Xander found his last piece of stuff for this latest thing he had to rebuild and looked at the altar, sending up a quiet prayer. "Is there anything else?" he whispered. He heard a quiet creak and looked toward the back room. He headed back there, finding a small casket laying on a table. He opened it slowly and smiled. "Special stuff for special days?" He felt that same warm mental touch. "Sure, I'll tell Tangent so he can tell me what I do with them." That got another warm, fuzzy touch that felt like the Goddess to him. He closed it and looked around, finding a few more things that probably should go. Books, a few journals, things like that. He walked out and bowed at the main altar, then headed out to his bike, where people were staring at it then at him. "Hey, guys. I'm Xander. One of the new High Priests."
"To who?" one of them demanded.
"Othra and Mylar." They all backed off at that. "I'm working on reopening the temple in the valley and then I'll be setting up my own nearer to the house so that one can be used for special services and things like that." He put everything on the back of his bike with the other things, then called Tangent's bike. "Hey. It's me. I found a cup set in a casket?"
Tangent smiled. "Those are very important," he agreed. "You take those directly to the valley temple. You'll find a special cabinet behind the main altar, not the blue veined one, the big white one with black and green veins." Xander nodded. "They go in there on the middle shelf."
"Yes, Tangent. Thanks." He hung up and looked at the other guys. "Did you need someone to lead you in prayers, gentlemen?"
"No, but we don't believe Othra would have called a half-mouse either," one sneered. "He's always been very concerned about his people being whole and healthy."
"Really? Then why was I accepted and why am I being allowed the privilege of opening that one temple?" He hitched down the last strap and stepped back, looking at the odds. Six mice, two hanging back, five bikes that he could see. He calmed himself. "I was one of the Chosen on Earth before I changed over. I've been doing this since I was fifteen and protecting that planet. I'm sorry if you don't believe that. That's not my problem though. I will gladly talk to you if you have doubts about my qualifications. I can give you references who have seen me fight and train. Including a number of Martians." They just glared at him and he shrugged. "You do what you have to do to protect your chosen planet. At that time, mine was Earth and now it's Mars. I came by invitation of not only Othra but of my mate."
"What woman would have you?" the one who called him a half-mouse sneered.
Xander looked at him. "Many of them if you want to get technical about it," he snapped back, glaring at him. "Then again I gave up the women. They weren't worth it at the time." He felt Throttle's mind touch his and pushed him away with a gentle caress. "Must we really play 'test the new mouse' today, boys?" Two of them rushed him and he pulled something off his belt, extending the collapsible pole. He hit one in the throat and the other in the stomach, then twirled it while he turned to face the others. "Your friends now need a medic. Are you going to stand here and let them suffer? I have no problems with you but I will continue to defend myself." He stared down the obvious leader. "Retreat, boys. Now. Take your wounded and become much more honorable mice in the future." They gathered their friends and rode off, the hidden bike coming back up the path to get the guy who had been hit in the throat. He collapsed the pole again and tucked it back into its pocket. "Bike, call the local Council." It dialed and he sat down, looking at the person answering. "I'm Xander."
"I know of you, Mr. Harris. Has something happened?"
"I was sent to gather some broken things from the local temple of Othra to put back together for the bigger temple in the valley." She nodded slowly. "A few of your people tried to jump me. I did have to hit two of them. One of them I basically hit him across the throat in a clothesline maneuver with a pole and the other one got it in the stomach."
"I see. Where are they?"
"Heading off. There were six of them. One of them sneered and I snapped back," he admitted. "I'm sorry I had to hurt those two. I wish I hadn't had to."
"I understand. Were you in the temple?"
"The inner courtyard." He tipped the camera. "Here." He tipped it back. "Again, I'm sorry. They should be fine. I wasn't vicious about it or anything."
"What did you hit them with?"
"My collapsible aluminum pole." He pulled it out and waved it a bit. "It extends to about my height." She nodded at that. "Do I need to report down there to fill out a report? I don't want to make trouble but I don't want them to start spreading rumors about me being vicious either."
"No, Mr. Harris. If they make a complaint I have this taped as I do all calls of Council business. If we need you back to answer for anything or because they're trying to accuse you, we'll call your city's council and tell them."
"I thank you, Councilor. I'm headed home. I hope I don't have to run into anyone else like that." He shrugged. "It's been a long trip. I've hit six other temples." She nodded at that. "Have a better night, ma'am." He hung up and called home, getting Throttle and Stoker. "I just had to defend myself from some mice who kept calling me a half-mouse," he confessed. "I hit one in the stomach and one in the throat with my collapsible pole."
"The silver one?" Throttle asked.
"My aluminum one. Wrench still has my silver one." Throttle nodded at that. "I also called to confess before they could make anything about it. I offered to talk." His bike beeped. "Did you record that, sweetness?" His bike beeped smugly. "Go ahead and send it to Stoker and Throttle then. They can send it over if necessary." The bike sent the datastream and he relaxed. "I'm still trying to figure out which way is the easier way home. Across the former ocean or through the cities?"
"Do you have enough food and water for the harder trip?" Stoker asked. Xander nodded. "Then I'd take that one, mini punk. There might be a few colonies of mice out that way. We used to have a base out there but we lost contact with them. If so, invite them to rejoin the rest of us in mine and Carbine's name."
"Sure. When are we officially naming the city after you and Carbine anyway?"
Stoker gave him a dirty look. "I will whip your tail."
