The ship crashed, and burned in the atmosphere. Fortunately, one being was still awake and alive on it. It managed to blow the clamps holding it down and eject itself. The ship's pieces fell into the water, looking like every other meteor shower that this planet had seen. The falling being, a bike, fired its thrusters, trying for a more controlled landing. It was still young, but this had been programmed into its brain back by the Creators. It landed and not gently, shocking itself. It managed to find a set of bushes to hide in before anyone could investigate. It was injured. The physical damage could be healed but it knew its wiring was now jostled. It was having funny mental pictures. Pictures of other riders, other bikes. It knew what planet it was on. All Martian bikes were sentient to a higher degree. It knew vaguely where it needed to go as well. The pictures flashing through the cyber memory were clear enough. There was a garage. It had to get to the garage. It would be healed there. Unfortunately, it didn't even know where the garage was at the moment. It let itself drift for a while, hiding and trying to regain the blocked memories. If it could hide, it could get to the garage eventually.
The bike finally felt strong enough to do some careful exploring. All it knew was that it was on Earth, near a lot of water. It was warm and humid. His rider had aimed for the ocean when he realized he wasn't going to make it. They had no fuel when they hit the outer atmosphere. It remembered the ship going to pieces seconds after he had escaped. It cautiously rolled down the darker streets and alleys. His memory said that the humans on Earth didn't have sentient vehicles so it would look wrong to them to see a bike driving itself. He rolled around the city, finding many mentions. He found a phone in one of the dark areas and pushed out his stiff cord, punching into the phone's body hard enough to make it lose it's metal lunch and knock it's head off. It knew this was a communications device and he could plug into the communications systems down here. It dialed the number in memory, hearing a machine connecting it to something. A series of high pitched squeals came across.
He tried another system, finding it had information, some anyway. He was in Miami and the Last Chance was in somewhere called Chicago. A query on where that was didn't get answered. He tried another system, finding a deeply held secret number in its memories for emergencies like this. It dialed it and heard the computers there answer and talk to him. Finally! It got the information it needed but it wasn't good. He was nearly two thousand miles away. That was a long ride to sneak up there, especially without gas. It was given orders and told to stay put, that they would come pick him up, send him home. He assented, that sounded more reasonable and his faulty memories said this number in the comm system was helpful people. He pulled back after getting hung up on, heading back to the hidden area. Only, he was hungry. His tank was running low. He spied a few things that were shaped like him on the street and snuck over to talk to one, looking like he was parked. A human walked up and looked at it, then stuck something paper on his windshield. He didn't dare shudder it off. The instructions had said do not contact humans, they didn't know about them. The human got back into a little four wheeled thing with odd appendages and left.
He turned and beeped at the bike next to him, not getting an answer. He knew there were bikes like this on Mars. His best friend was one of them. This bike and his best friend were getting mixed up in his memory pathways, making him scared because nothing would talk to him anymore. He rushed off, hoping to find one that was alive, like he was. He knew he had to find something to eat soon, somewhere to plug in to give him the tingly, liquid his brain drank as well. He found a bike just pulling in with a rider and the bike looked like his trainer. His memory was so confused! He rolled over and beeped quietly at the bike, hoping the human ignored him. He was in the shadows.
The human took off his helmet and heard the quiet beeping, looking around in alarm. He carefully climbed off his bike, his hand going for the thing on his side, the other reaching for a small device in his pocket. He walked around the parking lot listening, coming closer to where the frantic beeping was coming from. He found the bike. "Are you a bomb?" he asked, squatting down to look at it. "If you are, someone needs to be arrested for ruining such prettiness."
The bike paused beeping and stared at him, studying him. The human had addressed him! Him! He knew! He beeped at it, moving closer. The human moved away, falling on his ass. The bike stopped and let out a quizzical sounding beep.
The human looked at it. "Are you...talking?" he guessed quietly. Then he shook his head quickly. "Bikes don't talk. What the hell am I thinking?" The bike moved closer and he could tell it was moving on its own. "Okay, whoever's doing this prank, really good and all, but stop it before I arrest your ass!" he yelled. "Eric! Calleigh!" No answer. He looked at the bike again, standing up. "Okay. What do I do now?" He moved closer, looking it over. "You've had a hard ride recently, bike." It beeped, sounding sad. "Do you have a rider? An owner?" It shook its front wheel. "Uh-huh. Okay, I'm obviously very tired from work today because you just answered me." The bike beeped at him. "Whoa! I don't speak beeps. I'm not a censoring machine." He moved closer again, touching the handlebars. The bike leaned against him.
He checked it over carefully, he knew what a bike should look like. No bombs. It wasn't a standard bike by any means but it wasn't a bomb. He looked at the gauges. "You're nearly out of gas, princess." The bike beeped angrily. "Okay, sorry, you're a boy?" It beeped more happily. "Okay, won't make that mistake again. Can I ...call someone? Do you know where you belong?" A small screen popped up and showed him a military base. "Ah. Okay. Listen, I have *no* clue what's going on. I live here and I have friends who can help hide you from the general people until the military come as long as they'll be nice to us. Would you like that?" It beeped. "Okay. Can I... ride you to their house?" It beeped again. "Okay. And I'll even top your tank because you're about out." He went to grab his things off his other bike and came back.
He gently straddled it and the bike seemed to relax. Almost slumping. "Where's your rider?" It let out another sad beep. "Gone?" It beeped again. "Okay, we'll see what we can do to help you. Just act like this for my boss, okay? Otherwise I'll be in a hospital for a while." He found the ignition switch and flicked it, hearing the muffled engine. "You've got to have some work." He turned the bike and headed off slowly. "Let me steer. We'll get gas first." The bike let him have control and he steered it into the nearest gas station, making him a happy bike. He filled it up and paid then came back. "Okay, let's go see the boss. Because if I called first he'd never believe me." He climbed back on and took off a bit more confidently. The bike didn't seem quite so depressed.
"Are you supposed to be in Miami?" It beeped a negative sound. "Huh. In the US?" It beeped negatively again. "On Earth?" It beeped negatively again. "In this solar system?" It beeped a positive sounding noise. "Okay, are you Venustian?" It beeped a sarcastic noise. "Hey, last I knew, aliens were in books and comics, not real. Give me some slack here, okay?" It beeped more assertively and popped up a wider view of the military base for him. "That's red sand. Mars?" It beeped more happily. "Your Martian?" It beeped excitedly. "Okay. What do real Martians look like?" It popped up that picture when he stopped them at a light. He blinked. "They're giant marsupials?" He moved on at the honk, heading out toward the ocean and a nicer part of town. "Rats?" It beeped angrily. "Sorry, playing yes/no here. Mice?" It beeped excitedly. "H is never going to believe this. Just don't suddenly stop, okay? Treat him like you do me. He's a nice guy and he'll protect you. I swear he will. He protects me."
The bike beeped happily and turned on some music, making the rider smile. "Metal. Martian mice listen to heavy metal. Okay then." Now he really thought it was a joke but if it was it was a really good one and he'd only get his coworkers back a little bit for this. He pulled up to the darkened house and called from the driveway. "Come downstairs. I've got someone you need to meet. Thanks, H." He hung up and leaned on the handlebars. "The redheaded guy is really cool. Act up all you want in front of him," he said quietly. The door opened and he looked at his boss. "Before you say a *word* I thought it was a prank. It's not."
The head guy came over, looking at the bike. "New ride, Speed?"
"No. It rolled up to my bike in the parking lot and tried to communicate. Baby, go ahead and show him where you're from?" It beeped excitedly and flashed the pictures.
Horatio Caine just stared, then looked at his CSI. "This had better not be a prank, Speed."
He stood up, taking off his helmet and putting it and everything in his pockets off to the side of the driveway. "Go ahead and show him." The bike popped up weapons and rolled around the driveway. He looked at his very stunned boss. "It, he, I already made that mistake, was nearly out of gas. It looks like he's had a rough ride and he said he's missing his rider." It beeped and leaned against him. "Shh, we'll see if we can find him for you."
Horatio looked at him, then at his CSI's new friend, then back at him. "Okay, what do you need from me?"
"Look at the pictures. It's a military base and it's got red sand." Horatio came over to look, then shuddered. "So I'm thinking there's someone looking for him. We need to hide him for the general populace at the very least, H."
"We do," he decided. "Then we can figure out if the people who'll be coming will be okay." A phone number flashed. "What's that?"
"It's.... Illinois area code?" he suggested. He got his pen from his stuff and wrote it on his hand, then looked at him. "Up to you, boss, but I don't have a garage."
"Your friend can borrow a corner of mine," he agreed, going to open it. The bike rolled in once the door was up enough. A cord popped out and he looked at it. "Need electric?" It beeped happily. He plugged it in and gave it a gentle pat on the seat. "We'll find out who you belong to and we'll see what we can do. Do you have a name?" It shook its front wheel. "Okay." He looked at Speed. "Let's go look up that number."
"You rest and hide in here, bike. We'll look up that number and call someone. Hopefully they can come get you really soon. You'll be safe in here and I'll be back in a while to check, okay?" It beeped and settled in, shifting some to get more comfortable while the two men watched. Speed looked at his boss, running a hand through his messy, dark hair. "And?" he asked quietly as the door went down.
"We look up the number. Let's see what's going on." They went inside the house to call the place they worked, the crime lab, to get it looked up for them. It came back to a garage in Chicago. Horatio and Speed shared a look.
Speed dialed it, getting the fax line, but the person looking it up had found the main line. He dialed it. "Hi, this is CSI Speedle in Miami. I had a bike just pop up with your number in its phone memory," he said, trying to sound like this was an everyday, earth occurrence. "Could you call me back at ...." The phone was picked up. "Hi, and I'm speaking to?" He listened. "Miss Davidson. All right then. No, Tim Speedle, I'm a CSI, an officer, here in Miami. Green racing bike. No, it beeped that it didn't have a rider. But it did have some very pretty pictures of a military base with red sand? Uh-huh. Looked like it had been ridden pretty hard. No, it's in my boss's garage. I trust him," he assured her patiently. "Of course. Please. That would be most helpful, ma'am. We'll be at this number, do you have caller ID?" He nodded when she read it off. "That's us. Thank you, ma'am. Was regular unleaded good enough? I had to fill his tank. No, he said he was a he." He smiled. "Thanks." He hung up and looked at him. "She thinks he crashed. She's got a friend who can come down to pick him up tomorrow or the next day early."
"She said government friend." He shrugged. "So apparently someone knows more than we do."
"That's not really surprising in this case," he admitted dryly, looking at him. "What else did you find out?"
"I asked about his rider, after calling him princess and getting a lot of angry talk back. They're furry mice, H."
"Mice?" he said slowly. "I heard something through the grapevine back in my bomb squad days about mice in Chicago...." He considered it. "But nothing more than there were mice-looking people in Chicago. Okay, for tonight, want the couch or the garage?" Then again, this was sparking a memory for him but he wasn't sure why. He'd have to look it up tomorrow when he had access to the PD databases. Something in that phone conversation was sparking a memory.
"Couch is good. Thanks."
"Welcome. He was impressively armed." He frowned a bit. "Do you think they crashed?"
"We did have that meteor shower a few days back," Speed offered. "If he's been hiding and trying to make contact, it might've taken him a few days."
"True. We'll see what this friend does when they get here, Speed. For now, sleep. We'll check on him before we head out in the morning." That got a nod and Tim put everything down before flopping down on the couch. "Want a sheet?"
"No, I'm good. If I get cold, you've got the throw on the chair." Horatio nodded, heading back to bed to lie awake and think. Just like he would for a few hours. Because if aliens were real, then he was missing out on something.
Speed and Horatio walked into the office the next morning, finding everyone waiting on them. "Government types come in?"
"Call from one," Ryan said, holding up a piece of paper. "They asked for me since neither of you were here." The others stared at him. "It relates back to a case a few years ago. Military urban assault vehicle tested on our streets?" Horatio groaned. He grinned. "The same people are coming but there's a major crisis so it's going to be a few days."
"How do you know about this?" the perky blonde woman next to him asked.
"I was there to help look over the bike," he admitted. "Plus I've got some online friends who know a bit about this subject."
"That's fine. Let's take this to my office, Mr. Wolfe," Horatio said calmly. "I don't remember this case."
"I'd have remembered the bike," Speed noted, following them. He read the note and nodded. "Okay. How soon?"
"They said a few days. No clue on how long that will actually be," Ryan admitted. They walked in and he closed the door behind them. "He did say don't bond to the bike. It's intelligent and probably injured." He looked at them and nodded at the folder on the desk. "I pulled the casefile, Horatio. Speed was out after his injury. It was literally like my fifth day here."
"We had to rescue two young women from the military, one a bike's designer, the other military herself," Horatio said, starting to remember. He sat down to read it over, then looked at him. "It's listed as classified?"
"By the same agency. Apparently they handle these things."
"How do *you* know about these things?" Speed asked grimly.
"First, because I have some friends online who are part of an underground network. A lot of us are paranoid but there's a lot of information we hold," he said quietly, looking at him. "By the way, what color was her rider?"
"His. I called him princess by accident."
"Hmm. Racing bike, touring bike, or regular Harley sorta bike?"
"Racing. Green. Medium green."
"Not one that's been down here that I know of them." He pulled out his PDA and typed something in, sending an email. It came back. "Coast guard found his body. Immediately classified. Rider was young, male, and gray." He grimaced. "No known family listed but they've got him ready to go home as well." He looked at Speed, who took the PDA to look. "Click on the other tab." He did that and it opened to show him pictures. Speed blinked. "Those are the last ones who crashed."
"In Chicago?" Horatio guessed.
"Yup. Crashed into the scoreboard believe it or not. Oh, the bike might really like hotdogs or the smell of hotdogs. It seems to be their favorite food."
Speed gave him an odd look. "It's a bike, how would he smell?"
"It's partially intelligent. How can you be sure it doesn't?"
"Point," he said, still looking confused as he handed it back. "And I do what?"
"For right now, keep him safe. Let him be plugged in as long as he wants to be." He typed in another message, getting one back. "Hold on, I'm forwarding a question about care and maintenance while he's here." He waited. Finally one came back. "Feed with gas, wipe clean if necessary, let him plug in. This is a really bad time for him to go home. There's rumors of sabotage that damaged the rider's ship. He was on patrol." He handed it over. "That contact works in that agency now."
"All right, so we do what?" Horatio asked.
"Just what you're doing today. Don't bond with the bike, treat it like a toddler because it's probably smarter but unable to do things for itself in the area of personal grooming. Let it mourn because it will be. Do we know if it took damage?"
"Some body damage and he sounded pretty panicked when he came up to me last night," Speed offered, typing that in. He got back a response saying to check the wiring. "How?" He looked at him. "Who would know how to wire one of these things?"
"Gregori Dormovitch," Ryan told him. "He's a local hacker. He worked on helping their bike plant rebuild and worked on the brain design for their bikes."
"Can we get him?" Horatio asked.
"Possibly. I'm not sure if I can get hold of him. He's been off for a few days." He shrugged. "It's a bad time right now, Horatio. They're sending allegations back and forth. They're just barely starting to rebuild."
"Okay, and who else could we get?" Speed asked.
Ryan considered it. "Tiger. He's in Vegas. He helped with some of the knowledge coding into the new brains. They implanted emergency procedures for landing down here. Apparently it's pretty common. They get stuck in the gravity of the planet and can't get free."
"Sounds like they need better training," Horatio noted dryly.
"Quite possibly," Ryan admitted. He typed in a message to his contact, getting one back from Gregori's secretary. "Hmm, Gregori's out of town at a convention. She's forwarding it on to the other builders. If we have to, we might have to take the plans and check the wires." He looked at Speed. "You any good at that?"
"I am," Horatio offered. "We had to do some wire testing on bombs to find the right one."
"Okay. That'll work." He smiled. Plans were coming through. "They sent the plans. We can look the brain over, make sure it's functioning correctly. Because if it's scrambled and it bonds, it'll be suicidal when it can't bring whoever it bonds with home." They both nodded at that. "I can help wherever I can. I saw the one that they rescued, weapons and all. That was our version of their bike."
"Who's the person at the garage?" Speed asked.
"She's the niece of the original mechanic. She mated with one of the original crashers and moved to Mars with them. Her niece took over her garage and runs it now but she's on the lookout for anyone coming in this way. She's seen plenty of these bikes."
"That answers that. The government agency?" Horatio asked.
"Super classified and covert. During the switch to Homeland they were reformatted to take the place of an agency that got cut. They used to do counter-terrorism." They both nodded at that. "I'm going to guess part of their present problem is that the VP doesn't believe we ever made it off Earth and all the moon-footage and later space pictures were mocked up somewhere in Texas."
"So, we're guarding him?" Speed asked.
"Yes, without bonding."
"Is that even possible?" Speed demanded.
"Yup. From what we know, it's not only possible but probable. They bond with their riders. Their riders become their family; there's anecdotal evidence of them being so close as to understand when their bikes were having bad hair days and worse. The bikes are like Lassie, they're smart enough to get you out of the well. They're also smart enough to know that they need an owner. It's hardwired into them."
"So the fact he and I talked last night...." Speed offered.
"Probably heading there. He's lost, afraid, and alone, Speed. He's probably also confused and a bit injured since that ship probably broke up in the atmosphere. At this point in time, you saved him."
"Point taken," Horatio said grimly. "We can look this over?"
"It's suggested to make sure you're not leaving him in misery." He tossed over his PDA. "Don't erase those." Horatio nodded, copying them to his own blackberry device. "Meg's letter said the rider was pretty young. Probably a junior level recruit."
"So the bike's probably pretty young too," Speed finished. Ryan nodded. "Want to come look with us?"
He grinned. "If you wouldn't mind. The earth version was a beautiful bike."
"Sure," he agreed, looking at his boss. "Do the checking tonight?"
"Please. Go guard him today, we'll check him tonight, then we'll figure out what we're doing tomorrow." They both nodded and Ryan took his PDA so they could go. Horatio called them and himself off, claiming it was a case of his house being stalked by someone. Because he was sure someone was. He headed out after them, going to get some tools from the storage area to check out.
Later that night, Speed came out to clean up some of the scratches. "Well, that wire's fixed. Feeling better?" The bike beeped and nudged him, then sounded like he was laughing. "And hey, in better humor too. Unless you're laughing at my shirt?" The bike shook his front wheel. "Good, because I like this shirt." He got to work on the scratches, smiling as the bike rested against his hand. "Calm down, I'm cleaning you the scratches and scrapes. They were right, you fell from really high up." He worked quietly, including the paint touch up pen he had picked up. "Were you and your rider together long?" The bike beeped a negative sound. "A year or more?" Another negative sound. "Hmm, late bloomer?" The bike beeped an assenting noise. "I'm sorry." The bike leaned against him again. "I was warned you guys got really cuddly with your riders," he noted dryly. The bike seemed to laugh again. "You know you're not at home, right? That I'm not Martian?" The bike beeped an agreeing noise. "Good. Because I got warned not to bond with you. It would only cause you more pain later. So consider me like an in-law." The bike nudged him then revved his engine. "No, we shouldn't go for a ride. That could be dangerous." Horatio came out. "He wants to go for a ride."
"The same as you probably do," he agreed patiently. "He's a great looking bike, Speed. Nearly as fast as yours."
"He'd probably beat my Ducati." The bike beeped happily. "You think? I've got a racing engine." The bike gave out a smug sounding beep. "Fine."
"Quietly, with no weapons, you do not get a ticket," Horatio warned quietly. "Make sure the engine runs like he should after you tuned him up earlier." Speed grinned and finished up, blowing on the paint to let it dry faster. Horatio watched as they pulled out, going back inside to get onto the chat room Ryan had plugged them into earlier. Ryan was napping on the couch. It wasn't like he minded or anything. He found someone waiting on him and typed in a greeting, getting a babbled, no-spaces demand to know what was going on. So he told her, because it was definitely a female typing. Another one came on and told him the ride was probably fine. This one had proper spacing and his words sounded calmer. He asked for more information, getting a pause and then some limited information and a link. He followed it, settling in to read.
Speed stopped the bike, taking off his helmet. "Okay, so maybe you are as good as my racing bike," he admitted. The bike gave him a smug sounding beep. "You know, I'm not sure I can stand going back to my old bike. Even though you're going home in a few days." The bike shivered. "What?" It beeped sadly. "I don't know, big guy. We'll figure that out with the people who come to get you to take you home." He parked in Horatio's driveway and looked around. It was extremely late at night. He walked the bike back into the garage and parked it, letting him have the plug again. "There you go. Need anything else?" It shined the headlight on the tub of wax, making Speed chuckle. "In the morning. I'll finish making you pretty then." It settled in to rest, while he went inside. "I'm back," he called quietly.
"They've run into a problem," Ryan answered, waving him over. "The military unit that was using the bikes down here is being disbanded. The president is scared. He's going after the guy who runs the agency because of this. He's going to still try to get him before he evacuates, but he's not sure how yet."
"Okay. What's that mean to him?"
"To this bike? We might have to take him to Vegas to get him home. That's where the ambassador is. I'm not sure it won't be easier to hide him down here for now." He looked at him. "They're releasing the others from the military and the bikes are being hidden from the president but we're not sure he won't try to destroy them totally."
"If they're sentient..."
