Terror smiled at the kids he was watching. Vinnie had bribed him and he was going to try to do a good job. He knew he'd be skinned if he didn't, so he'd try. "I know you guys are really young, but I also know you guys are *way* smarter than your parents think," he assured them. "You guys are probably takin' a break from all the stuff Xander's tryin' ta teach ya, and that's cool with me," he assured them, smiling at Punch. "But you never have to pretend with me, okay, guys? You're all really smart and I already know this. Just remember that and we'll get on fine until your parents get back."
"Where is daddy?" Punch asked, sucking on her first finger. She looked exactly like Modo, only she had some silvery, wispy hair coming in and growing out.
"They had to take off for a few days but they'll be back within a week." He grinned and tweaked her on the nose. "I promise, they're fine, they just had to go for a long ride."
"Why not grandmommas watch us?" Magnet asked.
"Well, Throttle's momma's really busy with the club so she doesn't have the time to watch you guys, and Modo's momma, Punch's grandmomma, isn't feelin' too well," Terror admitted calmly, his voice a bit gruff. "She doesn't have the energy until she's feelin' better to watch you guys. So I've got all you little kids."
"Target's momma 'bandoned her," Punch said very seriously. "She dropped her off then went to 'spital and never came back."
"Oh, no, sweetie, nothing on Mars will be stoppin' your daddy from coming back," he promised, picking her up to sit her in his lap. "If anyone or anything ever tried to stop your daddy from coming back to ya, they'd be one hurtin' thing," he promised, making her smile and nod, she knew that. "I'm just babysittin' and we'll be fine. You guys are cute and adorable and really smart." He tweaked Magnet's ear. "You're an especially cute mouse."
"Hey!" Vic complained. "That's my job!"
Terror looked at him. "She's a girl mouse, Vic, they're cute in different ways than boy mice."
Vic gave him a look like he was insane. "No she's not! She's a sister, not a girl!"
Terror chuckled. "Trust me, sisters are girls, just like Aunts and mommas are," he promised. "She's an adorable girl, the same way Punch is, Victor. I promise she is."
"Can we go for a ride?" Magnet asked sweetly, smiling up at her cousin. She liked this one. He was a neat playmate when he came out of the caves.
"Sure," he agreed. "We can go watch the sunset. That'll be in about four hours or so."
"Can we go now and then?" she chirped, smiling and snuggling in to nuzzle him under the chin with her ears. Her daddy fell prey to that maneuver all the time. That's why she was a spoiled white girl mouse.
Terror considered it. "Maybe. I'll have to see what sort of notes the daddies left before they took off for their time off."
"Were they kidnaped?" Punch asked.
Terror looked at her and shook his head. "No, sweetheart, they weren't taken by anyone. They're out camping in the desert. I'm sure they'll be calling once they make camp if they're close enough." He patted her on the back, leaning over to kiss her on the edge of her ear. "It's all right, I promise, it's just like when you're normally babysat. Only I'm not one of the mommas. I was gonna play games with you guys later if you wanted. Are you sure you want to take a ride now?"
Magnet teased some of his chest fur. "What sort of games?"
He looked down at her. "You're gonna be that sort of girl, huh? Well, mouse cadet, I was gonna play neat board games with you guys, like Candy Land, but since you're a flirt and a spoiled mouse, maybe I should let you guys nap so you make it to sunset tonight?" She pouted and he felt his chest clench, then sighed. No wonder Charley had warned him about her 'antics' and 'personality'. She was good! She was only three and a half and she had him wrapped around her finger already! "Wouldn't you like to play a board game?" She shook her head, smiling at him. "Fine, we'll go ride out toward the caves then back home so we can pick out a spot to watch the sunset. Then maybe we can play some board games?" It was the only thing he knew that could take hours out of the afternoon.
"I wouldn't mind," Vic assured him, giving him a hug. "It's okay, daddy taught her how to do that," he whispered in his cousin's ear. "She's got daddy good a few times." He nuzzled him. "Can we go now?"
"Sure, little mouse. Come on, let's find jackets and boots." The kids hopped up and went to find their gear, coming back to let him figure out how to allow them to ride with them. Only he and Vic had bikes - though he had seen the girls' bikes out in the caverns for their next birthdays. Thankfully Comet and Tag were being taken care of by Comet's momma for the week the bros were going to be gone. He decided to let the girls ride in front of him and go a bit slower. It'd be fine. He herded the kids out to the garage, getting on and settling the girls in his lap, then watching as Vic found his helmet and mounted his bike, taking off for outside. "Wait for me," he called. He hurried after him, but carefully since the girls weren't doing more than holding onto him with their tails.
Punch looked across Terror's stomach at Vic and Magnet, looking pitiful. Vic was asleep against Terror's stomach and he was asleep too. "I miss daddy and momma," she whispered. "They haven't called."
"They're out of range," Vic mumbled, then he flipped over and went back to his nap.
Magnet considered it. Nothing and no one had ever kept her daddy from telling her a bedtime story. Even when he was gone he had called to read her one. Now, he hadn't called. So something must have happened. Her baby mind made the connection to all the horrible things that could happen, including bad people who liked to taunt Uncle Rimfire and Uncle Throttle about their mates. She had heard a few. She looked at Punch, then nodded. "They should have called." Punch sighed and shifted a bit, looking even more miserable. "Come on." She and Punch checked Terror then snuck off toward the caverns. They knew they had bikes waiting. Uncle Xander was like that and Crankshaft had told them so because she had gotten hers from him. They looked at the cavern complex, pouting a bit. Then she got the bright idea. Daddy and momma whistled for his bike. She'd try it for hers. She whistled. A bike came to one of the openings and she waved. "Down here!" she called.
"Oooh!" Punch cooed, coming over to pet it. "You're a very pretty bike. Are you my bike or Magnet's bike?" It revved and focused its headlight on Magnet. "Is mine up there?" The bike beeped and called back up to her friend, getting another bike, which was a lot like her daddy's bike. She squealed and ran up the ramp to hug it, climbing on. "Come on, bike, we've got to rescue the daddies. They've been kidnaped or something. They didn't call at bedtime like they do."
Magnet stopped petting her bike and climbed on, nodding. "We should rescue them." She headed off, taking the path the bigger bikes had worn toward the road and the city. She could see the city's lights so she knew which way to go. They'd need some help from someone older. They knew they were too little to do much. But Spike and Crankshaft weren't. Crankshaft was old and Spike was really old, they could help their families.
