Pre-reading babble. My thanks go to KLCtheBookworm and Paperkat.  The story would never have been finished without them.

This story takes place before "Caveat Mentor" in the BMFM timeline.

Disclaimer. I don't own any of the characters from BMFM, nor do I make any profit from this story yadda yadda. Any character here not mentioned in the series is my own creation, unless otherwise indicated. Feel free to use them, but do let me know, and let others know where to find them. Otherwise, just read and enjoy. Cheers, Mez.

Morning, this one's for you.

The wall behind Stoker exploded.  He ducked and ran through the flying debris.  Laser bolts screamed past him as the Death Squad opened fire. Beakers and test tubes rained down and smashed on the floor, adding broken glass to the other hazards of the half-destroyed laboratory.  He dived behind a filing cabinet and heard Rimfire cry out.  Stoker glanced around the edge of the cabinet to see where Rimfire was.  He saw Rimfire's legs disappear behind a desk and frowned at the bloody trail on the floor.

"You ok, kid?" Stoker yelled over the sounds of the fire-fight.

A Plutarkian came around the corner of the L-shaped room into his sights and Stoker fired automatically. The Plutarkian dropped; dead or alive, Stoker had no idea. He heard swearing from Rimfire's direction.

"Damn! Shot clipped my knee, I can't put any weight on it."

Stoker grinned and let loose a barrage of shots.  He took advantage of the brief respite from enemy fire and flung himself across the room to join Rimfire.  He made it behind the desk just before a flurry of return fire blazed across the intervening space. He sent a volley back to the source.

Rimfire tore off his shirt and tied it tightly around his knee. Stoker kept the squad at bay with periodic fire.  He scanned the room, looking for a quick exit.

"So much for a fast in-and-out raid," said the older mouse, chuckling.

Rimfire opened his mouth to reply when a grenade flew over the desk and bounced at their feet.  Stoker grabbed Rimfire by his scruff and ran.

Bolts of energy screamed around him as he dragged Rimfire across the floor.  Rimfire cursed but Stoker wasn't about to stop.  He heard, rather than felt the blast as it caught him and flung him across the room and into blackness.

In the Last Chance Garage, Charlene "Charley" Davidson had just turned off the downstairs light and was walking up the stairs to bed when she heard a low hum. A sudden flash of light cast dark shadows on the wall in front of her.  Charley froze.  She moved stealthily back down the stairs.  Images of various ruffians that she had faced rose in her mind and she looked around for a weapon.  She grabbed a vase from the table in the hall.  Not much, but better than nothing.  She slipped down the hall and peered around the corner into the garage.

A bulky figure crouched on the floor in the middle of the garage, propped up on its hands and one knee, swearing quietly and viciously.  Another very still figure lay behind it.  Charley raised the vase.

"Alright, scum! Get out of here!" she shouted as she flipped on the light. The figure on its knees looked up at her and smiled sheepishly.  "Hey Charley, a little help here?"

"Rimfire?"  She put the vase down on top of a toolbox and rushed across to him. Rimfire sat up as she approached, and began to untie what looked like his shirt from around his knee. Charley reached down to help him.

"I got it, Charley. Check on Stoke for me, will you?"

Charley nodded and moved over to Stoker, who was lying face down beside Rimfire. She rolled him onto his back, grunting with the effort. One side of his face was sticky with blood and as she parted the fur, she saw a long gash near his temple. 

"What happened?" she said.

"We bounced off a wall," grunted Rimfire, grimacing as he prodded his knee. He glanced at Stoker. "He ok?"

"I don't know." Charley glanced at Rimfire's bloody knee. "I'm going to call the guys. Hang on for a second."

Charley moved quickly towards the radio but halfway there, changed her mind and headed for the kitchen.  Her first-aid kit sat on a shelf in easy reach.  She jogged back to Rimfire, trying to remember if she had restocked it recently. 

"See what you can clean up, ok?" said Charley, dropping the kit beside Rimfire and walking back to the radio. 

"Charley calling the biker mice.  Charley calling the biker mice.  Are you there, guys?"

"Babe!  Couldn't last five minutes without me, huh?"

Charley rolled her eyes.

"We're here, Charley-girl," said Throttle in his smoky voice.  "What's up?  Trouble?"

"Visitors.  I have Rimfire and Stoker in my garage, in poor shape.  Can you come back?"

"We-all will be there soon, Charley ma'am," said Modo firmly.

Charley ducked down the hall and into the bathroom.  She grabbed some clean towels and filled a bowl with warm water.  When she returned to the garage, Rimfire was tearing into a pack of sterile swabs.  He grinned at her.

"All ready, nurse Charley?" he teased.

Charley poked her tongue at him and knelt down beside Stoker.  She folded a towel and placed it under Stoker's head before wetting the corner of another towel and trying to clean some of the blood from Stoker's fur. She was in the wrong position however, so she moved around behind him and placed his head on her lap. She gently cleaned the blood from around the wound, her fingers exploring the extent of the damage. She glanced over at Rimfire and noticed him examining his knee with a pensive expression.

