Xander looked around the desert he was standing in, frowning a bit. He knew this was Mars, it was obviously Mars, but he had never been here before and this didn't feel like a dream with a visitation in it. He looked around, frowning a bit. "What the hell?" he asked, then realized his voice was off. He looked around, finding his bike sitting a bit away. Actually, it was Vinnie's bike and Vinnie's voice had just come out of his mouth. "Oh, sure, of course," he said dryly, going to look in the mirror on the bike. Sure enough, he looked like Vinnie. "I'm not him," he called. He saw something moving in the distance and frowned, then looked at the bike. "Track it?" It beeped enthusiastically. He shrugged and got on, heading after the dust trails. He saw a few sand raiders and winced. They had a screaming young woman with them. Charley. Huh. He pulled up Vinnie's blaster, taking aim as he rode. The one in front got hit on the tire, making it flip. The other one without a hostage he hit the gas tank. He pulled up beside the one carrying Charley and grabbed her with his tail, pulling him over. "Hey, babe." He shot the sand raider point blank, watching as it died and the dune buggy ran into a rock and flipped, bursting into flames once it landed. "Good." He stopped, looking around. No others. He looked back at Charley, who was shaking. "Are you all right?"
"You're not Vinnie!" she said, hopping off the bike to stare at him. "Who are you!"
"Xander." He swung a leg over so he was leaning against the bike. "Sorry, dear, but this is his nightmare and I'm not sure how I got here." She looked really confused. "Do you remember a Xander?" She shook her head. "Then it's not your nightmare." He grinned and set the blaster on the lowest setting, then shot himself on the foot. He woke up panting and staring around their room. He looked at Throttle. "What the hell was that?" he asked, sounding pathetic. "Huh?"
Enamel looked around the field, then down at himself. "Why am I Modo? I'm nothing at all like Modo," he complained, looking confused. He looked up, hearing a ship landing, and got out of the way before it landed on him. He watched as someone came off, waving his normal arm. "Hey, his momma."
"Not quite. An odd nightmare. I'm Enamel, ma'am. I used to date your daughter?"
"Quit funning, Modo." She looked him over and frowned. "Son, why are you metal?"
Enamel frowned. "Hey, it wasn't his fault." He shrugged. "He got captured one too many times."
"This is not right, son, this is why I didn't want you to join the Freedom Fighters!" she said shrilly.
"Whoa, lady. I don't know who you are, but Modo's momma loves him more than her own life and she's the one who encouraged him to become a Freedom Fighter. So you're not his mother." She just stared in shock and horror, so he walked off, going to hop on Modo's bike and take off. Once away from others, he stopped to think about it. "Okay, Lil' Hoss, you're pretty smart. How do we wake him up?" She beeped then suddenly moved, tossing him off and onto the sands. It was enough to shake him awake, making him blink at the ceiling. "Uh-huh," he said dryly, looking a bit confused. "What the fuck?" He got up and went to check on the rest of everyone, starting with his son. Healer was napping peacefully so he left him alone for now, heading toward Dawn and Rimfire's room. He heard Rimfire wake up panting and tapped gently. Rimfire got up and opened the door, still looking confused. "Did you just have a really odd dream?"
"Yeah, Grandmomma just repudiated me and sent me away. Which she'd never do!" He leaned on the door. "You?"
"I just had a dream I was Modo and his mother repudiated him for being partly metal and she screamed at him about not joining the Freedom Fighters. His bike tossed me and I woke up."
Xander opened his door and looked at them. "I was just Vinnie rescuing Charley from some sand raiders." They both gave him a mystified look. "I have not a fucking clue," he admitted. He looked back as Throttle jerked awake and groaned. "Odd dreams?"
"Why was I just Vinnie?" he asked, looking at Xander. "I kinda heard yours as an echo too. Mine was down here, he didn't rescue her from the Loogey Brothers when they let her go in mid-air."
Xander shrugged. "Not a clue, man." He looked at the other two. "Okay, someone go get up Modo and someone go get up Vinnie. We'll meet at the table." He went to put on some clothes. He didn't want to sit around naked for this. He trudged up the ramp, heading to start some coffee for himself and Enamel. They were both caffeine whores first thing in the morning and would need it to think clearly. He saw the can in the cabinet and grimaced. "Ick," he muttered, but he made it anyway. It was the only coffee in the house. Once it was brewing, he wandered out to look at the others. Vinnie was trudging too but looked really confused as well. "Who were you?"
"I was me, kinda," Modo offered. "But I wasn't in my body, I was watching my body." He looked at Enamel. "You said you were me."
Xander blinked at that and held up a finger, going to get some of the finished coffee. He'd need it apparently. Then he headed back to the library to get the book on dreams and dream magic. He came out flipping to the index, finding something odd. He sat down to look and read, sipping the foul coffee. "Enamel, fair warning, we're down to the emergency stash of chock-full-o-nuts coffee."
"Eww." He went to get some anyway. He needed caffeine. He came back to the table to drink it while Xander read. "Anything good?"
"Yeah, a nightmare shooting monster," he admitted dryly, taking another drink. He yawned and blinked hard. Then woke back up. "Eww," he said, shoving the book away. "That's gross and grody."
Vinnie frowned and looked at his little brother. "That's not Xander."
"It is Xander," Rimfire said.
"It's not," Enamel offered. "Wrench!"
"Damn it, don't wake up the ladies," Rimfire complained, swatting him. "Dawn's worn out."
Vinnie gave him a long stare. "Next time, leave her body sooner, Rimfire."
"I'll have you know I only practiced my oral skills tonight and it was all homework. She was still doing some when I collapsed. We had sex after dinner so we could take a nap." He sipped the coffee. "Is it supposed to smell like that?" Enamel took another drink and nodded, grimacing a bit. "That's not the good stuff, right?"
"Hell no," Enamel said bitterly. Wrench came up the stairs yawning and rubbing his eyes, his boxers on backwards so he had apparently just dressed. "You missed a fashion step," he noted dryly, taking another sip. "Xander's not Xander."
Wrench looked at him, then nodded. "Yeah, he is, he's just not your Xander." He went into the bathroom and came out with his boxers on right, looking at his cousin. "Hey, Xan?" He looked at him, shaking himself free of his thoughts. "Which Xander are you?"
"I'm Jessie's Xander," he offered with a shy grin. "I know you, man."
"You should." He sat down across from him. "So where's our Xander?"
"Oh, he's going over a few private thoughts. I'm covering for him for a few minutes." He looked confused and blinked a few times, then looked at Enamel. "Why were you a tan mouse when we first met and a gray mouse now?"
"Fur dye," he said dryly, finishing the coffee. "Why can't he be in charge?"
"Because if he does he can't use most of his brain for this one. Every once in a while we do this."
"Is this like multiple personalities?"
"No, just a repressed part of himself that he had to wall up for a bit," this Xander offered with a grin. "Shell said it best, they broke me and changed me."
"So you're pre-Buffy Xander," Vinnie said, getting it. "Willow was different?"
"When we were younger, Willow had the most *massive* crush on me. I was her God and the only one she wanted touching her loins." He shrugged. "Then Buffy came." He gave him a sardonic grin. "Let's just say I'm a part of Xander's psyche that doesn't come out often, but I'm still in here watching. I'm his childish innocence at times."
Willow appeared, looking at him. "I always figured he had done that." She looked at Vinnie. "Meg's cousin still has you guys mismarked on her site, did we know this?"
"No," everyone said.
"Oh, hell, no wonder I got Modo's dreams," Enamel said suddenly, sitting up. "Who hired someone to shoot nightmares at us?"
"Not a clue," Willow admitted. Wrench stared at her and she beamed. "What? I'm not allowed to tell. Oh, and the Powers are back," she said sweetly, smirking at him before disappearing.
"I'm going to kill them," Vinnie said bitterly, going to get his own drink. "Rimfire, want a rootbeer? Anyone else?"
Throttle came up the ramp. "Get me one, bro. Modo?" Modo jerked awake. "You could probably go back to bed. This is going to get strange."
"Sure. I'm going to go protect my lady," he promised, heading to curl around her. Nothing was getting near her.
"So why just us guys?" Rimfire asked with a yawn.
