Xander finished listening to the order of the songs he wanted and smirked, clicking on the button to burn it. It was perfect. He heard a noise and looked out, watching Enamel wander up onto the roof. Xander had woken up in a mushy mood this morning, so he was helping others be just as mushy as he was at the moment. It was making him happy, even though him grinning had driven the other mice out of the house and on patrol. Even Rimfire, which said something with how mushy that mouse was. The CD popped out and he got an error message so he put it back in and erased it, trying it again. This time it went through and he set the CD player to play, listening to make sure the songs were clear and fully there. When he was satisfied, he found his old discman and stuck it in there, making sure it'd play. Then he checked the batteries and got up after starting the second CD burning. That one was for Vinnie and Charley. He walked up onto the roof, coughing to get Enamel's attention. "If you jump, I won't give you the thing I just made for you."
"You made me something?" he asked, looking over at him. "Why?"
"Because I heard these few songs and thought of you and Shell," he said, grinning a bit.
"No wonder the other mice left, you're in a soft and sappy mood." He looked at the discman, then at him. "Go ahead and put it on me, Xander," he sighed. Xander started it and put the headphones on his ears, then turned down the volume when he realized how loud it was. Enamel listened, just blinking a few times until it got to the pertinent part. Xander bounced around for a bit but he let it play, listening to the messages. Finally he shook off the headphones and looked at him. "You made me a CD for my anniversary?"
"Of course. Every girl should be serenaded at least once, even if her man is tone deaf and unable to do more than sing to her while laying on his back and making her a happy mouse." He gave him a gentle nudge and a grin. "I know you'd be doing something special for her for your first anniversary anyway, and now I'm helping. It gives me something to do while I'm waiting on something to do." He got up and grinned, heading back down to the office. "I'll come help you up in a while. You sit and plan," he called as he walked.
"Sure. Thanks." He waited until he was alone to grin. Xander was one special mouse and he had found the perfect songs for them. It was kind of neat how he could read people that well and find something that made things special to them. Modo's first date with Staff was just one version of that and how he had a more gentle version. He heard the bikes coming back and smirked, just getting comfortable. Throttle rode up and parked, looking around. "Should I move?"
"No. I'm trying to find the other white mouse," he said dryly. "Have you seen my meat?"
"He was burning stuff in the office and I think he probably went next door." He looked at him. "He's making CD's," he said at the worried look.
"So he's still on his mushy kick?"
Enamel smirked. "He found the perfect song for my anniversary this week," he admitted. "He burned the CD in order so I could play it for her."
"Cool. Should we expect to see you two roaring off into the night?" he teased.
"Probably," Enamel agreed smugly. "Or at least hopefully. She's been working a lot of hours with the new refugees and those kids who were brainwashed." He rolled to his feet. "Can you maybe help me with the player?"
"Sure." He grabbed it with his tail and then caught it with his hands, putting it in the doctor's pocket loosely. "There ya go." Enamel smirked. "What else were you planning?"
"Pouncing. Lots and lots of pouncing," he said smugly, walking off. "Having no hands is reminding me a lot of what I was taking for granted, even with her and cuddling." He headed down to their room, wiggling so the player fell out again. At least he still had his tail, even if it wasn't as dextrous as the other mice's. That's what happened when you had improperly healed breaks that were left for too long. He laid down on his back, staring up at the ceiling, thinking about his girl. She would love it if he sung those to her and that was probably Xander's idea too since he suggested serenading. Well, he wasn't always on- pitch, but he could do that. Even if he did have to go to Mars and do it while she was busy so she'd remember their anniversary. He heard the quiet knock. "What?" Charley opened the door. "Hey. Are you all right?"
"Upset with Xander. He's being more mushy than most girls," she admitted. "I came to check on you. How are you holding up?"
"Well enough," he admitted. He shifted his feet and wiggled until he was sitting up. "Go ahead and sit. You look like you want to be nosy."
"Well, I do," she admitted, sitting on the foot of his bed. "The other guys, well Vinnie, thought you'd be using your tail more by now."
"I would be, but I have an old break that never healed right, Charley. It's not that capable."
"Oh." She looked at it. "I don't see any knots."
"It's near the top." He shifted to let her see. "There, that blue spot. It's pressing a vein nearer to the surface." She nodded and he relaxed, shifting back to face her. "It's an old injury that never really got treated."
"Before or after you were banished?" she asked.
He smirked. "None of your business."
She looked at him. "Do you need to talk about it?" He shook his head. "You're sure?"
"Very. I've already accepted and forced myself to move on. Besides, how did you know I was captured or anything?"
"Because you're uptight and tense whenever you meet new people," she said dryly. "Ever since I met you, you've had this air of resignation about being arrested and captured - the way you were and about your arms. Besides, I was wandering last night and I heard your nightmares."
"I felt someone come in to check on me. Thanks."
"Not an issue. We all have nightmares, some people just have worse ones." She stood up. "Need anything?"
"Only my arms back."
"One month down," she offered. He nodded at that. "Do you think you'll manage it in time to catch the baby?" she asked with a grin.
"I don't want to deliver my own kid," he said seriously. "There's a reason why doctors aren't allowed to take care of their own family; it's because we panic and imagine the worst is happening so we overreact and cause more problems. I'll be more than happy just to be able to hold him while he's still slimy."
She smiled at that. "The tradition around here has been that the father catches so far," she teased.
"She's not delivering down here, I want her up on Mars, in case her special gifts come into play and try to block the labor or something," he said firmly. "If not, we'll have to mentally stun her if something happens."
"So we'll have Xander zap her," she offered with a naughty grin. "Payback for taking his pain block." She left, leaving him to think.
"No, if she delivers down here, I'll have one of the docs catch and then Throttle can play priest," he told himself. "It won't be the first time. Speaking of. Heat, Proxima?" he called. They both opened his door. "Go up and follow that OB around for a bit, just in case something happens and Shell has to deliver down here or Charley goes really early." They both nodded and headed back to Mars for the day, going to soak up more information. "At least we have an OB now," he told himself. "No more getting that headset from Xander and making Stoker do all the work. You'd think he'd be okay with it since he had helped with his own, but no, he had to nearly puke on the patient. I should put a word in someone's ear that everyone should have the basics of medical training in the Freedom Fighters and the Army," he mused, smirking to himself about how evil that would be to a great many mice. He could make all sorts of mice puke and choke for at least a week.
Enamel walked through the transporter, nodding at everyone. "Where is Shell hiding?" he asked.
"Somewhere near her offices," Carbine offered. "Why?"
"It's our anniversary. She's obviously forgot," he said dryly. "Oh, Carbine, I had a thought. We need more medics for first response, right?" She groaned and nodded. "So, why not make every single Freedom Fighter and every single person in the Army take the basic medical training. That way no matter who gets there first, someone could be saved." She perked up at that, her tail swishing behind her. "It should take about a week. You can add it to the basic training they all do and run refresher courses for everyone else. Nothing like drawing blood or laying an IV line maybe, but basics of splinting, bandaging, applying pressure, and how to know when to panic."
"That's not a bad idea," Stoker admitted from where he was kicked back in his seat. "We should make that mandatory before you graduate too," he offered.
"We can do that, it's something we already teach," Carbine agreed. "It wouldn't cost us any extra."
"Plus, most of us already carry some sort of first aid pack when we go out," Stoker admitted. "Nice job, doc. She's up in the counseling room on the third floor working with that mother."
"Thanks." He walked off, smirking at the guards. "Going to kidnap my girl," he told the one giving him an odd look. "It's our anniversary." That got a small grin and he walked on, the headphones already ready. His hand was in about the right spot and he could turn on the player with a flick of a finger, which he could move. Kinda. He turned it on, waiting until it started to start singing. How Xander knew that Bon Jovi was what would speak to them he still wasn't sure but _I'll Be There For You_ suited them very well. He cleared his throat as the guitar intro started and used his tail to open the pull door, he'd be stuck if it wasn't, and walked in, singing to her. Shell looked up, just staring in shock and awe at him. He grinned as he let it out, following it up with _Always_ then knelt down beside where she was curled up on the floor, giving her a long kiss.
The mother Shell had been counseling sniffled and smiled at her little girl. "That's the sort of love I'd like for you, dear, but I know we won't find it here. Too many have bad memories of what your daddy did."
"There's a colony of them," Shell gasped, pulling back to breathe. "Enamel?" He dove in again, kissing her again. She winced as the baby kicked, but he leaned down to kiss him too, making her smile and stroke through his hair when he curled up in her lap. "I was coming home after I talked to this patient."
"I'm impatient," he offered, smiling up at her.
"You're *that* Enamel?" the mother asked dryly.
He looked at her. "I tried my best with that patient."
"I know. Do you think that anything we used to have could change her more mouse?"
He considered it, then shook his head. "Nothing right off that I know we have now. They could have done some splicing maybe thirty or so years ago, but not now." She nodded, sighing at that. "Then again, like Shell said, the others have formed their own colony. You'd be safe. You'd be welcomed. There'd be other kids just like her."
She nodded. "I know but it's in a bad part of Mars."
"Ma'am, it's pretty muchly all a bad part of Mars at the moment," he said dryly. "It will be for at least the next five or ten years."
"They're up by the Mountains, sweetie," Shell said gently.
