Slash dropped in through an opening he found in the ceiling, landing with remarkable silence for a mutant his size. He held his mace at the ready, in case any motion sensors or other traps had been set off by his entry. Nothing.
His eyes adjusted to the dim light. There were defenses. He could see the mounted guns now, but as he suspected they were all triggered by the doors and the windows, likely set to fire on all moving objects once activated.
Knowing that he didn't have long before Leatherhead's concern overwhelmed his patience, he withdrew several kunai and manually deactivated the guns with a few well-placed strikes. The last mounted cannon died seconds before the heavy, metal doors dented inward and flew off their hinges into the warehouse, despite being chained shut. Leatherhead whipped his gaze about wildly until it finally settled on an unharmed Slash as he, as Michelangelo would say, 'turned off the crazy eyes.'
"I took out the obvious security, but keep a look out for anything more subtle." Leatherhead nodded in understanding and they began to examine the building. Since their victory with the turtles over the Kraang that freed New York, the Mutanimals had been working their way through a list of possible secret Kraang labs that might be left on Earth which Kurtzman had compiled for them.
He'd considered sharing it with Raphael, but knew that the turtles still had the Foot clan to contend with while looking for their lost sister. He'd decided not to bother them without cause as he was certain his team was capable of handling the task. Most of the sites were false trails anyway, although as evidenced by the security, this was much more.
He actually felt a twinge of excitement that there was still something Kraang to destroy. There was never too much Kraang smashing to be done. At first it looked like a lot of Kraang computer terminals and consoles. But at the back of the room was a cylindrical stasis chamber, containing another Irma-bot.
His first instinct was to put his mace through it, but a leader couldn't afford to be impulsive. Reaching out, he caught Leatherhead, before the alligator could charge in. His friend and second in command halted and sent him a questioning look.
"Something's not right. These robots were in full scale production. This isn't a factory. Why would an entire facility be devoted to one android? There must be something special about it." Leatherhead tapped his snout thoughtfully as he considered the logic.
"You don't think we should destroy it?" Slash snorted.
"Oh no, we'll definitely destroy it. But I think Rockwell should have a look at it first. I want to know exactly what it is and why it's here before we obliterate it, just to be sure we don't miss anything." Leatherhead gave his leader a toothy grin that would likely be unnerving to most people.
"Then we should return with Dr. Rockwell quickly."
"Agreed. I don't want to leave this place intact too long."
Leatherhead, propped up the ruined metal doors behind them as they left, doing his best to bend them back into their original shape. As they hurried off into the night, neither was aware of the kunai that slipped free of its security gun target, dropping down onto one of the control consoles, causing it to light up with activity.
I'm dreaming. At least I hope I am. It's the only thing that makes sense. I suppose I could be dead, but I always hoped death would be less confusing. I keep reliving the same random moments in life, but playing out the scenarios differently. Some kind of make sense, as they are hypothetical situations that always run through my head.
I don't know if it actually happened or not, but I have a dozen dreams or memories of myself and my friend April of meeting up with that incredibly cool guy from the school hockey team. The one that's hot in a gritty, tough guy sort of way.
Most scenarios are as they would play out in my imagination where I would faint into his arms or tackle him with a passionate kiss. The strange, annoying voice echoing 'no' or 'absolutely not' through my head is out of place, but the rest is pretty standard.
Right up to the most likely scenario where I pretend that I'm not interested and drag April away. That's how I usually handle everything in real life. Lock down the feelings and bury them with dry wit and sarcasm. The voice overlaid that one with 'it will do' so apparently someone else agrees with my methods of not actually living my life.
But for every memory like that, there are a dozen others that I can't think of why I would dwell on them. Sitting in study hall with April. Grabbing some food with April. Going out to the movies with April. Actually, now that I think about it, my friend April is the common denominator in all of my repeating memories, exploring all possible ways they could play out. All with that irritating, mysterious voice overlaying them.
Maybe I have some kind of obsession with my friend. I'm not sure why I would. I haven't known her that long. At least I don't think I have, but there are so many conflicting memories that it's hard to be sure. The only thing I'm certain of is having met her when I first transferred schools.
I never have any friends. I'm odd and not overly friendly, so it isn't surprising. I wish I could be warm and gushy, but I can't seem to break down that wall and leave myself vulnerable. So when I ran into someone as distant as I was, I almost instinctively established camaraderie over our shared isolation.
