Charley woke up to someone tapping on the door, groaning as she pushed herself
up off the couch. She wandered down there, pushing her hair back with a yawn as she opened the door. She blinked at the military officer on the other side. "I'm female and pregnant, you can't draft me," she said dryly.
"I'm not here to draft you, Miss Davidson. May I come inside and talk to you and your family? It's going to be a few hours worth of discussion probably."
She considered it and checked behind him. "No commandos this time?"
"No, ma'am, the people over that got very sorry very suddenly," he said firmly, nodding at Vinnie as he joined them. "Sir, I need to talk to you both. May I enter?"
Vinnie squeezed her shoulders. "Why?"
"Because, sir, someone took her designs a few years back and made them better and there's problems and training issues we need to discuss."
Vinnie blinked. "Let him in, sweetheart. I'll go get everyone else up."
"I'm up," Xander called as he walked in and undid the alarm. She looked back at him and he grinned. "Gunpowder sniffer." The military guy took a step back. "You might as well come in, Sergeant. Enamel, make some coffee. Rimfire, go get some sodas," he ordered as the others came in. Rimfire headed back and Throttle came back with him. "Come on in, Sergeant." He walked in with a nod for Charley and Vinnie, heading that way. "I'm sure you know who we are. Who're you?"
"I'm Staff Sergeant Kines, sir." He saluted Throttle. "I'm one of the people attached to a special project out of the Pentagon." He sat down, taking the rootbeer with a nod. "Thank you, sir." He looked at Charley. "Ma'am, when we had your prototype, someone saw it and decided to help it be better. We had a prodigy take one of the attempts we made and rev it up. We didn't give her permission," he admitted. "The young woman was working against a lot of orders when she hacked the Pentagon and found the file. She was also eight." Charley whimpered and he smirked a bit. "Her father now works for us officially and she's working for us unofficially, but she's managed to make a few different bikes that are nearly as good as what we've witnessed out of your local systems here. We think we're ready to have someone with more knowledge and training skills come to us now. We'd like to have Miss Davidson come to evaluate us and then arrange for someone to come train. We're being honest, she'd be in DC. We can make whatever arrangements are necessary."
"I'm pregnant," Charley told him.
"That's fine, ma'am, we don't expect you to lead the training, just to look over the bikes and the riders, see if there's anything that we need to change before we start making official rules and training plans."
"At least you're being polite this time," Xander said dryly. Throttle kicked him. "Sorry. Bad experiences with the military."
"Mr. Harris, we've heard about some of that. We don't need to be killed, that's why we're being honest. I would have been here earlier but I didn't want to bother anyone with the...noises coming from here. It sounded like they were rather busy."
Vinnie nodded. "Yeah, kind of. Thanks for that at least." He looked at Charley. Then at the sergeant. "How long should this take?"
"That depends on how bad we've already messed up," he said honestly. "We need her to look over the bikes and the riders first and foremost. We have been doing some psych profiling to get riders. Frankly, my commander is wary of a few of them. If she can clear the basics, we'd like to arrange for someone to come help us train. You're the masters of that and we'd like to make an arrangement."
Throttle nodded slowly. "I agree, it's a smart idea, sergeant. That's not fully up to us to decide however. We do have to deal with our Council."
"Of course. I understand fully and we'd be more than happy to help her stay in contact, have her doctor come over to check on her to make sure she and her child are still healthy, and we'd put her up in a nice hotel near the Pentagon." He pulled out an envelope, handing it over to her. "That's the official details since my boss was sure you'd have to check with someone at the very least about the training officer. Just for the record, why are you guys down here?"
"We crashed," Modo said dryly.
"That's understandable. We've gotten others probably." He gave him a nice smile. "At least you didn't crash in a harmful and deadly way, sir."
"You suck up *very* well," Xander said dryly.
He smiled at Xander. "That's why they sent me, Mr. Harris. We weren't about to send some jarheaded idiot here to ask for your help. We don't need to lose any more people to you from our stupidity and arrogance. We can learn, Mr. Harris. There is a question about how those soldiers lost their hands...." Then he grinned. "I'm not authorized to ask that question however."
"Good idea. The answer would probably give you a headache," Throttle told him. He looked at him. "You got a room tonight?" He nodded, still smiling. "Good. Hit it for the night, let us talk to the others." He nodded, standing up and saluting before leaving. He waited until he was gone to look at Vinnie. "That's why I never could have handled the real military. The saluting." Vinnie swatted at him and shook his head. "Sorry, couldn't resist." He looked at Enamel. "Can you?" He nodded. "You're sure?"
"Yeah, I can head there every two weeks to check on her and check the baby. That's not an issue. Can anyone tell if he was lying?"
"He was laying it on pretty thick against Xander," Modo offered. "But I don't think he was lying."
"He wasn't that I could tell either," Rimfire offered. "We should check with Mars and Micah."
"We should," Xander agreed. "Throttle?"
"I'll go get Micah," Throttle offered. "You go get up Stoker, Xander. Vinnie, you stay here and guard stuff with Modo. Charley, get a few kisses and then we'll head up once everyone's there." He headed off to the transporter, sending himself to Micah's apartment.
Xander got on his bike and headed through next, coming out in the Council chamber, finding a few of them still in here. He coughed. "You might as well cancel the dinner plans, people. We just got an offer from the US Military and we're coming here to discuss it."
"What could they possibly want?" Mirror demanded.
Xander leaned on his handlebars. "They had someone, a child prodigy, who saw the prototype bike Micah's presently riding and made their own. They want Charley to look them over and then to arrange for training." She gaped. "It's one of those nights," he offered dryly. "Throttle went to steal Micah and bring him too, ma'am."
"I'm Mirror, Xander. Let me start calling." She sat down at a desk and started to type in a code. "Attention, all Martian Councilors. Meet back here in this meeting chamber within the hour. An offer that affects us all has come from Earth and we need a conference."
"What did Xander do now?" Stoker complained.
"I only threatened him," Xander said dryly. "They came to us." He got out of the way as the transporter started to whine, parking his bike against the wall. Throttle and Micah stepped out so he waved them over to where he was. "There's a bench here." Micah nodded and flopped down beside him. "Not having fun?" he asked dryly.
"Hell no. I was doing what Dawn was the last time I saw her," he said bitterly. "I was all set to have a nice night at home. Who showed up?"
"Staff Sergeant Kines. He's out of the Pentagon attached to the bike project."
"Wonderful." He typed it into his PDA, which went to Hendrix and the file was sent since Hendrix was at his office. "That man never sleeps."
"He really should. It only makes him more bitter and angry when he doesn't." Throttle sat down on Xander's bike, then pulled him up beside him. "That way Charley girl has a place to sit too," he said when she came off the transporter. Stoker stomped in. "Hey, coach. They came to us."
"For?" he demanded.
"Someone saw my original prototype, the one Jack added the brain to," Charley admitted. "Some young eight-year-old prodigy computer whiz created their own bikes. They want me to look over the bikes and the riders, then setup arrangements for training."
"At least it's not a threat," Exhaust said as he walked in. "Were they at least polite this time?"
