Micah walked into the lair, looking at the partially awake man lounging on the couch. "I need a report on why you let your husband go bother the nice detectives and scare the crap out of them, and why he's not doing something more productive, like bouncing the cops into boredom by doing all their jobs. Also, I need to know why Las Vegas's crime lab found mouse hairs in a room out there after a homicide."
Throttle looked up at him. "He had to save the two cops. Xander's in the gym with his discman, otherwise I'd warn him you were coming so he could run away again. As for Vegas." He sat up, putting his feet onto the floor. "We stayed there for a day and a half so I could see the sights. It was nice and bright and shiny, but really loud and not really my thing."
Micah sighed and sat down beside him. "You guys stayed at a major resort?"
"Yeah, he wanted to see a certain show and planned it that way." He shrugged. "It was his fun on the trip I guess." He heard Xander start up the ramp, heard him sniff, then heard him take off running, hiding his smirk.
"I can hear you!" Micah yelled, getting up to chase after him. He saw him pulling away on a motorcycle and sighed, looking at the others. They were all there. He walked back up the ramp. "Something good happen on Mars?"
"Well, we found some books to help him plug the open spot," Throttle admitted. "He found a few older prototype bikes and managed to get the brain factory open."
"He was riding a bike and all yours are still here," Micah said plainly. "He got his own?"
Throttle nodded, smirking at him. "A very good bike. Very strong, very masculine. Anya wants one for herself." He got comfortable. "Spike adores his bike, kept trying to steal it."
Micah shook his head. "You guys are insane."
"It was the war," Vinnie said as he came up the stairs. "Xander?" Throttle pointed a thumb at Micah. "Ah, running?" Throttle nodded. "Cool. Maybe I'll go chase him." He winked and headed to his bike, going to chase his little brother around the city. He saw a car sitting outside the garage and stopped to look at the guy in it. "Need Charley girl? She's in the office. All you gotta do is ring the bell."
"Yeah, but I'm tryin' ta decide if it's a good enough reason," he admitted dryly.
"Let her tell ya. She's good at that." He drove off, heading after where the tracking beacon showed Xander was playing. He'd have to make sure Xander didn't know how to turn that off. He saw another car ahead of him, clearly trailing Xander at the proper distance, and smirked, pulling around him and speeding up with a beep. He pulled up along side Xander and beeped at him, giving him a grin. "Where shall we escape to whilst the goin's good?"
"Don't care as long as there's no paperwork," Xander called back. He glanced in his mirror and waved back before speeding up and taking a corner at a fairly dangerous speed. He wove through traffic, heading for the interstate, knowing where he wanted to go now. He got on the onramp, heading up and through the sluggish mid-afternoon traffic, knowing Vinnie was confused, but would probably catch on soon. If not, he'd soon realize this was one of his hiding spots. He got off about three exits after he got on, heading down the ramp and pausing at the light. He could hear Vinnie behind him and smirked, patting his bike. "Okay, baby, let's go introduce you to one of Xander's favorite hiding spots." His bike beeped quietly and he took off once the light was changed, heading for an outlying area. He found the small farm and rode into it, smiling at the old falling down farm. He parked his bike next to the old barn and got off, patting him. "No more road and there's potholes. I'm going to be about a quarter mile inland, toward those trees." The bike beeped and found some shade to sit in. Xander walked over to the paddock and hopped the fence, heading off at a trot toward the trees and what it held. He heard Vinnie pull up and turned to grin at him, nodding him to follow.
Vinnie looked at the field, then at his and Xander's bikes. "Is he sane?" Xander's bike beeped, sounding sure of his answer. "Fine. Stay here, sweetheart." He headed off after him, hopping the fence too. He saw Xander take off again and followed, shaking his head. He didn't know where he was going but he was sure it'd be good. He finally caught up to him in the trees, finding the younger mouse leaning against a tree. He punched him on the arm. "I didn't need a hike." Xander pointed and he looked, staring at the scene. It was a small brook. A very small brook. It had an old rope hanging from it and some rocks gathered around the edges like seats. He looked at it, then at Xander. "That's not your usual sort of place."
"Just wait." Xander sat down and pulled him down beside him. "Besides the fact that's a great place to sit and think, it's also got a few other things." He nudged him with his shoulder. "This is one of my thinking spots." He smiled and pointed. "Shh," he whispered, "don't disturb her."
Vinnie watched, seeing an old pony wandering up to the brook to drink. He shook his head, still not understanding until he saw the smaller pony come wandering shyly after the older one. "Baby?" he asked. Xander grinned and nodded. "Wow. How old?"
"Maybe six months from what I've looked up online." He pointed at the other side of the brook. "There's some kids who watch her too, nearly every day."
"That's cool. Where did they belong?"
"Here. To this old farm. I'm guessing she either escaped and found a lot of friendly children to help her, or they released her before the farm died. Either way she's a great old lady. Lets met pet her sometimes too. The baby's dead shy but he occasionally lets the kids closer." The mother looked up and he grinned. "Yeah, it's me again and I brought my big brother." She crossed the small brook carefully and wandered up to where he was sitting to snuffle his chest. "Hey, gorgeous." He stroked her mane and nose gently. "This is Vinnie."
"Hey," Vinnie said, holding out his fist. The pony shied away then sniffed him. He got a few good pets too then her son came up and charged them. "You're very fierce, just like a son should be," he complimented, letting him sniff his hand too.
"Flat out, Vinnie."
"Oh, okay." He flattened his hand and the foal sniffed it then headbutted him in the chest. "Sure." He scratched his ears and neck, letting Xander hit one spot just above his shoulders. "Feel good?" The foal whinnied and backed off, his mother giving him a soft, soothing sound, but he still trotted off to the river and went back to his drink. The mother stayed for a few more minutes of petting then she too went back to the brook.
A young girl stepped out on the other side, staring at the two adults. "You're furry too," she stated. "You're intelligent because you speak and ride a really neat motorcycle. My brother likes them so he was watching you guys pull up." She crossed the brook, coming to stand in front of them. "You're so very obviously not human and not normal. What are you? By the tails I'd say something in the rat or mouse family."
"Mouse," Xander told her, taking off his helmet. "Of course you know you can't tell anyone."
