The story before the story…
Sometime around the year 1990, Hamato Yoshi was a high ranking member of the Foot clan in Japan. Yoshi was an unrivaled warrior, yet a compassionate man, known for possessing great wisdom beyond his years. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he was honored by his masters with an offering of a position of leadership within the Foot clan. Yoshi refused the offering, not because he did not want to become a leader, but because he was afraid of his life within the Foot taking precedence over his life with the woman he loved; Tang Shen. Yoshi and Shen had met each other when they were children, and were devoted to each other when they came of age. Wishing to start a family with Shen, Yoshi left the Foot Clan and went to live in America. Hamato Yoshi left an honorable man.
Yet, one of his superiors did not accept Yoshi’s resignation; Oroku Saki. Saki, whose lineage could be traced back to the very beginnings of the Foot clan, believed it an offense to put personal gain before the glory of serving the Foot clan. Disregarding the wishes of his fellow masters, Saki went to America in secret and tracked Yoshi down to a small neighborhood in New York. Once Saki found where Yoshi was living, he lied in wait for him to return home, and murdered Tang Shen in front of him. Blinded by rage, Yoshi fought Saki with every ounce of his strength until Saki fell. Disgraced, Saki begged for Yoshi to finish him, but he refused.
“No, Oroku Saki. Death would only end your suffering…and you deserve this dishonor.”
For days after his great loves demise, Yoshi wandered the streets of New York, aimless and alone. His only refuge was with the rats in the sewer that he now called home, afraid to face a world without his beloved Tang Shen. While Yoshi lived in squalor, Oroku Saki was on a mission. He stayed in America, taking over the New York branch of the Foot clan. He found a brilliant geneticist named Dr. Alexander Craig, and a young engineer named Baxter Stockman, and used them to his advantage. Dr. Craig had been working on a formula intended for cellular repair; a formula he mockingly called a “Mutagen”. If Saki could not kill Hamato Yoshi, he would force him to live forever, alone and with no home. Baxter designed a special suit for Saki that was covered in blades, and a metal mask, to hide his shame. Dr. Craig’s formula was not ready for use and it would be years’ worth of testing before the Mutagen could be used properly. But Saki would wait for his vengeance no longer. As of this moment, there was no Oroku Saki. All that remained; was the Shredder.
Yet Hamato Yoshi was not as alone as Saki believed. Over the next few months, Yoshi found solace in the sewers under New York. He found an old maintenance facility that had went unused for decades and renovated it into a home for him. Yoshi worked odd jobs around the city. He worked enough to keep food in his stomach and clothes on his back. He also worked to feed his one vice; learning. Yoshi found a particular interest in history, especially of the renaissance era; he even found a book Ninjitsu, to hone his skills. One day, Yoshi stumbled upon four baby turtles crawling around a storm drain. He took them in as his pets and Yoshi started to feel some semblance of peace.
That peace was shattered when the Shredder broke down his door one day. Yoshi, taken by surprise, was mercilessly beaten. Yoshi’s ear was cut in half and ragged wounds seared across his chest. When he was within an inch of death, Shredder began to pour the mutagen over Yoshi’s bloody body. When it was over, the Shredder removed his mask and knelt in close to Yoshi…
“Live with this dishonor. Live forever.”
At that moment, a rat from the sewer came to Yoshi’s defense and leapt at the Shredder, clawing at his face and scarring his eye. Enraged, Shredder grabbed at the rat and stabbed it to death, and threw the bleeding rodent onto Yoshi’s body and left them both. The blood from the rat spilled into Yoshi’s body, as did the mutagen. Yoshi felt his body succumbing to his injuries. As he died, Yoshi’s last glimpse of the world was his four baby turtles, too young to know what they were doing, lapping up the mutagen that was mixed with his own blood.
Yoshi woke up, his wounds healed, and the four baby turtles were now the size of toddlers; and Yoshi was a hideous rat creature. Yoshi was filled with a terrible rage and began punching a nearby wall. He struck the walls until his knuckles were bloody. He screamed and tried tearing the fur from his body, and suddenly, he stopped. He felt a small, three-fingered hand gently grasping his leg. He looked down at the small creature, and finally realized that it was one of his pet turtles, his eyes wrapped in silent tears. The other three turtles stood behind him and watched as Yoshi knelt down and held the hand of the first turtle. In the turtles’ eyes, Yoshi saw love and acceptance; acceptance of what Yoshi had become.
Then, the turtle spoke
On that day, much had changed. Yoshi was gone, and Splinter took his place. He raised the four turtles as his sons. He named the one who spoke to him Leonardo. The tallest one, he named Donatello. The quiet one, he named Raphael. And the smallest one, he named Michelangelo. He trained them in the art of the ninja, and he taught them everything he knew about art and history and encouraged them to learn all that they could about the world above them. It was a good life…and yet, Splinter still felt the pain of loss that Hamato Yoshi felt when Tang Shen was taken from him. So, it was after a decade of training that Splinter asked his sons to undertake a terrible burden. He asked his sons to take revenge against the Shredder for the death of Splinters great love.
The rest of the story played out as you would expect. The Turtles defeated the Shredder; taking his life, to ensure that his evil would never again claim an innocent life. The turtles presented Splinter with Shredders helmet to prove their success. But now, the turtles were faced with a new conundrum; what were they to do with their lives now? The turtles had to admit, stopping the evil that was Shredder felt good to them, so they decided to continue. They decided to fight for justice, to protect those that could not fight for themselves. But, there was one rule, Shredder may not be the last person they have to kill one day, but ending a life, would be their absolute last resort.
When the turtles were fourteen, they had begun their journey to becoming heroes.
BY Joshua O’Rourke
Water was dripping from some unknown source. Obviously it was from some loose fitting on a pipe somewhere, or a faucet or showerhead in one of the bathrooms. For whatever reason, that always seemed to wake Leonardo up before his alarm had the chance. Every day for years now, the small “drip, drip, drip” of water falling from some source nears his room would bring him to a new day. Leonardo opened his eyes slowly and stared up at the stone ceiling above him. His eyes focused quickly and he cracked his knuckles as he rolled out of bed.
Leonardo quickly pressed the off button on his alarm. His brother, Donatello, made him that alarm for Christmas three years ago. Every time Leo looked at it he remembered how excited Donnie was when he unwrapped it.
Donnie was almost bouncing when he said; “It’s based on a perpetual motion engine I designed. It doesn’t run on batteries or electricity, but every time the second hand moves it powers the clock to move the next second. That alarm will keep perfect time for…forever.”
Leonardo quickly and neatly made his bed. The heavy blankets almost thumped when they came down on his pillow and mattress. He then turned around and bent straight over to touch his toes and stretch his hamstrings. At the same time, his brother Raphael rolled out of bed and lazily tossed his blankets over his bed. It was “made”. Leo looked at his bed. The corners of the comforter were folded neatly and tucked under the mattress. Then he looked at Raph’s. Well…at least the tag was facing the right direction today.
Raphael nodded at his handy work and dropped to the ground and knocked out twenty five push-ups as Leonardo finished stretching.
Leonardo and Raphael, the two oldest brothers, stood up at the same time and nodded their “good morning” nods.
“Hey.” Raph said.
Raph was taller than Leonardo by only on inch or so, but he was much broader with the strength to back it up. At six foot, Leonardo was no slouch; he was always just much leaner than his brother Raph. Not quite as strong, but much more agile. Leonardo once heard a proverb about using the power of water, and Leo took it to heart.
“Good morning.” Leonardo said. “Lift first or run first?”
Raphael looked like he was actually wincing in pain as he rubbed his stomach.
“Can’t we have breakfast first, for once?”
“That’s what Sundays are for.” Leo said. “Lift first or run first?”
Raphael rolled his eyes and walked towards the door to their room, his room.
“Run. I’ll get Mike.”
Leonardo watched as Raph walked out of their room.
Raphael never wants to run first.
Leo smiled as he walked out of their room towards Donatello’s workshop.
Oh good lord Mikey, would a vacuum really be too much to ask?
Raphael, who was always a little hard on his younger brother Michelangelo, knew that Mikey’s room wasn’t that badly put together. Sure, Mike did sleep on a futon that had seen better days. There were stacks of comic books all over his desk (even though they were strangely put together in alphabetical order) Sketch pads, pencils and video game cartridges were everywhere. Even with all of that, Mike had a talent for being able to be comfortable wherever he set his head down. Lacking in any form of function that talent may be, Raph respected it.
Michelangelo lay on his futon, head on a large pillow that was almost the length of his mattress, a smaller pillow lay on top of his head. Now, if Raphael were the best older brother that he could be, he would probably give his brother an extra five minutes of sleep. Maybe he would gently rock his brothers shoulder into the start of a new day. But, Raph wasn’t the best big brother there ever was, he was the big brother that he was. So, Raph picked up the pillow that was laying on Mikey’s head and yelled “WAKE UP!” as loud as he could, and he was immediately rewarded with Mikey bolting upright yelling…
Raphael almost fell over laughing.
“Damn Raph,” Mike said. “I thought you were Satan.”
“What? Did you somehow fall and hit your head since I woke you up?”
Mike shook his head groggily and reached over to his bedside table and grabbed a large hardcover bound book and handed it to Raph.
Raphael was actually shocked.
“The Divine Comedy; by Dante Alighieri…Mikey, why would you read this before going to bed?
“The cover looked cool. Plus, Donnie’s always reading books like this. I wanted to see what the big deal was.”
“You know,” Raph said. “you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover.”
“Yeah well, when that term was popular, books didn’t have pictures on their covers.
Raph nodded and smiled at his younger brother.
“Well, Mikey, I’m impressed. Come on, we’re running today.
Raph tossed the book back at Mike, who fumbled with it and dropped it on the ground…revealing the comic book that was tucked away inside the ancient poem.
Mikey turned so red he almost grew the word “STOP” on his forehead.
“It’s the third issue of The Engineers. The first appearance of the Titan…she’s the iron heroine. “
“Yeah,” Raph said. “you read.”
Leonard walked softly as he entered Donatello’s lab. Donnie didn’t sleep in his room anymore. He says that it was because his mattress was lumpy. But Leo knew better. He knew that Donnie loved working late, tinkering with some new gadget that would aid someone with something. Be it a new alarm clock, or a new pair of anti-gravity gauntlets (long story). Donatello’s workshop was massive, filled with repurposed computers and laptops, tools were hung up on the on the wall, with outlines painted around them. A 1957 VW Bus sat in the corner, its old engine lay in pieces in front of the old vehicle. Leonardo smiled remembering all the times they chased down the Foot clan in it, everyone, including Leo, marveling at its speed and power.
How in the world did you ever keep that clunker running?
Donatello was asleep in his recliner; a battered paperback book was in his hand. Leo was going to reach for it when he noticed the makeshift knee brace on Donatello’s’ right leg.
The image of it always made Leonardo shudder. Donatello had his knee dislocated when he was trying to save Karai’s life during an assault on the Foot clan, what would be their last conflict with them. Leonardo carried his younger brother home that night and helped him set his leg. Donatello refused to take any pain medication during his recovery, claiming that he didn’t want to risk “developing a habit”.
Leo placed a hand on his brothers shoulder.
“Don, it’s time to wake up.”
“Coffee?” Donatello spoke groggily.
“Not yet, we have a run ahead of us.”
“Right, cardiovascular training is best before breakfast.”
Leonardo raised his hand, always the doting mother of his brothers, his team.
“Don’t you know what could happen if we didn’t run first thing in the morning?”
“We might not train at all.”
Donatello placed his book on the shelf next to his work bench opposite the VW bus.
As Donatello started doing pull ups near his bench, Leonardo looked at his bookshelf, taking inventory of the collection of medical textbooks and several “how to draw” books. Leo knew that Donatello always envied Michelangelo’s innate ability to draw and Don always wanted to learn something new. One book caught his attention.
“Psychological Diagnosis Handbook,” Leonardo asked. “what’s that for?”
“Sleeping aid, but lately, I’ve been trying to profile the four of us. I want to know how we work as a team as effectively as we do.”
“We love each other, simple as that.”
“I agree. But I want to know how a group of varied and possibly dramatic personalities works together. By all accounts, we shouldn’t work at all. With your stoicism, Mikes free-wheeling nature, Raphael’s aggression and my own possible OCD, none of us should have the faintest idea of what to talk about with each other.”
“It’s called a group dynamic, Donatello. Didn’t you see the Avengers?”
Donatello dropped to the ground from the pull up bar hanging from the ceiling. Leonardo could almost see the light bulb lighting up in Donatello’s mind.
“Oh…The Avengers…I never thought of that.”
“Kind of explained it pretty well there,” Leonardo said. “Apply it here.”
Donatello shrugged and walked toward the opening to his lab with his brother.
“Oh well, I guess I’ll get back to working on the problem with our water filters.”
Leonardo stopped walking.
“What’s wrong with our water filters?”
“Nothing. Well, nothing to worry about, you haven’t been showing any effects.”
Leonardo nodded and walked after his younger brother.
Michelangelo strutted up the stairs of their home to the abandoned subway station just above where they lived. Donatello and Raphael were already there. Raph was doing push-ups, like always, and Donnie sat at the top of the stair case, tightening a screw on his knee brace. Mike always wished he had done something to keep his brother from feeling the pain he literally walked around with every day. But, Mike wasn’t a crazy teenager anymore, now he was a slightly mellowed twenty-year-old. He knew all he could do was try to make Donnie smile whenever he could. Michelangelo tapped Donatello on the shoulder and pointed at his knee.
“How’s it going bro?”
“It’s getting stronger.”
Donatello stood up and gave Mike a fist bump.
“Try to keep up.” He said.
Michelangelo made a big show of laughing and going bug-eyed.
“Whoa, wait, Donnie’s talking smack? Now, I’ve seen everything…wait, did I see that or did I hear it first?”
“Well, hear this.”
Leonardo walked up the stairs to the old train platform and faced his three brothers that looked at him eagerly. Michelangelo was bouncing his weight evenly on the balls of his feet. Raphael cracked his knuckles and smiled slightly. Donatello stood still, breathing evenly as if nothing could move him.
“It’s two miles to the turn-around point, two miles back to home base. The last one back, has to wash dishes tonight at April and Casey’s”
Leonardo stood shoulder to shoulder with his brothers.
They all answered.
Leonardo held up his hand.
They all answered.
Leonardo threw a smoke bomb that erupted in front of all of them, blanketing the world in a haze of thick, gray smoke.”
By the time they could have seen Leonardo, he was already gone.
They all heard Leos voice from somewhere down the tunnel.
“What the damn hell!” Raphael shouted.
Splinter sat alone in the middle of the dojo in the lotus position, sipping tea, half meditating, half listening to the piano music playing from ipod his sons bought him two years for his birthday. When he would meditate, Splinter would often find his mind racing through visions of wheat fields, rushing waters and light breezes off the coast. But today, for one reason or another, his mind escaped to the saddest memory he wished he wouldn’t hold on to.
He remembers Leonardo, his eldest son, kneeling in front of him, tears falling down his cheeks.
“Father,” he said “I’m sorry. I’ve failed you. I failed Raphael, my brothers, I failed…everyone.”
“Leonardo,” Splinter said. “Calm yourself and tell me what has happened.”
Leonardo looked up, but he looked everywhere but in his father’s eyes.
“I…I thought that, if went to Raphael’s level, if I fought him and showed him that his anger, anger that split our team apart, was pointless…I thought that I could reach him.”
Splinter took a step closer to his son, held his hand to keep it from shaking, and looked in his eyes.
“My son,” Splinter said. “tell me what happened.”
Leonardo spoke, spoke in a voice that he hadn’t heard from himself before. A voice, filled with fear and grief.
“He’s gone master Splinter. Raphael is gone.”
Weapons: Dual Katanas
Wrist mounted claw on left arm,
used for disarming opponents.
Height: 6’ 4”
Weapons: Collapsible Bo staff
“E-Gloves”, capable of electrocuting
an opponent with up to five thousand volts.
Weapons: Dual Sais
Prefers to fight barehanded.
Weapons: Dual Nunchaku
Meteor Hammer (chain)
About five minutes before he met his brothers at the platform for their run, Raphael quietly snuck into his old room and sat on the edge of the bed for a rare moment of contemplation. Raphael room was stark and kind of lifeless at one time. He was surrounded by stone walls, bare floor and a twin-sized bed for years. Raphael always looked at his brothers’ rooms and thought;
He always thought that when you looked at a person’s room, you’d see who they were. Mikes room was filled with boxes of comics and a large drafting table, loaded with art supplies. Leo’s room was immaculate, filled with art books and travel books. Don’s lab was full of tools, work benches and books. And Raph’s room was empty, but that was then. Raphael wasn’t much of a philosopher, but he always wondered if his room being empty meant he was empty.
And then he met Mona, and something changed; and his room wasn’t empty anymore. Now it had a TV with a DVD player. Old and new movie posters lined the walls. A large oak dresser sat in the corner, filled with t-shirts that people thought were vintage. The bed had blankets bought from Target and not recovered from Goodwill.
Mona Lisa and Raph met thirteen months earlier at a homeless shelter where they were both living. He would be the first to admit his character flaw; he did, and still does have, anger issues. But he had no idea what anger was until he met her. Anger, came out of her eyes, seeped through her scales and set her long brown hair on fire. But Raphael, when he looked at her he didn’t see anger, he saw beauty. He saw a friend, and he saw every lesson his father and older brother taught him since he had his first slice of pizza.
Raph turned and saw that Mona was awake, eyes half open, and full of pieces of sleep. Raphael smiled and placed a hand on her leg, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“Hey.” He said.
“What time is it?”
“It’s just after four thirty.”
Mona’s head collapsed against her pillow.
“Why are we up so early? Get back in bed.”
Raph’s smile grew wider.
“I want to, but Leo’s got us running today. Plus I gotta go wake up Mike. Ten bucks says he fell asleep with a comic on his head again.”
Mona sat up and held Raphael’s hand.
“You were up a lot earlier than that.”