"They said they didn't want to mess with Xander again," she offered with a small grin. "Sorry, we just sent him back to his hotel. We didn't think this could wait."
"We figured it'd be most of the night arguing," Throttle agreed. "By the way, happy birthday, coach, your present's on my dresser."
"Gee thanks, punk," he said bitterly, flopping down in his seat. "How soon before everyone else shows up?" His miniature dog trotted in and hopped up into his lap, seeming to grin at him before snuggling in. "Yeah, hi to you too, mutt." He did stroke the calm little beast though. He'd need to be calm for this argument. "Do they know she's with mouse?" Xander nodded. "What did they say about that?"
"They'd let Enamel come every two weeks to check on me and they'd make sure I kept in touch with everyone."
"Enamel said that's not a problem on his end either," Throttle offered.
"Enamel's got some funds stashed here and there around the world," Micah admitted.
"That's where it came from," Xander said, sitting up straighter. "I should pound him for that."
"He was being sweet," Throttle soothed, stroking his stomach. "Let him, he's still learning how to be sweet and nice, babe." He nuzzled the back of his neck. "Just relax and calm down about it." He looked over as a delegation walked in, slamming open the doors. They all looked sleep tousled. Apparently it was the middle of the night there. "Sorry, they just came to us."
"Not an issue," the female in the lead said. "Chairs?"
"Chairs!" Mirror yelled. The guards brought in more chairs and a few more benches. One of them gave Throttle and Xander a pointed look then looked at the bench he had just put near them. Mirror snickered once he was gone. "No cuddling and no bikes in here, boys."
Xander whispered to his bike, getting a quiet beep, then they got off and it headed outside. "Sorry. How many more are we expecting?"
"About another twelve or fifteen," Carbine said as she walked in with a male mouse. "The issue is?"
"An offer, not a threat," Stoker told her.
"That's a nice change." She took her seat and the other mouse flopped down beside her. "There are chairs, you could pull one over," she said dryly. He shrugged and stayed where he was. The other delegates came in and she looked around. "You forgot to tell Winch," she noted. She dialed her, getting a fuzzy picture, like always. "Come home for a discussion. We just got an offer from down there." She hung up and looked at everyone. "Are we all here?" Everyone looked for their coworkers and a few were summoned through the transporter, only one had to go put on clothes. Winch came through last and Carbine banged the gavel. "It's said we got an offer from Earth. What is it?"
Charley stood up. "A few minutes ago the garage got a knock on the door. There was a Staff Sergeant Kines standing there. He asked to talk to me and Vinnie about a prototype bike I had once created based on the bro's bikes. Mine didn't have a brain at first, until Jack McCyber added one later on during the testing. Apparently there was an eight-year- old prodigy who hacked the Pentagon and found the files on the test bike, then decided to work on a true brain for them." She handed Stoker the information he had given her. "Apparently they've built a few of these new hyped up bikes and wanted me to come look at the bikes to make sure the machines were sound, and to look at the riders to see if they were appropriate, then they wanted to talk about training with you guys."
"They are noticeably wary of our group," Throttle offered. "He was smarming Xander so Xander wouldn't kill him. I think it's a good sign that they asked instead of having a commando raid like the last time."
"Me too," Xander agreed. "Then again, I would have killed them all up front this time," he offered. Everyone stared at them. "Last time I tortured two of them, the Seal got the rest."
"I don't need to hear about those things," one of the male councilors noted patiently. "What is their offer, Stoker?" He put it on the viewing panel, letting them all read it. It listed all the provisions they were willing to make for Charley, including an armed escort to protect her. "Then what?"
"Then they wanted to talk about training," Xander reminded him. "Micah, do you think we're looking at a whole unit?"
"No, from what little Hendrix has found, I'd say we're looking at individual agents instead of a concrete group," he admitted. "They may be pulled together for some, but he found a scooter among the entries." He looked up. "They're not really combat ready vehicles."
"What's a scooter?" Throttle asked.
"You know those weak bikes you looked at really funny in the park? The ones the two students speaking Italian were riding?" Xander asked. He nodded. "Those."
"Yeah, I can't see you riding one of those into combat," he said, shaking his head quickly.
"But I can see it used in a rescue mission and when stealth counts," Micah offered. "No one pays any attention to those things. In most of the world they're as common as bicycles. He's found four other bikes requisitioned. A trail bike, a low rider like Xander's only smaller and less powerful, and two touring bikes. There may be more, those were just requisitions that Hendrix found right off." He looked at them. "The person he found in charge of this is a biker himself. I've met him a few times at events. He's a strategist and he does do single combat and lower level strike team offensives. This would fit in with his plans and his methods."
The Martians looked at each other and the one sitting next to Carbine raised his hand. "Who are you?"
"Micah Simms, I head ECHO, which is the agency that helps you guys on Earth. I'm your negotiator locally."
"I thought that was Winch."
"She works with me most of the time," Micah offered. He looked at Stoker. "A few other things should be mentioned within a few months as well. The next president is not looking helpful or hopeful for either side." Stoker nodded at that. "If I have to evacuate everyone here up here again, I'm naming Dawn our ambassador with the present president's permission. She'll be the US's ambassador to Mars and I'll make sure that other human guy comes up as her assistant."
"She'd love you for that and we can do something similar," Stoker agreed. "Where are they going to live?"
"Nearby but not in town directly," Xander told him. "I need some space to wander around and pace in. We're making those plans now."
"Fine," Stoker agreed. "Let us know when you've got it sorted out." Xander nodded.
"What help will you need from us?" Carbine demanded archly.
"You to grant the land the award gave me," Throttle told her. "He's already got it planned so he's going to be bringing up everything we need. Including possibly a lifetime supply of toilet paper." Most of the councilors gaped, then giggled at that. Carbine just groaned and shook her head, holding it. "We'll be coming up with full plans, don't worry about that now." Everyone nodded. "Back to the issue at hand. We're not making this decision without Mars' approval. The little things, yeah. The bigger things, not a chance." Dawn came out of the transporter and wiggled through, handing over a sealed paper to Micah. "What's up?"
"Hendrix faxed that to the lair." She sat down beside her boss, curling up against his side. "So, what's going on?"
"Miss Summers," Mirror said grimly. "What did you think you were doing earlier?"
She looked at her. "Protecting my sister-in-law from an asshole who hurt her. The same as you would do, dear." They locked eyes and Dawn glared a bit. "Rimfire and Modo got their hits in too."
"We could have handled it within the system."
"Why let him off that easy? This way I'm sure he'll never do it again." Mirror shivered at that and Micah patted her on the back. "I came up with Modo and Rimfire earlier."
"I heard." He balled up the paper and tossed it at Stoker's puppy, making it one happy dog. "Let him play with it. Hendrix found the sealed file and talked to the guy over it. The one I was hoping for is directly in charge, the general over him is practical and knows how to motivate and be sneaky with his people. He said there's at least twelve bikes so far. They may be working on more depending on how this batch goes and what Charley says. If they can get training set up, then they'll use them as single and small group teams for dangerous things that the military can't officially go on. Things like rescues of diplomats. If not, they'll go into covert CIA operations on permanent loan."
