Chapter 1: A Lesson in History
Splinter strode smoothly across the mats of the training room, pacing slowly back and forth in front of his sons. The four turtles knelt before their master, all eyes trained on the giant rat, awaiting his instruction.
"Your ninja skills help you to survive in the heat of battle, but brute force is not the only tool at your disposal when combating the evils of this world. Knowledge is key in any struggle."
Donatello couldn't help but straighten his posture at that, a proud grin spreading across his face.
Splinter's eyes shifted over to the tallest of his students and, before they young terrapin could react, his tail whipped out with blinding speed and struck Donatello across the face. Donnie let out a yelp, tumbling backwards several feet from the force of the blow.
"Do not gloat, Donatello." Splinter scolded calmly as Donatello scuttled back to his place in line with his brothers, rubbing his cheek as he mumbled a dejected "Yes, Master..."
"I do not refer only to such things as math and science, but also to more abstruse, more involved subjects such as philosophy and history. To know what the evil men of the past have done will help you to prevent the same from occurring again, and understanding the reasons, the motivation behind such things will give insight into how to stop them."
"What does it matter why they do what they do? All we gotta do is take 'em down!" Raphael interjected, which immediately earned him a stinging blow from Master Splinter, though for him the blow was aimed right on the scar on his shoulder. The ninja master merely continued casually on as the young turtle was left holding his shoulder, cursing lightly under his breath.
"That is what you will be learning here today. Sometimes the best of intentions can be warped into hideous deeds. The evil rarely think of themselves as such."
Splinter stopped abruptly once he reached the last of his students in the lineup. He glanced down at the youngest of his four sons, his bushy white eyebrows furrowing in clear annoyance. Michelangelo sat there like the others, but he had his head tilted back, his eyes shut and his mouth gaped open. The other three turtles shifted slightly away from their little brother as he snored away, already seeing an anticipatory twitch in their master's tail. Sure enough, Mikey caught that tail across the face just a moment later, sending him flying to the back of the dojo.
Mikey slammed shell-first against the far wall before slumping haphazardly upside-down on the floor. Despite the energetic wake-up call, the freckled young terrapin merely gave a groggy yawn.
"H-huh? Whuz goin' on?" Michelangelo mumbled, rubbing at his eyes. Splinter let out a sigh, raising a hand to rub at his temple.
"I can see I am merely barking into the wind. We are done… For now. We will continue this another time."
With that, they were dismissed. The four young teens filed out into the main living area, leaving their master to have a well-needed moment of peace. As they headed out, Raphael made a point to shove his trouble-making baby brother as he passed by.
"Way to go, Mikey! Ya pissed Sensei off!" the red-masked turtle growled, earning a mildly indignant grunt from the younger of the two.
"I warned you not to stay up all night playing video games again." Leonardo chimed in. He wasn't normally one to agree with Raphael, especially since he usually resorted to bullying to get his point across, but he did have a legitimate point this time. Mikey merely continued along, eventually vaulting over the back of the couch and flopping down against the cushions.
"But I was so close to the end, dude! I couldn't just stop there!" Mikey mumbled groggily, his voice muffled slightly by the arm of the couch that he'd buried his face against. Donatello merely rolled his eyes at his brother's excuses.
"Whatever. Either way, we've got the rest of the evening to ourselves. Anyone up for some pizza gyoza?"
"Hell yeah!" Raphael replied, his mood brightening instantly at the mention of their favorite food.
"Sounds great." Leo added, an eager smile appearing on his face.
There was a moment of silence. Wait, that didn't seem right... Something was missing here. It didn't take them long to figure out what it was. The three turtles looked over the edge of the couch. Sure enough, there was Michelangelo, snoring away and dead to the world.
"Wow, he must really be tired if 'pizza gyoza' doesn't wake him up." Donatello commented softly, absolutely stunned that Mikey's insatiable hunger hadn't overridden his instinct to sleep.
"Forget him. Let's just go without him. Maybe that way we'll actually be able to eat our own damn meals without him stealing off our plates." Raphael said, not bothering to keep his voice down as he started for the door. Donnie sighed and looked to Leonardo for further input. Leo took another quick glance down at their baby brother before shrugging his shoulders.
"We'll, uhh… We'll just bring him a doggie bag." he decided, giving the lanky turtle a mildly apologetic half-smile. Donnie gave a small nod of agreement before the two headed off to catch up with Raph.
The three had stayed out for a few hours before they finally made their way back to the lair. Stuffed full of pizza-flavored dumplings, they shuffled sluggishly into the living room.
"Man, that was good! So nice ta actually enjoy my whole meal for once!" Raphael announced rather loudly, clearly trying to make a point. Leonardo rolled his eyes.
"Don't be an ass, Raph..."
"Hey, Mikey! We brought ya home some food!" Donatello announced, striding over towards the couch where they'd left their youngest brother. He leaned over the back of the couch, intending to wave the paper bag containing his dinner over the younger turtle's head, when...
He was gone. That was strange... As tired as Michelangelo was, Donnie didn't think he'd be up for another few hours. His confusion hadn't gone unnoticed. Leo came over to see what was the matter.
"Where'd he get off to? I figured he'd still be asleep." the eldest brother commented, barely noticing Raphael pass behind him. Donnie gave a shrug of his shoulders.
"He ain't in his room." Raph called out from across the Lair, poking his head out of Mikey's bedroom. Donnie furrowed his brow, stroking his chin thoughtfully. Then, a feeling crept up in the back of his mind. It was that same feeling he got when a certain someone was messing with something he wasn't supposed to.
Donatello immediately marched off towards his lab. Oh, if that little twerp was messing with his experiments again... He stepped through the threshold, and instantly spotted the green, lightly freckled back of a short mutant turtle's head. Donnie didn't spare a moment to see what he was up to.
"Mikey! What are you doing in here?! How many times have I told you not to play in my lab?!" he barked out, storming up to his little brother. Mikey and science just didn't mix. It was a disaster in the making. Just look at Ice Cream Kitty.
Mikey, somewhat unsure, it seemed, that he was the one being addressed, turned to face his older brother. Donnie stopped dead in his tracks. He'd been so ready to jump down Mikey's throat about touching his things that he hadn't noticed how strangely the younger turtle was dressed. That he was dressed at all was strange enough, but the fine, neat suit he wore wasn't something Donnie would have figured someone like Michelangelo even knew how to put on properly. Yet there he was, not a wrinkle in his trousers, not a scuff on his shoes, an orange cravat tucked neatly under the collar of a tan silk vest, a brown coat hanging down to his knees and, stranger still, a pair of circular spectacles where his mask ought to have been. A pair of very familiar baby-blue eyes blinked back at Donatello in mild confusion.
"Beg pardon? Your lab?" he repeated, his voice laced with a rather charming British accent. Donnie could do nothing but stare, eyes wide and mouth hanging agape in astonishment as Michelangelo proceeded to let out a hearty chuckle. He stepped forward, reaching up to pat the stunned turtle on the cheek as one would do when patronizing a child.
"Oh, how precious! Really! You, with a laboratory!" Mikey stated, as though the very concept was an audacious joke. Donatello shook his head, trying to shake himself out of his daze.
"Uhhh… Mikey..? Are you alright? What the hell are you wearing?" he asked as the shorter turtle made his way back over to the main worktable.
"Quite alright, dear brother! Though I could use a spot of tea. Earl grey, one sugar, and don't forget the milk." Mikey replied casually, never looking up from the small leather-bound book he was flipping through. Donnie opened his mouth to reply before closing it again, seemingly unsure of how to reply. Then he simply held up the paper bag he'd been carrying.
"We… brought you pizza gyoza..?" he offered hesitantly, unsure of anything at the moment. Mikey glanced back at him, that look of confusion on his face once more.
"The devil are 'pizza gyoza'?"
"Guys! Mikey's acting weird!" Donnie shouted as he sprinted back out into the living room. The other two, having heard him shouting at Mikey for being in his lab, had taken to watching TV. Raphael, currently sinking into his beanbag chair and flipping lazily through channels, merely rolled his eyes.
"And that's different from usual how?"
"No, I mean weird for Mikey! He's dressed in these strange old clothes, he's talking with a British accent, and he asked me for tea!" Well, he didn't really ask, more so just told him to do it, but that was neither here nor there. Still, it was enough to make Leo tear his eyes away from the screen.
"But he hates tea…"
"He's just messin' with ya. Prolly pissed we went out to eat without him." Raph assured, still more concerned with the television than the situation at hand. Donnie stared at him for a moment before holding up the untouched bag of leftovers.
"He doesn't want his pizza gyoza!"
That single statement seemed to stop the rotation of the very planet in shock. Leonardo sat frozen, his mouth hanging open in disbelief. The remote had fallen out of Raphael's hand and clattered to the ground. Then, after a long moment frozen in time, the two leaped abruptly from their seats and sprinted into Donnie's lab.
They stood in the doorway for what seemed like hours, merely staring at the strange turtle standing before them. He couldn't be Michelangelo. He simply couldn't! Mikey would never dream of turning down pizza anything, let alone pizza gyoza! Michelangelo, on the other hand, looked quite bored, and not at all happy with being made a spectacle of. He took a cloth from the breast pocket of his vest and proceeded to clean his glasses as he spoke.
"I've been meaning to ask… Why are the lot of you nude? Really, to think my own brothers would be seen in such an unbecoming state… You'll damage my reputation, behaving like such uncultured swine."
That, for whatever reason, seemed to strike a nerve with Raphael, not that that was at all difficult to do. The red-masked turtle charged forward with a growl, taking hold of Michelangelo's collar and lifting him up off his feet threateningly.
"What'd you call me, ya poncy bastard?!" he snarled out. Much to his surprise, he didn't get much in the way of a reaction from his younger brother. Mikey merely arched a brow, staring somewhat boredly down at his hot-tempered sibling.
"I'll ask you to kindly release my coat. I do so detest physical contact." he asked rather calmly. The lack of a reaction served only to anger Raph further.
"No! Yer gonna tell me what the hell yer up to right now or I'm gonna give ya the biggest shell wedgie ya've ever had!" he demanded, balling up his fist at his side. That finally got him a reaction, but not one he'd been expecting. Mikey's eyes narrowed ever so slightly, his bored stare turning icy cold in an instant.
"I'll only ask once more… Remove your hand or I shall remove it for you… At the wrist."
Raphael felt a chill go up the back of his shell. Mikey had never looked at him that way. Hell, Mikey had never looked at anyone that way before. For just a split second, it felt like he was staring into the eyes of Shredder himself. Coming from his little brother, it terrified him more than anything.
Raph lowered Mikey back down to the ground and backed away a few steps, still a bit in shock. Donatello watched the odd exchange with interest, stroking his chin in thought.
"Guys, call me crazy, but… I'm starting to think this isn't our Michelangelo."
The four took a well-needed moment to stop and try to figure out what was going on, eventually settling out in the living room. Michelangelo sat on the couch, one leg hooked neatly over the other as he sipped at his tea.
"As absurd as it is to say, what Donatello surmised earlier is correct. I may look familiar, but I'm afraid I am not the Michelangelo you know. I come from a different reality, an alternate dimension if you prefer. And from the looks of things thus far, one quite different from your own…"
"Yeah, that's for sure…" Raphael mumbled under his breath, visibly keeping his distance from this strange alternate version of his brother.
"But how did you end up here? And where's our brother?" Leonardo asked. Michelangelo set down his cup of tea and picked up the leather-bound book he'd been flipping through earlier, opening it by pure memory to the page he wanted.
"An experiment of mine gone afoul, I must admit. I fancy myself quite the inventor, you see, and my most recent project mingles with the realm of inter-dimensional travel. We experienced an unexpected surge in power during my latest test, and thus I was transported here. As for the Michelangelo of this world, well… They say the universe has its ways of dealing with such temporal paradoxes."
Both Leo and Raph could only stare cluelessly at the explanation, clearly not understanding a word of what he'd just said. Donatello, however, had no such troubles.
"I see… When you transferred to this dimension via your machine, it created a paradox by there being two of the same person in one dimension. To prevent the possibility of them meeting each other, the universe had to get rid of our Mikey before it could let this one cross over to our world."
"Get rid of him? What does that mean? Where is he?" Leo asked as he rose up to his feet, clearly expecting the worst.
"Okay, are we seriously just going to ignore the fact that it was Mikey who just said all that sciencey mumbo-jumbo?!" Raph shouted, though the others seemed to be doing their best to ignore him for now. Donnie considered Leo's question for a moment before providing his theory.
"Logically, one would assume… he's wherever this Mikey belongs."
Chapter 2: London, 1899
The first thing Michelangelo could remember upon waking was the hiss of steam in the background. His head was killing him, he couldn't think straight. He tried to open his eyes, but everything was a blur. He could just make out some machinery, a blinking red light. After a moment, another light came moving towards him. A flashlight? He couldn't quite tell. The light was set aside when it reached him, and a silhouette faded into view above him. A voice spoke to him. It was muffled, but he could just barely understand what it said.
"Blast… Then I was too late… Worry not, dear brother. I will make this right yet…" The voice sounded familiar, though the accent made it hard to pick up on who it was right away. Mikey let out a groan as he felt his body being pulled up, feeling consciousness start to slip away from him once more.
"D... Donnie..?" he mumbled out before everything sunk back into blackness.
When Michelangelo awoke next, he found himself lying in a huge four-poster bed. He sat up slowly, his head still pounding. He had to wait for the room to stop spinning before he attempted to climb out of the bed.
"Oww!" he yelped, rubbing the top of his head. What the hell had he hit? He squinted his eyes, trying to see through the darkness. Metal bars? What the hell was this, some kind of cage? Who would cage a bed? Mikey eventually found the door which, luckily for him, was unlocked.
He tumbled out of bed and looked around. The room was ornately decorated with Victorian furniture and expensive-looking oil paintings. Everything looked like it had come right out of Sherlock Holmes. Well, everything but that creepy pig mask sitting on the dresser.
Mikey made his way out into the hall, which was dimly lit by some very old electrical fixtures mounted on the walls. At least this place had power. Here he was worried he'd be stuck with candles or oil lamps or some shit like that. This place looked old enough for that.
The hall he was walking down seemed to go on forever. This mansion was huge, unlike anything he'd ever seen before. One thing was for sure; he wasn't in New York anymore.
"Donnie? Hey, D! Are ya in here?!" Mikey shouted, his voice echoing down the deserted corridors. He got no reply. At least, not at first.
Suddenly, the whole house began to shake violently, so much so that Mikey struggled to keep his footing. Dust rained down from the rafters, the entire building creaking and moaning from the strain. Then, as suddenly as it had began, it was over. Mikey stood perfectly still for a long while, as if afraid it'd start up again. Once it seemed safe, he let out a sigh of relief.
"Dude... Earthquakes are way more intense in real life than on TV..." he mumbled to himself. Well, that had cemented the fact that this wasn't New York, at least. Donatello had previously assured him that earthquakes, especially ones powerful enough to be felt, were extremely unlikely in New England. Donnie probably thought he hadn't been listening, but he paid attention more than his brothers often gave him credit for.
Crisis averted, he continued through the deserted building, eventually making his way downstairs. He passed through what looked to be a banquet hall with long tables that would seat more people than he'd ever met before in his life. There was a grand piano in the corner, on top of which lay another one of those fancy, colorful pig masks. It seemed like it was staring right at him. Right into him. Michelangelo shuddered.
"O-okay, piggie, yer seriously creepin' a bit, bruh..." he whispered meekly, going over and turning the mask away. It was still creepy, but at least it wasn't looking at him anymore.
He continued through more rooms that were clearly meant for entertaining, one with a bar and pool tables, a few old gramophones lining the walls, another piano. He soon came to a door that looked to lead to a more private section of the mansion. Out of habit, he glanced over his shoulders before opening the door and going in.
This time he found himself in a study. There was a fine wooden desk sitting by the far wall, bookshelves filled with dusty old books and files, and on the wall next to the desk hung several hunting rifles. Of particular interest was the painting hanging behind the desk of a man and his wife, a small baby held close in the woman's arms. The man was well-dressed in a suit and top hat, and the woman wore a Victorian noblewoman's fine lace gown.
Mikey had never seen this particular painting before, but somehow it felt so familiar to him, like he'd known it all his life. It wasn't until he'd gotten a closer look that he realized what it was. Their faces... He knew them. He could never forget them. They looked exactly like the ones in the picture his Master kept in the dojo, the one possession Splinter had managed to keep since his home in Japan was burned to the ground. The likenesses were uncanny. The man in the painting was none other than Hamato Yoshi, the woman Tang Shen. That could only mean the baby was their daughter, Miwa. Karai.
"Woah... Dude, what the hell is goin' on here..?" he breathed out, feeling chills go up his shell. Had someone painted this as a joke or something? Who would even know about his master's true identity? Who would bother with such an elaborate rouse? Surely not Shredder...
Mikey turned to look for some answers in the desk next to him. This room in particular looked more untouched than the others, a layer of fine dust covering everything. He opened the drawer to look for hints, any kind of clue as to who really owned this place. Inside he found only a piece of paper that looked to be ripped out of a journal or something. He read it, or attempted to. The handwriting was neat and rather beautiful, but he struggled with some of the words and concepts.
'November 7th, 1898
The bank is refusing credit, the ignorant swine. I sit alone at night and weep, once the children and servants are safely asleep, when they cannot hear me. My darling, how I need you now. They say I have squandered my fortune, that my investment in these latest machines has ruined the family name. What? That I was to remain a local butcher?
What are these two arms compared to the multitude that can be applied, without pay, without tire, by adapting the mechanisms we find in the looms and the mills. But, if the bank has its way, it will all come to nothing. If they come for the house I swear I will kill them, I will kill them all. I will take my rifle... my rifle...'
Mikey wasn't sure what to think. Could Hamato Yoshi, could Splinter really have written this? It didn't sound like his master at all... And was that date accurate? 1898? That was well over a hundred years ago! Just what the hell was going on?!
As if in answer to his question, the mansion shook once more. Mikey grabbed onto the nearest solid object to keep from falling as he waited it out. Eventually, it stopped.
"Oh, man... I must be in California or sumthin'..." he commented, shaking his head to throw off the fresh layer of dust. Suddenly, whatever he was using as a brace gave way under his weight, causing him to land face first on the floor. He looked up to see what it was, worried he'd broken something. What he saw was one of the hunting rifles hanging halfway off the wall in such a position that it really should have fallen to the ground with him. Next to the rifles, a section of the wall had opened up.
"Dude! Secret passages! Sweeeet!" he said as he hopped back up to his feet. He entered the passage without hesitation. This space was much different from the rest of the house. No ornate decorations, just bare wood and rafters, concrete below his feet. A short ways in, he passed what looked like a window out into the hall. Except... Hadn't he just been down that hall? He didn't remember seeing any windows... And why did it look like there were faint images imprinted in the glass? Then it hit him. This wasn't a window at all, it was the back of one of the oil paintings in the hall! So, someone liked spying on people behind the walls, eh? That wasn't creepy at all.
He was about to continue down the passage when he caught some light moving out of the corner of his eye. He looked back to the painting just in time to see someone walk by in the hall outside. Someone very familiar.
"Donnie!" Michelangelo shouted, pressing his face against the glass back of the painting. It was indeed his brother, there was no mistaking that, but... What the hell was he wearing? It looked like some old grey suit tailored specially for him, a loose purple bow tied around his collar. He carried what looked like a lantern of sorts, lighting his way through the dim hallways. He didn't seem to notice the younger turtle there behind the walls.
Mikey sprinted through the passage as Donatello rounded a corner and left his sight. He had to find a way out of there. He had to talk to Donnie. If anyone would know what was going on, it would be him. Eventually, he reached a dead end. He slammed a fist against the wooden wall, cursing under his breath.
"Dammit! C'mon, open up!"
But this was one time percussive maintenance wasn't going to work. He had to find an intelligent solution to this. Yeah, good luck there. But wait... He'd played video games like this before, hadn't he? Surely there was a switch around here that would open up an exit. Sure enough, he managed to find a lever nearby, which opened the passage out into the hall.
Mikey sprinted out, trying to catch up with his brother. He couldn't have gone that far, could he? He soon found the hall he'd seen Donnie turn down, and was instantly greeted by the light of a lantern being shined in his face. He shielded his eyes, having gotten so used to the darkness of the mansion that he was nearly blinded when he rounded the corner.
"Yo, D, turn down the light, bro!" he whined as he made his way forward. As he approached, however, he realized that there wasn't anyone holding the lantern. It had been placed on the ground, the owner nowhere to be seen. He picked up the lantern and used it to look around. Nothing. Donatello had vanished without a trace.
Then, there was a loud ringing just behind him. Mikey let out a yelp, nearly jumping out of his shell at the sudden noise. He looked over to see what it was and saw... What the hell was that? Was that supposed to be a telephone? It was like some weird wooden box mounted on the wall with a small speaker mounted in it, an old microphone-looking object resting on the small shelf attached at the bottom. It continued to ring at him, the sound of brass alarm bells echoing down the hall. With some hesitation, unsure how to work the thing, he reached over and flipped a switch. A green light came on. Did it work? He leaned forward and attempted to speak into the microphone.
'Good, you are awake. I haven't much time to explain...' came the voice over the speaker. For a moment, Mikey couldn't believe his ears. This voice, speaking low and quick, also had a British accent, but he knew it well.
"Raph! Dude, is that really you? Where are ya? An' why the hell are ya talkin' like that? Have you an' Leo been watchin' Doctor Who again?" he asked quickly, not giving the person on the other end of the line time to answer between questions.
'All will be made clear in time, but you must first return to the factory. The Machine is fouled, it is breached, it is flooded. I cannot return you to your world until it is repaired. The task is a simple one, but I need you here to reactivate it.'
That whole bit had Michelangelo's head spinning. Wait, what factory? What machine? And what did he mean 'his world'? Where the hell was he if he wasn't already in his world?!
"Ummm... Dude, what?"
'Cut through the chapel to avoid being seen. Below the altar. The passage will take you here, but make haste. We haven't the time to dally.'
"W-wait! Raph! What chapel?! Where do I go?!" Mikey asked hurriedly, trying to catch Raphael before-
Yeah, he wasn't sure why he didn't expect that to happen. It was Raphael, after all. He let out a sigh and clicked the phone's switch off.
No sooner had he touched the switch than the house began to shake violently once more, more so than it had earlier. He was sent tumbling to the floor, the lantern flying out of his hand and flickering along with the rest of the hall lights. Once the shaking stopped this time, however, the lights didn't come on again.
"O-okay, chapel it is!" he laughed nervously, scrambling to his feet and snatching up the lantern from the floor. He made his way quickly through the mansion, wanting to get the hell out of there before the whole thing came crashing down on his head. Eventually, after opening just about every door in the massive house, he found one that led outside.
It was a frigid night, pitch black and cold as ice. Mikey's breath came out as puffs of fog, goosebumps covering his bare skin in an instant. Okay, this was one time he really wished he wore clothes... He didn't have time to worry about that, though. From the way Raph had been talking, the chapel couldn't be far away. He had to find it and get inside before he froze to death.
It must have been late, because the streets seemed as deserted as the mansion had been. Everything was pitch black. There were street lamps, rather large, ornate ones, but they were all out. Was the power out for the whole city?
He made his way out through the mansion gate, staring up at the buildings lining the cobblestone road. They looked as old as the mansion, some much older, it seemed. He'd never seen a town like this, at least not in real life. He was used to skyscrapers, apartments, office buildings, subway trains... He wasn't even sure there was a place like this in America, let alone New York.
He didn't have to go far before he spotted what he was looking for. A steeple appeared through the fog, a golden cross sitting atop it. That had to be it! He didn't bother with the gate. Knowing his luck, it was probably locked. Plus there was some rust-bucket of an old truck parked in the way. He jumped over the gate, and... fell flat on his face in the dirt of the courtyard.
"Oww..." he mumbled against the ground. Well, that was graceful. He was glad no one was around to see that. Where did he land, though? It smelled worse than the sewer. He lifted himself up to his hands and knees and-
"H-holy shit!" he screamed, scrambling out of the ditch he'd fallen into. He looked back down, back at the two lifeless brown eyes staring up at him from under a filthy linen headwrap. The creature in the grave was hideously deformed, like someone had made some attempt to twist the poor wretch's form into something else. It was a mutant, it had to be, but... He'd never seen one quite like this. He craned his neck to get a better look at its face without tumbling into the open grave. He spotted a somewhat familiar-looking snout, a pair of short, dull tusks sticking out from its lower jaw. It was a pig.
"Duuude... And I thought Bebop was ugly..." he whispered to himself in awe. Well, whatever this thing was, he didn't want to be around it much longer.
Michelangelo grabbed his lantern and made his way up to the church entrance. With a bit of effort, he pushed the heavy wooden doors open and slipped inside.
The church seemed massive on the inside, with high vaulted ceilings and tall pillars holding the roof up. It was just as dark in there as it was outside, and ten times as creepy. He just had to find the altar, right? Raph said something about a secret passage underneath. He made his way down the center aisle between the pews, up towards the pulpit. He stepped up, and immediately froze.
The solid stone altar sat before him in the middle of a large circular alcove, its edges still trimmed with holly from Christmas service. The holly had been stained, however. Drenched, really. In blood. He didn't need to wonder where the blood had come from. Pinned to the large cross on the altar, its belly slit open and its innards spilling out, was a pig. It wasn't a mutant, not like the one outside in the open grave. It was a normal pig. Of course, that didn't make it any less disturbing.
"Uhhh... 'Kay... I, uhhh... I think I'm done playing this game!" he squeaked out, stumbling backwards a few steps. Raphael really could have done well to at least warn him about this! Oh, there was some seriously bad mojo going on here. But... He had to get through, didn't he? Raph was waiting for him. He was going to explain everything, to help fix everything. Something he'd expect more from Donatello, but he'd take anything he could get at this point.
With considerable hesitation, not wanting to touch the pig's spilled intestines, he braced his hands against the edge of the altar and pushed. He pushed with all his might, but it wouldn't budge. He put his shoulder into it, he even tried to kick the damn thing, but it was hopeless. He slumped down against the stone, taking a moment to catch his breath.
"Aw, man... This is impossible... What the fuck am I supposed ta do?!" he growled in utter frustration, slamming a fist against the ground. A few seconds later, the tile he'd hit sunk into the floor by about an inch. He glanced down at it, confused. Then, he felt the stone move behind him. He jumped up to his feet and watched as the altar slid back to the wall, the sound of huge gears meshing and turning under the floor and behind the walls. The floor split open, and stone steps descended into the darkness.
"Huh. It worked this time." he commented to himself, grabbing his lantern once more and darting down the stairs. He didn't think whatever was down there could be any worse than what he'd just left upstairs.
He was starting to get really sick of being wrong all the time. This 'secret passage' of Raphael's was a dingy, filthy cellar, large cages lining the walls and stacked up to the low ceiling. Some of them were covered with canvas. He could swear he could hear moaning from some.
"Okay, no... Nope. Nuh uh. Not doin' this. I'm out, dude. I'll find some other way to the factory." he whimpered out before turning around to dart up the stairs. He never got the chance. The stone slabs that made up the stairs moved quickly back up against the floor of the church, the way back sealed by over two feet of solid marble. No way back now.
"Aww, c'mon, dude! Ya gotta be kidding me!" he groaned out, immediately starting to look for a switch or something that would bring the stairs back, something that would open everything back up. He'd been searching for several minutes when he heard something just behind him. It sounded like something scoffing at him, snorting almost.
"Dude, don't rush me, bruh. I'm tryin' ta find the damn switch..." he grumbled, brushing whoever it was away. It took him a moment before he realized the obvious problem. Slowly, Michelangelo peeked back over his shoulder, shining his lantern up at the mysterious person. Towering over him, brown eyes staring down at him, muscles rippling under deformed flesh, stood the mutant from earlier, the Manpig lying in the grave.
But that couldn't be possible... That thing was dead!
As if angered by the very thought, the Manpig let out a loud, screeching roar, raising a club-like hoof above it's head, preparing to bring it down on the little turtle's skull. Michelangelo's eyes widened. Yes, he was quite sure at this point that he did not like this route to the factory.
Chapter 3: Power Trip
Donatello and Michelangelo had been holed up in the lab for hours, chattering away and exchanging theories. Donnie was currently standing over his microscope, peering into the eyepiece with captivated interest. Clamped in place where a specimen slide would normally be was a small blue stone, which shimmered with unseen facets and glowed with a mysterious energy. It's geometry seemed impossible, the surface was both rough as sandpaper and smooth as glass all at the same time. The longer one stared at it, the harder it became to discern exactly what it really looked liked.
"Fascinating... This is absolutely astounding!" he thought aloud, his excitement showing clearly in his voice. He then removed the stone from the microscope, grabbing something that looked like a metal food thermometer connected to a computer cord, touching the metal tip lightly against the strange crystal's surface. The moment he did, all manner of readings began streaming across his monitor screen. This only seemed to widen the grin on Donatello's face.
"I've never seen anything like this! The energy this thing is putting out is absolutely unheard of for something so small! And you say you used this to power your machines?"
"The core of it, yes." Michelangelo began, taking the tiny pearl-sized stone and replacing it in it's setting at the end of his tie tack. The stone sat almost unnoticeable at the center of his orange cravat. For something so powerful to look so innocuous when worn like that... It almost seemed a waste.
"This is but a small shard of the Orb at the heart of my machine. It is an amazingly powerful relic. Without it, my experiments would have been impossible to complete. One cannot travel between dimensions on pure steam power alone, I assure you."
"Are you two egg-heads still geeking out in here? It's been hours."
The two glanced over towards the entrance of the lab, where Raphael stood leaning against the archway with his arms folded across his chest. They'd both been so busy that neither seemed to have noticed him watching them. Donatello merely rolled his eyes at his brother's comment.
"Well, excuse us 'eggheads' for boring you. We happen to be working out a plan for getting Mikey back home!"
"Kindly refrain from calling me that. I don't much care for suck nicknames…" Michelangelo interjected, earning a suspicious glare from the red-masked turtle. Before he could retort with another snide remark, Leonardo came in to check up on their progress.
"So? Did you come up with anything? Can we switch them back?"
"Yeah, in theory. Mikey… I mean, Michelangelo and I should be able to rebuild the unit that slipped him through the dimensional barrier into our world. The only problem is we don't have the power to run it." Donatello replied, unrolling the large piece of paper he'd copied Michelangelo's plans onto. It was the only page in that leather journal of his that the shorter turtle had allowed him to look at. An old habit, he'd claimed, not wanting rival inventors to steal his designs. Donnie had understood the sentiment and respected his wishes, sticking solely to the blueprint of his dimensional teleportation unit.
"So, what? Double-A batteries ain't gonna cut it?" Raph commented, earning a sharp glare from the bespectacled terrapin.
"The Orb is not a product of this dimension, nor even mine for that matter. It is a pure, crystalline energy unlike anything humans are capable of creating." he snapped back matter-of-factly.
"Wait… a crystal power source? Do you think one of the Kraang power crystals would work?" Leonardo offered. Donnie's face lit up at that.
"Leo, you're a genius! If we can get a big enough power crystal, it should be able to work!" Donnie cheered, feeling like their plan actually had a chance to work. After staring at the lot of them for a moment, Michelangelo stepped forward with a question.
"Pardon my ignorance, chaps, but… 'Kraang'? What the devil are you on about?"
"The Kraang are a species of highly evolved aliens from Dimension X. Much of their technology is powered by crystalline power sources similar to your Orb. In fact, and this is just a speculation, but it's entirely possible the Orb could be of Kraang origin as well." Donatello explained. Michelangelo hummed thoughtfully at that, the gears clearly turning in his head, calculating.