“I was hungry, so I ate a sandwich.”
“And you didn’t bring me one?”
“I did. But when I came back in here, well…you looked like you were really comfortable. I didn’t want to ruin that, so I slept in the extra bed in my old room.”
Raphael tried not to linger at Mona’s lean frame as she climbed out of bed and put on a shirt, shorts and tied her pink and black bandana around her neck. She wore that bandana every day since she was a girl. Mona told Raph that it was the only thing she had from her mother. Before she was mutated into some kind of human/amphibian hybrid, before she could find out if she was going to grow into a beautiful woman. Mona knew why Raphael didn’t come back to bed last night. He didn’t come back because she was sleeping well, and after years of not sleeping a whole night, because of nightmares of the day she was taken from her mother, Raphael couldn’t ruin that. And Mona loved him for that.
Raphael sat on the bed, motionless, waiting for Mona to figure out what she wanted to say and how she wanted to say it. He never rushed her, and never tried to make an opinion for her.
Mona kneeled down in front of Raphael and looked up at him.
“You belong here at night.” Mona said, and pointed at their small, made-for-one person bed. “If you can’t sleep and you wanna eat or watch TV, that’s cool. But, if you think I’m gonna let my man sleep in another bed while I’m in our room alone, than you’re in trouble, mister.”
Mona placed a hand on Raphael’s cheek, kissed him, and tried not to giggle because she could make him blush.
“Now, help me find a hair tie, I gotta go rumble with Splinter.”
An hour later, sometime after five AM, the four turtles, the four brothers were training hard in their dojo. Leonardo and Raphael were practicing grappling techniques, focusing on joint manipulation, or surgery, as Raph liked to call it. Michelangelo and Donatello were training on Donnie’s flexibility. Michelangelo tied restraints to Donnie’s limbs, which were tied to weights, and walked him through basic combat moves to build up the strength in his legs. Donnie was well past the need for physical rehabilitation. His knee was as strong as it was going to be, but he was smart enough to know that these exercises were more for Mike’s sake than his.
Mona walked through dojo were they trained and noted how massive the room was, at least three times larger than Donatello’s labs. The floor was a carpeted in some spots by dozens of rugs that had been stitched together by April. It was her way of saying thank you for them saving her life from the Mousers all those years ago. Workout equipment lined one side of the dojo. Everything from dumbbells to parallel bars, they had everything you would need if you were interested at all with strength training.
In the center of the dojo was a large Bonsai garden formed into a perfect circle. Splinter tended to the garden, daily. He would set about every day, usually in the late afternoon, watering and trimming the seventeen trees that stood anywhere from six to fifteen inches tall.
And on the far wall, opposite the workout equipment stood the shrine. No one actually called it that, but in their minds, the turtles all knew what it was, it was something of a trophy case. A display of their many victories, and the defeats they have accumulated. It stood six and a half feet high, and eight feet long. On its’ large shelves lay the T.C.R.I. container that started everything. The time scepter (that’s what Mikey called it, anyway), that sent them from feudal Japan, to New York in the year 2099, lay below. The Hyperstone, capable of tearing through the walls of reality, lay on one of the middle shelves. A defunct Mouser stood off to the side. The sight of those crude robots made Splinter’s fur stand on edge. And finally, at the center of the case, stood the crown jewel, the helmet of their greatest foe; Oroku Saki, the Shredder.
As Mona worked out, she looked throughout the dojo, taking in surroundings, as always, like it was the first time she had seen them, and she remembered a story Raph told her about the Shredder. Six years ago, when the turtles were around fourteen years old, they challenged Saki to a duel to settle an old score that started years before they were even born. The four turtles met the Shredder atop the rooftops in the Clinton district. The turtles stood alone against Shredder and twenty five of the deadly Foot clan. The specifics of that night didn’t matter. All that matters, is in the end, the Turtles stood above a broken Shredder who lay in defeat.
However, that wasn’t the last battle against Shredder and the Foot.
There were others opponents who came after them. Karai, a Foot soldier who took the Shredders place after his death; a wayward spirit who called himself the Rat King; leaders of a violent gang of mutants: Rocksteady and Bebop. Among the crazy mutants and ninjas, they also fought “regular” corrupt police, the mafia, and even alien invaders. But they never faced anyone like the Shredder.
Mona had been told many stories about the Shredder. Honestly, he sounded like a very dangerous man. She had heard that it took Raphael and all of his brothers to overpower him. But in the end, they stood and he did not. But for now she pushed those thoughts away. All she thought of now was punching the heavy bag in front of her. Mona learned to throw a punch at a very young age. She was taken from her parents very early on in life. Taken to some kind of “camp”, as she heard it called.
In the camp, for the first month at least, she was left alone for the most part. Every now and then, someone wearing a black utilitarian-style clothing and some form of mask would drop off food. Sometimes, they would bring books for her. Sometimes the books would be about large red dogs. Some were about wizards and a knight named Arthur. Those books were her best friends.
“Again!” Splinter called out.
Mona had drifted off, thinking of her early days before her mutation. She started hitting the bag again. Splinter had been more than welcome to train her when she had asked him to. Splinter had told her that it had been more than a year since he had trained anyone. Mona didn’t know whether to believe that or not. From the looks of things, even though he says he has nothing left to teach his sons, Splinter seemed like the kind of guy/rat who could never run out of something to share with someone.
Splinter walked around Mona as she punched and kicked the heavy bag. He wasn’t as short as she had imagined him to be. He was at least as tall as she. Splinter wore a dark, maroon colored Karate gi, tied at the waste with a black belt, his tail, swaying behind him, as relaxed as his whole body. Splinter was always relaxed. Mona would be surprised if he was even capable of anger. He could get frustrated, sure. She often saw him get frustrated with Raphael and Michelangelo, who could still not help themselves when it came to showing off. But anger didn’t seem like his suit.
“You have great strength Mona,” Splinter started as he stopped pacing behind her.
“Here,” Splinter tapped her shoulder with the bamboo walking stick he used. Mona still wasn’t convinced that he actually needed it. “And here.” Splinter tapped Mona on her left thigh.
“But it is unnecessary to expend so much of it with a single blow.”
Mona stopped attacking the bag and looked at Splinter.
“You’re saying I’m hitting the bag to hard?” She asked.
“Splinter, no offense, but it’s been my experience that you should put someone down before they know what hit them.”
“A valid point, and don’t interrupt. What would you do if your opponent did not fall after the first hit?”
“I’d hit him again.”
Splinter smiled. “And if that didn’t work?”
“What are you trying to tell me? What am I not doing right?”
“I am telling you to breathe and be patient. Force has its place. But one day, you will find yourself facing an opponent that doesn’t care how hard you hit. They will be unrelenting in their opposition.”
Mona sighed and lightly punched the heavy bag.
“It’s just hard.” She said. “You know?”
“Mona, you are a brawler, and a skilled one at that. But I am training you to be a warrior. And becoming a warrior, takes time. It is not something that can be rushed.”
“But Splinter, you’re asking me to unlearn the last ten years of me trying to protect myself. I mean, do you know what it feels like to be trapped in a corner, and the only thing between you and freedom, is some thug with a weapon?”
Splinter smiled and rubbed his left ear which the top half had been cut off by the Shredder years before now. (at least, that’s how Leonardo told it)
“Okay,” Mona started, “dumb question.”
Mona stepped away from the heavy bag and crossed her arms across her chest. She looked down at her chest, smooth green scales shimmering in the overhead lights. She felt herself opening up to these guys more and more every day, but she always felt as if the floor of her world would give out whenever she admitted any type of weaknesses. Weaknesses that she knew were important. Weaknesses that she knew no one in this dojo would ever judge her for.
She looked at Splinter, who held her gaze evenly.
“It’s just hard not to give everything all the time…”
Splinter nodded. Mona could feel that Splinter knew exactly what she was feeling. Living on the street for years can teach someone a lot if they’re willing to survive there. And Mona could tell when someone had overcome anger issues, and when someone let anger overcome them.
“Mona,” Splinter started, “what do you see at the end of your fist?”
Mona thought clearly about every punch she had ever thrown. At the heavy bag, at muggers, other homeless in alleys. She thought of all the pain she had felt since she was nine years old and terrified. She thought of the last time she saw her mother. She saw her mother getting smaller as she was whisked away in the back of a car. She saw her mothers’ tears, and remembered her own.
“I see myself.” Mona said. “I see the woman I’ll never be.”
“Good. Then we’re ready to begin.”
Weapons: Butterfly Knife
“Jaw Breakers”, leather gloves with brass knuckles
sewn into the gloves.
Splinter aka Hamato Yoshi
Weapons: Bamboo staff
Not actually used for walking.
“Oh my God, could this coffee maker brew any slower?”
April O’Neil leaned against the counter in her kitchen. In front of her, the coffee maker stood magnanimous and proud at the power it wielded over the puny humans that thought it was merely a thing.
How little people knew.
Of course, it could be thinking nothing at all and April was just sleep-deprived having worked an accidental ten-hour shift at the hospital yesterday. Winter months were always bad for hospital employees. April held onto the theory that people wanted to go to the hospital to hear from a doctor that, no, there is nothing wrong with them. But as the weather got worse, and the mercury dropped more and more, people needed to hear that nothing was wrong with them. Yes, April was slightly cynical; she knew that being a nurse for the past three years had taken a small toll on her, she had no idea what the next twenty might do to her.
Honestly, April hated to admit it, but sometimes, she hated that she gave up on journalism being anything more than just a hobby. Especially considering that everyone and their mother could post something online and consider themselves to be a writer. April had written about financial crisis, bullying in public schools, movie reviews and everything else in between on her blog Second Time Around. But, try as she might, writing didn’t keep the lights on. Unless you worked for a major publication or were in league with a publishing house, writing wasn’t going to cut it. So, after a couple of years bouncing from job-to-job, April landed in nursing school. Was it the best decision she had ever made? No. The best decision of her life was sitting in the living room playing with their daughter.
After a few minutes that seemed longer than any few minutes should take, April, coffee in hand, went out into the living room. There, she saw Casey and Shadow sitting in the middle of the room on the floor, facing each other and eating cereal. Shadow was a tiny little girl, that was five years old going on thirty. She looked like Casey, which April adored, with her black hair and fair skin. But she did have April’s freckles and green eyes, so to April, that meant she might look like Casey, but the eyes were what mattered and Shadows eyes reminded April of her own. Speaking of eyes that mattered; Casey was waving his arms in the air and making a big show of whatever story he was telling Shadow. Shadow loved hearing stories from Casey, and boy did Casey have more than his fair share.
“So there I was,” Casey started, “face to face with the only other goomba to ever put a hurtin’ on your Uncle Leo, a man callin’ himself the Shredder.”
April rolled her eyes and smiled. Casey loved to lay his Brooklyn accent on thick when he was telling stories.
“Me,” he said, poking thumb into his broad chest, “I called him a half a moron; Even if he did wear a nice enough helmet.”
Shadow found a way to eat cereal and laugh, mouth agape, all at the same time. The girl had skills.
“How many Foot Soldiers did he have with him dad?” Shadow asked, again, mouth full of cereal.
“Now hold on Shadow, I’m getting’ there. So, to one side a me, is your mother, Grandpa Splinter, Uncle Leo and his brothers; and on the other is that walking can opener, Shredder and at least seventy or eighty of his crew, the Foot Clan”
Casey stood up, and pacing around the room and flexing his muscles, probably because he knew April was watching and continued with the story.
“So I look at Shredder and I ask him: ‘You wanna tell me why you’re puttin’ a hurtin’ on my little green friends there?’ And instead of talking to me like a decent human being, like you’re supposed to, he says; ‘Kill him’.”
Casey threw his arms wide and looked shocked, like he had lost a winning lottery ticket to a strong wind.
“So I had to inform him. I said; ‘Slow down big boy. You’re going about this all wrong. I mean, I used to be a Goonie for the Rangers. I mean, I’ve razzled plenty of guys twice your size’. “
Casey went down on one knee and looked Shadow directly in the eyes, and did his best to ignore her giggling.
“And this guy, Shredder…he starts shaking. So I try to alleviate the whole situation before it gets out of control.”
Casey was now crouching in front of Shadow, bouncing from side to side.
“So I tell him; ‘Nah, don’t worry about it so much. I can’t take all the credit. It’s not like I did it all by myself.”
Casey rose up his fists and gently bumped Shadow on her tiny belly.
“’Say hello to the boys’, I tell him. And then…GOONGALA!”
Casey jumped up into the air, knees almost hitting his shoulders. April didn’t know if Casey had noticed that he had actually jumped over Shadow and landed behind her. Casey spun around and faced Shadow who was laughing herself silly.
“I take to the air,” Casey kind of shouted! “me and the boys came down so hard on ‘ol Shell-Head and we knock him into the dirt so hard, he was buried all the way up to his shoulders. And the rest of the Foot Clan either soiled their diapers, or turned tail and ran…and then soiled their diapers”.
Shadow jumped into the air, pumping both of her fists into the air and shouting “GOONGAGA!!!!”
Casey shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, close enough. Have you said good morning to your mother yet?”
Shadow went bugged eyed and ran for April, jumped in the air and gave her a bear hug.
April laughed and ignored that she spilled some of her precious coffee.
“How could you forget about Mommy,” April said, “it’s not like you have another one just lying around right?”
“No, I forgot to say “good morning”. I’m only five”
April kissed Shadow on the cheek and off she went, cereal bowl in hand. April couldn’t help but marvel at the boundless energy that that little girl seemed to barely contain, and then she looked at her coffee cup and realized she needed to step up her game. But before she could do that, Casey already had her in his arms.
“Morning cutie.” He said.
“Hi. How long have you been up?”
“I heard Shadow rooting around the kitchen about a half hour ago. So I got up, taught her how to do the perfect push up and got her breakfast.”
April smiled and gave him a proper good morning kiss, noticing that his “accent” had suddenly disappeared. April thought, not for the first time, about how adorable Casey Jones actually was. When they were younger, Casey was probably the harshest person she had ever met. The big lug was violent, hot-tempered, and crazy as all hell; but April saw something in him from the beginning. April could tell it was a cover. She could tell Casey was hiding something, or rather, he was hiding from something. As clichéd as it was, Casey was that skinny kid who was bullied a little too much. Every day when he was a kid, he was pushed around and laughed at. So, one day, he pushed back. Unfortunately, Casey pushed so hard, word began to spread, and he was fighting more often than not.
But that was a long time ago. As soon as April and Casey had their daughter, Casey pulled a one eighty and became the parent he never had; again, another cliché.
“Well,” April said. “I could use some breakfast.”
“On the way.”
Casey went into the kitchen and April took a shower.
Minutes later, April was treated to the cheesiest three-egg omelet she’d had in a long time. Casey sat across the table from her reading the newest issue of Sports Illustrated.
“So, what time is everyone coming over?” Casey asked.
“Two-thirty.” April said “I’ve got to get the turkey started after I finish…”
April was cut off by her phone vibrating. Without bothering to check who was calling, April answered.
“April, it’s Donatello…”
April smiled and immediately started to think about how many people were coming over to her and Casey’s apartment for dinner tonight.
“Hey Donnie,” April said. “Happy…”
“April,” Donnie interrupted, “you need to come down to the lab. Something’s come up.”
Thirty minutes later, April arrived in the Turtles lair. It wasn’t a “lair” per say. To April, a lair indicated a declaration of hostile intent. Like the Batcave, or a Helicarrier. The Turtles had a home. Repurposed from an abandoned subway station, the turtles had lived there for the past five years, after the Foot had forced them from their old home. April walked down the stairs and was immediately greeted by Michelangelo, giant smile plastered on his face, arms spread wide.
“Happy Thanksgiving April!” Michelangelo exclaimed.
Michelangelo jogged over to April, hugged her and lifted her gently off the ground. Mike was always so boisterous and fun loving. Even if you saw him the day before, when you saw him next, to him, it would be as if a year had gone by since he’d seen you. And it wasn’t that Michelangelo was dramatic, he just loved the people in his life that much.
“Hey Mike!” April said. “Happy Thanksgiving to you too.”
Michelangelo gently put April down and the others came to greet her. Splinter asked about Shadow, Leonardo greeted her with a warm hug and offered her a coffee, which she accepted. She noticed Raphael and Mona holding hands as they walked up and said their “hellos”.
“So Michelangelo,” April started. “I assume you haven’t taken our yearly tradition lightly, have you?’
Mike found a way to smile even wider and shook his head.
“No ma’am, this year you’ve got a lot to worry about. My sweet and sour turkey is going to wipe the floor with your yearly Butterball brand bird. “
Every year (well, the past two anyway) April and Michelangelo competed over who could cook the better bird. For two years running, April had won. But this year, since Mike was making a, supposedly, sweet and sour turkey, her reign may be over.
“Seriously Mike, you do me a disservice, you think I’m just going to use a canned turkey and call it a day? I put my bird in the smoker just before I left. I think you’re going to have to try harder than smearing a little marmalade on a turkey if you want to win the title this year.”
“Aww, it’s so cute that she thinks I’m afraid of a little heat.”
April laughed and bumped Mike fist.
“Oh, speaking of heat,” she said, “who’s doing dishes for me tonight? Who lost the race?”
Leonardo laughed and said; “Well, you’re just going to have to wait and see, April”
Leonardo handed her a cup of coffee, she was starting to think he forgot.
“So, what’s up April? To what do we owe to honor?”
Between sips of coffee, April said: “Donnie called me, said he needed to talk about something.”
“He’s off crunching numbers and saving the world from killer water filters.” Raphael said.
“He’s in his lab, working on the van.” Mona said.
“Thanks Mona, I’m so happy there’s another woman here. Sometimes, I can’t get a straight answer from these guys.”
April walked into Donatello’s lab and saw Donnie changing the tires on the old VW Bus. She walked towards him but was quickly greeted by Donnie’s assistant, Metalhead. Standing just over five feet tall, and looking more like a big, metal turtle, Metalhead was, for lack of a better term, a robot. Donatello found him years ago, during a raid on a Foot Clan base. Metalhead wasn’t working at the time, and was recovered from a scrap heap. Don could only assume he was a failed experiment originally intended to hunt down the Turtles themselves. Donatello recovered, reprogramed, and rebuilt him from the ground up.
