Xander pulled up in front of the temple, nodding at the spirits around him. He got off his bike and used his cloak to cover it. It was still very early so it wasn't warm yet. He walked into the temple, looking at all the spirits hanging around. He walked up to the main altar and bowed, then whispered and the candles on it lit. He stepped back respectfully and said a quick prayer, then turned when he heard footsteps, smirking at the mice staring at him in horror. "Hi. I'm Xander."
"I dreamed about you." The older mouse stepped forward to clasp wrists. "I'm Tangent." He led the boy away, bowing at the altar himself. "I have no idea why we're up here."
"I was ordered to go to one temple, his bachelor temple from what the M'dreth Highest told me, and then the one near Omega City, but that would have forced me to fight to protect myself. Then I got ordered here," he said with a small shrug. "We're in Stoker's city." No one had told him what the name of the city was, but that's what everyone was calling it. That or Freedom Fighter City. He mentally shrugged and looked at the other mice. "Technically I'm vowed to both him and Mylar. I'm just kinda like that," he admitted dryly. They all shivered. "My husband doesn't mind too much, as long as this doesn't take all month. The other real me has a club opening then."
"I've heard about that," one of the young mice in the back offered.
"You're married?" Tangent asked. "How? We took a vow of celibacy!"
Xander grinned at him. "I was married before I vowed and I'm a lot more normal and calm when I've had a lot of sex. Otherwise I'm a bouncy, flaky, worried, uptight, dangerous mouse on a hair trigger with a bad sense of fun." They all stared in horror. "I'm guessing he either likes me with Throttle or he's ignoring Throttle. Either that or I never got that message and personally that is something that would make me leave." He shrugged. "All up to you, big guy." He felt the funny touch in his mind that signaled a vision and relaxed his shields. He had figured out he got less of a headache when he did that. A few pictures flowed through him and he grinned, nodding. "As you will it. Thank you. Of course I will. There's the shrine, there? Or just near the cliffs maybe?" That got a warm, fuzzy feeling so he nodded. "As you will it, Lord." He bowed and the feeling vanished. He looked at the others, especially Tangent. "Did you get that too?"
"I did, son. I agree, I prefer you when you're not celibate. We'd have to send you back to Earth if you got that bad again." He had apparently seen more than Xander had by the look on his face but now he knew more about his newest priest. He clapped him on the back. "We're back in the old library. Come join us." They headed back that way and Xander went out to get his cloak and pack, coming back already digging out some water and some dried fruit. "Thanks for this."
"Not an issue. I brought up tons of food, literally, to stock the compound for now." He shrugged. "It helps. I'm being useful." He sat down and looked at the books on the table. "The M'dreth code. The Goddess' main and the Moonlight paths," he said, touching each one after he identified it. "What's this one?"
"That's our code, Xander," another priest offered gently. "Have you not seen it?" Xander shook his head. "Then go ahead and read it over. We'll try to find you a copy for your future temple. What are you doing?"
"Training the family mostly," he admitted. "With some helping the Highest of the M'dreth with his own training and that of his girls. That's what I was doing on Earth." He flipped through the pages, skimming this time. "Not too difficult. Again, I'm still wearing leather," he called. "Pity, but I like it and it's comfier than jeans for me." That got another fond touch. "Besides, with being devoted to Mylar as well, I need to be in natural fabrics now and then." He kept going, finding the hated celibacy clauses. He looked at them. "Not to rock the boat or anything, but are we sure this is good for today's Mars?" They all shook their heads. "Let me guess, I'm the medium so you're using me to send the prayer?" They all grinned and nodded. "Sure. Not a problem." He flipped into the Moonlight path book, finding it helpful at this moment. He found the ritual he'd need and handed it over. "I need that to do it properly."
"You've got your own setup in the back, son," Tangent said patiently. "You guys got your own section so you wouldn't freak the rest of us out like you did at the altar just now." Xander only grinned at him. "Did you follow the Goddess before? Or the Lady?"
Xander closed both books and looked at him. "I was the Chosen Warrior and Knight of one of the slayers on Earth," he noted calmly. "I was the helper the Watchers used and that she needed." They all shivered at that. "All I ever did was protect, but I was under the Powers That Be's thumbs. My son now is, and someday I'm told I'll have a daughter who won't be." That got some sad looks. "Tag's never leaving Mars. They can't really do much to or with him up here."
"At least you know, son."
"Yeah, I knew it when they had me and when they abandoned me. Part of being me is that dead people put me on like shirts now and then. Some information was left by one of them and things suddenly started to make sense. Then the Seal showed me a Martian temple on my Hellmouth and things started to get more peaceful in my life. It was to his son Kolar, Protector of Innocence."
"I'm sure it welcomed you often," Tangent told him. "At least you don't need much training."
"No, only in the priestly stuff. I'm a decent enough fighter anymore," Xander admitted. "I took the chance to up my skills while we were all working on Dawn's training, including joining her in her martial arts classes. I'm a very good at some things but patience and stillness aren't my things, and neither are manners at times. Even Throttle says so."
"Throttle?" one of them said, sitting up straighter. "How do you know Throttle?"