"I see… Another extra-dimensional power crystal… Yes, that should suffice, so long as it can be tuned to match the harmonics of the Orb. That should create the link to my dimension and allow me to switch back to the proper world, bringing your brother home as well, rather than some other Michelangelo from a different, random dimension."
"Well, there's only one way to find out." Donatello replied. Raphael grinned, unsheathing his sais and spinning them around this fingers.
"Yes! Finally, some action! Let's go bust some brains!" he cheered. His brothers both let out a cheer of agreement. Their other-dimensional visitor, however...
"Oh dear… You intend to take it by means of violence? What barbarous methods you have…" Michelangelo scoffed, cringing at the very thought of getting his hands dirty. The other three could only stare at him.
"You don't mean..." Leonardo trailed off, awestruck.
"Yer kiddin' me… Ya don't even know how to fight?" Raphael finished for his older brother.
"Heavens no! I'm a scientist, not some uncivilized brute! If that's the way you lot do things, then feel free to go without me. I shall remain here and begin work on the device." he replied, straightening the collar of his coat as he returned to Donatello's worktable, taking up the plans for his device and looking them over once more.
Leonardo, a bit unsure, looked back at the other two for input. They only offered him a shrug of their shoulders. Leo sighed and looked back at Michelangelo, who was somehow more alien to him now than he had seemed just a moment ago.
"Alright, if you say so…"
The three of them left their guest to his work, going off to take care of some business as only they could. They emerged like shadows from the sewers, flying unseen up the nearest fire escape like specters in the night, and proceeded along rooftops towards their intended target. The Kraang invasion may have been pushed back, but they knew all too well that their enemy was still present and active in the city. More importantly, they knew where some of their remaining operational outposts were located. With any luck, in one of them they would find a crystal large enough to match the power of that miraculous little stone that powered the original machine.
Raphael brought up the rear of the group, unconsciously following his brothers while he let half his mind wander. They'd invaded Kraang bases before, but somehow this time felt different. It felt wrong. It felt like they were directing their energy towards the wrong target.
It felt like they'd left the Devil himself in their home.
Raphael stopped abruptly, the others following suit once they noticed he'd stopped.
"I don't like leavin' that guy alone in the lair…" Raph announced before the others had a chance to ask what was the matter. Leonardo furrowed his brow in confusion.
"Why not? It's just Mikey." he assured. Raphael shook his head in reply.
"No, he ain't! He's like some bizarro backwards version of Mikey! I don't trust him!"
"Riiight. Just because he happens to be extremely intelligent, you suddenly don't trust him. I see how it is." Donatello replied, clearly not liking the implications of such a statement. Raphael gave a frustrated growl.
"It ain't that, dammit! He just… gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, y'know?" he explained, looking down at his feet. How could he make the others understand if they didn't feel it themselves? This was wrong. All of it was wrong. He just couldn't put his finger on why.
Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up, his gaze meeting a pair of light blue eyes. Leonardo gave him a reassuring smile.
"It's probably just because you aren't used to seeing Mikey like that. Either way, it should be good incentive for us to hurry up and get that power crystal." Leo assured. Raphael wanted to believe him, he truly did, but... He only had to remember that icy glare Michelangelo had given him, the all-too-serious threat to cut off his hands, and he felt that sense of dread rising up in him once more. He closed his eyes, shuddering.
He soon felt something press against his forehead. He didn't have to open his eyes to know what it was, and it calmed him all the same. He heard his older brother whispering to him a mere inch from his face.
"We'll have our baby brother back soon. Our real baby brother. I promise..."
Raphael let out a sigh, trying to let all of the tension, all of the negative thoughts, all of the fear go. It would all be okay. They just had to get this power crystal and everything would fall back into place. Same as it ever was... right?
"You'd better be right, bro..." he whispered back. He could practically feel the smile on Leo's face before he backed off. Raph opened his eyes in time to see Leo and Donnie continue off across the rooftops. He let out one last sigh before following after them.
They arrived soon enough. It was a previously scouted weapons cache tucked away in some abandoned buildings out in the Bronx. The Kraang were still recovering from their thwarted invasion of New York, but that didn't mean they were short-handed when it came to security. No, this outpost out of all of them would be heavily defended, given the volatile contents. Not the easiest place to break into, but it was the only one that would have what they needed.
The three moved quickly and silently. The Kraang were nothing if not logical, almost robotic in their every activity. It made them somewhat easy to predict. A few minutes of observation revealed their patrol pattern. They slipped past and from there made their way into the vents. Their base layout was more or less logical as well. Their most guarded materials would be kept in the lowest level underground. That's where they needed to head.
"Woah, hold up a sec', guys." Leo ordered as they came to a halt in front of what could only be the heavy door of a vault. Mounted into the wall next to the door was one of the few things about the Kraang that didn't seem to use an ounce of logic; their technology. Donnie let out a groan.
"Uuugh, I hate Kraang computers... They make no sense at all!" he grumbled, reluctantly stepping forward to try to figure out the access panel. It was more complicated than their usual ones, this one seeming like the equivalent of one of their full computers.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but I wish Mikey was here. He's practically a savant when it comes to Kraang tech..."
Donnie turned to look at Raph, utterly confused.
"Y'know... 'What Would Mikey Do'? He's the freak genius with this crap. Just do what he'd do."
Donnie sighed. Just do what Mikey does? Yeah, that was easier said than done. He wasn't insane enough for this. The longer he stared at the console, the less it made sense. It was like trying to visually examine Michelangelo's Orb shard...
But that was it, wasn't it? Don't think, don't study. Just do. Mikey, their Mikey, lived by intuition alone. He just had to let go of his scientist's urge to over-analyze everything and just go with his gut.
It felt rather ridiculous, hitting random points on the console pad, simply letting his hands go wherever they wanted. This continued for quite a bit longer than he felt it should, but he didn't stop.
Suddenly, he simply lifted his hands off the keypad. He didn't know what told him it was enough, but he just... knew. There was a long moment where nothing happened. Then another. And another. Finally, Leonardo opened his mouth to ask if he'd done it right, when...
"Hah! Got it!" Donnie cheered as the massive door split open, the two halves sliding apart and disappearing into the walls. The three rushed in. Oh, they had the right room alright. The walls were lined with weapons; blasters and transport platforms, heavily armored robot suits and hover units, and, most importantly... Power crystals. They were kept suspended in a massive containment unit, hundreds of them ranging in size from those that would fit in the palm of your hand to ones that easily towered over the average human.
"Alright, Don. Ball's in your court." Leo said, stepping aside to let their resident expert have a look. Donatello opened up the containment unit and climbed in, pulling out a portable version of the energy sampler he had back at his lab. He tested several crystals, but none seemed to have the power they needed. He moved to the truly humongous ones, and few of them even approached the level of energy that Michelangelo's tiny shard could put out. Finally, he found one that was perfect.
"Got it! It's this one!" Donnie announced from deep inside the large container. Raph and Leo climbed in and stared in awe at the crystal Donnie had chosen. It was easily a foot taller than the lanky turtle, and had to weigh at least twice as much.
"You gotta be kiddin' me! It's huge! Does it really have to be that one?!" Raph shouted. How in the hell were they supposed to sneak something like that out?! Leo shook his head in disbelief.
"Can't we use a bunch of smaller crystals together instead of one big one?"
"Nope. It has to be one solid piece. Trying to harmonize the frequencies of more than one of these things is near-impossible. The shards of the Orb are quantum linked with the core back in Michelangelo's world. We have to trick it into thinking that this is one of those shards or we won't be able to dial into the right universe."
"Okay, okay, 'science', I get it... But how the hell are we going to get it out of here?" Raph asked. It was a rather good question, one Donatello had been trying to figure out himself. He glanced to Leo, as if asking for ideas. Leo nodded over towards one of the hover transports by the vault wall. Ahh, of course. How else would the Kraang move the crystals themselves?
"Hey, Raph. You were a Kraang once." Donnie began with a smirk. Raphael gave a shudder.
"Ughh, don't remind me..."
"Do you happen to remember how to drive Kraang vehicles?"
Slowly, a smirk spread across his face. Oh, of course he did. That just left one question...
"But... How are we supposed to sneak it past the Kraang? They're gonna notice, and that hover thing isn't exactly a Bugatti." Leo pointed out. Donnie merely smiled.
"Simple. We give them something bigger to worry about."
In answer to Raphael's question, Donatello held up a second, much smaller crystal.
"You didn't think we were gonna leave these Dalek wannabes with this much firepower, did you?" he replied with a smirk. Raphael couldn't hide the excitement on his face. Oh yeah! Time to blow some brains in tin cans sky high!
"Donnie, have I ever told you you're a fuckin' genius? 'Cause yer a fuckin' genius!"
Casey Jones was currently lounging on the couch in the Turtle's underground lair, his feet propped up against the edge of the coffee table as he flipped through the channels on the television. Or tried to, at least. It was rather hard when April kept pacing back and forth in front of him. Eventually he gave up, tossing the remote aside.
"C'mon, Red. Relax. These are the Turtles we're talkin' 'bout. Whatever's goin' on, you know they got it taken care of. Why stress out over it?"
"'Why stress out over it?'" April repeated, stopping her pacing to glare at Casey. "Did you not see Mikey when we got here?! Didn't you hear him?! That wasn't Mikey! Something's seriously wrong here!"
"Yeah, well... maybe it's all one big joke?" Casey offered with a shrug of his shoulders. April shook her head.
"Mikey doesn't joke like that... It's not his style. Casey, I just... What if the other three are like that, too? I don't think I can handle four of my friends turning into pompous douche-bags..."
Suddenly, there was a loud metallic bang outside in one of the tunnels leading to the lair, followed by some shouting.
"Dammit, Raph! Are you trying to blow us all up?!"
"Gimmie a break, would ya? This thing's supposed ta be steered with tentacles! I think I did a pretty damn good job getting this far without crashing, don't you?!"
"Enough. Let's just get this thing inside."
April gave a mild sigh of relief. Well, they sounded normal at least. That didn't mean there was a lack of questions she had for them, mind you. Just reassurance that she might actually get some answers.
The questions just kept piling up as the three turtles made their way inside. They were covered in soot and dust, the tail ends of their masks singed as though they'd just been in some sort of explosion. On top of that, they were carrying the single largest Kraang power crystal she'd ever seen in her life.
"Guys! What the hell is going on?!" Yeah, that summed it up pretty well. Leonardo gave the others a nod of his head and, very carefully, they set the heavy crystal on the ground. Donnie straightened up, turning to flash April a nervous grin.
"I, uhh... I take it you've 'met' Michelangelo?"
"You're damn right I did! What the hell happened to him? He's a complete dick!"
"I dunno, he coulda been ruder 'bout it." Casey commented from the couch, earning him another icy glare from April.
"You're not helping!"
"Oh dear... What'd he do?" Donnie sighed. A common question when referring to Mikey, though this time seemed quite different from the norm. At that point Casey rose up from his spot on the couch. He cleared his throat, straightened his back and held the collar of a non-existent coat, his nose turned up as though it was below him to look the lot of them in the eye. Oh, this would be a good show...
"'My dear girl, what are you wearing? It's quite improper for a lady to dress like a man, and wearing a young boy's trousers at that! Showing your legs like that, your face painted up like a cheap harlot... I shudder to think why my dear brothers would allow such an unsavory character into their home!'"
The Turtles stared at Casey as he gave them his best British accent, clearly mocking one of Michelangelo's little outbursts when they'd first met him. April gave a light huff, folding her arms across her chest.
"I'm not even wearing that much make-up!"
"Actually, in the Victorian era, natural beauty was prized over wearing make-up. In fact, the only women who really wore make-up at all back then were either actresses or whor-..." Donnie halted his explanation when he caught the look April was giving him. He bit his lip, wanting to pull his head down into his shell and hide.
"I-I mean... Y-you look very lovely, as always!"
"So, where is the li'l Scrooge? We damn near got our tails toasted getting this crystal for his stupid machine." Raph interjected before Donnie could dig himself deeper into a hole. Casey prepared his impression once more.
"'What utter filth! Really, that my own brothers would willingly reside in a sewer of all places! I shan't stay here a moment longer!'"
"Wait, he left?!" Leonardo asked. Oh no... This was bad. Somewhere out there in the vastness of modern New York City was a mutant turtle from an era that still thought skyscrapers were the objects of engineers' fantasies. Hell, their state alone was larger than Michelangelo's entire home country. He'd surely be lost in an instant.
"Please tell me he mentioned where he was going..."
It actually took longer to hunt Michelangelo down than it had taken them to infiltrate the Kraang outpost. He'd somehow made his way all the way down near the docks across town. The three found him in an old abandoned warehouse that looked like it was once used to build small boats. He'd already made himself quite at home, having set up some dusty old tables in the middle of the workshop floor, his impromptu lab already coming together with some old equipment he'd scrounged up.
"Uhh... Michelangelo?" Donnie called out as the three of them made their way inside. The bespectacled turtle looked up from some large pile of old boat engine parts, looking not surprised at all to see his brothers.
"Ah, there you lot are! I've been wondering when you'd show up. Had some difficulties with your extraterrestrial friends, I take it?"
"Hey, it woulda helped if ya'd told someone where ya were goin'! Ya can't just take off like that!" Raphael growled defensively.
"Michelangelo, I'm not sure what it's like for you in London, but it's very dangerous for us to be seen by normal humans. We've got a lot of enemies in this city." Leo added, trying to defuse the argument between the two before it began.
"Oh, I assure you, I am quite experienced in keeping my identity hidden from the human populace. I can't just lurk in the shadows like you lot, by the by. I happen to run a business. I have a certain reputation to uphold, appearances I can't avoid making. I know how to hide my true identity from a person whilst simultaneously engaging in conversation with them. Trust me, you needn't waste time worrying about me. Now that that's out of the way, please, tell me you've been successful in finding the power source I need."
"Yeah, we got it, but it's back at the Lair. We can go get it for you now if you want." Leo offered, sparking a small chorus of groans from the other two. Michelangelo gave a pleased smile.
"Oh yes, please do! I'm eager to get started as soon as possible."
With that, the other three took off somewhat reluctantly to go retrieve the power crystal once more. Once they were gone, Michelangelo returned to where he was working before he'd been interrupted. He took a quick glance over his shoulder, making sure his 'brothers' were truly gone before pulling out a small glass canister from under his coat, clearly something he'd 'borrowed' from Donatello's lab before he left. He examined the glowing green liquid inside, a small smirk spreading across his lips.
Yes, he would get to work right away...
Chapter 4: Here, Piggy Piggy
Michelangelo dove away just as the hulking mutant pig brought its hoof crashing down, cracking the cement where the young turtle stood just a moment ago. It let out another loud, screeching roar, slamming a shoulder into one of the cages lining the walls before giving chase after it's quarry. Mikey scrambled through the dark, musty basement, dodging the flying cages by mere inches.
"Woah, woah! Chillax, piggie dude! I ain't tryin' ta start a fight with ya!" Mikey shouted, ducking to dodge another swinging blow aimed to take off his head. Whatever this thing was, it was clearly in no mood to talk. He hated resorting to hurting someone, especially since this pig didn't seem smart enough not to think he was a threat, but he couldn't simply dodge forever.
Mikey hooked his lantern to his belt, freeing up both hands to unsheathe his nunchaku. He waited for the Manpig to lash out at him once more, leaping above the blow as it crashed into concrete below. He vaulted over the hulking beast's shoulder, hooking the chain of one of his nunchaku around its thick neck. He braced both feet against its back, pulling back on both ends of his weapon.
The Manpig let out a horrid squeal, lowering down on all fours and bucking wildly, slamming itself into walls and cages and anything else it could find. It wasn't long before Michelangelo found himself flying across the room, slamming shell-first into a cage so hard it left a large turtle shell shaped indentation in the bars. Mikey let out a pained groan as he picked himself up off the floor. He looked up towards the pig just in time to watch it bite clean through the handle of his nunchaku, wooden splinters raining down from it's powerful jaws.
"Oh shit..." he breathed out, his eyes wide. Well, so much for not wanting to hurt the thing. It was starting to look like that wasn't possible, not with his weapons, at least. He would kill for Leo's katana right about now.
The beast lowered down once more, giving another roar before charging at the young terrapin. Mikey let out a yelp, diving away as the pig crashed headlong into the cage behind him. He took the opportunity to run while the creature was dazed, shutting off his lantern as he slipped behind one of the covered cages. It was clear he couldn't fight this thing, not alone. He needed to get out of there and find Raphael.
Easier said than done. He could hear the Manpig just feet away, snuffling around the cages, trying to sniff the turtle out. Mikey practically held his breath as the beast closed in, sniffing around the other side of the cage he was hiding behind, afraid the slightest noise would alert it to his position.
Finally, the snuffling faded, the Manpig's heavy footsteps wandering off to some other part of the basement. Mikey waited until it was quite a ways away before letting out his held breath. The creature was too far away to hear him, but the same couldn't be said of someone else.
"H-hello?! Please, God, let me out of here!" a man's voice shouted from behind him, causing Mikey to jump in surprise. It took him a moment, but he eventually figured out where the voice was coming from; it was the cage. The man was hidden from view by the heavy canvas covering the cage, but he could both hear and feel as the man rattled the cage bars, shouting, desperate to get out.
"Dude! N-no! Shhh! Seriously, it'll-" But it was far too late. It had already heard. He could hear the Manpig barreling through the basement towards him. Mikey took off running through the maze of cages, willing himself not to look back even as the caged man's voice stopped crying out abruptly, smothered out by the sound of twisting metal and a sickening, meaty splatter. Still, the pig continued after him unimpeded, as if it hadn't noticed at all what it had just crushed in its wild hunt.
Mikey still had no idea where he was going, but he was desperate to get out of that cellar. He vaulted over cages and tipped over barrels in his effort to slow his pursuer, but it didn't seem to do much. Finally, just as he was running out of places to run to, he spotted something. It was just a split second, just out of the corner of his eye, but it was the most welcome sight he'd ever seen.
The young turtle sprinted towards what looked like a solid wall, grabbing hold of something metal protruding out ever so slightly. A solid grip on the handle, he pushed with all his might until the false wall swung open, a rush of cool, fresh air hitting his face as he fell forward onto the concrete floor of what looked like a large loading dock. He quickly scrambled to his feet, pushing the secret door back into place. He barely heard the click of the latch locking back into place before the Manpig slammed itself into the other side of the wall. The building rattled under the force, dust and chunks of brick raining down over Michelangelo's head.
Everything calmed down once the creature gave up. Mikey slumped down against the wall, taking a moment to catch his breath. What the hell was going on here?! What was that thing? Was it the same one he'd seen in the grave, or were there more of them?
Just more questions to ask Raphael. He picked himself up, stumbling lightly from the aching in his legs, and made his way out into the streets once again.
It didn't take long to get to the factory from there, that much was true. He'd spotted the tall smokestacks the instant he stepped out of the loading bay. As he approached, he could see a large sign above the entrance of what looked like the main building.
"'Hamato Co. Meat Processing Factory'... Woah, way bizarre, dude." he commented aloud, staring up almost in awe at the size of this place. Did all of it really belong to Master Splinter? He just couldn't picture him as some big business man, especially when the business he ran was something like this.
Not wanting to waste any time, Michelangelo made his way inside. It looked like some sort of reception area, with a couple of desks on either side of the entrance way. The lamps on the desks were turned on, but their light didn't reach very far. He took his lantern from his belt, switching it on to have a better look around. Despite the lights and even some of the ceiling fans being on, it didn't look like this office had ever been used. It was almost like it was all a front, the facade of a normal business hiding something much bigger underneath. Just what was Hamato Yoshi doing with all this?
"Ah, there you are. Not the most punctual man in the world, are you?"
Mikey turned when he heard his brother's voice behind him, a huge smile on his face. British accent or not, it was good to finally hear a friendly, familiar voice in this crazy place.
"Yo, Raph! Ya coulda given me better directions, br-" Mikey paused when he saw his brother. He almost didn't recognize him. He wore a black suit that was covered in spots by what looked like coal dust, a gray silk vest underneath, and a red puff tie tucked into the collar. He wore a dusty black bowler on his head and an expression on his face that Mikey hadn't seen since Raphael had accidentally swapped minds with a Kraang.
"Dude... Weird threads, bro..." Mikey commented, a bit unsure now. Raphael's dull expression hardly twitched at that.
"You're certainly one to talk, wandering around in the nude in the dead of winter." he replied almost boredly, not agitated at all by Mikey's comments. The shorter turtle furrowed his brow slightly. He was late, he was making smart-ass comments, yet there wasn't an ounce of anger in Raph's voice. He'd usually be smacked upside the head by now. But no, instead Raphael merely cleared his throat and started off towards the door at the back of the room, looking hardly bothered by anything at all. Hardly entertained either, for that matter.
"Come. We've much to do and so little time to do it." Raphael stated, leading the way through the door as if expecting the other to follow behind. Mikey did, jogging a bit to catch up. Once through the door, they found themselves walking on a grated platform, surrounded on all sides by gigantic machines of brass and iron. Mikey couldn't help but stop and stare for a long moment. He'd never seen machinery like this in his life, even in his modern age. It was all so new, so enchanting, yet... Something about it all seemed so very dark.
"Hurry along, then. You may gawk later after we repair The Machine." Raphael called out, continuing on ahead of him and starting down a set of stairs. Mikey ran after him.
"So, uhh... What's wrong with your machine? Why's it broken? Did I do that?" he asked, so used to being blamed for everything.
"No, it's nothing you've done. We've been plagued by a saboteur for months now. We haven't found who it is, but the depth of their meddling suggests it to be an inside job. They've caused extensive damage during our last test, causing the great engines to stall, the lower chambers to flood, and you to be transported here from your world." Raphael explained as they made their way down to a lower level.
This floor smelled heavily of soot and coal, and Mikey could see several large coal furnaces from where he was standing. None of them were on currently. Raphael directed him to load coal into one of the open furnaces as he attended to the one on the opposite wall. Mikey grabbed a shovel and started loading it in.
"So, if we fix this... whatever it is... Then you can send me back to where I belong? What all do we gotta do?" he asked as Raphael came over, stoking the furnace once Mikey had shoveled enough coal in.
"That is correct. Luckily the saboteur's efforts seem to have been rather rushed, as he's taken to simply switching off all he could get his hands on. We need to get these fires going and start the pistons, then it's down to the reservoirs to restart the bilge pumps and flush out the rotten water. After that, it's simply a matter of restarting the system." he continued as the two of them moved their work to the next set of furnaces.
"Uhhhh... Dude, I'm not sure what the 'me' from this world is like, but I ain't exactly that good with machines..."
"Are you not? How strange. The Michelangelo I know is an absolutely brilliant chap. He and Father designed everything you see here, built an empire of a business, and my brother continued to run everything even after Father fell ill. We'd never have gotten this far if not for him. Fear not, I can take care of the technical aspects of the repair in his stead. You merely do as I ask and everything should be fine."
Mikey couldn't help but stare on in awe as Raphael spoke of his other self. He sounded so... so cool! For once, Mikey wasn't assumed to be a clutz or an idiot, but a brilliant guy that everyone loved! Maybe this world wasn't so bad after all!
"Wait... 'Father'? Ya mean Spli- I mean... Hamato Yoshi? Is he sick?"
"It's 'Yoshi Hamato', but yes. Father had been ill for some time, some malady he'd picked up whilst in Mexico years ago. He's never quite recovered, and I'm afraid his condition has taken a turn for the worse as of late."
"Can I see him?"
Raphael stopped his work when Mikey asked that, taking a long moment to silently consider, as if debating whether he should allow him to meet their master.
"I... I'm not sure we have time for that. Father is in a rather frail state, and we need to transfer you back before the saboteur has a chance to undo our efforts once again."
Mikey didn't try to press the issue further, feeling like he was starting to overstep his bounds. They completed their work there with little conversation until finally all of the furnaces were lit.
Mikey wiped the sweat and soot from his forehead as Raphael stepped up to the control unit. He began throwing levers forward, the giant pistons behind the glass in the center of the room groaning to life in front of them. Mikey smiled lightly. One step down, two to go. And nothing had gone wrong yet! This universe really did run a lot smoother than his!
As if to prove him wrong, a loud, screeching roar echoed through the dimly lit chamber. Both turtles froze dead where they stood, each recognizing that eerie call. Slowly, Raphael turned back to look at Mikey.
"Turn off your lantern..." he whispered low, his green eyes staring right past the younger turtle. This was quite possibly the first time he'd seen this Raphael show a modicum of emotion, his eyes wide and alert, fear leaking through his calm facade.
"I said turn off the bloody lantern..!" Raphael repeated harshly, ducking low and slipping away slowly. Mikey finally snapped out of his daze, switching off his lantern and ducking low. Just in time, it seemed. Mere moments after the light was shut off, the Manpig came snuffling around the corner.
Michelangelo felt his heart jump up into his throat. Oh God, it was back! How did it get out of the church? It was trapped down there! He looked to Raphael for answers, who nodded towards the back of the room. He followed silently, taking care not to knock into anything that would alert the creature to their position. He could hear the creature slowly shuffling its way towards them, but it didn't seem to know they were there. Yet.
Once to the rear of the room, Mikey saw what it was Raphael had been after. There was another staircase leading downward, deeper into the vast machine. It was the closest escape route away from the beast, and it likely led to where they needed to be next anyway. Raph had mentioned that the lower chambers were flooded, after all.
They proceeded with extreme caution down the stairs, taking each step as gingerly as possible. It was times like these that made Mikey glad he was a ninja. It truly felt as though they would have their necks snapped clean off their body if they made even the tiniest noise. Once at the bottom of the stairs, they let out a collective sigh of relief at having made it down there safely.
"Man, what was that thing? It almost killed me back at the church, and now it's here!" he asked, keeping his voice low in case the Manpig could hear them down there. Raphael seemed to hesitate a moment before answering, or perhaps he was merely trying to catch his breath.
"It's... It was an accidental exposure of Compound X... One of our workers hadn't disposed of it as we'd instructed and some unfortunates came into contact with it. It was an unstable formula, imperfect. It's driven the poor wretches quite mad, I'm afraid..."
"The hell's 'Compound X'?"
"A chemical Father developed. It's what he used to turn myself and my brothers into sentient beings."
"You mean Mutagen?! Dude! That stuff is gnarly!"
"Precisely. Which is why we have strict guidelines on the disposal of imperfect compounds. But, of course, one can't seem to trust anyone with an important task in this day and age..."
Mikey opened his mouth to reply, but stopped suddenly, his eyes going wide.
"Wait... you said 'wretches' a minute ago... Y'mean... Is there more than one of those things..?"
There was a crash further into the room, the sound of something metallic and very heavy clattering to the ground. The two turtles ducked behind the nearest object, what looked to be an old conveyor belt for transporting coal from one area to another. They peeked over the belt to see a second Manpig trot by, stopping suddenly to look around, its snout raised to sniff at the air. Then, it raised its head and let out a loud squealing sound. It was echoed a moment later by the creature still on the upper level.
They were communicating.
Mikey cursed internally. Damn, those things were smarter than he thought. It wasn't long before they heard heavy hoof-beats coming down the stairs. They knew they were there. With any luck, they wouldn't know exactly where.
Soon enough, they had two Manpigs combing the room for them, snuffling about and knocking over objects as they went. Mikey looked to Raphael, hoping he had another escape route. Luckily, he did. In the near darkness, he could just barely make out the other turtle pointing to the far corner of the room. Mikey squinted his eyes, trying to peer through the pitch-black to whatever it was he was trying to show him. From there it looked like a chute of some sort, possibly even another conveyor leading downwards. Ever downwards.
Mikey nodded and the two began to make their separate routes over to their escape. Here was another maze of a room, with conveyor systems and other big blocks of machinery keeping them from making an easy path. The Manpigs, persistent as ever, weren't making it any easier. They moved freely through the room, jumping over machinery and conveyor belts, knocking over anything the two could be hiding under.
Michelangelo had nearly been caught twice, going round a corner only to find one of the creatures directly in front of him. He managed to pull back around before being spotted, but it was still way too close a call. After the second near-miss, he took a second to sit behind one of the other conveyor belts, waiting for the danger to pass. He chanced a quick peek over at the coal chute, spotting a small figure wearing a hat as it stealthily climbed down into it. Good. Raphael made it. That only left him.
There was a loud bang behind Mikey just before he could set off once more, the machinery behind his shell rattling and buckling under a great weight. He looked up, heart pounding away in his chest. Standing atop the conveyor belt just above him was one of the Manpigs, its ears swiveling around as it listened for movement, it's beady little eyes scanning the room. The thing was so close Mikey could have counted the coarse bristles on its chin, and he could smell a stench like a filthy barn coming off it.
He clamped his jaw shut and remained perfectly still, not wanting to make a sound. It would leave. Surely it would. It wouldn't look down. If it hadn't looked down already, it wouldn't look down at all. He just had to not give it a reason to look down. At first, it looked as though it had worked. The Manpig turned to continue further down the line, snuffling and sniffing as it went.
Mikey was tempted to let out a sigh of relief, but unfortunately for him these creatures weren't the most careful things in the world. As the pig turned, its hoof knocked down some coal dust from the conveyor. The young terrapin couldn't cover his mouth and nose in time. He felt the dust sting his nostrils, his throat, his eyes began to water. He couldn't hold it in for long, but he had to. The beasts were too close. They'd find him for sure.
The pigs hadn't wandered too far before he reached his breaking point.
Both Manpigs immediately let out a squealing roar, the thunder of hooves closing in on their prey's position. Michelangelo had no other choice now. He made a break for it, sprinting towards the coal chute as fast as his legs would carry him, vaulting over anything in his way that was short enough and weaving around objects that were too tall. His vision was beginning to blur, tears streaming down his cheeks from the coal dust still stuck in his eyes, but he couldn't stop now. He could feel them nipping right at his heels, their hot, stinking breath beating down on the back of his neck.
He couldn't see through the tears, having to shut his eyes tight, they stung so much. He had to navigate by memory, by instinct. He weaved around a large metallic object, hearing a satisfying thud of a thick skull colliding with it mere seconds behind him. There was still at least one of them after him, though. The chute should be around here. It had to be. He came to a metal railing, which he nearly clothes-lined himself on. He ducked under the rail a split second before hearing something coming crashing down against it where he'd been standing just a moment ago. He felt a void in the floor in front of him. He didn't know if this was where he was supposed to be, but it was his only chance at this point.
Chapter 5: A Feast of Nightmares
Raphael felt utterly uncomfortable. The clothes he wore were tight around his shoulders, his neck, his... well, everything, really. He wasn't made to wear human clothing, and certainly not the prim and proper suit he currently found himself wearing. Even more ill-fitting was the mask he wore. It wasn't his usual strip of red fabric, but what felt like a full-faced porcelain mask. He raised a hand to feel at it. He felt two little protruding ears on top, a sort of muzzle in front of his mouth, and a very distinctly shaped snout. Was he wearing a pig mask?
He heard a door opening behind him. The sound seemed to make something click in his mind. This wasn't the sewer, this wasn't the Lair. He was in a house of some sort, ornately decorated with paintings and Victorian furniture. Was this Michelangelo's world? Was this his home in London? Wait, how had he gotten there? Had there been another accident? Did he get switched just as his brother had?
Finally, he turned around, curious who he'd find there. It was a young boy by the looks of him, hardly older than ten. He was dressed in what almost looked like a boarding school uniform, wearing a blue blazer and shorts with socks up to the knees. He wore a ceramic pig mask over his face, decorated with swirling colors, mostly blues, like old tribal paint. His true identity was betrayed slightly by the way his clothes fit him, the bulging at his back hinting at the hard shell hiding underneath.
