Donnie drifted back into consciousness to the gentle notes of April’s song, simple, sweet and unprofessional, filing it away to replay for himself later. It was a technique she’d been using to keep him resting for the past few days, remaining by his side, holding him gladly captive with her beautiful voice and feather-light caresses along the back of his head and shell. She’d managed to keep him still and inactive drastically longer than his brothers had ever been able to, no matter how badly he’d needed to rest.
But now that he was physically recovered from his stay on the star forge, unspent energy was beginning to build and make his body restless. On top of that his mind was starting to refuse him sleep in its eagerness to find purpose. Part of him wished that he could stay this way with her forever, but he knew that he was reaching the limits of his nature when it came to inactivity. Even with April distracting him, he could only do nothing for so long before he started to go mad.
He allowed himself a moment more to feel her fingers trace a path along his skull, usually covered by his bandana. Then he cracked his eyes open and pushed up onto his elbows. Her singing halted and she smiled down at him, absentmindedly fingering the shard of the Aeons’ soul stone, which she wore as a pendant around her neck.
She noticed his eyes alight on it. “I’ve decided to keep it on me.”
His brow furrowed. “But you said…”
She shook her head. “The headaches are barely noticeable anymore. I just needed to endure them long enough to acclimate to the stone’s presence. It feels almost natural now.”
He frowned. “Are you sure…”
She cupped his cheek, effectively stealing the words as his brain rebooted. “I needed it to help find you and I’m keeping it near from now on. No matter what.” Her smile faded. “And after what happened on that space station, I’m going to start training my psychic powers in earnest, even if it is painful or exhausting.”
He sat fully upright now. “April, no. We can keep taking it slow. The ramifications of your abilities…”
“Without full control, I put myself and everyone else in danger. I put you in danger. That’s not happening again.”
He swallowed hard. His memory of the terror he felt when her mind had been swallowed by Star Forge stilled any further protest. “Just…be careful.”
She managed a lopsided smile. “Always. Hungry?”
He couldn’t help flinching as she held the plate of pizza and cup of steaming, hot coffee out towards him. While he appreciated that Casey had been keeping them fed during his convalescence, the vigilante was a very poor guesser of his tastes, a problem exacerbated by the use of the think-a-food machine, as Mikey called it. Casey’s perception of what he liked, perfectly captured by the device, was way off base.
April pushed the meal towards him.
“Actually, I think maybe I should just stretch and see what Fugitoid has been up to.”
Her mouth became a hard line. “Eat. The professor can wait.”
With a sigh of defeat, he accepted the plate and began to force it down. Further proof that he would do anything for her.
Raph drilled his sai into the skull of the last footbot, watching in satisfaction as it dropped, before the holographic vision of New York’s dark streets flickered back into the sterile world of the Fugitoid’s ship. Resentful of how his muscles quivered at what he considered to be a light workout, though his brothers might disagree, he tucked his weapons into his belt and exited the holoroom, doing his best to ignore the aches that still plagued him.
Unsurprisingly, Leo was outside, awaiting his turn with the holo-trainer. Raph knew he’d been trying to master using the new weapon he’d acquired and Captain Perfect was getting a little frustrated with how long it was taking. The thought made Raph smile as Leo gave him a nod of acknowledgement before stalking determinedly into the holoroom.
Heading off to the dining area, he grabbed a bottle of Ener-ade from the crates Fugitoid had picked up at their last stop. He was just raising the plastic bottle to his lips when Mikey’s puppy dog eyes blocked out the rest of his vision.
“Can I have some?”
Raph scowled and leaned back. “No. Fugitoid got it for me.”
Mikey pouted. “But I gotta know what it tastes like bro. Puhleeze.”
Raph sighed. Mikey and his taste-plorations. “If I give you a sip, will you back off and stop being annoying?”
He could almost see the fake halo appear above his little brother’s head as Mikey grinned ear to ear and promised. “Scout’s honor.”
He started to hand the bottle over, but Mikey eagerly snatched it out of his hands. Rather than a sip, he took a gulp and Raph grabbed the bottle back. He was about to down it when he noticed that his little bro was oddly still.
Then his brother vanished into a green and orange blur darting around the room almost faster than Raph could follow. “Booyakasha!”
Casey barely ducked in time as Mikey all but flew through him, exiting the room. “Dude, what’s he on?”
Fugitoid shoved past Casey, eyes angled in lines of irritation. “The Ener-ade is for Raphael.”
Casey’s eyes widened. “The sports drinks did that? I want some.”
As Casey rushed towards him, Fugitoid’s arms extended to grab and yank him back.
“They’re not sports drinks. They’re the distilled psychic energy of the Veratum. Packaged, labeled and available in stores across the cosmos.” Fugitoid’s eyes had turned back into happy circles as he went into advertising mode and Raph wondered, not for the first time, how much random broadcasting the little robot picked up.
“Seriously. That is so metal. Hand it over Raph.”
Fugitoid had to restrain Casey again. “For Raphael only, so that he can recover from having his life force drained.”
With one metal hand clamped on Casey’s shoulder, Fugitoid raised the other threateningly. “This is my smacking hand. I will use it.”