"Because there's no females listed on the website," Xander told him. "Sarah's site is only about the Martians. It's got you three, who are mismarked, and then you and Stoker, Rimfire." He smirked at him. "I have no idea why she never fixed that, but someone might want to remind her some day soon." He looked at Throttle. "He's having a deep thought moment."
"I can still hear him," he admitted. "What's going on?"
"Welll," Xander drawled, getting comfortable. Vinnie handed him a soda and he beamed. "Thanks, man." He beamed at his mate. "They want you guys insecure. Plagued by nightmares and doubts. Doing that would mean that...." He blinked again and the regular Xander took back over. "Wolfram and Hart," he said bitterly. "They've hired someone to make the doubts magnified. It'll throw us off our game. If I'm right, then they're going to try to make us enact the dreams. Which means I'm going to be saving Charley from some sand raiders. Vinnie?"
"I was a human mouse," he admitted. "Does that mean I'll shrink? Mine was being hit with thrown shoes to try to kill me."
"Well, if you suddenly find yourself six-inches high and being plagued by shoes, then go hide in Modo's pocket. He's going to be able to bat them out of the way." Xander looked at Throttle. "Be right back. Gotta go back to my deeper thoughts and memories." He blinked and the younger Xander came back. "Sorry, he's mining the memories of some of the things that have taken him over through the years." He looked at Enamel. "Did you have to bleach yourself for the fur dye to take?"
"No, I went tan by using a blonde dye. Miss Clairol works for us too. You just gotta use three boxes," he admitted dryly.
"Yeah, but you've got skin coloration and little sheathe hairs too. How did you dye those?" Xander asked.
Enamel coughed and blushed. "I didn't leave them on that long, kid. Quit being so nosy."
Xander just grinned. "I was thinking jade designs on my stomach actually," he offered.
"Fat. Chance," Vinnie said firmly. "No fur dye. Charley would laugh her tail off." He sipped his rootbeer. "How do we fight this thing?" Xander pointed at the book so he pulled it over to look at with Wrench. "What did you get?" he asked him.
"You being a human mouse and getting hit by shoes."
"Xander got to see the rescue of Charley from the sand raiders," Throttle offered bitterly. "He took them out while they were still running."
"Which I didn't get to," Vinnie admitted. He looked at him. "These nightmares are almost comical. Do they really think this is going to weaken us?" He looked at Xander. "Being six inches high is bad, but there's worse nightmares out there."
"It's meant to disturb your sleep and start self doubts about how you see yourself. Modo's was obviously meant to rock the foundations of his personality, his mother's confidence and love in him," Xander offered. "I'm pretty sure this was a test dream since they don't know who is who. There's unknown mice here so she generalized the extra gray mouse as Modo, not knowing which one he was. Throttle and Vinnie were switched." Vinnie looked up at that. "You never realized you weren't yourself?"
"I wasn't really paying attention to that." He thought back, then shook his head. "No, I was me."
"Yeah, but the second one you weren't," he said smugly. "The second one we all had, we white mice were Throttle and he was you." He looked at Throttle, who just nodded. Vinnie still looked confused. "Maybe you got up too soon, but Xander had a second one too. She got mixed up because of Sarah's site."
"Can we get Sarah to help us figure this out and fight it?" Throttle asked.
"Nope. Sarah's been offline now for about six months. Meg won't say why." He shrugged. "We can get Meg and Oz to help us fix it," he offered. That got a round of nods. He looked at Enamel. "How long did the fur dye last?"
"About the normal time. I had roots in about four weeks," he offered dryly. "You're really focused on that, Xander."
"Yeah, well, I always wanted purple hair." He grinned sweetly. "I need to hit Hot Topic." Throttle shook his head. "Just as a design? Not all over? It'll be like a tattoo, only changeable."
"No," Throttle said, shaking his head. "If you want a tattoo, you can have a tattoo, but no fur dye."
"Shoot." He pouted a bit, then looked at the book and Wrench. "It's starting?" He nodded. "You're sure?" He nodded. "He figured as much. Oh, he's coming back in the morning. For now, just hang on. Let me call Meggy and wolfpuppy." He summoned over the phone and dialed with a sigh, getting a grumpy sounding mother. "Meggy, it's Xander. No, honey, actually I'm an early Xander, Jessie's Xander." He beamed. "No, small sitch. There's a demon hotfooting through the dreams based on Sarah's site and she's still got us mismarked. So we white mice got Throttle's and stuff. Yeah, trying to erode and make us doubt. Sure!" He beamed. "Hey, wolfpuppy." He chuckled at Oz's growl. "You don't remember calling yourself that back in junior high?" He smirked. "I do!" He beamed. "Yup, I'm Jessie's Xander actually. He's going through the memories he sucked in while being possessed. No, a demon doing the foxtrot through our dreams. No, it's starting. Sure. Love you too, man, but she's using Sarah's fact site. Yeah, and she's not online right now either."
He smirked. "I thought you might, yeah. Well, we can babysit and you can use mine. Nah, the big demon wimps. Yeah, them. I still don't know if they've teamed up for good with Limburger or not actually. Can you find that out? Thanks, man." He switched back, his voice sounding a bit more tired now. "Hey, Oz. Me again. Ah. No. No, I just hid a part of me from the evil wenches of friends of mine. No, I put him up as a shield when I'm deep in thought and those memories. You've seen him before and thought I was just being goofy. Yeah, back in junior high. Back before Dingoes." He licked his lips. "Okay, we've got an Interrupter demon. We've also got some other odd crap coming. No, you know how I told you I got told it'd take about four years and then I'd have to pick something? Well, someone moved up their time table so it's starting. No, it shouldn't be that bad, just enough to make me beg. Oh, and Wills said the Powers are back. Did you have the kid checked by Lorne yet? Yeah, him. Please. You might want to make sure. Just in case. You were there and they might count it. I've never been sure on that. As far as I could tell, they haven't, but.... Yeah, definitely better to be safe than sorry. Yeah, I knew she did. I had to take her to one of the shops to get something. They wouldn't sell to her because of who she is. Yup, there. So get Lorne to check. No, I've got a clue," he admitted. "I'm just wondering about timing. Thanks. Yeah, let me know if you find anything about the demon. Thanks, man." He hung up and looked at Wrench. "If I ask now, would it stop?"
Wrench shrugged. "No one ever suspected you could do that. You're not one to pick."
Xander just smirked and shrugged. "It's an option at the moment. Otherwise I'm going to have to get to the point where I want to scream and I don't want to do that yet. The last time I screamed at the Gods was when Willow had just went bad. I don't want to get to that point again."
Wrench nodded. "Good point. In my own experience, it helps to *need* it at that time but you may be able to get around that since you're so attuned and they're kinda listening for you."
"Why do I feel like someone somewhere is taking bets?" Vinnie asked.
"Because they are," Throttle told him bitterly.
"Hey, everyone wants their own Xander," Enamel said dryly, getting up to get some more coffee. "Xander, want some more bad stuff?"
"No, I'm good. Thanks though." He leaned on the table, looking at Wrench. "Is it *just* me?" He considered it then nodded quickly. "You're sure?"
"As far as I've heard." He leaned back. "No one's told me otherwise."
"Why does it matter who he goes to?" Throttle asked.
"That's what I was wondering," Enamel offered as he came back. "Why him?"
"Because Xander is a Champion," Vinnie said grimly. "Chosen from birth to do something." Xander nodded. "What though?"
"Save the world, Pinky, just like we do every night," Xander said with a smart smirk for him, getting a snort in return. He looked at Enamel. "Every time the world was going to end before, the slayer handled it. This time, Buffy had *way* too much to deal with. The Powers wanted to make it more challenging. They knew Glory was going to be coming. They knew that the ascension we stopped in high school was coming. Every other time, the slayer was backed up with more Watchers. Buffy wasn't raised by the Watcher idiots though." He looked at Wrench. "And why was that?" he asked with a sweet smile.
"Because we blocked them from knowing about her," he admitted dryly, smirking back. "How did you know?"
