was yelling "There must be something we can do to stop these things before we're all dead."
"The only sources I have down here are compromised," Marshall complained. "It's a mouse. I told you exactly what he told me. You might try the one of us in Cleveland since something was mentioned in that town, but I don't know what would kill them. I've sent you everything I can get my hands on but short-range nuclear weapons and those would kill us too."
"Tell me again what the mouse said," he ordered, sounding more calm. "The report didn't make sense."
"All he said was that the same thing that happened to the town originally could happen to us, and that we'd need people to fight them. From later sources I learned that he split from a group in Cleveland who used to do the same things they did back in Sunnydale. That they're something called slayers and that he's a defender of this planet and so are they. They're a bunch of girls however so I'm not sure what they can do. The mouse said that he had to warn us due to him having ethics," he finished with a sneer.
"If he does, he may help us fight them now," the acting Chairman muttered.
"I doubt it. He hates us just as much as any of the other mice. Even though he's not in our records and he's fairly young. There's also some odd things. A records search on his name through my father's files show him as a human. Now he's a white mouse." He shrugged, leaning back some. "I don't know what happened. Karbunkle swears he didn't do it." He sat up suddenly. "What about that redheaded spirit who was trying to warn us? What did she say?"
"Something about an axe, a holy implement," he said with a wave of his hand. "It's of no use to us. None of us would follow their pitiful faith. Can you get that mouse and question him?"
"The last time I got that mouse, he destroyed the old tower. I'm in the backup bolt hole at the moment," he said blandly. "He's the one who managed to break the others out with things he found on himself. I'm not sure what sort of being he truly is, but he's not a normal mouse. Karbunkle won't go near him, Greasepit is *drooling* for him, and he's taken Karbunkle's creation and handed him to someone else to hold." He patted down his hair. "You really should call the one of us in Cleveland. A bunch of girls has got to be more sentimental than that mouse. After all, we nearly destroyed his people. The humans here aren't to that point yet."
"Fine. You go to Cleveland, talk to these girls personally. I don't know of the plutarkian there and I don't trust anyone with this at this moment. You go there, you talk to them, you find us a weapon. Because if you don't, our whole species will die out. We've even had pity offers from some of the planets we've conquered so they can come steal what's left of Plutark after we're gone."
"I'll do my best, High Chairman. Be safe and lock your doors." That got a nod and the picture disappeared. Limburger stood up and straightened out his suit, then went to make some travel arrangements. Cleveland sounded interesting, he'd have to do a bit of sightseeing on the way back. Then he'd have more room for advancement off this dirty little dustball. Possibly jump right into the highest of high chairs. "Karbunkle," he said from the doorway to the lab. "We're going to Cleveland. Find out where those defenders are and make travel plans for tonight." He looked at the little alien the goons had taken back, and the little man beside it. He frowned at him. "Are you like those things on our planet? They call themselves Bringers."
"No, I'm an average vampire," he said dryly. "I'm also living proof that you do not touch what's Xander's." He looked at Fred, then pulled him closer to eat from him. "You still taste good, no matter what they do to you."
"Ooooooohh," Fred moaned, sounding like he was having an orgasm. "I love you."
"You're welcome, my pet." He patted him and put him down in the corner.
"Do you know of those people in Cleveland?" Karbunkle hissed, adjusting the tube running to his head. "We must know where they are."
"Cleveland? Girls? Slayers?"
"Yes, them!" Limburger said firmly.
"Sure, go to Cleveland, go to the eastern edge of town. There's a really nice housing development there. They're in a red brick building that's built like a fortress. It's got gates, high windows, and all that stuff. Good luck with them though. Summers is a cranky bitch most days. That's why Xander left," he said smugly.
"Fine. I'll need a map."
"Yeah, sure. Can me and my pet go tonight while you're gone?"
"If I must," he said grimly. He stomped off, going to get his car ready for the trip. He hated to fly on the human's airlines. They were so pitiful and pathetic compared to his personal stench cruiser.
"Can we turn me tonight?" Fred asked, clapping his hands. "Please? Can we turn me tonight, Master?"