I made a point to sit by her at lunch. I walked with her to classes. And I rambled on with a mildly biting commentary of our school and classmates mixed in with my wealth of random factoids that will probably serve me well on Jeopardy someday. That's the last sequence of linear memories that include any part of my life without April. Then the weirdness begins.
I have no recollection of my own life without my friend and I can't tell which April memories are even real and which just hypothetically happened. All interspersed with long periods of darkness. Sleep maybe. But then how can I be dreaming? Perhaps I am insane. I wonder what could have caused me to have a mental breakdown of this magnitude.
As usual, my ruminations that follow each series of memories are cut short and I'm swallowed back into oblivion again for who knows how long. But this time is different. As I come out of the empty lack of consciousness, there's no bombardment of memories. There are no voices. Especially not that one voice that haunts my mind. Just a hissing noise and painful light. Where am I?
Rockwell watched as Slash entered the warehouse first and looked around to make sure that there was no danger before signaling the others in. Ultimately, all four of them had returned as Pete refused to remain behind and honestly, none of them were comfortable leaving him by himself alone in the hideout. He shuddered to think of what would become of his lab in Pete's bored hands.
Glancing around, he determined it to be a pretty standard Kraang lab setup. Their consoles were fairly versatile, so they rarely needed to build customized ones to accommodate any particular project.
He was surprised to find the console active after Slash had said that everything appeared to be turned off. One of Slash's kunai lay on the floor nearby and his eyes trailed up to see a damaged turret gun almost directly above him.
Slash hissed angrily and Rockwell's head swiveled in his direction. He was standing in front of what Rockwell could only guess was the stasis chamber he'd tried describing earlier. Except, instead of containing the afore mentioned Irma-bot, it was open and empty.
Rockwell cursed. If only he'd made communication devices for his team this wouldn't have happened. Leatherhead and Slash could have stayed and merely called him in. But his lab wasn't even completely finished and he wasn't as accustomed to building advanced technology out of garbage as the turtle child was. That still irked him.
"I should have stayed and sent you back for the others." Slash growled out the words, but Leatherhead shook his head.
"There is no point in second guessing your decisions. What should we do now?" Slash closed his eyes.
"We need to find that robot and, knowing how fast they are capable of moving, we might have a lot of ground to cover." Rockwell cringed, knowing where this was going. Slash pulled out the T-phone, the turtles had given him.
"We're going to need help."
I wiped sweat from my brow as I trudged through the dark streets, illuminated only by the occasional streetlight. Normally, I wouldn't exactly be thrilled to be walking through the city alone at night, but for once I was grateful. At least the brutal summer heat wasn't as bad as it would have been with the sun blazing overhead. Heat causes me to wither, but I'm relatively impervious to the cold, thus winter is my season of choice.
But I don't let it get to me. Ever since waking up in that bizarre warehouse that appeared to be storing a set for some science fiction production, I was determined to get home. I wish that I knew how long I'd been gone. I had no sense of time. But it couldn't have been that long. My last coherent memories take place during the summer, so it had to be a few weeks or a month at most.
Had I been gone long enough for my parents to file a missing persons report? If so, they were probably going to be furious. I wish I knew what happened. How did I end up in that warehouse?
Finally. My apartment building. I'm sweaty and exhausted, but I'm home. I don't have my keys, but the front door to the building has been broken for ages, despite numerous calls for repair put in by complaining residents. At least that is working out in my favor.
Three flights of stairs later, I'm standing before my door. With no other choice, I knock, several times since I'll probably be waking my parents up and wait as I hear people moving on the other side. They're both their, in their pajamas looking blearily at me as the door opens and I smile in relief.
Then the moment is broken, by my mother's ear-splitting scream. My dad casts about for a weapon as she slams the door in my face. What the hell?! Hurt and angry, I consider pounding on the door until they let me in, but given the very real possibility of being physically attacked by my own parents, I turn and stagger away.
What am I going to do? It's the middle of the night, where can I go? I've never felt so alone in my life. As my vision blurs, I take off my glasses to wipe away the tears I can't seem to stop. The next thing I know, my back is sliding down the wall as I crouch on the floor sobbing. I lose track of time as I cry myself dry, but I can't stay here.