"So it depends on if I say they're trainable?" Charley asked. Micah nodded. "Why me?"
"You've got the most experience and you're human. Therefore you're going to stick up for your own people. They know you've seen these guys train Xander and Dawn. They know you know what a bike should be. So you're like the pediatrician telling the parent whether or not their kid is retarded and unable to learn basically and to put it crudely because I'm tired too." He yawned. "Sorry."
"Not a problem," Charley agreed. "Oh, Andy's fine. He slipped and knocked himself silly but otherwise he's good."
"Good! I'll send him a card to the stand tomorrow." He looked at the others. "I will be watching over her when I can and I will be expecting reports at least every other day from her. If I don't hear from her in an acceptable time frame, I'll call Xander in to pounce the Pentagon and find her. I can easily report back to the council, either in person or through Throttle and them. Whichever suits you."
The councilors looked at each other. "Do you consider this a credible request?" one asked quietly. Micah nodded. "Why?"
"Because without help, they're just going to ruin the bikes, ma'am. I'm riding Charley's prototype, the one McCyber put a brain into and the military tried to use to destroy Miami. I know how intelligent these bikes are. The military goes for a 'breaking down to rebuild in a better image' system of training. That won't work with these bikes or their riders."
"We did the same here," Carbine admitted. "Fine. Go home, let us discuss this. Xander, you bike was headed for Wrench's when I came in."
"That's fine. I was going to go out to check on Modo's family for him anyway and check on Cell too." She nodded. "I can easily be the messenger mouse." He grinned and got up, heading out to find his bike and check on everyone. Some good news would make sure at least Modo and Staff slept tonight. Everyone else went back to the lair and Micah went to report to Hendrix and sit there staring at the computer while he played solitaire.
Charley looked at the begging sergeant and then sighed. "It was decided early this morning to allow this project to keep going," she offered. "I can come, but I will need at least a week to arrange for people to cover the garage and to get the word out." She went back to finishing Ray's car for him. "It shouldn't take more than a few weeks, right?"
"I'd hope not, ma'am. I'm hoping it doesn't take more than a week and we've been good with picking who should come in and ride." He looked at the engine. "That owner must really love this car."
"He does and it's his fifth. The others got damaged in the pursuit of his job." She looked at him. "Enamel will be coming out each weekend to check on me. I'll be using that time to contact others as well. I'll also be calling the agency we work with here every other day at least to check in." He nodded at that. "Sorry if the news shouldn't have spread but we don't keep things from him."
"No, that's fine, ma'am, we know about Mr. Simms and how he has your prototype bike. As a matter of fact, since he's here, our prodigy decided to sneak out and help his as well. We've already yelled at her for that by the way. She's presently grounded again."
"The personality had better be the same, kid," Micah said coldly from the office.
"It is, sir, it was basically just a memory upgrade and things. Nothing that would hurt the programming, just give it more room and a few new options. We had noticed you used some surplus funds to get the bike upgraded in weapons."
"You did?" Charley asked. "Xander's going to be heartbroken that you didn't let him help."
"I've got the check for him in my desk drawer," Mich said dryly. "He's doing the upgrades so he has something other than Vic to do." Charley hugged him for that. "I was hoping he had that plug-and-play system working."
"He does," she admitted. "They were trying it on Rimfire's bike last week in place of his front cannon. He had to change how it connected and powered itself but then it worked very well. He's got about ten options for what to put there." Micah smiled at that. "You did know Enamel was hoping for some of it to bring a research lab back to Mars when we go, right?" He nodded. "Is he?"
"I got his list, he is," he said dryly. "It means I've got a bigger budget next year." She smiled at that. Then she went back to helping Ray's car. "What else are you doing to the old dear this time?"
"That same part." She plucked something out and held it up. "Isn't that a listening device?"
He came out to look at it. "Actually, that's a detonator cap," he said, taking it delicately. "Let me look, Charley." He got down to look in the engine, finding the spot someone had stuck explosives recently. "I wonder if he knew it was there." He went to call Ray. "Vecchio, Simms. I'm here at the garage and Charley just found a detonator cap in your engine. We found a spot they had anchored explosives."
"Tell Ray he's welcome," Xander called before heading upstairs. "Come on, Vic, we're waiting on you, little mouse." Vic squealed and pounced, letting himself be taken next door to go back to his fun stuff and education. He came back down the stairs. "I saw someone wiring it and stopped them. I handed them to Welsh at his house," he said with a small shrug when he saw Micah waiting on him. He waved the baby's hand. "We're off to work on our colors and numbers." He 'flew' the baby over there, making airplane noises. He liked that.
Micah groaned and shook his head. "He's got to have something more to do every day," he muttered, going back to the office.
"We try *really* hard to keep Xander from getting bored," Charley said dryly. Ray stomped in and she held up a finger, tightening the bolt she was working on, then looking it over. "Let me tighten the fan again, Ray." He nodded, arms crossed over his chest. She smiled and pinched him on the cheek. "Less frowning."
"You didn't have to do this already, I could have waited."
She smirked. "We're dealing with an offer from the military," she said, nodding at the staff sergeant.
He looked and grunted, then looked at his engine. "Where was it?" She showed him where it had been put. "Where's Xander?"
"With my son, teaching him how to be a big mouse," she sighed, shaking her head. She tightened the fan belt again and then handed him the keys. "Start her, let's make sure I tightened everything." He got in to start her and she waved a hand, bending back in to tighten that one spot. She groaned, then took a deep breath and did it again. "Sorry, daughter. We'll be more careful." She finished and came out, shutting the hood after a check to make sure she had all the rags and tools. "There ya go, Ray. If I'm not here, just pay my niece."
"How long are you going to be gone for?" he asked, looking worried.
"Probably a few weeks. We're hoping for less, but...." She shrugged and nodded at the military guy again.
"I'll be watching out for her," Micah promised. "If she's late with a check-in, I'm sending Xander after her." The sergeant whimpered and shuddered. "Good instincts, soldier. It'll save your life. Make sure she checks in with me every other day." He nodded quickly, writing that down. He looked at Ray, then smirked. "So, how's work?"
"The same stupid criminals all the time," he admitted wryly. "There are days when I want a more exciting life, then I look at Benny and remember all the problems he causes me. Then I look at Xander and realize I'd rather have calm than ever let those two work together." He stepped closer. "You know the Mounties, right?" Micah nodded at that. "Turnbull's in lust over Chassis. Even when Stan's there, he drools on her boots. Got any more at home?"
"Vinnie's got about twenty cousins and a few aunts and uncles left," Charley offered. "There's about seventy-five thousand Martians left. I'll ask. Got a picture?" Ray handed one over. "He's cute."
"He is, he's quite cute and he likes to clean."
"Hell, maybe I'll get him to date my niece," Charley said dryly. "She's more than tough enough for him. Unless he really needs the fur?"
"I don't know." He shrugged. "You'd better announce that your niece and Staff are taking over for a bit because you're going out of town to work on a special project. I know some people won't trust anyone else in here, even Staff."
