Xander looked at the tower, it was still there.  So he called the law firm.  "You do realize that they're in default of the contract?" he demanded.  "That does mean that there was a monetary penalty involved as well.  I'll expect it to start being paid as of one week after the contract was officially dated.  Yes, this is he," he said fondly.  "Thank you."  He hung up and looked around.  Suddenly, a blue beam came out from Wolfram and Hart and the tower crumbled.  He smirked.  "Good!"  He went back to the looking he was doing.  The cargo containers he found were useful but smaller than he had imagined.  Then again, he had imagined about half as much height too.  It should be fine, but he wanted to make sure he got metal ones.  Uncoated metal ones so Mars wouldn't have to worry about oxidizing or anything.  His supplier was being very helpful since Micah had told him it was for a new project.  He was thinking twenty cargo containers, but maybe he was thinking too many.  What he really needed to do was to get one and use it for the library coming from England that week.  Which he could do he decided.  They would fit in the storage building for now.  He called them on his way back there and asked them to deliver one for test filling and that it was going for books.  They agreed and he had already paid for them so all they had to do was to move it.  By the time he got home, one was being loaded into the storage building and everyone was looking really confused.  "Storage and moving containers," he noted patiently.  "Moving construction and household stuff."

"I thought they'd be bigger," Modo admitted.

"Me too but that's okay because I think I imagined the interior space well enough.  We'll see when the books get here from England."  Throttle held out a slip.  "Where are they?  They were supposed to be here sometime this week."

"Customs."  He looked at him. "Something about import tax?"

"Already paid," he sighed, going to call them.  He faxed over the paperwork and then called the moving company he liked to go pick them up and to load up the shipping container.  The three U-Hauls fit nicely inside with room to spare.  "Oh, hell yeah," he decided.  "These are actually bigger than I expected.  We'll be able to shove a lot of extras in there."  He grinned at his mate when he came out to check on the moving stuff.  "The library from England."  Throttle looked and blinked, then looked at him so he grinned. "I thought that would fill up one of those."

"Wow," he said finally.  He shook his head. "How many of these are we getting?"

"Twenty.  I'm figuring about ten are needed for building supplies.  Three for gas supplies.  Another two or three for food supplies and shelves, fridges, and the like, then one for our stuff.  That leaves three for overflow or extra stuff we need to bring up with us for everyone else."  Throttle just blinked at him.  "There's a set of cliffs off to the west of the land and Stoker talked me into moving the land that way so we could use the caves in them for yearly storage stuff.  There's a lot of caves too."

"Huh?" he asked.

Xander grinned and kissed him.  "One's just for toilet paper, dear," he joked, heading inside.  He stopped to talk to the moving guy, setting up their packing with him for the proper time and paying in advance.  That way no one could say anything even if he overspent and went totally broke.  Then he went to call Micah.  "Okay, how do I go about buying barrels of gas?" he asked.

"Barrels of gas," he mused, sounding amused.  "For?"

"Bikes, generators, things like that.  I'm thinking we can store them easily enough.  There's some underground caves in the cliffs beside where the house is going and it was used for that before.  Maybe a year's worth and see how long that lasts?"

"I can agree with that," Micah admitted. "I don't know how you'd do that though."  He considered it.  "Let me ask someone who knows about such things.  Give me twenty."  He hung up and called the president.  "Sir?  Do you have a moment?"

"Of course, Micah.  What's wrong now?"

"Nothing's *wrong*," he promised, "but I'm working with the Martians who are moving home next year and they're going to be stocking up pretty heavily before they go.  The one doing the planning was trying to figure out how to get barrels of gas up there."

"Tanks would be more useful probably.  That's how we store them in the warehouse in my company.  Barrels are only for shipping."  He hummed a bit.  "I can see them doing that.  How much were they thinking?"

"About a year's supply to start with, sir.  Enough for their bikes and the generators and things."

"That's not very much.  I can see them needing a massive tank or two for a few year's worth.  After all, the guy after the next one might not be any better."

"True, but I have a feeling we'll have open relations by then."

"Possibly."  He tapped something on his desk a few times.  "If they wanted to go with the big storage tanks like we use, we could probably do that but they'd be pricey.  What's his budget for this total move?"

"Two million total.  He's just bought some cargo containers to get everything up there, including the building materials for his house so they don't have to strain Mars by moving."

"Interesting.  A good plan too.  It shows they give a damn about that planet beyond their comfort.  Let me call someone to get some figures and I'll get back with you by tonight, Micah."