What happened that could have made my parents turn on me like that? What happened to me? The only answer I can come up with is April O'Neil. She was in all my strange dreams after my life seemed to go off the rails. Maybe she has the answers or at least a place to crash while I figure this out. Either way, I have nothing else. I have to find April.
But I don't know where she lives and none of my odd dream memories occur at either of our homes. I could camp out at our school like a hobo and hope she shows up in the morning, but for all I know tomorrow is Saturday or Sunday.
Suddenly, I realize that I know her phone number. I can call her and ask her to meet me somewhere. Then we'll sort this out. Except, I don't have my phone any more than I had keys. Hmm, there was a pay phone a few blocks away that had somehow survived the rise of cell phones, but I still don't have any money either. Well, time to hope collect calls still work, because otherwise, I'll be scouring the city for change.
Leo landed in the designated alley, to find Slash, Leatherhead and Pete already there waiting. His brothers landed mere seconds after him, but April and Casey were climbing down the fire escape, still not comfortable with the turtles more acrobatic methods of descent.
Well most of his brothers. Donnie was on his way to Rockwell and the warehouse. Just thinking of his clever little brother out their alone during a Kraang threat made his shell crawl like if was full of cockroaches. Good thing he wasn't Raph, or he'd probably be screaming.
He'd wanted to send someone with Donnie, but April and Casey had been in the lair when they got the call and Donnie was always extremely sensitive to Leo 'babying' him in front of April. Unfortunately, they didn't have time for the inevitable blow out fight that would have occurred if he'd tried to force the issue, so instead, he'd given Donnie a time limit to call him by before they switched over to tracking him down.
Given Slash's smile and curt head bob, he knew that Raph had given him a nod of acknowledgement and Mikey was already dashing forward with a hug at the ready.
The enormous alligator was able to absorb the force of Mikey's exuberant hug which usually bowled over most of his unfortunate targets.
"It is good to see you again my friend."
Leo refocused in on Slash. In his hand he held the two spare headsets that Donnie had built. They only had two because when Donnie had shown off his prototype to Leo while building the second, Leo had declined their use.
As convenient as hands free communication was would be, they couldn't afford to have their ears covered. Hearing was simply too important to jeopardize. So Donnie abandoned the project and began a, as yet unfinished, set of compromise headsets that only cover one ear. But for a team search mission, communication was essential, so he'd brought them. Slash stepped forward.
"Leo…" He cut him off, knowing it was rude, but too impatient to get started. He did not like wild Kraang tech roaming his city after everything they'd done to save it.
"What area do we need to search?" Slash didn't seem to take it personally.
"I'm thinking we start with a fifteen mile radius around Rockwell's location." Leo nodded and held out the headsets to Slash.
"We'll link up the T-phones to use as radios. Take these. They're already patched into the network." Slash nodded and handed one to Pete who cooed excitedly as he put it on. After an assessing glance at Leatherhead's skull, Slash handed him his T-phone and put the headset on himself, positioning it over only one hear, to Leo's approval. Then he turned to his teammates.
"Pete, circle in the air, covering as much ground as you can. Leatherhead take the sewers in case it went underground. I'll search from the rooftops. I want both of you to check in every five minutes." Pete and Leatherhead nodded before taking off. Leo watched as Slash turned back to him.
"I'll take the north side." Leo tried nodding in response, but Slash was already gone, obviously as eager as he was to see this finished.
"Raph, Casey and April, I want you to take the south east. I've got the southwest. Mikey you're with me. As soon as anyone spots it, call in the others. We do this as a team." Raph rolled his eyes but didn't argue.
"Whatever you say Fearless."
Donnie flew across the building tops as the area became progressively more industrial. He was passing within blocks of where Ho Chan had possessed his brothers and couldn't help but shudder. No, not possessed, mind controlled. There were no such things as ghosts and possession.
The Kraang had been here for millennia. It stood to reason that another advanced alien race could have done the same, leaving behind their tech that could easily be mistaken for magic by the simpleminded, ignorant and superstitious. Obviously, something like that had controlled and empowered his brothers. There was absolutely no way it was magic.
And Ho Chan was probably some energy being, maybe even an alien with a longer lifespan than most Earthlings were used to. Because there definitely wasn't such things as ghosts or spirits.
