The first steps to Plutarkian invasion begin!
Throttle McCloud looked under the bush and saw past the tress into the field just beyond them. There were two young figures waiting for him. Vincent Van Wham and Modo Maverick stood in the middle of a long hay field, the stars beginning to show up in the late evening sky.
"Hey bro," Throttle greeted, shaking the hand of the white mouse.
"Hey," Vinnie responded. Modo slapped him on the back.
"Hey, Throttle." he said.
"Vinnie," the tan mouse said, sitting down on the ground, taking a piece of grass between his lips. "You doin' okay?"
"Just fine, Throttle." he responded.
The tree laid down together, looking up at the new stars as they poked through the darkness of space.
"There are so many of them," observed Modo.
"Yeah," said Vinnie. "It's so cool."
Throttle grinned, the blade of grass moving slightly in his mouth. "There's Earth," he said, pointing to a star, far out in the east.
"I wonder if we'll ever go there?" wondered Vinnie.
"Oh, I doubt it." Modo said, laying his head onto his crossed arms.
"I don't know, bros, anything is possible."
Modo laughed, and slugged Throttle's arm jokingly. "Yeah. Right."
Throttle shook his head and continued to gaze up at the star. The three of them continued to lay there for a few moments, when Vinnie spoke up.
"I wonder how many babes are out there."
"Vincent!" scolded Throttle half-heartedly.
"Well, I'm just wondering."
The trio laid there, when, suddenly, they heard a loud roar from the south. Vinnie sat up. "What is that?" he wondered.
"I don't know, but whatever it is, it stinks!" Modo said, sitting up as well, his fingers pinching his nose.
Throttle looked up, only to see five fish-shaped vessels fly a "V" formation overhead. They tore above them, then disappeared into the sky behind them. They thundered away, shaking the ground.
"Whoa..." Vinnie muttered.
"Well, that can't be a good sign," Modo responded.
Throttle just looked silently as the five ships faded into the distance. "No," he said softly, "it can't."
"President Dorlin," said the secretary as she peeked warily into his office. "Sir, a General Dominic T. Stilton to see you."
President Dorlin looked up from his desk and folded his hands, then rested them against his chin.
Dorlin sighed and stood up, walking next to her. "Show him in." he said slowly.
"Mr. President...should I double security?" she asked quietly. There was a definite nervous feel to her as she spoke.
"There's no reason, Ms. Catalina. I'm familiar with General Stilton. There should be no trouble," he said.
Reluctantly the secretary retreated.
A moment later an alien, who appeared to be a fish, and dressed in very colonial garb entered the President's office. The alien fish brought with him a deep sense of aggressiveness and dominance. Dorlin, at first, was put back by this, being the leader of the Martian government. The aura that this alien brought with him was very...difficult to deal with. But Dorlin recalled the agreement he and this man had made. A pact made in blood.
"Dorlin," the man said with a snarl appearing upon his lips. The alien gave off a sense of refinement and self-awareness mostly found in high society.
"Stilton. You're early." Dorlin said, his eyes looking over the alien.
"I like to be punctual, Mr. Dorlin. It's tacky to be late," Stilton replied, dusting off a chair with a handkerchief from his sleeve before seating himself. Dorlin snarled a bit.
"You have the item in question?" Dorlin asked, eyes darting across the room to make sure that door was perfectly closed. Stilton smiled a wicked smile and carefully pulled a leather briefcase bound in gold and gently placed it on the desk. "Why, Mr. President, would you have expected any less?"
Dorlin peeked inside the case as a smile spread across his face. "Excellent. Then you'll begin operations?"
"Immediately," Stilton said wickedly.
Three months later...
The doors to the courthouse swung open with force as the Defendant and his attorney stepped out into a crowd of news reporters. They immediately swarmed around the pair, snapping photos and bombarding them with questions.
"Mr. Kent! Excuse me, Mr. Kent!" one reporter shouted to the finely dressed man who swaggered down the steps of the courthouse, followed quickly by his lawyer, Mrs. Relena Van Wham.
