Leonardo could do nothing but stare out at the bleak nothingness on the large view screen before him. Just moments before, that had been the spot where Earth had been. Now, just a massive swirl of dust and debris remained.
“The Earth… Splinter… Everyone… Everything…” he growled, hanging his head mournfully. Donatello and Raphael stood behind him, their eyes wide in shock. Donatello’s mouth hung open a bit.
“Gone… Lost forever in an infinite gravitational singularity…” he mumbled quietly, as though he hadn’t believed it himself until he’d hear himself say it.
“Holy pepperoni…” Michelangelo breathed out from where he had collapsed against the side of the ship’s control panel. Everything they’d ever known, gone. Just like that. It was too much for them to bear.
“Watching your entire world vanish into the quantum singularity of a black hole is rather distressing…” came a voice from behind the youngest of the four turtles, a slight mechanical timbre overlaying its markedly casual-tone. Michelangelo looked up, meeting the glowing orange optics of the strange little robot that had rescued the six of them just moments earlier. The robot gave an indecipherable beep, holding out a white ceramic cup to the strange terrapin creature.
“Can I offer you some hot cocoa?” it offered. A small smile spread across Mikey’s face and he eagerly accepted. He licked his lips slightly, staring down into the creamy contents of the cup with hungry eyes for a moment. He paused just before taking a sip, however. Hadn’t his Sensei ever told him not to accept drinks from strange robots? No, he didn’t suppose he’d ever had the opportunity to advise them against something so specific, but it still sounded like something Splinter would warn him against.
“Dude, who are you?” Mikey asked, turning his baby blue eyes up towards the mechanical man once more. The robot brought its fingers together in front of it, answering the turtle’s question quite matter-of-factly.
“My name is Professor Zayton Honeycutt… And you, my friends, are about to embark on a wondrous adventure.”
There was a long moment of silence as the six teens let this new development sink in. The turtles looked between one another, as if trying to gauge just how much the other trusted this strange robot that claimed to be a professor. Suddenly, a loud cheer from the back of the group pulled their attention away from the robot.
“This… is… awesome!” Casey Jones shouted, throwing his arms up in the air. He half expected his excitement to become infectious, for the others to break out into cheers as well. What he got were five pairs of eyes glaring in his direction. Raphael let out a growl, marching up to the human teen and grabbing hold of the collar of his vest.
“Awesome? Awesome?! Our entire planet just got sucked into a black hole and you think that’s awesome?!” Raph shouted, his whole body shaking with rage. How dare Casey just brush aside the deaths of eight billion people like that! How dare he forget that they had just watched their Master, their Father, die! He pulled back a fist, preparing to drive it square against Casey’s jaw.
“Raph, stop!” Leonardo shouted, rushing forward just in time to pull Casey out of his brother’s grasp. Casey let out a grunt as he was tossed to the side, rubbing at his neck as he looked back up at the two turtles. They were glaring at each other, both looking as though they were ready to draw their weapons at a moment’s notice.
“What the matter, Leo?! Have you forgotten already, too?!” Raphael roared, his hands balling up into fists at his sides.
“I think it’s you who has forgotten! Look around you, Raph! We’re the only ones left out of the entire planet! We can’t start tearing each other apart! We have to stand united!” Leonardo retorted sharply. Raphael’s response was a deep growl, taking a challenging step forward.
“’Stand united’ under who?! You?!”
“I suppose you think you could do a better job at leading?!”
“I would have at least grabbed Sensei before running away on this spaceship like a coward!”
That last remark seemed to hit home. Leo gritted his teeth, his fists clenching tightly at his sides.
“Sensei was dead!” Leonardo shouted, his tone losing its normal air of control.
“We don’t know that for sure! Donnie could have done something to save him!”
“Hey, don’t you drag me into this! I don’t want any part in this mud-slinging contest!”
Michelangelo could do nothing but watch helplessly from the sidelines as his three older brothers continued to squabble with each other. He sat with his shell against Professor Honeycutt’s control station, pulling his legs up against his chest and hugging his knees close. He just wanted to go home. He just wanted his friends and his Sensei to be alive again. He just wanted it all to go back to the way it had been before the Triceratons arrived.
There was a soft sob, and at first Mikey had thought it had come from himself. He’d been on the verge of hopeless tears, after all. After a moment, he realized that the sound wasn’t coming from him. He looked up and spotted April, curled up in a far corner with her hands clasped tightly against the sides of her head, a soft sob coming from her every now and then. Mikey got up, quickly making his way over to her side.