"Leo? Hey, is that you?" he asked, a bit unsure. Wasn't Leonardo the oldest of the four of them? Why did he look so small?
Once he was addressed, the boy turned and calmly walked off down the hall. Raph immediately followed after him. Out in the hall, he spotted Leonardo making his way out to what looked like an indoor balcony. Raphael stopped in his tracks, recognizing the back of a very familiar brown coat.
Michelangelo, the other Michelangelo, stood there at the balcony, looking over the room below. Leonardo tugged at the edge of the taller turtle's coat, who leaned down so the boy could whisper something in his ear. The elder brother nodded, and the younger dismissed himself down the stairs.
Raphael shuddered at the sight of him, sickened at the thought of being trapped in his world. Still, this seemed to be the only opportunity he had to get some real answers out of the pompous asshole. He stepped forward, intending to give the other turtle one hell of an interrogation now that his brothers weren't there to stop him.
"No one misses the poor..."
Raph stopped just before crossing the threshold out onto the balcony. Was... Was he talking to him? Michelangelo never turned back to look him in the eye as he spoke, continuing to stare out over the floor below.
"Round up some orphans and the world thanks you for it. Disappear a whore and a gentleman applauds you. Cull a beggar and a lady walks safely again."
Raphael furrowed his brow. The way Michelangelo was speaking now... It seemed different, like he was finally being honest, finally speaking what he truly felt. Perhaps the interrogation wasn't necessary? He continued forward, standing next to the bespectacled terrapin. Rather than his glasses, however, he seemed to be wearing the same kind of pig mask as Leonardo had on, only his was decorated in predominantly orange swirls.
Raph looked out over the room below. It was a banquet hall, lit by the warm light of a thousand candles from ornate chandeliers and other fixtures about the room. The table below was long enough to seat fifty people, and it looked as though there were at least that many down there. There were ladies dressed in elaborate gowns of fine lace and intricate embroidery, men in expensive looking suits, their beards and mustaches perfectly groomed for the occasion. It seemed all of London's upper class had turned out for a feast.
"I hate them..." Michelangelo continued, "I hate them more than any of the others. This privilege, this pretension. These so called leaders, these pillars of society, these rich and fanciful. They wear their filth on the inside, but they are no less dirty."
Well, Raphael never thought he'd agree with something this bastard said, but here he was, nodding his head. He'd often had the very same thought, though not in so many words, of the rich and spoiled of New York, the Wall Street millionaires, the stuffed suits who looked down their noses at anyone who made less than a six-figure salary. Yet... If he hated them so much, why invite them all to a party like this? Michelangelo answered his question without being asked, pushing away from the banister and starting down the stairs.
"I have plans for them all. We will feed them... and then we will feed from them."
Raph's eyes widened behind his mask.
"Wait, what? The hell's that supposed to mean?" he asked, jogging to catch up with the other turtle. As they reached the bottom of the staircase, he spotted where Leonardo had run off to. The boy was standing next to another well-dressed turtle off in the corner of the banquet hall, this one a bit taller and lankier than Michelangelo. He wore a pig mask as well, swirled in purple. It could be no one else but Donatello.
He watched for a moment as Donatello spoke with a woman who was clearly one of the estate's servants, supposedly discussing the wine she was bringing out to serve the guests. The older of the two turtles reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a small vial of some strange, glowing liquid. Donatello had already began emptying the vial into one of the wine bottles before he realized what it was. Raphael's heart caught in his throat.
It was Mutagen.
Raph sprinted to catch up with Michelangelo as he rounded the table, circling the guests like a shark waiting to strike. Was this the 'plan' he spoke of? Was he planning on mutating the guests here? Why? And into what? Michelangelo continued on once he saw that Raphael had caught up, his tone a bit cheerier than it had been a moment ago.
"No machine blades for fatty bishop and gluttony heiress. Prime cuts all for the sorting bins, and the very best, as always, back in the dumbwaiter to the kitchens above, to be stewed and plumped and gravied and breadcrumbed and returned to the table for the next night's feast. And not every night, you see, although we have begun to increase the frequency of the final act. Unlike the poor, the rich will be missed, given time. But we continue to spoil and ready them, and our fine foods are now exported to mansions and lodges across London."
Michelangelo paused his boasting to let out a light, amused chuckle.
"And it has been noted in The Times of late, how rather overweight the great and the good are becoming, with their diets of fine wine and rich meat."
And indeed it seemed as though that was the case. These people gathered here all seemed rather plump, and they heartily accepted the wine as the servants came around to pour it for them. They all laughed and talked and gossiped among each other, not one of them suspecting the strange chemical that had been slipped into their drink. Another servant rolled out a cart with a large serving platter on top. It was covered with a polished silver lid, but whatever was underneath smelled absolutely amazing.
"Indeed, in Punch just last week, a cartoon showed Viscount Selwyn as a stuffed pig, laid upon a platter for his peers to dine upon. A vicious and cowardly slander, no doubt..." Michelangelo paused once more, glancing across the table to a man that stood on the other side. Raphael looked over, freezing dead when he made eye contact.
The man was tall, wore a suit like all the others, though his had a long burgundy coat. He was the only human there who wore a pig mask like the Turtles. His was a swirl of many colors, though it was distinct in that it had a very familiar flower crest painted on the forehead; it was the symbol of the Hamato Clan. Two golden brown eyes stared into him from behind that mask, a stare that pierced right though him.
It couldn't be...
The grin on Michelangelo's face practically burned through his mask as he leaned close to Raphael's ear, using the other turtle's stunned silence to finish his earlier thought.
"But he tasted delicious."
Raphael's attention was ripped away from the man the instant he heard that, turning to look Michelangelo in the eyes. The look he got back spoke volumes. He wasn't joking. He couldn't believe it... This Viscount Selwyn he'd spoken of... They'd eaten him?!
He looked to the serving platter, suddenly dreading what was giving off that appetizing aroma. The smell that made his mouth water just moments ago now turned his stomach. One of the servants came forward to grab the handle of the lid, lifting it off.
Raphael's heart stopped at what he saw. Lying on the platter, skin roasted, an apple jammed in his mouth, was Mikey. His Mikey, mask and all. Cooked. Dead.
Raphael sat bolt upright in his bed. His eyes darted around the room, his heart pounded in his chest. His stomach felt like it wanted to turn itself inside out. He struggled to catch his breath. A dream... Was that all just a dream? It felt so real... It felt so... It smelled so...
He leaned over the edge of his bed just in time to avoid puking all over it.
Raphael still felt sick to his stomach when he went out to the warehouse on the docks to find his brothers. He knew they'd be there. That's where they'd been all week, out there helping Michelangelo with his device. Today was no different. When he slipped past the boarded up door he spotted Donatello and Michelangelo in the center of the workshop floor, each working on a different component of the massive contraption they'd built up from salvaged parts. There were pipes and dials and wires and valves and, in the middle of it all, was that massive power crystal they'd stolen from the Kraang.
"Adjust the lower resonator, if you would. Increase the frequency by .002 Hz." Michelangelo called out, his eyes glued to one of the dials near what looked like a control panel. Donatello gave a small noise of confirmation, grabbing a screwdriver and making the necessary adjustment.
Raphael cringed. As Donatello made the adjustment to the device it let out a barely-audible sound, one that seemed to crawl right into Raph's brain and gnaw at his frontal lobes. It took him a moment to register what the sound actually was. It sounded like whispers, ethereal voices speaking, calling out from just beyond his range of hearing. He had to strain his ears to hear what they were saying, and immediately regretted it.
'More pig... More pig... More pig...'
Raphael had to choke back his gag reflex, something about that eerie whispering bringing back his nightmare. He instinctively backed up a few paces even as Michelangelo let out a cheer.
"Yes! That's it! It's perfect!"
"You're kidding! It actually worked?" Donatello asked, a huge grin plastered on his face as he crawled out from under the massive crystal.
"Hey, are you okay?"
Raphael nearly jumped out of his shell when Leonardo suddenly approached him from behind like that. He spun around reflexively, causing his brother to back away confused.
"Woah! Jeez, Raph, calm down. It's just me. Is something wrong?" Leo asked, giving his brother a somewhat suspicious look. Raphael struggled to calm himself down, glancing uneasily over his shoulder at the large crystal. He could still barely hear the whispers, even through Donnie and Michelangelo's celebratory cheers.
"Yeah... Yeah, somethin's very wrong... I gotta talk ta you and Donnie right now. Alone."
Moments later, the three of them were gathered outside in one of the side alleys near Michelangelo's warehouse. Donatello seemed rather annoyed to be pulled away from his work when they were so close to completion.
"Alright, what's so important that you had to drag us out here?" Donnie grumbled, folding his arms across his chest impatiently.
"Okay, look, I know this is gonna sound crazy, but... I had this dream..."
"You called us out here for a damned dream?!" Don hissed, though Leo held up a hand to stop him from exploding.
"Just hear him out... Go on, Raph."
Raphael took a deep breath, trying to keep his cool as he recalled his nightmare.
"I was in this weird house, and I was kinda dressed like Michelangelo, in a suit and everything, but I was wearing this weird pig mask. You guys were there, only Leo was real little, and you guys were in masks too. There was like a party or something with a ton of rich fuckers, and Donnie was putting Mutagen or something in their wine, and Michelangelo was sittin' there talking' like they were fattening them all up to fuckin' eat them! Splinter was there, too! Only he wasn't Splinter, he was still human, and-"
"Oh, let me guess; Bebop was there doing the hula." Donatello interjected, rolling his eyes at the tale his brother was weaving. Leo shuddered at that.
"There's an image I didn't need..."
"Guys, I'm serious! They had Mikey on a platter! Our Mikey! Dead! They fucking cooked him alive!"
That seemed to catch their attention. The two turtles glanced at each other, as if wondering if there was something more to all this. Donnie shook his head.
"Okay, so... Let's pretend for a minute that we've just spent the past week helping a crazy, mad scientist cannibal build a teleportation device... What exactly do you want us to do about it? The device will be ready to go later tonight. Once it's finished, he goes home, we get our brother back, and life is kosher again. Why worry about it now?"
"Look, Don, I know you're glad to have someone around whose brain runs on your level for once, but you gotta believe me when I say there's something seriously wrong with that guy!"
"Raph, just calm down..." Leo urged softly. "I know you feel strongly about this, but we've gotta have more to go on than some nightmare and a gut feeling. We've gotta have some solid proof on this or we could be jeopardizing our brother's only way home. Do you have anything? Anything at all we can go on other than your word?"
Raphael opened his mouth to reply, but truth was he had nothing. He rubbed at the back of his neck, fidgeting in place. There had to be something. There had to be. This was the only chance he had to show his brothers that he wasn't crazy, that this other Michelangelo was truly dangerous. Then, it hit him.
"His journal... There's gotta be something in his journal. Don, he only let you see that one page. What's he hiding in the rest of it?"
"Other inventions. Stuff he doesn't want to get out. He just doesn't want his ideas being stolen." Donatello answered with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Wake the fuck up, Don! His technology is over a hundred years out of date and he's from another fucking dimension! You're not exactly stealing any patents from the guy!"
Donatello was a bit taken aback by that. He looked to Leo, unsure how he was supposed to respond to that. Leo let out a heavy sigh.
"Alright... Alright, you have a point. His journal might be worth a look."
"Yeah, but how do we get to it? Michelangelo keeps it in his lab, but he hasn't left all week." Donnie pointed out. Raph merely shrugged his shoulders. Leo, however, smirked lightly.
"I believe I may have a plan..."
It certainly took some doing, but Donatello and Leonardo eventually managed to drag Michelangelo away from his lab. They had to default to offering the turtle food; a celebratory meal out, they'd claimed. They took him to the only place in the city they knew that happily welcomed their kind.
"Good evening, Murakami-san!" Donnie and Leo announced as they made their way into the little noodle shop. The old chef behind the counter smiled when he heard the pair of familiar voices.
"Ah, good evening, boys! Just the three of you tonight?" Mr. Murakami asked cheerfully, already turning to his stove and getting to work on the Turtles' usual order. The three took a seat at the bar, Michelangelo hesitating a bit in the face of an unfamiliar human. He seemed a bit confused, having been told the old man was blind. Leo couldn't help but smirk lightly at that, always amused when someone new encountered Mr. Murakami's keen sense of perception.
"That's right. Raphael isn't feeling well tonight, so it's just us."
"Ahh, I see. I'll send you home with some soup if you think that will help."
"That'd be great, thanks. I'm sure he'll appreciate it."
"And what about your friend here? Will he be having pizza gyoza as well?"
Leo and Don both gave Michelangelo a sideways glance. Donnie cleared his throat.
"Oh, right, uhh... Murakami-san, this is our, umm... Our cousin! Yeah! He's visiting from London. His name is... Uhh..."
"Mandus!" Michelangelo jumped in, sensing Donatello struggling to come up with a good cover story. "Oswald Mandus. A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Murakami."
"Ah, a visitor from the United Kingdom! I did not know you boys had family in Europe. A pleasure to meet you, Mandus-san."
Leo and Don both let out a sigh of relief. It sounded like he bought the story, at least. Leo leaned over to whisper in Michelangelo's ear.
"'Oswald Mandus'? How the hell do you come up with a name like that?"
"It's an alias I've used for ages. Worry not about it's origin, all that matters is that I'll readily answer to it."
The two stopped their whispering when Murakami came up to the counter with their food. Both Leonardo and Donatello both got pizza gyoza, as per usual. Michelangelo, however, was brought something entirely different. Murakami gave the British turtle a warm smile.
"I hear curry is very popular in England. Also, Earl Grey tea. Milk and one sugar, correct?"
Michelangelo blinked up at the chef, a look of astonishment on his face.
"Why yes, that's exactly it. My dear man, however did you know?"
Murakami's reply was a light chuckle as he touched a finger to his nose.
Raphael paced back and forth in the living room of the Lair, growing more and more uneasy with each pass across the floor. Finally, he heard movement at the door. He looked up in time to catch the plastic container that was thrown at him.
"If Murakami-san asks, the soup really helped with your stomach bug and you're very grateful." Leo announced as he made his way inside. Raph furrowed his brow.
"Wait, you actually made it out to Murakami's? I heard you guys come back after five minutes so I bailed!"
Donatello stopped halfway down the steps, giving Raphael a confused look.
"What are you talking about? We stayed out for damn near an hour! We only just left the noodle shop! Michelangelo's probably just now getting back to the warehouse!"
"But I heard you guys coming back in! I barely found that damn journal before I had to take off!"
"Wait..." Leo interrupted, "You mean you didn't even look at it?!"
Raphael pulled out his phone, tossing it to Donnie.
"I managed to flip through it and take a few pictures, but that's all I got..."
Donatello looked through the pictures on his brother's phone. A lot of them were too blurry to make anything useful out, but some of them looked vaguely readable. Almost...
"These are awful..."
"Yeah, well... Sorry. I fucked up, okay?"
Leonardo shook his head. Something didn't add up.
"But if it wasn't us, who else would be poking around the warehouse at this time of night?"
Before anyone could speculate, there was a crash near the entrance to the lair. They all looked up in time to see Michelangelo sprinting in, coming to a crashing halt against the back of the couch, struggling for a moment to catch his breath.
"S-stolen!" Michelangelo rasped out. Leo and Don both looked back at Raph. He held his hands up, silently mouthing the words 'I didn't do it'. Donnie rolled his eyes. Oh, if he managed to lose that damn journal on his way out...
"What's been stolen?" Leo asked, trying to sound as oblivious as possible. It took a moment for the other turtle to catch his breath enough to answer with more than one word.
"The device! Someone has stolen it!"
Chapter 6: Something in the Water
Mikey drew in a sharp gasp when he felt the cool water hit his eyes, trying to keep them open even through the intense burning and stinging. Everything was still a huge mass of vague, blurry shapes, but it was starting to clear up.
"There. That's all I have, I'm afraid. How are you feeling?"
Mikey blinked a few times until he could make out Raphael's form in front of him, the other turtle corking a small metal flask before he replaced it back in his coat.
"Ughh... Still stings like hell, but... I think I'm good." he groaned out, rubbing at his eyes with the back of his hand. He froze. Something was missing. He looked around frantically as his vision cleared. Oh, he couldn't have lost it... He'd lost a lot of important things in his life, but he absolutely could not lose that!
"By chance, are you looking for this?"
Mikey looked up at Raphael, spotting what he'd held out for him. It was a thin, ragged strip of orange fabric, still stained with black patches of soot from his earlier excursion.
"My mask!" he cheered happily, snatching the strip of cloth back from the other turtle. "Oh man, my master woulda killed me if I lost this..."
"That filthy cloth is important to you? Well, I wouldn't put it on before you've washed it properly. You'll just get soot in your eyes again." he stated as boredly as ever, reaching down to pick up the lantern off the floor. Mikey glanced down at the mask laying across his hands. He really didn't want to get that coal crap in his eyes again, but he didn't want it going missing in this maze of a machine. He wrapped the fabric around his neck, tying it in place before following after Raphael.
The two of them found themselves walking down a long, dark shaft, both trying their best not to kick up too much soot as they walked along the coal chute. The Manpigs hadn't followed them, or rather, it seemed they couldn't, the entrance to the shaft being far too narrow for their bulky bodies.
Soon enough, the two of them came upon one of a few access platforms for the area, climbing up a steel ladder to escape the confines of the dark, cramped tunnel. Raphael pushed past a few shipping crates until he came to a small door in the middle of the wall. The thing was tiny, only a few feet tall and hardly that much across. He slid open the door, revealing a cramped little space barely as deep as it was tall.
"Right then, in you go." Raphael ordered casually.
"What? Dude, that thing's tiny!"
"True, which is why you'll have to go first. The dumbwaiter's the only way down to the tunnels from here, now that we've been chased through like rats. Trust me, it's not the route I'd prefer either, but we haven't the time to sneak past those brutes up there and go the proper way. I'll lower you down, then follow right behind. It'll only be a few moments."
Mikey glanced between Raphael and the dumbwaiter a few times, letting out a light groan of protest. After quickly realizing that his whining could no more affect this Raphael than his own, he reluctantly climbed in. After he'd practically curled up in a ball to fit into the tiny space, Raphael placed the lantern at the young turtle's feet before sliding the door shut.
The ride down was nerve-wracking. He could see nothing but the sheet metal that made up the small lift, and he could hear it groaning and creaking around him as it was slowly lowered ever downward. He found himself holding his breath every time he heard a particularly loud creak, afraid the whole thing would give way under his weight if he so much as sneezed. Finally, after what felt like ages, the lift stopped.
Mikey slid the door open and tumbled out, eager to get out of that rickety contraption. As soon as his weight left the dumbwaiter the door fell closed and it began its journey back up to retrieve Raphael.
With no one there to accompany him but the light of his lantern, Mikey proceeded through this new chamber with caution. It looked much cleaner than the other areas, almost obsessively so. Everything was spotless, from the great circular hatches that sealed off the room, to the catwalks winding above, to the odd contraption mounted in the center of the room. Actually, that contraption looked rather interesting, whatever it was. It looked like a small circular table with a class dome mounted in the top, three tubes sticking out of the edges at even intervals. At the end of each tube, there were mounting points for cylindrical shaped objects. In one of the mounts, there was a glass canister. An eerily familiar glass canister. This had to be where they made their Mutagen, their Compound X.
His interest in the large centrifuge suitably deterred by the chemicals it surely contained, Mikey moved on to other things. The next section over could be nothing but a laboratory. There was what looked like a dentist's chair in the center of the room, thick leather straps hanging from the arm and foot rests. Mikey shuddered at the sight, turning away from the chair to avoid his mind dwelling too long on what could have been strapped in there. It was probably just to restrain the Manpigs while they tried to figure out how to turn them back into humans. Yes, surely that was it.
His lantern light soon found the surface of the laboratory table, piquing Mikey's interest all over again. There were beakers with odd chemicals lined up in neat rows, cabinets mounted on the wall with all manner of equipment housed in them, and it was all perfectly, obsessively organized. All in all, it was a set-up that would have made Donnie drool. There were a few oddities, of course. The scale model of an Aztec pyramid seemed rather out of place, as did the...
"Woah!" Mikey exclaimed, leaning down to get a better look at the item he'd just found. It was a glass box, just a foot in length, width, and height, but it's what it contained that interested the young turtle. Two eyeballs stared back at him from behind the glass, a human brain floating behind it in the glowing green liquid of the container. Mikey knew those eyes.
"Pulverizer! Dude! Or, wait... Would it just be Timothy here? Whatever. Dude, what are ya doin' down here? And why are ya in such a small box?" Mikey rambled energetically, picking the box up. Timothy merely blinked back at the turtle, having been reduced to just a brain and eyes. That didn't seem to bother Michelangelo. In fact, he could hardly contain his excitement at his discovery. Then, it hit him. This was the perfect opportunity for a new nickname!
"Oooh! I'm gonna call you 'Tiny Box Tim'! Get it?! 'Cause, your name is Tim, and you're in an itty bitty box! You're comin' with me, Tiny Box Tim! We're gonna go on tons of adventures and have so much fun and-"
"Put. That. Down."
Mikey froze in place when he heard the very slow, yet oddly demanding order. He glanced back over his shoulder, spotting a less-than-amused Raphael standing there behind him. He gave a nervous laugh, gingerly setting the glass box back on the table.
"Bro, you've got a killer Professor Snape impression." he commented, earning him little more than an arched brow from the other turtle. Raphael didn't bother asking, merely walking past Mikey to the metal bar door behind him. He retrieved a ring of keys from his belt and had the heavy padlock removed in seconds.
"Let's go. And please, for the love of Christ, don't touch anything else." Raphael ordered before leading the way through. Mikey glanced back at Timothy.
"Don't worry, Tiny Box Tim! I'll come back for ya!" he whispered before following Raphael out.
The two turtles descended down further into the machine, down staircases and ladders and even through a few large pipes. Soon enough, they came to the tunnels. Raphael leapt down a few feet from the last intact rung of a broken ladder, landing with a thud on the wet, sludgy brick floor. He grimaced in disgust, covering his mouth and nose with a handkerchief as he rose up to his feet.
"Uggh... Dear God, the stench... This fecal matter is the true product of the age..." Raphael grumbled out. Michelangelo hopped down seconds later, raising his lantern to look around. What he saw was quite possibly the most comforting sight he'd seen since coming to this world. The hot, dank air, the sludge caked to wet brick walls, a river of foul, cloudy water. He drew in a deep breath, taking in that odor that would have nauseated any normal person. Yep, it was a sewer all right.
"Awright! Home sweet home, baby! We're on Mikey's turf now!" the ninja cheered happily, earning him absolutely horrified look from Raphael.
"Y-you... You can't be serious! You mean you and your family live in a bloody sewer?!"
"Dude, there's not really that much blood in our sewer. It's mostly water and crap. Besides, ain't your place ta judge, bro. You guys got all this freaky steampunky machine stuff goin' on with all the creepy pig monsters, and we got our sewer... Okay, yeah, and we got, like, one creepy pig monster, but that dude's a skinny guy that couldn't throw a punch to save his life. He's got a bitchin' mohawk, though."
Raphael could only stare at Michelangelo as he gave his rambling, nonsensical retort, utterly bewildered and slightly concerned for his companion's sanity.
"Right... My mistake..." he replied very slowly, taking a step away from the other turtle as if trying to step outside of Mikey's aura of insanity. Mikey didn't seem to pick up on Raphael's discomfort, merely shrugging his shoulders and following along once they started on their way once more.
As they traveled along it became more and more apparent just how much damage the saboteur had done by stalling the engines and shutting down the pumps. The rotten water had risen above several lower catwalks, flooded a few tunnels, and seemed to have punched a sizable hole in a brick wall that had divided one chamber from another. Raphael was having one hell of a time trying to navigate his way towards the bilge pumps. It seemed every time they took a turn they came upon a flooded path or an emergency gate closed tight to prevent the water from advancing. It was during their fifth turnaround back to the main chamber that Mikey caught something out of the corner of his eye.
"Uhhh, Raph? Do you know if those pig things can breathe underwater?" he asked, staring down at the vast pool of murky liquid.
"No, I can't imagine they'd fare terribly well in water for too long. Whatever gave you that idea?"
"I dunno, I just... I coulda sworn I saw something moving down there..." he mumbled, focusing intently on the water to see if he could catch it again. Raphael merely rolled his eyes.
"I'm quite certain you're seeing things. Come along. I think perhaps we need to open a few of these gates if we intend to continue on." he replied, turning down one of the tunnels they hadn't yet explored. Mikey sighed, but left the water's edge and jogged to catch up with the other turtle.
"Hey, Raph... I been meanin' ta ask... I know ya said Master Spli- I mean... your dad is sick an' all, but I saw a painting back at your place of him with a woman and a baby. Where are they?"
"Ah, you saw that, did you?" Raphael began, never stopping in his advancement down the tunnel as he began to explain. "The woman would be Father's late wife, Tang Shen. She became ill after giving birth to their daughter and sadly passed away just a few weeks later. Father was rather distraught at the thought of losing her. He actually had that painting commissioned at quite a hefty price so he could have at least one picture of his family together before she died."
"Oh... Dude, that sucks..." Mikey replied, feeling a bit bad for asking. Well, that explained why she looked so pale in the painting, at least. "So, uhh... What about Miwa? I mean... That was her name, right? The little girl?"
"Yes, that's correct. Do you know her in your world?"
"Uhh... Yeah, I guess you could say that. Don't you?"
"I'm afraid not. We never got the chance to meet her. There was an accident, you see. A little over a year ago. It was when Father took his trip out to Mexico. They were exploring one of the recently uncovered Aztec pyramids when it happened. They were returning from the summit when the poor dear tripped and cracked her skull on the steps of the temple. She would have been seven this year."
Michelangelo wasn't sure what to say to that. He couldn't help but feel bad for this world's Hamato Yoshi. It sounded like he'd been through quite a lot. It was no wonder now that he'd poured himself into making these great machines. He likely needed something to distract himself from his losses.
"Wait a minute..." Mikey started out of the blue. "Miwa only died a year ago. How could ya not meet her? You guys are, like... My age, ain't ya?"
"Yes, I suppose we are... But we were only changed into these humanoid forms after Father returned from Mexico. We were actually Tang Shen's pets for years before that. She'd apparently cared for us very much when she was alive, and Father couldn't bear to get rid of us after she died. After Miwa passed away I suppose he was rather afraid of the idea of being alone, so he formulated what you call Mutagen and changed us into what we are today. We four became his new family."
This was all so hard for Michelangelo to wrap his head around. There was so much in this world that felt vaguely familiar to him, yet everything was so different from what he knew was right. Karai would have still been a little girl right now. Splinter wasn't Splinter. The Turtles had only been mutants for a year, yet Raphael and even his own alternate self sounded as brilliant as his Donatello was. Just what kind of freaky, backwards world had he been transported to?!
"Michelangelo, pay attention, would you?"
Mikey snapped out of his daze just in time to avoid walking headlong into a brass pipe. He hadn't even noticed Raphael had stopped. The other turtle was currently standing on the other side of the pipe, hands on a large valve wheel.
"Could you lend me a hand? It's rusted shut."
Mikey nodded, stepping forward and taking hold of the wheel. The two tugged together with all their strength until the valve finally gave up the fight. They could hear a rush of water in a nearby tunnel, a clear sign that they'd managed to open one of the emergency gates properly. They backtracked down the tunnel to the main chamber once more. The water level had gone down by several feet, leaving a few more paths safe to cross. They headed for one of the lower ones, Raphael clearly making an effort not to think of what was left caked onto the wet bricks beneath his feet.
A sudden splash in the water made Mikey practically jump out of his shell, pressing back against the wall to get as far away from the water as he could, which sadly wasn't far.
"See?! I told ya somethin' was down there!" he shouted, pointing towards the water. Raphael couldn't deny him this time, and it didn't look like he was prepared to.
They both stared wide-eyed at the water as a V-shaped wake cut across the pool. Something broke the surface briefly, letting off what looked to be blue sparks of electricity. That definitely wasn't a Manpig. Mikey looked to Raphael for answers, but only received a look of utter terror and a single word.
"Run!" he shouted, taking off down the path at full sprint. Mikey didn't have to be told twice in a place like this. He took off after Raphael, glancing back once over his shoulder. The wake was following them, the creature below swimming quickly after them. The ninja gave a nervous whine, running a little faster to catch up with the other turtle.
"Dude, what is that thing?!"
"It's... Well, there's really no good way to put this; it's a test subject."
"'Test subject?' You mean you guys made that thing?!"
"Yes, but I assure you, it wasn't meant to turn out like this! We only wanted to test the stability of our inter-dimensional gate, but something malfunctioned. That creature is stuck between the barriers of two worlds, and it's constantly being ripped back and forth between dimensions at rapid speeds. I'm afraid the process has driven it quite mad!"
The two slipped through a narrow gate, likely the one they'd opened earlier, and passed across to the other side of a brick dam. The creature slammed into it with enough force to rattle the entire tunnel, knocking a few bricks out already. Another run up from the aquatic beast produced a large crack in the wall. A third was all it took to collapse the entire dam. Mikey let out squeak, picking up his pace as much as his legs could bear.
"So you kept it down here in the sewer?!"
"Of course not! We had it contained near the core, around the coolant systems. The cold temperatures help stabilize it's condition, but the saboteur must have let it loose!"
Mikey couldn't help but look down at the water as Raphael spoke. The wake had returned, and not only was it still chasing them, it was starting to swim ahead of them.
The two scrambled to a stop when the creature suddenly leapt from the water and onto the path in front of them. It's hulking body seemed to flicker in and out of existence like the reception on an old TV, there one instant and gone the next, only to flicker back a split second later. The same sparks from earlier arced wildly around it's body, it's veins glowing an eerie blue even through it's thick, dark scales. The creature rose up on it's hind legs, towering over the two turtles easily at ten feet tall. It's long, thick tail slammed into the wall, cracking several bricks with ease. It stared down at the two with glowing blue eyes, letting out a low reptilian hiss.
Michelangelo stared up at the creature with wide eyes. His hands shook at his sides, his heart felt like it was going to drop clean out of his body, his knees felt as though they wanted to give out underneath him, but the worst feeling of all was knowing that it wasn't fear that stirred this reaction in him. No, it was a far worse pain than dread could cause him. He opened his mouth and, after a long moment, willed his vocal cords to function just enough to utter a single word.
Chapter 7: Mad Science
"What do you mean 'stolen?!'" Donnie shouted, his jaw hanging agape in horror.
"What part of 'stolen' do you not understand?!" Michelangelo more or less shrieked, quite beside himself at this point. "It's gone, nary a bolt left of it! Someone must have taken it while we were out! Oh, I knew I shouldn't have left the workshop! I don't know why I ever let you convince me to come along on your gallivanting!"
Of course Donatello couldn't help but give Raphael a look of mild suspicion at that. After all, he was the one that didn't trust this version of their little brother, and the only one they knew for sure had been in the warehouse when they were gone. Raphael caught that look in his brother's eye soon enough.
"It wasn't me! I don't even wanna get near the thing, let alone take it from this whackjob!" he retorted defensively. Leonardo merely shook his head at the exchange.
"Wait... That machine of yours has to weigh the same as a subway car. It took three of us just to pick up the crystal, and with all that extra equipment of yours around it, I highly doubt someone just waltzed in and grabbed the thing on a whim."
