The large van sped through the city, roaring through the quiet streets of the lower New York Area. The street lights flashed yellow, and cars sat solemnly on both sides of the road. The city seemed eerily quiet as the engine roared through the streets. Mikey’s head hung out of the window, his tongue flapping about like a dog’s as he smiled.
“You know, for a turtle with no license, you’re doing pretty well.” He complimented as he pulled his head back inside.
Donny took a sharp turn, clipping a pair of trash cans and startling a homeless man. Leo braced himself against the wall of the van, trying to keep himself from being tossed about like a rag doll.
“Still, could you take those turns a little wider?” He requested. “There aren’t any seat belts back here.”
“Hey, do you want pretty, or do you want effective?” Donny questioned.
“Just find a place to stash this thing.” Leo replied, settling back down. “The sun’s coming up soon and we’re in enough trouble with Master Splinter as is.”
Donny stopped at a light, looking around the intersection to see if there was any available place for them to hide their newly acquired vehicles. As he looked, Raph pulled up beside the van on his new bike, knocking on the driver’s side window. Donny glanced over and rolled it down.
“Find something Raph?” he asked.
“The old Renaissance Motors garage down off 12th street.” Raph declared. “It’s been abandoned for a while, and there’s a manhole cover right beside it.”
“Good idea Raph.” Leo complimented. “Let’s hurry.”
The van sped off the second the light turned green, following Raph’s bike towards the aforementioned garage. The gates were rusted shut, and the old neon sign reading ‘RENAISSANCE MOTOR COMPANY - Pride of New York’ was seen in the rising sunlight. Donny rammed the gate, making short work of it and allowing the two vehicles entry. Raph hopped off the bike, approaching the door. It was chained shut, which was no surprise to any of them. Thankfully, the chains were so rusted that a single stab and a twist from Raph’s sai snapped it like a twig. He pushed the door up, happily noting how empty the garage was before giving Donny a thumbs up. The purple turtle pulled the van into the garage as Raph manually pushed the bike in after it, closing the door behind him.
“Mikey, grab Hisako.” Donny ordered. “Raph, help me get Leo.”
“On it.” the two addressed turtles replied in unison.
The orange turtle pulled Hisako from the van, cradling her gently as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Donny and Raph pulled Leo out, each of them taking an arm as they did. While they dealt with their brother, Mikey took the opportunity to look around the garage.
“You know, this place ain’t that bad.” he remarked. “Sure it could use some TLC, but throw a little paint on the walls, maybe a mini fridge and a couch, this could be a nice little addition to our home.”
“We can worry about that later.” Leo told him as Donny and Raph brought him over to his brother. “Right now, we need to be back to the sewers and Master Splinter.”
“Yeah, we’re probably gonna be grounded for life after tonight.” Donny moaned.
Splinter sat on the couch, watching the morning news with no small amount of worry. His sons had never been this late in coming home, and the few times they were, they usually found a payphone to let him know they were okay. Glancing at the corner of the TV screen, his heart skipped slightly as he noticed the time. The sun had begun to rise, and there was still no sign of his sons, or Hisako.
On the TV, the news report continued, filling Splinter’s heart with dread.
“More reports are coming in about the deadly shootout at the Waste Management Facility that occurred just last night. Two victims were confirmed dead at the scene, identified by police as Don Turtelli, the leader of the Sicilian Roses mafia, as well as his bodyguard and driver, Michael Vizioso. The Roses have been a driving force in the criminal underworld that has plagued New York since the mid-1980s, leading this reporter to wonder who will rise to take their place.”
Splinter turned off the TV, unable to watch anymore. Once he turned the TV off, he heard the ever familiar sound of the rusty hinges on the door of the lair. His ears perked up at the noise and he bolted off the couch, making a beeline for the door.
“My children!” he called, freezing when he caught sight of how dirty they all were, as well as the various bandages wrapped around Leo’s limbs. “What happened?”
“A pair of gangs were trying to buy and sell weapons down at the dump.” Leo explained as Donny and Raph pulled him inside.
“No way, that big guy had no plans on letting that suited guy and his cronies leave that dump alive.” Raph argued. “Those weapons were sabotaged, and he had a freaking Gatling gun!”
Splinter’s heart skipped a beat, suddenly hyper aware of Leo’s bandages. With shaking paws, he slowly removed them, unable to hide his relieved sigh when he saw that they were merely grazes.
“My shell protected me and Hisako from most of the shots, but not all of them.” Leo explained.
Splinter cast his gaze over to Hisako, whom Mikey had placed back on her mattress before wrapping her in her blanket.
