Carbine pulled her arms tighter around her tan-furred husband as he buried his head deeper into her raven mane. Tears ran in rivulets behind his field specs as he silently sobbed his agony against her neck.

She crooned softly in his ear as if he was an infant, and not a strapping six-foot chunk of hardened warrior flesh. He clutched her closer as the salty water increased in volume.

Carbine glanced out of the corner of her eyes, where one of her closest female friends keened her grief in Modo's arms. The grey-furred tower of muscle was doing his best to comfort the distraught female, but Carbine could tell he was struggling. His own pain threatened to swamp the gentle giant at any moment.

Eventually, the pain won and the dam of sorrow broke through, emotional agony flooding his mind and body. His legs buckled and he collapsed to his knees, dragging Charlie gently to the ground with him. Crushing her against his broad chest, he howled his anguish to the heavens.

Hearing his brother's pain, Throttle turned from Carbine's arms and stumbled blindly toward Modo. He dropped to the ground and threw his arms around his brother and his beloved human sister-in-law.

Carbine didn't feel rejected by this, she knew the pain was so deep that he had ceased to function on any conscious level and only emotional pain drove his actions at this time. She walked the few steps and kneeled down next to Charlie, putting her arms around them from the other side, stretching to embrace all three.

The day did not understand the darkness that the four friends were experiencing at this time. In stark contrast, the sun shone warmly on their flesh, the sky bore no covering as the very clouds had decided to take the day off, and the sounds of bird song warbled everywhere as they flitted from tree to tree.

Carbine almost resented nature its happiness. Normally she would have been glorying in the crunch of the grass under her booted heel, using her keen sense of smell to enjoy the floral bouquet permeating the air and sucked in the very smells of life. Something Mars was still struggling to reclaim after the Plutarkians had raped the planet to the very soil itself. But in this day of loss, she couldn't help wishing that all this chirpiness would take a hike. She would have settled for gloomy dark skies and a cold bitter wind, more in harmony with the way she was feeling.

The bird song was shattered momentarily when the sounds of powerful engines ripped through the air. Carbine could tell it was a Martian ship, familiar with her home planet's technology. She looked up to see two male Martians emerging from the ship. As they approached she merely nodded in greeting, too tired to verbalise a proper response to their presence.

Rimfire and Stoker stood awkwardly near the huddled mass of Martian and human misery, unsure how to proceed. After what seemed like forever, Stoker placed his hand on the back of the youngest Martian's back and pushed him toward the group. "Go comfort your uncle lad!" he said gruffly, fighting back his own tears.

Rimfire knelt down and Carbine made room for him, urging him closer to Modo. Sensing his nephew's presence, Modo released one arm and pulled him closer, bringing him up against Charlie. Rimfire snaked an arm around both of them and held on tight, not saying a word, lending comfort with his presence and the warmth of his body.

Stoker watched them for a while longer, before their pain became too much for him and he turned away so he could grieve quietly, not wanting to detract from his students' pain. He moved a few steps, not really concentrating on where he was heading. Looking up, he found he had unconsciously wandered over to the source of all the anguish everyone was experiencing.

Vinnie's tombstone stared back at him, a gift from a grateful Chi-town populous. The white-furred tornado had given his life to save the love of his life, his bros and his adopted city. He had post-mousely been awarded every medal, honour and acclamation of valour that had ever been invented in American history.

The funeral had been a very dignified affair. "So unlike Van Wham" Stoker mused as he wiped a trickle from the corner of his eye.

Stoker glanced back as the sound of Charlie's howls reached almost animalistic pitch and a shudder shook his body, sending chills up and down his spine. He was used to death and all the misery that followed, he had seen enough carnage during the fight for his home's freedom, but somehow, the sound of Charlie's grief managed to unnerve his composure on all levels.

He turned back to the tombstone and scowled fiercely at it.

"This won't do, you've got no right to up and leave us like that. You have no right to leave HER like that!" he muttered to it. "Why did you have to go and leave like that?"

The sound of grieving sparked a memory in Stoker's mind. A different day of howls and other unearthly sounds. The maniacal laughter of the scientist echoing in his skull. Stoker shivered again, the memory turning his gut uncomfortably.