"Yeah, Leo's right." Donnie agreed. "It must be someone who has an interest in that sort of thing or they'd have thought it was just a pile of derelict machine parts. Scrappers would have only picked out the pieces they wanted and left the rest. Michelangelo, did you happen to see anyone hanging around the warehouse when we weren't there? Anyone at all?"
"None that I'd seen with my own eyes. I must admit to having felt like I was being watched, but I'd simply disregarded it as my own paranoia."
"Shit, that's not much to go on..." Leo cursed under his breath. "Could the Kraang have tracked the crystal at all?"
"No, the first thing we did was shield it from giving off any sort of radiation specifically so the Kraang couldn't find it. That doesn't necessarily rule them out, but the only way they'd have found it would be if they happened to stumble upon it by accident."
"Or maybe they were tipped off..."
Both Leo and Donnie looked back at Raphael, who was currently glaring past them at the bespectacled turtle they'd been trying to help. Donnie let out an aggravated growl.
"Would you drop it already?!" the taller turtle whispered harshly, leaning in close so their guest couldn't overhear. "I know you've got issues with this guy, but just listen to yourself! Why in the hell would he have his own invention stolen? That's his only way back to his world!"
"Yeah, well maybe he doesn't want to go back. Didja ever think of that, Don? I'm findin' it real hard ta believe a guy like that would just pop over to another fuckin' dimension by accident! He's up ta sumthin', an' whatever it is, it ain't good!"
Donatello was about to unleash a retort when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked back just as Leonardo put himself between the two quarreling brothers.
"None of this changes the mission. We need to get Mikey back, right? The only way we're going to do that is if we find the stolen device. The sooner we do that, the sooner we can get this Michelangelo out of here and get our brother back."
"Yeah, but... How do ya know that machine of his even does what he says it does? He could be lying..." Raphael replied. Donnie gave a slight huff.
"I helped him build it. I've checked and double checked the math myself. It'll do what we built it for. The only danger that thing could possibly pose to anyone is if it fell on them... And there's the .00000003 percent chance of creating a space-time rift between the two dimensions, but that's a virtually non-existent outcome. Besides, the thing would have to be about as big as Manhattan to pose any real danger of irreparable damage to the fabric of reality."
Both Leo and Raph could only stare at their brother for a long moment.
"Y'know, Don... Sometimes I actually understand yer techno babble... an' then I really wish I didn't."
Donatello merely rolled his eyes at Raph's comment. Leonardo gave a nod of decision.
"Alright, it's settled then. Michelangelo, come with us. We're going to look for-" Leo stopped mid-sentence as he turned to face their brother's British counterpart. He was gone, and in his place stood Casey Jones, just staring at the lot of them and munching on chips straight out of a large Doritos bag.
"Ya lookin' fer Mister Tea an' Crumpets? Yeah, dude took off. Said somethin' 'bout lookin' for a machine. You guys were just sittin' here whisperin' ta each other, so I figured ya didn't care if he left." Casey explained, his mouth still full of snack food. Leo wilted visibly at that.
"You've got to be kidding me... He just took off again?! We can't just let him run around New York randomly searching for that machine of his! He'll get caught by the Kraang, or even the Foot! We gotta go after him!"
Donatello let out a sigh as Leonardo ran out the door towards where they'd parked the Shellraizer.
"Alright, but I'm running scans for both him and the device once we get rolling." he announced before going to follow their leader out the door. He was stopped yet again by a hand on his shoulder, this time it was Raph.
"Look... I know ya don't wanna believe me, but... While we're out there lookin' for the psychotic Brit, could ya at least humor me an' take a good look at those pictures I took?"
Donatello stared down at his brother for a moment, taking note of the genuinely sincere look in those bright green eyes of his. He then gave a sigh of defeat.
"Alright, I'll take a look... But that's not a promise that I'll find anything." he replied, earning a smile from the shorter turtle.
"I wouldn't ask any more'n that from ya, bro."
It wasn't long before the three turtles were at their stations on the Shellraizer and on the road. Raphael took care of the driving, Leonardo kept an eye on the scanners, leaving Donatello to comb through the pictures on Raph's T-phone. They'd been out searching for a mere ten minutes when Donnie let out a cheer.
"Finally! I've got something!"
"The device? Or is it that psycho bastard?" Raph asked from the driver's seat. Donnie merely scoffed and rolled his eyes.
"No, dumbass... It's those pictures you took of Michelangelo's notebook. I finally found a page I can actually read."
"What does it say? Anything interesting?" Leo chimed in, genuinely curious at this point.
"You bet your shell it's interesting. It mainly talks about a substance he refers to only as 'Vitae' which he extracts from the blood of dead pigs-"
"Dude, seriously?! He's playin' around with pigs' blood now?! C'mon, that's gotta set off some red flags, even for you!" Raphael interrupted, finally feeling his 'I told you so' moment coming on.
"It would... Except in his world the Hamato family just so happens to run a meat processing factory, which you'd know if you would just talk to the guy! They butcher hundreds of pigs a day, and that tends to produce a fair amount of blood. What, are we going to condemn him for recycling and re-purposing now?"
"What's 'Vitae' then? What does he use it for?" Leo interjected, trying once again to defuse the coming fight before it began. Donnie just shrugged.
"Besides the fact that it literally translates to 'Life' from Latin? No idea. He doesn't have the exact chemical make-up of it written down here. It does list it's uses, though... The raw material itself is used to regenerate the Orb after they break shards off to power independent machines, and it's also one of the main ingredients in something he calls 'Compound X', which looks like... Holy-! By Darwin's beard, you can't be serious!"
"What? What is it?!" Raph asked, fighting the temptation to take his eyes off the road and look back at his brother. Donatello was silent for a long while, his mouth hanging open in awe as he quickly re-read what he'd just discovered.
"Compound X! It's... It's Mutagen! I don't believe it! They've actually found a way to synthesize Mutagen without using any materials from Dimension X! Do you have any idea what this means?!"
"That the dude's a psycho like I've been tellin' ya all along?"
"No! With a stable Mutagen formula we can synthesize it here and have all of the materials we need to make retro-Mutagen! We can return Master Splinter to normal, and Karai and Timothy and all the other mutants! This could be the key to undoing the damage the Kraang have done to New York once and for all!"
"That's great! Would you be able to do it in your lab?" Leo asked, the biggest smile he'd ever had now plastered on his face. With this they'd be able to keep their promise to their Master. All that was left after that was taking out Shredder.
"Yeah, the only thing I wouldn't know how to get my hands on would be this Vitae stuff. I might be able to pick it out of pigs' blood by process of elimination, but that would require, y'know... pigs' blood." Donnie replied, a somewhat uncertain look on his face.
"We can always ask Mr. Murakawa. I think he gets his pork straight from a local butcher." Leo offered.
"Except what if it's not pigs he uses?" Raph retorted, prompting a groan from Donnie.
"Raph, for the last time; Michelangelo isn't some evil psychopath!"
Michelangelo, meanwhile, was halfway across town, far from the warehouse district that he'd been calling home for the past week. The bespectacled terrapin crept along the wall of a shadowy alleyway, trying to stay out of sight of any passersby. He came to the edge and looked out into the street, ducking back when a car drove by. This world really was strange... Automobiles were a luxury in his world, but here it seemed everyone had them.
Tearing his mind away from the myriad of observations he could make on the condition of the human race more than a century after his time, Michelangelo focused on the task at hand. He had something very important to find, after all. Hiding in the shadows, he rested his hand against the tiny crystalline shard pinned to his cravat, closing his eyes.
"I know you're hiding here... But you can't hide from Father's eyes..." he whispered to himself. The Orb shard gave off an eerie glow, and suddenly Michelangelo knew exactly where he needed to go. He wasn't far now. He dashed across the street when all was clear, and it was just a few more blocks of careful maneuvering before he found what he was looking for.
He came upon a newly constructed office building taller than any structure he'd ever seen in his life. His dear Father had often told him of how the Americans boasted that they would build their cities to the very edge of the sky. It seemed they'd finally managed to do just that.
Michelangelo didn't bother with stealth as he entered the building through the front door. The lobby was huge, but sparsely decorated and mostly a sterile white. Despite the late hour, a receptionist sat at the desk at the end of the huge lobby. He made his way casually up to her, and she started on what was most assuredly a well-rehearsed spiel.
"I am sorry, sir, but the office is closed. Please come back during normal business ho-" the receptionist froze when she looked up, coming face to face with the strange young mutant turtle dressed in an old English-style suit. Rather than scream in terror and run away or call security, the woman stared blankly at the creature, quickly rising to her feet.
"That which is known as 'the Turtles' have infiltrated the place that is the Kraang b-"
Before the suddenly rather robotic-sounding woman could finish her overly-redundant sentence, Michelangelo had vaulted over the desk and placed a kick squarely in her ribs. He was on her the moment she hit the floor, slamming a knee into her throat to silence any further commentary.
"You're quite astute, Madame. Alas, I'm afraid I'm not quite like the turtles you've dealt with in the past..." he began, removing the Orb shard from it's setting on his cravat. ".. and I'm afraid you're no 'Madame.'"
Michelangelo thrust the Orb shard into the woman's abdomen, earning him the most ungodly, inhuman screech anyone had ever heard. Arcs of blue electricity danced over the frame below him, it's camouflage soon flickering away to reveal the cold metallic form it truly was underneath. It flailed wildly, the Kraang still screeching as the Orb shard seemed to burn a hole right into it's soft pink forehead. After a moment, it fell silent and still.
Never faltering at what he'd just done, Michelangelo retrieved his Orb shard from where it had embedded itself in the dead Kraang's flesh and replaced it in it's setting. He then checked the drawers of the desk. Ah, yes. These creatures were just as predictable as Donatello had led him to believe. He pulled out the Kraang's energy rifle, turning it over in his hands as he inspected it, trying to deduce how it worked. He slid back the covering of a chamber in the side of the rifle, revealing the glowing pink crystal that powered the weapon. A wicked smile crept across Michelangelo's face. Yes, this would do nicely indeed.
The Kraang were rushing all over the building now. Their scout at the door had reported an intruder - one of the Turtles - then gone offline. A security detail had been sent down, but all they'd found in the lobby was the body of the scout, it's rifle missing. It was dead. That was unusual. The Turtles never killed, not on purpose. Not so brutally. Something was very wrong.
A group of about five Kraang passed through one of the upper halls when a vent cover suddenly popped out of the wall, clattering to the ground in front of them. There was a brief chirr of droid chatter as the patrol raised their guns, preparing to mow down the intruder the second he showed himself. Even so, they hardly had time to react as a Kraang rifle emerged from the vent and proceeded to spray the entire hallway with hot blue plasma.
The Kraang weren't sure what to think. That was their rifle, but theirs didn't fire anything like that. Anywhere the plasma touched it burned through instantaneously; the walls, the dense alloys of mech suits, Kraang flesh. The attack lasted seconds, yet by the time the intruder emerged there remained only a single Kraang left alive, and even this one was suitably disarmed and reduced to a single functioning arm.
Michelangelo couldn't help but smirk as he stalked up to the injured alien, rifle in hand. Hunting, as it turned out, was quite exhilarating. He could see why his Father had taken up such a hobby. The Kraang stared up at him as he approached, making no attempt to crawl away.
"The location of the one known as the intruder has been located in the location of-"
"Silence!" Michelangelo barked out, aiming the energy rifle down at the Kraang's squishy, helpless head. Surprisingly, it shut up. The turtle smirked. If it was one thing he liked in a hostage, it was obedience.
"Thank you. Now then, I do believe we've gotten off to a rather awful start. I've no idea what quarrel you have with the turtles of this world, but I can assure you; I am not your enemy. Why should we fight when there is so very much we can offer each other?"
"Kraang does not need anything that that which is known as the Turtles could possibly offer to Kraang." the alien replied as monotone as ever, though the look in the little pink creature's now opened eyes betrayed it's fear. Michelangelo merely chuckled.
"Oh, but that's where you're wrong, my little friend..." he began, opening the power chamber of his rifle to reveal not the usual pink crystal, but a tiny blue shard of a stone.
"You've already witnessed what this single shard can do, and it is a mere fraction of the power I could offer you if it were whole again. If you and your kind help me achieve my goals, I can give you access to a near-infinite supply of crystals just like this. You can conquer the universe or whatever it is you things do, that is of no concern to me."
He received no verbal reply, but the look in the Kraang's eyes - the greed, the hunger for power - spoke volumes.
"Ah, I see I have suitably whetted your appetite. Well then, right down to business. At this juncture, I think it would be most appropriate if you were to... How does that saying go again? Ah! Yes, of course... 'Take me to your leader.'"
Chapter 8: Mercy
Mikey was frozen, staring in wide-eyed horror at what had become of his friend. Leatherhead lowered down to all fours, letting out another threatening crocodilian hiss. The giant gator then began stalking towards the two turtles, muscles rippling under dark scales even as his form flickered in and out of reality. Raphael shuffled back hesitantly, unsure at first if running was the wisest option. All he knew was standing there and waiting to be eaten wasn't the way to go about it. He reached forward, grabbing hold of the other turtle's shoulder.
"What are you doing?! Run, you fool!" he shouted before taking off down the path they'd just come from. This was apparently all the movement Leatherhead needed to see to entice him. The gator charged forward, his powerful jaws open wide to snap at whatever he could get his teeth on.
Michelangelo snapped out of his daze at the last minute. With Leatherhead barreling towards him, razor teeth just inches from his flesh, he did the only thing he could think of to escape; he dove into the water. Desperate as the option was, it gave him only a brief reprieve from the chase. He could hear the distinct sound of something heavy diving into the water behind him. Mikey suddenly realized just how poor a choice he'd made. He was being chased by a crazed mutant gator, one of the most deadly creatures in the water. He'd just leapt right into its home turf.
Mikey swam as fast as he could, but he knew he could never swim fast enough. He could already feel the bow waves at his feet as the gator rocketed towards him. This was it. He had no other choice. Mikey grabbed hold of his remaining nunchaku, swinging the weapon as hard as he possibly could as he spun around in the water to face his foe. He managed to strike just in time to hit Leatherhead right across the snout. The gator faltered, dazed for a moment by the blow, just long enough for Mikey to reach the other side of the filthy river of sewage and climb out.
His escape was short-lived once again. It seemed as soon as he'd reached the relative safety of the brick path, Leatherhead had regained his senses and was after him once again. The gator shot out of the water and slammed a hand into the turtle's chest, pinning him violently against the wall. Mikey let out a scream of pain as putrid gray smoke rose up from around Leatherhead's hand, the touch of his flesh literally burning right into his plastron. Michelangelo struggled instinctively, and managed to slip away during one of the moments when the monstrous gator involuntarily flickered between dimensions.
Mikey clutched at his chest where Leatherhead's hand print was now permanently embedded, the smell of burnt bone filling his nostrils as he fought to catch his breath. He couldn't continue like this forever, not if Leatherhead's mere touch could burn right through him. The gator was now stalking towards him once more, preparing another charge. Mikey backed away slowly, not wanting to enrage the large reptile any more than he already was.
"L-Leatherhead... C-c'mon, buddy... W-we're friends..." Mikey pleaded desperately, genuinely on the verge of tears. He couldn't stand to see Leatherhead like this, and the fact that his own alternate self had done this to him only made it more painful to see. Another low hiss was his only reply, two glowing blue eyes staring him down, that powerful tail flicking back and forth behind the scaled beast.
"Michelangelo!" The call came ringing through the tunnels, echoing off the brick walls. It was Raphael. "Lead it through one of the gates! The ones we'd opened earlier! Do it now!"
Mikey only had a second to look around to see what Raphael was referring to. The gate they'd passed through was on the other side of the water, but there was another one on his side, just a few yards behind him. He made a break for it, turning and sprinting for the opening. Leatherhead charged the instant he saw movement, following right on the turtle's heels. Mikey didn't dare look back. He just ran as fast as his body would let him.
Suddenly, there was a loud metallic crash followed closely by a roar of pain. Mikey stopped, turning around to see what it was. Leatherhead had just gotten his head through the gate when it had slammed down on the back of his neck. The gator thrashed about wildly, trying with all of his strength to free himself from the heavy slab of steel. It was no use. The gate wouldn't budge, not in the direction the beast wanted, at least.
Each time Leatherhead's body flickered out of reality the gate lowered a few inches more, embedding itself deep into the gator's flesh once he flickered back. He let out a loud roar, thrashing more desperately as the gate sunk deeper and deeper into his neck, glowing blue blood pouring out onto the sludge-covered bricks below, flowing into the murky river running through the tunnels.
"Stop it! Stop it, you're killing him!" Mikey shrieked, unable to watch the gruesome spectacle any longer. His voice carried through the tunnels as well as Raphael's had, and soon the gate rose up to the ceiling once more.
It was too late. Leatherhead lay motionless under the gate, his head nearly severed completely from his body. Michelangelo dropped to his knees, hot tears streaming down his cheeks as he stared down at the dead body of his friend. He was motionless for a long while, silent, not knowing what to do, not knowing what to think. Even in the hot, humid air of the tunnels he felt suddenly cold, like all the happiness had been drained from his body, like he'd just done something absolutely unspeakable.
Soon enough, Mikey heard the sound of footsteps approaching from behind.
"Well then, there's that brute taken care of. Let's be off, shall we?" Raphael commented as casually as ever. Mikey felt his fists ball at his sides. In an instant the ninja was on his feet. He grabbed hold of the collar of the other turtle's coal-stained coat, slamming him against the brick walls as hard as he could.
"You son of a bitch! He was my friend!" Michelangelo roared out, his voice shaking with pure rage. Raphael actually flinched at that, almost seeming to duck away from the furious turtle as much as he could.
"It was trying to kill us! What else would you have me do?! That beast couldn't be reasoned with!"
"Only because of what you did to him! The Leatherhead I know wouldn't have hurt anyone on purpose! He was smart, and the best friend I ever had... And you killed him!"
Raphael stared into Mikey's eyes, almost fearfully so. He never thought this version of his brother, so aloof and goofy, would be capable of such fury. Clearly he'd crossed a line here.
"L-look... I am sorry. I truly am..." Raphael started calmly, trying to defuse the ticking time bomb that Michelangelo was currently. "But you have to understand, there wasn't anything else that could be done. Sometimes the only thing you can do for a creature like that is show mercy and put it out of it's misery."
Mikey's fists tightened around the fabric of the other turtle's coat. He wanted to hit him, he wanted to pummel the crap out of him and toss him into the sewage. Anyone who could have done something so heartless and cruel to another living being deserved that much and worse... But he needed Raphael. Mikey didn't know the first thing about this machine, and there were still repairs to be made before he could be sent back to his world. Like it or not, without this callous version of his own brother, he would be hopelessly lost in this labyrinth of a machine for the rest of his life.
After a long moment, Michelangelo finally released him. Raphael released the breath he'd been holding, taking a moment to fix his coat. The ninja glared at him in silence, holding back his anger as the other turtle simply climbed over Leatherhead's body to get back on the proper path. Mikey opted to go a slightly more respectful route, instead climbing over the rubble of the broken wall the gator had smashed through earlier. He ignored the pain in his chest as best he could as he hopped down to the path below. He took one last glance back at his friend's corpse. He wished he could do more, at least give the old gator a proper burial, but there wasn't any time. He continued on after Raphael, following a bit more reluctantly than he had previously.
The remainder of their trek was made in silence. The two of them navigated the sewer tunnels until they came upon an access hatch. Raphael led the way, climbing up yet another steel ladder to reach the heavy submarine-style door. He wrenched the wheel loose, opening the lock and pushing the heavy slab of steel up so they could pass through.
This next area looked to be the central chamber for the tunnels. Steel catwalks criss-crossed across the giant room, winding between gargantuan pieces of machinery that descended all the way down into the sewage below. These had to be the bilge pumps.
Raphael set straight to work, running about the place to see what the saboteur had done to disable the great pumps. He would occasionally ask for Mikey's help with something, but was met each time with silence and a sharp glare. He got his help, but nothing more. Even with the reluctant assistance, it wasn't long before the pumps roared to life. The putrid water lowered quickly, clearing the way below for them to move forward.
"That's it. Everything's in proper working order now. We just have to restart the engines and we'll have you back home in no time at all." Raphael announced with a fair degree of accomplishment in his voice. He got a less-than-enthused grunt in reply, Mikey merely glaring off to the side, refusing to look at him. Raphael let out a sigh, but continued down the path. He knew enough not to fight that particular losing battle any longer.
The path to the engine room was thankfully shorter than the one they'd taken to get to the sewers, since they'd finally reached a part of the facility that was meant for regular travel. Michelangelo trailed behind as they navigated the dark corridors leading to the engine, glaring at the back of Raphael's dusty bowler the entire way. If the Turtles of this world had willingly used Leatherhead in their experiments, what else had they done?
He couldn't help but think back to the Manpigs, who'd chased them as ferociously as the gator had. Were they really just that mindlessly violent, or had they been hunting the two of them specifically? Did they perhaps recognize their faces? Could they have wanted revenge on the ones who'd turned them into such grotesque creatures?
Mikey's fists balled up at his sides once more as he glared daggers at his terrapin escort. Was he lying about the Manpigs' mutation being accidental? If so, what else was he lying about? Could he trust him at all anymore, even to send him home again?
Suddenly, Raphael came to a stop in front of what looked like a large circular cage. He pulled back the sliding bar door, opening up a lift platform large enough for two, maybe three people to occupy at once. Raphael entered first, standing by a small lever in the lift wall as he waited for the other turtle to join him.
Michelangelo stared at the platform for a long moment, giving a reluctant groan. He remembered what elevators in this world were like, and based on previous experiences he already knew he was not a fan. Slowly, and with considerable hesitation, he inched his way onto the platform, keeping a tight hold of the bars surrounding him just in case the floor decided to drop out from under them. Once Mikey was aboard, Raphael threw the switch and the lift began its decent downward.
For a long while all Mikey could see was the sheet metal covering the walls of the elevator shaft, same as before. This lift seemed quite a bit sturdier than the dumbwaiter from before, but that offered little comfort. He clung to the bars the whole way down. Then, rather abruptly, the view outside the lift changed. They suddenly found themselves in a huge chamber that had to be as wide as several city blocks, pipes and catwalks winding across like floating highways. The vastness of the chamber almost seemed small when compared to the gigantic machine fixed in the center.
It had to have been ten stories tall at least, with pipes that descended infinitely downward from its lowest sections. There wasn't a single word that could quite describe it, with copper and steel winding about it like mechanical veins, vents and panels giving the thing an almost organic texture from afar. It was like it was a living, breathing creature. Mikey stared up at it in awe, having never seen anything like it, even forgetting to cling to the bars of the lift as it came to a stop at the base of the great engine.
The door opened and Raphael stepped out of the lift, the sound of his boots against the metal catwalks ringing throughout the vast chamber. Mikey jogged a bit to catch up with him, though he still kept the other turtle at arms length. As they made their way towards the Goliath of metal rising above them, several spotlights around the chamber clicked on. The light did little across such a huge space, but it did offer a slightly better look of the surroundings. He could see every last bolt, every last rivet and weld seam on the surface of the towering engine. Michelangelo suddenly felt rather cold, shuddering at the sight of this titan of copper and steam.
Mikey went from feeling cold to frozen solid in an instant. That voice... He couldn't tell if it was a distant whisper echoing through the chamber or if it was a voice in his head. Either way, he knew to whom it belonged.
"M-Master Splinter..?" he asked softly, turning to look behind him. He was greeted by nothing but the dimly lit catwalk behind him. He looked around at the other catwalks, but no one was there. Was he really just imagining it?
"Michelangelo, please hurry up. I need you with me to activate the engines." Raphael called out from one of the catwalks just above him. Mikey let out a sigh, taking one last look around before hurrying up the staircase.
Raphael lead the way to the control room, which was located about halfway up the far cavern wall. It was small compared to the vast machine it looked over, only big enough for about five or six people to stand in without feeling cramped. There was a large control board at the front of the room, next to which was a large hexagonal window.
"This will only take a moment." Raphael began, stepping forward once they were inside and grabbing hold of one of the large levers mounted in the floor just in front of the window. The British turtle pulled the lever back. There was a loud clank sound. Mikey looked around to see large blast doors slowly sliding into place to seal the two entrance-ways. The young ninja swallowed hard, suddenly feeling trapped in this small space. But he didn't have to worry, right? He was about to go home, wasn't he?
Raphael hit a few buttons on the control panel, threw a few switches, and soon enough a circular panel slid open in the center of the board, revealing a dark hole just a few inches across.
"I'm going to have to ask you to place your hand in here." he stated, earning an expected look of utter confusion from the other turtle. He sighed, placing his own hand inside to demonstrate that it was safe. A moment later, a red light came on above the opening, letting off an unhappy buzz. He removed his hand, the buzzer silencing once more.
"My brother - your alternate - was a rather paranoid man. He trusted no one, not even us at times. He designed and built everything you see here, and took great pride in it all. As such, he made it so his hand alone acted as the key to start the great engines."
"So that's why ya need me?" Mikey asked, staring down at his hand. Would it really work? Sure, he and his alternate were technically the same person, but they'd lived vastly different lives. His alternate was a scientist, his hands used to working with machines and laboratory equipment. Mikey was a ninja, his hands honed for combat and scarred by battle. Was he even close enough to his other self for his hand to work if this world's Raphael couldn't activate the machine?
Michelangelo stepped forward, slowly sticking his hand down into the opening in the control panel. It felt like slipping his hand into a metallic glove tailored specifically for him. He could feel tiny little pistons pressing against his palm, measuring every inch of his hand against a pattern ingrained into the machine's very being. After a long, tense moment, the light on the panel lit up once more. This time, it was green.
"H-hey, it worked!" Mikey cheered as the rest of the control panel came to life, green lights across the board signaling that everything was in order and ready to go. Raphael let a triumphant smile spread across his lips, stepping forward to make the necessary adjustments to the control panel.
Mikey pulled his hand out of the panel once he was given the okay, and soon took to staring out the large window overlooking the engine. He could hear massive gears begin to churn and mesh behind the walls, feel the rumbling all around him as steam rushed throughout the intricate, winding system of copper pipes. If this machine really was alive, then they'd just restarted its heart.
Then, he heard it. That voice from before. It echoed throughout his head, ringing in his heart and shaking him to the very core. A voice he dared not believe was real, but couldn't deny any longer.
'I live! I breathe again! I rise... I will rise to bleach the sky and still the water! I will spin the world wheel and set the future upon the path to redemption!'
Mikey's breath caught in his throat, his eyes wide as he realized what that voice was. It was the Machine itself, speaking directly into his very soul. He felt cold, his stomach turning inside him. The voice this monstrosity of steel used... It was the voice of Hamato Yoshi.
"N-no..." he choked out, taking a shaky step back from the window as he covered his ears with his hands. The Machine continued in his head as if to prove its will could not be ignored.
'My time is come! More pig! More pig!'
Before Mikey could do anything more, he suddenly felt an arm wrap around his neck, his attacker's other hand forcing a cloth over his mouth and nose. He held his breath reflexively, just as his Master had taught him, but not in time to avoid getting a strong whiff of something that smelled vaguely of bleach. He'd trained with the stuff before. It was chloroform.
"I thank you for your assistance, but I'm afraid your services are no longer required. In fact, you've become something of a liability, and we simply can't have that." came Raphael's voice in his ear. Mikey struggled as much as he could, but he was already getting sluggish, his mind growing cloudy and his vision fading. He'd breathed in too much of the chloroform in the cloth. He couldn't remain conscious for more than a few seconds longer.
"No hard feelings, dear 'brother'... It's just good business."
Chapter 9: Betrayal
Winston Churchill is famously quoted as saying 'Dogs look up to man. Cats look down to man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal.'
Pigs are quite a bit more resourceful than the average human gives them credit for. They can be more intelligent than some primates and their sense of smell exceeds even that of a bloodhound. Some countries have taken advantage of this combination of skills, training pigs to sniff out gourmet truffles and even hidden drugs for the police. One particular pig had recently trained himself to hunt down his favorite variety of plaything.
Anton Zeck sniffed at the cold city air, searching for the tell-tale scent of ozone that would lead him to the location of some piece of electronic equipment he could 'permanently borrow' from its current owner. His vision was a mass of vague, colorful shapes, his visor displaying his surroundings in the infrared spectrum, mapping the heat signatures of everything around him. Even with all this, he found nothing that piqued his interest.
"Tsk, maaan... 'Dis place already been picked clean...Ain't shit worth my time ta steal here." the lanky warthog complained, kicking an empty soup can down the length of the dark, dirty alleyway. He heard a gruff grunt behind him, heavy footsteps lagging just behind his own.
"Could have told you that, урод..." grumbled a deep, very Russian male voice behind him. Ivan Steranko trailed behind his comrade, keeping a vigilant eye on their surroundings. The rhino's ears swiveled about, scanning for any sound that might reveal a would-be attacker hiding in the shadows. He carried an old Kalashnikov at his side, which was more than he'd normally bother with. Something was wrong in this city, more so than normal, but he couldn't quite place what it was. He'd learned long ago not to ignore his soldier's instincts when they alerted him to unseen dangers.
"Why we waste time looking for more machine? You have big one to play with." Ivan grumbled out, clearly irritated with his companion's little pet project that he'd been working on for the past week. "You beg me to bring for you. Why you not use?"
"I can't just flip the thing on! I gotta examine it more!" Anton retorted, visibly less concerned with their surroundings than his militant friend. "That things one funky piece o' gadgetry! S'a work o' art, ya dig? A guy like you aught'a appreciate that. Like... If I stole ya one o' them scrolls they found in Pompeii, ya wouldn't just unroll the damn thing, would ya? It'd crumble! Ya'd lose everythin'! This machine's like that. Ya gotta take yer time with it, figure out what makes it tick b'fore ya go flippin' switches. S'pose it turns out ta be some bad-ass bomb? Boom, baby! Blow our happy asses sky high 'fore we know what happened!"
Ivan replied with little more than a grunt of acknowledgment, having stopped paying attention to the lanky pig's rambling little more than halfway through. For someone whose job relied so much on stealth, that man sure didn't know when to shut up.
"So why we look for more?"
"I wanna see if that's the only one. It don't look like somethin' meant ta work by itself. Looks more like a piece of a bigger system. If I find more pieces, I might be able to figure 'dis one out."
Suddenly, Ivan heard something beyond his companion's incessant chattering. He stopped, readying the rifle at his hip. The rhinoceros' mismatched eyes scanned the darkness of the alley, ears swiveling as he listened for movement. Anton, aloof as he was, managed to pull himself out of his own little world long enough to take notice of his friend's odd behavior and stopped.
"Yo, Ivan! Wazzup? You alright back the- H-hey!" he exclaimed, turning around to find himself suddenly staring down the barrel of an AK-47. He immediately held up his hands in surrender, backing away a few steps. "Wh-whoah, hold up, G! Wuzzit sumthin' I said?! We already had this discussion, man! If I fuck up an' accidentally say sumthin' bad in Russian, I totally mean sumthin' else in English!"
"Cвинья..." Ivan replied, his voice low as though trying not to startle the prey he was hunting. The warthog gave an irritated huff, his ears flattening as he let his arms fall back down to his sides. He didn't know too much Russian, but that was one word he was starting to pick up on.
"Hey! What'd I tell ya 'bout usin' the 'P' word 'round me? That counts in any language, mu'fucker!" Anton retorted, hands balling at his sides as though he was planning to start a fight with the muscular brute. Not that he could really do anything, still staring down the business end of a rifle and all. Even so, he didn't like being casually referred to as 'pig' like that. Ivan knew that by now.
