The Plutarkians descend upon Hellfire City!
It started like any other day on Mars. In Hellfire City, located near the borders of Valles Marineris region of Mars, people were heading to work. Its suburban area was just starting to wake to the sound of the Martian Hornswallow as it began its morning song.
This was not, however, what woke up Jessie Van Wham. The white-furred mouse's sleep was shattered by the sound of her door being thrown open. "Jessica Van Wham!" screamed Relena, thundering over to Jessie. The young mouse felt her mother's fingers pull on her hair as she was yanked up by it.
"OW!" cried Jessie. "Mommy!"
"I called you three times! Why the hell aren't you up yet!"
"I was asleep...I couldn't hear you..."
"Don't talk back to me!"
Jessie was thrown into the kitchen, which was a little more than messy.
"You're damn right you're sorry." Relena replied shortly, dumping her half-empty cup of coffee into the sink. "Now clean up this mess, make your brother some breakfast and clean this house! I was called into work and I don't have time to deal with you!"
"Alright, Mommy," Jessie returned through budding tears.
"Oh stop your crying. I swear, Jessica, you are such a baby."
"Well I can't-"
Jessie's protest was cut short by a swift hand across the cheek. "What did I tell you!" her mother demanded, staring her in eye.
"Okay! I'm sorry!"
Relena snatched up her purse and her briefcase and headed to the door. "This place had better be spotless by the time I get home, or there will be hell to pay, little girl."
Jessie started to sob as she heard her Mom's car pull away. After a few minutes, she pulled herself together and started to clean the house, in mortal fear of what her mother might say if she came home and it wasn't.
Relena Van Wham certainly put the fear of God in her children. Or more accurately, the fear of herself. Jessie hated her mother for the way she treated her and her brother, but she was stuck in the trap of loving her as well. Vinnie had begun to separate himself from those feelings, but Jessie had no one else to look up to. After all, Vinnie at least had Stoker to look up to as a father figure, and friends to keep him busy. But Jessie, so unlike her twin, was quiet and reclusive. Under the right conditions she could have blossomed and become very sociable and friendly, but under Relena's thumb she was silent and subdued most of the time, for that was what kept her safe.
Vinnie wandered in the kitchen door then as Jessie was wiping at the huge tears rolling down her cheek in frustration.
"What are you crying about?" Vinnie asked, eyeing his sibling. It was a foolish question, Vinnie knew without asking why Jessie was upset. It was the same reason Jessie was always upset. Mom had been in a "mood" again.
"Nothing!" Jessie snapped at her twin. It was more out of embarrassment and frustration than anger.
Vinnie rolled his eyes and stepped up to his sister, taking her face in one of his hands and turning it so he could look at her properly. He admired the fresh hand print that showed red on the skin beneath Jessie's fur.
Without saying another word the only male of the Van Wham household walked to the fridge, pulled out an ice pack from the freezer, wrapped it in a dish towel, and pressed it against his sister's cheek.
"Just keep it there for awhile, and you'll be fine." he said.
Jessie sniffed loudly and blinked at her brother. Vinnie and she rarely got along, but in this they had a common bond. And Vinnie was technically older...by a minute. It was his job to look after her.
He said no more and headed into the living room to watch TV, leaving Jessie where she was.
Stoker entered The Piston and swaggered up to the counter. He noticed that the television was on and there seemed to be some sort of special news broadcast.
"What's this?" asked Stoker.
"Something's going on in Sentry City," said a familiar-looking Mouse next to Stoke. Stoker looked at him.
"Lucas!" he exclaimed. "How's it going?"
"Okay. I'm worried about this though," Lucas told him. "Something about Plutarkians arriving in Sentry City. Pretty big stuff, Stoke. Sentry City is key in keeping the Sand Raiders bottled up."
Stoker recalled Lucas's ramblings about Plutarkians and Sand Raiders. He had felt this way a long time; ever since Lucas's wife had been killed by a gang of rouge Sand Raiders. Lucas was a nice guy, but Stoker could tell that he was letting his anger get to him.
"What do you think is going to happen, Lucas?"
