Rimfire led the way into the Council Chamber, nodding politely at them. "Are we on break yet?"
"Nearly," Stoker said, pointing at some chairs that had been imported. "Sit." Xander sat between him and Carbine. "Comfy, mini-punk?" he taunted.
"Sure I am." He smiled at Spike and he growled and pounced him. "I figured he was around somewhere." He grinned at Stoker. "I make his week."
"You do. Anya's pouting in my office if you wanted to make hers."
"Eh, she'll want Dawn more." He gave Spike a cuddle. "Hey, little mouse." He nuzzled noses with him and grinned, getting a dirty look from him so he winked and Spike just sighed, remembering what Xander was like. He looked up as someone was let in, then groaned and shook his head. This mouse was wearing tweed. He pointed at him and whispered in Spike's ear. "Look, it's a Giles mouse." Spike giggled and pinched him but made a dirty face at the mouse giving him an odd look.
"Whaddya want?" Exhaust said tiredly. Apparently he'd heard from this mouse before.
"I come to talk to you today about the greatest threat to our civilization, this continued dependance on modern ideas that we cannot possibly hold with our current population. We cannot hope to hold this city if something more drastic were to happen," he said pompously. "We've proven it already with those two miniature attacks."
"I wouldn't call them miniature," Carbine said firmly. She too sounded tired of this already. "Back when there was still a real army, not even they could have taken on a full stench cruiser and it's crew with only twelve losses." Xander glared at her and she glared back. "Plus one civilian casualty," she admitted calmly, looking at the tweed-wearing mouse again. "The reformation of cities has let us pool our resources so we were sure to win battles like that."
"But the Plutarkians are no more," the mouse said firmly.
"Yeah, there are," Xander said, glaring at him. "They're on Earth. Some bubble-headed imbecile let them live in Siberia."
"Where's that?" Carbine asked. "I never did get that clarified adequately."
"Northern Russia. It's a frozen wasteland."
"Does the cold hurt them?" the mouse wanted to know.
"Ya know, no one thought to ask them that or their preference when they came seeking asylum and the idiot gave it to them and conned the other leaders into agreeing," Xander said dryly. He looked at Stoker. "I saw one of the Limburger's the other day. They are moving."
"We don't have proof of that, Xander," Throttle said firmly. "I don't want to jump and you said it could have been a hologram. I don't want to upset Micah by coming to him with less than real proof, like a picture. Until then, we're on alert and doing sweeps," he noted patiently. "I'm not going to discount it but I don't want to be paranoid either. Not with how useful of an ally Micah has been to Mars."
"It's a good strategy until you know for sure," Stoker agreed quickly. "What are they doing?"
"They've set up a foundation to do genetics research," Rimfire told him, flipping some of his hair back into place. "They're at the same college Dawn and I are starting at. There's also been no mention of if their ships were disabled or cannibalized."
"They were cannibalized," Xander told him. "Otherwise the Russians were going to take them as payment for letting them squat their fat, smelly asses on their ice."
"What's ice?" the mouse demanded. "This makes no sense!"
"Ice and snow are frozen precipitation. We get a lot of that on Earth," Xander said dryly. "Siberia is like a desert made of ice and snow. Plus some radiation in places if I remember right." He looked at Carbine. "There's been no obvious movements from their compound but they can't get an daily count on them either. It's too far in the middle of nowhere to set up more than remote watching stations. They're using mechanicals for it."
"It's probably best not to get too near anyway, they could corrupt them or turn them to their side," Carbine agreed quietly. "They could restart that Cold War Micah was telling me about."
"Easily," Xander agreed. "Then again, Japan might have them beaten technology wise. You never know what they're hiding." He looked down at Spike. "Right?" He nodded, giving him a patient look. "I talked with Buffy, she got you a card for your birthday."
"Bottle blonde," Spike snorted.
"Not anymore. Micah said he preferred brunettes so she quit hitting the bottle." He ruffled the pale gray fur. "You're almost silver anymore. Did you sun bleach instead?"
Spike smirked and nodded. "Sissy made me. Sunlight sucks."
"I agree," Xander said, giving him another cuddle. He grinned at the other guy. "If you're so worried about cities being the enemy and overpopulating the world faster than it can feed or account for, then why are you bothering these people? You're not going to change the minds of warriors. They're seeing the defensive capabilities and the fact that they do have a pool of warriors to pull from."
"If we went back to clans, we would as well. We'd just have to have some agreements in place."
Xander gave him a long look, then stared in his eyes. "Do you even know what you're talking about?"
"I did study it a bit, yes," he said bitterly. "I was also in the war. You?"
"I was like, ten, when it ended here," Xander told him. Carbine gaped at him so he nodded. "I'm only a few years older than Dawnie, Carbine."
"So Throttle picked someone barely legal?" she snorted, smirking at her former lover. "Going for the scandal?"
"He was fully legal when we got together and he was a warrior then," he said firmly, glaring back. She shivered so he knew she felt it. "Xander is who he is, and the fact that he's one of Earth's protectors made him all the more special, even if it is annoying when he gets up in the middle of the night to go stake a vampire."
"Still, at your age," Stoker taunted with a bright smirk.