"Speed, think about the guy in charge and what happens if he's scared of something that's smarter than he is." Speed sighed at that. "They've got a whole bike unit in the military who're hiding for their lives at the moment. He ordered one to be shot because he didn't want to give up his bike and was trying to protect him." Speed sat down at that. Ryan looked at him and sighed. "We've got contacts in both NCIS and JAG. They're helping us in this. They know and understand. We've got some limited Pentagon support at the moment. Your new friend is lower on the list."
"Can they run to Mars?" Speed asked.
"That's being found out. The sabotage thing was stopped by someone finding out who it was and making him beg for mercy. Some of their top former fighters rode out to find the woman responsible and stopped her cold. Our ambassador to them helped." That got a small smirk. "She's one fierce woman and she's married to one of them."
"Can we do that?"
"Yeah, there's even kids from the other two mixed marriages." He grinned at that, pulling up pictures. "That's Charley, the original mechanic's, family." He grinned at the cuteness. Even Speed grinned at the cuteness and he wasn't one for cute things. "So it's possible. They're talking with them and they told me to tell you that you're not forgotten but it's getting more complicated by the hour. Especially if you bond with him."
"I told him we couldn't because he had to go home soon, that I'm like an in-law."
Ryan nodded. "Good. Will it work?"
"I'm not sure," he admitted. He shrugged. "We'll have to see."
"Sure." He patted him and went back to his chat. He smiled. "Yeah, they decided they can let them stay for six months to get this thing settled then bring them back down and let them slowly hide in normal life again."
"Won't the military charge them for that?"
"We're working on that as well." He typed in something and groaned. "Okay, two options. They're coming. Horatio!" He came down the stairs. "The purge they're doing is heading this way. Someone found out that we had a crasher from the report getting hacked on their end. They're coming." He looked at him. "We're in deep."
"How deep?" He came over to look at the suggestions being laid out. "We're needed here."
"No, you're needed here," Ryan reminded him. "Speed can go back on injury leave, claim PTSD if he needs to. He wouldn't be the first." Horatio smirked at that. "That would be unpaid leave but still official leave."
"It would," he agreed. He looked at his friend and coworker. "Up to you, Speed?"
"Why would they want me?"
"You know. You've seen," Ryan said with a small shrug. "I can hide. Horatio might be able to BS his way out of it, but you brought him here and you helped fix him."
"Point." He stood up. "Do I have time to pack a bag?"
"Nope," Ryan said. "They're transporting down. I'll have Eric send it." That got a nod. Ryan typed in a message and then shut down the computer. "Okay, go get your helmet and the bike. They'll be here within a few minutes. You'll be near the other humans, including those already up there."
"Sure. Six months?"
"Hopefully less," Ryan offered.
"Go, Speed. Be safe. Come back when you can." That got a nod and he went to get the bike and walk it back outside, grabbing the wax to take with him. Horatio wouldn't mind, much. They watched as a blue light opened looking like a doorway. He stepped out. "Mr. Cash."
"Lieutenant." He shook his hand. "Our crashed bike? How bad of shape is he in?"
"We fixed the loose wires and did a tuneup earlier," Speed offered as he walked the bike out. The bike beeped at Lorne, sounding excited. "Are you sure I'm in danger?"
"Yup. Actually, your whole unit is in danger." Horatio moaned. He looked at him.
"I've got cover," Ryan reminded him. "I can go hide with others of us."
"Do that," Lorne ordered. "Lieutenant?"
"I've got others I've got to guard."
"Get them here, we're leaving in an hour. They're coming."
"It's this or a funeral. He's ordered snipers and an extermination squad to wipe the unholy things off this planet. That was a quote. We're moving you somewhere safer." He looked at Speed. "Depending on the bike, you may be going with them or not." The bike moved to stand in front of Speed. "Bonded?" he asked dryly.
"Not intentionally." He patted the seat. "Remember, I'm not your people." The bike beeped angrily. "Okay, all right. We'll try to work it out with someone who can help us, okay?" The bike calmed down. "Looks like he wins."
"They almost always do," Lorne assured him dryly. "Only Modo ever wins an argument with his bike." The bike beeped happily at that. "Call them?" Horatio went to do that and finish getting dressed. "Are you sure, Wolfe?"
"I am. I can hide with Svetty." That got a small smirk. "Wanted to meet her and Tiger anyway."
"Svetty is the ambassador and Tiger's a CSI out there. He's already in hiding. They had someone go in and yank all the names associated." That got a small moan from Ryan. "Coming?"
"Definitely." He went to help Horatio call the others, then they turned off their phones and grabbed their emergency bags out of their cars. They all kept one in case of being trapped or having to do cross-country chases. Speed pouted. "You've got an hour, head home. Pack, come back," he said dryly. Speed nodded and mounted up, heading back to his place to do that. He looked at Lorne. "Can you cut the glow?"
"No, because it might mean we can't reestablish it." Two more cars pulled in and Horatio came out. Speed came back a few minutes later with a backpack. "We done?" He looked at Horatio, who nodded. "Good. Into the blue glowing light." He got out of the way, letting Speed go first, he had the weapons in case something was happening on the other side. The others looked confused but Horatio nodded so they followed orders. He walked through last and Ryan looked around. "Don't even think about it, Wolfe."
"I'm not. You guys don't do enough lab work, even though you're over NID." He nodded at his contacts. "Meg, Oz. Hi, puppy," he said, petting the sheepdog. "And the two others too." He patted both kids on the head, getting grins. He grinned at Oz again. "How?"
"Not a clue. They got past both of us and Lazarus."
"Crap," he muttered. "Okay, where are the normal of us heading?"
"Wait, uh-uh. Where's Speed going?" Calleigh demanded.
"With the bike," a deeper voice noted as he walked up to them. "With me, dear." He looked at Speed, then at the bike. "You couldn't uncomplicate matters?" The bike beeped angrily at him. "Okay. Your choice and all that. We're heading now, Lorne. They're waiting on us. You take care, call me ASAP if you need anything. Remember, I've got the Xander power of destruction at my back."
That got a mean smirk. "That's so evil." He nodded and the others followed him once the beam was reset. They walked through and it was programmed to follow. He looked at the woman on the other side. "Dawn?"
"No shit," she said dryly. "I'm going for mental wiping. You mind much? Max said she did."
"If it helps," he offered. "These are CSIs Duquesne, Wolfe, Caine, and Delko, from Miami. We had a crash there."
"I heard. We got the person who sabotaged his ship. To the right and back. It's an old hotel." They nodded, heading that way. She looked at Lorne. "Buffy and I are also here in case some of the old Angel or LA luck happens." That got a knowing nod. "Max is in the kitchen making sure it still works."
"Decent." He went that way, leaving her on guard.
Speed and Micah, because that's who he said he was, came off the transporter walking their bikes. He blinked at the mice, then at the bike. "I didn't think they'd be that big from the pictures, bike."
"Some are and some aren't, kid," one of the senior mice on the left, an old gray guy with a metal tail and sideburns, noted dryly. "You are?"
"CSI Tim Speedle, better known as Speed. He came up to me to get help after he crashed."
"That's fine. We figured he had. You two bonded?" The bike snapped at him and fired a beam above his head. "I'm guessing that's a yes." He glared at the bike. "Settle down." It slumped.
"Hey!" Speed complained. "He's just lost his rider! Give the kid some slack, he's not that old!"
"You'll do," a white mouse against the wall offered. "Micah, they're in a tent. We've got more tents, or you can stay in the house and he can bunk with the others. Up to you."
"Thanks, Vinnie." He looked at Speed. "One of the original crashers. His kid's the one you saw the pictures of." He walked their bikes that way. "Thank you for helping us."
"Ehh, you helped us plenty," a female mouse said dryly. "Not all paybacks are a bitch unless Dawn's involved." That got a laugh from Micah. "Where is she?"
"Guarding at the hotel in LA. Just in case something happens. Buffy's there too."
"Decent enough," the white mouse said. "Come on, you two. We'll get you settled in for the night, see what's going on with this new one. Charley girl can probably look over the bike tomorrow; we've got that one that took heavy fire earlier to protect his rider."
Speed looked at him. "We got plans from one of Ryan Wolfe's online friends and went over the brain, finding two loose wires, then I did a tuneup since he was running a bit rough."
"Even better. You can help." He nodded. "Let's go." They nodded, heading out with him. Vinnie nodded at the others. "Xander's going into super fuss mode," he warned dryly as he strolled out. He hopped onto the back of his bike. "Okay, sweetheart, let's head home." The bike revved and the other two followed. He watched this new biker. He was casual and calm on his bike. Clearly bonded and clearly untrained in more than human bikes. Well, he'd learn. He pulled them through the gate and found Xander and his car there. "Why are you in the car?" he called, pausing beside him.
"Because I need to go down and fix a few things," he admitted dryly. "The bike would get more notice." He shrugged. "Tents are out past Enamel. Charley's in the garage with the kids." He clicked the button in the little clicker in his hand, and the car disappeared in a blue light.
"I didn't know he brought the car up," Micah offered.
"Yeah, it's had place of beauty and storage in the caverns," he admitted, looking at him. "We're heading that way," he said, pointing. "Past the garden. There's a small trail." He looked at Speed. "How long have you been riding?"
"I ride a Ducati. Have for five, six years now."
That got a nod. "Cool. Don't worry, he's steadier than you think on rough terrain. They all are." He led the way, getting them back to the tents. The two mice on watch got an odd look. "They won't come here to reclaim them."
"We're on punishment, sir," one said grimly. "This is the worst assignment Cell could find."
"Fine," Micah called, parking and getting off. He nodded at Speed, who did the same. "You two, sit out here and check on the other bikes." They beeped and Speed looked shocked. Micah smiled. "Ours are human versions of the Martian bikes, Speed. We had an AI genius work on the brains for us and Vinnie's wife Charley designed mine." He walked him inside, waving off the salute. "We all here?"
"All but the one out looking at the old battlefield," the commander reported stiffly. "How dare he!" he snapped.
Micah patted him on the arm. "I know. Why do you think Charley and the others moved back here?" That got a knowing look. "You guys, this is CSI Tim Speedle from Miami. He rescued the crasher's bike. That crash started the president on his recent mental convergence from reality. Of course, the reason he crashed was sabotage." He shrugged. "We'll do what we can. What do you guys need right now?"
"We're okay at the moment, Micah," the commander offered. "We can camp in the tents."
Vinnie walked in with another bedroll and handed it to Speed. "If we have to, we might be able to put you guys out in the caves. I'm not sure if we can or not yet. There's no running water out there." That got some nods. "The family's working on that right now. As of this moment, Winch is headed back with her boys as well." Micah hissed. "They tried to raid her house. The CSI out there who knew were added to the hiding population. They're all fine, they're in LA with Dawn, Max, and Lorne." That got some relieved looks. "Micah, Rimfire's up here. We didn't think it was prudent to send him with this going on."
"Understood. Will Xander be okay?"
"He'll be fine, he's a Xander."
"Yeah, but Xanders aren't immortal," Micah pointed out dryly, looking at him. "He could still be captured or injured."
"Micah, this is Xander we're talking about," he reminded him dryly. "The same Xander who helped take down a few military programs."
"With a team."
"He'll be fine. LA is right next to his old stomping grounds. I'm sure he's had to do things there before. The girls in Cleveland were all moved to somewhere else. The ones in LA are safe. Xander's not going to make contact with them, but with others. He's going to use his scary reputation since the vamp him is there." Micah smiled at that. "Plus he's going to warn Boris."
"It'd be easier if he had a sudden heart attack," one of the soldiers at the table noted dryly. "Not Xander, the president."
"Not really. The VP is worse," Micah offered. "He's the one who thinks that the moon films and others were faked." They all moaned at that. He shrugged. "The Speaker of the House is okay but an asshole. It's an election year. He can't run. The VP isn't running. The other choices have more sense. Congress knows what went on. I got word to ECHO's supporters and the Military liaison at the Pentagon. We're covered. We just have to hide." They nodded, accepting that. "Then again, this is a good time to up your training just in case."
"We've got a ropes course and the bike course. Throttle said you guys are more than welcome to use them," Vinnie promised. "Xander's helping me train our kids while he waits for his daughter to be born." Micah smiled at that. "Oh, small shocker. She's a black mouse."
"Didn't you say they all died out?" Micah asked, frowning at him.
"Yeah. They were the warrior priests way back when. As well as the teachers, the scribes, the regular priests. We're expecting a bit of a loudness about her being born that color. She'll even have some fur." He shrugged. "No one's sure why. They think it's because her daddy's a half-mouse." He clapped his hands. "Okay, whoever's going to forage tonight, with me. We'll hit the storehouse and then the other survival supplies. Unless you guys wanna borrow the kitchen? Rimfire's is closest but he's growling. A lot."
That got some smiles from those who had met Rimfire and Dawn in their training.
"What about the older bikes, those who got retired with their riders last year?" one woman asked.
"They got warned," the commander assured her. "They're hiding in plain sight and one's in Chicago with Charley's niece Rachel." He looked at Vinnie. "What sort of food do you guys stock for emergencies?"
"No, I was talking the cookstoves and other tents, those emergency supplies. We have a supermarket full out in the caves. Xander shops." That got some laughs, especially from Micah. "He brings back about ten grand's worth of food a year, plus stuff for the rest of Mars." He nodded and the commander and Speed followed. He grinned at him. "You'll make a good rider," he offered. "Sometimes it's like being a bro, and sometimes it's like being a parent. Your bike's and your personality will start to mesh and combine. It may be altered later by someone like a spouse, finding a God, or other things, but for right now it'll start to mesh and mingle." He patted the bike. "We're going to hunt up food. You good?" It beeped happily. "Good. Staff's coming to get a report on the crash. If you can't handle it, she'll call and I'll have him back by then." He let Speed pat him and then walked them off to the caves. They weren't that far away. "So, dinner. Hotdogs? Pizza? The stuff Micah sent up for the general fund that they haven't had the room to store yet?"
"Camp food, not MRE's," Micah promised the commander. "I wouldn't do that to my enemies, much less my friends and bros." Vinnie grinned at him. "You might as well be. Max is still scared of my bike. Lorne still thinks it's possessed and out to mate with him. Offered him a drink the other day too."
"You...don't seem to surprised by this stuff," Speed offered.
"My agency got moved over aliens and demons," Micah assured him. "I've known Vinnie now since about 2000." Speed looked stunned at that. "Homeland got us moved. We used to complain a lot about not being spies anymore. Then we realized how much trouble the world was in because a bunch of kids were doing the deeper, more dangerous battles. With girls like Buffy doing the planning, we were all doomed." Vinnie snickered at that. "Seriously. Even with Xander planning for her I'm not sure how she managed it."
"Xander was the pale guy in the corvette, right?" Speed asked.
"Yup, my adopted little brother," Vinnie assured him with a grin. "Mice usually only come in tan, gray, white, and spotted." He pointed at the ramp. "Survival stuff is on this level. Food's up the main ramp." He felt something and held up a hand. "Hold on. That's the Seal. Did Xander take the time to go shopping?" he called.
"Of course he did," she called back, floating out. "All up. He also visited the Army Navy store in LA." She looked at the commander and grinned. "Hi. Second cave, this level," she offered with a point. He nodded, going that way. "Micah, we love you." She buzzed a kiss on his cheek. "Industrial sized flaked potatoes and other foods are now in the pre-food cavern that most of your stuff went in." That got a nod and they headed up there. "Along with pots for the new cookstoves. Remember to take the propane with you." He nodded again, hiking up there. She smiled at Speed. "Yes, I'm real, not a hallucination. I'm the Hellmouth Seal, though I look a lot like Willow since she bonded with me. I'm incredibly powerful. I'm one of the stranger things you'll see on Mars or Earth but I'm originally from there. And yes, your bike will be fine but yes, he does like you enough to keep you. Anything else?" He shook his head and walked up there scowling. She giggled and disappeared to tell Wrench. They could use a guy with his skills to set up things at the university.
Speed went to follow the Micah guy now that some of the first questions had been answered for him. "Horatio would be in question heaven," he noted to himself. "Wolfe would be petting people with Calleigh, and Eric would be hitting on someone."
Micah smirked at him. "A few would probably take him up on it," he offered dryly. "Some think humans are really kinky but close enough even though we're furless. That's most of the kink really, being furless."
"More than I wanted to think about at the moment," Speed noted. Then he shuddered. "No, bad thoughts. Eric would have a harem."
"Vinnie could teach him how. He used to have one." He handed him a box. "You can carry that one, we'll sort out a pile to be brought back for supplies." That got a nod and Speed went to set up a staging area on the ramp.
Horatio looked up as Dawn stiffened. "Problems?" he asked quietly. He was on watch with her.
"Not from you guys. Just got a head's up from Willow. Max?" she called quietly. "Xander's down here." That got a moan. "He's not on his bike but he's getting us protection from Boris's guys and Connor. Expect at least one of them."
"Will do, Dawn." The radio clicked off.
Dawn looked at him. "I know this is really strange."
"Not really," he admitted, shifting closer to lean on the railing in front of her. "I've seen stranger. Being a CSI means I get to explain the strange stuff to the officers who don't usually want to know."
Dawn smiled. "That's pretty cool. I never really knew anything but the strange stuff. Buffy hunted the strangest, deadliest things with Xander and Willow for a few years before I got there." She looked at him. "You might get to meet Xander later and get some questions answered but Willow said to tell you that your guy was fine. Confused but okay. They've set him up with a bunk, food, and they're talking to his bike right now. He's very firm that he's keeping your guy as a rider."
"If so, we'll work it out if and when he comes back," Horatio agreed prosaically. He looked back as Calleigh and Ryan came out to join them. "Can't sleep?"
"She found the armory," Ryan admitted, smirking at Dawn. "I can't answer why there's crossbows and rocket launchers."
"Xander," she said and that said it all.
"What?" Calleigh asked.
"Xander. That's our former arsenal from Chicago. It got moved here for Connor in case he needed it to save everyone again. Xander built the arsenal piece by piece with Micah's help. Xander said he still misses going down to pet the rockets and the machine guns when he's having troubled thoughts and can't sleep. Now he gets to pet Tag and the other kids." Calleigh just looked clueless so she pulled out her wallet and the family picture. "That's Vinnie and Charley. She rescued the original adult crashers of Vinnie, Throttle, and Modo, and kept them sane while they were stranded. Next to them is Throttle and Xander, then Modo and his lady, Staff. Then me and Rimfire, my guy. In the front row are all the little brats, thankfully none of mine. That's Punch, Tag, Healer, who's our doc's first kid, Vic, Vinnie's first kid...." Calleigh snatched it to look at. "No one told you they were giant mice?"
"Nope, didn't want to divulge too much," Ryan admitted. Dawn looked at him. "I'm a member of the Network and I was there when we rescued Charley. I got to see Micah's bike then."
"Cool. Xander designed some kick-ass weapons for it. Even an interchangeable system." She took the picture from the limp hand, snapping her fingers in front of the blonde CSI's face. "There's stranger out there. The people who wiped out four-fifths of the Martian race were giant, smelly fish people. Plutarkians are not good things." Calleigh let out a small laugh. "I think someone can sleep now."
"Sleep might be good," she agreed, letting Ryan walk her off.
Horatio smirked at her. "That was mean, Dawn."
"Maybe, but now she knows, she can ignore it or not, and if another one crashes you'll be prepared even if the sweater vest guy isn't there."
"Ryan's a good CSI."
"I'm glad." She patted him on the arm and looked out again. "Oooh, lawyers," she said with an evil smirk, drawing a figure in the air and pointing. The guy shrieked and ran off like he was being eaten, which he was. "Demon bait. I hate Wolfram and Hart." She looked at him. "If you've got a branch down there, they're evil, soulless, killing, murdering, sacrificing, evil lawyers who like to work for the top demons and help them maim, kill, destroy, and create chaos because they get power from it. They hold a yearly sacrifice of fifty to eighty people."
"We have a small office," he admitted. "Part of the New York branch actually."
"Then I'd get with the New York people to warn them. Wolfram and Hart have made deals to destroy the world and reap the souls killed more than once. They managed to get them kicked out of Canada they're so bad."
"I'll look into that," Horatio assured her. "Thank you, Dawn."
"Not an issue." She heard a noise and looked over, finding Xander coming up the stairs. "Not on the bike?"
"Too conspicuous. I took the baby out of the garage." He gave her a hug and nodded at Horatio. "Hey. Speed's fine. We've got him settled in with the military guys at the moment. Micah's got it well in hand I'm sure. What's going on? I saw the tail nibbling on the lawyer."
"He deserved it."
"Not going to argue about it," Xander promised. "He probably did. What else is going on?"
"We're setting up watch rotations. Did you do any shopping? You keep forgetting tampons."
"I'll let you do that in the morning. I've got the mini-transporter that one engineering genius built in the trunk." She smiled at that. "Go nuts, just remember to buy your own chocolate stash, because mine is mine, and get the midol too." He walked inside. "Buffy?" She came out of the office. "How bad is it?"
"Bad. He called out extermination squads. I had to hide the girls." She handed him the newest information reports.
"Who's he?" someone demanded.
"Xander," he said, waving a hand. "Former protector of Sunnydale and her backup. I work for Micah too. Don't believe me, mention my name to Lorne, watch him flinch." He went back over the reports again. "He's being led by someone."
"Yeah but we can't figure out who."
"Any chance it's a last Plutarkian?"
"Maybe," she admitted. "Max said she didn't think he stunk the last time she saw him."
