Ryan yawned widely. "Well, we've ended up in a swell mess. What do we do first?" He looked around at the Bones present in the living room of the unfinished apartment they spent the night in.
"Pound Snake-eyes for not telling us about Zack," Trash muttered. "I even asked!"
"Okay, first thing to do in Chicago."
Eight quickly signed, *Charley Davidson knows Skulls. Doubt that has any importance but you never know.*
Ryan remembered the first time he met the former leader and the founder of the Black Bones. He followed Allie and nothing she could say about the danger would stop him from going with her. She brought him to the parking lot of a bar where two men were waiting: the huge African-American on a maroon trike and a smaller Caucasian with a shaved head covered in tattoos of skulls. He chuckled after Allie explained and gave him a searching look. "If you've got half of Cat's guts, we might have something to work with."
"Could it be knowledge by reputation?" Smarts asked.
*Not the way she sounded.*
"Helping Allie Cat comes first," Ryan got their attention again. "And we have an obligation to our passengers."
Trash stood up with a frown and walked over to the window. "So who's going to ask her what the plan is?"
The lousy leader needs help once again. Oh, stop it man. You know Trash hates your guts. "I doubt she's come up with a plan yet. I mean, damn, it's Zack."
"Can't believe you didn't recognize him. I mean you're such an authority on all things Allie."
"I haven't seen him since he was nine! What is your problem?"
"Nothing," she said sullenly. "I'm just ready to hurt somebody."
"Well, we've already charged in and got nowhere. The Martians know the lay of the land, we should talk to them."
She turned from the window with a smirk. "I'll volunteer for that diplomatic mission."
Ryan scowled. Don't even bother. You'll never understand her taste in men. Besides, Allie is more important. "Work on getting into his pants later, like after we rescue Di and Donnie. Not that I expect you to take that seriously."
"Hey, you know my motto: Eat, drink, fu...."
"For tomorrow, we may be in the lab," Smarts interrupted. "We've all heard it before."
Ryan stood up. "I'm going to find the Martians and check on Allie. Whatever we come up with should be started tonight."
"It looked like Mike had her under control when we saw them last."
Trash's sarcasm grated on his last nerve. "So that's an excuse not to show we care about our friend?"
"No, by all means, don't let me tell you what to do. Everyone knows I have the worst conscience of the group." Her tone was so innocent. Ryan glared at her suspiciously before leaving the second floor apartment.
He headed back up a floor to the loft apartment. Most likely spot for the rest of this strange group to gather. Man, he thought he had seen everything with the Black Bones but Martians. And there was one of them now, staring at the microwave like his life depended on it. What was his name? Vinnie. Definitely not the leader; that had been the tan one wearing the shades and black leather vest. "Where is everybody?"
"Yeah, what he said." Mike dove off the catwalk, flipped in the air, and landed beside the table still piled high with last night's leftovers. He grabbed the remaining slices of a pizza and spun kicked the empty box into a garbage can in the kitchen area. "One fearless leader accounted for, where are the other two?"
Vinnie looked like he was still trying to figure out how the pizza box ended up in the garbage can when the microwave beeped. He took out his plate of Chinese take-out. "Throttle and Charley took your bros to the garage. Something about fixing a van."
"Sounds like Leo," Mike said around the mouthful of pizza. "Use the downtime to get ready for the fight. Good thing the van got smashed."
Ryan blinked. "That's a good thing?"
"Yeah, otherwise he'd be makin' us practice. I like havin' more sleep before one of Leo's practices."
Vinnie slurped down a lo mien noodle. "Zack had a bad night or Allie?"
The Turtle yawned. "Neither, I just stayed up just in case. And I don't think there's a clock set to the right time onboard that ship."
"Galactic standard time. Completely different from Earth time."
Ryan studied Mike as he pulled up a chair at the table next to Vinnie. Allie had clung to him, Allie who never depended on anyone but herself. The Allie he always pictured with a guy as dedicated, as smart, and as scary as she is. And instead she was with a non-human that managed to make everyone laugh. What is the attraction? I mean, him to Allie is obvious but how can she love him back? "How long have you been together, you and Allie?"