"Not an issue at the moment," Xander told him, then looked at Vinnie again. "There's a spirit that guards the M'dreth. The Lady. She's kinda a daughter to the Goddess but not worshiped that same way." Vinnie nodded slowly at that. "She knew there were going to be faults in the next few girls if Buffy fell. She literally looked ahead and had an 'oh shit' moment when she saw Kendra's lifeline was fairly short and she was too focused to do the job well when odd things happened. Faith had flaws in her personality that allowed her to turn. The next six girls, only four of which made it to Cleveland, all had personality and training flaws. None had been taken by the Watchers and they weren't looking for them. I'm not sure why, but I think there's a prophecy somewhere about the slayers all being activated and the Watcher's Council being bombarded or destroyed. Either that or they got lax in their arrogance. Unless The Lady helped?" he asked Wrench. Who shook his head, still smirking. He looked at Vinnie again. "So The Lady made sure Buffy would have the help she needed to survive and make it past all that. Me, Willow, and Giles as her watcher, because he wasn't a field watcher by any means. Giles and Wes were both research watchers. The fact that Wes turned out the way he did, well I'm guessing here but I'm thinking someone had a need for a new one after I got tossed on my ass for not killing Willow."
He leaned back, sipping his cola quietly for a moment. "So the Powers appointed a champion. Now, what not everyone here knows was that there were two possibilities. Jessie and me. Jessie was turned and then killed by my hand. It was the link they needed to make me the Champion. Had I not had to stake him that night, I'd have walked away. I might have come back when my openness came back to bite me on the ass, but not for good. I'd have been a collaborator instead of a team member. Which would have meant Buffy falling. Since Buffy couldn't fall or the world would end...." He smirked at Vinnie, then at Wrench. "It was made to be."
Wrench nodded. "The Lady had nothing to do with Jessie, Xander. She swore to me that she didn't have a thing to do with that. That was all the Powers. Yeah, once you were chosen she saw you being on Mars to help us too, but nothing like that. She said she had nothing to do with your life before you were Chosen."
"You knew?" Vinnie demanded.
"All I knew was that he was a former Chosen who had been tossed over, and that he was a protector. That he'd be with you some day, Vin man. I had nothing to do with any of that and neither did The Lady. She was more than happy to wait for him to come to us once he found that temple."
"All but the sending down of that crystal," Xander said dryly. Wrench looked shocked. "The other half's still sitting on your desk, man."
"It is?" Xander nodded. "Huh?" Wrench still looked really confused.
Xander snickered. "I find I've had that feeling a lot. Yeah, that part was manipulated. They needed me to meet these guys. Someone somewhere twisted the line. I'm guessing here but probably Anya."
"I still don't see how you dated her, Xander. I'm in awe that you nearly married that girl," Wrench said dryly.
Xander beamed. "Thanks." He looked at Vinnie. "Out of all of this, the only contrived thing once I was Chosen, the only thing the Powers did not do to me, was send me here to Chicago the first time. That came directly from Mars, but I'm not sure who if The Lady didn't. By that time, Willow was starting to go bad so the Powers were losing interest in me. I was down to the last box on my checklist of tasks to complete before I was killed and LA was more interesting at that time. They were working on Wes to take my place in the battles against the First Evil. They didn't expect me to live past Glory so they were working to save the world after that so they wouldn't lose their playground. Then Willow screwed with things. I survived Glory. She brought back Buffy. And someone up there suddenly took very large notice when their chessboard overturned and the pieces got thrown back in their faces."
"How did they get the crystal here?" Throttle asked.
"The crystal's origins were noted in all the books as 'unknown but first found among the druids in Killshire'."
"Which is where the M'dreth priestess came down to study," Wrench admitted, then moaned. "She gave it to them?"
"It was a regular crystal, the Druids charmed it," he admitted. "When I kept seeing that, and after I had found the temple, a few pieces started to fall into place. Then we sent Willow to England to heal after she went bad. I talked with a few of them. They said they were instructed to send it to Chicago in a dream. One said the voice was male. One said the voice was female. One said she was tone deaf and couldn't tell the difference. So the crystal got sent so someone could make sure I met you guys. The temple in Sunnydale was great, but it wasn't even making me curious. It was to protect me, not to heal me or to make me want to come to Mars." He put down his can and looked at them. "Then the Powers miscalculated their play and I lived. Which worked out well for them in the end, but still sucked major monkey balls on my end." He looked at them, then at Wrench again. "So The Lady had nothing to do with anything but that crystal coming down. I'm guessing here but if it wasn't her directly, she called in a favor."
"She probably did," Wrench admitted dryly. He looked up. "You could have clued me in!" he complained. He got a sudden splitting headache and groaned, holding his head. "Sorry, I won't whine again, Lady. You're right, I'm a mortal and therefore don't need to know." He squeezed his eyes shut and felt something be popped into his mouth and his can of rootbeer be held up, so he swallowed, trusting Xander again. He knew the guy wouldn't hurt him. He blinked at him, wiping off the tears. "What's that?"
"It's called Tranquility. It's meant for Seers," he said with a smirk. "I've got a small stash downstairs. After all, that's why Caleb popped my eye - so I'd See." Wrench swallowed and looked at him so he looked at Throttle. "If and when we move back to Mars, we're going to have to live outside the city by a few miles. We're moving everything in this house to Mars," he assured him with a smirk, "but we're moving outside the city."
"How are we moving everything?" Throttle asked.
"Chassis. Why do you think Stoker sent her on permanent assignment? He's not *that* nice to people in love, Throttle. How many times did he second guess you and Carbine?"
"Point," he admitted dryly. "So she's here to fly us?"
"Or to make sure I get a ship and can make it up there without crashing. He all but said so. He was asking where I was planning on living when we got up there. He said something about a reward of land....." Throttle moaned, holding his forehead. "What did you do to get that?"
"I saved the former King's tail by accident," he moaned, shaking his head. "I was young and dumb. Sorry about that."
"That's cool. Does it have a certain area?" He shook his head. "It's how large?"
"About ten acres," he admitted. "I'm not moving into the Northern Mountains, Xander."
"Good!" He nodded, grimacing a bit. "Yeah, I'll have to take back the Mekonis books some day, once Vic's copied them for his own use, but not yet." He grinned at him and sent a picture he had memorized after their last trip. "There, dear."
Throttle just blushed. "You're sure? It's pretty barren there, Xander."
"There's a well under it. The land's flat. It's near the pools so Vinnie won't have to travel that far. It's near the temple I'll be in a lot so I won't have to travel that often." Throttle swallowed. "Yeah, I know. I decided a few weeks ago," he admitted gently. "I can't handle getting to the state of a panicked plea again. Sorry, babe, but I'm not letting myself ever get that low again." Throttle nodded, taking his hand across the table. "Vin, you and Charley are moving in with us. It's about a mile from a base that's pretty empty and she can turn that into a garage. It'll be within ten miles of the new bike plant as well."
"It sounds like the Shoals area," Wrench said. Xander leaned over and shared the image with him. "I'm not sure that's allowed, Xander. That's got a lot of historical areas."
"It is actually. Stoker wanted someone to move out that way to protect it and be a border guard," Throttle admitted. Wrench shrugged and nodded. "He was kinda hoping you'd move the temple out that way so you weren't that close to Spike," he offered smugly.
"Oh, I know," he admitted, grinning back. "It wouldn't stop her visiting Spike though." He looked at him. "You're sure, that's pretty far out, Xander."
Xander nodded. "I am. I've also got multiple reasons. One of them being that when Dawn and Rimfire join us, they'll have to be the envoy from Earth. That means there's going to be at least another human there at all times, which would freak out the other mice. Now, Stoker could be planning to assign Chassis to that and Micah could be planning to make Stan Dawn's helper," he offered with a small grin. "But it'd still keep them away from the paranoid mice. It'd also give Chassis and Stan their own house. It'd give Dawn and Rimfire their own house too. You'd only be about five miles away. The clan gathers for any and all meetings about two miles away. It's nearly the perfect spot. The only problem is that the well's under one of the historical sites at its easiest tapped site. So we'll have to do something about that."
"There's the underground river," Throttle offered.
"The well is purified," Xander told him. "Drinkable." Throttle gaped and he smirked. "But yeah, we can pull up the river water for bathing and stuff, just use a purification system." He winked. "By the way, we're going up with a major set of supplies, including building supplies. We will have everything we need to go up there, set up house, and not strain Mars." Throttle looked impressed at that. "I only need one thing and Meg's working on that." He grinned and winked at him. "I am a good planner, babe. Besides, Micah agreed with me." He looked at Wrench again. "That good with you as Highest?"