He hummed and nodded. "Xander said they're pretty and there's still some green stuff up there." He looked up at her. "Just because odd things used to go on up there and a few cults started doesn't mean it's cursed. If so, call Wrench. That's what I learned this week. Call Wrench for anything strange like that on Mars. Call Xander for anything like that on Earth." Shell giggled at that. "Seriously. Oh, what happened to his ex?"
"Willow said she was upsetting Throttle so she had her moved up here." She smiled down at him, then at her patient. "The Council and I both think that the move would do you good. There are counselors up there to talk to as well," she promised. "I won't lie, a few said they went willingly and bedded willingly, but most of them don't. It was for their own safety."
She nodded, looking at her daughter, who just grinned up at her. "Fine, we can go up there." She looked at the couple. "What about the remaining Plutarkians?"
"Being bastards and living it up on Earth," he admitted. "Most of them are in a cold, snowy place, but we know three have snuck away. One was caught by the Russian military and escorted back but both Limburgers made it back to Chicago. The guys down there are still working on sending them into space without an air tank." The mother nodded at that. "Then again, Karbunkle, the original, is with them and he's just as deranged as ever. He'd have to do it for them and he'd make her like his former little alien experiment."
"Good point," she sighed. "Fine, we'll agree to move."
"We'll call them and get you an escort," Shell promised. "Would you want to go tonight or did you need to tell some people goodbye?"
She slumped a bit. "Most of the mice I know look at me with either pity or horror."
"I know that feeling," Enamel offered.
"What's wrong with your arms?" the girl asked him, her voice barely above a whisper.
He gave her a gentle smile. "I got hit with a paralyzer beam a few times about a month ago. It'll wear off sometime soon." She nodded, clutching her mother's arm. "Did she?" he asked quietly. The mother nodded. "Did you get to kick his tail?"
"No. Unfortunately not," she said bitterly. "Then again, I saw him eaten." She shrugged. "Should I go?"
"No, most of the Council would just shudder and look at you with pity or horror," Shell admitted. The mother sighed again. "Let me go talk to them and I'll be right back." She smiled down at her mate. "That means you've got to move, studly."
"Yes, dear." He sat up and kissed her again, but she pulled away and got up, heading out of the room. "We hate that these things happened to you, ma'am. No one wanted to think that these things happened during the war. Unfortunately there's about fifty parents in that colony and just a few more kids." She shivered and nodded. "Don't let those who say they wanted it throw you. There's a syndrome called Stockholm syndrome. It's basically where you start to identify and like your captors. You start to believe they're right and what they're doing to you was your idea. I figure most of them have that and will probably heal some day." The door opened and his shadow walked in. "Racer, what are you doing here?"
Racer looked at him. "I saw you come up on the 'net and I came up to get a hug." He came over to hug him, then beamed at him. "I'm taking a real science class and my teacher is very impressed."
"Good job, Racer," he congratulated. "Very good job. Biology or chemistry?"
"Physics," he said with a grimace. "He said it's still needed."
"It can be. Sometimes the treatments we do count on the laws of physics. Besides, you can't understand a body without understanding what forces are acting on it." Racer nodded at that and caught sight of the kid. "Not one word," he hissed.
"I wasn't going to say anything mean." He looked at the little girl, then the mother. "Is she part mouse?" The mother pursed her lips and nodded. "Why? I don't want to be rude, but I don't understand and I want to be a doctor some day so I should."
Enamel sighed and looked at him. "Ask your mother, Racer."
"Momma just purses her lips whenever part Plutarkians are mentioned around her by Momma Cell," he admitted. "I really don't understand."
"They wanted to be mean and try stuff on her," the mother said gently. "This is their idea of a sick game, child. Were you captured?" He nodded. "What did they do to you?"
"Staff kept Karbunkle from hurting me a whole lot," he said honestly. "I was already pretty sick. She protected us."
"Then she's a saint and deserves your affection."
Racer blushed. "She's my new aunt, ma'am." He sat down in front of the kid, waving at her. "Hi. I'm Racer. Do you have a name?"
He grinned. "That's pretty cool. Spike would love that name." Enamel snickered at that. "He would," he defended.
"That's because Spike is a terror."
"Is he the little mouse that growls?" the girl asked. Racer nodded. "I've seen him watching us."
"Spike's really kinda smart, even though he hides it. He's learning all sorts of neat stuff, like codes and stuff, so he and his friends can talk without the adults trying to stop their fun." The girl grinned at that. "Are you going to live in this city?"
"We're moving to a village where there's a lot more like me," she admitted quietly, staring at him. "You're not scared of me?" He shook his head. "Why not?"
"Because you're a kid. Other kids might pick on you but they're only scared if they were hurt. The others would just do it to be mean. I was only hurt by Karbunkle." He shrugged. "You're not a mad scientist, are you?" She giggled and shook her head. "Then why should I be afraid of you?"
Shell walked in with Stoker. "Racer, what are you doing!" she snapped.
"Telling her that I'm not afraid of her because she's not a mad scientist," he said honestly, standing up. "Spike's been watching her too." Terror nodded. "I don't think he understands either, Uncle Stoker. I know I didn't, that's why I asked."
"He did," Enamel promised. "I would have kicked him in the tail if he were rude or obnoxious."
"True," Stoker admitted. He looked at Racer. "Why didn't you ask your momma?"
"She just purses her lips and glares at Momma Cell whenever she brings it up. Her name is Terror, I think Spike would like that name," he pointed out. Then he grinned at the girl. "I'm sure you'll have more fun up there anyway. At least you won't shed when it gets *really* hot like I do. It's kinda nasty and your fur itches and then your tail itches and your antenna itch but if you scratch hard enough to fix it, it hurts." She giggled at that. "Seriously, it does."
"There's stuff for that, it's called a good brushing and a bath," Enamel said dryly.
"Doctors always have to be as clean as possible, squirt. That's why I had to remove my earrings. I had to sterilize them each time I went into surgery when I was younger. I got tired of taking them out and putting them back in ten times a day." Racer just looked at him. "I did bike even back then, kid," he offered with a small smirk.
"He wasn't even that horrible. He barely met up to Freedom Fighter standards, but he was decent enough for a duffer," Stoker admitted.
Racer glared at him and stomped a foot. "You be nicer to him! He's helpless and nice to me! If it weren't for him, a lot of people would be dead, including me!" He looked at Terror. "If you come back this way, stop in and play, okay? Even Shot would like to play with you." He shook her hand then gave an impish grin and a wink before heading off at a run.
"Oooh, I'm gonna tell his momma on him," Stoker complained. "Did he upset you, citizen?"
"No, he was very polite, he admitted he didn't understand and as a future doctor he should," she admitted. "He told me Karbunkle had him but Staff protected him for the most part."
"Yeah, she did," Enamel agreed. "He was found on Earth and we did a lot of fixing of the ulcers he had." He wiggled to his knees, then forced himself to stand up. "Need them now?"
"Yeah. I'm assigning Cell's group to take her. They're heading that way on patrol anyway."
"They won't mind?" the mother asked.
"If they did, they're smart enough not to say it," Stoker admitted. "Cell would kill them. Cell's that kid's adopted aunt." She nodded, putting an arm around her daughter's shoulders. "Trust me, citizen, it'll be fine. You'll like it up there. Terror there will have a lot of playmates who understand her and a doc who's training just for specific medical problems they could have." She smiled and nodded, hugging her daughter. "Okay, let's get you packed and loaded. Come on and follow me." She nodded, standing up and bringing her daughter with her. "Shell, bright and early?"
"I doubt it," Enamel called smugly. "It's our anniversary. She'll be in by lunch." Stoker snorted and walked out shaking his head. He smiled at his girl. "I had no idea he was going to do that but he was very delicate. He even invited her to come play if she came back."
"At least he's not scared of her," she offered, kissing him gently. "What did you have planned for tonight?"
"Singing you the rest of this CD and then whispering in your ear for a few hours," he offered with a grin. "Maybe doing some other stuff if you beg prettily." She shivered and he winked. "Up for it?"
"I can feel you are," she teased, swatting him on the chest. He moaned and his arm moved. "Did I unblock you some more?" He nodded and pulled her close, one hand on her stomach. "Are you groping the baby instead of me?" she teased.
"For however long this lasts, I'm groping both of you," he promised, kissing her again. He pulled a blaster and shot the camera he heard click on, then went back to kissing her. "Woman, you're better than a healing spring," he said in awe, nibbling now. He looked around and lowered her to her nest of pillows, having her right there. He wasn't going to wait since he didn't know when they'd shut off again.
Enamel woke up from where they were camped, staring across the valley they were overlooking. It was a beautiful sight, one he had adored when he was younger, and sharing it with her made her sigh in pleasure and curl up against him. Anything that got him cuddled was worthy in his book to be done over and over again. He looked around, trying to find the reason he had woken up. There wasn't any noise. Shell was asleep. His arms were tingling but they were still mostly working. He didn't have any feeling in his fingertips so he knew they'd be going out again soon. He did another scan around them. No engines. No dust trails below them to show someone had recently ridden past. No noise. That's what was making him shiver. There had been noise last night. There had been noise the last time he had camped here. He stood up and grabbed the emergency pack they had stopped at the base to pick up, looking around once he had the rifle out. He moved around and outcropping of rocks, looking further up the valley toward those old temples, and stopped to stare in horror. "Oh, fuck me," he murmured, backing into the shadows. He walked back to where his woman was sleeping, nudging her awake with a foot. "Shell, we've got problems."