"He's my husband." Xander grinned at him. "You're a relative?" He nodded. "He'd love to hear from you, man, and his momma's about ten miles from us at the moment. Call sometime or just drop in. I know he wanted to see more of his family."
"Sure, I can do that. What's your comm signature?" Xander wrote it down and handed it over, along with Momma's. "Thanks, man. You're pretty neat, even if you are sleeping with my cousin." He shuddered and hugged himself. "Sorry, that's just a bad thought."
Xander grinned. "Actually, we're very cute. Everyone says so. The same as they say about me and Vinnie VanWham."
"You know that clan?" Tangent asked, looking helpless.
"Vinnie's my adopted big brother." Then he grinned his cheeziest grin.
They all shuddered and whimpered. The VanWham clan was forbidden to serve Othra since they were so insane and dangerous. It was said that the Gods went into hiding after the VanWham clan was formed, though the interpretation most of them used was the Gods went into hiding *because* of the VanWham clan being formed. But at least all those mice were in one clan and you could easily tell them apart from normal mice.
Tangent patted Xander on the back again. "It's all right, I'm sure our God knew what he was doing when he nominated you. We'll figure that out as we get to know you better."
Xander grinned at him. "Throttle's still trying, but I look forward to your trying."
The others shivered, knowing they might have met the match of Mars.
Throttle looked at the storehouse, then shook his head with a moan. He looked at Vinnie, who just grinned. "Why are we humoring him?" He hadn't seen the toilet paper yet, but he was sure there was a lot of that lying around too.
"Because otherwise we can't stop him when he goes back for more. By the way, did you know that Xan is shopping for leather at a vampire shop?"
Throttle nodded. "I heard about that. One of the vampire waitresses told me. She told me it was cute watching them drool over him." He looked at him. "Try to stop him from buying more."
"He said Wrench could help him shop for leather. He said he's stocking his closet for ten years."
Throttle moaned. "He doesn't need more clothes. He and Dawn are both overly clothed considering how little they like to wear." He sighed and shook his head. "How long will this take?"
"How long before Xander gets back?" Vinnie joked. He looked over as Modo joined them with Piston, the older version. "Come to help us?"
"Stoker sent her to arrange for their stuff to be sent," Modo offered with a grin. "Staff wanted to know if he brought up any pickles."
"Sure, I'm sure there are," Vinnie agreed. "Where do we want to start? The main cavern, the auxiliary cavern, or the minor storage caverns?"
"How many are there?" Modo asked flatly.
Vinnie looked at him. "Vic lost count at the highest he can go."
"He can count how high?" Throttle moaned, holding his forehead, his arm braced on his handlebar. That's when his bike bucked and threw him. "Sorry, girl," he said from the ground. "I won't insult Xander again, but he did buy too much stuff and he did overplan this."
"Nah, ya think?" Modo asked dryly. "Where's the stuff for Stoker so she can get started. We can start there too."
"The main cavern," Vinnie said, pointing at the ramp up to it. "It's where the toilet paper is too."
"That's always handy to know," Throttle agreed as he got up. His bike moved away from him. "What?" he whined. "I apologized! He knows I think he overspent." His bike beeped reproachfully. "No, we're not breaking up," he sighed. He shook his head. "I love Xander, dear. I'm never leaving Xander, just now and then I need to control Xander from his own worst instincts. He probably bought enough to supply Mars for the next ten years." Vinnie nodded at that. "The city only?" he asked hopefully.
"I don't know how much the city uses," Vinnie admitted.
"I do," Piston offered dryly. "It's a lot more than I thought too. We can always see and I can tell Stoker about the treats he's got stored because I know that boy has cookies."
"Vic said those are in the auxiliary cave, which has a lock only Spike can get into," Vinnie said dryly. "Come on, let's head up to the main cavern first. It's the largest as far as I know."
"Is that where the gas is?" Throttle asked as he got onto his bike and headed after him. He stroked his bike. "I like that you're loyal to Xander, dear. I love you just as much as I do him, but even you've got to agree that sometimes the boy needs a keeper." She beeped quietly. "Yeah, well, that's me since he's mine. So sometimes I get to groan about Xander. At least I do it to you and the bros, not to him." She beeped assenting noises at that. "Okay? Are we good again?" She beeped and shifted and he grinned. "Thanks, love." He looked around. "Hey, Vinnie, what are the smaller caves?"
"Some are too small, some have a few weapons stashed," he called back. "I'm not really sure." He stopped to look in one, using his handlight to illuminate it since it was deeper. "This one's got some pillows." He headed to the next one up. "This one's pretty shallow so it's got a rifle." He looked back at Throttle. "We're going to be making a stand here some year."
Throttle just nodded. "Well, he always overplans for emergencies too," he admitted, riding on. He stopped inside the main cavern and let out a small whimper. "Lights?" he called. The bike beeped and his headlight focused on some arena lighting. "Where's the switch?"
"It's a plug in and start the generator system," Modo called. He noticed his voice kinda echoed a bit. "I remember that much." He headed just inside and to the right of the doorway, finding the generator by feel. He found the key and turned it and it came on, illuminating the single light tower that was still plugged in. He plugged in the rest and then looked around, whistling in awe. "Are we sure there's not another bike hidden in here?"
Throttle looked at him. "Don't encourage him. Otherwise your next three will have their own too."