Suddenly, Ivan barked out what could only have been an order, judging from the tone. Anton froze instinctively, not understanding at first. He got a fairly good idea what he had been told to do when he felt something hard and heavy slam into his back. Ah, yes. 'Duck'. Of course. The warthog was sent flying across the alley, slamming against the brick wall that was Ivan Steranko's torso. The impact was enough to send the rhino's rifle flying from his hand, but he managed to remain standing even as Anton collapsed at his feet.
"Dawg... Seriously... English!" the scrawny thief gasped out as he tried to reclaim the wind that had been knocked out of him.
"Will work on. Later." the rhino replied shortly, readying his fists as he continued to stare down the spot where Anton had just been standing. Confused by this, the warthog looked over at where his friend was staring, finally understanding what he'd been aiming at this whole time.
The creature stood easily as tall as Ivan himself, with muscles that rivaled that of the bulky rhinoceros. It stared at them from under a raggedy hood of bandages with beady little brown eyes, bestial ears twitching at any sound that echoed down the alleyway. Its pig-like snout twitched as it sniffed the air, trying to figure out what these two strange mutant creatures were in front of it.
Anton scrambled up to his feet, quickly hiding behind the cover that Ivan's form offered.
"Is relative of yours?" Ivan asked with a slight smirk on his face. Anton gave an indignant snort at that.
"That ain't funny!"
The exchange between the two seemed to be all it took to set off the Manpig's hair-trigger temper. It let out a loud, screeching roar before dropping to all fours and charging at the two mutants.
"Hey, fuck you! My mother's a saint!" Anton managed to retort at the pig creature just before being tossed to the side like a ragdoll by his partner. An instant later, Ivan had the beast locked in a grapple. The rhino's heels dug into the concrete as the Manpig pushed him back several feet, its brute strength threatening to overcome even that of the old KGB Officer. Ivan ducked down to put his scarred horn at the beast's throat, pushing with all his might to gain the upper hand.
Ivan caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye. Knowing instantly what was going on, he relinquished his advantage to the beast for a split second, just long enough to ready a fist. He drove a sledgehammer-like uppercut squarely into the Manpig's gut, earning a loud squeal of pain. He broke away from the creature as it stumbled backwards in pain. It only made it back a few feet before it found its hooves stuck to the cement below. Anton let out an amused laugh from his perch on a nearby dumpster, contact juggling a few of his glue grenades in one hand.
"Hate ta do 'dis ta a fellow swine, but hey; dat's how it be, Cuz'." the warthog commented with a shrug of his shoulders just as Ivan retrieved his rifle. Within seconds, the rhino had placed five closely-grouped shots into the Manpig's skull. The creature fell backward, collapsing dead onto the concrete.
"Man, didja hafta kill it?" Anton asked as he hopped down from on top of the dumpster. Ivan made his way over to the creature's body, using the barrel of his rifle to turn the Manpig's head and get a better look at the thing.
"Did not look like talking type." Ivan replied, not sounding even the least bit winded from his little tussle with the beast. Their break seemed short-lived, however. Both their ears perked at a strange yet familiar sound coming from above. They looked up, just catching sight of a Kraang as it flew by in one of their smaller hover units.
"Kraang? What they doing here?" Ivan thought aloud, still not trusting the little brain-like aliens. Anton was just as curious as his companion, quickly sweeping through all known Kraang radio frequencies with his visor. It didn't take long to get a hit.
'Kraang has located the escaped subject. Kraang will proceed to retrieve the escaped subject and return it to the area designated as the 'pig line.''
"Woah... Looks like dis fella's one o' the Kraang's freaky experiments. Musta got loose or sumthin'." Anton explained once he got the gist of the transmission. Ivan quickly rose to his feet.
"Do not think Kraang would be happy to know we kill it."
"Man, ya took the words right outta my mouth. Time ta book it!" the warthog agreed, more than happy to run away from an unfavorable situation. The instant he turned to run, however, a glowing pink portal opened up just in front of his snout. He glanced over his shoulder in time to see the Kraang now barreling down the alleyway, heading right for him. It was aiming to push him into the portal.
"W-woah, wait a minute! Ya got da wrong pi-" But his protest was cut off as the alien tackled him through the portal.
"Anton!" Ivan called out, sprinting back towards the portal as his friend disappeared through it. He was just a second too late, the portal closing as he came within inches of it. The rhino was left alone, just the body of the dead Manpig there to keep him company. Ivan barked out a string of profanities in Russian, slamming a fist against the building next to him so hard it threatened to collapse the entire wall.
The Kraang had interfered with his plans before, but this was something he simply could not stand for.
Raphael had taken to pacing back and forth in front of the entrance to the Lair. To say he was agitated would be quite the understatement. The three of them had spent the past week combing the entire city for Michelangelo's stolen device, but they found no trace of it. The shielding they'd installed to keep the Kraang from locating the power crystal had worked, perhaps too well. Their enemies couldn't track it, but neither could they.
Finally, after what felt like ages, Leonardo made his way back into the Lair.
"Any luck?" Donatello asked. Leo shook his head.
"Nah, couldn't find anything. It's like it just vanished into thin air. I don't get it... We've looked everywhere. We should have found something by now..."
"Ya know where we haven't looked?" Raphael started, earning an exasperated sigh from Donnie.
"Not this again... Raph, you really gotta let it go, alright? I've told you a million times; Michelangelo didn't steal his own device. It makes no sense! Why would he?"
"To keep us on a wild goose chase while he does whatever the hell he wants!"
"And what, pray tell, would he want to do that he'd need us distracted for?!"
Raphael was a bit caught off guard by the question, hesitating for a moment. He knew he was making some bold claims, that he had no proof to back him up, that he was going purely on gut feeling alone, but he couldn't just stand by and do nothing about it.
"I... I don't know..." he admitted, "I just know something's really wrong with that guy. Look, let's go check his workshop. All of us. It's the only place in the city we haven't looked."
Leo and Donnie looked to each other, as though trying to decide whether they should indulge their brother in his crazy accusations for the second time. After a moment, Leo nodded.
"Alright, we'll check it out... but only because we have no other leads. Maybe we'll find something there that will lead us to whoever's behind this."
With that decided, the three of them left the Lair, making their way down to the warehouse where Michelangelo had established his workshop.
The three young ninjas converged on the warehouse in silence, not wanting to alert their 'guest' to their presence. This was one investigation where stealth would be crucial. Michelangelo, paranoid as he was, hated even them snooping around his workshop when he wasn't there to supervise their every movement. They would jeopardize the Brit's trust if they were caught here like this.
Donnie slipped on his infrared goggles, scanning the building for heat signatures. He gave Leo a signal that meant all was clear. The ninja leader nodded, and the three proceeded inside.
Much to their surprise, the workshop looked virtually untouched since they'd last been in there, with the exception of the missing equipment, of course. A fine layer of dust now covered Michelangelo's laboratory equipment, having sat unused for more than a week. There wasn't a trace of the device left, just as their guest had claimed, no hints to be had of whoever may have taken it. It seemed they'd been the victim of quite the skilled thief.
"See, Raph? Nothing. This was a waste of time." Donnie grumbled, fully prepared to just leave the warehouse as it was. Raphael gave an indignant huff, turning towards the worktable.
"Oh yeah? S'pose ya wouldn't be interested in this, then?" he asked, holding up an old leather journal. Donnie couldn't hide the spark of intrigue in his eyes. He'd wanted to look through that journal since the first moment he'd laid eyes on it. Now might be his only chance. Raphael tossed the book over to his brother, who immediately began flipping through it with captivated interest.
As Donatello flipped through the journal, something small and metallic clattered to the ground from between the pages. Leonardo bent down to pick it up, turning it over in his palm curiously. Donnie's attention was torn from his investigation of Michelangelo's journal as he looked over to see what he'd stumbled upon. The two of them looked like they'd swallowed their tongues when they realized what it was their guest had hidden from them.
"Sweet mother of mutation... Th-that's... That's a Kraang portal generator..." Donatello stammered out in awe. Leonardo could only stare at the device in stunned silence, practically not believing what he was holding. Raphael, however...
"Oh, what was that? D'ya hear that ringing sound, Don?" Raph asked rather sarcastically, holding a hand to his ear as though trying to hear better. "Someone better go pick up that phone, because I fucking called it!"
"That's enough, Raph!" Leo scolded, though he couldn't deny it any longer; Raph had been right all along. But... Working with the Kraang? He couldn't see how that was even possible for someone who looked identical to one of their most hated enemies. The ninja leader looked up to his brother, eyes pleading for some sort of reasonable explanation for all this. Donatello could offer nothing, his mouth still hanging open in complete disbelief.
"I... I don't understand..." Donnie began softly, taking the small alien device from his brother. "Why..? H-how..?"
"Hey, ya want answers?" Raphael asked, snatching the little silver disk from his stunned sibling. "Ask the fucker himself."
With that, Raph hit a switch on the disk and tossed it over his shoulder. The disk split into three sections and flew apart before ever hitting the floor, a glowing pink portal spreading between them. The other two turtles stared into the portal with understandable hesitation. If Michelangelo truly was working with the Kraang, if he'd really gone into Dimension X, there was no telling what they'd find waiting for them beyond that gate...
Three young mutants dashed out into what looked like a massive hub of countless portals, weapons at the ready as they entered what was surely to be a hostile environment. Surprisingly, there wasn't a single enemy to be had, the huge circular room deserted of Kraang. The three relaxed a bit, lowering their weapons for the moment. Donatello sniffed lightly at the air.
"Huh... That's strange... This building's equipped with a life support system that simulates the atmosphere of Earth. Why would the Kraang bother doing that?"
"Who cares? At least we ain't gotta wear these damn things anymore." Raph retorted, pulling the straw-like air filter out of the corner of his mouth and tossing his rebreather unit on the ground. Donnie opened his mouth to point out that he might need the device later, but Leonardo had already done the same with his before the protest could be made. Don let out a sigh of defeat, removing his and placing it in a pouch on his belt.
The three turtles split up to look around the massive room, taking particular interest in the countless portal gates lining the wall. It didn't take long for them to find more oddities with this particular Kraang base.
"Hey, Don?" Leo began, brows furrowing as he stared at the silvery metallic plate mounted above one of the portals. "Why would the Kraang label these portals in English?"
"That ain't all..." Raph chimed in, walking along the line of portals across the room. "Paris, Sydney, Moscow, Beijing... These are all Earth cities!"
"Los Angeles, Berlin, Tokyo, Rome..." Donnie continued, "These aren't just any Earth cities... They're all huge Earth cities, capitols and major hubs of civilization. But... Why? Why would the Kraang want permanent portals to all these cities? They barely had enough resources to control New York before..."
Donatello and Raphael looked up when they heard their eldest brother call for their attention. Leonardo had found his way to the control center for the portals, which was situated at the far wall rather than the center where it would normally be. The control station wasn't the most interesting discovery to be had, oddly enough. Behind the large control bank was a huge window, giving whoever was there at the controls a wide view of the world outside.
The other two turtles rushed over to see outside, their jaws dropping at the sight that greeted them. Silver towers of otherworldly metals rose up for what seemed like miles, pipes and cables strung between them like massive, intricate spider webs. A great many Kraang could be seen flying around out there, but most were far too high up towards the top of the towers to take notice of their intruders. All of this spread out farther than their eyes could see, fading into obscurity past their range of vision.
"It's like we're in an entire Kraang city..." Leo breathed out in awe, having never seen a Kraang construct this massive.
"So, what's this, then? Their Grand Central Station?" Raph commented, turning to Donatello for answers. The taller turtle was currently flipping feverishly through Michelangelo's journal, a look of apprehension in his eyes as though he were hoping beyond hope that his immediate theory was incorrect. The sudden wilt of his shoulders as he stopped at a certain page signaled that he'd have no such luck.
"This isn't anything the Kraang designed... This is a recreation of Michelangelo's machine!" Don announced, turning the journal around so the others could see. The pages depicted intricate sketches of what had to be gargantuan pieces of machinery. Even Leo and Raph could see the resemblance to these giant alien towers. Their guest had a certain style about his inventions that was very distinctly his own.
"Wh-what does that mean? What's this machine supposed to do?" Leo asked, now extremely worried. If it was something that the Kraang would put so much effort into building, it couldn't have been anything good. Donatello continued to read hastily through Michelangelo's notes.
"From what he's got written here, this machine seems to be a huge system of components with three main purposes. The first is used to butcher pigs and extract the Vitae from their blood, the second uses that Vitae to reconstruct the Orb after pieces are broken off. The third function uses the broken-off shards in devices like the one I'd helped Michelangelo build last week, only... It looks like this machine has hundreds of them, all mounted at the tops of these tower structures."
"So, remind me again what ya said the other day? How big would that bastard's machine hafta be ta be dangerous?" Raph asked, folding his arms and narrowing his eyes at his brothers. Donatello let out a sigh.
"Okay, fine! You were right, Raph. Ya happy?! I was wrong and you were right!" Donnie barked out defensively. "But none of that matters now! What matters is the Kraang now have a device that can punch a city-sized hole in the barrier between dimensions!"
"Could they be planning another invasion?" Leo asked, but Donnie immediately shook his head.
"This machine can't function as a teleporter independently." he assured, "It acts more like a bridge between dimensions, connecting with an identical machine in the other dimension to create the link. But to even do that, this machine's array of Orb-powered units must be located in the equivalent geographic location as the one it's meant to connect to. If the array is off by even a fraction of an inch, the dangers of it opening an unstable rift and destroying both dimensions is... Gaah, I can't do math like this in my head right now! This was all in the realm of theoretical physics until a moment ago!"
"Woah, wait a minute... So this thing's supposed to open some kinda 'space bridge' to that creepy bastard's world? Why in the hell would the Kraang wanna do that? What's there that they can't get here?" Raph asked, finally climbing down off of his 'I told you so' pedestal to figure out what was going on here. Leonardo furrowed his brows in thought.
"It's the Orb, isn't it?" Leo asked, watching Donnie put his goggles on once more to get a better look at what the Kraang were working on atop the towers. "They want the core of the Orb from Michelangelo's world. That's the only thing they have that we don't. You said it yourself; even that tiny shard of it was extremely powerful. They might want the rest of it."
"That's the only thing I can think of. Michelangelo can regrow more shards with the one he has, but he can never get close to the kind of power the core must have. But they can't get to it from here. This machine has to be moved into place first." he explained as he took off his goggles, making his way quickly for what looked like the exit of the portal hub. The other two followed close behind.
"We don't have a lot of time. The Kraang are up there working on a portal generator big enough to teleport this whole machine to the undergrounds of London."
"And here I'd left my Oyster card at home." Raphael joked with a light smirk.
"How can we stop it?" Leo asked, trying to get right to the point. They'd stood around talking for too long already. It was time to actually do something about it.
"If we can get to the central control room I should be able to reroute the power and overload the entire sys-..." Donatello's reply was cut short as they passed through the door that led out of the portal room, his mouth hanging open in silent awe at what lie beyond it.
The area the three now found themselves in could only be described as a prison. Holding cells lined the walls of a passage as wide as a major highway and running on into infinity. The cells stacked ever upwards, reaching at least fifteen stories high. They could hear bestial noises echoing throughout the massive ward, mixed with the occasional human-sounding voice calling out from somewhere in that alien prison. There had to be thousands of them.
This was going to take a bit longer than they'd expected.
Chapter 10: The Saboteur
Michelangelo awoke to the smell of filthy animal bedding and blood, his mind still in a fog from the chloroform used on him earlier. He let out a groan of discomfort as he picked himself up from the cold, filthy brick floor, a few strands of straw sticking to his face even as he shook his head. He looked around to see where he'd been taken. He was in what almost looked like a dungeon cell, the floor lined with dirty old straw that smelled like an old barn house. There was hardly any light coming in from the small barred window mounted in the heavy cell door, just enough that he could make out the large cage at the back of the cell not unlike the ones he'd seen in the cellar of the church.
It was clear he wasn't this cell's first occupant. It reeked of Manpig, though there was no sign of one of those beasts sharing the cramped prison with him currently. Mikey sat against the back wall, wedging himself between the cage and the corner of the cell, hugging his knees close to his chest. He couldn't believe he'd been tricked like that... Raphael had used him this whole time, he'd pretended to help him when all he wanted was to restart that hellish machine for his own purposes. He could still hear the echoes of Hamato Yoshi's voice in his head, the chilling sound of the Machine calling for 'more pig'. Just the thought of it sent a chill up the back of his shell.
He felt so stupid... So useless... He should have seen it sooner, should have known this world's Turtles couldn't be trusted the moment he'd seen what they'd done to Leatherhead. Now it was too late. Leatherhead was dead, and he was trapped in this dungeon. Of course, even if he could get out, what could he do about it? The Machine was operational once again thanks to him, free to carry out whatever twisted purposes it was built to fulfill. How could he stop it when he didn't know the first thing about it? If only he were smarter, he could do it. If only he had Donnie there with him...
Suddenly, a bright light flashed into the cell from the opening in the door. Mikey had to shield his eyes with his hand to keep from being blinded, though he did try to peek past to see who was there. He could only make out a vague silhouette of a figure, the light from a lantern obscuring anything else beyond it.
There was a loud mechanical clank, followed by the groan of steel on steel. The lantern light went away, and the sound of footfalls echoed down the corridor as they traveled away. Mikey, finally able to see again, looked up to find the cell door had been unlocked, now sitting open several inches. The young ninja knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth in a place like this. He jumped up to his feet, dashing out of the cell before the footsteps could fade away completely.
Mikey now found himself standing in a narrow brick corridor, heavy metal doors just like the one he'd just passed through lining the walls. It was like some sort of old prison block, though he doubted that it had ever housed any true criminals. The small lights mounted near the cell doors offered little light, but there was just enough that he could still see where he was going... And just little enough that he could still see his mysterious emancipator's lantern light in the darkness ahead.
Mikey sprinted after the mysterious figure, eager to find out just who else could have found their way this deep into the Machine. Raphael wouldn't have gone to all the trouble to knock him unconscious and toss him into a holding cell only to just let him free like this, but who else knew he was down there?
A loud, screeching roar ripped Mikey from his thoughts as he passed through a spot where the winding corridors of the prison intersected. The young turtle gasped, instinctively diving away as a Manpig came charging at him from the right. He snapped his eyes shut, fully expecting the hammer-blow of the beast's hoof to come crashing down on his head at any moment. It never came.
Mikey looked up just in time to watch the Manpig as it was swept off its feet, crashing onto its back with a loud thud. It took a moment for him to register what had happened to it, but he saw as the poor brute got up and hobbled back to its cage at the far end of the dead-end corridor; there was a thick chain around its neck, anchoring it securely to this cramped little area. It had been jerked back by the neck when it had run out of slack in the chain.
The ninja got up to his feet once more, watching for a moment as the Manpig curled up in the filthy straw that made up its bed, trembling and covering its head as though it were expecting to be punished for its behavior. Mikey couldn't help but feel sorry for the creature. It wasn't its fault. None of this was. It was just like Leatherhead; a victim of his alternate's twisted experiments. He had to remind himself that these Manpigs were once human beings. They had nothing to do with all this before they'd been mutated.
Not wanting the trail he was following to grow cold, Mikey had to leave the poor beast and hurry down the corridor once more. This mysterious fellow didn't seem too concerned with being followed, leaving doors open behind him as he proceeded forward through the labyrinthine bowels of the Machine. His chase led him over metal catwalks and brick paths, past more holding cells and soon through massive blocks of machinery once more. It wasn't until he found himself winding through a jungle of massive brass pipes that he encountered his first real obstacle.
There was a loud bang up ahead, followed by a roar of steam. The already considerably uncomfortable level of humidity in the area more than doubled in that instant, his path filling with a hot haze. He soon came upon the cause of this: a pipe that had been ripped out of place and was now billowing steam into the area. He could hear more bangs up ahead, followed by more steam. Whoever he was following seemed to be breaking anything they could possibly get their hands on. Suddenly, Mikey realized who he'd been following, who had freed him. It had to be the saboteur.
"Hey! Wait up! I wanna talk to ya!" Mikey called out through the vast steam room, vaulting over intact pipes and blocks of machinery as he pursued whoever it was that had been trying to destroy this mass of rotten architecture this whole time. His calls seemed to have been heard, as soon enough he was blinded by the light of a lantern once more. The figure set the lantern down on the ground, finally allowing the ninja to see who it was. Mikey couldn't help but draw in a sharp gasp of surprise as he found himself staring up into a pair of very familiar hazel eyes.
"D-Donnie..?" he stammered out, now utterly confused. It was Donatello all right. There was no mistaking the lanky turtle even in that soot-stained gray suit. The purple bow around his neck was hanging loose, his entire appearance quite a bit more disheveled than the last time he'd seen him, likely from crawling around in the Machine. But why? Why would he willingly try to destroy the Machine he'd helped create?
"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..." Donatello whispered out, a look of deep sadness on his face, guilt weighing heavily on the lanky turtle. "I wish I could say I'd never meant for any of this to happen, but... I am just as guilty as the others. Perhaps more so, as I'd done nothing to stop it before now..."
Michelangelo stared at Donatello for a long while, still not understanding. Raphael seemed so heartless, so callous, so unrepentant for what he and his brothers had done, so why, of all of them, would Donatello be the only one that seemed to have a conscience? He could tell the guilt in his eyes was genuine, he could tell it was hurting him inside. Now he was starting to get what Donatello had promised to put right when he'd first arrived.
"I tried... By God, did I try... I'd stalled the pumps, broken everything I could, but..." he paused, letting out a shaky sigh and looking away, as if too ashamed to make eye-contact. "I couldn't... I stood before it, stared into its eyes, into its very soul, but... I simply couldn't bring myself to do it... I could no more destroy this Machine than a boy could kill his own father, and for that... I am damned for cowardice..."
Donatello turned away from Mikey, attempting to continue down through the steam room, but the ninja dashed forward to cut him off.
"It's not over yet!" Mikey insisted as he blocked the other turtle's path. "You may not be able to kill this thing, but I ain't got a damn problem with takin' it out myself. Just show me where to go, tell me what to do. I'll make sure this thing can't fuck with anyone else ever again."
Donatello couldn't help but stare down at the shorter turtle for a long moment, not believing what he was hearing. There was a small spark of hope in his eyes, though.
"Y-you... You would take this burden upon yourself? But... I could never ask something like that of you... This isn't your battle. You've nothing to do with all this."
"Yeah, well I do now."
Donatello stared down at Mikey for a long moment, looking him over as if wondering if he was physically up to the task. After a while, he let out a soft sigh.
"Very well... Follow me." Donatello replied after a moment, picking up his lantern and starting off down one of the catwalks that winded through the steam pipes. Michelangelo found himself once again following behind a strange, alternate version of one of his own brothers. Of course, the thought did cross his mind that this could be another trick, but why? Raphael had him locked up where he couldn't cause any trouble, he'd gotten what he wanted. What could he or the Machine possibly gain by letting him out once more?
"To rid the world of this hellish Machine once and for all, you must destroy the Orb." Donatello began to explain as he led the way through the pipes.
"'Orb'? What's that?" Mikey asked as he ducked under a low pipe, finding it slightly difficult to keep up with the other turtle, who likely had a much better idea of the obstacles in their path than he did.
"It's a stone, a jewel of exceptional power. Father had found it in an Aztec temple in Mexico. He told us how he could hear it singing to his soul the instant he touched it, how it whispered the secrets of the future to him in his dreams. It told him how to make a substance capable of morphing life itself to his whims and, ultimately, how to create us. But... There is a cost for such knowledge. The Orb leeched Father's very life-force from his body, leaving him sick and frail. Eventually, Father could not survive without the Orb keeping him alive, so he let it have him... Body and soul..."
"Wait... Ya mean he's dead?!" Mikey asked, shocked to hear that. Raphael had said Hamato Yoshi was merely sick, not dead!
"Yes... and no. His body is technically alive, but it's often hard to tell if there's anything left of his mind beyond what the Orb has claimed for itself, and his body... Well, he'd become so frail that Michelangelo had to use part of the Machine itself as a life-support system for him. He's still in here, at the core. No... perhaps it's more accurate to say that he is the core. He is the Machine."
Mikey stopped dead in his tracks when he heard that. No, it couldn't be... He'd hoped the Machine was merely using his Master's voice to taunt him, but... Could it really be possible that Hamato Yoshi himself was the dark mind controlling this vast contraption? And what about the Orb? If that's what was keeping Hamato alive, if that's what he had to destroy to end all this... Did that mean he had to kill an alternate version of his own Sensei to carry out this deed? He wasn't sure he could do that. He'd never killed anything, he'd never even thought of killing anyone, even after Raphael carelessly did away with Leatherhead.
"I-is... Is there any other way? I mean... Without havin' ta kill anyone?" he asked hesitantly, jogging to catch up with the other turtle.
"Do you have a father, sir?" Donatello asked without ever looking back. Mikey blinked in confusion at the question.
"Uhh... Yeah. My Sensei, Splinter..."
"I see... And what if your Sensei had become a faint wisp of his former self? If his mind had been consumed by a force beyond your comprehension? I can only vaguely remember what Father was like before finding that damnable Orb, having viewed him through the eyes of a simple pet turtle, but... I know, were he in his right mind, he would not wish to live like this. This is not murder, Michelangelo. This is mercy."
Mikey felt himself grow numb at that last word. Mercy. Yes, the same sort of 'mercy' Raphael had shown Leatherhead. But he wasn't anything like that heartless bastard! He couldn't do something like that, especially to an alternate of his own father!
Donatello stopped suddenly, almost causing his follower to run right into his back. Mikey watched as the light from the lantern was aimed upward, shining on a vent just above their heads.
"I'm afraid you'll have to find your own way to the core from here."
"Wh-what?! You're not comin' with me?"
"I... I can't..." Donatello began, hanging his head in shame. "I'd be a liability if I accompanied you. The blue water of the Orb runs through my veins. I could be influenced by its power if I dared step foot in front of it once more, especially after all I've done to defy it..."
"B-but... I have no idea where I'm going! I'll be lost for years in here!"
"You... You've heard it, haven't you? The Machine's voice like a specter whispering in your ear?" he asked, receiving a nod from Mikey. "Then you have all you need to find him. Follow his voice, chase the icy chill it leaves in your heart. It will lead you to him, to his blackened temple."
Mikey looked up at the vent, letting out a reluctant groan. So he was supposed to navigate this wretched place all by himself? But... What other choice did he have? Donatello handed him the lantern, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Michelangelo took a deep breath, steeling himself for the journey ahead. He clipped the lantern to his belt before climbing the ladder up to the vent.
Donatello stared up at the vent for a long while, until long after the light from the lantern had faded down the pipes. He let out a heavy sigh, turning away to navigate back through the dark corridors of the steam room.
"Good luck, brother... And may God forgive me for what I've left you to face."
Michelangelo found himself crawling along what felt like miles of cramped, dusty ventilation pipes, searching out the heart of the very monster he was currently wandering through. He'd never felt more alone in his life than he did now. He needed his Master's guidance, he needed his brothers there to help him stay strong. There was Donatello, but... He wasn't sure what to think about him just yet, not after all he'd seen here.
It wasn't long before the pipes started growing cold. Mikey could feel the cool breeze on his cheeks coming from up ahead, his breath coming out in puffs of fog. He recalled what Donatello had said earlier about following the icy chill in his heart... Well, if this wasn't cold enough, he didn't know what was. He soon came upon the source of the chill; a large fan pulling in cold air from another section of the Machine. He braced himself against the walls of the pipe, using both of his feet to kick the fan out, letting it clatter to the ground below.
The young ninja dropped down to the floor, covering the light of his lantern out of habit as he quickly dashed to the nearest available cover. He hid behind a large tank of frigid liquid, straining his ears to listen for even the slightest hint of movement. He knew the dangers of this place by now. He wasn't about to make the same careless mistakes he'd made before. It was time to start acting like a real ninja.
Mikey peeked out around the coolant tank after hearing nothing in the immediate area. He could see nothing. He chanced a look with his lantern, casting the light down the narrow corridor between tanks. There was neither hide nor hair of any of those Manpigs around, just endless rows of coolant tanks.
He wasn't about to sit there and wait around for them to find him there. He wanted to get to the heart of this mechanical monstrosity and get this whole ordeal behind him as soon as possible. He dashed through the coolant tanks, navigated through to further sections of this frigid area. The world outside the coolant room was just as dark and lonely as the rest of the Machine, albeit a bit cleaner. Steel catwalks gave way to stone flag floors, the large, cumbersome machinery replaced by more precise equipment kept safely behind sealed glass. He was getting closer. He had to be.
Suddenly, there was a loud sound like a clash of thunder. Mikey skidded to a halt, darting back behind the wall of glass-encased devices. He peeked out tentatively, trying to stay behind cover as he tried to see what had made that deafening sound. He spied what looked to be a room within the room, separated from the rest by huge glass walls. Beyond the glass were many large drum-shaped objects mounted into the floor. They were huge power transformers, elegant bolts of electricity arcing between them every now and then.
Mikey snuck forward, circling around the glass room until he came upon a gap in the wall. He entered the vast electrical array with uncharacteristic caution, taking care not to get too close to the transformers. The last thing he wanted after all this effort was to be killed by electrocution in here.
Another sharp crack of thunder nearly made the young ninja jump right out of his shell. He turned around just in time to see the remnant of a particularly large arc of electricity jump between the transformers. He let out a shaky breath. If he'd been just a bit slower, he'd be fried right now. He didn't want to take that chance again. He took off through the array as fast as he dared, weaving through the rows of transformers in his search for the exit out to the next corridor.
Yet another crack of thunder sounded behind him, closer this time. He didn't dare look back at it. Small explosions then began to follow after him, darkness approaching hot on his heels as the light bulbs above gradually began blowing out from the sudden surge of power in the system. Mikey cursed under his breath. Did the Machine know he was there? Did it know what he was trying to do? Was this its way of trying to stop him?
There was another crack of thunder, this time right in front of him. He skidded to a stop once more, diving to the ground and shielding his eyes against the blinding light that the arc of electricity produced. When the chaos died down, Michelangelo found himself plunged into utter darkness. No, not quite complete darkness...
Mikey's eyes widened when they adjusted enough to make out the figure now standing in front of him, his blood running ice cold as though he'd just seen a ghost. Blue veins glowed under the skin of a dark silhouette, two big blue eyes staring down at him from just a few feet away. The deep burn mark in his plastron ached when he realized where he'd seen something like this before.
"L-Leatherhead..." he breathed out, but it wasn't him. It couldn't be. He'd watched him die with his own eyes. No, this figure was quite a bit smaller than Leatherhead, smaller even than Michelangelo. Curiosity got the better of him, and he slowly turned his lantern on and pointed it at the figure before him. He regretted it instantly.
Standing before him at a mere four feet tall, staring down at him through a pair of very familiar blue eyes was a young mutant turtle, tattered remains of a royal blue blazer hanging off his blackened form. He recognized the turtle's face at once, though it had been many years since he'd seen him so young. It was the only one of his brothers he hadn't seen in this world yet.
It was Leonardo.
Chapter 11: A Machine for Pigs
Anton Zeck was crouched in the corner of a Kraang prison cell, working quickly at the delicate wires behind the wall panel he'd managed to remove a while ago. His purple mane hung down in his face, having fallen out of it's usual mohawk several days ago. The circuits embedded in his skin hardly gave off any light at all, the charge in his body having gotten down to dangerously low levels. He'd shut down the computer in his visor to conserve power, the screen little more than a sheet of dark glass covering his eyes. In all his years as a thief, he'd never been in a more dire situation than he was now.