“April? You okay, dude?” he asked softly, kneeling down in front of her with a concerned look on his face. She didn’t look up, instead giving a pained whine.
“I-it’s my head… I-it feels like it’s about to explode…” she whispered softly, choking back another involuntary sob of pain. Mikey stood up, turning back towards the others.
“Yo, Donnie! Sumthin’s wrong with April! Can you come…” but his words were drowned out by the continual shouting between the other three.
“I don’t care how much you believe I can do it, I’m not a miracle worker! I can’t bring a whole planet back from utter destruction, and I can’t bring people back from the dead! Get it through your thick skull that science doesn’t work that way!”
Michelangelo’s shoulders wilted and he let out a sigh. They always ignored him when he had something important to say. He looked back down at April, feeling helpless. What was he supposed to do now? He wasn’t all science-y like Donatello. He had no idea what he could do to help the poor girl. If they would just stop arguing for a few minutes…
Suddenly, the whole ship seemed to rock violently. Michelangelo swung his arms in vain to try and keep his balance, but he quickly ended up falling flat on his shell. The other three finally stopped their fighting, each grabbing hold of something to keep from ending up like their little brother.
“Doctor, what’s going on?!” Leo asked frantically, looking to the robot for answers. Professor Honeycutt, his smooth white fingers practically dancing over the controls, replied in as calm a tone as ever, despite what may be a drastic situation.
“Firstly, I’m a Professor, not a doctor. Secondly…” he corrected curtly. His head then spun around a full hundred and eighty degrees, his fingers never faltering in their course corrections as he looked back towards April. “My dear girl, I’d like to ask that you refrain from emitting telepathic shockwaves from your cranium. We’re currently flying through hyperspace and any disturbance to the hyperspacial field could result in serious temporal displacement, which would be rather… bothersome.”
At the robot’s explanation, all eyes turned back towards April. She was still holding her head, golden waves of energy bursting forward from her forehead in huge, sweeping waves. Leonardo’s eyes widened. He remembered something like this happening before, just after Shredder had cut down their Sensei. He didn’t have enough time to turn to Donatello and ask him what was going on before one last shockwave turned the world to blackness.
Leonardo groaned as he picked himself up off the ground, a hand moving up to rub at a spot on his head where he must have knocked into something in the crash. Of course, had they really crashed into something? What exactly had happened? He opened his eyes to look around, expecting to see the strange white plastic that made up the interior of Professor Honeycutt’s ship. What he saw instead drew a sharp gasp from him.
He was standing in the middle of a ruined city. Buildings that once must have towered over the skyline lay toppled to the ground, their remains riddled with huge, charred holes. The heavy odor of smoke and blood and decay bit at his nostrils. He could hear shouts in the distance, the rattling of gunfire, then silence. It was quite clear what he had found himself in the midst of here. This was a battlefield.
But it was a battlefield on Earth.
He looked wildly around once more. The buildings, gutted and ruined though they were, looked just like the buildings he remembered seeing in New York. There was the occasional bit of writing on the side of a crumbled wall, sometimes graffiti, sometimes the remnants of a proper sign, but it was always in English. A body lay draped over a pile of wood that may once have been a crude barricade, its dark green uniform stained with deep crimson splotches all over its torso. It was human. It could be no other place than on Earth.
But how was that possible?! The Earth was destroyed! He’d watched it crumble, watched the pieces get sucked up into a black hole! To be here, standing in the middle of a human city street… It was absolutely impossible!
He heard movement, a couple of groans coming from behind him. He turned, watching as his brothers, Casey, and April all came to and started climbing to their feet. Leo allowed himself to let out a sigh of relief. Well, if he was going crazy, at least he wouldn’t be alone. The other five looked around in utter astonishment, just as he had done a moment ago. Clearly he wasn’t the only one seeing it.
“Wooooaah, duuuude!” Mikey exclaimed slowly, turning in a circle as he took in the new surroundings. “Robot dude musta dropped us off on the Mad Max planet or somethin’!”
“Mikey, I’d explain how ridiculous a ‘Mad Max’ planet would be, but that option is actually far more likely than… this.” Donatello replied, indicating the ruined city before them with a sweep of his arm. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this looks like we’re somewhere on Earth. Hell, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was New York City.”
Leonardo shook his head at that, as though trying to clear the fog from his mind. New York City? How could that be? Was this some sort of cruel joke at their expense? Even if it truly was New York, how could it have gotten into this sorry state? The entire city looked as though the apocalypse had hit it with the force of an atomic bomb. He wouldn’t have been surprised if he saw zombies start to lumber out at them from the rubble.