"True. I was going to do that tomorrow." She smiled and gave him a hug. "I tightened a few other loose things but there's no charge, Ray. So pay me when you can." He wrote out the first check and handed it to her. "Thanks." She kissed him on the cheek. "Have a better day."
"Yeah, right after I go wake up my boss to see who tried to blow me up." He got in and started his car, waiting for Charley to listen for a moment and put up the door. "Oil change when?"
"Probably in the next few months," she offered, waving at him. He grinned and left, heading off to get to work early today so he could yell at someone in private. She looked at Micah and sighed. "I'm going to be running around all day."
"You are," he agreed. "Go take a nap, Charley. After all, Vinnie's watching Xander to make sure your son doesn't turn into him or Spike." She snickered and nodded as she headed up the stairs. "You, head back. She'll be there in a week."
"Yes, sir. Should I come pick her up at the airport or at ECHO, sir?"
"I'll let you know. Leave me a phone number." The kid handed over a card and left. "Thanks. Travel safely." He went back to the office to call Hendrix again since he had put a scrambler on this phone. This way he could watch the garage for Charley as well. She really did need a nap. She had been yawning over the engine and she had always needed one the last time.
Charley walked into the meeting area, finally, and nodded at the man waiting on her. "Charley Davidson," she said, shaking his hand.
"General Boregard Sheers, ma'am. I'm over this mess'a strangeness," he offered with a Texan accent. He was a large man, but mostly heavyset instead of height-wise. He had a basic training haircut for his silver hair and his face was lined with a few small scars. He had obviously 'been there and done that' a lot. He waved a hand. "This is where we're training our new boys and girls. We do have two females in here. We don't expect them to really be in combat, per se, but as support and relief personnel."
"I go into combat, Dawn goes into combat, Martian women go into combat all the time. They're truly equal."
"That's wonderful," he agreed, "but I'm an old fashioned sorta guy, ma'am, I like my women safe and unkilled by mortar fire and things." She looked up at him. "They have a better chance of safety as support crew," he admitted. "But I'm realistic. I've always trained the women harder and tougher, they needed it in this man's army." She nodded at that and he grinned. "Not foolin' you at all, am I?" She smirked and shook her head. "Fine. That's good though. As long as you don't think I'm an idiot too, we're all good. The president does."
"He's not high on my favorite person list since he asked Dawn if she had an abortion when he heard she was on medical leave for six weeks." She let him open the door and walked in, looking at the people lounging around. They all snapped to attention when someone noticed them.
"At ease," the general announced. He looked at her. "He did what?" She nodded. "You're serious?"
"During a call to Micah." He just moaned and shook his head. "It's a good thing it was only her and Rimfire too." He nodded at that. "Okay, where would you like me to start?"
"Where would you like to start?" he offered.
"Let's start with the bikes." She looked at them. She noticed Staff Sergeant Kines was one of the bikers. "I'm Charley Davidson, I own the Last Chance Garage in Chicago. I've worked with the bikes these are based off of for many years," she announced. "You give me shit, I'm having your bike run over your foot." That got some smirks and a few chuckles, and one confused looking woman. She looked at her. "I met your sister."
"Ah! That's where I know the name from!" she said, nodding. "They do that to us now and then, ma'am."
"I'm Charley. Just that. The only one who ever calls me different is my son." They all nodded. She looked at the General. "I did get a chance to look over Micah's bike and I did notice something. Whoever does the upgrades forgot to upgrade the processor. So I had to." He nodded at that. "You need some sort of computer designer or something to check the boards. Micah had his check, that's how he found it when I saw the slow reaction time."
"That's fine, ma'am, we can borrow one from the weapons corps."
"Good. I usually just borrow Xander, Meg, or Oz." He looked horrified and shuddered. "Xander's very nice whenever you're not threatening him."
"I figured he'd have to be or he'd never have married that man he did," he admitted. "I saw footage of their bikes in action and I'm in awe."
"Me too most of the time," Charley agreed lightly, smiling at him. "Then again, most of them have been riding those bikes since they were sixteen. They're bonded."
"I understand fully, Charley. All right, let's go get the dears out of their stables so she can look them over. To your bikes," he ordered. Everyone picked up their books and headed out there, knowing it was going to be a bit. "You could clean them, people," he offered.
"Eh, a bit of dirt is usual," she offered, following them. She looked at the scooter, it was closest to the door. "Well, you're cute and harmless looking. Weapons out." The bike popped out the weapons and the rider smiled. "Good. You are voice responsive." She got down to check the mechanical stuff that she could, then nodded. "Again, the computer's not keeping up with the full range of programming. It's got a slow response time to input commands."
"Let me go get someone to look at the boards, ma'am." He hurried off, going to find a computer design person. He found their section and walked in, looking at their boss. "My special project has upgraded computers but they're slow to respond to input. The technical advisor said that there's an upgrade needed, I need one of yours for a few weeks."
"Sure," he agreed. "Tyler!" He hopped up and saluted. "Go with Sheers. Help him with his bikes."
"Yes, sir!" he shouted, grabbing his things and following. "What sort of upgrade was it, sir?"
"To full intelligence. It follows voice commands fairly quickly but she said that the input commands were slowed down. She had to upgrade Simm's bike over at ECHO as well. You can contact him to get with that designer." He opened the door. "Straight back, son." He nodded, heading back that way. "She started with the scooter, you can too," he ordered.
Charley came back and showed him what she was seeing and his whole face lit up. He got down to look and nodded, hurrying off to get some things and bring them back from the testing lab. He could definitely fix this easily. Charley walked on, going to check the next bike. It was a touring bike and she stroked the handle bars, getting the bike shying away. "I don't hurt bikes, dear. I fix bikes. I've taken care of many of you."
"She's just shy," the rider said with a small grin. "Are there many touring bikes, ma'am?"
"Not that I've seen. The body type and the personality are part of each other so you've got to have personalities who need something like a touring bike. I know one who rides one and I've seen a few others. Then again, there could have been more before their recent war." She shrugged. "I don't know if Staff would know that or not. She used to work on the factory. She's filling in for me at home." She bent down to look at it, and the bike shied. She stroked her gently and walked her out into the center of the stables, looking her over in the better light. "Did you wreck?" He blushed and nodded. "She's still a bit self- conscious." She looked around. "Consider the bikes like teenagers, guys. In this case younger ones. You're teaching and training them to be the adults they'll be, but you're doing it in a nurturing and protective way because they don't have hands to help themselves. You've got to form a bond and work with your bike. No yelling at it, no screaming at it, nothing like that." They all nodded and a few sighed. "If you've started out training it like you were in basic training, you're doing it wrong. They're like kids. You've got to be supportive and help them learn. That's the only way they can." She got down next to the bike, whispering to it as she checked it over. The bike shivered once and relaxed and she smiled, stroking the seat. "I think you'll do fine, dear one. Do you have a name?"
"I've been calling her Blackie," the rider admitted, moving closer. "She's a good bike. She's a smooth ride too. It's more my fault. I was trying to do some minor jumps on our course and she tipped during one."