"I'm not sure, Stoke," returned the other Mouse. "There are all sorts of rumors that Sentry was sold to Plutark. Ships have been around there all morning. Of course, I heard the same thing about Hellfire."
Now Stoker was interested. "Are you saying that there are actual rumors that Plutark bought Hellfire?"
Cody, who had heard most of this conversation, walked over. "Boy, am I glad I'm outside city limits."
"Are you?" wondered Lucas.
Cody nodded. "Yes, sir. Which is why whenever the big snow's come my bar is deserted because the streets never get cleaned good and proper."
Tawny walked in then, stepping over to the three men. "Hi, Stoke." she greeting soothingly.
"Hey babe," Stoker returned, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
"Well, I'm outta here," Lucas said. "My daughter Cassie and I are going camping today. I promised her I'd pick up a camera before we left."
"See ya later, Lucas." Stoker said, shaking his hand.
"Take it easy." he replied, heading out the door.
Lunch time was a well-deserved break for the young mice, who headed outside to enjoy the fresh-air while they ate.
"Hey, Modo, I'll trade you my sandwich for your snack-pack." Vinnie said as they sat together on the picnic-table in the field just behind the school.
"No way, bro! I gotta have my pudding! I need my chocolate fix, man!" Modo said, pulling open the plastic container.
"You guys are weird." Throttle said, shaking his head as he admired a couple of cute freshmen girls walking in the grass, sucking down cans of pop. One of them waved shyly to Throttle, and he nodded in return.
"Oooh, Throttle's in love..." Vinnie teased him, flicking his ear.
Throttle swatted at him. "Shut up, at least I can get a girl to check me out, little boy." his older bro mocked.
"Hey! Don't you know women like younger men?" Vinnie said, flexing his arms, trying to look macho, as was Vinnie's mission in life.
"I thought it was the other way around?" Modo said thoughtfully. He turned his attention to Throttle once more, "Hey bro, she's one of the cheerleaders. I've got game practice tonight, I could..." he began.
Throttle shook his head, "Nah, I'm not really interested, bro. Thanks though." Throttle said, waving away the comment.
"Hey Modo, you gonna eat that?" Alexis asked, pointing to Modo's untouched cup of vegetables.
"Nah, you can have it, Al." Modo said fondly, shoving it towards her.
"Thanks!" Alexis cried, happily digging in.
Throttle's ears perked suddenly and his nose twitched. There seemed to be a sort of electricity in the air that sent a shiver down his spine. "Something's up." he said without preamble.
"I'll say," Vinnie said the next moment, dropping his sandwich to the table and making a sour face. "what is that stench!"
"Hey, he who smelt it dealt it, smart ass." Alexis pipped up.
Modo shook his head suddenly. "Ewwww no, I smell it too. What is that!" he demanded, crinkling his nose.
Throttle stood on the bench he was previously sitting on and looked out into the distance, blue eyes squinting in the bright mid-day sun. "It's coming from that direction." he said pointing to the road along side the field.
He looked a little closer and noticed that there seemed to be a cloud of dust rising from the road in the distance, and was approaching quickly. As it approached, the strange stench grew stronger, carried on the wind.
A moment later they began to feel the tremors in the ground, the rumbling of heavy vehicles approaching.
Alexis and the others joined him in standing on the table to get a better view, their lunches forgotten. All around them the other students began to take notice as well.
"What is it...?" Alexis asked, the fur on the back of her neck bristling. Something wasn't right. The white-furred mouse reached out and grabbed hold of Vinnie's arm, clinging to it as they stared into the distance.
"Tanks!" Modo cried, seeing them first as they emerged through the cloud of dust.
"Those aren't ours..." Throttle said worriedly.
"Look! There are people riding on the top of it." Alexis said.
"Is it some sort of parade?" Vinnie wondered aloud.
As the people came into view, Throttle realized these were no Martians, Mouse or otherwise. They were Plutarkian. Each fat fish was uniformed in combat gear, and shouldering lazor riffles over their fat arms. As they came into view, he realized that some of them were beginning to load their weapons.
The tan-furred mouse leapt off the table. "Vinnie, get Jessie. Tell everyone to get inside." he said, his voice stern.