Terror woke up and looked around, looking panicked. "Magnet! Punch!" he called. No answer. He looked at his bike. "You let them walk off?" he demanded. It beeped and played an audio track of two bikes in the distance. "Oh, hell!" He got up and grabbed Vic, putting him onto his bike. "Head home with him, girl. Bike, call Stoker." Stoker's face appeared on the screen. "Stoker, is Spike with you?" Stoker gave him a look like he was insane then slowly shook his head. "Shit!" He hung up and dialed the house instead, getting Spike. "The girls took off," he explained quickly. "I told them their parents were just camping but I don't think they believed me."
"They think someone stole them?" Spike asked, smirking a bit. Terror nodded. "I haven't seen 'em," he offered. He looked around. "Crankshaft?" No answer. "Crankshaft!" Still no answer. "CRANKSHAFT! GET YOUR BLOODY ARSE IN THIS HOUSE NOW!" he yelled at the top of his little lungs. Still no answer. He gave Terror a look and headed outside at a run, finding the yard empty of everything but Crankshaft's bike. He looked again. His bike was gone. He growled and stomped back inside. "She's got my bike!" he said hotly. "She bloody well took off."
"Could they be anywhere in the city, Spike? Are there other friends?"
Spike considered it and shrugged. "Wrench?"
"I hate to call him about this," he complained. His cousin would laugh his tail off.
"So? Better more help findin' the loony bints than less!" He hung up and called Racer. "Come get me. Cranky stole my bike and headed with Punch and Magnet to find their parents. They think they were stolen."
Racer blinked at him. "Where's your bike?"
"Oh, hell," he said, blinking a few more times. They had put weapons on Spike's bike so he could learn how to use them. No wonder his sister had stolen his bike. "Give me twenty, Spike. Let me tell Momma. She'll feel better for the laugh." He hung up and ran to grab his jacket and a shirt, sticking his head in Momma's bedroom. "Momma, Terror lost Punch and Magnet, plus Crankshaft stole Spike's bike. I'm gonna go help 'em."
"Fine," she agreed, blowing her nose. "That's fine. Give 'em a hug for me, dear. Are they all right?"
"Spike said he thinks they think their parents were captured so they're mounting a rescue attempt with Crankshaft." He shrugged. "We'll find 'em." He hurried out to his bike, hopping on and heading over to Spike's house. He only had to pause and Spike was running out and hopping on the back of his bike. "I'm gonna tell Wrench first. Maybe he can get Willow to find them." He sped on, the new temple was nearby. He parked and ran inside, having to head into the temple. Wrench looked up from his prayers, looking alarmed. "Punch and Magnet rode off with Crankshaft. We think they think their parents were captured."
"So, like a true daughter to Vinnie and Modo they went to rescue their family?" he asked, looking a bit more amused. He started to snicker at the nod. "That's so cute! Where are they?"
"We don't know," he said dryly. Wrench groaned and held his head. "I'm taking Spike with me. Cranky stole his bike. Terror was about to panic."
"I'm coming." He headed back to his room to grab his jacket and sunglasses, and decided to bring a laser too, there were still Sand Raiders in the desert in places. It'd be just like a VanWham kid to run into them. He followed Racer out, grabbing his bike from the garage so he could follow them to the compound. They met Terror on the way, stopping in the middle of the road to talk to him. "Did you search the lands?"
Terror nodded. "I told Enamel to watch and listen for them and us too. Chassis just laughed. Stan said we should call someone official but I don't wanna know what Vinnie would do to our tails."
"Our?" Wrench asked, still looking amused. Terror glared at him, silently telling him that Vinnie could blame him too. "Besides, Xander would do worse since *you* agreed to watch the kids." He pushed his sunglasses back up. "Okay, which way would they head?"
"I told 'em their parents were camping in the desert." He noticed the gun. "You don't think they're in real trouble, right?"
"No, but there's still a few Sand Raiders here and there and Magnet is a VanWham."
Terror shivered and let out a small whimper. He hit the comm signal for the clan's bikes, groaning a bit when he saw how many answered. "Attention, clan members, Magnet VanWham and Punch are out on their own, possibly with Crankshaft, Stoker's daughter, in a kiddie rescue mission for their camping parents. Please, if you see 'em, call me or Wrench. Please?"
Chassis came back. "You're not joking!"
"No!" he shouted back. "I was watching the clouds and they snuck off! Vic's at the house!"
"Wrong," Racer said, pointing at the little mouse heading their way. "Hey, Vic, where would they start?"
"He said the desert, they're heading towards Mons probably. That's where Daddy tells us stories about camping as kids." He looked at his bigger cousins, then at Spike, grinning. "Cranky?" He growled but nodded. So Vic stood up and whistled loudly, listening. He did it again and a roar was heard. "You forgot, Uncle Xander's bike decided not to go," he said with a smirk.
Spike nodded. "Thanks, mate."
"On Mars, the usual name is bro," Terror told him. He looked over as Xander's bike showed up. "Can Spike ride you? The kids took off and we've got to find them." The bike revved and Spike transferred over. He looked really tiny on the massive bike, but that was fine. Some day he'd fit on a bike like that. "Okay, let's head toward Mons. The kids would probably stay on the road, right?"
"It'd be easier. How did they get bikes?" Wrench asked as they headed off together.
"Their birthday is coming up," Vic called. "Willow and Crankshaft told them how we got ours."
"I'm gonna kill my sister," Spike growled. He called his father's desk, getting his assistant. "Don't worry dad, but Crankshaft stole my bike and headed into the desert with Magnet and Punch, who think their fathers were taken. We're gonna find 'em now. I'm on Xan's bike." He hung up before she could say anything or call anyone. He sped up to ride beside Racer. "We need to head off the path in case," he called. "The road don't go to Mons." Racer nodded and rode ahead to talk to the bigger mice. He leaned closer to the bike. "Thanks for this. I know you're as special as I am. I won't tell Xander if you don't." He sat back up, looking around for the kids. "How much of a head start did they have?" he called over the comm.
"Maybe twenty minutes," Terror called back.
Wrench said a silent prayer to The Lady for some patience. His cousin should never be allowed to do more than an hour's watch of the kids. He had proven he wasn't able to handle it on their first day together. At this rate, he'd end up sitting after all. He felt Willow coming closer and mentally ordered her to find the girls. She said she couldn't find 'em. He waved at Terror. "Willow can't see 'em," he called across the short distance between their bikes. "They're on blessed or holy ground." Terror nodded. "Twenty minutes?"
"I didn't think I fell asleep," he defended.
"Xander's gonna kill you, cuz!" He sped up, heading for the path to Mons. He saw some tire tracks off to the side and looked, finding smaller bike tracks. "Is that theirs? Spike, is this your tread?" he called.