"Thank you, sir."  He hung up and relaxed, smiling at that.  The president owned an oil company, he'd know who to go to so the guys got the best price because that could win them a favor from the president.  He called Xander back.  "Did I ever get around to talking to you about upgrading my bike's systems?"  He found the check he had cut last month and grinned.  "Yeah, and it'll increase your moving and shopping budget too."   He smirked.  "This weekend's fine, Xander.  Sure."  He hung up and kicked back again.  Everything was going according to plan so far.


Xander sat down with Dawn and Rimfire, handing over the house he had drawn up for them.  "Part your old home, part Martian home," he offered.  "Joyce liked it."

Dawn smiled as she looked at the design of the house.  "I do too.  It looks a lot like the home in Sunnydale."  She looked at Rimfire, who shrugged.  "You'll have to live there and it'll be your home too, Rimmy.  You should want to make some decisions."

"I don't care as long as we've got a bed.  I'm not that picky yet."  She rolled her eyes and pushed it over, making him smile at the design.  "I do like it, Xander.  It's a bit big though."

"She's got to have an office for official stuff.  You'll want room for any little Dawn and Rimfires too."  That got an amused smirk.  "I haven't shown your momma or grandmomma yet, I wanted you guys to see it first and make any decisions."

"I like it.  It's clearly a blend of our two homes," Rimfire offered.  "Then again, a traditional Martian home would probably drive her nuts.  Every room would have to be connected and all the round walls."

"You mean the current ones aren't traditional?" Dawn asked.  He shook his head.  "Are there any left?"

"Very few.  One of the big names in the architecture business has one.  He used some ancient plans to build his.  He's the one who calls Xander's designs pseudo-Martian."

"Which I don't mind," Xander assured him.  "I can't design fully Martian homes, I've never seen one.  All the homes I've seen have been more like ours down here."

"I never liked the traditional homes anyway," Rimfire offered.  "Some do but they're fussy and kinda formal in spots.  I'd rather have a home I could run and play with the kids in."  That got a grin from his lady.  "That's room for how many kids?"

"Three," Xander told him.  "That's how many I'm doing standard.  Enamel might get an extra one if Shell's daughter comes to live with them, but that'll be okay."

Stan walked in and slammed the door, then looked at him. "Chassis' insane!" he complained.


"Because!"  He threw up his hands and started to pace.

Xander caught him and gave him a hug.  "Why is she insane, Stan?"

"She wants to put my turtle in with the fish here."

"She wants you to move in?"  Stan nodded.  "Well, in a few years, we're moving to Mars," he offered. "You two will have your own house on the grounds if you're still together."  He grinned at that, a shy, sweet grin.  "But no, you can't move in right now.  We're about to go insane around here.  Staff's about six and a half months at the moment.  Dawn's doing hyper education with Rimfire, and we're moving back and forth between here and Mars all the time to get stuff ready for the move.  Actually, if you wanted, she could move in with you if Vinnie agreed."

"Really?"  He nodded.  "Thanks, man.  How soon?"

"Right before the next oath of office of the prez."  Stan nodded, going to talk to Vinnie about getting Chassis to move in with him.

Vinnie burst out laughing and hugged him.  "Just ask the girl, Stan.  Trust me."  He went to look at the design Xander was doing for the kids.  "Will that be enough room for the embassy?"

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know.  I'm assuming all she'll need is an office unless there's an official visit by the president or something."

Stan came in and looked, then sighed and shook his head, pulling Dawn up.  "Come with me.  We'll get the experts to help you."  He walked her off, taking her down to his car and to Canada.  Or at least the consulate.  He got out and looked at the door guard.  "Good, she's got Benny on.  C'mon."  He walked her up and inside with a grin for Benny.  "Turnbull!"

He looked up from his typing, smiling at them.  "Welcome to Canada, Detective Kowalski and Miss Summers.  How can we assist you today?"

"We'd better not be assisting them today, not with that visit tonight!" Thatcher, the head of the consulate, yelled as she came out.  "Kowalski, what did you need?"

"To talk to Turnbull about a design issue for a future diplomatic residence."  She looked really confused. "Have you met my girlfriend?"  She nodded slowly.  "We're moving up there some day soon."

Dawn smiled.  "I'm about to become the ambassador from the US," she said quietly, looking around.  "So we're looking at the house designs and we think I only need a study."