"We'll be making theirs by then," he said firmly. "We're training people on the kiddie bikes." He looked around again, looking up at the 'economy' packages of angel soft that ran along the top of the cavern, stacked ten bundles high. "I'm surprised it's not Charmin."
"He said it's got too high a cotton content and it can plug septic systems," Vinnie said, looking around. "How do we get those down?"
"He joked and said to shoot 'em," Modo offered. "Slingshot?"
"Vinnie, feeling the need to fly?"
"Hell no." His bike beeped reprovingly. "I know, it's a bad habit I picked up off Xander, sweetheart. Still." He looked at Piston, who was just staring in awe. "Now you know why we try to calm Xander down," he said fondly. He looked around then pointed. "The last I knew we put the stuff from the spam truck that way. Dawn, Willow, and the Seal moved most everything though. It could be alphabetical by now." A piece of paper floated down and he caught it. "Oh, hey, it's the map," he said dryly, waving it. "It's alphabetical starting on the left side, bros. Why we have cans of albacore I don't know."
"What's albacore?" Modo asked.
"Eww," Throttle offered. "Why?"
Willow appeared, giving him one of those reproving looks. "Because he thought he could use it to trap some critters now and then that were bothering people, like the creepers or the thing that bit him. There's only like ten cans of it." Throttle just nodded at that. "Didn't he give you the map he drew out of everything?" They all shook their heads and she sighed. "Xander! You're such a moron some days!"
"Hey!" Throttle complained. "He's not! He probably did it on purpose so we'd have to come see and admire what he did. He does sneaky things like that now and then since he can't openly ask for affection and approval thanks to you and Buffy." She nodded, hanging her head. "Now, maps, lists? Anything?" Willow called over a clipboard off the wall and handed it over. "Thanks. Want to help?"
"Sure." She looked at Piston. "We put all the stuff that we thought was from Micah to you guys in one cave. It's over here," she offered, floating that way. "We knew Xander would never buy pinto beans or spam. We figured Micah did so he wouldn't have to send MRE's, which are really sickening and gross."
"That's putting it mildly," Throttle muttered, looking over the list. He looked at Vinnie, then hit him with the clipboard on the arm. "This is set up just for you," he said fondly, smirking at him.
"Oh, man!" Vinnie complained, looking it over. "Hot damn." He continued to flip, looking at the map on the back. He added Willow's map to the clipboard, then looked around. "Modo, pickles are in this room, about two-thirds over and toward the back. There's a few huge jars and a few boxes of the individually wrapped ones. The jars need to be refrigerated if opened." He nodded, heading back that way. "It's alphabetical. Find the 'P' section and it's about the second shelf probably."
"Sure thing, bro, thanks!"
Throttle looked at Vinnie. "Where's the emergency and survival supplies? I'll start there."
"Well, the gas is in its own cave, bro," Vinnie admitted, showing him the map of the cliffs. "He's got two tanks here. I'm not sure how big tanks are, but they're there." Throttle nodded at that. "Now, apparently one of the doorways we passed, about eight or nine back it looks like on the right, was a doorway to where the true 'survival' supplies are. The camping stuff and that stuff. There's a cavern of just dried stuff as well and it's just below that and it looks like there's a staircase." Willow floated back and nodded. "You guys?"
"Dawn. She stated quite firmly she's not hefting books." She grinned. "Should we get that other cargo carrier?"
"If you can without a lot of trouble," Throttle agreed. "Thank you, Willow."
"Eh, it's not a problem. I like you, you stick up for Xander and love him more than I could have. Just keep doing that and we won't have to have a talk with a nice, heavy shovel." Then she smiled sweetly at him.
"So that's where he learned that look," Vinnie said dryly.
"I can teleport you without your bike into somewhere horrible, cold, and about six thousand miles from here," she noted dryly. He just smirked. "I mean it."
"I'm sure you do but that would upset Xander and Wrench. Wrench would have to take over the clan duties again and that would take him from Taver, and he'd be really pissed at you for that."
"Point," she admitted with a small sigh. "Oh, Throttle, he's with one of your cousins? The Seal said they're groaning over Xander being Xander." She faded out, going to get that shipping container. It gave her something to do and she was kinda bored today since Wrench was just moving stuff around in the temple. After all, she had already peeked through the naughty stuff in his closet. The cargo container landed outside and she unpacked everything, putting it where it should be, which magically updated the list in Vinnie's hands. He shouted in happiness and she beamed as she faded back in. "I thought you might like that instead of having to do a physical count. Throttle, this way." She showed him to the survival supplies, and then how to get downstairs and to the gas as well. There was a small ledge to ride across. Whoever had hollowed these cliffs out had some very good ideas.
Throttle looked at the gas tanks, then just stared in horror. He'd never seen tanks that size before. "Bros?" he called over the radio.
"Yeah?" Vinnie asked.
"What measurement does the entry for the gas have?"
"Two tanks, full, no evaporation or leaks," he read.
"Two tanks, which are bigger than most ships we travel on, full, no evaporation or leaks," he corrected.
"Micah got them for him," Willow told him.
"I heard. He talked to the President, who allowed someone to do him a favor he could return some day." He looked at her. "This is way too much."