“Good morning Miss O’Neil.” Metalhead said in his cool, automated voice.
“Hey Metalhead, how’s my favorite metal turtle?”
“Acceptable, Miss O’Neil.” He said. “However, I will need to be recharged sometime within the next twelve to fourteen hours, depending on exertion.”
“Well,” she said, “if you need a pair of jumper cables, let me know.”
“Hardly, Miss O’Neil; I already have a wall-mounted recharging center that comes with free Wi-Fi.”
Metalhead walked over to said charging center and prepared to hook himself in. April made her way over to Donatello, who was now at a massive workbench he had, cleaning tools before he put them away. Next to a tool bag Don was filling with clean tools, stood a now defunct Mouser. April didn’t know exactly why Donatello kept that thing, or the one that was in the trophy case in the dojo, but every time April saw it, chills ran up her spine. She’ll never forget the night a few dozen were sent after her, the same night she met the Turtles.
“Morning Donatello. How goes it?”
Donatello looked over at April as he was washing his hands.
“There’s been another execution April.”
That stopped April in her tracks.
“What?” April started. “Are you sure?”
“April, it’s me. Of course I’m sure.”
April’s blood ran cold. She had seen a lot in her time since palling around with the Turtles, lots of fights and bad injuries. Since she had become a nurse, she had seen a lot of harsh ways to go. But something about these murders…
“Don, are you sure? It’s been over a year since we’ve seen one of these.”
“Trust me April,” Donatello said. “I wish I were wrong. But everything checks out.”
“Yes. It was a small caliber GSW behind the left ear just the same as all the others.”
“Where there any defensive wounds this time?”
“Defensive wounds on the victim indicated a struggle. Abrasions on the right cheek and temple suggest the victim was held down on the ground before they were shot, same MO as before.”
“Was there anything under the fingernails this time?” April asked
“Cleaned with bleach; again, just like the others.”
Donatello walked over to his laptop and opened it up. April began to pace the length of Donatello’s work bench. If this meant what she thought it meant, it was bad, very bad. The Turtles barely survived the last time these murders were going on. Someone was targeting mutants. More specifically, people who had been experimented on with Mutagen.
But it had been so long since anything had happened with this case. Donatello and April had been investigating these murders for over five months before they stopped, and everyone had suffered loss because of them.
“Is the victim male or female?” April asked.
“Male, this time…April, I think the Dominators are trying to make a play for us again.”
April felt another chill run up her spine.
The Dominators, she thought. Christ…this is going to be bad.
Height: 5’ 8”
Weapons: Intellect and Sass
Height: 6’ 3”
Weapons: Anything sports related.
But, whatever will fit in his golf bag.
April felt her heart sink down around her ankles. The Dominators were bad news. They were some type of group targeting mutants and killing them with zero tolerance. They didn’t care what type of mutant you were, whether you were a criminal or not; if you were a mutant, you were as good as dead. And the worst part was, no one had ever seen them before the murders started, and no one had heard from them since they had stopped. All April knew was that they had it out for the Turtles, and no one even knew who they were.
“April…” Donatello said.
April’s mind had wandered off while Donatello had continued talking. He did that sometimes. He didn’t mean to, it’s just that the guy was like a walking text book He was full of information just waiting to be unleashed.
“April, did you hear me?”
“I’m sorry Donnie. Could you say that again?” April said.
“Of course, I said that there are two points of interest here.”
“You mean other than the dead body?”
“Yes,” Donatello said, “For starters, the victim’s liver was removed. They were stitched back together in a manner that would suggest training, medical, or possibly military training. Either way, they knew what they were doing.”
“God…were any of the other victims found in this condition, missing organs, I mean.”
Donatello shook his head and sighed slightly.
“No,” he said. “None were operated on. At least, none of the ones we have found. There’s no real way for us to know how long they’ve been killing mutants like this. Or if New York is the only place they’ve been operating.”
Donatello had a point. The murder victims, the mutants, were targeted specifically because they were the results of experiments with Mutagen; at least that was the theory. Again, there was no real MO here. These killings weren’t specific to gender, age, location, time of year, anything. Mutation was the only key. April thought back to when she was interning at a hospital just after nursing school. Back to when she found a Doctor named Alexander Craig and an engineer he knew named Baxter Stockman working with the Mutagen on a cadaver. Not long after that, April was almost killed by Stockman’s small robot MOUSER runts. April used to wish she had called in sick that day. She used to wish that someone else had opened that door to their lab. But then, so many great things wouldn’t have happened to her.
April forced away her musings of the past and focused on what was happening in front of her.
“Why would they want someone’s liver?”
“My first guess,” Donatello started, “liver cells. Or more specifically…”
“Hepatocytes.” April interrupted. “They’re essential to liver regeneration, right?”
“Exactly, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.”
“Is this the second point?” April asked.
“The victim was found in the Purple Dragons territory.”
Now Aprils’ stomach sank. If a mutant was killed and dumped on the Dragons territory, to her, it meant they were calling out the Turtles themselves, directly. A couple of years ago, the Turtles had made a pact of non-violence with the Purple Dragons. The deal was made between Karai and Leonardo after she was exiled from the Foot Clan. Both Leonardo and Karai had both honored the pact happily. April knew how much honor meant to both Leonardo and Karai. But April couldn’t help but wonder if it was something more than that. She didn’t like that Karai was involved. April didn’t dislike Karai, but that didn’t mean she trusted her. Karai was once a high ranking member of the Foot Clan. She had defected some time ago and had made progress with the Purple Dragons…but April couldn’t look past that she used to be aligned with the Foot at one time. Who knows where her allegiances really lie.
“Karai sent you the message?” April asked.
“Yes. Her team had made an anonymous call to the police after they had examined the body. But, I’ve asked them not to start any kind search for those responsible for the murder.”
“Donnie, why? If the Dominators are back…”
“We don’t know anything yet April.” Donatello interrupted. “Regardless of my theories, there’s no guarantee that it’s them. This could be anyone.”
His voice was harsh. Like a rock in a garbage disposal. April had never heard Donatello sound like that. Donnie was a lot of things; logical, meticulous, jovial, and probably the tallest guy she’d ever met. But Donnie wasn’t harsh. He wasn’t someone that tried to push his opinion on anyone, like he was doing now. April let Donatello’s words flow over her and for some reason, the image of ten minutes ago popped into her head. When she came down the stairs into their home, she saw all the Turtles, save for Donatello. They all smiled and waved at her like she was the big sister to them all.
“You haven’t told anyone else this, have you?”
“I didn’t want to ruin today…” Donatello trailed off. April could see that he was trying to make his point. She could see some kind of internal struggle in him, however brief it may have been. When he looked back at her, he had steeled himself again.
“Happy Thanksgiving…you know what I’m most thankful for April? It’s been almost a year since we’ve had to risk our lives to do what someone else thought was right. We were out on the streets, fighting, since we were fourteen years old, trying to help others who couldn’t defend themselves, and for what? How much pain did we have to endure because we thought we could stop crime? “
Donatello broke his gaze from April and looked at the pictures on the far wall of his workshop. There were several pictures of him and his brothers training, a crooked picture of Donnie and Casey rebuilding the engine of the VW Bus, and a framed picture of April hugging him. Donatello smiled like a dopey kid in that picture. He remembered how big of a crush on April he had when he was younger. He missed the kid he used to be, he missed not knowing how the world worked.
April spoke softly and place a hand on Donatello’s shoulder.
“Donnie, you’re telling me that at no time in the last year, that you haven’t stepped in when someone wanted to take from someone else? You’re telling me that you can ignore the urge to protect?”
“April,” Donatello started, “who do you think I am? Who do you think we are? Heroes in a half shell? We are a bandage on Leprosy. If this is the Dominators, and I’m not convinced that it is yet, but if this is, and if we can take them out, there will just be someone else after them to pick up the slack. We’re not heroes April. We just perpetuate the cycle.”
April moved in front of Donatello and looked up at him. She needed his full attention. She needed to know that he was listening.
“You and your family, this family, you’re my heroes.” April said. “Because of you I met Casey. Because of you and your brothers, I knew I was strong enough to bring a child into this world, as imperfect as it is. I owe my life to your ability to stand up and tell the good people out there that they have nothing to fear, that they won’t be hurt. Not on your watch. You think that you don’t make a difference, look at Shadow; look at how happy my daughter is and you tell me that you haven’t made an impact on this world.”
Donatello kept his gaze on April and shook his head.
Donatello and April both looked to the entry of his workshop and saw Michelangelo standing there, orange bandana set in place across his face. He hasn’t worn it in a long while. In fact, none of them had. But Mike had Donnie’s purple mask in his hand. He held his hand out and offered it to him.
“Mike, you remember what happened the last time we went up against these guys, right? Hell, we’ve haven’t even fought them head on before, and they still got to us.”
Michelangelo looked at Donatello, and thought of the bravery he had for being able to do the things he does with a bum knee, and knew that Donnie was stronger than he gave himself credit for, he just had to be reminded of it.
“We made mistakes. Everyone does. But we’re stronger now. We can beat them.”
Mike offered Donatello his mask again.
“How…how do you know that?” Donatello asked.
Michelangelo smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“It’s what we do bro.”
April placed a hand on Donatello’s shoulder again.
“It’s okay to be scared Donnie. Just don’t let fear own you.”
Donatello took his mask from his brothers’ hand and placed it across his face, tying it in place, the purple cloth resting where it should have been this whole time.
“Mike…” Donatello started. “Get everyone together; we need to plan. It’s time to play offense.
Mike smiled again, looking happier than a kid at Christmas.
“And the man is back” he said, bounding out of the workshop.
Donatello felt good wearing his mask again, like he had found a part of himself that he didn’t know was missing. As he walked out of his workshop, he couldn’t help but think of the reason his family was divided for so long.
Twenty months earlier.
April sat in the in Donatello’s workshop examining his left eye, the large gash above it bled heavily. He was going to need stiches, but for now, all April could do was apply pressure to the wound with gauze and ice to get the bleeding to stop. Donatello looked like he was in shock. He was silent the whole time, unflinching to the pain of the pressure April was putting on his forehead. Behind her, Michelangelo was shifting his weight from side to side. He was obviously nervous. She noticed that Mike kept looking between Donatello’s gash on his head, and knee brace. Donnie was finally back to one hundred percent on his leg and now this. For one reason or another, Michelangelo blamed himself for Donnie having his knee broken a while back. Who knows how he was feeling now.
“Mike,” April said, “could you get me some more gauze and another ice pack please?”
Michelangelo looked torn, he wanted to help, but April could tell that he felt like he was in the way. Which, well…he only kind of was.
“Yeah,” He said “Sure thing.”
As Mike walked out of the workshop, April noticed Leonardo was standing against the wall near the entry, arms crossed across his chest. Leo looked like he was etched from stone, he was so still. He wasn’t blinking, April couldn’t even tell if he was breathing; yet April knew that on the inside, his mind was moving a mile a minute. April had to stay focused. It seemed obvious to her that no one was going to say anything on their own. Plus, she had to know why Raphael wasn’t here. If he were hurt, the other’s wouldn’t have come back without him. If he were taken, they would still be out there, breaking down every door in town until they found him. So…what happened?
“Donnie,” April said softly, “Talk to me, what happened?”
“He just snapped…” Donatello said. “I’ve never seen him like that…”
When Donatello spoke, he sounded…defeated. Even when his knee was broken, he still sounded like a…well, like a teenager, because he was a teenager. But now, he sounded like something was taken from him. April didn’t want to admit it, but she knew the rest of the story before Donatello told her. This was the reason Raphael wasn’t here.
“Raphael?” April said. “He did this to you?”
Donatello closed his eyes and nodded.
“We got word from Mondo and his crew that there was another mutant that was executed sometime within the last day. She was found in the Central Park. But…this time, it was different.”
April winced a little. The Turtles had initially gotten word from Mondo Geko, a mutant friend of the Turtles, that several mutants were being found murdered over the last few months. Some were mutants that the Turtles had fought against. Beebop, a leader of a local mutant gang was one of the first victims. The Turtles had thought it was a vigilante that was just going to extremes, but…something about this, to April, just felt different this time.
“Different how?” April asked.
“This mutant, this woman…she was only partially mutated, like nothing I’d ever seen before”
Michelangelo came back into the workshop then and handed April the gauze. Donatello’s wound had stopped bleeding and it looked like she could start prepping to give him stiches. April gave Donatello some fresh gauze and told him to apply pressure above his eye.
“April,” Michelangelo started, “its Raph. He’s getting worse. We’ve been finding murdered mutants for the last four months now. This is the eleventh execution so far. And what’s worse, is we have no idea who is behind all of this April. We’ve got nothing.”
Michelangelo looked exhausted; like he wanted to collapse and sleep for a month or two. Bags were starting to form under his eyes. April could tell this wasn’t the worst of it.
“April, that’s not all.” Donatello said. “Raph is getting worse. He’s been going out by himself at night, trying to find out who is killing mutants. I think he’s taking this too personally. He’s withdrawn from us and focusing on these killings so much that I haven’t even talked to him for a week.”
“Yeah, but, Donnie, that’s Raph. He’s withdrawn and moody and he always takes things too personally. Why would he hit you?”
Michelangelo and Donatello both clammed up. Donatello broke eye contact with April, and Michelangelo looked at the floor and began rubbing his hands together. April felt like such a mother to these guys, these turtles, sometimes.
“Guys, tell me what happened.”
“Donnie mentioned that he was going to take a blood sample.” Michelangelo said awkwardly.
Donatello looked at Mike, he looked hurt.
“No I didn’t. I said I would like to take a blood specimen. April, I wasn’t going to do anything like that. I didn’t actually want to. Even if I did, I didn’t have the equipment necessary to do so.”
“Okay guys,” April said. “Donnie, it’s okay. What happened next?”
Donatello breathed in deeply. “Before I knew it, Raphael was on top off me screaming to leave her alone and that I wasn’t going to touch her.”
“By the time Leo and I could get ahold of Raph,” Michelangelo said, “he had already punched Donnie twice.”
“That’s why my eye’s busted April.”
Donatello was shaking slightly. April could tell that something about this was different. Something bad was about to happen.
“It’s my fault.” Donatello said. “If I hadn’t been thinking out loud…”
At that moment, Leonardo finally moved. He walked out of the workshop. April called after him, but Leo’s stride didn’t falter until Splinter, their father, stepped in front of Leonardo, stopping him in his tracks. Splinter looked up at his eldest son and asked him;
“My son, what are you doing?”
Leonardo knew that if Splinter wanted to, he could stop him. But he also knew that he wouldn’t get in his sons way if it meant that they wouldn’t find their own path.
“What I have to sensei.” Leonardo said, and walked past his father into the day above them.
Hours later, under a cloudy sky, Leonardo was standing on a rooftop looking at Raphael. Leo had been looking for his brother for a while now. He knew that Raphael was banging down doors, busting heads, and looking for anyone that knew anything about the recent executions that had plagued these neighborhoods that they called home. Leonardo knew exactly what Raphael was thinking. He was thinking that he could stop these killings tonight. All he had to do was find the right knucklehead behind the right door, and all of this would be over. Case closed. But Leonardo knew better. He knew that this wasn’t just one man with a gun; as much as he wanted it to be. As easy as it would be, life didn’t work that way.
Leonardo pushed all of those thoughts out of his mind and focused on the task at hand. Some might say that this day was a long time coming. Leonardo knew that he was about to start a fight with his brother. If he won, he thought that maybe his brother would listen to him, and see the bigger picture, that they had to be patient, not rash. But if Leonardo lost the fight…well, he didn’t want to think about what might happen after that.
Raphael stood in front of Leonardo; Leo had made no effort to hide that he was following him. But Raphael was not about to be the first to speak.
“I’m only going to say this once,” Leonardo said. “Come home so we can work this out. Or…”
Raphael turned and almost looked shocked.
“Come home?” Raphael started. He pointed at Leonardo. “You mean hide.”
Raphael started to slowly walk towards Leo, closing the gap between them.
“I ain’t hiding Leo. Not anymore. Someone out there is killing mutants; worse, their executing them. We don’t know who they are, where they are, or what they’re angle is, but I’m not going back home until I find them and put a stop to this.”
Leonardo agreed that they had to do something, they needed to find out who was murdering mutants, and possibly normal people too. But they had no idea where to start. Hard as it was, they had to wait. Raphael was obviously done waiting.
“So you go home and meditate.” Raphael continued. “Think about all those bodies we’ve been finding. Victims we could’ve saved if you weren’t too scared to do what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Leonardo stood silent, letting the crisp air run over his body. He knew that any minute now, Raphael was going to lose it. And when he lost it, Leonardo had to keep his cool. So silence was a necessity.
Raphael didn’t feel like waiting.
“Say something!” Raphael yelled out. “What are we supposed to do now boss? What, more waiting; a little stretching; or maybe some yoga? Or maybe we just let a few more mutants die while you sit, safe at home polishing your swords.”
Leonardo stepped forward, closing the gap between them a bit more.
“Raphael, you either come home with me, and we work this out; or I make you come with me.”
Now Raphael’s shocked look was genuine.
“What did you just…”
Leonardo cut him off.
“I am tired of your anger, your impulsiveness, and your close-mindedness. This little temper of yours, has divided us for the last time Raphael. You think that I don’t see what’s going on out here? You think that because I’m not out here, kicking down doors with you and busting heads that I don’t know what the problem is?”
Leonardo steadied his gaze on Raphael, steeling himself for what was to come.
“The problem here is you, Raphael. It always has been.”
Raphael started to laugh. Leonardo wasn’t dumb enough to think that he wasn’t mocking him.
“Oh, okay.” Raphael said. “I’m so glad you could clear that up for me. The problem isn’t some group of idiots shooting innocents, and dumping bodies on the street. No, it’s because I can’t live up to the great example that is my big brother Leo. Thank you, fearless leader.”