And that knife-shaped storage device could be another piece of tech too. He'd prove it if he'd had a chance to study it, but Ho Chan was too dangerous to justify the risk. Still, the whole incident left him feeling uncomfortable, even if he and Casey had handed Ho Chan his butt and saved April. When the high of victory wore off, the unanswered questions still haunted him.
With one last burst of speed, he hit the warehouse roof and dropped in. Rockwell was already working at one of the control panels, scrolling through coded files and cursing.
"Hang on, I can translate the files into English." Rockwell jumped a bit at the sound of his voice before scowling and stepping aside. Donnie was caught between resignation at Rockwell's perpetual resentment and elation at one-upping him. But he kept it to himself as he plugged his portable decoder in and set it to work on the files.
Donnie pulled out his T-phone and dialed Leo before the entire mission got derailed by his over-protective big brother. He could just see Casey's smug face and inevitable teasing, in front of April no less, if that happened.
"I'm here safe and we're working on the Kraang files. You can stop worrying about me already." He hung up, cutting off whatever Leo was going to say and tucked the phone back into his belt.
They waited in uncomfortable silence for several minutes while it worked, although Donnie was gratified to see Rockwell curiously examining his device out of the corner of his eye. He could pretend to be aloof all he wanted, but he was impressed. Then it beeped to indicate that it was done and they both approached to examine the now readable files. Donnie gasped.
"Uh oh." And Rockwell met his gaze with an equally unnerved expression.
"We need to call them now."
They'd barely begun their sweep of the area, when April's phone buzzed. Had someone already found the robot? Why weren't they using radio communication? Pulling out her phone, she almost tripped and fell when she saw the screen. Her stumble did not go unnoticed by either Casey or Raph, but she didn't have a thought to spare for them right now.
It was a request, asking her to accept the charges for a call from Irma Langinstein. Part of her was wondering where the charges would go, since, Donnie's network was only superficially connected to other networks, likely cloning another company's system for cover. The rest of her was wondering how this was possible. Only one way to find out. She accepted and answered the call.
"April, thank God. I really need your help. Can you meet me at that park by our school?" She didn't know what was going on, but this was definitely a lead worth investigating. Maybe the robot had some kind of set programming to seek her out by any means necessary. After being tricked by Kraang Subprime into starting the invasion and being deceived by her not-mother at the farmhouse, she was skeptical that this could be anything other than a trap. April considered her location.
"Sure! I can be there in ten minutes." Hanging up, she took off, leaving a startled Casey and Raph in her wake. Raph caught up to her first.
"Where are you going O'Neil?"
"It's the park by our school." Casey helpfully supplied. Raph huffed before returning his attention to April.
"And why are we going there?"
"Because Irma called me and asked me to meet her there." Raph and Casey both stumbled before quickly recovering. Raph found his words first.
"What!? It's obviously a trap!"
"What about Leo's orders?"
"I'm focused on running and jumping right now. But you can feel free to call in the others." Raph muttered something under his breath that she didn't quite catch, which was probably for the best. She'd lose time if she had to turn around and deck him right now.
Unable to suppress a twinge of envy as he pulled out his phone to notify the others, not even missing a step or faltering in a jump, she pushed herself faster. It was taking all her focus to move at this speed, but he didn't even need to think about it. Stupid show off turtle.
Everyone was converging on the park now, but she'd get there first. This felt personal. She'd been the one that Kraang Subprime had fooled with his Irma ruse. She needed to be the one to deal with this.
There was the robot, sitting on one of the swings, moving itself around dejectedly with its feet. She'd forgotten how convincing the Irma-bots could be when pretending to be human. Behind her she could hear Raph, uncharacteristically call for a halt.
"We should probably wait for Leo and the others." Despite his words, he was clearly itching to jump down there and take care of business, but since Leo had almost died, Raph was trying harder to be more cooperative. At least for the time being. But April had no such reservations. Wait? She was finishing this now!
"April!" Raph and Casey called out to her as she jumped down off the building, catching the fire escape turtle style to slow her descent. There was no time for careful climbing. She hit the ground in a roll, stopping a few feet in front of Irma who stared at her in slack jawed shock.
"Did you just jump off that building?" As April reached for her tessen, she psychically stretched out her senses to detect any hidden danger. Instead, she connected with Irma's mind and gasped.
