Moribian k'Toji took off his helmet and shook loose his long hair. He was seven and a half feet tall, average for a Venusian male, large and muscular. And like Pike, he had scars. His went diagonally from his eyebrow to his left side so his chin. It gave him a cruel but handsome face. Though he and Rider came up together through rank in the Senate's army, they never met until the last mission of the Qualien War. Rider or Memphis, as she was known then, was second in command on that mission. And it went sour. The targets were disposed of, but at a great loss. Moribian, Pike and Rider were the only ones who came out alive. Barely. Upon discharge, they decided to sell their services and talents to the highest bidder. "Man, that was along time ago. Such a long time ago." He hunched over the handlebars. Mori liked Rider. Liked her too much. The tiny monitor flashed inside his helmet. He rode off at light speed.
In a recently abandoned tenement, on the far side of Chicago, DarkRider dipped her hands in a sink full of water and splashed some on her face. She always liked the feel of water although Venus is devoid of the element. She remembered the time an uncle of hers, a galaxy traveler, brought back a vat of it from one of his trips. It was a gift for his only brother, Memphis' father. "What is it, Uncle?" "It's called water. It's one of the elements of Earth." He dipped the girl's silver talons into the vat. Then put some on her face. Memphis never felt anything like it. "Oooooh!" He smiled at her. "One day, Uncle, I will go to Earth, and I will live in this water." "HaHa. You can't live in water, child. You don't have gills." "Gills?" "You need them to breathe in water. Anyway, you'll learn all about gills in school. Now, this is very precious. Don't waste it." He stayed the night and left the next day. She never saw him again. He died a year later on Uranus. Her mother had given her a little flask to wear around her neck. She could fill it with whatever she desired. She filled it with drops of the precious water and had worn it ever since. She looked out the window. 'Modo.' That big gray mouse, had been on her mind since their first encounter. There was something about him. 'Something gentle and loyal. He seemed slower to fuse off than the other two. There was something-- comfortable about him.' She sighed. 'C'mon, Memphis, let's face it. It's that muscular body that's gotten next to you. And good-looking too. Real good-looking.' Then she laughed aloud. "What in all of the galaxy makes you think he'd want anything to do with you. You've been hired to kill him, remember. You're a gun for hire." Memphis sat down on the dirty floor next to her bike. She pulled a piece of paper from her jacket. It had been read and folded many times. She unfolded it again.
WANTED FOR CRIMES AGAINST THE GALAXY STATES DARKRIDER 100,000,000 GOLD DROYETS WILL BE OFFERED FOR THE CAPTURE OF
'the bounty has probably gone up by now. Jupiter doesn't like when their charges escape. ' She folded the paper and put it back in her pocket. "If Limburger gets a hold of--"
"--This is extremely interesting doctor. Limburger had unrolled the wanted poster Karbunkle brought back with him. "Umm." He started to read aloud line by line.
"Wanted. For Crimes against the Galaxy States DarkRider. 550,000,000 gold droyets will be offered for the capture of this female."
"Female? This marauding motorcycle mercenary of the galaxy is a woman?"
Memphis Rhyme. Venusian. Diamond Rank 200.66 cm. 61.36 kg. Black attire. Black x-gal stealthmot #352 motorbike. Extremely dangerous. Will accept dead or alive. Signed The Galaxy States of Jupiter.
"550,000,000 droyets. Dead or alive. How absolutely perfect. GREASEPIT!!!" "Youse wanna me, boss?" "No, I most certainly do not want to see you. But right now, I have no other choice. Where is that feebleminded fortune hunter and his gang of goons?" "Uh, dey's in da basement." "Then let's descend, post haste. There is a business deal to be made, some mice to be mashed and a Venusian vixen to be ventilated. The big Plutarkian laughed as he and his slimy attendants stepped onto a platform and rode down to the basement below.
