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Torama - posted on 13 Nov 2016 @ 10:53am

With Abraxas injured, the shifters had reversed their structure. The twins sauntered into Helios' room first, turning their backs to each other so they could sidle through the doorway at the same time. As soon as they were clear they split. Moonshadow turned abruptly towards the closet housing the two new entities they could feel.

It then settled on the ground, communicating soothingly and gently to the infant presences who eventually waddled out of the closet and settled in its lap, emitting a high pitched emulation of the guttural rumbles the ground Leviathans at home made when they were happy or bonding.

Nightshade skirted the room, one hand held out, getting a feel from the artwork decorating the walls. Sunkiss followed, the happy memories evoked by being in the room overshadowed by fear for Helios.

Contained in the room, the energy trails were still fresh. Helios had happily admitted Firefly through the window. If they hadn't come to understand that the mice couldn't see energy and relied entirely on physical appearances to recognise each other, this would have been stranger to them. At some stage Helios must have realised that Firefly was not Sunkiss and had attempted to flee, and Firefly had snagged and overloaded him. Shortly after that Eos had burst into the room, and then Silverfire. Silverfire had chased Firefly but been unable to catch it.

Sunkiss could see where Firefly was going, though the trail was rapidly fading.

It opened the window and sprang out, shrinking a little as it used some mass to form wings.

Abraxas reached out along their Bond to halt it, but was violently stymied by lack of energy.

Lead them, Abraxas ordered the twins. It strode across the room, opened the other half of the window to be able to fit its bulk through, and leaped off after Sunkiss.

-= o =-

"They go to Helios. Come quickly." Nightshade gestured urgently as it strode back towards the door. Moonshadow patted the kittens and stood up gracefully. Windsong flitted nervously between them.

The mice took a little more time to register and process what was going on before tumbling back out of Helios' door and spilling into the hall.

"Silv, hold down the fort," Vinnie ordered as he led the way towards the garage where the bikes were.

"I'm comin' with you!" his son returned, matching his father's tone.

Vinnie turned to him angrily. "These things aren't like raiders!"

If the shifters were offended by being referred to as 'things', no one would have guessed it.

"He's my brother!" That was all the reason Silverfire needed.

"You need to take care of your mother and sisters!"

It was Carbine who noticed the shifters impatient antsiness. "Oh go be macho manly heroes," she snapped impatiently. "I'll hold down the fort." She glared at Vinnie. "Hurry up!"

Vinnie shot her a grateful smile tinted by a very uncharacteristic touch of fear. "Thanks Carbine."

Midnight grabbed hold of Vinnie's arm. "Bring him back, Vin," she said anxiously, her voice quivering a little. Vinnie smiled his rogueish smile at her as he took her into his arms, chucking her lightly under the chin. "Don't worry sweetheart. I'll bring 'im back."

They shared a quick kiss before Vinnie jammed his helmet on his head and leaped onto the back of his bike.

"You better stay here too, sweetling," Stoker said to Windsong when she approached him.

"I come," Windsong said simply.

"We go together." The illusion of echo caused by the twins speaking simultaneously was startling.

"Quick," Nightshade urged, "trail fading."

They didn't have time to argue. Stoker plonked his spare helmet on Windsong's head. It was still fitted for her as he hadn't carried anyone else on the back of his bike since. He picked her up with his tail and popped her on his pillion, then exchanged a quick glance with Throttle. One of them was going to have to lead out. Throttle smiled. Stoker grinned back.

"Let's rock!" Stoker announced, feeling a fierce thrill of happiness at many mixed but mostly good memories their old battle cry brought back.

"And ride!" his companions roared back at him as they gunned their engines.

Moonshadow sprouted wings and took to the air as though freaked out by the noise of high performance vehicles firing up. Nightshade sprang into a sprint, arms elongating and dropping to all fours on the second lope and galloping in the same direction.

Windsong curled against Stoker as the bikes took off in the hard, squealing manner they were accustomed to, Vinnie letting out his signature yodel as they did, hooning after the galloping alien as it vanished out the side gate onto the street. It had been entirely too long since they had last ridden out together.

-= o =-

It was freezing.

Helios squirmed again, trying to get his bare torso off the stones which may as well have been ice, and shivered violently. The strong emotions from earlier had kept him from noticing the cold. Slider had not deigned to answer his demands on what he planned to do with Sunkiss and Nightshade. That made sense
really. This wasn't a movie and either way Slider didn't seem like the gloating type.