"My tires are nearly bare," Spike admitted as he rode up beside him. "No, not mine or new." Wrench sighed. "Willow?"
"Can't see 'em," he admitted. "They're on holy or blessed ground." He sped off, mentally mapping out all the spots they could be in on the way. He sent a mental order to keep looking for them. They could be found as soon as they stepped foot away from the protected lands. They were most of the way to Mons when the Seal popped up with an announcement of finding them, in the other direction. He and Terror both groaned and got them turned around, heading that way instead. He looked at Vic, who wouldn't be able to keep up for very long. "Go back to Momma's and wait," he ordered.
"No! She's my sister and I think they're right! Daddy would've called! Momma needs us!"
"Vic, your bike won't be able to keep up with us," Spike called. "It'll get tired."
Racer looked at him. "Vic, I left Momma sick in bed and alone with the twins." Vic glared at him. "Hey, you guys needed me more but they won't wait too much longer. So go watch my momma, okay?" He nodded, breaking off to head that way. He looked at Spike and shrugged. "They've been plotting again." He sped up to get next to Wrench. "Why would they head out there?"
"There's a temple out there that Xander said he liked to sit and meditate on top of because he can see most of the desert," Wrench called back. "Hopefully they'll be camping there tonight since it'll be so late when we get there."
"Sure," Racer agreed, pulling back. They were adults but he knew the girls wouldn't be camping. They were young and dumb, they'd keep going. He would have when he had been an infant, like Spike.
Vic walked into the house and slammed the door, heading up to his grandmother's bedroom. He tapped gently and stuck his head in, grinning at the older mouse in the bed staring at him. "Racer said to come guard you from the wicked and evil ones." He walked in and climbed in with her, giving her a hug. "They can find the girls."
"What are they doing, dear?" she asked.
"They decided the daddies must be kidnaped since they didn't call. Daddy always calls, no matter where he is," he said firmly, sniffling a bit. She'd understand and give him a hug. "I think they're right."
"No, baby, they're just too far away to call." She gave him the cuddle he needed, patting him on the back. "I'm sure they're fine. After all, they're only camping and even if something happened, they're very good and very skilled. My poor little gray mouse Modo would surely beat up anyone who touched the family." Vic nodded, looking up at her. "I'm sure it's just because they're too far away."
"Their bikes could call," he said quietly. "Uncle Xander's can."
She considered it, then sighed and nodded. "Maybe they were busy and thought you'd be in bed, Victor. You really should be asleep by now." She got him out of his jacket and boots, putting him under the blankets with her. "Here, you curl up with grandmomma and keep me company. We'll wait together." He nodded and rested on her shoulder, falling asleep after a few minutes' cuddle. "You poor thing. I'm sure they tried the house and you were out." She stroked his back, smiling at the familiar feeling. Racer had done the same thing when they had brought him home. She heard a door slam. "Cell?" she called.
Primer stuck her head in. "Just me, Grandmomma. What's going on? I saw Vic's bike."
"The girls took off because their fathers are camping and they didn't get called. The poor things think they're in trouble or something," she said with a small smile. "Racer went to help find them. He sent Vic to watch me."
"That's fine. Do they need help? Mars is a big place."
"I'm sure someone was smart enough to put tracers on the kiddie bikes."
"We turned 'em off," Vic mumbled, snuggling in harder and wrapping his tail around her waist.
"Oh, dear," Primer sighed, going to call Racer's bike and tell him that. Maybe it'd help.
Stoker slammed open the house door, finding no one there. He looked around, then frowned in the yard at his daughter's bike. "Where's Crankshaft and Spike?" he demanded. It beeped and showed him a picture of Racer. "Which one does he have?" She beeped and showed her rider's picture. "Why?" She beeped frantically, but he didn't understand. He called Racer, he was obviously involved. "What is going on!" he yelled when he connected.
"Ow, I needed that hearing," he complained, rubbing an ear. He smirked a bit at the radio static covering the swearing, a quirk of the Martian system. "The girls decided that their parents have been kidnaped since they didn't call at bedtime so they took off on their kiddie bikes. Crankshaft stole Spike's to help them. Spike's on Xander's bike and we sent Vic to Momma's since she's sick and alone with the twins. We're hoping to find them by morning." Stoker growled. "They snuck away from Terror," he admitted. "We think we know where they're heading. We're going after them and we hope we can intercept them before they take off again!"
"Fine," he growled. "Call Cell."
"I'm not that brave," Racer admitted, turning off his comm. "Spike, your daddy just growled at me. He said to call Cell."
"I'm not that brave," Wrench and Terror called back in unison.
"We called Chassis, that took all the balls we had," Terror agreed.
Spike snorted and shook his head, using the bike's system to call Cell. "Hey," he said in greeting. "Cranky, Punch, and Magnet escaped and are hunting their fathers to see why they didn't call. Cranky's on my bike, the girls have theirs. We're trying to find them."
Cell glared at him, noticing him flinch. "Where are you?"
"On Xander's bike. They probably turned off their tracers. I know mine's off. Cranky knows how to turn hers off too."
"Where are you headed, Spike?"
"Ask Wrench! He said it's a temple. System or something?"
"Sistema?" she suggested, clearly holding in her temper. He shrugged. "Fine, where is Wrench?"
"About thirty feet in front of us," he admitted with a grin. "We've got Racer, Vic went home to guard your Momma." He hung up and looked at Racer, smirking a bit. "Extra eyes and all that."
"Yeah, because Cell's *so* gonna not beat Punch's tail for this," he shot back with a grin of his own. He put down his face shield when Terror looked back at them. "Can I apprentice under you two for advanced training?" he called.
Wrench chuckled over the comm. "We'll see, Racer. Only if you call someone else to tell them."
"Spike called Cell."
"Better him being tail-chewed then me," Wrench noted dryly.
Terror looked at him. "I'm never gonna hear the end of this, am I?"
Wrench beamed and shook his head. "Nope, and I'm telling the Elder and Xander on you. Then I'm making popcorn!" He sped up, taking the turn out to that temple.
Spike noticed something, speeding off in another direction. "Tracks!" he called. "Mine!" They turned and came back to look at the grouping of tracks. "What's this way?"
"Mons," Racer said, frowning a bit. "But they'd have to pass by some of the sinkholes. Wrench?"
"Willow!" She appeared, looking scared. "Are they back in sight?" She shook her head. "Not at all?" She shook her head again. "Do a tracking spell, Willow."
"I tried! It's blocked! I don't know why but it's blocked!"
