Fifteen years after the biker mice arrived on earth, and Throttle has been missing for seven years. He turns up at Stoker's funeral a shadow of his former self - what has happened to him? And can a...
Author's Notes: This one started from listening to Nickelback's 'How You Remind Me' - a good song that compelled me to buy an album that turned out to be crappy, but what the hell. Anyway - it got me thinking about broken hearts and tragedy. I write for Modo and Vinnie too much already, so this is a Throttle fic - it probably would have been anyway. It is twelve years later. Throttle has hit the wall. CharacterDEATH and Angst-haters, look away now.
NB: The fortunes of Primer, Redline and Bandit will be followed in the End of the Road stories, hopefully coming soon.
Also, if it wasn't for SewerSlider and her collection of truly excellent Ninja Turtles angst, this would never have got written. So muchos thankies to Slider.
'Stoker was, in life, the quintessential Biker mouse,' said Carbine. 'He was the greatest rider and the best fighter in the galaxy and although far be it from me to say we always got on, he was a great teacher and friend. We have lost a hero, truly a legend in his own life. So many of our soldiers today have grown up with Stoker's words on their tongues and in their hearts. Everything he did, he did with a spirit and a vigour that inspired everyone who knew him and it makes me sad and angry that Stoker's road ended before he saw Mars truly free.'
Rimfire looked around the mice gathered at the graveside. So many of them, and not just mice - the news of Stoker's death seemed to have sent shockwaves through the entire galaxy. Some of the faces were sad, some were angry, some were shocked, some had the blank look of those who have been at too many gravesides. But one face was glaringly obvious, simply by its absence.
'Where the hell is Throttle?' asked Rimfire afterwards.
'Don't know,' said Vinnie sadly. 'He vanished 'bout seven years ago, no-one's heard a peep since.'
'I guess you could ask around,' said Charley. 'But I doubt you'll find anything.'
Rimfire nodded sadly and crossed the garden to catch up with his sister, who getting hysterical.
'And everyone always said I should calm down but he always said I had energy and potential and he taught me everything I know and now he's dead and-'
'Hey, Primer,' said Rimfire. Primer turned around, caught sight of her brother and burst into tears. 'Great,' he muttered. 'This is all I need. C'mon, sis, pull it together. How's England?'
It took a while for Primer to answer, but eventually she did. 'Yeah, it's fine. Me and Bandit and Redline, we're doing great. Couldn't be better. But then we got this /message/...'
She showed signs of dissolving again, so Rimfire interrupted. 'Have you heard from Throttle lately?'
Primer looked startled. 'No. Why?'
'Cause he's not here. You'd think of all people, Throttle would be here, right?'
'Um. Yeah. Yeah, I would, kinda.'
'Oh, well... Listen, I'll see you around. Come and catch up before you go back.'
'I don't get it,' said Charley when they were back at Modo's place. 'He's been missing for years. You've said nothing about it for years - why dig it up now?'
''Cause he shoulda been here,' said Modo.
'Look, baby, how can I put this?' said Vinnie. 'Yeah, it's been years. Modo's got his teaching and I got you, but we're still tight and we know where we came from. Stoke... well, I had to be dragged up kickin' and screamin', but you know me, won't go anywhere without a fight. Throttle wasn't like that. Throttle was all set to be Stoker one day. If there was gonna be one person at this funeral, I'd've thought it'd be Throttle.'
Charley sighed and Vinnie put an arm around her shoulders. 'Well, there's been so much water under the bridge,' she said. 'There must be loads of people he doesn't want to see.'
Vinnie looked up and caught Modo's eye. 'You thinkin' what I'm thinkin', bro?'
'Ah think Ah might be,' said Modo. He stood up and Charley stepped forward, but Vinnie's hand on her shoulder restained her.
'Sorry, Charley,' he said. 'Not this time.'
'Between the guys, huh? OK, see you later.'
They didn't take their bikes. There was a feeling that if their hunch was correct then they might have to catch him unawares, and they'd have to be quiet for that. And in the Garden of Hope, sure enough, a lanky silhouette in the moonlight stood by the fresh grave. Vinnie's brow creased - surely Throttle was stockier than that? But then the silhouette looked up and spoke, confirming his identity.