She snorted. "Like anyone would believe me. No one believes kids, and I'm guessing you know that." Xander nodded. "So, do you guys have horses wherever you're from?"
"I'm from California, but none in my town. Vinnie?"
Vinnie took off his helmet and she sighed, reaching over to touch his mask. "You don't...."
"Shut up, dude. It's obvious it's a battle injury, unless you were just really stupid when you were my age and catapulted yourself into a house or something," she said dryly. "No horses?"
"No, nothing even remotely like a riding beast on Mars."
"Mars?" She tipped her head a bit. "Wow. No wonder you guys don't tell anyone about yourselves. Every teenage girl in the universe would be there within, like, five minutes to pet you guys." Vinnie chuckled at that. "That would be one way to get girls into science and to start the space race over again. Every cooing bratty daughter would willingly take physics, chemistry, and calculus to come up and pet you guys."
"That would be a great incentive," Xander agreed. "So, is she abandoned or an escapee?"
"Escapee. Her owners died and she's been hanging out in these fields for a while now. Mom used to take care of her when she was a teenager and showed her to me and the bratty little brother a few years back. How did you find her?"
"Looking for some privacy. At first I thought she was a unicorn coming to taunt me."
"And they say girls have good imaginations," she snorted. "So, you mice got names? I mean, you introduced the nice guy there."
"I'm Xander," he said, holding out a hand. "That's Vinnie."
"Victoria?" Vinnie asked. "My son's a Vic, he's a Victor."
"No, actually, I'm a Victory," she sighed. "Let's just say Daddy came home from the Gulf War." Xander nodded, getting that. "They have mice like you in California? Toxic ooze?"
"Technically, magic," he admitted. "But you can tell anyone who might find out that we're special, we appear human until we're twenty-four, then tested. If we can cause enough destruction, mayhem, and chaos, then we're allowed to change to our true form and learn how to ride a motorcycle."
"You are so bad," Vinnie said, snickering and shaking his head.
"People would believe that before they would magic," Vic told him, looking serious. "Works for me." She reached over and petted Xander's head. "You're very soft." She looked at Vinnie, then petted his head. "You're not quite as soft. I guess it's being a newer mouse. Yo, bratagious!" she called.
"Don't call me that!" he yelled back. "I'm watching the bikes!"
"It's nearly dinner and you know Mom said we had to be back tonight since we had to start packing!" She looked at them. "Unfortunately, we're moving to Utah. I don't know why, but we are," she sighed, looking at the family of horses. She looked at him again. "You can't move up here, right?" He shook his head. "Pity. We might have to report her and then they'd probably put her down and fix him." She licked her lips. "Unless you can find a compromise?"
Xander pulled out his cellphone and called home. "Honey, put Micah on." He waited while the phone was handed to the person next to Throttle on the couch, still. Apparently they were watching Spaceballs. "Micah, it's me. If I agree to come do boring paperwork for you, would you know someone who could adopt a foundling mare and colt pony pair? No, they escaped and they're freeroaming but the kids taking care of them are moving to Utah. Well, I know you know people and some of those people have farms and stuff. I didn't know if you knew anyone who took in poor, defenseless creatures who were homeless and about to starve to death."
"Laying it on a bit thick, bro," Vinnie said, holding his fingers far apart.
Xander shrugged. "Good cause." He listened to Micah sigh and promise to call in a few minutes. "Thanks." He hung up. "He's calling someone to see if they can or if they know someone."
"That's cool. We've got about an hour but I'm assuming it'll take that long to get my brother away from your bikes. I'm hoping he isn't trying to take them apart again," he sighed.
"No, he got shocked pretty well last time," Xander reminded her. "What did your mother say about that?"
"She wanted to complain about the electric fence," she said dryly, sitting down beside Vinnie since it was an open spot. "You've got a kid?" He pulled out a picture, making her grin. "He's cute," she admitted, grinning up at him, then at Xander. "Very, very cute.
"Mags! Victory!" a woman yelled.
"Watching the horse, mom," she called. She looked over, finding them gone, but Xander's phone still there. She picked it up when it rang, answering it. "Hi, this is Victory McGuiness. Xander left his phone here. No, I'm moving to Utah. I have no idea why, but mom said we're moving to Utah. Can it?" She looked at the phone, then took pictures of them. "They're pretty healthy, the foal was born in early January. Second week if I remember right. The mom's pretty old. My mom used to take care of her as a teenager so I'm guessing he's her last no matter what." She listened to the nice guy on the other end. "That'd be pretty cool," she agreed, waving at her mother. "No, no, I like that idea, sir. Thank you for helping her. She's a fairly special mare. She's meant a lot to a lot of kids. She's the sort that girls come to cry on." She nodded. "I understand and I'll yell that at him. Thank you, sir. Hey, if you need me, I'm there. You do know that Xander and Vinnie would encourage every single girl in the world to take physics and calculus so they could pet them?" She grinned. "I thought so. Thank you again, sir." She hung up and looked at her mother, who was crossing the brook. "Remember I told you about that guy who comes out here to watch the mare too?" Her mother grimaced but nodded. "He's got a friend who runs a horse rescue and relocation service. They can take both of them and find them a good place to call home and a lot of friendly little people to pet them hopefully." She put the phone next to the tree she was beside. "He left his phone."
"I see." She looked around. "Your brother?"
"He's looking at their bikes," she admitted. "Like he did the last time."
"His anti-theft system. He's parked by the old barn."
"Oh." She looked at her. "Who are Xander and Vinnie?"
"The guys who were just here. That's Xander's phone." She grinned and stood up, dusting herself off. "Xander has a skin condition that gives him a bit of fur. He's sweet, nice, furry, and polite. What teenage girl wouldn't adore him and try to fix such a tragic figure, mom?"
Her mother looked at her, then sighed. "I don't want to know as long as they didn't try to touch you."
"No, Xander started off by calling someone honey. I'm thinkin' he's taken, mom. Mags!" He came jogging up the trail, grinning broadly. "Don't tell me you got an engine apart again."
"No, I just held a talk with one of them. They're really cool bikes."
"Bikes?" the mother said, frowning at him. "Dear, what's that guy's name?"
Vic picked up the phone to look at it. "Harris." She looked at her mother. "Know him?"