"That's what everyone calls it anyway," Xander said with a small shrug and a grin. "All right, I'm taking the shorter, but more difficult way, home. I need to learn the terrain anyway. Laters. I'll check in tonight." He hung up and patted his bike. "Let me fill up the waterskins again, just in case," he offered. He rode the bike to the fountain in the center of the courtyard, using a dipper to fill his tank and his bike's water cooler. He checked the radiator and it needed some too so he filled it up too and then capped it again. "Are we ready?" The bike beeped and he looked at the temple. "Someday we'll have to send a priest here to reopen this grand palace of faith." He put on his helmet and took off, heading for the farther desert.
Stoker called the other council and sent the file to the mouse who answered. "Xander Harris just called about some mice jumping him. That's what his bike recorded."
The female councilor smiled. "Thank you, I talked to him already. Let me run it to check." She put them on hold and scanned the images, blinking at a few of them. She brought them back so they could see the image. "Who's that?"
"How do you do that?" Stoker asked.
"It's fairly simple. Can't you use the comm?"
"I can call people," he offered dryly. He looked, then looked at Throttle, who shrugged. "We're not sure. He looks...thin." To him, it looked like a ghost, but he didn't think film could pick those up. Or at least normal film and they were talking about Xander's bike.
"He did, that's why I asked." She considered it. "Not to doubt his bike, but I'm going to have someone try to clean up that image." They both nodded. "By the way, we like his idea. Only one person wasn't sure and that was because it could set a bad precedent."
"As long as we approved before each one and did some inspections as members of our Councils, it isn't such a bad idea," Stoker admitted. "We'll have to get restaurants back some year. Plus it gives us a reason to eat away from home or to take our mates out for a nice dinner." She nodded at that. "Have you heard from the special council?"
"We've gotten our copy of the report Chassis gave. We're doing another joint meeting next month to make those decisions. I know I'm announcing that someone did take that step and some of the things they found. There is some information in ours that was considered top secret, something about our Death Day celebrations?" Throttle nodded. "Have you seen them?"
"Some," he admitted. "Xander will be back by then. He's taking the other way home."
"That's fine. Hopefully he'll be able to find any mice out there and tell them that we won and they can come back." She waved and hung up, then called her former commander who did audio and visual stuff. "Come clean up this tape from a bike," she ordered. "There's a shadowy image behind someone and he called in to report he had to defend himself. He wasn't pressing charges, more apologizing." The male mouse nodded and she saved everything down, then relaxed and looked around. "Stoker," she said in explanation. "Xander sent them the tape of the encounter. Has anyone seen them?" One of them nodded, smirking a bit. "Are they badly hurt?"
"No, but they're definitely whining," he admitted. "I heard them go past talking about vicious white mice. One walking past the doorway was hunched over holding his stomach, the other was rubbing his throat and whining harder."
"I'm guessing he can be. I got his confidential file from Carbine when we were considering his application for the club's kitchen. It's very ...enlightening. There's a reason he's a priest of Othra."
They all nodded at that and a few shook their heads. Some people needed that to calm down after the war.
Xander rode through a small mountain valley slowly, not wanting to speed. He could feel pain ahead, and he knew he was going to come upon the remains of a battle. He didn't want to trip into it by accident. A ghost popped up in front of him and he stopped his bike, putting his feet down and leaning forward. "Greetings, sister mouse."
"You're a priest?" he demanded. "Of who!"
"Othra and Mylar. I'm Xander, adopted little brother to Vinnie VanWham."
"He survived?" the ghost asked, floating closer. Xander nodded. "How?"
"They took off to deal with the Plutarkians at their homeworld. They were captured and managed to escape but also managed to crash on earth before making it home." She shivered at that. "They fought the Plutarkians starting on Earth. Now this solar system is totally clean of them. The few left are running for their lives."
"We banished them?"
Xander grinned. "They stole a M'dreth artifact from Earth and took it to one of their worlds. It opened a portal that let out evil creatures who liked the taste of fish. That wiped out most of them, sister mouse. They ran back to Earth and we drove off the remainder of them last year. Now they're flying in any direction looking for a planet who'll take 'em in." She bowed her head at that. "Are there survivors of the battle I can feel?" She stared at him and he shrugged. "I worked with the people like the M'dreth on Earth."
Xander reached out and put a hand through hers. "Are you sure about that?" he asked gently. She burst out crying. "It's all right," he soothed, leaning forward a bit more. "Many spirits are unsettled because of the war. I've seen many who fought the same battles over and over as they tried to ascend." She looked at him through her tears. "We won. Mars is rebuilding. Take me to the other survivors." She nodded, sniffling and wiping her nose on the back of her sleeve. He grinned. "My nephew Victor does that same thing," he teased.
She sighed. "Vinnie had kids?"
"Two so far with one on the way," he admitted with a grin. "I have pictures. Are you part of the clan?"
"I married into it," she admitted. "My youngest sister Taver used to laugh at them."
"You're from the Arc clan?" he asked. She nodded. "Taver now leads you and she's dating Wrench, Vinnie's cousin and second in our clan. He's the Highest of the M'dreth," he offered with a grin. She just gaped and he nodded. "Really."
"I'm so going to find her and pick on her," she stated, then floated off. "Follow me. There's some caves that lead down to the old base."
"Sure. I heard a lot about this base and I got told to see if there were any survivors." He followed her, letting her lead him through the underground caves. He smelled a few mineral pools and smiled at the ghosts in them as they came out to see him. He nodded cordially and continued to follow his guide. They came to a large chamber with some furniture that looked military issued and some other mice staring at him. He looked around. "I can brief everyone or just a few," he offered.