"That's fine with me, Xander," he admitted. "I'll be able to come borrow the library easier." He smirked. "We can do a book exchange."
"Sure. But that's not all the books," he admitted. "I, um, kinda went and bought the Watcher Council's backup library. Wes was really unhappy since he wanted it, but oh well!" He grinned at them all, snickering at the shocked look. "Doc, you and Shell will have a house on the land too. And don't argue. We'll let you buy a small corner."
"Thanks, Xander. You're sure?"
"Make me hit you," Xander offered dryly, staring him down. He blushed and nodded, ducking his head a bit. Xander looked at his mate. Who was only smirking. "If you have a problem with the plans, let it be known now, hubby. The plans are all-but finalized. I'm working on the design of the house at the moment."
"You don't plan on just taking the building with us?" Throttle asked dryly.
"I would, but nope. Dawn and Rimfire have to have somewhere to live while they finish their degree and I'm doubting we're going to be waiting that long." He blinked a few times and Xander grinned. "Do you think your mother's going to wait that long?"
"No," he admitted. "Modo's mother either," he admitted. "We're bringing everything in the house?"
"Yup, even to the spas. Charley's just recently found out she's got a niece who *wants* the garage when she's older. She's begged and pleaded for it. She's in Vo-Tech at the moment to learn how to be a good mechanic. I heard her on the phone begging to come work with her so she could take it over some day. She knows about Vinnie since she's Marrissa's younger sister and she knows Charley won't want to stay down here forever. She's got that same techie streak that makes me a good designer too. She's the squealing one you thought was Meg showing off the baby the other day. Charley and I talked, she was thinking two years. I'm thinking about the same," he admitted. "Which would mean either Rimfire and Dawn would be working their tails off to graduate early, or they'll have to stay to finish their degrees."
"Her language degrees won't be much help on Mars," Enamel pointed out.
"Micah's got her set up as the envoy to the US. She's the ambassador to Mars. It was her or Charley and he decided he wanted Dawn since she did have the degree and the intelligence mindset so he can predict any problems coming from her. Besides, he figured Charley would rather retire to being unknown and hidden." Vinnie nodded at that, she had told him that. "Her language degrees will be helpful because she can translate when necessary and Arabic and Martian have a lot in common. So does Russian though." He shrugged. "An unexpected benefit. She's going to be doing some intense Martian language work starting next semester." Wrench grinned at that. "I'm still using kiddie words," he assured him. He looked at Throttle. "Any flaws you can see so far?"
"Not yet," he admitted. "I'm just wondering how big this ship is going to be."
Xander beamed and winked. "You'll see." He looked at Vinnie. "Can you see any problems?"
"Not yet," he admitted, but he still looked a bit confused. "How long have you been planning this?"
"About three months now," he admitted. "Micah and I had another of those post-dream talks over a beer. It's what made him start kicking plans into action and mine had to be clarified and stated. We were working against each other in a few of the items. Now that he knows what I'm doing, he's going along with most of it, but he doesn't want me to bring both libraries with us." He shrugged again. "He thinks Dawn should bring the other one."
"I think it'll be a good job just to get them up there," Throttle admitted.
"Oh, the transporter will be the one thing staying," Xander admitted. "It'll be coming up with them. Or I should say after them. They'll come and announce that she was nominated for it, that she's moving out with the family, then they'll ride off together." He grinned. "A bit showy but how she wanted it."
Throttle chuckled. "They've got that planned down that far?" Xander nodded. "Why?"
"Because the president has to change in two years," Xander said dryly. "The next possible ones aren't looking too hopeful." Throttle winced at that. "Micah's still keeping his transporter and everything. If they have to, they'll be putting it in his apartment. We don't know that the next guy won't be a raving lunatic who'll want to put us all in a cell and study us. Two of the announced ones would. Another of the announced ones wouldn't believe we're intelligent even if we're talking directly to them. He'd want us on leashes." Throttle shivered at that. "We've got a time constraint." They all nodded at that. "I'm going to be telling Dawn and Rimfire this tomorrow." Rimfire snorted and shook his head. "Your choice, kiddo."
"Fuck it, I'd rather finish sooner and head up there. Is there a best choice?"
"Yeah, there's three decent enough choices, but we'd make things harder on two and Micah didn't want that. The other one would love us to death, he'd pet us and love us, and love to have us over for sex, but he's got a hope in hell of winning. So we're making it easier on us. That good with you?" He nodded. "Good. So you guys could probably have an extra year to a year and a half if you had to have it, but you might end up in DC."
"What about Meg and Oz?" Vinnie asked. "I don't want to lose touch with them."
"Oh, they're going full time with Micah as soon as we leave," Xander offered smugly. "As soon as we can drive all the Plutarkians off, they're going to DC permanently. The ones in Russia are leaving soon. It's in the middle of nowhere, it's cold and that's hurting them, and their resources are about to run out again. The local governments over there won't let them drill for natural gas or anything else. So they'll be leaving. They'll have to. The two here are a problem, but not that much of one. We defeated them before. We can hopefully do it again." Throttle nodded at that. "Can we? Maybe within a year so we get an easy last year to party and have fun? Oh, I'm starting a club on Mars. That's going to be my official job."
Throttle smirked. "Fine, Xander. You can start a club on Mars. Like ours?" Xander nodded. "How are you going to get music?"
"A lot of CD's. Plus, Stan used to DJ at times." He grinned. "I'm sure he can help me with that. Did you know Chassis has a very green thumb, Vinnie?"
"I hadn't, but it doesn't really surprise me. Her grandmother could make anything grow. She used to do some herbal healing stuff that was amazing. She treated most of the clan as far back as anyone remembered."
"Cool. I'll pick up some books on that too. I'm planning on a small greenhouse with recycled and filtered water for things that we'll definitely need." Throttle sent a shaft of approval at him. "I'll let you look at the full plans tomorrow," he offered with a yawn. He looked at Wrench. "You too, old fart."
Wrench snorted. "I'm not that old. I'm the same age you are." He looked at Vinnie. "Can I announce you're coming back in about two years?"
"Not yet," Vinnie said. "Just in case it has to change suddenly." Wrench nodded. He looked at Xander. "What about the kids' special education?"
"I'll be working with Map on it," Xander said dryly. "Like I said, Vinnie, *everything* in the house goes when we go. Including the rope course." Vinnie grinned at that. "If I had my way, the buildings would go too, but I probably can't do that."
"Oh, I don't know, maybe Dawn could shrink it," Rimfire offered bitterly.
"Nope," Xander said, shaking his head. "I already checked." Then he grinned. "But there's someone who can and might, if we're really nice to him." He looked at Enamel. "How's our last crasher, doc?" He choked and spluttered.
"Fine," he admitted. "Hidden."
"I had no doubt of that. Would he?" He shrugged. "For a free ride home?"
"Probably. He wanted to study though."
"Hey, if he can shrink his stuff, he can shrink ours and take up a room on the ship."
"Sure, I'll offer that to him," he promised. "Does that mean you want me and Shell to stay?"
"You can find a bigger apartment if you want to, or you could go take the second floor of the storage building for now. It's got water and all that, but a bathroom that's pretty decent by my standards. The other library is being sent this month from England and Scotland. I'll need a list of anything medical you'll want and need to bring. We've got official funding since this will be an embassy as well. Plus Micah's still got to spend six million in the next five weeks or else it'll be cut from next year's budget."
"I'll send him my dream list tomorrow," Enamel promised. "I was drawing one up anyway since I figured I'd have to do some research on the halfies around here. Someone wise figured out you and Vic can't get half of the fevers and stuff we get but what you can get will be worse. I'm the only one with research experience on Mars."
"Sure. Plus you can refind some of the other stuff." He winked at him. "By the way, they found a floating ship recently. One of the new allies and friends we made while we were going out looking for the refugees found it. It had a hell of a library on it. It was named the Questor?"
"They found the Questor?" Throttle asked, looking stunned. "Where?"
"Floating in a gravity well," Xander said honestly. "Micah and I were conferenced in with Stoker when the guard came running in with the news that a ship was dragging it behind them. Everyone on it was dead, but it had a few things still working and a library. It was basically a life support system failure. Stoker said he had to cut off with us to tell Mayflower and the Med board."