"C'mon, baby... Give Papa a current he can work with..." Anton grumbled to himself, touching one of the leads embedded in his fingertips to the naked end of one wire. There was a loud pop and a flash of electric discharge at the point of contact.
"Fuck!" he yelped, pulling his hand away and shaking it as smoke rose from the lead. He cursed to himself until the pain died down, trying his best to keep his voice low. After a minute of reciting every curse word he'd learned from Steranko, the warthog looked down at his hands. His palms were singed by electrical burns, all of the leads in his hands burnt out, overloaded by the strange energy the Kraang used to power their technology. He let out a sigh, wilting against the wall as all hope drained from his lanky body.
"That's it... I'm gunna die in here..." he mumbled hopelessly to himself. He'd given up trying to hack his way out of the cell by the end of his first day locked up in there, his primary concern shifting to finding some way to recharge his batteries. He'd never gotten this low on power, not since his mutation. With his tech suit now fused into his very flesh, he was afraid to think what would happen if he completely ran out of juice. He couldn't help but think it may try to leech whatever little electricity his body naturally produced. If that happened... Well, he was headed for one hell of a burnout.
There was a sudden clank at the cell door, causing Anton to jump in surprise. The door opened and two Kraang-droids walked in, approaching the mutant warthog with raised blasters. He let out a yelp, scrambling away from them until he hit the back wall of his cell. The Kraang snatched him up by the arms, dragging him out despite his protests.
"Wh-woah, hold up, G! I-I wuzzn't doin' nothin, I swear!" he squealed out fearfully, thrashing as much as his weary body would let him. The Kraang ignored him for the most part, forcing the mutant down to his knees once they were out in the wide, endless corridor of the cell block. His head was forced by one of the Kraang to stare down at the polished metal floor, and he could hear nothing but the cacophony of bestial noises from the occupants of the other cells.
The noises from the other cells ceased instantly as the sudden order rang out down the massive cell block. There was silence. A deafening silence. It was so quiet that Anton could practically hear the sound of his own blood pulsing through his veins. Then, something else mercifully broke through. Footsteps echoed through the hall, growing ever closer to the captive thief. He could feel his heart pounding harder and harder in his chest the closer the footsteps got. He almost preferred the silence. Suddenly, they stopped. Anton could just see the toes of a pair of leather military-style boots.
"This is the subject you retrieved?" the commanding voice from just a moment ago asked of the Kraang. Anton's ears twitched lightly, listening to get an idea of who this man was. He sounded like he was in his twenties, he had a British accent, and spoke with an air of superiority and sophistication. He couldn't tell much else, not without more data. He was both curious and dreading finding out more about this mystery Englishman, having no idea who other than Shredder himself could strike such fear into beast and Kraang alike.
A hand reached down and took a firm hold of Anton's jaw, turning the warthog's face up to get a better look at him. He couldn't help but draw in a sharp gasp, his eyes widening behind his visor as he stared up into a pair of piercing, icy-blue eyes. The man who stared back at him was no man at all. He was a turtle. But... he couldn't be one of the Turtles. He was far too old, quite clearly an adult, the only remnants of his childhood being the faded freckles on his cheeks. He wore what looked like a white dress shirt tucked into brown trousers and a tan silk vest, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He didn't look that strong, but something told Anton that this mutant could eviscerate him in an instant if he so wished.
"You utter fools!" the turtle hissed, practically shoving the warthog's head away as though he were the most disgusting piece of trash he'd ever laid eyes on. "How could anyone think this scrawny wretch is one of my creations?! It hardly has any more Vitae in its blood than a normal human! This creature is useless to me!"
"What should Kraang do with-"
"I don't give a damn what you do with it!" the turtle interrupted, clearly not in any mood for the alien's redundant chatter. "Throw it in the incinerators, boil it, have it for supper, I don't care! Just get it out of my sight and leave me be!"
"Wait, what?! H-hold up a minute, dawg!" Anton objected, but his words fell upon deaf ears. The turtle had already given the two Kraang a dismissive wave of his hand before heading back the way he came. The warthog looked to the little pink alien tucked away in the belly of one of the droids holding him by the arm. The Kraang opened its beady little yellow eyes to look at him with what he could only guess was delight as it licked its ragged lips.
"H-help! Heeeelp!" he called out desperately, despite knowing there was no one in that entire dimension that could save him. "They're gonna eat me!"
Meanwhile, three very different turtles were making their way through the cell block as quickly and stealthily as they could. Donatello led the way, still pouring over Michelangelo's notes as he attempted to navigate a route to the core of this monstrosity of a machine. They tried not to think of what occupied the cells they rushed past. Human, Manpig, some stage in between... They sadly had no time to free them. Not when the Apocalypse potentially loomed over their heads.
"Guys, stop!" Leonardo called out suddenly, bringing the whole group to a halt.
"What is it? Kraang?" Raph asked, his sais in hand, already looking for a fight. Leo shook his head.
"No, listen... Can you hear that?"
The other two strained their ears to hear what Leo was talking about, finding it difficult to hear anything beyond the roar of hundreds of mutants barking out from their cages. Once they heard it, however, they were surprised they'd missed it at all.
"Hey, c'mon, man! I can't go out like dis, yo! Mama Zeck didn't raise no entree!"
The voice echoed from one of the lower levels, prompting the three young ninjas to lean over the railing and look down at the catwalks below. They immediately caught sight of two Kraang as they escorted a very loud, very skinny pig mutant to God knows where.
"Woah, wait a minute... Is that Bebop?!" Donnie asked, his mouth hanging open slightly. It was Bebop, alright. There was no mistaking that obnoxious, flashy warthog. Clearly he wasn't there by his own choice. His hands were bound behind his back, and the Kraang walking behind him was ushering him forward with its blaster aimed at the small of his back.
"What the hell would the Kraang want with him? Ain't they got an alliance with the Foot Clan?"
"Alliances change, Raph. Yesterday's allies are today's enemies." Leo replied, though he was just as baffled as his brothers. What could Michelangelo have possibly offered the aliens to tempt them into directly opposing Shredder of all people?
"Well, whatever... Don't make no difference to me if those guys wanna fuck each other up for us. We got bigger fish to fry right now." Raphael said as he left the railing of the catwalk to continue on their previous path. Donatello followed after him, but as for Leonardo...
"No, not yet..."
The other two looked back at their eldest brother, who was still staring at Bebop down below.
"We're going to rescue him."
"What?! Leo, have you lost yer damn mind?! Bebop's one of Shredder's goons! What do we care if he's stuck in here with the Kraang?"
"I hate to say it, but Raph's right. This has nothing to do with us." Donnie added. Leo merely shook his head.
"We can't leave him here. Don, he's a pig. You've read Michelangelo's notes, you know what they'll do to him. They'll butcher him alive. If we leave him here, his death is on our heads. I'm not prepared to live with that. Are you?"
The other two glanced at each other. Finally, Raph let out a sigh.
"Alright, let's do it..."
"H-hey, can't we talk 'bout dis, G?! I-I mean, y'all don't wanna eat me! I'm all skin an' bones!" Anton continued on, trying desperately to convince the two Kraang to let him go in any way he could. His reply was a jab in the back by the alien's blaster, making the warthog stumble forward.
"Yo, watch it!" he barked out, turning to glare at the damnable alien. Curiously, the Kraang seemed to be frozen in place, staring at him with its usual blank expression. Then, the Kraang-droid's torso split in half, its upper body collapsing to the ground as gravity finally got a good hold of it. Anton let out a yelp of surprise, stumbling backwards until he felt his back touch against something metallic. He glanced over his shoulder only to lock eyes with the other Kraang-droid that had been escorting him. Just an instant after he looked, two shuriken whistled past his ears close enough to graze his short brown fur, embedding themselves deep into the robot's skull.
"Wuzza matter, Porky? Left yer big dumb bodyguard at another gig?"
Anton looked back towards where the bifurcated Kraang-droid had stood a moment ago, now finding three very familiar green faces staring back at him. There stood Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael, weapons still at the ready as they stood over their vanquished foe. His whole body went cold in an instant, the memory of a pair of piercing, ice-blue eyes coming back to him.
"Wh-wh-woah, hold up! I-I wuzzn't tryin' ta start no shit wit' dat freaky cousin of yers or whatever the hell he is, I-I swear!" the warthog stammered out, stumbling backwards until he tripped over the other fallen Kraang-droid behind him. Even with his hands bound behind his back, the thief still tried to scramble away from the three ninjas. The Turtles looked at each other in confusion.
"'Cousin?'" Leonardo asked, arching a brow.
"Tha British dude! Look, I dunno what da hell kinda fucked up shit y'all are runnin' here, but I don't want none of it! Seriously, man, just show me tha door an' I promise I ain't gonna tell a soul!"
"British guy, huh? Sounds like Michelangelo ta me." Raphael said as he folded his arms across his chest, shooting his brothers another 'I told you so' look. The other two merely rolled their eyes at him, but Bebop's jaw practically dropped to the floor.
"Michelangelo?! You gotta be shittin' me! Ain't no way dat guy's yer kid brother! He's damn near as scary as fucking Shredder! Besides, dude's way too old!"
"I know, right!? That's what I've been sayin' this whole time!" Raph commented, earning him a light jab in the side from Leo.
"Wait... Too old? What do you mean?"
"I mean dat guy's gotta be in his twenties at least. He's one of you, ain't he? Don't ya even know what he looks like?"
Leo could only stare in disbelief at what Bebop was telling them. This couldn't be right... They'd seen Michelangelo only a week ago and he looked just as young as their real baby brother. How could he even remotely pass for an adult? He glanced to Donatello, looking once more for an answer from him. By the looks of it, he may just get that answer this time.
"This isn't good..." Donnie began less than encouragingly. "We're in Dimension X, remember? Time runs way faster here than in our world. A day back on Earth could be months here, perhaps even a year or more. If he's been here since after the last time we saw him, he would've had as much as six or seven years to build whatever he wanted... and with Kraang tech."
"And that's how he managed to build all this in just a week..." Leo added, starting to understand why Michelangelo had gone out of his way to ally himself with the Kraang.
"Woah, hold up a sec..." Bebop chimed in suddenly, "Y'all are talkin' like ya wanna take dis fucker out. You guys ain't wit' dis boss turtle guy?"
"Hell no! We ain't got nothin' ta do with him! We came in here ta beat that bastard to a bloody pulp!" Raphael replied, hands tightening around the hilts of his sais.
"Yeah, and if we don't hurry you'll never get the chance before he fires this thing up." Don interjected, "We've wasted too much time here. We've got to go."
Leo nodded, sheathing his katana before turning away from the warthog, intending to continue on their way.
"Wait!" Bebop called out, scrambling ungracefully to his feet. "Y'all can't just leave me here! You know what dey gonna do ta me like dis?! I ain't got no power left, yo! I can't even fight back no more!"
The three stopped, looking back at the lanky mutant. He was right. They could tell just by looking at him that he was in no condition to fight his own way out of there. Raphael let out a light growl, marching up to Bebop and grabbing him by the collar of his vest.
"Alright, Geordi La Pork, let's get a few things straight! If ya can't keep up, yer on yer own! Ya act up at all, I got a sai with yer name on it! Ya got all that?"
"Y-yeah, we straight, Dawg! We straight!" he replied, nodding furiously. Raph then slipped an arm around the warthog's slender frame, breaking Bebop's wrist bindings with his sai.
"Good! Now hurry up!" Raphael added as he turned back towards his brothers. Leo arched a brow as his hot-headed brother marched past, jogging a bit to catch up with him.
"That's not like you to show mercy to one of Shredder's guys like that. I'm impressed." Leo complimented, keeping his voice low enough so Bebop couldn't hear them.
"Yeah, well... Maybe I just don't want someone's death on my hands, even if it is that stupid pig."
The next few hours drove the four mutants deeper and deeper into the endless labyrinth of the machine. They'd finally made it out of the cell blocks and into the interior mechanisms, moving at a surprisingly decent pace despite their new tag-along. Bebop wasn't as nimble as he normally would have been, but he was holding his own quite well, even alerting the Turtles to oncoming Kraang patrols before they'd noticed them. Leo supposed that was just the natural intuition that had served to make the warthog a world-class master thief.
The patrols were getting thicker the deeper in they went, the machinery around them more vast and complicated. They had to backtrack several times to avoid getting caught by passing Kraang-droids, making their journey that much more impossible to navigate. Soon, they were starting to revisit familiar sections of the maze-like machine.
"Uhh... Don? We already been here." Raphael commented, having noticed a particular array of electrical transformers on the wall that was unmistakable for the area. Donatello was flipping furiously through Michelangelo's journal, seeming rather desperate to find another possible route to take.
"It's not that easy, okay? This machine is very similar to the drawings he has here, but there's been so many changes to accommodate Kraang tech that the layout's been totally switched around."
Leonardo made his way over to where Donnie stood, standing on his toes to peek at the pages of the journal.
"Where are we trying to get to exactly?"
"Here." Don replied, pointing to what looked like a small sketch of a stepped pyramid. "It's the core of the machine, where the main controls are. If there's any chance of shutting this thing down, the way to do it will be there."
Raphael had come over by now, pulling Don's arms down so he could see.
"What about this thing?" he asked, pointing to what looked like a conveyor system. "It looks like it leads right to it."
Donatello frantically shushed Raphael, glancing tentatively over his shoulder. Bebop had taken the momentary pause in their searching to rest against the wall. Good. He wasn't paying attention.
"Dammit, I've been trying to avoid that route all day since he came along!" Donnie hissed in a low tone, trying not to be heard.
"Why the hell would ya do that? It's like a straight shot!"
"Yeah, but... C'mon! Can't you read?"
Raph glanced down at where Don pointed. 'Pigline'. He cringed lightly. Yeah, that wouldn't go over well.
"We don't have any other choice right now." Leo replied, glancing back at Bebop. "We're taking it. You two just make sure he doesn't freak out and give away our position..."
The new route to the Pigline was mercifully free of security patrols, leaving the way more or less clear for them to move forward. Donatello had put away Michelangelo's journal for now, not needing any more direction now that they were so close to their goal. It was just a straight shot from here on. Bebop followed behind the group, though with a bit more hesitation than earlier. They'd told him where they were headed. There was no way to avoid it anymore.
It wasn't long before a chorus of animal noises began filling the corridors once more, growing louder and louder the closer they got. It wasn't until they passed through a rather large sealed hatch that the sound became a deafening roar. The four then found themselves standing on a platform overlooking a massive line of machines. There were several hundred Manpigs down there, all being funneled into one end of the line by several armed Kraang-droids. They couldn't see what happened to the creatures after they were pushed into the machine, but the river of blood running through the troughs underneath made them somewhat glad that the gruesome act was hidden behind the glossy steel.
"O-oh man... D-dat's sick, yo..." Bebop breathed out, staring down at the spectacle with a look of utter horror on his face. Don gave the warthog an uneasy look before letting out a sigh.
"The only way through is that corridor down there running alongside the line, but..."
"We'd never make it through all that. Not without the Kraang alerting Michelangelo." Leo added.
"Sounds like we need a distraction." Raph chimed in, at which point all three of them turned to look at Bebop. The warthog's ears twitched lightly at that, his attention momentarily pulled away from the spectacle below. He glanced between the three turtles before letting out an indignant snort.
"Aw, heeeell to the no! Ya'll ain't 'bout ta use dis pig as no live bait!"
"It can't be helped, Bebop." Leonardo began, earning another grumble from their reluctant ally at the use of that nickname. "None of us can do it without Michelangelo figuring out what we're up to. As far as the Kraang know, you're just another pig mutant. Even if they report you to him, he'll just think it was one of his Manpigs on the loose. He won't be expecting an attack."
"Yeah, great plan an' all, but ya forgot one li'l thing; I still ain't got no power! Tha fuck am I supposed ta do? Dress in drag an' do the hula?" Bebop retorted, earning a reflexive shudder of disgust from Raph as he accidentally pictured such a thing. Donnie rolled his eyes a bit before digging in his bag.
"Here, take this." the lanky turtle said, pulling out a small electronic device. "I use it to charge up the T-phones. It probably won't give you much power, but it should be enough to get the job done."
Despite being so desperate for power that he'd have fought a nun for a pair of double-A batteries, Bebop hesitated to accept this gift. He took one last glance down at the scene below, watched as the Kraang led his fellow pig mutants from countless steel cages, prodding them towards the machine to be slaughtered alive. He heaved out a sigh before snatching the power pack from Donatello.
"Ah, fuck it… We gonna die in here anyway." he grumbled out, hooking the device into a port on his belt. In an instant, Bebop's systems charged back up to normal, the circuits in his skin gaving off their faint purple glow once more. "But don't think I'm doin' dis fer you freaks. Ain't nobody treats a pig like dis an' gets away wit' it on my watch!"
"Yeah, great. Just do yerself a favor fer once in yer life; keep yer damn mouth shut down there!" Raph commented as Bebop activated his cloaking field, rendering the warthog completely invisible to the naked eye. The turtles could hear a scoff where the thief had stood just a moment ago.
"Hey man, I might be a show-off, but I ain't suicidal. I know when ta shut my trap." Bebop replied. And that was the last they'd heard from him. After a moment of hearing and seeing nothing, Donatello pulled his goggles down over his eyes and switched them to infrared mode. He leaned over the edge of the railing, searching down below for where the mutant thief may have gone. Much to his surprise, he was indeed down below, sneaking silently up towards the cages that housed Michelangelo's Manpigs.
"Huh, he's actually doing it. I was half expecting him to run away on us." Donnie commented in a pleasantly surprised tone. Raph and Leo both looked down over the railing despite being unable to see what their brother could see.
"He might be one of Shredder's minions, but that doesn't mean he can't feel sympathy, Don." Leo replied, a pleased smile on his face. The three watched the scene below, trying to catch sight of anything the invisible thief could be doing. After a moment, Donnie directed their attention to the locks on the cage doors. One by one the locks fell away, picked in seconds by invisible expert hands. It didn't take long for them to figure out Bebop's plan.
Suddenly, the mutant warthog uncloaked, now standing atop one of the cages. He let out a loud, screeching, inhuman squeal, a bellow that echoed throughout the chamber to every last one of the cages he'd unlocked. Mere moments later, the chamber erupted into a blitz of chaos, Manpigs charging out of their cages in one gargantuan stampede, rushing forward and tearing through any Kraang-droid they could get their hooves on. The Kraang were overtaken almost immediately, unable to handle the sudden onslaught from the beasts.
"Well, that's one hell of a distraction if I ever saw one." Raph commented with a nod of approval at the utter entropy down below.
"Let's not let it go to waste. Move out!" Leo ordered, leaping down off the platform they'd been hiding on to run along top the machinery of the Pigline. Don and Raph followed close behind, eager to get this gruesome ordeal over with once and for all.
The three turtles soon found themselves in silence once more as they navigated the dark corridor leading to the heart of the machine, the only sound there to accompany them being the rush of liquid emanating from below the grates under their feet. It was completely deserted of Kraang, no patrols, no security. Likely Michelangelo hadn't expected any interlopers to get this far.
Soon enough, the tunnel gave way to open air, a truly massive structure rising out of the center of the complex city of machinery. It looked like a pyramid, an Aztec-style temple made of alien metals looming over their heads. This was it. They'd reached the core.
"Alright guys, this is it." Leonardo began, his voice low. "We've made it this far without alerting Michelangelo, but we can't afford to let him know we're here just yet. Stealth is our top priority. We take him by surprise, take him down, and figure out how to stop this thi-"
"Hear me, brothers!"
The three froze in place when the eerie echoes of a British man's voice rang out more in their heads than anything. Raphael shot Leo a rather sarcastic look.
"So much for taking him by surprise..."
"Fuck..." Leo hissed out, not really one to curse. He then began darting up the steps of the pyramid, drawing his katana as he rushed ever upwards to salvage what little of his plan as he could. The other two followed suit, but the eerie voice continued to ring out in their ears as they made their way towards it.
"My gears are adjust, my steam is built! Soon I will split the egg, the atom, my soul, and there will be a very great burning that we might make the world clean! Do you hear me, Donatello? Be proud, for this is your doing! Until you told me of this wondrous dimension, I thought my great works would come to naught! But you are naive, my dear brother! You claim to be a man of science, you claim to know machines, but you know nothing if even this much eludes you; This world is a machine! A Machine for Pigs! Fit only for the slaughtering of pigs! Whores, beggars, orphans, filthy degenerates! Pigs all! But I will purify the streets, cleanse this planet, set the great industry free! I will clean this world, make it pure!"
The three turtles reached the top of the pyramid long after the taunting speech had ended, all slightly winded after the long, uphill sprint. They all held their weapons at the ready as they reached the summit, though all couldn't help but falter and stare in utter amazement at what they saw. They seemed to be standing in a temple to machinery, the controls to the machine fixed atop a grand altar of steel and wires. Pipes rose up above the altar, fanning out like the rays of the sun.
The altar itself wasn't what had dumbfounded the turtles, however. It was the man standing before it. He stood taller even than Donatello, tall enough to look Master Splinter dead in the eye. Piercing blue eyes stared them down from behind a pair of round spectacles, staring right through them into their souls and making their blood run cold. They barely recognized a single feature on the adult turtle's body, he'd changed so much, yet… It was unmistakable.
They'd found Michelangelo.
Chapter 12: We Are the Pig
"L-Leo..." Michelangelo breathed out, taking a hesitant step back from the shorter turtle. He couldn't believe his eyes. No… No, this couldn't be right! The dark, almost pitch-black scales, the glowing blue lightning-bolt veins, those eyes… Leonardo had become the same as Leatherhead. But that couldn't be! Leatherhead was only like that because of his alternate's experiments! Surely this world's Turtles were not so cruel that they'd experiment on their own brother's body to accomplish their goals!
The young turtle took a step towards him, tiny bolts of electricity arcing between his body and the power transformers as he stalked forward. Mikey shuffled backwards to keep out of arm's reach of the boy, knowing full well what potent dangers that tiny body contained. His hand drifted instinctively to the deep burn in his plastron, the now permanent imprint of Leatherhead's hand on his chest. He couldn't afford to be cornered like that again.
"L-Leo… C-c'mon, li'l dude… I-it's me..." he pleaded softly, raising his shaking hands in defense as he continued to keep some distance between himself and this younger version of his eldest brother. Leonardo didn't seem to hear him. Either that or he was ignoring him.
Suddenly, there was a loud clash of thunder as Leonardo disappeared in a bolt of electricity. Michelangelo let out a yelp of surprise before looking around frantically for the boy. He was gone, vanished without a trace. Mikey shined his lantern light around the room, trying to find the boy hiding somewhere in the room, possibly behind the power transformers. Nothing.
Another thunderclap was his only warning before what felt like a white-hot cattle brand press against the back of his arm. Mikey let out a scream of pain, diving forward instinctively to get away. He spun around on the ground just in time to catch Leonardo staring blankly down at him before disappearing in another violent arc.
Mikey's breaths came out in panicked gasps as he looked around for the young mutant once more. At first it took him a moment just to realize what the hell was going on, but soon he managed to clear his mind enough to remember Leatherhead. He remembered how the gator's body flickered in and out of reality, how the process of being torn back and forth between dimensions had driven him completely mad. The same thing must be happening to Leonardo, though it seemed like the boy had actually learned to control his dimensional jumps.
Michelangelo wasn't about to stick around long enough to figure out just how well he controlled it, however. The ninja scrambled up to his feet and took off out of the room as fast as his legs would carry him. He didn't want a repeat performance of Leatherhead. He didn't even want to think of that possibility. Not with Leo. Not his own brother.
As he ran, he could hear the claps of thunder following behind, chasing him through the Machine. What's worse, they were getting closer. He ran faster still, weaving in and out of rooms and corridors before he could register what was in them. The thunder followed still, growing closer and closer until it was right on his heels. Then, when Mikey was sure the little fiend was close enough to grab him, they stopped.
Michelangelo wasn't about to give Leonardo time to catch up, though. He ran on, trying to put as much distance between himself and the mutant boy as he possibly could. He ran until the muscles in his legs burned so badly that his knees nearly gave out on him once or twice. Finally, he allowed himself to slow down, to come to a stop and catch his breath. His lungs burned from the frigid air of this place, his entire body trembled from the stress he'd been under, both mental and physical.
Even as he panted and gasped for air, he strained his ears to listen for the tell-tale thunderclap that would signal Leonardo's continuing pursuit. He heard nothing, not so much as a distant footstep. Rather than be relieved by this, it only served to panic him further. He didn't know how much longer he could take this. Heart-pounding as they were, at least the sudden crashes of thunder gave him an idea how close that tiny little predator was. The silence was more unnerving than anything.
Still, it seemed he'd lost Leonardo long enough to catch his breath for the moment. He took the opportunity to look around this new area, to see where he'd been driven to in his fevered panic. The dim light of his lantern revealed many humongous vats of a strange blue liquid, one of which lay open in front of him. He cast his lantern upwards, catching sight of a brass sign; Warning! Compound X, Highly Corrosive, Highly Flammable, Highly Toxic.
'Compound X'… That was this world's Mutagen, wasn't it? But it was so different from the chemical he knew… Perhaps that was why the Turtles it created were so very different from the ones of his universe. A twisted chemical to produce twisted minds. The thought had occurred to him to burn it. Burn every last drop and this wretched Machine along with it…
Mikey was ripped from his thoughts when a sudden bolt of lightning struck just before his face, a blackened fiend leaping out of the nothingness at him. The ninja hardly had any time to react before he was tackled to the ground, the younger turtle's hands wrapped tightly around his throat. Mikey choked out a loud scream of pain, already feeling Leonardo's hands burn through the cloth of his mask tied around his neck and into his very flesh.
"You… did… this..." came the wispy, ethereal voice of the boy as he continued to choke the life out of the larger turtle pinned below him, seemingly unphased by Michelangelo's desperate thrashing in an attempt to free himself. "This… is all… your… fault..."
Mikey continued to cry out in agony, trying in vain to toss the otherworldly turtle off of him. He could feel those hands burning deeper into his skin, threatening to breach vital arteries. He couldn't last much longer. He was going to die if this kept up. His next move arose more out of instinct than anything. He curled up, placing his feet squarely at Leonardo's plastron before kicking away with all his remaining strength.
Mercifully, Mikey felt Leonardo's hands wrench away from his throat, he felt the weight of the boy lifted off his form. His hands immediately clasped around his horribly burnt neck, shaking against the tattered remnants of his mask that had been melted to his very skin. He had little time to recover before he heard a loud, ungodly screech accompanied by a splash of liquid. His eyes widened when he realized what he'd just done.
He jumped up to his feet, ignoring the painful protests of his body as he darted over to the railing that overlooked the open vat of that godless Compound X. Sure enough, there he found Leonardo, swimming desperately to keep to the surface of the strange viscous liquid. Mikey could already see thin streams of glowing blue blood floating away from the child's body under the surface, a pale blue smoke rising up where his skin broke the surface. A noxious stench filled Michelangelo's nostrils, a stench made fouler still by the knowledge that it was his brother's rapidly corroding body that now filled his lungs.
"Leo!" Michelangelo called out in horror, reaching out in a desperate attempt to grab hold of the boy's hand. He didn't care that it would burn him. He didn't care if he were pulled down with him. He just had to do something. He couldn't just sit there and watch his brother die!
But he was too late. Leonardo's screams died down into a cold silence once more, smothered away as his lungs filled with Compound X. Mikey's body was frozen in place, his eyes wide as he watched what remained of the young turtle's body sink slowly downward in the tank until it faded away into darkness.
Michelangelo sunk down to his knees, eyes still staring down into that tank. He could already feel the hot streams of tears burning lines down his cold cheeks. He couldn't believe what he'd just done. He'd killed someone. He'd sacrificed his own brother's life to save his own.
"L-Leo… I… I'm sorry… I didn't mean… I-it was an accident..." he whispered out weakly. Of course, there was nothing he could say, nothing he could do to justify his actions in his own mind. Accident or not, he'd taken a life. He was a murderer, no better than his sick-minded alternate who called this rotten world home.
"Fret not, dear 'brother'..." came an uncomfortably familiar voice from just over Mikey's shoulder. "Could you not see? Leonardo was suffering. He was in pain. There was no way anyone could have saved him. You did the right thing. You showed him the mercy that he truly deserved."
Mercy. That one word made Mikey's breath catch in his throat.
"Y-you… You call this mercy…?" he wheezed out, still too much in shock at what he'd just witnessed to move. There was a cold, chilling chuckle from behind him.
"In this festering world, so tainted by humanity's lust and greed, surrounded by the detritus of this so-called progress? Yes. Yes, the most merciful thing one can do for the masses is to rid them of their painful, stupid, pointless lives. Of course, if this concept still eludes you..." there was a pause, in which the faint sound of a rifle slide clicking into place could be heard. "Then I shall demonstrate for you personally."
He didn't know where he'd mustered the strength or the will, but Michelangelo dove away just in time to avoid having a rifle bullet lodged in the back of his skull. He looked back at his attacker, his gaze locked with a pair of acid-green eyes.
"Then you're no different from them..." Raphael commented with a light sigh as he operated the slide on his hunting rifle once more, releasing the spent casing and loading a second bullet. "Such selfishness, such stubbornness in the face of impending death! You call me the monster, yet you'd do anything to assure your own continued survival, even murder your own brother!"
Mikey drew in a sharp gasp as the barrel of a gun was aimed at him once more. He scrambled to his feet, vaulting over the nearby railing and dodging another bullet by mere inches. He landed less-than-gracefully down below, between the large vats of Compound X. He hadn't the energy left to run, so he hid as best he could, back behind one of the containers for that foul blue water. He heard as Raphael jumped down after him, his footsteps echoing throughout the area as he stalked through looking for his prey.
It was all Michelangelo could do to keep quiet. His heart was pounding in his chest, his breaths coming in quick gasps. He covered his mouth with his hand to keep from being heard, straining his ears over the sound of his own heartbeat trying to hear Raphael's footsteps. He could hear them echoing all over the room, unable to pinpoint where they were coming from. Suddenly, they stopped. He began to panic slightly. Had he been seen?
The answer came more bluntly than he'd hoped. A shot rang out among the chemical vats. Mikey immediately let out a loud scream, his left arm erupting into a pain the likes of which he'd never before experienced. He stumbled forward onto the ground, grasping at his injury as if trying to keep his blood from draining away on him. It didn't take long for him to realize that he couldn't move his hand anymore. In fact, he couldn't feel anything below his now-mangled elbow. The only thing he could feel in that moment of shock was the blood that flowed out from between his fingers, dripping down and beginning to pool on the stone floor beneath him.
He hadn't the time to wallow in his pain, or to discover the true extent of his injury. He heard Raphael approaching once more, the sound of his boots stepping through spilled Compound X as it poured from the fresh bullet hole in a nearby vat, the sound of that slide operating once more, another bullet being loaded.
It was by virtue of pure adrenaline that Mikey found the strength to take off running once again, weaving throughout the chemical vats as the sick shadow of his brother chased him down. He ran as far as he could, until he'd left that room entirely and found another. This new area was a return to the machinery that had surrounded him during this whole ordeal, the sound of giant gears meshing underneath his feet making it hard to hear the approaching danger. He looked around for a place to hide, but there was nothing. The only possible cover was a collection of chemical barrels stacked up against the wall, likely containing more Compound X. A glance over the railing at the back of the room served to show him the grievous error he'd made in coming that way. Down below was a huge system of truly titanic gears. Jumping down there would mean instant death for him.
He was trapped. Cornered like a damned rat.