"No questions, please," he snarled to the press as he jumped into his limo and drove off, leaving Relena standing there. Her lips pursed as the limo sped off. For everything she did for Mr. Kent, he sure was quick in blowing her off.
"Mrs. Van Wham! How about an interview?" a reporter asked then turning to her.
"Please," she said, "it's Ms. Van Wham." Her demeanor was tough and thick. She was a no-nonsense woman that wanted nothing more than truth and clarity.
The reported nodded. "Of course," he said quickly, slightly taken aback. "So, how do you feel about winning the case?"
"It's a feeling of accomplishment to have served justice," she said proudly. "Getting Mr. Kent out of that lawsuit was one of the biggest accomplishments of my career. Now, if you'll excuse me."
Just then, the ground shook violently and they heard loud explosions. Relena was knocked off her feet and landed hard on her butt. She pushed her short orange hair out of her eyes and then straightened her skirt and blouse. "Damn construction workers," she grumbled irately.
A few more reporters followed her as she went towards her car, but she ignored them and just stepped inside. "Damn," she thought suddenly, " I have to pick up that brat Vincent from the Mall I dropped his off at. Oh, damn you Howard, why did you ever get me pregnant...?"
Meanwhile, in a less populated part of Hellfire, two young mice were riding along merrily on a motorcycle, singing loudly and off key to the tune of "We Will Rock You" as they drove through the open plains (which were quickly turning to concrete) heading towards the Mall.
"Hey Modo! Do you think you could turn it down, I'm losing my hearing back here!" Modo's little passenger cried as she clamped her hands over her large ears.
"Huh? What did you say?" Modo shouted in his booming voice, a deep baritone already at only sixteen, over the radio.
"I said TURN IT DOWN!" Alexis screamed.
"I can't hear you! Let me turn the radio down!" Modo called over his shoulder as he flipped the dial on his radio to off. "Now, what did you say, Al?" he asked looking back at her again.
Alexis smiled wearily. "Never mind." she sighed, patting him on the shoulder.
"Okay, suit yourself." The big grey-furred mouse shrugged.
Alexis Sarimana, as was her name, was the newest member of our trio of young friends. Not to mention the only girl. Not that it mattered much, as young Alexis was very much a tomboy. It was more common for her to be referred to as "Al" or "Alex," in fact.
"Are we there yet?" Alexis asked, pushing her short bright red spiky hair out her bright blue eyes.
"Will be soon enough. About ten more minutes." Modo assured her as he made a sharp right turn, nearly throwing her from her seat behind him. Modo wrapped his tail securely around her waist and pulled her safely back on. "Sorry about that, little bro." he said grinning.
"Yeah, I bet you are." Alexis sneered, standing up so she could give him a nuggy.
"Ow! Hey, watch it Al! I'm tryin' ta drive!" Modo giggled, swerving a little. The big grey teenager grinned up affectionately at his younger "bro", bright red eyes twinkling.
"Yeah, trying. Come on Modo! We've been driving for over an hour! We should have been there by now! I want to see Vinnie. You know he's probably bored out his mind. And besides, my butt is going numb." she complained.
"Well, I'm sorry little bro, but you're the one that wanted to take the scenic route." Modo shrugged.
"I wish something interesting would happen." she pouted.
"Well then, let's take a short cut!"
After finally arriving at the Mall, Modo and Alexis found themselves face-to-face with Vinnie and Throttle.
"Throttle, bro, I wasn't expecting to see you here!" Modo called, slapping him a high-five as the greeted each other.
"My parents wanted to pick up some new toys for the brat," Throttle told them, motioning over to a toy store within the shopping center. Throttle sighed, feeling neglected by his parents. All of their attention seemed diverted towards his younger brother, Smoke.
"Vincent!" a sharp voice cried out. Vinnie looked up and his face immediately fell at the sight of his mother.
"Oh, hi Mom," Vinnie attempted meekly.
"Hi, Ms. Van Wham." Throttle said, as Modo and Alexis echoed him.
"Hello children," she replied with a sort of snarl in her voice. They all took one giant step backwards. "Vincent, it's time to go home."