The Seal appeared, holding up a hand. "Crankshaft just passed by Othra's shrine at that one battlefield. They're headed in the wrong direction. They came this way to get to that temple and are apparently heading off toward some campers." She looked at Terror. "You're so getting it when Xander hears, dude. I pity you. I really do." They faded out, her taking Willow before Wrench could lose his temper.
"Fuck," Wrench muttered. He looked at Terror. "We've got to do it, man."
"No we don't!"
"Yeah, we do! They're headed the wrong direction! They're headed for the mountains!"
"Fuck," he growled. He sighed and punched the buttons on his bike, getting Vinnie's bike. "Charley girl? Vinnie?" he called, hoping someone was nearby. No answer. He looked at Wrench, then groaned and shook his head. "Elder! There's a problem with the kids!" The bike beeped at him and he sighed. "Yeah, them. Wake 'em up or whatever, bike. Please. The kids took off." The bike beeped frantically. He heard a tired sounding sigh. "Modo, my man, the kids snuck off. They think you're in danger since you guys didn't call. They're headed for the mountains."
"They're what?" Staff asked. "Is this a joke!"
"No," Terror whimpered. He was more afraid of her than he was of anyone but Charley and Xander. "You guys never called and the girls snuck off while we were watching the sunset and moonrise."
"Terror, I'm going to kill you," she noted, hanging up.
"I'm so dead," he moaned, leaning on his handlebars. "Guys, let's head them off. Maybe if we present them to their parents we can escape for a few hours."
"Fat chance, mate," Spike said, smirking a bit. "Harris will whip your tail for years about losing his pride and joy." He headed off with Racer in the lead. The adults would never be able to stop the girls. They were stubborn like that.
Wrench reached over and patted him on the shoulder. "I'll give you a head start, man. It's all I can promise." He headed after the boys, knowing they'd get into trouble. After all, he and Vinnie had all the time.
Staff coughed, making everyone around the fire look up. "Terror just decided to prank us. He said the kids ran off? That we didn't call so they snuck off to find us." She sat against Modo's side again, giving him a cuddle. "He said they're headed for the mountains."
"Man, I didn't do that until I was seven," Vinnie said dryly, smirking at Xander. "You think it's a joke?"
"No," he said honestly. Everyone stared at him. "Punch and Magnet both know their daddies would call every single night, no matter where they were. We forgot until after bedtime." He smirked a bit. "I'm sure they're finding them and trying to keep them out of trouble."
"I'd hope so," Charley agreed. "Anything about Vic? Or was it just Magnet?"
"Just Magnet," Staff said through a yawn. "You can call Terror back."
"No thanks," she noted, looking at Vinnie. Then at Xander. "Their bikes are being grounded."
"Sure," he agreed, nodding. "Only with a parent. We can tell them that. I'm sure they're upset at their riders anyway."
"Well, they're *our* girls," Throttle said, sounding a bit proud. Vinnie cackled and nodded. "They can't really get into any trouble. Not with the family and the clan searching for them. I'm sure they'll be caught within an hour or so."
"I'd hope so," Vinnie agreed. "Magnet's not that smooth yet." He looked at Modo. "If not, does that mean our kids are really gifted or my cousins are really lame?"
"Both," Throttle assured him. He heard a bike in the distance and stood up to look around. "Not them at least. If so, I'd have them in tracking classes by this weekend."
Xander pulled him back down and kissed him until he quit struggling. "Behave."
"Why?" he asked smugly. "Don't you like me like this?"
"No." He kissed him again. "You're the good boy of the bunch," he reminded him. "Modo's the tough, sensitive one, you're the good boy, and Vinnie's just Vinnie. Follow the script, dear."
"Fine," he agreed with a grin for his bros. "You agree with him?"
"Well, Modo always was the first one to apologize when you three trashed the garage," Charley reminded him. Modo blushed at that. "Your momma obviously knew you'd be giving her a lot of grandkids very shortly so she made you able to get along with a woman. Throttle's knew he'd be out doing dangerous stuff and pick someone dangerous to mate with, that's why he's just a good boy."
"My momma wanted me to settle down with a nice girl," Throttle protested, but he was grinning. "She said it was an unreasonable desire when I was about ten, but otherwise..."
Xander kissed him again. "Shut up, dear. Tease me, not Charley and baby Tivo."
"We're not naming the newest daughter after a video recording service," Vinnie said firmly. "I was thinking Laser or Turbo."
"You want to name them after male American Gladiators?" Xander asked.
Vinnie pounced him, he deserved it this time.
The others just grinned. They knew they were just like that.
Magnet stopped to get a drink from the water bottle on her bike, pouting because it was empty. "We need water," she called.
Punch stopped beside her and looked at her. "Out here? There's no pump."
Crankshaft sighed and shook her head. "There's usually a fountain at the older temples. We can refill at one of them." She looked at Magnet. "Can you hold on that long?"
Magnet considered it, then nodded. "Can I pee too? I really have to pee."
"Sure. No one's gonna see out here," Crankshaft told her. "We'll turn around."
"What about toilet paper?" Punch asked, looking clueless.
"It'll air dry," Crankshaft told her. "Unless you brought some?" The girls got off their bikes and checked the saddlebags. Crankshaft found some babywipes in Spike's saddlebags, holding them up. "I don't want to know why he has those."
"He said they're for when he has to clean his weapons," Punch said, taking them and handing one over to her buddy. They picked a rock and went behind it to use it, then came back after burying it in a hole. They hadn't covered it very well, but they were still pretty little and didn't have shovels with them. Punch handed out the energy bars she had found and they continued on, looking for a temple. They'd need water if they were going to keep going. A few miles they found one but it didn't have a fountain outside. "Should we go inside?"
"It's deserted," Magnet assured her. "Probably not any ghosties either."
Crankshaft nodded. "Sure. Pull your bikes into the entryway. That way no one can see 'em." They pulled inside and parked, heading to look. Crankshaft found a water spigot and got it turned on to a drip, then went to watch the desert while they refilled their water bottles. She could do hers last. She heard a motor and growled. There were bad mice on the other side of the temple from them! They'd have to be careful! Their daddies would whip the bad guy's tails once they found them, but she was sure they were looking for them. She heard a bike pass on her side of the temple and stepped back into the shadows, watching the bike pass by. She didn't know that mouse. She knew better than to talk to any mice she didn't know. Unless her daddy told her she could, she wouldn't trust that mouse. Military or not. The girls came back and she pointed at the tracks he had left, getting nods of understanding, so she went back to fill her water bottles and the former soda bottle she had found in Spike's pouch. It was good water. She turned it off most of the way, leaving it barely dripping now and then. She couldn't close it all the way. She walked out to the main altar and looked up at the *huge* statue that was even bigger than Uncle Modo. "I'm sorry I couldn't make it quit dripping, Ma'am. Please don't be mad?" She hurried out to her bike and they were off again, heading off toward where she could see Mons sticking up.
