Family, Friends, and Foes

Chapter Twenty-one
Moving Into Position

Mona's tail lashed across the garage floor. You'd think a few hours of sleep would get rid of this nervousness, but no. She sighed. Allie, Mike, Leo, and Raph were leaving first to head for the water intake pipe. The norms in charge of the prisoner retrieval were heading out second to wait out of sight until the alarms were shut off. The Biker Mice and the Black Bones headed out last, to the fight that they might not all come back from.

Trash kept fiddling with a boom box. The white mouse leaned over her. "Whatcha doin'?"

"Do you wanna jinx this fight before we even get out there?" The Mutate tossed her black hair to the other side of her head. "Always stick with tradition, right?"

The huge Eight made a throaty grumble in agreement.

"So what's the tradition?" Vinnie asked.

"Finding the proper frame of mind with a song," Smarts answered as he polished his glasses.

"Cool," Mike said. "So what's tonight's choice?"

"Choice? There is no choice. There's only one song." Trash hit play on the boom box. The guitar and piano slowly began, seconds before the singer.

"Live and Let Die" by Guns 'n Roses
Download the Wars Are Won By Those Who Dare: Family, Friends, and Foes Soundtrack here

When you were young
and your heart was an open book
You used to say live and let live
you know you did
you know you did
you know you did
But if this ever changin' world
in which we live in
Makes you give in and cry
Say live and let die
Live and let die

"Not a happy kick-ass song," Tala commented.

"Val Tech deserves to die." Ryan slammed the clip into his handgun.

"I remember that song soundin' different." Modo scratched his jaw.

"Guns 'n Roses remade it. It was a theme song for a James Bomb movie," Charley explained as the guitar and piano changed tempo.

What does it matter to ya
When ya got a job to do
Ya got to do it well
You got to give the other fella hell

You used to say live and let live
you know you did
you know you did
you know you did
But if this ever changin' world
in which we live in
Makes you give in and cry
Say live and let die
Live and let die

"Now we're ready," Trash announced.

"Ya know this stuff looks really good on ya." Mike helped Allie into the black, skin-tight, armor jacket.

"Tala's already said I can't keep it." She fitted the center seam together and it sealed over her Ronin's outfit. "But at least I don't have to try swimming in chain mail."

"Is a chain mail bikini that heavy?" Mike hefted the bag holding the scuba mask and tank over his shoulder. "Cause I'd really like to see you in one."

"Right, and then I'll have to deal with a really weird-shaped sunburn."

They fall back into the banter so easily, Mona thought. Like she hadn't run from him at all. Is it because Mike's heart is that big or because of love?

The tan mouse and his woman seemed to have that too. Losing Charley would destroy Throttle; anybody with an ounce of sense could've seen that last night. But they had worked through it. Did that mean there was a chance for her and Raph?

The red-masked Turtle twirled his sais. He tucked them back into his belt and pulled them back out again. Yeah, he looked like he was ready to talk. She took a deep breath. Come on, Mona. You're not a chicken. You've handled being turned into a green-skinned freak; you can handle him. She stood in front of the bench he sat on. "Hey, Lover Boy."

Raph looked up at her, retort forming on his lips. She never gave him a chance to spout off. Her arms locked around his neck, and she kissed him with all the passions she had. Course, being a ninja, he probably knew a thousand and one ways to break her hold. Which made it all the more surprising that the only body part that moved was his mouth kissing her back.

She pulled away. "Come back, okay? We have a lot to talk about."

That registered behind his stunned expression. Before he could reply, Leo's irritated voice came across the garage. "Raph, are you coming?"

Mona sauntered away, not looking back. "Yeah," Raph said quickly. "Yeah, I'm comin'."

Vinnie snickered, arms propped on the red bike's crankcase, and trying to hide his laughter until they left. He straightened as Mona reached their group of bikes. "Man, that was too perfect. He practically forgot there's a fight!"

Tala snorted as she leaned her red-and-black-armored body against her bike. "You better not expect that from me. You never operate at full mental capacity anyway."

"I do to. Throttle, tell her I do to."

"He does," Throttle replied. "But his full is everyone else's half."


Charley rested her hand on Mona's shoulder. "He'll be alright."

"The fight I know he can handle."

She smiled at the flippant tone before going to Throttle's side.