"What? Why?" Vinnie asked.
"Just do it!" Throttle shouted at him. Vinnie blinked and hopped off the table as well, Modo and Alexis following suit. Their eyes never left the approaching Plutarkians.
Modo huddled instinctively closer to the younger members of his group, brotherly instinct taking over as he tried to push the younger children out of harms way, ushering them towards the doors of the school.
Some of the other students were following their lead, retreating inside as they warily watched the tanks grow closer and closer to the school yard. Others stood transfixed, watching the strange spectacle in silence.
Vinnie had pried Jessie away from her friends, and the five of them stood on the steps, leading into the back door of the school, still watching the tanks.
The huge vehicles lumbered to a slow halt along the school grounds, and as they did, the fish that lined the sides of them jumped to the ground, weapons in gear. They stood in a straight line along the side of the road, each holding their riffle.
"Throttle...come inside." Modo breathed, looking at his friend who stood in front of them. Another scent had suddenly filled Modo's nose, something even more overpowering than the foul odor of the aliens that now loomed before them. The metallic and unmistakable scent of blood and death.
They spotted one Plutarkian who still rode atop one of the hulking machines lifting a mega-phone to his mouth.
"Attention Martian Mice! The City of Hellfire has been officially turned over to Plutarkian Command! You will surrender yourselves immediately to Plutarkian authority!"
A confused murmur rippled through the small crowd. Above them in the building, people were hanging out windows to see what was going on, and teachers came rushing around the sides of the building and out the back door.
"What do you mean we will surrender!" An astonished cry came up from the crowd of students.
"You will remain calm! Please reenter your building and await further instruction!" the fish with the mega-phone called again.
"We will not surrender this city, this school, or these children to you!" Another voice came up suddenly from the crowd. Modo threw his gaze in that direction and realized the protest had come from his history teacher.
"Yeah! Go back to where you came from you stink-fishes!" another voice echoed, this time a student, someone in Throttle's class, heaved a rock towards a Plutarkian solider. It missed the fish by a few inches, but they seemed riled by it.
"Yeah! Leave us alone!" two more echoed, and more stones were hurled, one bouncing off an solider's helmet.
"YOU WILL REMAIN CALM AND REENTER THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY!" The fish with the mega-phone shouted again.
This demand was met by another barrage of stones, one of which knocked the mega-phone out of his hands.
The Plutarkian stared at the mob of children, clearly infuriated, and then waved something to an officer that was standing beside. Several of the soldiers raised their riffles and fired loud warning shots, just above the mice's heads.
Panicked screams went up from the crowds and in an instant the mice began to scatter wildly about the grounds, terrified. As chaos ensued, the Plutarkians now opened fire on the crowd.
Several students went down within the first barrage of shots, lying dead and bleeding on the ground.
The children ran as another group of Plutarkians, also armed with riffles, came charging into the building.
Modo lead the pack as they sprinted across the lawn, the screams of their classmates echoing in their ears as the deafening thunder of bullets sent the unlucky sprawled in front of them as their blood stained the fresh cut grass.
Alexis screamed in terror as she watched the girl who had been running a few feet away from her tumble forward as a bullet sunk into her skull, sending blood spray across the young girl's face.
Jessie, panic-stricken, fell to the ground crying in fear.
"Jessie don't stop!" Vinnie shouted, his voice shrill with fear as she tried to drag his twin across the ground, but Jessie wouldn't move, and hid her face in her hands and screamed.
Modo grabbed picked her up in his arms and carried her as they continued to dodge the flying rain of death. "RUN! DON'T STOP! RUN!"
They rounded the corner of the building where the bullets could not follow and went sprinting across the parking lot, heading towards where Modo had his motorcycle parked.
As they turned towards the rows of jeeps and bikes, where they at least thought they would be safe, they were greeted by an even more ghastly site. One of the tanks was plowing through the parking lot, the barrel of it's gun raised.
"SHIT!" Throttle screamed as they all dove behind the nearest jeep as an explosion rocked the ground around them. They huddled together, hands behind their heads to cover their necks and they hunched over. Cement and shrapnel flew through the air, followed by intense heat and a ripple of smoke. Modo peeked over beneath the jeep and saw that were his bike was once standing, was now just a giant, flaming hole of scrap metal.
