Chapter Twelve: Limburger's Surprise

Charley eased her eyes open with a sigh. She recognized her bedroom onboard the Fury and found that she could easily move her legs. She turned her head to look at the other side of the room.

Throttle was asleep in a chair facing the bed. His chin rested against his chest. She watched him, unwilling to climb out of bed if the noise would wake him.

It didn't matter because his eyes blinked open and he raised his head. "You're awake." He got out of the chair and knelt next to the bed. "How do you feel?"

"Like I'm going to die," she smiled seductively at his alarmed face, "if you don't kiss me."

A new expression filled his features, relief mingled with desire. "Can't have that, can we?"

She closed her eyes and swam again in the sensations of his kiss. Fairy tales are true. Kisses wake everyone up.

Throttle sat down on the edge of the bed and took hold of her hand. "Seriously, how do you feel?"

"Just fine. See." She kicked her legs under the sheets. "Did you spend all night in that chair?"

"I wanted to be close in case you needed something."

"It would've been more comfortable in bed with me."

He looked chagrined. "I didn't want to wake you up. Must've been tired; I completely forgot you slept through Modo and Roddie's fight."

"I remember hearing him yell. That's the last thing I do remember. What happened?"

"They had a fight over Sparks. But it's all settled now. Chicago's gainin a new mouse, babe."

"Sparks? He looks like Modo. Are they related?"

"Yeah, father and son."

"He never . . .."

"He didn't know. Stella didn't tell anybody on Mars."

Charley sat up. "Modo must be ecstatic. When is he going to tell Bola?"

Throttle chuckled, "I don't think it's even occurred to him yet. He better do it long distance. Otherwise, he'll be too embarrassed to tell her."

There was a soft knock on the door. "Come in," they both called out at the same time and chuckled.

Vinnie opened the door and Charley made a sound of concern. His eyes were bloodshot and the left one had a dark circle from lack of sleep tingeing the skin under his white fur. "Feelin better, Charley-girl?"

"Yeah, what happened to you?"

"Couldn't sleep. Look, Throttle, maybe you should go make sure we still have a ride home."

"Why wouldn't we?" The tan-furred mouse asked quietly.

"Me and my mouth strike again." Charley frowned. She had never heard Vinnie's voice so bitter before. "Maybe Modo was right 'bout Tala. Anyway, if I go near her, she'll probably blow my head off. And I don't wanna leave a mess on Roddie's ship." He opened the door and left them alone.

Throttle blew out his breath. "I know he's got lousy luck with women, but I sure hope he hasn't stranded us here."

"I can go talk to her. If she's still here."

"Nah, I'll go." He brushed his lips across hers and stood up. "Put in a good word for Vincent if I can. I'm ready to go home."

Charley really couldn't explain why her heart started fluttering when he called Chicago home.

Throttle took a deep breath and knocked on Tala's door. Maybe I shouldn't have been in such a hurry not to let Charley deal with this. Not that I'm scared of Tala. It's just depending on what Vinnie has done, seeing another male mouse might not be good for the other mouse.

The door eased open. She looked worse than Vinnie. Her eyes were bloodshot, swollen, and marked with that strange discoloration pale-skinned humans developed with no sleep. Her nose was red and the frown lines around her mouth were deeper. "If Exhaust is on another rampage, I'm sitting this one out."

He gulped. "If this is a bad time?"

"There's never any good times. Come in, I think I need another opinion."

"If this is about what happened tween you and Vinnie, maybe you should talk to Charley or Roddie." He glanced around the living room of the suite. If they had a fight, it hadn't been a physical one. The only things out of place were Vinnie's green bandoleers lying on the couch and a pile of wadded-up tissues that had overflowed from the small trashcan.

"I need a male opinion."

What in the hell has Vinnie gotten me involved in?

Tala turned away and took a deep breath. "What does it mean to call someone a tease?"

Throttle's hand came up automatically to drop his field specs down his snout. He quickly switched and rubbed under his jaw instead. "You're kidding."

"I am not kidding! I've been up all night trying to decide if I should forgive him or kill him! I finally concluded it depends on what he meant by calling me a tease." She stared at him expectantly.

"You honestly don't know?"

"Is something wrong with those ears of yours? I honestly don't know!"

"A tease is someone who leads you on."

"Leads you where? Into enemy territory."

"Makes you think you're gonna have sex and then you don't." He sighed. "I don't know what happened but Vinnie often says things without thinking them through. He can't help it."

She wasn't listening. "What would have given him the idea that I wanted to have sex?"

He crossed over to the couch and picked up the bandoleers. "What were you doing?"

"Kissing. I took those off." She waved a hand at the bandoleers. "Then he . . . and that was the end of that."

"You started undressing him. Any guy would interpret that as permission to go to next base."

"I took off his weapons and he thought I gave him permission to take off my shirt? Shit, that is what he thought!" She sank to the floor.

"Tala, I'm sorry."

"And he got mad because of what I said. And I got madder because of what he said. What do I do now?"

"You could try talking to him before we leave," Throttle suggested.

"Leave? Oh, you guys are ready to leave! You still have to deal with Limburger. Fine, meet me at my ship in an hour."

Throttle found himself standing in the hall, holding the bandoleers in his hand and blinking at her door before he knew what had happened. He shrugged. "Guess we're leaving."

"I'm trying real hard not to do the typical thing and offer a truckload of advice on how to deal with him." Roddie handed Modo another bag to tie down to his bike.

Sparks sat on a extra fuel barrel in the hanger bay the More Hot Stuff was parked in. "I appreciate it. You might make him change his mind."

"Very funny. Go say good-bye to Lance." The boy sighed but complied. She waited until he was out of earshot. "Modo, Sparks is very smart. Stella used to say that he had her brains and your brawn."

