Family, Friends, and Foes

Chapter Nineteen
Trouble In Paradise

"And your men were unable to stop one lone fighter?" The surveillance video Limburger had shown Val of the latest break-in by the ninja girl bored her. The costume was the only difference between it and countless other surveillance videos she had seen from Val Tech labs. Well, that and planting bombs and blowing the building sky-high. But she didn't understand why her partner was bothering her with this. Val watched the fat Plutarkian's reflection in the aquarium's glass before her. He continued scowling at her back. Losing the ninja hurt, and she couldn't resist the opportunity to watch his torment. "No wonder you've never been able to capture the Martians."

Limburger slammed an empty bowl on his desk. "Capturing those marauding mammalians isn't the problem; keeping them captured is! Besides which, you're supposed to be handling that now."

He dares criticize me? She turned around slowly, maintaining her composure. Betray nothing. Let him think he has the superior position. "Whatever do you mean?"

"Don't play innocent with me," he sneered. "We had a deal. I delivered you the tagged human and one of those turtle creatures, along with one of your former escapees. When are you going to rid this planet of those ruinous Martian rodents!"

"The boy escaped," Val pointed out blandly.

"Oh, is that what's stopping you?" Limburger set his hand over the breast pocket of his jacket. "Do I need to have him recaptured?"

"Don't be absurd. The boy is dying."

"So if that's not the issue, why haven't you done anything about those Biker Mice yet?"

"Is that what's bothering you; the fact that you don't know my timetable? There's no hurry to deal with them."

Limburger slammed both white-gloved hands on his desk. "What you don't seem to understand is that those freedom-fighting vermin are planning how to attack at this very moment. And they've teamed up with that ninja who has gotten in here twice!"

She rolled her eyes, staying far enough for the vapors leaving his mouth to disperse. Nothing was worse than someone who couldn't stick with the current plan. "If they attack, they'll be caught. It's that simple."

"And I'm endeavoring to explain to you that it is not that simple. It never is with those three. How do you think they've survived this long? The trap won't stop them."

"Then I'll just have to make sure the trap is double pronged!" She stormed out of his office. What a coward! All because a mere girl slipped through his fat fingers. A mere girl.... BatWing had seen that Black Bones terrorist--Val felt her lips curl back--with the Martians. This ninja could break in just like her and was allied with the Martians as well. She smiled to herself as she got on board the elevator. "Clever, changing outfits. But then you always were a clever little bitch. It won't save you now."

Di dipped the purple material under the running water in the cell's sink. She hated reducing Donnie's bandanna mask to a washcloth, but there was nothing else. Bathing his warm head, she wrung the extra water on his neck and down into his shell. He had a fever; she had treated enough reptilian/amphibian Mutates to recognize the symptoms. It was a bad one too. She left the wet bandanna on his forehead and unwrapped the bandage on his leg. The marrow sample wounds were a bloody red and swelling with pus.

"It's infected, isn't it?" Donnie tried to sit up.

Di pressed him back flat on his back. "Don't try to move." She took the bandanna and rewet it. "There isn't anything to treat it with." She carefully bit her lower lip so not to cut the skin with her fangs. If the bones got infected, she shook her head. I can't worry him. She knelt beside him again and pressed the bandanna lightly against the puncture wounds.

Donnie hissed but kept his leg still. "I don't think that's gonna do much good," he said.

"So you're a doctor too?" She smiled at him.

He half-smiled back. "Somebody gotta patch up my brothers." His mouth drooped.

She reached up and squeezed his hand. "They're okay. The guards haven't said anything about other Turtles."

"Then they need to get off their shells and get us out."

"They must be working out a plan." She rinsed the blood and pus off the bandanna, and brought it back to his head. "This place is more heavily guarded than a typical Val Tech lab." Her ears pricked underneath her long hair. "I think they've put more prisoners in here. More humans," she frowned.

"How do you know?"

"I can hear them. But it doesn't make sense. They didn't bring them in until after we were captured. If they're experiment subjects, they would have already been here."

Donnie closed his hazel-brown eyes. His face looked odd without the mask around them. "You lost me after hearing them."

She continued bathing his head, keeping the water away from his eyes. The heat still radiated from his head and she could feel it through the water-soaked fur on his hands. "It's okay. I'm just trying to think."

"Oh." His voice sounded drowsy. "Keep doing it out loud. Your voice is pretty. Pretty like the rest of you."

Di felt her face go hot under her fur. So many people had praised her medical skills, her brains, her leadership, but he was the first one to call her pretty. "I'm not pretty. People in charge are never pretty."

"You're the exception that proves the rule? Why'd they get the humans? They can't have figured out how to make 'em like me already."

"Right. I think they decided to make a human shield between us and those who would rescue us."

"Are you sure?"

"No, it has only been done a few times. I've reviewed the reports, but each group facing it has used a different technique to get around it." She sighed. Her back ached. She didn't want to think about this now. Donnie was ill, he needed her attention. But so did those innocent souls that were caught up in a war they didn't know anything about. All because of Tabitha Val and her father. I hate them! I hate them both! I'm so tired of everyone depending on me, and they wouldn't have to if Val Tech had never created us. If my father had left well enough alone. She closed her eyes. I have to get out of here. My people need me, in fact and in symbol. And I can't help Donnie in here.

Donnie's finger brushed against her cheek. She opened her eyes to see him looking back up at her. "Let it go if there's nothing you can do."

"There's nothing I can do trapped in here."