~~~~ "I am here, Memphis." Rider snapped out of her reverie and spun around. "I'm sorry." said Mori "I shouldn't have called you by your name. I thought you were alone." "Hello Mori. I am alone." They embraced. "How are you old friend?" "It is I who should be asking you that question." "A little older. A little wiser. A little scared too. " "You? Scared?" "Scared to death. Scared of going back to prison." "How did you get out?" "Limburger." "Gods. So you are now retained?" "The mice are my prey. As, I assume, I am now yours." "I never thought it would come to this. That I would be hunting you." "You have no other choice. I can't pay my debt. I can't kill him." "Him?" "Them. I mean them. The mice. I can't kill the Martian Cave Mice." Memphis sat down on the floor again. Moribian sat down beside her. "You owe the mice nothing. What is the problem?" "I'm tired, Mori. I'm old. I want to go home. I just want to sit in my garden for the rest of my days." He stared at her. "You said 'Him'. Who is Him?" "I said I don't want to kill the cave mice." "Memphis, don't play games with me. Who is Him?" She sighed. "His name is Modo." "I don't understand." "I--there's something about him that--.that pleases me." "Pleases you. Tell me, you are joking." "I do not joke Mori" "You puzzle me Rider." "Never mind. I told you. I'm tired." "No, I won't accept that. There's more to this. You're a hunter, for galaxy sakes. You're the best. In all the years we've been together, you've never lost a prey." "I can't explain it, Mori." "Can't or won't" Memphis turned on him, fangs bared. "All right. Won't then. I don't have to answer to you or anyone." "Jupiter has changed you." "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell. I really can't explain it. I just don't want to hurt him. Or his friends." "Mem-- I mean Rider--" She waved her hand. "It doesn't matter about my name. It will soon be known anyway. I told Charley, the Earth woman, she is my friend." Moribian stood up. "Are you out of your mind? There's a price on your head. " He grabbed her by the collar and yanked her to her feet. "What has gotten into you?" "Let go of me. I told you. I'm getting old, Mori. Too old for this. I'm tired. I want to settle down." "Creatures like us don't settle down. We're killers. And when killers get old, they're put down." She ignored that. "In earth years, I'll be 50. I should be playing with my grandchildren or something." She paused. " If I had grandchildren." "We co -- you could have had grandchildren." She decided to change the subject. "Where's Pike?" "Rider, I--" "Where is HE?" Moribian sighed. "At Limburger Tower. You hurt him pretty bad." "That Plutarkian lackey. I'm going to hurt him worse, when I get near him." "Look, I didn't mean to be so rough. I've missed you. I thought I would never see you again. I thought you were executed. I--.we need you. The squad is disoriented and we fight among ourselves all the time." "Sounds like the way Pike would run things. Why am I not surprised?" Moribian took her in his arms. "I know my bond carries over. But, what ever happens, I've got your back." "I know. You are a true friend, Mori. Thank you." She moved away from him. Moribian felt dejected. He sighed. "Tell me more about this Modo." "I know nothing of him. I just have a feeling." "I always wondered when you or Albvia would become attracted to a target." He regretted his words as soon as they left his mouth. 'Damn. That was stupid.' "Oh, like you never would." "I'm sorry. That was a dumb thing to say." "Yes it was. Let's go see Pike. Though I'm sure he doesn't want to see me."
~~~~~ "Charley, all I am saying is, You should have told us what you were doing. If something had gone wrong. We could have been there to protect you." said Throttle as Charley poked the wrench she was holding into his chest. "I know you don't need my permission to go out. Bad choice of words." "Sweetheart, you could have been hurt or taken hostage or something. Then I would have to play the hero and rescue you. Again." Vinnie stood in the middle of the room as if he were on stage. "There'd I'd be. Vincent Van Wham. Up against the DarkRider alone. Saving the damsel in distress and the whole universe and the same time. Women every where would fall at my feet. They--OW!" Vinnie rubbed the side of his helmet and looked down as Charley's wrench clattered to the floor. "Heh, heh, heh. Vincent, my young friend. You have alot to learn about women." "Even YOU don't have that much patience, Modo." said Charley. "Look you adorable fur-balls. I appreciate your concern. Even you, you blow-hard. But I was never in any danger. I knew she wouldn't hurt me. Especially after she returned Modo's arm and saved us from Pike." Vinnie looked at her. "What a min. SHE? The DarkRider is a--" "Memphis Rhyme is a woman?" interrupted Throttle. "Yes. I was surprised too. " "It just never--all this time I thought it was a man." Throttle looked at Charley sheepishly. "I guess my macho pride just wouldn't let me believe a woman could be that cold blooded." "Throttle, YOU have a lot to learn about women. But anyway, tell me about her. I mean her DarkRider persona." "I've seen some of his--her handiwork. She's neat and very thorough. Never leaves a trace. But, you know it's her. No one else in the galaxy is that blood thirsty." Throttle sat on his bike. "I not sure about this change in her tune. And I don't trust it. And yet, I keep wondering why she hasn't taken us out." "That's why the fat cheese brought in those bikers . She had a shot at us twice, and blew it." "But why? There must be more to this than just wanting to give up the gun?" "I don't know. She didn't say, except that she wants to retire. She wants to go home." "Charley, The DarkRider is dangerous. If she wants off this planet. I will be glad to oblige. Either transport her back or let Jupiter take her. But she's got to go." "So let's find her and send her back. Then take care of those wrench heads that Limburger brought in." Said Modo. "Can't we just talk--" "No talk, Charley-girl. We're sending that hit-bimbo back to Jupiter where she belongs." said Vinnie. "Guys--" "I hear that bro." Said Throttle as he donned his helmet and Vinnie and Modo grabbed their helmets. "Let's rock 'n'--" "Oh no, I'm going with you. I won't let you near her until you've heard what she has to say." Charley grabbed her helmet. "Charley-girl!" "Don't you DARE argue with me." Charley put her face close to Vinnie's. "And if you throw me off this bike, fuzz-face, I'll take that fabulous tail of yours and wrap it around your neck. Twice!" "Whoa." said Modo and Throttle together. Vinnie blushed as he wrapped his tail around her waist and set her down gently on the seat. "Let's rock--" said Charley "'n' RIDE!"