But, unexpectedly, with the memory came hope, and with the memory came purpose.

"No Punk, you left her...AND THAT WON'T DO AT ALL!" Stoker bellowed before turning determinedly toward the spaceship.

Carbine called gently to him as he moved past them and he turned briefly. She saw the glint of light in his eyes and knew without a doubt something big was in the making. She held her tongue and merely gave him a nod to show she understood.

"Safe trip old timer" she said under her breath as the ship was taken airborne, away from Chi-town and the scene of bereavement.

Stoker flew like a crazy-mouse, driving the ship for all it was worth toward the ruined Plutarkian tower. He landed it unceremoniously on the rubble and strode out, a large Martian SAR strapped to his back. He dug around for a minute until, with a grunt of satisfaction, he found the spot he was looking for. He climbed onto the ship's hull and pulling the SAR from his back, he aimed and fired at a hidden bunker door. He grinned when the large whole manifested itself in the ground. Through it, he could see the debris from several experimental machines strewn about the bunker below.

Stoker dropped through the hole and sought what he was looking for. He walked over to the sole occupant of the bunker and grabbed it by the scruff of its white coat.

The bulbous forehead wobbled with fear and the small pin-prick eyes, free from their glasses, were lit with nervousness and the desperation of self-preservation.

"Hello Karbunkle" Stoker sneered, wrapping his metallic tail around the scientist's throat. "Doesn't look like you made it back to Plutark after all. I had a hunch you'd be stuck on this blue ball without your benefactor."

"What can I do for you, my extreme furriness?" the scientist asked, his eyes bulging from the slight squeezing around his throat from the clearly enraged former experiment.

Stoker pulled him forward till Karbunkle was level with the SAR's exit hole.

"I need details. The geneticist. Where is she?" Stoker demanded, hate for the Plutarkian lap-dog sizzling off his fur.

Karbunkle shivered with fear as memories of his brief collaborative time with the overly industrious geneticist raced through his mind. There were some lines that even he did not dare to cross.

"What do you want with her?" Karbunkle stammered, despite being nose to nozzle with the SAR.

"My business is not your business, four eyes!" Stoker snarled. "Now tell me or else your IQ is going to drop rapidly!"

"But she's crazy, who knows what she'll unleash on the universe!" Karbunkle squeaked.

Stoker grinned widely, showing all his teeth. "She already did. And now, she's going to do it all over again!"

Karbunkle finally gave up trying to reason with his captor and gave him the information he wanted, whilst simultaneously begging for his life.

Stoker snorted in disgust. "Do I look like a plutarkian rat to you? We don't kill POWS!" he spat in derision, before grabbing the alien scientist and securing his wrists and feet and gagging him.

Dragging the bound Karbunkle onboard the ship with his tail, Stoker settled wearily into the pilot seat and put in the co-ordinates. Thankfully, he didn't have far to travel. The geneticist appeared to live on the same landmass.

"Ready for a living death?" he said humourlessly to the alien scientist.

The muffled screams reached his hearing and he smiled himself. "It's about time Karbunkle experienced some of the same pain he had inflicted on countless of my people" he thought happily as the powerful engines kicked off and sent the ship skyward.

They landed in a not-so-small American town. Famous for more than just its fast food outlets and theme-inspired snacks, it also boasted a small population of garden-variety resident villains. And one not so garden-variety geneticist.

Landing the ship next to the geneticist's current address, he dragged Karbunkle out of the ship using the same method he had used to drag him onboard, and pushed the doorbell.

"Coming!" trilled a feminine voice from inside. "Who is it?"

Stoker flattened his ears in self-preservation against the high notes and sucked in a lung-full of air. "Here we go!" he thought with a sigh and smoothed back his mane into a more orderly look.

"Guess who!" he trilled in response, grimacing with embarrassment as he looked around to check no humans were watching.

"Ooooooohhhhh, it's you!" the feminine voiced trilled again, delight sending the notes beyond human hearing. Unfortunately for Stoker, the level was not beyond Martian mice hearing so he had to endure another ear-drum shattering moment.