"One of the guys I work with does, he's okay," she admitted.
"Then can we stay so I have positive male role models?"
"Fat chance," she snorted, patting her on the back. "You know we're going to be the CSU person out in that small town."
"But, mom," she whined. "I'll hate Utah! I'll never be a Mormon and I'm afraid they'll suck me in like a cult. Then I'd have to ride a bicycle everywhere and dress in way too many clothes." Xander's phone rang and she looked at it, then answered it. "Xander's phone," she chirped, smiling at the female voice on the other end. "No, ma'am, Xander was staring at the mare and colt we have running loose around here but he's since disappeared into the trees so he wouldn't freak my mom out. He was helping us find a home for her and her colt. No, Vinnie was here. I'm not sure which tree they're up. Sure. Of course. Thank you, ma'am." She hung up and looked up. "Whoever Charley is said you can't bring them home, they'd shed on the rugs," she joked. "She also said if you're going to be late for dinner, call so they won't pick you up anything."
"Sure," Vinnie called back. "The wife. She worries."
Vic laughed, putting the phone down again. She grinned at her mother, then at her little brother. "Mom, do we have to go to Utah? Can't you get a job in the FBI lab or something?"
"I wish I could, but they've got procedural problems and I don't want to be associated with them, dear." She looked up, spotting a bit of white...fur? In one of the trees. "Hmm." She looked at the ponies. "You've got one hour, kids. Then you have to be back at the house, cleaned up, and ready for dinner. We'll start working on your rooms tonight. When is someone coming for them?"
"That guy said tomorrow afternoon. There's a few local people here who help now and then with rescues."
"Sure." She patted them on the back. "Whoever you are, thank you," she called. "That mare has soothed a lot of injuries and broken hearts over the years."
"I understand," Xander agreed from his tree. "I have a cat like that."
"That's good." She looked at her son. "Don't take apart their bikes. You don't know what might come to attack them." She walked off, heading back to their house, with a stop to pet the mare herself. She'd miss her just as much.
Mags looked up at the trees. "Whichever of you has the red bike, she's really sweet, sir. I want one like her when I grow up." He went back to the house now. He didn't like horses like his sister did. They didn't come with engines or exhaust systems.
Vic looked around. "It's safe." They came down out of the tree and Xander put his phone up, making her smirk. "So, how covert fed was he? He was way too polite to work in the animal circles as a rancher."
"I can't tell you that," he admitted. "Wish I could, but I can't."
She nodded. "I understand. My birth was classified too. My mom used to work for Omega," she whispered, grinning at them.
Xander looked at her. "Really?" She nodded. "That's kinda cool." She beamed and got up, dusting off again. "You gotta go?"
"Yeah, I was gonna say my goodbyes now since I probably won't be able to tomorrow. You guys can stay. I'm not going to get mushy and cry or anything." She walked back down to where the mare was grazing, giving her a hug around the neck and whispering to her. The mare twitched an ear so she went to pet the foal again, getting headbutted but loved on. Then she waved at them and grinned, disappearing for home.
"Think they're being relocated?" Vinnie asked.
"Yup, sure do." He called Micah again. "Hey, me. Did you know her mom used to work for Omega? Yeah, Victory. She said her birth was classified." He smirked. "Thought you might. No, just an FYI and an interesting tidbit." He hung up. "Let's see." They sat back to watch the foal, seeing how long it'd take someone to come up and get them to take them somewhere safe.
Micah hung up and pulled out his cellphone, calling the office. "Max, patch me through to the grumpy, one-eyed bastard." He listened while she made the connection for him. "It's me," he greeted. "One of mine just ran into one of yours. Victory McGuiness?" He listened to the brief description. "No, there's a mare and foal she and her mother have been taking care of and they're going to be leaving soon...." He smirked. "No, she wanted them to be taken care of. They're freerange beasts. Sure. That's what I thought. So, got room to spare at your ranch?" He smirked, chuckling a bit. "I know. That's okay, she said Xander was enough to make every girl want to take calculus and physics so they could go find his species and pet them." He glanced at Throttle, who was now choking on his latest sip of rootbeer. "No, that's Throttle. I'm in Chicago. Sure. Tonight? Decent. No, but I'm sure they can track their own." Throttle nodded, grimacing. "Victory's a ten- year-old girl," he shared. "Her mother used to bioengineer stuff for the government. They've got a high enough rating to know about you." He listened. "Sure. Meet ya there." He hung up. "So, where are they?"
"Dead," Throttle assured him.
"Their dad was a mechanical and weapons engineer. Mom was a bioterrorism creator. The kids come by it naturally, Throttle. They're cool enough. One Eye wouldn't be protecting them if they weren't. They'd just have quietly disappeared into Witness Relocation. Instead he's got their files sealed with his personal seal and is personally helping them move in a few days to Utah." He stood up. "Besides, he'll make sure that horse is taken care of. Victory is his great-granddaughter and he'd hate to maker her hate him since he wants to recruit her someday."
Throttle stood up. "Let's go find the boys. Modo?" Modo came up from downstairs. "We're going to find Vinnie and Xander."
"My bike showed me a map out to a farm," he offered. "She heard 'horse' and popped it up."
"Let's see it," Micah told him, following him down to copy the map. "Only Xander could find a former spy associate who's moving and decide to help her," he muttered. Modo looked at him. "Don't ask. It's a Xander thing."
"Do you have a whole list of Xander things so we can watch out for them?" Charley asked. "Am I ordering for myself?"
"Quite possibly," Throttle admitted. "Or get us stuff and we'll eat it later." He kissed her on the cheek. "Xander just found a way to restart the space program. Tell all the little teenage girls that we're fuzzy, need petted, and are tragically in need of love."
Charley burst out in loud, serious laughs, leaning against the wall, kicking it a few times. "I can just see the population of a Backstreet Boys concert landing on Mars and going 'oooh, let me pet you, darling' to Stoker."
Modo moaned. "Momma would laugh her gray tail off," he admitted, but he was grinning and shaking his head. "Cheese, that's a horrible thought but it's so funny."
"It would make space a hot commodity, especially if there were puppy and kitten races too," Micah admitted, going for his car once he had the map down. "Coming, Modo?"
"No thanks. I don't think I'd like horses that much."