"Aw, but Mom," Vinnie started to protest. But then he saw the look in his mother's eyes. She had just won a very big case and her ego was huge. She would not let some punk kid-even if it were her own son-demean her authority.
"Relena?" a female voice came from behind her.
Relena spun around. "Jewel!" she gasped. A sandy brown female with long wavy blonde hair and deep blue eyes in a green dress stepped over to her. She was carrying a couple of bags. Throttle suddenly felt very happy to see his mother.
"Mom!" he said brightly. He got up and rushed passed Relena and threw his arms around his mother, hugging her quickly.
Vinnie looked at them sadly. His mother would never allow such a public display of affection. A bitter frown ghosted across the youth's face.
"Now, Throttle sweetie, I'm glad to see you too, but my arms are full." Jewel said, trying to pry her son off her.
"Haha! Momma's boy!" Vinnie laughed, pointing at Throttle.
This comment resulted in a bump on the head from Modo. "There's nothing wrong with showing your mama the love that she deserves. Isn't that right, Mrs. McCloud?"
Jewel smiled at the young grey mouse. "For some reason, Modo, I'm not surprised to hear you say that."
"Mama knows bests, ma'am."
"Speaking of which," began Jewel, turning to Relena. "How was your case, Relena? Did you win?"
Relena straightened herself. "Of course I did, dear. The Prosecution was nothing."
"That's great. Really," Jewel returned with a wide smile. Alexis couldn't help but notice that Mrs. McCloud's smile did not seem very genuine. "So, are you guys having anything special tonight to celebrate this big win?" asked Jewel, still warm and smiling at Relena.
"No," muttered Relena. "I'll just have Jessica pop in one of those Hamburger Helper dinners that she and her brother like so much."
In truth Vinnie hated those things, as did his twin sister, Jessica.
"Oh," replied Jewel with a bit of surprise in her voice. "Well, you can join us for dinner. I'm thinking about making chili or stew."
"No thank you, Jewel."
"Talking business, ladies?" asked a familiar male voice. Axle appeared then, pushing a stroller with Smoke inside. "Hello, Relena. Good to see you again."
"Axle," Relena answered curtly. She eyed Smoke. "Is this your little one?"
"The one and only!" Axle cried, his heart all aflutter at the observance of his second born. He immediately pulled the young child out of his stroller and held him up proudly. "My precious little boy!"
Throttle suddenly sigh loudly and turned to his bros. "So, what are we doing standing around here? Lets go do something already!"
"We're going home now," Relena reminded her son. The McCloud's followed them outside, along with Alexis and Modo.
Just then, the roar of a motorcycle caught their attention. All of them looked up as a sky blue motorcycle flew across the pavement and came to a screeching halt in front of them. Its driver was dressed in a green army pants with a beige shirt and green vest that was decorated with a shiny silver metal. His helmet covered his face, but you could see his long umber brown hair that hung a pony-tail down his back and the tow other dark brown locks that hung besides his ears and his chocolate brown fur. He pulled off his helmet and shook his head, swinging his pony-tail around then smiled broadly at the young mice in front of him.
"Stoker!" Throttle, Modo, Vinnie, and Alexis screamed joyously.
"Hey there, little citizens!" he said getting off his bike and throwing out his arms as they all tackled him to the ground. "Ha ha ha! I'm glad to see you too, kiddies!" Stoker laughed.
He sat up, Throttle in a head-lock under one arm, Modo in the other, Vinnie suspended in mid-air by his tail and Alexis hanging off the back of him. "So here I am, just about to buy some new struts and here you are, my little boys." he said playfully.
Finally he released them and stood up to greet the parents. "Hello Jewel. Axle. Aw, and the littlest punk, Smoke. Hey big fella!"
Stoker leaned in close to Smoke. The baby mouse laughed and kicked the older Martian in the nose. Stoker actually reeled back from the kick.
"Strong kid," Axle told Stoker with a smile.
"No kidding," Stoker replied, rubbing his offended muzzle. "Not sure if I want to baby-sit this guy."