“I’m not hurt.” she told him, answering his unspoken question in a quiet, resigned tone.
“We got lucky Sensei.” Donny told him, placing a hand on the rat’s shoulder. “We’re all alive, and the worse we got was a couple of grazes on Leo.”
“Same can’t be said for those motorheads and their oversized boss though.” Raph retorted, unable to keep the vengeful glee from his voice. “We kicked their shells to next week.”
Splinter went rigid as he processed his son’s words. Leo, Donny, and Mikey all glared at him, and Hisako cringed, feeling the swirling anger beginning to rise in the rat.
“You allowed yourself to be seen?!” Splinter exclaimed.
“We couldn’t just let them get away!” Raph retorted. “We had to do something!”
“You didn’t have to do anything.” Splinter snapped. “I had one rule about your ventures to the surface, one single rule. Do not let yourself be seen by humans. And you not only disobeyed my wishes, you put yourselves, and Hisako, in mortal danger!”
“It was my fault!” Hisako suddenly cried out.
Splinter paused, turning to Hisako in surprise. The turtles followed suit not having expected her to speak up. She clutched her blankets around her tightly, then took a deep breath.
“W-when we were in the dump, we were all hiding...” she explained. “They were gonna kill each other… and I- I-...”
She hiccupped as tears began to fall. Donny, Raph, and Mikey were all by her side in an instant, hugging her close. Splinter looked at her, feeling his anger slip away slightly.
“Why are humans like this?” she sobbed. “Why are they so cruel?”
Splinter sank to his knees before her, reaching out and gently caressing her head, his fingers running through the short sandy blonde hair that was beginning to grow in.
“I wish I knew Hisako.” Splinter admitted. “I wish I knew…”
Leo scooted himself across the couch so he was closer to the mattress.
“Sensei...” he began. “You used to tell us stories about how you would use your ninjutsu skills to try and help protect the innocent people affected by the Yakuza clan.”
Splinter gave a single nod.
“Well, maybe it’s time for us to follow your example.” Leo suggested.
Splinter turned to his son.
“Use the skill you’ve taught us to try and keep the streets safe.” Leo interrupted.
Splinter was hesitant, something the four turtles could easily understand. Their sensei had always been reluctant to allow them to the surface out of fear of what would happen to them should they be discovered. Considering the shell Hisako had been put through, no doubt because of her psychic abilities, it was safe to say his fears were well founded. However, the turtles couldn’t just sit idly in the shadows any longer, not after everything they had witnessed.
“Master Splinter,” Raph began. “We did some good tonight. Things could have gotten much worse had we not done what we did.”
“Those weapons they were selling may have been fake, but who’s to say they didn’t have some working ones stashed somewhere else?” Donny argued.
“We may have failed to save everyone, but that’s because we weren’t ready.” Leo continued. “But next time, we will be.”
“And maybe Hisako can help too.” Mikey suggested. “Those red images had those motorheads so confused and disoriented that they couldn’t do a thing.”
“Not to mention whatever she did to that big guy to stun him into letting Leo go.” Donny added.
“Yeah!” Mikey agreed. “Without Hisako, we’d be-”
Both Raph and Donny slapped a hand over the orange turtle’s mouth, stopping him while he was ahead. Hisako couldn’t help but blush at the compliments bestowed upon her. She actually came out from under her blankets a bit as Leo addressed his father one last time.
“Father, you taught us that honor and Bushido mean everything to a ninja, and that all life is sacred.” Leo told him. “Let us use what you taught us to do some good for this city.”
He bowed his head respectfully. Donny joined Leo not long after, Raphael quickly following suit. A quick tug on Mikey’s hair got him bowed down as well. Splinter looked at them all, then let out a sigh of resignation.
“Very well.” he relented. “Even if I did tell you no, you would no doubt disobey me and do so anyhow.”
The boys blushed, laughing nervously as they rubbed the back of their heads.
“However, do not think I will just let you run off into battle.” He continued. “There will be a few new rules established before any of the four of you will engage an enemy.”
Mikey let out a groan, only to get whacked by Raph.
“First rule, you are ninja first and foremost. Stealth and secrecy are your best weapons. Use them wisely, and do not go revealing yourself openly.”
“Of course Sensei.” Leo promised. “We’d never put the safety of our existence at risk.”
“Secondly, as I father, I am prone to worrying about my children.” Splinter continued. “Before you return to the surface, Donatello will be tasked with creating a means of communication between us all. I want a way to know where you are at all times.”
“Not a problem Sensei.” Donny replied, already working on a plan.
