These guys need your support!
Honestly, this looks like an awesome game, and you have to give them credit for going with the original series. I’m throwing a few dollars/euros their way, and you should too!
Yep, I finally finished with what I hope isn’t a boring chapter. Life kinda hit, and hit hard here.
I’d like to dedicate this chapter to a dear friend who passed from this world recently and way too soon.
Jon Tucker was very much the human embodiment of Modo. He was a gentle giant and stood at almost 7 feet tall. He was a dear friend who never let you down and always stood up for what was right. He was polite to a fault some days, and would never give up a fight when he thought it was worth winning. And I’d give just about anything to hear his deep baritone voice, ringing across the room, singing “Cows With Guns”. We never let him near the bikes though. He was the only guy I knew to take up jogging only to break his leg the second day. Or fencing, only to spring his wrist, or archery, only to have both forearms bruised beyond recognition. But damn could he swing a broadsword without major injury to himself.
Goodbye Jon. Ride Free Citizen!
Talking with Al Capone’s Ghost
The early morning sunlight streamed in through the split in the curtains as Rocket blinked her eyes. She rolled over to read the old alarm clocks announcement of seven thirty two.
Sitting up at the side of the bed, she stretched out her arms and legs, then briefly considered going back to sleep. Deciding against it, she pulled her backpack over and removed her toiletry kit. She stood with a yawn and made her way into the hall. After retrieving a towel from the linen closet, she stepped into the guest bathroom to discover that Charley had painted it a mint green with black art deco styled arches that went up from the tiled floor to the plaster moulded ceiling.
The fixtures and black and white ceramic tile were original to the building looked a little more at home with the art deco theme, but it still came as a bit of a shock. The last time Rocket saw it, it was baby blue with multi-color rubber ducks they painted on the walls when her and Charley were fourteen. It was actually quite beautiful, but Rocket knew she could never pull anything like this together.
She sighed as she pulled her brush from her kit and tried to get the unruly mop of wavy red hair under some kind of control. Charley may share Rocket’s tomboy qualities, but she was so much better at being a girl.
Sure, Rocket could put on makeup, but anything more than eyeliner and lipstick, she felt way out of her depth. Dresses were out, and she could never trust a man who used the word ‘pretty” to describe her.
After being told the exact opposite in her formative years, she could never believe it.
She finished brushing out her sleep tangled hair and went about getting a shower.
Rocket emerged from her room dressed in fresh jeans, t-shirt and towel dried hair pulled back into a messy braid. She padded barefoot downstairs.
Following her nose to a freshly brewed pot of coffee, she pulled a mug from the cupboard and filled it. Taking her first sip, she turned and leaned back against the edge of the worn countertop That’s when she noticed the three large white bakery boxes on the small kitchen table, sporting a familiar logo in green across the tops.
“Kolaches and doughnuts from Andy’s. I had Throttle and Modo stop by and pick some up. Figured you might enjoy ‘em,” Charley said as she entered the kitchen.
“Oh my God, Yes. Thanks.” Rocket opened the top box and reached for the two bread wrapped sausages with jalapeno slices baked into the top, segregated from the others by wax paper.
Rocket sat at the table as a thought occurred. “Wait. You had Throttle and Modo pick these up? So Andy knows about them too?”
“Yep, the guys have helped him out more than once when Limburger has made a grab for the diner.” Charley refilled her own mug and sat across from her sister, rummaging in the same bakery box for her own kolache. Rocket pinched a jalapeno slice from one of hers.
“I noticed you painted the hall bathroom. It looks nice.”
“It needed it and I wasn’t going to hear those macho mice give me any more grief over the duckies.”
“They have rubber duckies on Mars?” Rocket asked after swallowing her first bite of her breakfast.
“No, but when they asked, I explained and got a regular load of teasing until I painted.” Rocket smiled at that then took another bite.
While Rocket ate, Charley continued. “Chef Andy said that since you’re in town for awhile, you need to stop by and at least say ‘Hello’.”
“I’ll do it today after his lunch rush, when I’m done with the loft,” Rocket said after swallowing. “Which, I’ll be on my way to do after breakfast.”
“Don’t worry about it. Andy will be here at one o’clock with lunch,” Charley gave her sister a grin.
“Like he has to catch me, I’ll be here by then. It won’t take me long to open windows, turn on the A/C and dust.”
“If you want to stock up your fridge, stop by Manuleo’s and he’ll deliver it for you.” Charley suggested.
“Crap. That’s right; you haven’t met him yet, have you?”
“Uh, that’s why I’m asking.”
“Smartass,” Charley grinned. “Maunaleo owns the market on Rampart. The guys saved him from The Pits a few years ago, and ever since he opened his store, we’ve been trying to keep the neighborhood residential. It makes it harder for Ole’ Fish Face to keep a low profile while bulldozing people’s homes.”
“Is there anyone in this city who hasn’t been saved by the Fuzzy Knights? I mean, your little secret doesn’t seem to be all that secret. Those guys aren’t actually discreet, are they?”
Charley giggled, “No, they are not. But you would be surprised how many people really see the fur or tails. Ninety percent of the time they have their helmets on and no one bothers to look closely when a building is about to fall on top of them. Or a sinkhole opens up under their feet, or any other catastrophe that Limburger engineers.”
“You do know that there is more than a few websites practically dedicated to these guys, right?” Rocket raised an eyebrow at Charley.
“Oh, I know, but no one is taking them seriously, so I think we have some time before the men in black show up knocking on the door. And if and when they do, I’ll make sure to give them very clear directions to Limburger Tower.” They both had a laugh at that.
After finishing her breakfast, Rocket pushed away from the table, stood and stretched her arms over her head.
“Well, I’m going to grab my gear and head to the loft. I’ll be back before one.”
“Modo is in the garage, ready to go when you are,” Charley said, as she pulled a glazed doughnut from one of the bakery boxes.
“Why? It’s not like I need an escort and I don’t know where I’m going,” Rocket put her hands on her hips and leveled her gaze on Charley.
“Jessica,” Rocket’s eyebrows raised at her given name. “you haven’t been in that building in two years, you have no idea if someone broke in, despite the alarm. You haven’t been to this city in two years. And if you think it was getting bad then, I can tell you it’s only gotten worse.”