"Why not? You'll baby-sit Vinnie," Relena suddenly purred to Stoker, who almost intentionally left her out of his greeting.
"Hello Relena," he said in return. "Just caught the news. I hear you got that turncoat off the hook."
"Mr. Kent is not a turncoat!" Relena snarled. "He did not sell any government information to the Plutarkians."
"Yeah, right. Listen here, Relena, the Plutarkians are no good. Sure, they promised to keep us safe. But if you haven't noticed 'dear,' all they've been doing is causing trouble!"
"Oh no," Relena cried, "not your whole 'Plutarkians are evil' speech again. I swear, Stoker, you're just a record that won't stop spinning. Conspiracies, aliens...I swear, you're no better than the kids."
"Why you no-good-"
"Easy Stoke," interrupted Axle. "Let's just pull back our claws, eh? There's no need for this sort of debate in front of the kids."
Both Stoker and Relena consented, but still shot icicles at each other. "Relena," suggested Jewel, "you've obviously had a long day. How about Vinnie staying with us for awhile? He could spend the night."
"Yeah!" shouted Vinnie. "That would be great! Can I, Mom?"
Only because it would be one less kid for her to deal with all night, Relena relented. "Sure thing, Jewel. He's all yours. Please. Take him."
Relena said her goodbyes and then walked off to her vechicle. The group then made their way over to the McCloud's jeep. "I don't think we're going to have enough room for everyone," Jewel sighed. "Sorry."
"That's okay guys," Stoker volunteered. "I'll take care of the wee ones."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah!" Stoker exclaimed. "It's been a long time since we've all been able to hang out together."
"Alright," Jewel began, "but just be careful!"
"We will Mom!"
As the McCloud's jeep disappeared from the parking lot, Vinnie turned to Stoker. "Hey, Stoke, do you mind if we stop by the store and pick up some junk food?"
"Well, sure. If you kids don't mind stopping at The Piston first." he said.
"You're gonna take us to a bar?" Alexis gasped.
"Cool." Modo, Throttle, and Vinnie replied in unison, already feeling really good about this idea.
Stoker laughed, "Not just any bar, boys. This bar belongs to my very best friend in the whole world. Have you met Cody before?" he asked.
They shrugged and shook their heads. "Then you're in for a real treat, baby bros." he said with a grin as he hopped onto his bike. "Lets Rock..." Stoker began. "...and RIDE!"
"I just love the way he says that." Throttle said smiling as he climbed on Modo's bike.
It didn't take them long to reach the local tavern of town.
"Wow," all four young mice gasped.
"Hey, this is just the outside, kids. Lets go inside, shall we?" Stoker asked, helping Alexis down off his bike.
They stepped inside to view a slightly darkened room, with a large, well-stocked bar off the left side of them, and a mass of tables and booths in front of them. The place was mostly deserted, with only a few bar-flies to occupy it, all of whom were gathered around a big-screened TV in the back watching a football game.
"Cody! You here?" Stoker called ushering the youngsters in the door. He hadn't taken but three steps inside the place when suddenly a sandy-furred mouse leapt from the corner at him.
The sandy-furred man dove at the young mice's mentor and tackled him, throwing his arms tightly around him and swinging him around in circles.
"Cody!" Stoker gasped, barely able to breathe for the death-grip the other man had on him, but grinning all the time.
"What are you doing in this neck of the woods!" Cody said excitedly as he sat the other man down again.
Cody, the apparent owner of the bar, stood at about Stoker's height, but slightly leaner build than the brown-furred mouse. His long fiery red-hair hung in a sleek pony-tail down his back, matched by an unkempt beard that fit snugly around a perpetual smirk.. His bright red eyes mirrored the mirth in his smile, making him look younger than he was. He appeared to be like any average roughneck you'd find in a place like this, wearing a tight blue tank top, black jeans steel-toed boots.
The young mice admired the intricate tattoos that wound down the mouse's left arm in bold black ink. They did not understand the meaning of the symbolic markings, but it was awe striking all the same.
Stoker patted the other mouse on the back in a brotherly fashion. "It's good to see you too, Cody." he said.
