It was just another day of regular, boring, old school. April sighed and brushed her bangs away from her face. She felt someone approach and fall into step beside her. She didn't even have to look up to know it was Casey. "Hey Casey, what's up?"
"Aw, nothin'. I was just gonna head over to the rink and practice my long distance shots." He said with a shrug. There was an awkward lull in the conversation after that. They walked out of school side by side and continued down the block. April made her way down the street at a leisurely pace and Casey continued to plod along beside her. She let out a surprised yelp when Jones suddenly snagged her arm and tugged her into an alley. "Casey! What are you—?"
"Chill, Red. I just…" Casey glanced around warily. There was no one in the alley but them. Good. But he whispered anyway just to be safe. "…wanted to ask if you've heard anything from the turtles. It's been like, days!"
"They've been quiet for longer." April pointed out, making Casey pause with a contemplative frown.
"Yeah, I guess so, but don't you think we should just stop by? And what about your kuno-whatsit stuff? Aren't you supposed to train every day?"
April replied evenly. "My dad said that since finals week is coming up I have to devote more time to my classes and less to my training. Master Splinter wasn't too pleased to hear that, but he was very reasonable about it. I've been so busy cramming and working on projects I haven't really had time to go down much."
Casey frowned at that. "Well I'm gonna go down. I know they've been quiet before but I just—I've got this feeling that something's not right this time. So Red, you comin' or what?"
April sighed. "Alright. Let's go."
They walked slowly down the tunnels towards the turtles' lair. The closer they got, the tenser April became. She was slowly starting to think Casey was right.
Casey hopped deftly over the turnstiles and down the stairs into the main room and glanced around. There was nobody there, which was unusual. One of the guys was almost always out watching television. Unless something big was going down. April's eyes scanned the empty room thoughtfully, but the moment she reached the foot of the stairs images flashed in her mind and she cringed.
"You okay, Red?" Casey asked worriedly as he caught her by the forearms. The fear in her eyes made his grip tighten.
"You were right Casey. Something's wrong." April said, her voice breathy and spooked. "Something happened but I don't know what." She strained to use her powers further, but failed to learn anything more.
Casey's face was grim. "So what do we do?"
"We try calling them." April said evenly, her hands shaking as she pulled out her t-phone and dialed in the call.
The turtles all jumped as the chime of Leo's t-phone suddenly interrupted them. Leo removed it from his belt and checked the caller ID before answering it. "April!"
Donatello's attention was suddenly riveted to his older brother as he struggled to hear the other end on the conversation.
"Leo! Where are you guys?! What's going on? Are you guys okay?"
Leo didn't even bother asking how they had realized something was wrong. In everything that was happening he had completely forgotten to inform their human friends of what was going on. He rubbed his temples with two fingers as he realized their human friends were yet another thing he would have to take into consideration now that they had a wacked out scientist chasing after them.
"Leo? Leo? You there?"
"Yeah. We're alright." He replied. Then in a much quieter voice he muttered. "As we can be given the current situation." With yet another sigh the eldest turtle made a decision. They couldn't keep April and Casey in the dark any longer. It wouldn't be safe for either of them. "Where are you?"
"At the lair."
Leo narrowed his eyes and nodded. "Alright. Stay there, I'll come and get you. Leo out."
As soon as Leo hung up on the call he grabbed his katanas and headed straight for the door. Donnie caught him by the shoulder. "I'll go with you."
The leader shook his head. "No. It'll be better if I go alone." The look in his dark blue eyes booked no argument and Donatello had no choice but to secede.
Before Mikey and Don could even say 'be careful' their older brother was gone.
Leonardo navigated swiftly and silently through the tunnels with the precision and dexterity of the ninja he was. The New York sewers were a vast labyrinth of tunnels, ducts, and drainage, but he easily found his way back to the lair. Casey and April were seated on the couch with the television turned off, looking tense and uncomfortable. Leo's eyes were white with focus as he floated soundlessly up through the water and into his home. "April." He called, making both humans jump up and turn rapidly around to face him.
"Leo!" Both of them said simultaneously, rushing over to his side.
"Dude, what's going on? Where is everyone?" Casey asked impatiently.
Leo said nothing in reply, instead motioning for them to follow.