"Yeah, the Questor was carrying a lot of information toward a world some of us were running for. It held the technology, the scientists, and the medical library," Enamel said, sniffling a bit. "Oh, Gods, this means we've got a full medical library of knowledge again." He looked up. "Thanks, man. Whichever you are." He looked at Wrench. "You didn't know?"
"I haven't been home to hear those announcements and Willow didn't say anything." He shrugged. "I only get what people tell me most of the time." He looked at Xander. "What is this Tranquility stuff? It's pretty nice."
"It's an herbal painkiller from South America. Somewhere in Brazil if I remember right. My favorite acupuncturist introduced me to it when I went in to have her do something about my headaches last year. She thought I was having some problems with my Sight." He looked at Throttle. "It's totally non-addictive or anything like that."
"I trust you," he assured him gently. He reached over to touch his hand again. "What else is going on that we have to know about tonight?"
"Well, let's see. Winch and her new boy are staying. They're going to be the official ambassadors from Mars. Oh, she's taken some sort of certification to do weddings there in Vegas. She works with the people who do fantasy weddings. She's apparently pretty popular. Though she has looked at a few couples and asked them if they were *really* sure." He considered it. "Do we realize Chef Andy's sick?" No one moved. He nodded. "He is. I'm not sure with what but he's been talking with all his family to see who's taking over his place. He hasn't found anyone yet as far as I know. I was going to nudge Charley into going to talk to him tomorrow to see if we could help." He scrunched up his face like he was thinking. "We'll have to make a major shopping run right before we leave. So we'll have to do our Sam's club membership again. I'm working on projections for necessities versus weight with Chassis. How many rolls of toilet paper do we go through in a week anyway?"
Throttle had a sudden vision: enough toilet paper to last the whole family and all the kids for the rest of their lives. Then he saw himself next to the mountain of Charmin and had to shake his head, making Xander chuckle. "I'm sure we'll figure something out, Xander. Maybe a yearly trip back," he offered impatiently.
"That'll be one big box of TP," Wrench said, shaking his own head to clear it. "I can't even imagine that."
"I can. The stack's about as high as Mount Everest," Vinnie said dryly, shaking his head. "You're so bad, Xander."
"I know," he offered with a grin. "I asked Chassis her opnion and she just walked off moaning and went to get a kiss from Stan to make the funny thoughts go away again. She nearly wrecked trying to imagine that herself."
Modo came out of his room and sat down. "Staff and I heard. How many years before we head back?"
"Two," Xander told him. "Before the next Prez takes office. So by New Years that year. That gives us about two weeks of leeway."
"Sure. We could go live with Momma," Modo offered.
Xander snorted. "By then, the twins will at least be joined by Cell's latest kid. Racer will be dating, Primer will be...." He looked at Wrench, who shook his head. "Not yet?" He shook his head.
"What?" Modo asked.
Wrench sighed and looked at him. "You knew about why I joined the M'dreth, right?" he asked. Modo grimaced and nodded. "You heard my bike repudiated me?" He nodded again, swallowing a bit. "Plumb rides it, Modo, and he's got terminal stupidity. The Seal thinks he's going to be leaving the world soon. Sometime in the next year. I've told your mother so she's aware of it, but I wasn't going to tell anyone else."
"Will it be with Primer? They do occasionally go out for rides together."
Wrench shook his head. "I asked. The Seal said she didn't see anything like that about Primer, Modo. Just Plumb. My bike left me because I wasn't the jump-happy little idiot I had been and he found Plumb was a lot like me. Also, he's been drinking." Modo shivered. "He usually drives past my place when he's been drinking. He likes the base bar down in my section of the city. I'm sorry, man."
"No, it's not your fault. Why isn't she stopping him?"
"Because she's back in training," Wrench sighed. "Cell and your momma have been raising the kids."
"Flat's been a great help, bro," Vinnie offered. "I called last night. He was feeding the kids dinner since your mother was off at some meeting with her buddies. If you want to move back with them...."
"You'll be welcome anytime in the house," Throttle finished. "We'll save you a room and everything, bro. You're still family, even if you do have to move home for a bit to help."
Modo nodded. "I've got to talk to Momma."
"I asked her if she wanted you back up there for things like harvesting and making things ready for the next planting season," Xander offered. "She said it was fine and she had it. Then she gave me this scary, knowing look and told me I was a good boy but they had it."
"What about the babies?" Rimfire wanted to know.
"Ty Rod, your niece, is sickly," Xander told him. "Cell said she's had him to the doctor a lot recently for a lung infection. Your sister, who's due any week now, looks okay so far."
"I'll gladly look at Ty Rod," Enamel offered.
"I know and I reminded Momma you're down here. She said that was sweet but they had it." He looked at him. "I don't know what's going on there but she said she wasn't going to make you take care of Ty Rod."
Enamel got up and headed into the office, calling Momma directly. He kicked back once Cell answered. "When are you bringing Ty Rod to me?" he asked bluntly.
"Xander told you?"
"No, just that she's been sick a lot recently. I'm worried it's something Rimfire picked up down here and brought back, or Racer or one of the others."
She shook her head. "The doctor said it's Bringham syndrome." He let out a whimper. "Momma and I agreed, Enamel, you don't need that on your conscience."
He swallowed the feeling of dread. "Let me do some checking. There may be a treatment down here," he said quietly. "Humans have done a lot of genetic work recently. There may be something."
"We don't want her to suffer," Cell said firmly.
"Good, neither do I. But let me check and see if there is anything first, and then if there is, then maybe we'll have some options for you to think about." She sighed and nodded. "At least if you know, you can't hate yourself," he said gently. "I still do because I didn't have options."
She nodded. "I know, we didn't want to bring up that kid's memory, Enamel. You've moved on and so has Mars." He nodded. "Are you coming back?"
"Xander just told me we're moving back when they do. Do you want Modo and Staff?"
"Staff doesn't need that level of pain and anger," she said bitterly.
"Neither do you but they're still family, Cell. It's not like we can't spare them for a few weeks to a month or so." She sighed and nodded. "Just say the word. Rimfire's due back in about three weeks. Modo and Staff can come up then. How advanced is she?"
"Nearly fully engulfed. They found it at birth." He winced, that was bad. "We're not sure why. Primer was never captured. Karbunkle never had her."
"I've never seen one from genetic tampering," he admitted. "Just naturally. The last I knew we thought it was caused by a stabilizer missing in their genetic sequence. Like a lock on a door." He sighed. "Let me look and we'll see. There's some things going on down here that're really underground and some things more in the mainstream. If we can, we will. How many kids have it?"
"A few. The doctor said it was a relief that the war hadn't made more appear." She shrugged. "If you can find something, we'd be thankful, but we don't want you to do the same thing again and we don't want you to torture yourself over another case."
"Me either, sweetie, me either." He shook his head. "I'll look. What else can I do?"
"We need a lot of antibiotics. There's recently been a mold explosion in one of the other cities."
"Has anyone sent down an official request?"
"Yes," Xander called. "Micah's got it and is sending it as soon as he's got it gathered."
Enamel smirked. "The meddler out there said Micah's got it and is sending it. Who has it?"
"Racer," she said bitterly. "He's coughing up crap by the ton. He can't even ride to school."
"We do have stuff to make him cough," Enamel offered dryly. She shook her head. "You're sure?"
"Yeah, they said it's not so much the coughing, they've got to combat the mold." She glanced around. "Can I send you a file and have you look at it? One of my bro's kids has this new syndrome that's just started around and no one's sure what it is."
"Sure. Send it here. Xander can hand it over."
"Thank you. They're all clueless and wandering around."
"I heard the Questor was found," he offered.
"I heard that too but they haven't announced it yet. I'm guessing they're trying to figure out where to put it."
"Wherever they build the Martian University," he said dryly, making her chuckle. "You can tell Stoker I said so too. That should be next on the list. I'd suggest equidistant between the cities. Somewhere in the center." She smiled and nodded. "Send it down, Cell. Let me look. Maybe it's something we have seen but no one remembers."
She nodded. "Let me gather it and send it. I'll tell her there's an earth doctor working with you guys about something in Vic."