~~~ The two mercenaries heard the bikes before they saw them. "The cave mice. I know the sound of their engines. Stay behind me Rider. " "But--" "Just stay behind me." Moribian pulled the shotgun from under his coat. Just as Memphis unhoused hers, she saw her new friend, Charley, on the back of that white mouse's bike. "No, wait. Charley's with them. It's okay." "MEMPHIS! They're gonna waste us. What's the matter with you?" "No. We can work this out. Let's talk to them" "TALK to them? Rider, you're supposed to kill them, remember. They don't know that you've gone soft or changed your mind or whatever. Galaxy sakes, woman! I don't understand you anymore." "Mori, I'm not going through this again." He looked at her in disbelief. "You think they're going to protect you from the Plutarkian. You think the Galaxy States won't find you here? That Limburger won't betray you?" "Moribian, what are you talking about?" "This is crazy. " The mice roared corner. "Hold up Bros." said Throttle. "Hey, this is unexpected." said Modo as he raised his bionic arm. "Well, well they must have read our minds." "Yeah" said Vinnie. "And saved us gas. Now we didn't have to go looking for them." Moribian leveled his shotgun at them and cocked the trigger. "Looks like they want to party too" Vinnie twirled his Martian blaster with his tail. "Shall we oblige?" "Battle mode, bros." "No" said Charley as she got off Vinnie's bike. Memphis holstered her shotgun and put her hand on the barrel of Mori's. "Put it away Mori. You won't need it." "I don't trust them." " Trust me. I'll meet you at the tower. You better go." "And leave you to them?" "Don't worry. " 'Damn her.' He sighed. "Anything happens to this woman. You will answer to me." "Ans--" said Modo "Charley, where--?" said Vinnie as he wrapped his tail around her waist. "Let me go Vinnie." "But." "Let me go. Please." Vinnie unwrapped his tail and Charley walked over to the big alien. "Nothing will happen to her. I promise. Memphis and I are friends. Friends don't let other friends get hurt." Moribian stared at the earth woman, then holstered his shotgun. He looked at Rider. "You're sure you'll be alright?" "Yes. I'll be fine." "You know what to do if you need me." She touched his hand. "Yes, Mori. I know you're there for me." "It's a good thing you were here, Charley. Moribian would have taken all four of you out." said Memphis. "He is rather scary." "Hah. Not as scary as Pike." She looked past Charley to the three mice still sitting on their bikes. They were ready to fire upon her at a moment's notice. "I must scare your friends too." "Come meet them." "I've already met them." "You met them as The DarkRider. Not as who you really are." "Same difference." Memphis sucked in her breath and got off her motorcycle. She walked straight up to Modo. Took off her helmet and put it under her arm. She extended her hand. "My name is Memphis." He nearly fell over. He saw the diamond in Memphis' pale blue forehead sparkled in the glow of the street lamp. Her black eyes wide as she looked at him. She took off her glove and extended her hand. The big gray mouse was speechless. Modo looked down at the six slender fingers with their tiny silver bands. Then he looked into her beautiful face again. He got off his bike and removed his helmet. He took her hand in his. "Modo. My name is Modo."
Suddenly there was no one on the street. No one but them. Throttle, Vinnie, Charley, they all disappeared. It was just him and this beautiful creature. He looked at her hand again. It seemed so small and delicate resting in his. Her eyes were big and round. He took in the ten tiny diamonds in her pointed ears. Around her slender neck was a thin silver band with a tiny flask attached to it. Her black leather jacket was zipped part of the way down. He could just make out the top of her breast. But he could tell they were full-size and firm. "It's a pleasure to meet you Modo." She said as she bowed. Her voice was like music filling the air. His air. "Uh, pleasure to meet you, Miss Memphis-ma'am." The Rider smiled. "Just Memphis" Modo didn't want to let go. He didn't want her to move. He never wanted to stop looking at her. He had never seen anyone or anything like her. Memphis gently removed her hand from his.
Throttle, Vinnie and Charley were back. And he was back on the planet Earth. He didn't know where he was just a second ago. But what he wouldn't give to go back there again. She walked over to Vinnie. Again, she extended her hand. "Memphis." she said. He saw Charley looking at him over alien's shoulder. He took her hand. "Vinnie." Again, Memphis bowed. "He's a blowhard, but harmless." said Charley in the alien's ear. "This is Throttle." "Throttle. I am Memphis Rhyme." ~~~~
The mercenary sat upon the same table, by the door, as she did at their first meeting. Her shotgun was still holstered. The mice surrounded her bike with their own. Vinnie and Throttle sat backwards in chairs directly in front of her. Modo leaned against another table. He couldn't take his eyes off her. Charley leaned against the same table the Rider was sitting on. "Am I a hostage?" she asked. "No. Just a precaution, lady. Sorry. I just don't buy your story." "Throttle!" "C'mon bro. Give the lady a chance. We need all the friends we can get." "You consider her a friend Modo?" "She might be. Let's find out." "Did it ever occur to you that this might be a setup?" "Is that what you think son. That I set you up?" Throttle pointed his finger at her. "You were brought here to vape us, lady. You owe Limburger your life. You told us that yourself. If you don't kill us, he'll have you killed. By your own gang of