"My bike!" Modo shouted. Throttle tugged urgently on his shoulder. "Forget it, forget it! Come on!" he shouted.
Hunched over they ran through the rows of jeeps, followed by others who were following their lead. The parking lot exploded several more times before they cleared it and found themselves running through the back-yards of the surrounding homes in the neighborhood.
Throttle heard a piercing scream of pain behind him and turned to see a young boy tumble to the ground, holding his leg. His name was Brinkley, he had sat next to Throttle in chemistry.
The tan mouse doubled back towards the boy who was lying on the ground, holding his bloody leg. "Here, hold onto me." he said, throwing Brinkley's arm over his shoulder and hauling him to his feet.
Other students began filtering in as well, some injured. "Follow us!" Throttle said, motioning for them to follow his lead. Another girl, probably a grade or two above Throttle took Brinkley's other arm and the two of them supported the whimpering boy as they walked across the yards, searching for somewhere to go.
Modo knew that the houses they were passing now would be the first place the soldiers would looking for them. Jessie was quivering in his arms, his injured classmates were slowly making their way towards him. A big crowd was not a good idea, they needed to get everyone out of the way and quickly.
"Where do we go?" he asked, looking hurriedly at Throttle.
The tan mouse stared at him. The others were now looking at him for answers as well. He had to think quickly. He threw his gaze about, casting for anything that might provide a good shelter for them. His eyes rolled past the houses and the garages that stood beside them, too obvious. Then he saw it. Down the street that was stretched in front of them there was a sign that said 'Road Work Ahead.'
Throttle knew that they were doing repair work on the sewer, and that the man-hole was wide open.
"Everyone follow me!" he cried, ushering them forward, Brinkley in tow. The group made their way as quickly as possible down the street, glancing from side to side. They could still hear the screams and the sounds of gun-fire from the school behind them.
"Bro, what are we doing?" Vinnie asked as they rushed past the road block and climbed over top of the up-turned black-top.
"Down there?" Modo asked, looking into the darkness of the sewer below.
Throttle nodded grimly. Gingerly Modo set Jessie down, and climbed into the hole first. Once he had reached the bottom, he waved for the others to follow. Throttle handed Brinkley down to him, along with two other kids who were also injured, and then the others followed suit.
When the last of them had descended the ladder, pulling the man-hole cover over the open as they did, they found themselves standing together in the dank, darkness of their sewer system.
"What now?" Vinnie asked, his eyes adjusting to the dim light.
"We wait. Everyone, move away from the opening." Throttle said as they clambered down the tunnel a few feet until they could only see the faint light of the hole in the distance. Altogether they were a little more than two dozen crammed there in dark.
Vinnie hugged his sobbing little sister as they sat on the damp ground, Modo consoled a shaken Alexis, and Throttle kept watch down the tunnel, and prayed someone would come to their rescue.
Meanwhile, outside the city, Stoker sat contentedly at the bar, drinking a root beer and watching Cody as he polished and cleaned the shot glasses.
Stoker heard what sounded like far-off thunder in the distance and glanced out the window, expecting to see the sky darken with storm clouds, but he could only see sunshine. "Sounds like a storms brewing." he said off-handedly.
"It's pretty close from the sounds of it." Cody replied.
Suddenly the door of the bar was thrown open and a mouse came rushing in, wide-eyed. "Cody! Cody! They're killing them! They're killing the Mice!" he screamed.
Stoker and Cody stared at the newcomer. "What?" Cody asked, eyes wide.
"In Hellfire...the Plutarkians..." the man said through big panting breaths, "they're everywhere, the city's under siege! You better run while you can!"
Stoker jumped up so quickly from his bar stool that he knocked it over as he rushed out the door to see what the man was talking about. From the road Stoker could see over the top of a line of trees that lined the road past a few run-down homes and lead into the city. Plumes of black smoke spiraled up through the orange sky, accented by the thundering echo of bombs and explosions, which Stoker had mistaken for a storm.
Cody was suddenly at his side, followed by Tawny. "Mother of God..." Cody gasped in shock and awe.