"Since Billy died." Mike answered the blurted question easily enough. "Her older brother, the guy who had the bad luck of being the cop investigating the Hi-Tech Robberies and a descendent of Hamato Yoshi when Oroku Nagi rolled into town. She turned to a friend who turned to us and it was love at first fight."
"Nothing like having someone tryin to kill ya to spark true love." Vinnie sat up straighter with a gleam in his eyes. "Now that gives me an idea."
"Dude, trust me. Send her flowers. Assassins make it really hard to sneak off for private time."
The idea of Allie off alone with any guy was making Ryan uneasy. She had never been interested in bed hopping when she was with the Bones or with him. "You've been together that long?"
"Must be love."
Mike gazed curiously at the white-furred mouse. "What makes you say that?"
"Because she didn't even look twice at me."
Mike grinned. "It's unbreakable, my mouse. Besides, your eyes are target-locked somewhere else."
Vinnie reddened under his fur. "How would you know?" he demanded.
"Easy to spot in a firefight once you know what to look for."
"What is?" A young voice asked eagerly. It belonged to the small mouse that had blocked Raph's path in the spaceship last night. He and Modo walked across the room from the stairwell.
"Relationships," Mike answered in a bored tone. "Like Throttle and your dad are close because he's the first one he went to help."
The kid looked annoyed. "Yeah, I bet you were talkin' 'bout Dad and Throttle."
"And smart too. You must be so proud," the Turtle aimed at Modo as the larger mouse sat down in a chair.
"Yeah, I am. Where's Throttle?"
"Him and Charley and the other two green guys went to the garage to fix a van." Vinnie pushed the empty plate away from him.
"Well that's just great. How are we supposed to go rescue those people if he ain't here?" The grey-furred mouse prowled through the pizza boxes, decided it was good to eat, and pulled some out.
"What do you usually do?" Ryan leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. Maybe now we could get to some serious issues.
"Ride in, shoot everything in sight, grab what we have to, and ride out exploding the building as we go." Vinnie jumped out of his seat as he wildly gestured. He fell back into it as it dangerously tilted back. He didn't fall though.
Ryan frowned. "Sounds risky for a hostage situation."
"Worked dozens of times." The white mouse wilted slightly under Modo's glare. "Okay, we usually end up surrendering to Fishlips and have to fight our way out. But it's part of the fun!"
Mike stared soberly at Vinnie. "You have got a warped sense of fun. I like it!"
Ryan sighed impatiently. "Yeah, but Val Tech will kill rather than take a chance of losing people to us. And we need Di alive. She's a doc."
"You've gotta protect the medics," Modo said.
"Not just that. She's looking for a cure and a way to save the second gen."
"Huh?" Mike replied.
The elevator rumbled a bit so Ryan raised his voice slightly. "The second generation. The babies Mutates try to have always die." He looked up into the stricken faces around the table. "We can't take a chance with her life. And I'm sure you feel the same about Donatello."
"That's a safe call. Though speaking from personal experience--being locked up with a beautiful woman ain't totally bad."
Ryan wasn't sure which idea was worse: Donatello and Di or Allie and the Turtle in front of him. "You don't even know that they're being held together."
"Yeah," Mike admitted. "But bad guys do stupid things like that. Why use two cages when one will do? I guess it saves on cleaning."
"Limburger and those Val Tech people know we're coming back," Modo said slowly.
"All the more reason to get in there and get them out quick." Vinnie's black-gloved fist hit the table.
"You do that and they'll probably end up dead." Tala came down the metal stairs quickly. "Face it, Limburger knows you mouse scouts' style." Her glance moved from Ryan to Mike. "And your lackluster attempt at a prison break has put them on high alert. Not a pretty problem you face, glad I'm out of it."
The young boy mouse's red eyes were puzzled. "You're not helping?"
"I'm strictly advice and medicine supplier, Sparks. This ain't my fight. Besides, you got more than enough."
Vinnie quickly bent his head to hide most of his dejected expression. "I though you wanted to kick some goon butt."
"If we need this many chaperones on a date, something is definitely wrong with you."
"I thought there was?" Sparks asked with a smirk.
"Listen you little twerp...."
Modo's flesh fist hit the table. "No more fightin' between you two! There's too much to do."