'OK, Vinnie, come out. I can see you. You got Modo spying on me too?'
Both of them stepped out into the moonlight. Throttle, facing away from the light, regarded them impassively, and Vinnie tried to lighten the mood. 'Hey, Throttle, good to see you.'
'Sure,' said Throttle.
'How're you doin'?' said Modo. 'How's your bike?'
Throttle's shoulders hunched a little. 'Ain't got a bike. You guys gonna leave me alone now?'
Vinnie walked slowly around the grave, and Throttle turned to face him, revealing his face as he did so. He looked terrible, his clothes ripped and stained, his face gaunt, his skin covered with scars old and fresh. He didn't even have his knuck nukes anymore, just a blaster on one hip and a large and rusty knife on the other. Now that he was close, Vinnie could smell the alcohol on him and wondered what he could have been drinking to make him smell like /that/.
'Throttle - what happened to you, bro?'
'See, this is one of the reasons I didn't turn up at the funeral,' snapped Throttle. 'I had people I didn't want to see and right now, that includes you two. Times change, Vincent. People change. Now both of you piss off and let me get on with my life.'
'You gonna take off fer some godfersaken rock soon as we leave?' said Modo.
'That's the plan. If you don't like it you know what you can do.'
'You're gonna stay,' said Modo with decision. 'Anyone c'n see you ain't in no fit state to fly.'
'I'm in fit state to go wherever I damn well please. You are not gonna stop me.'
'If Ah gotta, then yeah, Ah am.'
'Look, Throttle, you don't wanna talk?' said Vinnie impatiently. 'Fine, you don't have to talk. If you want we won't even tell Carbine you're here. But at least let us make sure you're healthy or at least clean before you launch off into the big black again.'
Throttle laughed darkly. 'Tryin' to take care of me? Newsflash, guys, it don't work.'
'Then let us think we did something before you went off and finally got yourself killed. Put our stupid, sentimental minds at rest. It'd be no skin off'f your nose.'
Throttle considered. 'OK. But I leave when I want and Carbine has no idea I'm even alive. Got it?'
'Sure,' said Modo.
'Fine,' said Vinnie. 'You done here?'
Throttle looked down at the raked earth on the grave and nodded. 'Yeah. So, we going?'
Charley looked up as they entered, and a range of expressions crossed her face, starting at surprise, then passing through joy, shock and pity before ending in concerned confusion.
'Shut your mouth, Charley, you're catching flies,' said Throttle flatly. Then he turned to Vinnie. '/No/ Carbine, no third degree.'
'Right,' said Vinnie.
'Shower through there,' said Modo, and Throttle followed his pointing finger.
'What happened to him?' hissed Charley.
'We don't know, babe,' said Vinnie.
'We just know if he's gonna stay then Carbine ain't gonna know,' said Modo. 'An' he don't have to talk.'
'My god...' Charley sank down onto the sofa. Vinnie came and sat beside her and put his arms around her. She leaned into the embrace, not sure if he was holding her for her benefit or his own.
After Throttle had come out of the shower and eaten a couple of hot dogs in a desultory way that suggested he didn't even remember eating for pleasure, he left, with an abrupt remark that he would be back. Three hours later Modo's phone rang. He picked it up.
'Modo? It's Primer. I'm outside the Ten Claws-'
'What? Didn't your momma teach you to stay away from that neighbourhood?'
'For god's sake, I'm twenty-eight, I can take care of myself. It's not important. But you have to get over here - Throttle turned up and I don't know what's wrong with him but he's in trouble now. Me and Bandit and Red can't get him out by ourselves, you got to hurry! He'll get killed!'
'Be right there.' Modo slammed the phone down and stood up. 'Throttle's in the Ten Claws, sounds like he got himself a problem he can't handle.'
'Hell...' muttered Vinnie. 'Right, I'm on it. No, Charley, you can't come, we need you to distract Carbine if she calls.'
'What do I tell her?' said Charley.
'Make something up!' With that, Modo and Vinnie were gone.