Suddenly Stoker pushed past him, leaping onto his bike that was standing behind them in the parking lot.
"Stoker where are you going!" Tawny asked, fear rising in her voice.
"I gotta get the kids!" He grunted, yanking on his helmet. "They had no warning! None! Those stinking bastards!"
"I'm coming with you." Cody declared.
"No! You stay here with Tawny and help the ones that escape." Stoker instructed.
"You can't go alone!" Tawny shouted.
"I won't, don't worry sugar." Stoker nodded, revving his engine as he sped past them down the road, into the doomed city.
The attack had not yet reached all corners of the city, and was found mostly from the north upon entering the town, and was quickly headed towards the center, where it would then spread like wild-fire.
Stoker sped through the streets, watching as confused locals wandered out into the roads, trying to figure out the source of the smoke and sounds of explosions.
Sirens rang out as emergency vehicles and police tore down the roads towards the source of the trouble. Stoker followed their lead.
"Stoker!" a voice suddenly shouted to him from the side. Stoker turned his head to see Axle in his jeep on the side of the road, waving to him frantically. Stoker popped his bike into a wheely and turned around stopping beside his friend.
"Axle, the city's under attack, get your family and haul your tails out of here!" Stoker warned.
Axle looked close to losing it as he grabbed Stoker's shoulders. "Stoker, Throttle! The boys, their school is being attacked!" he cried. Stoker's green eyes widened.
"They opened fire on the students, the building's on fire!" Axle exclaimed.
"Follow me!" Stoker said, revving his engine once again and taking off. Axle jumped back into his Jeep and sped off after him, following the sounds of the sirens.
As they grew closer to the sight of the incident, traffic ground to a halt. Overhead Plutarkian vessels, all huge and shaped like bloated fish, hovered above their heads. The street that led to the school was being blocked off by alien tanks, and further blockaded by police and emergency vehicles that were trying to get into the sight.
Axle slammed his jeep into park and leapt out, heading through the throngs of people towards the tanks, only to be pushed back by two policemen.
"Sir, you can not go in there! This is a secured area!" one man said.
"My kid is in there!" Axle screamed at them.
He looked over the heads of the police men and saw two Plutarkian solders looking down at him from their barricade. "No one in or out, Mouse. This area is under Plutarkian control now." one said.
Axle resisted the urge to rip his face off, and instead back away, running back to where Stoker was waiting for him.
The chocolate-furred Mouse was staring down a side-street that had gone unnoticed by anyone as of yet.
"You smell that?" he asked as Axle approached him.
Axle sniffed the air. "Blood." he said, his stomach bottoming out. Stoker glanced at him, and then hurried down the side street, following their noses.
Axle peered between houses, some of which had been hit by the explosions and had pieces of them lying on the street and the yards around them. Stoker led him further on down the road, his nose twitching incessantly. He could smell Throttle and the others, but he could not see them. And the interference of other smells, like the pungent stink of the aliens and the smell of gun-powder and ash in the air made it hard to determine where the scent lead.
Suddenly Stoker found himself standing over a partially covered man-hole.
"The trail ends here, I can't smell anything but sewer..." Axle said hopelessly.
Stoker however, smiled as he looked down. "Precisely." He bent down and shoved the man-hole cover aside, poking his head into the hole. "Bros!" he shouted.
At first there was no answer, and then there was a timid echo of "Stoker?"
Axle was suddenly leaning into the hole himself. "Throttle! Throttle are you down there?" he called.
"I'm here, Dad!" Throttle called back.
Axle darted down the narrow and slippery ladder into the sewer and was greeted by his son at the bottom. "Throttle! Thank God!" Axle threw his arms around his son, hugging him hard to his chest. "Are you hurt? Are you alright?" Axle gasped, looking the young mouse over.
"I'm fine dad, but there are a few others who are hurt." Throttle answered. Axle looked past his son down the length of the tunnel and saw dozens of pairs of eyes blinking back at him.
Slowly the shadowy figures made themselves known and moved towards the small patch of light that the other two mice were standing in. Axle hugged Throttle to him again, fighting back tears as he watched the others limp out of the darkness.