"Touring bikes aren't meant for jumps," Charley agreed, looking up at him, "but there are ways around that. Don't worry, I'll be helping with that part too probably. At least for a few days." He nodded. "Okay, go ahead and take her back there, sit and bond with her. Talk to her while you wipe her down. We're also going to have to fix that spot of rust under one of her cases." He nodded at that and she moved on. That bike moved forward and stopped right in front of her, beeping pleasantly. "Hello to you too, dear. I'm Charley." The bike beeped and pressed against her. She smiled and petted it. "Anxious?" It beeped again and she got down to look at it. "It's all right, dear. It's all good. You're a very pretty bike." It beeped proudly and seemed to preen a bit with how it was moving. "Let's look you over, make sure I don't have to correct anything so far."
"She acts just like my thirteen-year-old daughter," the rider noted dryly, flipping back some of her hair.
"Have to yell at her yet?"
"Yeah, she tried to go *through* a wall without blasting it first. I did yell at that but we had a talk afterwards about walls being hard." She and Charley shared a smile. "I get what you're saying and most of us will. We'll help the others, ma'am."
"Thanks. Don't ma'am me, you'll make me feel ancient."
She snickered. "How old is your son?"
"Fourteen months," she moaned, looking up at her. "He's horrible." That got some snickers. "Seriously. Mice hit a mental spike around two, where they're more like our six and seven-year-olds. He's starting that. So he's with his uncle and daddy learning all sorts of stuff. I caught them laughing at the explosions in Die Hard the other day."
"His daddy must be proud of him then."
"Oh, very," she said dryly. "The only thing that makes Vinnie brag more than his son is his self." She chuckled and nodded at that so Charley grinned up at her. "Fortunately we've got the others to help keep Vic's ego a bit lower than that. My poor little auburn mouse is going to be so spoiled by the time I get home. I'll have to stop him from belching and scratching probably too." She went back to working while some of the riders laughed, finding a few things. "She needs an oil change and we've got a small crack in the seat," she offered. "We can fix both of those tomorrow." The rider nodded. "I'm guessing these were bought used?" She nodded. "That's fine. I see a lot of well used bikes at the shop." She patted her. "You're good to go until I can change your oil tomorrow. Go ahead back and snuggle in for a bit." The bike revved and did that, leaning against her rider's side to snuggle. "Aww." She grinned and moved on to the next one.
Charley tapped on Enamel's door, smiling at him. "It's me."
"I can see that. Thank you, soldier." He saluted and backed off. "I'll hand her back tomorrow." He nodded, leaving them alone. He let Charley in and shut the door, locking it. "Are you all right?"
"Perfectly fine. They bought used bikes to upgrade. I've done a lot of the usual: oil changes, a few pieces of rust, a seat recover." She sat down on the bed and took off her jacket. "How's Vic?"
"Good. Xander's got him totally spoiled and wrapped around his finger, but he's missing you still. I've got a vid link set up on my laptop so you can call home and Mars." He smiled and pulled out his stuff, examining her. "Well, you look like you're all right. How's the morning sickness?"
"Still here," she sighed. "The same as the bending over and getting pain problem. They've been very sweet to me about it though. No one says anything when I suddenly take off to get sick. A few of them are parents and the mother there understands quite well."
"How are the bikes?" he asked as he worked.
"About what I'd expect a newly created bike to be like," she admitted. "They're like young teenagers soaking up the training they've got so far. The riders are still learning the capabilities of their bikes. I had one who tried to jump his bike, which is like yours, and they crashed a bit. One tried to go through a wall without blasting it first."
"Yeah, that sounds about like the lesser factory showroom programming," he agreed, smirking at her. "The practical stuff is left up to the rider usually. That's why we're encouraged to spend the first six months on our bikes using them a lot to train them."
"These guys are pretty good," Charley admitted. "We have one daredevil. He was trying to jump his bike off a skateboard ramp and I yelled at him. It would have collapsed under him when he landed. He's a medic and a field tactician so he's riding a touring bike too." Enamel shivered. "He's a nice guy. A bit like Chassis and Wrench when he's in a playful mood."
"He rides a touring bike like mine?"
She nodded. "A Beamer touring bike actually. They went on practical considerations when they assigned bikes. He needed to carry more stuff. He drives a racing bike to work."
"That's something they'll have to work on, matching personalities better." He stepped back. "You're both really healthy and I see you've been eating."
"They get stuff catered so they can eat with their bikes. The General said it'd bond them better and he's right. They get stuff from the higher-up's kitchens instead of the general mess. We had lamb stew today for lunch." He grinned at that. "How's Vinnie doing?"
"He's slowly going insane. Go ahead and call home first." She smiled and went to the desk he had the laptop set up on, calling home. He put everything up and sat down to watch some tv while she chatted. He heard Throttle complain as Vinnie pushed him out of the way, glancing over there to find his nose pressed against the camera. "Vincent, that's too close," he called. "That ingrown hair could use cleaned up too." Vinnie laughed and he went back to flipping channels.
Charley walked in and looked around Monday morning, finding no one there. "Guys?" she called.
"Out on the course, ma'am," one of them yelled from the stables, then his bike started.
She headed that way, going to watch them. The general was doing the same so she stood beside him. She pointed at the one guy. "He really should be on a racing bike, but he's got a good bond with his," she said gently. He looked down at her and nodded. "I wouldn't move him but it's something to consider in the future. Their forms will start to affect their personalities."
"I've thought of that, but I had to go practical on orders this time. Should those who have them give up their daily bikes?"
She considered it. "If they're good riders, they'll want to some day. Then again, that would also mean that they brought their bikes home with them."
"Which could cause problems with neighbors and kids," he admitted. "I'm working on that now. We're getting them all into the same housing area. That way they don't have to hide it. Most of our kids have learned how not to tell others what they shouldn't." He looked out again and groaned. "Don't do that!" he yelled. "Morts!"
"Sir!" he said, stopping his fooling around.
"No, let him," Charley said. "That's how you build a bond tighter than blood and marriage. You grow up together." She smiled at him. "You need to learn how to do that properly before I have to rebuild her front end," she called. "But you're not the first." The soldier grinned at that and went back to the course. She looked at him and grinned. "Vinnie's so much worse sometimes."
He snickered. "I've seen tapes." He glanced at her, then went back to watching. "I know you've got a few issues with some of the riders. Who?"
She pointed at a group off to the side. "All of them but her. That mother with teenager, she's a good rider. She understands. I'd have her in control of the bikes. Even if she can't plan, she can watch out for them and mentor any new riders coming in." She pointed at another guy. "Him I'm deathly worried about. There's no bond and he's trying to suppress the bike somehow." He nodded at that. "The others are good. They seem like good choices and they seem to fit the personalities of their bikes very well."
"Good." He grinned at her. "How is Mr. Simm's bike doing?"
"He's getting backtalk now and then," she offered with a small smirk. "His bike seems a lot like Lorne at times." He snickered at that and they both ducked at the explosion. "It's not time for that yet!" she yelled.