"That just means he's not being fucked up the tail by one," he said grimly. He called home on the transporter-driven phone the engineering genius had rigged up for shopping trips. It went through like their former computer system but it only carried voice. "Hey, Throttle, babe, hand the line to Micah. They think the PIC are being led." Micah's name was shouted and he came running. "Micah, Xander. No, I'm here. It's all good. Dawn said that, I'm letting her handle that. I don't go near tampons and if I have to, I'm buying her the industrial bottles of midol as well. No, we think the PIC are being led by someone. Max? Lorne," he called, bringing her. "Micah's on with me. New information."
"We can't tell if it's a Plutarkian or not, Xander. It could even be demonic."
"He's a religious fanatic. Anything less than human looking would set him off on a rant," Buffy reminded her, frowning some.
"You'll get wrinkles," Xander reminded her. She quit frowning and smiled instead to reverse the damage. "There's plenty that look human," he reminded them both. He looked at Max. "When did his behavior change?"
"He's always been an odd little man," she noted. "Fanatical with his VP."
"Now, that's a demon," Xander said dryly, smirking at her. "You can just barely see scales on his neck. They show up wonderfully in his blue shirt." Both women looked stunned. "Go look at the past interviews, ladies. It shows up better on his left side in that blue shirt. Meet The Press a few months back was the one I saw it on." Micah said something and Max nodded, taking the phone to find it online. Xander looked at Buffy. "I believe we've got listeners," he said quietly, moving closer. "You, me, or us?"
"Us," she ordered. He nodded, going to the arsenal with her to load up. She looked at him oddly when she saw he was grabbing a spare cannon for his bike. "You put a weapon's system on the car?"
"Of course I did." He gave her an odd look. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Never mind, Xander. Sometimes you scare me more now than you used to." He smiled sweetly at that, making her laugh. "Okay, where?"
"I saw the glint off the antenna of the dish." He led her out through the garden, sleek and smooth in his black leather hunting clothes. He pointed at where they were set up and Buffy took one side, he took the other. He got the power supply and she got to beat them up. It was a good trade for them.
Xander looked up as someone walked into the kitchen, holding up the coffeepot. "Liquid god, warm version," he offered.
The people stared at him. "You're not demonic, right?"
The blonde from last night walked in and whimpered. "I thought they were costumes." She came over to pet him. "ERIC!" He came jogging in. "The person who crashed was like you?"
"Eighteen and gray, but yeah," he noted. "Then again, I'm still only about ninety-percent mouse. I've still got some neuro and ear things from being human. Botox shots, we need more of those. Buffy, remind me I need to bring up some more botox for my ear?"
"Sure, Xander." She walked in. "He used to be softer."
"I heard a lot about baby mouse fur," one of the guys from Vegas said, coming over to pat him. "Not as soft as you used to be."
Xander smirked. "I'm a big mouse now. Of course I'm not as soft as a baby mouse." He flicked him on the head. "We big white mice use conditioners to get that soft." Calleigh giggled at that and Eric reached out to carefully pet him. "Yes, I'm studly. Pet away, guys. My husband won't mind much." The others came over to pet his arms and one got his ears, making his tail flick. "Ah! Not the antenna! They're sensitive and unless you wanna be under me, no touching the antennas."
"Sorry," Eric said, moving his hand. "Wow." He looked at him. "Are you all like that?" Xander nodded, sipping his coffee.
"Caffeine bad," Buffy reminded him firmly.
Xander snorted. "Bite me, Buffy. Really." She pouted. He stared her down and she sighed, stomping off. "Good, you can cook too," he called. "Not like I'm going to." He looked at the others. "I'm not the chef, I'm the chief weapons person."
"You're the Xander who set up the armory," Calleigh said, smiling at him. He nodded, smirking back. "Nice work."
"Thank you. It was a labor of fun." She punched him on the arm and he smirked. "If you guys want to eat, I'd cook something," he offered again. "I'm not in the business of cooking for anyone but the family. Especially our little tease Magnet. She is *such* a fur tease." Dawn snickered and nodded. "She get you again with Ahn?"
"Yup. The fur tease got Rimfire this time. He said she's the reason we'll never have kids. Carbine reminded Rimfire he's the reason that there's such a low birthrate among the Freedom Fighters and he tripped her before walking off. So, anyway," she said, opening the fridge. "Hey, we've actually got food."
"Welcome," Xander offered. A tallish redheaded man walked in. "Morning."
"Good morning, Mr. Harris." He looked at him. "You look different than the last picture I got shown of you."
"Ehh, I finished growing up," he offered with a grin. "No more baby mouse fur."
"Speaking of, Micah called. Magnet and Tag got into it again. Tag whipped her tail for it this time and then her daddy laid into her tail about picking on him. She's grounded and Tag's walking around like he solved the water problem."
Xander nodded. "I know, he's got his momma's ego." Dawn snorted at that. "Oh." He pulled out a picture. "Hand that to your sister. She stomped off after trying to give me an evil glare for having coffee." The doors blew in and Xander pulled his laser, walking out there. "Awwww, someone sent us *lawyers*, Dawnie." The man in the lead stopped. "Out!"
"We own this building."
"No, Connor owns this building. Sorry, we confiscated it. A matter of national security and all that." He pointed his laser at him one handed, sipping his coffee with the other. "Out," he ordered. "Now."
"You're not human." Xander shot him in the nuts, making him shriek in multiple keys. "I'll have you eaten!"
Xander coughed and smirked, looking up and behind him. "Can he do that?"
"Not without Willow and I having an issue," the vampire Xander said, moving out into the indirect light. The lawyers all gaped then turned and ran. "Good. Play time tonight." He smirked at himself, then winked at Dawn. "So, we needed help why? Can I have a laser?"
"I left you and Connor a pair in the armory," he pointed out. He went to close the doors. "Have Willow make sure they can't tell anyone."
"Already done." He grabbed Dawn and sniffed her. "Hmm, someone smells good."
She patted him on the cheek. "The last time you grabbed me, Rimfire wanted to rip your head off." He let her go with a small shrug. "Okay, let's go over the security flaws, people. Just in case. That way you all know where the evacuation points are." They nodded and followed her to the library.
Calleigh laid a hand on furry Xander's arm. "Can I look at your gun?" she asked with a sweet smile. "I promise I won't dismantle it."
He shrugged and handed it over. "I've got another one in the car but you've got to get Micah to let you to keep it." She nodded, going to sit and listen while she looked it over. He looked at the tolerant redhead giving him a fond grin. "I'm a weapon's person. I understand her." He grinned and skipped that way. "Why can't we just attack, Dawnie?"
"It's not politically correct to shoot the president," one of the CSIs from Vegas noted dryly. "Even if you want to."
"Pity." He looked over the plans. "I came up through the basement. It's mostly unblocked. There were a few boxes in the way but nothing else."
"Okay." She marked that as partially being open. "Anything else you noticed?"
"Yeah, the roof was a bit slanted. Looks like Connor needs it replaced soon." The vampire Xander laughed at that. "Hey, I do know construction, me."
"Point. Your tail probably helped you too."
Xander nodded. "A lot." They got back into it.
Speed watched the other guys going over the bike course and then at his bike. "You guys do that a lot too?" The bike beeped and took a spot at the starting line. Speed put on his helmet and revved the engine, moving to do the course carefully this first time.
Throttle watched, then nodded. This new guy would do. "Go ahead, speed up," he called. "You'll need it for the jumps." Speed gave him a look. "Do it. Now, rookie." Speed groaned and went back to the beginning, watching one of the military guys get yelled at for the same thing. Speed went faster this time. He did two of the jumps but the bike rolled around one of them when he braced himself. Throttle laughed. "Come here, bike." He rolled over, letting him check. "You've got worn out shocks on this side. We'll let Charley girl replace them. Hit the garage and we'll work on you then come out to train your new rider." Speed looked at him. "If you're keeping him, you're going to have to learn how to be worthy of him. Otherwise we'll shoot you and let him pick someone else. Probably one of the kids." Speed nodded, going to the garage. "Also, someone from the college wanted to talk to you guys. Expect them."
"Sure," Speed called back. He parked in the garage. "The tan guy with the shades said my shocks are going."
"That's Throttle. He's a field commander. He'd know," the human in there offered with a small smile. "I'm Charley."
"Tim or Speed." He shook her hand. "He said he doesn't have a name yet."
"Some don't ever name their bikes. Throttle hasn't named his, but now and then he calls her a Lady." She maneuvered the bike where she needed it so she could look him over. "Not too bad. A recent tuneup?"
"Me," Speed admitted. "We also had to fix a few wires."
"That's fine. It's a good thing." She smiled up at him. "Xander does a lot of the wiring around here. He's got explosives experience and construction experience." She got back to work. "You could use some more oil too." She got a bottle and some shocks, moving to put the first one on. "It'll be fine, Speed," she said quietly. "It's like basic training right now but you'll settle into it. Dawn did the same thing for the first few weeks but then it becomes instinctive if it's meant to be." He nodded, getting down to help her. "What do you ride at home?"
"A Ducatti." She moaned. "Yeah, that was my first baby." He patted the front wheel gently. "I have no idea what I'll do with her if I get to bring him back home."
"You'll figure it out." She smiled. "So, how did you find out?"
"He had crashed and came up to ask my bike for help. I heard him beeping. Scared the hell out of me and then I thought it was hoax." She nodded, smiling as she got back to putting on the new shocks. "Then I took him to see Horatio, my boss, and we found out the next morning that we had a member of something called the Paranoid Network in our lab."
"They're handy friends to have. It's a world-wide circuit of people who hoard information and keep it safe from those who'd use it. One of them, Meg, who works with Micah, used to date Xander, and her mate Oz is his best friend." Speed smiled at that. "Did anyone tell you that someone at the college wanted to talk to you?"
"Throttle yelled that after me. Any idea why?"
"I'd say it was because you could look over some of the areas that they're rebuilding and see if it's realistic and reasonable." She looked at him. "They came to Dawn and I about the 'Earth Studies' program but I'm a mechanic and Dawn shops." He laughed at that. "She does. Plus where you're an officer, you could probably help with that training too."
He nodded at that. "Actually, I'm not a great officer but I'm a really good CSI."
She frowned at him. "You're a crime scene person?" He nodded. "Then they definitely want to talk to you about that. It took Throttle, Modo, and Vinnie going out to figure out who sabotaged the ship his former rider was on," she said quietly. "They did it the old fashioned way, with their fists. It worked but it took forever to get the guy to quit screaming and talk."
"They should've sent me and Xander," Rimfire said from the doorway. "He okay?"
"He's fine. Just some new shocks, Rimfire." She smiled at him. "I'm sure Dawn's fine. Xander's down there with her."
"Which blows. He's as much mouse as I am."
"Yeah, but he's got the illusion choker," she reminded him. He sighed and nodded. "Besides, you'd panic and Xander will blow them up in a cold and logical manner."
"Point." He came out to help. "One of the college's people is off bugging Micah. If you wanted to escape, I'd take a ride soon," he offered.
"I don't mind. I'm all for education," Speed offered. "I like to read too."
Rimfire looked at him. "Most mice are more action oriented but it's good that someone likes to learn around here. Magnet's in deep trouble and only allowed to do her homework at the moment. Expect the fur tease to hit on you too."
"She's six," Charley said patiently. "She'd better not hit on him."
"Yes she will," Rimfire snorted. "She tried me at breakfast. Punch told her to stop and the triplets all threw food at her for it. Vic drug her off by her tail to have a talk with his baby sister. Hasn't worked yet though."
"She'll be fine," Charley assured him. "It's just a phase. Vinnie's working on it."
"The only one who handles her with any skill is Xander," Rimfire said dryly. "I say hand her over for a weekend in the desert camping at the temples."
Charley looked at him. "She doesn't need that much correction. Even Vinnie said she's a lot like a few of the cousins."
"So? She's a fur tease! She's going to get into trouble."
"Am not," Magnet said in a pouty voice. She came out and plopped down in her mother's lap then smiled at the new person. "Hi, I'm Magnet."
"Hi, I'm Speed. I live in Miami."
"Is that on Mars?" she asked, looking confused. She looked at her mother. "Is that the city that's going up around the school?"
"No, that'll be Terra." She patted her. "Speed's from Earth, Magnet. Miami is a city in Florida. Beside the ocean." She snorted and shrugged. "She's never been back there," she offered. "We moved up here when Vic was a little over a year and Magnet was about to be born."
"Interesting." He looked at her, then reached over to move her thumb from her mouth. "You're making your teeth worse." She spit and Rimfire bopped her on the head. She growled at him and tried to pounce but he held her off with his tail. "Kids," Speed warned. She settled down to stare at him. "I know you don't see many humans."
"Nope. Only Mommy and Auntie Dawn, plus Uncle Stan." She stared at him some more. "What do you do?"
"I'm a CSI. I investigate why people died and find the people who did it."
"Oh." She pouted at that. "That seems awfully messy. Do girls do that?"
"Yup, Calleigh's one of my coworkers and she deals with weapons. She does all the same things I do."
"Oh." She looked at her mother.
"I told you girls could do anything that boys could."
"But it's still messy."
"So is life," Rimfire said dryly. "You'll find that out when you've started your mandatory bike training." She growled at him. "Everyone's got to, Magnet. Punch started hers." She pouted and settled in again, sucking her thumb again. Her mother removed her thumb and she let out a frustrated scream and kicked her.
Speed picked her up and glared at her. "You do not disrespect your mother that way," he said calmly. "It's not polite or nice." He put her down. "I don't want this bike to learn such bad manners." She stomped off.
"Nice job," Rimfire said, punching him on the arm. He got up and went to follow the brat.
Charley shook her head. "This is an ongoing thing," she said quietly. "She's at that age."
"I remember. My uncle did the same thing to me. It worked the second or third time."
Vinnie strolled in. "Let me guess, the brat was here?"
"Yup," Charley agreed. "Threw another fit."
"I'm handing her to Xander," he said dryly, patting Speed's bike. "You nearly done? I'm going to show off and he should see what the best and most studliest of us can do." The bike beeped in derision and Vinnie smirked. "We'll see. He'll need training to even get near my records, or Xander's." He strolled off, finding his bike outside in the sun. "You're a cat now?" he demanded. It beeped and revved. "We're gonna go show off for the young punks. Let's go." He put on his helmet and climbed on, speeding off with her.
"I married a hotshot with a big mouth," Charley moaned, shaking her head. "I don't know why."
He smirked. "There's something addictive about personalities like that." He helped tighten down the last bolt. "Okay, we good?"
"Let me drain the oil." She uncapped it and added it to the tank, getting a happy sounding bike. "Okay. Let's go watch you on the course. Let's see if that helps any." She got up and he stood up, nodding at his bike. "Vinnie would freak and you'd be pounded into the dirt," she assured him. "Mice are all very possessive creatures." He laughed but climbed on and headed back out, putting his helmet on as he rode. She climbed on her bike and headed out after him, going to watch her hotshot and this new one. And a few of the military punks who thought they could outdo Vinnie. One nearly got it. He hesitated on the jump the first time through, making Vinnie laugh. Second time through he got better height.
Speed leaned down to whisper to his bike, getting a gentle beep back. He saw those two trying to outdo each other and revved his engine, going to do the course like they were. And he did match Vinnie's skill level.
Throttle nodded. "Good. He'll do," he decided with a smirk. Stoker rode over and parked to watch them. "New kid."
"I can see that." He clapped. "Good job," he called. "Now do it like a real mouse." Vinnie laughed and went back to the beginning to start it like it should be done. "He needs to wear some of that energy out."
"We have enough kids," Charley assured him, making both male mice laugh. "We do. That's how he usually does it." She whistled. "Vincent, ropes course. Go run the kids." He nodded, heading that way. They went with him to learn this too. The monitors rode after them, finding Micah in there already watching. "He did good on the bike course," she said quietly.
"Good. If he heads home, I'll consider letting him bring the bike if we can solve this stuff." Dawn came jogging in and hissed in his ear. "Crap. Wolfram and Hart decided to help by attacking the building. They're going to go to full blown assault soon, Stoker."
"How many humans?"
"Forty," he said grimly.
"They can have the caves," Charley decided. She looked at Throttle, who led this insane family, getting a nod. "You're sure?"
"I'm sure. Those who're safe. I'd rather we only had half." He looked at Dawn. "Can we move them anywhere else?"
"Yeah, but I need Willow and the Seal."
"Take 'em," Stoker offered. She nodded and ran home to get the piece of the Seal she kept as a personal reference, bringing it back with her. "I hope we don't have to open somewhere to put them," he muttered.
"If so, we'll keep them away from most of Mars," Throttle reminded him. "Is there a backlash against these guys?"
"No. This is being seen as our allies running for their lives at the moment. Too many more and it'll be worse. Though a few wondered if their families were going to be coming too. That's part of who's with Dawn's group." He called the Council. "It's Stoker." Carbine waved a hand listlessly. "Dawn's protection group of our allies got attacked."
"The family members?"
"And guys like Speed who knew due to a crash. Lorne, Max, a few that knew about Winch and her boys." She nodded. "Here, there, where?"
"There. At the compound. We'll let people come pick their brains for the university. It can only help us more and they've got the resources to house them. Will they need anything?"
"Nope," Throttle assured her. "If we do, we can sneak down." She nodded and hung up. "Okay. Dawn?" She came back with a few last people. "We all here?"
"All but two. Xander and Lorne." They walked out of the portal and it closed. "Okay, we're all in?"
"We searched the building and I locked the arsenal again," Xander offered. "Hi, Honey, we're home."
"That's fine." He took a kiss. "Go settle them into the caves. We'll move the military guys out that way."
"Sure." He whistled. "Okay, military families, your people are in the ropes course. They'll be here soon. We're moving to the caves right now. Which means head that way," he said, pointing. "We'll work out showers and stuff in a few minutes." They nodded. He looked at the redhead who was staring. "Speed's on the rope course too, I saw your human."
"Thank you. This seems ...familiar somehow."
Xander looked at him, laid a hand on his neck, then nodded. "Some of the older ones were reborn other places. We'll see. Come on. Let's go. That includes you, Oz."
"Checking my email. I know where they are and Meg's taking the kids to play with yours."
"That's fine. Have her watch out for Magnet. She's been throwing fits." He walked out with Horatio and took him back there. "The big ramp is the grocery store. The lesser caves down here are mostly empty. Up on the first level is the camping and emergency supplies." That got a nod and they went to forage for bedding and things. "Horatio, give me a list of what we'll need." That got a nod. "Remember, Mars has really low water most of the time." He walked off, heading back to the house. He found Magnet picking on Oz's oldest one, picking her up and walking off to have a talk with her where no one else could hear it. She came back sorry and understanding why she was being bad and why Daddy only really wanted good daughters, like Spot. He went to find the mother of his last one, finding her soaking in the hot tub. "Aww, there's my girl," he cooed, patting her stomach.
"Yes, and it's nearly time," she complained, stroking her stomach. "She's a hefty child, Xander."
He kissed her on the cheek. "I love you for doing this for me, Switch." He nuzzled her. He loved Stoker's wife for wanting another one and her husband for saying no. He patted the baby and then bounced back inside to get her a drink, bringing it out to pay attention to his lump of daughter.
Vic came out of the house and hugged his uncle. "She's fine but we could use some help. Carol is confusing us with the rules of her game. She babbles like her momma." Both older mice laughed and Switch got out to come help too. "Where's Daddy?"
"Ropes," he said, patting him on the head. "He'll be done showing off soon. Where's Racer, school?" That got a nod. "That's fine. Spike'll be out sooner. You two can play today." He noticed a mouse he didn't know standing in the library. "Unfortunately we got attacked at our last fallback position."
"I understand and it may be a boon for Mars," he said, shaking his hand. "I'm the Dean of the New Martian University. May we go talk to your guests?"
"Sure. They're in the caves. Vic, wanna be a big mouse and help?" That got a nod. "That's cool. Go lead him there and introduce him to Horatio and Lorne. Then go tell the military guys that their families are there." Vic nodded and walked off with him, going to get in a short ride. His daddy had told him real mice only walked when they were out of gas or their bikes were too broken to ride. Xander shook his head and sat down with the kids. "Okay, what game are we playing?" Carol showed it to him. "Cool. I like Candyland." He laid everything out. "Okay, you spin and when you land on the spots with words, you do what it says. First one to the end wins, all right?" They all nodded and settled in to play with the humans.
Throttle listened to Vic. "Speed, you're excused to the caves. You're needed there by the new Dean." That got a nod and he hopped down, following Vinnie's first child. "The rest of you guys have your families that they rescued out there." That got a few smiles. "Come on, you can do better if an old mouse like Stoker can."
"Yeah, but you guys are more muscled and more limber," the commander complained. "It's a species trait."
"Hey, we trained Dawn ta do it," he noted. "Dawnie!" She came bouncing in. "Show off."
She nodded and shoved one guy out of the way, taking a jump up and building up some speed. She made it through the course barely sweating. She pushed back her hair and grinned. "If I can, you can." They groaned and got back to work. "Don't worry, you'll be here for a few weeks probably. By then maybe you'll be good as the ancient mouse Vinnie." He growled at her and tried to pounce but she dodged and ran out. "I'm helping Xander!"
"Real women don't run," Vinnie called after her.
"Yes we do. That's why we're smarter than you men." Charley doubled over in laughs, leaning on Stoker's arm.