"You're a Freedom Fighter?" one of them, an older male mouse demanded.
"I would have been had I been up here when the war was going on. It ended a few years back, brother mouse." He looked stunned. "I'm Xander, adopted little brother to Vinnie VanWham." He got off his bike and stood beside him. "I'm a priest of Othra and Mylar."
"Where were you born?" he asked suspiciously.
"Earth. I'm a changling," he admitted, taking a step forward. His bike beeped and he stroked the handlebar. "They can't hurt me," he soothed. "I know they can't." He walked forward, standing in front of him. "Can you still share memories?"
"I'm as alive as you are." Xander did the hand test and he gaped, then stared at him. "Who are you!"
"Just who I've said," he promised gently. He coughed. "You can verify it. If you're a spirit, you can home in on someone you knew and go to them. I know that there's many mice left. We've recently, in the last few years, gotten a few back from Plutark and those imprisoned in space in abandoned ships. Carbine and Stoker both head their city, it's by Mons." He looked stunned. "There's four cities now on Mars. We're starting to rebuild. I was asked to stop at these farther bases to see if there were any survivors who might want to rejoin the others."
He nodded, sniffling a bit. "I can find Stoker. I knew him well."
"That's fine. Go ahead. Watch out for his son," he offered with a small grin. "And his cat, Angel." The ghost gave him a dirty look. "Seriously. They can both see you even if no one else can. He's married to Carbine's younger sister Switch, they've got three kids born and one on the way. Anya is the oldest, then there's Spike and Crankshaft. Two dogs somewhere and the baby she's carrying."
"Fine. I can verify that. Anything else?" Xander leaned closer to whisper next to his ear. "How did you do that?"
"The clan went to loot and see if there was more helpful things they could have back now that the Plutarkians are almost annihilated. They found some. That's where they are. The clan is gifting them back on a special day soon."
The mouse nodded. "I will check. You will stay here, you and your bike."
"As you wish. Are there those still living? I have some supplies with me."
"There are those who seem more solid," he admitted. "They're in the chambers." He faded out, concentrating on his old bro, Stoker. He found himself outside a nice house in a growing city. He saw a white mouse and stared back at him.
"Daddy!" Spike called. "It's a ghost!"
Stoker came out onto the back porch and looked. "Where?" Spike pointed. "A dangerous one or someone looking for Wrench, son?"
"He's an old mouse wearing a uniform like Auntie Nibbles," he said with a frown. He looked at him. "You were a fighter?" The mouse nodded. "Did Xander send you?"
"Not everything is his fault, son," Stoker said dryly. "It took me a very long time to see that but it's not."
The ghost faded in. "He did actually. We thought we were living and he gave me information I could check on." He floated closer. "Stoker, you got old."
He looked at his former friend. "I wish I could say the same," he said quietly. "Where were you? You were supposed to be at Luna base."
"We were. There's some there in the chambers. We're not sure who's really alive or not. I thought I was until he showed up." He stared at Spike. "He said you could see me, you and your cat."
Spike smirked. "I'm a rebirth," he said quietly. "I used to be a vampire, mate."
"Son, I don't need to know such things." He faded in and touched his friend's mind, finding the truth the boy had told him. He pulled back and sobbed. "I'm sorry we let you down."
"You held it long enough. We won, bro. We finally won and some of us survived. Xander helped with the end of the war. You can trust Xander, even though he's a flake and a fighter now and then." He stopped Wrench from coming out. "Xander ran into an old base," he said quietly. "Don't."
"Then I won't." He looked at the older mouse. "Welcome, brother mouse."
"Who are you?"
"Wrench, cousin to Vinnie VanWham, second in the Clan VanWham, Highest of the M'dreth."
"Dating my second's sister," the old mouse finished. He looked at Taver. "The last time I saw you, you were barely able to ride, mouse cadet."
She sniffled. "Uncle Pole?" He nodded. "You did die? Momma hoped so hard!"
"I died long ago, child. There was a landslide caused by a battle. I was trying to evacuate us. I thought I had," he sighed, shaking his head. "I should have figured that out."
"The dead often can't see beyond their last few days," Wrench advised. "It's what keeps them here and bound until they can resolve what they have left." The mouse nodded. "Tell Xander to be more careful. The dead like him greatly."
"I will, son. You picked a good one to adopt."
"He's Othra's and Mylar's," he offered with a grin. "He used to be one of us on Earth." He winked and got out of the way, holding Taver instead. "He can come visit," he assured her. The mouse nodded. "Go back and verify, you can always come back to visit her. You're more than welcome in my temple anytime, brother mouse, and you can make her want to come to visit." He nodded and faded out.
Spike looked at him. "Will we get many of those?"
"That depends on who and what he runs into," Wrench offered. "If he's like he was when he took me to Sunnydale for the day, possibly," he admitted quietly. He looked at Stoker. "I'm sure the next one will go to Carbine."
"Let's hope so." He walked back inside and found the 'medicinal' bottle of whiskey, pouring himself a drink and downing it. Xander drew the dead so he'd probably see a few more people he knew soon.
Xander looked over as the chamber door was opened by a big mouse, nodding to him. He had been shown up here when the ghost had gotten back and he had tried to figure out the stasis chambers but he wasn't that much of a techie and he didn't want to hurt anyone so he had called Omega City for help. "I have no idea how to open them and not kill them."