"We'll see, Fred," he said firmly, pinching him on the forehead. "If you're a good boy I might taint you a bit more tonight. You're too much fun to play with to turn yet."
"Ooh, okay!" he said happily, beaming at him. "Can you bite me again?"
"Not now, pet. Soon though." He stroked his head. "You rest, you'll need it for our later games." Fred nodded and rested against his side, falling asleep in his lap. "See what you missed out on?" he taunted. "Pity, but more fun for me."
"I can put you both outside right now," Karbunkle hissed.
"Then you won't have a map to Cleveland."
"Fine. Draw it," he said, handing over paper and a pencil. He stomped off, not having fun with this victim.
Micah got the transcripts from his snitch and read them, then hit the button on his phone marked 'Buffy' and waited until someone picked it up. "Hey, Wes, it's Micah," he said dryly. "The plutarkians are coming your way to find a weapon against the things that came out of the seal. Yeah, they're the ones who stole it. No, Limburger. Sure, call Xander and them to get info on them. Yeah, just be careful. They're not real used to hearing 'no' as a real answer. Later, be safe." He hung up and looked over as Dawn came back up the stairs with Rimfire, who was borrowing clothes from Lorne. "You look nice, Rimfire."
"Thank you. What's the stinkfish doing this time?"
"Going to Buffy to find the scythe to stop the Bringers."
"Oh, charming," Dawn said dryly. "You know, if I didn't have graduation in two days, I'd go stop them from stinking up the house. But, unfortunately I do," she said cheerfully. "By the way, she said she hit him for that remark." She gave him a smug look. "We talked all about covert battles and assignments and things. She thought Rimfire was charming and polite, and that I had very good manners as well, even though I had sworn at her husband earlier."
"Yeah, Hendrix got the transcripts from him and he heard the comment about the bike," Micah said with a smirk. "He's not amused and the Investigative Federal Unit is not one to piss off. They like to interrogate."
"They can suck my tit," Dawn said dryly. "No one says shit like that to me. Not even you or Xander." Micah smirked and nodded down at the walkway. "Oooh, yay. Fedman, Rimfire."
He snickered and patted her on the back. "Excuse her, she's still cramping a bit," he offered, walking her off. "I'm off to change so I can give Lorne back his clothes. Then we're heading home, right?"
"Yeah. Have fun with that and watch out for Limburger."
"Oh, he sent the Prez a donation. I convinced his wife to make him send it back by telling her what they were. She was not happy." She wiggled her fingers. "Toodles. See you in six weeks, or at graduation." She smiled at Hendrix as the internal affairs guy glared at her. "Yes?"
"Are you Miss Dawn Summers?"
"Yeah, and if he says more shit to me like that I'm going to make good on it. No one disrespects me that way, buddy, especially not a man." He looked stunned. "Yay, I'm young, I've been kicking ass now for a few years. Me and Xander both." She smiled as Rimfire came out of the bathroom, his clothes folded neatly and put on Lorne's desk. "We ready?"
"Yup, I'm ready. I just have to get my blaster back from Max." He went to do that, passing by the agent with a polite nod. "Today's not the day to piss her off," he hissed as he pushed past him.
"I heard that."
"Sorry. Should we pick up some ice cream on the way to the airport?"
"There's a decent place inside if we've got time," she offered with a grin. He nodded and leaned in the weapons lab, taking it back from someone in there. Then he came back and took her arm, which made her smile gently at the tool in front of her. "You have a nice day, Agent Hendrix," she told him. "Hopefully he won't piss off the rest of ECHO by asking them if they just went through an abortion." She walked him off, taking Rimfire to head to the airport. There was a cab waiting on her so apparently Micah was making sure she got out of there without any bruised knuckles. "You know, I wonder what Throttle's nuke knucks feel like when you hit someone?"
"From what I understand, it's like it adds to your natural strength," Rimfire offered as he helped her into the back. He slid in and looked at the man in the front seat. "Airport, Regan."
"Sure, kid," he agreed. He rolled up the windows and Rimfire pulled his blaster, pointing it at him. "Um, kid, I'm not here to hurt you, just talk to you."