"That can be true in certain circumstances," Stoker noted dryly. "Sometimes a retreat is the better option." He looked at Throttle. "You never did learn that lesson well." Throttle pounced him, getting into a punching/rolling/picking on him fight with his mentor.
Modo walked in and picked one up in each hand, looking at them. "Bros, let's make a *good* impression? You're acting like young punk mice." He put them back onto their feet and looked at the course, then jumped up and did something better than Dawn had, smirking at Vinnie. "Your daughter and Xander had a talk. She quit picking on Carol for being human." He groaned and went to handle his precious things. Before he ripped her a new tailhole for it.
Speed looked up from his reading that night, noticing that a weight had settled in on his stomach. He lifted his book, looking at the cat. "I'm not really a cat being, dear. Do you mind?" It purred and smirked, then she washed her ears before settling in. He sighed and went back to reading. After a few minutes of being ignored she got up and jumped over the book, making him 'oooph' when she hit his chest. He looked at her. "What?" She meowed in his face. He scratched under her chin. "I don't understand cats."
"That's okay, she's a formerly human cat," Rimfire said as he walked in. "Tara, play nicely with the human. Go bother the other guy you were staring at." She hopped down and went that way. "Thank you." He shrugged. "They're the family's cats."
"That's okay. She's a nice cat, I don't understand cats though."
"Oh, neither do I. She's nice to pet though." He shrugged. "A few of us were going to ride up to the top of the caves to watch the meteor shower. Wanna head?"
"Sure." He put down his book and followed, grabbing his helmet. It was beautiful up here. Very pure, clean, if a bit dusty, and it felt peaceful. Well, except that one spot he walked over. "What's that?"
"That...." He looked at it then at him. "Someone died there when they tried to attack us last year for the supplies. The cities are starting to move off rationing and his family has never been on rationing since we shop for ourselves on Earth. A few people panicked and came after us for having stuff."
"That's understandable. I don't take you guys as ones to flaunt it."
"No, we don't, but Xander runs a club in town that has a small kitchen attached. Throttle's momma cooks for a huge meal for a ration coupon. It's about the only restaurant on Mars at the moment."
"Let me guess, most of you can't cook?"
"No. Most of us didn't take the time to learn. We were at war for two generations, Speed." He looked at him. "There used to be a lot more prettiness on Mars, and a lot more mice. That's the other complaint, that a few of us took human mates instead of Martian ones. Dawn and I worked it out so I got to gift one of my infertile cousins with my seed so he could have babies with his wife. Chassis is doing the same thing with another clan member, and Throttle had his with another full mouse. Charley and Vinnie are giving us a few half-mice but they're satisfied. Vinnie's clan has never been what one would call *normal* mice. Daredevils, rule breakers, but not normal." He smiled as he led him into the passage they had cut to take them up to the top, letting him out up there. "Here we go. One of the best views except from Olympus Mons." He settled in beside Dawn and the cat in her lap. "Tara went to play with him."
She looked at him. "Pull up some rocks, Speed. We don't usually nibble tails." He smiled and sat down between her and the other humans. "You looked good on the bike course."
"Welcome. You earned it." She grinned at him. "Watch out for stupid manly challenges though. Vinnie can occasionally still do that and so can Xander. It's the mark of being a male mouse." She nudged Rimfire, making him blush. "This one took one to jump a crevice and landed on unsturdy ground that nearly caved under his bike." Speed shuddered. "Yeah. Then they whine when we have to baby the injuries." She looked up and sighed, wishing on the shooting stars.
Horatio found Ryan watching the shower and sat down next to him. "It's a wonderful view."
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime trip, Horatio," he said quietly, not stopping his stargazing. "It's amazing." He smiled as a few seemed to race. Eric sat down on his other side. "Look." They all stared. "Speed's up the hill." Eric went to talk to Speed while he and Horatio enjoyed this. "You wanted to know why I didn't tell you?"
"I did. Also what else you know."
Ryan glanced at him. "Well, there's some who say Xander used to be Martian but he was reborn as a human and then he was changed back into a mouse somehow. They also say some of their cats are their family reborn," he said quietly.
"Yup." He grinned as someone plopped down next to him. "Hey, Xander."
"Hey. These are the moments that hold you through the bad times," he sighed, staring in pleasure. "Before you ask, Horatio, yes, there is reincarnation. No one's sure why some are reborn and others aren't. No one's sure why some Martians were reborn as humans. All we know is that we eventually find a way back home. Like Dawn and I did." He patted Ryan on the back. "The same as he did." Ryan nodded. "You knew?"
"Yeah, I have for a few years now." He grinned at him. "I'm cool with this." He went back to watching. "Your husband will whip my tail if he catches you working on my neck."
Xander giggled and let him go. "Probably true and then he'd spank me." He grinned at Horatio. "Don't worry about it. It happens because it does." Horatio nodded, going back to the stars. "Beautiful. Now if only we could get more water."
"How are you running the hottub?" Horatio asked.
"Underground thermal river. It's not suitable for drinking even with filters."
"Pity. Have you thought about chemically breaking it down?" Ryan asked. Both of them stared at him. "Someone out there must know how to break down something and turn it into the basics of hydrogen and oxygen."
Xander considered it. "I'm not sure but I'll ask Throttle. It seems like someone would." He patted Ryan again. "Good idea, thank you. By the way, the Dean's bringing back things tomorrow if any of you wanted to run screaming." That got a smile and a nod from both men. "You might warn Speed too." He went back to watching, smiling when one of the kids crawled into his lap. "Hi, Punch."
"Hi, Uncle Xander. Can I watch?"
"Sure. I'll even get you out of hot water if your daddy asks." She nodded, snuggling in to watch. He saw another sneaky mouse and smirked, nudging Ryan and nodded at the one who had settled in Horatio's lap and was now napping on him while she sucked her thumb. Ryan grinned at that and went back to watching. He only shifted when he felt someone coming up behind him. Tag settled into his lap, getting petted while he fell asleep too. It was a perfect night as far as he was concerned.
Stoker looked up as someone tapped on his office door. "Busy."
"Good." Xander walked in. "I got a suggestion from one of the science sorts last night during the shower."
"Really? A good one?"
"Why can't we break down something we have into the component parts of water?"
Stoker frowned. "What?"
"Break down something chemically to the component parts so we can make water."
"Can you do that?"
Xander shrugged. "He seemed to think that someone somewhere could if you guys couldn't. We all know I'm not science smart. Ask Willow." She faded in. "Can we?" She nodded. "Here?"
"With a plant but yeah. We'd have to go through the Riosan to get in touch with the other people. They're fairly paranoid after they survived ten generations of Plutarkians." Stoker smiled at that. "Nothing says we can't ask how it's done and if we can trade something for the information. I have no idea what they're like or what they need. The Riosan are the ones they're in contact with. Or ask one of the other ambassadors to see if they know of another way."
"Thank you, Willow." She smiled and faded out. "Thank whichever human suggested it too."
"Of course. It might even give us an idea for tunneling into the thermal river instead of the other one. Because if we can rehydrate Mars, we can start getting a rain cycle and that would make it a lot easier to grow crops."
"True." He nodded and smirked. "Thanks." Xander shrugged. "How are they holding up?"
"We're okay. The Dean's in heaven that so many science sorts are out there. The officer program and the science department are going to be the best known ever." That got a laugh. "The others are working on the other stuff. Oh, one of them is a weapon's person and she wants to take a better look at one of the lasers. So far she's only held one, looked it over, fired it a few times at a target. I thought I'd check."
"One of the officers. She does ballistics in Miami. Which means she deals with guns and those sort of things."
"I'll consider it." Xander nodded. "She's not to dismantle one."
"I told her that. Micah did too. She pouted but she understood. Remember, Boris was making copies."
"True." He nodded. "We'll talk about it today."
"I'll have her watch. That way she's got all the objections." He winked and strolled off, going to register some of the club's ration coupons with the board over that. "Hola, guys. In with another bag to get the count." He handed over the bag off his back. "We had a slower week but it's all good." They smiled and counted it for him, giving him a notice of how many were being stored for him now. When they got money, that would change into a monetary number. He took it back to the club to record in the books. The others were dealing with the humans without him for now.
Speed looked up as a short redheaded woman flopped down next to him, noticing she was sitting on bare air and she was pretty see-through. "What?" he asked.
"We need to wake some people up and they won't come out of stasis."
"I'm a trace expert, not one on biochemistry." She pouted at him. "Ask Horatio if he's got any ideas." She nodded and went to do that. An identical redhead took her place. "Okay, that's just creepy. Can you actually split yourself up or are you twin ghosts?"
"No, that was the Hellmouth Seal, I bonded to her," Willow admitted. "Sorry, Willow Rosenburg, formerly of Sunnydale, California, and Ore Processing Plant Number 3, Sub- Plutark 2." He waved lightly at that, earning a smile. "Trace is what again?"
"Basically, anything not DNA, ballistics, or the body itself."
"Okay, so that Hodges grump...."
"He's in the same field. He's a smartass of a different sort though."
"Hmm, poser, but he's cute. Him and that Greg boy." She smiled. "But I digress. Know anything electrical impulses? Because that's what's holding them in stasis. They can't get them to reawaken."
"Have you tried the basics of CPR?" he suggested. She nodded. "How many zaps with a defib machine?"
"Four." She shrugged. "It's as much as we dared. That one burned the body but it nearly restarted him. I'm not sure why and neither are the doctors."
"Hey, Eric, did Alexx come up with us?" he called. He shook his head. "Any other ME?" He shook his head again. "Any docs?"
"No. Why?" He came over. "Hi."
"Hi, Willow Rosenburg."
"Eric Delko." He tried to shake her hand but it passed through, making her giggle and blush. "Guess you get that a lot."
"No, I more get funny looks for being one of five unfurry things on the planet," she admitted. She looked at him. "Our problem is that we can't get those in stasis unzapped."
"Didn't we take the Plutarkian library?" Xander called. "Go search for a medical text."
"They don't have any on Martians," she complained. She glared at him. "Already tried that."
"Look at torture," Eric suggested. "They can shock the hell out of someone at times and not kill them. Or the death penalty shocks. They use water to make sure it gets good contact and shave them bald."
"They do," Speed agreed. "I had to witness one on one of my cases. Made me puke for weeks." She brightened up and went to suggest that. "Interesting."
"Are you Spock now?" Xander teased, coming over. "Come on. We've got to get you up to par on your bike. That means maneuvers are next and the military guys use a slightly different style. Now you're gonna learn from Micah and me."
"Micah and I," Horatio corrected. "May I watch so I know what my guy can do?"
"Sure. Micah wanted to talk to you anyway." Speed groaned but got up and got his helmet and his bike, riding over to where Xander was finishing his wipe-down of his bike. Xander smiled at him as he stroked a handlebar. "He's a great bike. Very comfy and fits me perfectly."
"He looks strong and tough," he agreed. Xander got on and they rode out together, going deeper into the desert. Micah gave Horatio a ride and they set up to watch and talk while Xander walked him through the basics of his weapons system and the basic moves to use in a combat situation - as amended for urban combat. He listened to him and did what he did, falling into the groove of how this worked in a patrol setting. Then they went over pursuit drills. By that time Micah had joined in and they went over times for when he and his bike were separated. His bike proved able to guard him while he worked because it shot a little furry thing that was going to eat him. He patted it and got happy beeps.
Horatio watched. They were turning Speed into the guardian CSI, not doing it for his field and lab work. It would help him because he'd be guarded and whoever worked him with him would be better guarded. Xander had carefully gone over the maintenance for each and every weapon, including the new laser he had been given. Maybe that would help him since Horatio still had nightmares about Dispo Day and the reason they were nearly killed. He couldn't stand to think about the jewelry store that had nearly killed Speed. He looked over as Ryan came out with Dawn and plopped down beside him but Dawn went to help train Speed. "He'll be fine."
"I know he will. I'm a bit jealous but it's a great honor."
Horatio looked at him. "It is. You know, I never saw you as a replacement."
"Thanks, but I know you did. Otherwise you'd treat me like the other guys." He gave him a look. "The facts don't lie in most cases." Horatio sighed at that. "It'll get better."
"Some. I still wanna smack Eric some days."
"If you do, make sure I don't hear about it."
"Of course not. He might not even know it's me." He clapped when Dawn pulled off something, making her bow and smile at them. Speed glared at him and did the same thing but his bike bucked. That made him laugh. "Use the bike's personality and style, Speed. Yours is a racing bike. Hers is a standard Harley-type model."
"You've known about this before we rescued Micah's bike, didn't you?"
"Yup. I knew about Micah before the group in Chicago did too. I'm one of the hubs of the Network." He smirked a bit. "You might say that I horde information for others and clean it now and then for consumption."
Horatio looked at him. "Since when?"
"Since I was fourteen and I did a bit of hacking but got found out and mentored because I was stupid, young, and a punk," he said honestly. He looked at his boss again. "I got taught better."
"But you do horde information?"
"I do. It's all in my things but it didn't take up that much room. Information storage has come a long way."
"How well do you hack?"
"I suck at it," he said dryly, smirking a bit, then shrugging. "I truly did. I'm good enough to use the computer and to break some games. Nothing else. Anything coded in certain ways makes me twitch and start to want to clean again." He smirked when Speed landed in the dirt. "You're better than that," he called.
"Lay off him," Micah called back, glaring at him. "I'd like to see you do it."
"So would I, but I'd never accept it on a one-time-only basis. With me it's a commitment or I get pouty."
Xander looked at him. "You're a hub?"
"Your hearing is as good as we thought," he countered dryly, making Xander giggle. "I am. I'm Ryan."
"Meg's mentioned you. Oz growls about you because you cleaned up a report on him."
"Grammatically. It was in Southern Gang Member."
"You're Lazarus," Micah said dryly. Ryan nodded at that. "Since when?"
"Since about four years ago. Not the hacking one, the other one. I suck at hacking. I'm an information hub and I'm the one they go to for cleaning suggestions." Dawn giggled at that. "Don't make fun of the OCD, you could get it some year," he said wisely.
"Rimfire would put me into therapy," she assured him, coming back. "Come on. I'm riding a normal bike." He shrugged and got up to help Speed. He wasn't a great rider but he was okay enough for his tastes. It took him a few to find his balance but he was able to duplicate what they had been doing. "Good memory."
"That's why I'm an information hub," he said wisely. She smiled at that. He looked at Xander. "So, did the fish come up and why did Vinnie like his fish that much? It was the content of a whole debate one night among a few of us."
"He wanted to see if they were a mini-cosmos and if the fish had a Plutarkian representative. That and they're pretty colors swirling."
"Was he right?"
"We did have the big blue fish that did eat or kill the others out of the first tank," Xander agreed. "Everyone but the hermit crab and one of the sucker fish." Ryan nodded at that. "Now they're just pretty to watch and relax to. But you probably missed the Stargate marathon and the mice's reaction to it."
"Yeah, yours was I'd kill you if you got a symbiot and had to wear the girly skirts," Dawn said dryly.
"What's one more voice when you're so easily possessed?" Xander counted with a shrug. She hit him on the arm and shook her head. "You would have immediately come up and whipped my tail for wearing the girly skirt and chunky jewelry."
"Well, yeah," she admitted dryly. "I have bad fashion radar. It's one of the reasons I had to leave Cleveland. Some of those girls made hos look reasonable and republican." Micah fell off his bike laughing at that, making her beep at him and move closer to nudge him. "It's a laugh, dear, he's fine."
"Eric dates girls like that," Speed said dryly, looking at Ryan.
"Don't look at me, I met Gloria once. That was enough."
"Hmm. Point. Talk about psychos."
"Can we introduce Buffy to him?" Dawn asked happily. "She'd like him. He's cute, strong, smarter than her but brains have never really impressed her. He's obviously got a way with the ladies or he doesn't go out with them a second time because he's so disappointing. Whichever, she'd be used to it." Ryan and Speed leaned on each other to laugh. "She would be."
Xander nodded. "She definitely would be," he sighed, shaking his head. "We'll see, Dawnie. She's not up here, right?"
"No, Max made her go get the other girls to safety in Canada. They're with that scientist guy who wanted to anal probe her to see if her brains were really back there or not." Micah burst out laughing again. "He did!" She stomped. "He said so!"
"He did, Lorne put that in his report," he laughed, holding his stomach. "Oh, Gods!" He got to his knees then up by bracing on his bike. "I need to find a rock. 'Scuse me." He headed off.
"Not like we care. I'm the only girl here and I've had to pee in the desert before too, boss."
"Your man would kill me."
"Probably true," she sighed, shaking her head. "Rimfire is still *very* protective of me."
Xander snorted. "Think about what I get from Throttle, little sister. You don't get shit from Rimfire in the area of possessiveness."
"Should we warn them not to hurt you?" Ryan teased.
"The only way Throttle would hurt him is by making it so he can't sit for another week," Dawn said dryly. "The same as Rimfire has me in the past." Xander nodded at that. "It's not my fault Wolfram and Hart's bad guy sicced a succubus on us! All I did was protect my poor mouse."
"You still couldn't sit right for two weeks," Xander said dryly. "Throttle's been amazing in me before but mine only lasted four days at the worst. You were on liquids for twelve days."
She shrugged. "It wasn't my fault, blame the demonic ho."
"I blame the guy who set her onto Rimfire," he offered. "And a bit on you since you didn't *tell* us you were being pushed that way."
"Point." She shrugged it off. "Oh, well, I protected my furry honey and it's all good again. We can even have apocalypse sex again." Ryan giggled at that. "Let me guess, the network discussed that?"
"Yeah, at what level it became apocalypse sex."
"The day of, it's harder, faster, and more full of feeling than other times, and it's the last time you might see them," Xander told him.
"And always remember to leave time to take a nap," Dawn said wisely. "The reason for the apocalypse will get very mad if you yawn in their face. They think you're diss'ng 'em."
Speed just nodded once and backed away. "How would you two know?"
"Ever hear of a hellmouth?" Dawn asked.
"Born there," Xander admitted.
"Came to life there," Dawn added. "My sister was a slayer."
"Oh, shit," Speed sighed. He looked at Ryan. "I'm going to start letting you have every single strange case we get."
"I get them anyway. Usually I hint or I trade for 'em. But sure, I'll gladly trade. Give me a haunting any day over another dead spouse due to cheating."
"Point. But I like the simpler ones. It's the worse and odder reasons that give you nightmares."
Ryan looked at him and shook his head. "No. I get nightmares from Jessup dying. I get nightmares from seeing you on the ground. I get nightmares from seeing Calleigh nearly blown up last week and she never told any of you." Speed opened his mouth. "New ex." He growled at that. "Eric might know. I got called and found her shaking and half-asleep with shock." He shrugged. "I get nightmares from every single little kid we find. Especially the ones that the parents did in. Odd doesn't get to me. It's the ones that keep happening over and over again that get to me, especially when they're done by the selfish, stupid reasons like 'she cheated on me'. That's what divorce is for."
"Point," Speed agreed. "We all reached that point, Wolfe. Some of us got there faster. You need to talk that out."
"I have. It still happens. I reached that point years ago. My rookie year." That got a nod. "I'm fine. This is a great vacation to me."
"Next time you talk to Horatio."
"Horatio, he's having nightmares about cases," Speed called.
"I know." He came down. "He has for years now. He feels more comfortable going to someone else and I'll accept that as long as he does go to someone so it doesn't build up." Ryan nodded. "Thank you for letting it be known among the others, Ryan."
"I'm sure Eric will find some way to push it back on me again."
"If he does, you tell me," Speed ordered. "I'll make him stop it." Ryan looked at him. "It's time he quit being so childish and so did you."
"In other words, be a big mouse and just challenge him. Once you whip his tail and establish your spot in the pecking order, he'll calm down," Dawn suggested.
"We see it in some combat units," Micah agreed. "Everyone's got their niche. Even when you're young and you make foolish mistakes." He shrugged. "I made plenty, Ryan. Now look at me, I run two agencies and I'm responsible for the President and Vice President having a nervous breakdown." Horatio smirked at him for that. "I am. It was my reports that ended it. His faith made him want to believe we're alone out here."
"I still say the VP is a demon," Xander offered.
"Oh, he is. I've talked with him in the past about it. He's a half and he's pulling a Voldemort, hating his own kind." Dawn smiled at that. "I know you've both read it. Have fun on the broomsticks?"
"Still working on making it go but we're doing a Rocky Horror showing tonight at the club."
"Don't mention that around Throttle or Modo, Dawn. They still groan at the mention of the movie. Much less the showings." He grinned at Micah. "You can come."
"I can't stand that movie," he said dryly. "Make Ryan go."
"Not my thing, sorry. I'm more an art film and action movie sort."
Speed looked at him. "Really?" Ryan nodded. "Like subtitles?"
"I do, and especially the cheesy dubbed ones with the lips moving wrong and all that." That got a grin. "I like the old Godzilla movies. I go to the marathon every year but this one because I was off taking pictures of a new body that washed up."
"I apologized," Horatio reminded him.
"You did. I made the last two movies at least," he said with a small shrug.
"You could always transfer back," Speed offered.
"I'd die. I hated patrol half the time. All the driving, driving, driving, and then suddenly your life is threatened and you've got to run or pounce. Not my style. I'm more cold and analytical."
"Go to school and become the PD shrink," Xander offered. "They could always use another one and having one who had some experience would help the others."
"I could but that's a lot of schooling and I went for science so I'd have to start over again."