“Thirdly, your training remains your top priority.” Splinter declared. “You will not blow off or neglect any of your lessons, especially now that your skills will be all that stand between you and the enemies you will face.”
“Trust me Sensei, after tonight, I don’t think any of us are gonna be skipping practice.” Raph remarked.
“Awww,” Mikey moaned. “But I was hoping to-”
Once again, a whack from Raph cut off the orange turtle’s protests. Splinter gave Mikey a hard glare.
“Do not take this lightly Michelangelo.” he admonished. “In the past, you have only ventured to the surface for supplies, and you have always remained out of sight of those who would harm you. Now there will those privy to our secret, and should they manage to catch you...”
His voice trailed off, but his eyes drifted down to Hisako. She shivered involuntarily, knowing all too well what would happen to them. Mikey looked at her, then gave a bow.
“Hai Sensei.” he replied eventually.
Splinter gave his son a nod, then felt a tug on his robe. He glanced down to see Hisako holding the fabric of his robe.
“I- I wanna help.” she declared, albeit shakily.
This caught them all by surprise.
“Hisako,” Mikey began “if this is about what I said, I wasn’t trying to make you feel like you had to-”
“No.” Hisako interrupted. “I wanna help… I don’t wanna be like this forever… I wanna be strong… I wanna…”
Splinter reached down and hugged her, an action that made her pause.
“If that is what you want, I would be honored to train you.” he promised her.
“Yeah Hisako.” Donny agreed. “I’ll get you walking again, then you can join us in our training.”
“Aw yeah!” Mikey cheered. “Hisako’s gonna be a ninja!”
“The correct term is kunoichi, Mikey.” Leo corrected. “But yes, she will be.”
Splinter released Hisako, who was grinning wider than she had ever grinned before.
“I’ll get stronger, then I can help keep you safe.” She declared. “I wanna protect my friends.”
The turtles and Splinter all hugged Hisako close, their worries and fears subsiding in their warm embrace. Splinter looked down at his sons and Hisako, a sense of pride building inside of him. Despite being only 13 years old, they were showing a strong sense of a maturity, one he couldn’t have been more proud of.
On the opposite end of New York, nestled in the heart of the business district, a large office complex sat amongst dozens of others that looked just like it. The building had no signs, no directory, and didn’t seem to appear on any map the city had to offer. As far as the city was concerned, it didn’t exist.
Down in the basement of this anonymous office building, a pair of men dressed in garments similar to that of the motorheads stood watch over a single sealed door. On the other side of the door was a windowless room with slick black concrete walls and smooth granite floors that held a collection of six small bathtub shaped holes. These holes were filled with a strange, almost silvery liquid. At the moment, all six tubs were occupied, five of them by the motor heads from the dump, and the sixth by Hun.
The behemoth laid in the strange substance, his eyes closed and his body unmoving. That changed in a matter of seconds as his eyes flew opened. He gasped hard and sat up, splattering the liquid around him as he did. As his breathing became normal once more, he looked around.
“The hell...” he muttered. “The healing vats… What am I doing here?”
Hun pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to alleviate a growing headache. He didn’t remember coming back to the office building. In fact, he didn’t remember much after shooting down Turtelli. Every time he tried to remember, pain flared through his brain, quickly deterring him from trying to again.
Whatever had happened, if he’d been placed in the healing vats, then there was no doubt that the man he worked for- nay, his Master- would no doubt have questions in need of answering, questions Hun most likely didn’t have the answers to.
Before he had time to think any longer, the doors to the dark room were thrown open, allowing for five men to enter. They were all dressed the same, with metallic masks over their faces, red goggles over their eyes, and hoods over their heads.
“The Master wishes to speak with you.” one of the five men declared.
Hun gave the men a single nod, then pulled himself out of the vat. The liquid continued to cling to him as he walked towards a decontamination chamber. He hastily cleaned the remnants of the liquid off of him, knowing that keeping his Master waiting could be a potentially deadly mistake. Once he finished ridding himself of the liquid, he grabbed his clothes from a hook where they’d been hung for him, dressing as quickly as he could.
Now fully cleaned off and dressed, Hun allowed the five men to escort him to a large elevator. The door opened automatically for them, as if it had been waiting for them the entire time. Once they all piled in, one of the five pressed the topmost button on the elevator.
The ride to the top was tense, for lack of a better term. Hun’s fists continually clenched and unclenched, fear and dread coursing through his body like a drug. He felt himself jump when the elevator dinged, opening the doors for the group.