Mona moved closer to the stairwell door. There was a bench there to sit on. She watched Throttle hug his norm girl close. He touched the blue collar of Charley's shirt underneath the red leather jacket she wore. "Don't let anything happen to you."

"Yeah, there's enough people to rescue without adding me to the list." She squeezed him back. "The same goes for you."

"Right." He let her go with a lingering hold. Then two bikes peeled out: Tala's carrying both her and Manuelo, and Allie's carrying Charley.

Modo was the first to break the silence. "You okay?"

He stared at the garage door. "Why can't she stay behind?"

"Charley's never been the staying behind type. And you probably wouldn't love her if she was."

Throttle's frustration shifted to chagrin. "Yeah, you're probably right. Let's ride people!"

The squeal of many tires and then they were gone. Mona sighed and got into the elevator as the garage door rumbled closed. She found Sparks in the ship's medbay sitting at the computer terminal. "They've all left."

"And I'm stuck here where I can't help anybody." The mouse boy folded his arms.

"There are worse places to get stuck. You could be needing rescuing."

She turned to find the central hub of the computer surveillance program when his voice stopped her. "Mona, do you think Zack's gonna be okay?"

She sighed. Yeah, leave me with the hard questions. "I think it'll take a miracle." His face fell. "But miracles happen, kiddo. We just have to help it as much as we can." Sparks offered up a ghost of a smile, and she left. Barring any medical emergencies, it should be an easy job.

The water in the pipe was easy to swim through. Allie was glad she had taken the scuba lessons a few summers ago. She watched the green feet in front of her. She was the last in the group, which gave her more time to look around. Most of the offices were darkened. Not that they lingered long in the larger, room-sized tanks. The water flowed gently, just hard enough to keep everything fresh for the fish. The fish were varieties she had never seen before. The schools swam as one, deftly avoiding the new obstacle Allie and the Turtles made. Maybe they were tropical fish. The water on her hands and face was warm.

The tube opened up into the largest tank they had swum into. She could see five floors that had a view into the tank. Leo turned making a swift jab at the top corner of the tank. The last tube, the one with the exit into the secret passage, started there. His brothers nodded. They pushed off the bottom of the tank and shot for the top of the tank.

Allie paused. It was easier to let them go first than banging into their feet. She watched the office windows. No one rushed to the glass to see what the green blur was. The thin armor boots that had fitted over her combat boots rested on the tank floor She liked this alien armor: light, flexible, but still strong. She saw a grey mass move beside her out of the corner of her eye.

She turned to follow the shape, and then wish she hadn't. It was a shark, a shark as big as Eight and a mouth full of teeth to match. It looked like a smaller version of Jaws. A great white, that's what Jaws was. Terrific, why did I remember that now? And how in hell is it living in fresh water? Allie concentrated on her breathing. Nice shark, good shark, go away shark.

The shark pivoted again. Mouth opened wide, it moved like a torpedo straight for her.

Shit! Allie moved on reflex. Her knees flexed and she shot above the shark. It charged through the empty water. She kept swimming up. All her weapons were inside the waterproof armor. At least, the Turtles were out of the way of the tube opening.

The shark moved its mass surprisingly fast. It changed its angle of attack and charged again. Allie kicked harder. Her toe hit its dorsal fin. There was the opening to the next tube. She looked down. The shark had figured out to line up with the tube. Her face mask hit the edge of the tube opening. The seal against her skin busted and water rushed in, blinding her. Her hands groped for the sides of the tube. They were out of reach. She could feel the water moving faster through the tube, carrying her with it. She kicked harder.

Something nudged her foot. Allie slammed her heel down with as much force as she could generate. It slammed into soft flesh. That flesh shifted and pushed harder back. She clamped her teeth on the breather. Hafta breath, hafta.

The water direction shifted. Arms suddenly wrapped around her torso from behind. She fell out of the tube onto a concrete floor and against a Turtle. The torrential water stopped with a loud bang. "Chew through that!" Leo shouted.

Hands jerked the scuba mask off. She wiped her eyes. "Allie? You okay?" Mike's hands landed on her shoulders.

She pulled the breather out. "Yeah." She smiled into his worried face. Mike was in front of her. "I'm glad we're going out another door." So who yanked me out? She looked over her shoulder.

