As the Plutarkians continue to strike against the Martians, Stoker decides it's time to take action!
Stoker sat on a big couch, a fire roaring next to him as Tawny curled up against his body. Her head was resting on his chest and she was already fast alseep.
But Stoker's attention was fixated on a television program on the monitor before him. It was talking about the war.
"It's been three weeks since the Plutarkians took control of Sentry City-which is key to keeping the Sand Raiders held up in their own territory. Sentry City Council and the Martian Senate signed an agreement that would allow the Plutarkians access to this and Hellfire City. But after four buildings were destroyed, the agreement seemed to be in question on the Plutarkians' side," the anchorwoman said.
"Less than a week later, the Plutarkians began to push the population of Martian Mice in 'shelters' located outside the city limits. In time, these 'shelters' became prison camps. President Dorlin claimed that this action constituted as an act of war and immediately launched a military movement against 'overly-aggressive' Plutarkian forces."
Stoker sighed and clicked the monitor off. He snuggled against Tawny some more as the rain began to turn to snow outside the windows. The seasons were changing more rapidly than he'd like to admit.
"Stoker," came Lucas' voice from the foot of the long stairs.
The chocolate-furred mouse looked up at his friend, and noticed that his face was flushed and the papers he held in his hands were shaking ever so slightly.
"What is it?" he asked, stroking Tawny's hair absently.
"Well, remember you were telling me about the conspiracy that the Plutarkians are running with the government?" he asked. Stoker nodded.
Lucas shuffled his papers nervously. "Well I was doing a little research...there's this guy, General Moore? I learned that he's in charge of defense in this region. So I tapped alittle further into the guy's background, wondering why he didn't see fit to take the Martian citizens in protective custody after the attack on Hellfire..." He paused briefly. "I hacked into his bank account, and there was a huge deposit about two weeks ago. Way more than any military official of any rank would receive as a paycheck."
Stoker admired his friends endless hacking abilities, but found his news more than a little disturbing, if not entirely expected.
"He's being paid off." he said bluntly.
Lucas looked disheartened, and nodded grimly. "He's not the only one either. At least two dozen other Generals and eight out of ten Colonels are receiving huge deposits that either equal or exceed the amount of money Moore got."
Stoker tapped his fist to his mouth for a moment in thought, and then looked back at Lucas, who was still reeling from what he had learned. Their military, their last line of defense, had sold them out.
"Then we'll have to take matters into our own hands." he answered. "We'll free the camps ourselves."
As Throttle drifted back to consciousness, he could hear soothing voices all around him, coupled by soft, white lights.
"Easy there, kiddo, you'll be alright..." a warm, motherly voice told him.
Throttle's eyes tried to focus. "M-mom?" he muttered, his mouth dry and his lips sore.
There was a heavy female sigh, followed by a grunt coming from...his father? "Dad?" asked Throttle. "Mom? I had the worst dream..."
"Shhh, rest easy, Throttle." the voice returned. "That's quite a big bump on your head."
Throttle nodded-or a least it felt like it-and closed his eyes. He didn't sleep, but felt his entire body drain and weaken--then return, stronger and a little more alive as the minutes ticked by.
The tan-furred Martian reopened his eyes and realized that the nightmare was indeed true. His mother didn't sit beside him-Modo's mother, Rose, did. Axle, his father, stood above her, with his bros to the side.
"Throttle," Axle said, "son...are you alright?"
Throttle began to sit up, rubbing his bandaged head. "Yeah, yeah I'm okay." he muttered. It all started to flood back then. His mother dying, Smoke being taken away. "Smoke! Dad, where's Smoke!" He gasped.
Axle released a sad, small noise that resonated with Throttle as a whimper. "He...he's gone, son." Axle answered wearily.
Throttle's eyes grew wide. Not just at the news, but at the sight of his father. His face was bruised, and though bandaged, looked like it was bloodied. "Dad...Daddy?" the boy moaned.
Tears began to bud...then streamed down his face. He fell against his father's chest. "Daddy...what's happening to our family?" he cried as everything crashed down on him. "Daddy! Make it stop!"
Axle had never heard such desperation. His own son was sobbing more now than ever in his life. Axle began to cry as well, holding his son. The only family he had left. "Throttle," he attempted as tears rolled down his face. "It'll be..." he tried again, but just stopped. The two embraced, sobbing painfully.
Nothing-not anything-would be the same ever again.
A few hours passed, and the pair began to pull themselves together as much as they could. Axle and his son had to remain strong-stronger than ever-and they had to live for each other.
Work had yet to resume and the entire camp was beginning to wonder if it ever would. Apparently the collapse of the mine was cascade one, taking out several main tunnels along with it. What would happen now? What would become of them?
That afternoon, the head Plutarkian ordered everyone in the camp rounded up in the East Wing.