killers. So, you try to make us believe that you are really on our side. Our guard is down. It's all over and you go home. What would you think?" "Hey, Throttle. Gentlemen do not point their fingers at a lady." said Modo. "What La--" "Don't even think it, bro." "It's all right Modo." Memphis smiled softly at him. He could feel himself blush. He hoped no one noticed. No one did. Except for Charley. "I would think just what you're thinking now, son. I can't argue with your logic." "Miss Memphis-ma'am, why--?' "Memphis. Just Memphis." "Memphis. Why did you return my arm? You could have kept it or taken it back to that crazed deviant, Karbunkle." "Why would I give it to Karbunkle?" "He's the one who--." started Charley. "Never mind why you would." said Vinnie. "Just tell us why you didn't" "I saw you get hurt at the tower. You were trying to get to me when your bike crashed. I just felt--. you needed your arm. I can't justify my actions. "What about your other actions. Can you justify them." "I did what I was paid to do, Throttle. Not all of my targets were sweet innocent beings. I did work for the cave mice too. Not all you were peaceful. You have scum just like every other planet." "I know. But that doesn't condone what you did." "Did I ask you for a sanction?" She got off the table. " Look gentlemen. I am in earnest. I don't want to do this. Believe me, I just want it over with. I was safe for awhile. But I knew someday I would have to pay up. But, well, I do not want to hurt you. Any of you. Limburger has other plans. I'm stuck here until I do something. And I do not know what to do. OKAY!" Charley took Throttle's arm. They went to the far side of the garage. Charley whispered. "I know this is hard for you. She's done alot of bad things. For money. I'm not blind to that. But, I trust her. I think we all can trust her." "I can't, Charley. " "But Throttle, don't you see? Can't you see. That's why Limburger called in Pike. Memphis isn't doing the job." "Tan mouse, there's no way I can convince you." Memphis was beginning to get annoyed. "And I'm tired of trying." She looked at Modo. Her eyes showed a touch of sadness. "So I give up. But you just might need my assistance in getting rid of Pike." "Oh, come on." "If you remember. I told this young mouse--" Memphis pointed to Vinnie "--that you've met the best hunter there is. Me. But you hadn't met the meanest. Well now, you have. You've met Pike." "Meanest, schmeanest." said Vinnie. "I'm not afraid of him." "You should be, son. You should be." "What makes him so scary?" asked Charley. Pike would sell his soul for money. I took him on because of his ruthlessness. He proved that during the war. You have to be ruthless in this business. But he is also reckless. And in this business, you can't be reckless. That will get you killed. He doesn't care. You care about your squad. You watch their back they watch yours. Pike watches none but himself. Pike will get them killed. Hound, Mori & Albvia do not know him like I do. I fear for their lives." "So, let them quit. They aren't bonded to him." "But they are. As they were to me." She sighed. "He runs things now. Their bond carries over." "Who's the clown with the chains?" asked Vinnie. "Moribian k'Toji. And he's not a clown. Believe me. The man can handle a shotgun. The chains were just to keep Modo out of the way for awhile. He wouldn't have hurt you Modo. He was obeying Pike's orders. " She shook her head and said quietly. "I don't know why he's in this business. He doesn't have the heart for it. He thinks he does. But--." "Didn't look like that to me." "I speak the truth. Mori can kill. But he dwells on it, afterwards. It tears him up inside. He doesn't have the blood lust. Otherwise, Modo, I'm afraid you would be dead now." "Has he changed too?" asked Throttle sarcastically. "I don't know. Mori's loyal to the squad. He may not feel right about what he's doing. But he won't go against the squad. Not even for me. Though, he did try to convince me that he would. And maybe he would try. But Pike would kill him." Throttle looked at her curiously. "Look, for whatever reason, Charley trusts you. I trust Charley. That is the ONLY reason why I'm even listening to you. I just want you gone." "That make two of us. Throttle." said Memphis angrily. Modo broke his stare from Rider and looked at Throttle. "That's enough, bro. I think you need to change your attitude. The lady is trying." "Look Modo maybe you think--" "Throttle, Please." said Charley. "Memphis, What are you going to do now?" "Find Pike. I can't make a move till I get past Pike." "Do you have somewhere to stay?" asked Modo. "She can stay here." "STAY HERE! Are you nuts, Charley. Limburger will find her here." Said Throttle. "He's right. It wouldn't be wise. But thanks anyway." agreed Memphis Charley folded her arms. "So where is she going to stay then? With you guys? I think not. She stays here." "No, I really shouldn't--" "I don't like leaving you alone with her." "Oh go home, you three. We'll be fine." Vinnie gently wrapped his tail around Charley's waist and brought her closer to him. "Charlene, I'm not happy about this. I won't be able to sleep knowing --" "Don't worry handsome. If I'm not, I know you'll come to rescue me. Again." She smiled at him and tweaked his nose. Modo took The DarkRider's hand. "Memphis ma'am -- it was such a pleasure to meet you." he said softly. The big gray mouse and the tall alien stared at each other. Again, they were only aware of each other. "Modo, you coming bro? Modo? MODO!" He turned, "Hmmm. Oh yeah. Night Charley-ma'am" Modo grabbed his helmet and jumped on his bike. "Night you guys."