"If you wanted, we can arrange your schedule for education purposes," Horatio assured him.
"Good, I want to do my second masters sometime this half-decade." Horatio nodded at that. "I could probably get away with six more classes and a new diss."
"Bring it to me once you know and we'll work it out." Ryan nodded at that. "Are we done or should we call out others?"
"Calleigh still wants the guns badly," Speed reminded him.
"I told Charley to have her watch the Council today, they'd be talking about all you guys and that. The Full Council is meeting today as well. That might be brought to them." That got some nods. "Micah, you'll probably get called."
"Already did," he sighed. "I gave a statement early this morning to them during a private meeting. They're not happy but they understand. Winch pointed out that this was why you guys moved when you did - so you couldn't get trapped down there. It also got pointed out that he'll be out of office come November and fully unable to do anything come January. I'm hoping the good guy wins this time but the other one's still better, even if he is conservative and jumpy."
"He'll listen to reason when it's presented to him," Horatio assured him. "He's that sort."
"He is but it's not like I want to endanger Winch or her kids," he said gently. "The only other option is to bring Dawn and Rimfire down for a short meeting."
"Which you should do anyway since I'm the ambassador," she pointed out. He nodded at that. "Or you could bring us and Xander. It's not like he couldn't pick up more hotdogs. The plant won't be started for another six months."
"True." He shrugged. "We'll work that out then." That got some nods. "Are we done? Those thermal waters are nasty smelling but they're good on muscle aches."
"Sure. Who's riding with who?"
"I'll take one and you take the other, Micah."
"Sure." He nodded at Horatio, who got onto the back of his bike. Ryan scooted back so Dawn could have hers back again and they took off.
Throttle met them at the gates. "How was he?"
"Good," Xander agreed. "He's got the hang of it. He sees the reasons behind it. We're tailoring it so he'll have help when he needs it since most of the time he's working he won't be on his bike."
"He's an officer...."
"Yeah, but CSI are the guys who go outline the body and take the pictures, babe," Xander told him. "They don't ride down people and do traffic stops."
"They're the guys who pull the bullets, deal with the aftermaths, and the clean up," Micah told him. "The ones who tell the other guys who shot who and why."
"Oh, okay." He nodded at that. "Horatio, right?" He nodded. "Good. The college has gotten permission to come kidnap your team and the others like you for a few weeks of intense teaching the teachers to make sure they're up to date. Including the cute little blonde one who stole my gun when the Council said she could study them as long as she helped our weapons program figure out what they were doing."
"That's fine," he agreed. "Are we staying here?"
"You guys will be the first beings in the dorms," he said with a small grin. "We'll send over food and stuff for you guys but that'll solve the shower issues."
"Cool," Ryan agreed. "Are Meg and Oz coming to do the computer classes?"
"They are," Throttle agreed. "That one guy, Greg, he's dancing and singing to his i-Pod. His coworkers are taunting him."
"I think he's cute but I'm still taken," she said at his look. "He is. He's one of the ones who found the mouse fur in Vegas."
"Interesting. That explains why he's here."
"That and he's one of the network, him and Hodges," Ryan offered. "Hodges is an information hub. Sanders is a contributor."
"Very interesting," Throttle said with a smirk. "Oz didn't say that."
"Oz might not know but the hubs routinely get together and trade information." He grinned. "It gives us more stuff to horde."
Xander giggled. "That's so cute!"
"I know, but that's more Eric's thing," he said with a mean grin. "We should go pack what little we unpacked. Should we bring the cots and stuff?"
"If they need it, we'll caravan that over with food," Throttle assured him. That got a nod and they started to head that way but one of the little mice came out and herded them back to the group. "He's a hub?" Xander nodded. "Wow."
"Very. He also saw Micah's bike when they rescued Charley."
"Hmm. So he's known for a while now."
"Shocked us when he started asking questions about my bike's former rider," Speed agreed. "Then he got us plans so we could look over his brain for injuries so he wouldn't be in pain or anything."
"Damn it, Eric, quit hitting on the female mice," a female voice shouted. "You've had a quarter of Miami's women after you; they don't need that sort of experience."
"There is no known birth control that works on Martians," Xander yelled.
"See, another good reason to leave them alone. Your mother would be greatly pissed if she couldn't see the grandkids and attend a massive wedding." Calleigh came out of the garage. "Aww, don't you look so comfy on the bikes, Ryan and Speed. Especially being chased by Modo's son."
"I ride one at home," Speed said dryly. "Ryan's considering this a fantasy vacation."
"It is and I even got to pet a baby mouse." She smiled. "Hi, guys. We're going to college. Are you guys still packed?"
"All but a shirt I had drying," Ryan admitted. He looked at the baby. "May we pass, little guy?" He smiled and nodded, letting them pass. "You're very polite, just like your momma and daddy." He beamed at that compliment. "You're also as stubborn as your Uncle Xander." He giggled and hit Ryan on the leg as he passed him but hugged his uncles before going off again.
Speed looked at him. "We should talk later."
"If you want. I'm going to enjoy the sunset if I can." He went to get his damp shirt and pack it, checking to make sure all his storage devices were still in there. "Okay, who was in my stuff?" he called.
"I was," Eric called, bringing them back. "Oz said so."
"Oz can ask." He counted them. "I'm missing four and I need them." He emptied out his bag and repacked everything, making sure they were surrounded by stuff to cushion them in case of a rough ride. Three were brought. "I've got a light lime green one?" Eric patted himself down and came out with it and another one. He looked at that one and handed it back. "That's one of the Vegas crew's. It's got LVPD on it." He tucked that package in and then his clothes around it. He looked at his neatly made cot. "Should we fold them back up?"
"No, not yet. We will later. It'll give us non-combatants a job tonight," Oz offered.
"Go borrow from the library," Ryan suggested. "Who knows what Xander brought." Oz nodded at that and went to do that while Ryan went back to the meeting spot. He sat down on the ground so he could watch night fall around them.
"Why did you bring all your computer files?" Eric asked as he walked up behind him with his bag.
"Because I've got information stored on them that could end up being important."
He looked at him, then at Meg, who shrugged. "Because there's a group of people online who have a lot of information at their fingertips about a lot of subjects, Eric. We're usually called the Paranoid Network. The Lone Gunmen in the X-Files show was an homage to us." He gaped. "I'm a member. That's how I knew about the bike before it crashed, generally speaking of course. Those things contain information that the group has gathered over the years that was on my system. It's my duty and my honor to keep it from falling into the wrong hands, like the people who're chasing us. Otherwise we'd be having another body instead of a great vacation."
"Wow. I didn't even know you knew how to use a computer to get online."
Ryan groaned and shook his head. "Nearly every adult with an advanced degree does these days."
"Not true. I didn't have to use one for my college courses."
"No, you probably used it to pick up women," he said dryly. He went back to watching the sun go down. He smiled in pleasure. It was a great sunset. "Isn't that pretty?"
"Yeah," he said, looking confused. "Who?"
"The sunset," Calleigh said, hitting him on the arm. "Stupid." She tapped Ryan on the head. "Come on, we're transporting."
"That's fine." He got up and dusted himself off before dusting his bag off as he followed her. "Will it damage the storage devices?"
"Doesn't ours," Dawn assured him. "Even the one from Earth doesn't. It only gets film for some reason." She shrugged. "Go ahead and step through. There shouldn't be a power surge." He nodded and walked through. She smiled at Calleigh. "Don't worry, I had a hand in some of the decorating. It'll be nice and pretty."
"Good." She headed with the rest of the group, finding the others staring at the sun that was just starting to get lower in the sky. "Wow. How far did we jump?"
"The equivalent of going from New York to Taiwan on Earth," the dean said happily. "Welcome to the New Martian University. If you'll follow me please?" They followed him to their dorms and on a short tour, at the end watching the sunset from the cafeteria while some mice loaded food into the storage areas.
Ryan leaned closer to him. "Punishment labor?"
"Indeed. It's a great deterrent. We find not many of them want to build things or roads." That got a smile and a nod, then Ryan went back to watching the sunset. It had been his idea after all. The others settled in and dinner was made and brought out for them. No one complained about the hotdogs and rootbeer. It was very sweet of them.
Speed pulled up the gates of the college and pushed his sunglasses off his tanned face. "I'm Tim Speedle, from Miami."
"Congratulations, sir, your first road trip on your new bike?" Speed smiled and nodded. "Usually we mark ourselves for it."
"I'm thinking how. I can't do earrings. I look odd." The gate guardian let them inside. "Have there been issues?"
"Not really. A few people who're very curious. A few who didn't like humans helping with the educational systems for our future. One of you reminded them that they were only giving a framework, the rest would be done by Martians who were going to be figuring out what worked best for us. That mollified that one. A few wanderers who needed fed. They're here and working now." He grinned. "Nothing too bad. You're in Dorm 2, the blue one," he said, pointing it out. "Someone should be there and they can show you whichever area you'll be heading to."
"Science probably. I'm one of the CSI people."
"That's the green building," he said, pointing at one of native red stone with a green trim. "That's our science center. Bike parking is in front of the dorm."
"Welcome, sir." He smiled as Speed rode off and parked, wiping his bike of dust before going inside. "He'll do his bike proud," he decided, closing the gates again. Their last few picketers were coming back and he was going to get to talk back to them again. He looked at the one with the sign that said 'save the food for the mice, send them home'. "They're eating stuff that the ambassador and that Xander mouse brought up," he told her. "Totally Earth grown and bought." She huffed off to get a different sign. He looked at the other one. "Hey, even our medical people had to go to Earth textbooks since we lost so many of ours." He continued to picket, which was his right.
Calleigh looked out and saw the green racing bike, squealing quietly. "Speed'S here, Horatio!" He came and looked then nodded so she went to find him and pounce him for a hug. "Why are you so late?" she chided.
"I had to finish some training stuff and then I got to take my first road trip on my new friend." He shrugged and finished unpacking then followed her back. "What am I doing, Horatio?"
"Look over the trace lab. Hodges is going over some of the more esoteric parts of the library with Ryan."
"Sure." He let their helping mouse lead him down there, going to look things over. It was good to be back in the lab, even if his bike did pout later. They had a long talk and he would have to reduce some of his hours in the lab. Then again, his bike was probably going to be in the garage they worked out of instead of out in the parking lot. That way he couldn't shoot someone for petting him like others had his Ducatti. Riding him would definitely give him a reason to go home sooner.
Ryan walked out to where Speed and Eric were chatting, handing over their bags of lunch. "Food time." He grinned and walked off to look at the garden going in. It was a fantastic thing full of plants he had never seen before and probably never would again. So he took pictures and asked for clippings before they left, getting some indulgent looks.
Eric looked at his buddy. "Speed, does he seem odd to you?"
"No, I think this is the real Ryan we're seeing. The happy guy who's not being looked at oddly for being my filler-in guy while I was off." He opened his bag and pulled out the sandwich then looked at him again. "Ham?"
Eric looked. "Turkey." They switched and he ate a bite while he thought about that. Then he looked at him again. "I didn't see him that way."
"You did and you're being an ass, Eric," Speed said bluntly. "Even Calleigh's said so and that's saying something." Eric frowned at that, looking down. "Get to know the real CSI behind Ryan's geeky exterior. He might surprise you. He has me a few times."
"That's Horatio. You're an Eric, not a Horatio," Speed pointed out patiently. "Think like an Eric. Even though you can't screw him, he's a decent guy. Yeah, he had some screw ups, we all did. If you want, I can share stories about some of yours during your first six months." Eric shuddered and shook his head. "You sure?" Eric nodded, eating another bite. "Good. Remember that we like you even though you screwed up majorly and extend the same sort of attention we did to you to cure it. He's a decent guy even if he does occasionally look like an English professor." He looked over at where Ryan was inspecting some plants. "Ryan, why don't you think about doing bonsai?"
"I tried, I killed it by trimming it too much and going too fast," he called back, looking over at them. "Besides, my herb garden takes up all my spare space in my extra room. That's the only good spot of light in my whole apartment."
"Growing *herb*?" Eric teased.
Ryan looked at him. "No, I don't need the palliative nature of weed, Eric. I do however need more marjoram for my best pot roast recipe." Speed laughed at that. "Plus I need some poisonous stuff. It's my rebellion of the decade." He got back to work helping the gardeners. He liked to plant things. "What sort of fertilizer are you guys using to make up for the lack of nutrient-laden water?"
Speed shook his head and made Eric look at him. "See? He's even got a sense of humor."
"He does," he said dryly. "He's also smug and thinks he's hot shit."
"He is, Eric. He's obviously got brains if he's an information hub in the Paranoid Network groups. He's got a library's worth of stuff on his computer. He's probably got half that with him. Plus I know he knows about some really odd subjects. He's the one who came up with the fact that the guy had drank absinthe."
"I thought you did."
"You never would have listened if I told you he did. I told H he did, but not you because you're an ass." Eric glared at him. "You are. You've even outdone me from the year I got the award for being such an asshole." Eric huffed off. "Think about it, Eric. You're a CSI because you've got brains. You're not a cheerleader."
Eric flipped him off.
Ryan giggled and came over to hug him then went back to working.
"Welcome, kid. Should we work on cluing him in to other facts?" He ate a bite of his sandwich. "By the way, I hated that pot roast recipe with the marjoram. I liked the one with the garlic though. Feel like sharing?"
"Sure, when we get home." He grinned. "My uncle likes the other one." He winked at Calleigh when she came out looking confused. "Do you think I look like an English teacher in my sweater vests?"
"No comment," she said. "What did we do to Eric?"
"Pointed out how big of an asshole he was," Speed noted dryly, eating another bite.
"Good. Maybe it'll mean he'll quit hitting on the female mice." She walked over to help Ryan. "I didn't know you gardened?"
"I've got a small herb garden inside my place," he offered, grinning at her. "You can help." She got down to help him, smiling at the gardening mice.
The Seal faded in. "Fair warning, Wrench is coming," she announced. "All those who hate strange things, run!" She faded back out.
"Gee, you mean like ghosts and things?" Speed asked the empty spot. "Why would we want to run?"
Wrench rode up and parked, looking at them. "You guys are so cute," he cooed. "Wolfe, front and center. And Speed, you're driving him." He smirked. "Now, boys." They sighed but went to get Speed's bike and helmet. He smirked at Calleigh. "Having fun?"
"A lot. You guys have a wonderful school here." He smiled more gently at that. "Even if you are a pain in the tail." He laughed and nodded. "Don't damage them this time, Wrench. We need them to calibrate the machines later."
"I wasn't planning on it. Wolfe wanted some information and Speed needs time to be with his bike. Therefore we're all going to Othra's temple nearby." The gardening mouse shuddered. "You do know that Xander, Throttle's mate, is one of his priests?"
"I had noticed it but then again he's also a violent and possessive mouse, but very protective of the little kids," he retorted, giving him a look. "Why not Sevra's?"
"It's got floor issues. I don't want to make the bikes rescue us. If we can get into the library I'm going to have Xander help me do that soon. He's got construction experience."
"I took lessons from him," he admitted, standing up and dusting off. He helped Calleigh up. "There you go, ma'am." He walked over after a nod to her. "The library's been fallen in, Highest."
He smiled. "I know. I think we might be able to salvage some of the wreckage. Since none of her priestesses came back, it'll have to be another sort and Xander's the best priest we've got for construction and exploration."
"That's fine. If we normal mice can help, let us know."
"Oh, I will, Cousin." He smirked at him. "Speaking of, family picnic coming up next month."
"I'll be there. Tell the twit in charge to quit worrying so much. Vic and Magnet will even be *normal* mice."
Wrench looked at him. "Apparently you've never been fur teased by the little brat?" He laughed and shook his head. "I'm so siccing her on you," he promised, turning his bike around to lead Speed out. "Come on. Let's go get Ryan smarter and let you know more about your adopted heritage," he called. Speed nodded. "We've got to get you a radio for in your helmet."
"Lucy's got one," Ryan called over. "I'll have her make him one." That got a grin and a nod. "Where are we heading?"
"Othra's nearest temple. I've got the teaching books with me." That got a happy wiggle and Speed reached back to swat him. "You should be able to correct for that," he called in a sing-song voice.
"I didn't want to be rubbed against!" Speed complained. Ryan blushed and hid his face against Speed's back. "Thanks, really."
Wrench smirked, those two were so much fun! He'd miss having Speed and Ryan around.
Eric looked across the lounge space he, Speed, Ryan, and Horatio were sharing. "Hey, Ryan, what are you growing in your garden?"
"Some herbs and things. I'm going to have to do a drying when I get back if they're not all dead." He turned the page on his book.
"I thought that fresh ones were better."
Ryan looked up and nodded. "They are, but I always grow more than I can use. I let my friends who can cook come poach some then I dry the rest for later use since I'll be using the trays to grow other stuff before I grow more of them."
"Save me some basil and tarragon if you've got any," Speed ordered.
"Tarragon's going to be later."
"Killed it?" Eric teased.
"Totally. I left a window open while I was at work one day and it got drenched during a rainstorm. Ruined the tarragon and a few springs of asphodel."
"You...isn't that poisonous?" Eric asked.
Ryan smirked. "It's my bad thing for the decade." Horatio snickered at that. "I've got some medicinal and other types of herbs as well," he offered.
"So, some day you'll end up with a real garden, like fruits and stuff?" Eric asked. "Or a formal one with shrubs and flowers?"
"I wouldn't mind a real garden with vegetables and herbs. I'e have to be retired by then so I could pay it proper attention but I could do that." He shrugged. "I'm pretty decent at growing things."
"What else do you do after work?" Eric asked, moving closer.
Ryan shrugged. "I do normal stuff. I read, watch some tv, clean, go to the gym just enough to keep in shape. Nothing spectacular."
"So you don't club?" Eric asked, smiling some.
"Not really. I'm more a social club sort than a guy to go out and fight the wall of sound in the clubs you like. I've got passion about some things but not that."
"You sound like a guy with an ex," Horatio teased.
Eric gaped. "You've been married twice?"
"Once for six months and once for about twenty-five minutes. I hardly ever count that one."
"Young, drunk, and stupid in Vegas?" he guessed, grinning at him.
"Young and stupid. Not in Vegas. We were in Miami. It got annulled because we realized we were going to kill each other."
"Huh. What about the first one?" Eric asked.
"Pretty standard. She didn't like the job or how I was growing up. We fought like dogs. She said I was the bitch in heat in our relationship so she filed for divorce. It said she couldn't live with me or my cleaning fetish as she put it. The judge read it over and asked me if I did it naked. He was amused."
Eric laughed at that. "At least you can laugh about it. I can help you learn how to dance if you want. We can get you some hip...per clothes and all that, go out after work now and then."
"Eric, I have a pair of leather pants. I still don't like to fight that much noise and be that pressed between bodies. It's why I don't like taking subways during rush hour." Eric gaped at that. "What? Not everyone wants to be groped by strangers."
"You...have leather pants?" Speed asked, looking over the top of his book at him. "Since when?"
Ryan smirked at him. "You wouldn't know it to look at me but I was a bit goth in high school and college." He shrugged and picked up his book again. "I changed to get work. You can't really get a promotion when you look like a thug for some reason. Then again, I find the sweater vests comforting now and I find I'm often underestimated. I had one rookie patrol ask me if I was a witness. I flashed my badge and he said I couldn't be. I looked just like his history teacher. I usually get that instead of an English teacher." Speed and Horatio both laughed at that. "I do." He grinned at Eric. "Go ahead, you can ask more questions. I'm not annoyed yet."
"Hell no," he said dryly. "Or at least not that I've been told."
"They were probably keeping them from learning how to dust before they walk," Horatio taunted.
"Probably," he agreed dryly. He looked at Eric again, looking expectant. "Well?" he asked finally.
"I'm thinking," he defended. "Are you seeing anyone?"
"Not at the moment. I broke up with my last lover about four months ago. It was mutual. They decided I didn't fit in with their corporate yuppie image. But I did get to copy most of his killer CD collection and I got to keep the multi-CD player we bought together."
"Had to hide it in the closet?"
"Yup, and then he said he could always get better and sneered. I told him to try, he wasn't going to satisfy them either. It was not amiable." Eric gaped, just blinking at him. "Yes, I'm bi," he said patiently. "My last two were men. After my two exes, I gave up on women for a while. I like women, a lot, but I'm a personality sort. I need someone who'll put up with my books and my cleaning."
"I never would've guessed," Eric said quietly. "You haven't...."
Ryan rolled his eyes. "Eric, that's so egotistical. Do you think every woman checks you out?"
"Yes," he said honestly, then he gave him his best impish grin. "You mean they don't?"
"Nope, sorry, Eric," Speed offered. "Hate to burst that happy mental fantasyland, but many, many women find you irritating because you're an asshole. Though, he did stare once that I caught him," he said, smirking at Ryan.
"He was wearing those charcoal gray pants. Everyone stares at his ass in those. Even Frank."
"Frank...." Eric's mind shut down for a minute and rebooted. "Okay then," he said finally, making Horatio laugh into his book. "Not funny, H."
"It is, Eric. Those pants are a bit tight for work."
"Yeah, but they're comfortable."
"Eric, dear, two of the patrol guys were wondering if you were charging since the last time you went commando and it was *clearly* evident," he offered, patting him on the hand. "Next time, at least wear a thong. That's why Frank and I were staring." He blushed at that and ducked his head. "Anything else you want to know?"