"Sure, I know a few docs down here. They're damn helpful now and then." He grinned. "Behave and be well. Call me." He hung up and relaxed himself. Then he started an internet search through the medical databases. There had to be something. He would not let another kid die like the one who had died on him and got him banished. An instant message window popped up and he smirked, typing in that he was Enamel, but he could get Xander. "Xander!" He came jogging in. "Sarah." He got out of the way, letting him have the computer while he went to use the laptop the kids used in school. He found a site and read it over, then snorted. "I'll be damned," he said dryly. "Karbunkle's still in the business of genetics." Everyone stared at him and he grinned at them. "He's researching. He's got a website detailing what he's working on so he can teach the next generation of evil bastards." He typed in something on the message form, then sent it with a smirk. Maybe he had an answer since one of the older mad scientists had created Bringham syndrome.
Xander came out beaming. "Problems all solved thanks to Sarah. Wrench, I'm heading to Mars tomorrow. You can escort me if you want. I know where I'm going."
"You got told?"
"No, Sarah found it." He smirked and patted him on the back. "Any other new business?"
"Xander, would you mind at least telling me?" Throttle asked pleasantly. Xander kissed him and shot it to him, making him relax. "That's fine, babe. I like that idea and accept it." He pulled him into his lap to kiss again. "Repel thinks she wants a baby next year," he said quietly.
"Then we'll have to plan it so we're up and the house is done when she delivers," he said with a grin. "Whenever you're ready, babe." He kissed him again. "Just make sure Modo's baby is there to help calm ours down." He grinned at Modo. "Good for you, bro?"
"Fine with me," he agreed happily. "Enamel, what did Cell say?"
He looked at him. "I'm looking up options for Ty Rod," he said quietly. "Also, there's some sort of mold outbreak that's got Racer and others coughing up mass quantities of crap. Micah has that one though." He went back to searching, finding an answer in his inbox. He smirked. "Well," he said dryly. "Karbunkle has a real brain. I'll have to test that in simulation later. When I get my old laptop working again. Speaking of, Xander. How much would Meg charge me to get my Martian laptop working?"
"That depends on what it'd need," Xander told him. He came over to look, then gave him a hug. "However I can help," he said in a whisper. Enamel looked up at him and nodded. "I mean it." He let out a small smirk. "It's not like I'm doing very much at the moment anyway."
"I call making the plans to get us to Mars very important," Enamel corrected. "We'll need room for at least three kids and I'll need a lab and somewhere to see patients." He went back to surfing, finding someone he respected and knew, sending them the problem and the answer he had gotten to look at. That guy owed him his life, he'd do it for him. While he was surfing he checked his online accounts, finding all his hidden monies. He debated a few things, then wrote an email to Meg, giving her three different bank account numbers and how to transfer them out and where to transfer them to so Xander could have them. He'd need them to help Mars and their moving plans. He'd never tell the guy, he'd complain and whine that he had it already, but he needed it. How the guy had spent nearly eight million on Mars he wasn't sure, but it was something he could admire.
Enamel walked off the transporter with his bike, nodding at everyone. "I'm only in for a visit. Stoker, Xander wanted Spike and Anya down for some training time this weekend if possible." He smiled and looked at the others. "Someone told me about that new syndrome, it's not new. It's a twist on an older one. An ancient one. We still have those records." They all gaped and he handed over a book to Exhaust. "It's in there, marked with that red ribbon. It seemed to fade off then but there's been undocumented cases since then. They had a treatment but not a cure. We know more now though." He got on his bike and rode off, heading for Modo's Momma's house. He smiled at all the new construction going on. Things were going well. As long as they progressed steadily and planned ahead for bad harvests and things, it would be fine. Someone flagged him down and he stopped beside her, taking off his helmet. "Yes, citizen?"
"Sir, you're Enamel, right?" He nodded. "Aren't you banished?" He shook his head. "They reversed it?" He nodded. She stepped closer. "Do you know a mouse named Fletching?"
He grimaced and nodded. "I do. He headed off toward Alpha Centauri with the Riosan. You'd have to talk to the Council to get him readmitted, I think the female who's not Carbine handles that." She relaxed and nodded. "You'd have to find him first though. They'd have to talk to him like they did me."
"Why did they let you back?"
He sighed and looked at her. "I did my best for that kid," he admitted. "What I was working on privately was something to help those with artificial parts integrate them better." She gaped. "I explained everything that I couldn't before. Let's face it, my *trial* wasn't much of one. I didn't get to speak. The mother made demands and the people were wary of anyone who was doing experiments because too many were being hurt by the Plutarkians. This time I got a real trial, which was what I wanted. The Council reversed their decision late last year." She nodded at that. "So talk to her. If there's a reason she'll find it and if you can find him, then she can work on his petition." He put back on his helmet. "For now, I've got to go visit semi-family members and my student. Later, citizen." He sped off, mentally shaking his head. That mass murderer getting back to Mars would be a one in a million chance. Even more slim than his was and he knew why he was allowed back - Xander and Shell. He pulled up outside the family's house and got off his bike, grinning at the boy chopping some wood. "Firewood?"
"Yes, it's time to can and Momma said she likes to do it in the big kettle," he admitted. "This is really tiring."
"It is," he agreed, patting him on the back. "Where's Cell?"
"On base with her husband for lunch but she'll be back in about an hour. Momma's out back and Racer's in his room."
"Sure. Thanks." He headed inside, smiling at the twins. "Hey, girls. Are you guys sick too?"
"Nope," Shot said, smiling and shaking her head. "When do we get to play on Uncle Xander's new playground?"
"You've got to ask Cell that," he said gently. He headed out back, sticking his head out the door. "Hey, Modo's momma."
"Enamel," she said, coming over to kiss him on the cheek. "Dear, I didn't want you to hear," she said gently. "I didn't want you to have those memories shoved back on you."
He pinched her on the cheek. "If I didn't help, I'd have them. And surprisingly enough, the answer came from Karbunkle." She gaped and he smirked. "I found his webpage and described it to him. He shot back an answer about how he would exploit it and then lock it down. I had someone else look it over and they said it could work. It'll take six times through the full transport process with intent and some additions and switchings. It'll hurt for a few days but not that much. I've got the full email and procedure so we can talk about it together after I check on Racer."
She pinched him on the cheek. "We'll talk, dear." He nodded, going up there. That's what he wanted. She smiled at his back, then looked at the girls. "You're still both grounded. You're not going to Earth anytime in the near future, girls. Get used to it. Flat, dear, do you have any wood done?" she called.
"Nearly," he called back. "I'm almost fully done."
"I can start with some and build later," she complained, going to get it. She smiled at his precise stacking, taking the top layer back with her to start the cauldron so she could cook stuff to be canned.
Enamel walked into Racer's room with a quick knock on the door. "Hey, Racer." The kid winced at the light and coughed, spitting up crud into a cloth. "Eww." He walked in and pulled out his gear, looking him over. "Momma!" he bellowed. She came running up the stairs. "This isn't mold. Or just not exclusively mold." He showed it to her and she glared at the wall. "Racer, honey, did anyone feed you anything white and chalky tasting?"
"At school," he offered. "There's a lot of us out sick right now."
Enamel patted him on the head. "They gave you something mildly poisonous. It made everything worse." He walked down the stairs, going to call Mayflower. He held his display up, letting her read it. She groaned. "That's from Racer. He said there's a lot of kids out sick at his school?"
"They're all coming in today," she decided. "We can still give him the antibiotics too, right?" He nodded. "Good," she sighed. She rolled her eyes and looked to her right. "Enamel's up, he just found Jongis root in Racer's system." That got a few loud groans. "So let's call in that school to check the rest."
"Do we have to?"
"Racer said he was fed it at school," he admitted.
"Fine, we'll call everyone in from that school. Are the antibiotics up?" a male voice called.
"You'd have to ask Stoker. Those are coming directly from Micah and I came from the lair." He looked at Mayflower. "Have a drink with me later." She raised an eyebrow. "I found something interesting that I wanted your opinion on. Oh, I gave Exhaust an ancient disease textbook, there's something familiar in there."
She smiled. "Thank you. I thought you might have a clue about some of the current issues."
"You'd have to give me a rundown but two, yeah. So, where's the university going?"
"Huh?" she asked.
"I suggested that you put the Questor's library wherever you put the university. Which I suggest should be equidistant between the cities."
"We have it back?" She got up and stomped off, not even turning off the screen.