Rider walked over to the door as the mice roared away and stared into the empty street. "You like him, don't you?" "He is good looking. No?" "You should see him in a tux." "What is--. a tux?" Charley put her arm around Rider. I'll explain later. Now we have to figure out what to do." "Right now I must see Pike." "Memphis, I wish you wouldn't" "I must settle with him. I'm past my time to do it as it is." "I know I can't stop you. But at least let me go with you." "No. I may not be able to protect you. Please. Stay here." "Memphis-- all right, but be careful" "You are the only Earth person I've met. Is everyone like you? Kind and trusting?" "Not hardly. And I'm not always kind. But I do trust my instincts. My instincts steered right on the guys when they first got here. And they're steering me right on you." "I don't understand what you mean. But I won't ruin your faith in me. That is a promise. Venusian honor. But you and your friends must trust me enough to do this my way. Play my own game." The DarkRider put on her helmet and mounted her bike. "I'll be back. "She faded from view. Charley saw the dust kicked up under invisible wheels.
"Commander, if you want this thing out, stay still." Albvia dug into Pike's shoulder trying to remove the blastdart. "I would stay still, if you would hurry up. This thing hurts." "There, it's out." Albvia held the dart up to the light in the lower depths of Limburger's tower. Her green eyes narrowed. "Yep, this is Rider's calling card all right. Silver tipped with hooked bristles. Goes in deep and grabs hold." She looked down at Pike. "She was toying with you Commander. It could have gone deeper. I would never have gotten it out. " Albvia tried to suppress a smile. She couldn't stand Pike. 'Though it wouldn't have mattered. You would have been dead anyway.' "Your luck still holds." "Just finished up, will you. Your comments don't interest me. Just patch me up so I can get on with my business. Get my gold and get off this malignant planet." "YOUR gold?" said Hound. "Your gold?" Did I miss something. I thought that Plutarkian said he was going to pay US?" Hound was a mix breed. Like the rest of the squad, he was in the Senate's Army. He received the Senate medals for marksmanship, and achieved high rank of the ruby. Hound was bald and his ears were more pointed than the others. He wore three small gold earrings in his left ear. Two of his fingers were missing on one of his hands. Result of a mission gone wrong on Pluto. And he disliked Pike almost as much as Albvia. Pike ignored him. " Alb, will you hurry up." "Oh for galaxy sake. I'm finished." 'I should have let you bleed to death. It would have been my greatest pleasure.' Albvia was almost as tall as Pike. Her green hair and pale blue skin gave her a delicate pastel air. But it belied her killer instinct. She wore the same gold earring as the others, but she wore no jewel in her forehead. The tattoos on her upper arms show her rank as first grade healer. "Feeling better, Commander?" "Where have you been?" "Rider coming to see you. I guess she remembers the castle." Pike spun around. "I had nothing to do with that." Moribian leaned against his bike and folded his arms. He smiled. "I could be wrong. But I believe she thinks differently." "And I wonder where she got that idea?" "You know Commander, that episode with Rider was never full explained to us." "Because it's none of your business." "None of my business. My apologizes commander, but I differ with you. If you are at odds with Rider, then you will jeopardize us all." "Ah, there you are. My failed fortune hunters." said Limburger as he, Greasepit and Karbunkle got off the lift. "What do you want, Plutarkian?" "Hey, dat's Mr. Plurtarkian to youse." Pike winced as he took his gun out of the holster across his chest and held it to Greasepit's head. "You are never to speak to me, unless I speak to you first. You got that petrol-breath?" "I dink so." "Now, Plutarkian, what do you want?" "Oh, just a quiet chat. Possibly a deal." "I thought we had a deal." Limburger tossed the wanted poster over to Pike. "What you need is an incentive, young man. And here it is. I will help dispose of your rival, if you get rid of those mice." "I have no rival." "Oh do excuse me. I thought you and The DarkRider were competing for leadership of this unruly mob." Pike gave the poster to Hound, who unrolled it. Albvia and Moribian peered over his shoulder. "Great gods of the galaxy. 550,000,000 droyets? They want her bad." "Hound. We don't turn in our own. Especially not for this smelly over ripe, fat." Said Albvia "My dear young lady, think of all that gold. Why-- Aaahh." Moribian wrapped his chains around Limburger's neck. "Are you deaf as well as stupid, Plutarkian. We don't turn in our own." "Mr. Pike, don't you have control over your men. " "Put the chains away, Mori." Pike sighed. "Let me understand this. We dust the mice. You pay -- MORI! Put--them--away! We haven't gotten paid yet." He shook his head. "--You pay us the Plutarkian gold. You get rid of Rider. And we still collect the droyets. Am I correct?" "Absolutely." "Do I look like a fool, Limburger" "Hmm, Now where have I heard that before." "The Plutarkian plays everyone for fools. That's how he survives. Pike, you're a fool to believe him." Came that familiar voice. The DarkRider slowly came into view. "What? Are you back? You vexatious Venusian. You dare come here, while those mice still live." "Do you honestly think I'm afraid of you, Limburger. " The DarkRider rode up to him and grabbed him by his lapels. "Do you think you scare me, just because you want to have me whacked. And by my own squad?" "My-- my-- my dear Mr., I mean, Ms. Rhyme. You must be mistaken." "They are no longer your squad Rider." said Pike. "They are bonded to me." She dropped Limburger like a bad habit and took her shotgun from its holster. As she got off her bike. Albvia and Hound jumped immediately in front of Pike with their weapons raised. "Don't do this, Rider, we will hurt you." Hound, if you don't move, I will blow you into the next galaxy." Hound raised his