“I’m not your leader, I’m your brother. We’re not a team, we’re blood. Don’t you get that; don’t you know what that means?” Leo paused and looked at Raph thoughtfully. “It means: that at the end of the day we’re all we have. Tomorrow, April and Casey and everyone else we care about could be gone. But us, our brothers, and Splinter, we’re here for the long haul Raph. And I will not let you jeopardize that anymore.”
Leonardo’s gaze softened, and he closed the gap that was between him and Raphael, and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“So come home, Raph. Help me fix this.”
Raphael’s gaze hardened and he swatted Leo’s hand away from him.
“Keep your damn hands off me!” he growled. “I ain’t some broke toy that needs fixing. You don’t get to tell me what to do anymore!”
Raphael swung a right hook wildly at his brother, but Leonardo was ready for it and, and he easily caught it before it connected. Leo applied pressure to his brother’s arm, pivoted his weight and tossed Raphael over his shoulder and onto the hard concrete below them. All the air was forced from Raphael’s lungs, but he recovered quickly. Raphael kicked at Leonardo hard, aiming for his chest, but again, Leo caught the attack. Holding Raphael by the ankle, Leonardo punched Raph in the middle of his thigh with all of his strength. Raphael brought his leg into his chest and rolled onto his hands and knees, clutching onto his leg, gritting his teeth, trying to block out the pain.
Ignore it. Raphael told himself. You’re not hurt. Don’t let him think you’re hurt.
Raphael forced himself to his feet, biting the inside of his cheek to keep himself from thinking about the pain shooting up and down his leg.
“Please Raph,” Leonardo said, “Stop this. Come home.”
Raphael growled at his brother.
“I thought you wanted to fight!?”
Raphael charged at his brother, ignoring the pain in his leg and drove his shoulder into Leonardo’s stomach, lifting him into the air and slamming him down onto the ground. Before Leo could react, Raphael straddled his brother and shot a right hook at him. But, again, Leonardo caught it, this time using his brothers own momentum to pull him onto the ground, and them twisting his wrist so hard and so fast, that Raphael almost didn’t hear the pop of his wrist dislocating.
Raphael couldn’t hide from this pain this time, and his screams tore through the air; his own discipline betraying him in the face of pain.
Leonardo stood over his brother and offered a hand to him.
“Please Raphael, stop this. It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Raphael looked up at his brother and saw the heavy heart that he carried for him, saw that it was killing him to hurt his brother; and Raphael felt disgusted by his brother’s pity.
“I said,” Raphael started, “keep your damn hands off me” Then, with his good hand, Raphael grabbed one of his Sai’s and swiped at Leonardo’s outstretched arm, cutting into his forearm. In Raphael’s state, Leonardo saw the attack coming from a mile away. He could’ve easily gotten out of the way of Raphael’s last ditch effort to hurt him, but for some reason, he took the hit. Maybe he thought it was what Raph needed. Either way, it hurt like, well, like being stabbed in the arm.
Searing pain shot up Leonardo’s arm as he cried out, grasping at his arm. Blood seeped through Leonardo’s fingers, and he noticed that Raphael almost looked satisfied. Raphael was now on his feet and staring at Leonardo. To Leo, the turtle in front of him didn’t look like his brother. He didn’t look like the guy he had trained with for years and had shared a room with. He didn’t look like the guy that he looked up to for his courage and strength, for his skill and for his heart. He looked like…a madman.
Raphael pointed at Leonardo and said:
“You stay away from me Leo. We’re not brothers anymore. We are nothing, you hear me? We. Are. Nothing.”
At that moment, the clouds finally broke and the sun shone brighter that it had for days. For the first time, after all of the arguments they had had, after all of the back and forth banter they always had, Leonardo felt his heart break as Raphael limped away triumphantly. Leo just couldn’t get through to him and he didn’t know what to do.
Later that night, Donatello and Michelangelo heard Leonardo tell their father about the fight. They heard Leonardo crying and begging forgiveness.
“He’s gone Master Splinter. Raphael is gone.”
That was how Donatello remembered it. That was the story that he had heard from Leonardo and Raphael. Now, facing the possible threat of an enemy they knew next to nothing about, Donatello knew that this time they had to win.
Almost six years ago, at a small restaurant in Brooklyn.
April was sick to her stomach. Maybe being eight weeks pregnant had something to do with it, but right now, all she could think about was how Casey was running late for their date.
I can’t believe I’m about to have a date with Casey Jones. April thought.
A few of months ago, if you had asked April what she thought of Casey, she’d be nice and tell you that he was the world’s biggest nine year old. Casey was violent, sure, but April could tell that he was someone who wanted to help people instead of hurt them. She could tell that he was the perfect foil for the Turtles. Casey was big and broad, but he loved having fun so much that when he and the Turtles got together to catch purse snatchers or rough up some Foot Clan members, you could bet that you would find them playing a pickup basketball game of shooting ski ball with some local kids. Then there was his smile, Casey loved to smile and make others laugh. April thought back to that horrible night three months ago on Christmas Eve. The Foot Clan had broken into her apartment and burned it to the ground, almost killing Leonardo. In fact, they all would have died that night, had Casey not intervened.
Casey showed up and fought the Foot Clan alongside the Turtles, even fighting Shredder to a standstill, buying all of them time to escape. Casey had even found them temporary asylum in his families’ old farmhouse in Northampton. He had saved their lives. That’s where it started for April. That’s where she started to notice the hero underneath the hockey mask and cocky attitude. And now it’s been four months since she was saved by Casey, and she was two months pregnant with his child.
April told Casey she was pregnant the night before over the phone. She knew that wasn’t the way to break this to him, but, to her surprise, he had started to laugh, told her how happy he was and offered to buy her dinner. And that’s why she was nervous. Not only was she pregnant, not only did she not really know Casey, but she really wanted to know him, just as much as she wanted to know the little boy or girl that they were going to welcome into their world. And that scared her more than she wanted to admit.
Casey Jones stood outside the restaurant. Through the large window near the entrance he could see April sitting towards the back of the dining room. She was sipping a glass of water and absently watching the hockey game that was playing on the TV above the bar. If he remembered correctly, the Rangers were supposed to play tonight.
Guess I won’t be putting money on hockey games no more. Casey thought. It’s probably for the best.
Casey looked at April through the window again and wondered what the hell she was doing meeting him for a date. April was like no woman he had ever met before. It wasn’t just that she was beautiful, or smart, but that she was strong. Casey had never met a woman who was as unafraid of getting into a fight as April was. He’d seen her stand up to guys twice her size without batting an eyelash, and yet, she could seem so soft and calming, like a warm day, that it was all he could do to not get lost in being around her. Plus, she was a redhead; Casey liked redheads. And she had freckles, which he thought made her look perfect.
Casey took a deep breath and walked towards the entrance of the restaurant and took note of the sign on the door.
Santiago’s, it read, and as Casey walked in and smiled at April, he tried not to worry about whether or not Mexican food made him sick.
April looked up and saw Casey walking towards her, and her stomach immediately settled. She stood up to greet him. They awkwardly hugged and kissed each other, something both of them would have to work on if tonight went well.
“Did you have trouble finding the place?” April asked.
“No, I grew up around the corner from here. I think my watch might be slower than yours though. I bought it at a pawn shop, so maybe that has something to do with it.”
Time moved slowly for them as they both searched for something to say, both of the making comments about the weather and new movies coming out. Both April and Casey were circling the conversation they wanted to have while neither wanted to be the one to initiate it.
“Is this awkward?” April asked.
“No…maybe. Just so we’re clear, we are keeping this baby, right”
“Yes, of course.”
“Thank God.” Casey said. “Because that was not a conversation I wanted to have.”
“How are you feeling about it?”
“Well, I’m scared to death, and I wish we had dated…at all before this happened but, I’m…I just want you to know that you’re not alone here.”
“Really?” April asked.
April laughed lightly and brought a napkin to her cheek, wiping away a tear that may not have been there.
“Are you okay?” Casey asked.
April nodded “I’m fine, I just…it’s just that, that was really sweet, and I’m all hormonal and stuff.”
“I thought we weren’t supposed to blame hormones.”
“Oh come on Casey, its all hormones, everyone knows it.”
They both laughed and the air between them became easier. The night moved faster after their initial awkwardness and before they knew it, they had finished eating.
“How was your pork?” April asked.
“It was great. What was it called again?”
“I’ll have to remember that for the next time we come here.”
“The next time?”
“Well,” Casey stammered, “…if you want.”
“You like ice cream? I know a great place.”
“So where did Casey Jones come from?” April asked.
Casey and April were walking and eating out of small cups of vanilla ice cream they bought at a bodega called Kelli’s (apparently, they made it themselves), the kind of ice cream cups that reminded Casey of the ones he would get at the cafeteria in school when he was a boy. Casey looked at April, warm spring air seemed to gently push them along the sidewalk, aimlessly as they enjoyed each other’s company.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know,” April said, “I mean, the big guy with the metal hockey mask and the golf bag full of baseball bats that would beat up purse snatcher with the Turtles…Goongala, Goongala and all that. How did that happen?”
“It’s…it’s not that interesting of a story.”
“I might think it’s interesting.”
“Well, I used to get bullied a bit when I was a kid. I mean, nothing serious; mostly just kids wanting to be mean or act tough or whatever. Anyway, I get beat up this one time and my mom didn’t want it to happen again, so she sends me to see a friend of hers named Jimmy One-Two. Guy used to be a boxer, a flyweight champ back in the seventies. So he starts training me when I was eight years old. Anyway, a few years goes by and word gets around that I can fight and kids at school want to see how tough I am. But, Jimmy always said no fighting outside the ring. So one day, when I was fifteen, I saw this kid who couldn’t of been older than nine getting whipped by his dad, right out in the open, like there was no one around”
April and Casey stopped walking and threw their empty ice cream cups away in a nearby trash can and sat down on a bench up the street.
“So, I grab this kids dad,” “Casey started, “and I punch him in the eye. I hit him so hard I broke this bone here.”
Casey pointed to the orbital bone around his left eye.
“Damn,” April said, “You broke his orbital?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. So, not long after that, Jimmy drops me from training. Said he wouldn’t train someone that wouldn’t listen. So, after that, I start playing hockey my junior year. Turns out, Jimmy was friends with my high school gym teacher, guess he thought he’d do me favor. I tell you, I got on that ice…and I could fly. Hockey came more natural to me than fighting ever did. I didn’t care that the coach just wanted me on the team so I could be a goon and start fights with the other teams. I didn’t care how much time I spent sittin’ in the penalty box. I didn’t care that I never met my dad or that my mom worked so much that she couldn’t come to my games. For those sixty minutes I was out on the ice…I was free. Anyway, I keep playing hockey; and I get real good real fast, and a week after I graduated, I’m living in Canada playing in the minor leagues for the Cornwall Kings in Quebec. My first game, I score three goals.”
April smiled. “Not bad for a goon.” Casey smiled back and felt something warm in his chest.
“So after my first season, I come back to New York for a week to visit my mom. One morning, I’m out jogging and who do I see? It’s that same guy whose eye I busted. He’s still yelling at his boy. Kid couldn’t have been older than fourteen or fifteen now…but he’s crying, asking why his dad was always bullying him. So his dad grabs him by his collar and tells him that trash like him belongs in the street. And then he throws his son out into the road.”
“Oh my God.”
“So the kid’s laying in the street, and nobody even bats an eye at him. Kid’s so flustered at what his dad did, that he doesn’t notice a city bus coming down the street. I guess the driver didn’t notice him either because he didn’t slow down. So I run into the street and push the kid out of the way, just in time for the bus to hit me. No more hockey for me after that.”
April sat closer to Casey on the bench, and held his hand, gently at first, and then more firmly.
“So, saving that boy was what started…well, everything?” April asked.
“Yeah, I guess so. Helping that kid, just felt like something I was supposed to do all along, you know?”
April looked up at Casey. “Like something was there in front of you the whole time, and you didn’t even know it.”
“Yeah,” Casey said, “and you don’t want to let it go, you know?”
April kissed Casey softly, and the world slipped into the background for both of them
Casey walked April back to her apartment. They were both quiet, just letting the sounds of the city wash over them.
“You’re not living alone, are you?” Casey asked.
“No, well, kind of. I’m staying with my friend Irma for a little while, until I can find a place of my own. She’s an old friend from high school.
“Right. I’m glad you won’t be alone tonight.”
“Me too.” April said.
Casey and April stood in front of the door to the old apartment building. She wanted to reach out to Casey, to be held by him again; she wanted to ask him to stay the night. She wanted to meet their baby, but she knew that she wanted to take her time. No rushing it. Even though, they had already kind of jumped into the deep end of life as they knew it. Right now, all she knew was that she was happy, and who really needed more than that in life. She knew that her time with Casey may have started on one of the scariest nights of her life, the night she had met the Shredder and his Foot Clan, but now she was on the opposite side of the spectrum and on cloud nine. April placed a hand on Casey’s shoulder and asked:
“So, what happened after you pushed that kid out of the road?”
“Well,” Casey started, “I don’t remember much right after the accident, but according to the cop that arrested that kid’s dad, I got up from the middle of the street, walked up to that kids dad and busted his other eye.”
April laughed and asked; “You ever find out that kids name?”
“Yeah, his name was Keno. I ended up introducing him to Jimmy One-Two, he’s been training with him ever since.”
April and Casey hugged and said their good-byes with the promise to see each other the next day. Casey walked home, alone, as he had so many times before. But tonight he allowed himself to think that something good might come from this. April seemed to like him just the way he was, and Casey thanked God for that, but he also knew that they were going to be parents before the year was over. He was going to be better and stronger than he ever was before, for April, for their kid, whoever they were, and for himself.
Casey thought that it was time to put the mask and golf bag away. Time to stop beating up gangbangers, and busting up ninjas. It was time to stop being a vigilante and start being…a dad.
When Casey got home he went to the roof of his building and looked across the city skyline. Not long ago, Casey stood up here and swore that no one would ever have to cry for help again in his neighborhood. No one would ever have to walk down the street and be afraid of what was hiding in the next alley. Not as long as Casey Jones was on the scene. But now, Casey thought that he had to retire. Find a good job, save some money and buy a baby crib, love April and raise their kid right.
Casey looked up toward the sky, raised his fists into the air and, for one last time, yelled out…
Leonardo climbed out of the sewer and into the gloomy alley that was down the street from the Purple Dragons home base. Donatello and Michelangelo had told everyone about the threat of the Dominators returning after many months of laying low. Leonardo had felt a certain amount of hope flee from him when Donatello had informed them of Karai’s email. A small part of Leonardo was more than happy to accept the possibility of the Dominators crawling under a rock somewhere and forgetting they ever existed. In all his years of fighting crime, Leonardo had never seen this kind of violence from anyone they had ever encountered. Shredder may have been a killer, but he had honor. He would never shoot someone in the head and leave them lying in the street for some passerby to find them a day or so later.
As Leonardo walked up the street, dressed in baggy blue jeans and a black hooded sweater, he thought of his talk with Raphael before he went to the surface to meet with Karai.
“You headed out already,” Raphael had asked him. “We’re not supposed to be at April’s for another hour.”
Leonardo was tying his blue bandana across his face; feeling assured when the familiar feeling embraced him again. He had noticed that Raphael was also wearing his red bandana. But, Leonardo remembered that Raphael had hardly taken it off since he had returned home a couple of months ago. Leonardo didn’t know why they had stopped wearing them, but it felt good to wear them again; like saying hello to an old friend.
“No,” Leonardo said to Raphael, “after Donnie had told us about the murder victim from last night, he had mentioned that Karai had wanted to see me. She said she had something important to show me.”
“So…you really think it’s them don’t you: The Dominators?”
Leonardo didn’t want to say it out loud, but he wasn’t going to lie to his brother.
“Yes, but I’m not going to rule out the possibility of a copycat killer running around out there.”
“I don’t want to argue, but who could do that? I mean, come on Leo, these guys are ghosts; no one’s even seen them before. Who do we know that could know about them?”
Raphael had a point. In the circles that the Turtles had ran with, and against, both sides of the law had lost people. A small group of mutants called the Mutanimals used to have ten members within their ranks. Now, thanks to the Dominators, there were only two members left. Friends of the Turtles named Mondo and Ace that had since found a safe haven with the Purple Dragons.
“My first guess,” Leonardo said, “Rocksteady. He’s the only one besides us and the Mutanimals that has been directly affected by the Dominators. He could be trying to instigate a conflict between us and the Dominators with the hope of us taking them out for him.”
“I don’t know Leo, I mean sure, Rocksteady used to lead one of the biggest gangs in the city, but that was almost two years ago. Besides, he was a brute, sure; but murder was never his thing. What makes you think he could be behind this?”
“Bebop was one of the first mutants that the Dominators executed. He and Rocksteady were tight, even before they were mutated by the Foot.”
Leonardo shuddered at the thought of that, looking back at it. Rocksteady and Bebop were kidnapped by the Foot when they were just hoods for one of the local gangs. At the time; the Foot clan that Shredder used to lead were using a batch of the mutagen they had created to resurrect Shredder, and they needed test subjects. Whoever Rocksteady and Bebop were before, they were forever changed as Rocksteady was mutated into a human/rhinoceros hybrid, and Bebop was mutated with the DNA of a warthog.
“Like I said, it’s a possibility.”
“You want me to go with you…” Raphael started, but before he could finish he was interrupted by Michelangelo.
“Oh no, not my turkey!” Followed shortly after by “Hey Leo, can you pick up a few pizzas while you’re out? My turkey kinda…well, it’s on fire right now and it’s not representative of my best work.”
Leonardo honestly wanted to laugh but he just didn’t have the strength. Instead, he reached out and shook Raphael’s hand.
“I’ll see you at April’s.”
“You be safe Leo.”