“Charlene, I can take care of myself. I really don’t need a Martian bodyguard.” Rocket crossed her arms under her breasts to show that she had no intention of budging.
Charley stood and mirrored her sister. “Jessica Rose Davidson, I’m telling you to take Modo along for your own good, and my piece of mind. It’s not negotiable.”
They locked eyes for a count of ten before Rocket cracked a smile.
“You do remember that I’m older than you, and that makes me the big sister?”
Charley gave her a triumphant grin. “You may have a few months and a few inches on me, but I think I won this round.”
“Fine!” Rocket threw her hands up in surrender and rolled her eyes. “You won this round. Charlene Lillian.”
Charley laughed as Rocket headed up to her room.
Rocket headed up to her room. After gathering her bags, she made her way back downstairs. She pushed through the door into the garage. Both bay doors were up and the sunlight and crisp morning air flooded the garage.
Rocket loved mornings like this, it was a very welcome change from the heat that would hold Texas in its grip for at least another month.
“There she is,” Throttle announced.
“Morning, Rocket-girl. “ Vinnie chimed in along with Modo’s greeting of “Mornin’ Rocket-Ma’am.”
“Morning, guys. Thanks for picking up breakfast,” Rocket responded as she dropped her bags next to her bike. She opened the side compartments as the bros gave her a chorus of ‘You’re Welcome’.
After securing her baggage in her bike, she pulled out a mint tin and popped one in her mouth.
“Are you leaving for your loft? Just let me mount up and we’ll head out,” Modo walked toward his bike, parked next to Rocket’s.
With her helmet in her hands, Rocket sighed and spoke up, “You really don’t have to come along. Cowboy. All I’m doing is opening windows and evicting the dust bunnies.”
She was leaning against her bike looking up at him. Modo smiled gently at her, and it took Rocket off guard. It was such a gentle smile, that she was sure that she hadn’t seen it’s like on any human male. She just couldn’t help giving him one of her own.
“It’s not a problem Rocket Ma’am. If my bros need me, they can call,” he said, leaning against his own bike.
“Well, there won’t be anything to blow up, or bad guys to fight, although it looks like you wore some armor.” Rocket surprised herself by reaching out to rap her knuckles against Modo’s chest plate.
“Never hurts to be prepared.”
“So you’re a boy scout too?”
Modo looked at her with a puzzled expression, and Rocket shook her head.
“Never mind, Cowboy. And quit calling me ‘Ma’am’ or I’m gonna find out how many knots I can tie in your tail.”
Charley emerged from the parts room and made sure Rocket wasn’t trying to wiggle out of her sisterly edict.
“Don’t let her try to talk you into how boring it will be Modo, she needs the help.”
Rocket rolled her eyes and put her key into the ignition as she mounted up and started the engine, Modo did the same. They both backed out of the garage, and Rocket couldn’t help but notice the Cheshire cat grin Charley was wearing.
Modo lead the way to Manuleo’s and as they pulled into the small parking space behind the building, she thought, Well, at least there seems to be some effort to be sneaky.
They stepped up to a steel door and Modo pressed the button to the right of the door jamb. A loud buzzing could be heard in the room beyond and a moment later the door opened and a woman popped her head out.
“Oh Modoito, come in. Miss Charley said you were stopping by with her hermana.” *sister
The middle aged Hispanic woman ushered them into the stockroom of the market. “It’s good to meet you Miss Davidson; Charley has told us so much about you!”
“Por favor, Il’ame ‘Rocket’,”* Please, call me ‘Rocket’. Rocket smiled at the short woman who had called Modo ‘Modoito’ as if he was a small child.
“Su español es Bueno! Yo soy Maria. Por favor, si necesitas algo, mientras que usted está aquí. Solo me preguntan. Usted es Familia ahoro, nosotros no encargaremos de ti!”*Your Spanish is good! I’m Maria. Please, if you need anything while you are here, just ask me. You’re family now, we’ll take good care of you! Maria took Rocket’s hand and led her through the swinging double doors into the store.
“Just tell us what you need and we’ll have it delivered. Charley says you stay in an old warehouse when you are in Chicago. I have to say, it does not sound like a home.”
Maria had obviously adopted Rocket from the moment Charley mentioned she had a sister. It was people like this that kept Rocket’s feet planted in humanity. The amount of kindness they could have, well, it was something she hadn’t much of in her life.
“The top floor was renovated and made completely livable.” Rocket explained with a backward glance at Modo, that clearly said Help!, but he just stood there shrugging his shoulders.
Maria had stopped and turned to Rocket still holding her hand, which was making Rocket a tad uncomfortable. “They say it is haunted by gangsters. It gives me a bad feeling when we pass. I’ll give you something for it.”
“You don’t have to do that Maria. It’s fine really,” Rocket tried to reassure her.
“I insist. My abuela taught me well. Don’t worry.” *grandmother
And with that, she patted Rocket’s hand and then continued leading the way to the front of the store.
There were two cash registers on top of a long front counter, behind one sat a thin Hispanic man whom Maria introduced as her husband, Manuleo.
“Isn’t she just as pretty as Charley? Two beautiful sisters. I’ll go gather the list your sister called in.” Maria fussed.
“Oh, no, Modo and I are on our bikes. I was wondering if it could be delivered.” Rocket called after Maria as she started to walk back down the aisle.
“Of course we can! Manuleo can take your address and I’ll give you some drinks to take with you.” Maria turned back to task.
Rocket smiled and slightly shook her head, wondering what kind of list Charley might have called up with. She turned back to Manuleo, “Can I start a tab, or do I pay up front?”
“For you and your sister, credit is given,” he smiled as he passed her a pad of paper and pen. “Just give me the address and I’ll deliver it myself in an hour.”
Rocket retrieved her wallet and pulled out a credit card, thinking how much calmer Manuleo was compared to his wife.
“You don’t have to do that now. You’re Charley’s sister and a friend of the Biker Mice. I trust you,” Manuleo smiled at her.
“No worried Manuleo, but I insist.”
She copied down the card’s information and wrote her address and cell number below that. Before putting the card back in its slot, she pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it, along with the pad and pen back to Manuleo. “And a tip for delivery,” she said.