"Oops, but she didn't try to run through it this time," the mother called, staring at her bike. "I didn't say to do that yet."
The bike snickered and moved off, going to play with a few of the other riderless bikes.
"I can see what you mean about them being like teenagers," the general admitted, waving off the MP's rushing in to help them. "It's fine. One of the bikes decided to test his missile systems." They just stared. "Go back to your commander, boys," he ordered. "You never saw this." They nodded and rushed out, going to tell their commander what they never saw. "Young kids these days, no respect," the general sighed, leaning on the railing in front of him. "How did they teach bikes to march?"
"I'm guessing like you do a tank corps. Teach the drivers." He grinned at her for that. "I sent a report back about where you were in the training, the stuff I found, what I'd done to fix things so far. They're paying careful attention."
"Good! We could use a trainer! I'm good at teaching field maneuvers, but your guys in Chicago are excellent and have special codes and things."
"They've been doing that since they were seventeen and eighteen," she pointed out gently. "During a war." He shivered. "They won and the things that did it to them are mostly gone now."
"They got punitive?"
"No, their arrogance nearly got them all killed. They pulled up something that released some creatures that liked to have them for lunch."
"They took the Sunnydale Hellmouth home and it ate 'em." He shuddered and wrapped his arms around himself. "With two exceptions we know of, the remaining Plutarkians are in Siberia."
"I hope they don't do to us what they did to your boys' home," he said quietly.
"They're trying. We stopped most of them. There's two who snuck away and came back to Chicago so now we're working on them."
"Damn! I wish you guys all the luck in the world then. These guys are probably going to be going into single combat situations and rescues and the like." She nodded. "You figured on that?"
"Yeah, Micah agreed, you don't take a scooter into battle often." He chuckled and nodded. "But it's good when you don't want to be noticed somewhere."
"Exactly, and that's what I'm hoping for. If they have to fight, they can, but if they don't have to, they can fit in and do things quietly."
"Good! Not that there's many quiet bikers in the world," she offered dryly. "At least you took people already mostly in the life. Some of those kids are too clean cut to ever fit into the biker lifestyle, especially the darker and seedier sides, but then again so are you. They scream 'military' and you don't."
He nodded. "That's another thing we'll be working on soon enough," he promised. "We're all going out to one of the bars this weekend. You wanna come?"
"I wouldn't mind. I didn't bring mine though."
"Not an issue. You can ride with me. I'm a careful guy and my wife would kill me if you fell off and got hurt."
"Sure. She ride with you or behind you?"
"Usually with me. She used to ride behind me but then we got into a fight and she got her own in a fit of temper. She won't give it up now." He grinned at her. "I'm sure you've seen that before too." She nodded. "Who is that young woman with you?"
"Dawn? She's actually very good. She works for Micah too."
"I knew that. I never expected her to be a biker though."
"Wellllll, she's not naturally," she admitted. "She loves to ride and she loves her biker boyfriend but she's not a biker chick if you know what I mean. She's a pleasure rider, not a 'it's my life and all of my life' rider like the others."
"I know some of them," he admitted. "They're usually pretty decent folks." She nodded and he watched as she walked down there to yell and scream at one of them, leaning on the railing again to watch her. "She must be one hell of a mother," he said in awe. That rider looked petrified and was about ready to cry. "She's right, you don't endanger your bike like that, kid. Your bike is your partner and your backup. Sure, she don't have hands, but that's fine. That's why you have them." They'd learn. For right now they needed a mother. Then they'd need a trainer. He hoped the trainer they got had a good sense of humor, they'd need it.
Micah walked up to the main desk at the Pentagon, flipping open his badge. "I'm here to check on a special project down in the basement, called Alpha Flight." The guy looked clueless. "Just call, idiot," he sneered. "We were better Marines in my day." The guy called and talked quietly to someone in an office somewhere else. "Tell him I'm here to see Davidson."
"She's not here, sir. They're off on a ride right now," he said, hanging up. He looked behind him at someone. "Agent Hendrix, sir!" he said, standing up and saluting him.
"At ease, Marine," he said, looking at Micah. "Not here?"
"On a ride."
"Yes, sir, my boss said that they're out chasing one of the guys who went for a private ride," the Marine reported. "Sir, does he do what he says he does?" Hendrix nodded. "I'll make note of that for future reference, sir!" He wrote that down and sealed it. "They should be back later, sirs."
"Fine. Thank you," Micah agreed, heading out to his bike. "Hey, can you track Charley's tracker?" he asked. It beeped and showed him the location. "That's Alexandria. Why are they out there?" He looked at Hendrix. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, just more nightmares."
"You know, if you'd quit drinking and just pet the cat instead of yelling at it, you might feel better."
"The cat keeps me up."
"That's the liquor, Hendrix. Grow up, be a man. The cat's not causing the nightmares, my people are. Keep the cat, lose the liquor, and you'll sleep at night for a change." He got onto his bike. "I'm going after them."
"That's fine. I'll follow. Since I've got my car and a heater."
"Yay," he said dryly, taking off. "Okay, let's go find and rescue Charley girl. Something's not right here, Enamel was right about that," he said grimly. He merged into traffic and sped up, heading out of town. Hendrix had some sort of tracking device on his bike, he could find him.
Charley looked at the scene in front of them. The biker she really had qualms about had his bike sitting in a park. He was obviously waiting for someone. She looked at the general. "This isn't good."
"It's not, but we'll need to capture the people who're coming in to see him. Otherwise it's just an unauthorized night off base." They waited, and pretty soon a limo drove up and two people got out. "I'll be damned," he said quietly. "Russians."
"Yay," she said impatiently. "Can we go hit them now?"
"Sure!" He started his engine, startling them as his headlight spotted them. "Howdy." He looked at his rider. "You're in so deep, son, I'd find a shovel soon."
"You can't stop me."
"Oh, but I can," a voice said from behind them. A small missile came out and hit the limo, electrifying it and killing the engine. "I'd get out too!" he called. "I'm not having a happy day! It's been days since I got sex!" The person inside the car slammed the door. "Fine, you aren't going anywhere anyway." He rode down next to them and took off his helmet. "Hey, Charley." Xander grinned at her. "Enamel said you were having problems and I brought you their next helper so you could come home and make Vinnie quit pacing and muttering. Vic's picking it up from him," he said with a small grin. "He's a worried little auburn mouse and Vinnie keeps saying he's going to turn gray. Modo said he'd have to calm down too much but Vinnie only snorted and paced on. Not even a pounce or a punch in sight."
"Damn, he must really be worried," she said in awe. "I'm fine. He's trying to sell his bike to the Russians." She looked down there and saw another biker holding them at bay. "Hey, it's Cell."
"It is. She' the top trainer on Mars," he reminded her with a small grin. He nodded at the general. "Hey. Howyadoin'?" he asked with a grin.
"Better now," he admitted dryly. "Thank you. Which one are you?"
"Xander Harris," he said, holding out a hand. The general winced and shook it. "I'm very protective of my sister-in-law." He waved down at the biker. "Hey." He grinned. "Cell, should I shoot the car again?"