"They only had the power for ten months, son. It's probably already too late. They would have been dropped into hard stasis at the end of that time. We can't bring 'em back."
Xander looked at him. "Would anything?" He nodded. "Was it broken or destroyed?"
"We stole those off the Plutarkians, they have a machine to bring you out. We never had it." He shrugged. "I wish it weren't true. There's a whole group of them who we're debating about burying these poor ones."
Xander nodded. "If we went to Plutark, would this be something they would have taken all of with them?"
"No, it's hand-held, but no one's going back there."
"Actually, yeah, there have been," he said quietly. "My clan did go and is asking permission to go back." He blinked at that and Xander nodded, whistling for his bike. "Also there's a young lady downstairs. She somehow got out of a chamber and is still living. Can you just check them?"
"Of course. Who are you?"
"Xander, one of Othra's priests." He nodded, moving around him to check. Xander moved to his bike, tapping the screen. "Honey, get me Enamel and Chassis on the same screen if you can." Vinnie looked confused. "We have some people in stasis."
"We never got that machine."
"Plutark's bare. We have transporters."
"Point," Vinnie admitted. "Enamel! Chassis!" Both of them came from the kitchen. "Xander!" He got out of the way.
"Chassis, babe, I love you, but did you see any of the machines to bring people out of stasis?"
She nodded. "I saw two in the lab on the estate. I didn't think to grab any though. Why?"
"Because. We've got people in stasis here and in the local city near here."
"I'm forbidden to go back without authorization," she noted.
Xander looked at the guy. "Will they keep?"
"For the rest of eternity in this form," he admitted. "A few days won't matter." Xander nodded. "They're all in deep stasis. Even with the machine, it's a fifty-fifty chance."
"I'll take those odds, it's better than them dying right off," Xander pointed out. That got a nod and a small grin. "I was heading home. Were there other bases out this way?"
"Ten or twelve. Our crew's slowly working our way out here, Xander." He took off his bandana and scratched the top of his head. "What are you doing out here?"
"Heading home from a temple near Omega City to Stoker's City."
"Ah. Taking the long way home?"
"It's about the same distance," he admitted. "I was asked to hit the bases and see if there's any survivors left out here."
"I've got a good crew. We can do that," he promised.
Xander nodded, shaking his hand. "Thank you. I'm headed home by transporter then. Babe, get me to the Council's chambers?" he asked. "Let me get that kid first. Unless you want to take her?" He shook his head. "I didn't think you would since you're on body patrol. Give me ten, Vinnie." He went to get the child, smiling at the ghost sitting with her. "I'm taking her right to Taver," he promised, holding out his arms. "She'll go to the temple of the M'dreth there first, that way she's around more spirits and then slowly gets used to people." She nodded, kissing the baby and whispering in her ear, then handing the child over. "Rest well, ma'am. You're one hell of a mouse." He walked the child off, taking her back to his bike. He sat down sideways and the bike disappeared, landing him in the middle of the Council's chambers. "We gotta talk," he told Carbine, the only one in there. "I just found some bodies in stasis." She gaped. "They need the machine from Plutark to try to revive them. It goes above and beyond the call of duty, but still."
"As long as you're quiet, I will allow someone on active military duty to go," she promised gently. "Who's that?"
He grinned. "I'm headed to see Wrench about her, then out to the valley, then home. Come see me later and call the house. Chassis was there with Enamel." He shifted so he was straddling his bike. "Let's go, baby love. We've got to see Wrench and Taver." His bike purred and roared to life, making the baby squeak. "Shh, little one. It's all right. My bike will protect you." She nodded, clinging to his neck. He rode him out heading for the temple up the road. Wrench met him outside in his formal gear and he nodded, stopping in front of him. "She was saved from stasis by her mother," he said, patting her on the back. "Her mother died. She's Taver's niece by her mother's spirit's account."
"Bring her inside, brother mouse. She'll be more at home for a few minutes until I can find her aunt." He looked at the baby staring at him. "I'm Wrench. Would you like a cookie?"
"What's a cookie?" she whispered.
"It's a treat but we make many of them around here," he promised, holding his arms out. "Come on. There's plenty like you're used to inside and your aunt is on her way. I can hear her bike. I'll tell her if Xander doesn't." The baby carefully climbed into his arms and he carried her inside, sitting her on one of the stools in his kitchen. A plate of cookies was already sitting there and he put one in front of her. "Try that," he offered with a grin. "Willow?" She faded into view.
The baby looked at her. "My mommy can do that." She broke off a small piece and nibbled on it.
"I bet she was great at it, lovey," she offered, hugging her. "What's your name?"
"Taver, after my auntie." She looked outside. "She's crying."
"She didn't know about you, sweetness, it's joy," Willow assured hr. "Try the cookie, you'll like cookies." The baby ate a bite and grinned so Willow did. "See? I knew you'd like it. Let Wrench go." Taver let go of his sleeve and he patted her before leaving them alone. "You're welcome to come out whenever you want, Taver. We're friendly humans and mice here." She nodded, finishing that cookie. "Go ahead and eat another, baby. It's good for you and it'll keep Wrench from doing it."
"I'm not a baby."
"Well, you're certainly a little mouse," she teased, pinching her ear. The baby grinned and stole a cookie, nibbling it without breaking it into pieces this time. She looked out, watching Xander hold the crying mouse and talk to her to get her calmed down. Wrench joined in, taking Taver to hold. He turned her toward them and Taver ran inside, coming in to hug the child. "She's fine, Taver. We're having cookies."