April did as Leo asked, staring worriedly at him. "Leo?"
"Follow me. I'll explain on the way." He replied curtly, leading them out into the subway tunnels. Both humans noticed the way Leo's muscles tensed and his eyes darted about vigilantly. "Keep up and be vigilant." He grumbled roughly.
Only after they were once again in a remote area of the sewers did Leo slow his pace. April and Casey both sighed with relief since keeping up with Leo while he was in 'ninja mode' was easier said than done. "We can talk here." He stated.
"Well, finally!" Casey exclaimed frustratedly. "What's the shell is goin' on, dude?!"
With his carapace to the humans, Leo answered slowly. "We decided it was time to make an intel-raid on the human base where we found Mona Lisa. We wanted to see if we could find any info on her background, or the name of the scientist who'd hurt her."
April and Casey exchanged nervous glances. They didn't like where this was going.
"What happened?" April asked.
"Their tech was more advanced than we suspected. They captured me."
They both gasped and froze in shock for a moment. Leo kept right on walking and the two humans had to jog to catch up with him again.
"Whoa, Leo, hold up." Casey jogged his way in front of the turtle and stopped, forcing Leo to grind to a halt.
"We really need to keep moving Casey." Leo stated, trying to push past hockey-obsessed teenager.
Casey refused to yield. "Just hold on for a second. How did you—"
"Raph got Mikey and Donnie to the Shell Raiser before returning and breaking me out. I was drugged and weak, but overall undamaged. We were heading home when the Shell Raiser broke down. We had to walk the rest of the way. Come on, let's get moving."
This time Casey let Leo pass and they slowly made their way through the dark, dank tunnels.
After a short pause, Leo continued, "We started to make our way back to the lair when we realized we were being followed. We led our mysterious 'friend' to the tunnel junction, hoping to wash her away the way we did Xever and Bradford. Turns out she was a scientist who worked at the research facility. She hates mutants with a passion. She said that she would destroy us all, starting with 'the lizard that ruined her life'."
April gasped. "Mona Lisa?"
Leo nodded solemnly. "Needless to say Raphael didn't take that comment particularly well. None of us did."
"I hope you guys beat the crud out of her for saying that!" Casey said heatedly.
Forest green feet slowed their pace. Leo's eyes fell to the ground. This was the hardest part to talk about. "Donnie and I were concealed in the shadows since I was still a little bit drugged up and weakened. No one threatens my brothers and Mona like that. I went head to head and issued an ultimatum. I told her that if she hurt my family I would kill her."
Suddenly, the only sound was the scritch-scratching of the sewer rats and the sloshing of the water in the tunnels. April and Casey stared with wide eyes at the oldest turtle. They had never heard Leo speak so darkly and with so much anger. Despite their shock, Leonardo went on. "She acted accordingly. I had unintentionally bared my greatest weakness: my family. She realized that by threatening them she could control me. So she continued to threaten them. She knew that I would take action. She knew that I would never leave those threats unanswered. I don't know how she saw through me so clearly, but she did. And I did exactly what she wanted. I lunged at her."
Two sets of eyes stared intently at Leo's face, waiting in suspense. The blue-masked turtle lowered his eyes to the ground, knowing that he would be unable to bear the emotions that were about to flash across their features as he went on. "We should have realized that a scientist from such a hi-tech laboratory would be carrying advanced weaponry. But we didn't." The brief silence that followed that statement was completely overpowering.
When Casey tried to speak he found that his throat had suddenly gone completely dry.
After finally gathering and containing all of his raging emotions, Leonardo finally found the strength to go on. "I charged and she pulled out a gun. But Raph—" He heard their breath hitch. He could envision the horrified looks on their faces, but he dared not raise his eyes. "He—he—" Forest green hands shook with the force of his emotions. He took a deep breath and spoke slowly. "He screamed." Leo repeated, his eyes clouding slightly as his mind projected an instant replay. He abruptly shook it away. "He fell and she opened the valves and held him over the torrent. She dropped him." Belatedly, Leo realized that he had slowed to stop. Tears began to wet his cheeks and he cursed, shaking his head and resuming his brisk pace.