Throttle got on his bike, stroking her. "Let's go save Xander and Vinnie before they get us all petted and groomed bald." He started her and took off, following the beacon and Micah to where his bros were. Then he'd have to spank Xander and make sure he knew he was not to go off like that again. That boy and trouble were twins some days.
Modo looked at his bike. "Is it pretty there?" She beeped. "Remember the way so I can take Staff on a long ride soon." She filed it away and moved so he could work on her engine. She needed a slight tuneup and he was more than willing to help. Modo hoped Micah got there first. His momma needed a laugh or two but not that much.
Micah found his two lunatics by the brook, still watching the mother and foal. He stared at them then sat down beside Vinnie, pinching him. "Hurt your brother for me." Vinnie swatted lightly at him. "You just tangled up some massive strings, guys."
"She seemed pretty cool," Vinnie offered. "She said no one would believe her anyway."
"Oh, they won't. Not even her controllers. Their agency and mine are old friends and not- so-close former rivals. We get on well and he's got a personal interest in seeing Victory and Magnet happy." He looked over at Xander. "Are you hiding out here?"
"I see. It's a good one," he admitted. "You do know that old barn is hiding something underground?"
"Yeah, the road's too well maintained," Xander admitted. "If they touch my bike, it'll kill 'em."
"I just talked to a guard and she said she didn't mind you coming out here. You never bothered them and you were listed as 'touch only in emergencies' in their records."
"NID?" Xander asked.
"No, and I'm not sure what it is."
"It would be a fuel and tech research station," Micah admitted quietly. "Who did they get that from?"
"The guys coming to move the kids and the horse," Throttle told him, pulling Xander up and sitting under him, sitting him in his lap. "They won't have to move, right?"
"Nope. You guys have a pretty high clearance and Xander has as high as I do. They're safe as long as IFU doesn't find them. If they do, Hendrix will shit pink and blue snoballs."
Xander chuckled at that. "Was he the dark haired guy I saw in my dream?"
"Most likely," he admitted, glancing down at him. "He wanted to know how you knew he had a cat."
"Not a clue. I heard him mention it on the way back a few times."
"Dream?" Vinnie asked.
"Sometimes I get dreams that aren't prophetic, but they give me roadsigns to look at. I got one right before we left for Thanksgiving because my security rating is second in Micah's people, right after him." Vinnie looked confused. "It used to go by rating," he shared.
"Oohh," he said, shuddering greatly. "I love you, little bro, but you'd be hell doing his job."
"Which was about the content of the dream. That and prison worlds and you guys getting captured," Micah admitted dryly.
"I remember that part," Vinnie admitted. "I didn't know about the other part. You fixed that, right?"
"The changes officially take effect a week after Thanksgiving this year," he offered. "If we can hold off the bad things until then, it'd be great."
"I'll help with that," the three mice agreed in unison. Then they chuckled. Xander running ECHO was a horrible thought. The world might work right for a while, but the politicians would never stand for it and have him eliminated within days. They watched as some guys in suits came out with ropes to catch the horses.
"Guys, not the way you do that," Xander called. "She's very gentle. He'll headbutt you but she's very gentle." He got up and walked over there, helping them put the harness around the mother's head. "She's still nursing."
"That's fine, sir. Thank you."
"I want to see your orders," Micah called, smirking at them. "Unless you're with One Eye, you're not to be here."
"Um, sir, we are here to clear the grounds for the lab," he admitted. An older man wearing an eye patch came out of the woods and held up a paper, making them all turn pale. The one holding the halter turned it over and they all stepped off. "Whatever you want, sir."
He nodded. "I know, son. Shoo." They ran off. He looked at Micah, then at Xander. "Victory said she had met you and you were the cure to the space race." He looked him over. "I don't know why."
Xander picked up his hand and put it on his arm. "Teenage girls. They love furry things with a sad past. They could pet, groom us bald, and coo over our war injuries."
"I see." He shrugged. "I don't deal in teenagers except in computer things. Micah. Good seeing you again in person."
"You too, Director. How's the wife and kids?"
"Fairly decent. My daughter's getting a divorce next month. I can't believe she married an artist."
"It's that mentality that would have every teenage girl on Mars within days," Xander said dryly.
"No wonder I don't understand," he sighed. "Mars?"
"Classified by ECHO," Micah noted. "Xander." He trotted back, coming to sit in Throttle's lap. "That's Xander."
"Ahh. I've seen his file. I'm wondering why he's rated 'hands off'."
"I'm a bit unpredictable but I'm the sort that'll do whatever's necessary at that moment," Xander said lightly, smirking at him. "Like with the Initiative base."
"Oh. You were part of that?"
"No, we destroyed them," Xander told him.
"Ah, you were part of *that* group." Xander smirked and nodded. "Good work, son. Want a job?"
"I do freelance for Micah."
"Pity. I could use you." He shrugged and looked at the mare and her son, who was staring at him. "I've got a large box and a great big paddock with woods for you two. Just so Victory won't fuss." He looked at Xander. "They'll be fine, son. So will Victory and Mags."
"He tried to take apart Modo's bike," Xander offered.
"That's a good sign. I like that. Thank you. By the way, you might not want to bother this lab, boys. They've just changed leadership to Homeland and they're a bit more uptight."
"I was just told it was fine, sir," Throttle told him.
"Yeah, but I'm betting the General won't be happy in a few months. So just keep it down and be quiet. Come from the other direction."
"Is there anything I should watch out for out by that green mountain?"
"Green mountain?" Micah and the older guy asked in unison, then shuddered. "Stay away from there."
"That's NID," Micah told him.
"Okay. Can I blow them up?"
"No, Xander," Micah said patiently. "No blowing them up. They do serve a purpose."
"Yeah, but I don't want them that close to me or Faith, or Dawn and Rimfire or these guys."
"They're not that branch," the old guy told him. Xander gave him a 'get real' look and he smirked. "Don't believe me?"
"Not a bit. They're all that branch. Some are just mandated."
"You're a smart kid," the old guy noted. "You sure you don't want a job, son?" Xander pointed at Micah. "Fine. Where can we move them?"
"Um, the moon?"
"That would keep them out of my hair," Micah agreed, looking at the other guy. "Think we could?"