"It's premium too," she offered smugly. "He got a really good deal since the former owners were sucking up so heavily to the Prez in hopes of a higher job."
Modo rode in and whistled. "Wow."
"Very. Looks like we won't have to pump gas at a station for a while."
"He's got a pump set up to the farthest one," Willow noted, pointing it out. It was an older style pump but it looked pretty neat. "He did beg me to put temperature controls in here but they're not really needed at the moment," she offered. "We did it anyway, just because we didn't want to see the cliffs go into space suddenly. The Seal giggled at that image."
"Guys?" Charley called.
"Modo and I are in here," Throttle called. "Vinnie's up the main ramp!"
Charley came up to join them, staring at the tanks. "Those are industrial size. That's what they use to store it in the warehouses." Willow nodded. "Why did he do that?"
"He loves you guys," Willow noted. She stared at her now. "Think water heater, water bill, gas bill.... Should I have to go on?" Charley shook her head. "He's planning on more food and some minor clothes and electronics shopping before and after the holidays," Willow noted. "He said this should last at least three years."
"Three generations is more like it," Modo said, still sounding stunned.
"Oh, yeah, if these or the stockpile of propane ever start to leak, the list is spelled to come beat whoever is at the house or whoever is closest until someone comes out to fix it. It should be okay but they were used and I don't want to take that chance."
"No, I agree with that," Throttle assured her, looking at her. "Propane?"
"For the grill?" she offered dryly, smirking at him. "So you guys can really cook now and then?"
Throttle put his head down on his handlebars, groaning and shaking his poor, aching head.
Stoker looked at the bikes coming up to his house, just staring at the stuff. "What's all that?" he asked, sipping his bottle of rootbeer. He sat on his front porch, watching as they parked and unhooked the carts. "What's that?" he called louder.
"From Micah," Throttle called with a wave. "There's more. Come help or go without!" He got back on his bike and headed back, shaking his head. "Spike, come help!" he yelled as he rode away.
"Coming!" Spike yelled, looking at the carts. He snorted and headed to his bike, following them. He caught up to Vinnie. "My bike can't haul yet."
"That's okay, we need into the auxiliary cavern. It's not on the inventory."
Spike snickered. "Sure! You ready for a shock!"
"We found the gas. Is it worse?" Throttle asked.
"Matter of opinion. It could be considered better by some," Spike called over to him. He sped up, heading through the market at breakneck speed, weaving through the people and stalls. He came out the other side and had to stop since three of the officers were already waiting on him. "Bloody hell," he complained scowling at him.
One of them grabbed him and took him off his bike. "We've had this talk before, Spike."
Throttle stopped in front of the officers. "We need him to get into something for us so we can hand over some of the supplies Micah sent. Want to come with us, officer?" The guy nodded. "Sure." He looked at Spike's bike. "Head home, I think he's in real trouble this time." The bike sighed and rode off, looking dejected. "I'm sure he'll be grounded at least."
"His father's going to be paying a huge fine this time," one of the other ones offered. "You guys brought more stuff up?"
"Yeah, we just delivered some to Stoker," Vinnie offered as he joined them. "There's about another cargo container of stuff. Piston, Stoker's assistant, is moving it out there to separate it out." He grinned. "You can come help haul too if you want."
"Hey, the more of us the better," he noted. "When should we show up?"
"Give us an hour. We need Spike to break into one of the sealed caverns. Xander set the alarm to him somehow." Spike just smirked at him. "One of you guys are more than welcome to escort him. We are law abiding mice, officer."
"Sure, I'll come," the guy holding Spike by the back of his shirt agreed. "You go get others." He nodded and the other cops headed off to do that. "A lot of stuff?" Throttle just moaned. "At least it's good for Mars."
"Xander's horrible at spoiling people," Vinnie admitted, heading off again. "What did he do?"
"Went through the market like Wrench. We're under orders to stop him too, sir."
"I'll warn him later," Vinnie noted. "We can't have the Highest being naughty."
"I'm sure he'll appreciate that, bro," Modo called back. "I saw Racer, I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Sure," Throttle called back. He was going to have to spank Xander when he got home. There was no other alternative to stopping this problem of his.
"At least no one will starve," Vinnie offered from next to him, quietly, not over the radio.
"No, no one would starve, but isn't that why we have rations?" he asked, looking at him. Vinnie nodded. "He went way overboard this time."
"Maybe, but you can't yell at the guy because he gives a damn, Throttle. He's trying to prove his worth to everyone." Throttle nodded at that, letting out a small sigh of defeat. "We need to sit down and make out smaller lists with him."
"Yeah, that might be the best idea yet," he admitted. "I don't think we'll need more gas for the next few years."
"You guys are storing gas?" the officer asked. Throttle nodded. "Don't you need special containers and stuff?"
"It's in storage tanks," Vinnie assured him. "It's the sort they use to warehouse gas."
"Yeah, but there should be permits needed."
"It's far away from the food, officer, and off totally by itself in a cliff-side cavern. I'm sure Xander already checked into all that as well."
"If you say so. I will have to report you guys do have some."
"Stoker knows already," Vinnie admitted. "Let me call him." He flipped on his radio. "Stoker?"
"Why do I have a case of pork and beans on my front lawn?" he answered.