"No, save it for later," she offered. She heard another bike and Micah pulled up. "I hope you can put me up somewhere, Simms. Stoker seemed to think you could."
"Sure. Not an issue," he promised. "You're the trainer?" She nodded. "Wonderful. What's going on?"
"He's trying to sell his bike," Charley offered.
"Russians," the general said. "There's an agent still in the car. Xander here shot the engine."
"Hey, it works," he agreed, riding down there. He blew the door off the limo and yanked the agent out, smirking at him. "Abel! How nice to see you again! And on my home turf too!" He slammed his head into the limo then dropped him. Then he called Hendrix. "We've got a KGB agent, retired, and a Russian businesswoman here waiting on you," he reported. "Plus I believe one of their weapons people."
"Oooh, goody, real work again," Hendrix called back. "Where are you?"
"The park, by the slides," Xander called.
"Yup, he brought the trainer."
"Ehhhh. Fine." Hendrix cut off and soon appeared, with a cop car following a few minutes behind. He didn't have any handcuffs, but they could do the arresting things. He looked at the soldier, then at the general. "What are you doing about him?"
"We'll have to contain him somewhere," he admitted bitterly. "He had such potential too."
"Everyone should have access to this technology, it'll mean we can hit space faster!" he shouted.
Xander looked at him. "If you want to get technical, all those of us who are fuzzy have to do is start doing interviews and say how tragic Mars is at the moment and how we all need petting. That'll get every single female in the world into the space program and then you'll be out there within ten years." Charley snickered and hit him on the arm. "They would!"
"I can imagine one of those pop stars showing up at a concert with you and petting one of you boys," the general admitted dryly. "Then saying we all had to go help because you guys needed groomed. Yeah, every single girl would go into space to get some furry cuddles." He shook his head. "My poor daughters would go insane and one's in the space program already."
Charley pinched him on the arm. "Don't encourage him. He might do it."
"Only if he wants my foot up his tail," Micah said. Xander just grinned his goofiest grin at him. "Who's teaching Vic while you're here?"
"Spike and Racer."
"Oh, hell, I've got to head home, General," she said.
"Sure, I understand. Give us a day?" Xander grinned at him. "Never mind, we'll do it by video conference if we must. Who do you think should ride that one?"
"I think we'll have to find someone very understanding who's seen torture before," she admitted.
Xander looked at him. "Got anyone like that Daniel guy on Stargate?" The general blinked, then slowly nodded. "Someone like him. Can be tough but can be mushy. Could use the weapons but won't. Will be understanding of the torture he must have put that mind through."
"Sure. I know someone who'd do that very well," he admitted. "He's part of a covert group too. I'm sure he'd love the bike."
"Remember, it'd have to go everywhere with him," Charley warned. "Even when he was here. Your bike is like your kid and your lover at the same time. It clings and won't let go, and it'll nag if you try to leave it behind."
He sighed. "Then maybe not him. I'll find him someone." He smiled at Cell as she came up and took off her helmet. "Ma'am, I'm General Boregard Sheers. I'm over this project. I thank you for your help. He's not like the rest. I'm sure Charley can brief you tonight before she heads home."
"Of course." She smiled at Charley. "They thought I'd freak less. Otherwise it'd have been Tornado from the farther city. He didn't think he could train humans."
"His loss," Charley said with a shrug. "She's also Modo's sister and Rimfire's mother," she offered. "She helped train Rimfire in how to be a good biker."
"We could use that approach, ma'am. To be perfectly honest, only half my crew rode before this. We're still debating how to best work this when they're allowed off base."
"We'll work on that together, General. Shall we?" She looked back. "Hendrix, put someone on that bike so we don't get stopped." He nodded, sighing a bit as he told one of the spare cops to do so. They headed off, Charley and Xander behind them to chat about Vic and how he was turning into a miniature Spike and Xander. It was very cute.
Charley came off the transporter and walked up to the lounge, lying down on the couch. She sighed and smiled, and fell asleep that way since she'd been up for about nineteen hours so far.
Spike came out of his room and saw her, then smirked and went to wake up Victor. He nudged him and made the classic 'shh' motion with his finger and mouth. "Your Momma's home," he whispered. "Sneak up there and cuddle without waking her." He nodded, grinning fiercely as he slid out of bed with his daddy and headed up there at his best sneak. He was getting good at sneaking, Racer said so. He smiled and made himself not squeal and pounce her, but instead climbed in with her. He felt something move by his knee and looked down. "Hi, sisser," he whispered, then snuggled in against her chest, comfortable and loved. His mommy even cuddled him and Spike covered them. He grinned and waved. "Night."
"Night," he offered, sneaking back to his bed. He ran into Xander and shrugged. "Vic's a very good sneak."
"He is," he agreed, patting him on the head. He grinned. "Come see what I found, Spike." Spike followed him down to his work area, hopping up onto a stool to look at the box in front of him. "It's yours. Go ahead and open it."
Spike opened it and gaped, then looked at Xander. "My duster!"
"It was in Angel's assorted crap box." He leaned on the table. "There's another one in there for your present size." Spike dug it out and put it on, rubbing the sleeves. "You'll have to break it in but I didn't think you'd mind. There's some black jeans too. Since I figured you'd be missing them." He stared him down. "You're more than welcome to change your style though. A leather duster on Mars would be fairly warm."
Spike snorted. "So? You wear leather up there too." He pulled out the jeans to try on, smiling at how they fit. "Good job, whelp." He looked at himself in the mirror and smirked. He liked it just like this he decided. Shirtless was a good look for him with his new muscles. He hugged Xander around the leg and drug his box off.
"Hey, Spike," Xander offered, turning to look at him. "We've got to hit Cleveland tomorrow too. Don't go as yourself or Buffy will coo you to death, but there's someone you should see." Spike raised an eyebrow but nodded, heading back to put his treasure into his bag.
Enamel walked in. "Prompting his old memories?"
"They won't die anyway," Xander said with a grin. "That old duster you found while poking through the boxes was his prize possession. I figured he'd want it back when he was older." He pinched him on the arm. "Get moved in?"
"Fully," he agreed happily. "Thanks for the suggestion on the movers. Neither of us felt like we were going to be able to move that couch. How much rent do I pay you?"
"I think you already paid in advance," he said dryly, walking off so he could go to bed too. He checked on his bike, then headed to pounce Throttle with a squeal. He got swatted for it but that was fine.
Xander and Spike appeared in the driveway and he grinned at him. "They'll bring us back in about an hour." He walked up to the door and pounded, then walked in. "It's me and Stoker's kid!" he yelled. Buffy squealed and came out to hug them both. "This is Spike, I got to name him," he said proudly. "The fur color reminded me of him."
"Hi, baby Spike," she cooed, patting him on the head. "You're adorable." He just beamed and smirked. "I guess that thing about names is true. That's a very Spikey smirk." She hugged Xander again. "How's Dawnie?"
"Doing fine. She's got things set up for her finals already. She'll do very good this semester. I brought Spike to see the cats since he likes the cats, and I brought you some information from Angel's crap since it had your name on it." He handed over the envelope. "Where's Andrew?"