“Uhh… Guys? It gets worse…”
The other three turtles looked up when they heard Raphael interject into the conversation. He was holding up a tattered piece of newspaper, likely something he’d picked out of the rubble nearby. They all gathered around, looking over each other to get a look at the headline. It read: ‘Bombing Strikes To Increase As Rebels Capture New York-Presbyterian Hospital.’
“So this really is New York…” Leonardo whispered to himself in despair. He’d been hoping that Donnie had been wrong for once.
“That’s not all… Look at the date!” Donatello added, pointing to the top of the paper.
“No way, dude! That’s crazy!” Michelangelo exclaimed, balancing precariously on the tips of his toes to try and get a better look at the paper. Leonardo was half-tempted to snatch the paper away, just so he could get a closer look himself. He read it. Read it again. Read it a third time, but he still couldn’t make himself believe it.
The paper was dated November 15th, 2031. It was from more than fifteen years in the future.
“Hey, guys! C’mere! You gotta see this!”
The turtles looked up when they heard Casey calling out to them. They didn’t see him at first, but soon caught sight of a hand waving at them from behind a crumbled brick wall. The four of them vaulted over and found themselves standing in a fairly clear area that may have at one point been a small shop parking lot. Casey and April were standing over by a cinder block wall that once supported a local grocery store, but that now held only rows after rows of wanted posters. Most of them displayed faces that none of them knew, others were torn scraps, completely illegible. There was one that seemed to have captured the two human teens’ interest, though.
“Would ya take a look at this mugshot?” Casey said with clear amusement, pointing with his thumb up at the largest and most prominent of the posters. The four turtles stared up in utter awe, their jaws hanging agape. The poster read: “Wanted, Dead or Alive: Rebel Leader, Colonel Hamato.” But what was truly astonishing was the mugshot, printed out in black and white. Intense pale eyes stared back at them from what was surely a mutant turtle’s face framed by a dusty tactical scarf, a deep scar visible just to the left of his chin.
“You gotta be kiddin’ me…” Raphael breathed out in astonishment, unable to take his eyes off that poster. Could this really be one of them in the future? Why would they be wanted? And why would they form some sort of rebellion? Against who? Surely not the government. They never gave a crap about human politics. Then, the answer hit him square in the face. Just below the mugshot of the turtle was the crest of the Foot Clan. Shredder.
“Sweeeet! We’re totally have, like, some bad-ass rebel group fightin’ against Shredder in the future! How cool is that?!” Mikey practically squealed, gazing up at the poster with a glint of admiration in his eye.
“Yeah, maybe, but… Which one of you guys do you think this is? The poster doesn’t give a first name, and I don’t see any others with a turtle on it.” April pointed out, squinting slightly as though, if she tried hard enough, the identity of the turtle would become clear to her. It was true, the turtle in the poster didn’t look like any of them, but that was to be expected after more than fifteen years. This turtle was an adult, clearly in his thirties, and his intense face seemed hardened by years of battle. He was just on the edge of recognition, but none of them could quite pin it down.
“Well, I know it’s not me. The face is too wide and the eyes are too light.” Donatello determined after a moment of study, a somewhat relieved look on his face. He wasn’t much of the ‘rebel leader’ type anyway.
“Ya think maybe it’s me?” Raphael wondered aloud with a small smirk, tilting his head sideways as though it would help him see some detail he might have missed the first time. Leo narrowed his eyes slightly at his brother, a bit of their fight from earlier coming back to him.
“I doubt it. Any rebels you’d lead would get themselves killed right off the bat running themselves headlong into Shredder’s lair.” He replied spitefully, folding his arms across his chest. Raphael growled, turning to face his brother with renewed rage in his eyes.
“And you think you’d do better?!”
The two were mere inches from each other’s faces and glaring intently when April’s voice rang out. They stopped, but it looked as though they had been reluctant to do so. Donatello let out a sigh, shaking his head at their antics before turning to April. His brow furrowed, noting a peculiar look on her face.
“Something wrong, April? Are you sensing trouble?”
“I… I don’t know… I’m sensing a lot of different minds out there. Some seem human enough, but others seem… mechanical. It’s all mixing together. I can’t tell who intends harm and who doesn’t.” she replied, closing her eyes in an effort to concentrate better. Donatello’s expression hardened. That she sensed the intent to do harm at all was enough for him.
“Save it for later, you two! We’re gonna have trouble here in a minute!” Donatello growled at his two older brothers, his bo staff already drawn and at the ready. The two seemed to snap out of their little feud at that, each drawing their weapons and moving in close to the others.