With a glare, Casey shrugged Fugitoid’s grip off. “Whatever. I’m gonna see where Mikey ended up.”
Raph looked down at the drink in his hand. Maybe if…
“Only one a day, Raphael. Too much will do more harm than good.”
He frowned. “But…”
Fugitoid raised his arm again. “My smacking hand. Remember?”
Raph scowled and his grip on the plastic bottle tightened.
Fugitoid’s eye lights softened from angry, angled lines to inverted semicircles. “You know if you spent a day or two more in the medbay…”
Raph stiffened and pounded the drink before shoving past the robot. No one was locking him up in a tube ever again. He’d barely tolerated the first day and a half after getting back and it was worse than being covered by a blanket of cockroaches. Never again. He’d recover the rest of the way just fine with training, the magic space-juice and some soothing baths. Speaking of which, a long warm bath sounded like just the thing right now.
Leo followed the form of the holographic stick figure, trying to ignore the green, gridded lights against the black background. The whole thing reminded him of some of the oldest videogames Donnie had ever managed to salvage and was distracting to his mastery of Soresu, the combat technique that he sought to learn.
None of his existing katas had translated well to the energy blade that he’d taken off his foe. Able to cut in any direction, it was more than double edged and the plasma was so weightless it tended to throw his balance off. At least the energy katana that Don had modified for him still had a physical base for the plasma edge, making them feel just like his normal swords.
But with this new, if incredibly rudimentary program, he was finally capable of adjusting effectively. The style was different than any he’d considered before, but effective. Now that he’d seen it, he could easily wrap his mind around it and could execute the moves with practiced perfection. It helped that he was a quick study and, to some extent, was building off of the years of training he already possessed.
With a sigh of relief, he shut his weapon down and the program flickered off. The door opened and he narrowly avoided barreling into Fugitoid on his way out.
Eyes lit up as circles hooded with semicircles, he tapped his metallic fingers together eagerly. “So?”
Leo smiled. “It worked great.”
Fugitoid whirred in relief. “Excellent. It would have been a shame to have shared the design schematics for my corporeal holograms for nothing.”
Leo placed a hand on his cold, metal shoulder. “Not for nothing. Your colleague’s program was pretty basic, but think I’ve got it now. How did you even find someone who knows these fighting techniques?”
Fugitoid beeped cheerfully. “Well, after our first run in, I started contacting anyone who specialized in archeology and history related to Force use. I’ve amassed quite a panel of experts to learn from.”
Leo nodded. “That’s great but if you could…”
Fugitoid’s shoulder’s slumped. “Finding anyone who still knows how to use the Force itself has not been so productive. As far as I can tell that knowledge might have been lost.”
Leo frowned. “So there’s no hope then?”
Fugitoid perked up. “Of course not. Through them I have located a site that might be of use. Any records of exactly what it was and its significance has been lost to history but anyone who has any interest all this Force stuff usually makes a pilgrimage there at some point or another. You might be able to find some of the answers your looking for.”
Leo huffed out a laugh. “Well it’s something. And worth a shot until we locate more pieces of the black hole generator. Set a course.”
Fugitoid beeped noisily. “Already done, though it is a few thousand astromiles away. I could get us their more quickly, but I don’t want to stress our fuel reserves. I seem to have forgotten to fill up at our last stop. Usually Donatello keeps track of those details.”
Leo shook his head. “It’s a long shot, so best not to overtax our resources. I’d rather not get stuck out of gas in the middle of space. Besides, I don’t mind having the extra time to train.” He pulled out the light saber, frowning thoughtfully at it. It was still an effective weapon, but looking at it still bothered him, bringing to mind its former master.
“Is there a problem, Leonardo?” Fugitoid’s voice cut through his thoughts and he shook his head.
“No, it’s nothing. Red’s just not really my color.”
Fugitoid plucked the weapon from his startled hands. “I thought as much, so I picked up a little something extra for you when I stopped for your brother’s energy drinks.”
Quickly disassembling the handle, he opened a small metallic compartment in his chest and removed a few small, blue crystals from it, swapping them out for the red ones already in saber. Flaring it back to life, Leo had to admit he found the blue blade more comforting than the red. And definitely more his style.
The robot shut it down and handed it back to him. “Always happy to help.”
Then his arm began to beep.
“Is something the matter, Professor?”
Fugitoid, pressed a few buttons in his forearm to bring up a floating, interactive, holographic interface. “Not at all. Just a message from one of my contacts…oh my.”
Leo leaned in eagerly, willing the screen to produce words that made sense to him. “What is it?”
Fugitoid shut the interface down to Leo’s frustration, even if he couldn’t read it. “One of my colleagues thinks they’ve spotted one of the pieces of the black hole generator at an auction house. We’ll never afford it though.”
“We aren’t buying it. We’re taking it. It’s not something that should even be for sale.”
Fugitoid tapped his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose.”
“Quick, change course. We need to get there as fast as possible.”
“Well, it’s too far to travel at top speed without burning through all of our remaining fuel before arriving. Fortunately, it’s quite near our current destination, so we’re almost already on our way. Just a slight adjustment and…done.”
Leo grinned. “Good. Time to go put our bid in.”