As Stoker tries to figure out what his next step is, the bros continue to face problem in the shelter!
Throttle, Modo, Vinnie, and Alexis spent the next few days doing tedious manual labor. They found themselves assembling gears and motors to jeep and wagons, stocking food stuffs and packing first aid kits. It wasn't hard work, really, but they were kept under the constant and careful watch of the guards who glared at them and struck out of them if they spoke out of line, or indeed, if they spoke at all.
Alexis had just finished sealing a bag of bandages when her finger suddenly throbbed with pain and she realized it was bleeding.
"Ow! A paper cut!" she gasped, sucking on it.
The next thing she knew something smacked her hard in the back of the head. Alexis went flying forward into a box of supplies.
They whirled around to see a fat little guard sneering down at them.
"No talking, chatter-boxes! Get back to work!" he snarled.
Vinnie helped Alexis up as she sniffled miserably and the guard struck her again.
"Shut up!" he yelled in her face.
"You leave her alone!" Vinnie snarled.
Throttle and Modo were slowly standing up, brandishing some long pipes from the engine they were assembling.
"Get back to work! What's the matter with you? Are you deaf?" he shouted, looking worriedly at the two teenage mice. On second glance they realized he wasn't much older then them.
"Not so tough when the big cheese isn't around, are ya?" Modo growled.
"I don't know what gives you gill-faces the idea you can enslave us, but your about to find out we don't take kindly to forced labor!" Throttle added.
"Stay back! I'm warning you!" cried the guard nervously, thrusting his gun in their faces.
The two of them looked at it apprehensively.
"Yeah...not so brave now are you? Not when I'm the one with the gun!" he said with wavering confidence.
Throttle raised the rod he had been holding slightly above his head, "How much you wanna bet I can bash your brains in with the pole before you even get a shot off?" he growled dangerously.
Suddenly the pole was shot out of his hand from behind. Throttle whirled in surprise only to receive a gun-butt to the face.
The tan mouse crashed to the ground, blood spouting from his nose.
"Bro!" Modo gasped grabbing a hold of him.
They all stared into a face of a much bigger, much meaner guard glaring down at them.
"What's going on here?" he demanded testily.
"Sir, these four, they were giving me trouble!" gasped the younger guard.
The new arrival glared at his comrade, "You can't even handle a bunch of scrawny teenagers, Colby? You're pathetic."
He reached down and grabbed hold of Throttle by his collar and dragged him to his feet. "I'll show you how to deal with trouble makers," he said.
"Let him go!" Modo demanded.
The other man ignored him and dragged the boy through the dirt and dust towards a tiny pen on the other side of the yard.
"No! They're gonna put him in there!" Alexis squealed.
Vinnie looked horrified.
Throttle gasped as the big fish lifted him off the ground and opened the lid of the small wooden box.
They two stared each other in the face for a few seconds, Throttle's eyes grew wide with fear.
` "If you cry, I'll kill you." the fish said plainly, then tossed the teen into the bow and slammed the lid closed and locked it.
A few seconds later kicking and screaming was heard from inside.
Modo, Vinnie, and Alexis stared at their bro's prison in terror as the guard approached them.
"That goes for you too. Don't wanna end up like your little friend. We'll let him sweat awhile, wait till the sun gets over head, then we'll see how much fight's left in 'im." Cackled the bigger fish. Vinnie grabbed hold of Modo's arm and shivered as Modo stared at them in disbelief.
It was long after lunchtime when Colby remembered that there was someone still in "the box."
"Well, I guess it's time to see if that baked mouse is done yet," he said smiling maliciously. All toil ceased as the three of them watched him walk over to the pen, unhitch the lid and pull out what was inside.
He tossed Throttle's limp figure onto the sand, where it laid heaving up and down with breath.
"Throttle!" Alexis cried, her hands to her mouth.
At that moment Axle appeared, accompanied by another officer. He was looking anxiously at his son as he laid there in the dirt. Colby glared at the older mouse, "What's this?" he asked.
"They said I could take care of my boy," Axle grunted. The officer beside him nodded. Colby looked disgusted and spit on the huddled from writhing in the sand and Axle bent down and scooped up his son, who clung onto him for support, tears running down his face. "Maybe that'll teach you to mind your manners in the presence of a superior!" Colby boasted as Axle gave him a look fit to kill and silently walked away, leading his son beside him.
"There's nothing superior about you," Modo growled when Colby turned back to him. They stared each other in the eye.