It was starting to get harder to see far off in the waning evening light, harder to see where the enemy was coming from. They pulled into a tight circle, each facing a different direction as they waited, watched, listened for any sign of movement. The light had almost faded into dusk before anything happened.
A pair of glowing orange eyes emerged over the edge of a fallen wall, a dark figure crawling out of the rubble with spider-like movements. More eyes appeared, more silent, fleeting movements. A dozen pairs of eyes were now focused in on them, circling them like hungry predators, drawing in closer and closer.
Finally, it was Raph who couldn’t take the tension anymore. He lunged forward when one of the creatures came close, driving his sai deep into its chest. He felt the familiar sensation of tearing through light metal, the sound of droid chatter calling out in alarm. Footbots? Well, that certainly made things easier, he thought. But the Footbot didn’t fall. It dashed away with a flash of silent movement, its chest sparking slightly from the damage it had incurred.
“H-hey, Don? Ya don’t suppose Stockman might have improved on the Footbot’s design in the past fifteen years?” Raphael asked, unable to contain the nervousness in his voice. Donnie never got the chance to answer before the rest of the robots converged. The six teens scattered.
It was all Donatello could do to keep two of the Footbots at bay, blocking their lightning-quick slashes with his bo staff. Raphael wasn’t kidding; these robots were definitely a lot stronger than the ones they’d faced in their own time, and a hell of a lot more resilient. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep this up.
Then, just as Donatello faltered, the Footbot’s blade aiming down to slash right through him, a rough green hand came down on the robot’s head. The robot was yanked backward into the darkness, its eyes flickering out as the sound of metal slicing through metal could be heard. The second Footbot that had been chasing Donnie looked back. It stood motionless for a second, frozen. Then, its torso slowly slid off the rest of its body, a clean diagonal cut splitting it in two.
Donatello, confused and stunned, was not so stunned that he hadn’t noticed what had been in the robot’s chest when its inner workings had been exposed by the mysterious attacker in the dark. An orange, triangular power core glowed faintly inside the chest cavity of the robot for a moment before the lower half finally fell. Donnie’s eyes widened. These robots were running on Triceraton technology?! What was going on here?!
The six teens stood there, staring out into the darkness as, one by one, the Footbots met their end at the hands of a silent shadow. The only sounds that reached them were the final desperate droid chatter as each was destroyed. Then, nothing. The turtles backed themselves into their tight circle once more, keeping their weapons at the ready, not knowing what might happen next, or if their new ‘friend’ was really a friend at all. After a few moments more, a tall figure approached, though it was so dark that they could only make out its silhouette. A head wrapped in cloth, broad shoulders, some sort of cloak covering everything from the neck down to the knees, and… Could that bulge on its back be a shell?
“What are you kids doing here?” The voice was low and gruff, and the question was spoken in a tone of command. None of them could quite place the voice. It had the hint of familiarity to it, but they knew they’d never heard it quite like this. Slowly, Raphael lowered his sais, a smirk spreading across his face.
“Got lost walkin’ home from school.” He replied sarcastically. The man didn’t seem amused.
“I’m not here to play games, boy.” The last word was spat out with so much venom that it made Raphael flinch slightly. Then, his fire returning to him in a flash, he tightened his grip on his weapons.
“Leo, is that you?! I swear to God, you’ll never let anyone else be leader for once, will you?!” he growled out at the shadowed figure, making a move to step towards him, as if to challenge him. He was stopped by a hand on his shoulder.
“Raph, I’m not sure that’s Leo…” April whispered in his ear, staring past him at the figure with searching eyes.
“Who is it then?” Leonardo asked, trying not to sound hurt at the accusation. However, before she could answer, there was a distant sound of gunshots being fired, then the sickening screech that sounded like a thousand sawblades running at once. The shadowed figure turned away from the group, cursing under his breath as he seemed to bring something up to his mouth.
“Colonel Hamato to Base; I need an evac, now. Six teenage civilians. North side. Use tracer Bravo.”
There was a crackle of radio static before the order was answered with a quick “Roger that, Sir” by another male voice. Raphael gave another indignant growl.
“Hey, we ain’t no civilians!”
“Shut up, boy.” Was the immediate biting reply. Mikey leaned over to April even as Raphael fumed to himself.
“Dude, you sure that ain’t Leo?” he whispered. He could practically feel Leo’s blue eyes glaring at him through the dark at that comment.
“I said, shut up. That goes for all of you.” The Colonel barked out in a harsh whisper. “The Footbots are a hive-mind. Those twelve from before were just scouts. Now that they’ve gone offline, the Swarm will be coming for us.”