Raph shook his head as he let her go. "Man, you are crazy, trying to head kick a shark."

Allie grinned as Mike pulled her up. "Well, you've never had any doubts. Thanks, Raph, I owe you one."

The hazel eyes behind the red mask blinked up at her. His mouth fell open and he snapped it shut. His gaze moved to the floor. "Yeah, well, it'd be too easy to let a shark eat you."

"We better get moving." Leo moved from the metal, aquarium tube door to look down the concrete hall they were inside. "We have to find the access panel for the alarm system. According to the blueprints, there's supposed to be one in this hall."

Mike grabbed Allie's hand and they headed down the hall. "I'm glad you're not shark food."

"Me too." She scanned the walls for the panel.

"Found it," Raph called out from the other end of the hall. She and Mike reached Raph in time to watch him pull out the wires from the grey, metal box. He dropped the broken wires and shook the sparks away from his hand. "No more alarm."

Leo pulled out his Turtle Comm. "Tala, we've deactivated the alarm system. Heading up to the prison level now."

"Roger," Tala answered.

"We've got two floors to go up." Leo tucked away the Turtle Comm and prodded them to the stairs.

Donnie ached all over. He just wanted to curl up and sleep. But the door opening prevented that. He tried to sit; his arms strained to hold his weight. His arms never trembled like this before. The guards stood in the door. Were there two or four?

"Let's get the turtle."

Di blocked his view of the door. Her long, golden hair fell past her shoulder blades and only hid about half of the crusty, red stripes on her back. "You can't. He's sick."

"Get out of the way, cat bitch!"

"No! I won't let you hurt him!"

Donnie could feel the vibrations from the running feet. Di tried to brace herself but too late. He heard the blow. She flew across the cell and landed roughly on the floor. "Di!" He could barely recognize his own croak. He tried to go to her. But the guards grabbed his arms and hauled him to his feet. The room suddenly rotated and vanished.

Blinking his eyes, Donnie realized he must've passed out. That was really weird. Not the same as getting knocked out at all. He tried to move his arm. He was strapped down in the lab again.

"Fascinating." A bloated man's face leaned over him. The smell made Donnie gag. The sewers smelled better. "It doesn't look like much."

"It must be ill." Donnie recognized the voice of Di's father. Arkson continued, "Information we learn may be compromised at this point."

The scary, red-haired lady looked down at him. "We'll just have to be more careful with the next one we get."

They don't have my brothers. Donnie breathed deeply with relief. He felt his anger giving him strength. "You... won't... hurt... them."

"And you're going to stop us?" The lady yawned. "I've heard it all before. From freaks better capable of movement than you are. And I'm still here." She rubbed the top of his head with a rubber-gloved hand. "Defiance is so amusing."

A shrill noise made Donnie's head pound harder. The really fat man pulled a walkie-talkie thing out of the pocket of his purple suit jacket. "What is it?" He barked into it. The reply was too far away for Donnie to make out the words. "What do you mean it's happened again?" The fat, smelly man yelled back.

Manuelo found his hands sweating. He rubbed them on his pants legs. His gun was still holstered on his belt. Vinnie's chica--or would-be chica--sat in front of him on her light-blue Martian bike. He had thought Vinnie had a thing for Charley, but Modo had explained it was her and Throttle now. They were happy and scared. It reminded him of how it was between him and Serafina when he came home from the Pits. Don't think of that, he told himself fiercely. You must be ready to fight.

The bikes were parked in the shadows a block away from Limburger Tower. Tala still had on her grey helmet shaped just like the ones the Biker Mice wore. Why not? She had a bike just like theirs. She pressed some buttons on it and stared at the Tower.

Charley sat astride a big, dark-blue bike. The grenade launcher had been rigged to hang onto the side and she kept checking to make sure it was still there. No one was talking. Maybe the girls didn't have the same easy banter the Biker Mice had.

"Roger." Tala sat up straighter. "That was Leo, and the energy signature around the door just vanished." She hit the buttons on her helmet. "It's go time."

"Right." Charley gunned her borrowed bike.

"Sí." Manuelo gripped the motorcycle seat behind his legs.