This mess with the Dominators had to stop. Enough people had died because they had some kind of grudge against mutants. For now, there was nothing he could do but enjoy the walk to Karai’s. The air was chilly, and a thick layer of fog was still hanging around the city today. It was damp outside and the cold definitely went into Leonardo’s bones and stayed there, but, being outside refreshed his senses and made him a bit more alert.
Leonardo arrived at “The Studio” a few minutes later. He hoped that Karai had some good news for him, he could use it. Something felt different about the Dominators being here again. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but somehow, he knew that this was a fight that wasn’t going to be won easily.
Oroku Karai sat comfortably in her office in the Studio, looking at the only picture she had of her father, Oroku Saki, the Shredder. A long time ago, her father had accepted a challenge from four turtles who claimed to have a vendetta against him. Her father accepted their challenge and fought them valiantly, to the death. But he did not survive their fight. Karai held no ill will towards her father’s opponents. She knew that in the Foot clans’ way of life, one had no time for personal grudges. The Foot had held themselves to a higher standard of humanity, one that she had blindly followed herself for years; but that all had changed when she had met the Turtles themselves, soon after she had left the Foot clan, after she had found herself surrounded by soldiers motivated by money and greed, and not clansmen motivated by honor and duty.
Karai had been looking at her fathers’ picture for a long while, wondering if he would have been proud of everything she had accomplished. She had wondered if forming the Purple Dragons had been a wise choice. When Karai first formed the Dragons, she only had a few former Foot clan members who were loyal to her within her ranks. Now, while those men and women were still with her, she had so much more that she felt something she never had before; Pride. Karai decided to not follow the Foots example for once and struck out on her own with a legitimate business, deciding to teach people to defend themselves. And to protect those that could not protect themselves, this was to be the example of the Purple Dragons. Karai broke her gaze on the photo as she heard familiar voices from the next room. She heard laughter and greetings being exchanged. She put the photo down on her desk, taking one more look at her father’s eyes, eyes that seemed to be etched from stone.
“Happy Birthday, Dad.”
Karai walked out of her office and entered the dojo of the Studio; her home away from home. Leonardo had arrived, and he was talking to Mondo and Ace. Mondo and Ace had always made Karai smile; talk about brothers from another mother. Ace was older than Mondo, he was almost as old as Karai was, but he took to the younger mutant like he was family almost instantly. Perhaps it was their outward appearance. Ace was tall and broad. He used to be an Air Force pilot before he was a mutated into a duck/ human hybrid. Ace never let his “condition” get the better of him though. Perhaps it was his will, or military training that kept him sane. But Karai thought it might have something to do with the five foot wings that had grown from his back, enabling him to keep flying, that kept him on the level, but she’d never know, and Ace would never tell. Mondo, on the other hand, was Ace’s opposite number. He was short and rather wiery. When Mondo was fifteen, he was on his way to being one of the youngest pro skaters out there. He was known for skateboarding in shopping malls and being arrested for fighting security guards when they tried to kick him out. Thanks to the internet, Mondo had gained a certain amount of celebrity in his neighborhood and beyond. But the lack of a family and the security of a home to go to made him an easy target for the Foot’s experiments. After his mutation, he was called Mondo Gecko for obvious reasons.
Karai overheard the tail end of the three mutants’ conversation.
“Oh, come on Leo, what’s the point to all that training if you can’t step out and strut your stuff, huh?” Mondo had said.
“Well, you may get your chance to strut before you know it Mondo.”
“We heard about that.” Ace said. “It’s the first execution in a while right?”
Leonardo nodded, “Yeah, about a year now.”
“Is it okay that I am kinda majorly freaked out by these Dominator guys?”
“Your hesitation is understandable Mondo.” Karai said. “Just never be afraid to move past it.”
Leonardo smiled and bowed at Karai, and she returned the gesture.
“It’s good to see you again Leonardo, would you care for some tea?”
“No thank you, I’m trying to cut back on the caffeine.”
A young voice from the far side of the dojo near the locker rooms rang out and Karai saw the young mutant ninja, Venus, bounding for Leonardo. The young turtle-girl tackled/hugged Leonardo almost toppling him. Karai had met Venus when she was much younger, and human. But, because the Foot had decided to mutate unwilling people into whatever they could, Karai had stolen her away when she broke away from the Foot. Venus was mutated into a turtle/human hybrid to be a mockery of the Turtles themselves; the Foot was banking on a psychological edge in a war with them. It did not work. And Venus had been with Karai ever since, training, living and learning as the first member of the Purple Dragons. Venus idolized the Turtles, as evidenced by the sapphire colored bandana she wore across her face.
“Venus, wow you’ve gotten tall. How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been great. Mondo’s been teaching me to roller blade, and Ace has been teaching me to use a rifle.”
“What?” Karai said. She looked straight at Ace, knowing that rifle training wouldn’t have been Venus’ idea.
“What?” Ace said. “Every serviceman knows how to use a rifle by week three of basic training.”
“Rifles are loud and clumsy. They are not a weapon worthy of you Venus.”
“But, Karai,” Venus said, “It was only a paintball gun.”
“Still, rifles are dangerous…”
“Yeah, I bought it on Amazon. I practically put her in a bell tower and told her to aim at the small ones first.”
Mondo started laughing. “Whoa Leo, get the marshmallows, cause we’re gonna roast ‘em on that burn we just witnessed.”
“Speaking of roasting, Mondo,” Leonardo said, “Are you and Ace going to April’s for dinner? My brothers should be there soon.”
“I have never said no to a free meal, and I refuse to start now.”
“Good, than can you and Ace pick up a few pizzas on your way there. Apparently, our turkey exploded, so…”
“Consider it done.” Ace said. “As long as I can get one without cheese.”
“No cheese? Then what’s the point to eating a pizza if there’s no cheese?”
“You know how hard it is to eat pizza when you have a bill, Mondo? Cheese just gets in the way”
“You have teeth.”
“But I have no lips. Besides cheese gets stuck in my feathers.”
“Ace, be considerate of other people’s needs and put cheese on a pizza.”
Ace and Mondo walked away, bickering like a married couple.
“Well,” Leonardo started, “now that that’s gone, Venus, you’re more than welcome to joins us tonight.”
Venus’ eyes lit up and she almost seemed to bounce with excitement of seeing her friends. But then Venus looked at Karai and shook her head.
“No, I have to train tonight. Plus, I was going to finish Daredevil on Netflix.” She hesitated, but looked up at Leo and asked shyly, “So…will Michelangelo be there?”
Venus started bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet, and she looked over at Karai, asking without asking.
Karai smiled; even she wasn’t made of stone.
“You will be home before ten, young lady.”
“Thank you.” Venus said, and she hugged Karai and Leonardo as tight as she could.
“See you there.” She turned and bounded after Ace and Mondo who were still bickering by the door about pizza toppings. She grabbed her coat and the three were out the door, leaving Leonardo alone with Karai.
“Come in to my office Leonardo. You’ll want to see this.”
Leonardo walked into Karai’s office and sat down as Karai pulled a file from her desk, she handed it to Leonardo. Her expression had hardened. She was all business now, and Leonardo followed suit.
“I’m sorry to call you here under such…difficult circumstances.”
“No worries. Donatello told me you had something to show me.” Leonardo looked at the file in his hand. “I assume this is it?”
“Yes. The mutant that was executed early this morning, this was recovered from his body.”
Leonardo’s body froze. The Dominators had never left anything on the victims person before, save for their first victim, a young mutant named Ray. When his body was found, a small piece of paper had been rolled up and placed under his tongue with the Chinese character for “Domination” written on it.
“Why didn’t you tell Donatello about this when you emailed him?”
“Because I had to know that what is inside that envelope was real. And I need to hear it from you Leonardo.”
Leonardo opened the file and two pieces of paper were inside. One page had been wadded up for some time but was recently smoothed out. It was a letter, one written a long time ago. The page showed signs of yellowing and small tears were everywhere. But, Leonardo had no trouble reading the print on the letter. He didn’t need to read it, he remembered seeing Splinter write it.
Also known as the
You have shamed and
Dishonored the name of
Your family by murdering
Tang Shen. I give you
The chance to regain your
Honor. Meet my four
Disciples for a duel
To the death tomorrow
Night at the following
The rest was illegible due to wear. Leonardo looked up and saw Karai looking back at him. Her gaze was like steel, unflinching.
“Why didn’t you tell us about this earlier Karai?”
“A man was mutated, executed and dumped on my doorstep Leonardo. Here, my home, with a note with my father’s name on it. I needed to know…”
“It’s legit, Karai. Six years ago we challenged your father to a duel. Splinter had written this note, and Raphael delivered it…”
Leonardo was reading the second page, placing it on Karai’s desk. It read:
Go back to where it all began.
“What?” Karai asked.
“There calling us back to where we fought your father. They’re calling us out.”
Leonardo rose to his feet and made his way to the door, out to the dojo, moving with purpose. Karai walked behind him, quickly.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m heading down there.”
“I would not advise that.”
Leonardo turned and faced Karai, her deep brown eyes bored into his, starring into his soul, it seemed.
“Look, I know it’s stupid to go in there alone. But this is the only lead we’ve ever had on these guys, and I’m not going to waste it.
“And if you’re walking into a trap?
“I am not going to let these guys break up my family again. So if you want to come with, come with, but we have to move now.”
Karai and Leonardo left the Studio then, not knowing what they were headed for. It was only now that Leonardo realized that he left home without a weapon. In all honesty, Leonardo didn’t care. He wanted to know who the Dominators were, and why they were murdering innocent people who were forcibly mutated. He wanted to know why they had murdered so many of his friends. He didn’t care if he was walking into a trap; he knew he and Karai would walk out of it.
Ace aka Ace Conrad
Height: 6’ 3”
Weapons: 9mm Pistol
M4 Carbine Rifle
Weapons: Brass Knuckles
Height: 5’ 10”
Okay, April thought. Potatoes…check. Sweet potatoes…check. Stuffing, green bean casserole and salad…check. All I have left is the turkey. Oh, and I can’t forget to throw away the take out menus and receipt, Mikey will never let me hear the end of it if he finds them.
In the rush to get the turkey made in time for dinner, April ended up ordering all of her side dishes from a local deli down the street. April had never smoked a turkey before, and she didn’t realize how much care and attention it would require making sure the smoker stayed lit. She spent most of her morning climbing out onto the fire escape and checking the smoker. Either that, or she checked it too many times and the turkey wouldn’t be done until much later. Either way, Mondo, Ace and Venus had brought pizza when they arrived.
From the next room, April could hear her daughter Shadow playing with Venus and asking her tough questions like: ‘Are you the turtles’ sister?’, or ‘Why aren’t there more girl turtles’, and ‘Why did your mom name you after a planet?’
“Anything else we can do ma’am?” Ace asked.
“Yes, you can stop calling me “ma’am” for now, Ace. I’m twenty eight, not a grandmother.”
“Not a problem. Can I bother you for a straw,” Ace held a beer in his hand. “You know…no lips.”
April handed him a straw and smiled. Wow, a six foot duck drinking a beer should be on a billboard somewhere.
“Sinks ships.” She said.
April took all of the dirty dishes and set them into the sink. I wonder who is going to clean these tonight.
“Hey pretty lady.”
A pair of strong arms wrapped April from behind, and held her held her gently.
“Hey big guy.”
April turned around and hugged Casey, feeling her worries about the day melt away. A smoked turkey and impending evil from the Dominators couldn’t ruin this moment.
“The place looks great, and the food smells awesome.”
“Thanks for picking it up.”
“I told you I could cook.”
Casey looked into April and she knew that she couldn’t hide away from him about how she was feeling.
“What’s on your mind?” Casey asked.
“Honestly…I’m worried about the Turtles. The Dominators, the stupid turkey…I just feel like…”
“Like something bad is going to happen, I know the feeling. But the Turtles, they can beat anybody. Let those morons come at us with whatever they got. The Turtles are stronger than they’ve ever been. We’re stronger than we’ve ever been. As long as I’m around, you got nothing to worry about, red. And your turkey kicks ass, by the way.”
April’s heart skipped for a moment as Casey ran a hand through her hair. How does this big lug always know exactly what I need to hear?
“You want a beer?”
“Yes, please.” April said. “But don’t have too many of those tonight, Mister Jones. I’ve got plans for you later.”
Splinter knocked on the door to April’s apartment. She lived on the third floor of a five floor walk-up. Splinter knew that they shouldn’t have risked walking up three flights of stairs when anyone could’ve opened a door and seen them out in the open. But, he didn’t feel the need to make his sons sneak into a friends’ home, especially April and Casey’s home, it was enough that they came in from a trap door in the basement of the building that Donatello had made. For years now, Splinter thought of April as a daughter, and Casey was a trusted friend, it seemed to Splinter that it would be lying, almost, to sneak in. And on Thanksgiving, he just couldn’t.
“Why are we knocking on April’s door?” Raphael asked. “She knows we’re coming.”
Before Splinter could answer his son, Mona Lisa had intervened.
“It’s polite Raph, everyone knows that.”
“I’m just saying, everyone always just walks into our place. It’d be nice to return the favor once in a while.”
“People have been knocking on doors requesting an entrance since before the year two thousand BC, Raphael.” Donatello chimed in. “Be part of that tradition.”
Raphael looked up at his brother, half mystified, half annoyed.
“How can you just know stuff like that Donnie?”
“Hey Donnie, can we get a door?” Michelangelo asked, “Like a big hydraulic gate that comes out of the ceiling, with flamethrowers on the sides!?”
The door opened and Casey greeted them.
“Hey, the party’s here.” He said and ushered Splinter and the rest inside.
“Whoa look at you guys, you are looking sharp.”
The Turtles were dressed up in custom made shirts and ties that matched their bandanas. Michelangelo wore a vest, while Raphael and Donatello blazers. They were even wearing jeans. Mona was wearing a black and white plaid dress.
Everyone walked into the living room. Shadow gasped and yelled out “Grandpa Splinter”, and jumped into his arms. Mondo and Michelangelo high fived and gave each other a “man-hug” and exploded into a series of ‘dudes’ and ‘how-ya-been’. Mona handed April a bottle of sparkling white grape juice.
“After the last time we had wine together, I didn’t want to ruin another dress you picked out for me. I figured this would be safer.”
April smiled and accepted the juice.
“Tell me something,” April said, “How did the boys tuck in their shirts if they’re giant turtles with shells?”
“Keep a secret? They cut out the backs of their shirts. Why do you think they’re wearing vests and jackets?”
Casey and Raphael immediately went to the TV to watch the football game; the Bears were playing the Packers this year.
Donatello and Ace shook hands and sat at the kitchen table.
“You got time for a game?” Ace asked.
Donatello smiled. “You got time to lose?”
Ace pulled out a deck of cards. They never played for money but, for whatever reason, when those two got together, a game of twenty one was never far off.
While Michelangelo was talking to Mondo, he felt a light tapping on his shoulder.
“Venus,” Michelangelo said. “What are you doing here?”
“Hey,” she said shyly. “Leonardo invited me. I thought it would be nice to hang out.”
Michelangelo hugged Venus and the room fell away.
Shadow pulled Splinter over to the couch in the living room and gave him a photo album to flip through with her.
April and Mona came into the living room with trays full of coffee and fake wine, they started passing out drinks when April did a silent head count and noticed something off.
“Hey, where’s Leo, and Mike, where’s your turkey?”
Leonardo and Karai had made it to the address on Splinters old note. The apartment building had been abandoned for over twenty years, and it showed its age with faded brickwork and broken windows. To Leonardo, it was exactly as he remembered it. They entered through the front door, half expecting to be ambushed as soon as they shut the door. From the inside, the building had seemed smaller, yet more threatening. Most of the apartments inside had they doors missing or broken down, the staircases had several broken stairs on each flight. The building lacked any color on the inside or out.
Never realized how many shades of brown there were.
“Leonardo?” Karai asked, “What was that night like?”
Leonardo was trying not to think about the last time he and his brothers were in this building. The night he and his brothers had fought the Shredder had been one of the scariest nights of his life. Members of the Foot clan were in almost every room of this build, it had seemed. In every apartment, on every floor, a few Foot clansmen were lying in wait for the Turtles to pass them so they could strike. Leonardo looked down a particular doorway and remembered seeing Michelangelo being tossed into a wall. Michelangelo was on the ground about to be impaled with a sword, but Donatello intervened and knocked his brothers’ attacker out a window.
“These guys are good.” Michelangelo said.
“We’re better, Michelangelo”
Leonardo came back to reality, leaving the memory alone for now, and answered Karai:
“It was…an experience.”
By the time they had reached the third floor, Karai had had enough.
“Why bring us here? Honestly, what is the point?”
“We’re supposed to find something; a calling card or a challenge of some kind. Being here means something. This is where it all began for us. We fought the Shredder here and…well, you know the rest.”
“I know. I was in Japan when you fought my father. By the time I heard he was dead I…”
Leonardo and Karai froze at the sudden break from silence. A door had been slammed shut so hard, it seemed that the walls shook.
“Upstairs.” Leonardo whispered.
The two of them moved quietly, up the next flight of stairs, reaching the fourth and final floor. There were four apartments on the floor, same as the rest. But this one just felt off. Of the four apartments, three of them had doors missing. The sharp sound could’ve only come from one apartment.
It can’t be this easy.
Leonardo walked up to the only door on the floor and listened intently for any movement or voices coming from the other side. Hearing nothing, he nodded to Karai to open the door.
Karai turned the knob and Leonardo rushed in. It was at that moment that Leo felt humiliation, and surprise. He felt humiliation for being overprepared for a seemingly empty room, and surprise at the dead body tied to a chair in front of him.
The room was completely gutted. The walls had been torn down all the way to their support beams. If there had been any furniture or appliances in the old apartment, they had long since been thrown away. There was nothing in the room except for a body in the middle of the room. Leonardo scanned the room quickly. He noted that the windows weren’t boarded up as they were throughout the rest of the building, but he thought nothing of it at the time. Leonardo walked cautiously towards the body in the middle of the room. When he got close enough, he felt, in vain, for a pulse; and that was when he recognized the man. He recognized his ebony skin and wire-rimmed eye glasses. He recognized the lab coat he had always worn, the one with the name tag on the front pocket that read “Baxter Stockman”.