The Ten Claws was the kind of bar that looked on brawls as evening entertainment, but from the sound of it, this was something special. As they drew near the doorway shattered in a blaze of light and someone staggered through backwards, clutching his shoulder.
'/Wha'thelld'you mean, I lost m' touch/?' There was another earshattering bang. '/Come on, who's next? G'wan, summun tell me 'gain how I lost it/...'
Modo looked through the hole where the door had been. Throttle was standing in the middle of the floor, shooting and hitting at random and shouting a drunken stream of challenges and curses.
'Crap,' muttered Vinnie.
'We tried our best,' said Primer from behind them. 'We tried going in to stop him but he shot Red in the leg. Tried to get me, too.'
'Is Red OK?' said Modo.
'He'll be fine, Bandit's with him and anyway, I don't think Throttle could aim even if he was bothering to,' said Primer.
'Right.' Modo and Vinnie stepped through the door.
'You gonna bring th'ole army to bring me down?' taunted Throttle, who clearly hadn't seen them coming in. He had a slash of cuts down his arm and blood was trickling down the side of his face and dripping off his chin, but he didn't seem to have noticed. Modo aimed carefully and fired his arm cannon just in front of Throttle's feet. The force of the blast knocked Throttle onto his back and the gun went flying. Vinnie glared around the room and waved his blaster threateningly.
'OK, people, we'll take care of this. Anyone thinks of trying anything, remember I'm sober and I can shoot straight.' Several people looked away and he caught the eye of Primer, who was watching from the doorway. 'Hey, Primer, make yourself useful. We got people hurt here.' Primer nodded and made a remark to someone outside, then came in followed by Bandit and Redline. Redline's leg had already been bandaged and he was walking on it with only a slight limp.
'Fuck off, the lottoya...' muttered Throttle. 'C'n fight m'own battles...'
'Yeah, well, this one's done,' said Modo. 'Ah don't think anything's broken, bro.'
'Good,' said Vinnie. 'Then let's blow this joint.' Modo scooped the protesting but ineffective Throttle up and they left Primer and her friends tending to the injured.
Throttle turned out to need three stitches in his left temple and it had been a miracle he hadn't passed out, if not from the blow then from loss of blood. Charley cleaned him up and then they left him to sleep it off.
The following morning he was aching from the bruises, hung over and, if anything, in a worse temper than the night before.
'So, want to tell us what happened?' said Vinnie.
'No,' snapped Throttle. 'Don't you have any beer in this fridge?'
'Got root beer.'
'That's not what I meant.'
'Fair enough. So here's what I think happened. You went to the deepest dive you could find that wasn't actually a rat bar, got totally mashed and then someone suggested you weren't like they remembered so you started a fight for the hell of it.'
Throttle gave up on his search for beer and started making coffee instead. 'That's about the gist of it, yeah.'
'Idiot. You know what you did? Remember Primer? Modo's niece, dug herself out of the Alternate Base #14 thing and went off to England with a couple of her mates? They got something there that's nearly like we were, back in the day. And you shot one of 'em.'
'No, flesh wound.'
'That's OK, then.'
'Shit, Throttle, what've I gotta do to make you give a damn anymore?'
'Can't be done.' Throttle took his coffee and turned to leave. 'So how about you just stay out of my life?'
Carbine regarded Rimfire across the table and tried to concentrate on the map between them. She kept thinking, This time last year, Stoker was sitting there. Stoker was my second, driving me mad and making me think up manouvers I'd never have come up with without someone to argue with. Who'd have thought he'd fade so fast...
She'd always believed Stoker would die fighting and in fact he'd said it to her, near the end, when he had to have tubes to help him breathe, he'd said he'd always thought the only way he'd die in bed was if someone shot him in his sleep. But now he was gone, and Rimfire was Carbine's second now. Yes, he was intelligent and he knew his game inside and out, but he was too polite. Carbine never thought she'd miss those ear-shattering rows, but they always ended in a competition to see who was the better tactician. You couldn't sound off properly against someone who called you 'ma'am' without a hint of irony in his voice.
Carbine jerked out of her reverie and focussed on Rimfire's face. 'What? Sorry, just a little preoccupied. Tense. Where were we?'