“You really don’t need to do that Miss Rocket,” he said shaking his head and trying to hand the bill back to her.
“Yeah I do. And it’s just Rocket, okay?”
She took a step back with both hands up to signal that she wasn’t taking the money back.
Manuleo sighed and said, “You and your sister are very kind, thank you.”
“No worries,” Rocket smiled back. “I’ve got to get going, so I’ll see you in an hour. Thanks again for the delivery.”
“No problem.” Manuleo waved as Rocket turned and headed to the back of the shop.
Stepping out of the backdoor, Rocket saw Modo putting a small box of soda bottles into the side compartment of his bike as Maria chatted away.
“Are we ready to hit the road big guy?” she said, grabbing her helmet from her handle bars.
“Sure are. Thanks again Maria Ma’am,” he said bending down for a hug from the motherly woman.
“You’re welcome Modoito,” she responded, adding a quick kiss to his cheek.
Rocket started her bike and was only slightly surprised to have Maria hug her next.
“We’ll see you soon sweetie,” she said above the rumble of the v-twin and Martian engines.
“Thanks again!” Rocket called before flipping down her visor.
Maria stepped to the backdoor as they pulled out of the loading area and made their way out to the street.
The ride to the building that housed Rocket’s loft was uneventful. Modo stayed a half a bike length behind her unless they were at a stop light, letting her lead the way.
She took these moments to glance over at him. Once he caught her looking and gave her that smile that was so damn hard not to return. Rocket just couldn’t help but find him fascinating, aside from the whole alien thing. Her walls were still up and as strong as ever. She only really trusted two people on this planet. But damn was she curious. Wouldn’t be, really?
The gentle giant act probably wasn’t one. The way he acted with Maria had her doubting her first assumption. The way he carried himself told her that he was a soldier and was completely at ease with violence, but there seemed to be a glint that he would be perfectly fine bouncing his kids on his knee and sitting on a porch swing.
Rocket prided herself on being able to accurately read people. Knowing how someone was going to handle themselves, and knowing what drove them has quite literally kept her alive, and away from some serious pain. She carried enough with her; no need to add more.
In the few and brief “romantic” relationships she’d had, she had managed to keep a space the size of the Grand Canyon between herself and the person she was seeing. . She was careful and guarded with everyone, no matter how nice she was to others. Careful and guarded kept her safe inside her little castle and safe was good.
But Modo was throwing her for a loop. And it was unsettling at best.
The two pulled to a stop in front of a red brick building with a heavy wrought iron fence that was at least ten feet tall and topped with coiled barbed wire that ran the perimeter of the building and adjoining garage.
The large cinder block garage, painted a muted blue, stood to the buildings left. Rocket parked her bike a few feet from the gate that barred the driveway, and took off her helmet, giving the fence a frown.
“Looks like the fence needs painting.” She scowled at the attempted graffiti and the rocks that had obviously been thrown at the metal shutters covering the windows and front door. For what seemed like the millionth time since she had them installed, she thanked the powers that be for having the forethought to get them.
“We’ll be happy to help you with that painting Rocket- Ma’ er, Rocket-girl.” Modo caught himself mid-syllable and switched to the familiar use of ‘girl’ just in time.
Rocket smirked and dismounted her bike, flipping through a set of keys while striding toward the gates in front of the garage.
“Oh come on!” she shouted with the gate lock in her hand.
“What’s wrong?” Modo was suddenly by her side.
He’s a lot quicker than he looks. “Bunch of savages in this town, that’s what’s wrong.” The lock that Rocket held had obvious signs of attempted cutting and picking, but the gum shoved into the key slot was the final kick.
“I’m gonna need a cutting torch to get that sucker off. That little box it keeps closed is the keypad to open the gate. Son of a bitch!” Rocket dropped the lock in disgust and started to pull her phone from her jacket to call Charley.
“I got it Rocket-girl.” Modo gently pulled at her elbow to move her back a few steps.
She looked at the big mouse with a raised eyebrow. A panel rose from his right metal forearm and a red laser blast shot the lock, effectively reducing it to smoking pieces.
Rocket looked at Modo. “Handy. I like that in a mouse.”
Modo gave her a wide grin as he used his metal hand to remove the rest of the lock and flipped up the cover of the keypad.
“Forty eight, seventeen,” Rocket gave him the entry code and a bemused smile. Makes you wonder what else he’s packing. The second she thought it, she mentally chastised herself with a Down girl.
The gate slid across the driveway with some very loud protests of screeching metal, making both of them wince at the sound.
“Remind me to oil that,” she said.
Walking up to the garage door, she pushed the button on the electronic key fob. The door made its own groans as it rolled up.
“Remind me to do that one too.” Rocket chuckled.
Modo watched her step into the gloom of the dark building. A moment later the garage was flooded with light and Rocket stood near the wall, her hand on a light switch. She looked around, taking a quick inventory of the garage.
“Well, everything is still here, if not a bit dusty. Eewww.” She shuddered at the dusty cobwebs hanging from the rafters, various toolboxes, and lawn equipment.
“It ain’t that bad,” Modo tried to assure her.
“I hate spiders. They creep me the hell out, and it looks like they took over in here while I was gone.”
Reaching over to retrieve a wooden yard stick leaning against the wall, she noticed it came away with a soft tearing sound, several dust covered entombed victims and more cobwebs.
“Ugh!” She dropped the yard stick and stepped back in revulsion. Modo bent down and picked it up with his left hand and started knocking away the cobwebs. When he was finished, he handed the now-spider-web-free stick to Rocket. With obvious distaste and suspicion, she took it from him gingerly.
“Okay, bringing you along was a good idea. Just don’t tell Charley I said that.”
“So what’s the stick for?” Modo asked, wiping his dusty hands on his thighs.
“It’s a Spider Whopping Stick. Clears the little peckers out of the way so I don’t walk into any webs or the occupants,” she said, brandishing the stick like a magical flaming sword.
She moved to the back of the garage, clearing the way and stopping at one of the large tool cabinets that lined half of the back wall. Pulling out a drawer, she retrieved a new lock for the gate’s key pad box.
“These suckers cost a pretty penny, but they aren’t easy to bust open.” Shehe looked at Modo with a smirk. “Unless you’re a Martian Mouse with a built in laser cannon.”