Turnbull snorted and shook his head. "Not hardly, Miss Summers.  Your study may be your office, but you'll need a place to store records and documents, or to store any gifts given officially until they can be shipped back.  You'll need a set of rooms specially set up for state and official visits as well."  She blinked at him and he smiled. "It was wise of the detective to bring you to us."

"You're the only people I know who'd know."  He shrugged and grinned at Thatcher.  "I'm told I'm her assistant if I go too."

"Congratulations.  I hope you'll enjoy it a lot, detective.  It's a rewarding career but occasionally a boring one."

"I'll be the only ambassador up there," Dawn sighed.  "Probably for the next twenty years."  That got some nods and an understanding smile.  "Help?"  Turnbull led her gently back to Fraser's office to show her what she'd need and to get her a copy of their book of protocol.  The poor young woman would probably need it.

Stan just grinned.  "So, do you like my girl?"

"I think she's quite energetic and fun-loving.  She seems to suit you.  Are you serious about her?"

Stan nodded.  "I think I am.  I'm going to have her move in tonight."  She smiled at that.  "Thanks, Thatcher."

"You're welcome.  I'm sure Canada will have an ambassador up there some day and hopefully it'll be someone like Turnbull, who won't get upset at the sight of a giant mouse." She went back to her office and slammed the door, going to take something for her new headache.  Kowalski as a diplomat was a horrible image.  There'd be a war because of a joke he told within ten years, she was sure of it.  By then they'd have an ambassador too and he'd get drawn into it, especially if it was Turnbull.  She hoped her government waited until those two retired, they weren't the right sort at all!  Well, she hadn't told her superiors about the Martians yet, she could continue to obfuscate for a bit longer.  She'd catch hell for it when they found out, but it'd be better in the long run.  It'd keep their future ambassador out of trouble.  "With any luck, it won't be me," she moaned, writing down everything she knew and sealing it in a letter with a very large note to deliver it 'after the next landing'.  Then it went into her desk.  She considered it, Turbull got into her desk too often so she got up and put it in her safe instead, just in case.  That way neither she nor her staff would have to deal with going to Mars and hanging around the giant mice.  "How a society is run by bikers, I'm not sure," she told herself, proud of her actions, "but it probably needs to be straightened out before we send someone."


Stan looked at Ray, then at his lady since they were eating together.  "Hey, Chassis, I talked to Xander today," he offered.  "And Vinnie."  She put down her hotdog and stared at him.  "They think the house is going to go insane soon with the babies coming and all the stuff for the official move.  I was thinking that since it's going to be so insane, you could use some quiet time and maybe you'd like to move in with me?"

She blinked a few times, then opened her mouth.  "Is this a human dating custom?"

"No, this is a pre-marriage or an instead-of-marriage custom," Ray said dryly, wiping his mouth off and taking a drink of his beer.  His only one for the night. He had heard about Stan going to become a diplomat and it had given him and Welsh both headaches.  His had been added to with the thought of Turnbull being Canada's ambassador and how he'd drool on all the pretty mice ladies and their bikes and leather. "How's the house look?"

"Xander's only got the basics for us if we're going with them," he admitted. "He said he wants to sit down and talk to us about it."

"Whoa, house?" Chassis asked.

Stan kissed the back of her hand.  "So I can move up there with you?" he prompted.  "I'd be Dawn's assistant."

She just stared, then sniffled.  "You're willing to move to Mars for me?" she asked quietly.  He nodded, leaning over to kiss her.  "Wow.  Sure.  What should I bring besides myself and my bag?"

"Just you and your bag," he offered with a grin. "We'll work out cleaning stuff and who does what around the house some other time."

"Fine, but I'm doing dishes and laundry."

"Sure," he agreed happily.  If she wanted to do those, he wasn't going to argue.  Ever. Even if she messed stuff up and he had to wear pink shirts.

Ray grinned at them. "You'll have to tell Ma.  How soon is this?"

"Two years," Stan told him.

"Good, then we've got time to help you decorate and fill the house with stuff."  He took another sip of his beer, looking at Chassis.  "I'm guessing Xander's designing it for you guys too."

"Oh, he is," she admitted dryly. "He's got this whole compound thingy going there.  We'll have training areas and living areas and Enamel will have his own house and he said Dawn and Rimfire will have theirs and I'm guessing we're getting one.  He bought a good sized piece of land according to Vinnie.  Then we've got to build the new house, move everything up there, and then move ourselves."

"He's already got that planned too, I'm sure of it," Stan promised. "Someone noted he had a cargo container delivered earlier to the storage building on the daily report."