"I can see that," she admitted, kissing her again on the forehead. "Oh, baby, if I had known, I would have gotten my sister home to have you there," she sobbed, clinging to her again. "It's all right. We're family and you've got a loving home with me and momma, little one."
"Momma named me after you," she whispered, liking this hugging stuff. Her momma hadn't been able to and the Xander mouse who had found her gave different hugs than her auntie did. "She said she missed you and she didn't think you had survived. I was her tribute to you." She looked at her. "Do I have to change my name?"
"No, love, not unless you want to," she promised, giving her a squeeze. "I'm so happy I'm crying and I don't know what to do first."
"Call your momma," Wrench offered gently from behind her, moving to hold her again. "That way she can cry in joy too." Taver burst out in tears so Wrench let Xander hold her then went to make the call from his office. He nodded at the older women who answered. "Ma'am," he said, nodding politely at one. "I need to speak to Taver's mother. We just had a bit of news. Is she not there?"
"She is, Highest. Give me a moment." She tipped her head back. "Olympia!" She came running. "There's news from the Highest."
"Is it my daughter?" she demanded, turning to look at him. "Is she hurt?"
"Not Taver," he admitted. "Xander was off visiting the older temples of his faith to gather some things for the local one and he found some spirits taking care of a child." He keyed in the codes to show her the kitchen. "I'm sure you recognize the one in her arms. Xander said she looked a lot like her mother."
She looked then gasped and burst out crying. "My baby!"
"Ma'am, that's your granddaughter," he offered gently. "Can you come here to cry on them? Her momma named her after her baby sister."
"Of course! I'll be right there! You don't move!"
"Only to the kitchen to get the poor thing some rootbeer, ma'am." He hung up and went to do that, getting himself some too. He looked around but Xander was gone. He looked at Willow. "He left me with the hard work."
"He went to take the special cups and things to the main temple," she offered. "The Seal is watching him. Chassis left to get one of the anti-stasis machines."
"Why?" Taver asked, looking up at her. "Are there some in it?" Willow nodded. "Where?"
"Omega has a few and Xander just found a few more. Even with only half a chance it's better than none," she said gently. Taver nodded and hugged the baby tighter. "Maybe you should take the cookies and rootbeer into the living room," she offered. "It's softer." Taver nodded and picked up her niece, carrying her that way. Willow waited while Wrench carried stuff. "Call the medical board so they can verify it," she said quietly. "Just in case the grandmother wants to." He nodded, going to make that call from his office. The child would need looked over anyway. She was pretty thin and tiny. Willow opened the door when the bike nearly ran into it. "This way, ma'am. We moved them into the living room and have called a medic to check her over to make sure she's all right." She nodded, following her into the living room. She stopped and stared, then burst out crying and ran over to hug her.
"Wow, we sure cry a lot," the younger Taver told her aunt, who just smiled and nodded. "Momma never said anything about that."
"Sometimes our emotions get the better of us, dear," Taver explained. "It's a good thing this time. We didn't know you were alive and we're happy you are." The girl nodded and hugged her grandmother. She really could like this hugging thing. A new mouse came to the door and she looked at him. "Who're you?"
"I'm Enamel. I'm a doctor." He looked at the mother, who just stared at him. "It was overturned."
"Because I had a new trial and this time I got to defend myself," he admitted. "You can ask the medical board, but I'm the one with the best grasp of stasis injuries. May I?" She nodded, getting out of the way. "If you know that mother, ma'am, you can have her call the medical board and ask for the transcripts. I've already given permission for them to be given to her. New information came to light." He looked at her and she nodded for him to go on. "There was an autopsy performed during the trial that never got told about. She died due to the stasis generator going out one night." She gasped and he nodded. "I've already told them to give the mother the transcripts when she wanted them. She can ask Mayflower or Stoker for them."
"Fine, I know her and I'll tell her. Thank you. I know you tried."
"I did. I tried very hard. If we'd had the medicine, I would have cured her." He got down to look at her. "Hi. I'm Enamel. I'm a baby doctor."
"I'm not a baby."
"Well, no, but I take care of big kids too. Sometimes even that Xander mouse who brought you home." She smiled and nodded at that. "I take care of his kids, sweetheart. Okay?" She nodded. "Good girl. I'm going to do three things today. This first one'll check your general well being. One will tell us who your daddy was so we can see if you've got any other family. Just to see if you're going to get cried on again," he offered with a small smile. She smiled and winked at that. "Good girl. Let's do that first." He put that on her and a reading came up. He put it on both the other women and it came up with their relationship and something else. "Well." He smiled at her, then at the mother. "She was dating Rimfire's daddy?"
"Well, no, but they were on many long-term assignments together. Why?"
"I'll need to check," he noted. "Just to make sure." He showed her the screen. She blinked at it then nodded and sighed. "If so, I'm sure she'd be happy with you too." He took that disc off. "We think we know who your daddy was so we'll see if you've got more crying relatives later. We're doing a large database to find everyone family." The girl nodded so he put the next one on her, looking at it as it came up. "Well, it looks like you need to eat more than cookies for dinner, but I think your momma took excellent care of you, sweetheart." He looked at her and she sucked on her finger. "Hungry?" She nodded. "I'll have them fix you a *huge* lunch later." She smiled and nodded at that. "Mommas, they've been doing very well. I'm pretty certain she's been eating the survival supplies they had there." The girl nodded. "She's a bit on the starved side but not too bad. A few good meals will solve that. It says she's about six but that she had been in minor stasis for two years." He looked at them. "Sound about right?"