Xander poked him. "Shut up, gramps. You're married to a girl who's younger than me and you're how much older than Throttle?" He smirked at the grimace Stoker gave him. "Hey, I was fighting other things long before I met them and I was just barely legal the first time we met. I was fully legal when I moved back. Consider what he might have done if he had met the younger and wilder me."
"He is only twenty five," Dawn agreed. "Soon to be twenty-six and we've got to do something about this birthday, Xander."
"Bite me, Dawn. I don't do birthday parties anymore. I haven't since I was six."
"We can at least have a nice dinner and cake," Throttle assured him. Xander gave him a head shake. "Yes, we will, Xander. Otherwise Vinnie gets to plan the party."
"Ooooh," Vinnie said, rubbing his hands together. "I haven't done that since the one for Proxima."
Everyone shuddered at that and yelled "NO!" at him.
Carbine added in a 'bad mouse' and a scowl.
Xander looked at Stoker. "That bad?" he asked.
"Just don't ask," he groaned, holding his head. "Trust me, don't ask."
"I'll show you later," Throttle promised. He pinched Vinnie. "Nothing that wild."
"Sure. Maybe a strip-o-gram at work or something. A gorilla one since we couldn't get a mouse one."
"Well, Rimfire could use a job soon," Stoker said dryly. "Maybe he can do that."
"Bite my tail, Stoker," he said dryly. "The only one who looks at me naked is my Dawn."
"Can we please get back to the subject at hand!" the tweed mouse demanded in a high and whiny voice. "These cities are dangerous. They give false hope and complacency. We will be caught off-guard and killed because of it."
Xander looked at him. "Okay, hot shot. Let's see if you think you know what it takes to be in a real clan. Now, granted, this is based on scientific evidence from Earth's past, when most humans were roving clans. The average protein intake for a mouse is about a pound, right Stoker? For good diet maintenance?"
"Probably a bit more. Maybe a pound and a half. Most of us are near starving about half the year." He relaxed, letting Xander work. He'd seen him in action before and he wanted to see him run over this idiot.
"Okay, so a pound and a half of protein minimum," Xander said, staring down the tweed mouse. "A day. Can you do that? There's how many days in a year on Mars?"
"In our calendar, 580," Carbine said, mimicking Stoker even though she wasn't sure Xander could make this one go away.
"So let's say five hundred for the sake of the easier math and because sometimes hunting will be bad. So that's....750 pounds of meat in a year, caught fresh daily since you won't have a way to preserve it past drying it and that'll take some of the nutritious value away. For each mouse. Now, that's not counting the calcium and iron you'll need to keep your bones stronger, which is something that can kill you as many old people each year prove. How were you planning on doing that?"
"Some of the huntable creatures are high in calcium and iron as well," he said firmly. "Plus, a single mouse can easily hunt a pound and a half a day."
"Ah, but if you're talking about a clan situation, which you were," Xander said dryly, continuing to stare him down, "then you've got to get enough for each person in that clan to have that much. So a twenty mouse clan would need about thirty pounds a day. Can you still hunt that much?" He nodded. "Fine, we'll leave you with that thought, because I'm not sure where you'd get it all. I did some hunting on our trip to Olympus Mons and I barely found anything."
"Yes, and what you did find gave us bad hallucinations," Vinnie butted in. "Never again, Xander."
"Sure, Vinnie." He looked at the tweed mouse again. "Okay, so that's protein intake. What about medicine? How are you going to provide for the sick? There's not enough doctors on Mars, I know that for a fact and from personal experience know that some of them aren't as well trained as they used to be." Stoker choked a bit at that. "So how are you going to determine the sick from the well and take care of the sick?"
"There are enough if you put the medics into each clan and leave the healers and the doctors in a central location," he said firmly. "I've drawn up plans," he said, pulling them out and handing them over. At least this one was using logical arguments.
Xander looked at them. "Um, small point of order, my man. Those farming things? Those are called villages, which are the precursor to cities." He looked at him. "Plus you left no room for defense or enough people for defense. You also forgot to take into account that no line was untouched by the war, so many families these days are made up of bros, like mine. How would you make that clan? All the Van Wham's, all Throttle's remaining family, all Modo's remaining family? Well, we'd be a warrior heavy group, but that would deprive others. If you take Vinnie's cousins alone and their families, which you would have to, that would include another six families there. How were you planning on mitigating that development?"
"They would have the choice of which clan to join," he said firmly, staring him down. "Who are you?"
"Xander. I'm Throttle's mate." The man looked stunned so he smirked. "I'm also the one who got the civilians out during that battle. I'm the one who got those mice who don't use technology or guns out of harm's way." The man blinked a few times and stepped back. "Now, how would your small clans, with the two exceptionally large ones that would be formed of interwoven families, deal with a protection situation? Who said the Plutarkians can't come back? After all, if we kick them off Earth, they're going to go somewhere. Here would be a tolerable fallback position since they know the lands and how we fight." The man gaped. "It would also be because there's so much crap they left hidden around here because they couldn't ship as fast as they mined or used. That's how you guys got the transporter. Also, your farming plans are inadequate. Speaking as someone who does know a tiny bit about it from Rimfire's new textbooks that's he's sending up, you need to grow at least a pound of veggies per person per week. At the minimum for healthy people. You can't do that in smaller numbers. A family might manage if they can plant things that grow at different times in their plots. Then again, a city could do that on a larger basis because they would have the technology to cultivate and protect it. For a single person to do it would be tiring."