"We don't have an airproof dome up there."
"Pity," Xander sighed. "Then again, they could build one. That way they could torture others in peace."
"They'd never be able to get the demons they're still working on up there," Micah said wisely. "You know you're moving her next to one of their bases, right?" One Eye shuddered. "Yeah, I didn't think you did."
"How do you know so much about this stuff?" the other guy asked.
"When we all got reformatted the new director said 'take the smallest agency and have them do what that one singular group on the list does, they won't complain'," he said bitterly. "Which is wrong, I do complain, a lot."
Xander nodded. "He does. He even comes to complain to us about being over us."
"Oh, you got moved there," he said sympathetically. "I'm so sorry, Micah."
"Yeah, me too. Lorne misses being a spy."
The old guy laughed. "I'm sure he does. The poor man must be horrified by his new status." He looked at the animals around him. "They're be fine, boys. I've got a nice spot for them and Victory will be able to come play all the time."
"G..grandfather?" Victory's mother asked, coming out of the shadows. "Why are you here?"
"We're moving you somewhere safer, dear. That spot in Utah is right in the middle of NID's base. I don't want you there."
"Freako, torturing, bastards who like to taunt while they torture," Xander told her.
"Oh." She looked at him. "You're not a normal human, are you?" He shook his head. "I thought not. You're him? The one she was using the phone of?" He nodded. "Okay. Hi, Mr. Simms."
"Hey, don't worry about these guys, they're mine."
"Sure." She looked at her grandfather. "You know I wanted *out* of the business, right?" He nodded. "Then why am I getting sucked in again?"
"You're not. You're coming back to the family ranch to live. You can find a job within seventeen counties around us. The kids will have a good school and they can watch over these two and learn how to ride. That way I know you're safe. Besides, those guys of Micah said Mags likes to take apart engines."
"Victory's a pisser," Xander told her. "Very smart. She said I was the cure to getting the space race restarted." The mother looked at him. "I am furry and cute."
"You are," she agreed dryly.
"Plus their people are just getting over a war against others trying to take them over," Micah told her. "Cute, furry, tragic, and quite well muscled."
The mother groaned. "I can just see one of those stupid little pop stars like Brittney starting a crusade to help you guys by cooing over one of you and petting you over and over on tv, saying how they had to come up and save you guy from dying off. Every girl in the US who looks up to her would be in science class the next day and NASA would get to be picky for a change."
The old guy shook his head. "I still can't see it."
"Charley had visions of a Backstreet Boys concert," Throttle admitted.
"Ooh, yeah, squealing little girly girls in full on coo mode," Victory agreed as she joined them. "They'd be invading your homeworld within days. All of you would lose your remaining fur." She looked at her great grandfather. "I've only seen you a few times. You were at my second grade art show."
"I liked your work. It was very new wave," he admitted. "With just a hint of angst."
"Yeah, well, I was grounded," she admitted dryly, smirking at him. "Who are you?"
"Your great-grandfather. Unfortunately my kids seemed to want to breed young and so did your mother."
"Ah." She nodded. "We're taking care of her?"
"Actually, you're all coming to my ranch and your mother can find a job closer to DC," he admitted. "The place in Utah is right next to NID territory." She shuddered. "Exactly."
"Actually, I have room in my budget but it'd be a research position with a lot of genetics. These guys need meds and stuff and we've got to make sure ours work appropriately."
"We know a good deal of them," Throttle admitted. "Just not the higher end stuff."
"That would be a handy place to start," she admitted. "Any other authorities?"
"I'm on my way to Vegas to confiscate a few samples and DNA tests done and we've got a doc down here under banishment," Micah offered.
"It's Vegas, they've probably seen worse and not wondered," Xander protested.
"You don't know this guy. He's been driving himself nuts," Micah said dryly. "They called in their old DNA tech and their guy who studies every other sample to work on your hairs. I'm sure they'll love you."
"You could explain us as pet mice," Throttle pointed out.
"Can't. They already realize you're not pet mice. The hairs were too long and someone wondered why, running a test to make sure it was a mouse hair. Seems it came up a bit odd," he said sarcastically. "Don't know *why*."
"How bad is it going to be?" Xander asked sheepishly. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to cause trouble."
"You usually don't. Most people don't realize you guys are furry beings. It's just that sometimes it shows at the wrong time. How was Sturgis?"
"Great," Throttle said with a smirk. "Most everyone who realized just stared for a minute, then shrugged and talked to me like I was a normal person. My bike more than made up for my fur."
Micah nodded. "I expected as much. Bikers are usually pretty laid back about such things, at least the most dedicated of the lot. A few probably freaked but they were probably warned first. How is Xander's biking skill?"
"Getting a lot better," Throttle admitted. "We're going to take him out this weekend and start teaching him the games and train him in them. Stoker's coming down soon."
"Sure," Micah agreed. "I got Enamel's list and I'm working with people. I want to be kept informed on his progress. We'll need it for his file." He stood up. "Let's go home, kids. It's time to say goodbye to the nice horsies."
Xander got up and walked down there to pat the horse on the head, grinning at them. "I'll miss you and if he doesn't treat you right, your friend Vic will call me to kick his butt, okay?" Vic snickered at that. "I mean it," he said seriously, grinning at her. "You behave too, kiddo. You're pretty neat." He patted the horses again then went back to Throttle's side, heading for the bikes. He patted his bike on the gas tank. "Too bad you're not furry now and then too. A horse would be a nice treat now and then."
"Meg knows a place," Vinnie reminded him. "She needed it for her gaming and Oz found a spot."
"Cool. Maybe this weekend?" he offered.
Throttle looked at him. "Only if you're good." Xander gave him a sheepish grin. "I meant good, Xander, not that sort of good, I've never had a complaint about that."
"Reports?" Micah asked.
"Already done, all they need is printed," Xander said with a smirk. "I figured you'd want one." He started his bike, smiling as he purred to life. "It's okay, I like you anyway. You can watch me fall off the horse this time too." The bike snickered. "I did. The only one I've ever ridden was a bronco and it bucked me off after about ten seconds. You're much better for me." He stroked him again, then followed Throttle back to their home.
"It's a good thinking spot," Vinnie called as they rode. "I liked it."