She woke up, yawning up at him. "Again? Honey, three times was too much for the baby, he's tired."
"Shell, there's Plutarkians up by your patients," he said patiently. He knew she didn't wake up that quickly so he made it simple for her sleep-fuzzy mind to catch. She snapped alert and stared at him. He nodded. "I need you to go back and warn the base."
"Now. My hands are working and you're still pregnant."
"I can help!"
"Shell, if you argue, I'm tying you to the damn bed tonight," he growled. "Not in the fun way." She whimpered and nodded. "Now, get on your bike and head back." She got up and pulled back on her clothes and boots, heading down to her bike. She was off within minutes and he heard the most hated sound of his life, laser fire. He took aim at the one going for her, hitting his gun but not him since he was hidden. That got him fired on. Enamel looked up at the night sky. "You wanted my help this time?" he asked dryly. Then he fell back into his mind, the old survival skills coming out. He had done this before. He could do it again and still survive. He had survived worse things than a Plutarkian crew. He would be this time because of his son and Shell. At least this time he had something to focus on and a reason to make it home. He hit that one Plutarkian, making him scream. That drew more of them. "Where in the hell did they come from?" he growled as he fired on the others. They would have been warned if a ship had taken off from Siberia. The base wouldn't have let them come out this way if they had known about a threat. He checked the charge on his rifle and grimaced. It was low. He'd have to report someone. He found the radio and clicked it on. Nothing. Not even static.
Oh, yeah, he was going to be reporting someone to Stoker for not doing their job.
Shell rode up to the base and got off, grabbing the nearest soldier. "We were camped overlooking the temple valley. There's Plutarkians."
He just stared. "Ma'am, were you drinking?" he asked. "We'd know if there were Plutarkians back on Mars."
She socked him and stomped inside, getting a few mice following her. She knew this base's commander and she kicked in her door. "Get your tail out of bed!" she hollered. The woman, her former schoolmate, jumped up, hand grabbing the blaster she slept with. "Enamel and I were camped overlooking the temple valley. There's Plutarkians."
"Do I care?" she demanded. "Enamel's still back there. I did something and his hands are working for a few hours. Now!" she said, stomping a foot. She groaned and held her stomach when the baby kicked. "Sorry, son."
The commander looked at the mice in the doorway. "Who's on patrol?"
"Hendrix, and he's not checked in yet," one reported. "I sent someone to check on him and haven't heard back yet, sir."
"Fine. Let's head to the office. Shell, honey, are you all right?"
"The baby's not a happy mouse," she ground out. "He doesn't like daddy being in danger."
"I can't say as I like it either. What happened to his hands?"
"Paralyzer beam. I swatted him last night and they're working for a bit, but they'll be going out again later." She straightened up. "We were on a shelf overlooking the open end of the valley. I watched a few of my patients at Othra's temple doing some bike exercises in the twilight."
"Sure. Let's go to my office. Let me put on some clothes." She headed back into her bedroom, coming out in her uniform. "Did you hear anything about one taking off from Earth? I know you're down there thanks to your man about every week." She walked her old friend up to her office, stopping to look at her bike. "You're damn lucky, Shell. Someone shot your gas tank." She whistled. "Bike master, come check her bike, it got hit in the tank!" An older male mouse came running and walked her bike off. She walked her up to her office, looking at her assistant. "Any word yet?"
"No, ma'am, we're unable to reach Hendrix at all, and his partner came back to base over an hour ago. He said Hendrix split off to check on the mice stored at the temple."
"And that's right where the Plutarkians were," she decided. "All right. She said there's a friendly mouse up on a shelf overlooking the open end of the temple. They could see Othra's from there." He nodded, making notes about that.
Shell looked at him. "Enamel's had to survive in the past," she said gently. "He got caught on Earth after having shot some friendlies for coming to help him save an orphanage because he wasn't that careful with his shots."
"Okay, so we've got a good shot, who will shoot at anything who moves," the commander noted dryly. "Good to know, thank you. If you have to knock him out, just knock him out, don't kill the doctor, corporal." He nodded again, writing that down too. "Take a team, go look." He hurried out, going to pass on the orders. "I don't know if I should wake up Stoker or Carbine," she said suddenly, then let out a small chuckle. "Usually it's Stoker telling us."
"Oh, let me," she said, turning on the comm. She knew Spike was up if no one else was. He still didn't like to sleep at night. He answered with a small growl. "There's Plutarkians up by the temple I've got patients in," she told him. "Go get up your father."
Spike looked at her for a moment, one eyebrow going up. "Bloody hell, woman, why now? They're trying to make one another one even though she's pregnant."
Shell let out a small chuckle at that. "Hate that for him, Spike, but it's a bad thing. He needs to know."
He smirked his most evil smirk. "Sure. Call Auntie Nibbles." He hung up and chuckled his most evil chuckle, sneaking into his parents' room. He watched them, at least they were under the sheets this time. He timed it just right, just when daddy was starting to get loud, then he leapt up and pounced his shoulders, making him scream, but get off. "Smelly bits up by the temples," he told his mommy, smirking evilly at her. "Auntie Shell called from the base."
"Son," Stoker panted.
"Plutarkians?" Switch asked. Spike nodded, smirking at her. "I know, you had fun, son. Don't do it again or I'll swat you and make you go live with Carbine for a week." Spike let out a whimper at that. "Dear, that sounds like we've got some who were kicked off their old planet and were heading for here and Earth."
"Does," he agreed, getting up and handing her Spike. He put on a pair of pants and looked at his son. "Don't do that again. I will whip your tail until it blisters. You're so grounded tomorrow."
Spike snickered. "I'll work on the baby's words," he said proudly.
"To your room, son, not even the dogs with you once this is over with. Go get your older sister up and make sure the animals are inside." He hurried out to his bike, pulling on a shirt as he stomped that way. His boots were beside the door and he slid into them, stomping down as he walked on. He made it to the base about the same time Carbine did. "We're sending Spike to you next week," he warned. "He's lacking manners again. He just pounced me."
She looked at him. "I'm supposed to do what with your parenting failure?"
He glared. "I'm a good parent, Carbine, it's his last life that's bothering him." He walked in, slamming open the door. "Shell?" She looked up and nodded. "Why are you here?"
"We were camping," she said grimly. "Enamel woke me up and got me on my bike to come up. I did something to him earlier and his arms are kind of working, but he's got low feeling."
"Oh, wonderful," Carbine said bitterly. "Any other good news?"
Shell looked at Stoker. "Do you remember why he got busted on Earth?"
He groaned and nodded. "Yeah, I do. They'll only knock him out if he's too far gone into his head this time, Shell. They know not to kill a mouse, even if he's brainwashed." He gave her a gentle pat on the shoulder. "How many did you see?"
"The one who shot at me, but he was shooting at him." She shrugged. "He woke me up and told me."
"Sure." He gave her another pat. "I want you to head to the infirmary, make sure someone's up down there just in case. Then I want you down there. When and if we find Enamel, we'll bring him down there to you. That way you can check on him." She nodded, going to do that. He looked at a nearby cadet. "Follow her, you're her escort and guard. She's a Martian treasure. Do not lose her." He saluted and hurried off. The commander came out. "How many Plutarkians and what sort of ship was it?"
"The ship's been found in one of the temples by one of Shell's patients. She said it's like nothing they've seen before. I'm guessing it's one that was heading in to the new home world from further out."
"We did share information on them with some aliens who helped us retrieve those refugees," Carbine said calmly. "Do we have a report yet, commander?"
"Enamel has shot three. Then his rifle went silent when the others rode up. Someone checked their camping spot and he's gone. They found another ten and sixteen very drugged mice. I've already sent out a medic to check them over for transport after the patrol I sent out, and sent her with another patrol." Stoker nodded at that. "How many more of these are we getting? We need another defense satellite, Stoker."
"It's being built," he soothed. "It'll be in the air within two months." She sighed and looked up and he smirked. "I know. They're rewiring the old one."
"Why can't we build a new one?"
"We have no idea how we built the last one," he pointed out. "The person who did is dead."
"We've got some plans off the internet on Earth," Carbine offered dryly. "There's a big push towards robotics down there and I've been doing searches on that." He smirked at her. "Yes, I was doing useful things." She heard the door bang open and someone walked in carrying something struggling. "Hmm, your other failure's here."
Stoker punched her, knocking her out. "I've had enough of you," he decided. He looked back. "Let my daughter go."
"Sir, I found her on your wife's bike with a rifle."
Stoker looked at his daughter. "Anya?"
"They're bad and they're ruining Mars further. They should die!" she shrieked. "I'm going to help if Spike is!"
"No, oh, hell no!" he shouted back. "I want you and Spike to be guarding your mother and little sister!"
"No!" She stared him down. "Mommy said no too. She said we could go to the edge of town and no further. Modo's momma's there too."
He raised an eyebrow and growled. "Daughter, I am countermanding my wife. You will go home. You will go guard your mother and sister. I will not have you or them hurt. Do you understand me?"
"No!" he roared. "Now!" He pointed and she sighed, nodding and heading back. "And I will be checking, Anya!"
"Yes, daddy. Mommy said it'd be somewhere safe though."
"I do not give a damn! Find your brother too!"
"He and Racer took off after Uncle Enamel," she called as she stomped back to the bike. "They're taking him to Uncle Wrench's house."
"Fine. Thank you!" He took a deep breath and glared at the commander when she started to giggle. "It's not funny."