"You'd need a garden the size of a football field and canning and preservation techniques," Dawn butted in. "Which you have but not enough of. Plus that would also require arable lands, which you don't have enough of. Farming in the desert is a tricky thing, that's why Rimfire's taking those classes, so he can pass back some information to the rest of you guys to help you." She stared at him, then shook her head. "The only way you're going to prove your point well enough is for you to take yourself and those like you and do it for say, six months? Or half a year, sorry that's half a year on Earth."
"We could do that," the mouse said firmly. "Would that get the Council's approval?"
"We can't stop you from doing damn fool stuff," Exhaust told him. "If you and the other like minded people want to form a clan and go backward in time, go ahead. Check in every now and then so we know how you're doing."
Stoker looked at him. "You can have a ten person tent, that should be enough, and you can have a backpack each of survival supplies. We've got enough of those on the older bases. Put 'em to good use, man. Check back in half a year."
"Fine. We'll talk about that and I'll give you a list so you can reassign housing and things." He nodded at Xander. "It was a well-thought-out argument."
"Thanks, I try," he said with a smirk. "Sometimes. Every now and then I still stomp my feet and pout like Spike here. I find it gets me hugged." The mouse raised an eyebrow but left it at that and walked out.
"I never knew Giles had an illegitimate child who was a mouse," Dawn said dryly.
"Me either," Xander agreed.
"Wanker," Spike agreed.
Xander hugged him. "That's the Spike we know and love. Some day soon you'll find someone who'll make you wanna protect 'em the same way too."
He looked up at him like he was insane. "There's no Dru here."
"And aren't you glad?" Dawn teased, grinning at him. "Just think about that mouse."
"She'd be M'dreth anyway," Stoker said dryly. He didn't like this conversation. "So, what else was on the menu besides that nauseating news that Plutarkians are still stinking up your city?"
"We were supposed to be here as a family group," Rimfire told him. "Uncle Modo said so."
"That position to make sure all couples get wed is still open," Carbine said with a smirk for the trio of older mice. "You should start with Vincent."
"She refuses," he said with a touch of bitterness. "We're still arguing over the human version, but thanks anyway, Carbine. Glad to know you care."
"I still say we should introduce these guys to the alternate version of me," Xander told them all. That way Vinnie was out of the spotlight. His big brother gave him a subtle grin for it. "After all he's like a fifteen-year-old me underneath the fun exterior."
"There's another version of you running around down there?" Carbine asked. "Like from another dimension or something?" Xander nodded. "Then why hasn't reality stopped? That breaches untold laws of physics."
"Because he's not me. I'm not him. We're not exactly the same, Carbine. He's a fifteen- year-old me who's...a lot like my boss," he decided to be decorous in case not everyone knew what a vampire was.
Spike gave him an awed look. "Bloody hell. A vamp you?"
Xander beamed and nodded. "Yeah. Cordy wished him up. He and the boss get along famously. That's why he offered Throttle money to sleep with me."
"Why hasn't the world ended yet?" Carbine demanded. "Two Xander's are just too much for any poor, stressed out world. Earth should have ended by now."
Stoker looked at Xander, then glanced at Carbine before looking at him again. "No more making her panic, mini punk. Please. I don't need that headache either." Xander just beamed at him, totally unrepentant.
"We don't associate much anyway," Throttle assured her. "It's just weird seeing how Xander could have turned out if the Master had gotten him instead."
"Yeah, well, I apparently have a lot of fun with that," Xander reminded him.
"Don't remind us," Modo said dryly. He looked at Stoker. "Where's Momma and Cell?"
"Cell's still complaining about her son," he said patiently. "Your mother should already be here. I'm not sure why she's not."
Rimfire looked at his uncle. "Unless Momma and Grandmomma can get here, I'm not going through with this."
"I agree," he assured him, giving him a pat on the shoulder that nearly sent him sprawling. "I wouldn't want to either. Family should be here for these things."
"What things?" Exhaust asked, looking at them. He saw the side of Rimfire's neck and smirked. "Oh, really?" Rimfire smirked back and nodded. "I see."
"See what?" Stoker demanded. He looked at him, then at Dawn, not seeing anything abnormal. He caught Modo stroking his neck and frowned, he wasn't sure what he was doing or if he had an itch. He looked again, Rimfire had a bad fur spot there. "Need brushed?"
"No, I did that earlier," Dawn assured him smugly. "He likes it when I brush his back for him."
"Fine, I'm still lost," Stoker admitted.
"It's okay, coach, we expect that from you," Vinnie said in his most annoying and pleased coo. "After all, look what happened the first time Switch went into false labor."
"A mouse is allowed to panic at those moments, Van Wham. Were you that calm?"
"Charley didn't have any and I was only scared she'd brain me," Vinnie snorted. "After all, my girl's really fierce when she wants to be." She pinched him and he yelped. "Ow, sweetheart. Easy on the merch."
"Oh, shut up, Vinnie," she ordered, rolling her eyes. "Too much white mouse mouth."