"What do you mean you haven't found those children yet!" Cell bellowed. "How hard can it be to find three little girls in the desert!" The search teams cowered. "Get your tails back out there and go back to it! What are you? Lazy humans!"
"Hey!" Chassis complained.
"Not yours! He's not lazy!" Chassis still glared. "And why weren't *you* watching them?"
"Vinnie bribed Terror," she defended. "It wasn't my night! I was getting them tomorrow night!"
Cell snorted. "You may get them the rest of this vacation! Out! Now!" They all ran for their bikes. They knew better than to dally, argue, or whine in her hearing. She'd clip their tails and then feed it to them. They all gassed back up and headed off, following the search pattern the others were doing. Cell sat behind her desk to call Stoker. "Still no word?"
"Spike claims he doesn't know where they are. He does say he can see Mons and they haven't run into the girls yet," he said bitterly. "Which means they stopped somewhere I guess."
"What path are they taking?" She pulled over a map, looking at it. "They're taking the old track, right? The one we used to train on?" He nodded. "There's about ten temples out that way." She looked at him, then hit the button for the comm. "People, the girls may have stopped at one of the temples out on the old Track. Search them too."
"Yes, ma'am," they called back.
"Look for water, kids," Chassis called back. "Crankshaft has had some desert training if I know her daddy."
"She'd be right about that," Stoker admitted dryly. "Also, I just found out that Spike's bike has weapons. They're training him on them."
Cell hit the button to talk. "Be aware that Crankshaft's borrowed bike has weapon capabilities, people. He was starting to train with them."
"And the bike's still good," Chassis agreed. "Spike's a very good shot and his bike's not bad."
"Cheese!" one of the guys yelled. "That young?"
"Spike *is* Stoker's son," Cell reminded them. "Xander was teaching them all. Vic can do the child's course out at the compound already. Out." She hung up and looked at Stoker. "I still say they're too young."
"Apparently not if they're avoiding us this well," he complained. "Where should I start?"
"Stay there, Stoker. In case they call. Crankshaft would call you because you're about the only adult they *know* they can get hold of and trust." He nodded and sighed. "Sorry, it sucks tails, but sorry."
"Fine. I'll stay. I want hourly updates."
"Yes, sir." She hung up and looked at the map. Something was off. The old track ran past Mons, but not onto it. If they were heading for Mons, they'd have to leave the track and go across some gullies. "Let's hope we find the kids before they reach the dangerous ground," she muttered, marking the called-off progress. One of the guys found water running at a temple so they gathered there, finding tracks leading off. She sighed and called Wrench's bike. "It's me. They took a right angle from the Water Goddess' temple. They're doing it visually."
"It's not like they can read a map," Wrench shot back. "How do we know?"
"They stopped for water and left a drip. It's a small puddle. They think they stopped right before my guys got there and hid from them."
"So, they're in the cracks?" he asked.
"Possibly. They headed off on a visual lock toward Mons."
"From there, Mons is hidden," Terror called. "You can see the minor mount next to it though."
"Fine. They're headed for that one then."
"Wonderful," Racer agreed. "We're going to move to intercept their path. We're on an older road right now. How's Momma and Vic?"
"She's fine, Racer. Vic's napping with her. Primer called when she got home."
"Good. The twins were muttering and planning earlier. They were debating whether or not they'd stink again." He cut the connection.
"Are you sure you don't want me to check for possession of the twins?" Wrench asked, sounding perfectly serious.
"Xander did, he couldn't find one," she admitted. "Thank you though. Good luck." She hung up and said a silent prayer that *someone* find those girls. It was giving her a good idea of where they needed to upgrade training, but really!
Punch looked up at the mountain in front of them, then at Magnet, who was scowling. "What's wrong?"
"This isn't Mons. It's Moonfire's spot." Their friend from daycare had went camping a few weeks back and had brought back pictures and stories.
"We can still see from the top of it," Crankshaft reminded them. "Let's head, ladies." They headed for the small path they could see winding up the side of the mountain. It had other tracks so it would be fine. The tracks weren't bike tracks, but that was fine.
"What made these?" Punch asked.
"I don't know, but it's smaller than our bikes," Magnet told her. "It's not a threat, Punch.
We'll be fine."
"Okay. As long as daddy's fine."
"I'm sure all the daddies are fine," Crankshaft called back. Her bike beeped frantically so she read the message on her screen. "Hey, the Rover the humans sent up as a toy was here," she called. "If you see the little robot, avoid the front, it's got cameras."
"Sure," Magnet agreed.
"They won't want pictures of us?"
"They don't know we're here," Magnet reminded her. "Daddy said so."
"Oooh! I remember your daddy telling you about that." Magnet sniffled so she rode closer and leaned over to give her a hug. "It's all right, Magnet, they're fine! I know they're fine! My daddy's big and strong and yours is handsome and they're fine. Uncle Xander's with them too and he can beat anything!"
"Yeah, I hope so," she agreed, looking unhappy. "We have to find the daddies!" She sped up, smiling at Punch. "Thanks."
"You're welcome." She smiled. She loved Magnet, they were the best friends on Mars.
Crankshaft found where the path split and looked back. "Let me scout ahead, see which one goes where." They nodded so she went ahead. One went into a cave complex. One went up a bit farther and then broke off. She went back to the caves, exploring into it. She saw an older mouse sitting in there. "Citizen, how do we get up to the top?" she asked politely. "We need to see if we can see where our daddies are camping. They might be in danger since they didn't call."
The mouse stared at her. "Aren't you a bit young?" he asked.
She snorted. "So? They didn't call their daughters, they're obviously in trouble. They need our help!" She would have stamped her foot if she could have. "Is there a pass- through up here?"
"No, but there's a way around it, dear. Who is your father?"
"Mine's at home. Magnet's is Vincent VanWham. Punch's is his bro Modo. Our Uncles Throttle and Xander are with them, plus their ladies - the girls' mommas."
He nodded. "Where do you think they are?"
"Camping. That's why we needed to look."
He smiled and nodded. "There is a small group camping to the North of here," he said, pointing that way. Then he brushed back some of his hair.
"You have house elf ears," she said, frowning a bit. "Are you one of those elfy mice, sir?" He chuckled and nodded. "Cool. Uncle Vinnie swears he met one of you near the underground river."
