Serious writer's block this last few weeks, so I apologies for not having updated Scars yet. I keep trying to write the next chapter but never seem happy with what comes out - so please bear with me.

Anyway, this posting is just a preview for a trilogy of stories I want to work on once Scars is done (not forgetting Jackal's Den too - sorry BabyKitsune9, my brain can't handle more than one at once), and I have no doubt I will edit even this part quite radically. And depending on how I write it I may have to post it elsewhere on AO3 and give you guys a link (for maturity of audience reasons, which I think you will see from reading this).

Briefly, the trilogy will explore some affecting each of the three mice in turn, something deep (and dark) that pretty much defines them. This is no.1. and goes with one of the themes I use in my storylines. I'd say enjoy, but you know how I write so um maybe not.

Broken bonds

Chapter 1.

The coolness in the air sent a chill down his spine, and set the tiny white hairs on the back of his neck upright. It was the down season, winter, and even at this relatively early hour the distant sun was dipping below the horizon and casting finger-like shadows over the dusty sands where he walked. School was out for the day, and heading home the little mouse thought only of the snug warmth of his family's cave, and the small pile of Martian-made toys he would soon be playing with once more.

He had been lucky that there had been no bombings in his neighbourhood yet, and as his school was not far from home his parents were happy for him to take the short walk between the two on his own. There was a mouse who he sometimes went with, another boy, but he lived two streets closer to the school than he so this last bit he nearly always took by himself.

The little mouse smiled happily. It had been a good day; his teachers had been pleased with his work which meant his parents would be soon too. Good work meant rewards, and today he had been granted a night off from homework. All that lay ahead for him, he thought as he skipped lightly onwards in the cool afternoon breeze, was a hot dinner, bath, play time, and the arms of his parents as they cuddled him before putting him to bed. His favourite time. A mouse like him, who by day burst with energy and life, actually appreciated his rest. He was a very well-behaved, considerate little mouse after all, and he knew his parents would also enjoy the time to themselves in the late evening.

Just before the last corner to his street the mouse paused. He had heard something strange, a noise he hadn't heard before, and it was coming from somewhere nearby. He turned and looked about, but saw nothing. The street was empty aside from himself.

Then it came again. A sort of mewling cry, like an infant might make.

On the opposite side of the road was a small park, a place where most of the families in the village took their little ones at weekends or on summer evenings. It was one of the few places left that still had a touch of green, as most people had given up trying to keep their gardens now that water had become so rare. Instead, the residents of this area had clubbed together to keep this one single place looking nice, and tended the few shrubs here that were drought tolerant enough to survive since the Plutarkians had made their mark.

It was somewhere within, or behind, these few bushes that the noise came, and thinking it was someone, or something, that might be in trouble the little mouse boldly decided to investigate. He thought that perhaps one of the younger kids had gotten lost and was crying for his parents. If that was the case he would take them with him, and his mother or father would help see them safely home. They had taught him to be a caring and responsible young boy, and he knew in his heart that he could not simply walk by if someone was in trouble.

Following the sound, the little mouse crossed over the road and headed into the park. He took a left to follow the winding dirt path that passed by the small garden, and then stepped off it and carefully stuck his head through into the thick, woody shrubs.

"Hello?" He whispered, feeling more timid now he was out of sight of the street.

It was getting quite dark now the sun had gone down, and his eyes hadn't yet fully adjusted to the gloom. If anything it was even darker here, in the park, and more so the further he pushed into the dense shrubby grove.

As far as he could make out there was no one there, and whatever had been making the noise had stopped. Confused, and a little anxious, the mouse turned, hoping to get home before his parents worried or got mad at his lateness. Whatever he thought he had heard he must have been mistaken, he decided.

He hadn't even realised they were there until he nearly walked into them, and he hadn't noticed the strange musky smell on the air that had nothing to do with the compost his feet were standing on.

"Going somewhere mousey mouse?" The rough, taunting voice of the dog-like teen towering before him sent those hairs on his neck more taut than the wind had achieved. "Little bit young to be out here on your own, aren't you?"

The teen chuckled, and his mirth was swelled by the laughs from the half dozen or so other sand raiders now standing in a ring around him. Surrounding him.

The little mouse gulped, and shivered. Though he knew the dog-like Martians shared his planet, they typically did not live side-by-side with his kind. The sand raiders were nomads, mostly, and for there to be a whole bunch of them standing here between him and his home could only mean one thing.

There was a pack in town, and they probably had only just arrived. Last time there had been one anywhere near his neighbourhood his parents had insisted he was accompanied to and from school, and anywhere outside his cave, without exception. There had been no such warning today, or at least HE hadn't been given one.

The little mouse knew he should be brave, and not show his fear. That's what his mother had told him when he had found himself bullied in school, and it had worked – more or less. He didn't have many friends, just the boy he walked home with really, but since standing up for himself that day in the canteen the older mice had decided to leave him be.

But this was different. This wasn't school, and there weren't any teachers nor anyone else nearby to intervene. For some reason the street beyond the little playground was deserted this evening, and so he was completely on his own.

This was dangerous. And he knew it.

"Awww is the little mousey scared?" A second sand raider jeered as a few tears escaped the young mouse's eyes. They were easily twice his height, probably twice his age too, and any of the earlier courage he had had when searching for the source of the cry had quickly evaporated.

"What's your name, runt?" said another, a vicious edge to his tone. "Speak up, mouse, we ain't got all night."

"V-V-Vinnie" the young mouse squeaked, trying his hardest to keep himself from trembling.

"Well, V-V-Vinnie, isn't this your lucky night, huh? Lucky that we found you before anyone else did, and that we're going to let you get home." The largest of the sand raider teens stepped forward and placed one of his heavy paw-like hands on the shaking mouse's shoulder, and squeezed it tight.

The other dogs were laughing, and Vinnie swallowed hard, hoping above all else that he had meant what he just said, and that he would be allowed to go home.

"Ummm... you mean it? You're going to let me go home?" He looked up at the burly male holding his shoulder, with his innocent pink eyes wide and watery, and hopeful. Pleading.

"Sure kid. Once you've paid us the fare, that is."

"The... fare?" This meant little to the young mouse, as any form of public transport had long since vanished once the war had started. "But... I don't have any money..."

"That's alright, kid, we don't need paying in money."

The young male pack were all laughing again, a wavering, bark-like laugh that crescendoed into shrill yips as the excitement grew. It had been a long time since they had had an opportunity such as this, and they were all oozing with the pent up aggressive energy that resulted from their overly high levels of testosterone.

The circle tightened around the small white-furred mouse cowering behind the vegetation in the village park. The strange yipping that his assailants were now making sounded awfully like the noise that had lured him here in the first place... only louder, and not at all like someone who was afraid.

"P-p-please... I... I don't live very far, I... um... don't need help getting home... please..."

His little tail swished in nervousness. He wasn't too sure what this fare was that they wanted from him, as he had spent all of his Martian coins on his lunch already, and he didn't ever carry anything more. Money was becoming something of an obsolescence these days too.

The sand raider holding onto him grinned, and pulled him closer. "Believe me, mouse, by the time we're done with you, you WILL be needing help getting home."