"I don't care. You can do that on the way to the airport," Dawn told him. "Honey, put it away." Rimfire put it away but didn't snap his holster shut either. She grinned and leaned against his arm. "We'll miss our flight if you don't hurry."
"Sure. Um, ma'am, sir, I'm with the Secret Service. You do know you're not supposed to threaten the president, correct?"
"Yeah, but he deserved it. Did you get the transcripts of the conversation?"
"Yes, ma'am, which is why we're having a talk instead of arresting you for making that threat," he promised, turning onto the main street. "I know he's overbearing and stupid, I know he shouldn't have said that to you, and I'm sure he's very sorry or will be when his wife lays into him this time, along with the vice president, but you really can't threaten him."
"Yeah, well, I didn't put him in that office, I wouldn't have put him in that office if I had been old enough to vote, and my higher authority chain stops at Micah Simms," she told him. "My boss."
"His wife was very nice," Rimfire offered. "She seemed much too nice to be with that man. Is she window dressing?"
"We can't discuss that topic, sir," the agent driving offered quickly. "All I can say is that she's a very good woman."
"Who I respect," Dawn agreed. "She apologized for her spouse first thing. I like that woman. I'd like to see her strap him down and paddle him like he obviously needs." The agent moaned at that. "Sorry if that hit too close to home, dude. Like I said, he's not my commander in chief, Micah is. If Micah tells me to make nice with him the next time I'm forced to interact, then I will." She leaned forward, giving him a pat on the shoulder. "It's okay, really. I'm doing languages. Micah's group hardly ever has to come into contact with him anymore. He should never have to see me again."
"Good point, ma'am. Could you maybe not threaten him in the future?"
"I'll try, provided his lips don't gape like they did earlier."
"I can understand fully, ma'am. That was rude, tasteless, and cruel to you," he agreed, turning onto the highway to head to the airport. "You said Regan, right?" Rimfire nodded. "Are you sure? We had you flying out of the other one."
Dawn pulled her tickets out of her purse and looked at them. "Nope, Regan," she said, letting him look at them. "I like you. You're very nice. Maybe you should come work for Micah too."
"I'd love to, ma'am, but with my luck they'd send me to IFU and I'd have to be the one to torture others for being dumb."
She gave him another pat on the back before leaning back against Rimfire's side. "It's all right. I think you're perfectly nice and a decent guy. Maybe the academy since I've got to go through in a few years?"
"I'd like nothing better than to see you in the field, Miss Summers. You and your...spouse seem quite capable and smart. Especially since you were recruited so young."
"Actually, I asked Micah if I could work for him. I'm the little sister of the group in Cleveland."
"Oh, I know," he assured her. "We didn't have that you asked instead of were recruited. I'll fix that in your personnel file tonight." He grinned back at them. "Your...spouse seems very nice and polite as well."
"He and Micah kept me from saying what I really wanted to say," she agreed, grinning up at him. "Huh, Rimmy?"
"I try now and then," he agreed with a smile for her. He gave her a kiss. "By the way, we're only engaged. She's not old enough yet to be claimed in Biker Mice fashion or to be married human style. Not for a few more weeks."
"I wish you many blessings, kids. You seem very happy together. Who's that new white mouse in your group? We have him listed as your adoptive father."
"That is Xander," she agreed. "He changed thanks to Willow."
"Um, Rosenburg?" She nodded. "Oh. Okay. I'll make note of that too." He pulled into the airport. "Please remember not to threaten where it can be overheard, ma'am. Agent Hendrix is really not the nicest of blokes and he's a pain in my ass. Next time, wait until he's gone then swear."
"Sure. Since you're so nice and all," she said with a sweet smile. "Are we done?" He nodded. "How much?"
"Don't worry, ma'am, it was my pleasure to drive you today. You two have a good trip back and be safe." They nodded and got out, heading inside to catch their flight, and maybe get some ice cream. He shook his head, parking so he could call his boss. "She agreed to tone it down in the future, but she did have a point that he deserved it. Also, the male is her fiance, she's not quite old enough yet for either style bonding. She had some corrections for the associated files. That white mouse is one Alexander Harris, apparently he was changed by one Willow Rosenburg, and she asked to work for Agent Simms; she was not recruited by him. She calls her boyfriend Rimmy, I'm not sure if we have his name right or not in the files. Though, her mate did say that he should be tied down and paddled by his wife and then offered to drop the subject when I told them I couldn't talk about such things. No, they're at Regan. We got the wrong airport by their tickets. No, she's fine. Looks like she's got PMS badly. No, she's nearly eighteen. She claims she's going for languages and she'll see us at the academy in a few years. Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." He hung up and took the cab back to their base so he could go back to his regular duty of walking the president's dog.