"Yes it is," she assured him, beaming at him. "We were worried about her, Stoker. Now we know she's just artistic but she can still whip tail with the best of them. She's definitely your little girl."
He gave her a sheepish grin. "She is, isn't she?" He called Modo's Momma's bike. "What the hell are you doing out there with those children?"
"Do not snap at me, Stoker. This is a totally protected spot. They're gathering the children here to be removed if necessary."
"Wonderful. You seem to be missing a few. I just saw my daughter, who was apparently heading off on her mother's bike with a rifle."
Modo's momma moaned. "She's just like Rimfire some days," she complained.
"Good. Now where's my son and Racer?"
"Racer!" she hollered. No answer. She let out a growl worthy of Spike. "Where?"
"She said they headed after Enamel. We're going to have to have a talk with those kids."
"No doubt. Well, I see Piston. I don't see Ramjet, but I see Thruster. Thruster! Where is your sister?" Something too quiet to be heard over the radio was said. "Excuse me!" she demanded. "Get her back here, right now!" Thruster apparently told her no because she growled again.
"Wait there, momma, I'm sending some cadets out to help." He looked at the base commander, who just nodded and went to do that, still giggling. "Sorry, she thought it was cute Anya took off to go help."
"Well, we knew she was your daughter, Stoker. It doesn't surprise me at all. I'll have Xander talk with the children later."
"Sure. Like that'll help."
"Oh, it will. He'll point out the need for training for now. They're only young."
"Yeah, it's a good thing mice age faster than humans. Human kids at that age are barely speaking in sentences."
"Yes, well, we're still more animal than humans are. We're closer to our animal past and prior relatives. How they would have put up with our kids I have no idea. I thought Rimfire was bad."
"He was," Stoker assured her. "Move the kids to a safer, protected location, momma, and we'll keep in touch. Tell me who else is missing. Base out." He hung up and hung his head, shaking it. His son was in so much trouble when he got hold of his tail.
Wrench opened the door when he heard bikes, only wearing a pair of sweat shorts. "Huh," he said, letting the boys and the older mouse inside. "What happened? The guest room is the one on the right, Racer." He nodded, leading the injured mouse that way. He looked out, then slammed the door, heading after them once he got some water and a cloth. He came in and found Spike forcing Enamel down, bending over to help him. "Spike, I need the stitching kit from the temple. Go get it. It's in the undecorated silver box." He nodded. "Racer, go get me the med pack from my office. It's in my right desk drawer." He ran off to get it and Wrench slapped Enamel's face a few times, bringing him back. "Howdy. More of them?"
Enamel groaned and held his injured arm, nodding. "About half a platoon from what I saw." He laid down with some help. "Shell?"
"The boys didn't bring her. I'm assuming she made it to wherever you sent her. I'll call her later, man. Let's get you cleaned up first." He got to work cleaning the wounds. Someone had gotten his upper right arm very well and deeply. "I'm going to have to stitch that." Enamel looked, then grimaced and nodded. "I'm sure you do it better than I do but sorry, man."
"No, I'm good with you doing it," he admitted quietly. Spike came back and he looked at him. "What were you doing out there?"
"Coming for you," he said honestly.
"Your father's going to have you eating your tail," Wrench told him, taking the box. "Thanks, Spike. Now go sit and be a normal little boy mouse." Spike snorted, giving him a look. "I don't care. At least call your mother from the office. You too, Racer," he said, taking the medical pack from him. "Now. I'm not getting yelled at for you two."
"They're heading this way anyway," Racer told him.
"The parents or the Plutarkians?"
"The Plutarkians. They're heading for the temple," Racer told him. "Otherwise we'd have taken him back to the base."
Wrench nodded, looking at Enamel. "Think you can hold on for an hour?"
"No, but I can't feel it any more."
"Fine. Racer, you wanna be a doc, come hold some pressure on his wound. I'll stitch him in a few minutes." He got up and headed back to his room, pulling open his secondary closet. He saw his rifle, his old Freedom Fighter uniform was still all together. Willow had quit trying it on apparently. He grabbed his rifle and his field specs, heading up through the passageway to the temple. He bowed at the altar. "Yet again, they're coming for your power, My Lady. Let me get on the roof." The door opened and he walked up them, calming himself. He hated these things. He really did. He saw a few bikers out in the distance and put on the specs. They were nice, they were like binoculars, letting him see out there. His rifle was modified for longer distances too. It was all part of being a sniper. His sister Repel wasn't the only one in the family. He settled in, shooting the Plutarkians trying to run his way. Two fell immediately and one kept coming. He got that one with a simple, uncomplicated chest shot, watching as he fell. "Lady, any more?" He scanned, seeing some moving shadows, but he wasn't going to risk hitting a hiding mouse. He sent up a prayer, getting an answer. He shot above the moving shadow, making it jump out and become his youngest sister. "Hey, Repel?" he called. "Want my specs?"
"No, got my own. Thanks anyway," she called back, looking at him. "How many more?"
"Enamel said he saw half a platoon. No idea otherwise."
"Cool. I'll call it in that we've got bodies." She shot them again to make sure then went to call it in and take back up her position.
Wrench did another scan, looking around. He saw another moving spot and took aim, but it was one of the local kids. "Get your tail back in the house!" he called. It ran back inside. His word was law in this part of town. The M'dreth's Highest was known to be cute, fun to play with, and smart, but he was also known to be a former Freedom Fighter and one who could and did command. He saw a large explosion and winced. "Well, Xander's not going to be happy that the temple just fell in," he said dryly, taking aim at someone else headed their way. It came into focus as a bike, with a Plutarkian riding it. "How on earth?" he muttered, considering it. "Repel? Do you see what I see?"
She shot the tire. A good compromise if the bike was tainted or if there was a mouse under the blubber. Someone else could figure that out later. "Yeah, I saw. Go back inside. I'm assuming you've got guests."
"Yeah, I've got Enamel, Spike, and Racer if anyone calls. I'm forwarding calls, Enamel's got an injury." He stood up and was fired at so he turned and shot the one doing the shooting. "Oh, wonderful. Repel, you missed some."
"Oh, fuck yourself, big brother." She turned and they worked together to get the ones who had swung behind them and were trying to hit the town from that side. It was messy but only one mouse died. She walked up to her big brother's front door, taking the gun from Spike's hands. "Not for you, little mouse."
He leaned over and bit her, making her shriek, then took the gun back and hit her in the leg. "Bet me." He shot at something moving, hitting the predatory little furry creature before it could bite her too. Then he smirked at her. "Name's Spike, love. You?"
"I've heard of you," she said, holding her arm. Then she smirked. "I'm Repel. I'm going to be having Throttle's kids."
He gave her this look of awe. "More kids for me to corrupt." Then he cackled evilly.
"Spike, quit, we've got to help Enamel, be evil later," Racer called. "Besides, your sister got caught by the patrol. Your dad's livid."
"Yay. Sissy can protect momma and she's a good shot too. Xander made sure of it." He winked at Repel. "Want something to drink, love?"
"Nope. I'm going to report in and do a sweep with the patrol when it gets here. Go back inside, little mouse." She shoved him inside then shut the door, walking off shaking her head. Wait until she told Xander about this. He'd get a good laugh and would probably help Spike with his training. At least until he was old enough to join.
Wrench walked back into Enamel's room, putting his rifle and field specs aside. "We're safe." He looked at his arm, then at Racer, who was cleaning up a more minor wound. "Nice stitching pattern, little man." He patted him on the head, grinning at him. "You'll make an excellent doc some day, Racer." That got a small smile. "I'm still not tellin' your momma where you are though."
"I called, without video, and told her we had found Enamel injured and brought him back into town. That Spike and I were safe." He looked at his friend as he walked in. "Come put pressure on this."
"I've got it," Wrench assured him. "Go wait in the temple for the adults." They headed that way. He looked at the doc on the bed, who only groaned. "You've got one hell of a protege there, doc." He sat down beside him, working on getting that bleeding stopped. "Did you ever hear about Saint Ixthias?"
"No," he said quietly. "Which one was he?"
"He was the guy who was a punk in his former life," he said dryly. "Former member of the family," he offered with a bright grin. "Used to be one hell of a troublemaker. Even his momma used to call him 'that arrogant, pretty boy bastard son of mine'." Enamel laughed, holding his chest. "Here, let me see. I doubt you wanted Racer to see anything truly nasty."
"I'm fine, just some pain."
"You need to laugh more, doc, you're too serious." He looked at him. "Anyway, Ixthias was way back when, long before we had a king or anything." Enamel nodded, letting him check his chest, then the other bleeding spots. "This was back when we were invaded the first time," he offered. "They formed a Freedom Fighter unit, there weren't too many of us in the cities and a lot more scared people back then. So they fought. Ixthias started out such a punk. But he knew how to cause his enemies hell. The Freedom Fighter commander back then refused, flat out refused, to let him join because of his rep." He smirked at him. "Probably a good idea. If there was ever a mouse who wouldn't take orders, it was him." Enamel nodded at that. "So Ixthias did it on his own. He and his gang, for want of a better word, headed out to deal with the invaders. Ixthias had a real knack with explosives you see, and they were quickly running out of supplies in the enemy camp. The commander back then had him arrested and brought up on charges."
"Idiot," Enamel muttered.