"Axle, we've got to hurry, they'll be here soon." Stoker called from above.
Within a few moments, the two men had pulled the children out of the sewer, and were making their way towards the street where the ambulances were to get the injured children the help they needed.
Upon arrival, Stoker and Axle found some familiar faces waiting for them.
Throttle McCloud looked up to see his mother standing with his baby brother in her arms. Beside her stood Rose and Lida, who had Rimfire and Emily, Modo's nephew and niece, with her. Relena was also present, looking very haggard indeed.
Jewel sprinted towards her husband and son and held them both as best she could with her young child in her arms. "Axle, they're everywhere! They're ordering people out of their homes, I don't know what to do!" Jewel said nervously.
"Mama! Are you alright?" Modo asked worriedly heading over to his family, hugging them hard.
"Oh, darlin' we're fine, we were worried about you!" Rose said, holding her son's face in her hands. His sister looked at him tearfully, holding her twins at her sides.
"Mommy!" Jessie screamed running to Relena and throwing her arms around her waist. Relena held her daughter awkwardly, and looked worriedly at her son, who came to her but did not touch her. "Are you alright, Vinnie?" she asked.
Vinnie nodded, and looked to Alexis who was standing beside him. The little red-headed mouse looked lost until another figure appeared among the crowd. A strikingly tall mouse, with grey fur and salt-and-pepper hair, dressed in a plain white dress shirt and dress pants, covered by a black overcoat. "Alexis?" he said worriedly, looking to the thin young girl standing next to Vincent Van Wham.
"Uncle!" Alexis cried turning and running to him. He lifted her thin frame easily and hugged it to him, patting her hair gently.
"I'm glad you're safe."
This was Alexis's uncle, her guardian, a man named Brutus. Alexis had been left in his care after her parents died years ago.
"What are we gonna do, they won't let us go home." Relena said suddenly, her eyes falling upon Stoker who stood there, silent until that moment.
He was about to open his mouth to say something, when someone's voice drifted over the crowd. "Citizens of Hellfire City! Please remain calm! By order of the Plutarkian Empire, all civilians are to relocated to a safe area until such time as they may reenter their homes and businesses. This is not a request!"
"Those bastards just expect us to go quietly after this!" Axle cried, outraged.
He looked up to see a Plutarkian solder walking towards them, two others following after him. "Citizens, I have been instructed to have you accompany us to a convoy that will take you to the shelter," he announced.
` "Like hell we will! You open fire on a bunch of innocent children and you expect us to just follow orders quietly?" Axle screamed, moving away from his wife and children.
He grabbed hold of the lead fish and shook him violently. "You nearly killed my son you son of a bitch!"
The other two solders lifted their weapons and leveled them with Axle's face, ready to fire if necessary.
"NO!" Jewel screamed as Smoke began shrieking and squirming in her arms.
Stoker came from behind the left solider then, yanking the gun from his hand and crashing his elbow into the fish's face, sending spit and teeth flying as he kicked him to the ground. The other turned to retaliate but Brutus came up on him from behind and got him in a choke hold as Stoker slammed the barrel of his gun into the fish's gut, knocking the wind out him.
"Why don't you pick on someone your own size, bait-butt!" Stoker shouted, kicking the alien as he laid on the ground.
Axle threw the soldier he'd been holding to the ground as well, but soon they found themselves flanked on all sides by other Plutarkians, all who were armed to the teeth and ready to fire.
The nearest ones crashed into Axle, Stoker, and Brutus, forcing them to the ground and holding the barrel of their guns to back of their heads.
"Get off them!" Modo shouted moving forward to help, but Rose held her son back.
"One more move out of any of you and we'll shoot!" one of the fish warned.
"Listen to them, baby bros!" Stoker grunted, though his face was being smashed into the ground. "We'll be fine. Just do what they ask."
"But Stoke!" Throttle protested, but Jewel pulled her son against her and held him there.
Alexis tried to go to Brutus, but Vinnie pulled her next to him, hugging her tightly as she began to cry.
"That's better. Take these three away, we'll deal with them later. The rest of you, into the convoys. Single file, please."