"Hey, don't think I won't put you in there too!" the fish squeaked, but the pure look of hatred in Modo's blood-red eyes struck fear in his heart.
"I'm going to kill you someday, fish face." He said in a lethal tone. "I'm gonna kill you just like you killed my little niece. You just remember that." the grey-furred Martian warned.
Then silently, giving Vinnie and Alexis a nudge, they went back to work.
Colby was shaking.
Stoker had been in and out of wakefulness for a day and a half. To his friends relief he did not have any serious injuries, no broken bones or internal damage. But his recovery would not come as quickly as he liked. When he was coherent enough to speak, he called Cody to his side.
"Feeling better are we?" Cody Orion asked briskly as he walked into his bedroom and pulled up a chair by Stoker's bed. The chocolate-furred Mouse pulled himself into a sitting position, propped against the headboard and several pillows. He nursed a bandaged arm as he spoke.
"Cody, the Plutarkians are out for genocide." he began.
It was a pretty heavy statement to start out with. Cody felt like he had swallowed a lead brick.
"Genocide?" he asked nervously. "I thought they were out for political take-over?"
"That too. I don't know how deep this goes yet, Cody, but we're all in deep shit. The so-called shelters these aliens put up to house the victims of their own invasion? They're slave-camps." Stoker said. He unraveled the bandage on his right arm and examined the bruising there.
"But how can the government allow-?" Cody began.
"It's simple, they know about it. Or some of them do. Someone high up is authorizing the whole circus, and we're all too blind to see it." the other mouse muttered impatiently.
Though Cody knew in his gut that everything Stoker was saying was true, he did not want to believe it. Just when everything had settled down, when life seemed to be getting back on track...they dropped the mother-load.
The sandy-furred mouse tapped the bandage around Stoker's forehead. "Sure you didn't hit your head a little too hard there, pal?" he asked.
Stoker slapped his hand away angrily. "God damn it, Cody! You think I'm making this shit up! Look at me, Cody! Look at me!"
Stoker tore away the blankets and revealed all his wounds. Cody bit his lip as he stared. There was no denying what was right in front of his face, no matter how much he wanted to. He put a hand on Stoker's shoulder.
"I know, I know you're right. It just...feels like a bad dream." he admitted warily.
Stoker's anger cooled and he nodded, scratching behind his ear. "I know what you mean, bro. But we're both wide awake and it's still here. And we can't just sit by and let it happen."
Cody knew where this conversation was going immediately and he didn't like it one bit. Being reckless was one thing, being out-right suicidal was quite another.
"You're planning on going back there, aren't you?" he asked, although he already knew the answer, he saw it in his friend's eyes.
"I have to. I left my friends back there...I can't abandon them." Stoker said. He was testing his legs, bending and flexing them. They still ached and throbbed but he felt he would be able to walk alright.
"You're no good to them a dead man, either." Cody said flatly. "You plan on hobbling up to the place on a pair of crutches? You wouldn't make it ten feet and you'd be Sand Squid food."
Stoker shot him an aggravated look. "Then do you want to hide like a coward!" he demanded testily.
Cody looked at him placidly. "I don't want you to get your ass shot off being hot-headed, Stoker BlackRuby. You've got a brain, think this through."
Cody flat out seriousness knocked some sense into Stoker. As much as he wanted to charge in there, guns blazing, he knew Cody was right. It would be a noble stand, and a quick death. Nothing would be accomplished by that. Cooler heads had to prevail. He sighed loudly. "Since when did you get to be so sensible?" he muttered, resting his chin in the palm of his hand.
Cody smiled. "Well, I guess everyone has their moments." he shrugged.
There came a light knock on the door, and they looked up to Tawny standing there with a bowl of soup in her hand.
"Room service!" She said cheerfully. "Looks like someone is feeling better." she said looking at Stoker.
He waved to her and smiled. "Eh, I've had worse days."
Cody excused himself, moving aside so Tawny could sit down. "I'll give you two a little alone time." he said.
A few hours later, Stoker came out of his room to find Cody sitting at an empty bar table, sorting through numerous piles of letters that were spread out in front of him. The look on the blonde-furred Mouse's face was one of strain and distress, and this made Stoker curious.
"I don't suppose that's fan mail, hmm?" he asked softly, hobbling towards his friend, his legs still stiff and sore.