"Like goes on ships?" Ray asked.  Stan nodded, taking a bite of his burger and chewing.  "Why?"

"To ship them home I'm assuming.  That's one of the reasons I'm down here," she reminded them.  She shook her head. "I'll have to check on it later.  Just in case he's planning on running my tail ragged to get stuff up there."  She finished that hotdog and burped. "'Scuse me."  She patted her chest.  "Those were good.  Nearly as good as Chef Andy's."

"He's still only running part time, even with his helper," Ray offered. "It's his slow season."

"I'll order from him tomorrow when he's open and we can have dinner at home?" she asked Stan, who nodded. "Cool."  She kissed him and got up, heading into the restroom.

"You're sure you wanna take that step?" Ray asked.

Stan nodded.  "Yeah, I am," he admitted with a grin.  "I love her, Ray.  She makes me happy."

"Fine.  We'll help you decorate your house and get you towels and stuff."  He finished his burger and his beer, then stood up. "I should head home.  Ma's not going to be happy that I ate out but she'll figure I was with you anyway.  Oh, she said Saturday dinner, you'd better be there this week.  No calling off for sex."  He walked away smirking, nodding at the cop parked next to his car.  "Evening, boys."

"Detective, is it true that Detective Kowalski is dating someone...less than human?"

Ray looked at him.  "Go ask Welsh.   I don't tell tales on anyone, boys, nor do I gossip."

"Are you inebriated, detective?" one of them asked meanly.

"I've had *a* beer, and am well below the legal limit."  Chassis and Stan came out and he looked away from them.

"There he is," that one said, going over to them.  "Detective, the rumors state that you're dating this...person."

Chassis grabbed him by the throat and pulled him closer.  "I'm going to say this once," she said quietly.  "I am a combat veteran.  I have survived torture and horrors that would make your puny race crawl, gag, and beg.  I've seen others like me who have done the same.  You do not bother my Stanley and you do not bother my bike.  Those things are sacred to me.  If you touch them, then I'm going to unfortunately have to go back to the old mindset and become the universe's bitch again."  She let him go, staring into his eyes.  "Got me here, boys?"

"What are you?"

"Cuter than you," she offered with a grin, then a flick of her tail.  "Make a guess, it's rather obvious."  She walked over to her bike, looking at Stan.  "Sorry," she mouthed as she put on her helmet.

He winked and watched as she rode off.  He turned and hit that one, glaring down at him.  "Try it again, rookie, watch me do worse than she ever could!"

"Hey!" Ray called.  "They can fire you for that.  Let him have his delusions."

"Is he going to turn furry too?" the other officer asked from the safety of his car door.

"I haven't yet," Stanley snapped. "Do you see fur or ears?"  They shook their heads. "Then beat it before I tell your CO tomorrow."  They ran off and he took down the car number, going to report it to Welsh.  Who was not going to have a happy night, but who would probably enjoy the yelling at least.


Chassis looked at the cargo container, then walked inside, finding Xander in front of the computer.  "We can only fit two of those on a ship, Xander."

He looked at her.  "They're not being flown."

"They're what?  How are you getting them to Mars?"


"Transporter?" she asked, starting to look *really* confused now.  "They won't fit!"  He handed her a book.  "What's this?"

"How we're doing it.  I worked it out with Fred."

"Fred the smart one in Cleveland or Fred the little pain loving alien?" she asked hesitantly.

"Fred the human Fred girl.  Fred the little pain loving alien wanted to test the link so he could hit the ground really hard."

"Oh.  Well, at least she's smart. Are you sure you know what you're doing?"  He gave her a look and she shrugged. "Fine.  As long as you're sure."  She handed the book back.  "I'd never understand it anyway.  I'm moving in with Stan."  He handed over a design and she looked at it.  "What's this?"

"Draw the changes you want on there and give it back to me," he ordered.  "That way I can finish the design on your house."

"Can't I have a house like the other ones you designed, like for that development?"  He nodded.  "Then why give me this?"

He printed off one of those. "Make sure Stan likes it too," he encouraged.  "By the way, Vinnie packed your stuff for you since he said you're moving in with him.  Dawn gave you a few of her older outfits, stuff that Rimfire said he'd pounce her tail if she ever wore again, and I think she went to a lingerie store for you too."  He shrugged and went back to his doodling on a new gun.

She rolled her eyes and carried them down to get her bags.  She definitely had more than she had before.  She had a backpack before.  Now she had a backpack, two suitcases, and a duffel bag.  She got them strapped onto her bike and headed off after finding Vinnie to kiss on the cheek and give him a long stare.  "Try to make him more reasonable.  I'm not sure his idea will work."