"Awww, but I was good," Xander defended. "I talked him out of trying to make everyone die a horrible death from starvation, illness, or premature aging."
"Not you, your twin mouth," she said, staring him down. "Spike, bite him."
"He tastes funny," Spike said, sounding upset about that fact.
"It's because he won't eat hotdogs," Modo told him.
"Nah, it's that thread of chaos that surrounds him," Stoker told his son. "That unpredictability."
Spike snorted and shook his head. "He used to taste good. It's the fur."
Xander nipped him on the ear, making the little mouse yelp. "You still taste good."
Spike just gave him an odd look, then burst out in giggles. That was the Xander he knew and had loathed but almost respected. "I want Wheatabix," he decided.
"I'll send up some shredded wheat," Xander said dryly, looking at Stoker. "Should I send the stuff with sugar or without?" Stoker's mouth just hung open. "I have to go anyway, *someone* forgot to put some of the mom's stuff in the fridge and it went bad," he said dryly.
"How was I to know that those things needed to be put into the fridge," Vinnie complained. "Throttle's mom said she wanted fruit so I got her some."
"You did, big brother, but we'll go pick out some stuff that won't rot within a day."
"Kids," Throttle sighed, shaking his head. "Modo, go call your mother and sister. That way we don't torment the Council any more than we have to."
"I'm kinda enjoying it," he admitted, but he did go to call them. He got Racer instead. "Racer, where's momma?"
"She went to hospital with baby brother," he said, frowning greatly. "He had itchy tail and was bleeding. Cell went to make Primer sorry."
"Thanks, little guy," Modo offered, smiling at him. "Why didn't you come down with the twins?"
He blinked at Modo, then glanced behind himself. "Because this way I didn't have to play with them for a few days. Girls are annoying. 'Specially those two."
Vinnie burst out in cackles at that, falling off to the side to roll around.
"They can be at times, but you'll grow out of that," Modo assured his adopted nephew. "Give it a few years."
Racer shook his head. "I like other girls, Uncle Modo, but those two are really annoying. Shot keeps trying to open my belly button and Detail always wants me to be her dolly. I hate dresses. 'Specially her ugly one." He scowled. "Can they stay with you?"
"Primer might not like that, little guy," Modo said, trying hard not to grin at him.
"She's nearly as bad," he complained, whining a bit. "She messes up my fur and everything! I can't get a girlfriend with messy fur! I can't even get a pretend one with messy fur. Then I complain and she laughs and Momma swats her one, but she just laughs harder. Can they all come stay with you?"
"No, but when you're older you can come down, just like Rimfire did," Modo promised. "That way you won't have to deal with them." He touched the screen. "Tell Momma that Rimfire's holding off since she couldn't come and that I hope the baby's okay."
"He's the best," Race said with a happy grin, changing moods like the bros changed gears. "He poos whenever Detail tries to cuddle him and he likes me because he likes to play with my ear. He even doesn't cry for me when I'm feeding him his bottle at bedtime. Momma says I'm very good at taking care of him," he said proudly.
"I'm sure you are," Modo agreed, grinning at him. "It's good that you're so good with babies. Maybe you'll become a doc some day and take care of them."
"Sure." He looked back at Stoker. "He can, right?"
"We could use more good doctors," he agreed. "Racer's pretty smart, he's good with his hands, and he shows some compassion because he hasn't beaten the snot out of Shot yet for trying to nibble his tail."
"She does what?"
"She's teasing him but he just sighs and walks off and goes to help your mother with something," Stoker assured him.
"I get in trouble if I hit her," Racer complained. "I think it's only fair since she's trying to torture me but Momma said boys shouldn't hit girls unless they're bad girls so I can't do it to her yet. Not until she's older and goes evil. She'll be worse than any Plutarkian to all us boy mice." He leaned closer to the screen. "She wants to make me a girl mouse, Uncle Modo. How do I stop her?"
"I'll have a talk with her," he promised. "She can't do that and we'd all hurt her if she actually tried. That's not how good girls act."
Racer beamed at him. "Thank you! Can I give Momma another message too?"
"No, just tell her I called and that Rimfire's holding off since she couldn't be here and that I hope the baby's okay."
"Sure, Uncle Modo. You have a nice day and pat Rimfire on the ears for me for that card. It worked very well."
Rimfire beamed at him. "Of course it did, it worked on her mother. Primer was worse than both of them combined, Racer. It's only getting better through the generations."
"If you say so. Did Auntie Primer try to make you a girl too?"
"Yeah, she even came at me with a knife once to try it. I whipped her tail and made Momma yell at her for it. Remind my Momma of that and she'll stop the girls."
"Yes, Rimfire. Thank you." He waved. "I'd better go. I've got lessons." He signed off.
"She did?" Carbine asked.
"Yeah, when she was about twelve. You thought it was just a girl thing why she had casts on both arms and one foot?"
"I thought she fell off Cell's bike," Modo said dryly.
Rimfire gave him a long stare. "Momma said that so she wouldn't be embarrassed. The second time she tried it she did it in public and Turbo stopped her by whipping her tail and making sure she knew she'd never get a date after that. Look at her now," he finished dryly.
"That's not nice," Modo complained.
"No but it's the truth and if it hurts, you're doing something wrong," Rimfire shot back.