Venusian shotgun."Oh please. Go outside with this. I have enough bullet holes in my walls as it is." said Limburger. "Please--" "Didn't any of you ever wonder how I got to Jupiter? Did you ever wonder what did happen at the castle? Did any of you ever ask him?" "Comman--Rider we do not question. You know that." Said Albvia." Memphis touched her helmet. The visor cleared. "That piece of scum you're guarding let into a trap. He set me up." "You're a liar, Rider." Yelled Pike. "You were the only one with opportunity. The code came from YOU!" Memphis raised her gun and took a step closer to Pike. "Gentlemen, ladies, could you please resolve your family history outside. And let it be done quickly. We have mice to slaughter." "Rider. Please don't do this" said Albvia. Memphis leaped in the air and kicked Albvia's gun out of her hand. Pike drew his gun and fired but Albvia blocked his shot as she fell backwards. The blast hit the ceiling. Shards of plaster rained down on the heads of Limburger, Karbunkle and Greasepit. "Oh, please. Outside with this." whined Limburger. Memphis pushed Pike to the wall and put her shotgun up to his head. "Drop your weapons and call off Hound and Albvia." Pike leaned against the wall and smirked. "I will shoot you, you cosmic crud." She pushed her shotgun further into Pike's chin. "CALL THEM OFF!" "Let the lady have her say." "Now tell me why." "You're crazy, Rider. I didn't lead you into any trap. I don't know what you're talking about!" Memphis turn her shotgun around, military style and shoved the butt into Pike's wounded shoulder. He doubled over and went down. She put the barrel of her gun to the top of his head. "TALK TO ME. I WANT TO HEAR YOUR STORY. PIKE SAGE, I WANT TO HEAR YOU LIE!" The pain almost brought tears to Pike's eyes. "I am not lying. If you want to shoot me, then do so." Hound started for Rider, but Moribian cut him off and pointed his gun at Rider. "Put it down, Memphis. They won't let you leave here alive otherwise." "Mori." "Put it down!" She lowered her shotgun. "This is watching my back?" "That's what I'm doing. I'm trying to keep you alive." He said quietly. "Mori, he knew I would go into that castle alone. And he assured us that Jenko would not be in residence. He knew Jenko would be there. " She turned to Pike who was struggling to get up. " You've been working with him all the time. How much money did he give you?' Pike deftly picked up his gun, quick spun around and brought the weapon down on the side of Rider's helmet. Hard. She dropped to her knees. "After the mice are disposed of. We will settle this. You're getting old and slow Rider. A year ago, you would have shot me. After the mice are disposed of, you and I are going to settle this, one and for all." "That is not the way I operate. I always took care of my squad and gave them the benefit of the doubt. That's why they were loyal. That's why you're still alive. I'm not like you. You think only of yourself." "I've had enough of this. You are finished. I'll take the 550,000,000 droyets." "What? 550--" "Ah. This is where I come in." said Limburger still brushing off bits of plaster. He hunkered down next to Rider and unfolded the poster in front of her nose. "Shall I read it to you." Rider read it wide-eyed. Limburger continued. "550,000,000 droyets. Pike here will rid me of those wild-riding woodchucks. And then dispose of you." Rider swung her legs around and kick Limburger in the kneecaps. "OW. " Rider got to her feet, and grabbed her shotgun. "GET HER!" Hound came up from behind and grabbed her round her throat. She lost her balance but recovered and sent him over her head. He came down with a thud. Greasepit and some of the goons both came at her from opposite sides. Rider made a spinning leap and kick the men in the mid section. Moribian took this opportunity to get a hold of Pike and put his shotgun to the commander's chin. "Anything happens to Rider. I will see to it that you have a slow painful death. She is to leave this building alive." Mori whispered as he shoved his gun in deeper into Pikes chin for emphasis. "You know I'll shoot you without hesitation. I am not Rider. Am I understood." Pike shook his head, but didn't say a word. Albvia threw her cutting wire at Rider. Rider threw her arms up to protect her face. The wire wrapped around the heavy leather biker gloves she wore. Karbunkle help Limburger to his feet. "What do we do now Your Creamy Richness?" "Leave of course. Let them kill each other. " Karbunkle and Limburger ran for the lift. "Wait for me boss. Wait for me." Greasepit said as he scrambled to catch up. Limburger pressed a button and the lift lurched upwards. Just as Greasepit dove for the lift, Hound's body came crashing down upon him. "Oomph! I gots to find me a new line of work." said Greasepit. Rider slipped her hands out of the gloves just as Albvia started her second assault. 'I've got to get out of here. This is not going right.' Rider thought as she grabbed a hold of Albvia by her hair and threw her into the pile made by Greasepit and Hound. "Go, Rider. I'll handle things here." said Moribian Rider picked up her shotgun and ran for her bike. She pressed the button on her belt and started the engine. Hound had extricated himself from the pileup and, forgetting about the electric charge on Rider's bike, made a lunged for her. "You're not getting out of here that easy Rider." The charge sent him across the room. He landed on top of Albvia and Greasepit, who were just getting to their feet. Rider crashed through the south wall and roared into the street. She pressed the button for stealth and disappeared. "Damn." said Hound as raised himself up, again. "The older she gets, the meaner she gets. How could you possibly think she was getting soft." "Aren't we going after her?" questioned Albvia. Hound helped her to her feet. "Let her go. She can't hide from us. She's our target now." Pike looked over at Moribian. "After the mice, she goes down!" Then he whispered to the big alien. "And if you ever put that gun to my head again. You better use it." Moribian smiled to himself.