Modo looked a bit embarrassed, so she said, “Not that I mind. Better than going back to the Last Chance for a cutting torch.”
Rocket pulled out her keys and put the new lock keys on her ring, removing the old and tossing them in the open drawer. She sat the new lock down on a work bench she passed as she walked back to Modo. “Let’s bring the bikes in from the street and get to work.”
Modo gave a short, loud whistle and his bike was rolling up next to him. Rocket gave him an astonished look as she blinked twice.
“Okay, how did you do that?”
“She’s a Martian A.I. bike,” Modo said as he patted the tank like you would a beloved family dog.
“A.I.? As in ‘Artificial Intelligence’?”
“Yep. A lot of Martian bikes are A.I. They even have their own personalities; you have to bond with an A.I. bike before you can really be its rider. Don’tcha, girl?” He affectionately rubbed his hand over the bike’s handle bar. It beeped in response.
“Well, color me impressed. What’s her name?”
“Her names Lil’ Darlin’.”
Rocket stepped over to the bike and did the only polite thing to do, she introduced herself.“Hey there Lil’ Darlin’, I’m Rocket. And it is a real pleasure to meet you.”
The bike responded with a series of what Rocket hoped were friendly beeps. “I think she likes you.” Modo smiled at both of them.
“Well, I like her too,” Rocket said with a smile. “Since Ruby is a plain old Earth bike, I’ll pull her in and then we can get to work.”
Modo carried the box of sodas while Rocket led the way to the front door of the building, which was barred by a very ornate wrought iron gate. Rocket unlocked the deadbolt, and proceeded to unlock another keypad box.
After punching in another code, the metal shutter rolled up with as much complaint as the others and exposed a large metal door inset with two glass panes set behind iron cage-work. Rocket unlocked the door and again stepped into the gloom to flip the light switch that lit up the foyer of the building .
A wrought iron chandelier with globes of frosted glass hung above them, lighting up the oak panels and doors with names painted in burnished gold and black on the pebbled glass that led off the hallway they stood at the head of.
Rocket turned to the alarm panel and typed in a series of numbers, then held the enter key for ten seconds before letting go.
“What does ‘Erin go brag’ mean?” Modo asked.
Rocket turned and glanced at the tiled mosaic floor that spelled out ‘Erin Go Baugh’ in orange, while green and blue tiles covering the floor.
“It’s pronounced ‘Erin Go Bra’ and it means “Ireland Forever”. The building was built and owned by an Irish guy named Liam Bradshaw before Capone bought it.”
While she said this, she pulled out her cell phone and flipped more switches, lighting up the rest of the hallway. Modo was just about ask her which way to go when her phone rang.
A woman’s flat voice came through the phone’s speaker and bounced throughout the empty hallway. “This is Star One Security Systems. May I please speak with Jessica Davidson?”
“This is she,” Rocket responded.
“Ms. Davidson, we have notification of activity at the property located at eighteen twelve Pike Street in Chicago, Illinois. Are you aware of this activity?” The-obviously-bored-with-the-routine disembodied voice asked.
“Sure am. I’m here now with a friend.”
“Can you please give me the full name of the account holder and pass code?”
“Jessica Rose Davidson is the name and the pass code is ‘Al Capone’s Ghost’.”
“Thank you Ms. Davidson, and have a nice day.” The call ended with that and Rocket slipped the phone back in her jacket pocket.
Rocket smiled and made a follow me wave, indicating for Modo to follow her down the wide hallway.
“So what are the names on the doors?” he asked.
“The names of the last people to lease office space; it was still in use until the mid fifties when the last office packed up and left. The place was empty until I bought it and, because of its bad rep, stood pretty much untouched, which was awesome for me. Less restoration to be done.”
They came to the end of the main hallway where a stairway of granite wound up into the upper floors to their right, the tarnished brass accordion gate of a dark elevator was in front of them and a plain wooden door with a brass name plate that read ‘superintendent’ stood to their left.
It was this door that Rocket opened, reaching in and flipping the light switch to what had once been a janitors lounge and office. “You might want to drop that box here, because next stop is the basement,” Rocket said the last with a dramatic roll of her fingers, like a cheesy B movie horror villain.
Modo chuckled. “Charley-Ma’am really doesn’t like that basement, huh?”
“Not at all Cowboy, not at all. Honestly, I don’t know why. The worst thing I ever saw down there was some pretty big spiders,” Rocket said as she unlocked the door. She flipped the row of switches next to the door and the stairwell descending into the basement lit up.
Modo set the box on an old desk, then turned to Rocket, “So, do you think the place is haunted?” The slight smirk on his face said that he wasn’t convinced either way, but he really did want her thoughts on the matter.
“If it is, they’ve never bothered me and I’m not about to start messing with them. I figure they were here first and looked after the place, so it’s their home too. What right do I have to start making a fuss?”
With that she handed him the Spider Whopping Stick and said, “You first Cowboy.”
The basement was huge, and stretched on into the darkness past the lights, but there was no incident -ghostly or otherwise -as Rocket turned on the breakers and Modo opened the water main valve.
After returning to the main floor, Modo retrieved the box of pop bottles and followed Rocket out into the hallway and then started up the stairs.
“Does the elevator work?” he asked.
“Winded already big fella?”
“Heh, not even close. Just asking.”
“It works. Butut after two years of sitting there, it needs a little TLC before you’ll see me in it. Besides, five flights aren’t so bad.”
As they rounded the last landing, Modo could see another frosted glass and wood door set into the brick wall.
“Nightingale Holdings?” Modo asked after reading the name in burnished gold paint.
“Yeah, they held the entire top floor. Some sort of import company or something. Now it’s my loft. I kept the name on the door, because why not?”
Rocket opened the door and hit the lights. They stood in what was formerly a reception room, but it had been restyled into a foyer with a small sofa, coffee table and cabinets shrouded in dust covered sheets.
Rocket pulled one down to reveal a coat rack, and after switching her phone to her jeans pocket, she shrugged off her jacket and hung it up. The sleeves of her worn and faded Johnny Cash t-shirt were rolled up to her shoulders, exposing her tattoos. She caught him staring.
“N-nothing,” he stammered.