"It does. Sister said she had news the next time she got leave, which she expected soon," Taver said miserably. "What happened?"
"Momma said the rocks gave them ouchies," little Taver told her. "She thought she got out but that Xander mouse showed her she didn't." She sucked on her finger again, looking at Willow, who was hovering. "Can my momma come visit me here?"
"Sure. Our temple is open to any and all peaceful spirits," Willow assured her. "She can send you a dream to come and then show up to talk to you or just to watch you. We've had others who have too," she promised. "We've always got cookies too," she offered with a small grin. The girl grinned and stole another one to eat in one large gulp. "Good girl."
"Cookies make a good lunch for my son too," Enamel told her. He put the last one on and looked it over. "She's fine," he announced. "Just that bit of hungriness. Needs her inoculations." He took that off her and tucked it away again, leading the mother a bit away. "My wife is Shell." She shivered. "I think the child will need to see her now and then, just to get used to stuff. Or you could have her talk to Spike and Anya, Stoker's kids. They've seen some stuff when they snuck down to see Xander." She nodded and swallowed. He handed over his comm number. "For the kid if you need Shell. She'll be fine. It looks like she broke her left leg last year but it healed pretty well. She may still have some aches there now and then. If so, when she gets older we can rebreak and reset. For right now, treat her like she's been on desert maneuvers. She's hungry and needs a long, hot bath." The mother smiled and relaxed. "And definitely tell that mother to get the transcripts if it won't hurt her too much. I never wanted to hurt her and I always wanted to save her child. I'm sorry I wasn't good enough."
"I understood. You tried so hard," she said quietly. "I'll tell her that before she sees you on the street." He nodded, heading out after stealing a cookie of his own. She looked at Wrench, who simply nodded behind him. She went into his office to make the call. "Dear, sit." Her friend scowled but sat. "There's some news, dear. I'm not sure if you've heard. Enamel's here." The woman jumped up. "There was a second trial, one where he was allowed to speak. He said there was evidence that wasn't given to you. Including an autopsy." She just blinked. "He said he's authorized you to get a copy of the second trial's transcripts from either Stoker or Mayflower at the medical board. He told me to tell you so you wouldn't see him riding down the street." She coughed. "He's also the one who came up with the way to cure it totally using the transporters. I heard Cell talking about it with someone at the main building when I went for my check up. He wanted you to read them before you went to scream at him again and he apologized for being mortal."
"What does it say?" she asked quietly.
"He said the stasis generator went out." She swallowed. "Go get them and I'll sit with you while you read through them. He's got a family now and he's helping where he can. He just checked my granddaughter over."
"Granddaughter?" She nodded. "How?"
"My daughter's spirit protected her from the rockslide. She did some time in stasis, but she's fine. She needs to eat. You get that file and Taver and I will bring her home soon, dear." She nodded and hung up. She stood up and went to hug her granddaughter to her. "You are such a precious gift," she murmured, stroking her hair. She looked at Wrench.
"Her momma and you guys are always welcome here. One of the reasons for the temple is because spirits are always welcome here. She's more than welcome to come back to see if her momma will come visit her. She wouldn't be the first," he said gently, getting out of their way. "Plus we've almost always got cookies for the kids around here," he offered with a small smile. He waved at the baby. "You'll see me later, dear. Don't worry about it."
"Our date...." Taver started.
"She's more important and you've got lots of stuff to do with her right now," he promised. "I'm not leaving."
Taver got up and kissed him. "I'll see you on Sunday?" He smiled and nodded, tweaking her nose. She smiled and walked out with her family, taking them home.
Her mother put a hand on her arm, staring her down. "I like that one, daughter. Keep him."
"He's very hot," she hissed. "Nice arms, and he's part of Vinnie's clan, his second." She grinned and got onto her bike. "Here, you can ride with me, namesake and niece." That got a grin and she clung to her back as she rode off.
"I like that boy, even if he does deal in strange stuff," the mother announced, heading after them once she got some stuff for them to cook. She got home and found a basket of food on her doorstep, making her smile. She liked her friends a lot. She read the note and nodded, heading inside. "This basket's owner said that they wanted to talk about the daddy's family, that she thinks there is some," she offered. "They want to talk to us first."
"I don't know how," Taver admitted. "Rimfire's daddy?" She nodded, looking at her. "I wouldn't have expected it from him."
Modo tapped the back door and held up a basket. "Sometimes these things happen on assignment. Cell made more food than we can conceivably eat this year. She's worried."
"I don't see a problem sharing her," Taver noted.
Modo shrugged. "I leave that to Cell and you guys. I'm just the delivery boy," he offered with a shy grin. "Hi, princess. How are you?"
"You're part metal?" He nodded, tapping his arm. She sniffled. "That was mean of someone! Did you get to hurt them back! My momma said it's only fair to hurt someone who hurts you or your family that badly."
"My bros and I did," he promised, walking in to kiss her on the head. "It's all right. It was a long time ago." He patted her on the head and looked at the mothers. "My gray furred momma suggested that you guys come over tonight for a picnic since you're neighbors anyway." They nodded at that. "We're not a pushy sort. Whatever you decide." He left, heading home. She was an adorable little girl and she looked a lot like Rimfire, only she was tan and her hair had a black stripe down the left side, just above her ear.