The top floor was reminiscent of a scene right out of an old Japanese movie. It resembled a Japanese temple mixed with a martial arts dojo. Black banners with a red symbol similar to a dragon’s claw hung from the walls, illuminated by a dozen tall braziers. At the end of the room, there was a simple table, where a man knelt sipping on a cup of tea. His face was obscured by the shadows, but he had an aura about him that radiated power and dominance.
Hun walked up to the table, stopping a few feet away. Here, he went to his knees, placing his forehead on the ground.
“Master.” Hun spoke, his deep voice quieted by humility.
The Master took a long sip from the cup, savoring the taste of the tea before holding the cup in his lap. He looked down at Hun, his eyes gleaming with a fiery anger.
“Hun.” the Master spoke in a deep, raspy voice with an accent of clearly oriental nature. “Report.”
“Yes Master.” Hun quickly replied. “I met with the Sicilian Roses as you commanded. The sabotaged weapons were delivered, but Turtelli attempted to double cross us.”
“As I expected he would.” The Master commented, a hard edge to his voice.
“Turtelli and his driver were both taken out as you planned, but there were some… unexpected obstacles we had to take care of.”
“Explain.” The Master snapped.
“Master, the Roses were not the only ones at the dump.” Hun continued.
The Master had been raising his cup to his lips, but he paused, raising an eyebrow. His silent question did not going unanswered for long.
“Right before Turtelli could make his move, someone screamed.” Hun explained. “I thought it might have been some homeless kid, but whomever it was, they weren’t alone.”
“A new player...” The Master mused, not liking the idea of more competition.
“I don’t think so Master.” Hun clarified. “It tried to make a run for it, and when it did, it didn’t appear human.”
“Not human?” The Master repeated, setting his tea cup down and knitting his fingers together. “I hope you have more information than that, Hun. For your sake.”
The threatening edge to the Master’s voice was unmistakable and Hun swallowed hard, feeling a bead of sweat drip down his face.
“A-All I know is that it moved far too fast to be human.” Hun stammered. “It was green, but that’s all I know. I couldn’t get a good look at it.”
“And the rest of them?” The Master growled.
Hun gulped, feeling his chances of surviving this conversation dwindling into single digits.
“I- I can’t remember, Master.” he muttered.
The Master digested this information, then stood up, walking calmly towards Hun. The behemoth kept his eyes glued on the ground, watching the shadow of his Master approaching him. Soon, a pair of sandals were standing right in front of him, then a hand grabbed his ponytail. He yelped in pain as he was forced up, the iron grip on his hair making him look right into his Master’s eyes.
“So, you engaged an unknown third party, one that succeeded in not only taking you out, but five of my best soldiers, and you weren’t even able to get a good enough look to determine whether they were human or not?”
He didn’t raise his voice, nor did he need to. The fierce anger laced in his voice, the fury in his eyes, and the unyielding grip on Hun’s hair did that for him. Hun grunted in pain as he answered.
“I’m… Sorry Master.” he apologized.
The Master scoffed in disgust, then tossed him aside. Hun struggled to his feet, only to be pinned beneath the Master’s foot.
“Give me one reason why I should not end your pathetic life.”
Hun spoke quickly, praying his words would be enough to prolong his life.
“Whatever engaged us… They created some sort of… illusion.” Hun grunted out, affected by both his Master’s foot and the mental anguish preventing him from remembering. “These strange… red images that-”
Hun felt his Master step back, relieving the pressure keeping him pinned. He let out a small gasp, grateful to breathe again. He wasn’t out of the fire yet, but his chances of living through the night were looking better.
“I know of only one being capable of such illusions, but she’s supposed to be dead...” The Master remarked, too quiet for Hun to hear.
Eventually, he turned back to the behemoth, giving him a distasteful look.
“I want you to find these… interlopers.” He declared. “Have those distasteful reprobates you call lackeys scour the streets for any sign of them. I want them all brought before me, dead or alive.”
Hun bowed quickly, relieved to have been given a chance to redeem himself.
“As you command, Master.” he replied.
Hun left quickly as the Master returned to his seat. His tea had long grown cold, but he ignored it. His eyes fell on an intercom button, which he pressed.
“Summon Doctor Stockman.” he declared. “I want him here immediately.”
The Master had replaced his cold tea and had begun enjoying it when the elevator opened again. From the elevator emerged a lone man of African descent. His close cropped hair was need and tidy with not a single strand out of place. A pair of thin wire glasses framed silvery eyes that held a sadistic gleam. He wore a clean suit underneath his pristine coat, and held himself like a man who saw himself as above the entire world.