Maybe he would talk with Micah Simms about a job soon. This was humiliating for a man who got top scores in his year at the Academy.
Throttle picked up the phone. "Yeah?" He smiled, hearing the happy voice on the other side. "Hey, Fred. What's wrong?" He sat down suddenly. "Run that by me again?" She repeated it. "Why is Limburger coming to see you about the scythe that kills Bringers?" Vinnie looked over, gaping at him. "No, I wouldn't let him in the driveway. Then again, I was tortured by him. Xander wanted to boil them all in their relative's fat." He smiled. "Sure. I'll send you a concise report on what we know by email. Give me ten minutes to get Stoker off the computer. Sure. You be safe. He doesn't take no for an answer, it's a species trait. Watch out for his flunkies too. They like to hurt people. Sure. You be safe." He hung up and shook his head. "Fred got told by Micah that Limburger Junior is headed her way to talk to her about the scythe, the weapon to stop the Bringers." Vinnie gaped more. "Yeah. We need to send her a report."
"Send it with a picture of Dawn's prom outfit," Vinnie told him.
Throttle smirked at that. "Sure, bro. You okay?"
"Still sneezing and coughing, but that nyquil stuff made me too sleepy." He yawned. "I'll wake up eventually."
"We can spare you until you're well." He got up to go kick Stoker off the communications system Meg had integrated into their computer. "We need to send Fred a concise report on who and what Limburger Junior is and why he's going to them for a weapon."
"Sure, let me finish this." He clicked the link to unmute, then to send the files he wanted. "There you go. Throttle's mate designed those for consideration. There's two for the bike factory, a few possible designs for housing. He said he was using traditional desert people's designs from here. He's going to get me samples of stuff so we can look them over more formally. Anything else you need right this minute, Carbine?"
"Hey," Throttle said, nodding at her. "How's it going?"
"Tough. We're at odds of what to do next."
Stoker shook his head. "We've got to get Mars back up to speed. She's got to be able to support herself. Especially if we're going to start having a lot of babies soon. We can barely support ourselves right now. Fortunately Rimfire and Dawn found me a book on advanced agricultural things and they're feeding me more textbooks as they get them."
"Yes, where is Rimfire?" another council member asked. "He is one of our brightest young ones from the Freedom Fighters corps."
"He's down here with his mate studying computers, languages, farming, and intelligence stuff. His mate's studying languages and works in an intelligence community, the same one who protects us. She's about to graduate and then she'll start her additional education in languages to help more. I've allowed him to stay as long as he needs to learn more about advanced farming techniques that can help us." That got a round of nods. "He hopes to come back, help others learn these techniques, and to help run Mars Intelligence Net."
"He sounds very qualified by the time he's finished his training," a female council offered. "What of his spouse? Is she a Martian?"
"Human," he admitted. "Dawn Summers." One of the councilmen looked at him oddly. "Yes, that Dawn Summers." He looked back at Throttle. "They heard you took her in."
"Oh, good. She's a nice kid. I'm more than happy to have her here. It keeps Xander sane sometimes."
"Yes, how is your human spouse?" the female asked.
"Fine. Only he's mostly a mouse now. That same redhead who came up with the seal that the M'dreth are protecting changed him most of the way. He's about ninety percent mouse."
"Interesting," was muttered by some of the group.
"Hey, Vinnie?" he called. "The council's on."
Vinnie came in and grinned. "Can you kick the tail of Stoker's secretary when he comes back so we don't have to? We probably won't stop and it'll lose a potential breeder."
"By the way, Carbine, find me a new secretary," Stoker said firmly. "He started out by questioning Xander's authority during a rescue of him and others, and then talked down to him here at the lair."