"Me too. We'll have to find a new one that isn't covered in evil fed-like people."
Throttle's chuckle came over the radio. "I'm sure we'll be able to find one, boys. Let's get dinner."
"Call Charley first, make sure she didn't order for us," Vinnie offered over the radio.
"I can hear you and we didn't," Modo called back. "You're responsible for your own dinners, guys. Oh, tell Micah that Lorne called. Someone wanted Xander's files from outside their group of fellow agencies and he refused them."
"Sure," Throttle called back. "Thanks." He pulled back beside Micah's car, looking over at him. "Lorne called. Said someone not on the approved list wanted Xan's file."
"Thanks. I'll call him," he promised, smiling as the guy caught up with the others again. He plugged his phone into his hands-free-through-the-radio system and hit the button for Lorne. "Me. Who?"
"Naval research center for energy research."
"Why?" Micah asked patiently.
"Not a clue. No reason given. That's a second reason to turn them down. Then I reported them to Hendrix so he could go talk to them. Did you know he pulled Xander's file and is now wanting to test himself against him once he's fully trained?"
"Sure, not unlike him. He has to make sure he's the top dog," Micah agreed, signaling and changing lanes. He saw someone in his rearview mirror, flipping it so the headlights wouldn't blind him. He looked at the signs for the upcoming exit, changing lanes so he was closer to the exit, just in case. IFU weren't the only paranoid people. The car changed. "Lorne, I'm being tailed. I'm going to duck off the interstate. Keep the line open for now." He took the exit quickly and at the last minute, and the car still followed. "Who is this yahoo?" he complained, heading for a place to pull a standoff. He found a parking lot and pulled in, spinning his car around to face the other one. That one parked and someone got out. Micah turned off his engine but he wasn't moving from the car.
"I'm not going to harm you, I just wanted to talk," the person called, sounding male.
Micah got out and leaned on the door. "So talk."
"Who are you?"
The man chuckled and moved closer, showing himself to be a slightly older man, with gray just at his temples, and military by his uniform and how he was standing. "I think you'll find I have a high enough clearance to know your name, young man."
"I sincerely doubt it," he assured him. He stepped away from the car, but left the door open so he could get back into it. "I'm sorry, sir, but my clearance is probably higher than yours is and my identity and reasons for being here are classified. Your name is?"
Micah snorted. "Lorne, McNichols, Peter?"
"Level alpha clearance, NID."
"Bite me," he told him. "I have omega clearance, you have alpha. Get in your little car and speed off."
"I will know what you know, young man."
Micah looked at him. "Bring it on if you think you've got game," he said dryly.
"Micah, he's a hand-to-hand expert," Lorne called. "Jujitsu, Judo, and Karate. You might not want to do that."
Micah looked at the guy and waved him on. "Come on." The man strolled closer and Micah watched him. He pulled out a weapon and Micah pulled his gun, pointing it at him. "Don't try it, kid."
"I'm not a kid, sir. Your name?"
"I see. Simms?" he repeated, seeming to purr it, smirking a bit. "A fine, strong, American name. How do you have Omega clearance so young?"
"Easy, I work in Intelligence."
"Ah. Then why are you in my territory?"
"Because I'm supposed to be here, unlike you." He cocked the gun. "I'd stop now."
The man raised his and a tentacle shot out, but Micah rolled and fired as he came up, hitting him in non-firing arm. Then his bullet struck the weapon and a power explosion came out, knocking him back against the nearest building, across the street, sending his car after him. The other guy was vaporized by the power of the explosion.
Lorne heard the explosion and dialed the other phone on his desk. "Chicago PD? I was just on the phone with my boss when I heard an explosion and his line went dead. No, he was just getting off the first exit for the airport, coming from the west, when he was pulled over by someone. Yeah, in that area as far as I can tell," he admitted, looking at the locator's last known position. "He had GPS, I'm trying to track it now." He hit a few keystrokes and came up with an answer. "The Eastbridge shopping center?" He nodded at the voice. "No, an explosion, I'm pretty sure of it. Sir, I'm in DC." The cop spluttered. "Yeah, there," he said, letting him believe he was in Homeland Security. "Please, now. Thank you." He hung up and tried to dial Micah's phone again but got an out of service message. He called the lair. "It's Lorne," he greeted. "Micah was being followed and got into it with someone named McNichols. There was a small explosion near the Eastbridge shopping center. He's still there somewhere. I don't know. I just scrambled cops. Sure, Charley, thanks." He hung up and turned on the news feed they had for Chicago, leaning back to watch it. Then he got smart and called Max. "Micah was just hurt. Tag, you're it."
He hung up, leaving her to come in on her night off and take control. They would ignore the fact that the new rules hadn't taken effect yet.
Micah woke up in the hospital, looking up at a familiar face. "How bad?" he moaned, trying to sit up, but the traction equipment around his leg wasn't going to let him. So he settled on raising the head of the bed instead. "Just my leg?"
"Cracked rib, small concussion," Throttle told him. "What happened?"
"Some guy wanted to know why I was there in his territory. I think the explosion of his weapon vaporized him." He looked around. "Not even a card from Lorne and Max?" he joked. "I feel dirty and used."
Throttle chuckled, a warm, fuzzy sounding laugh that made Micah shiver. "They're a bit too busy but they said you need to call your boss as soon as you woke up." He handed over Dawn's secondary, prepaid, phone. "The number just changed since she forgot to put minutes on for too long."
"Thanks." He dialed the White House from memory, getting the front office. "It's Micah Simms. I was told to call before I got drugs?" The woman on the other end paused. "Lady, I'm over ECHO. I have a broken leg." She said something soothing and passed him up to the president since she had a note saying he was to call. "Yes, sir?" he sighed. "No, sir, I haven't had drugs yet. I haven't even seen a nurse yet." Throttle handed him a sports drink and he smirked, nodding his thanks as he popped it open. "No, sir, NID, and I want them far, far away from my people. Them and his tentacle gun, which was what caused the explosion. Yes, sir, tentacle gun. I wasn't going to ask him more than his name, sir. I'm not stupid nor do I have a death wish this month. I can't promise what I'll be like in a week when my leg starts to itch...." He took a drink and listened.
