Shout-outs this chapter to Shades24, who's contributions to the Biker fictions have made me smile, laugh, and bawl like a two year old that just lost their teddy bear. Check out everything, you'll thank me later! 'Brief Encounters' for a slightly spicy look at how things between the trio might change sometime. 'Grow Old With Me'...pack the damn tissues, you. will. cry. In a good way! Sad but good. Anyway!

Thanks to everyone that keeps me going, and to everyone that reads and reviews. You all are responsible for me updating at all. And to everyone that caught the Swan Princess reference in the last chapter...

I couldn't help it! I just had to finish the scene!

Chapter 7

It took a good 15 minutes of brawling and another 10 of shouting at him for Modo and Throttle to catch on to the fact that Vincent wasn't trying to defend himself. Oh he'd given as good as he got in the fight, but now that things were calmer, he wasn't trying to justify his actions or spin them in his favor. He wasn't fighting back: he was barely speaking at all. It was so out of character for him that Throttle finally called off Modo's rant about how Vinnie had just screwed up the best thing that had ever happened to him, and he sat the younger Martian down at a table.

There was a long, uncomfortable silence. The older Mice couldn't help but feel a small bit of pity for what Vincent had lost. It helped that he looked positively miserable.

Modo just shook his head, breaking the quiet as he said, "I didn't believe it when Miss Carbine said it, but...Vinnie, was what she said true? You don't want Charley to be human again?"

"I never said that to her!" Vincent protested. "Not to Carbine or Charley!"

"Well it sure sounded like it from her angle," Throttle said with a frown.

"That's not what happened at all! I just-I mean...Aw, man," the younger mouse groaned. He told his bros exactly what had happened, not exaggerating a bit, in the hopes that his bros could help him fix it.

Their reactions didn't exactly inspire confidence.

Throttle gaped at his younger bro. " said what?"

"I didn't say it at all! she caught me thinking it!"

"What else is there?" Modo said in utter disbelief. "What else is there? She asks, 'is beauty all that matters to you?' and you say, 'what else is there?'!"

"It was dumb, I know!"

"Dumb is an understatement," Modo said with a roll of his eye.

"You should write a book," Throttle said sarcasticly. "'How to Offend Women in Five Syllables or Less'."

The grey Mouse frowned in thought. "You-Vin, you don't really believe that, do you? Modo asked.


Throttle shook his head. "Bro, you don't really think that the only good thing about Charley is that she's pretty, right?"

"Of course not!" Vincent said indignantly. "Her bein' hot is just icing on the cake! I mean there's..." he trailed off, a goofy smile on his face, "and then..." another goofy grin, "and what about...well, you guys know what I mean, right?"

Throttle and Modo exchanged looks. "Sure, sure bro, we get ya. But Charley doesn't know about that. She doesn't speak Vinnie-ese," Throttle said.

"Hate to say it, man, but I think you better go tell her," Modo said, looking uncomfortable.

"Awww, man," Vincent groaned.

Meanwhile, at the main base, the medical wards...

Charley stretched tiredly as she got up from the doctor's examination table in the small office by the base's medical ward. "So what's the word, doc?"

Dr. Sircuit frowned. "So far, the test results are fine. You're a perfectly healthy Martian Mouse."

"Well that's good," Carbine said from the side of the room. She walked over and sat beside Charley, who took her hand.

"If the prognosis is so cheery, why the long face, doc?" Stoker asked from where he stood by the door.

The doctor sighed quietly. "From what we can tell, the serum used to cause these changes was based off a deliberately unstable matrix of hormones and chemicals. It was intended to dissolve the chemicals bonds of the triphase-"

Carbine arced an eyebrow in confusion as she blurted out, "What?"

"Karbunkle made the serum so that the changes wouldn't be permanent," Dr. Sircuit clarified. "Mostly because the DNA would go unstable in a relatively short amount of time. As the days pass, Miss Charlene's DNA is going to start to break down. The chemical bonds that hold her DNA together will slowly dissolve, and her cells won't be able to function." He gave an apologetic look to the girl. "I'm sorry, but you don't have much time. Within the next 36 hours, the process will be too far along for us to stop."

Carbine softly gasped, and Charley bit her lip in worry. Stoker immediately walked over to her side, putting an arm around her shoulders as the girl went pale under her fur. "Isn't there something we can do?" he asked.