"Basically, yeah, and the judge told him that and gave Ixthias a commendation for him and one for everyone in his gang. Now, of course, it doesn't have a happy ending. The invaders at the time heard about why he was captured and put it together with their supply and ship problems."
"They attacked the courthouse?"
"Oooh, that's putting it mildly," Wrench said mildly, tying off the bandage he was using with another one overtop of it. "That should help that. He does stitch pretty. I'll have to get Repel to work on his needlepoint somehow."
Enamel smirked. "I did that during my training. They sell kits on Earth."
"I'll have to tell her that. She's another good field stitcher, but she hates playing medic. She said she can't see those who are near death and going over in pain without wanting to help them not feel pain."
"I remember that feeling," Enamel agreed quietly. "So, who survived?"
"Ixthias heard the engines of the ship they were using. They were going to bomb the hell out of the courthouse. He yelled, and a few people made it to safety in an underground hatch. It was only big enough for six or seven people. The judge. Two of our earlier members. One of his crew, and his girl," he offered with a small grin. "She was heavily pregnant and he shoved her in there and stood on top of the hatch to keep it closed because she had overfilled it." Enamel nodded at that. "Everyone else died, and then the tail whipping really began," he said dryly. "Then, the earlier members, brought Ixthias to the Order's attention and they made him a Saint." He grinned. "It's an honor to be asked to join that group. For some reason I saw a new medal sitting on the altar as I walked past." He checked the bleeding spots again. "You'll live and only have a few new scars, doc."
"I don't want it."
"So? It's like a knighthood. You can't refuse it." He smirked. "It's not a medal even Xander can run away from." That got a small smirk, then a hiss as Enamel shifted some. "Got another one?"
"A bite on my leg."
Wrench looked and winced. "Eww, one of those furry creatures." He opened the medical pack and pulled out the antidote, not even warning before he injected it. Enamel kicked him and he chuckled. "I heard you ambushed Xander when he got eaten by the sucker."
"Yeah, well, I had to. I was sitting on his back, but at least I warned him." He scowled. "How's Shell?"
"Probably fine." Someone pounded on the door. "Spike, go bite them."
"Sure," he called, going to answer the door. He smirked at the soldier. "I got told I could bite you."
"Your father's nibbling his tail," he growled, pulling the kid outside and taking him back to the base.
A female knocked and walked in. "Highest, might you know where Racer is? Or Anya? She never quite made it home."
He concentrated. "Racer's in the temple. Anya's at home, she's just up on the roof." He looked back at her. "You can tell her mother she's in her looking spot."
"Thank you, Highest. Is he all right? His wife wanted to know."
"She said we could bond after the baby was born," Enamel said with another hiss as the puss started to run out of the bite. "Think you could bandage that too?" he complained. "It looks gross."
"It does," Wrench said, giving it an odd look. "Eww." He looked at him. "I'm not sure I should." He looked at her. "Love, can you please tell Shell to bring her pretty tail here to look at this and fuss over him?"
"Please, no fussing," Enamel whined. "I hate being fussed over."
"Like Xander, you must get used to it," Wrench said dryly. "Or a medic," he offered.
"Sure. I can do the medic. He's up the street with someone who claims Spike shot him." She went to call him in then went to grab Racer and cart him home. They had their orders for when they ran into the kids. She didn't even want to mess with Cell or Modo over this one's tail. He wasn't kicking or biting like the other at least. "You're in so deep," she said when she found him.
He looked at her. "She knew I came out here. I told her. I called afterward," he said smugly. "She can't really complain."
"Bet me, son. Your Aunt Cell is about to chew tails like you've never seen before. Including the ones of the patrol you got past."
"They were noisy, it wasn't hard." He followed her out, getting his own bike. It was Modo's old one but it fit him pretty well, even though he was a lot smaller than his Uncle Modo had been. Rimfire had used it when he was his age too. "Home, the base, or elsewhere, ma'am?"
"Home, son. Cell's there with the kids."
"Damn. That means Primer's there," he complained, heading that way with her following. "I can make it home."
"I'm not having her chew my tail too, kid. But you did good getting around the patrol and getting him back."
"Thank you." On the way, he started building his arguments for why it was necessary. If he could get a word in edgewise, he'd be okay, eventually. Even if he was grounded or sent to Earth for a few weeks. He pulled up outside the house and parked with a sigh, getting off and heading to the now open door. "Hey, Auntie Primer. Were they your unit? They were really loud." He slid around her and looked at his Momma Cell, then smirked. "I did what I felt I had to do, I did it without endangering me or Spike, and he's fine now because I stitched his arm while Wrench was shooting from the top of the temple."
She blinked then pulled him over and put him over her knee, paddling him until he cried. Then she stood him in front of him. "You're still only a child and I will not have that. You worried Momma sick and I'm telling Modo and Rimfire on you," she growled. He sniffled and hugged her. "I love you, Racer, but you've got more guts than brains and I don't want to have to pick up what brains you have from the ground some day," she sighed, hugging him back. "How did you get past the patrol?"
"They were noisy." He pulled back, wiping his eyes. "I knew they weren't going to get Enamel to safety first. He's already injured, Momma Cell."
"I know that, son, but you're still in deep shit."
He winced. She never swore. He was tail deep. If not antenna deep. "I'm sorry but we had to!"
"No, you didn't, son. You could have let the big mice handle it. That's why we're *trained*."
"I know, I watched." She glared.
"If two kids can get past that unit, they're not trained," Primer told her. "I agree, Racer, you're in tail deep and sinking fast. I'd hush now. I really would."
He swallowed and nodded. "I did what I had to do. They would have killed him! A few were talking about how to do it since he was one of the banished ones! They were saying he was tainting Auntie Shell and it was a shame a good mouse was tied to him and how they should probably kill him and the baby! It's not like he could protect himself!"
"Son, you're either from a long-lost branch of the family or you're a VanWham by birth," Cell said dryly. "Stop. Now." He nodded, hanging his head. "Go up to your room and wait on Momma."
"Yes, ma'am. Can I be left alone by the twin terror mongers?"
"Yes, you're going to be all alone in your room," Cell said firmly. "I wouldn't expect to see any of your crew in the next few weeks, if not months, either." He nodded at that, heading upstairs to work on his codes. He'd apparently be needing them shortly. She leaned back and looked at Primer. "You're right about their lack of training but that was a bad time to offer that advice," she said grimly.
"Sorry, momma." She shrugged and looked outside. "Grandmomma's back." She went to open the door. "Racer's in his room. Momma just tanned his tail for you."
Cell looked at her mother. "His excuse was that they were noisy so therefore easy to get around, and that they were plotting how to kill Enamel, who is helpless."
"All true," Momma offered grimly, "but that don't make it right. Racer!" He came running down the stairs and hugged her. "That's not going to get you unpunished, son."
"No, momma, but you were out doing dangerous stuff too and you deserve a hug," he said, looking up at her. "I stitched Enamel's arm."
"I'm proud of you, boy, but you're in deep."
"I called," he reminded her. She spanked him again and he howled. "I did!" he whined.
"Son, you're not the military and you're not old enough to be a Freedom Fighter. There's a reason why I'm a *gray* mouse and it's Rimfire doing this stuff! I will not have you doing it too!"
He whimpered and looked up at her. "I had to, momma. They were gonna kill him because he had been banished."
She pursed her lips together, staring him down. "That don't make it right. You could have told us. We would have went instead."
"You had the kids, Primer's got the baby, and Cell's injured," he defended. "I'm a growing mouse and I didn't take any chances with Spike. We all know he's not the normal mouse. I'm just glad they caught Anya. She'd hate herself if she had to hurt something. Even a smelly Plutarkian."
She hugged him again. "Son, you're making me more gray by the hour. I want you to go talk with Modo today. That's the only reason you're going to be allowed out of this house for the next two months. That and school. Do you understand? No talking with Spike, nothing in codes, nothing, Racer. You'd better not get into trouble either. I figured out how to make Rimfire stop too late to stop him but I will stop you since we're no longer really at war." She stared him in the eyes. "Do you understand me?" He nodded, looking serious. "If I see one spot of mischief coming for you, I'll not hesitate to tan your tail and make you go live with Wrench for a week and keep his prayer schedule, or go live with Carbine with Spike and Anya."
"They'd just torture her into insanity," he offered dryly. She swatted his ear and he grinned. "I did what you ordered, momma. I called. I snuck around and was very careful about it. We had to change our direction three times because of the Plutarkians moving around, and Spike called it in. Not that anyone believed him," he offered. "But we did."
"I heard, son. Stoker's throwing a fit with a great many people."
"Good, make him make that patrol unnoisy. It was really easy to slip around them because they were joking and laughing about skinning Plutarkians to make boots and flags, and how to kill Enamel."
She pursed her lips. "I'll leave that to Cell, son. You're going up to your room and clean it. I'll have all those code books on my bed within an hour. Then you'll sit down and start doing your homework ahead." He nodded, going to do that. It wasn't as bad as it could have been. Momma could've spanked him for real too or sent him to live with Modo and Rimfire. Momma looked at Cell. "That is a valid complaint. I've said so in the past."
"Me too," she admitted, getting up with a sigh. "I'm heading in there to take back over training. I'll be home in a few days." She kissed her mother on the cheek. "He was good, momma, and we'll have to train him soon," she said quietly. "Or else he'll really turn into Rimfire."