"Yes, sir," the smallest Martian said quietly. Vinnie snorted under his breath but made no other comments.
Modo continued to give them both hard looks. "What do you suggest, Tala-ma'am?"
Ryan watched the self-proclaimed mercenary. The information she had compiled on these Plutarkians on Earth was creepy enough to give Stephen King a run for his money. And it was real. If she had experience against these guys, it would be worth listening to. Maybe adaptable to their kind of fighting.
Tala sighed. "I'm not used to coordinating a large group of fighters. I'd rather leave the planning to Throttle and then poke holes in his strategy. But you have to scout out the situation. If you guys use your usual tactics, you might accidentally blow up the people you need to rescue."
"Yeah, Vinnie's already outlined that. Way too dangerous. But who can do a scouting mission?" Ryan drummed his fingers on the table. He heard the muttered "buzzkill" from Vinnie.
Sparks sighed. "Well you ain't gonna let me help with anything so I'm gonna see Zack."
"We need Throttle here; I'm callin' the garage." Vinnie jumped out of his seat and Mike caught the chair before it hit the floor. "Hey Doll-face, where's your phone? And what's your number while we're at it?"
Ryan glanced at his watch. It was now mid-afternoon. If they were going to pull off an attack tonight, they had to get crackin'. He sighed; it didn't look promising.
Nothing really made sense. He could feel the racking pain of his body, but it was like a glass wall separated him from that torment. Another more crucial concern exploded into his mind. How could he have forgotten something so crucial as escape? But escape from where?
He struggled to make his eyes open then wished he hadn't. He winced under the brightness and could vaguely see some kind of robot arms above him. He swallowed down the dizzying sense of panic. He used it instead to fuel his sluggish limbs. He fought to get free of the blanket keeping him in a bed.
"Zack no." A familiar voice, one that had told him no his entire life, said firmly. "You're safe. It's okay, you're safe." Her hands pressed him back into the bed.
His eyes focused on her face. The blonde hair fell like a pair of curtains. The lips had a determined set. The sky-blue eyes held so much guilt and love. The three razor-thin scars ran across her cheek. "Allie."
She smiled in relief. "You're following me again, Shadow."
"Nope, none of this was my idea. I just agreed to go."
"Then I guess it's fate." She brushed his bangs away from his eyes.
He vaguely remembered something about the people who had caught him. And how his sister was sure to react. "Allie, this isn't your fault. I would've come if it had just been Raph."
"I know whose fault it is, Shadow."
Zack let out his breath in a whoosh of relief. "What about the kid, the mouse kid, Sparks?"
"Hey cool, he's awake." A grey blur moved from the door to the bedside and came into focus. Sparks grinned down at him, showing his uneven buckteeth. "Howdja feel?"
It took a long time to think of an answer. "Weird. What 'bout the others?"
"The others are fine," Allie answered. "We just have to get you well."
"Okay. Really would like to get well. Tired of being a bother."
"You're not a bother," Sparks declared.
"Keep an eye on him, Sparks. There's something I need to do."
Zack wrenched his eyes open again. "Allie."
She leaned over him and kissed his forehead. "You can't follow me this time, Shadow."
He closed his eyes again. That phrase and action from his sister was familiar, from a long time back. She hadn't called him Shadow since she came back to New York. The last time she had called him that was when she had run away. Run away never to come back.
He jerked his uncooperative body upright. "Allie!"
Sparks rushed to the bedside. "She's gone!"
"Get her back!"
The mouse boy looked dismayed. "MC?"
"She has left the building, Ward Sparks," an electronically synthesized voice told them.
"I can't." He swallowed hard. "And you gotta stay calm."
"Get Mike. Hurry!" A spasm of pain rocked his body. Zack fell back. "Don't do anything stupid, Allie, please. Don't leave me again."
The rest of the Black Bones arrived in Tala's loft apartment soon after Vinnie called for Throttle. Trash shot a withering glance at the back of Ryan's head and transferred it briefly to Mike before turning away. Ryan and Modo were safely engrossed in a map of Chicago, and Vinnie was trying his hardest to convince Tala to come with them when they decided what they were doing. Smarts and Eight headed straight for the food table. The way was clear for him to talk to her.
Mike plopped down on the couch beside the skinny girl. "Not holding Allie's hand?" She asked sarcastically.