"It's still not nice and she's your sister, young man," Modo said firmly. "We are family even if she's a bit odd mentally."
"She can't be all bad, she likes Xander," Vinnie offered. "Wanted to steal him."
"She promised to wait in line for hell freezing over and me leaving him," Throttle said impatiently. "So, anything else since we can't get the mothers in?"
"Rivet left a note of what she needs from Cleveland," Carbine said, balling it up and tossing it at Dawn's head. "You sure? We can do this anyway."
"Grandmomma would kill you for even suggesting that we do things like that without her being present," Dawn said, staring her down. "Besides, it's not as fun without the family there to celebrate."
"Point," Carbine admitted. She looked at Stoker. Then at Xander. "Pit?"
"Is working on his list. I took him to Home Depot and he came on the spot when he saw everything, especially the trees and stuff. So we're working with one of the design guys there who used to live in Arizona. That's desert country too and he's figuring out what they can use. He's one who doesn't realize I'm not human anymore."
"That's good," Exhaust offered. "How much longer?"
"Maybe a week," Xander told him. "The extra stuff warehouse wasn't as helpful as he wanted. He said there's no use for things like wallboards, it'll just take up space. I told him they made good decorations and he decided he wanted to stick with the firmly functional for now. He did like the idea of the toilets but he said it's a water waster so he let it go at that and took a lot of drawings to work on his own ideas. I suggested the one you guys have on the ships. He said it's not totally applicable but that we might be able to reform it." He looked at Carbine, then at Stoker. "Boris found one of Throttle's older, non-working lasers. He's improved on the design with some help from me. They're really nice rifles and we now have some extra fuel cells and a recharging base for them and the old ones."
"How much did you have to beg?" Stoker asked.
"Beg? Me?" Xander asked with a smirk. "Not at all. I found out about it while he was working on it. He found the older, non-working one in my desk drawer when we were going over weapon designs I had stored and he slipped it out without me realizing it. Micah's coming in to look at them shortly so you might want to give him a call." He stood up with a moan. "Oooh, too much lunch." He shook his head and nuzzled Spike then put him down. "There. You go play and taunt your sister less. Remember, she's fragile."
"Mentally," Spike snorted, glaring at him. "I'm not like that, poof."
Xander frowned. "Vinnie said that's how parents and favorite uncles and stuff nuzzled the kids."
"It is," Stoker agreed, smirking at him. "He just hates it, it messes up his fur." He picked up his son and put him on his lap. "Pretty soon you'll be in a training class. Then what'll you do all day?"
"Beat the snot out of the idiots," Spike muttered. Stoker gave him a look so he beamed at him. "I will."
"Remember, Spike, you've already got a pretty good pack going," Xander pointed out. "They might need some help. Become cooperative with them." Spike gave him a sideways look, then looked thoughtful. "After all, Ramjet seems like she'd be good at math."
"True," he admitted. "Maybe." He smirked at him. "Bloody poof."
"Hey, I haven't been in a fight in d...weeks." He smirked at him. "I've been a good Xander mouse. What about you?" He got a smirk and a tongue stuck out at him. "That's what I thought. How's Piston?"
"Tired. He sick and smelly."
"I had that," Xander sighed, shaking his head. "Vinnie, since we're here, you needed to talk to someone about the chicken pox vaccine."
"Point," he agreed, hopping up and heading up to the doctor's board area. They would know which vaccines he could give Vic and which he should give him.
Xander looked at Stoker. "Also, we're going to need something to start home training the kid soon," he noted. "So at least a list of where to start until we know what he wants to be when he grows up."
"I can get you the standard curriculum," Carbine promised. "He'd just be starting playgroup up here."
Xander looked at her. "He's actually a great help when I'm working on my bike. We're doing it that way and the usual toddler and preschool stuff. So I need to know what the Martian equivalents and anything specific by age group. I know we can do Earth history when he's old enough and if we're down there, but it won't help him up here with facts everyone else seems to know." He grinned. "Besides, some of that I should probably read over anyway."
"True," Exhaust agreed, smiling at him. "At his age, it's mostly play and getting the motor skills down. How are yours? I see you've hit another growth spurt."
"No, I'm fully caught up," he said smugly. "I'd show off but that would deprive me of a backrub later." Throttle gave him a look. "No?"
"No. Go ahead."
Xander rubbed his hands together and from a standing position went into a backflip, then a quick tumbling run, then punched the person he could kinda see up on the wall by the ceiling. The mouse fell with an 'oomph' and he landed beside him, smirking down at him. "Hi. That light bending stuff is really great. I could use that." He took it off him and looked down at the tan mouse. "Hey. Who're you?"
"I will get you for that," he ground out, throwing something at Stoker, but Modo shot it out of the air and he glared at him. "And you."
"I doubt you're going to get anyone," Throttle told him, standing up and coming over to look at him. "Where you from, kid?"
"One of the other cities sent you to assassinate us?" Carbine asked, starting to snicker. "Why? We've offered to let them join us in what we're getting and to pass on anything we can. We've tried to make everything cooperative and they wouldn't let us," she said when Throttle looked at her.