"Was he a white mouse?" She nodded. "Then it may be true. I remember someone saying they had met one of us in the past." He winked at her. "Go North," he said, pointing the way again. "There's some foothills. Once you pass them you'll be able to spot their camp. If it's not them, they can call them. The foothills block calls at times."
"Thank you, citizen. Ride free." She turned her bike around and headed back down to the others. "We've got to go north." She pointed the way. "There's some foothills in the way but the old mouse up there said that they're camping on the other side. Once we get past the foothills we'll see 'em." The girls perked up at that and nodded, heading after her. "How are we on gas?" she called.
"I'm nearly empty," Magnet admitted.
"Me too," Punch said, looking at her bike. "I've got backup power."
"Me too," Magnet agreed after checking. "Full tank."
"Cool. Spike's nearly empty too. I wish we had a gas supply out here." She looked around. Then up. It worked for her Uncles. "Lord Othra? Uncle Wrench's Lady Goddess ma'am? Please help us find their daddies? They're missing and may be hurt. Uncle Xander is one of yours and he's with them but the girls are really worried. All we need is a bit of gas and maybe some food. Is there any out here?" She sighed when she wasn't answered, but her bike picked up something once they came closer to the foothills that she had been warned about. There were caves. Caves always held smelly Plutarkian stuff. "Search the caves for gas and food," she ordered her bike. It beeped and focused on one. "Ladies?" she called, pointing at the cave. "Gas!"
"Crankshaft!" Wrench yelled over the comm. "Where are you!"
She turned off the comm and made sure the tracking signals were still off. But there was gas in there if they could figure out how to get it into the bikes. She was sure her prayers had been answered. She sent up a prayer of thanks and smiled when they found the old ship. The bikes all beeped and moved closer, finding the way themselves.
Wrench clicked a few buttons. "They're out by the foothills," he called over the comm.
"How in the cheese did they get out there!" Cell yelled, making everyone rub their ears.
"You ask like we know," Spike shot back finally. "They're girls, love, who has a clue about girls?"
"If you don't, we certainly don't," Racer agreed. "Where in the foothills?"
"I tracked the signal. They're just starting into them," Cell ordered. "I'm calling the base out that way. Maybe they can intercept them on one of the paths. There's only three of them."
"Do their bikes know that?" Terror asked.
"I'd hope so," Wrench shot back, shaking his head.
"Yes, Xander updated all the bikes with travel maps," Cell responded. "I'm sending my people that way as well. Expect Chassis fairly quickly." She cut off. Then she came back. "They're at Delta-189, boys. Or at least they were."
"That's away from all the passes I know," Wrench admitted, checking his bike. "It's the shorter part though so they might make it through."
"They've got to be out of gas," Spike noted. "I'm low."
"There's some caves, I'm guessing that call was Crankshaft telling them they'd found some gas," Terror noted. "I know there's a few crashed ships out there. The bikes are programmed for survival instincts, even the kiddie bikes. They can pump their own gas from a wrecked ship." He looked at Wrench. "Am I proud or really upset that they've slipped this far past us?"
"I'm going with proud. I joined this late and I'm not leading it," Wrench said with a smirk. "You're in deep shit when Xander hears."
"Yeah, right," Terror snorted. "I'm going to run far, far away when Xander hears."
"You and me both," Spike called in a sing-song voice. "We'll need gas then too, mates."
"It's bros, Spike," Terror reminded him.
"Nibble me," he snorted back. He looked at the bike. "Can you find us their source of gas, love? I know you're smarter and more capable than nearly any bike ever on Mars." It beeped and found two sources. "I found it. Well, he found it." They gathered around to look at the screen on his bike. "There's two sources of gas out here. There's one near us and one there." He pointed at it and it expanded. "They're probably there."
"We can diverge around the cracks and come out nearer that way," Racer noted, pulling up his maps to check. "If we go this way?" he asked Terror, who used to live out this way.
"There's a gully here," he noted. "No natural bridge, kid. Good thought though. We'd have to jump it."
"We're all on jump capable bikes," Spike noted. "I can hang on." The adults looked at each other so he looked at the map. "What if we move to the East?"
"The gully gets bigger. It's thinnest just off the line we'd need to take," Wrench admitted, pulling that up on his bike. "Fine, we'll try. If we have to, Spike can jump with one of us and Xander's bike can do it on his own." The bikes beeped. "Good. Where's this other source of gas? I'm on fumes." Spike showed them and they nodded, heading that way. It wasn't that far off their path. It was also a Martian ship so the fuel was comparable.
One mouse sat on top of a rise, looking around her boundary, frowning at the update her bike was pulling up. "What are children doing this far out here?" she muttered, tapping into the comm system. "Commander! I just got an update from Freedom City? Some missing girls?"
"Yes, one VanWham, Modo's daughter, and Stoker's younger daughter," he sighed. "They've decided that their parents didn't call so they must be in trouble and went looking. So far they've shown they're very smart children by going off the paths we'd take and hiding when they heard other bikes."
She snorted. "So we need to think like kids? Fine. Are they heading our way?"
"Their last known position was Delta-189. Which means you're about to be run into, Sergeant. Do you hear or see anything?"
"Negative. A slight dust trail off in the distance but I'm guessing it's their pursuit with how many there are." She sucked on her buck teeth while looking for any signs of the kids. "What's there anyway, sir?"
"According to the records, there's a crashed ship near there. Cell called and said one of the girls said something about finding gas."
She blinked. "They're good! How old are they?"
"Three, three, and nearly five."
"What!" she demanded. "Who was watching them? I'd never let my toddler out of my sight!"
"Apparently a cousin of the VanWham child was babysitting and they were watching the sunset," he said dryly. "He doesn't have children, Sergeant."
"Tow, his family will be having his fur for a rug," he said blandly. "Magnet is the clan elder's first daughter."
"Ooooh," she said with a wince. "Then I almost pity him. I still don't see 'em, sir, but I'll call if I do." She heard a small rumble and looked around. "Did you get that?"
"I did. It sounds like a ground shake."
She considered it. "Has anyone ever went through those caves? Is there a pass through in one of them?"
"Not a clue, Tow. Go for it. I'm sending Line out to take your spot. Over." He hung up.
She waited until her replacement was in sight then headed down to check the nearest caves.
Unfortunately the girls were on backup power because Crankshaft had seen and heard her. That was silent and they were sneaking through a gulch between some of the hills. Just like she and Spike did to get past their momma when they wanted to play while they were grounded.