"You look just like Leo when he can't do anything and it's not his fault." He took a deep breath and pulled his hand back. "But you've been helping me."

"I wish I had the stuff to do more." She caught his hand and squeezed it. "I want to do more."

"Mike always sings to make us feel better."

"Does it work?"

"He can sing pretty good. It's just his way of showing how he cares. And to practice." He sighed and caressed her hand. "I'd be happy just knowing he's okay."

"I feel the same way about my people." Di held his hand and used her other hand to draw the bandanna across his brow. "I don't know how good I'll sound, but I'll try." Before she lost her nerve, she started to sing.

"I'll Be There For You" by Bon Jovi
Download the Wars Are Won By Those Who Dare: Family, Friends, and Foes Soundtrack here

I'll be there for you
These five words I swear to you
When you breathe I want to be the air for you
I'll be there for you
I'd live and I'd die for you
Steal the sun from the sky for you
Words can't say what a love can do
I'll be there for you

I know you know we've had some good times
Now they have their own hiding place
I can promise you tomorrow
But I can't buy back yesterday

And baby you know my hands are dirty
But I wanted to be your valentine
I'll be the water when you get thirsty, baby
When you get drunk, I'll be the wine

She faltered to a stop. "That's all I know." Her face felt hot again.

Donnie smiled. "Go ahead and sing it again." He closed his eyes.

Her heart pounded almost too hard to sing. She swallowed and started again.

I'll be there for you
These five words I swear to you
When you breathe I want to be the air for you
I'll be there for you
I'd live and I'd die for you
Steal the sun from the sky for you
Words can't say what a love can do
I'll be there for you

Arkson sighed. He hated this duty. But all of the guards were too incompetent and all of the scientists were too busy analyzing the turtle creature. And the child was too important to the long-term research to allow them to damage him. He paced across the cell again, keeping the patting at a steady rhythm. The six-month-old boy latched onto the shoulder seam of the jacket. He made inarticulate babbles right in Arkson's left ear, but no burps yet.

The blond man sighed again. At this point, they needed to hire a nanny or a nurse or something. It's ridiculous, losing my valuable time to this infant. Children had never held any interest for him. It was Dana who had to have one, and the brat killed her. What a thanks for bringing me into the world that was.

The baby boy finally burped. Arkson laid him back in the crib with a relieved sigh. He activated the computer-controlled monitor and stimulus. The machine began to play the recorded voices designed to stimulate the baby's language synapses. He dimmed the lights of the cell, so the child would understand it was bedtime. The heavy door shut behind him.

The men in the strange uniforms hadn't been in since they had forced what was left of the family into this steel box of a room. Nina rocked her little girls huddled in her lap. She guessed the men were guards of some sort. But this was America; they couldn't kidnap people like this in America. Had that Limburger man the Biker Mice had issues with hired them? She wished she had paid more attention when the Biker Mice had talked about him, but what did they have that he could possibly want?

Serafina had finally stopped sobbing. She sat on the floor--no furniture at all in this room--looking for her future on the metal wall. Felipe had one arm around her neck and his thumb still in his wet, sleepy mouth. Nina felt a familiar pricking in her eyes and blinked rapidly. Oh Manuelo, oh why? Why like that? Why now? What are we going to do now? Why did they take us? What do they want? We don't have any money or anything else.

"Momma," Manuela whispered. "Momma, is this the Pits?"

"I don't think so." Nina hugged her older daughter tighter.

Her lower lip trembled. "We should be in the Pits. Then the Biker Mice could get us out."

"They might find us anyway." But how long would it take? Felipe's party wasn't until Saturday. They had been in here for almost twenty-four hours. Would the people who had taken them do something to them before Saturday?

Isabel was asleep. Manuela pressed closer. "I wanna go home."

"So do I, little chica. So do I."

Val shuffled through the papers on her desk as she related the surveillance video and Limburger's reaction to it to Arkson. "Are you certain it's her?" He enunciated every word.

She decided his astonishment was amusing. "Not quantitatively, but it makes logical sense. And then there's the ironic factor." She let the papers fall back on the highly polished, wooden desk and leaned back in her chair. "She'll fall into the trap the same as the Martians."

"But she has escaped traps before. That Chinatown episode."

She growled. "That fiasco. We were lucky the fallout wasn't worse." She reshuffled the papers again, and this time the printout she wanted jumped to the surface. "BatWing waiting outside? Show her in."

He nodded his blond head almost inconspicuously, and stood immobile in the background as the creature strode up to the desk.

She towered over the desk and Val, her wings folded toward her back. "Yes, Ms. Val?"

Val brushed her red hair off her shoulder and passed the printout to the taloned hand. "There's the location of the fight between the Hounds and the Martians. I want you to go and find that Martian child."

BatWing's right hand, the one without a bandage above it, clenched around the paper. "And the human boy?"

"If you can get him, fine. If not, just bring the Martian. I don't want the other Martians to know he's gone. He's our insurance."

"I understand, Ms. Val. That brat won't escape this time." The human/bat girl strode out with her head held high.

Val smirked. "Maybe they'll get the prisoners and themselves out, but at the expense of the child. I doubt that's the outcome they want. They'll surrender."

"Limburger has tried it before," Arkson said.

"True, but nothing around here is performed at peak efficiency. The Martians will be strapped down to a table so fast, they won't have time to react." She licked her lips as she fanned the photographs on her desk and stared down at the furry faces. "And breaking the strong is always more rewarding. Always."

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