At least they hadn't seemed to work out that they could and should turn the lights off again, and that was good, it would be the only lit room in the entire palace. The rescue party would know where to go. He shouldn't need a rescue party. He should be able to get out of this by himself, because he was Vinnie's son.

Slider didn't appear to be paying him any mind, and yet the tentacles were unyielding. Helios looked around, gritting his teeth against the cold and trying to think of another way out. The brown mouse was still at the door and he probably wouldn't get past xem this time. The white mouse hadn't moved from where xe was.

Towards the balcony his captor stood looking relaxed with arms folded loosely. A smaller brown mouse was on the other side of the balcony clustered with two teenage boys, one palomino and the other black with white mane.

There was no way in hell he was going to be able to fight his way out.

The cold was painful. He squirmed again, unable to budge the tentacles binding him.

"Please," he finally begged in a way that would undoubtedly have Vinnie and Silverfire turning their noses up in disgust, "I'm so cold."

Slider looked down at him, then sidestepped. Helios felt the familiar weightlesness as he was lifted off the freezing cold stones and placed sitting up on threadbare remnants of what had once been a plush rug. It was probably mouldy but for now he didn't care, it was warmer than the bare floor. He curled into a ball as best he could and shivered again. He almost wanted to cry from the cold and the crushing depression from how helpless and useless he felt. He refrained, though. It wouldn't help anything. He shivered again, whimpering softly.

A large mass settled down behind him. Red gold arms with the familiar almost-black triple bands around the wrists slipped around his waist. Helios flinched slightly, and then the mass warmed up to a comfortable body temperature. Gratefully, he pressed back against his captor as delicious warmth cut through the cold in his back.

"Thanks," he said. It always paid to be polite. Then he wondered if he could wrangle out of this situation in his own way. "What's your name?"

"Firefly." They gave their names away so easily, unlike so many humans or Martians who could be so cagey due to how easy it was to track people by name. Maybe the shifters had about as much hangups over their identity as they did about sex. Helios tensed slightly as Firefly nosed the back of his neck. Firefly
wasn't bad looking. Neither was the blue-eyed white mouse on the other side of Slider. Maybe if he could convince one of them to take him away from the rest of the pack for a bit of "fun", he might be able to slip them or convince them to release him.

"Wish we coulda met in better circumstances."

Firefly said nothing. Helios tensed more when he felt Firefly's hand gliding lightly over his stomach. Sunkiss was a lot stronger than he was, and Firefly was bigger and seemed stronger again, more like the twins. Xe hadn't seemed to struggle too much carrying him here at any rate. All he could do was try.

He pushed back against Firefly, nudging his head under Firefly's chin as Sunkiss had often done with him, and thought he detected gentle pleasure from the mouse-shaped alien. "Can we go somewhere warmer? And quieter?" he murmured, injecting a hint of flirtiness into his voice.

His ear tickled a little as Firefly nuzzled it, pausing uncertainly when xe contacted his earrings. Sunkiss had also been curious about the metal. It was not something Helios had expected to ever have to explain to space-faring aliens.

"Slider says we stay here."

That was a brutally effective buzzkill. He had once asked Sunkiss why xe hd to leave one of the times xe had said xe had to leave. Sunkiss had rather evasively replied that Abraxas was calling xem. What on Mars did Slider and Abraxas have over their Packmates that they were so faithfully obedient? Stoker and Vinnie could only wish everyone would say how high when they said jump. Helios had not followed it up with Sunkiss because he hadn't wanted to alienate xem. He felt less qualms with this lot, but at the same time didn't really want to piss them off.

He gritted his teeth slightly as Firefly's hands explored his torso. "Do you always have to do everything Slider says?" He kept his tone playful, only just tinted with the barest touch of a challenge.


Well he hadn't been expecting that. "Why?"

"Slider is my Packleader." It was a very simple and straightforward answer.

"So...?" So he wasn't going to get anywhere, as he got the distinct impression that Firefly didn't feel that further explanation was necessary. He sat forward, half-curling casually, resting his bound hands over his knees. "Thanks for warming me up," he said, suggesting with his tone that he was now disinterested and that people who blindly obeyed other people were not his type.

Firefly didn't answer, but did stroke his back. Helios twitched uncomfortably.