Xander shot awake and looked around. "Engines," he said, shaking Throttle. He got a sleepy complaint. "Engines!" He got up and found his blaster, heading out to check. The bikes were all standing guard, staring in one direction. "Is it the kids, ladies?" They beeped negatively. "Sand Raiders?" They beeped. "Shit! Sand Raider!" he called. Modo came out first and gave Xander a look. He looked down then went to put on some pants, getting Throttle up in the process. When he came back out, the Raiders were closer, their dune buggies loud in the middle of the night. He and Modo looked at each other, then at the tents. Throttle came out. Vinnie crawled out. Xander pointed. "Sand raiders."
"Yay," Vinnie said tiredly, getting up and heading to his bike. "Sweetheart, let's rock and ride 'em into the ground, okay? I need another nap." His bike sped off with him yawning, and Throttle sped off too.
Modo looked at Xander, who waved. "You're sure?"
"I'll guard the ladies and the camp. Go." He nodded, heading off.
Charley came out of her tent, looking at him. "How far away?"
"A good thousand feet at least," he said at the first explosion. "We might get some debris." He shrugged and turned back. He took aim, hitting one that was getting closer. The tire popped and it spun, flipping over. "Yeah!" he said happily, running out to go help.
Staff looked at Charley across the firepit. "Is that a guy thing or a Xander thing?"
"It's a guy thing," Charley assured her through a yawn. "I hope they kill them all so I don't get captured again." She laid back down, letting the guys handle it. They could use an excuse to get rid of some aggression and testosterone that didn't end in sex.
Staff watched her man at work, smiling and cheering silently as he got another one all by himself. He was such a stud! She'd have to reward him when he got back. The bros finally came back and she grabbed her mouse, forcing him into their tent to reward her hero. And all he could do was lay there and take it.
Vinnie and Throttle shared a grin at the groans going on, but they got their own rewards and were happy enough to join the groaning mouse.
Magnet looked around the flat part of the desert. She could see a big fire in the distance and looked at the other girls. They nodded, that had to be the daddies. Their daddies destroyed things, that's just what daddies did. So of course the big fire had to be caused by them. "We have to go help them," she ordered. "The fire's still burning so it's been a long fight. Cranky, you have weapons?"
"Of course. Spike just got his put on." She patted the bike. "Let's go, bikes." Her bike beeped negatively. "Their daddies are there and we promise we'll stay out of trouble unless they need help!" She overrode the computer, Rimfire had shown her how the last time he'd been home and her bike was being fussy, and she headed off toward the fires. They saw what it was as they got closer and switched to backup power. They didn't want to alert any of the scuzzy Sand Raiders to their delectable young bodies. They might eat or keep them or maybe even make them take icky mud baths. It had to be something horrible since all their daddies had said they were bad and nasty critters. Crankshaft saw one of them moving and sped around him, but he raised a weapon. Her bike fired, making her squeak, but the weapon exploded and the guy passed out. It was all good to her. They sped on, finding their daddies on the other side. They were okay now. The girls looked at each other, parking their bikes next to the bigger bikes. Crankshaft scouted a bit, then nodded Magnet at one tent and Punch at the one across from it. She got the extra cuddly Uncle Xander since their kids were still too little to help.
The kids snuck into the tents, sneaking in to cuddle their parents. Their fathers smelled like they had shot stuff, so they had caused the pretty destruction. They had been right, they were in danger and needed to be found!
Throttle opened his eyes when he felt the sneaking body, catching her and making her squeak. "Crankshaft?" She kissed him on the nose. "You're in so deep," he warned. He let her snuggle in next to Xander and got up, going to call from his bike. He even took it a bit away, shooting the Sand Raider trying to get up. He put on his helmet, switching to the general channel. "Terror, is there something you'd like to tell me about the kids?" he asked sarcastically.
"We're still looking?" he offered sheepishly. "They snuck past two bases worth of people and us, Throttle. Don't blame us!"
"How did they get all the way out here?"
"Are they there?" Wrench demanded.
"Yes," he said impatiently. "Crankshaft just crawled in with me and I saw two other kiddie bikes. Would you like to explain this to me?"
"No," Wrench told him. "I'm just backup, man. I got called in to help search. I'm gonna go home. Terror, Spike, and Racer can explain."
"I'm taking Spike home," Racer assured him. "He's borrowed Uncle Xander's bike with his permission."
"Uh-huh," Throttle said flatly. "You four will appear at our campsite by morning, children. All four of you, Wrench."
"Wrench," he ordered. "Now."
"Fine. Where are you?"
Throttle looked at the wreckage. "By the pretty fire. We just took out some rats about an hour ago."
"Well, the girls were sure you were in trouble," Spike said smartly.
"Here, now, people," Throttle ordered. "By breakfast." He hung up and went back to the camp, checking the other tents. Modo's chest had grown a Punch-sized lump under the sleeping bag. Vinnie's tail was curled around Magnet and she was using it to suck her thumb against his back. He crawled back in with Xander, looking at the smiling, sleeping Crankshaft. "You're in so much trouble when your daddy gets you, young lady," he warned.
Xander kissed him. "Comet will never do this," he promised quietly. "We can fix this one too."
Throttle kissed him. "We'd better. They got past two bases, Terror, Wrench, Racer, and Spike, who's on your bike."
"Hmm," Xander said, smiling happily. "Tomorrow, Throttle. Cuddle?" He got his cuddle and all was right in his world.
Terror poured out some coffee when Vinnie's scream echoed around them, holding up the cup when Vinnie stomped out with his daughter in his arms. "Be proud, we are," he advised.
Vinnie stared at him, just stared. "You really lost the kids?" he demanded.
Terror flinched. "We were watching the moonrise and apparently I fell asleep," he whimpered. "I'm sorry, Elder! But they got past two bases and us!"
"I don't know if that says more about you or them," Modo said as he came out with Punch. He took his cup of coffee and sat down, cuddling his daughter. "I'm proud, but you're still grounded. You could have been badly hurt, daughter." She just gave him the most pitiful look he'd ever seen. Obviously she'd been taking lessons from Magnet again.
"Nope, not working," Staff said as she joined them. "You're so grounded, Punch. You're going to be lucky to be ungrounded by when the triplets come." She glared at her, then at Magnet. "Where's Crankshaft?"
"I'm guessing she got the cuddly uncle," Vinnie said, taking his cup of coffee. He looked around. "Where are the others?"
"Wrench took the boys home. He made my bike come to confess but he took the boys home."
"I told you all to show up," Throttle said as he came out with Crankshaft. He handed her his helmet. "Call your daddy before he has a stroke."
