At the house of the RMC, more rodents had arrived, summoned by the authority of Stompy, Squibbette, and now Percival himself. But it was far from a calm reunion.
"There's going to be a war!" Shiva yelled at Squibbette. "We might as well be on the winning side."
"If people learn about the Knights, they'll do terrible things!" One mouse said.
"They already are," another mouse said. "We have to get them out - at any cost."
"Battle against the humans is suicide," Squibbette insisted. "We cannot win it."
"Wrong again," Thor said.
"This is all Squibble's plan! Where is he?" said Stompy.
"We don't even know what's going on!" A Mouse Knight named Ghost said. "Where is the team who went after the Kind Human?"
"It was far across the city. It's going to take time - if they succeed at all."
"We haven't heard back from the far cities."
"It's too soon."
Branch and Percival sat on the arm of a chair. At least they were calm.
"So who did you send after the Kind Human?" Branch asked.
"Some of our best infiltrators," Percival said. "Sneaky, Squeaky and Clyde."
"You sent a mouse named Squeaky on a stealth mission?" Branch asked.
"He's the lookout mouse. Human's can't hear our supersonic voices anyway. He's very good at what he does. Sneaky and Clyde are considered the best. It's a mission that doesn't require confrontation - just stealth."
"Then why did Clyde go?" Branch asked.
Percival grinned. "Just in case."
Ghost, a white mouse with black eyes, raised his furry eyebrows. "What does Clyde do?"
"He blows things up," said Percival.
Many mice and some rats stared at them in silence.
"Demolitions expert," Branch explained. "Humans aren't the only ones to take advantage of technology. Clyde loves his job."
"Ummm... Why aren't they back yet?" Ghost asked.
"Much too soon. They have to find rides, find out how to get in, find out where the human is inside, etcetera. It will take time."
"How will we know they didn't fail?"
Branch looked serious. "If they come back."
"Stompy," said Percival, "assemble your team to get Kippy."
"Yes, milord," said Stompy.
Far across the city, in a stone corridor, tiny mouse hands delicately fingered the polished wood handle. Sensitive whiskers brushed the metal box and the steel pole leading to the handle. Dexterous paws made sure the wires were connected.
"Boom Boom! Hahahahehehehe!" The mouse gleefully chirped, and depressed the detonating lever.
The door at the end of the hallway exploded into tiny fragments. Smoke covered everything. Alarms blared.
"That mouse is insane!" Jim yelled. Amanda nodded her head, but ran toward the door anyway.
Behind them was a trail of unconscious guards, knocked out by their own gas, or drugs put on the tips of needles. There was a trail of opened doors since the mice had all the key codes. The doors to the rest of the prison would not open for the men trying to come after our heroes, however, because some mouse on the internet had broken into the prison system and changed all the lock codes to ones only certain mice knew.
"How did they do all that?" Amanda said as she ran.
They came out into the prison employee parking lot where a polished Corvette awaited them. Driving the car was a hot girl in a leather coat. She motioned them to get in.
"Lorri! Thank goodness!" Amanda cried, heading for the car. Lorri was a steadfast inner circle member of the RMC. And a tough broad to beat in a knife fight.
"It only has two seats!" Jim yelled as they attempted the clown trick.
"He he he he!" Clyde snickered. "They're complaining about the fit!"
Sneaky hopped up on the dashboard. "Yeah - whassamatta humans? We do it all the time!"
Squeaky was playing in Lorri's long blonde hair.
Clyde chucked another mouse grenade at the door for good measure (and because he didn't want to take any unused explosives home with him, he loved them so), and the car drove away with Jim's face buried uncomfortably in Lorri's chest.
Once clear of the production, Lorri said through her chewing gum, "Where to, babe?"
"They're expecting us at the RMC house," Amanda said. "And then some meeting with thousands of mice and rats, once they all arrive."
"Cool!" Lorri said, and drove faster.
Lorri, Amanda and Jim walked into the RMC living room and all movement froze. In the middle of the room weapons, tools, rope and other accoutrements were laid out for the Kippy rescue team, who were standing next to their items.
"It's him!" Thor said.
