“I kind of feel like I’m a character in a first-person shooter.”
Raph glanced over at Mikey as he kicked the remnants of the mounted laser turret aside. Speed had been replaced by caution as they’d ventured further into the series of hallways and rooms, trap-laden with automatic weaponry, though the sense of urgency still gnawed at him. At this rate, it would take them forever to find Mona and he couldn’t shake the feeling of suffering he’d experienced from her earlier. Every single moment mattered.
“If that were true, wouldn’t we have guns?”
Mikey managed a grin despite the circumstances. “I didn’t say I felt like the player character.”
He snorted. “Then it’s a good thing the player sucks.”
Both he and Mikey pressed their shells against opposite sides of the door edge as he depressed the button to open it. Thus far the rooms hadn’t been very welcoming and he’d done enough more than his fair share of dodging. Evasion wasn’t his preferred style, but the whole place felt like a giant death trap.
For once there were no laser blasts and explosions. Curiosity outweighing caution, Mikey peered around the edge, though Raph would have preferred he wait. He wouldn’t put it past Maul to set up a delayed detonation in case they’d gotten comfortable with the constant barrage of attack.
Muscles coiled, he waited for even the slightest sound to suggest a trap had been triggered, prepared to tackle his little brother out of the line of fire. Instead, Mikey’s eyes went wide and he started into the room.
Cursing inwardly, he stepped out of the safety of the alcove, grabbing his brother’s shell. He intended to give the room a quick scan for potential threats before hauling the goofball back to relative safety when he finally caught what Mikey had seen and froze. There she was, head down, balanced in a crouch, within the confines of a cylindrical, force-field-like barrier.
His first instinct was to run to her and break her out that very minute, but much of the impulsive and temperamental turtle he’d once been had slowly been burned away in the crucible of his family’s experiences since first venturing to the surface back on Earth and he held himself in check. There might only be one shot at this, a shot on which Mona’s life depended, and he wasn’t about to blow it by letting his nature get the best of him. He could be patient and methodical when he needed to.
Taking in the room, he saw none of the obvious weaponry that had marked their earlier journey, just more empty stands like the one on which Mona waited. The place looked like a lab, dimly lit and empty, with only what appeared to be emergency lights providing any illumination.
He carefully approached her glowing cell, surprised to find no high-tech trip wires or alarms. Why would there be so much prepared defense leading up to this place, but no such security measures within? The whole thing felt like a trap, with attempting to free Mona being the most likely trigger, but there was no other course of action. He wasn’t leaving here without her.
“Mona.” He called out softly as he approached the control panel at the edge of her barrier.
Her head snapped up at the sound of her name. “Don’t touch the energy field.”
He nodded immediately retracting the hand that had instinctively reached out towards her.
“Raphael you must leave now. It’s you he’s after.” Despite her obvious exhaustion, she still maintained her fierce spirit and unbreakable will.
“Would you leave me?” He raised an eye ridge as he spoke.
Her jaw clamped shut, wordlessly giving him her answer. She obviously didn’t like him playing into the trap, but she clearly understood.
He looked down at the control panel in dismay, not seeing anything familiar or obvious. He needed Donnie. Knowing that the genius was probably busy trying to take over the station from its engineering room, he opted to make the call anyway. Don had always been good at multitasking. Talking him through releasing Mona should be a piece of cake.
“It appears I was not mistaken. You’ll do perfectly.”
Yanking his hand back from his communicator to draw his weapons, Raph spun to see Maul standing at the far end of the room. How? He was sure he hadn’t been there a moment ago and none of the doors had opened since their arrival.
Maul ignited a black energy blade with jagged spears of bright lightning running the length of it, appearing amused by his fighting stance. “Potential is not enough to defeat me.” He flared the remaining half of his red staff to life as he spoke.
Ignoring the taunt, he spoke to Mikey without ever taking his eyes off his opponent as he purposefully moved away from Mona’s prison. “Call Donnie and get her out of there.”