"Micah sent them. Did Xander have to file things to keep his horde of gas?"
"No. We don't have permit controls set up yet. He's keeping gas?"
"In safe containers. Come on out." He turned it off. "Just in case," he told the officer. Who simply smiled and nodded. "He's trying to make sure we don't have to dent Mars too heavily for anything."
"Which is really nice of him and all that, but we can't let him be dangerous either."
"Xander? Dangerous?" Vinnie joked. "Who would'a thought."
"Bro," Modo complained over the radio. "Broadcasting!"
"Sorry. The only dangerous thing about Xander is that he's a strong believer in spoiling people."
"So I can tell," the officer noted as he pulled up with them. They rode around the house and he smiled at it. "That's very pretty."
"All Xander's work," Throttle admitted proudly. When they got to the caves, Vinnie took Spike and Throttle took the officer to the gas cavern. "There. Those."
The officer looked, then let out a small whimper. "Is he expecting another invasion?"
Throttle gave him a very serious look. "Xander always plans for the worst case scenario and then goes five percent overboard. This is worst case for a year, plus a few equalizing percentage points."
"Does he have any relatives I could marry? I'd even marry a human for that."
Throttle snorted. "Only Dawn and she's already taken."
"I heard. She seems pretty nice from what his friends have said around," the officer offered, looking at him. "I don't care if she is human, they've been very helpful to us. The kids are mostly mice so I'm good with them, sir."
"Thanks." Stoker rode up and Throttle pointed. "Did he file anything about those?"
"Yup, with Carbine. It's legal and she checked on them when they came out. One of the engineers set up the pump for him too." He looked at the cop. "My son?"
"Getting into the auxiliary cavern," Throttle said dryly.
"Wonderful. Isn't that where he put the stuff he mugged off Little Debbie?" He headed that way through the interior tunnels, coming out in the main cavern, then heading back further. He found his son staring in horror inside. "Was it wrecked?" he asked dryly.
"Harris on a super sugar rush," Spike said, giving his father a horrified look. He burst out into tears and went running for him, needing a hug. "He'll bounce us to death!"
"If he gets that bad, we'll put him on a machine so he can create energy, son," he soothed, patting him on the back. He rode closer and flipped on the lights, making Spike shudder and hide inside his shirt. "I'm sure we won't let Xander eat all that at once, son."
Throttle looked at the rows and rows of Ho-Ho's, Nutty Bars, and other assorted snack foods, and moaned. "Where did we put the industrial size tylenol?" he asked Vinnie.
"Back about ten feet and to the right of the door, down two aisles and chest-high shelf," he offered. Throttle went back to break into that stash and bring some back for the rest of them. They'd need it.
Throttle looked over as the comm unit beeped, looking at his missing mate. "We went out into the caverns today. It's a good thing you made the map since I only saw a few of them when I was snooping around. I don't think we'll need to shop much, Xander."
"I was going to do another rootbeer and hotdog run since I underplanned how much we used so far," he offered. "Plus pick up some more stuff I had on order, like the DVD's and stuff." He gave him the sweetest grin. "I'm here with your cousin, who has shudders each time he thinks of us kissing."
"Some mice are like that," Throttle noted philosophically. He waved at his cousin. "Hey. You survived too?" His cousin just blinked and nodded. "Anyone else?"
"Two. My stepdaughter and one of my cousins on the other side of my family. Your momma?"
"She's fine," Throttle offered with a small grin. "Come down sometimes, she's been anxiously waiting for them to finish the database project."
"I heard about that, it's a good idea," he admitted. "This one is really yours? You never seemed that controlling. He seems like he needs to be a cherished pet at the old Symposium Club."
"Most of the time I go on the leash system. He's got one and it's got so much room and then he suddenly runs into the end and chokes himself." He stared at Xander. "Like in the gas he bought."
"I thought we'd need it," he defended.
"Stoker said if Mars comes up on a major shortage one of those is theirs."
"I already agreed to that with Carbine. That, some of the other supplies in times of extreme famine and there's not enough for rationing." He shrugged. "That's not a problem. Also, I've got to change the stuff to the Martian bank on earth." Throttle just nodded at that. "Sorry."
"Not an issue but we really don't need more stuff," he complained. Xander glared at him and he wilted. "We'll see."
"Fine." Xander grinned. "Remember, I've got to go to the sex shop too, otherwise we'll run out of lube." Throttle groaned and shifted a bit. "I'll let you two talk for a bit. I'm going to help some of the spirits dissipate. I'll be back in ten minutes." He walked off, going to talk to the spirits watching them all.
Throttle's cousin just gave him a long stare. "You help him stay calm?"
"That's three days without sex. Just wait another week," he said dryly. "How long will he be up there?"
"We'll gladly let you use the transporter we hear your city has to bring him home," he offered with a grin. "He's already done what we really wanted and needed him to do. Othra said he's to start putting things back together again and he's to set up his own temple somewhere out there."
"We've got a nice boundary cave that would make a pretty one," Throttle admitted. "It feels kinda nice and calm in there." He shrugged. "Since we own that too."
"He was worried about what you'd say earlier." He glanced to the side, then back at his cousin. "Didn't you like his plans?"