"Um, no," he squeaked, hurrying off to his room.
"Sweet," Speed praised.
"Yes, I am," he said happily, beaming back, making Horatio get up and walk off laughing.
Speed shook his head. "You're being mean again."
"It's my one a decade. I'm allowed."
Speed nodded. "You're probably allowed two or three a decade," he offered. "Freak Frank out next. He'll blush. I've done it before. Come in wearing goth some day soon."
"I could but I'd have to do my hair again," he offered. He smiled at Calleigh and Greg when they came in. "Hi, guys."
"Hi," Greg said, giving him a hug. "I'm burning some of Xander's music down. Did you want a copy of anything I'm making? He's got Oz's band's stuff."
"Got any Virgin Death?"
"I do at home," he admitted, grinning madly. "You have such good taste." He pinched his cheek. "I'll send you a copy once we get home."
"Sure. I've got their last two albums before the one that just came out. Not the debut album but the two better selling ones. Miami's out of touch with them."
"A lot of people are out of touch with them but I know the drummer." He beamed at Speed. "How goes Trace? Hodges is pouting that you ran him off."
"I did, he was being annoying. I get enough of that from my own lab." He went back to his book once Calleigh had huffed. "You missed it, Ryan told Eric that he saw that he was pantiless in those gray pants last time."
"I thought he was running," she agreed. She settled in beside Ryan, looking at his book. "What are you reading? Ghosts?"
"Making sure the Seal can't come visit when we get home," he said patiently. "She likes to watch. She thinks we're all very cute."
Willow faded in and nodded, beaming at him. "You are very cute! Especially in that picture of you in the leather pants." He smirked back. "By the way, the agents who broke in did trash your plants but the one with the thorns bit two of them back."
"Pity it was poisonous," he said dryly, going back to his book with a shrug. "They do my computers?"
"Erased without even turning them on."
"Uh-huh. That can be reversed, right?"
"Probably. I didn't see them trying to reformat it or anything." She shrugged. "Anyway, we probably would go check on Speed, but not you."
"Thanks, really," Speed noted patiently. "I'm going to be good and I'm not dating so you two won't catch sex."
"Pity but if I want to watch kinky sex, I go watch Xander and Throttle, or Dawn and Rimfire if I want het stuff." She smiled sweetly at Eric when he came back. "You're so cute!" she said, patting him on the head. "Just like a living porno some weeks." He blushed and walked off again. "Oh, come back!" she complained. "I'll behave."
"I doubt it," Ryan and Speed said in sing-song voices that nearly harmonized. Speed glared at him and Ryan smirked.
"Didn't you know I'm going to become your clone?"
"You're not cool enough, Ryan. Really. But I will dare you to come in wearing your leather pants."
"He has leather?" Calleigh asked, looking confused.
Ryan pulled out his wallet and found a picture in it, handing it over. She squeaked and gaped. "That was my tenth grade picture," he said fondly. "I can still wear that outfit." He tossed it at Speed. "Second in from the credit cards."
Speed looked then nodded. Greg looked then smiled. "That's my boy!" he said proudly, handing it back so he could give Ryan a hug. "I dare you to wear it to work too." He beamed and danced off.
"Fine, but I've still got to do my hair," Ryan called after him.
"Mr. Wolfe, nothing too extreme," Horatio called from his room. "Remember, you will have to go to scenes like that."
"Yes, Horatio." He grinned and got back to reading. Calleigh looked again. "It's a history of Ancient Babylonia. Xander had it in his library. He said to bring it since it was going out here anyway."
"That's nice of him." She read over his shoulder. "They did what?"
He nodded. "They did."
"Eww." She got up and went to check out Speed's book. "History of the Resistance?" Speed nodded. She sighed. "I need something to do."
"Go pick on Eric?" Ryan suggested. "Or go pounce someone for his bike's weapons?"
"Oooh!" She hauled Speed up. "Show me! That way I can help you take care of them. That way I don't have to kick your butt for not cleaning them too." She drug him off by the wrist.
Ryan snickered behind his book. That was so cute! She'd probably even talk him into a nighttime ride.
"Mind out of the gutter," Horatio said from the doorway. "She's not like that."
"I know. I was just thinking he'd have her whooping behind him when she begs for a ride."
"Quite possibly," Horatio agreed. He looked around then at his boy again. "What outfit?" Ryan tossed over his wallet, letting him see them. "Interesting. Do not wear the blue one please."
"No intention of it."
"Thank you." He tossed it back and walked off smiling. Things were about to get very interesting at work. Very, very interesting.
Ryan just smirked. His mischief for the decade was now done as well. He felt better having been so naughty.
Speed looked up Micah walked in. "We good yet?"
"Better than. The people who were hunting have been stopped. It's not safe yet but it's a move in the right direction. Apparently a reporter heard and started to ask in an open interview. They were suddenly struck by an allergy attack." He sat down across from him. "You still have to make a choice, Speed. Your bike is Martian. You wouldn't be the only human up here."
"I know but I don't belong up here," he said quietly. "I'm not a mouse, even if I do ride a Martian bike. He can come up and visit or whatever whenever he wants."
Micah nodded. "That's fine. In that case, only the people already up here can know about your bike unless I personally or Lorne or Max personally say so," he ordered.
"I figured as much," he agreed with a small, dry look. Micah grinned. "I'll keep it as quiet as I can, Micah. I'll explain it as an experimental prototype. They're testing it out as a sentinel system or something."
"As long as you don't answer any questions, especially not press questions."
"No, that's Ryan's sin. Not mine."
"Okay. Work it out with Horatio about who gets to answer things." He stood up. "Have you been practicing?"
"Every few days." He leaned forward. "What about guys like Ryan?" he asked quietly.
"If one of the human bikes came open and picked him, then that's their choice," he said firmly. "I can't make it happen, even if he wants it with everything in him."
"I think he's a bit jealous."
"Who wouldn't be? Except Lorne. He thinks mine's possessed." He grinned and shrugged. "He's even offered it a drink a few times after a bad case."
"I didn't know Lorne drank oil or was robotic."
"No, not hardly. I could've accused Max of it in her early years but not after they trained Dawn." He shook his head quickly. Horatio leaned in. "Good, get in here."
"It's up to you and him to deal with any questions about his bike. No knowledge can get out."
"Agreed. I would expect it." He moved closer. "Any of the patrol officers who want to know will come to me anyway. The gossip will run rampant. We'll ignore it and nudge it now and then to watch it get ridiculous. After it gets so outlandish it's impossible, it'll die down and he'll only get envious looks and requests to pet him."
"Or play with the weapons," Speed reminded him.
"True, some of the officers would want to play with the weapons," Horatio agreed, smiling at him. "You're being naughty."
"That's because my lab's all set up. It's all calibrated. Short of me taking over the kitchen and cooking, I'm all out of work."
"Oh, I'm sure we can find you some," Micah said fondly, smiling at him. Speed moaned. "Someone's got to look over the proposed high school entrance requirements and curriculum."
"Tough, kiddo. You, me, and whoever gets done next. We want realistic. Most mice are action oriented and not overly interested in libraries. Their former major one at their first university only had as many books at the DC public library."
"Action I can do. I've already helped on the physical requirements for the pre-PD program." He stood up. "Are they thinking an vo-tech option?"
"They have plans to institute one for things like the construction stuff. Fur trimmers, things like tattoo and piercing people." He looked at his ear. "Yes, it's traditional, even if you look stupid. Even I had to get one." He touched his own hidden earring. "Yours can go there. Throttle is very good at it." He drug him off, ignoring the pouting going on.
"Something decent and unnoticeable," Horatio called after him. "Send me lists of what we're looking over as well."
"Sure," Micah agreed, dragging him to the transporter and through it. "Throttle, he hasn't .... ooops, sorry, people. I meant to dial Throttle's."
"Theirs is forwarded," Carbine said grimly. "We're not sure why. They're not answering anything." She looked at Stoker. "Your spawn are out there. What's going on?"
"Not a clue. I called Spike's bike and he wouldn't tell me."
Micah sighed and drug him back, going to get their bikes and head out there once they drove out of the Council chambers.
"That's one solution," Enamel said from his corner. "Since my kids won't answer either."
Carbine snorted. "Your son is turning into a heathen from his spawn's influence."
Enamel glared at her. "Next time you sprain your tail, expect to hurt when I reset it." She sighed and slumped down. "Are you sure you're not with mouse?"
Stoker snorted. "Not from what we heard. By the way, Switch thought it was cute you moved up the street from us so Anya could come paint your place at least twice a month." She groaned and shuddered.
Micah pulled up to the gate, looking at the guard. "They've got the transporter forwarded?"
"Xander ran into a pissed off something that seems to be making him scream, rant, and slap at himself, sir."
"Ah. That stuff." He rode through, Speed behind him. He pulled out his taser and hit Xander on the side with it, making him yelp and fall down unconscious. "Okay. Where's Dawn?"
"Coming," Vinnie panted, bending down to breathe. "He's worse now than when he was human. It's hard to keep hold of him."
"Rest, bro," Throttle offered. Vinnie flopped down and covered his eyes with his arm. "Thanks, Micah. What's up?"
"Speed never marked himself."
"Ah. Anything in particular?"
"Subtle. I look dumb in earrings," Speed told him. "I used to have a hoop."
"My Mamma used ta say some biker mice can show off all their accomplishments but some mice have to stay more quiet to prove they were good," Modo offered. "She said I'd never be a quiet mouse." Vinnie snickered at that. "And that you'd never be a quiet mouse either, bro."
"No, no VanWham is ever a quiet mouse," Vinnie agreed dryly. "Unless we're being unmanly and sneaking mice or we're going to whip some tail and need the last few seconds before we pop up behind them."
"Or you're trying to sneak back to bed with your lady past your youngest," Throttle taunted.
"That's manly and intelligent sneaking, bro," Vinnie said wisely. "My kids all have the best taste; they want to stay with me all the time every day, even when they're asleep. Since their momma needs her mouse every once in a while, I gotta sneak now and then to let them hang with the lesser mice."
"Don't even say it. I'm too tired to pounce," Modo warned.
Throttle looked at Vinnie. "You know you don't have to always sneak, bro. After all, Vic shows some really great taste with who he sneaks out to see instead of you."
"My poor boy will learn the best of the clan's ways," Vinnie noted wisely, sitting up to look at him. "Even if I do have to banish the Seal to keep him safe. Besides, this summer, he's going to the family home to see if he wants to learn from one of the uncles or aunts as a mentor. That'll keep any conflict from his parents teaching him to a minimum."
"He'll never go," Modo assured him. Vinnie beamed at that. "Who else would save the cousins from your daughter the fur tease?"
"She's not that bad!" he complained.
"Yeah, she is," Micah assured him. "I caught her trying to charm Dawn and Dawn gave it right back and made her pout and stomp off to cry because she wasn't the best at it." He looked at Vinnie. "Maybe we should have another talk with the daughter?"
"I've been trying and so has Xander," he sighed. "We do have one atrocious fur tease in the family. I might call and ask her advice or make sure she's coming to the clan picnic." He looked at Xander and got up. "Throttle, take the boys inside to do Speed's earring. We'll handle this."
"Must I?" Modo complained. "That magic stuff still bothers me."
"You can hold him still," he ordered. "Not like anything would jump into you." Modo shrugged and moved to help by sitting on Xander's chest.
Throttle nodded them inside and found the piercing set and a small gold stud. Then he ambushed Speed and put it in for him. "By Biker Mouse tradition, your next one is your first solo road trip but this can be for both." He wiped it with some alcohol pads that were in the package. "The one after this would be your wedding earring."
Speed nodded. "Sure. Is there some sort of code to show where and what is what?"
"Most wedding ones are still gemstones. Most 'I got my bike's and 'my first solo road trip' with us are usually hoops. So's your 'I shot my first Plutarkian'." He shrugged. "You shouldn't have to worry about that one."
Speed nodded. "I'd hope not." He frowned. "What happens if I get dead in the line of duty?" he asked quietly. "It's nearly happened once and I'm a bit realistic."
Throttle considered him. "As long as your bike is able to, he will protect you," he said finally. "To the point of his own destruction if he must." Speed nodded at that, not looking away. "Should it be something like a lucky shot, they're trained to summon help for you and to guard you or do what they can for you. If you die even then, it's only right that the bike grieve. Your Horatio will let Micah know and he'll either let the bike pick a new rider or bring him home so he can rest for a bit. Usually bikes and riders end up going together. That's the nature of the life. You wipe out and your bike goes into the crevice with you or you fall doing something dumb and you break your neck. Or you died in the war and your bike was shot when it tried to protect you or under a new rider if it was during the battle and one hopped on to make up for their bike dying. If you go out planning on it, your bike will stop you."
"I'm not suicidal."
"Your bike will also tell you if he needs something, like a tuneup or a weapon's check. That's why we wanted you on your bike so often. Bonding is good for you two. It'll mean you know what he needs before he needs it. Some things become routine. Every two weeks your weapons get checked and cleaned. Or else they can gum up at the wrong time and your bike dies protecting you. Every three months or so your engine will need a slight tune up to stay in good health. Those things start to become part of your life's routine."
"Does everyone know I had problems with my weapons?" Speed asked bitterly.
"No, I had no idea. I watched you and I saw you weren't as comfortable with the weapons drills as the other stuff," he admitted. "Again, that'll become routine to you. You'll come in, drop everything, sit down with your bike to clean off any sand near them and around your engine about that often. It'll be soothing to be with your bike after a bad day. We all sit around and clean our bikes when we're having a bad day because it's one of the three things you can truly count on. You've got good bros and apparently are very smart. Your bike will never let you down."
"Good. Because every now and then Micah will pop down to make sure you're all right. Ryan will probably nark if you're having problems like that and Calleigh seems like she'll beat you if you don't take care of your pistol." He grinned. "Xander's like that. I ignored cleaning mine for two weeks and he about whipped my tail for it by pouting alone." Speed smiled at that. "Remember, your bike is sentient but you're the daddy who has to take care of it now and then. If you don't do what you need to, it's causing your bike physical pain."
Speed considered it and shuddered. He couldn't stand it if his bike were injured. Shot from under him or anything. "Yes, Throttle."
"Good mouse." He patted him on the head. "Okay, let's go depossess Xander." They walked out and found Xander still pinned. He leaned down and flicked him on the forehead, smirking at him. "If you're in there, you're not getting sex if you don't push them out and don't keep a taint since they're cranky mice." Xander arched up and threw Modo, panting hard as he fought. A small tinge of fog floated out of him. "All of it, Xan." A bit more floated out. "Now go away." It headed off. "Thank you." He hauled his mouse up, looking at him. "You good?"
Xander nodded, resting against his mate's chest. "Just really tired," he admitted quietly.
"Then we'll fix that." He stroked his back as he walked him inside.
"Hmm, someone's getting the possessive mouse treatment," Vinnie said dryly, smirking at Modo. "Need help up, bro?"
"I could use it. My lady kept me up last night talking." Vinnie helped him up. "Thanks, bro." He patted him on the back. "Wanna go to Momma's house so they can be that noisy and not make us blush? Momma could use the hellions making her feel younger again."
"Sure. Vic, get the kids. We're going to Modo's Momma's house." The younger mice all rode out and headed while their fathers mounted up and went after them.
Micah grinned. "Come on, we can use the family's transporter." They rode inside and he reset it to go out, heading back to the college. They came out the other side and got off. "Out, ladies." Speed's bike growled at him. "Sorry, and boy." It headed outside, antenna stiff. "Didn't realize." The bike snorted. "Hmm, sorry if you get 'tude tonight."
"We'll be fine. I called him a princess on the ride over to Horatio's and got 'tude then." He flopped down and touched his ear. "That still stings."
"It'll be fine within an hour," he promised, patting him on the head. "Now, remember, when you get married, you'll have to put in another one," he teased. He went to call Carbine. "It was a problem that Wrench should've handled," he offered quietly. "It's being fixed and they're almost done."
"Thank you." She hung up shaking her head. "Why do they still have problems like that?" she asked the old mouse next to her.
Stoker shrugged. "Because Xander draws them? Should we send Wrench?"
Willow faded in, blushing some. "No, we're monitoring them. It's all good."
The Seal faded in with a bowl of popcorn in her hands. "It's really cute. They're having kinky make-up sex now." She faded out and Willow eeped and disappeared with a brighter blush.
Exhaust, another council member who used to be a priest, cleared his throat. "Remember, we got those two due to the Plutarkians taking them and us rescuing them for the M'dreth. Blame them for those two girls."
"How kinky can Throttle be?" the other female councilor asked. "He was always uptight and strong before."
Carbine looked over at her. "I never wanted to go there. They have things in their room I can't identify and don't want to know the use of. I don't want to imagine how kinky those two can be, or how bad Vinnie can be."
"Good idea," Stoker said dryly. "This is not something that needs to be broadcast. Throttle will whip your tail again. Maybe you should go take a pregnancy test, just to give him a reason not to hurt you?" She sighed and stomped off.
"Won't save her," Exhaust noted dryly.
"No, Xander will take the kid like he did mine and turn them into some of his next generation." They all laughed at that.
A few weeks later, Micah showed up all smiles and happiness. "The good guy won!" he announced. They all cheered. "We're another step closer to going home. I've got to brief him later today. It's been set up by one of our supporters in Congress so the old one won't know. Yes, before anyone asks, my bike is going with me. So are Lorne, Dawn, and Rimfire. Max is our backup plan." That got an odd look from Xander, who was in the corner reading. "What are you doing here?"
"Waiting on this."
"Oh, okay. Well, we're closer and assuming this goes well today we should be fine." They all nodded at that. "Good. Let me go do that and then I'll have more good news later. Need anything from down there?"
"Cheese?" Calleigh asked. "I know they don't like cheese and all that, but can I sneak up a single bar? I'm craving." A few of the others nodded.
"I'll see what I can do." He smiled and looked at Xander, who held up the list. "Shopping?"
"No, I'll do that in January." He smirked. "Only I get to go shopping, except for girl stuff and Dawn's clothes because she'd yell if I went shopping for her." Micah just nodded at that and went to gather his agents, heading down to the private meeting. They rode into the small park and Rimfire hung back, Dawn behind him. Micah scanned the area, seeing two cars. "Who are they?" he muttered.
"One's IFU," Lorne said as he walked out of the woods. "The other's CIA. They already know, they're here to stop some carnage if it's started." A black Caddy pulled up and President-elect got out, glancing around. "Mr. President."
"I got told this was going to be an odd meeting. Why are we in the open?"
"Because four months ago, the old president decided to wipe some taint off the face of the earth. Of course, the taint was his point of view and a military unit, but oh well," Micah said, taking off his helmet. "Micah Simms, Mr. President, head of ECHO."
"Oh, hell, son. I've heard of you." He shook his hand. "You're running the people that debunk the strange crap, like what keeps happening in Cleveland."
"Some of that's not debunking, sir, some of it's handling. That's why we're here. Rimfire? Dawn?" They rode up. "I brought the American ambassador and her husband for proof but it's going to be a strange talk, sir. Did you bring a chair?" His bike beeped at him. "What?" He looked. "Military jeep, Lorne. Take Hendricks and fix it." He nodded and went to check it out with the head of the Investigative Federal Unit. He looked at him. "Four months ago the last president became paranoid when his religious beliefs were shattered," he said quietly. "In case you hadn't heard, he believes we're alone in space and the moon shot footage was faked."
"I've heard that," he admitted, looking at Dawn since she had her helmet off. "You're fairly young, young lady."
"Dawn Summers, sir." She got off and shook his hand. "American Ambassador to Mars."
"Mars?" he laughed. Rimfire took off his helmet and he stopped, staring at him. "What are you?"
"Martian," he admitted, shrugging a bit. "I also work for Micah when he needs me to. I'm Dawn's husband." The man gaped at him. "Please don't die. The other guy is worse."
"I..I won't." He walked over and yanked gently on an ear, then a bit harder. "It's real."
Micah nodded. "They are. Every now and then we get a few who crash because they got caught in the gravity well. We have semi-formal relations with them, sir. Dawn is our ambassador to them. She spent her last year of high school living with some of them as an adopted child and started dating Rimfire then. Their ambassador to us is named Winch and she's usually in Vegas. Unfortunately because of the paranoid actions four months ago, she and her sons had to move back home for a bit, until you're in office."
"Why?" he asked, looking at him.
"Because it wasn't just us," Dawn said quietly. "It was also a military unit that uses some knock-off Martian bikes as urban assault and scouting vehicles," Dawn told him. "Plus anyone who knew about us. That includes a great many CSI. I'm sorry as hell that his views were shattered by us existing and there being strange shit in the universe, but not like we can help existing."
He swallowed, looking at Micah again. "Why are you covering for them?"
"It's my job. Mars is just about a decade post a very deadly war with someone who tried to take them over. We've helped them regain their feet with some careful trading over the years. They also helped us eliminate that threat when they were found down here." He gaped. "In the private files you'll have access to, look up anything that sounds like a cheese. It's them."
"They were really stinky too," Rimfire agreed bitterly. "Broke Mars nearly. We're still in the recovery phase." He leaned on his handlebars. "We've always had a good faith relationship since we found out Micah had a clue when he came to us. We've traded for some technology, things like water filters and food."
"No, I get that part," he assured him. He frowned some. "How bad was this war?"