"Here on a mission. Trying to figure out what is going on." The elevator rumbled again.
"Surprised he didn't try to take your place." Trash flipped her black hair to the left side of her head and folded her arms over her chest.
"I think he's trying to figure out what's going on too."
She sighed, "Yeah, I guess. At least, he's here."
Before Mike could ask her about that, Raphael stormed in through the stairwell door. "I'm tired of this waiting around! Let's go get Donnie!"
"We are not charging in there to get shot." Leo scowled down from the catwalk as the group got off the elevator. "Besides, there is a new development."
Raph scowled at the floor and slammed his body down onto the couch, jostling Trash into Mike. "Something else conveniently slipped Mona's mind?"
The lizard-girl with brown hair followed Leo down the metal stairs. Charley and Throttle followed her, helping a short, Hispanic man along. "You didn't wait around to hear what I had to say. Last night, they took about seventy people to Limburger Tower; the same way Val Tech does. And they took his family."
Modo stepped back from the table with the map. "Oh Momma, everybody, Manuelo?"
"Sí, everybody." The Hispanic man with a tiny moustache and curly, black hair sagged against Throttle.
"Are they gonna be mutated too?" The grey-furred mouse stared down at the closest Black Bone.
"Probably. And the longer they're prisoners, the higher that chance gets." Ryan ran his hand through his short, brown hair.
"We're getting Manuelo's family back ASAP," Throttle's tone brooked no arguing. "So we need a clean-sweep prison break."
"Wow, seventy at once. That'll be a personal best." Vinnie was the only one who looked excited.
"Just like Val Tech to try to force our hand." Ryan growled as he hit his leg with his fist.
"Maybe they didn't think it was challenging enough before." Trash said witheringly.
Tala thumped the white mouse's shoulder. "People in trouble, remember that, Mouse Scout."
"More potential members of my fan club." The tone was light, but the half-metal face darkened.
"So what's the plan?" Modo turned his one-eyed gaze to Throttle.
"Get our amigo patched up."
Tala frowned. "How bad?"
"Concussion," Charley answered. "Maybe some internal injuries."
"I need a bigger medbay."
"Battle plan?" Modo asked.
"I knew I was forgetting something. Charley put us to work."
The human woman with chestnut hair folded her arms across her chest. "Oh yeah, blame me. But I won't ever recommend any of you for an Indy 500 pit crew."
"Thank god." Mona collapsed into a chair. "Those matching jumpsuits are tacky."
"Ma familia. What is this mutating? What are they going to do to ma familia?" Manuelo's bewildered face turned back to Throttle. Mike winced in sympathy.
Tala reached the man leaning against the tan-furred mouse. "Don't worry, we'll get your family."
"Yeah, we just need to figure out how to get 'em out without 'em gettin hurt." Throttle looked at Tala. "Where?"
"Up to my ship."
"Ship?" Manuelo's eyes open wider.
"It's okay; we're not flying anywhere." Tala patted his arm soothingly. "Back up the stairs now."
While they eased the confused human up to the catwalk, Raph stopped staring at Mona and turned his attention to Charley. "How broke is the van?" His voice was still angry, but the edge had been replaced with some respect. Mike carefully hid his smile. The mechanic had figured out how to manage Raphael.
Charley sighed as she wandered toward the refrigerator. "The chassis isn't bent. Looks like it was triple reinforced during construction. Think I have a weapon system designed for it, but that's going to take longer." She grabbed a can of root beer out of it. "And finding enough body panels to patch it won't be easy." She paused long enough to nearly drain the can. "Looking at least a week's worth of work. Getting all those people out is more important."
"Yeah, and we're still sitting here on our butts!" Raph jumped up and surged toward the stairwell door again.
"I hate to interrupt a good temper tantrum. This one shows signs to equal if not to surpass some of Mistress Tala's." The feminine electronic voice from nowhere shocked Raph to a halt.
Tala's red face leaned over the catwalk railing. "MC!"
"However Ninja Michaelangelo's presence is being requested in the medbay."
So they have a spaceship that talks inside the house. Wonder if it transforms too? Maybe becomes a giant city-smashing robot? Mike jumped away from the couch. "Allie needs me?"