Tala revved her bike. The laser cannons emerged from their hiding places. They roared to the Tower. Guards scrambled next to the side door they had picked as the entry point. Tala fired. The explosion knocked the guards and the door out of the way. "Show 'em what we got, Hot Stuff!"

The light-blue bike beeped enthusiastically. It leaped onto the stairs and Charley followed.

Manuelo had to wrap his arms around Tala's waist to keep from falling off. "Pardon."

"Just hang on. This stairwell's too narrow for flight mode. Throttle, we're inside." The last was aimed into her helmet's microphone.

"These bikes fly too?"

"Hot Stuff does." Tala didn't bother hiding the note of pride. "I bet the mouse scouts are sticking with the Martian bike wings or something else Charley has cooked up."

"How did you get a Martian motorcycle?" Manuelo realized he blurted the question a second too late. "I am sorry, I did not mean to pry."

Tala was quiet for a moment. "It's okay. We rescued each other from a lifetime of involuntary servitude. You know about that, right?"

"Sí, only I needed Martian mice to help me."

"It was a long time before I met any Martians capable of helping themselves much less others." Before he could ask what she meant by that, laser fire rained down on them. Tala returned it with gusto. "Watch it, Charley! We've got incoming!"

BatWing had found a hiding place in a deserted building across the street from the only occupied building on the block. She watched with binoculars and saw the turtle creatures, the Martians, Mutates, and humans inside the windows. She recognized preparations for an attack. The silly fools, she thought. Ms. Val was ready for them. Why didn't they understand the inevitable and stop fighting it? Who wanted to remain a puny norm when Val Tech offered so much more? They deserved to be eradicated to make room for their replacements.

She napped during the day. They'd mount their attack at night. Well, so would she. The dark finally came and the motorcycles roared down the street. BatWing opened the window and flew. She avoided the top two floors. Those windows were bricked up. Her talons found purchase on the old bricks. The window she landed next to opened into a dark bedroom. Her talons had no problem inserting into the wooden sash and shoving the window open. She pulled her wings close to her body and entered.

The bedroom was colored in an icy blue. BatWing admired the plush carpeting and the satin comforter on the bed, but decided only a total bitch queen could feel comfortable in this room. The bathroom and closet doors were open. She opened the third door and let her eyes adjust to the light.

The outer room was the huge loft and empty. No, the child would be in the safest part of the building. The highest point, the unobservable top two floors. She strode across the catwalk. The elevator shaft had a grillwork gate across it. "How quaint." She tore it open. The elevator was above her. She scowled and pressed the button.

You never used an elevator in an emergency or in a fight. Too convenient a trap. So when the elevator reached the floor, BatWing just used it as another door and climbed out of the roof access hatch. Then the elevator cables became her ropes. She found the next and the last gate conveniently opened. She swung her body gracefully out of the elevator shaft and landed on her feet. Her left arm screamed with throbbing pain, but she ignored it. That little brat had wounded her, not stopped her.

"Well, well, well." A spaceship was parked inside the top two floors, a sleek, black machine from straight out of Star Wars with More Hot Stuff painted on it in white. "The owner sure has a high opinion of himself. Now where is that little rat hiding?"

"My dad wouldn't like you callin' me a rat." The four-foot-tall Martian walked calmly down the ramp, leaving the safety of the ship. The purple pistol in his right hand gave him that assurance.

"But daddy isn't here." BatWing laughed. "He's off to get himself captured like the rest of those heroes."

"And I'm the bait to make sure they stay captured," the grey mouse countered.

"Smart kid. Too bad you won't get to grow up to use your brains." BatWing took stock of the hanger. The ship, the elevator shaft, a door probably to the stairs, barrels, and crates. "You might as well surrender now." She started moving toward the barrels.

"Fat chance, Batty." He continued moving to keep her in sight. He was almost clear of the ship.

She stopped in front of the barrels and pulled out her gun. "What's in here? Spaceship fuel? I bet it's really, really flammable."

His gun wavered slightly.

Hers didn't. The laser shot brushed against his shoulder. The boy mouse screamed and dropped his gun. He tried to save it. But another shot sent it skittering out of reach of his lunging body. "Too bad daddy never taught you how to take advantage of getting the drop on someone." She strode to him, and yanked him into the air by his T-shirt. "Now I think it's payback time." Her left hand curled into a fist, and backhanded the boy across the face.

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