Modo stood by the opening in the scoreboard. He could just barely see Charley's garage through the tall buildings. "Check this out, Throttle. The big guy is smitten." whispered Vinnie. "I'm not smitten. I just said we should give the lady a chance to prove herself." Modo said in an angry tone. 'Vinnie's right. I am smitten. I can't get her out of my mind.' "Yeah, he's gone all right. But what bothers me is that woman is using it to her advantage." Modo turned. "Throttle. Ease up on her will you." "I don't believe you big guy. I've never seen you this way. You see a pretty face and your ready to give up all you stand for." "I haven't given up a thing. I-- aw, forget it." Modo put on his helmet. "Where are you going?" "Out, I need to clear my head. I'll be back later. "Modo, let this go. She isn't worth it. "Look, Throttle. I'm going out to get some air. And you don't know what she's worth. You don't know anything about her." "That's what I'm trying to tell you, bro.." He sighed. "Ya know, I'm not as stupid as you seem to think. I wouldn't turn my back on you. I thought you knew that." "Modo, I didn't mean--" "Talk to you guys later." Modo rode through the opening and floated to the field below. "Damn, Why did I do that?" Throttle looked through the opening. Vinnie joined him. "Why did I make him feel like he was the dumbest mouse in the universe" "He doesn't think that. " "No. He DOES think that. 'Cause we treat him that way. I treat him that way." said Throttle, looking down and slowly shaking his head. "I know he would never turn against us. " "No, not Modo. He's our bro." Yeah. He has a right to fall in love like anyone else. I just----I don't know." "She's a babe. But she's got us all spooked." "I just don't want her to use him. Modo is really sensitive. Especially when it comes to women." "What do you mean?" "C'mon Vinnie. Women don't look at him twice. His arm, his eye." Vinnie touched his face. For just a second he felt self-conscious. 'What does she want? This mercenary. What does she see that other females do not.' Throttle shook his head. "He's a big boy. He can take care of himself. He'll be fine. Let him go" Vinnie went over to the refrigerator to get a root beer. Throttle continued to stare out of the opening. "Yeah, he'll be fine."
"I just wanted to make sure you were okay, Charley-ma'am. "Modo, you're as transparent as glass." Charley looked out into the dark street. "Memphis left for Limburger's. She insisted on confronting Pike. I'm getting a little worried though." Modo replaced his helmet and roared out of the garage. 'Bring her back safely, big guy. And watch your tail.'
Rider stopped her bike and released the stealth. Her heart beat rapidly. She thought it would explode out of her chest. She took off her helmet and took a deep breath. Then she heard the roar of a motorcycle engine. She took out shotgun. 'Pike Sage, you will never collect that gold. I will take you with me.' As the bike rounded the corner, she saw it was Modo. He was heading for the tower. She sent a warning shot to the big mouse. "What the--?" Modo turned in the direction of the shot, he pressed a button on his bike. The blast knocked Rider to the ground. "Ayee! Modo, it's me. Memphis Rhyme. " "What? OH NO." Modo ran over to Rider and helped her to her feet. "Damn. Are you all right? Did I hurt you?" "No, I'm fine. What are you doing here? Pike will kill you if you go in there." "I was looking for you. Charley said you would be here. I thought you might need help." "Well, I guess, I could have used it. Look we better get out of here. They might be coming after me."
"Why were you looking for me?" Memphis yelled over the engines. "I--.I just wanted to apologize for Throttle." "Can't Throttle do that for himself?" They stopped their bikes. Modo looked around and saw no one. They were alone. "I guess I just needed an excuse to see you again. They stared at each other. 'I can't stop staring at him, He must think I'm crazy.' "I'm sorry Miss Memphis. I can't stop staring at you." "Huh." she giggled. "I was just thinking the same thing." 'Memphis, Memphis. This is not good. Stop it. Stop it now. For galaxy's sake. You're giggling like a school girl.' "It will be light soon. You should get back to Charley's." 'No, I don't want to send her away. I need to stay with her. Just a little longer.' "Um, would you like to see the sunrise?" "Oh yes. I've heard the sunrises here are the best in the whole universe." "Especially over Lake Michigan." "Lake Mi--.chi--." "Michigan." "Where is this Lake Mi-chi-gain?" "Michigan." he repeated again. Gently.