"Leo!" April cried out, with tears in her eyes, and pain in her voice. The turtle's sudden movement snapped her out of her petrified state and she rushed after him, putting a hand on her shoulder and roughly yanking him around. When she saw the tears in his eyes she threw her arms around him and squeezed tightly.
Casey had stilled at Leo's final words and remained that way, as though his mind could not absorb what it had just been told. When it finally did, he took three long strides over to April and Leo's side. As soon as the blue-masked turtle and the redheaded human pulled apart, Jones took the opportunity to rush forward and grab Leo roughly by the shoulders. "What happened to Raph?!" Leo didn't respond fast enough for his liking and he repeated frantically, shaking his friend roughly. "Leo, what happened to Raph?!"
Leo slumped. "We searched for days and found nothing. Finally Slash showed up at lair saying that Leatherhead had found Raph in the sewers, barely alive. Rockwell and Donnie did their best. But there's still a chance he may never wake up. Now all we can do is wait."
Both humans were silent. Leo resumed walking and made note of their location. "We're almost there." He stated softly.
Casey followed sullenly. The thought that his best bud might never wake up made him feel sick. And angry. No, not just angry, downright furious. The turtles were like a second family to him. And nobody hurts Casey Jones's friends like that. Nobody. "That scientist chick is gonna pay!"
A dark growl escaped Leo's lips and he nodded in agreement.
The turtles, the Mutanimals, April, Casey and Master Splinter were all gathered in the main room of the Mutanimals' lair.
Leonardo shoved his emotions aside as he slipped into full leader mode. "Alright. Obviously I've gathered you all here because we need to determine a course of action."
Slash cut in with little preamble. "The Mutanimals and I have already discussed this. We're prepared to confront this scientist and determine what she is up to."
Leo's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. He glanced at first at Donnie, then at Mikey. "We're going with you."
With a light cough Master Splinter brought silence to the room before he spoke. "My sons, you are still short a brother. It is not safe for the three of you to risk another confrontation with this scientist until he has recovered."
The three turtles deflated at their father's words.
"But Sensei that could take months!" April pointed out.
"Months that the turtles may not have before this weird chick finds them." Casey added.
"Then maybe we take a different approach. Perhaps if we could break into the research facility again I could hack in and get more data on Mona and the scientists that experimented on her." Don suggested.
Leonardo glared. "That's exactly what we tried to do last time, Donnie."
"And we almost lost Leo." Mikey added, glancing worriedly between his purple and blue-masked siblings. "It's too risky, bro."
Donnie frowned. "Without any background information any attempt we make at confronting this scientist will be completely blind! If we had her file we could use that information to our advantage!"
"That is very true. Our chances of success would be much higher if—" Rockwell began, but was suddenly cut off by a suggestion from Leatherhead.
"Perhaps it would be best to find her and study her movements from afar to gain insight." Leatherhead's suggestion was immediately countered by Casey and Slash, who both wanted to go in 'guns blazing' so to speak. That suggestion was immediately thwarted by Leonardo and April who insisted on executing a precise planned attack.
"Enough!" Master Splinter bellowed as everyone began to argue. Everyone went silent yet again. "My sons, we will stay here until Raphael has healed. Then, and only then, shall we seek to destroy this scientist."
The turtles sighed in resignation. Splinter's tone was firm. He was not letting any of them take action until Raphael was at least out of danger.
Slash's eyes narrowed. As much as he respected Master Splinter, he didn't have to respect the old rat's orders. He turned away from the turtles and his eyes landed on the face of Dr. Rockwell. He raised an eye-ridge.
Rockwell had a curious expression on his face.
Slash did his best to follow the monkey-mutant's gaze. When he pinpointed the subject of Rockwell's stare, his lips bent down into a frown. Hmm…
Sensei's tone says that any objections would be useless. He's not going to let us go after this scientist until Raphael has healed. It isn't just because Raphael is down. It's because we're all deeply affected physically and emotionally. We aren't strong enough to risk a confrontation right now. Sensei knows that. So do I. But I can't sit around and do nothing. One way or another, I have to take action.
I don't like looking for trouble, but I'm afraid that at this point it's the only option. That scientist woman is a serious threat and we won't be able to defeat her without some kind of leverage. We know almost nothing about her and we need more information before we can just go charging in.