"I am afraid she has left the building. The patient Mr. Baker is asking vehemently for you. If he becomes more agitated, I will have to sedate him."
Mike rushed past Raph to jerk open the stairwell door. What the hell? Allie left? What on Earth could've made her leave? A large portion of the group followed him up the stairs to the hanger bay. The rest moved out of the elevator cage behind Throttle, Tala, and Manuelo. But Mike stayed in the lead all the way to Zack's bedside. Tala passed the bed to reach the computer terminal.
Zack's purple face was scrunched in pain as he struggled to get out of the bed. Mike eased him back down. "You gotta rest, Zack. Or the doc is gonna give you sleepy meds."
He relaxed underneath the strong green hands but his face twisted in pain and worry. "Allie. Doing somethin' stupid." The boy sucked down air. "Called me Shadow. Doesn't call me that anymore. Not since runnin' away."
"Where did she go?" Mike looked up from Zack to Sparks.
He shrugged his T-shirt-clad shoulders. "She just said she had something to take care of. I thought she was going downstairs with you guys."
"Miss Baker has left the building," MC interjected. "No way was given to track her away from base."
Leo made an angry choking sound. Mike looked over his shoulder. Leo grabbed Raph by the belt and dragged him out of the medbay. Mike frowned slightly as he watched. A frown curled on Throttle's snout. The mouse eased Manuelo into Modo's arms and left behind Leo and Raph. Looks like I got left out of the loop. He turned back to Zack. "I'll get her don't worry."
"I... I... don't wanna lose her, Mike." He closed his eyes against the pain. "They want her."
"You won't, Zack. Not to those creeps."
"The ibicoian is wearing off." Tala turned from the computer monitor. "MC, give him another dose." A blue liquid began to cloud the clear liquid in the IV bag mounted to the wall. It trickled down into Zack's arm, and the boy's face relaxed as soon as it hit his bloodstream.
"You'll watch him, right?" Mike looked around the room.
"I'm staying," Sparks said quickly as if afraid someone else was going to say it first.
Mike grinned at him, gave Zack's hair a friendly ruffle, and headed for the door. Raph and Leo were outside the ship with a grave Throttle and Mona. Everyone else but Sparks, Modo, Manuelo, Charley, and Tala, trickled out after Mike.
"I specifically said not to tell her! I know you can't stand her, Raphael, but do you honestly want to see her dead?" If Leo had nostrils, they would be flaring.
"Tell her what?" Mike asked quietly.
Raph's pensive expression all too quickly shifted to resentful. "Not my fault if she's too stupid to just walk into a trap! I'm not looking out for her! That's Mike's job. The one he wanted so badly!"
Mike sighed. "Tell her what?"
"I told you not to tell her!"
"It slipped out! I didn't think she'd go!"
"You never think!"
"And you think too much, fearless leader! If you hadn't been spending so much time thinking, we'd already have Donnie out of there!"
Of all the times to get started on their fighting kick. Mike marched around them and tapped Throttle's furry arm. "What the hell is going on? And where has Allie gone?"
"Limburger left a message at the garage saying he wanted to meet with her. Said he had an antidote for Zack. Which he doesn't. But Leo said we shouldn't tell her...."
"Because she'd go get herself killed." Mike finished with a sigh.
The tan mouse frowned harder. "How likely is that? She didn't seem suicidal?"
The Turtle in the orange mask shrugged. "I say she isn't; they say she is." He gestured at his arguing brothers. "Zack wants her back. That's enough reason for me." He moved toward the elevator.
"No way you'll get there in time," Vinnie declared, "not unless you ride with the king of speed." His chest inflated proudly.
"Even a king can't fit three people on his bike. I'm coming too." Ryan trotted after them toward the elevator.
Mike glanced back at Trash. The girl's face pinched tight and she stormed back up the ramp into the spaceship.
Leo broke off yelling at Raph. "Where are you going?"
"To pick up Allie before something happens. Finish yelling at Raph. We'll be back before you're done." The elevator gate clanged shut and Mike grinned at them through the grillwork. The grin slid off his face as the elevator descended. I trust you Allie. I know you're not getting yourself killed. But damnit, when are you going to start telling me about these bright ideas!