He nodded. "It will.  We know it will."  She sighed and wandered off.  He grinned as her bike left the house, then went to pounce Xander.  "We've got to test the link before we do stuff by sending the common materials through."

"True, I hadn't thought about doing that for another few months though," Xander admitted. "That way we've got the designs done and I can get samples to send up there."  Vinnie grinned at that. "We need to know colors to decorate your place in."

"Ask my sweetheart, I don't care as long as it's not pink and I look good in it."  He kissed him and wandered off, going to find his son and play.  He found one of his jingly balls and took his son over to the garage to play fetch with him.  His son loved to pounce the ball and growl at it.  "Sweetheart, Xander wanted to know about paint colors," he said as he tossed the ball out.  Vic growled and pounced it to beat up on.

Charley smiled and shook her head.  "Just like Spike."  She went back to work.  "What are we painting?"

"The new house?"

"I'll do it later tonight or this weekend."

"Sure.  Don't get on him about how we're getting stuff up there.  Chassis just did too and he's looking like he's about to go nuts on someone."

"I figure he's got that figured out and he knows more than I do about it," she admitted dryly, tightening a bolt.  She hit her knuckles and winced.  "Ow."

"Mommy!" Vic shouted, coming over to look at her hand.  "Poor baby mouse.  Big owies."  He kissed it and grinned at her.  "Better?"

"Yes, dear, it's all better," she promised with a smile, kissing him on the head.  "Thank you.  You'll be a good daddy mouse some day."  He beamed and went back to playing.  She grinned at Vinnie and got her knuckles kissed by him too.  "You're a good daddy mouse too," she said gently, kissing him.

He grinned.  "Thanks."  He kissed her lips then went to help his son play.

She smiled and gave up for the night, going to clean up and play with them.


Xander looked at the tower, then at Micah and his bike.  "Go ahead, you can share in the fun."

"It's not fully built yet," he complained.

"I know, I'm going for a demoralization campaign."  He pointed at the beams.  "If you hit the center beam, that'll collapse that area, and then you can do the outer edges after you change."

"So I'm a practical test too?" Micah joked.  He opened his saddlebag and changed the front cannon out to something stronger. He changed it out with only a twist of a knob and then a push of a pin back in, something he liked about this system.  Then he aimed at the center beam and fired, watching as it disintegrated. He looked at Xander.  "That's powerful."

"It's good for doors," Xander admitted.  "Change out to the other one and take out the edges so it falls inward."  Micah changed it out with the turn of the knob and the pin again, then blew the four corner pieces.  Then they clapped as it fell inward.  Xander grinned at him.  "You need to test the other ones too."

"I do," he agreed, starting his engine.  "Let's head before they see us."

"Sure."  Xander followed him out to the junk yard.  They did a lot of targets out here and the guys who ran it always had a bunch of stuff they could turn into bits and pieces because it was easier for them to deal with. Micah changed out to all his different weapons, trying them all out.  Only one misfired and Xander gave a little sigh and pulled out a screwdriver to go in and turn the crystal again.  "This one needs to be anchored and I can't figure out how."

"That's fine," Micah agreed. "I've got a guy who can do that tonight."  He put it back carefully and tried it, smiling when it came out in a very narrow beam.  That would just take out a lock.  He grinned at him.  "I like this.  Got any other ideas?"

"Some," Xander said modestly, handing over the diskette.  His bike could now read them thanks to the last upgrade the military had done for him.  He watched as Micah read them, then grinned down at his bike.  "Should we show him the ones you came with, boy?"  His bike beeped negative.  "Why not?"

"Because those are secrets from home," Micah said firmly.  "I've seen your bike take out whole walls. I don't need something that powerful and the originators would want them to remain secret.  Especially since you've got weapons that none of the other bikes I've seen have."  Xander's bike beeped affirmatively.  "See, I'm right."

Xander grinned at him.  "That's fine with me.  I like having special stuff in my bike."  He stroked his bike's tank, making it let out a purr.  "So, you like?"  Micah nodded.  "Anything else I need to work on?"

"One thing I really want.  I want a way to keep coffee hot," he said dryly, smirking at him.

"You want me to install a thermos on the tank?"  Micah laughed and nodded.  "Sure.  When we get back.  Let me hit the store first."  He hugged his bike's tank.  "I love you.  You're so neat."