Scientists are a force to be reckoned with and now that we've seen what this one is capable of, I know that she won't be defeated easily. That electric shock pistol is probably one of the milder gadgets stashed in that utility belt she was wearing. And if her goal really is to rid the world of mutants, I have no doubt that she has more than enough tech to do just that. Any fight without further insight has a high chance of backfiring. We need more information.
And it looks like I'm the only turtle willing to get it. I find myself suddenly faced with a very difficult decision. Probably one of the most difficult I've ever encountered. I need to choose: follow Splinter's orders, or take what I believe to be the correct course of action. Though I have occasionally struck off on my own in the past, it was never to this magnificent a scale. But perhaps the time has come for me to take a note from Raph and rebel. That's it. I've decided.
I'm going rogue.
Very early that morning, a turtle swept out of the Mutanimals' lair and moved noiselessly through the sewers, his shoulders and head cloaked by tarnished, pale-gray fabric, his face hidden beneath a stark white mask. He had no doubt that this mission would require that he give everything he had therefore spirit gear had seemed appropriate.
As he moved his mind repeatedly flickered back to his brothers and Master Splinter. If they woke up and found out he was gone…
No. That's not going to happen. I'll complete my mission and be back before they know it. And in the morning they won't even suspect a thing.
He nodded, reassuring himself of the fact as he went on. Finally he made his way up to the streets. Dashing up a fire escape and hopping to the roofs, he began running parallel to the street. He'd taken the long way around so that he could pause on the building opposite where he'd have cover from the security cameras. He pulled out his t-phone.
Unbeknownst to his brothers, he'd spent the afternoon working on a virus that would allow him to hack in and override the research lab's security systems for a ten-minute time window. The only problem was he had to upload it directly into the system. So he hopped onto the roof of the lab, making certain that he was behind the cameras at all times. He bent down behind one and used a small knife from his belt to cut through the large tube that concealed the inside wiring. After a little scrambling he was able to get his t-phone connected to the security system and in order to upload the virus and hack the override code.
Okay good, the cameras were taken care of. But he knew that his code would not shut down the automatic alarm that had thwarted him and his brothers the last time they were here. Which meant he had to find a way in that didn't involve breaking a lock. Some quiet chatter made Donnie glance down to see some guards passing by on their rounds. Donatello smirked. Even if they had a weapon advantage, he was a trained ninja.
The warrior of the shadows dropped down and pounced, knocking them both out with a hard knocks on the head from his bō. After using the rope he'd brought to bind them up, Don tossed the unconscious guards in the convenient dumpster behind the building, but not before snagging their entry passes and plasma guns. The purple-masked turtle wasn't incredibly fond of guns, but in his current situation he decided that it would be a decent precaution.
Donnie slowly made his way around to the back entrance, making certain to stick to the shadows just in case anyone was around. Since he'd already overridden the security cameras, he could approach the door without fear of being seen. The code he'd uploaded made sure that the cameras would display the last thing they'd had in their sights just before he'd uploaded it.
A quick swipe of the entry pass and the door slid open. Still focused and alert, Don made his way inside. Luckily for him, the last time they'd come he'd been able to download a building schematic when he'd hacked the locks. So he knew exactly where he was headed: the record room. Located deep in the centermost part of the building. Getting in there wasn't going to be easy, but he hadn't come this far to go back empty handed.
The way to the records room was much more deserted than he expected. Suddenly he realized that their recent break in and escape must have put most of the research on hold until working conditions were once again deemed 'secure'. He stopped in front of the records room and looked skeptically down at the entry pass. He wasn't sure that the guard would have access to this kind of information, but his ten-minute time window was already almost halfway gone so he swiped it anyway. Thankfully, it seemed as though one of the cards he had taken was from a high-ranking security officer with access, and when he used it, the door swung open. He made his way inside and was not the least bit surprised that there were not actual files, only a single computer with a giant monitor. It was already powered up.
Don wasted no time in putting his technical knowledge to work. He hacked his way in and searched Mona Lisa's project number: SX71364. His fingers trembled a little as he read. He plugged in a flash drive and began downloading the complete project file. Downloaded. Good. Then his eyes caught something else. Research project head: Professor Rouge Knight. He found her personnel file and downloaded that as well. He was about to download the files of the other scientists on the project when—
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~Attention! Intruder Alert~