“Baxter…” Leonard gasped.
Leonardo checked the body for a possible cause of death.
“He’s dead…” Karai said, it wasn’t a question
Leonardo accepted what he already knew to be true. Baxter was dead. It was finding the lacerations and what looked like rope burns around his neck that confirmed how.
“He was strangled to death.”
Leonardo took the name tag from Baxter’s front pocket and looked at it for a moment. He wiped dust from the “T.C.R.I.” logo on the bottom of the tag.
I was wrong, that was where it all began.
Leonardo noticed something else in the front pocket of Baxter’s lab coat. He reached inside and pulled out a 4×6 photograph of a young woman, possibly around thirty. She had olive colored skin, dark brown hair and hazel colored eyes.
“Who is that?” Karai asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen her before.”
Leonardo flipped the picture over and looked to see if someone had written anything on the back.
“Looks like this was taken back in ’93…”
A cell phone was ringing from inside Baxter’s lab coat. The sudden noise made Leonardo jump slightly and sent chills up his spine. He quickly pocketed the name tag and photo and reached inside Baxter’s lab coat, pulling out a cell phone that had since rang again; he turned it on and set it to “speaker”.
“Who is this?” Leonardo asked.
“Hello Leonardo. It’s nice to finally talk to you. I’m a big fan”
The voice coming from the phone was male, and deep. There almost seemed to have a discipline to it, like this man was prior military of some kind.
Leonardo asked again: “Who is this?”
“Forgive me,” the voice said. “My name is William Sharpe. I’m surprised you trusted Karai enough to bring her here with you. You know, considering the last time you were in this building.”
“Are you with the Dominators?”
Sharpe had chuckled slightly when he heard the name.
“We had heard you’d taken to calling us that. I like it. Tell me, did Michelangelo come up with that? He always did like naming your enemies.”
“Is that what you are?”
“Who I am isn’t important; what’s important is what I represent.”
“Which is?” Leonardo asked.
“The end Leonardo. The end of you and your kind. You see, you mutants are like a limb with an infection. The limb cannot heal properly unless the infection is removed. Well, we’re the scalpel.”
Karai couldn’t take any more of this.
“And was Stockman part of that infection?” Karai asked, barely hiding her disgust. “Were the dozen or so people you forced mutation upon and executed in the streets part of this infection too?”
Sharpe had sighed as if he were getting bored.
“Oh Karai,” He said, “Let’s not pretend that you’re going to mourn this man. He’s half the reason that there are mutants walking around this city. Him and that mutagen that he helped create. Did you know that he used to test his mutagen on children? He used to have them picked up off the street, right in broad daylight. So let’s not act like I didn’t do this world a favor.”
Leonardo suddenly thought about how Mona told him that she was taken from her mother when she was a child, and he felt sick to his stomach.
“That’s enough Sharpe,” Leonardo said. “Tell us what you want.”
“Well, what I don’t want is for you to be late for dinner.”
Leonardo’s stomach dropped to his ankles.
“It looks like that little girl, Shadow, is it? Yeah, it looks like she’s reading to that rat you call “daddy”. Your brothers and your weirder-than-you looking friends are all watching the Bears/Packers game. And April is serving drinks. It’ll be a shame to see it all go to waste. She worked so hard on that turkey this morning.”
“Dammit Sharpe, you stay away from them!”
“I’d get a move on if you want to try and stop us. Here, let me help you drop some dead weight.”
Leonardo looked up in time to see a red dot on Karai’s cheek.
Leonardo reached out and grabbed Karai by her shoulders, pulled her into him and dropped to the ground.
One of the load bearing support beams behind them shattered when a bullet struck it, sending splinters of wood raining to the ground. Leonardo looked into Karai’s eyes, feeling relief rush through him when he realized she was alright.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Leonardo raised his head up so he could see out the window and into the building across the alley from them, hoping to see the shooter. It was risky, but he saw the shooter running out the door and into the next room. The shooter was tall, with a high ponytail, possibly female.
“The shooter is on the move.”
Leonardo scrambled to his feet and ran for the window, jumping through it, across the alley and into the room where the shot was fired; another old apartment building. From the room he saw the shooter exiting the apartment and turning left. He took off running just as Karai jumped through the window and landed behind him, running just a few steps behind him. They ran out of the apartment and headed left, up a flight of stairs, following the shooter who was almost a full floor above them.
She’s fast. We have to catch her quick.
Leonardo was taking steps two at a time, trying to close the gap between them and the shooter. He could see that the shooter was a woman, with long blonde hair tied back. She wore a black mask that covered the bottom half of her face. Her clothes were all black as well and she wore a military grade Kevlar vest. The shooter kept running up the stairs and turned once she reached the top floor. Leonardo saw a sign on the wall that read “Roof Access”
“She’s heading for the roof.”
On the top floor, the shooter charged through an old closed door. The rotted wood shattered around her. Through the doorway was another flight of stairs with an open door at the top, leading to the roof. Leonardo and Karai charged up the stairs and out onto the roof. Cold air whipped around them as they exited the building. The fog had lifted and the sun had broken through the clouds. On any other day, it would’ve been pleasant. On any other day, he wouldn’t be chasing a crazy sniper across rooftops and jumping over alleyways. Whoever they were chasing down had been well trained. She was fast and showed no signs of slowing down. She also never once looked behind her, which meant she was leading them somewhere. Leonardo continued running and as he jumped over another alleyway, he recognized a building, a Mexican restaurant that Casey and April went on their date nights. They lived three blocks from that restaurant. Leonardo dug deep for more speed and pushed himself harder to catch the shooter.
This is the last time I leave the house without a weapon.
“She’s leading us to April’s.”
“I know.” Karai said.
Leonardo jumped down to another rooftop. While in the air, he could actually see April’s apartment. He was just out of arms reach of her.
Almost got her…
Suddenly, Leonardo was struck hard in the back. Whatever it was, it had landed on his shell and forced him to the ground. Leonardo smacked the ground hard, but he was able to roll quickly and regain his footing. He stood and Karai had stopped running, staying by his side. The figure in front of them was another woman, dressed similarly to the shooter they were chasing, only this ones’ whole face was covered by a black mask. No way to tell what she looked like.
The shooter is getting away…
“Karai?” Leonardo said.
“I can take her, go.”
Leonardo took off running again as Karai sized up her opponent.
“Who are you supposed to be?” Karai asked.
Her opponent shrugged her shoulders. “You can call me Nobody.”
At that moment, Nobody shot her arm forward, and fired a shuriken from a concealed wrist launcher mounted on the underside of her wrist. Instinct took over as Karai leaned out of the way and brought her left hand up, catching the shuriken as it passed by her throat. Karai regained her balance and swiped the blade at Nobody. She ducked the attack and grabbed at Karai’s wrist.
“No,” she said. “Not yet”
Then Nobody threw a pellet on the ground and smoke erupted from it, obscuring Karai’s vision. When the smoke cleared, Nobody was gone. But Karai didn’t have time to think about what had just happened. She ran for Leonardo, as a loud explosion erupted from April’s apartment building.
Splinter sat on the couch with Shadow cuddled into him closely. The little girl had a large photo album that was almost bigger than her laid across her lap. Inside were photographs of many of the Turtles greatest moments: Birthday parties, Shadows first pictures as a newborn, Donatello building Metalhead and a host of others. While everyone was waiting for Leonardo to return, Splinter told the stories behind every picture Shadow pointed out. Before he knew it, several of the guests were huddled around them listening.
Shadow paused on a particular picture. It was one that Splinter had not seen for many years. It was of his sons, just days before having defeated the Shredder in battle.
“Grandpa Splinter,” Shadow asked, “why are all of the turtles wearing red masks in this one?”
“Well Shadow, the Turtles were still in training when I took that picture. After a while, I gave them all masks of their own; the same ones they wear now. Each mask represents what makes each of them a person. Each one has a different meaning.”
“Like what?” Mona asked, she was sitting on the other side of Shadow. “Sorry, football is kinda boring.”
Splinter smiled and said: “Well, Leonardo wears a blue mask. This color is representative of loyalty, duty, and leadership. Donatello wears purple, which symbolizes both logic, and patience.”
“What’s patience mean?”
“It means he’s a nerd.” Raphael said, without looking away from the TV.
Raphael wears a red mask. This is to symbolize strength and courage. And that leaves Michelangelo; I gave him an orange mask to symbolize the heart.”
“What about Ms. Mona’s mask?” Shadow asked. “Hers is pink and black. And why does she wear it around her neck?”
“Mona’s colors mean family.” Raphael said, he had walked over to the couch during a commercial break for the game. He sat on the arm of the couch, next to Mona and ran his hand through her hair.
Shadow giggled and asked: “And Venus’ mask, hers is blue like Leonardo’s…”
An explosion rocked the whole apartment building, and the far wall exploded inward. Wood, brick and glass flew everywhere, and a tall man in wearing black armor from head-to-toe flew in. He landed gracefully on the ground, the jet pack strapped to his back turned off automatically. He walked quickly over to Splinter, who had covered Shadow, shielding her from the blast. The man walked up to Splinter and pulled out a pistol from a holster on his hip, aiming for Splinters head…
Michelangelo sprang to his feet and ran into the armored assassin, lifting him off his feet and they both went out of the massive hole where the wall had once been, tumbling to the street.
“Mike!” Venus yelled, running towards the opening in the wall…and saw Michelangelo and the assassin flying high into the air.
Donatello shook off the pain in his head and knee and made his way towards Venus, pulling her away from the edge. He surveyed the situation forming up outside. He noticed ten people on the ground, all armed with various rifles and side arms, all dressed in black military gear.
The Dominators, they’re here.
On one end of the street, two armored Humvees blocked off the intersection. On the other end, a large black semi blocked the other intersection. On the rooftop of the building on the opposite corner from April’s building, a sniper was taking aim at their building. And on the building directly across the street, he saw Leonardo and Karai fighting with two more of the Dominators, two women.
Donatello turned back in to the apartment; He saw that most everyone was okay. His brothers and Mona had already joined him; Splinter and Shadow were with tending to Mondo. He had a gash on his forehead from some debris that had flown in.
“April, are you okay?” Donatello shouted.
April was in the kitchen with Casey, Splinter was taking Shadow to them. They looked fine, save for a few cuts and bruises.
“We’re okay, I’ve got Shadow.”
Donatello checked his watch and pressed the button on the side, starting a timer.
I need three minutes.
Ace began walking towards the opening.
“I know,” Ace said. “I’m on it.”
Michelangelo was struggling against his captor. Whoever he or she was, they were strong. He was getting cold, and he could tell the air was getting thin. Mike pulled at his captors arms, and elbowed and kicked with all his strength. He saw the city below him, getting smaller. Michelangelo pulled again with all of his strength and was able to pull one arm off from around him. He turned quickly and punched his attacker in the face, ignoring his now throbbing knuckles.
“Who are you supposed to be?”
“The name’s Eagle.”
“Yeah, okay Big Bird, put me down, now!”
Eagle chuckled. “Sure thing.”
Michelangelo was kicked hard in his chest and he fell towards the city below.
“I didn’t think this through.” He yelled.
Michelangelo could barely keep his eyes open from the wind hammering him on his way down to Earth.
Whatdoidowhatdoidowhatdoidothinkthinkthinkthink God, why can’t I be Donnie for five minutes THINK!
Ace grabbed Mike and steadied his flight, heading back towards April’s apartment.
“Ace…so what’s the in-flight movie?”
Ace fought he urge to smile, trying to remain professional.
“No time for that, Mike. It’s a warzone down there.”
“Everybody, listen up.” Donatello said. “Eyes on me, we don’t have much time. Splinter, Casey, get Mondo and Shadow back to the lair through the trap door in the bottom in the building. April, go with them. Mondo looks like he’ll need stiches.”
Mondo shook his head; “Donnie, I’m good. I can fight.”
“I know Mondo, but Shadow can’t fight. I need you to protect her, now go.”
Casey, holding Shadow, helped Mondo to the door, and winked at Raphael. Splinter nodded and helped them out.
“Be safe, my sons.” He said as he walked out.
April quickly hugged Donatello.
“Be safe Donnie.” She said, and walked towards the exit. “Mona, take care of my guys.”
Mona came out of the kitchen with a bottle of bourbon, a rag and a grill lighter.
“You got it red.” Mona said.
“Donatello,” Venus said, looking out of the large opening of the room. “There’re more of them.”
Donatello surveyed the situation outside and called out orders.
“Mona, Leonardo and Karai are fighting on the roof of the building across from us. When I tell you, I need you to make a break for it. You keep Leo safe.”
“Got it.” Mona said.
“I’m not going anywhere until I know Mike is safe.”
“Noted.” Donatello said. “You and Raphael will come with me.”
Outside, the Dominators started firing into the apartment. They were concentrating fir to the walls and base of the floor. They were trying to herd them out of the apartment. They were looking for a fight.
“What’s the plan boss?” Raphael said to Donatello.
“We need to create cover around the front of the building. We have to cover the entrance and keep the Dominators away from the civilians.”
“You sure it’s them?”
Before Donatello could answer, Venus called out for him, her young voice almost cracking with fear that she was trying to suppress.
“RPG!” she yelled out.
From across the street, one of the Dominators raised an RPG and fired at April’s apartment.
From the street, William Sharpe surveyed the area. He suspected that by now, the Turtles and their team had separated. Odds were, there target was still in the building, he would find him and do what had to be done. He looked up and wondered if Eagle had disposed of the mutant he had taken to the sky. He pressed the earpiece on his headset;
“Nash, what’s your status?”
“I’m assisting Nobody with Leonardo and that ninja chick.” She said.
Sharpe smiled. “Good. Don’t kill them. We’re not here for them today.”
Sharpe looked up to the roof of the building nearest to him and pressed his earpiece again.
“Sheamus, what’s your status?”
Sheamus came in over Sharpe’s radio clearly. “I’m all set up here. RPG’s are primed and I am awaiting orders, sir.”
“Fire when ready; all teams, prepare to move in.”
Sharpe made his way towards the fire escape of the nearest building, he needed a birds-eye view of what was about to take place. As Sheamus fired off the RPG, Sharpe smiled, feeling relief that all the sneaking around, and all the hiding in the shadows was finally over. Out here, in the field, on mission, this was where he was truly alive. This was where he was home.
“MOVE!” Donatello yelled.
As they jumped out of the apartment building, the RPG hit April’s apartment creating another massive hole where the kitchen used to be. When they landed, they took cover behind two cars that were in front of the building; Donatello and Venus behind one, and Mona and Raphael behind another. Donatello elbowed the passenger side window, unlocked the door and climbed in the car, putting it in neutral.
“Raph, put that car in neutral and push.”
Donatello checked his watch and started pushing the car towards the entrance of the apartment. He noticed the semi at the end of the street. The trailer was open and eight of the Dominators soldiers were spilling out, heading towards them, weapons raised.
Two more minutes.
Raphael pushed the car towards the entrance, stopping when he bumped into Donatello’s car in front of him. Mona was behind him, not helping push the car. She was too busy stuffing a rag into a bottle of Wild Turkey. Raphael thought it was a shame to waste a bottle of bourbon on a situation like this, but he understood the importance.
“Mona, get ready!” Donatello called out as two of the Dominators were advancing on the car he and Venus were behind. Raphael didn’t know if Donnie had noticed, and he didn’t care right now, he had to do something…and then the two soldiers burst into flame. They ran around flailing their arms this way and that, before they dropped to the ground.
Raphael looked back at Mona,
“Molotov cocktail.” She said, shrugging her shoulders. “Gotta run.”
“Mona, go.” Donatello yelled.
Mona ran for the building across the street. She jumped and grabbed onto a window ledge, climbing towards the roof. Raphael moved up towards Donatello, gunfire was coming at them from both sides. Raphael peeked over the hood of one of the cars and saw several soldiers moving towards them.
“Donnie, what do we do? We’ve got soldiers coming in and we don’t have a stone to throw at them.”
“We still need one minute.”
“One minute until what? You got a date or something?”
One of the soldiers jumped onto the trunk of the car and aimed his rifle at Raphael. He moved up to push the barrel of the rifle out of the way but, he knew he was going to be too late…
Ace dropped Michelangelo and he landed on the soldier; his feet came down hard on the soldiers shoulders, snapping his collar bones. Ace landed softly behind Michelangelo.
“What do we got?” Ace asked.
“Twelve soldiers, so far.” Raphael said. “We don’t know the situation on the roof yet. Mona and Leo are up there with Karai.”
“Ace,” Donatello called out. “I need you to get to our lair.”
“What, why? I’m a giant duck, a duck with wings and an aerial attack would be to our advantage.
Gunfire almost drowned out Ace’s words, Donatello had to strain to hear him.
“I know. But, Casey and April are on their way there now, and they have a kid with them. I need you to protect them.”
Ace hated leaving, but he knew that the Turtles could handle this. He hoped they could.
“You be safe Donnie.” Ace flew up and headed out, noticing that the Turtles were surrounded.
Donatello checked his watch for what must’ve been the thousandth time.
We just need twenty more seconds.
“Pass me that M4!” Venus yelled out.
Raphael grabbed the rifle that the soldier had dropped, and threw it to Venus. In one motion, Venus grabbed the rifle out of the air and aimed at the soldier that was running their way brandishing a shotgun. She fired and the soldier fell. Michelangelo smiled.
“That’s my girl.”
“When did that start, by the way?” Raphael asked.
Before he could answer, Michelangelo noticed that the sniper on the roof above them was aiming another RPG, this time at the cover they had created.
“Venus, RPG at your ten o’clock!” he yelled.
Venus saw the sniper and she turned, aiming at him. She breathed deeply, held her breath, and pulled the trigger…CLICK
The weapon misfired, and Venus kept holding her breath.