She followed his gaze to her right arm. “ I know you’ve seen humans with ink before,” she smirked.
“Well, yeah, but I just didn’t expect to see it on you.”
“And why the hell not?” she chuckled. It was cute the way he tried to back pedal.
“Charley- Ma’am doesn’t have any,” he countered.
“That you know of. She actually has two. I’m pretty sure Vinnie’s seen ‘em.”
Modo blushed at that and Rocket chuckled again. “I can see you blushing through your fur Cowboy.”
“Well, I didn’t think you would bring that up,” he huffed.
Oh, Rocket just could not resist this. “What? Your bro, and my sister sleeping together? Not that I want any visuals, but I wonder if all the parts match up.”
Modo’s mouth had fallen open.
“Relax big guy, I’m just joking.” Rocket patted his left arm below the shoulder plate and let her hand slide along his bicep as she passed him.
“I’m getting the feeling that I’m missing some cultural thing. What’s the deal with tattoos on Mars?” she asked as she led him down a short hallway.
Hitting a few more switches for the kitchen lights as well as the living room beyond the bar top.
“Well, I guess it’s more of a clan thing. Some mice get their clan’s kregar mark, some clans don’t do it at all. It’s up to that clan really.”
“Kregar mark?” Rocket asked as she pulled a dust covered sheet from a countertop and started folding it.
Modo set the box down and answered her question. “I think you call it a family crest, or something like that.”
“Gotcha. Huh, so it’s a family thing.” She made a mental note to ask Throttle how the process worked on Mars. Skin is one thing, but how does it show up in the fur?
Rocket turned to the fridge, opening it to reveal bare shelves. “Let’s get these babies in the fridge so they can chill.”
Modo handed her the bottles of rootbeer two at a time until all six bottles sat on one of the empty shelves. All that was left in the box was a paper bag. “I think this might be for you,” he said, handing it over to her.
“I know what this is,” Rocket opened the bag and pulled something out. “It’s the charm that Maria said she would add to keep the evil spirits away.”
She held it up for him to see. It was a jumble of things against an orange background. A thread wrapped horseshoe framed an image of The Virgin Mary, with other things surrounding the horseshoe that Modo couldn’t identify, wrapped in cellophane. He only knew what The Virgin Mary was from Maria explaining it when he asked her one day.
She set the amulet and the bag on the counter and turned to continue folding the dust covers. The bright lights of the kitchen allowed Modo a better view of Rocket’s tattooed arms. And again, she caught him looking.
With an amused sigh, she moved closer to give him a better look.
“Eventually, this will be a full sleeve,” she said turning her right arm toward him.
The tattoo started a few inches below her shoulder. A mid- century styled rocket ship blazed its way across a starry sky over a rocky red landscape. The piece looked like a pulp science fiction book cover from the fifties.
“It’s flying over Mars. Interesting choice now that I met you guys, huh?”
Turning she showed him her left arm. An open pocket watch with thirteen hour markers, the hands set at thirteen, was flanked by two flowers, one a red rose, the other a pale pink lily. A banner below the watch read, ‘There’s never enough time’ and the watch chain tumbled down her arm to end a few inches from her elbow.
“I got this after Dad died. My middle name is Rose and Charley’s is Lillian, so the flowers are us,” she said, an old sadness creeping into her voice.
Modo looked at her. “I know there’s never enough time. I lost my dad in the first wave of the invasion. I was nineteen.”
She caught his gaze. It was as if a thread was spun between the two just then.
Rocket broke the spell by looking away first, and leaned on the cool granite counter with her forearms folded. That’s when Modo noticed the scars. Several white scars crisscrossed her freckled arms; some had obviously gone very deep. He couldn’t believe he missed them last night.
“Holy Goddess, what happened to you?” he asked, his voice holding a slight admiring tone.
She pulled away immediately closed down. “Don’t ask,” she growled.
“I’m sorry if I said somethin’ wrong. In the Freedom Fighters, we like to swap near miss scar stories,” he tried explaining.
“It’s alright. I just don’t talk about my scars.” Her voice held an edge that cut any chances of questions or elaboration.
She bent down, opened a cabinet door and started putting dust rags, furniture polish and glass cleaner on the counter top.
“I’m really sorry to upset ya like that. I didn’t mean nothin’ by it.”
Standing back up, she sighed and put her hands on her hips. “It’s okay Cowboy. No harm, no foul.”
Walking around the kitchen counter, she lightly patted his back as she passed him, just a little extra reassurance that he did nothing wrong. Rocket stopped at the end of the hallway where it opened up into the living room. There, a keypad along with a speaker were set into the wall next to a flat screened monitor.
She typed in a few things and the monitor lit up, after a few more keystrokes, the shutters on the windows rolled up, letting the bright sunlight in through the dusty windows.
“And let the be light!” She turned back to Modo and asked “Ready to clean Cowboy?”
I apologize in advance for any grammar or spelling mistakes with my Spanish. Hey, it’s only the 5th language that I can read and write, and not that well, most of the time.
Sorry for the long absence, but I’ve been dealing with some health issues that blindsided me. I really don’t have a lot to say on the subject of BMFM at the moment, other than I think I might sell a minor body part for the rest of the second season and all of the third season in English. Watched every episode in my collection when I was bed ridden.
And that got me started on another article about music, specifically fan made music and AMVs for BMFM. That’s coming soon.
Anyone have any ideas or links they would like to share?
Rocket awoke to Joan Jett’s vocals for I Love Rock n’ Roll. Her hand went to the nightstand in search of her phone, groping for the answer button on the screen that was eluding her at the moment.
Success was achieved before the call went to voice mail. Brining the phone to her ear, Rocket mumbled, “What’s up Rosita?”
A very irritated female voice came flowing through the phone. “I don’t know Boss-lady. How about you tell me? You call to tell me you’re taking off to Chicago, interrupting a great bar-b-que by the way, and I don’t hear nuthin’ from you since.”
“I rode for eighteen hours Rosita. I’m alive and tired, sorry if my silence worried you.” Rocket sat up, stretched, and then let out a yawn.
“Well, you put me in charge, thanks so much for that by the way, I get calls from Chris and Hound Dog saying this dude is having kittens over his bike not being ready three weeks earlier than the date he was quoted. So these jackasses are at the shop trying to finish it, then they go on to tell me that this dude wants another bike delivered at the same time. And they are yelling about Joel’s designs not working or something. Oh, one more thing, it’s freaking Sunday!”