The door was pulled open anda stature-challenged, excessively curvy-endowed, full-figured female human greeted him (ie short and dumpy!), leaning against the door-frame in what was supposed to be a seductive pose. Unfortunately for the geneticist, she looked more like an overweight slug trying to hump the doorframe.

"Heeeellllllooooooo mousey-wousey fluffy-wuffy!" she purred, eyeing him approvingly up and down.

"Heeelllllooooo yourself cupcakes!" he growled back, working hard to swallow the bile that had risen in his throat.

Leaning against the doorframe with one arm, Stoker grinned down at her and oozed every inch of seductive charm at his disposal.

"Can we talk sweet-cheeks? Need a big favour. One only your superior abilities can handle" he said, winking at her.

The geneticist blushed, both the compliment and the presence of the six-foot hunk of alien male sending her dizzy.

But deep down she was still a scientist, and this part still functioned on a sub-conscious level.

"What's it for?" she asked suspiciously.

Stoker stepped closer and bent down till they were nose to nose. "It's for love baby!" he replied softly so only she could hear.

That very moment the scientist in her was put to bed, along with a hot chocolate and marshmallows.

"Well now, come on in!" the geneticist said, giggling like a schoolgirl as she led the way into her home, and lab.

Stoker swore under his breath and wondered for the third time in five minutes if he was insane, or as bad a romantic as the geneticist.

"Tell me the story and then I'll see what I can do" the geneticist said as she pulled on a pink lab-coat, matching goggles and gloves. "You can put your pet scientist over there if you like" she said, indicating Karbunkle, whom she recognised but choose to temporarily ignore.

Stoker unceremoniously dumped Karbunkle on the floor and moved further into the lab.

"Experiment 502. Do you remember him?" Stoker asked as he fended off a panda-poodle mix that came barrelling out of a corner of the lab and took a shine to him.

"Down Boo-Boo! Naughty girl! Leave Uncle Fluffy-Wuffy alone!" she scolded her pet, shooing the panda-poodle away from Stoker. "Yes, one of my finest creations! How is he?"

"He's dead Amy."

DNAmy froze. "Who dared...? Was it that ugly green-fish who refused to pay me for my work?" she demanded, hatred lining her face.

"Limburger. No. It was a female plutarkian. We finally managed to run them out of Chi-town, except she left a little present for 502. Something to undo his DNA. Only someone with knowledge of his origins could have pulled off such a stunt."

"Where is she now?" DNAmy asked in a cold steely voice. Her love for her genetically engineered experiments was legendary, a motherly protection that knew no bounds.

"Licking her wounds somewhere on the moon I should think. Charlie, our mechanic, managed to disable all their long distance transporters so they wouldn't have gotten far" Stoker replied, scratching the panda-poodle under the chin.

Fiery revenge flared briefly in Amy's eyes, betraying her feelings, before being quickly suppressed. Smiling sweetly at him, she pulled her gloves tighter on each hand. "You said you needed my help for love. How does this involve the death of 502?"

"The mechanic Charlie. She's a human female, she helped the bros when they landed on Earth. She and 502 fell in love, hard."

DNAmy clutched her gloved hands to her chin and sighed. "Oh, how romantic! My little 502 fell in love!" she crooned. "What's she like?" she suddenly asked Stoker, hopping up on a lab table.

"No-nonsense, hardworking, tough, and mouthy. You know, typical Chi-girl stuff. But she's got a real sweet side to her too. And she's devastated Amy. I haven't seen grief like that in my whole life. And I've seen plenty of it during the war" Stoker said, pulling a stool under him with his feet.

"How can I help?" DNAmy asked softly, discretely eyeing Stoker off as his leather-clad lower limbs stretched out in front of her.

He cocked his head to the side and gave her a roguish grin. "Got any 502 left in the batch?" he asked seductively, sending shivers of gooeyness down her spine.

She battered her eyelids at him. "Of course, I always backup my work!"

Hopping off the table, she started bustling round the lab, busily mixing ingredients.

"What about memory?" Stoker asked, a frown creeping across his handsome face.

"As long as you have a sample of his fur..." DNAmy didn't look up as she continued working.