Mikey spun around at the sound of his name, coming face to face with the gun-wielding Raphael once again. He had no cover. He had no real way to defend himself, not against a gun like that. His left arm hung limp at his side, useless and continuously dripping vital lifeblood. No wonder he'd been found so easily. He'd left him a trail.
"Put aside your misguided crusade and let us save them." Raphael urged, thankfully not shooting him the instant he'd caught up with him. Perhaps he hesitated due to Mikey's resemblance to his own brother? If it were true, his eyes didn't betray such a sentiment. He held that same expressionless facade, his rifle still held at the ready.
"You may hate me, Michelangelo, but our dear Father has seen the future, your twentieth century, and let me tell you this: a far greater slaughter awaits us there. We seek to save the world by blood now before millions fall beneath history, pushed under by blade, bullet, and gas."
"So you wanna kill everyone to save them the pain of dying?! Are you guys crazy?! That makes no sense!"
"It makes perfect sense!" Raphael barked back in reply, showing a rare outburst of emotion in his face. Anger. It gave him an uncomfortable resemblance to Mikey's real brother.
"So long as humans exist on this world there will always be senseless death! War, torture, genocide! And all for nothing! Even we four were fated to die in their pointless battles, lungs full of mud and shrapnel on the banks of the Somme! Even then we will have changed nothing!"
"B-but you can't blame all humans for something a few idiots do! What about the good ones?! Won't you even try to save them?!" Mikey pleaded, his good arm moving cautiously to his hip. Perhaps if he kept him talking a while longer, got him distracted…
"Show me these 'good!' I do not see them! Every last human on this planet thinks only of themselves! They are all selfish, greedy swine who do not deserve the empires of fat and waste they have built for themselves! They are ruiners, beyond redemption! They are a plague to be washed clean! They are rotten flesh to be carved from the body of this world, no matter how large a scar it may leave!"
"And you call me a murderer..." Michelangelo growled out, his hand tightening around the grip of his kusarigama, still waiting for the right moment.
"Murderer… yes, I will gladly accept that mantle if only for the short time I am to remain alive." Raphael replied, returning to his earlier calm. Mikey furrowed his brow at that. What did he mean by that? Raphael picked up on the injured turtle's confusion, letting out a bitter, wry chuckle.
"Did you think we would be so selfish as to live on even after our work is done? We were created for a purpose; to act as redeemers for this world. Once all of humanity is washed clean of this world, so too shall we. Unlike you, I do not fear death. Unlike you, I do not fruitlessly try to delay the inevitable."
Raphael's finger tensed on the trigger of his rifle, preparing to deliver the final, killing shot.
"Die like the filthy pigs you idolize."
This was the moment. The only moment he had left. Before Raphael could pull the trigger, Mikey tossed the end of his kusarigama as quickly as he could. The long chain wrapped around the hunting rifle several times, the kama blade locking the tight grip he now had. He then pulled as hard as his weary body would let him, as hard as he could with only one arm. It worked. The rifle was suddenly pulled towards him, past him, and sent careening over the rail to the gigantic gears below. Unfortunately, it didn't come alone.
Mikey let out a yelp as it felt like his shoulder was being jerked from it's socket, the chain of his weapon going abruptly taught as a large weight tugged on the end of it. He slid across the stone until he was pressed against the railing, having to brace his legs against it to keep from going over himself. He glanced down, utterly confused at what had happened. A rifle shouldn't have weighed this much. A cold chill washed over his body once he realized what that weight was.
Dangling over the gears, his arm caught by the chain around his rifle, was Raphael. No… No, he couldn't do this again! Leatherhead and Leonardo were bad enough. He didn't need a third death on his head, even if Raphael had just tried to kill him. Raphael merely stared down at the grinding machinery, that same blank expression on his face as ever.
"Raph! Climb up! Hurry!" he called out desperately, steeling his grip on his end of his kusarigama. He couldn't let go. He simply refused to. He wasn't going to let it happen. Not again. Not to another one of his brothers. Raphael looked up at him, his expression impossible to read. After a long moment, he took hold of the chain with his free hand, bracing his feet against the wall and pulling himself up just enough to loosen the grip it had on his arm. His hunting rifle fell from his hand, almost instantly reduced to splinters as the gnashing steel teeth below ground it up without faltering.
"C'mon, I can't hold it much longer! Please! Ya gotta hurry!" Mikey pleaded, feeling his muscles in his arm begin to weaken. Raphael took one last look down at the gears before looking back up at the injured turtle above. Then, a smile spread across his lips.
"We are the pig, brother. We are all the pig."
Michelangelo's eyes widened at that. What the hell was he talking about? He'd just spent how long preaching about how humans were nothing more than pigs, only good for the slaughter, yet…
"N-no… No, don't do it! Please, don't! Raphael!" Mikey begged, his eyes filling once more with desperate tears. But it was too late.
Raphael let go.
Chapter 13: The Unlikeliest of Heroes
Anton ran as fast as he could through the polished metal halls of the Kraang machine. Donatello had been right. That power pack he'd given him didn't last long at all. A shame, really. He'd have wanted nothing more than to be invisible right now.
The roaring thunder of heavy hoofbeats stampeded after him, dull brown eyes fixed on him from under a hood of filthy bandages. After the Manpigs had dispatched the Kraang on the Pigline, they'd immediately taken to… other interests. Unfortunately for Anton, his act of freeing them had caught this one's eye.
"H-hey, c'mon now! I ain't dat kinda pig!" he squealed in breathless dismay, but he knew his words were wasted on this mindless mutant. The Manpig was relentless in its chase and he had no idea how much longer he could hold out running.
Fate seemed to decide that the chase was over. Anton's steps faltered, he tripped over himself and was sent tumbling to the floor. He tried to scramble away, but the beast was already standing over him, towering over him. He stared up at it in horror, his throat letting out a pathetic squeal of protest as it reached a hoof out to pin him to the ground. He snapped his eyes shut, as though it would all not come to pass if he refused to watch it himself.
The next thing he knew, there was a shower of hot ooze raining down over his face, the metallic taste of blood slipping into his mouth. He opened one eye, chancing a peek up at the Manpig. Its head was gone, its neck a mangled, bleeding stump. Its lifeless body was kicked from on top of him, its form replaced in his field of vision by that of the most welcomed sight he'd ever seen.
Ivan Steranko stood over Anton now, a shotgun in one hand, while the other extended to lift the warthog up by the collar of his vest. The thief stood there for a long moment, mouth hanging agape as he stared up at his partner in crime in utter disbelief, not even seeming to notice the Manpig blood that was still coating his coarse brown fur.
"I-Ivan! How tha hell did ya get in here?! How'd ya find me?"
"Went back to place we steal machine from. Found portal to here." He explained in his usual short, broken English, retrieving something from one of his pockets and tossing it to the other. Anton caught it, immediately recognizing it. It was one of his battery packs, a proper one. He clipped it to his belt, plugged it in, and breathed a sigh of relief as the circuits in his skin glowed at their full intensity once more. Then, before he could say another word, he felt a rifle being shoved into his hands. He looked up at the rhinoceros, one ear quirked in confusion.
"We find man who built this place, who built other machine. You know where is?"
"Y-yeah… I mean, I think so… B-but why you wanna find dat freak? Can't we just get outta here tha way ya came?"
"Нет. Escape not enough. Must destroy this place. Now."
Anton found himself staring up at Ivan once more, a nervous lump gathering in his throat. He'd never seen the old Russian quite this serious about anything, and he was a pretty serious guy to begin with. He couldn't help but wonder what the other knew that he, or perhaps even the Turtles, did not. He swallowed the lump in his throat, nodding his head solemnly. Why did it feel as though they were going to war?
The three turtles could do nothing but stare for the longest time. The turtle that now stood before them, tall, thin, his icy blue eyes boring straight through them from behind those round glasses… This couldn't be Mighelangelo! Yet, it could be no one else.
He stood before the intricate altar of controls and dials, the very heartbeat of the machine at his fingertips, yet his back was to it. His full attention was turned to the three invaders of his sacred temple. Slowly, a wicked smile spread across his lips, his arms spreading wide as though to welcome them.
"You've come at last, my dearest brothers." He said in a voice deeper than any of them could imagine coming out of their baby brother's mouth. Then again, this was not their brother, and he was easily seven years their elder at this point. Leonardo glared at Michelangelo, his hands tightening almost painfully around the hilts of his katana.
"You deceived us… You played us all for fools and used us to get what you wanted! After all this, how can you dare call yourself our brother?!" he hissed out, his anger seething and threatening to boil over even his high threshold of control. Michelangelo merely let out a chuckle.
"Oh, but what marvelous fools you have been. I must thank you, really. Without you lot, it would have taken decades to establish suitable control over your city's resources to have my machine built, yet here we are, what… perhaps a week in Earth time? Honestly, I could never have dreamed of such good fortune as running into these Kraang, and all thanks to you."
Raphael let out a vicious growl, but Leo held out his katana to stop him from charging thoughtlessly forward. This Michelangelo may not have looked like much of a fighter, but he had no idea what sort of traps he had waiting for them out towards the altar of controls. He had clearly been waiting for them, and he seemed so confident…
"Look, Michelangelo, I'm not sure what the Kraang could have offered you, but it's not worth it! If you let them get the Orb, they'll have enough energy to take over both our world and yours!" Donatello interjected, hoping perhaps reason would sway the elder turtle. His reply was a sharp, mocking scoff.
"Oh, my poor, naïve Donatello… Who do you think is in control here? I'm using the Kraang just as I used you lot. They won't even get to lay eyes on the core of the Orb, let alone take it from me. They are fools, just like the rest. Yet more pigs for the bleeding."
"How can you be so sure of absolute control?" Leonardo challenged. "The Kraang outnumber you more than a million to one. What's to stop them from betraying you the instant you set up your portal to your dimension?"
Michelangelo let out a chuckle, shaking his head.
"They, like you, understand nothing of what my machines are meant to do. Once my great works are complete, there will be nothing either you or the Kraang can do to stave off the inevitable."
"Then we'll just have to stop you before you can activate this machine of yours." Leo replied defiantly. Another chuckle, another shake of the head, and Michelangelo's gaze turned icy once more.
"My dear boy, that plan of yours to stop me would imply that my works haven't already begun…" he retorted, a pleased smile settling itself across his lips. In answer to the three younger turtle's shocked and confused expressions, he merely pointed upward. They looked up, and Donatello gasped at what he saw. In the open air above the pyramid-like temple, a huge pink portal larger than anything he'd ever seen spread over the entire sky. What was worse, it was slowly creeping down towards them. The very tops of the machine's countless metallic spires were already slowly passing through into what, on the other side, must be the underground tunnels of London.
"They're already starting to send the machine to Earth! Leo, we can't let him activate this thing once they've sent it through completely!"
"How long do we have? What can we do to stop it?" Leonardo asked, trying to remain calm even as he continued to stare down the fiend responsible for this whole mess. Michelangelo seemed content to let them plot and scheme, a confident smile still plastered across his face. It was clear that he didn't have a modicum of faith in their ability to stop him. Leo, his heart sinking a bit, was starting to feel the same way.
"At the rate that thing is coming down? Five minutes. Maybe ten if this machine goes down farther than I think it might. That'd be cutting it pretty close, though." Donatello replied, doing a bit of quick math in his head. "As for how to stop it… I'd have to get at those controls and see what I can do."
Leonardo nodded, his mind set in his new plan.
"Raph and I will take care of him. You head for those controls and get this thing shut down."
Not half an instant after Leo had said that, Raphael ducked under his katana blade and charged straight towards the adult turtle before them, his sais ready to bury themselves into that bastard's flesh. Leonardo didn't attempt to stop his brother, instead charging more or less at his heels. Michelangelo didn't seem the least bit perturbed by the sudden attack. In fact, it almost seemed as though his smile grew that much more smug.
Raphael reached him first. With a roar of pure rage, he pulled back his weapon and drove it forcefully right at the taller turtle's heart. He stumbled forward a few steps when he hit nothing but open air.
"Wh-what the…" Raph breathed out in confusion, staring blankly at the spot where he was sure Michelangelo had stood just a moment before. He took a quick look around, finally locking eyes with that icy cold stare just a few feet to his left. His eyes widened. He hadn't seen him move. He was there one moment, and had just disappeared the next. The only person he'd ever seen – or rather, not seen – move so swiftly was his Master Splinter. But this Michelangelo was no ninja! How could he possibly move so fast?!
"How very amusing… You lot always boasted of your superior strength and speed over myself and others who do not practice the martial arts. I wonder… Is this truly the full extent of what you can do? I must say, I find myself sorely disappointed…" he taunted calmly, almost boredly, not the least bit ruffled or out of breath. Raphael growled, taking another swing at the pompous bastard. He didn't dodge this time. Instead, the red-masked turtle found his wrist caught in the other's surprisingly strong grasp, his sai held mere inches away from its intended target. The smile was suddenly gone from the man's face.
"Now, now, dear Raphael… Have we not already discussed my distaste for physical contact? Need I remind you what I threatened to do the last time you laid your filthy hands on my coat?" he whispered deathly quiet, his voice taking on a chill that was only surpassed by his frigid stare. The grip on Raphael's wrist tightened suddenly. Raph let out a sharp cry of pain, feeling the bones of his wrist threaten to shatter under the unexpected strength of Michelangelo's single-handed grasp. Just as he feared the otherworldly fiend would truly make good on his promise to rip his hand from his arm, Raphael felt himself being released just as suddenly as he had been grabbed, a katana blade slashing downward an instant later where the other's arm would have been.
Leonardo quickly slid in between the two, his swords crossed defensively in front of himself, intending to keep Michelangelo at bay while Raphael recovered.
"Are you alright?" he whispered back at his brother, never taking his eyes off the menace before him. Raphael gave a small, pained grunt.
"I'll live, but… Shit, Leo, sumthin' ain't right here! Not even our Mikey should be this strong!" he whispered harshly in reply, still rubbing at his aching wrist. Leo merely gave a small nod before chancing a glance over at Donatello. The lanky turtle was still standing at the top of the pyramid steps, watching the altercation with open-mouthed awe. Leo let out a small growl.
"Donnie!" he shouted, which was all it took to snap his brother out of his daze. Donatello sprinted for the controls now that the other two had gotten Michelangelo away from them, immediately setting to work trying to find a way to disable the machine in some way.
Michelangelo didn't seem bothered in the least to have the younger turtle fiddling at the control panel. He was as calm as ever, his hands folded neatly behind his back, that look of sick amusement returning to his face. It was Leonardo's turn to go on the offensive now. He lunged forward, making calculated slashes aimed to rip through his opponent's chest. Each slash missed hitting the mark by a mere inch, Michelangelo effortlessly back-stepping just in time to miss getting hit. His frustration growing, Leonardo made one last lunge forward, aiming this time to bring both katana slashing downward on the madman's head.
Leonardo's blades slashed through empty air, embedding themselves deep into the steel plating of the floor. He immediately tried to lift them up for another attack, but found that they wouldn't budge. He glanced down to see why they had become stuck, his breath catching in his throat. His swords were pinned down by one of Raphael's sais. How had he not noticed Michelangelo take it? Had it happened when he tried to break his brother's wrist?
A brown leather boot stamped down hard on his hands. Leonardo winced, but refused to let go of his weapons. Instead, he looked up at the man in defiance, but the expression melted away instantly. Michelangelo, towering above him like a conquering titan, his normally crisp white shirt hanging loose and in tatters, was glaring down at him with a look of utter disgust. It wasn't that look alone that had sent chills up the young ninja's shell, however. There was a large chunk of the adult turtle's plastron missing, a section several inches wide directly over his heart. Directly in the center of that spot, embedded into his very flesh, sat the tiny shard of the Orb Michelangelo had always kept with him, glowing blue veins spreading out from it in all directions until they disappeared under the bone plating covering his bare chest.
"Wh-what have you done..?" Leo gasped out, his eyes wide in horror. Was that the source of Michelangelo's sudden devilish strength? Was that why he'd been so confident, even when confronted with the three of them? He never dreamed, as mad as this darker version of his brother had proven himself to be, that he'd be deranged enough to fuse a piece of the Orb with his own body for power.
"What have I done?" Michelangelo repeated coldly, his blue eyes narrowing behind his spectacles. "I have done what is necessary."
He then retrieved a small vial of glowing blue liquid from a pouch on his belt, uncorked it, and, before Leonardo could wrench his hands free from the crushing force of his boot, splashed the contents across the young mutant's face. A wretched scream ripped from Leonardo's throat, his hands finally pulling free to frantically wipe at his burning eyes, a putrid blue smoke rising from wherever the liquid had touched.
Michelangelo bent down in front of where Leonardo was curled up in pain and clawing futilely at his eyes, casually pulling the stolen sai from its hold on the ninja's katana. Let the boy have his little toys. A blind swordsman may as well be unarmed, so far as he was concerned. Besides, this little weapon would prove still useful to him. He turned, thrusting out his arm in time to parry Raphael's wild attack, the metal of both sais ringing as they connected violently with one another.
"You son of a bitch!" Raphael shrieked, his green eyes ablaze with anger. He slashed wildly, but hit nothing but open air just as he had the first time. He didn't let confusion delay a follow-up strike this time. He whirled around, making a wide arc with his sai to catch anyone and anything within arm's reach of him. Just as his mad slash completed its arc, Michelangelo was before him once more. He didn't have time to react before he felt a hard hand at his throat. He was shoved backward until his shell slammed against the wall of the control room. The last thing Raph could remember seeing clearly was the glint of metal as his own sai was raised to eye-level, before being thrust mercilessly towards his skull.
Donatello had to force the screams of his brothers out of his mind as he worked feverishly at the control panel. It tore at his heart to hear them crying out like that, but he couldn't afford to look away for even an instant if he hoped to find some way of permanently disabling this machine before it was too late. Michelangelo's journal offered no help, and it had been tossed aside. He didn't know why he'd thought the damn thing would be useful in the first place. There was no way, mad as he was, that Michelangelo would be stupid enough to write down his invention's Achilles Heel. He had to somehow find it for himself.
He wasn't at the controls but for a few minutes when he suddenly felt himself being wrenched away from them and tossed across the temple floor. He skidded to a stop just before he would have been made to tumble down the steps of the pyramid structure. He attempted to lift himself up, but a boot came down hard on the center of his chest, pinning him to the ground and thoroughly knocking the wind out of him.
"Poor, naïve Donatello…" came the patronizing voice from directly above him. "Can't you see that it's over? All of this effort you three have gone to, all of this pain, and for what? Some misguided notion that you're saving the world?"
Donatello gave a pained grunt as he grasped Michelangelo's ankle with both hands, trying in vain to lift the crushing appendage off of him. He took a quick glance upward, towards the ever descending portal. It would be on them any second now.
"Th-there's still time…" he choked out, but any further protest was ground out by the adult turtle's crushing heel.
"Don't be foolish. How can you stop something when you have no idea what it is you are trying to stop? Of course, I couldn't expect you to understand by just telling you. You'll see soon enough."
And so he would. Donatello snapped his eyes shut as the portal passed down over the two of them. He expected to feel the cold, dank air of long-unused tunnels buried deep under the English capital. What he felt instead was a bellowing wind. He opened his eyes, his breath drawing in sharply once he realized where they had been transported. They weren't underground, and they weren't in London. The temple seemed to be sitting atop a tall building, the city skyline interspersed with the occasional alien spire of the machine as far as the eye could see. What was worse, he knew this city. It was his city.
They were still in New York.
"N-no!" Donatello wheezed out desperately. "Y-you've got the wrong coordinates! If you activate that machine here, it'll rip a hole as wide as the Atlantic Ocean in the barrier between dimensions! Both our worlds will be destroyed in an instant!"
Donatello looked sharply up at Michelangelo at that. Had he heard that correctly? Was this what he'd been planning all along? He just couldn't believe his ears…
"B-but… But why?" the question came out as a soft, disbelieving whisper. Michelangelo seemed to glare more sharply down at him, as though offended at his insolence.
"You simple fool… You think I'm just some sadistic megalomaniac, don't you? Can't you see that all I've worked for, all my family has worked for, is the same thing as you?! We have toiled away all this time to save humanity!"
"You're going to destroy humanity!"
"And in so doing, we save them from themselves!" Michelangelo barked back without a moment's hesitation. "I come from the year 1899. As we speak, in my world, the clock is slowly counting down the seconds to the new year, to the new century. Have you even the slightest idea what horrors await us there?! Have you no clue what these filthy apes do to one another in the name of war?! Mustard gas covering the plains of France and Germany, huge death camps all across Europe, London, my city, bombed mercilessly by the Germans! The genocides in Cambodia! The religious wars! The threat of total nuclear annihilation by the world's biggest superpowers! All of this and more awaits my world in the coming twentieth century! My Father has seen it all! I have seen it all! And if you dare defy even a small scrap of what I tell you now, I challenge you to look at your own world's history as proof!
"All I want… All any of us want… Is peace…" Michelangelo continued, his tone suddenly losing its hostility, his eyes softening from their hard glare. "No more fighting… no more killing… We want to make the world perfect, to make it clean, make it free of all this pointless pain…"
"But you can't have happiness without pain." Donnie interjected, feeling as though he may have found an opening in the weary inventor's rock-hard façade. "My Master Splinter once told me 'The beauty we perceive is equal in proportion to the ugliness we have experienced.' I never really understood it, but I think I do now. We can't have happiness without hardship, because without hardship, we have nothing to compare happiness to. The harder our lives, the easier it is for us to be happy with simple things. Don't you think that's worth all the pain?"
There was a long moment in which neither of them seemed to breathe. Michelangelo merely stared down at Donatello, his blue eyes seeming to look through him rather than at him. Then, after what seemed like forever, he looked down, his hand moving under his torn shirt. Donnie would have allowed himself a small sigh of relief, thinking perhaps he'd actually talked the other down, but the answer to his question was still forthcoming. Michelangelo pulled something from inside his belt, and soon Donatello found himself staring down the barrel of a small revolver.
"No. No, I don't think it is."
Donatello gasped, snapping his eyes shut as Michelangelo's finger squeezed the trigger. He heard the shot ring out, echoing through the city, but felt… nothing? Was this what death was like? He cracked open one eye, finding himself still lying on his back atop the pyramid structure. No, he certainly didn't feel dead, but he was so sure he'd heard a gunshot. He looked up at his would-be killer, hoping for some answers.
Michelangelo's eyes were unfocused, glazed over. Slowly, his handgun falling to the ground with a clatter, he rose a shaky hand up towards his chest. A thin stream of glowing blue liquid leaked slowly from the corner of his mouth. It took him a moment, but Donnie finally spotted the Orb shard – or rather, where the Orb shard should have been embedded in his chest. What remained in its place was a small, oozing hole. The shot that had rung out a moment ago hadn't come from Michelangelo, it had been directed at him.
Slowly, with what seemed to be the last of his rapidly waning strength, Michelangelo willed himself to glance back over his shoulder at whoever it had been who dared to shoot him.
"Y-you… F-filthy… S-swine…" he choked out before, at last, collapsing to the ground in a lifeless heap. Once free, Donatello leapt to his feet, searching out whoever it was that had saved him. He caught the flash of a rifle barrel as it was lowered, still smoking, to aim at the fallen madman's body, the shooter's form shimmering lightly for a moment as it flickered into visibility. Donatello stood there, frozen, not believing his eyes. His rescuer gave an indignant snort at the lifeless turtle.
"Dat's fer all'a dem pigs, mu'fucker!" Bebop shouted triumphantly.
Chapter 14: Father
Michelangelo was exhausted in every sense of the word. His body threatened to collapse under its own weight with every labored step he took. He winced every now and then, any time his mangled arm moved too much. He'd managed to find a scrap of cloth with which to bind his wound, but such slap-shod first aid had only served to stop him from bleeding to death for the time being. He still couldn't feel or move anything below his left elbow.
Worse than his weary, battered body, his mind had taken a great toll. Thoughts struggled to surface themselves through the sludge of shock and despair, and when they finally did they were so painful that he immediately buried them once more. Leatherhead, beheaded. Leonardo, drowned in what had amounted to acid. Raphael, crushed to death by gnashing, heavy gears. How much more of this hell could he endure?
Then, as if testing to see just how much farther his poor mind could go before shattering completely, he remembered what he was supposed to do, what Donatello had told him he must do to destroy the Machine. There was still one death more yet to face. Michelangelo shook his head, as if the action would physically wrench the idea out of his brain. He couldn't do it. He just couldn't bring himself to kill, not on purpose. He blamed himself for the others' deaths, that much was true, but they were all accidents. To actually have an active, purposeful hand in murder? He didn't care what the reason was, he just couldn't do something like that. He didn't have it in him.
The single word bit at his memory. No… No, not even for that reason. He didn't subscribe to this world's twisted concept of 'mercy.' He refused to.
Still, despite his vehement refusal to do the only thing left to be done that had any hope of saving the world, his legs still carried him on, trudging endlessly, mindlessly through the deepest bowels of the Machine. He had no way to know exactly where he was going, but he somehow knew he would end up standing before… Him.
He found himself wading through a river of blood, treading the foul, thick substance up to his knees. He didn't seem to notice, or if he did, he didn't care anymore. He couldn't tell which was more disturbing. Of course, what proof did he have that any of this was real at all? It could all be an illusion, a sick fever dream. For all he knew, he was still safe and sound in his bed back home in New York. He would toss and turn until he finally woke up and, after about five minutes or so, he'll have forgotten most of what he saw here. He'll be fine. His brothers would be fine. Everything would be fine.
But not even he could convince himself of such a wild fantasy. What he had seen here surpassed any nightmare his formerly-innocent mind could possibly conceive of. What he had seen here was simply too gruesome, too horrible, too unspeakable to have been a mere nightmare. There was no waking up from this.
The river of blood had turned into a lake. A vast cavern spread out before him, the light of his lantern unable to pierce far enough through the darkness to see just how big it really was. The only thing he could see from his current position was a platform out in what he supposed to be the middle of the lake, a single cage-like lift resting on the surface, beckoning him forth.
The blood came up to his chest now. Michelangelo still had the presence of mind to hold his arms above the surface, not wanting to risk severe infection to his wound or risk shorting out his lantern. That he would surely die down here was bad enough. He didn't need the added misery of being in excruciating pain or in complete darkness as he waited for the end.
He could see objects floating on the surface of the lake, bloated and stained a rusty red. They were bodies, but he couldn't tell if they had been human or Manpig. Did it really matter which at this point? No, he decided it didn't. The Hamatos of this world hadn't seemed to make a distinction between the two, at least. Both were filthy wretches to them, ripe for the bleeding.
He reached the lift, absently pulling the lever once he was inside. He didn't cling to the bars this time as it descended. What did he care if it fell now? It would just bring a quick end to it all. He would almost welcome that at the moment. He stared blankly forward as the sheet metal surrounding the lift cage slowly slipped by, not bothering to wonder how much farther he would have to descend. He didn't care anymore. Damn it all, he didn't care about anything anymore. He just wanted it all to end. It didn't matter how.
Sheet metal gave way to an open chamber once more. This cavern seemed so large that, had he not known better, he'd have thought he was outside in the chilly midnight air again. Out there, rising through the mists, towering above everything as he came to a rest at the lift's final destination, was a massive stone pyramid of Aztec design. Michelangelo's blood ran cold as he stared up at it. This was it. He was up there. He just knew he was. Terror gripped coldly at his heart. He wanted to run. He wanted nothing more than to run away as fast as he could, any way he could. He simply had to get out of there, no matter the cost.
His body didn't seem to agree. Even as everything in his heart, mind, and soul were screaming at him to get away from this cursed place, his legs carried him steadily forward. It was as though he no longer had control of his body. Or, perhaps he was just so far gone into insanity that he reveled in his own fear. Was either option any more ridiculous than the other? Then, Mikey remembered what Donatello had told him when he wondered how he'd know where to go, how he simply needed to follow the chill in his heart, the fear in his soul, and that he would be led in the proper direction. Was this what he'd meant?
His feet led themselves to the massive stone steps leading up the side of the black temple. This was it. There was no way he could turn back now. As if to confirm the chilling thought, an all too familiar voice rang out from inside his own head as he made the slow climb to the summit, a voice devoid of form yet imposing itself over every other thought in his mind. The voice of the Machine. The voice of Hamato Yoshi.
'I have stood knee deep in mud and bone and filled my lungs with mustard gas. I have seen four brothers fall. I have lain with holy wars and copulated with the autumnal fallout. I have dug trenches for the refugees; I have murdered dissidents where the ground never thaws and starved the masses into faith. A child's shadow burnt into the brickwork. A house of skulls in the jungle.'
'The innocent… the innocent, Michelangelo, trod and bled and gassed and starved and beaten and murdered and enslaved! This is our coming century! They will eat them, my son… They will make pigs of you all! And they will bury their snouts into your ribs and they will eat your hearts!'
Michelangelo now stood atop the temple, frozen, his eyes wide at what he saw there waiting for him. It was hard to see much of anything in the near darkness, but a dim blue glow imposed itself upon him, making it impossible to look at anything else. Sitting there on a throne of stone and steel, wires and pipes spreading outward from his withered body in all directions, lifeless black eyes staring blankly forward, was the one man most responsible for setting in motion the horrible events Michelangelo had experienced in this single night of terror. It was the core, Hamato Yoshi himself.
More accurately, it was what remained of Hamato Yoshi. The man was little more than a corpse. His skin had shriveled and turned gray, tightening over what almost seemed to be bare bone. His hair, what little hadn't fallen out, had turned a ghostly white. His chest seemed to have caved in and, right in the middle of the ghastly depression, sat a glowing blue stone carved to be the exact size and shape of a human heart. It almost seemed to be pulsing, beating as a real heart would. It must have been the Orb.
Mikey's eyes couldn't help but fix themselves on what lay across the man's lap. It was a tiny form, the skeleton of a young child. A young girl. She was still dressed in a fine yellow dress, her silky black hair clinging to her tiny shattered skull. Yoshi's gaunt hand was cradled under her head, as though he'd still been in the process of stroking her hair when rigor mortis had finally taken hold of him.
'My son… Have you come here to kill me?'
Michelangelo flinched slightly as the Machine spoke to his mind once more. He swallowed hard, trying to clear the lump that had gathered in his throat. Why did it have to use that voice?
'You don't understand. No one does. All of this, all I have done, all of the so-called atrocities you have seen here… I did it all for you, my son. For you, and for your brothers. For your sister. For my Miwa.'
Mikey tried to look away, feeling the tears start to well up at the corners of his eyes. It wasn't Splinter. It wasn't his Sensei. He couldn't let himself be tricked into thinking that this creature, this corpse, this faint wisp of a man was in any way his beloved master. Yet… He couldn't ignore the sincerity in that all too familiar voice, especially when it spoke of Miwa.
His eyes were pulled back to the man seemingly against his will, his gaze drifting down to the girl's skeleton in his arms. Could it be that Hamato Yoshi had slipped so far out of his right mind that he still believed that his beloved daughter was still alive and well, even as he cradled her long-dead remains close to his chest? A pang of pity struck Mikey suddenly, his heart clenching in his chest as he couldn't help but think 'Poor Sensei…'
No. No, he couldn't let himself slip into thinking that way, even by accident. This wasn't his Sensei. This was a machine. He forced himself to stare at the Orb in the man's sunken-in chest, watching as it pulsed, beating out a deceptive rhythm. That was it. That was the only thing that was truly in control here. That's what was talking to him now, what had stolen Hamato Yoshi's voice, his mind, his life, and had turned his grief into these twisted machinations. So long as that cursed Orb existed, Yoshi's very soul would be forever trapped in that withered corpse, still under the delusion that what he had set into motion had truly been for the benefit of his children.