Crankshaft put on the helmet and sat down, smiling when her daddy growled. "Morning, daddy!" she said cheerfully. "We found 'em and they were right! They had to take on some Sand Raiders. They were in trouble and they needed us!"
Stoker choked and the static cut in. "Get your tail home, daughter, before I whip it bald," he finally managed to get out. "You're in so much trouble it's not funny!"
She handed the helmet to Terror with a bright, cheerful grin. "Here, it's Daddy." She hugged her Uncle's waist. "I love you and I saw a mouse with house elf ears." Vinnie spit his coffee. "Shame on you, Uncle Vinnie, wasting coffee!"
"You saw an elven mouse?" Xander asked as he came out. "Where?"
"The place where Moonfire went to camp. He was in a cave and he said he remembered someone running into Uncle Vinnie when he was little."
Everyone stared at Vinnie, who just shrugged. "Don't ask me! I didn't do it!"
"This time," Modo joked, looking at the girls. "We're very proud of you, girls, but you're still in trouble."
"How did you get over the pass?" Xander asked.
"Backup power, just like Daddy showed me," Crankshaft said happily. "It's really quiet and we snuck past 'er."
Punch nodded, grinning at her daddy. "She swore a lot so we knew where she was."
"And the house-elf mouse told me to come North and pointed out where you were," Crankshaft finished happily.
"We had to hide too. We didn't know if it was bad mice we didn't know following us," Magnet said cutely, smiling at her daddy, who just groaned and set her down before walking off. "Daddy! Don't you love me?" she called, running after him.
He turned and picked her up. "I'll always love you and I'm very proud of you, Magnet, but right now I'm about to yell and scream at you so I'm taking a time out. Got me here?" She pouted. "Not working, daughter. I perfected that look long before I ever met your mother. I perfected it when I was your age on my momma. Now, go sit by the fire until I calm down. Then we're gonna have a talk, daughter."
"Yes, daddy. As long as you're okay and you still love me."
Charley came out and grabbed her daughter, carrying her off. "We were fine, dear, but you weren't up when we called. Go, Vinnie." He nodded, heading for his bike to take a quick ride. She sat down, looking at the girls. "We were fine. You were the ones in danger. You could have been very badly hurt riding by y ourselves. I want you to promise us you won't ever do something like this again without trying to call first!" Punch sniffled so she stared her down until she nodded. She looked at Crankshaft.
"They had me come help because they're so little," she defended.
"So are you!" Charley assured her, still glaring. Crankshaft wilted and nodded. "Magnet?"
"I just thought you were in trouble. Daddy didn't call and he *always* calls. Even if he's just at the club," she whined. Vinnie came back and grabbed his daughter, taking off with her. "Daddy, please don't be mad!" she begged. "I'm sorry but you didn't call and we thought something bad or icky had happened! You always call and you didn't!"
Vinnie stopped, cuddling his daughter. "When we tried, it was past your bedtime," he said calmly. "We expected you guys to be in bed, but there wasn't an answer." She nodded, snuggling into his chest. "I'm sorry we worried you, but from now on, you will *call*," he said firmly. "That should always be the first step, daughter. Call me. Call my bike. Call your mother. Call first." She nodded against his chest, nose buried in it. "I'm still very proud of you and I still love you, sweetheart, but you could have died. All three of you could have died. Think about how bad that would have made everyone feel." She sniffled and burst out crying. He stroked her back. "I understand, Magnet. I'd worry about me too," he said more gently. "You still should have called. Your Cousin could have called for you from his bike even. You're much too young to be riding on your own. We don't even let Vic do it and he's older. Racer and Spike aren't allowed to either and you know that. What were you thinking?"
"That you're my daddy and that something bad or icky had happened so you needed help," she said quietly, staring up at him, tears still falling from her pink eyes. "I'm sorry, daddy. I didn't meant to make you worry."
"That's fine, princess." He nuzzled her and cuddled her. "We'll be talking about your punishment when we get back. Today, your cousin is going to take you home. Until we get there, you are grounded to the house. No bike course, no rope course, only the house." She nodded, wiping her nose on his chest. "Thanks," he said dryly, wiping off her cheeks. "When we get home in a few days, we'll be discussing your punishment with your momma. Because right now, we're both ready to whip your tail black and blue and that's not right." She nodded, blinking up at him. He kissed her on the forehead. "I'm still proud you managed it, sweetheart, but you nearly made me sick with worry. You guys can hang for an hour or so then head home." She nodded, giving him a hug. He rode back to the camp, handing her back to her mother. "They're grounded to the house until we come back and discuss their punishments," he ordered Terror. "No courses, no sunsets, nothing. The house only."
"No tv, no dvds, no videos," Xander added. Terror nodded. "Hopefully we'll be more calm when we get home."
"I said they could stay for about an hour," Vinnie offered. "Is that okay?" Everyone nodded and the girls got passed around for hugs. Vinnie sat down with Magnet once he got her back, just cuddling her. He'd talk to Crankshaft when he got home about the elven mouse she had seen.
Stoker jumped up when the front door opened and his daughter walked in. "What were you thinking!" he demanded.
She looked at him, then at her mother, who looked like she was mad. She turned and ran. Wrench caught her and walked her back inside. "I'm sorry, daddy," she whimpered, giving him the most hopeful look.
"You're in such deep shit," Switch assured her. "Don't even try." She swallowed. "Please put my child down on the couch, Wrench. Thank you for bringing them back."
Wrench looked at them. "I know it was bad, but she planned everything," he told them. "How to get past people, how to find the gas out there, everything." Stoker sighed and nodded. "She's a great kid, Stoker, but yelling won't cut it. Oh, and she found an elven mouse. He helped her figure out where they were camping." He hurried out before his tail got knotted too. He went back to the temple, going immediately to the temple and kneeling in prayer for their safety and their skills. "Thank you for giving us strong future guardians, Lady. Praise be for keeping them safe," he whispered, looking up. He got up and went to get the chocolate cake from the fridge, putting the last piece on the altar. He had been planning to have it when they found the girls, but she deserved the best he had. He bowed and knelt to send up a longer prayer. He did smile when he heard Stoker still yelling from up the street, but that was parenthood for ya.
Taver came in and knelt beside him, sending up her own prayer of thanks, then she kissed him on the cheek. "They're okay?"
"Just fine," he promised, smiling at her. "They managed to sneak past two bases and us." She smiled at that. "Crankshaft saw an elven mouse." That got a small grin and a nod. He kissed her gently, then looked up. "Thank you." He walked her back to his living room, going to sit with her.
Around the altar a pale cream glow started and the cake disappeared. He was an excellent baker. Maybe he had missed his calling.