Cody looked up at him, quick to put on a happy face. "Ha, don't I wish. But at least it's not letters asking for child support." he chuckled.
"You look worried." Stoker stated.
"Ha! Me? Why would I be worried? We're only on the brink of apocalypse! Don't be silly..." Cody laughed, but an anxious undertone tainted his jab.
Stoker peered over Cody's shoulders at the letters. The documents appeared very official, and some read "urgent" across the head.
The blonde mouse was quick to hide the from view. "It's nothing. Just some bills past due." he said evasively.
Stoker snatched one from the end of the table and glanced it over. It was from a Plutarkian who apparently showed interest in buying Cody's bar. Stoker's green eyes widened.
"They want to buy your property?" he demanded, looking at James with astonishment.
Cody stared blankly at his hands. "They're buying out every business in the area. It was just a matter of time before they came here." he said emotionlessly.
"When did you start getting these, Cody?" the chocolate-furred mouse demanded shifting through more letters, each increasingly urgent and...threatening.
"Shortly after you disappeared. I told them no, but they were quite insistent. Offered me money, any price I could possibly ask for the place. But I refused. And when they saw that money wasn't going to work, they began using threats." Cody replied, gathering up the mess and dumping it into a trash can.
Stoker tore up the letter and tossed it into the trash along with the rest of it. "You have to get your tail out of here, Cody. You've probably endangered yourself for being here as long as you have."
"That's not an option." Cody said, returning the trash can to it's place beside the bar and then began the menial task of scrubbing the counter as if nothing was wrong.
Stoker blinked. "What do you mean it's not an option? Don't you get it, Cody? They're coming to take this place apart with you still in it!"
Cody shrugged. "Too bad for them, cause I'm not leaving." Cody answered.
Stoker folded his arms across his chest and stared at his friend. "And you think I'm crazy?" he demanded.
"Actually the phrase I would use is irrational." Cody answered with a wink. "I'm well aware of what I am up against. I've been ready for it for sometime." He motioned Stoker to come around the bar. The dark-furred mouse watched as his friend pulled a key from the pocket of his apron and twisted it into a cabinet beneath the bar. The door popped open and Stoker looked in on a stock-pile of grenades, boxes of bullets, and a few hand-guns. The key piece was Cody's bazooka, which was loaded and ready as always.
"They want my bar, they're going to have to work for it." Cody said proudly.
"You're fucking insane, Cody Orion. Trying to take on a bunch of trained Plutarkian hit-men on your own." he replied, shaking his head. Cody sighed sadly.
Stoker reached into the cabinet and pulled out a nice semi-automatic and looked it over. "That's why you'll need me." he added.
Cody blinked. "What?" he asked.
"One mouse defending his turf is nuts. But two mice, heavily armed...that's what I call a party." Stoker grinned.
Cody beamed. "Ah man, this will be great! It'll just be like that old Earth movie...what was it called, The Alamo!" Cody said, slinging his arm around Stoker's shoulders.
"Cody, you know everyone died in that movie, right?" his friend asked.
"Oh, right. Ah it'll be a barrel of laughs anyway!" he giggled.
Axle sat beside his son, who was sitting huddled up in a little tin washtub, soaking in ice water.
"That was stupid, Throttle." Said Axle curtly as he pressed a damp wash cloth to his son's forehead. "I don't know what you're thinking. You could have been killed!"
"But dad..." Throttle began.
His father looked him in the eyes, "Son, these people aren't playing games. They will kill you if they see fit."
"So what am I supposed to do? Let them think they're better? Let them control me? I am not a slave, Dad!" his son shouted back.
Axle grabbed his shoulders. "I am not going to see my oldest son shot down, do you hear me?" he cried, shaking him.
"Stoker wouldn't have let them do this! Stoker would have fought back!"
"STOKER ISN'T HERE!" Axle shouted, startling his son.
He sighed deeply and pulled Throttle tight against him and ran his fingers through his hair, "I know you're brave, son. I know. And you're right, no one has the right to treat someone else like this. But you have to understand, Throttle, that you are not invincible. Those people will hurt you in anyway that they can."
He took his son's face in his hands and looked him in the eyes, "But I also know you're very smart. And the smart thing to do right now is to lie low, do you understand? We'll find a way out of here, but not now."
Throttle's chin quivered and he nodded, biting back tears. Axle ruffled his hair and smiled softly. "That's my boy." The older Martian lifted his eyes to the ceiling. "God help us."