Stoker swore again and slapped his forehead. "No, damnit, I knew I'd forgotten something...Hang on, the ship, there's sure to be a sample in there somewhere!"

Stoker raced back to the ship and moved quickly to secure a sample of Vinnie's fur from the last battle the Martian had faced. He raced back and placed it gently into DNAmy's glove.

"Make yourself a coffee, play with the pets, I'll be twenty minutes" she said, her voice confirming her focused attention on the matter at hand.

After what seemed forever, even though he knew it wasn't, Stoker poked his head in to check on DNAmy's progress.

Sensing the Martian's presence, DNAmy turned her head and grinned with smug satisfaction.

"There! All done. Now I put him in the mixer and away he goes!" she trilled, placing the test-tube in a massive contraption labelled 'Mixer' in flowery lettering.

"Cooking is so fun! Cooking is so fun!" DNAmy sang as she grabbed Stoker's arm and forced him to swing around with her in hoe-down fashion. "Now it's time to take a break and see what we have done!"

"Yay! He's ready!" she chortled as she opened the Mixer door and steam spilled out into the room.

"Good grief, there's even dramatic music coming out of that thing!" Stoker groaned inwardly.

While the 'new and improved 502' finished cooling off, Stoker settled down to talk price with DNAmy.

"What about the ship? I can leave it as down-payment. I've got my pension due soon. I can make regular payments from that?" Stoker asked, desperate to find a payment system that would meet the geneticist's approval.

"Oh you! I didn't do it for the money or technology! I did it for lovers everywhere!" DNAmy shushed him before grinning broadly.

"I'll settle for a smooch!" she said coyly, puckering her lips in his direction and batting her eyelids at him.

Stoker groaned and turned a lighter shade of gray as he looked at her pursued lips.

"You see Amy, um...I'm kind of seeing someone...there's this biker chick back in Chi-town...and..."

"Say no more, Sir Fluffy, I would never come between a happy-couple. Give your happy lady my best!" DNAmy replied gently, understanding written all over her face, though disappointment shone just as strongly in her eyes.

Stoker let out the breath he had been holding and sighed in relief. He leaned over and kissed her on one cheek.

"Thank you Amy. This will mean the world to Charlie."

She blushed profusely, mumbling something about 'old Martian charmers' under her breath but clearly pleased by his actions.

As he gathered 502 in his wake, Stoker turned at the door and grinned at DNAmy.

"You know Amy, Karbunkle isn't seeing anyone at the moment!" he said, nodding at the still bound and gagged scientist.

"Really?" DNAmy gasped, skipping delightedly over to the now shrieking scientist.

"Yep, Definitely!" Stoker replied gleefully, before ushering 502 out as quickly as the young experiment could stumble.

Guiding 502 into the ship, Stoker coaxed him into a seat and buckled him in. Jumping into the pilot's seat, he started the engines while pulling the restraints round himself.

"Ok back there son?" Stoker asked, glancing back to check on 502.

"Who am I? Where are we going Dad?" 502 asked, glancing around the cockpit in confusion.

"Figure of speech lad. Don't worry, your memories should return by the time we get back to Chi-town" Stoker replied reassuringly.

As he powered up the engines, he turned back and grinned at 502. "Ready Punk?" he asked, finger poised on the accelerators.

502's expression of confusion was replaced briefly with one of recognition.

"Bring it on, old timer!" he replied with a wide-toothed grin, before it faded back into bewilderment.

Stoker whooped with joy and sent the ship on the fastest route possible back to Chi-town.

Charlie sat alone before the gravestone that commemorated the brave heroics of her Martian husband. The others had eventually moved away, allowing her the private time she needed so desperately so she could say her final good-byes to the white tornado that had stolen her heart.

"Oh Vinnie, I love you so much. I never got to tell you this, but being with you was the most exciting time of my life. I never wanted it to end!" she sobbed, vainly attempting to wipe the tears away . "I wanted to rock and ride with you forever!"

A presence silently emerged at her side.

"Please, just give me some time alone with him!" she begged, afraid of being pulled away before she was ready.