Leonardo’s eyes widened at that. The Swarm? That certainly didn’t sound good. The image of a horde of zombies coming after them resurfaced in his mind, only this time they were fast, deadly, and precise robots. His eyes scanned the darkness around them, waiting for the first pair of glowing orange eyes to stare out at them, signaling the coming of the deadly wave. He could already hear the distant sawblades screeching, drawing closer.
The orange lights didn’t come in a single pair, but hundreds of them at once. Thousands of them. They gathered and surged in the distance like an ocean of deadly fireflies, and then they started heading right for them. The six teens each raised their weapons in preparation for a fight.
“Don’t bother.” The Colonel whispered, never turning back to look at the lot of them in the dark. “They’ll tear us to bits in seconds. It’s pointless to try to fight this many.”
Leonardo opened his mouth, preparing to demand to know what they should do about it, but a sudden roar of blades over his head cut him off. Not sawblades. A helicopter? A bright light then flooded the area, causing the six teens to snap their eyes shut from the sudden, unexpected transition from darkness to light. Leo willed his eyes to open, to look up at the figure that stood before them with his back still turned to them. The Colonel’s cloak was made of a light canvas, tattered at the edges but just long enough to cover him down to his knees. In his right hand he held a single kama, the scythe-like blade glistening with oil from the robots he'd destroyed moments ago. Leo gasped. There was no way… He quickly looked up, focusing on the tactical scarf wrapped around the older turtle’s head. It was a faded, dusty orange.
He had no time to dwell on the Colonel’s identity after that. The Swarm was nearly on them, the chorus of sawblades rising to a deafening pitch. Colonel Hamato didn’t retreat an inch, even as the first of the horde entered into the spotlit area. Leonardo took a step forward, as though wanting to shake the man to his senses and tell him to run. There was no need. The thunder of a machine gun rang out over the sawblades, a rain of empty shell casings falling down over their heads. The barrage ripped through the front lines of the Swarm, cutting them back and prompting a momentary retreat of the robots. In the midst of the chaos, a rope ladder was dropped down to them from the helicopter.
“Go!” the Colonel ordered just loud enough to be heard over the cacophony. They didn’t have to be told twice. Leonardo ushered the other five up first, glancing back at the older turtle before heading up himself. As he reached the top and climbed in, he gave a passing glance at the gunner station by the door. To his surprise, the gunner was a woman, her fiery red hair pulled back into a low ponytail.
“Get to your seats! We need to get out of here!” the woman barked out as forcefully as the Colonel had, leaving her station to pull up the rope ladder. Leo took a quick glance down out of the helicopter. Colonel Hamato held onto the ladder with one hand as it was pulled up, the Footbots converging over where he had been standing a moment ago, clamoring over each other and reaching their spindly claws up to try and snatch at his heels. Leonardo’s brow furrowed. Why didn’t he climb up like they had?
The woman reached down and grasped the Colonel’s hand, helping him up into the helicopter, his cloak billowing from the backdraft of the helicopter’s spinning blades. Leonardo couldn’t help but stare at him for a moment, now understanding why he couldn’t climb the ladder. His left arm ended just above where his elbow should have been, the stump end of the half-amputated appendage wrapped in white cloth. Where they six had been struggling with two Footbots apiece, this man – this turtle – had taken all twelve out with one arm.
“Sergei! Get us out of here!” he shouted once inside, giving the sheet metal behind the helicopter’s pilot a quick bang with his fist. The pilot – a blonde man in a black officer’s uniform, from what Leo could see – nodded, and the helicopter banked sharply, rising up out of reach of the bloodthirsty horde down below.
Now that they were relatively safe, the Colonel turned his attention to his six young guests. Their attention was already fully on him, each of their mouths hanging open in disbelief at what they saw. Well, all except for Mikey, whose eyes shone with that glitter of admiration once more.
Colonel Hamato looked exactly as his wanted poster portrayed, right down to the scar to the left of his chin and that intense look in his baby blue eyes. One thing they hadn’t noticed in the poster, likely due to it being in black and white, were the series of faded freckles that spread across his cheeks. There was no mistaking exactly who was sitting before them now, but none of them could make themselves believe it.
“Who… Who are you..?” Raphael asked hesitantly, his eyes wide in utter shock. He knew good and well who it was, but he needed to hear it from the man himself. They all did. The Colonel let out a sigh, giving in and indulging the ‘boy’ for the first time.
“My name is Colonel Michelangelo Hamato. Now, I’m only going to ask this one more time; what in the hell are you kids doing here?”