'Listen, Ma'am, we should call it a day. I can't think straight either.'
'Yeah? You missing Stoker too?'
Rimfire shrugged. 'We're all missing Stoke. But now I got something new on my plate, as if I didn't have enough to worry about.'
'Hey, sound off, soldier. Maybe I can help.'
Rimfire studied her face for a moment, then said, 'Yeah, maybe you can. You know Primer went back today?'
'Well, she spent a while telling me what she did last night - she says Throttle's back.'
Carbine sat up. '/Throttle/? You must be kidding.'
'Wish I was. He trashed the Ten Claws last night, ended up shooting Redline in the leg and almost getting himself killed by the sound of it. Primer said there was blood all over the place.'
'This is /Throttle/?' said Carbine incredulously.
'She said so. Said she spent an hour on the phone to Modo and it's him. Apparently he's in a bad way - no bike, no knuck nukes, won't stop drinking, won't tell anyone a thing. It's like someone gave a total asshole Throttle's body, let him wreck it and come back here.'
'And he won't tell anyone what's happened to him?'
'Nope. It'd sure help if we knew something, Ma'am.' Rimfire's eyes met Carbine's, and she shook her head.
'No. Absolutely not. Whatever happened between me and Throttle is /private/, understand?'
'Did Primer put you up to this?'
Rimfire pinched the bridge of his nose, resting his elbow wearily on the table. 'No. She just said that it's driving everybody crazy that Throttle won't let them help him and we don't know why. We don't know anything. Just that ten years ago-'
'Right, seven - you two started getting even tenser than before and then one day he left and no-one's seen him till yesterday. Not even Vinnie and Modo. There's been nothing. And now I don't know that what we've got isn't worse.' There was silence for a few minutes.
'It was because I told him it was over,' said Carbine finally. 'I mean, you know how it was - there was always so much to do/, there still is, we were going to get it together when there was time. But there never was time. And eventually I told him there wouldn't /be time in our lives and we'd better just get on with things and forget about it. It really was for the best - for both of us, I swear, we were driving each other crazy. But he went ballistic. I'd never seen him like that before, not even in battle, and I said that to him, and you know what he said?'
'What?' said Rimfire, lightly awed. Carbine's eyes were shiny and her voice trembled.
'He said, "war's fair". And then he left, never told anyone where he was going or when he'd be back. I heard a while later that his ship had been seen on Mecharus. It was for his own good, really it was...'
Rimfire was about to say that Throttle didn't seem to be that good, but he bit it back in time. Instead he leaned across the table and laid a hand on Carbine's. 'It's OK,' he said. 'He's home. We can help him. You'd better get home, get something to eat.' Rimfire studied his superior carefully. She was staring into space, chewing the knuckles of her left hand. He hadn't known Carbine had any nervous habits. She was normally so guarded, she had to be pretty rattled to display one now. 'You want me to come and fix you something?' he said gently. Carbine nodded. Rimfire rolled up the map and put it away.
'And she fell asleep on the sofa so I got her the blanket off her bed and came here.' Rimfire sighed. 'Man, I hope she's gonna be OK. If we lose her as well as Stoke then we're toast.'
Rimfire was being given coffee and cookies in Modo's living room, and sounding off to Modo, Vinnie and Charley.
'So that's the story,' said Charley.
'Nah, just a start,' said Vinnie. 'I mean, sure, he'd be upset for a coupla weeks but it wouldn't be enough to bring him this low. No way.'
'So I guess the next lead is this Mecharus place. Where the hell's Mecharus?'
'Word is it's where Karbunkle's from,' said Modo.
'Maybe he was after revenge,' said Vinnie.
'Get real, Vinnie - we executed him eight years ago,' said Rimfire. 'Throttle was /there/.'
'Well... maybe he was trying to get some new eyes,' said Charley doubtfully. 'I mean, if it was me and I thought I could, then I would.'
'Yeah, but you'd be on a hiding to nothing,' said Throttle from the doorway. He was wearing only a pair of jeans and looked thinner and more beat up than ever. 'The whole of Mecharus is Stinkfish factory. Bunch of people working for the enemy, if they can't be paid then they get messed with till they do it for free. Fun place.'