Then Casey and Raph were there behind her, Casey in his skull mask brandishing a hockey stick and Raph, sais at the ready. Irma glanced frantically back and forth between the two before her eyes rolled back in her head and she dropped like a sack of potatoes. The boys were about to charge in when April turned, positioning herself between them and Irma with her arms spread out protectively. Raph growled and Casey spoke.
"What are you doing Red?" Then Raph's phone beeped and he glanced at it briefly before activating the speaker phone radio.
"Donnie this had better be important because…"
"Don't hurt her."
"What? I'm not going to hurt April! How did you…? Are you here?"
"Rockwell and I are on our way and I mean Irma. Why would you be hurting April? Raph, she had better be ok when I get there or so help me…"
"Put a sock in it Donnie, April's fine." A relieved sigh escaped the phone before Donnie's voice reverted to explanation mode.
"As I was saying, don't hurt Irma, she's not a Kraang robot."
"This is the original Irma. The human person Irma."
"Then why was she in Kraang storage?"
"Because not even the Kraang Subprime knew how to act human convincingly. They were using her to learn how he should behave to be believable."
"Got it Donnie. She's fine…I think."
April listened to Raph's conversation with Donnie as she crouched protectively over her friend. Raph looked down at Irma with pity before stuffing his sais back into his belt. April's voice sounded oddly disconnected to her ears as she asked a question, the answer to which she knew she wasn't going to like.
"Why her Donnie?"
"Because she was your friend April. They were trying to get a spy close to you." She'd thought as much and closed her eyes against the crushing wave of guilt.
"We need to take her to a hospital."
My eyes fluttered open only to snap shut again against the blinding, bright light. It took a few moments to adjust and realize that I was in a hospital bed. What had happened? I strained to recall.
I was waiting for April at the park. Then she'd jumped off a building, followed by a horror movie serial killer and some kind of turtle monster with giant, weaponized forks. No. That could not possibly have happened. Was it another weird dream? Was this all another dream? But there were no voices. I glanced over at the nurse, checking her vitals.
"How did I get here?" The nurse smiled kindly.
"Your friend brought you in."
"Did she have red hair?" The nurse nodded.
"I need to see her. Right now if possible. Please." The nurse frowned.
"We usually only allow immediate family…"
"Please…" Fortunately, I seemed to have lucked out and gotten the compassionate nurse as opposed to the overworked, distantly professional nurses that seem considerably more common.
"Ok. But just for a few minutes." I nod gratefully. It seems like a small eternity before April walks into my room.
"April what happened? I was waiting for you and…and…everything is so confused." She takes my hand reassuringly.
"When I got to the park, it looked a little like you were having hallucinations before you fainted. They did a CAT scan on your head and are testing you for drugs I think."
I wondered briefly how she knew that, as I'm pretty sure hospitals aren't forthcoming with that kind of info to just anyone, but decided I didn't really care. I'd been drugged or injured. I wasn't crazy.
"Was I kidnapped? How long have I been gone? Why are my parents afraid of me?" April looked troubled and sighed.
"It's kind of a long story and I don't know if this is the best time…" I squeezed her hand.
"April I need to know. Tell me." Her blue eyes steeled with resolve and she nodded.
April watched Irma leave the hospital between the protective embrace of her parents. They'd been so terrified and suspicious when the hospital called them. Apparently, Kraang Subprime had equipped them with mind control devices during his impersonation.
They'd been helpless to intervene, but remembered everything as he'd ordered them around in guise of their daughter. Mrs. Langinstein had been particularly hysterical as she'd tried to explain, fully believing her daughter was dead. It wasn't until they'd seen Irma's CAT scan that she could feel hope finally outweighing their terror and grief.
She probably shouldn't have been spying in on them, but she was concerned about Irma. It had been April's fault that this had happened to her after all. She'd managed to give Irma a brief overview of the Kraang invasion, unable to keep the Irma-bots a secret as too many people, including her parents, had seen them and would no doubt react.
But she didn't tell her friend why she'd been abducted and held prisoner for a year, guiltily allowing her to believe that it was a random choice on the part of the Kraang. But the less Irma knew about her human-Kraang hybrid friend and her turtle allies, the safer it was for everyone.
Besides, after everything that had happened, Irma deserved as much normal as she could get. April still disliked the dishonesty, but things would be different this time around. Watching them go, she silently promised Irma that she'd be the best friend possible, doing everything she could to make it up for her. This time she'd protect her. She promised.
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