"Is it bad?"

"It's not good.  Messy," he said, moving his knee and wincing. "Ouch."

Charley heard the roar of the bikes in the distance.

"That was quick," said Rimfire.

"They'd only left a few minutes before you arrived." 

The garage doors opened and the bikes roared in and slid to a halt. Modo was first off, moving quickly to his nephew's side. Throttle crouched down beside Charley and Stoker. Vinnie stood between them, bending down to examine Rimfire's knee.

"Nice mess ya got there, kid," Vinnie said, peering interestedly at the wound.

"Thanks," said Rimfire dryly.

Modo glared at Vinnie, grabbed the swabs from Rimfire and began cleaning the bloody wound.

"So what happened?" said Throttle.

"Well, we ran a quick raid on the local Plutarkian base. Unfortunately there was a- ow- Death Squad in residence..."

"A what?" asked Charley.

"A Death Squad," said Throttle, fingers probing the bloody wound on Stoker's head. He straightened up, wiping his hands on a towel. "Plutark's best forces.  Military training and bio-enhancements, they're a cut above the regular soldiers. They're built for base raids, cleaning out "unwanteds" from an area."

"Unwanteds such as ourselves," Vinnie said.

"Lucky for us there aren't many of them," rumbled Modo. 

"Lucky, all right. They know exactly where the weak points in a base's defences are. Freedom fighter bases are always targets for a death squad," Throttle said, frowning.

"So what happened then?" said Modo.

"Well, we got trapped in the lab and my knee got hit.  Someone lobbed a grenade at us and we had to run for it.  We got caught in the blast and Stoker took a hit to the head when we smacked into the wall.  I couldn't carry him, I could barely move myself.  So I dragged us to the nearest transport booth and we zapped out."

"But why here?" said Throttle. "Not that we don't like to see you, kid, but why didn't you go back to base?"

Rimfire grinned lopsidedly.  "Well, the truth is...these were the only coordinates I could remember at the time."

Vinnie and Throttle burst out laughing. Modo yanked his nephew's ear.

"Ow!  Hey, look, I don't exactly use those things every day, you know."

"They'll be wondering where you are at base," said Throttle.

"Yeah, I know."

"Guys," Charley interrupted. Stoker blinked and opened his eyes.  He looked dazedly up at Charley, a half-smile on his face.

"Hey there," said Charley softly.

"Def'n'tly th' way t' w'ke up," he slurred. He closed his eyes and lost consciousness again.

"That's it?" said Vinnie. He crossed his arms. "You'd think he could put a little more effort in."

"Not his best performance, that's for sure." Throttle glanced at the two injured mice. "We can't really move them, Charley-girl. Got any ideas?"

"I've already thought about that. Put Rimfire upstairs in the spare room and Stoker in my bed. I'll move onto the couch for a few days."

Throttle frowned. "We can't ask you do that, Charley."

"Yes, you can. And I'll fit on there a lot better than any of you big lugs would."

"Too true," chuckled Throttle. "Alright guys, let's get this plan in motion."

"You're really missing the action, aren't you?" said Vinnie, bending down to help Modo with Rimfire.

"It's driving me insane. If Limburger doesn't do something in the next 24 hours, I may have to get a hobby."

Stoker awoke with a pounding headache. He grimaced and rubbed his forehead, trying to relieve the pain. Cool hands brushed across his brow and he opened his eyes wide in surprise, to find Charley smiling down at him. Stoker took one of her hands in his and brushed her fingers across his lips.

"Hey there, Beautiful."

"Hello yourself," said Charley, seated on the edge of the bed. "How's the head?"

"Must have been a hell of a party."

"So I heard." Charley said, smiling.  She reached over to something Stoker couldn't see and brought a cloth and a bottle into view. Stoker watched curiously as she stained a corner of the cloth yellow with something from the bottle before pressing it against his temple.

"What's...ow!" he said as his wound began to sting. He grabbed the cloth from her and held it against the wound. "Blasted antiseptic"

"Don't be such a baby," Charley teased.

Stoker smiled up at her. Her green eyes were bright and her expression mischievous. She brushed a hand across his forehead again, and the pain disappeared where her cool fingers brushed his fur. Stoker was suddenly achingly aware of how long it had been since he'd spent time with this beautiful redhead, or any woman, for that matter.

"Why is it that the only women I meet these days are nursing me back to health?"

Charley laughed and Stoker was briefly fascinated by the way her hair flowed across her shoulders as she moved. He smiled at her again and was rewarded with the attention of a pair of intense green eyes.

"How are those uncultured louts treating you?"

"Much the same. They've finally learned not to put holes in my walls, though educating them took a lot of effort."

Stoker chuckled, then grimaced as a wave of pain coursed through his skull. The cool hands were once again on his brow, stroking away the hurt. Stoker took a breath to say that he was fine and that Charley probably had more important things to do, but the gentle, caressing fingers robbed him of speech. He closed his eyes and relaxed as Charley gently massaged his headache away. Somewhere along the way he drifted off to sleep.