He chuckled and hung up. "Momma, they're going to call for all these kids to come in and get treatment for that. The antibiotics should be up soon." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek, then went back to her cooking. He turned on the 'net broadcast from the council chamber, watching Mayflower scream and yell at the council about not telling them they had this stuff back and how it was *their* knowledge and *they* were the ones who should be deciding and *they* liked the idea to rebuild the university equidistant to all the cities. Then she turned on Exhaust and he tossed over the book, making her grimace but read. She suddenly smiled, a not very pleasant smile, and said she knew how to fix that and her thanks. Then she glared at the room in general. He was still chuckling when Flat came in. "Always let the hot tempered women vent, kid. They'll usually do it anyway and this way you're out of the way."
"A ship was found with some knowledge and no one told the medical board. Mayflower there just told them where it's going and why and they're all agreeing with her for kicking their tails very well." He snickered at that and he looked at him. "Do you feel all right?"
"Just tired, sir."
Enamel looked him over, then nodded. "You'll be fine. Eat more, kid."
"Um, sir, they never increased the allotment yet," he said quietly. He glanced at the kids. "I'm not going to make them eat less, sir."
Enamel raised an eyebrow and called Stoker, glaring at him and pointing at Flat. "Who handles that stuff?"
"Is he in trouble?"
"No one ever increased the family size on the card," he mouthed. Stoker flinched and nodded, then hung up. "It'll be handled, kid." He clapped him on the back. "For now, go call Vincent and tell him to send up lunch." Flat smirked and went to do that while he went to talk to Momma. "Why didn't you call Stoker or us, Momma?"
She pursed her lips. "There's too much favoritism going on, Enamel."
"Bullshit." She glared at him and he glared back. "Do you think your son shopping for you is favoritism?" She nodded. "It's not. Winch does it for her whole clan. You send half of what you get off. He knows this, why do you think he sends up twice what you can eat in a year each month?" She pursed her lips to keep from laughing. "Seriously! He said he knows you do it. It's his way of sliding stuff into the general fund without anyone realizing he's doing it. Xander does the same thing!"
"Since when have you cared?" he demanded, hands now on his hips. "I remember you when you were younger and you never gave a *damn* what another mouse thought of you. Why start now? Besides, it's not *your* fault your son's on Earth. It's theirs. It's the least he can do since he's not here to babysit and help around the house."
She smiled and chuckled. "I know, but others are picking on the kids. "
"So? Have them point out it's his punishment for crashing down there. If he and Rimfire could fly right, they wouldn't have to send up stuff to make up for what they can't do because they're not here. It's a son's job to take care of his momma. If my momma were still alive, I'd be sending her crap every month too. Even if I had to beg to get it up here."
She smiled at him. "You're sweet, but we're fine."
"Bullshit and don't argue with me or else I'm telling Xander." She shivered at that. "Do you hear me? It's not favoritism, it's what a good son does. I'm surprised that Rimfire doesn't as well." He scowled at her. "You're going to make Modo feel bad for trying to be nice and helpful, which will make Staff swear and yell at you for upsetting her pookie."
She nodded. "Fine. I'll let them send more stuff and keep more of it, dear."
"Good!" He walked back into the house, finding an amused Cell in the kitchen. "It is what a good son does."
"It is. So what's wrong with Racer?"
"They fed them Jongis root." She shuddered. "At school," he said with a touch of humor. "Mayflower was told when I found it." She winced and hissed and shook her head. "Yeah, exactly." He saw where she had just sliced her finger and moved to treat it. "There, stubborn. Let's go talk. Did you know Karbunkle was running a website for people who are doing underground genetics research?" he asked dryly, smirking at her. "I had someone else confirm his idea when I pretended to be a bad guy." She gaped and slumped a bit. "One of them created it and he looked up to the man since he taught him. He figured out how to fix it too." He handed over the papers from his pocket, then leaned against the counter. He noticed the twins glaring at him. "She didn't like your Uncle sending you guys candy and stuff. I pointed out it's what good kids did for their mothers." They went back to playing, giving him dirty looks . He grinned at Cell. "I really will tell Xander on her."
"He'll spoil her rotten," Cell complained.
"Good! It's not favoritism. It's what a good son does." He smirked at her. "Painful only for a few days."
"What about the other...."
"It's an ancient thing," he said gently, moving closer. "It's had a treatment in the past. I gave Exhaust the book and he gave it to Mayflower." She relaxed and nodded. "The treatment worked well but it was lifetime, but we may be able to do a cure now." He stroked her cheek. "Are you happy with him?"
"Most of the time. Presently he's an asshole."
He nodded and moved closer. "Wrench noticed something," he said quietly. "Plumb's been drinking." She groaned and nodded. "The Seal noticed something too. He's got a certain 'end of days' glow to him now and then." She looked at him and he nodded. "He told Momma."
"Damn it!" she hissed, one hand drifting up to hold her forehead. "Then we'll do what we can, Enamel. Thank you."
"You're welcome. I only want you to be happy, you know. That letter was to tell you to be happy and have a lot of little kids just like you." He grinned. "Go get the baby and bring her out back, we'll go over it in detail away from little ears."
"Girls, go to your room and play," Cell ordered.
"No!" Shot said, sneering at her. "I won't."
Enamel picked her up, bringing her up to nose-height. "Good children do not sneer at their relatives. That's something that only bad children, ones who are going to suddenly lose their fur and turn into Plutarkians, do." She whimpered and he let her down. "I'm surprised I don't see scales already. Though, you either need a bath or you're stinking like one." She ran to the bathroom with her sister, both of them crying. He looked at her. "Sorry. Racer's got strap marks on his chest," he told her. She groaned and went to yell at them again. He went to find the baby, finding her in her mother's arms and her mother looking miserable. "I think the twins have seen sense."
"What did you tell them?" she asked listlessly.
"That they'd turn into Plutarkians for being so evil." He picked up the baby, sniffing her. Then he looked down at her. "There's a possible treatment." She sat up, staring at him. "What happened to your face?"
"I ran into a door."
"Uh-huh. You know, he has to ride past Wrench's house each time he comes home drunk." He stared her down. "He did tell your uncle." She shivered. "So, let's go talk. We'll see if this is something we can do for her. After all, she's your daughter." She nodded, following him down the stairs. He found a chair waiting on him and sat down to check the baby over, smiling at the results he got. She was fairly early still. Not half as bad as it could be. "Primer, in the kitchen is the stuff I found for Cell." She went to get it and brought it back to read over. "It's still fairly early. She's in a good stage for treatment." Momma relaxed at that. "Basically, I was doing an internet search for genetic manipulation and I ran into Karbunkle's website for aspiring evil scientists bent on genetic manipulation. A direct quote by the way. I described it to him and he shot back an answer. The email's in there too."
Momma smiled at him. "Is it painful?"
"For that treatment time, yes. Afterwards probably not. I did have an independent, not really evil, scientist verify his ideas. Basically we'd be using the transporter to subtly change the DNA locks. That would keep them from shifting. He theorized that six would do it. I'm guessing no more than eight at the most. You could do them in one day, the kid could be sedated during it. It's an advanced application of how you restructure at the end of the teleport process. It'd shift it a bit each time. Too much of a shift and it wouldn't let the body reform but just a minor shift could happen at any time. Those things are calibrated to allow up to a one percent genetic shift each transport."
"So you could change a sequence, send her back through to do the next one almost immediately?" Primer asked, licking her buck teeth. He nodded. "Will it hurt a lot?"
"Yeah, it could," he admitted gently. "But it shouldn't hurt afterward. There may be a short recovery time but not that long and not really painful." He looked at her. "There's some painful treatments on Earth, sweetie. Cancer treatments are hell. Marrow transplants hurt the donor. This would hurt, but it wouldn't hurt forever and again, the baby could be sedated during it. Now, I want you to take this to the medical board. I want them to look it over, come up with alternate ideas, all that. I want you to get every single possible piece of advice you can before you even think about making a decision. You've got time."
"I understand," she agreed, looking at him. "You're not the arrogant bastard momma said you were."
"Honey, I almost became your daddy," he admitted dryly. "She dumped me to date your daddy." She looked stunned, then looked at her grandmother, who nodded. "So I don't worry about it with her. She calls me names all the time. Like Stoker, that's how I know she loves me." Then he smiled sweetly.