"In the living room. I still hate that one of the girls decided to change his sex and made him have kittens, but he's back to normal now." She smiled at Spike. "They're very cute."
"He said so," he agreed, walking on with Xander. He looked up and blinked. "Wow."
"Very," he offered with a grin. He walked into the living room, smiling at Caridad. "This is baby Spike. He's Stoker's first son." She smiled and waved. "We're here to see the kittens to see if one might want to go live with Spike."
"Sure." She pointed and then left them alone.
Xander looked around and leaned over to whisper in his ear. "Go play with the kittens, dear."
Spike walked over there, looking down at them. Andrew nodded up at him and licked one's head, waking it up. Spike got down to look, touching and petting most of them. One of them tingled like Andrew and he stopped, picking it up to look at it. Then he burst out cackling and beaming. "Peaches," he said fondly, grinning meanly. "Nice ta see ya."
Angel meowed pitifully. Spike was already ten times his size and was obviously still a child. He had thought this was his reward for going good. He was going to have to die again.
Xander walked over to pick up the cat, stroking it. "Hey, Angel. How's life as a kitty? I know Andrew, Tara, and Joyce like it a lot." The door opened and he smirked at Wes. "I brought Spike to look at the cats in case one wanted to go home with him."
Wesley closed the door. "Don't torture Angel, he might enjoy it." The cat hissed at him so he scratched its ears. "I'm sorry, Angel, but it is rather funny. Spike's going to be a six- foot-something mouse and you're a cat." He grinned at him. "Cosmic irony at its best."
Spike pulled the cat down to cuddle it. "May I, Xander?"
"Ask your daddy later. He can't leave Earth for a few days. That and he'll adore Anya and Crankshaft, don't you think?" Spike nodded. The cat meowed pitifully at Andrew, who only huffed and meowed something back. Angel settled down. "Reminding him he could be female too?" he asked smugly. "Did you enjoy playing with your girl parts?" Andrew gave him the most smug cat look ever and went back to waking up the other kittens so they could nibble some more. Xander grinned. "Hey, Buffy, Spike wants this one and we named it Angel," he called. She came in, looking confused. "That way it's Spike and Angel together again, the Scourges of Mars." He beamed at her. "Aren't they adorable?" he asked, pointing at them. Angel's gray fur went very nicely against Spike's white fur.
"They are," she agreed, giving them both a hug. "You two are just so sweet and cute! I bet Dawnie loves to brush your fur all the time, baby Spike."
"She and Anya get along better," Xander admitted. "She's a lot like my Anya was but not a rebirth. Though, Willow did pull her ghost up there to have someone to talk to. She squeals whenever she sees her namesake, a lot." Buffy grinned at that. "So it's okay if little Spike there takes kitty Angel with him?"
"Sure!" she agreed. She kissed him on the cheek. "How are things there?"
"Oh, I'm working on teaching this guy and Vinnie's son Victor all the time now. That way he's a smart and powerful mouse in addition to being the VanWham clan's heir. Between me and Vinnie, he'll be the studliest mouse on Mars." Spike snorted. "And his playmates will be right beside him in their own unit."
"That's cool," she agreed, hugging him. "Giles!"
Xander turned and shot the man coming through the door. "Thanks, Buffy, we needed him." Then he grinned. "Come on, Spike, let's take your kitty and Giles home with us."
"Need a carrier for the cat?" Wesley asked. "Oh, when are you moving?"
"Before the next prez takes office. That way there's no problems like leash laws." He grinned. "We're already working on it."
"Excellent. Giles wanted you to have his share of the Watcher money to help Mars further. Do whatever you need to with it," he offered, smiling at him. "Give some to Dawn as well so she buys clothes that are appropriate. Are you coming for the holidays?"
"Not a clue still," he admitted. "We could. Or we could just all get together I guess. I think we'll all be home this year."
"Bring everyone," Buffy told him. "We're good with that and make sure to bring Oz and Meggy too. I want to meet her in person and squeal over baby Oz." Xander nodded, beaming at her. "That way you don't have to worry about cooking and we'll have Max, Micah, and Lorne over too."
"Sure. No apocalypses?" They both shook their heads. Giles groaned so he shot him again. "Cool. Sure. As long as Throttle agrees. We might even get Modo's sister back for it. She's doing some training. Did you want Chassis and Stan too?"
"Which ones are they?"
"Vinnie's cousin Chassis is dating one of the detectives I had to go save, Stan."
"No, that's okay, they've probably got plans with his family." He nodded, walking over to drag Giles outside. "Have fun and be good to your kitty, Spike. He's a precious thing."
"We've got puppies," he admitted, walking out petting his cat. "Thank you!" He walked out and they clicked the button that let someone know to bring them back. Spike walked off and saw his father, holding up his cat. "It's Angel," he said smugly.
"Oooh, look at the little kitty," Dawn cooed, scratching behind his ears. "Who had you, precious?"
"Andrew. One of the girls changed him female for a bit." He drug Giles off and held him out. "Go restrain him, dear. We'll go have fun later. We'll bond." She smirked evilly and drug Giles off with Rimfire's help. He looked at Stoker. "It really is Angel." He walked off whistling. "We're all going to Cleveland for Thanksgiving!" he shouted. "Every last one of us!"
"Fine, means I don't have to cook," Charley called back. She came out of the kitchen. "How as Cleveland?"
"Giles was there," he said fondly, smirking at her. "Dawn and I are going to bond over some torture in a few minutes. And Spike's got a cat to add to his puppies. Angel's a very cute kitten." She choked and he beamed, nodding. "Yup, it's him!" Spike came up redressed in his duster and black jeans, without a shirt. "Going shirtless?"
"Fur's cuter than any shirt," he offered. "Daddy's petting Angel, promising that Anya will take good care of him."
Throttle came up the ramp and kissed his mate. "Let's go talk to Giles, shall we?" he offered, walking his mate off. "Hey, Spike. What's up? That's a cute outfit."
"Mine," he said proudly. "My old one." He smirked and walked off to find Vic to play with. He was clutching his daddy's tail and sucking his thumb. "Course?" Vic let go and pounced him, then ran out to play with him. "Ah, my next childe," he said fondly, heading out there.
"He'd better not be turned," Vinnie called. "You'd better not be turned either!"
"Not! He's just like it though!" He smirked at Rimfire as they passed him. "I always thought Xander'd make a good vampire."
"He at Unca Boris's," Vic said happily. "He and scary woman not play though."
Spike just nodded at that. He could believe there was a vampire Xander running around here. It'd only make sense with a Xander. After all, one bored Xander was chaos in a town like Sunnydale. Two bored Xanders should about be able to be chaos for a city the size of Chicago. That'd be some pretty destruction and hell on earth. Hopefully that one wasn't a mouse too. He didn't need the competition on Mars. As Modo's momma said, one bored white mouse was trouble, two bored white mice were chaos, three bored white mice were a planetary emergency, but a bored Xander was worse than ten bored normal white mice, especially when multiplied to a bored Vinnie. Then the universe shook in fear of bored white mice.
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