"Stop it," he growled. The white mouse that had been on the other side of Slider came around. Helios thought he detected lust in xir eyes and he didn't like it. Slider's tentacles tightened around his wrists and ankles, pinning him in place. Helios felt a jolt of fear.

He felt Firefly press close up behind him again, and the white one dropped and closed, running a hand up his leg. Helios writhed as he was confused by the barely remembered feelings of reluctant arousal elicited by hands running over him from the thankfully small number of near-misses he'd had.

He didn't think this was going to be one of those near-misses.

"No, don't..." he wanted to be angrily defiant, but it was hard to do that when he was so scared. He felt a buzz of excited energy from them. They were feeding off him like he had felt Sunkiss doing when they had made love. But Sunkiss had done xir best to make him feel good, and energised him in turn. These two were just terrifying him. "...please..." Slider was watching with an obnoxiously sleazy expression.

Suddenly, they all froze, looking up towards the balcony. The brown mouse rose abruptly, the little black teen retreating behind xem. The white mouse stood and turned, moving a little to one side and conveniently allowing Helios a clear view of the balcony, the night sky beyond, and the lights in the buildings beyond the crumbling palace walls. Helios felt immensely relieved when Firefly stood up from behind him and soundlessly moved towards the balcony in front of the palomino teen.

Something changed. Helios could feel it but couldn't work out what it was, as nothing looked different.

There was a flash of gold, a whirr of wings, and Sunkiss glided in through the balcony and alighted in the clear area not far away.

This time, it was Sunkiss. Helios knew for sure. "Sunny!" he cried, joy mixing with fear. A horrible realisation finally dawned on him. Slider had said xe wanted Nightshade and Sunkiss. Xe wanted a rescue party to come after Helios.

Sunkiss' eyes lit up and xe started smiling when they locked eyes. Then xe looked up at Slider and the same horrible realisation kicked in.

-= o =-

Stupid. It was surrounded. It had been such a simple and obvious trap. It should have known better. It should have waited for its combat capable Packmates. Avoid this way, it broadcasted. It hit an inexplicable dead zone. It couldn't broadcast. It felt Abraxas' consciousness closing rapidly. The cold, clammy chill of fear rapidly expanded through it when it realised it couldn't feel Windsong or the twins at all. Even if they were out of range it should have known that they were at least alive. It felt nothing.

"Sunny! Run!" Helios shouted, flailing ineffectually. He was sitting on the floor, Slider's tentacles wrapped firmly around his wrists and ankles. A cloud of fear surrounded him, tainted by Firefly and Morningstar.

Abraxas came crashing through the balcony. It stumbled a little on landing, still sore on the right rear limb. Firefly and Leafwhistle sprang on it. Sunkiss heard Helios gasp, and could do nothing but watch fearfully itself as Abraxas engaged Firefly and Leafwhistle.

In the whirling mass of tentacles it was hard to tell who was who. A couple of times Morningstar tensed as though going to join the fray. Sunkiss monitored it, psyching to hinder it if it did. Hindering was all it would be able to do against a Warrior.

Sunkiss flared alarm and sympathy as Abraxas' pain slashed across its consciousness. Leafwhistle and Morningstar finally succeeded in forcefully pinning Abraxas, the two of them struggling between them to keep it down and keep all the limbs under control.

Lightningstorm and Wavecrest darted in, extending their tentacles. Abraxas writhed underneath the Warriors as the Batteries overloaded it, disrupting it enough that it dropped its mouse morph.

Please stop! Sunkiss extended its energy, touching everyone in the room. Calm. Listen. Do not hurt them. Elders suspicious.

The Batteries paused in their overload and they and the Warriors holding down Abraxas looked up attentively. From the other door, Oakshield turned, paying obvious attention. Sunkiss froze as one of Slider's tentacles lashed around its neck, roughly jerking it off balance and around so it now faced Slider, losing the touch it had on the energy of the other Pack. It also felt strangely, inexplicably isolated.


Elders curious why you did not return.

Sunkiss flared pain when Slider slammed it into the ground.

"Sunkiss!" Helios exclaimed. He roared in anger and frustration, the new emotions tinting the fear, then yelled at Slider to leave it alone. Sunkiss shook its head, trying to clear confusion, as Slider propped it up on its knees, the tentacle still tight around its neck. Its Bondmarks prickled uncomfortably as
behind it, Abraxas was overloaded again. In front of it, Helios was staring fearfully at it.