Rocket sighed, rubbing her left hand over her face. She would swear that when Rosita went off on a rant, she didn’t stop to take a breath until she was damn sure her point had gotten across. Too bad she couldn’t hold a note to save her life, with that lung capacity; she would have made a great Prima Donna.
“You don’t pay me enough for this, chica,” was Rosita’s response to the pause.
“Yeah, I know. I don’t pay myself enough for this grief. Let me get my pants on.” Rocket switched the phone to the speaker function and sat it on the bedside table, before reaching for her jeans.
“Pants on? You having that much fun already?” Rosita quipped.
“You wish. After hitting home, I took a nap.” Rocket glanced at the bedside clock. “A five hour nap.”
“All caught up on your beauty sleep?”
Rocket let out a bark of laughter at that and reached for her boots.”Got your pants on yet?” Rosita would never be remarked on her patience. Lack of, sure.
“Okay, I’m grabbing my laptop and going downstairs. Just hold your horses.” Rocket stepped out into the hallway and headed downstairs.
The wonderful smell of Charley’s cooking met her nose. As she hit the last stair, she could see Charley in the kitchen while the mice were watching a football game by the sound of it.
“Hey Charley, mind if I use the garage office to deal with customer crap?” Rocket asked. Sleep was
still trying to cling to her.
“Oh hey, you’re up. Sure, go ahead. Dinner will be ready in a little bit, if you’re hungry.”
Before Rocket could reply, Rosita’s voice rang out from the phone. “Oh sure, don’t tell her I’m on hold here. Hi, Charley!”
“Hi Rosita, how are you?” Charley asked, grinning.
“Oh. I’m just fine. Up to my ass in alligators, because Boss Lady here decided she was worried about you. How are you doing?”
Rocket rolled her eyes at the sarcasm dripping in Rosita’s voice.
“I’m good, the garage is good and things are great,” Charley said with a smile to her sister that said, This is what you get.
“Okay. So what was so horrible that she decided to drive all the way to Chicago to save you from?”
“My boyfriend,” Charley answered.
“Oh. Do we need to take someone fishing?” Rosita asked carefully.
“No. It’s not like that. Rocket here, just over-reacted instead of just asking a few direct questions.”
Rocket opened her mouth to say something, but Charley cut her off.
“He’s really sweet, the best guy I could’ve asked for,” Charley’s voice lost that teasing edge as she spoke of Vinnie.
And a giant mouse from Mars. Rocket thought to herself.
“Ooooh. Does he have a brother?” Of course this being Rosita’s next question didn’t surprise Rocket in the least.
“Not your type Rose. Not big and stupid with way more money than brain cells,” Rocket quipped.
“Oh well, girl has to have her standards,” Rosita sighed.
Rocket was there for the bad breakup that had Rosita set the bar so high. She wasn’t looking for Mr. Right, not any more. Now it was Mr. Right now with money to spend.
“Alright, I’m taking this in the office to put out a few fires in Austin.” Rocket was ending that line of discussion before it got weird.
“Bye Rosita,” Charley called.
“Bye Sweetie!” Rosita replied.
As Rocket headed for the garage door, she paused to pick up her mints from the table and passed the guys in the living room. Modo was the first to see her.
“Hi. Did you have a nice nap?” he asked.
And of course, Rosita heard that. “Oh, is that the boyfriend? He sounds hawwt!”
Rocket sighed and rolled her eyes, because of course, Rosita’s voice got the other mice’s attention.
“No Rose, that’s his friend, Modo.”
“I’m Charley’s hot boyfriend!” Vinnie piped up as Throttle muted the TV and laughed.
“Is that another friend?” Rosita purred.
“Keep it in your pants Rosita!” Rocket beat a hasty retreat into the garage. A moment later she was settling into the old office chair and starting her laptop.
“Crap. Hang on, I need the Wi-Fi password, “ she huffed.
“I’ll wait. Just put on one of those stud muffins and I’ll wait for however long you want.”
“Geez girl, need a cold shower?”
Rocket didn’t wait for the answer. she walked to the door and stuck her head in the living room. “Any of you mouseketeers know the Wi-Fi password?”
“I can help you Rocket Ma’am,” Modo said as he got up from the overstuffed recliner and strode to her. Rocket stepped back from the door and held it open for him to join her.
The grey mouse walked into the office and pulled from the desks middle drawer, a small note book, he then offered it to her.
“Thanks Modo,” she said taking the notebook and rewarding him with a crooked grin.
His red eye met her blue ones.”You’re welcome Ma’am.” His bass voice rumbled in his chest but came out smooth as honey, sending a shiver down to some interesting places.
Then the spell was broken with Rosita’s two verbal cents. “Ma’am? Yeah, I’ve definitely got to find me one of those!”
Rocket again rolled her eyes and let out a breath she hadn’t realized that she was holding. She moved past Modo to sit at the desk. As he turned to leave, she watched him go. Her gaze traveling down from his broad shoulders to his backside, a thought drifted across her mind, I can clearly spot what Charley sees in the Martians. Meow!
“Earth to Rocket? Hey, you there Boss-lady?” Rosita’s voice derailed that train of thought.
“Yep, still here.”
“He must be a real triple tier beefcake if he’s got you so distracted.”
“You know Rosita, I can fire you,” Rocket said with a sigh.
“Yeah, do it. Who else will put up with this crap?” she retorted. It was an old tit- for- tat between them. To be perfectly honest, Rosita was so much more to Rocket than a valued employee. She was a dear friend.
Rocket flipped open the notebook and found the password she was looking for, popped a mint in her mouth and typed it in.
“You’ve already emailed the design this guy is yelling about, right?” Rocket asked, bringing her email inbox up on the screen.
“Of course, I’m not an amateur.”
“Well, I can tell you right now that Chris and Hounddog are there today so they can have Friday off to go duck hunting. Why they are answering the phones for once is beyond me. First Problem solved.” Rocket clicked on the latest email. “This is the dude from Dubai?”
“Yeah, he’s an asshole,” Rosita clipped the words with irritation.