"I don't like this." said Throttle. "He's been gone for three hours." "Throttle, chill. He's okay. You need some sleep." "I'm gonna check in with Charley." "Throttle, Charley is probably asleep." "So sue me." He went over to the radio. "Charley-girl. Can you hear me?" **Loud and clear.** "I--.we thought you might be asleep." **No. Just sitting here.** "Where's your house guest? Asleep?" **Memphis went to Limburger's. She felt she had to talk to Pike.** "Damn. Modo's not here either." **He stopped by. I guess to see Memphis. He went to get her.** "I knew it! I knew he would try to follow her." **Wait Throttle. Don't get upset. They're probably all right.** "Then why are you still awake?" **Okay, okay. So I was a little worried.** Vinnie jumped out of his hammock and yawned. "Look, it's obvious that I'm not going to get any sleep. It's almost dawn. Let's go look for them." Vinnie leaned over Throttle shoulder. "We'll pick you up, good looking." ~~~~ "What are these things?" asked Memphis "Hot dogs." "Hot--dogs? I didn't know you were supposed to eat them. I always thought they were some kind of pet. Didn't they have fur or something?" Modo laughed. It was deep and mirthful. 'strong and playful' She could listen to that laugh all day. "Different kind of dogs. These you eat. And you wash it down with this." He handed Memphis a can of root beer. "Umm, this is good." she looked down at the hotdog with her tiny bite in it. "I reserve judgment on these." The sun was just peeking over the horizon. For awhile they just sat and stared out over the lake. Not talking. Just sitting side by side.
Modo put his hands behind his head and laid back on the ground. Memphis sat straight up looking over the lake. For the first time in a long time, she felt at peace. "Uncle." she whispered. "I'm here. On this earth. And here is water." Modo sat up. "Sorry, I didn't hear you." "I was just talking to my self. Well, to my uncle. I never thought I would be here. On Earth." She told Modo the story of her uncle and the water. Then she laughed. "I never thought I would be working for Limburger either. He's only the foulest Plutarkian in the galaxy. He's here because he couldn't do things right on your planet." "Yeah, tell me about it." "May I have another one of those rude bears?" "Root beer." He opened another can. Memphis continued. "Modo, if I don't carry out this assignment--.my bounty is up to 550,000,000 droyets. Jupiter wants me in the worse way. And Limburger has added to the contract on me. My squad will kill me for the money. The bond has been broken." For the first time in many, many years, Memphis felt like crying. She felt the tears well up in her eyes. "I want to go home." Modo sat up. Tentatively her put his arm around her. He whispered her name in her ear. She settled down in his arms. 'I can't believe you would be in this business." He said. "Charley asked me about this. And I will give you the same answer. I like the money." "There are others ways to make money." "True. But not as much and not as fast." Modo said nothing. "I am not the, what do they call it here. The "stay at home type"; I was never cut out to be a breeder." "Breeder?" "Venusian females have one purpose and one purpose only. To breed. Even those that hold high office. We had a civil war on Venus three decades ago. I joined up with the recovery squad of the Senate's Army. They were hiring some breeders to infiltrate the Lesho faction. My father taught me my fighting skills. And that proved more valuable than breeding. So I was released from natural bond." Modo remained quiet. Mesmerized by her voice. It was like of running water. Soft and gentle. "It's complicated. Venus is complicated. Anyway, after the war I got stared in this business." She looked down at his arms that were around her. She put his big hand in her little ones. "And you do you intend to stay on this planet?" "I don't know. I hope to go home someday. I was there once for a few days. Not exactly a great reception. We tried to get Limburger back there for trial. He escaped and we chased him back here. But I will stay here until we've roasted that fat cheese." "Do you miss Mars?" "Yes. I miss the clean red sands. It's something to see Memphis." He held her tighter. "I miss home too. But I can't go back. I can never go back to Venus." "Why not?" "I just can't, that's all. I live on Saturn now. It's peaceful on there and I'm left alone to live my life. This is peaceful too." She said, smiling quietly up at him. "I like this. Thank you for bring me here." Modo looked over at the horizon. "Back on Mars and before the wars," said Modo in a soft voice, "my little nephew, Rimfire, and I used to fish at sunrise. But even fishing never felt this good." He looked into her eyes. "I would like to take you fishing someday." "I would like to go." He traced the line of her nose and lips with his fingers. "You are so beautiful. I never dreamed I'd meet somebody like you." He tilted her face and kissed her lightly. Then pulled away. "Miss Memphis, ma'am. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that. A gentleman never kisses a lady like this. I'm sorry, I just--" "I can't believe you think of me as a lady. There are those who will disagree." "I don't care what Throttle thinks." "It's not only Throttle." "I believe some people can change." He saw the sad look on her face. "What's the matter? No, I can't. I--this won't work." She shook her head. "What?" "I don't want to fall in--.uh, get involved with you." "Why?" Memphis pushed him away and stood up. "There's a price on my head, Modo." "I know that. " He got up also. She turned and walked towards her bike. "I'm afraid. I'm afraid you'll be hurt." "By you?" "No, but--" He turned, swooped his tail around her waist, and pulled her back. "Then don't worry about me. I'm a big mouse. I can take care of myself." He pulled her closer. Memphis put her head on his chest. "Please understand. Modo. This is not easy for me." She said. "I'm not used to this." He clasped her hair and gently pulled her head back. "It's not easy for me either." He put his hand under her chin and parted her lips. He kissed her again. This time he did not pull away. And the sun came up over Lake Michigan.
End of Episode Two
note: memphis rhyme, pike sage, moribian k'Toji, Albvia Sea and Hound are characters of carolyn rebecca jones. All other character are the property of brentwood television funnies, inc. copyright (c) 1995. Please do not publish, reprint, sell or change this writing without written permission of the author. Edited by amice, to her I give my heartfelt thanks.