Rodents charged Jim. Jim crouched low, ready for combat, a big grin on his face. Stompy threw a rope around his ankles and the rat twins leapt impressively high and landed on his chest. At least ten other Mouse Knights began climbing his legs. A tiny piece of cereal hit him on the nose. Jim made the motions of sparring, striking at rodents but cupping his hands so they knew they were "out" and not really hurt. He picked some up and set them on the tables or couch, and gave a good fight. He appeared well practiced at it. He removed all the rodents from his person, except the rat brothers, who clung like magnets.
Shiva and Thor were in his face in no time flat, brandishing their weapons at his eyes and nose.
"Give up buster?" Shiva said.
Carefully inspecting the ground behind him, he slowly lay down and "died." He was giggling though, and it ruined the effect. He opened an eye. Thor swatted it shut.
"Nice to see you, boys," Jim said. "All of you."
Shiva and Thor bruxed their teeth together and hugged the Kind Human's face. Stompy and Squibbette gathered together with Nemo, Branch and Percival. On his knees, Jim picked up the anemic form of Nemo first.
"Oh, my poor baby, how are you? Oh, not too well... poor Nemo...." He cradled his chinchilla tenderly and the RMC members in the room saw that Nemo felt safe at last. He curled up and went to sleep in Jim's arms.
Jim freed an arm and held each mouse and rat, for he had missed them all and often wondered for their safety.
"Where are all the others?" Jim asked.
"Taken by a lab, Jim," said Kristin. "They're going in to rescue them. They wanted to wait until you were out to see what you thought of it."
Jim frowned. "My family - taken by a lab! Oh, man. What are they doing to them in there?"
"Branch says nothing good," Tracy said. "The whole thing was extremely illegal. They had no right to take those rodents. And no right to arrest you."
"We have to get them out," Jim said. "I see my crack team of furballs are ready to go. What's keeping you guys?"
Shiva and Thor made motions to the other rodents, as if to say "Hey man, it's not us!" Percival made motions of a sword.
"They're waiting for the magical sword," Amanda said. "Fleeter was going to get it, but I was arrested and... and I had to throw him into the field to get away."
"You threw a mouse!?" Jim exclaimed.
"I had no choice! They were going to take him and then we would both have had no chance - it was that or nothing."
"Fleeter is a very fast field mouse, Jim," Mary explained. "I doubt a gentle toss would hurt him, especially into a field."
"Where did a field mouse come from?" Jim asked.
"There was a white mouse, raised by field mice," said Kristin, "named Kippy. All the other mice think Kippy is very important, and might be able to use the Sword of Spritely to its full potential - so they sent Kippy's brother, Fleeter, after it."
"That sword," said Jim reminiscing. "Spritely always had it on him. I wondered where it got to after the Great War."
"Shouldn't we go after Fleeter?" Amanda said.
"We'd never get near the house," Jim said. "And we'd risk squishing mice if we drive off road looking for his colony. The Knights have other ways of transportation. They'll find him a way back here."
"Fleeter is a Knight," said Heide.
Jim's eyebrows raised. "Is that so?"
"First of the Field Knights."
Jim smiled. "Well good for him." He picked up more mice and stroked their backs, behind their ears. "He must have deserved it."
"This mission that Squibble was working on seems to be the focus of all their efforts," Mary said. "Do you know what he was doing?"
Jim peered at the gathered humans of the RMC, then at Percival. Percival nodded.
"Squibble had a grand plan to make peace with humanity," Jim said. "But I have no clue how he was going to do it. I know he employed hundreds if not thousands of mice, and all the years of his short life to the task. Where is he?"
"No one knows," Kristin said.
Jim frowned again. "Not good. He's old. I worry for him. He better not be in that lab."
"The mice were waiting for the sword, and you, but now it looks like they're going to go without Fleeter."
"Yeah, that's good. We can't wait. Not while our family suffers." He turned to the rat brothers. "You ready, men?"
The rats snapped to attention and saluted.
"Amazing," Heide said.
"Who do you think trained them?" Jim said, smirking. "Taught them everything a human can. These guys are weapons of mass destruction."
Squibbette gasped in jest, "It's his fault!"
"Shut up, twerp," said Shiva. "He taught you too."