"Yes, sir, NID is dangerous to my people and my agency. Gee, because they're torturing the people I have to control and they'd definitely want my two new agents to torture and experiment on? Sir, I'm not going to work with anyone who does things like experiment on people or creatures. I don't care how important it is, I'm not going there. Yes, and I know how they gained that information, sir. They got it by torturing others for fun and then got off on it." He took another drink. "Yes, sir, I haven't had pain killers yet. I also have a concussion. I'm not changing my mind about this however. I don't care how or why. They need to go." He glanced at Throttle. "Sir, your wife met with my two newest hires, the ones who're in field training at this time while they're in college. Did she mention one of them was just as furry as Carbine is? By the way, I don't want to see her being an experiment either, sir, and if I have to act to make sure of it, I will. My agency is higher on the food chain than NID.
"Do I care if they're dealing with other alien menaces? Fine. Then give me more staff and a bigger budget, sir. I'll gladly take that from the Pentagon. Sure! Let them keep their budget, let me have the NID budget in addition to mine and I can guarantee there won't be any torture. Gee, sir, let's see. Cutting things open and poking at them? Putting chips in their brains to control their behavior? Cutting off things and replacing them with inappropriate things. Sir, on my desk is a picture of a creature named Fred that one of the alien experimenters made." Throttle choked at that and he gave him a 'sorry' look. "No, sir, omega level from the person with me. No, sir, Xander's spouse. Yes, him, sir. Do I care, sir?" He took another drink and sighed. "Sir, if our best and brightest defenders are gay, and are being pissed on, what makes you think they're going to keep defending us?"
Micah smirked. "Exactly, sir. Technically he is married by his people's standards. All that he lacks is having it here and having those nifty rights, like the right for visitation when he's had his tail nearly killed defending the people of this country yet again. Sir, half of the Marines I served with either were gay and we all knew it or they suddenly came out once they left," he said dryly. "Probably a good twenty percent of your present military is gay, sir. They're pissed at you too for the Defense of Marriage Act. Yes, sir, concussion," he said with a grin. "Broken leg. Cracked rib. Lots of pain and no pain killers. No, not even tylenol yet, sir. No nurses yet."
"There was a person who crashed earlier. I'm assuming they're with them," Throttle offered.
Micah grinned at him. "I wondered how you smuggled in gatorade." He gulped the rest of it and tossed the bottle away, then got as comfortable as he could. "No, I'm still here, sir. How is your Chief of Staff today? Sure, put 'em on too," he said dryly. "General!" he said a bit too cheerfully. "I'm going to kick your butt for sending an NID hitter after me. Him and his little tentacle gun, that made quite a nice impression in the parking lot I'm sure. No, I saw him be vaporized by the explosion. Sure!" he agreed happily. "Just so I can put all the freaks in jail and do legitimate research. I don't consider torture a legitimate source of research material. Yeah, well, so did the Nazis and no one likes to mention their trial and error program of organ transplant, but they did. I'm not helping fund something that does the same thing. I don't care if they're not human. They're still thinking beings for the most part. Yeah, well, that's *my* job, General, not yours. Keep your little paler than a white mouse, kinky, torturing, masochistic, dateless, stupid little boys away from me and mine. Those would be mine as well. Yeah, well, my agency does aliens. It's in our charter now. I'm putting my foot down, General. That's *my* job and *my* fun. You don't like it? Bite me.
"No, sir, still a concussion and it's the truth. You wanted me to do this job, I can't do this job with NID on my tail torturing the people I'm supposed to be dealing with and protecting. Nor will my people put up with it. Really? Ask your wife if she thinks Carbine and Rimfire will, sir. Let's see what she says." He heard him ask her and her hit him. "Ma'am, I'm supposed to protest these things, but I'm only doing it as a formality," he said dryly. He checked the minutes left on the phone and sighed. "Sir, I have about another fifty minutes on this phone. You can three-way with Director Ridge if you want, but I want NID off their present jobs. They're on my agency's shit list and I'm not putting up with it. I don't put up with it with other agencies and I'm not doing it for NID. Well, I probably should be in Vegas at this moment, but I seem to be a bit tied down with a broken leg. I'm in traction, sir. I'm not flying anywhere for at least a week. I'll send Dawn and possibly Rimfire with her."
He scowled as a new voice came on. "You either get NID away from me and mine or else I'm going to go take them down," he said firmly. "They're threatening my agents, they're threatening the people I'm supposed to be protecting and hiding. Yay. One of my outsourced guys locally helped take down one of their bases. Sir, none of the people in this conference have that sort of authority. Initiative?" He smirked and Throttle handed over a YooHoo drink. "From Xander?" he asked with a grin. Throttle nodded, smirking back. "Thanks, I need my daily caffeine fix." He popped it then recapped it and shook it. "No, Throttle's here with me. No, Xander Harris's spouse. Yeah, and he's still a bit pissed about that Defense of Marriage act too. Hey, Martians don't care if you're gay or not. Really? Because most of the people they have left just won their war against the Plutarkians. They're down to less than one percent of their original population because of those supposedly nice aliens the president wanted us to house and take care of. Why don't you tell their destroyed world that's having problems restarting crops that they were nice, sir. They're bordering on starvation at the moment because of those things. Good, hopefully they freeze to death in Siberia. It'd serve them right," he sneered, taking another sip. He saw a nurse come in. "Hi, my boss said I need drugs."
"I'm sure you do," she agreed, coming over to check on him. "Can you hang that up for a few minutes?" He shook his head. "Not at all?"
"An unfortunate need for a conference call. I'm in Intelligence."
"Ah." She nodded, making notes on his chart. "I see the doctor has authorized some medication. Do you have any reactions to demerol?"
"No, but I'll probably try to kiss you when I can't feel the aches and pains anymore," he offered with a small grin. "If your spouse wouldn't mind."
She blushed. "I don't have one of those anymore. I tossed the man out."
He beamed. "Even better. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Mr. Simms. Give me ten minutes to get you something from the pharmacy." She left, going to blush in private while she ordered that.
Micah listened to the other guys laugh. "It's not like I get to flirt with people at home. I don't want to know where they've been. Do I care, General?" he sighed, taking another sip. "Fine. I still don't care. And? A military project is just fine with me. I'm sure I can find someone competent to run the scientific side that doesn't believe in torture for fun and recreation. Or for sexual pleasure in a few cases, like the guy who tried to jump me." He finished off that bottle and Throttle took it before he could throw it and have it break. "Thank you, Throttle."