"We lost ninety percent of our population," Dawn said honestly. "We're just now starting to recover and move forward. We've scavenged as much as we could when the former tyrants were eliminated by another force. Now we're starting to rebuild what was necessary before."
"Okay," he agreed. "Why you? Why not someone more experienced?"
"Because I already knew. Xander, he's a changeling mouse but that's a long and involved story, is like my big brother. I left my sister's dubious care to live with him. He was helping and staying with some mice in Chicago so they could defeat Limburger before he took over that city and moved on. I joined in, I helped, and I learned a lot working for Micah. As well as my sister being one of the senior slayers of odd and dangerous things on this planet. That's what's wrong with Cleveland, sir."
"Oh." He slumped and looked at Micah. "You're over NID. I've heard that."
"I am. I'm also the one who had most of them thrown in jail for using torture as a legitimate scientific method. What they were doing is still wrong in my book."
He nodded slowly. "So it's fixed?"
"It is and they're doing legitimate research. Some of it has moved to give us ideas into body armor technology and other things that the military can use."
"Okay," he decided, liking that more. "What do they need from us?"
"Peace, quiet, no press," Dawn offered, smirking at him. "If we crash, we have orders in all the bikes to call Micah so we can pick them up. It's usually younger and inexperienced flyers who end up caught in the gravity of the planet."
"We'll also need you to meet with the commander of the enhanced military unit and the others we had to evacuate before they were assassinated," Micah offered quietly. "They're on Mars at the moment for their own safety. The last president sent hit squads after them."
"I understand why." He frowned. "How bad?"
"Mars has about an extra eighty people at the moment including their families," Rimfire offered. "Thankfully Xander still shops for us on Earth so we're going out of those stores at the moment."
"You guys come down to shop?" he asked, looking amused.
"Hell yes," Dawn agreed. "They're still on a ration system. Our family comes down and picks up things that can be put into commodities baskets for the families to supplement the rations." He smiled at that. "We pay usual prices and transport it back home. It's not robbing anyone of anything."
"Good, I like that. It's sensible."
"Plus our entertainment industry is pretty minimal at the moment," Rimfire offered. "It's mostly Xander's club and a few others in some other cities, plus Xander's DVD and CD collection." That got a real laugh.
"Yeah, the Direct TV dish needs more receivers," Dawn agreed. "That might be something for the college to think about."
"Water before tv, Dawn," Micah reminded her.
"I know! A few of the CSI sorts have been working on how to break down things like sand to make chemical water."
"I heard. I'd like to see it work," Micah agreed. "That's their biggest issue, water."
"What do those little robots we send up there show?"
"Mostly the desert away from the cities. If they get too close to a city, the engineering department uses them as teaching tools," Rimfire told him, shrugging a bit at his incredulous look. "We've got to teach them somehow."
"Point. What about sending some down to our college?"
"I did," Rimfire agreed. "I took computers and low-moisture farming techniques. We're just now setting up our first college. The others were killed and then destroyed to their component parts," he said plainly.
"We've bought a great many textbooks in many fields," Dawn assured him. "We've made sure it wasn't just from the ones in Chicago where we were. Winch has sent back plenty of them from UNLV as well. We've been going about this wisely and carefully. It's a slow and agonizing process at the best of times."
"The Braveheart mouse coming back happy and content isn't helping at the moment either," Rimfire noted dryly. Micah groaned. "He wanted us to move back into clans. He said it worked for him and three of his friends. No mention of what happened to the other four or where they might be. Or why he's so thin at the moment."
"That would skew his results," Micah noted bitterly. "Have them demand to know what happened to them." He looked at the President-elect. "This is what my agency does most of the time, sir. We handle it if we have crashers, we handle any relations that might need to be handled, and we deal with those whose job it is to fight the stranger and deadlier things. Which is why I'm hiding with a unit of the military. I ride the same sort of bike they do. I have the original prototype."
"Wow." He blinked and tugged on Rimfire's ear again. "Don't you get hot in the desert?"
"Yeah, but we sweat like you do," Rimfire promised with a small grin. He wrapped his tail around Dawn's waist. "She has more problems than I do."
"Huh." He looked at Micah. "So you're planning on doing what? Reappearing a few days after I'm sworn in?"
"If at all possible, sir. As long as you're not going to attack us for existing. Having Winch down here means that they can shop easier. It also gives me a contact in case someone else crashes."
"I can understand why. How many crashers have we had?"
"Depends, are we counting the male mice who can't land?" Dawn snarked. Rimfire tightened his tail and she smirked. "You still don't land."
The older men just smiled at them for being cute. "The ones who've crashed unintentionally."
"Fifteen ships since the seventies," Micah told him. "Plus some of the rescue missions and those things."
"Interesting." He nodded. "Well, son, you've got my support. I couldn't do it every day. Do we give them military support?"
"Now and then we trade weapons and things. They've worked with the bike corps. Now and then we buy lesser levels of technology from them and let some limited scientists have it to take ideas and move us forward from. We've set up an easy trade relationship."
"Good. Sounds like you've got it well in hand. Miss Summers, are you continuing this job?"
"Yes, sir. I'd be up there anyway."
"Fine." He nodded, looking at Micah. "What's the biggest risk at the moment?"
"The assassination squads the last guy hired," Rimfire said bitterly. "They even went after some people online who had a clue, sir. That's why we've got about eighty extra humans on Mars at the moment."
"Understandable. I had heard that there was a sudden disappearance from some police departments."
"I've got to handle the one department that got assigned to find out why," he agreed bitterly. "I can't do that right now though."
"You can," Rimfire reminded him. "Right now, the squads are on hold and as far as we know there's none in New York." Micah's bike beeped. "See? She'll protect you. Say you've got information and bring them out like this, Micah."
"Not a bad idea but I'd need proof, Rimfire."
"You have proof of the extermination squads in New York," Dawn sighed, looking at him. "Remember, they got your minder up there, boss."
"Point. Now you know why I hired them," he said dryly. The president laughed. "Dawn came to us during her senior year. Sir, I wanted to make sure that you heard this from me, not the rumors, and that you heard the truth."
"Be truthful, Simms, you wanted to make sure I wasn't going to come after your people too," he noted, staring at him.
"That was a secondary reason. The first one who learned I had to bring down one of their generals and she about slugged him for trying to cop a feel."
That got a smile. "I know who that was. He and I had a talk actually." He smirked. "It'll be fine, Simms. Come down for the swearing in to protect me during it. There's hints that he's going to try to stay in control. My VP isn't very liberal for all that I am."
"He already knows, sir. He was on the board a budget board a few years ago when I had to come in with the NID budget issues." That got a surprised look. "Seriously, ask him, sir. He knows."
"I will, Simms. Thank you for telling me and trusting me this way. Who do you have watching?"
"One of the CIA contacts and someone from the IFU," Dawn admitted. "He went to head off someone else coming in."
"Even better. Thank you, Simms. I'd better get back." He got back into his car and his driver took him home while he called his Vice President. "Bob, it's Chuck. I just met Mr. Simms and two of his people, our Ambassador, Miss Summers, and her husband, Rimfire. He said you knew?" He listened to what he knew. "They're hiding. The last guy sent out hit squads. I want the head of the Secret Service waiting on us by the time I get back." He hung up and considered it. Well, it answered some of his questions about space.
Speed rolled up to the main building in New York and beeped at one of the guys, nodding. That got a confused look. He put up his face plate. "Now," he mouthed. "Right now." He looked stunned. "Now." The CSI came jogging over and got onto the back of his bike. "Call your boss so he won't panic," he ordered as he rolled off. "He's to meet us later about the missing CSI."
"Sure." He dialed. "Mac, Danny. No, I'm with... Mac, one of them's back. We're meeting tonight. No, I'm on the back of his *bike*, Mac. Yeah, him. No, not that one. Yeah, in a few." He hung up. "What the fuck is going on, Speed?"
"Let me get somewhere safer, Danny." He sped up, making him grab on, but it was all right. They zipped through traffic, losing the people watching them, pulling into a warehouse. It was sealed. "Scan it," he told his bike. The bike beeped an affirmative noise.
"Whoa," Danny said, looking stunned again. He got off and knelt beside the bike. "I've only heard rumors of a military unit...." He looked up. "You're involved in that?"
"No, we're all involved in something else," he admitted, getting off. "Come on, bike." He hauled Danny up and with him. "Come on. We can sit somewhere warmer." He took off his helmet and jacket as they walked. The bike followed behind them. Micah looked up from his magazine. "One CSI."
"You're...." He frowned. "You were on the list we saw for all of ten minutes before it ate our system."
"The old President hired assassination squads to take out myself, my people, and those who knew about my people and the strange things I deal with, CSI Messer. He's one who believed the moon landings were faked in his home state."
"No, they make bikes like mine in Detroit," Speed said dryly, popping him on the head. "Think, Danny. Do you know anything about the Paranoid Underground?"
"A bit. We heard about it when an agent....."
"My watcher on the city," Micah agreed, standing up. "Micah Simms. I head ECHO and NID."
Danny shook his hand. "Welcome to my city. What the fuck?"
Micah smiled. "The president freaked when he had definitive proof aliens were real. So he decided to make sure no one else knew and wiped them out so he could go back to his comfortable level of denial and so could everyone else."
"The missing CSI?" He looked at Speed. "Why you guys?"
"We've got a member of the Network and my bike had crashed. His crasher was the precipitate of the current crisis. He was going to wipe out everyone, even if they didn't have a clue. Only Horatio, Ryan, and I knew about this but they were going to take the whole unit. Are Frank and Yelina all right?"
"They're fine. Mac got hints of stuff and ran down there, finding them there. Yelina just came back from Brazil for a visit with her mother. He got her back down there and helped Frank hide. So, where does your bike come from?"
"Mars. They're giant mice by the way."
"I knew I saw that!" he said, standing up and smirking evilly at him. "Mac thought I was hallucinating or it was a hat or somethin'!"
"Nope, there've been two or three in this city over the last few decades," Micah said, sitting down again. "Did you remember to tell your boss you weren't being kidnaped?"
"I told him we'd get him tonight to talk about this," Danny promised. "Doesn't mean he's not paranoid."
"He shouldn't have to worry. I do need to get him to drop it because he's endangering your lives more. If the hit squads come back, they'll come after you guys for finding out why." Someone pounded on the door and they could hear a faint 'NYPD, open up!' drifting in. "Hmm. Tracking beacon?"
"No," Danny said quietly. Another bike rolled out, a black low rider and weapons started to pop out. "Whoa, not necessary!" he said, glaring at Micah.
"They're protecting us, Danny," he said quietly. Speed went to open the doors and Micah brushed off his pants. Two officers walked in. "Yes?"
"Sir...." They paused at the sight of the bikes. "Are those legal?"
"Very. Federal Agents, get out." He flashed his badge and they ran. "Thank you." He stood up. "We're moving." Speed nodded, sliding back into his jacket. "Danny, we're going to take you to somewhere safer, you'll call Mac from there and have whoever meet us tonight. That way we can talk safely."
"Sure. Fine." He called Mac. "I'm still good. No, I'm good, Mac. I'm sitting here talking to Speed and Micah Simms." Speed smirked at that. "That's what we're doing. We're moving somewhere more secure since two transit cops just tried to come in and saw something they shouldn't. No, it'll be fine. He'll explain it all but we're moving somewhere more secure." He held up the phone. "He doesn't believe me yet again."
Speed took the phone. "Mac, shut up, sit down, and follow orders for another two hours," he demanded. "Yes, this is Speed. This is also important. You're endangering your people's lives by continuing. Yeah, and we had hit squads after us. Of course we're in hiding. Tonight, two hours." He hung up and handed it back. "Okay, let's go." He patted his bike. "It's all right. They're scary cops but they're mostly good guys." The weapons disappeared but he looked at Micah's bike. "I've got guns like Vinnie and Modo do, plus the other military guys. Where did you get yours?"
"Xander," he said smugly. "He went from architecture to designing weapons for them." He winked. "I had to use a small budget surplus to keep it one year."
Speed smirked. "The perks of leadership. Danny, on." He climbed onto his bike and Danny got on behind him. "Where?"
"The backup site I told you about."
"Done. See you there. We'll take the round-about way."
"We need to make sure Flack's there, he's hiding," Danny offered. "Someone came to try ta shoot him the other day."
"Sure," Speed promised. "Go with Micah. Is he at work?"
"Home." He called him. "Don, me. Meet you where?" He smirked. "No, I'm sending you someone who can protect you. You mean like a missing guy? Yeah, that case. Where?" He nodded. "81st on that little coffeeshop we all like to use? The one I took you to for the milkshakes?"
"I know it. When?"
"Deal. I can ride around until then." Speed headed off.
Danny slid on behind Micah. "I don't suppose they're taking applications for new riders, are they?"
"Nope, sorry." He sped off, going to the backup spot. It was a nice house up the road from Madison Square Garden. He did ride around for a while, making sure he wasn't followed. By the time he got there, Speed was almost there.
Speed pulled up in front of the coffee shop and looked at Don. "Flackey, get your ass on the hog," he ordered. Flack stiffened and looked at him. "Now."
"Ho...." Speed put up his face shield and he came over. "Sorry if I drip the coffee. I need it."
"He cleans. So do you." He rode off, letting Don finish his coffee before he sped up. "Yes, it is me. Yes, it is strange. Was it because of our case or something else?"
"Your case. What is going on? Does Mac know you're back in the States?"
"He's coming to meet us later. It's me and a Fed at the moment. We have Danny. I saw him first so I brought him to talk to Micah and work as a go-between." He sped up and cut off some traffic, earning a very hard squeeze. He tapped his helmet. "Micah. I've got a non-furry tail in a fedmobile. Washington. Sure." He sped up further. "Okay, baby. Let's show what we're made of. Get ready, Don." He pulled into an alley and spun. "Off, duck." He ducked behind a dumpster, pulling his gun. Speed's followers pulled in. "What?" he demanded.
"Someone wanted to see you, sir."
"Guns up." The bike's guns went up. "No thanks. I'm happy with my meeting schedule for today. Anything else?" They backed away from the car. "Electronic disturbance," he ordered quietly, hitting the button for it. The beam shot out and disrupted the engine, their cellphones and one guy's pacemaker. "Oops." He called 911 from his helmet. "Some guy in a suit just fell down clutching his chest. Alley off Washington. We're just past 11th. Thank you. Yeah, pretty serious and for some reason he seems like a Fed to me. Fair warning." He hung up and looked at Don, nodding. He came out and they sped off. "Down," he ordered. The guns disappeared and Don's got put back into his holster. "So, how has New York been since we've been gone?"
"Do I want to ask?"
"You'll find out soon. Right now, we're protecting him." He tapped the code for Micah. Then he hung up again and disconnected it. "Call Danny and tell him that one of them fell down due to the disruptor."
"Sure." He did that. "Danny, Don. Speed said to tell you one of the guys fell down due to the disruptor. I don't know! Bikes with guns and feds and shit!" He calmed down. "Sure. Speed, we nearly there?"
"Yup. Heading for where Godzilla walked a few times."
"Madison. New Godzilla, not old Godzilla." He pulled into the driveway right after Micah did and inside the kitchen, letting Don off. "Okay, baby, living room." The bike headed that way without him. He took off his helmet. "It got stuck in the 'on' position."
"Throttle used to have the worst luck with that," he noted dryly. "Usually while Xander was teasing him."
"When isn't Xander teasing him?"
"Point." He handed over new cups of coffee. "Here, you look like you could use one. Danny's looking at the bikes."
"I like the bikes. They're nice bikes. Great bikes. Can I have one?" he asked.
"Depends, can you grow fur and a tail?" Speed asked. "I got mine because I rescued him."
"Oh." He shrugged. "I might not mind a tail." He walked out there to look at the bikes, making Danny grin. "Hi again."
"Hi." He gave him a hug. "They're intelligent and protective."
"Wow." He sat down in front of Speed's bike. "Hi. He said you're a boy?" It beeped pleasingly and he grinned. "You really are smart." He stroked it. "Better than a little sister any day." The bike moved closer. "Awwww. You like me."
"I need to do another wax job," Speed noted as he came out. "Are we doing this here, Micah? I disrupted the car after me."
"I lost two on the way here." Speed looked at him. "The other was more subtle."
"I didn't see anyone and I did check," Don offered from his spot. "So, what's going on? I mean besides the fact that the Prez went insane and decided to wipe out people with knowledge."
"You're part of the Paranoid Network?" Speed asked. Don nodded. "Basically that. He believes we're the only intelligent things in the universe."
"Ah." He nodded and went back to it. "Think I could grow a tail?"
"Sure, when and if we figure out what started Xander's off, we'll transfer it onto you, Don," Micah said dryly. "You're not a hub, right?"
"Hell no," he snorted. "Stella is." Danny looked at him. "She is." He shrugged. "What happened?"
"Another crasher," Micah offered. He pulled out his phone and tapped in a message, sending it to the Network's site, already encrypted. If Stella was a hub, she'd get it.
Danny's phone rang a few minutes later. "Messer?" He smiled. "That's us, Mac. Sure. We're here. Thanks." He hung up. "He got it."
"Good." Micah got comfortable. "We're only borrowing this place." He looked at the bikes. "I should wipe you down." He got up to find a towel to do that with, coming back to wipe down his bike, letting Speed get the rags from his bag to do that. "Think you could handle your usual job with him?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can. If I need him to, he's agreed to let any of us up there help him if I'm in trouble."
"Good." Don looked at him. "You get into a lot of trouble, Speed."
"I know," he said, then shrugged. "That's okay. Mars is very pretty."
"You've been there?" Danny asked, looking awed. "How is it?"
"Warm. Needing water." He shrugged. "We've been helping the university set up for the last few weeks." He finished the wipedown and put the rags back. "There." The bike purred and leaned against him. "I love you too, big guy. Pretty soon we'll be in Miami. All the sun you can want." He smiled. "This means I've got to do something with my Ducatti."
Don coughed. "I'd love you forever and ever."
"I know you would," he agreed dryly. "We'll see. I haven't decided about garaging him or not, Don." Don shrugged at that and nodded. Someone tapped on the door. "Kitchen door's open," he called. They walked around and Mac and Stella walked in with Hawkes. "Hey, Hawkes, did you see any furry people with tails as an ME?"
"Twice. Is that what this is about?"
"Yup," Micah agreed, looking at Mac. "Detective Taylor, Micah Simms, ECHO."
"I know." He shook his hand. "I can't believe he sent squads."
"I can, he's paranoid and we proved his deeply held beliefs wrong," Danny said dryly. He grinned at Stella. "So you knew about this stuff?"
"I never paid any attention to that end. I do more scientific and other information. The Martian stuff only came to me when it was about the weapons or the brains." She looked at Micah. "Ryan and David are fine?"
"Just fine. They're sitting at the New Martian University at the moment."
"Good." She sat down and patted Speed's bike. "Hey, guys. You're very pretty." The bike straightened up and seemed to preen. Micah's 'looked' at her. "You are too but you're out of petting range." It beeped contentedly and let Danny pet him some more. She looked at Don. "You'd look so cute with a tail."
"Thanks." He beamed. "If we ever get to rescue one and it needs a rider, let me talk to it?"
"Sure." She looked at Micah again. "We're aware of what meeting you went to yesterday. How did it go?"
"Good. He's agreed we'll be safe. He went from me to the Secret Service to talk to them. I've heard rumors that they might try for him as well."
"So have I," Mac admitted, sitting down. "What is all this about?"
"We have an almost-former president who believes we're the only intelligent life in the universe and he got handed proof when a Martian crashed off Miami. That's how Speed got his bike. He rescued it when it was injured." Speed's bike beeped. "It bonded with him. The president heard and started to purge all those who had knowledge of this stuff and those who might have a clue. Miami's CSI unit was taken en masse because they were going to take them all out, even though only Horatio, Speed, and Ryan knew."
"All right," he said quietly. "Vegas?"
"They've got the Martian ambassador out there with her sons. We ended up moving them when they came for them and they tried to protect her."
"Which is understandable. The military unit?"
Micah pointed at his bike. "That's the first prototype bike off a Martian bike like Speed's. It was created by a mechanic in Chicago who was dealing with three crashed Martians and later two former residents of Sunnydale and then Cleveland. She sold it to the military but they screwed with it. Then someone with some brains found it and started to build more prototypes off him. I got him since I worked with her and he chose me." His bike beeped. "I know. I'm the best choice you ever made," he teased. It beeped affirmatively. "The military personnel who are missing are with us on Mars."
"Mars?" he asked, looking at Stella.
"Yes, that planet next to us," she said dryly. "It's supposed to be very pretty, Mac." Speed's bike beeped and then Micah's. "What's going on?"
"People trying to sneak up on the house," Speed sighed, standing up and heading to the front door. He opened it. "Guys, we're only housesitting," he offered, stunning the SWAT team there. "Really."
"Sir, we were told two detectives are being held hostage?"
"By protecting our asses and saving us from Feds shooting at us?" Don asked, looking back there. "Hey, Terror." He shrugged. "You know how the CSI in other cities disappeared? They're trying to do it to us." That got a shudder. "Hence the meeting. You didn't find anything. Go away." They nodded. "Oh, but scan for bombs, okay?"