“Incoming!” Donatello yelled, the Turtles dove onto the sidewalk as a black and green M1117 Personnel Carrier crashed into the cover they had made, cutting through it. From the drivers’ side of the vehicle Metalhead hopped out and walked into the middle of the street. The Dominators had stopped firing. It wouldn’t have mattered if they hadn’t stopped. Their bullets either bounced off him or fell to the ground.
“Everyone put your weapons down and lie flat on the ground with your fingers laced behind your head.” Metalhead said, projecting his voice so loud, it could be heard a block away. “The authorities have been alerted and they are currently en route.”
The sniper above started laughing and fired the RPG. Metalhead caught it and threw it back. The roof exploded as the sniper was blown off the rooftop. He fell four stories and landed on the pavement below. He didn’t get back up.
“Raph, weapons in the van!” Donatello yelled out.
‘Hey, remember when we used to call this thing the Shellraiser?” Michelangelo joked.
Raphael ran to the van, he saw his Sais but grabbed Leonardo’s swords first. He went back out onto the street, looking to the rooftop across from them.
“Leo!” he yelled out. Leonardo was running to the next rooftop, seeing one of the Dominator’s soldiers talking to Leonardo. Leo turned as Raphael called out to him; they made eye contact as Raphael threw the swords like a spear up to his brother. He caught them by their handles and attacked the soldier with all of his strength.
“Kick his ass Leo.”
“Get up Sharpe!” Leonardo said. He and his brothers were fighting for their lives. So many times before, he had been in front of a man that wanted to kill him, for nothing more than being a hero, a mutant, or just because he was in the way. But something about this felt different, something felt scary to Leonardo.
“Is that all you got Leo?” Sharpe said. “Is that all the great leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has for me?”
Sharpe was smiling, almost laughing while blood flowed slowly from his nose. Leonardo felt sick to his stomach just looking at Sharpe, his soldiers, and seeing all the pain and anguish that the Dominators had caused them; all of the useless death and chaos that they had caused. All of the friends that they had taken from Leonardo and his brothers, all of the fear that they had secretly been causing them, it all had to end; today.
Sharpe rose to his feet as his smile grew wider. “How about, I show you what I can really do?”
He pressed a button on his headset and called out another order.
“This is Sharpe, send in the Revenants.”
Before Sharpe could think twice, Leonardo lunged forward and stabbed Sharpe in the stomach with his katana, up to the hilt. Sharpe went down on one knee and his eyes went wide. Leonardo could see that he was trying to talk, so with his free hand, he covered Sharpe’s mouth and looked into his eyes.
“I don’t care who you are, Sharpe. I don’t care what your mission is or what it is that you think you represent, because I won’t let you win.”
Leonardo pulled out the katana and stood over Sharpe. He watched as Sharpe crawled to the edge of the roof, a trail of blood following him as he crawled. He pressed the button on his headset again and called out for someone named “Eagle”, asking for an Evac. Police sirens wailed off in the distance.
“Consider this a warning Sharpe, because I won’t go so easy on you next time.”
Then, a man in an armored suit flew onto the rooftop and began walking towards Leonardo. He had a knife in each hand and Leonardo’s body prepared to strike.
“Stand down Eagle.” Sharpe said. “Get me out of here. We’re not here for him today.”
Without another word, Eagle effortlessly picked up Sharpe and flew off with him. No doubt that Sharpe was calling out orders. Leonardo clenched his fists and jumped down to the streets below. He felt rage and hate, actual hate burning from under his skin. Leonardo was scared because he had never felt hatred before. It was something that he had helped Raphael move away from over years of training, but right now, Leonardo was starting to think that a little rage was a good idea.
Michelangelo surveyed his surroundings. Mona and Karai had made it to Donatello and Metalhead. They were all fighting near Donnie’s “van”. How he was able to fit a tank in the sewers without anyone knowing was beyond him, but it was cool. He overheard Donnie say that he was prepping for an Evac. This made him think about Casey and April. He hoped Mondo and Splinter had gotten them into the sewers safely. He fought the urge to break open the nearest manhole cover and head home. He knew he wasn’t going to, but still, the temptation was there.
Not far ahead of him, Venus called out and ran towards him.
“It looks like the Dominators are falling back.” Venus said, but something in her voice tugged at Mike’s chest, but not in the way it usually did. This time, she sounded…tired.
“Yeah, I just never had to fight someone that actually wanted to kill me before. How have you guys been doing this for the last six years?”
“Honestly, I’m having trouble remembering the last time someone took a shot at us like this.”
“COME ON, BRING IT ON!!!!”
Michelangelo and Venus looked up the street to see Raphael fighting three of the Dominators soldiers, each of them were armed with a different weapon, and each of them were taken out with a single punch.
“Sometimes, that guy scares me.” Michelangelo said. “Venus, get to the van and see what Donnie’s got planned. I’m gonna check on Raph, and if you see Leo anywhere, tell him we could use the help.”
“Okay, be safe.” Venus turned to run over to Donatello but did a one-eighty and kissed Michelangelo quickly on his cheek. “Seriously, be safe. I don’t think these guys are done yet.”
He watched her run off and then turned to catch up to Raphael. As Mike jogged up the street the trailer to the large semi had burst open, and two more soldiers calmly walked out. These soldiers looked different. One of them was a man who looked almost wide enough to project a movie on his back. He wasn’t dressed in military gear like all the others. This guy was dressed in a large black overcoat. His face displayed no emotion at all, and he had this weird looking bluish skin color; like the inside of a marble. The other soldier was a woman, she also had the same bluish skin as the other guy, but she had a shaved head and was dressed in…
…she was dressed in Shredders armor. The woman moved fast, she ran down the street, towards Michelangelo. His whole body went loose as he dodged her first punch. He could almost hear the blades on her hand cutting through the air around them. She followed up with another attack, bringing her bladed arm down trying to tear into Michelangelo’s thigh. He sidestepped and pushed her hard onto the pavement below, but she rolled back, turned, and started running for Donatello and the others. Michelangelo started to run after her…
Before he could, he saw Raphael hit the ground next to him. Michelangelo turned around and the other soldier was behind him. He swung a massive punch at his head. Michelangelo was able to block it, and he brought his knee into the soldiers’ stomach. It felt like he had just hit a slab of concrete. The big guy wasn’t fazed at all. He grabbed Michelangelo around the neck, lifted him up and threw him onto the ground as if he were nothing to him. Michelangelo fought to catch his breath as he rolled onto his shell. As Raphael struggled to get to his feet he saw a massive, gloved hand reaching down for him. Suddenly, the big soldier stood straight up and started to levitate into the air a few feet off the ground, and then he shot straight up into the sky until Michelangelo couldn’t see him anymore.
“Need some help Mike?” Donatello said. He helped Michelangelo to his feet. Michelangelo noticed a large, metal gauntlet on Donatello’s arm reaching from his wrist to his elbow. It hummed and buzzed with every motion of his arm. Thick cables and LED lights covered the metal gauntlet.
“Whoa, Donnie,” He said, “when did you go all Winter Soldier on us?”
Donatello smiled and held up his gauntlet. “You like it? It’s an anti-gravity glove; I completely forgot I had this thing. Papa Smurf up there should be landing somewhere in New Jersey any minute now.”
“Wow, I want one.”
“I need aspirin.” Raphael said “Thanks for the save there. That big guy could move, I never saw him coming.”
Michelangelo helped his brother up and looked down the street and noticed the van was turning around preparing to make a getaway.
“Where’s the party wagon going?” he asked.
“I had Metalhead take everyone back to the lair; it’s just us here now. But the police just arrived and they’re not even reading the Dominators their Miranda rights. Their ranks are falling back and the cops are moving forward, we’re going to have to leave soon.”
“Wait, what about that Shredder-looking chick, where’d she go?”
Michelangelo looked down the street and saw Leonardo walking towards them. He was a mess. Cuts and scrapes covered his arms and torso, the hoodie he was wearing was torn to shreds. But he was smiling as he walked towards them. Raphael ran towards his brother hugged him.
“God you scared me. Where’d you run off too?”
“Leonardo smiled and hugged his brother back. “I got ambushed by a woman wearing…Shredder’s armor?”
“Don’t worry,” Michelangelo said, “that freaked me out too.”
“Why was she all blue though, that’s new isn’t it?”
“Maybe they ran out of fall colors.”
They laughed and started heading for the nearest manhole cover, heading home.
“You know Mikey,” Donatello said, “on the bright side; at least you won’t have to wash dishes at April’s tonight.”
“Hey, I would’ve won that race this morning Donnie. But you’ve got half a robot leg, that’s not fair.” Donatello put an arm around his younger brother’s shoulder and walked down the broken street. The four brothers savored their victory.
Donatello fell to the ground.
“Donnie!” Michelangelo yelled out as he reached for him. Donatello screamed and clutched at his shoulder, blood seeped out of the bullet wound through his fingers. Michelangelo grabbed his brother and tried to help him put pressure on the wound like April had taught him. Suddenly, smoke erupted around them and Raphael went down to the ground, hard. Leonardo fell to one knee as he was stabbed in the thigh by that Shredder-looking lady. Pieces of her armor were missing and she had almost as many cuts and bruises as Leo did. She kicked Leonardo in the chest and he fell. Michelangelo looked up as the smoke cleared and a man in black pea coat, black pants and boots. He wore a black shikami mask with white eyes and yellow teeth, and he was carrying a sword in one hand, and a nine millimeter handgun in the other. The man in the mask looked down at Michelangelo.
“You’re not the one I wanted today. Our target seems to have left you here. I am sorry to say that I am not surprised by this. He has a habit of letting his sons take care of his mistakes for him.”
Michelangelo felt his mouth go dry as his brothers were laid out in front of him, in pain and he didn’t know what to do. He had to do something, but what? What could he do, he couldn’t fight these two by himself. The lady in Shredder’s armor slammed her boot onto Raphael’s chest and raised her fist. She was going to kill Raphael, Michelangelo knew it. He started to move towards her, but she was too far away and he had Donnie in his arms, he knew he wasn’t going to be fast enough.
Everyone turned towards the sound of Splinter’s voice cutting through the air. Splinter stood in the middle of the street, bamboo walking stick in his hand as always.
“You will leave my sons alone now!” he barked.
The masked man nodded. “Maija, stand down. Return to base, I’ll be there shortly.”
The masked man smiled as Maija nodded and ran for the nearest alleyway.
“Master Splinter…” Michelangelo said, but Splinter was focused on his opponent. The masked man holstered his gun and unsheathed his sword and stood ready to strike. Splinter raised his walking stick and twisted the larger end of it and unsheathed his own sword.
“Why do you let them call you “Splinter”, Hamato Yoshi?”
Splinter, not caring to hear anymore, lashed out with his sword, forcing the masked man to pivot to his left just as Splinter swept out his legs from under him. The masked man fell to the ground, but was able to roll back and create distance between him and Splinter.
“Splinter means father to them, just as they mean family to me.” Splinter said.
“And are they the same family that you trained to murder for you? Are they not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?”
“We’re in our twenties now, you moron.” Raphael said, he was helping Leonardo to his feet and supporting his weight.
The masked man lunged at Splinter and brought his sword down upon him, Splinter deflected the attack, but the masked man pivoted his weight again, this time bringing his elbow down across Splinters cheek. Splinter responded by moving with the impact, turning and bringing the hilt of his sword down on the masked mans’ thigh. If the blow had any affect, Splinter could not tell.
“You’re thinking you can win.” The masked man said. “You won’t. How could you? You couldn’t even face the man who took your humanity from you.”
Splinter knew what this man was trying to do. He wanted to get under Splinters skin. Force him to think about the night his sons fought Shredder and twist the memory to make it seem like it was his fault, to make it seem like all of today’s destruction and pain were his fault. But, why Shredder, why now, after all this time? Was this man a former Foot clan member? Splinter wondered if he could ever leave that part of his life behind.
“Do not speak of Oroku Saki!”
“Tell me, how did you justify sending children to murder a man all those years ago? Was it by using Tang Shen’s name? Or were you honest with them, and told them that you were enraged that you were mutated into a giant rat?”
Splinter threw his sword at the masked man and lunged forward as his opponent dodged the blade. Splinter punched him square in the jaw, jabbed him in the stomach and swept his legs out from under him again. The masked man fell to the ground and his mask came off.
“You hold your tongue. I sent my sons to stop a mad man. Not a day goes by that I do not grapple with that decision. Yes, I sent students to face a master when they fought the Shredder. Yes, I did it because I couldn’t bear to show my face to anyone outside of our family. But I set them on the warriors’ path because I knew that one day, life would send someone like you to them; someone so intent to cross them.”
Splinters opponent rose to his feet and turned to face Splinter. Michelangelo, his brothers, and Splinter all froze at the face of the man under the mask.
“Your face…” Splinter started.
The man smiled. “Do I look familiar to you?”
Splinter took a step back, astonished.
“I’ve heard I have my father’s eyes.”
Splinter’s heart skipped a beat. “Oroku…”
“Ryu.” he said “My name is Oroku Ryu. Your sons killed my father. I’m here to return the favor.”
Oroku Ryu shot his hand out…
“Master Splinter…” Leonardo called out
… and a shuriken shot out from a holster under his wrist. The shuriken stabbed Splinter in the throat. And before the Turtles or Splinter could react, Oroku Ryu was already on top of Splinter, gently holding his head.
“Fear not, Hamato Yoshi. This is a good death. You fought with honor today, as did your children”.
The last thing Splinter saw was his four sons. He saw Leonardo, his eldest son, and he saw the great leader he had become. Splinter hoped that he would take care of his family. Donatello, possibly the most intelligent of his boys, was also the most fragile. He was proud that Donatello overcame his injuries and found the strength to continue on when he could have easily had given up. Raphael, he had found purpose in his family, and found the ability to move past his anger. Splinter hoped that Raphael wouldn’t let his anger own him again. Michelangelo; Splinter always envied that Mikey could be so carefree and willing to carry the burden of so many others.
Oroku Ryu cracked Splinters neck and gently laid his head down on the ground. Ryu walked away, leaving the Turtles, as they looked on, horrified and unable to move.
“This is over when I say it’s over.”
So this comes from the mind of Michelangelo. No, that sucks…This comes from the desk of Michelangelo. Okay, so I don’t write much, especially since this one time, when we were kids, Raphael caught Leonardo writing in his diary. Leo said it was a journal, but I think we all know the truth. But I’m writing this on an old typewriter that I found in the attic, so, this is totally different. Anyway, I think I’m stalling. I don’t really know what it is I want to write. Mona told me that writing down your feelings really helped Raph get through a lot of his anger issues. Not that I’m an angry kind of guy, but I thought maybe writing something down would help me figure out what has been going on these last couple of weeks.
Wow…I can’t believe Mona made Raph write in a diary.
I’m sure I’ve written this before, but I don’t write much. April saw that I was writing and she told me that she misses it. I always thought that she would win a Pulitzer or a Peabody award someday. I’m sure she’d be the first to tell you that she never thought she’d end up being a nurse. But, in all honesty, as great of a writer as she is/was, she takes care of people like no one else. She’s always taken care of us whenever we got hurt. But it’s always been more than that. To be honest, she’s always been more than that to us. April was the first person to never judge us. She took one look at us…and fainted. But when she woke up, she listened to us. I mean, like, really listened to us. She saw that we were people under these shells. She saw that “mutants” weren’t what we are at all.
“Mutant is just a word, Mike.”
Hey Mikey, I found your diary. I’m gonna tell Venus that you haven’t written about her yet.
Like I said before, I don’t write much, but I’ve always drawn a lot. I started out like most, stick figures, but, Splinter always told me that it was important to keep drawing. He said that as my drawing improved, I would gain confidence in all things in life. I never really knew what he meant by that until about a week and a half ago.
We’re up in Northampton, Massachusetts now. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve missed being up here, it just calms me down. Back home in New York, I always feel jittery and, well, I always have to move, and we can’t always do that back in the city. Sure, we go topside more than we ever used to, but it’s mostly at night; and it’s so noisy there, I can barely hear myself think. But out here, in the woods, in the middle of the middle of nowhere, We almost never have to worry about anything. If I wanna go out and run five miles, or swim until the sun goes down, I can.
Oh, by the way, don’t swim after sundown. It’s just creepy and people that say they like night swimming are lying. Or they’re April and Casey, and we all know what they’re up to. Stop polluting the water.
Anyway, I just wish we would come here because it’s fun. It always seems like Northampton is a place we run to and not a place we visit. I remember the first time we came up here to Casey’s family farm. (By the way, why did Casey live in a one room apartment for so long when he could have lived in a five bedroom farmhouse? I think the guys been benching too much) Anyway, Leo got busted up pretty bad by the Foot, and if that wasn’t bad enough, April’s apartment was burned down. You know how hard it is to find a decent place in New York?
Funny how things repeat themselves.
Donnie used to talk about the cyclical nature of things. He told me once that everything that has happened to us will happen again, just in a different ways. I really wish that Donnie would be wrong every once in a while, because this time is different. Splinter is dead. Our dad is dead.
Hey Mike, thanks for talking to me last night. Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone.
Well, I guess I shouldn’t put this off any longer. The Dominators really put us through the ringer. We lost a lot of our friends because of them. We lost Ray, Wingnut and Joe Eyeball, Leatherhead, Slash; Even Bebop and Old Hob got taken out. Every one of them, murdered and they’re bodies were just dumped in the streets. I get that there are people out there that want to take a shot at us, but these guys; they came after our friends, our family, first. And when that wasn’t enough, they started mutating people and murdering them in the streets.
Just to get to us.
When Raph left us, for that year he was gone, I don’t think we heard a peep from them. But when Raph came back, the Dominators came with him. Maybe they were trying to break us up ad thought “mission accomplished”. Heck, even the attack on April’s place was meant to screw with our heads. Leo told us after the attack, that Baxter Stockman was murdered…Leo said that Baxter was one of theirs and he was killed as punishment. He also said that Baxter was the one mutating people halfway and dumping their bodies. I hate to say this, but I’m not going to feel bad for Baxter.