The presence ignored her request and bent down to place a hand under her chin. It forced her face upwards and she blinked through the blurry tears, too drained to rant at the intruder to her private moment.

"You can have all the 'alone time' you want with me sweetheart" the intruder said, love warming his tone. "We'll rock and ride this planet crazy!"

"Vinnie!" Charlie cried, flinging her arms around her beloved husband's neck and pulling him down for a deep kiss.

When they stopped enough to refill their lungs, they stood holding each other and grinning like two idiots.

"My cheeks are hurting" Charlie commented, struggling to relax the over-stretched cheek muscles.

"Mine too, but I can't stop smiling!" Vinnie replied, releasing Charlie to rub his sore face.

Something about her husband nagged for her attention.

"Um Vinnie, why are you naked?" Charlie asked, indicating his birthday suit.

He grinned at her and ran a hand through his ears. "Long story Charlie-girl!" he replied, slipping his arm around her shoulders.

"Short-story it then!" she said, squeezing him back.

"Ok, short-story...thirty second version...Plutark needed to slips spies into the Martian population so they could undermine them and find their weak points. All their attempts to use plutarkian spies failed, cos we could smell the stink-fish a mile away. So Limburger came up with the plan to enrol the services of a crazy scientist to 'engineer' Martian spies."

"Karbunkle!" Charlie snarled, hate heavily evident for the alien scientist who had helped bring about the demise of her beloved partner, who amazingly enough, seemed to be standing next to her, as well as being several feet under layers of soil at the same time.

"Not quite sweetheart. It was a human geneticist. A genius even amongst non-human species. Any who, she created Experiment 502. A fully functioning spy who looked, acted and thought enough to pass as Martian. She used a combination of Martian and human DNA to create him. That experiment, sweetheart, was me. The Freedom-Fighters found me on a raid and rescued me as a kid. They didn't know I had been planted deliberately. What Limburger didn't count on was that the geneticist is a romantic at heart. She doesn't like people messing with her pets, so she put a few kinks in the genetic mix. Instead of the loyal plutarkian lap-dog they were hoping for, they got the baddest mamma-jamma this side of the universe!"

Vinnie grinned and growled in his throat, sending a very clear message of what he had on his mind.

Used to his theatrics, Charlie's mind managed to stay focused even if her body refused. Already she could feel the throbbing of anticipation trickling through her.

She stopped and swung round to stand in front of him.

"I love you!" she said firmly. "No matter what, I love you!"

A smile split Vinnie's face before he leant in to tenderly lay a light kiss on her mouth.

"That's good to hear sweetheart!" he murmured, brushing his lips against her's in a way that left tingles shooting to her toes. "Cos, now that she knows you exist, I think you're going to have to meet your mother-in-law!"

"YYYYYYYOOOOOOOOUUUUU-HHHHHHOOOOOO! 502! IT'S MUMMY!" a voice trilled, splitting the peace and serenity in two.

Vinnie blanched and recoiled from the noise.

"Quick, before she finds us!" he whispered and dragged his giggling wife into some nearby bushes, where he let her know exactly how much he loved this special lady who had given him so much joy.

Things could have gotten a lot more interesting if the panda-poodle hadn't sniffed them out.

"Oh there you are 502! And this must be your Charlie!" DNAmy cooed happily, taking the younger woman by the arm.

Charlie grinned as Vinnie rolled his eyes in frustration and tried to follow them. The panda-poodle made it difficult as it recognised Vinnie as a fellow experiment and wanted to play, since it had been denied fun-time with Stoker.

"You really should put some pants on dear!" DNAmy tutted, taking in his naked state.

"Don't have any mum" he retorted, before the panda-poodle bowled him onto the ground in a bear hug.

A shovel landed by his head. "Start digging boy-o" DNAmy snapped back before continuing to pump Charlie with questions about her romance with dear '502'.

"Come on girl" Vinnie sighed, leading the panda-poodle away from the nattering females. "Looks like I'm going to dig myself more than I already do!" he remarked to Boo-Boo as he drove the shovel into the freshly laid soil.

The panda-poodle merely wagged her tail, before deciding this new game was just too much fun to be left out of and happily joined in digging.