"Mercy…" Michelangelo heard himself breathe out in a barely audible whisper. It was the first time since he'd arrived in this hellish world that he'd been able to hear the word without cringing. He was starting to understand what Donatello had meant earlier.
'No… No, wait… What are you doing?' the Machine asked, a note of concern, possibly even desperation entering its pseudo-voice. The lantern had fallen out of Michelangelo's hand and clattered to the ground, its light flickering out. Slowly, he began stalking towards Yoshi's body, guided only by the pale blue glow of the Orb. He bent down, grabbing a loose length of heavy brass pipe that had been carelessly left lying around. He kept his eyes forward, staring at the Orb, an icy chill invading them for the first time in his life.
'No, please, I am begging you… I made you. I am your Creator, your Father! You cannot destroy me!'
Even as the Machine gave this final plea, Michelangelo raised the pipe over his head.
"You're not my father."
Chapter 15: Same as it Never Was
Leonardo gave a pained grunt as he slowly lifted himself up onto his hands and knees. He'd been drifting in and out of consciousness for a while, but it felt like he was starting to level out a bit. His face burned like nothing he'd ever felt before, but he was starting to get used to the pain. He tried to open his eyes. He gave a sharp cry of agony when his eyelids parted just slightly, causing him to immediately snap them shut again, cursing wildly under his breath as he did so. He didn't know which panicked him more; the sheer pain, or the fact that, for the split second that his eyes had been open, he'd seen nothing but blackness.
"L-Leo..? H-hey, Leo, over here!"
Leonardo could hear Raphael call to him, but he wasn't sure what direction his voice had come from. The fact that his brother was alive at all was a huge relief in itself.
"R-Raph… Raph, I can't see anything. Where are you? Are you okay?"
"I'm right in front of ya, just a few yards away. Just follow my voice. I… I can't move. That bastard pinned me to the wall… I-I need help getting free."
Leo did as he was told, slowly crawling forward on his hands and knees. He didn't feel steady enough to try walking blind just yet. It wasn't long until he felt the edge of the wall. Carefully, he felt his way up to his feet, finding Raphael seconds later.
"Where are you pinned?"
"My head, left side."
Raphael didn't seem too eager to give him an answer, so he let his hands wander up to where he guessed his brother's head to be. He hit the hilt of Raph's sai with the back of his hand, felt the hot stream of blood running down his brother's cheek. He gasped, almost pulling his hand back in horror.
"Oh my God, Raph!"
"I-it's okay, he just got my eye with one of the side prongs. It ain't as bad as it… uhh… seems." Raphael replied hastily, catching himself on that last bit. He then let out a wry chuckle. "S-seriously, if the guy was lookin' ta kill me, he's got lousy aim. What's an eye or two compared to gettin' away alive?"
Raph winced a bit at that last, likely because he forgot what Leo had suffered just moments before. As bad off as he was, his older brother had it twice as bad. Leonardo merely sighed, shaking his head. It didn't matter now. What was done was done. He grabbed hold of the hilt of the sai currently pinning his brother to the wall, yanking back on it as hard as he could.
"Argh! Dammit, it won't budge!"
"Out of way, черепаха!"
Leo gave a rather undignified yelp when he suddenly found himself being tossed to the side. Raphael wasn't much more dignified, a sudden wave of panic overcoming him as Rocksteady came into view. The rhino braced one arm hard against the pinned turtle's chest, the other reaching up to grasp his sai. He had it out in one clean jerk of his powerful arm, and Raphael immediately collapsed to the ground with a shout, his hands shooting up to cover his now-empty eye socket. He managed to look up just in time to see the Russian mutant toss his bloodied weapon to the ground with a metallic clatter, just barely catching the glint of the diamond set in Rocksteady's prosthetic right eye as he turned away. Could that be the reason he'd helped? Could someone like that actually sympathize with another?
Raph scrambled over to where Leo had been tossed, bracing his shoulder under his brother's arm and helping him to his feet. He seemed confused.
"R-Raph? Was that Rocksteady? Did he hurt you?"
"No… He helped me…" Raphael replied softly, still quite stunned at the whole situation. Leonardo was understandably flabbergasted as well.
The two of them eventually made their way over to where Donatello was knelt over the body of the mad Michelangelo. He looked up at his two older brothers, giving them a sad, weary smile. Raphael furrowed his brows at him, giving the corpse a suspicious sideways glance.
"So, is that it? Is it over?" he asked hesitantly. Donatello nodded his head slowly.
"Yeah, it's all over… The shards of the Orb lost power a few minutes ago. This machine won't be opening any holes between dimensions ever again…" he replied with a sigh.
"Why do you sound disappointed by that, Don?" Leo asked, not liking the tone his brother was taking. Donatello gave a feeble whine, as though wanting anything but to have to explain it.
"Because the Orb pieces didn't lose power when Michelangelo's shard was shot to bits, it happened almost ten minutes later. The only thing that I can think of that would do that is… I-is if someone in the other world destroyed the core of the Orb…"
"B-but that's great! That means no one will be able to do something like this again! Do you think it was Mikey – our Mikey – who di-" Leonardo stopped dead mid-sentence. He was starting to realize why that was such a bad thing. He shuddered, his body suddenly going cold and numb at the thought. Donatello heaved another sigh before explaining aloud what it was that Leo had already figured out.
"Without the Orb, we have no way of getting our Mikey back here to our world… He's trapped back there… Forever…"
There was a long, mournful silence. The three of them seemed to be frozen there, the impact of loss solidifying their blood and turning their hearts to ice. It was more than a minute later when Raphael broke the tableau with a vengeful growl.
"Hell no! I ain't givin' up just like that! We've come too far just ta end up with nothing now! There's gotta be some way ta get him back!"
"I-I'm sorry, Raph… I want him back just as bad as you do, but I'm not a miracle worker… I mean, there's a slim chance I'd be able to do something if we still had that first device that Michelangelo and I built together, but—"
"Then we'll find it!" Raphael interjected forcefully. Donatello seemed to lose his patience at this, standing up to his full height to meet his brother's gaze.
"How?! The three of us spent over a week looking for it before and we found nothing! Now that the two of you are out of commission, how in the name of Mutation am I supposed to find it all by myself?! And even if I did find it – which I won't – I'd then have to drag this bastard's sorry carcass off to wherever the hell it is to make sure we can get our Mikey back!"
He finished his argument with an energetic gesture to the body of the slain turtle beside him. Or rather, where the body should have been. Both Donnie and Raph drew in a shocked gasp, leaving poor blind Leonardo to wonder what had happened that he couldn't see.
"Wh-what's going on? What's wrong? Did something happen?" Leo asked, turning his head from side to side as though the motion would magically enable him to see his surroundings again. Donatello was starting to wonder if there wasn't something wrong with his eyes as well. There was no other way he could think to explain why a body should suddenly go missing.
"I-I don't understand! He was right here! He wasn't dead just yet, but there was no way he'd be able to move on his own! He was shot clean through the chest! How can he be gone?!" he rambled on frantically, clutching at his head with both hands. Oh, this was the last thing they needed right now! Without Michelangelo's body to make the transfer, there was no way they could bring Mikey home even if they found the smaller machine!
"Either we got a zombie on our hands, or someone's jumping the gun on the whole grave robbing thing. Look!" Raphael gestured towards the steps leading down from the pyramid summit, catching a flash of purple, brown and green just before it disappeared into thin air. A small trail of blue blood – no longer glowing since the Orb's destruction – trailed after their mysterious body snatcher.
"Rocksteady and Bebop?! What the hell would they want with Michelangelo? He won't survive more than a few minutes more."
"Maybe they're going to try to bring him to Shredder as a trophy. Look, does it really matter? Ya gotta go get that bastard back or we'll never get Mikey home!" Raphael barked out impatiently, looking as though he had half a mind to go after them himself. He was in no shape to do so, and having to support Leonardo's battered body reminded him that he wasn't up to it either. That left it all up to Don, and the lanky turtle knew it. He heaved another sigh. This day couldn't possibly get any worse, could it?
Donatello sprinted across rooftops as fast as his legs would carry him. His eyes darted from one fleeting glimpse of movement to another, from one speck of blue blood to the next. He couldn't let himself lose the trail. If he did… He shook his head. He didn't even want to think of the possibility of never seeing his baby brother again.
The mad chase eventually led down to street level. Donnie jumped down after the invisible pig mutant and immediately found himself lost in a sea of abandoned warehouses. He caught no more telling glimpses out of the corner of his eye, and the trail of blood had dwindled to nothing. He cursed under his breath.
"Dammit! I'm so close! Where could they have gone?" he grumbled, his shoulders wilting a bit as hopelessness began to set in. Still, hopeless though it may seem, he couldn't just give up. Leo wouldn't have given up if he were here.
If Donatello had been the type to believe in a higher power, he'd probably have taken what happened next to be a miracle. Since he wasn't such a type, he merely thanked the laws of probability that he'd happened down just the right alleyway, and just in time to catch a flash of pink light as it flickered against a far wall. He fixed the spot in his gaze and sprinted forward, turning only when he had reached the spot where he'd seen the light flash a moment ago.
He had to stare for a long moment before he could let himself believe what he was seeing. Once he finally did believe it, his jaw practically hit the floor. Sitting just inside the open loading dock of one of the warehouses, the old hodge-podge of metals still ticking as it cooled, the large power crystal's pink glow still fading down, was the stolen transporter. Bebop stood at the controls, a familiar leather journal tucked under his arm. Rocksteady was there as well, turning to face the lanky turtle, a small heap of green and red cradled in his massive arms.
"Mikey!" Donnie shouted reflexively. It was him. It really was his little brother, curled up against Rocksteady's chest, covered in what looked like blood, his left arm dangling at a painfully unnatural angle. It was Michelangelo. Their Michelangelo. They finally had him back.
He was in pretty bad shape, though. Donatello could tell that much from just a cursory glance. He was unconscious, very pale, he looked to be barely breathing, and… Well, the blood and the arm were really hard to ignore. He had to get him back to the Lair. There was no way of telling what else might be wrong with him, or what had been done to him in the blue-blooded Michelangelo's home world.
His urgency rising with the uncertainty of his brother's condition, Donatello quickly drew his bo staff from his back. He would fight these two knuckleheads to the death if he had to, but he wasn't leaving here without his brother! Bebop let out one of his squealy little laughs, shaking his head at the absurdity of it all.
"Aw snap, cuz! You think you gonna take us both out with dat li'l twig? It ain't gonna do down like dat, dawg. See, we got yer bro here, an' we sure as hell ain't gonna just hand him back ta you turtle freaks. I'm thinkin' he'll look better mounted on Shredder's wall once we finish the sucker off. Hell, he's half dead already, so that ain't gonna be no trouble, is it Ivan?"
Donatello's grip on his bo staff tightened as the warthog let out another annoying laugh. However, Rocksteady didn't join him in his jocularity for once. The rhino's steely gaze fixed on the lone turtle before him as he slowly made his way forward. Donnie took a step back, but stared up at the other mutant in utter confusion as he approached. Bebop's laughter slowly died down when he noticed what was happening.
"H-hey, yo, Steranko! The hell are ya doin, man?!"
Rocksteady didn't seem to pay attention to his partner's shouting even as he came to a stop right in front of one of their sworn enemies. The lanky turtle could do nothing but stare up at the towering hulk, unsure what to expect now. If this was an attack, it was a cleverly disguised one. Suddenly, his bo staff clattered to the ground, and he felt Mikey's weight drop into his arms. He stared down at his unconscious brother in utter bewilderment for a moment before directing the look up to Rocksteady.
"You and brothers save Comrade Bebop from Kraang. Life for life. We are being even now, Да?" the old Russian explained in a low tone, leaning down so that the young turtle could hear him while his fuming partner could not. Donatello merely nodded his head slowly, his mouth hanging open in complete disbelief of what had just transpired. Rocksteady gave a gruff sound of approval before straightening himself once more and turning back to Bebop, acting as though the turtles were never there.
"Comrade Zeck, we are being finished here. Let us go to the home."
"What?! Just like dat?! Hold up G, are we not gonna talk about what the fuck all dat was about?! We had dat li'l twerp, man! Shredder woulda rewarded us for bringin' him in! How you gonna just give him back?! I swear, you been actin' screwy ever since we came across dat weird pig mutant in the street! You better not be gettin' all soft on me, big guy!"
"Shutting the mouth, Anton! Or I will pop head like blueberry!"
And Donatello stood there, watching the two bicker as they wandered off into the night.
Master Splinter sat under his tree in the dojo, legs folded under him, eyes closed. He drew in a deep, slow breath, held it, and let it out just as slowly. It was a very peaceful afternoon. Relaxing, but not necessarily comforting. One of his ears twitched ever so slightly.
"Come, my son."
He heard a flinch by the door, a hesitating step, before the quiet footsteps of one of his students could be heard shuffling across the floor mats. He'd always been able to tell just which one of his sons approached from the way their footsteps sounded, but they had become even more unique since that terrible incident a month ago. Leonardo was far more hesitant, shuffling slowly to feel his way. Raphael had trouble judging distance now, and that was reflected in his second-guessing steps. Michelangelo's were... Well, he hadn't had much opportunity to observe the poor boy walking, his injuries keeping him confined to his room for the time being. Donatello's were the only ones that hadn't changed. He was the only one who had escaped serious physical harm. Emphasis in 'physical.'
"Something is troubling you, Donatello. Do you wish to talk about it?" he asked, not bothering to open his eyes to confirm if he'd guessed correctly. He never got these things wrong, after all. Sure enough, it was Donatello's heavy sigh that answered him.
"I don't know, Sensei, I… I guess I just never got the chance to stop and collect my thoughts until now. Everything just happened so fast…"
"And have you gathered your thoughts now?"
"Well… I-it's still a lot to take in, but… I think I have. There's just a couple of things I don't understand."
"Such as… Such as how I could have been such a fool…"
Splinter finally opened his eyes, looking down at the young turtle knelt before him. Donatello's eyes were glued to the floor, a pained, regretful look in them. Rather than offering a word of comfort just yet, the ninja master merely prodded the boy to explain further with a quick "Go on."
"I never should have trusted that other Michelangelo. That creepy imposter. He was a monster right from the beginning, and I played right into his hands… It's partially my fault that Raph and Leo got hurt."
"Yet, had you not cooperated with this 'imposter' Michelangelo up to the point that you did, you'd have never had the device that brought the true Michelangelo back to us."
Donatello gave his master a quick glance before casting his eyes downward once more, his expression somehow more miserable than it had been before.
"But does the 'true' Michelangelo even exist anymore?"
Splinter's ears flattened back against his head at that, his eyes mirroring some of his son's sorrow. It was true, they had their Michelangelo back, but not as he was. He'd changed somehow. He remembered all too well having to hold the boy down when he first regained consciousness after being brought back to the Lair. Michelangelo had gone into utter hysterics upon seeing his master, screaming about how he'd done something unforgivable and how he didn't mean it, how he never wanted to, how he had no choice but to do it. He then shouted the word 'mercy' over and over, more in proclamation than in pleading. Donatello had to sedate him to keep him from thrashing wildly as he treated his wounds.
Even Splinter hadn't dared ask Mikey what had happened to him in the other world. It was clear the boy's mind was still far too fragile to recall anything about it without shattering into a million pieces. The only hints came when he slept, when he was inevitably plagued by nightmares. Splinter spent many of the first few nights by the boy's bed to comfort him, occasionally catching little bits of mumbled sleep talk. 'A child's shadow,' 'A house of skulls,' 'They will eat them,' 'Bury their snouts into your ribs,' 'Not murder. Mercy,' and, of course, 'Pig, pig, pig.' He had no idea what any of it meant, but it sent chills up his spine every time he heard something like that come out of his poor sleeping son's mouth.
"You… did all you could have done." He reassured hesitantly. Donnie shook his head.
"No, I could have done more. I could have listened to Raph when he first said he didn't trust the guy. I could have kept him at arm's length, maybe even stolen a look at his journal sooner and built the transporter on my own. How is it that Raph could see through him so clearly, but Leo and I couldn't?"
"Raphael has always let his emotions guide him rather than logic. It is what makes him so hot-headed, but it also helps him to view the world through his heart rather than his eyes."
Donatello seemed to hesitate before responding to that.
"How can one's heart look at a brother and bear to suspect him of such horrible things?"
Splinter didn't answer. He couldn't. It was a question he'd been struggling with himself for sixteen years. His hands clenched slightly where they rested on his knees. Oroku Saki…
Luckily, it seemed as though Donatello had been unwilling to dwell on the subject either. He took a deep, calming breath, letting it out before moving on to his next concern.
"There's something else that's been bothering me. I just can't figure out why Rocksteady did what he did. I understand Bebop's role in it all. He was just working with us to escape the Kraang, and he shot the other Michelangelo in a moment of revenge. But Rocksteady… Why would he help us? Why would he go through all the trouble to carefully study the situation, steal the journal and Michelangelo's body, and get Mikey back just to hand him over with nothing to gain in return? Surely not just because we helped his friend that one time."
Splinter couldn't help but smile slightly at that.
"You will find that, though they are our enemies, even Shredder's men can have a sense of morals. They do not often align with our own, but it is possible that some of them believe in true honor, even if their master does not."
Donatello nodded dubiously at that, not entirely sure if he believed it. He then stood up, giving his master a quick bow.
"Thank you, Sensei. I've got to go check on the guys now…"
"You are welcome, Donatello. Take good care of your brothers. They need you now more than ever."
Donatello made his way out of the dojo, unsure if he felt any better than before his talk with Splinter. He looked around the main chamber of the Lair, spotting Raphael and Leonardo on the couch. Raph was currently busying himself with changing the bandages covering Leo's eyes. Donnie smiled slightly. He was rather proud of Raphael. Despite his injury, he was going out of his way to try and help his other two injured brothers. He'd only lost one eye, so he could still see well enough to change his own dressings by himself. He seemed to be okay with it for the most part, having sewn shut the left eye of his mask and wearing it even over the bandages that covered half his face. It was as though he was letting them know that he was still ready for anything, even if he hadn't fully recovered yet.
Donatello couldn't help but feel a little sorry for Leonardo. He hadn't been as lucky as Raphael – if losing an eye could be considered lucky. Even if his wounds healed unexpectedly well, there was almost no chance Leo would ever be able to see again. He'd be blind for the rest of his life. Donnie had no idea if he'd be able to fight like that, but he was sure that if there was a way to do it, Leo would find it and excel at it. Despite everything, their strong-willed leader had never lost his determination.
As he passed through the living room, Donatello grabbed the case of bandages off the couch and headed across to Mikey's room. He cracked the door open slowly, peeking in as though afraid he'd be attacked if he entered too abruptly. He caught sight of a mass of thick green scales covering his brother's bed. The mass seemed to twist around, a single slitted eye focusing on the sudden intruder, a crocodilian hiss reverberating through the room. Donnie merely smiled.
"It's okay, Leatherhead. It's just me. I've got to change Mikey's bandages right now. Could you step outside for a moment?"
Leatherhead seemed to hesitate a long moment, but he eventually uncurled himself from his protective embrace around Michelangelo and slithered out of the room. Donnie always felt guilty about having to make him leave like that. He'd been staying with Mikey ever since he'd heard about what had happened, even sleeping with him. Don was grateful to the old gator for that. It was getting to where only Leatherhead could manage to calm their baby brother down after one of his nightmares. He didn't seem to completely trust anyone else just yet.
Mikey was sitting at the edge of his bed, one of his comic books lying open in his lap. It was clear that Leatherhead had been trying to get him to read it with him, to possibly cheer him up a bit. Donnie could tell that his brother hadn't really been paying attention. He'd been staring right through the book, his mind wandering God only knows where. Donnie cleared his throat a bit, wanting to gently get Mikey's attention.
"Mikey? How ya holding up, buddy?" he asked, trying his best to put on a convincing smile as he knelt down in front of the younger turtle. Mikey looked up at him slowly, returning the smile. It was even more blatantly hollow than the one he'd received. Donnie tried not to let it show how much that bothered him.
"I'm doin' okay." He lied. Donnie knew it was a lie. There was no way Michelangelo was even close to okay if he couldn't manage even the ghost of a genuine smile. Donatello tried to put it out of his mind, getting to work right away, carefully cutting away the gauze wrapped around the younger turtle's neck. There was a wide band of raw, still healing scar tissue at his throat, a wound made slightly larger than it had originally been since Donnie had to somehow separate the remains of Mikey's mask from where it had melted and fused with his burnt flesh. Splinter had already made him a new mask, but they hadn't seen him wearing it yet.
He wrapped the wound in fresh gauze and moved down to the large patch of it covering much of Mikey's chest. Again, Donnie couldn't help but feel sorry for Leatherhead. The gator had felt guilty when he'd seen that wound on his little friend's chest, clearly recognizing the burnt void in his plastron as being the exact size and shape of his own hand. Michelangelo had calmed a bit by then, and merely assured him that it wasn't his fault, that it hadn't been the real Leatherhead that had done this to him. Donnie supposed that was the main reason why the gator refused to leave his side even now. He was more protective of him than ever before.
The lanky turtle made a mental note to find some suitable material with which to properly fill in the hole in his brother's plastron plating. He couldn't leave him exposed like that if he was ever going to fight again. Perhaps simple stainless steel would do? He'd hate to put Mikey through another surgery, but it had to be done eventually.
Donatello cringed inwardly when he moved on to the last bit he had left to re-bandage; his arm. It was the hardest wound to look at, but the only one that he could tell exactly how he'd gotten without having to ask. He'd been shot, and with some sort of hunting rifle by the looks of it. The only thing he couldn't tell was by whom. The bullet had completely shattered his elbow, and it had been impossible to tell fragments of bone from fragments of shrapnel. Donnie had no hope of piecing the gruesome mess back together. So, after many heated arguments with the others about what was the right thing to do, he found he had no choice but to amputate it. Michelangelo's left arm now ended just above where his elbow had been.
"Hey, I've been thinking…" Donnie began, trying his best to sound cheerful even as he worked on re-wrapping Mikey's stump of an arm. "If I can get my hands on a Kraang-droid, I can probably take its arm and make it into a new one for you. What do you think? Having a robot arm sounds pretty cool, huh?"
Had Mikey still been himself, Donnie would have expected his bright blue eyes to light up at that, for him to go on rambling about how he wanted all kinds of ridiculous gadgets on the arm, like lasers and rockets and other such nonsense. He would have welcomed something like that, for once in his life. Instead, the younger turtle merely shook his head.
"Nah, that's alright, Don. I know ya got more important stuff to work on. You don't gotta waste your time on something stupid like that for me." He replied softly, looking up at his brother with blank eyes and an empty smile. Donatello let out a heavy sigh. One night… It had been just one night for Michelangelo over there in that other world – that much they managed to get out of him – yet just that one night had done so much damage. He had returned broken, body and mind.
Donnie didn't say another word as he finished up. He knew it would have done no good. He picked up his box of medical supplies and was nearly out the door when he heard Mikey call after him suddenly.
"W-wait! I…" he paused, perhaps second guessing himself if he should speak. He eventually finished his thought in little more than a feeble whisper. "I don't… I-I don't wanna be alone…"
Donatello turned back to look at him, preparing to assure him that he'd send Leatherhead right in after him, but he stopped just as he opened his mouth. Mikey was looking at him, but this time there was something in those eyes of his. It was pure panic.
"D-don't leave me again, Don…"
Donatello, feeling as though someone were trying to wrench his heart out of his chest, immediately closed the door and made his way over to the bed again. He sat down next to the shorter turtle, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and hugging his brother close.
"We won't leave you alone ever again… I promise…"
Chapter 16: Epilogue
Michelangelo's eyes stared past his broken spectacles and into the endless dark above. He didn't have the presence of mind to note that he was home, that he was back in his world. That he had failed. His body felt cold. So very cold. He could feel nothing else anymore, not even pain, not even the hole in his chest where he'd been shot, where his shard of the Orb had been fused into his very being. The Orb…
His lungs seemed to fill with breath once more at that call from the ethereal voice, life returning to his icy eyes. One word burned white-hot in his mind; Father. His Father was calling to him. Slowly, forcing his dying body to move by sheer force of will, he turned himself onto his side and looked up.
He could see the body of Hamato Yoshi still sitting in the stone throne they had lain him in all those months ago, his chest sunken in, the depression dark and empty. On the temple floor at the withered corpse's feet, there lay the broken fragments of a glowing blue stone. His eyes widened in horror. The Orb had been shattered. His Father, his Creator, his Creation, his Machine, had been killed.
With the last of his strength, Michelangelo reached out a hand towards the shards, their glow growing ever fainter by the second. He let his hand come down to rest atop the ruined otherworldly artifact, slowly pulling the pieces close against his chest as he let out one last shaking breath.
He lay there, and watched the God he had created die. At the end when they were cold as the stone they had hewn his body from, when the lights were nearly all extinguished, they heard in the silent distance, the Manpigs singing to one another. Then, as the last lights were gone, and they lay together in the deep, they drifted away, and all was silent. Such a silence, Michelangelo had never known.
And as the dust settled on his open eyes and they lay together embraced forever, he heard miles above them, the sounds of the city turning over in its sleep.
A church bell ringing out.
And in that moment, the new century was born.
Donatello sat behind the dark wooden desk in his Father's study, his hazel eyes staring mournfully down at the silver pocket watch lying open in his palm. The glowing blue stone that had been set in the center of the Hamato Clan crest carved on the inside of the watch casing had shattered, its light fading away in mere seconds. The hands of the watch face, now rendered forever immobile, had frozen themselves at a minute before midnight. Slowly, he closed his eyes, drew in a deep breath, and let it out in a heavy sigh. Hamato Yoshi, Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo… They were all dead. He had been the only member of the Hamato Clan to live to see the dawn of the new century they had all dreaded.
A knock at the door pulled the turtle from his reverie. He snapped the ruined watch shut and replaced it into the breast pocket of his dusty gray coat.
"Come in." he called out, making no effort to put a tone of command in his voice, nor to mask the remnants of sorrow left behind by his earlier thoughts. Two members of the servant staff filed in – the only two that remained un-mutated. The first was a young man who, years ago, had been a street urchin. He stood before Donatello now with an air of obedience one couldn't expect from a common street urchin, his black hair combed neatly back, hardly a wrinkle in his butler's uniform. The second was a young woman of clearly Irish descent, her fiery red hair pulled up into a neat bun, her hands clasped gracefully against her stainless white apron, her long yellow skirt rustling lightly about her ankles as she came to a stop before the new head of the Hamato Clan. Donatello smiled lightly at the two, letting a bit of affection for them shine through in his eyes. Even after everything that had happened, everything that they'd done, these two alone remained unflinchingly loyal to their family. He would make sure that loyalty would be rewarded.
"Mr. Jones, have you completed the tasks I have set for you?" he asked without a trace of superiority in his voice. The man, Mr. Jones, nodded in the affirmative, reporting in with just a hint of a Scottish accent seeping through into his voice.
"Aye, sir. We've spread the barrels of Compound X throughout the ground floor of the estate, and through the tunnels leading down below. We've also just finished emptying the vault of its contents and loaded it into the car waiting outside, as you've requested."
Donatello gave a satisfied nod of his head in reply.
"Very good. Now, I have one last task for the two of you, and I need you to listen to my instructions very carefully." He began, rising from his seat and making his way around to the front of his desk. He took a moment to look the both of them over one last time, as if taking the moment to enjoy their company one last time before they parted ways forever. The two stared back, attentive, but slightly confused as to what was happening.
"I want the both of you to take that car you loaded up and drive it as fast as you can to the docks. Once there, you will board a ship headed for New York. Worry not about the tickets, they've already been booked for you. Once you are in the United States, I want you to stay there. You must never come back to Europe, especially within the next fifty years. Don't even let your descendants come back here if you can avoid it. Furthermore, I want you to forget all that has happened here. Never breathe a word of it to anyone. As far as the world is concerned, the Hamato Clan never existed."
The two servants listened, exchanging unbelieving glances between each other, as though unsure they were hearing the master right.
"And what are we to do with the money from the vault?" the woman asked finally, if a bit hesitantly. Donatello gave her a warm smile.
"Why, Miss O'Neil, you are to keep it, of course. It is yours to do with as you please once you are in America." He replied matter-of-factly, letting himself be amused at their shocked reactions.
"Sir, we cannot accept such a thing! The entire Hamato fortune—"
"Is now yours, Mr. Jones. And Miss O'Neil as well." Donatello finished for him in a tone a bit more forceful than before, raising a peremptory hand to put an end to any further protests. "You two have always been kind to my brothers and I, despite our strange appearance, and I've no other way to express how grateful I am to you for that. I am the sole beneficiary of this estate and its wealth, and it is therefore my right to do with it as I please. My greatest wish at this moment is for the two of you to be safe and comfortable. The twentieth century will not be kind to us here in England, or even the rest of Europe. I don't wish you to experience such… unkindness."
"But… Surely you'll come with us, Master Donatello." Miss O'Neil said softly after a long moment of consideration. Donatello sighed, then shook his head.
"I'm afraid I cannot. I've one last order of business to attend to here, and it is something I must do alone. Now then, we've spent too long here already. Time is short and the two of you have a boat to catch. I thank you again for your service, and I wish you the best of luck in America. Goodbye, my friends…"
Donatello watched from one of the upstairs windows as a single car rumbled its way down the quiet city streets. He waited until they were long out of sight before letting himself breathe a sigh of relief. They'd obeyed his orders after all. That was good. That meant he could proceed to his business without guilt. He wandered slowly down to the ground floor of the mansion, a bottle of his Father's aged whiskey in hand. Just as he had ordered, every last barrel of Compound X had been brought up and now lined the exquisite halls of the Hamato estate. He wandered through each hall, occasionally tipping over a barrel and, quite on purpose, letting the noxious chemical spill and pool over the floor. He continued like this until the entire ground floor was soaked in the corroding liquid, highly flammable vapors rising up and filling the rest of the mansion.
He went outside to the front courtyard, where the brilliant pale light of the full moon shone down on the cobble walkways and the perfectly tended garden. Barrels had been brought out here as well, and he quickly set to work tipping them over. He continued until he was standing in a huge puddle of it about half an inch deep, and ensuring it led back to the mansion proper. Thin wisps of pale blue smoke rose from around his boots where he stood as the pooled Compound X began eating away at their rubber soles, but he paid it no mind. He wouldn't be standing there long enough for it to matter.
He took one last look around him, at his home, at all his Father had worked to create. He gave one last mournful sigh, bowing his head. Then, his voice beginning to waiver a bit, he began to sing.
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne. We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, for days of auld lang syne…"
He then uncorked the bottle of whiskey and took as long of a drink from it as he could stand, ignoring how it burned at his throat. He then held the bottle high, dumping the remainder of it on his head. He discarded the bottle carelessly at his side with a sharp clash of shattering glass, reaching into the breast pocket of his coat to retrieve a book of matches. He stared at them for a long moment, hesitating, considering. Then, a sardonic smile spread across Donatello's lips. Was he afraid of death? No, that wasn't it at all. He'd known since he'd been reborn into this mutated body that he would die this night, though perhaps not in this way. Was he right in so doing? A question for the philosophers to ponder, he decided. There wasn't much sense in turning back now. Besides, he had this one last job to do, and he owed it to the world to rid it of the scourge that still lurked inside his tainted blue heart.
He struck a match, let it fall to his feet, and set ablaze the last remnants of Hamato Yoshi's twisted legacy once and for all.