What really messed us up was a picture that Leo had recovered before we fought the Dominators. It was a picture of a young woman, none of us knew who she was, but, when Mona saw the pic, she started to cry and shake all over. She could barely speak and it took Raph almost an hour to get her to calm down, and when she could finally stand to look at the picture again, she told us that it was an old picture of her mom, taken before Mona was mutated. It makes me wonder if the Dominators had anything to do with Mona coming into our lives. They couldn’t have known Mona and Raphael would meet and fall in love…would they?
I fell asleep typing and it’s four in the morning now. Venus is asleep in the bed next to me. I hope my typing doesn’t wake her up. She’s been so great to be with these last few weeks. We’ve only been together for almost four months. She asked me to keep “us” a secret because she thinks Karai wouldn’t approve. I get it. When my brothers first met Venus, I guess they thought she was kind of annoying. Which she isn’t, she’s just bubbly and she doesn’t let life get her down. I always thought it was a little mean and kind of ironic that people just looked at Venus and judged her just because she was a little different. Hello, we’re mutants, we’re all different. That was a long time ago though. Honestly, she’s like a sister to us, more than that to me.
Okay, I’ve been avoiding this and I just need to get this out of me and stop holding it in. Splinter, our father was murdered in front of us las month. I never thought anyone could hurt him, I never thought anyone could touch him. But I held him in my arms, his whole body was limp and
Sorry, I’m not avoiding it, but I just can’t write about that. But I can say that he is the reason that we’re here in Northampton. We buried him by the lake, not far from the farmhouse. He loved it by that lake. He would be out there for hours at a time meditating, training or just looking out into the horizon, skipping stones. I asked him once why he never went into the water and he told me:
“Can you keep a secret, my son?”
I nodded and he said:
“I can’t swim.” And we both had a huge laugh. I couldn’t believe it, master Splinter couldn’t swim. I actually found out that there was something he couldn’t do, and I’m the only one that knows about that. I’m the only one he ever told.
God, why did he have to be taken? Why couldn’t you have taken me instead?
We’re all talking about going back to New York. We’ve been out here almost a month, and I guess it would be good to get back. I don’t really know if I want to leave yet though.
Either way, Leo brought it up. Splinters passing hit us all pretty hard, but Leo, he hasn’t been talking much lately. Before this morning, I haven’t heard him say anything since Splinters funeral. We all thought it would be best if Leo gave the eulogy. All of us were there, Mondo and Ace, even Karai showed up. Karai and Splinter may not have been the best of friends, but they respected the hell out of each other. Sorry, got sidetracked. Leo stood up in front of all of us and fought to hold back tears as his voice cracked when he tried to speak, and his body started to shake.
I heard Raph mumble under his breath: “C’mon Leo, you can do it.”
Donnie caught him before he could collapse. They both sat down looking on as Raphael asked April if she could say something. She nodded and after a brief silence said,
“We lay a great man to the rest today. He was, and always will be a father, a teacher and a friend. He was a singer of songs, and a master pastry chef.”
We all actually laughed at that. Splinter would never admit it, but he had the meanest sweet tooth you have ever seen. April continued.
“Master Splinter taught us all much. He taught Leonardo to be a great leader. He taught Donatello to pursue knowledge in all its forms. He taught Raphael to fight with his heart and not just muscle. And he taught Michelangelo that you don’t have to eat a whole pizza in one sitting.”
I still have a little trouble with that one. But I did kick my Oreo cookie habit.
“And he taught me to never judge outward appearances. In one way or another, Splinter taught us all to be warriors. Not for the purpose of revenge, or for any ill-gotten gains, but for the love that he had for us; all of us. Brothers and sisters, keep that love alive in our hearts, so that our father, Splinter, may live forever.”
Casey and Raphael buried Splinter as the sun set.
Leonardo hasn’t looked the same since then. I don’t want to say that Leo looks older, but he just looks different. Darker, maybe, I don’t know how to explain it. After the funeral, Leo asked Karai about a dozen questions about Oroku Ryu. She insisted that she never knew that she had a brother, and we all have no reason not to believe her. Karai left the Foot clan four years ago when they dug up her father and tried to resurrect him using Mutagen. Donnie explained it to me once. Since the Shredder was dead, but his brain and spinal cord were still intact, the Mutagen fixed everything, but his blood type wasn’t compatible with the Mutagen (apparently you need AB blood for the Mutagen to work successfully), and it kept repairing him, even when his body didn’t need it. So, the Shredders body kind of ate itself, I think, like some kind of zombie-thing. No wonder Karai turned her back on the Foot.
The point is, whoever this Oroku Ryu is, I think his days are numbered. Leo is planning something. I don’t know what it is yet, but the part that worries me, is that no one else does either. Leo has never kept us in the dark about anything. That’s not him. He can’t help but be honest with anyone, and not saying anything, to him, would be the same as lying. Then again, Raph seems to have a plan of his own. He’s talking about going back to New York, just not right now. He told me earlier that we need time to grieve and train. But he also told me that he has a couple of friends back in Indiana that could help us out with the Dominators named Frank and Nemee.
I don’t know what anyone else thinks yet, but Raph is willing to fight back. But, something tells me that Leo doesn’t want to fight, he wants to kill Ryu, and that won’t fix anything. This whole mess started because we killed Oroku Ryu’s father six years ago. It was the one time we took someone’s life.
And look where that has gotten us now.
The day after the attack on April O’Neil’s apartment building, the day after the Turtles met the Dominators…
Oroku Ryu was sore. Yesterday was a hard day. Most of his soldiers were seriously injured fighting the Turtles. Sharpe in particular, hadn’t woken up since they had returned to Dr. Craig’s lab. His injuries were extensive, but Ryu knew that the good doctor would see to it that his soldiers were healed. Regardless of his soldiers condition, yesterday, was a good day. He had finally faced Hamato Yoshi in battle. Everything he had heard about the old rat was true. He was still a cunning warrior despite his age. For the last six years of Ryu’s’ life, all he had thought of was taking revenge upon Yoshi for having his father murdered. Every morning he woke up with a burning rage in his chest, and every night, as he waited for sleep, he thought of his father. He thought of how he was never able to meet him, about how his sister was the one chosen to fallow in his fathers’ footsteps. But tradition was what was important, not blood. Lineage was greater than family, the Foot, and possibly his father only saw a half Japanese, half Irish whelp when they saw Oroku Ryu. No matter how much like his father he may have looked, everyone else saw his white mother, everyone, except for his grandmother, Lady Miyoko.
Ryu sat in his grandmothers’ small apartment listening to the news on TV. They had spoken the Turtles violent fight in the city streets yesterday against an unknown, seemingly military group. It seemed curious to Ryu that the Turtles seemed to be common knowledge to some and myths to others. But, now, there they were, on camera, in the public eye. Ryu smiled at the knowledge that now, the world could see the Turtles for what they really were, a menace.
“I hope you’re hungry.” Lady Miyoko came into the living room carrying two plates of pecan pie, Ryu’s favorite. Miyoko was a small, yet sharp woman. The passage of time had done its work on the good woman, much like it does to everyone. She still moved quickly, but Ryu knew that it was more for appearances than anything else. Miyoko didn’t care for people knowing that every step she took sent jabs of pain to her knees and back. It took years of pestering, but Ryu was able to convince her to use a cane while walking outside of her apartment. He admired her personal courage and resolve, and used her image to inspire his own fortitude.
Ryu took the pie and gave his thanks as his grandmother sat on the couch next to him.
“You’ve made the news I see.” She said noting the news cast of the Dominators. “Tell me; was all of that destruction necessary?”
“Maybe, maybe not, but we needed to make a statement.”
“Well, you certainly did that. May I suggest that you speak softly next time, with fewer explosions?”
Ryu smiled and nodded.
“So, is it done?”
Ryu nodded again, quickly chewing his bite of pie, not wanting to speak to his grandmother with his mouth full.
“Yes,” Ryu said, “Yoshi is dead.”
“And what of his sons?”
“The mutants will be dealt with later.” Ryu placed his pie on the coffee table in front of him. Grandmother loves her sweets. I guess that’s the same in every family.
“I wanted to give them time to mourn. I know it doesn’t make sense but, I was never able to mourn my father. I felt they deserved that.”
Lady Miyoko scoffed. “They’re a waste of your time, koinu. You could go anywhere, do anything, and yet you waste your time on these pet shop box turtles?” Miyoko leaned into her grandson and hugged him tightly, as if she were still able to protect him from the world outside. “Let go of this grief.”
Ryu returned the hug, and spoke softly, as if her were still the scared boy growing up in a dark world, without a father.
“They took my father from me, grandmother. They took your son. We deserved justice.”
“And now we have it. Hamato Yoshi is dead; end of story.”
Ryu broke away from his grandmothers’ embrace and sighed heavily. He could feel his grandmothers’ eyes studying him, reading his thoughts through his posture, noting the tension in his muscles and the strain on his face. Knowing what he would do even before he did. Ryu didn’t believe in people having a “sixth sense”, but his grandmother made a pretty convincing case for it.
“You’re going to go after them.” Miyoko said, shaking her head. “The Turtles were merely Hamato Yoshi’s arm. If a man is shot in the street, the police arrest the shooter. They don’t imprison the bullets.”
Ryu fixed his gaze toward the floor, feeling like he was five years old and scared again.
“I know, grandmother. I know you’re right. But, do you know what scares me? I declared war on those mutants and their associates because they took my father from me. And at the end of it, I won. I beat them, and yet there is still this pain, this…beast inside me that just wants more. I want to hurt them the way they hurt me. I know that that’s crazy, and I know that none of this will bring my father, a man I never knew, back.”
Ryu rose to his feet and walked over to a nearby window. He gazed out at the calm city in front of him, taking in the warm sunlight that poured in thought the window.
“I just want the pain to go away.”
Miyoko stood behind her grandson, wanting to take the pain from him and add it to her own. But they both knew better. Ryu talked of pain, but Miyoko knew her grandson could bear it. She knew he was stronger than his father, stronger than her. He just didn’t know it yet.
“I wish I could tell you that the pain will go away one day, koinu. But it never will. The pain you speak of, I have lived with it just as long as you have. I have lived with your fathers’ pain of giving you up. I have lived with the pain of seeing your sister reject us in favor of freaks and outcasts. And on top of all of that, I have arthritis. Do you know how expensive my prescription meds are? That is pain.”
Ryu finally looked at his grandmother. Her smile was infectious and Ryu couldn’t help but laugh. This whole time, she was calling him “koinu”, her little pet name for him since he was a kid. He knew, this whole time, she was trying to comfort him.
“The pain you speak of,” Miyoko said, “it becomes smaller. It becomes a part of you. And if you’re lucky, you will learn from it. Your father was a great man. But you have been holding onto the image of the wrong person when you think of the night those Turtles fought your father. They killed the Shredder, not Oroku Saki. The Shredder was cunning, and manipulative and stern. But your father, Oroku Saki, he was calm, and passionate, and he had nothing but love in his heart for you. He wanted nothing more than your happiness. I see you now, on the same path I saw your father.”
Miyoko sat down and looked at her hands, wrinkled and cracked from decades of use, Ryu sat close beside her and looked at her, waiting, knowing there was more to come.
“I’m eighty seven years old Ryu, I know where your path leads. I promise not to meddle. Whatever you choose, I will always be proud of you. But, all I can tell you is that this path…it is not what your father wanted for you.”
Ryu placed his arm around his grandmother’s shoulder. He knew he shouldn’t, but he half expected his grandmother to cry, but he knew better. The woman was cut from stone.
“I know you’re right, grandmother. But this path, it’s bigger than I am. What I’ve started, is bigger than I am.”
Ryu chuckled. “It’s a ridiculous name, I know. But, it means something to many.”
Miyoko looked up at her grandson, and for just a second she swore she saw her own son looking down at her.
“But is that who you are, Ryu?”
Raphael sat on the bank of the river, watching the sunrise. He sat motionless, wiggling his toes in the frosted grass beneath him. A cold, but light breeze washed over him, but it didn’t bother him. He was wearing a large black parka and dark colored pants. Honestly though, it wasn’t bad outside, even this early in the morning, it was turning out to be a mild winter. As of right now, it was just above forty degrees and there wasn’t a snowflake in sight yet.
I guess the universe is taking pity on us. Raphael looked over to the grave that he and Casey had made and closed his eyes, wishing the sight away.
I think we’re due.
Raphael thought back to when he lived in Indiana, where he met Mona. They were living in a homeless shelter underneath a church called Bethlehem Lutheran. It was a nice enough place that guaranteed a free dinner and a cot. They never judged him for how he looked there and they even paid him a small amount of cash for washing dishes and making repairs around the church. Mona didn’t really care for the shelter though. She had made a home for herself living near the coast of Lake Michigan.
Mona used to get so mad at me for running away like I did. He smiled as he remembered a time, not long before he had decided to come back to New York. Raphael told Mona all about his father and brothers. He told her about the fights he’d been in, showed her the scars he had collected. They bonded over love of old superhero comics and video games that they both missed about childhood.
“I don’t get you.” Mona said, they both sat on her cot in the shelter, they were nervous. Mona had to have known that Raphael was considering leaving. Maybe not to go back to New York, but she thought that he would leave her soon, just like mother had.
“What don’t you get?”
“You have this whole family, a father and brothers. Friends that love you and you turned your back on them because you couldn’t see that they were trying to help you.”
“You know my older brother damn near broke my arm because he wanted to help me. Maybe if they had just let me be me, things would be different. But they had to “save” me. You know how much it hurts to hear about how I hurt other people all the time, just by being me?”
Mona tugged at her long brown hair, curling it around her fingers. She was nervous, and Raphael knew why. She didn’t talk about herself much because she thought others would see her and run for it.
“Do you know how much it hurts not to have anyone to run from?” she said. “Ever since I’ve been on my own, I have forced myself into running from people, because…because I am a giant friggin’ mutant lizard-woman. But every time I run, I have no one reaching for me.” Mona placed a hand on Raphael’s cheek and looked deep into his eyes. Raphael swore he could feel her heart beating through her hand, almost in sync with his. “They’re reaching for you, I promise…”
Raphael felt crashing waves of nostalgia envelope him. His memory felt so real that he could almost smell Mona’s hair, the sweet smell of honey that was almost too much for him. When he remembered Monas hand on his cheek, he could swear that he felt the soft scales of her fingertips.
“Nostalgia, my friend, is the first heartbreak we ever know.”
Raphael jolted away from the memory. His muscles tensed as he practically jumped to his feet, scanning the tress behind him for the source of the deep voice that rang out to him.
“We yearn so much for the memories of our youth.” The voice called out again. The voice was deep, yet soothing. Like a bass drum in a symphony. “We scrabble aimlessly to recapture what once made us whole. Only to break when we realize we can never go back.”
Raphael turned and saw the source of the voice…standing on the still river water. He felt a cold churning in his stomach as he saw the Rat King walking towards him. He was much larger than Raphael remembered him, easily a foot taller than him, yet he was frail looking, as if a stiff wind could topple him. His face was still wrapped in dirty, graying bandages, with only his mouth uncovered.
“Be still Raphael.” He said, “I am merely here to say goodbye to a friend.”
The Rat King walked past Raphael and kneeled down at Splinters grave. He looked sullen yet content that his friend was gone.
“Your father is happy where he is. Take solace in that. Use that knowledge to find peace, and brace yourself for what is to come.”
Raphael walked up behind the Rat King who now stood, towering above him like a mountain in the wilderness.
“Quit talking trash and tell me what you want.” Raphael was doing his best to sound strong, demanding answers. But his flushing skin betrayed the queasy fear that he felt in the Rat Kings presence. He knew that this man could manipulate his thoughts, make him see things that weren’t there, but he had to stand his ground. He had to stand tall now, for his family. The Rat King frowned and placed a hand mere inches from Raphael’s face and darkness washed over Raphael. He stood in a monstrous abyss, darker than anything he had ever seen.
“When you found me, I was lost.” The Rat Kings voice rang out, he was everywhere and nowhere all at once. “But in my wanderings, I have found purpose. And my purpose is your warning.”
Raphael looked down and saw Leonardo lying at his feet, blood forming a pool around his body.
Raphael dropped to his knees and reached out to his fallen brother, his own hands covered in blood. He looked at his brother and saw the life draining from his eyes. Leonardo choked and spat out words that were barely audible as he clutched at Raphael’s hands.
“It…should’ve…been you…” Leonardo’s eyes glazed over and his last breath escaped his body as his skin grayed.
“Darkness is coming Raphael.”
Raphael’s eyes opened and found himself in his room. He was on his hands and knees staring at the floor. He looked up and saw Mona sitting up in bed, he could see that she was talking, but her words were muffled and lost to him. He bolted upright, eyes straining against the sunlight attacking him through the window.
“…are you okay?” he heard Mona’s voice as she reached out for him. Raphael grabbed her arm and pulled himself closer to her.
“Raph, baby, are you okay?”
“Mona, please, where’s Leo?”
Raph knew that he must’ve looked hysterical, crazy and maybe a little frightened, but he didn’t care. His brother could be hurt, or worse.
“He’s in his room. Raph you’re hurting me.”
Raphael let go of Mona and charged out of the room, running out into the hallway.
“LEO!” Raphael called out as he charged up the stairs, taking the steps two at a time.
“LEO!” He ran for the end of the hallway, towards Leo and Donnie’s room.
Please Leo, I’m almost there. Please be safe. Raphael kicked down the door and ignored everyone calling after him and following him down the hall. As Raphael entered his brothers room, he saw Leo’s bed, empty but neatly made. Raphael fell to his knees next to Leonardo’s bed, he could hear his brothers asking questions and he could feel Mona gently holding him from behind. He could see April holding Shadow who was crying as Casey tried to comfort them both.
“…Raph, what’s going on?” He could hear Donatello asking him as he and Michelangelo knelt down next to him.
“Bro, what’s up?” Michelangelo asked him. Raphael could feel tears welling up in his eyes as he started to shiver. Raphael’s throat went dry as he tried to find the words that now escaped him.
“Leo…” he said. “He’s gone…Leonardo is gone.”