"As you know," the fat fish-like alien began, "there was an accident yesterday morning in the mines. Several Martians were killed and many of the other main tunnels were destroyed. Most work here will cease then, and many of the young men will be transferred out to a second camp in three days. Those young men will be..." The official began to read off names and Axle, Relena, and Rose all felt their hearts skip when they heard "Throttle McCloud", "Modo Maverick," and "Vincent Van Wham" would all be transferred away.
"The rest of you will remain. Females will continue with their assignments and males will dig out the bodies of the Martians that were crushed. All children will be taken for immediate transport to a second locations. That will occur in five days. Any resistance-" The Plutarkian paused and looked directly at Axle. "-and you will be executed on sight. Bare in mind, we only have you and your families best interest in mind," he continued with a sneer of satisfaction, "You will be given an identification number that will allow you to keep track of your children."
The Plutarkian then grinned widely, and almost insulting added, "See? We Plutarkians do care about you."
Stoker drove with Cody down the long street, his eyes set on the small city before him. The snowy wind was in his face as they entered the city limits. He didn't stop until he reached the desired destination.
They approached a large brick building at the corner of the street, the local pub. The two Mice entered the bar and found himself face-to-face with some of the toughest Martian hard-assess he had ever seen. The crowd ranged from bounty-hunters, common rough-necks and low-lifes, bikers, truckers and the occasional hooker.
It was perfect.
"Attention, gentlemen!" shouted the chocolate-furred mouse.
All eyes fell on Cody and Stoker. Dark and disturbing eyes. Eyes that made both Stoker and Cody take a step back.
Stoker cleared his throat and continued.
"I'm looking for some tough guys to help me in a difficult and dangerous mission. You'll be paid handsomely."
There were a few grumbles all across the room. One of the Martians looked up from the bark and after a quick drink turned to Stoker.
"What kinda mission?"
"We're going to liberate a Plutarkian Prison Camp."
There was a pause, and then laughter filled the bar. "That's funny!"
"No one will do that!"
Stoker sighed and felt his fur ruffled by all the jeers. Cody but a hand on his shoulder, "Come on, Stoke," he nudged. "Let's go home. Maybe there's someone we can talk to there."
The chocolate-furred mouse nodded solemnly. "Maybe you're right, bro. Let's go." he surrendered. But just as he was about to reach the door, Stoker paused. "No."
Cody looked back at his friend. "Huh?"
"No. No, that's not how this works," he returned, turning around. "Alright people! Listen up!" he shouted back to the people at the bar. They all looked up at him now, a little surprised. "My wife Silverdawn and I married young. We had a daughter a year later named Cherry. We didn't have a lot of money, but we pulled together. I worked hard so my wife and daughter would have a good life.
"And then..."Stoker paused, a wave of unsteadiness entering his voice, "...and then I came home one night fifteen years ago. The door was open and I knew immediately that something was terribly wrong. I found my wife and daughter dead in a pool of blood. A few Plutarkian scouts had killed them-after robbing us of all the money we had in the house.
"The Plutarkians claimed diplomatic immunity and were therefore exempt from crimes committed on Mars. I never trusted them after that dark night...and people thought I was being judgmental and paranoid," Stoker continued, a feeling boiling in his chest. "But no-I was right! And we are war with the Plutarkians! The same Plutarkians that killed my wife and daughter! The same Plutarkians who are paying off Colonels and Generals and-for all I know-President Dorlin!
"These Plutarkians are paying their way to victory in this war!" Stoker yelled, his face turning red and his body shaking with the ferocity of his speech. "They're herding our own people into prison camps and enslaving and killing them! I have no money to offer you to help, because they took it! Just like they'll take your money and your life and your DREAMS and BURN THEM and DESTROY THEM and RIP THEM AWAY FROM YOU! THE PLUTARKIANS MUST BE STOPPED OR YOU WILL BE NEXT!
"They will enslave your sons, rape your daughters, execute your wife and torture you! WE are the only hope for Mars! YOU AND ME! WHO WILL JOIN ME? WHO WILL BE MY BROTHER IN ARMS IN THIS WAR? WHO!"
Stoker felt his entire body heave and his heart thunder in his chest. For a brief second, there was no answer.
And then one man stood up. "I...they took my cousin last week. I will join you."
Stoker nodded slowly. "Thank you."
"Count me in!"
In mere seconds, the entire crowd was on its feet, cheering and joining up with Stoker. Stoker looked to Cody-then jumped onto the nearest table.
"Yes! YES!" he yelled out. "YES! But I will tell you the truth-many of you will fall during this battle! But for everyone One of you that falls, TWO of them shall fall as well! Let's go then! Let us fight for freedom! We are the FREEDOM FIGHTERS!"