Xander squatted down next to him, making the mouse look at him. "Listen, you little shit, what they have is me. It's also the stuff they've found in the mountains, like the transporter. We'd love to include the other cities. I want nothing more than for Mars to prosper and become the grand lady she used to be. I'm hoping like hell my step-kids will live to see Mars green some day. So get off your high horse and ask to come get stuff. Or to be included. It's not like you can't go around your city and find tons of shit hidden there. There's nothing that says the other cities can't find their own transporter or use this one to come to Earth and get stuff. We've got people down there willing to help who can easily fit in another contact from other cities. All you have to do is show up."
The mouse got free of him and rolled backward, getting to his feet. "You're not one of us," he sneered.
"No shit, sherlock. Figure that out within a minute or more?" he asked dryly. He waved at him. "Come on. You wanna take out the old fart over there, you face me." The mouse glared at him. "I mean it. I won't take you on for Carbine, she's a tough old bitch who makes most grown men piss themselves, but I only pick on her." He sneered. "You think you have what it takes to take out a Biker Mouse or their students?"
"I can handle him," Dawn offered. "I am a student too."
"That too," Rimfire agreed, kissing the back of her hand. "Just hit him, Xander."
"I'm not one to attack first, Rimfire. If he wants to try something, I will stop him, but I'm not going to attack someone who has enough brains to realize he's in a bad spot and might change his mind." He looked at the mouse, noticing the dagger in his hand. "Try it." The mouse threw it and he fired, hitting the blade and knocking it off course and away from Spike, then he pounced the mouse. The guy tried, he really did, but if this was army training it was pathetic. He had him down and bleeding within moments. He knelt on the mouse's back, barely breathing hard. "Now then," he said quietly. "We want to form a cooperative government with the other cities. We'd like to become friendly and not have a civil war next. You're making sure that won't happen. I can't let that happen. Mars will never recover with this idiocy. Which city council member sent you?" The man only grunted. Xander grabbed some of the fur on the back of his head and yanked. "Which one?" he growled in his ear. "Before I have to take it from your shade. I can and will do that. It's fun and games for some of us." The mouse let out a whimper so he gave another yank. "Who!"
"Thank you." He let him go and stepped back. "All yours, Carbine. Did you train him? He's awfully stiff and pathetic." He wiped off his hands and the small trail of blood from his mouth. The guy had only gotten in three good shots and the other two were making his ribs ache but not in a critical way. A good heating pad would take care of those.
"Unfortunately we did," she admitted. "Guards!" Two mice ran in. "Him," she said, waving at the mouse on the floor. "Thank you, Xander. What's the running total now, Exhaust?"
"I find hugs work much better than medals," Throttle taunted. He smirked at his mate. "I'll reward you later with that backrub you wanted. Nice job."
"Vinnie will be sorry he missed that show," Modo teased, smirking at him. "Vinnie!"
"Coming!" he called. He jogged in a few minutes later. "What smells like Plutarkians?"
"The two we have in custody," Stoker told him. "They refuse to tell us their names and we don't have them in the records. By law we can't execute them until we know their names." He looked at Xander, then back at Vinnie. "Your dog was quite good at tracking them down. Switch's dog protected her and the kids but the bigger one did track him very well. He was peering in the windows looking for me and Tap."
"Huh," Vinnie said, smirking at him. "Good job. Need some dog treats?"
"No, I gave him a long pet and he was more than happy," Stoker assured him.
"Little doggy licks everyone," Spike complained. "Big dog mine. Little dog Anya's and mommy's. Even if he does follow daddy to work."
Xander beamed at him. "Good dog," Xander agreed happily. "Dogs are great. Much better than the fish eating Tara at the moment. She got another one, Vinnie. I had to give her the last can of wet food."
"Thanks, man. How many are we down now?"
"Six. I'm counting it as a natural disaster. They died in a drought or something." He shrugged. "We done?" Everyone nodded. "You sure? Should you go get Vic and bring him back so they can look him over?"
"No, we're good on that end," Vinnie assured him. "Enamel's been sending back records for him and you each time there's an exam." He smirked at him. "How was the fight?"
"He was stiff and pathetic," Xander said, putting an arm around his shoulders and walking him back through the transporter to the house. He ran into Micah and hugged him. "Hey, bossman." He walked him on, taking him to the gym. "I still have trouble integrating my tail at times."
"It's not that hard, we can work on that," Vinnie assured him, beaming at him. "Did he manage to hit you?"
"I gave him a free shot, he got me two other times with a real punch and a few girly swats. Worse than Dawn ever did." He beamed at him. "Nothing too serious, bruise making stuff." They slammed the gym door in whoever was following them's face.
Throttle shook his head as Micah came back. "He was really good in that fight," he admitted, grinning at the kids. "Hi, guys."
"We go home now?" Detail demanded.
"Nope, not yet," Modo said as he joined them, picking up all three kids to hug them. Vic wiggled down and pouted at him, arms crossed over his chest. "What's wrong, little man?" he asked, grinning at him.
"Bad!" he said, scowling at him.
"No, no one was bad," Throttle assured him, picking him up. He sniffed him. "Why do you smell like blood?" He sat him on the nearest counter and looked him over, finding a few scratches from nails and one cut. "Bro?" He pointed at it, then looked at the girls, who were trying to disappear into the woodwork. "Freeze."