“Yeah he is. Well, somehow he was sent the wrong finals. The new bike is just waiting for the tank and paint. These designs are Joel’s chopper job for that Jersey guy, who’s an even bigger jerk than Dubai. There. Problems solved.”
“That clears a lot up,” Rosita said with a sigh.
“If the guy calls back, just tell him the problem has been fi
xed and everything is on schedule. If he insists, I’ll call him tomorrow,” Rocket instructed.
“So Charley is all good, nothing horrible happened, she wasn’t abducted by aliens.” Rocket let out a small snicker at that. “She’s dating a nice guy, who thinks he’s hot. All is good in Chicago. When are you coming back chica?”
Rocket chewed her bottom lip for a moment before giving her answer. “I’m going to hang up here for a few weeks.”
“You’re what, a few weeks, huh? You do remember that you have a business to run down here?”
“I’m well aware of that Rosie, but I need some time away. Some time to spend with Charley. Besides, I have nothing going on in Austin or that shop that needs my hands on it this very minute. And you practically run the actual business side of it. I just make the pretty bikes. Before you say anything, the other guys can handle any custom design jobs that come in.”
Rosita let out an exasperated sigh. “You so don’t pay me enough for this Rocket.”
“I’ll make it up to ya girlie, promise.”
“You better,” Rosita growled. “Are you staying with Charley?”
“Nah, I’ll be at the loft. Call me there, at the garage or on my cell if you need me.”
“Oh you bet I will. Don’t cause too much trouble, and be nice to the boyfriend. Charley sounds happy. Don’t be the scary big sister. Bring me back something neat and shiny. And carve yourself off a piece of that beefcake, he sounds yummy!”
“I’ll talk to ya later.” Rocket hit the end call button on the phone’s screen and sat back. Rosita really did run most of the business side of their shop and was paid handsomely for it, freeing up Rocket to design and build bikes, which is all she ever wanted to do.
She let out a sigh and looked out into the garage bays, her eyes immediately going to the Martian bikes. Her world (for that matter, her universal) view had just been blown to smithereens this morning, and she thought she was handling it very well, but so many questions buzzed about her brain.
How could three motorcycle riding, alien mice go around a major city blowing crap up and not be on the news twenty four seven? Rocket could completely understand the need for secrecy, but these guys didn’t sound like they were the definition of discreet.
This is the age of the Internet, how can this not be all over every conspiracy nut’s blog? Not that she read stuff like that. All the weirdness she had been hearing about could just have well been the furry lummoxes currently sitting in her sister’s living room. She glanced at her laptop. Why not find out what’s out there? She thought.
Pulling up trusty old Google, she typed in the words ‘ Biker’, ‘Alien’, ‘Chicago’, ’Limburger’ and clicked the magnifying glass search button. What she got was several links to blogs, local news sites and YouTube videos.
“Ooookaaay,” she said as she clicked on the first link that looked promising. It brought her to a blog entitled ‘Chi-Town Mysteries’ and the headlining mystery were the mice. Grainy photos and blurry cell phone videos showed Charley’s fuzzy buddies fighting monsters, thugs in tricked out dune buggies, blowing up and tearing down an office tower, and the accompanying eyewitness accounts confirmed that this happened a lot.
A half hour had gone by and Rocket was reading an article on the Tribune’s site about a Lawrence Limburger suing the city over building codes when a knock came on the door frame of the office. Rocket looked up to see Throttle standing in the doorway.
“Charley-girl says dinner will be ready in five.”
“Thanks. Hey Throttle, come here for a sec?” Rocket turned back to her laptop as the tan mouse leaned over her shoulder.
“Reading about some of the tower thrashings’ we did, huh?” he said in that husky voice that would have weaker women on their knees.
“Yeah. Why do you call her ‘Charley-girl’?”
At this distance, she noticed that he smelled kinda good. Almost like apples, cinnamon and oranges. Then his voice had her attention again.
“It’s a term of endearment. Kinda like when the Japanese say ‘san’ after a name.”
“You speak Japanese?” she asked a little disbelief in her voice.
“Not really. I watch a lot of anime though.”
Rocket cocked her right eyebrow at that. He returned her look and said, “Yeah, you got a problem with that?”
“Not at all. In fact you just went up a few points on my scoreboard.” she turned back to her screen with a slight grin, “Is this the Plutarkian fishy?” Rocket asked nodding to a photo of a morbidly obese man smiling and looking like a crocodile who just ate somebody particularly yummy.
“That’s him. Quite the looker, huh?” Throttle teased.
“Yeah, a real GQ cover boy.” She turned to look the mouse in the eyes, or shades, since his eyes were masked by the glasses. “Seriously, how much danger is my sister in? Charley is all I’ve got in this world. I don’t even want to think about anything happening to her.”
Throttle sighed and pulled the wooden chair over so he could sit. “Rocket, I…” he began only to have her cut him off mid-sentence.
“Do not feed me a bunch of bullshit about how you can protect her and nothing’s going to happen while you guys are around, or I swear, I’ll punch you straight in that handsome snout of yours.”
He looked at her with a mix of amusement and caution. “You really lay the cards on the table, don’tcha?”
“When it matters, I don’t like to dance around. I know she can take care of herself, we both can. What I want to know is, exactly how much danger is she in?” I’m not going to do anything stupid, I just want to know.”
Throttle rubbed the back of his neck then looked up at Rocket. “I’m not going to lie to you, there’s been a few pretty bad fights that we nearly didn’t make it out of in one piece. A few left Charley-girl with some scars, but nothing we couldn’t handle. All three of us are pretty damn good field medics, human and mouse physiology ain’t that far apart.”
“Watch her back for me. I’m pretty sure you’ve found out how much she doesn’t like to be treated like a china doll, but just watch her back.” Rocket knew it was unfair to ever solicit a promise like this, but if it put her mind at ease, even just a little bit, fairness be damned.
“I give you my word as a Freedom Fighter, but she actually watches our backs for the most part. Charley is one tough cookie.” There was a hint of pride and admiration in his voice that made Rocket smile.
“I know she is. Sam Davidson didn’t raise pink pretty princesses,” Rocket quipped.
“I would have never pegged you as girly,” Throttle said with a grin.