Chassis and Xander came off the transporter with a few things, handing them to Enamel. "Yours." She handed the other to Carbine, who was sitting on the counter. "Yours and hand it to the other cities as well, boss lady. Also, these," she said, holding up the data keys. "From the lab. I didn't get a chance to do much recon, but once Xander killed the Bringer I did some."
"Thank you," she said, taking them. She looked over as Rivet came off wiping off the scythe. "Did it go okay?"
"There's still a few left. Just six or seven," she admitted.
"Eleven with that one dead," a voice called, sounding like Willow. "Six are on another continent."
"Eleven of those suckers we can handle," Xander admitted, collapsing his rod again and putting it back. He looked at Wrench as he came in. "How is she?"
"Eating. What Enamel ordered her to do." He kissed him then hugged him. Xander patted him on the back. "She said she still wants to see me Sunday. Her mother said to keep me," he said happily.
"I agree, but can I breathe?" he joked. Wrench let him go and he grinned. "I told you so." He looked at Enamel. "They got stepped on but they should still work. Chassis thought so."
"If not, there's probably more," he admitted, going to call the medical board. Mayflower scowled at him. "I told you she could have the transcripts, I meant it," he noted. "Neither of us knew some of that stuff."
"Fine, I'll release them to her. What's going on now?" He held that device up. "What's that?"
"The anti-stasis machine. Chassis said they might have been stepped on, but she thinks they still work."
"Give! Now!" she ordered. "Right now!"
"Come get 'em. There's two," he promised with a small smirk. "Unless you want me to send Vic in by himself?" She shook her head and got up. Enamel ended up looking at his accuser. "I'm sorry, ma'am."
"I've heard that." She looked at the file in her hand, then at him. "Explain it."
He nodded, puling over a chair with his tail. "Sure. I'd been on Earth. I was captured..."
"For another death?"
"Sort of, I was protecting an orphanage and wasn't careful who I shot during an attack." She looked stunned. "I was captured and handed over to the guy who dealt with the Martians in the US, Micah Simms."
"I heard his name now and then. And?"
"He made it part of my sentence to treat the guys there," he said gently. "He's also the one who pushed Stoker for a real trial when he found out that I hadn't had a chance to speak at mine." She swallowed and nodded. "Stoker found the file, including evidence your lawyer didn't want presented. Things like that autopsy report and why the medicines had suddenly disappeared. A few tests done on the computers showing that the treatments would have worked had the stasis generator not given out completely." She caught herself from sobbing again. "You know I wanted to heal her. I tried my best, but I'm not one of the Ancient Gods."
She swallowed. "I'm going to read this over. It doesn't help."
"I know. If it were my children, I'd have killed by now."
She nodded. "I nearly did," she admitted. "I was stopped by Stoker." She stared him down. "Are you practicing?"
"More consulting and teaching. I treat the family out here. I didn't want others to need the explanation. Besides, I'm a father now and I need to be here for my kids."
She nodded. "You should be practicing. Besides my daughter you saved many children. Mars still needs you. I guess that's why they gave you a second chance." She walked off.
Xander hung up and hugged him. "If you need to talk or scream, I'm here," he whispered.
Enamel shrugged him off and stood up. "There are days I hate you," he spat. "You brought me out of where I was finally comfortable and made me...."
"Heal?" Xander suggested, interrupting him. "Yeah, I'm sorry about that, not." He crossed his arms and looked at him. "Let's face it, Enamel. Where would you be if we hadn't gotten tangled up in my changing?" He swallowed then nodded. "You can be damned pissed at me, I would be. You've still got pain and anger from your banishment and today it got reopened. Be mad if you want, just don't do it around the kids. I won't have them hurt." He turned and walked out.
Enamel watched him go, then sighed and followed. "Xander!" He caught up to him outside, staring at him. "It's my pain."
"Yeah, and do you realize how much shit I brought into your lives?" he asked. "How much stuff I changed with being here? How much stuff I impacted? Not all of it good and even when it's good not everyone's thankful. It's a double edged sword, Enamel. Yeah, I started you healing and now you're in pain again."
"Sometimes you've got to hurt to heal, like your burn." He stepped closer. "I'm not mad at you for it."
"I know, but I'm mad at myself that I can't keep my fucked up life from fucking up everyone else's now and then. Things would have been a lot simpler if I hadn't been the one sent to Chicago that time. Think about how sane things would be without me."
"Yeah, but think about how dead we'd all be," Throttle said from the doorway, using the frame as a brace to hold him back. "If it hadn't been for you, we wouldn't have won against Limburger for a long time, Xan. Or been able to help Mars like we have. You create a lot more happiness than you do bring pain and strangeness."
"Are you sure of that? Because I'm not." He walked off, heading off on his bike.
"What's wrong with him?"
"Today he got to tell a lot of people that their families weren't coming home, that some were in stasis, and that the one child he knew was coming home had been because the ghosts had worked together and some had worn themselves into a non-afterlife to help her," he admitted. "He hates to see people in pain, Enamel. He should have been a doc. He really should have been."
"Sometimes we can't help the pain either. He'd have been alcoholic and a drug user by now if he were a doc," he said honestly. He looked at Throttle. "Seeing a patient die in front of him because we can't cure cancer would have killed him."
Throttle nodded. "Yeah, but like later on, he'll remind himself it was necessary and he's needed. We all take moods like this, when the futility comes back to us sometimes."