“Good afternoon Master,” Stockman greeted, giving a respectful bow before straightening up, adjusting his glasses. “To what do I owe the pleasure of such an unexpected summoning?”
The Master set his tea cup aside once more.
“I have just received an… intriguing report about the Roses operation.” The Master explained.
Stockman gave a single nod.
“Ah yes, I remember hearing about the incident on the news.” Stockman remarked, shaking his head in mock sympathy. “Such a tragedy. Without their leader, the Roses will crumble within a matter of weeks.”
Stockman adjusted his tie and smirked.
“But that’s not why you called me here, is it?” he questioned.
“No.” The Master replied. “Hun told me that there was a third party that interfered with the operation, one of which was capable of creating red images that disoriented and incapacitated him, and some of my best soldiers.”
Stockman blinked at this, stroking his chin in contemplation.
“Red images you say? I only know of one specimen who was able to pull off such a feat.”
“I came to the same conclusion.” The Master interjected. “Which is why I want you to think very carefully before you answer my next question.”
He leaned forward, speaking through gritted teeth.
“What. Happened. To Project Oracle?”
Stockman let out a cough, then quickly answered.
“Several weeks ago, a rather volatile specimen of mine broke through its confines.” Stockman explained. “It managed to kill several of my guards, at least two dozen scientists, and most of the S-Wing experiments were slaughtered. All except one.”
“Oracle.” The Master guessed.
“Correct, sir.” Stockman replied before continuing. “Of course, I immediately began a recovery effort with strict orders to keep the situation contained. It took a week or two, but we were eventually able to recapture the wayward specimen. Unfortunately, by the time it was brought back to us, its natural predatory instincts had kicked in and it had… consumed Project Oracle.”
Though Stockman paused at the end, it was clear from his voice he wasn’t horrified or disgusted, more like disappointed. Even the Master didn’t seem all that disgusted. If anything, he just seemed skeptical.
“How certain of this are you?” He questioned.
“About 98.43% sure, Master.” Stockman replied. “The specimen was covered in blood, and DNA scrapings from its teeth and claws were a positive ID for little Oracle. More than that, I personally plucked this from its rear canines.”
He reached into a pocket of his coat, pulling out a plastic wristband, one that was covered in blood and appeared to have been ripped apart with something jagged and sharp. On the thicker part of the wristband was a four letter acronym, then the word ‘ORACLE’ in bold lettering.
“I did purge the contents of the beast’s stomach for more evidence, but the monster had consumed so many of my staff that it made identifying remains nearly impossible.” Stockman continued as he put the wristband back in his coat. “Hence the 1.57% margin of error. However, with the large amount of evidence, I believe we can safely assume that Project Oracle has been terminated.”
The Master’s eyes narrowed.
“That still does not explain what Hun witnessed during the operation.” He reminded the doctor.
Stockman straightened his coat, doing some calculations in his head.
“While I cannot say for certain, the illusions may have been fumes from the various refuse gathering in the lights. The red tint may have been a result of blood coloring the lights, or perhaps the red lights off of the various vehicles. There’s even a possibility that the interlopers Hun encountered may have been using shadows and light tricks to pull off this optical conundrum.”
“I don’t want speculations, Doctor.” The Master snapped. “I want definitive answers.”
Stockman gulped, adjusting his tie nervously.
“Unfortunately Master, I fear that the only ones that could provide you with the answers you seek are the ones that engaged Hun last night.” He explained, his voice slightly shaky.
The Master growled, then turned back to his tea. He took a sip, no doubt in an attempt to calm himself, then addressed the doctor once more.
“I have already tasked Hun with finding these interlopers and bringing them to me.” He said in an even tone. “Once he succeeds, it will be your duty to learn everything there is to know about them. I want to know what they are, where they came from, and how many there are. I especially want to know if the illusions that Hun witnessed were mere trickery, or something… else.”
Stockman’s initial fear subsided at the idea of new subjects to dissect and interrogate. A sadistic chuckle escaped his lips as he bowed.
“I would be honored, Master.” he said gratefully.
“In the meantime,” the Master continued, “I want you to go over every detail of the incident report about the demise of Project Oracle. I want you to make sure that there is no chance that she managed to outwit us. She is far too valuable to just let her wander the streets.”
Stockman hesitated a moment, then bowed again.
“As you wish Master.” he replied.
The Master then waved a dismissive hand, indicating for Stockman to leave. The doctor did just that, leaving the Master alone with his tea, and his thoughts.
“My plans are finally starting to come together.” he remarked, his fingers tightening around his tea cup. “I cannot allow anything to interfere with them. There can be no mistakes...”