"I know, dear, and I'm working on it. Modo and Xander will be training Spike, I have no doubt of that." She nodded. "So we'll let Racer do that too. They'll make sure the boys know it's not a game, it's not fun, and how to be safe and careful. After all, Xander managed to survive a demon-infested town before he knew about them and then survived while hunting them for years with only two little girls by his side. Even if one was that Buffy girl."
Primer looked at them. "You're kidding. Please tell me you're kidding?"
Cell looked at her daughter and shook her head. "Nope. Xander grew up in Sunnydale, where Willow's from. It used to be him, her, and their slayer Buffy who cleaned up that town and held it together. Xander's got a lot of combat under his belt, and not a bit of it official or welcome by most people. He's also sneaky. He gave the boys, and Ramjet of course, a code he and his former best friend worked out while they were pranking and terrorizing the town. We can't break it. Stoker found a copy and gave it to one of the trainee code breakers to work on and he can't."
Willow faded in. "Speaking as someone who used to watch them plot the overthrow of the Sunnydale library system so they could have free comic books, I never figured it out. I don't think any girl ever could and most guys would have to be able to think like Xander and Jessie." She shrugged. "Do you want me to call Rimfire back up here? He's presently pacing. Someone told him," she offered dryly. "He said he's more than willing to turn the kid into him."
"I'd rather they turned the boy into Modo," Momma offered grimly. "At least he's cautious. Something Rimfire never learned."
"So you want him to be Xander?" Willow asked, making sure.
"With a bit more caution, dear. Turn him into Throttle."
"Sure! I can do that," she offered with a grin and a wink. "We'll get started on his training right away down there. That'll at least give Xander something to do since he's off work for the winter, or until another site opens." She faded out, going to send that message down there.
Momma and Cell both winced. A bored white mouse like Xander? That was worse than two bored Vinnies!
Enamel looked up as Wrench brought him some soup. "How's Shell?"
"She's fine. They made her go check her patients out there. Most of them are okay now. She's doing another session with them and she'll be here late tonight to come cuddle you." He sat down beside him, handing him his mug while he sipped from his own. "How are you doing?"
"My leg still aches," he admitted. "But I've got two doctors probably pacing at home with Xander."
"They're both here. There were a few injuries and they jumped in to help. They're a damn good set, doc. Good job. On Racer too by the way." Enamel smirked at that and took a sip. "How are the hands?"
"Better." He took another sip. "Still no feeling so I'm waiting for the nerve impulses to die again."
"Probably while you're scrubbing your back," he offered dryly.
Enamel looked at him. "You have your antenna trimmed?"
"Order dictates," he said with a mild shrug.
"Didn't that hurt?"
"Hell. Yes." He finished his soup and settled in on the end of the bed, looking at his leg. "Well, it's no longer leaking. I should probably give you another anti-toxin just in case."
"Yeah, probably," Enamel sighed. "Do it before I finish the soup so I don't puke it back up. You cook kinda well."
Wrench smirked. "I do many things well, doc. I'm a man of many talents."
"I noticed the rifle. You were a Freedom Fighter?"
Wrench sighed, pulling out the shot to give it. This time the doctor only hissed so apparently it was working well. "I was." He looked at him. "You know I'm a bit younger than Vinnie, right?" Enamel nodded at that. "Well, Vinnie was kinda my idol growing up. He was my nearest cousin and the one who taught me how to raise pretty hell around town." That got a small smirk. "I was in training to join the Freedom Fighters when he disappeared." He curled up a bit, putting his chin on his knees. "You gotta understand some things about the family. Vinnie lost his momma about four years before he disappeared. That left one of three candidates to take over the clan because they've got to be stronger than the others. They've basically got to be the powerful ones. That left me, who was about ten at the time, Starlight, who was fucking destroyed when Vinnie and his mother both died together, and Vinnie." Enamel nodded, he had heard something about that apparently. "So Vinnie took over like a true head of the family. He helped those of us in training along. He helped some of us run our own sorties against the Plutarkians." Wrench sighed and curled up a bit, then stretched his back and relaxed. "I was a punk assed bitch then, doc. No maybes about it. I was so punk even Vinnie used to caution me and try to get me to calm down. I was such a bitch not even Stoker wanted to let me use the training course. He told me once he could see a use for me, but it wasn't a long term use because guys like me died pretty quickly." He looked at him. "I was a damn fine sniper in my day. I was also one who'd sneak out and lay explosives under any ship." He nodded at the soup. "Drink it all."
"I am," he defended, draining it. "I was waiting for my stomach to calm down first." He put the mug aside, noticing his hands were losing control. "Well, there goes my hands."
"You should probably get a bath then, doc."
"I should," he admitted, getting up. He stretched and winced. "I'll be right back."
"Sure. I'll be here. I'm done for the night and almost no one ever visits." He grinned, watching him head for the bathroom. Wrench got up and changed the bed, taking the bloody sheets out to soak them clean so they could be washed. He came back when he heard Enamel yell, helping him back up. "Gave out totally?"
"Yeah, right when I was trying to stand up," he said grimly. He looked down at his knee, then shrugged and awkwardly splashed some water on the scrape. "That'll heal faster than my arm." He let the other man help him into a pair of sweats and back to bed. "Thanks."
"Not an issue, doc. You might as well be family." He tucked him in and grinned. "There, all set for your lady to come join you tonight."
"You can stay," he offered. "I noticed you needed to talk."
"I don't mind. You should probably rest."
Enamel smirked. "You were trying to share the wisdom of your youth, kid. I've got to be able to pass on some to my own."
"Oh, I think you've got plenty and of course your kid will be trained by Xander too," he said dryly. He sat back down. "If you insist." He smirked at him. "Stoker used to ride my tail, man. He tried so hard to turn me into a good little Freedom Fighter. I had the skills. Vinnie made sure I had all the skills I could ever need, including my riding. There for the longest time I was doing stuff he wouldn't attempt. I'm one of those idiots who made it over the canyon that time we all jumped it." Enamel shivered at that. "Starlight crashed. Vinnie barely made it to the other side. I landed on firm ground and turned to smirk at him. That's why I didn't see Chassis' momma come up before she grabbed me by the ear to yell and scream at us. Oooh, momma, could that woman yell!" He shook his head. "Anyway, I was hard in training. I was running my own missions. The whole clan was. Most of us weren't joiners and the ones who had got unlimited support by the family. Vin noticed I was pretty good at field tactics so he started to nudge me that way when he could. I got to work a bit with Throttle now and then when he was feeling charitable and helping Vinnie train us. Hell, half the time Throttle thought Vinnie was off at the pools or with a lady when he was with me and Starlight and the others our age."
He shivered and curled up again. "Anyway, I was about sixteen when Vinnie disappeared. I was on the course when the news was announced. The whole base knew Vinnie and them. Everyone just stopped to stare at us. Chassis burst out crying. That's the last time I saw her cry. Starlight went rigid and then lost it, totally went catatonic. You could move him and make him move but you weren't getting a response from him. I finished the course, an anger burning through me. Stoker stopped me to talk to me," he said quietly, staring at him. "He was kind. He was really kind and nice, he offered help us finish our training when we were ready, but to take a few days off and to mourn. I told him Vinnie wasn't dead. That we could tell. That got Chassis calmed down and those of us with the power searched. We could feel Vinnie. We're the ones who told Stoker they had taken off for Plutark." Enamel moaned a bit, shaking his head. "They did. They found a ship and took off for Plutark. Just the three of them." He shook his own head, then smiled a bit. "I got Starlight out by making him see Vinnie wasn't dead. We weren't sure where he was but he wasn't dead. The others weren't dead. That small thread back into Vinnie kept him sane. He was never meant to lead the family. He's got the power but he needs a leader in front of him. Vinnie and I were a lot alike back then." He shrugged a bit.
"Then Stoker accepted me. He was still trying to get me to calm down but I was too useful not to use when I needed to go wild. I was heading the family by that time. Chassis' mother was basically the momma to the whole clan but the rest of the clan knew I was leading. We found a little cuz who could lead later, he had the power and the will to do it. Starlight took him in to help him, which his daddy hated. They ended up leaving the clan and were shot a few months later out on their own." He sighed. "We didn't have a next generation of leader until Vic and Xander. I tell you what, Xander is the best decision Throttle ever made and if he hadn't, we would have pushed Vinnie into taking him too." He smirked a bit at that. "That would have been one loud relationship though." His grin fell.
"Anyway, I was working as a sniper, and sometimes going out to freelance some minor havoc now and then in the finest VanWham family style. Vinnie would have been so proud of me, but sighing in defeat because I still hadn't calmed down any. I was letting my anger guide me. Finally, and it was a finally, Stoker slammed my tail into a chair and got into my face about the anger and the rage. He made me break totally. Then he got me working on field tactics again. Apparently Vinnie had told him I showed some promise, either that or Throttle had let it slip that I had a clue. So I became the high-ground guy. The sniper who calls the shots because he can see the whole field. Repel's got some of that too." He shifted some, letting his legs fall so they could be crossed 'indian style' in front of him. "So I'm working and going well. I've got a team I'm working with. Then a new hotshit general comes in. Stupid bastard had apparently heard about me when I was younger, decided I hadn't changed even though it was clear to everyone I had, and sent me out on a suicide mission with a team I hadn't worked with before."