His bike beeped patiently then wiggled a bit.  "I think he thinks you're being mushy and should go jump Throttle again."  His bike beeped and then Xander's bike let out a sarcastic sounding beep.  "Or Vinnie."

"I think it wants me to turn Vic into me or work on his little bike."  His bike beeped at that.  "Sure.  We'll go do that tonight."  His bike revved.  "Let me stop at the store, Micah.  Meet me back at the garage."

"I was joking but it'd be nice.  Especially on my morning commute."  His bike sighed and turned around, taking him back to the garage.  "It's up to you.  If he can figure it out, I won't complain."  His bike gave him another patient beep.  "Fine, but if he can figure it out...."   His bike let out another sigh and entered the street, heading back to the garage.  Sometimes he knew she was worried about him but it'd be handy.


Xander came back into the garage, waving the small carafe he had found.  He looked at Micah's bike, then grinned.  He went to get Charley from the kitchen, whispering in her ear.  She gave him an odd look.  "He asked," he defended.  He walked her to Micah's bike and showed her where it was going, making her smile.  "There?"

"That would keep it warm, even on the long rides," she admitted.  "It shouldn't melt either."  She got down to look at the side of the bike.  "Okay, dear.  He wants something to keep the coffee warm on the cold mornings and the rootbeer cold on the hot days.  We can put a brace here," she said, stroking a spot just above the engine but out of the way.  "It shouldn't get in his way."  She touched another spot.  "Or we can rig up a spot and put it here."  The bike beeped at that.  "Sure."  She looked at Xander.  "Get me the...."  He handed over a few pre-cut metal strips and the stuff to hitch it down and bend it along with the carafe.  She got to work putting the carafe on the handlebar, well out of the way of the weapons systems. She filled the carafe and hung it in there, then tightened it up.  "Okay, pop up the weapons?"  It popped up and she looked at the empty cradle.  "You're not keeping one in there, Micah?"

"I'm looking at it," he admitted, waving it a bit.  "The others are in the back saddlebag."  He looked at the crystal.  "Xander, what happened if you ran a small wire cage around it?"

"It interrupted the light beam."

"Okay.  What about a way that won't get in the way?"  He left it open and came over to install it again, then turned his bike around to aim it toward the open lot across from the garage.  "Okay, girl, let's fire a short beam."  She tried and he pushed in the pin, which let it fire.  "Nice safety feature."

"I figured it might come in handy if someone managed to capture you and tried something," he admitted.  "It's got fingerprint recognition."  Micah just stared at him so he grinned.  "It does."  He pointed.  "Do it again, dear."

The beam fired again and Micah watched, then took it off and went to fashion a small cage of see-through plastic.  It wouldn't really interrupt the beam.  He put it on and tried it again and it did block it.  "Dirt."

"That's why I left it loose.  I figured one of your more official guys could figure that out."

"You are one of my official guys, Xander," he said patiently.  He looked at Charley, who came over to look it over.  "Who else is recognized?"

"You, Max, Lorne, us, Charley, and I told her to include your regular fixer there."

"That would usually be me," Micah admitted. "I wondered why she was plugged into the computer system recently looking at personnel records."

"That's because she freaks Max out," Xander said dryly, staring him down.  "She's not sure she won't be replaced by her."  The bike snorted.  "Exactly, but she's scared."  He shrugged.  "Lorne offered her a beer the other day from what I heard."  The bike snickered and nodded her front wheel.  Charley rolled her eyes and walked off, going to get them stuff to drink.  She came back and found Xander bent over his bike, staring at something in his engine.  "A new noise?"

"No, a cricket."  He plucked it out and tossed it away.  "I don't want to clean squishy things or bring one to Mars and have it take over."  He took his rootbeer with a grin. "Thanks, Charley."

"You're welcome, Xander. You deserve it.  You did good with those weapons."

"He was going to show off some of his but his bike wanted to be shy," Micah told her.

"He doesn't even let me work on his weapons," she admitted.

Xander looked at his bike.  "She fixes the others, she's not going to steal ideas. You should let her work on yours too because I can't always do what you need and she can."  The bike sighed and popped out a side cannon for her.

She stared at it, then got down to look at it.  "What is that?"  She looked at the firing mechanism.  "What does that fire, Xander?"

"Pebbles.  Or marbles, that's what I usually use."  He sat down in front of his bike, stroking the front tire.  "She's not mean, no matter what Lil' Hoss said about her and changing his seals."  His bike seemed to sigh and popped out another one.  Charley looked, then stared at him.  He shrugged. "Original to him.  I haven't added anything to him that I didn't already have."