“Nope, Charley and I played with tool kits instead of dolls and tea sets. I’ve decided to stay up here for a couple of weeks and I would love a ride on one of your bikes before I leave, maybe a peek at the engine?” Rocket gave her best ‘Pretty please with sugar on top’ smile.
Throttle chuckled. “I don’t see a problem with that. Lady and me would be happy to give you a ride,” his voice held a teasing edge to it. Being flirted with was just one of those things that came with being a woman biker.
“Lady? You name your bikes too? I know a guy out in California who would never admit that he named his bike, but he did and it’s the girliest name ever.” Rocket pointed to her Harley. “That’s Ruby. Out of all the bikes I own, she’s my favorite.” Her voice held a tone of adoration and reverence that only a true dyed-in-the-leather-biker would have. Throttle could relate to that, he felt the same way about his bike as well.
“Well, we better get in there before Charley sends out a search party,” Rocket said as she started the shut down on her laptop.
Throttle stood with her and gestured to the door. “Ladies first.”
“I see that chivalry isn’t dead on Mars. But if you call me ‘Ma’am’, we’ll have a problem.”
They both laughed as they walked into the apartment.
The remains of a great dinner covered the dining table as everyone laughed over the latest topic of discussion.
“So, yeah. Here’s this big, tattooed, death metal rocker god picking up this bike that I busted my ass on for three months; and he spills it less than two blocks from the shop! Turns out that was only the third time he had ever ridden a motorcycle, and it was not the charm for him,” Rocket finished and everyone erupted in more laughter.
“Nuthin’ sadder than a wannabe showoff,” Modo remarked, still chuckling.
“Amen to that,” Rocket agreed.
She stood with her plate in hand, reaching for Charley’s with the other hand. “You should have been a chef Charley. That was awesome.”
“It’s just roast chicken, Rocket,” Charley responded picking up Vinnie’s plate and reaching for Throttle’s.
Modo had already started gathering the other dishes.
“Whatever. Tastes like home to me,” Rocket said heading to the kitchen.
Vinnie and Throttle brought in the rest of the dishes as Rocket began to scrape the food bits into the trash bin.
“Hey, you got a new dishwasher,” Rocket remarked.
“Yeah, I had to. The old one had an unfortunate accident,” Charley said with a glare aimed at the mice.
“Do I want to know?” Rocket asked with one raised eyebrow.
All three bros answered in unison, “No.”
She chuckled at that and then asked, “How much crap do you guys break?”
That was met with silence from the mice and an exasperated sigh from Charley.
“Forget I asked,” Rocket said with a shake of her head.
Modo had begun to rinse the dishes and placed them in dishwasher racks. A conversation between the three started as Vinnie and Throttle made way into the living room.
“So what’s the usual Sunday night routine around here?”
Charley answered, “A movie or two and then bed.”
“Still opening at nine on Monday mornings?”
“You know it.”
“Then I think I’ll run over to the loft to air the place out, unless you need an extra pair of hands,” Rocket said, packing the left over green beans into a plastic container.
“If you need help Rocket Ma’am, I can go with you, “Modo offered.
“It’s nothing but cleaning the dust out, turning on the water main and letting some fresh air in,” Rocket tried to politely turn him down.
“Oh let him help. He’s the only mouse around here that will offer. Besides, you aren’t going to get me anywhere near that basement,” Charley shuddered at the last.
“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts,” Rocket quipped.
“Wait. What basement and ghosts?” Modo looked from one sister to the other.
“You know that old five story warehouse on Pike Street? That’s Rocket’s “loft”. She bought it a year before you guys got here,” Charley explained.
“I got it for a song too,” Rocket added.
“That’s because it’s haunted,” Charley said.
“I’ve never had a problem. Besides, it was owned by Al Capone and was used as a storehouse and speakeasy during Prohibition. It’s neat and historical and no one ever asked you to go into the basement anyway, Short-Round.”
“Well, that’s just great because I’m never going down there.”
Modo chuckled at the exchange. “Al Capone, he was that gangster, right?”
“Yep, and he was a really nasty character. So everyone assumes that any building with his name on it must be haunted by victims of his hit men. Oooooo! Boooo!” Rocket made menacing movements with her hands. Charley then flicked water in Rocket’s face. This brought on a mock battle with Modo in the middle laughing.
Rocket ducked under Modo’s metal arm to take a shot with the dishtowel at Charley, when she realized she was apparently trapped by the mouse’s arms. And with such a lovely view of his chest.
“Uh, Cowboy, I’m a bit stuck,” she said leaning as far back as the edge of the sink would allow her to go. She craned her head back, as his chin touched his chest to look at her. At five foot ten, she was used to looking guys in the eye, if only to look up a few inches, but this was new.
“Yep,” he said, a blush starting to make its way visible under his gray fur, especially in the ears. “Sorry about that.”
“No worries, Hoss,” she said as she ducked under his flesh arm.
Charley watched the exchange with a bemused smile. “What?”Rocket asked.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you blush like that,” she laughed.
Rocket threw the dishtowel at Charley’s face as Modo did his best to hide the goofy grin spread across his face.
The rest of the night played out in front of the television, watching a few movies. The mice happy with Rocket’s pick of ‘Aliens’, despite of some immediate reservations induced by the title. She even had them wanting to see the first film the next night.
At a quarter past twelve, goodnights were exchanged and the mice, minus Vinnie, rode for the scoreboard and Rocket headed for the spare room.
I was looking at some tattoo designs via Google Image search and I came across this beauty. I can’t help but thinking of Charley sporting this!
This blogger has valid points. I’d like to see some changes, some re writes to make it a little more relevant, but not a rehash of the 2006 revival and not “my vision” like Schumacher did to Batman. (the batsuit DID NOT NEED NIPPLES!) I get really tired of these directors and producers who want to rewrite an already established story to how they think it should go. Dragonball Evolution is a perfect example. It’s obvious that those assholes never saw one episode, or read one book of the source material. It was so bad, I couldn’t sit through the whole thing. The trailers were enough to keep Erik (a HUGE DB fan)and I from the theater, but it was just sooooo bad, we couldn’t sit through the DVD we rented. (Thank the Gods we rented)
This has to be my biggest fear. That and seeing Megan Fox as Charley.