"Welcome. Xander's presently worrying about you. Me being here means he's not bouncing around your room."
"Man, if I were gay, I'd kiss you for that alone," he offered. The nurse blushed when she came back in. "He's keeping his husband from bouncing around the hospital."
"I remember his spouse from when he was injured," she admitted dryly. "We'd all like to kiss you for that, sir." She looked at Micah, then injected the drug into his IV, making him hiss, then sigh. "There you go, Mr. Simms. It should work in a few minutes."
Micah pulled her over and kissed her. "Thank you. You're wonderful." She blushed bright red and hurried out. He went back to listening. "She didn't hit me for it and she said she's single. If she didn't want it, she's more than capable of telling me off herself. This is Chicago. The women here are liberated and strong, they can easily bitch me out if they don't want my attention and flirting." He listened to the people complain. "I'd be cutting some spots but I'd keep any legitimate research. How about I get their budget for one year in addition to mine and then we see how much I use?" he suggested. "I can promise some cuts. After all, I run ECHO on a shoestring. Sure. Thanks," he said dryly. "So I can put out an executive order to close the NID facilities until one of mine can tour and fix?" He smirked. "Thank you, Mr. President. I'm in traction, I doubt I'm moving for a while. I'll be here in Chicago in the hospital. You can deliver them to Harris. He can bring them. He's got Omega Seven." He coughed. "Sir, if we don't go by the *new* rules, then Xander has to take over ECHO. As in an openly gay defender of the planet with a severe hatred and a desire to kill all the NID issued brats taking over my agency until I come back. Who would you rather have, sir? No, I'm calling Lorne and Max next. Sure," he agreed fondly, smirking. "Hey, have Hendrix bring them. You know nothing's going to happen to him and he's got the clearance. Thank you, sir. You too, Director Ridge. Sure. Have fun, sir. Good night."
He hung up and leaned back, getting comfortable. "I'm now over NID," he said with a smirk. "With their budget." He checked the minutes and called the office. "Max," he said fondly, smirking at her groan. "We are now over NID. Yes, Max, those freaks and those who are Nazi-like. Yes, we are," he said happily. "Find me someone to look them over, redesign their labs, and make them into a legal, profitable, and reasonable research department. Do it today. No, I'm in traction. Have Hendrix carry those files out to me. No, there'll be something from the Pentagon. I need them. Also, either send Dawn or someone out to Vegas to handle that investigation into the mouse hairs. Please. Either's fine. No, prepaid. No, Throttle's here with me. No, they saw sense in following the new rules since I'm not actually absent, just not in the office for a few weeks. No, traction, Max. Cracked rib, concussion too. Oh, write up a note of apology for swearing at the president so I can send it in a few weeks. Leave it somewhere in my desk so I'll find it." He smirked.
"Felt good actually, Max. He asked me a few times about my concussion too. No, but his wife did hit him. Sure. Lorne, you, Dawn, someone, before they decide to publish it or something. Have fun with it, it'll be Vegas and I'm sure you'll have to overnight. Just don't marry Lorne while you're there." He smirked. "I know, but it'd do him good. Do you good too. No, I'm hitting on the pretty nurses. She just came in to give me demerol and I kissed her while they were on the line. No, they laughed and I pointed out that she was very nice and could rebuff me if she hadn't wanted it, including making me hurt worse. Sure." He snickered. "Sure, you tell Lorne that. However, just have Hendrix carry the Pentagon files out. I'll send you and Lorne out to do that one if I'm not in any shape to do it. Sure. Have fun. Remember to pay the electric bill too. Of course I'll let you forget that, but it's about due. Since we now have more budget...." He heard her cheer. "Most of it's still got to go to them, Max. We'll integrate. Have someone there help you find someone to transform them into a legit agency and research department. No, I'll be here," he sighed. "Sure, have fun, Max." He hung up and handed it back. "Thanks."
"Not a problem. It keeps me from being bounced on too," he admitted. He looked around. "You're really going to stop them?" Micah nodded quickly. "Thank you. We had enough of that with Karbunkle. I wish you a lot of luck and a hefty prison for the mad scientists." He nodded at the door. "Need anything else?"
"A wheelchair probably," he admitted. "But I can get that through the hospital. I may have to come crash for a few days, but I'll keep it short."
"Hey, you can work with Rimfire and Dawn. It'll give them something to do other than cuddle and have sex." He smiled at the nurse when she came back in. "What would you do with two teenagers who are engaged but that's all they do?"
"Kick them out of the house and make them do other things for a few hours."
"We do have those season passes," he admitted, considering it. "Xander needs a new job." He smirked, patting her on the back. "Thanks, citizen. Ride free. Micah, yell when you're ready for Xander." He walked out, heading back to the lair. He drove up into the library, looking at the trio of mice and Vinnie. "Xander, take our passes and *chaperone* Dawn and Rimfire at Six Flags. We'll go ourselves this weekend as the full group."
Dawn whooped and lunged over to hug him. "I love you! You're a great dad!" She ran off to change clothes and put on her bathing suit underneath.
Rimfire grinned at Throttle. "Tired of him sitting around?"
"Micah can't be bounced into for another day." He looked at Xander. "Micah just got control of NID. He said he's fixing it." Xander smirked evilly. "He's getting help to fix it."
"Cool. Works for me." He grinned and went to change. "Rimfire, you'll die in jeans out there today."
"Sure, Xander." He went down to talk to his bike first, then get changed.
Throttle shook his head. It was a good plan. "Subtle and smooth," he congratulated himself.
Vinnie pouted at him. "We can't go today?"
"You wanted to chaperone Dawn and Rimfire?"
"No," he admitted. "But I wanted to go play."
"Then go play," he offered. "Just stay away from those three unless you're going to escort
Xander around." Vinnie smirked and went to tell Charley he was disappearing then changed and met them at the bikes, holding the passes. They were kept in her desk so they wouldn't get lost or damaged.
Throttle shook his head. Two bored white mice, wonderful. At least now they'd have something to do.
To Part 44