'This isn't funny, Throttle,' said Charley.
Throttle rounded on her. 'It's not? No, I guess it's not. Cuz you know what? You got a couple more years before the next Karbunkle's off the production line. And hey, you kill him? Whoo, look out, you got another.'
'We were looking all over for you!' said Vinnie in disbelief. 'Even Stoke couldn't find a trace!'
'Yeah? Well, ain't that surprising.'
'Throttle!' gasped Charley.
'Don't you dare judge me, Charley,' said Throttle, warning in his voice.
'Hey, don't threaten her-' began Rimfire, and Throttle turned and backhanded him across the face.
'And don't you dare give me orders! I am not under your command!'
Modo was on his feet halfway through this sentence, and shoved Throttle in the chest. He staggered back and hit the wall. Modo advanced on him, his eye gleaming red. 'Ah don't care whose command you're under or if you ain't under no command at all. You lay a hand on a member of mah family again an' Ah'm gonna forget Ah ever called you brother and lay a hole in your head.'
'Do it, then,' snarled Throttle. 'See if I care. I spent four years in a Plutarkian jail, I lost my woman, my home and my bike - go on, kill me, give me something to smile about.'
Modo gave him a contemptious extra shove for emphasis and turned away. Throttle's lip curled. 'Knew you couldn't do it.'
'Shut up, Throttle,' said Vinnie. 'Or if you're gonna sound off answer me one question and tell me how you got out of jail. You find your bike or something?'
'Did I find my bike/? Does it /look like I found my bike? Do you have any idea what they do to bikes on Mecharus? Cuz if you don't, I'm not gonna spoil your sleep with stories.'
'But you got out,' said Rimfire, the tone carrying a slight implication that the alternative might have been preferable.
'Yeah,' said Throttle. 'I had some help.' He stamped off into the kitchen, slamming the door behind him. They watched the closed door in silence for a moment, then Charley turned back to Rimfire.
'You OK, Rimfire?'
Rimfire poked his jaw. 'Uh-huh. Yeah, don't think it'll even bruise. Listen, Modo, don't think I don't appreciate it, but I don't need you stickin' up for me like that.'
'What if Ah need to do it anyway?' said Modo quietly.
'Then I guess I can't stop you. But if he'd really been tryin' to hurt me I could've put him out myself.'
'Guys, we've got to help him,' said Charley. 'We can't let him go on like this.'
'Not sure I'm that inclined to helpin',' said Vinnie. 'That ain't the Throttle I remember.'
'No, it's not, but the Throttle you remember is buried in there somewhere. I don't know what the galaxy's done to him but by the sound of it he's had it pretty hard for seven years. C'mon, we can get him back.'
'Sounds like a do or die mission, Ma'am,' said Rimfire speculatively. 'But you got a point. I'm in.'
'Come on, Vinnie,' Charley beamed at him. 'Please?'
'Oh, what the hell. Anything for my favourite lady.'
Three pairs of eyes turned to Modo. Modo was still sizzling over the memory of the slap, but the pressure of their gazes was too much. He threw up his hands in mock-despair.
'Yeah, fine, count me in. But Ah still stand by what Ah said. Ah ain't takin' no crap.'
'No-one asked you to,' said Charley. 'We just have to persuade him to stick around long enough to get back on his feet, then maybe we can get him a new bike.'
The kitchen door opened noisily and Throttle sauntered back into the room, a bottle in his hand. 'You shouldn't have,' he said. 'Idiots.'
'Just glad you're back, bro,' said Vinnie.
'I ain't your bro anymore,' said Throttle. 'So why the happy-happy?'
'We care about you, Throttle,' said Charley.
The bottle shattered on the wall behind Charley's head. 'What for?' snapped Throttle. 'Why can't you get it through your thick heads that anyone I give a flying fuck for gets killed? This is exactly why I didn't come to the funeral.' He stormed out, and a few minutes later they heard the front door slam. Charley looked behind the sofa at the broken glass on the floor.
'He's tryin' to make us let him be,' said Modo.
'Yup,' said Charley. 'Ain't gonna.'