"Stay awhile, Stoke! Have a drink, on me." Cody said, slinging an arm around Stoker's shoulder.
"Love to bro, really. But that's not why I'm here." Stoker said, seriousness entering his tone. The two mice exchanged glances, and Cody nodded, as if understanding some unspoken request between the two of them.
"Why don't you kids make yourself comfy, and I'll get you a couple root beers, eh?" the barkeeper said, at last acknowledging the other members of the group. They scrambled over to a large round table that sat across from the bar as Stoker and Cody made their way across the room.
"I don't suppose you saw the news today?" Stoker asked quietly to the other mouse as he ducked behind the bar.
"I did. Can't believe that bastard got off on a technicality." Cody grunted, pulling up a couple of bottles from the cooler.
"They always do, bro. They always do." The chocolate furred Martian muttered cynically to his friend.
"Any more on the family he murdered?" Cody asked, glancing swiftly over at the kids to make sure they weren't overhearing the conversation.
"The wife plans to appeal, but I doubt she'll find a judge that isn't being paid off at his point. The Plutarkian's that hired him to do it have been granted diplomatic immunity, and they can't find any record of the documents he stole." Stoker snarled as Cody handed him his own bottle of root beer before heading back to the kids.
"What are you guys whispering about?" Throttle asked curiously.
"Old girlfriends, kid. Never you mind." Stoker said, ruffling Throttle hair and taking a long pull of his drink.
"So, Cody, how's your bike coming?" Stoker added then, changing the subject to a lighter fare.
"Well," Cody smiled, "Tawny's been working on the last few kinks, and in a week or two, I think she'll be as good as she ever was again."
"Yeah, until you hit that track again." Stoker winked. "I'm not giving you a sponge bath if you break your legs again."
Vinnie grimaced at the thought of the red-haired mouse before them naked, while Cody wagged his finger in Stoker's face. "You know you liked it. You just wish you had my ass."
"Change the subject, please!" Vinnie moaned.
"Seriously, the last thing I want to think about is someone's butt." Alexis muttered, her face very red beneath her fur.
"Who's Tawny?" Modo asked, trying to turn the subject before it could get too crude again.
"My roommate, mechanic, and waitress on the weekends." Cody explained. He turned, facing back towards the bar. "YO! TAWNY! WE GOT GUESTS!"
To the right of the bar there was a set of stairs that lead up to cat walk, and what must be the upper loft of the building. It was from here that the reply came: "WHAT?!"
Stoker smiled into his drink as Cody yelled back; "IT'S STOKER!"
There was the thumping sound of feet on the floor, and then someone came bursting through the door of the loft.
She was very short, probably standing no taller than five foot, with unkempt caramel colored hair that was pinned back by a grease-stained blue bandana. Her face broke into a smile, followed at once by a shrill scream.
Stoker stood up laughing as she came bolting down the stairs and made a running leap into his arms, wrapping her little legs around his waist.
"Why don't women run at me like that?" Vinnie asked as he watched the two of them laughing and hugging.
"They do, Vin, they do." Throttle answered smugly. "They just run in the opposite direction."
"About time you showed your handsome face around here again, BlackRuby! I was beginning to think you'd run off on us." Tawny said, tugging the loose strands of brown hair that hung beside Stoker's face.
"You always drag me back, pumpkin." Stoker winked. He adjusted her position on his hips. "You put on weight?" he asked.
Tawny poked him hard and slid down, adjusting her jeans and wrinkled tank-top. "If I have, it's all muscle." she said matter of factly. It was then she noticed the small group sitting at the table, staring at them with mild amusement.
"So...you rob an orphanage or something?" she asked.
After quick introductions, Tawny took a seat next to Cody, all smiles. "So, Stoke, you gonna stay awhile, shoot the breeze?"
"Love to, darlin', but I got to get these kids home before their parents skin me alive and hang my pelt out to dry." he said, ushering the kids up.
"Not so soon!" Cody whined.
Stoker rolled his eyes, "I'll be back, I'll be back!" he assured them.
"You'd better." Tawny warned playfully.