"Well, we could call you Long John Silver," Charley said the next day, watching Rimfire test his mobility on the pair of crutches she had procured for him.

"Who?" chorused the mice.

"Never mind."

Rimfire leaned on his crutches and grinned at Charley.

"Ready for action, ma'am!" he quipped, ripping off a snappy salute and dropping one of the crutches. He grabbed at it with his tail and managed not to fall over.

"Yeah, I can see you're really battle-ready there, kid," chuckled Throttle.

Rimfire hobbled over to the couch, dropping awkwardly into it beside Stoker.  "Better than the coach, anyway," he said.

Stoker opened one eye and glared at Rimfire. "Take you anytime, punk."

Rimfire opened his mouth to reply when Vinnie's excited voice cut into the conversation.

"Hey guys, check it out!" Vinnie turned the volume up on the television as Tara Diddle, Chicago's most prominent newshound, appeared on the screen.

"I'm standing on the site of Chicago's old sulphur mine. The mine was abandoned in 1934 during the Great Depression, and was never reopened. Earlier today, Chicago businessman Lawrence Limburger announced he will be reopening the mine, a move that will create many new employment opportunities for the people of Chicago and increase the economic viability of our fair city."

"Ha! Employment opportunities for new goons, more like!" snorted Vinnie.

"I knew that stinkfish was up to something! Let's ride!" shouted Throttle, dashing for his bike.

Charley looked dubious. "Sulphur? Why would he want sulphur? I mean, sure, it's a mineral..."

"The stinkiest one there is," said Vinnie, pulling on his helmet, "fitting for a low-life stinkfish like Limburger!"

"Let's ROCK!" shouted Modo.

Throttle stared at him in amazement.

"What, I don't get to do the battle-cry now and then?"

"Come ON!," said Vinnie impatiently.

"Er, right. And, er, ride!" said Throttle.

Charley waved, unseen, as the three bikes roared off into the quiet streets.

Stoker watched Rimfire as he attempted to pace on his crutches, then looked through the door into the garage where Charley was working.  Rimfire flopped into a chair and sighed.  Stoker smiled gingerly, wincing as the skin on his temple pulled against the dressing. 

"How can you just sit there?" Rimfire complained.

Stoker shrugged one shoulder.  "What else am I supposed to do?"

Rimfire moved restlessly in the chair.  "I don't know.  Get on the radio or something.  Find out what's going on."

"Relax, kid. They'll be fine. They know what they're doing."

On cue, Throttle's voice came through the radio.

"All clear, Charley girl, we're coming home."

"Hot dogs for the heroes of the galaxy!" crowed Vincent.

Charley walked back into the living room, wiping her hands on a rag.  "Rimfire, you have no faith."

"He's got faith, just no patience," said Stoker. 

Charley laughed and headed into the kitchen.  Stoker closed his eyes, hoping that would ease the pounding in his head.

Ten minutes later the three bikes roared into the garage. Stoker winced and opened one eye. Vinnie leapt off his bike, tore off his helmet and hurled it into a corner, where it knocked over a stand of tools.  Charley poked her head out of the kitchen and frowned at the white mouse as he dashed into the living room.

"Whipped tail from here to Plutark! AWOOOOOHOOOO! The baddest mammajamma in the galaxy! And not a scratch on me!" He held out his arms, clearly admiring the unblemished white fur. "How about a kiss for the victor?" he said, waggling his eyebrows at Charley.

"In your dreams, Vinnie!" she snapped, and walked past him to pick up her tools.

 Vinnie grinned, unabashed, and dashed for the kitchen where his bro's were already demolishing the hotdogs and root beer, with no regard for table manners.

Stoker opened the other eye and sat up. He watched, frowning slightly, as they ate.

Throttle noticed his gaze and held up a hotdog. "Mmn rph nffrm?" he said, mouth full.

"No," said Stoker.

"You bet!" said Rimfire, hobbling into the kitchen to join the feast.

Stoker winced again as Vinnie slammed his rootbeer onto the table.  His head definitely wasn't up to a serious celebration.  He pushed himself to his feet and walked through the garage to the alley outside.

The air was cooler here and a light wind ruffled his fur.  He heard a rattle and turned to look back into the garage.

Charley was kneeling on the floor, picking up the tools that Vinnie had knocked over earlier.   Stoker leaned against the doorframe, watching her.  Charley finished picking up her tools and then wiped a stray lock of hair off her forehead with a very dirty hand, leaving a black smear across her pale skin.  She got to her feet and picked up the toolbox.  As she straightened up, she caught his eye.

"What's wrong, Stoke?"

"Nothing." Stoker smiled. "Just thinking." Charley smiled back at him and went to work on her truck.  Stoker watched her for a while, until a resounding crash from the direction of the kitchen drove him outside again.