She just gaped then swatted him.  "Don't lie to me!  What part of Mars would you find marbles on?"

"Most of the desert has pebbles," he defended, rubbing his shoulder.  "Meany."  His bike snorted and he looked at him.  "She's only mean to the mice, not the bikes."  He looked at Micah and nodded.  He nodded, heading into the office to make notes about his new weapons for the files.  "Weapons fully out, dear.  She needs to see so she can be in awe of you too.  The same way Vinnie and Throttle are."  The bike shivered and popped out all his weapons, seeming to grow a bit bigger as he popped them out.  "The others too," he said with a grin.  "She understands about that stuff too."  The boxes popped out, showing off.

Charley just stared, then shook her head.  She checked the boxes and put them back in, then checked each of the weapons.

"Wow," Modo said from the kitchen. He came out and knelt down, touching one gun. "That's impressive, boy.  You're even more armed than Vinnie's bike."  He stroked the front fender reverently.  He looked at Xander, who only grinned at him. "You knew?"  He nodded.  "Wow."

"Vinnie's seen most of them.  Throttle knows about all of them.  Charley, I used a marble that was too big and it's stuck."

"Marbles?" Modo asked.  That one whined as it tried to fire.  "Wow."  He moved to the side to look over more of the weapons.  "I wish some of these were on my lady but I can see how they fit you better."  He stroked the seat and grinned.  "You take very good care of him, Xander."

"Thanks, Modo, that means a lot to me," he offered, patting his bike again.  "See, there's no reason to be shy with the family.  I wouldn't know how to start to put some of those on other bikes anyway."

"Me either," Charley admitted.  She got a pipe cleaner and went to work on the marble, popping it out.  She handed it to Xander.  "It looks like it needs cleaned.  It's got crud."  Xander took the pipe cleaner and got to work on that one.  She smiled at Modo.  "He wouldn't let Xander show off to Micah."

The bike beeped and Micah's bike beeped, bringing him out.  Micah moaned as he looked at the weapons.  "Oh, those are good," he moaned, coming out there to look closer.  "Wow."  He stroked over some of them.  "What's this one do, Xander?"

He looked up.  "Small missiles.  It's my toothpick system," he offered with a grin.  "Go ahead, big guy.  Fire into the target on the wall."  It hit the picture on the wall of a circus clown.  Charley looked, it was right through the forehead.  "He agrees with me, clowns are scary," he defended.

"I can't believe you're scared of clowns," Charley said, shaking her head. "You, the big, strong, jump-in, tough mouse."

"We all have fears," Modo defended. "I'm sure it's trauma induced.  Probably a halloween thing.  He seems to have a lot of those and he gave the rest of us one with that movie."

"Actually a birthday thing," he admitted.   "It doesn't matter, they're still creepy."  He patted his bike.  "I agree, it was a good shot."  His bike purred at him and he grinned.  "We should go scare Boris tonight."  His bike shook his front wheel.  "Fine.  Spoil my fun."  It beeped affirmatively and Micah snickered.  "Keep it up. I've still got to buy the stuff for the houses."  He looked at Charley.  "What paint colors did you want?"

"Look around, this is good," she offered with a small smile.  "It'll remind me of home."

"Sure.  I'll do what I can."  He stroked his bike again. "Want to go to Home Depot tonight or tomorrow?"  It beeped and popped everything back inside, then went to plug in and relax for a bit.  "Sure, tomorrow it is."  His bike backfired. "This is the stuff for the house on Mars," he offered.  The bike perked up at that.  "I've only got to order and make a few selections in there."  It beeped.  "Maybe two hours at the most.  An ordering day, not a working day.  That gives them time to get stuff."  The bike beeped at that.  "Then we'll head for a long ride, okay?"  His bike decided it liked that idea and unplugged, coming over to nudge him.  He grinned and got on, grabbing his helmet.  "We'll be back in a few hours, Micah.  Thanks for the payment."  He grinned and winked, heading out to deposit it and then head to Home Depot.  He pulled in and got off, patting his bike gently.  "Give me an hour or a bit more.  It shouldn't be that much more."  His bike beeped and settled in to watch the cars around him.  Xander walked inside, grinning at the person behind the contractor's desk.  "I'm building a second house."

"Are you working with your company?"

"No, I'm building out of state.  I'm ordering way early."  That got a nod.  "Okay," he said, handing over the estimates he had on his PDA.  "I'll need this and we'll need to look at tubs and stuff too."