"Why?" said Kristin.
Jim picked up the armored Rat Knights, Percival, Stompy and the rest. The rat brothers with their gear weighed in at five pounds each.
"I knew this day would come," Jim said. "Humanity in its jealous greed would want to exploit them, or worse, destroy them. I did what any father would to protect his children. I taught them to fight back." The mice and rats nodded. "I taught them about the internet, all about combat, tactics, strategy, math, science... everything. I left out nothing. They learn so much faster than us it's crazy. I spent every dime I made on them and their books. But by far the fastest learner, and trainer, was Spritely. He trained the teachers who trained the rest."
The RMC listened attentively.
"But there were always things I couldn't understand," Jim said, looking off into the past. "Some things that defied explanation, like the fact that Squibble and Nemo were always a step ahead of everybody. Even me." He stroked the soft fur of his old sapphire friend in his lap. Nemo was fast asleep. "I let them come and go as they please, when most of the mice seemed perfectly happy in their cages. The Knights were a special breed. Never happy unless they were on a great adventure or saving other mice. I had to get over my fear for their safety. Normal mice need protecting, but this new species, they're smarter than we are. They know what threatens them in the world of man. Of course, on occasion, certain psychos have been known to dodge traffic," he eyeballed Shiva and Thor.
"Hey that was our Dad!" they said together.
"So you turned these critters into super weapons?" Heide said, amazed.
"No, not really," Jim said. Shiva boxed an ear and Thor placed his big teeth around a nostril. "Well, yes, but only for their own protection. Can you blame me? Look at what's happened!"
"Do you have any idea how much power these rodents possess?" Kristin asked Jim. "They have bus drivers that take them anywhere. They have cash on demand. They have other animals - almost any kind - serving them hand and foot."
"Ha haa!" said Jim, patting Thor. "Good boys!"
"You aren't worried?" Mary asked. "Such power can be abused." Shiva frowned at her and rattled his tail.
"No," Jim said. "I trust my boys. All my furries. Trust 'em all the way. They know best." Stompy turned her head to the side so Jim could scratch her chin. "Besides, humans have obviously abused their power all to heck. These guys deserve a fighting chance against such corruption."
Most of the RMC wholeheartedly agreed with head nods and smiles. Still, Mary and Kristin looked concerned. They had only recently found out just how intelligent and powerful their beloved pets were, and these elite of the elite made those animals look foolish and vulnerable by comparison. If the rodents weighed a hundred pounds or more, they would have the world at their mercy. And perhaps humanity did deserve to be usurped as the dominant race on the planet for their mistakes, but a war would be ugly.
"You don't like people very much, Jim," Kristin said as politely as she could. "You think they picked up on that?"
Shiva and Thor nodded vigorously, smiling.
"Thanks, guys," Jim whispered. He faced Kristin. "I think human behavior did it better than I could have." He put the rodents down and held Nemo in the crook of his arm, nestled in his favorite blanket. "Just be glad they grew up with us. It might have been much worse."
"It might be worse," chuckled Shiva to Thor. Thor giggled.
"Silence," commanded Jim. He knew they were up to no good talking rodent when the humans couldn't understand.
"Stuff has been showing up at our door, ordered over the internet by one 'I.B.Furred,'" said Mary. "Expensive stuff. Where do they get the money? How do they use it?"
"Never use your real name on the internet," Shiva said. "Rule 354."
"Never disclose secrets of strategy," Thor said. "Rule 57."
"They have so many ways," Jim said. "They're literally the most resourceful creatures on the planet. The greatest survivors earth has. Combine that with IQs of over 150 and you've got lots of answers."
"We hock credit cards," Thor blurted. Shiva slapped him.
"How do you know their IQs?" Tracy asked.
"Gave them the test," Jim smiled.
Percival hopped up to the computer again and typed Jim...
"Yes, Perky?" Jim paid attention to the screen.
We don't have the resources yet to take the lab full force, said the monitor. We're going in stealth to recover Kippy - he's very important according to Squibble and Nemo.
Shiva and Thor did their rat war dance, stomping in circles and raising their hands like native tribesmen. Stompy joined them.
"Cool," said Jim. "Let's go. I'll drive."