The doctor nodded reluctantly. "There is some hope. Since we have samples of your original DNA, we can use these to make a stablizing formula that can halt the break-down and save your life. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that we can tweak it so that you turn back into a human. The most likely outcome would be that you would become a hybrid, but leaning a lot more towards a Mouse's form. I would say the split would be something like 75% Mouse, the rest human."

"I could live with that," Charley said softly, leaning her head against Stoker's side and squeezing Carbine's hand. And she could. A few modifications to that blasted helmet, and she could still work on Earth. She just wouldn't be able to take off her helmet in public ever...again...good lord, she suddenly sympathised with her boys' urges to blow stuff up a lot more. Just the thought of being stuck in that stuffy thing for the rest of her time on Earth was enough to make her mad enough to do something extreme.

The general frowned at the doctor. "If there's a solution, why aren't you using it on her right now?"

The older Mouse sighed. "I'm afraid that we don't have all the chemicals nesesary to make the serum."

"What?" the trio said in surprise.

"We need some of the original serum he used to change her," Dr. Sircuit replied. "Much like making an anti-venin, you can't create it without some of the venom you're trying to cure. Without Karbunkle's serum, we have no way to finish the formula."

"Then we send the bros back to Earth to get it," Stoker said. "No big deal."

"There's not enough time," Charley said in somber realization, her hair falling forward and hiding her eyes. "Am I right?"

The healer nodded. "I'm afraid not. A trip to Earth and back, plus the time to get the serum somehow, would be much longer than the 36 hours you have left. I'm sorry, but unless we get that serum on time, there's nothing we can do now." He gathered up the few papers he had and went for the door. "My condolances," he said softly, then left the room.

Carbine and Stoker held onto Charley as she leaned against them for support. Carbine was thinking frantically: she'd just got Charley as a cousin, she wasn't about to loose her now! "We'll think of something, you'll see. Don't give up hope, Charley!"

Charlene sniffed hard, trying very hard not to cry. They heard her pull in a shaky breath as she said, "I know, we always make it in the end. But you guys might want to hide all the fragile breakables. They're not gonna take this well."

There was no need to ask who 'they' were. Stoker shook his head. "No. No, they're not."

She was right.

They didn't take it well, at all.

Carbine took Charley out to get something to eat, while Stoker had agreed to stay and break the news to the Bikers. He wasn't looking forward to this. Those boys loved their human friend, and he was sure that Vincent loved her more than that despite what had been going on lately. He put out the call for them to come as soon as they could.

A somewhat battered trio had returned to their bunks at the base's barracks when they were called on their communicators to come to the doctor's office. They cleaned up and headed over, eager to hear news about Charley's condition. But the news was nothing they wanted to hear.

Stoker did his best to break the news to them gently, but nothing could really sugar-coat the fact that their friend would being dying in less than two days. Modo's eye welled up with tears, and Throttle blanched in horror, leaning against the wall in shock. Vinnie took it the worst of all, collapsing into a chair with his mouth agape, his tail twisting and his ears and antennae drooped. He tried to speak, but his throat kept closing up over the words he wanted to say. This couldnt' be real, this couldnt' be happening! She couldn't be dying; they couldnt' loose her!

He couldn't let the last things he'd ever said to her be what he'd said to her!

A very distressed Throttle was the first to speak after Stoker broke the news. " way, coach, it can't be. We have to do something!"

"There has to be something we can do," Modo pleaded.

The older Mouse shook his head. "I'm sorry, but there's nothing we can do without running out of time."

Throttle was thinking quickly. "What if we could buy some time? All we have to do is get the serum, right?"

"But we'd never make it to Earth and back in time, not with all the running around we'd have to do to find Karbunkle," Vinnie said, his ears drooping in despair. "We couldn't even find him the last time we looked!"

"What if we could slow down the break-down?" Throttle asked. "Could we do something like that?"

Stoker blinked. "What do you mean?"

Modo suddenly lit up. "Yeah! I saw something like that on Law and Order!"

"Huh?" Stoker frowned in confusion.

"Human tv show, its his favorite," Throttle explained.

Modo went on, "There was a case where a guy had been drugging his wife's father into something called an induced coma. A coma's something like shutting down the body, but not killing it, like its asleep, right? Well, he was planning on killing the guy later, but they caught him in time, but anyway, what if we could do something like that? Put Charley in a coma to slow down her system enough to buy us some more time to get the serum, would that work?"

Stoker stared at him. "Modo, that's the most brilliant idea you've ever had. I'll need to run that by the docs, if it works, then you boys had better get packed. You'll be heading for Earth for the fastest mission of your lives."