"What happened?" Modo asked him, smoothing some of his ruffled fur. "Did you get hurt or did someone hurt you, Victor?"
Victor saw his mommy come out and burst out crying, holding his arms up. "What happened?" She picked him up to cuddle him, soothing him as only a mommy could.
"He's got some scratches and a cut," Throttle told her. "The cut's on his hip. The scratches are on his upper arms."
"Girls," she said firmly, glaring at them. "I want an explanation." They both gave her scared looks. "Modo?"
"Now," he ordered. "I want one as well. Vinnie! The girls hurt Vic!"
Vinnie came jogging back and picked up Shot, staring at her. "What did you do?"
"Not me," she said weakly, staring at him.
"Hey! I only scratched him! He was itchy!" Detail complained. "You have the scissors to trim his fur!"
"That's it!" Rimfire shouted as he came through. "Come here, now!" They both flinched and stared at him. "I will not have this, nieces. That is not how you behave and it is not how you play with a younger child. Grandmomma is gonna have your tails for soup!" He grabbed them both and drug them off, taking them back to the council's chambers. "I need either Momma or Grandmomma," he ordered coolly. Carbine gave him a sideways look. "They scratched and cut Vic."
"Excuse me?" Stoker demanded, glaring at the girls.
"I was only trying to cut his fur," Shot defended. "She scratched him! He was itchy!"
"You're in so much trouble I'd shut up now," Rimfire ordered coolly. "Can we call them?"
"I'll get Cell," Exhaust offered, calling the hospital. It was only up the hall. She gave him a tired look when she answered the comm unit. "We need you in the chambers."
"Can't Rimfire wait for another day?"
"Your grandchildren are in deep."
She just nodded and cut the connection. She walked in a few minutes later, glaring at the twins. "What did you do?" she demanded. Rimfire started to open his mouth and she held up a hand. "I want a confession. Where is Victor?"
"I'll get him," Rimfire promised, going to get the baby. He came back a few minutes later with Charley and the baby. "Here you go." Both twins were sobbing and curled together in the middle of the floor. He sighed and looked at his mother. "Want us to keep 'em?"
"No, I think they need the righteous hand of grandmomma," she said dryly. "And great- grandmomma too." She took Vic, looking him over. "Are you okay, little mouse?" she asked. Vic sniffled but hugged her. "I love you too and they're very sorry." She let him settle in on her shoulder and looked at Charley. "They're already being punished. They're going to be very sorry for that."
Charley nodded. "As long as they learn better. I won't have them torturing my son or any future kids."
Cell nodded. "Me either. I will turn them into mulch if they try it."
"Momma, they've been tormenting and torturing Racer too," Rimfire said quietly, moving closer. "The same thing Primer used to try on me."
"I noticed he had one of your tricks memorized and was using it quite effectively." She patted him on the back of the head and kissed him on the cheek. "I need to be home more often. Primer's been busy and Momma's been trying but she's not as young as she used to be." Momma and the new baby came in. "They've been pulling Primer's old tricks. Shot tried to defur him with a pair of scissors and Detail decided he was itchy so she scratched the hell out of his arms. How's this one?"
"Fine. They found out what he was allergic to," she said patiently. "Rimfire, no more talc powders. Please?" He nodded. "Thank you, boy." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "What happened?"
"The same thing Primer used to do to me," he said grimly. "And they've been getting Racer too, Grandmomma."
"I know, dear. I've been trying."
Cell shook her head. "It's my turn, momma. It took both of us and Modo to stop Primer. It'll take all of us since she's been encouraging it." Momma nodded. She looked at Stoker. "I'm taking a leave of absence or I'm retiring. Your choice."
"Take a year off," he assured her. "We'll put you as on-call." She nodded at that. "Is Victor all right?"
"Pretty fine," she promised, looking at him. She smiled. "He's napping, Charley." Charley moved closer to take the baby, smiling at her. "He'll be fine and they'll never do it again."
"That's fine. Thank you, Cell."
"Eh, he's a cute little guy." She stroked the back of his furry head, smoothing down the fur sticking up. "Even if he is a bit of an odd color. He's cute. Girls will go nuts over him." She hugged her. "You okay? You look tired."
"Yeah, just fine. A bit worried, nothing else." She smiled at Momma. "Want Dawn back up here?"
"Not today, dear. Sometime soon but not today. Today's a day for punishments." She looked over as a mouse walked in, slamming open the doors. "Well," she said, glaring at him. "Someone needs better manners."
"He certainly does since he sent an assassin to take out this Council," Carbine agreed. He flinched and she cued up the tape of the fight and the confession, making him sit down suddenly. "That's going to be beamed to your city council. I'd suggest we all start getting along and learn to talk like civilized people. We don't need a civil war either. We'd win." He nodded quickly. She tossed the remote to this month's Head of Council. "You've got the gavel, make the call."
She turned the communications gear to the next city over, smiling grandly at them. "Hello, dears. We wanted to know if you'd like to hold a meeting between the four cities."
"Why? Where did you get the transporter!" the male on the other end said, leaning forward.
"In the mountains. The Plutarkians left a bunch of crap," Carbine told him. She pointed at the mouse in the middle of the floor. "He sent us an assassin as a present. Want to see the tape?"