"They needed Southern base back, man. They needed it badly. Southern base was in the middle of the lower asteroid plain and those temples." Enamel shuddered at that, that ground was said to be haunted. "Stoker and Carbine both complained and countermanded, but the team he picked was guys who had seen four too many battles and were ready to go die in glorious combat because he had done that to them. He decided I was too hot not to use and too powerful not to scare him. It's the sort of guy Vinnie would have popped in the nose, and I did too. So I got court-marshaled and sent as punishment. The judge was his buddy and said, in the transcripts, that I was too reckless and too badass to be a Freedom Fighter so the military should use my death to further its cause. Stoker about killed him. Carbine shot him in the throat for it." Enamel shivered at that. "I think that's the last time they worked really well together too." He sighed and shifted again. "So we went. We had a brief meeting beforehand, but the others knew they were going to die. The general told them so. He had conditioned them to think it was the highest honor and that they should want it. I knew better and I made my own plans. That general couldn't plan an assault to get out of a box canyon with only grass facing him.
"We headed down there. I was in charge. I had cut the link back to base quite blatantly after telling Stoker that I was going to make Vinnie proud and bring my tail home with as many of these old guys as I could. That was the last message they heard from us. What the general and no one else had told us was that Southern base was the new launching pad for their next assault on Mars and had recently been used as the landing pad for the Pluarkian nation." Enamel gaped and Wrench nodded. "There were about fifty ships there. They 'sploded very pretty," he said dryly, smirking a bit. "The old guys took notice of that. They had declared it hopeless. So I went and worked the old me family style magic. I blew the crap out of anything that could be blown up. I only brought a canteen, a clean shirt, and fifty pounds of explosives on my bike. And I used every bit of it. I collapsed everything but the main base, including their barracks. That saved a lot of us from dying. We were down to nearly a platoon and a half. Another ship was coming in. Chassis' unit was flying cover to try to take it down. I could feel her doing it. I also felt her crash when her ship was hit, but I knew she was fine. It distracted me though. I missed a shot. One of my guys died. That got the others fired up and they rushed the lines. Against orders."
"Oh, momma," Enamel hissed. "How many survived?"
"Not a one," he sighed. "I was backed into a corner, and I did the only thing I could think of. I prayed hard. The base had been one of Othra's old temples. I felt someone answer. I didn't care who. I offered them anything they wanted. My life, my soul, my liver, my antenna, anything, if they would make those guys be okay and take out the Plutarkians, and make Chassis be found in time. And I was answered," he said quietly. "You know how Xander went on a dream quest to find his bike?"
"No. I hadn't heard anything other than the official story."
Wrench nodded. "You probably wouldn't have. The Gods like Xander. He found a Martian temple in Sunnydale to our Protector of Innocents. They sheltered him many times when he was human and it stood," he said quietly. Enamel nodded, that sounded a lot like the Xander he knew and liked. "Anyway, I was answered. I felt Othra's power come down and surround me, shielding me from harm and keeping me from being found. And then I felt The Lady. The protector spirit of the M'dreth. She came down, she whispered in my ear about what I could do. Why I was one of the few who had the power to protect the clan. And how I could use it. I felt her possess me. I felt her take over my mind and wipe out the invaders at that moment. And then I felt the knowledge she left. We weren't alone, it was just a bad thing that we had to handle more or less on our own. They couldn't drive the Plutarkians off the physical planet for us.
"So I helped. I burned the temple clean. Then I called them back to help my team. Ten of the thirty-eight lived. Chassis lived, obviously, and was found before she had more than really bad bruising. She spent nearly six months in the hospital. But it left me so weak, man. I walked out of that temple barely, and my bike rejected me. It had liked me for the wild kid I was and it had seen what I had done. It saw how I was now tempered and reforged, and it rejected me out of hand. So I let it go. I stayed to hold the base while they went back to get reinforcements. I was captured by the next ship that came in because I was still so weak. I was barely moving by that time. They grabbed me for nearly two weeks. Gordon had me. Stoker's team saved my tail by showing up when he did. I was minutes away from being executed for the crime of clearing our base.
"At the end of the day, I was safe, I was in the hospital, and I prayed harder than ever, asking what I should do now. I felt Othra tell me to go be his for now, but I'd be the Lady's always. And I did. Repeatedly." He smiled gently. "Then I got the news that Vinnie was safe, he had escaped with the bros. I called a family meeting and went to tell them, dragging Stoker with me. He broke then. The rest of the family just stared at me. Starlight announced he wasn't heading back here, he was headed the wrong direction, basically. They were still out hunting. The clan was still mine and I made sure everyone knew as soon as Vinnie could take back over, I was handing it over. I announced them that I was becoming M'dreth and the family pitched a damn fit. Especially Starlight and Chassis."
"Because you're not the cocky kid you were?"
"Because they thought I'd never have a mouse of my own. They needed the next generation to lead the clan. Starlight was made infertile due to some torture he took here on Mars, long before he got captured a few years back. Chassis said she'd be having kids when and if Mars got free in her lifetime, or she'd have one before she got too old and let one of the aunts raise it. Most of the rest of us agreed to something like that and I agreed to father at least one mouse of my own before I died. They took me out that night and found me a girl and had me knock her up because they weren't sure I wasn't going to die the next battle. He's a cute little mouse." He smirked a bit. "I finally got fed up though. I had too much. I looked at Stoker about four years ago and said I'd had enough, I'd rather be tortured again than go back out there. He just nodded, shook my hand, and did the paperwork. I took off for the mountains and the old temples that way. I found my present bike up there. We're happy and she understands me."
"Do you see your son?"
"All the time," he said dryly, smirking at him. "He's a great warrior. One of the uncles took him in and raised him right. He's just as reckless as I was and is just as smart and obnoxious too. He's got the same skills with explosives too," he offered with a grin. Enamel chuckled at that. "At any family gathering you'll see a little tan guy off to the side with his nose in a book, that's my kid. He knows. He knew when he was five or six. His momma told him right before she died. She had some sort of cancer or something in her stomach. A fluid tumor basically and it ate her inside out. I was there when she died and so was he. He just looked at me and asked why so I told him the truth, the family wanted me to have a son and I wasn't against it. Besides, he was pretty neat and I was a dangerous mouse. He just grinned at that and decided I'm a pretty neat cousin, and that was close enough really. Every now and then he comes over but we're not that close. We're kinda buddies really. He's a lot like Chassis though. He idolizes her. I'm expecting him to threaten Stan soon." Enamel grinned and nodded at that. "He did?" He nodded. "When?"
"Halloween. I saw him sneaking around when we came home from the club. He was reading some philosophy book. Kant Versus Niche or something." He shrugged. "He seemed pretty nice, just kinda grunted and turned on the transporter, heading off. I'm not sure if Chassis saw him or not."
"No, Turbine is not subtle," he said dryly. "She must have seen him. Trust me on this, she saw him." He shook his head. "Anyway, I found my bike. I came back to the temple down here. The Highest here was moving into the city. I took over the temple and started my research and when he died last year, I prayed to become Highest. It's the only way we could fix things so they'd work. So much history was lost, even in the mystical arts, and someone's got to do it. But every now and then, that itch comes back to go out and cause harm and mayhem. Especially around Xander. He brings it out so much. That's the one urge she makes me temper. Because I can't cause harm and mayhem as the Highest, or even as one of hers. But I can teach others how to. So I'm waiting on the training to start. Then I'll start slipping in my influence with Vinnie's. We agreed at the last meeting, Vinnie won't be training his son like he did us. He'll be a lot more cautious with him. So we got Xander on our side to work with him and Ramjet and them. There will be one group of Freedom Fighters who will not ever be separated and will not ever fall. Even if they do fall from grace, they'll never fall. The only thing I'm wondering is if Ramjet and Piston were found by inspiration or just dumb luck."
"Xander reads people," Enamel told him gently. "For our anniversary, Xander made us a CD for me to sing to her. It suits us perfectly. That first song about made me cry the first time I listened to it because it is perfectly how I feel about her. I brought my pack, right?" That got a nod. "Go listen to it. Xander's a damn good reader of people."
"Then I'll take that into account," Stoker said from the doorway, lounging against the frame. "Don't train my kid any more, Wrench."
"I haven't started on him yet, Stoker," he said, looking back at him. "And tough." Stoker glared. "You're not taking advantage of his skills. Those two boys got around one of your units."
"Racer said they were noisy."
"Then you're falling down on the job, old fart," Wrench said, standing up to face him. "I've seen Racer and Spike sneak around you, Carbine, and Modo's momma all at once. Successfully." Stoker shivered, remembering that incident a little too well. Ramjet's mother had not been very pleased with her daughter's redecorated room. "Vinnie was working with us when we were Racer's age. Spike's got a leg up with his old memories. I'm just glad he finally hit that mentality spike that'll carry him from two until he's nine. Racer's about to hit his next one. You'll need them some day, Stoker, and someone's got to train them. The clan has trained many of us in the service of Mars. They're next even if you move to Plutark to run that old wreck of a planet."
"Xander would figure out how to train Spike from a distance," Enamel agreed dryly. "He's already working with Victor and those new buildings." He stared him down. "At least you know he'll be well trained, Stoker. It's not like you were, where you had to do most of your own. You think Xander's Othra's, don't you?" he asked Wrench.
Wrench nodded. "Heart, body, and soul. I don't think Othra would mind too much if he broke the chastity vow either, not with how those two make each other stronger. Then again, he could be an offshoot of the Goddess' path. She does have a militant side, but it's hardly ever heard about and they were known for drinking, pillaging, and starting their own kingdoms." He shrugged. "He's probably in one of those two." He looked at Stoker. "You can't even say you don't like his training style since you like the kid and he trained himself."