She looked at him. "If you're building out of state, why are you ordering here?"

"Because there's nowhere to order there.  I'm building in the middle of nowhere."  She gaped and he grinned. "I've got some cargo containers we'll be loading everything into and then heading out with them in a few months."

"Sure," she agreed, pulling over the form she needed.  She started writing things down.  "How big is this house?"

"It's my house, my daughter's house, a friend's house, a greenhouse, a small garden plot.  I'm going to go become a hermit."  She smirked at that and went back to writing.  "I need to pick out some water-efficient showers and things as well."

"Of course."  She looked up at him. "I'm assuming a septic system too?"  He nodded.  "You're doing a well?"  He nodded.  "Do you already have a filter?"

"I'm using a new trial system and so far it's pretty low maintenance. Some scraping off of the filters now and then."  She nodded, going back to writing.  "Also, I need to talk to someone about solar power systems for the whole compound of houses."

"Sure.  Top of a mountain?"

"Edge of a desert."

"Ah."  She looked at the materials list.  "The concrete blocks...."


"Oh, good.  I didn't think you wanted something that would keep in heat."  She finished off the list and let him look at it, getting a nod.  "Is this all in one?"

"Yeah, probably easier that way," he admitted.  "We're moving it all at once.  Anyone around who can walk me through things?"

"Of course.  Let me get Kevin."  She paged him over the intercom and he came jogging over, smiling and shaking Xander's hand.  "He's building a second house out of state to become a hermit in."

"You're ordering from us?"

"There's nowhere close by," he admitted, clapping him on the back.  "I need water efficient bathrooms, washers and dryers, and sinks.  I'll need a new fridge and freezer, a big freezer, I'll need a few backup generators, a solar power system, and a septic system."

"We can do that," Kevin admitted as he walked him off.  "What about final design elements?"

"I'll be doing some of that today but not all of it.  It's actually a compound.  My house, my daughter's house, my brother's house, a greenhouse, all sorts of stuff together."  He nodded at that.  "I figure I'll do flooring and that stuff last, right before we move.  That way it'll be in a cargo container all by itself."  Kevin nodded at that wisdom.  "So today we're doing the basics, that'll be delivered and stored for us, then we'll do the major stuff, and then I'll put that in too.  Then if everything goes really right, I'll have everything set up right before we do the final move in about two years."  He got an odd look.  "I need this stuff delivered by next summer.  Doing it now means that I've got time to special order some of the low maintenance and low water stuff and the septic system."

"Good point. Plus the solar power system will have to be designed specifically for the house," Kevin offered. "My roommate does that stuff.  Do you know what the house'll look like?"  Xander flipped through his PDA, coming to the house plans.  Then he watched as Kevin looked it over.  "This is a really pretty design, Mr. Harris. It'll save on a lot of utilities but it won't crowd anyone either.  Very nice work."  He considered it.  "Who do you have designing your system?"

"I was thinking you bought stock parts and then put them in however worked best.  I saw some kits when I was doing research."

Kevin shook his head.  "You won't get the most efficient use out of those.  Let me call my roommate and get his suggestion while we look at cabinets?"  Xander nodded, liking that idea.  He grinned and pulled out his cellphone to call home quickly.  "Tob, yeah, me.   No, one of the contractors we did a lot of work for is putting up a totally solar house near the desert.  He wanted to go with one of those kit systems, but I told him they wouldn't work the best.  Yeah, he's here.  Sure, hurry down. We're doing design choices."  He hung up.  "He'll be down as soon as he changes clothes.  It's laundry day."

"I've been there recently," Xander admitted with a grin.  "Technically I want the main system to run out to the other houses so we're all on the same line."

"Wow.  I'm sure we can do that for you," he offered, leading the way into the home furnishings, kitchen aisle.  "Here, let's start here.  Counters?"

"Let's have something that'll kinda stay cool even in the heat of the day," he offered.  He tapped a few.  "I like these but they get hot really easily."

"There's always marble," he offered, pointing at it.  "Besides, I like the Corian systems.  They're fairly easy to maintain and deal with and you could put marble inserts if you wanted."  He found the design and showroom books and found one he liked.  "How about like this, Mr. Harris?"

Xander looked, then flipped a few and grinned.  "I want that one."  The guy grinned and helped him figure out what he needed for cabinets and counters based on his designs.  Then they worked on the other houses.  He guessed Chassis would like pine and Early American Rustic styles.  It went well with that design in there.


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