Primer burst out laughing, swatting him with the papers. "You're so bad. Xander's been good for you too." She looked at her grandmother, who came over to tip her face off to the side. "It was an accident, momma."
"No, honey, that's not an accident. That's a fist to the cheek," she said grimly. "Where is he?"
"I don't know," she admitted. "He broke down after he hit me and left."
"Good. I'd hate to be there when Modo hears about it," Enamel offered dryly. She shivered and curled in on herself some. Cell came out. "I want her and you to take all that information to the medical board and get every single piece of advice you can," he instructed. "I want them to give you alternate ideas and everything. Understand?" She nodded, smirking at him. "Good." He stood up. "I called Stoker too, he's fixed that problem with Flat's residence." Cell smirked at him. "Hell, woman, you were nearly family." He shrugged. "Shell makes me mushy now and then. Oh, Healer's doing well," he said, pulling out his wallet to show her pictures. "We've even gotten Xander to agree to teach him how to brawl as a secondary thing." She smiled at that and handed it back. "Right now, the unofficial timetable to move back up here is about two years," he offered. "So we'll be coming and going all the time. Just send us a message if you guys need anything." They all nodded. "Okay, then I'm headed home. Should I take Racer to Mayflower?"
"Please," Cell agreed, smirking at him. "You know, I had to grow up to realize the dedication you showed was the same thing I had for Mars. I was so dumb."
"Stupidity is for youth," he sighed dramatically, smirking at her. "Otherwise we'd never get wise in our old age. How else were we supposed to learn better?" She burst out laughing and he winked at Primer, then kissed Momma on the cheek before heading up to get the kid. He found Shot in there begging to be forgiven and moved her, picking up Racer and taking him off. "Come on, let's get you unpoisoned."
"What did you tell her?"
"I told her about how she was going to turn Plutarkian for all the evil shit she was doing to you, kid." He got the boy on his bike then got on, heading for the main building and the medical board. He found Mayflower pacing and ranting when he carried the poor kid inside, handing him over without warning. Mayflower stopped and looked at his chest, then at him, opening her mouth. "They've had some problems with Detail and Shot," he said delicately. "That's their work."
She groaned and shook her head. "Can't they beat it out of the kids?"
"They've tried really hard. We'll see if this new information I gave them works. Expect a visit." He winked. "Come get me for a drink soon." He waved at Racer. "You, get better. Or else you can't come down and play on the course this weekend." Racer looked stunned. "Xander put one in for you guys." Racer giggled. "Ask Spike, he likes it a lot." He walked out, taking his bike back through. He waved on his way past. "See you guys soon. Anything needing to go back to Chicago?"
"Yeah, here," Stoker said, holding up an envelope. He glared at him. "You're a sick bastard," he growled.
Enamel smirked. "Thanks, love you too, Stoker. Remember, the more you insult me, the more I know you love me." Then he grinned sweetly and left, heading back home. He found his name on it and opened it, finding the information he needed in there. He nodded and went to put it into his room, then went to find Modo. He found him outside and coughed. "Modo, may I speak to you for a moment?"
"What's wrong?" he asked, looking at him. "The kids?"
"Well, Ty Rod's pretty sick but I found a cure, we think. I've told Primer and Cell to take what I found to every single doctor on Mars before they make a decision. I won't lie, it's bad. Oh, and I told the twins about how they're going to turn Plutarkian soon for the evil shit they keep doing to Racer." He squatted down next to him. "I also yelled at your mother for caring that people were calling what you send her favoritism and she relented and agreed, it's what good sons do." He put a hand on his wrist. "There's a small issue I just noticed though." Modo tensed up, the others had been bad, this was going to be worse. "Is Primer prone to walking into doors? She had a really big bruise on her cheek and that's what she said happened. With how Wrench said Plumb's been drinking....." He shrugged and swallowed at the fury he could see in Modo's eye. "I think he hit her. I think your momma's about to take his head off too. I think you and Rimfire need to head home for the day," he said gently, letting his wrist go when he jerked. "I'm sorry, I didn't want to have to tell you this."
"What's wrong with Ty Rod?" he asked calmly.
"Bringham syndrome," he sighed. Modo shuddered and curled up. "Hey, I think I found a cure. That's what I brought up to them and why I want them all to go to every single medical person on Mars for an opinion." He nodded, swallowing at that. "She's still early in the second stage, they've got a lot of time. She's at that fading fur point right now." Modo nodded at that, then got up. "Modo, you can't yell at Primer for this. If he hit her, she's denying it. She told me she walked into a door."
Modo's eye started to glow again. "I doubt it. Thank you for telling me, Enamel. Where was she?"
"Thanks." He headed to get Rimfire up and take him with him. He could make up his test. He pounded on the couple's door, getting a sleepy Dawn. "Where's Rimfire?"
"Testing," she yawned, then smiled at him. "What's wrong?" she asked when he didn't return it.
"Primer's got a bruise on her face. She said she walked into a door."
Dawn growled. "How dare that idiot!" she snapped. She scrunched up her face and rubbed the choker she was wearing. Then she looked at him. "Let's go, dear. I want to see him for a moment. Rimfire will be back within twenty minutes."
He nodded. "That's fine. We'll wait. Change." She nodded, closing the door so she could change from her jammies to real clothes.
Enamel walked up to Xander, leaning on his arm. "Some people have called the shipments to the mothers favoritism," he said gently. "I had to yell at Modo's momma to get her to unstiffen a bit. I had to remind her she hasn't cared what anyone thought for most of her life, why start now."
Xander smirked. "Good, I need a test of that spell to get us up there." He smiled at him. "How's other things?"
"Primer claimed she ran into a door."
"Oh, really?" he asked dryly, smirking harder now. "Does Modo know?" Enamel nodded. "Good man." He heard the bike and nodded. "And there's Rimfire. Just stay out of the way." Enamel wisely went to move his bike out of Rimfire's way. He watched as he, Modo, and Dawn left without a word said between them. They were in perfect synch and formation. Yeah, there was going to be a death from stupidity, and some people would cheer about it. He saw Wrench watching him. "Primer had a bruise on her cheek."
Wrench shuddered. "I didn't think it was from that sort of stupidity," he admitted, shaking his head and walking off.
"Wrench, Vincent, Throttle, I need help!" Xander yelled. "Let's go!" He came down the stairs, getting on his bike and starting it. The others ran down the ramp and over to grab their bikes. "Some people have been picking on the mothers, saying it's favoritism that you guys crashed down here and send stuff home." Throttle growled. "So we're going to prove it's not. We're going shopping first. Enamel, when Dawn gets back, I want her to go rent a large truck, the biggest she can find."
"It could be a while."
"Point. Fine. I'll call Merle on the way. I'm sure he knows someone who can drive a truck." He took off and the others followed, knowing what he was going to be doing.
Enamel chuckled, leaning against the counter, shaking his head.
"When I grow up, maybe I should have a boy like Uncle Xander," Anya said as she walked off the transporter with her little brother and sister, Crankshaft. "Rimfire's nice and protective and cuddly but Uncle Xander's special and he spoils."
Spike looked at her. Not even he was evil enough to let that happen. "I doubt you'd keep a man like Uncle Xander," he said plainly. "It takes a special person to get a guy like him. Rimfire just found someone he loved, but it took Throttle capturing Xander and proving he was better."
Anya considered it. "You're right, a boy like Uncle Xander is a lot of work to tame and calm down. A boy like Rimfire is already trained. So I guess I'll stick with a boy like Rimfire. I wonder why they came up." She noticed Enamel and smiled. "Can we please play? Daddy suggested it."
"Sure, go ahead. Tell Charley first, kids. I'll get Staff to watch you." They nodded, heading that way and he headed back outside, finding Staff crying. "Hey, she's fine."
"Modo said I couldn't go, I'd hurt him too much and not save any for him," she sniffled.
He patted her on the back. "The next person who gets hurt like that in the assorted families you can go," he promised. "Stoker's kids are here and wanted to have you watch them play on the course." She brightened up at that and headed out there to watch them play and play with them. "Goddess bless mood swings," he prayed. "For they're obviously yours because no man will ever understand them." He went to help Charley. He had helped cure enough chaos for the day.
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