"He's never trained anyone but himself," Stoker complained.
"Actually, you like who he trained first, when he was only a teenager himself," Enamel said smugly. "He started working on Dawn when she was fourteen. He was only nineteen at the time." Stoker shivered at that. "She wasn't fully trained but Xander had to take a lot of time off her training to work on his own and go do stuff for her sister. The full time training he's going to be giving Victor will be something else. Has anyone told Charley about that mental spike yet?"
"Not yet," Wrench admitted. "I was hoping Vinnie would. Then again, he's getting happy with the thoughts of a daughter like Chassis."
"No power in her," Wrench admitted. "Which means she'll be like Repel and Chassis. She'll be a hard-riding sweetheart of a girl." He smirked at him. "It was foreseen. Her and Spike actually." He looked at Stoker again, then grinned. "Welcome to the family, Stoker."
"Fat. Chance." He glared at him. "Spike's getting enough training from me."
"Stoker, you've got other duties and no parent can train their kid fully," Enamel reminded him. "The same as Vinnie can't because he *won't*. Each and every parent's scared of their kid getting hurt. They won't teach them how to do the bigger things because they might fall off their bikes during a stunt jump. Fighting is a bad thing and sometimes you've got to get a bit hurt to win and no parent wants to think about that. Besides, someone's got to calm your son and Racer down before they get into *real* trouble. How many Plutarkians did they have to go around to come get me?"
"Racer admitted to three," he said tiredly, rubbing his left ear. "What about your kid, doc. Gonna let Xander train him too?"
"If he shows the skills. I'm hoping like hell my son is a lot like his momma and has her gentle nature instead of my temper and focus. I want my son to be a healer, not a fighter. But yeah, if Xander shows promise in the education stuff too, he's getting my kids too. By then, they'll have Vic to work out any kinks and he can go through with the new one." He smirked. "What better way to make sure he's going to be a brain and see the error of fighting than to let him watch Vic hurt himself time and again and teach him how to heal him while I teach Racer the same thing?"
"Point, but I still think I can do it."
"Stoker, who taught Spike how to ride?" Wrench asked.
"And how to shoot?"
"I took him out to do targets."
"Uh-huh. And he stood in my doorway earlier and shot at the Plutarkians," Wrench told him. "Who's bright idea was that, Stoker?"
"I'm going to tan his ass this time," he growled. "He did what!"
"Before I could stop him," Wrench admitted. "He bit Lariat too." He smirked. "Face it, Stoker, your son is a hellbeast. You're doing good, but you're not going to let him go fight. You don't want to see your son with scars any more than Enamel wants to see his son with scars."
"My son had better not have scars," Enamel said firmly. "Did you see something about him?"
Wrench looked up, then smirked at him. "The Seal says he'll temper Anya some year, but until then he's going to have her brains, her skills, and your focus. Plus he's going to be a player. Just like you when you were younger."
"Wonderful," Enamel said dryly. "How old will he be when he settles down?"
"She'll be about ready to move past child bearing." He looked at Stoker again. Then back at Enamel. "He'll have a love earlier but his broken heart will mean he won't commit for a very long time she said." He looked at Stoker again. "You said it yourself, Stoker, family doesn't train family fully. That's why you took Chassis from Vinnie's care so young. Why you kept trying to keep me from turning into Vinnie myself." Stoker nodded at that. "So we're going to do the same for Spike. He's going to be all the mouse he can be. You know Xander can train. He trained himself. He trained Dawn then handed her to Throttle to finish when he realized she was still a bit girly. Had she been around as a younger child, he would have started much younger on her. Fourteen or not, she'd have been in that battle inside the Hellmouth with him. Consciously or not, Xander was training his replacement. Dawn is Xander TNG." Enamel snickered at that. "Isn't she?"
"Definitely, and when he needed help with her, he found her someone to help her. Xander is very good at reading people, Stoker, and he's very good at finding people who can help him when he can't do it himself." He shrugged, then winced. "Ow."
"What did she do to you?"
"She swatted me on the chest. I have no feeling and now limited movement. It's slowly going away again." He shrugged again, then winced and hissed. "Ow. He made some of those stitches way too tight."
"Eh, he's young, he'll know better on the next person he's got to stitch," Wrench offered with a smirk. "Racer stitched him while I was up on the roof."
"Fine, but I still say I can train my own son," he complained.
"Just like every other parent who drops their kids off at defense lessons," Enamel reminded him.
"Just wait, doc."
"Hey, Xander's getting mine from birth but I'm making sure he knows I want my son to be a brain instead of a jock. Shell already knows and agreed, we can't send them to school up here every day when I'm not living here."
"You're allowed back now," Stoker assured him.
"Then who'd make Xander take care of himself?"
"Throttle?" Wrench suggested. Enamel gave him a 'get real' look. "I know, the boy hides it so very well, but he's still got that insecure layer about him. The boy never learned how to love, only to cling and fuss. He's learning, it's just taking him a while. By the time they're old mice, like Stoker here, he'll be secure in the love he's got."
"Hopefully before then," Vinnie said as he slammed the door. "Where's Enamel?"
"In here. Bandaged, stitched courtesy of Racer, and fed. Where's Shell?"
"In labor, early. He's wanted. She called Xander and he suddenly sat up in the middle of _Men in Tights_ and said I've got to come find him and get him there." He shrugged and walked in, helping him up. He looked at the outfit, then snorted. "It'll due for now, doc. Come on. You can ride with me." He walked him out, taking him back to the hospital on the base. They hadn't wanted to move her. He got stopped by the guard and sneered at so he punched him. "His wife's in labor. You're not stopping him." He rode on, walking Enamel to the infirmary, only having to hit a few more people on the way. "Now I know why he sent me," he joked as he led the way in. "One spouse, doc. Need anything else?"
"Pain killers," she growled.
He chuckled. "You and Charley both," he offered with a grin. "Just think, you wanted *how* many?"
"I'll gut you later, when I can get up from this bed!"
Enamel leaned down to kiss her on the forehead. "Make Xander pounce him instead, that way he can be teased and left hanging," he whispered. She looked up at him. "It's all right. This is the easy part of labor." She whimpered and he stroked her forehead clumsily. "Sorry, it's starting to go again."
"Doc, here," Vinnie said, sticking the thing on his neck.
"Ooooooh, shit!" He winced and wiggled. "Down, lower and to the right." Vinnie moved it and Enamel grabbed his chest. "Too far." It was shifted again and someone swatted him, moving it for him. "Thanks." He gripped the side of the bed, panting hard. "Oooh, that hurt." He shook his head, then kissed his girl, letting her soothe his pain while he distracted her from hers. "Better now." She smiled and stroked his cheek. "Thanks, Vinnie."
"He left while you were sucking all the oxygen from her body," the nurse said dryly. "What does that do?"
"Temporarily gives me back feeling in my hands and arms," he said, looking at her. "Wrench found an older account. It can be used for half an hour, once, safely. So I'll let someone take it off after I hold my son."
"What about the nerve damage," Shell whispered, stroking his cheek.
"Fuck it, honey. I'm helping you through this and holding my son," he said firmly. "Argue with me, have twins next time."
She snorted. "There's no way we're ever having sex again," she assured him, gripping his arm as another one started. "Damn it, it's too fast!"
"Actually, it's kinda normal," he offered. He didn't mind the pain, it was part of the process and he was happy to feel it too.
Enamel walked through the transporter, letting Wrench get his girl while he had the more precious burden in his arms. He walked him into his room and carefully put him in his crib, then settled his girl in the bed and tucked her in, stroking her hair and kissing her gently, then he removed the little zapper and hissed, his arms going mostly limp.
"You're not getting out of diapers that easily," Xander called from somewhere near the library. Shell and another female up the hall laughed. He came in and smiled, handing her a mug of something. "Here you go, herbal stuff to help the ache, and you can have the hot tub all to yourself later, Shell. You deserve it and Charley said it helped."
"Thanks." She sipped her mug of laced tea, looking at her mate. She noticed the twitching and stared at his hands, then at him. "You'd better not be more hurt or my very last mood swing will be yelling at you for being so dumb."
"I'm sentimental, get it right, woman," he snapped, glaring down at her. "I'll gladly take any nerve damage to be able to hold you and our son."
"Fine, but when you start to ache...."
"She's just cranky, doc," Xander said, moving to look at his back. "You know, if you didn't have this huge knot right here, I bet you'd be better." He tapped it a few times then got to work on it, making Enamel hiss and wiggle, but he got it out. Then the doctor groaned and gripped his hands as full feeling shot back into them. "Welcome," he said cheerfully. "So I hear I'm turning this one into a future doctor?" Shell nodded. "Cool." Then he smirked. "I'm getting the exercise stuff set up tomorrow." He smiled down at the baby. "Hi, baby. I'm Uncle Xander. You'll have so much fun playing with me!" He teased his little belly then let him sleep, heading back to brag he had gotten to tickle the baby first.
"We're moving home when?" Enamel asked quietly.
"When you find us a bigger place to live so we have our own bedroom?" she suggested lightly. "With a bigger bathroom too please, dear." Then she smiled. "Please?"
He groaned and nodded. "Yes, dear. If you insist." He kissed her again, laying down next to her to cuddle her, now that he could do that again.
To Part 71