"Xander plans for the worst emergency then adds five percent," Throttle told him. "Someone might want to hear about that somewhere."
"At least he plans."
"True," he agreed. "He does it very well. We found his ice cream stash too." The cousin just stared in open-mouthed shock. "Exactly. He has a whole cavern worth of sweets. Tell him he made Spike cry and hide in his daddy's shirt."
"I didn't mean to and I certainly won't be eating them all at once," Xander called.
"That's fine because two cases of each kind of stuff out there went to the general fund," Throttle noted patiently. "I love my boy but sometimes he's horribly naughty."
"He said you might spank him."
Throttle nodded. "Yeah, Vinnie and I are both thinking about that after we saw the industrial sized freezer Xander had put in and hooked into our power system."
Xander's head reappeared in the screen. "Did it cause a drain? I was worried about that."
"No, no drain, not even a flicker on the gauge according to Enamel. Willow had it put in one of the accessory caves by itself since it'd probably stay cooler in there."
"That's fine. That's why I ran that line out there," he agreed happily. "Can I have pizza when I come back?"
"You're going to be lucky to sit down when you come back," Vinnie said from the doorway, lounging in it with his arms crossed and this wicked smirk on his face. "I should spank you for handing me that job."
"It's not like it's demanding," Xander said with a small pout. "I was planning on having Dawn magic the lists and everything for you. That way you'd have something you could do when you're bored. You're in charge of the food shopping lists. I'm in charge of the entertainment shopping lists." Vinnie shook his head. "Yes I am."
"No, you're not," he said dryly. "I'm in charge of those," Vinnie assured him. "That way you don't get any more classical music in the collection."
"I like it when I'm meditating and Dawn does her yoga to it."
"And? We've got more than enough."
"Uh-uh. We can use it to mix tracks," Xander said with a smirk. "I liked how I mixed some on my computer. Oz said they were neat sounding too."
Throttle looked at Xander. "We'll see about that, I get to approve everything so you don't bankrupt yourself again." Xander sighed and nodded. "Thank you. When should we expect you back?"
Xander winked. "I've got to hit a few others places too, honey. I've got to gather some puzzle things and bring them home to work on."
"You really should work on them there," the cousin noted dryly.
"Then I'd never get home and my mate would continue to be cranky without his infusions of Xander." He grinned and clapped him on the back. "I'll be right back." He headed over to stop the priests fighting. "Quit!" They all stared at him and he glared back. "No more!"
"Fine," Tangent agreed. "How are things at home?"
"I left my cousin-in-law talking to my hubby. Throttle's not too pleased with my ideas of stocking the new lair." He shrugged. "When I get the puzzly things done, do I leave them there or bring them with me?"
"Bring them home with you so you can work there," the younger priest told him. "Since you're setting up a temple there already." Xander nodded. "You could use one of the former ones but you'd have to rededicate it."
"I've thought about that and there's a huge old temple near where I live, but it's on the other side of the city and I'm not sure if that's allowed or not. I can definitely use that to work on the puzzly things though. The last I knew those were being counted as holy sites and not for common people."
"You're not a common person, Xander. You're one of Othra's high priests," Tangent said patiently. "I can contact them if you have any doubts." Xander nodded. "Why would you doubt?"
"Because the M'dreth Highest doesn't use theirs."
"Ah." He nodded. "That can be for many reasons." He walked the boy off, taking him to his bike so he could call the council out there, getting an older priest of another faith. "Exhaust, brother mouse, we need to know the regulations for using some of the old temples. Xander is one of Othra's and Mylar's high priests and he's been ordered to either set up a new one or reopen an older one."
"If you guys say he's a priest he can use the ones near here. There's a shrine up by Mons, Xander, and the one in the Valley."
"I like the one in the Valley," he admitted sheepishly. "The one by Mons is for miracles and for non-believers to come request help." Exhaust nodded at that. "You're sure that's okay?"
"I'm fine with it. Or you could decide what Wrench did and build one closer and use the one out there for the Holiest of days and things. That way he didn't have to spend all day on a bike or clean and rededicate that one."
"Okay, I'll figure it out," Xander said happily "Thanks, Exhaust. Did you need to steal any more of the supplies?"
"No, we're good. Thank you for the treats for the next city picnic." He winked and signed off. Exhaust looked at the others. "Xander is Othra's High Priest and is devoted to Mylar too?" Stoker groaned and Carbine nodded. "Why?"
"Because he's like that," Carbine noted dryly. "Which is he doing?"
"He'll figure that out. The one in the Valley is about an hour's ride so he may not want that one with where his house is." He shrugged. "Who knows with Xander." He looked over as Spike walked in and headed for his father with a letter while Mirror walked in and took her usual seat. "How did it go?"
"He's to take special classes with Xander, not ride alone for a year, Stoker, and he's also to do ten days of punishment this year in the public works stuff."
Stoker nodded. "That's fair. Is there a fine too?"
"I thought it might unfairly levy against your family and what would you give us? Stuff Xander gave you?" she noted dryly. "There's just that and I did have a word with his bike as well. The AI does know the restrictions."
"That's fine. Thank you, Mirror. I'm sure he's going to be sorry if he's not already."