"Sure, Flack." He glanced in there then nodded. "Whatever you say." He walked off, telling them to do that and to ignore this call. They never went on it. It's a matter of officer's lives if they were ever here. That got some nods and the two bombs were removed. He looked at the house again then headed off with his team. He called his boss. "Sir, Flack said he's not kidnaped, they were protecting him from another person shooting at him and he seemed to think it was feds. I have no idea, sir. I was never there. Flack suggested the same reason that Miami and Vegas had missing people was going to hit us." He nodded. "On our way back, sir." He hung up. "The boss agreed. We were never there." They all nodded at that.
Wrench rode up behind Micah, looking around them at him. "You called about strange stuff?"
"How many rebirths are down here?" he asked quietly. "I'm not sure I haven't found a few more." He let him see the tape from earlier.
He shrugged. "You've found a half-mouse. One of the ones without fur." Micah opened his mouth. "Remember, that's one possible outcome of a human/Martian crossbreed. They could have either parent's hair color or fur color, or be furless. I'm betting he's got a scar from his tail being taken." He smirked. "Is he a warrior?"
"Sort of. He wouldn't even have some baby mouse down?"
"Probably not as I understand it. Did he have a clue before today?" Micah shook his head so he kept going. "That one's a rebirth," he said, pointing at Don Flack. "One like Xander and the other three who came up."
"Who was the other one?"
"Hodges believe it or not. Apparently he's going on the principle that he was a nice guy his last life and look where it got him." Micah smirked at that. "He does." He shrugged. "They all good?"
"I had to have them moved into protective custody. They were all about killed."
"Interesting. How many more?"
"Vecchio, from Chicago, went North with his Mountie buddy. He's protecting him for us. I'm hoping there's no more that need it."
"One of the Vegas guys does. He knows but he was hidden by his boss and others. They're looking for him again."
"I can head out there. I wasn't sure if I should tell Taylor anything."
"I'm not sure. I'll go watch them if you need it." Micah nodded. "Okay, let me call the Council and let them know." He called from his bike. "Carbine. Remember the talk on how if one of us and one of the Earther's bred it might result in a mostly human looking child?" She grimaced and nodded. "We found an example. He's been the one investigating it down here."
"Cheese," she complained. "You want permission to do what?"
"Protect him for now. We're debating on telling him or not."
"I'll get back with you." She hung up, looking at her fellow councilors. "Well?"
"I want more proof than Wrench," Stoker noted.
"Agreed," she said simply. "And then?"
"We should probably tell him since he's already got a clue," Exhaust said quietly. "We did say even one drop."
"I want further advice from the other cities," Stoker noted, looking at the councilor representatives since they were calling their people. "Enamel said it would either give us a furless mouse, like the human parent, the father's fur color, the mother's hair color as fur, or a combination of the two colors together."
"That's why Victor is an auburn mouse. Magnet's a white mouse with white hair. Stopper is a white mouse with auburn hair," Carbine noted. "How would they have kept this quiet?"
Enamel walked in and looked at the name then nodded. "He is. I've seen him on maneuvers and asked some contacts some quiet questions to get some blood from him."
"Surgery to remove the tail. Orthodontists to cure the buck teeth. He could've been born with human ears."
"Do we tell him or not?" Stoker asked the others. They all nodded. "We're in agreement?"
"The other cities said he deserves the right to know, even if he doesn't do anything with it."
Carbine called Wrench back. "Tell him." She hung up.
Wrench hung up and watched his protectees. "Sorry. Message from home."
"Tell who what?" Stella asked.
"Oh, there's some information for some half-mice."
"That's possible?" Don asked.
"Yup." He grinned at him. "The same as we've had some who've been found to be reborn down here. Xander's one of those."
"Everyone keeps mentioning Xander," Danny offered. "Who is he?"
"He's a guy who jumps in, a lot," Wrench offered dryly. "When we first ran into him, he helped us take on the Plutarkians, the people who were trying to destroy us. He had some money so he started sending up food and supplies for those of us still alive. We came down to help him shop for us, get us building ideas and materials, things like that. We'd be in a lot worse shape if Xander hadn't started sending us routine shipments. But the problem became that Xander was originally human." Don gaped. "Didn't hear about this?"
"Like Stella, I stayed away from the paranormal stuff."
"Well, some of that changed Xander to a ninety-percent mouse. He's a white mouse of course, a cousin actually," he admitted with a grin. "But it was his adoptive big brother's family that came up with a quandary. What would happen if a Martian and human bred?"
"Four possible outcomes," Danny said. "They'd have mom's hair color for fur. Dad's fur color for fur. A combination of them for fur and hair if that's possible, or they'd be more like mom."
"Exactly. Now, they'd probably be born with a tail."
"Human doctors would've removed it. We've had other cases of vestigial tails being on newborns," Stella told him.
Wrench grinned. "That's what I figured too. Ears may or may not be much different. Xander's ears didn't get much bigger or drift up enough. He had to have surgery to correct it because we're a biking culture and he was having balance issues. That would leave the other obvious sign." He tapped his buck teeth. "Those."
"Yeah, but again, dental surgery and braces would fix those," Don noted dryly. "Hold on, we could be working with a half mouse and not know it?"
"Yup. Micah caught sight of one earlier. He didn't say who it was but he did catch sight of one sometime during today. We were debating whether or not to tell them. I'm not sure about the chances of being born with human style eyes instead of our pink ones. Or antennas." He shrugged. "I'm not a geneticist."
"Probably fifty-fifty," Hawkes admitted. He frowned, thinking about it. "No, fifty percent chance of having one eye of each, twenty-five of either or."
"Don't you guys have more genetics?" Stella asked.
"About three extra chromosomes," he agreed happily. "That's why most half-mice are really three-quarter mice."
"Wow. Are there half-mice?"
"Yeah, Vinnie's got three kids already. Chassis is very careful not to get pregnant. She doesn't want kids. Dawn's nearly screwed up once already but she ended up miscarrying. Plus one of the slayer twats had someone implant some of Xander's genetics into her so he's got a half-mouse named Tag."
"Wow. Is he a white mouse too?" Don asked. Wrench pulled out pictures and handed them over. He smiled. "They're so cute!"
"They're trouble and Magnet is a fur tease," he said dryly. "She'll sit in your lap and twirl your chest fur in her fingers, give you a little chin nuzzle, then beg and pout very cutely."
Don handed them on, making the others smile. "So, a half-mouse like that would get to go to Mars?"
"The way we rewrote the constitution was that even one drop of Martian blood makes them Martian. That would be up to them. It would give them an option to come up. It might give them the option of a bike choosing them or not. Or possibly going up to teach at the university."
"Wow," Danny agreed. "You guys are really rebuilding from the clan days, huh?"
"We had to. The Plutarkians destroyed everything they could. We put up a good resistance but we lost ninety-percent of our population and almost everything on the planet because of it. Then they came down here to try it with you guys. Fortunately, Xander fought for years with the other strange stuff. So he basically shrugged at aliens and jumped in to help the three in Chicago. Ooh, but he pulled some mean things. His first real salvo in the battle for earth was an editorial to Limburger, the Plutarkian trying to destroy Chicago, from his supposed lover. Talking about the promises he made them on their wedding day." Stella snickered at that. "Now, Limburger was rotund. He was about five-ten or so, and nearly as big around. He stunk ta high hell. We're talking so stinky you couldn't get within a block of him without smelling him. He used really stupid goons too. But the Lover's Letters, as they were later called, made him give up some of the stuff he had and make a donation to get away from the bad press and pressure. The bros took what Xander had done and went to the press conference, outing him as a gay alien wearing a human suit." They all laughed at that. He held up a hand. "Limburger knew it was a taunt. The second one said he had done good and that Xander would be waiting with a special outfit at their special place. Then he went and rewired his office defenses right before that battle. Xander is *bad* about those things."
Mac smiled. "He sounds like it. What's his last name?"
"Harris. As in helped take down the Initiative." Mac gaped. "Yeah, that group. The girls in Cleveland didn't treat him right so he went back to Chicago. He had met the bros during a trip to pick up a crystal tit-looking thing that helped with the strange stuff he and I deal with."
"Wow," Stella said, blinking. "I heard some about that stuff a few years back. Dawn is...Buffy's sister?" Wrench nodded. "What is she doing?"
"Still sleeping with Rimfire. That's what married people do, Stella," he noted dryly. She blushed at that. "They're perpetually cute. Very, very cute. Makes people like David Hodges puke cute. Nearly made Greg puke cute." She laughed at that. "Xander and Throttle are nearly as bad. All mice are possessive of what's theirs. Throttle likes to take it a bit farther and seat Xander in his lap. That way he's got a hand on him, the other on his blaster, and he'll eat then hand Xander the plate while he watches the crowd. Then again, Xander is also the kinkiest mouse on Mars. They keep breaking their beds. Seven in the last four years." She laughed at that, leaning on Mac's arm. "Seriously. But now he's calmed down some. He's running a club that has one of the few restaurants on Mars. He's got the only DVD and CD collection on Mars. Has about a third of the books on Mars in his library. Then he comes down every year to get *more*. They've stocked caves out by their house for their personal use. He's got a whole cave of just chocolate stuff."
Danny grinned. "I'd like to see that."
"It's like a supermarket," Wrench assured him. "It was the only thing that kept him from bringing up a lifetime supply of toilet paper all at once." They all laughed at that image. "Yeah. Xander does it so Throttle must claim him and get possessive over him the next time he sees him. We're still working on the entertainment stuff but every weekend he puts on a marathon of tv shows or movies. Plus twice a year he does a Rocky Horror showing, complete with costumes. There are many mentally confused mice that night. Then again, some like to join in and help him. Our cousin Terror is one of them. I may live with two ghosts and keep a temple so that others can come visit their families that way, but the boy is weird."
Stella nodded. "I'd heard that. What's his list like this year?"
"No clue. Last time I went with him he walked into the music and DVD store and said 'I need everything that came out after this date' and let the clerks pile it on. He still has DVD's and CD's we haven't been able to unpack yet. We have one broadcasting station up there. It runs Council meetings all day so you know what they're doing. Anything big like monthly town parties are also broadcast. At night, they've come to Xander to rent some of his movies and shows to show." They all smiled at that. "Throttle made him give them a third of what they had in the house for free. They play a pretty good mix. So does Xander's DJ. He's got thousands of CD's to choose from."
"You guys are on rations and have clubs open?" Mac asked.
"It's our only entertainment. We all need a break and to relax. The club's free. There's no alcohol for sale. The kitchen there is the only restaurant on Mars so far, but I heard two other cities are going to put up public cafeterias. Xander's takes ration coupons and gives you enough food for the whole day for one of them. His mother-in-law cooks." That got a small smile. "Part of returning to a normal life is a diversion from the mundane and painful parts, Mac. Xander's club and the few in the other cities do that. That's why two of the other five are strip clubs." Stella shook her head at that. "A lot of us lost our mates during the war, Stella. Most of us are younger mice. It's an urge someone should cater to before it gets out of hand. Not too many of us cook and almost none of us are socially graceful these days. There wasn't time to date during the war." He curled up some, resting his arms around his knees. "It's a good way to go let go and talk to other mice just like you. Talk about your mandatory time if you're in the guard. Talk about the memories when they get too bad. Complain because Xander's managed to tap into an undrinkable underground river and uses it to fire up the hottub and then filters it for the garden stuff out there." He grinned. "It's great after a long week of riding."
"I bet it is. Do you guys use the undrinkable water for bathing too?" Hawkes asked. Wrench nodded. "I thought I smelled some heavier minerals."
"Ooh, yeah. It's great, it's naturally warm and all that. The minerals make you relax, but we need more drinkable water. Anyone who cares to check, and a lot did after they found out Xander had brought the hottub and the mineral pool up with them, found out that he was using undrinkable water. It's stored and reused a few times, then it's filtered and put into the greenhouse and the gardens. They're a pretty self sufficient compound. All but meat stuff. We're about ready to open our hotdog factory."
"Why?" Hawkes asked, looking disgusted. "They're gross."
"They are but they're our favorite food and it's a great treat when Xander's place does a hotdog night."
Danny lifted up the back of Don's shirt. "What are you doing, Messer!" he demanded, swatting him.
"Looking for the scar to show that they removed your tail at birth," he teased. "You're the one who always eats hotdogs."
"They're cheap and available! Get off! I don't have a tail scar!"
"You sure?" Stella teased. "You like motorcycles."
"No, if anything I suspect he's a rebirth that came down here," Wrench offered dryly. "Like Xander was." He looked at Danny. "Then again, you were looking too high on his back. It's still the base of the spine." Danny reached for Don's belt and he scrambled out of the way.
"Danny," Mac sighed. "Quit."
"Sorry. So anyone want to admit to having a tail scar and really good braces?"
"I had braces but no tail," Stella offered.
Hawkes shook his head. "Not me."
Don shrugged. "Not either. Kissed a few girls with braces, that was more than enough."
"Mac?" Danny teased.
"Prior back surgery," he noted dryly. Danny pouted. "I have." He looked at Wrench, getting a smirk back. "Anything else we should worry about if we find any partial mice?"
"If one should be found and they're having medical problems, call the Last Chance Garage in Chicago. Charley's niece runs it and she can get us. We have a few docs who deal with partial mice. Even the Plutarkians did it a few times," he said quietly. "They've got their own village for their own safety and the safety of their children." They all nodded at that. "Mostly we're just a bit more aggressive. Some of us are more thrill junkies. Most of us ride motorcycles. We're all possessive of what's ours. I would wonder if they had kids if they might show up furry. Might depend on who they married. It's been said that even one drop means you're one of us. So if they needed help they'd only have to contact us to see if we could."
"I'll make note of that for the Network," Stella promised, pulling out her phone/PDA device to make notes and send it on. "Is the garage still standing?"
"Yup. It's got blast shields and automated weapons systems. Xander never pulled all his," he said with a fond smile. "Scared her to death when they went off in the middle of the night. The garage ended up with a few holes but nothing else and no one's going to touch the garage again."
Mac smiled at that. "It sounds like he's a very protective mouse."
"Yeah, Xander's a great protector. If we ever get attacked again, someone's going to get his foot up their tail." His own tail waved a bit. He sniffed. "Hmm, chocolate coming this way. Who did you have come in with food?"
"The tech in Vegas who needed to be moved. I also got hold of Micah to let him know," Stella offered. She hopped up to let him in. "Hey, Nick." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "Come on in." She checked the hall then shut the door. "I'm sure you've heard of our guest."
"Not really. I've only met one of the ambassador's kids. Nick Stokes, Las Vegas CSI."
"Wrench, Highest of the M'dreth."
"She swears about you often."
Wrench smirked. "I deal in the strange and unusual. Of course she does." He laughed at that and sat down. "Were you followed?"
"No. Micah sent me with a transporter."
"Good." He sniffed. "I still smell chocolate. Whoever you are, try it!" A white mouse stuck his head in. "Xander?"
"And Terror. We're watching you guys' back. Don't worry about it. Had to have a nibble." He winked and disappeared.
"Bad mouse joke!" Wrench called after him. He shook his head. "My cousin is insane."
"Coming from you, that might be saying something," Danny teased.
Wrench looked at him. "Coming from me that *does* say something, Danny. Really." They all laughed at that. "Why don't you guys hit the sack for the night." They nodded and the three younger guys went to room with Nick. Stella got her own room. He looked at Mac, then shrugged and grinned. "That's subtle for us."
"I realize that. I'll make sure it's not an issue."
"Not like we care, Mac," he said quietly. "You ride?"
"No. My mother refused to let me." He stood up and dusted himself off. "I'm good this way."
"Good. If you or your future kids need it, let us know." Mac nodded and left, going to his room. Wrench settled in to take midnight watch. He was comfortable with the night. Even if he did miss Taver's warm fur next to his.
Micah got the call he had been needing. "Are we *certain*? This is risking their lives," he said quietly. He nodded. "If you're absolutely positive." He smiled. "Thanks." He hung up and looked at the Martians around him. "They think it's solved. The last of the hit squads was taken into custody this morning. We need three test cases."
"I'll go," Speed offered.
"No. You're not that well known," Micah assured him. "Xander?"
"Wherever. Go shopping." Xander nodded, going to grab his stuff from the office. "Keep in contact."
"Of course." He walked out, heading to his bike and the transporter he had hooked into it. He landed back in New York, looking around the park he was in. Then he took off, heading to shop for new fun stuff and more hotdogs. He found one guy following him but it was one of Micah's guys. He beeped and sped up, losing him.
Horatio looked up as Micah walked in looking happy. "We can go home?"
"We can. The two military guys flushed out the last of the hit squads. Xander broke up a small information ring in New York. It's safe." They all relaxed and headed for their rooms. He looked at Speed. "The offer stands."
"I know, but I need to be down there."
"Fine," he agreed, holding out a hand. "You need me, you call me immediately, kid."
"Yes, Micah." He went to pack his bag and head down to his bike. He was still trying to decide what to do with his old bike. "Hey, babe, what am I doing with the Ducatti?" It popped up a picture of the New York group as he had last seen them. "Don?" It beeped then seemed to shiver. It was what he took for a shrug. "Okay, I'll call up there." He looked over as the others joined him, Calleigh stopping to pet his bike. "Off, wench."
"I know, yours." She pouted. "What about the old bike?"
"I'm thinking about giving her to someone who would appreciate her like I did. He likes Don and the New York group."
"Yeah, with a rebirth and a half-mouse up there? Not sure why," Micah called sarcastically. "Hodges!"
"Hold on, I've got to repack the transfer holders." He got out there shaking his head and mentally counting. Then he went to Greg's room to find the bag he had hidden in there. He came out and put it into his bag. "This doesn't warp them, right?"
"Doesn't mine," Micah assured him. They got into the transporter and headed back to ECHO headquarters. Lorne and Max looked over and gave him the all-clear. "Okay. Everyone pause while we get you sent to the right cities." He set the transporter for their various cities. He and Speed locked eyes. "You need practice, kid," he reminded him.
"I know, dad, but Horatio will make sure of it." He rode through and out onto Horatio's driveway. He found two guys with guns there and leaned forward. "Guns up," he said quietly. "Subtly hit them." A laser came up and hit them in the groins. "I said subtle, bike." The bike shivered again. "Never mind. Good job." He got off and patted it. "Into the garage." He rolled that way, letting Ryan plug him in. He grinned at Horatio. "I said subtle."
"That was not a concept that was in great supply up there," Horatio noted dryly. He called dispatch. "There are two people with burns and guns on my lawn," he reported. "Caine. As in Lieutenant Caine. Yes. Immediately please." He hung up and looked at them. "Check on your places. I know someone was paying your rent for you." They all nodded and headed off, including Speed. He smiled. Speed would be back later. His bike liked him more than anyone but Ryan. He headed into his house, going to empty the fridge before the mold bred.
Horatio looked up from reading in bed at the sound of a bike, getting out and heading down to the door. Speed and Ryan both pulled up, Ryan riding Speed's old bike. "Decided to give him to Ryan?"
"No. He's riding him here so I can put him in the garage. He doesn't deserve to be out in the sun every day like he has been. At least someone covered him." Ryan walked the bike into the garage and parked it away from Horatio's personal car. "He wants to give him to one of the people in New York."
"If that's what you feel is proper. He was your bike and loved by you for many years, Speed." He came out further. "How is your new one?" The bike beeped happily. "Having a good night?"
"We went for a long ride on the way over," Ryan admitted sheepishly. "His Ducatti has a really powerful engine. I forgot what having power like that under me was like." Then he blushed and shook his head. "I didn't mean that in a dirty way, sorry."
"No, it's okay, we've all been celibate for the last few months," Horatio promised.
"Only Eric's mind would've went there," Speed said with a small smirk. "Thank you for not wrecking him."
"He's a great bike but your present one is badder and prettier." He stroked a handlebar, getting an engine rev. "Come over to help me whenever you want, bike." It beeped happily. "You have a good night. You guys too." He walked off, going to catch a cab.
Speed and Horatio shared a look. "You think?" Speed asked.
"He would be the thing that would keep us from having the fights we used to. Mr. Wolfe." He came trotting back. "Sleep on the couch tonight. It's late." Speed let his bike park himself and headed inside after Ryan. They let Ryan have what he'd need to sleep on the couch then retired upstairs to cuddle and talk.
Ryan sulked. "How did they know?" he muttered. He heard a beep and the bike firing, rushing outside with Speed right behind him. The alligator backed away from the bike, snarling at them. "Crap. Drive it off?" The bike fired another blast and it lumbered off into the neighbor's yard.
Horatio called the patrol supervisor's desk. "We just drove off an alligator at my place," he reported. "Yes I am. Thank you. Heading west." He hung up. "Good job, bike. Want in the garage?" It beeped and settled in to rest out there. "That's fine." He walked the boys back inside and closed the door. "Good hearing, Ryan."
"Thanks." He grinned at him. "I could go home."
Speed looked at him. "Shut up. Yes, I knew. You stare, a lot." He walked off, dropping his boxers before he walked up the stairs.
Horatio shook his head. "He's always been pushy," he complained. Ryan gaped at him. "He has been."
"Um.... Horatio?" he squeaked. Then he cleared his throat. "Sorry, unmanly sounds coming from me tonight."
Horatio laughed. "That was his way of inviting you," he agreed. Ryan's eyes went big and round. "If you don't want to, you can still have the couch."
He swallowed then ran for the stairs, going to pounce him.
Horatio smiled and followed more sedately, stopping to pick up the boxers and put them with the rest of Speed's clothes next to the bed. The boys were very pretty together and he was getting quite the show.