More red hot pain and confusing bright flashes as Slider slammed it into the ground again.


Sunkiss rubbed its head, then flexed its hands as the Bondmarks stung. It didn't have to look to know Abraxas was writhing in agony. It suddenly realised how far away Abraxas felt despite knowing precisely how far away it really wasn't. Sunkiss hunkered down, resting its hands on its lap, submitting.

Please release my Packleader and my mate.

Your mate?

Sunkiss looked up with frightened eyes when Slider hefted Helios to his feet. Helios twitched defiantly, glaring angrily at Slider with eyes full of hate. The roiling dark storm of rage was spiked by brighter flashes of fear.

True they act like Battery when bonded correctly?

True, Sunkiss radiated fear.

Firefly and Morningstar only got weak charge.

Morningstar approached, lust in its eyes. Helios' eyes dilated and he cast a quick glance over his shoulder, then up at Slider, then stared at Sunkiss, verging on panic. It tried to reach out to him, and encountered that weird, impenetrable barrier. Feeling Slider for any signs of hostility, Sunkiss tentatively reached out physically and touched Helios' hands. Helios grabbed hold of its hands.


"Sunny," he squeaked, "what's goin' on?"

Calm. I here.

"It's okay," Sunkiss said. Helios blinked, confusion bleeding through the fear.

Show us.

Sunkiss flinched slightly. Unable. Culture different.

Show us.

"Sunny!" Helios cried as they were wrenched apart, losing contact with each other. He gasped in surprise, then squirmed uncomfortably as two of Slider's tentacles slid down his pants. Morningstar closed on the other side of Helios from Slider, gliding its hands along his torso. Helios emitted a fearful, strangled cry, flaring discomfort and fear. Morningstar and Slider's spine quills flickered, indicating pleasure as they fed off him.

I consent to Binding if you release them.

Sunkiss looked up at Slider. Slider's probe slammed through its shields and deep into its head, exploding into a new galaxy of pain.

You mine. Consent hurts less.

Sunkiss wavered, trying to maintain balance, as the probe was suddenly removed. Slider gently removed its tentacles from Helios' pants. At a glance from Slider, Morningstar obediently backed off, not without a trace of reluctance. Helios sagged a little, looking and feeling noticably relieved.

Sunkiss reached towards Abraxas to tell it what was going on. Again it encountered that weird, impenetrable barrier.

Please, Sunkiss begged, release them.

Slider coiled four tentacles around Sunkiss' limbs and spread-eagled it. Sunkiss squirmed, trying unsuccessfully to gain some wriggle room as lines of pain shot up and down its limbs.

I will Bind you. You will show us. I will release them.

Deep sadness roiled around Sunkiss' Core. Agree.

"Stop it!" Helios ordered angrily, railing against Slider. "Let 'em go!"

"It's okay, Helios," Sunkiss managed, wishing it were true. It tried to bury the uncertainty with love. Helios looked stricken. He suspected something was up.

"Sunny what's xe doing? The fuck are you doing?" He once more turned angrily to Slider. Slider dropped him onto the ground, causing him to yelp when he hit the stone.

-= o =-

The Bondmarks burned.

Abraxas fought against the four of them again, striking out at the Batteries. The Warriors defended against each attack, and pain ravaged it as the Batteries drained it down to its structure. Abraxas stopped attacking and clamped down, keeping itself together.

It knew exactly where Sunkiss was, but it felt so far away. It could not even feel the twins or Windsong at all. Angry at its own impotence, Abraxas railed against the block, lashing out again at its opponents, seriously contemplating reaving them to get away, to get to Sunkiss.

It could feel Slider hammering at Sunkiss, incising the Bindings, working to sever them.

Rage and hate burst out of Abraxas, to be quelled like a fire under cold water as the Batteries suddenly overloaded it again.

Sunkiss' alien mate was yelling angrily at Slider. Sunkiss itself wrenched feebly against the tentacles that held it. Its pain burned the Bondmarks. Abraxas felt it searing across its consciousness. Despairingly it tried again. Despairingly, it failed again. It started to wonder if all this could have been avoided if it had just listened to Nightshade and Windsong right at the beginning, like it should have, when the thought was rudely interrupted by needing to concetntrate to keep itself together as the Batteries reaved it again.

It was going to lose its Ambassador, and there was nothing it could do about it.