"I'd hope so. We don't need or want needless accidents from youthful stupidity to take out more mice." Spike nodded, looking dejected. "You may still ride as long as there's a reasonable person with you, Spike, and I don't mean Wrench. Of course, if it's an emergency, then it's fine," she added for good measure.
"Thanks," Stoker agreed, picking up his son to sit him on the lap. "We'll get with Xander when he comes back so you can start training with him full time on the weekends."
Spike looked up at him. "As long as he's not on a sugar rush," he said plainly.
Stoker hugged him. "Throttle was warned, he won't let Xander eat a box of candy bars again. Or take in too much caffeine."
Spike nodded and relaxed. It could definitely be worse and he did need to start training this body again so it was as good as his last one was. Xander would be helping him with that, he had promised, so it'd be part of those 'special classes'. Besides, the kid would make him ride better too. He looked around, then up at his father. "What's going on?"
"Nothing much," Exhaust told him. "We just told Xander the rules about using the temples in the Valley and other places."
Spike gave him an odd look. "You're letting him start his cult?"
"He's a high priest of Othra and Mylar, son," Stoker said firmly. "He can't step out of their bounds."
"Where is the poor dear now?" Mirror asked.
"Sycresta by the tracer tag on the signal," Exhaust admitted. "I don't know why but there was another priest up there as well."
The Seal faded in and grinned at him. "He was ordered to go meet with them then get some things that were broken and put them back together again so they could go into the temple he'd either build or clean up." She grinned at Spike. "Willow's mad at you for that stunt earlier, she's so upset she can't even bake cookies."
Spike shuddered. "There's plenty in Xander's storage caves."
She smirked. "We know, who do you think put them there?" She winked and faded out. "Gotta go tell a secret." She traveled to the new lair and landed beside Throttle's bed, watching him sleep curled around Xander's pillow. "Awww," she said, waking him up. "Put on some pants, studly. There's a few things you didn't get to see." He put on pants and boots, following her out to his bike and then to the cliffs. He followed her up the steeper ramp, having to fire his jets to make it up there, and then inside the small cave. She got off and walked through a wall. "It's not real," she called when he hesitated. He walked that way and stopped, staring at everything in that cavern. "This is a secret thing he's been hiding, Throttle. It's not the only one though. This is just the future birthday presents." She walked him back through a smaller entry, letting him into a bigger, hollowed out cavern. This one held a ship and a few other things. "He told one of the clan's kids to find certain things for him and he brought them back in this ship," she said quietly. "He's planning on doing something dramatic and he didn't want you to know."
Throttle walked down there, opening the side of the ship with the standard Freedom Fighter entry code, then walked inside. He blinked at the stuff that had been found, then backed out and looked at the size of the ship again. "Magic?" he asked.
"Yeah, he had Starlight do it for him," she admitted. "Starlight worked with Pierce and Chain to find all this and then Gap flew it back. All at the urging of Terror."
"I thought he and Terror were too chummy," Throttle said dryly. The mouse in question came in from the other door. "How much stuff is there?"
"Don't ask," he noted. "Really." Then he grinned. "I like your mate. Don't ever lose him or else we will steal him. I know Pierce wants him something bad. I can't imagine those two being anything but terrible together on Mars."
"Neither can I," Throttle admitted. "Which one was the occult Plutarkian?"
"Oh, wonderful," Throttle said dryly, shaking his head. "How much other stuff does he have?"
"A lot of artifacts spread around his estates. The Bringers apparently took them out first because they had a clue." He leaned on the side of the ship. "Xander's offering them up for Solstice, Throttle. You can't spoil that for him."
"A present for Mars," he said dryly. Terror nodded. "Are you leading the others back?"
"Probably. I can't stand to be surrounded by so many mice anymore."
"I understand. If you need anything, yell."
"With those caverns up there?" he joked dryly, smirking at him. "I doubt it." He nodded behind him. "There is one more cave he found, man. Wanna see? I like to mediate in there."
"Sure." Throttle walked back out and joined him, looking inside the cave with all the crystals. "Diamonds?"
"No, the floor show crystals that used to amuse the kids so much," he admitted, prying one out and putting it into the light in the other room. A glow of colors came from it, showing on the ceiling and the side of the ship. "Those things."
"Wow. I haven't seen those in years," he admitted. He shook his head and picked it up, putting it into his pocket. "I think Vic's getting a new treat today," he offered with a grin. "It's almost Thanksgiving. He's handing it over at Solstice?"
"Vinnie told him we've got a holiday about that time this year. Our version of Halloween was what he called it."
Throttle nodded. "I remember that celebration, it's a lot like how the Day of the Dead was described to us," he agreed. "He's giving Mars things to remember with on the day of remembering the dead. My man is amazing," he said suddenly, grinning. "Vinnie was really wanting that obelisk back. Did you find that?"
"Half of it. The top half had been chipped or broken off." He shrugged. "It happens."
"True, it does." He clasped hands with him. "Thanks, I won't spoil that for you. Good job."
"Thanks, Throttle. It means a lot to me. Chassis is finishing her report for the main councils tomorrow so they can decide whether or not to send others back to Plutark to loot some more and get back some of our stuff. No matter what Starlight did, we couldn't fit their library."
Throttle nodded. "If they don't, Xander will more than happily allow and fund you guys to go back." Terror nodded, knowing that. "Have a good night."