Throttle shook his head. "You forget, Xander adopted us. We're his clan now. All of us. Hurting us hurts him. He hates having to hurt anyone not attacking him. It's been a long few days. He's headed to the temple and then he'll come back."
"I remember that state. It's what led me to stop feeling."
"Yeah, but you didn't have anyone to bring you home and make you feel until him. He's got us." He headed back inside, going to call his mate and ask him to come home. It was too soon but Xander needed to hear his voice and know that he was wanted. He had the last time.
Xander wandered into the house and Vinnie caught him, just hugging him. "I'm fine. How is Enamel?"
"Worried about you, Xan." He led him back to their room, tucking him into the bed. "Let me get Throttle, he's out watching the stars." He jogged outside and drug Throttle back inside, both of them laying around him. "There," he said once he was settled. "Better?"
"I'm fine, Vinnie."
"You're not, babe," Throttle admitted. "You did good but it wears on you," he said gently. "We want to be here for this too."
"All those people thought they were still alive," he said, looking at him. "It was horrible and I had to burst their bubbles to help them, then make them move on. I can't do that again. I'm not sure I can help people anyway. I suck as a counselor. Just look at how I messed up Enamel now and then."
"You helped him a lot, bro," Vinnie soothed, stroking his stomach.
Enamel tapped and walked in with a mug. "Here, soup." He handed it over. "A good counselor knows when to kick ass and when to back off and let you figure it out, Xander. Besides, you're not going to get a lot of that in your chosen faith. You're not the God they come to for that."
"No, but I couldn't help the other priests either."
"I'm sure you did, even if you think you didn't."
"I fucked up beyond belief talking to one guy about his PTSD."
Throttle gave him a squeeze. "I still hate that word and I doubt it, Xander. You've never done that before. You're not starting now."
"I stumbled and stuttered and Tangent had to take over I did it so wrong." He finished his soup and handed the mug back, then rolled into his mate's stomach to cuddle. He pulled Vinnie up behind him. "I suck at this."
"Not all priests are meant to council," Vinnie pointed out. "Some are meant to do and some are meant to speak. You're meant to train and make sure the next generation works right." He gave him a tight squeeze. "So what if you couldn't give the right advice? Everyone gets some bad advice, it's a skill knowing when it's bad."
"Vincent, probably not helping," Enamel said with a small scowl for him.
"Babe, you're meant to teach, not to council. I'm sure your fellow priest knew that too." He nuzzled him gently. "You're not Othra, you're not expected to be Othra. You're his priest and mortal. Therefore you mess up now and then. That's why there's others and us around, babe. So you don't have to face this stuff alone." He stroked the thin back. "Did you not eat while you were gone?"
"I did so eat," he complained. "Quit harping on that, please!"
"Fine. You know, Xander, you can only count on three things in this world. Your brains, your bros, and your bike," he offered gently.
"Since you've got the studliest and best possible for two of those, we'll forgive you for not being that smart," Vinnie offered, grinning at Throttle. At least until Throttle kicked him out of the bed with a mighty foot shove. "Hey!"
"Enough, Vincent. Quit picking on Xander. Damn it, I just sounded like Shell yelling at her grandkids," he moaned, holding his head. Xander snickered at that and hid his face deeper in Throttle's chest. "Fine, you laugh. Just think, triplets." He glared at Vinnie. "He's very smart. After all, he finds a use for you." Throttle kicked him out of the bed too.
"I feel better now. Babe, want a cuddle?" Xander nodded. "Then strip down and let's cuddle. The other two chuckle heads can go back to their own beds."
"No I can't. Charley won't let me go to bed," Vinnie complained. "Can I come back yet?" he yelled.
"Vincent!" Charley yelled. "Get your tail in here!"
"You said I couldn't come in!" he whined as he headed back to his room. "Oooh, Momma," he howled. "I like it! No wonder I couldn't come in!"
The door slammed and Magnet started to cry but she was quickly silenced by Vic carrying her into Modo's room to lay with Punch, and then Vic went to sleep on his bike. Sometimes his parents got too loud. He passed Shell in the hallway. "My parents are too loud for me to sleep. I'm going to my bike."
Throttle and Enamel chuckled at that, shaking their heads. Enamel was drug off by his wife, who asked if he wanted Xander too, and if so, she could find some fur dye and make him a sorry mouse when she bent him over their couch. He blushed at that but let her take him home.
Throttle cuddled his mate. His poor boy needed the comfort and rest. He needed him, so it all worked out in the end since he liked to cuddle. Just as long as he got Xander out of his leathers and boots. "Strip, babe. I want to cuddle."
Xander sighed but got up and took off his leathers, showing off the cut on his side. "Before you ask, it's not bad, it's not tragic, I got a rock scrape," he defended, laying back down.
Throttle looked at it, then licked it and put a kiss on it. "I can see that." He kissed him and got naked, then pulled him back to cuddle some more. "Scrapes happen. You get babied for scrapes." Xander just looked at him. "You do. It's in the super stud's handbook. Scrapes and booboos get babied. Cuts and tears are what you freak out about. Burns and gunshots or laser burns you scream and freak about. I'll find you a copy later."
"Sure." He kissed him and snuggled in, letting Throttle wrap around him. "Thanks, babe."
"Welcome anytime," he promised, giving him a squeeze. They both laughed when Vinnie howled in pleasure.
"Don't do that! You're keeping my babies up!" Modo yelled, slamming his door. Which cracked Xander up further until he was snickering into the warm, tan fur again. Not that Throttle minded. He liked the soft breaths and the warm lips there.
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