"No, that's fine. I'll view it when we hold this meeting." He looked at Charley. "Do I know you?"
"Charley Davidson, from Chicago."
"Oh, you work with the Biker Mice," he said, nodding a bit. "How are they?"
"Fine. Doing well. They were just up here." She looked at Rimfire. "Want me to save you some dinner?"
"I'm good with leftovers," he promised, smirking at her. "Take the little guy home and cuddle him to distraction." She nodded, heading home. He glared at the man. "One of my fellow trainees had to stop the assassin from taking out Stoker and Carbine. We were highly insulted by having to fight the weak bastard and his very weak skills."
"Weak skills?" Prestone sneered. "He's one of our best."
The tape was cued up and beamed while they watched it. "I'd say he was fairly weak. Probably barely passed physical training and combat lessons," Carbine told him. "I'd never have let him out fighting that weakly if I had trained him."
The male mouse on the other side moaned and rubbed his snout. "We'll be up tomorrow. It's a holiday, right?"
"We're celebrating in two days," Carbine told him. "That way we can combine it with the opening on the new bike plant."
"You did?" he asked, sitting up straighter. "Since when?"
"We've got the basics built and we're working on how best to implement," one of the other members offered. "There's the suggestion of getting body parts from Earth and then doing the brains or doing it all natively."
Exhaust smirked at him. "Throttle's mate Xander designed the plant. It's very efficient. You should come see it so you can help."
"We'd like that," he agreed. "How are your food rations going?"
"My son and my brother are still on Earth with his bros," Cell told him. "They've been providing bits and pieces for their families so we could give our portions over."
"The rationing's not too bad at the moment," Stoker offered. "Rimfire's going to college on Earth to learn about desert farming methods. Since Modo's still down there and they've got the last Plutarkians in the universe down there."
"Some lived?" he demanded.
"About twenty or so," Carbine told him. "Plus some of the tadpoles and eggs. We've got a full briefing whenever the other cities would like it."
"Can we use the transporter to get Earth materials?" he asked.
"We do," Stoker admitted. "We've got someone down there right now getting building materials with Xander. Earth's had a number of desert peoples so they're looking at their methods and historically looking as well. We'd love nothing more than to share, but you guys snubbed us when we suggested it."
"We were dumb and proud, Stoker. Now we're just dumb." He smirked at him. "Tomorrow. I'll get the other two's heads here. Keep him in chains or something. We'll figure out what to do with him before I leave tomorrow." He smiled. "We had maps of where Plutarkians had bases and storehouses but we haven't had the people to go looking."
Cell smirked. "I find it's good training for trainees. I sent mine out all the time."
"Wonderful idea. Thank you." He smiled at Carbine. "Tomorrow. Expect a three person delegation from at least us and one other city. We'd like to know what you've gotten done and where you're going with certain stuff. That way we can help or join in." He nodded politely and signed off, going to yell at his people that Stoker and Carbine wanted to hold a summit and they were going, even if no one else wanted to go. They had found some solutions and they were more than willing to share and help them.
Carbine smirked at Stoker. "Nice bargaining chip."
"It is. Soon we'll need a formal government instead of just city governments. Wouldn't that clan guy just crap."
"Mousey Giles would eat his own tail," Spike snorted from his lap.
"Tweed guy," Spike said, looking up at him. "Like the pillock."
"Oh. I'll let you explain that one later, son." He gave him a cuddle. "Guards?" They came back, looking bemused. "Take that nice council member and put him somewhere safe but not too damaging. His people are coming tomorrow for a summit so make sure he's at least fed tonight."
"Sir, we only have three cells," one of them protested. "Two have Plutarkians." The mouse looked horrified. "The assassin might hurt him."
"Then lock him somewhere," Carbine ordered, not liking how Stoker was staring at the guy. "That's cruel and we forbid it by law, Stoker," she said firmly.
"It'd serve him right," he complained. Spike nodded to show he agreed. "See, even the kids know it's only fair."
"No, Stoker," Exhaust sighed. "Even though it would be fitting."
"Fine," he complained.
Spike sighed and shook his head. "Waste of perfectly good torture," he muttered.
Cell looked at him, then at Stoker. "That's a bit advanced, Stoker. How're you training him?"
"The Xander method," he said dryly. "It's all his fault."
"Oh, sure." She looked at her mother. "Maybe Racer should go when he's older."
"Modo suggested he could become a baby doctor," the other female council member offered gently. "He seemed taken by the idea."
"He would be," Cell agreed. "I don't like Enamel but he did save Racer's life and he does have a bit of hero worship for the rat." Momma cleared her throat so she sighed. "I'm sorry, Momma, but I will never like Enamel. No matter that he did save Primer's life with that new experimental technology Xander and whoever was working on. I still won't like him, ever. So please don't nibble my tail over it."
Her mother patted her on the back. "I understand, child, but he did save Racer and Primer, not to mention Xander a few times." She looked at the twins. "Come along. Now." They followed her out. "We'll be back when it's time, dears."
"Sure." Stoker looked at Rimfire. "You staying?"
"With Dawn waiting on me? Do I look dumb?" He smirked and headed home at a trot, going to tell them what was going on now. It was going to be a good report and he might have to be there for part of it.
To Part 58