Modo finished tying the third bag to Li'l Hoss and faced the black-furred mouse. "A dangerous combination."

"You got that right. Don't let him waste it. Make him study something. He's got so much potential."

"Too much to become a biker bum like his old man, huh?"

It hurt to have her words thrown back into her face at a guess. She swallowed the pain. "You're not a bum, but you're no rocket scientist either. Sparks could be."

"Well, it's not like I can enroll him in school in Chicago." The large grey mouse shrugged. "I'll talk to Charley 'bout it. She'll come up with something."

Vinnie gulped as Throttle shoved him up the More Hot Stuff's ramp. "I can't believe you're scared of her," his tan bro said contemptuously. "Just go talk to her."

"She's a heavily armed mercenary and I pissed her off. I'm not scared; it's self-preservation."

"You don't have any self-preservation."

"What if you're wrong 'bout her not wantin to kill me?"

"I get your CD collection, right?"

Tala walked out of the cockpit and froze. She was dressed in her usual faded black jeans and maroon blouse. Vinnie's mouth went dry at the sight of her distressed face. "Let me outta here," he muttered as he tried to go back down the ramp.

Throttle blocked his path. "Don't be an idiot. Talk to her." He gave him another shove forward and retreated down the ramp.

She swallowed hard. "If you don't want to . . . to talk."

"No he's right. Throttle's always right. We need to talk."

She led him into the cockpit, a small room with room for two passengers along with the pilot, and stared out the window. "I suppose I should apologize."

"You? I'm the one who said . . .. I wouldn't be surprised if you want to shoot me for what I said. I would want to shoot me if I said that to me."

"But you were right. I was being a tease." She turned to face him. "But I wasn't doing it on purpose. I wasn't trying to hurt you. I don't understand a lot--I don't understand any of this foreplay stuff. Now you know why."

Vinnie frowned. "I still shouldn't have said that stuff. It was wrong."

"You didn't know."

"I know that not knowing doesn't make it better. I'm stupid but not that stupid." He looked at the floor and shuffled his feet. "Will you let me try to make it up to you? A date the next time you're on Earth? And I promise I'll keep my hands to myself."

"You still want to date me? Even after knowing what you know 'bout me?"

"It doesn't change how I feel." He looked up at her.

She smiled wanly. "Dinner, dancing, and trashing some goons in Chicago in a couple of weeks?"

"Lady's choice."

"Then I guess it's a date."

Everyone was crowded in the More Hot Stuff's cargo hold. Roddie hugged Sparks, Modo, and Vinnie before reaching Charley. "I forgot to tell you earlier. Welcome to the family," she whispered into the human's ear.

"Thanks, I think."

The black-furred mouse pulled back with a giggle. "Take care of these macho mice. I'm pretty attached to them."

Charley grinned. "So am I."

She watched Roddie move to Throttle and hug him tightly. "Come back for another visit. We can guarantee a better stay now."

The tan-furred mouse sighed. "I should tried to take him alive."

"Exhaust asked for his fate. Here, we found these in Internal Security headquarters." She handed back his purple laser pistol and his nuke-knucks glove. She stood on her tiptoes and slipped his field specs back into place. She moved back and admired the effect. "Feel better?"

"Yeah." He hugged her again. "Take care, little sis-cuz."

"You too, big bro-cuz."

Tala activated the transport booth. "Connected to Limburger's booth."

"We shouldn't keep Fishface waiting." Charley took hold of Throttle's hand as he helped her onto his bike.

"Let's rock . . .."

"And ride!"

Charley clung to Throttle's waist as they shot into the blue energy contained by the transport booth. The black and chrome bike skidded to a stop in the center of Karbunkle's metal-lined lab.

The skinny humanoid with an abnormally large head scuttled out of the way of the barrage of laser bolts from the two bikes that joined them.

Vinnie laughed wildly at the sight of the wrecked experiment and Fred's mangled limbs twitching with pleasure. "Let's show Karbunkle how much we missed him!"

"Hack 'n slash number thirty-two!" Throttle cried.

The missile launchers popped out beside the laser canons on the bikes. Throttle and Vinnie shifted their bikes, bring their rear wheels close to Modo's so all their backs were covered by each other. Missiles and laser bolts flew from the front of the bikes.

The explosion from the floors below knocked Limburger out of his office chair. "What the?" He picked himself up, dusting off his purple business suit before sitting back at his desk. He hit the intercom on his desk. "Greasepit, could you please discover the source of that detonation? Greasepit?"

An explosion ripped away the wall that held his office door. "Grease-gut's a little occupied," the tan-furred mouse announced cheerfully.

"Overjoyed with what we got him on our trip," the human female sitting behind him on his bike added.

"But we're more than happy to play with ya," Modo offered.

They're alive. They're back. Am I surprised? Not in the least. Limburger jumped up out of his executive chair, screaming for his goons while running to the door of his secret exit.

Vinnie chuckled as they watched Limburger's portly body disappear behind the wall. "He wants to play who-can-get-out-of-the-tower-before-it-crumbles."

"Aren't we the current champions?" Charley asked.

"What the heck, let's make it little more challenging. Each bike takes a different route," Throttle ordered.

Sparks repositioned his arms around Modo's waist as they blasted their way through a wall. "So who was that?"

"The local stinkfish. We got a routine worked out. He comes up with a plan to destroy Chicago or us; we stop him and destroy his tower. Then it's free time until he gets rebuilt and comes up with a new plan." Modo explained easily as they blasted through the skyscraper.

"And Lance was worried I wouldn't find anything to do." Sparks grinned as he started to imagine ways he could help.

The End