"Then we'll make sure he has no hand in raising his children as stupid as he is," Carbine said dryly. "Any other business?" She looked at the plans as they were handed to her. "I like these. One's a bit cramped, one's very nice, and I definitely like this built-in one for the bike plant."
"We suggested he do something today since he got fired," Stoker offered. "He's pretty good at that and he's making sure it's mostly stuff we can use. Oh, there is another point. About the bikes. We have two suggestions, both of which would cost some money but would save us some in the long run and would then allow us to take the profits to build the new bike plant."
"I don't think that's the necessity that food and housing is," one of the councilors offered.
"Neither do I," he assured him, "but we do have to start thinking about it soon. The current generation will be short on bikes. We've only got about two hundred in storage." He shifted some, groaning a bit. "That means we'll have to have some soon. Now, there are plenty of bike companies down here and someone suggested we take a few stock models and customize, which would save us the money of building the plant first. We could take the profits to build it."
"What about the brains?" Carbine asked.
"There's a few people in Meg's network of paranoid people who watch the bros and others who can probably help us. I talked with Meg and she said that there's about four who could. If we had the facilities at the munitions plant, we could borrow them or we could ask them to do it down here and pay them, letting them keep some of the fundamental ideas to push the human technology further ahead. Our engineers could probably help them with that once they got the water filtering system set up. Oh, the textbook has the plans for one. It's not that hard and we can do it easily enough. It won't be drinkable but it should do for crop watering as long as we recycle and reclaim. Taking a long term view, we'll have to think about it sometime."
"How and why did the humans come up with these ideas?" the councilman who had given him the funny look asked.
"As pointed out, they do have desert dwelling cultures and they've got to eat too. They also have some fairly adaptable meat beasts, but most of them would need a higher, grassier climate to start out." That got a round of nods. "I've got good contacts down here thanks to Micah and Xander. Micah's very careful about what he asks for trade and how far ahead the technology is getting. Xander's got some strange contacts of his own and they're mostly fun. Oh, Carbine, we're still looking for a bike for Xander. He found a few in pieces from the rubble of the tower and we're rebuilding but the brains think of him like a kid brother at the moment from what Staff can tell." She sighed and nodded, making a note of that. "Also, the kid with the ulcers is fine. He's coming home tomorrow and we can bring the refugees back then. Any other questions so Throttle can email that report?"
"How did they treat it?" Carbine asked.
"Enamel called Micah, who called the local hospital the bros go to. They agreed to treat him. The surgeon did it for no fee. Enamel helped him. He said with that many ulcers, we're lucky the kid survived. So he's got a few small hospital bills but nothing too major."
"Less than half of Xander's when he fell through that grating," Throttle told Carbine. "Or for the expected birth."
"She's not delivering at home?"
"We're not sure yet," Vinnie told her. "It could be dangerous."
"Oh. Well, I'm hoping for the best for Charley," she said with a small smile. "Tell her I'll be back in a few weeks." He nodded. "Stoker, are you bringing back the refugees or did you need a ship sent?"
"Send a ship. Spike's got a small fever and Enamel doesn't want him traveling at the moment." He smirked at her. "Also, someone down here is working on birth control so I only have three." She chuckled and grinned at him. "So, I'll report later, after talking to Micah again?" They all nodded. "Good deal. Earth out." He hung up and looked at Throttle. "Sorry."
"Not an issue. Like you said, has to happen," he agreed. He took the seat, pulling up their reference file on Junior and emailed it to Fred, who sent back a squeal within moments. "She's happy. Oh, Connor's there. Who's he?"
"Angel's son," Vinnie reminded him. "That long story about bringing the dead vampire back to life?"
"Oh, yeah, her," he said, shrugging. "I'll tell Dawn when she gets home." He got up and went to the kitchen. "Isn't lunch ready yet?"
"Most of us ate an hour ago, while you napped," Vinnie said smugly. "I left you a few dogs in the fridge."
"He didn't sneeze," Stoker said.
"It's like thank you, only stronger," Vinnie said with a grin. "Dawn told me." He went back to looking a the baby name book. He had to be ready when his son came. Xander was not naming another one.
To Part 32