"Thanks. You too. Think I can try some of that ice cream stuff?"
"Yeah, go ahead. It's sweet and cold." He walked off grinning, smirking at the Seal when he passed her. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. I thought those crystals might make you happy." She gave him a hug. "Vic will adore those things." She led him back out and back to his bike, watching him pick up something and hand to her. She sent it to Terror, then followed him home, tucking him back in since he needed it. Then she covered the crystal and took it to Vic's room, putting it where it would catch the first morning sunlight. She whispered in his ear, "uncover the present when you get up, it needs light to shine," then disappeared.
Vinnie sat upright and grabbed his blaster from under his pillow at the screaming going on, panting hard. He got out of bed and headed for his son's room, finding Modo and Throttle already there, and something glowing in the middle of the floor. "Whoa, I haven't seen one of those in years!" he said excitedly. He walked in and hugged his son. "Those are very special, Victor. They're called Floor Show crystals. Do you like it?" His son beamed and pointed at the pretty lights. "Yeah, those are pretty. When they fade, you cover up the crystal for two hours and let it rest, then it can go again. All right?" Vic stuck his finger in his mouth and nodded, but didn't look happy. "That way it'll glow just as brightly."
"'Tay," Vic agreed, watching the lights. "Now?"
"Sure, we can do it now." He pulled the cloth next to it over it, then picked his son up and stood up. "Where did you find that?"
"Last night in the caverns. The Seal showed me where some were naturally occurring," Throttle said gently. "I saw Terror too."
"Cool. I was wondering where he was hiding." He hugged Vic. "Someone left you a very special present."
"Can I take it to daycare and play today so I can show it off?" he asked, putting his head on his father's shoulder. "That would take two hours."
"It would," Vinnie agreed happily. "Let's get you fed and washed up, son, and then I'll take you over there, okay?" His son nodded and wiggled down to head for the bathroom. "We have more?"
Throttle nodded. "There's a whole cave of them."
"I want one," he pouted.
"Tell Terror to pluck you out one and send it up," he snorted, heading back to his room. "I can take him in, that way I can check with Stoker about things we've still got to do."
"Sure, bro. That'd be fine. Have fun playing with the kids," Vinnie agreed, grinning at Modo. "I never thought I'd see one of those again."
"Me either. They were kinda nice when you're little."
"They make pretty pictures when you're trying to sleep too," Vinnie said, clapping him on the arm as he walked past him. "Magnet, you up yet?" he called. His daughter squealed and bounced up and down in her crib, reaching for him. "I thought you might be since your brother was such a loud auburn mouse today." He picked her up and took her into the bathroom to help her big brother clean up, and to let him help her clean up. It was good to share on Mars. Besides, Vic liked to help her bathe.
Throttle smiled at the daycare worker's shocked looked at him. "Vic said he wanted to come play with Spike and them. He got given a present by one of his cousins and he wanted to show it off too." He set Vic down, helping him out of his baby biker jacket. "There you go."
"Hasn't it been two hours yet?" Vic pleaded.
Throttle checked his watch, then nodded. "Yeah, I guess it has been." He winked at the teacher and put the crystal's bag on the desk. "Hey, guys, one of Vic's cousins found this last night in the dessert." He undid the bag and pulled it out, letting the crystal glow in the bright and sunny room. One of the students shut off the light and they all stared in awe.
The teacher smiled at him. "Those are really rare since they used them for tuning crystals."
"Xander might have some in his cave complex, we're not sure. Terror found this one." He handed her the bag and walked over to where the foursome were staring, bringing Vic with him. "He wanted to play today."
"Sure," Ramjet said, not looking at them. "How often can it do that?"
"Every two hours. It's got to be covered for two hours when it gets too dim to let it store up enough dark to glow again." She glanced at him and he nodded. "Seriously. They're called floor show crystals. They used to be big when I was a little mouse your age. They also used to be a lot more common."
"The clan had a huge one at the ancestral home," the teacher admitted, staring in wonder, sniffling a bit. "The stupid, smelly stinkfish took it first."
"Ask Terror, you never know what he'll find," Throttle offered quietly. She looked at him and he grinned, winking a bit. Then he looked at the restless kids. "I think it's getting dim."
"It is," she agreed, putting it back in the bag. She smiled at the pouting and whining kids. "It needs to store up some darkness so it can do it again. Give it two hours, guys," she ordered. "We can watch it again after lunch." That cheered them up and they went back to playing. "Thank you, Throttle and Victor."
Vic beamed. "I thought it was pretty too. I wanted to share." He beamed at Spike. "You need happies."
"I do," he agreed. He hugged Vic briefly then let him go. "We're building today and working on the code." Vic squealed and dug in to help them. Spike looked at Throttle. "Shoo off, adult."
"Fine," he said with a grin, going to help some other kids play. One little girl just looked at him and sniffled. "What's wrong?"
"My daddy looked like you."
"I'm sure he was a handsome and good mouse, sweetheart," he soothed, stroking her forehead. She nodded and cried on him, and he could only hold her with a worried look for the teacher, who nodded he was doing the right thing. Everyone had to heal something of a loss, even the youngest ones, and he had plenty of fur to get damp from crying.
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