“Do it. I’ve got this.” Drawing on the time he’d been required to step up during Leo’s coma and convalescence, his tone brooked no argument and Mikey immediately moved to comply.
Taking a long slow breath, he forced everything but this moment and the fight out of his awareness. No distractions. He lunged forward, rapidly closing the distance between them. Their weapons connected in a burning sizzle and spray of sparks, but he parried, letting Maul’s blades slide aside rather than attempting to lock the weapons, knowing from experience that his opponent was stronger than he appeared.
Taking the offensive, Maul pressed back towards him alternating his attacks between the weapons in each hand, to keep one ready for defense, following up each strike with another, leaving not an instant in between throughout the relentless assault.
Though technically forced on the defensive, Raph met each blow, leaving not a single opening for Maul to seize, almost inexplicably sensing his opponent’s moves in advance to generate an impenetrable defense. But he couldn’t keep it up forever. Ultimately, this stalemate was not in his favor. One mistake and it would be over.
And then his chance came, a small break in Maul’s seemingly perfect defensive onslaught. The follow up strike was too soon after its predecessor, leaving both his blades momentarily within Raph’s reach. Twisting the jitte that was currently deflecting the blade already pressing him, he hooked it, shooting out his other to catch Maul’s secondary weapon in a similar manner.
Maul learned what Leo had a lifetime of experience dealing with while fighting Raph. Sais and jitte were specifically designed to for disarming swords. Instead of completely yanking the blades from Maul’s grip, he used the weapon-lock to wrench his opponent forward into the knee he launched into Maul’s gut, hoping to render him senseless with a well-placed strike to the solar plexus.
It felt like his knee connected with a wall of steel and the thought suddenly occurred to him that aliens might not have the same vulnerabilities as the humans he’d been trained to battle, especially since Maul’s midsection and legs were completely robotic. Damn. Bad time to forget that crucial detail.
Maul’s expression turned smug as he swung his head down and cracked his horned forehead into Raph’s with more force than should have been possible, rattling his brain and sending him flying back onto his shell, sliding back into another one of the cylindrical lab stations hard enough to dent the metal.
As Maul stalked slowly closer, savoring his victory, Raph struggled to get to his feet, but his body wasn’t responding to his mind’s commands, not yet recovered from the blow to the head. Well, crap. This fight had just taken a turn for the worse.
Casey leaned back against the wall, bored, as Donnie focused completely on the control console in front of him. He’d never say so out loud, but he couldn’t get over how Don could just figure out completely alien tech he’d never seen before after only a few minutes of experimentation. He’d barely scraped by his computer science class with a D and that was using Earth tech with which he was totally accustomed to using from daily life. Although, in his defense, they were teaching ancient programming languages that no one was ever going to use in reality. Seriously, who actually coded anything in Visual Basic?
“Ha! Take that!” Donnie taunted the inanimate panel in triumph and Casey took it to be a sign that they’d finally be able to ditch the nerd center and do something interesting.
“Great. Take down the traps already so that we can move already.”
Donnie frowned. “There aren’t any.”
“What?” Casey blinked in disbelief. “Then what are we doing here?”
“No one’s been in these systems since the station closed. It looks like all he did was turn the power on.”
“What about the door?” Casey gestured towards the broken, sparking entrance that had nearly sliced them in half.
“Left over security measure from when this place was operational. I can at least shut those down. If he’s made any traps, they’re of the manual variety.”
Casey snorted. “Great. Not only was our job boring. It’s also pointless.”
Before he could vent further, Donnie’s communicator dinged and D answered with no small amount of irritation. “What?”
Casey considered just taking off as Donnie concentrated on listening to whoever was talking to him, but decided to give it another minute or so, on the off chance that whoever was calling and some sort of action for him.
“Mikey, no. Do. Not. Touch. Anything. We’re on our way.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Casey raised an eyebrow. “Some kind of boring tech emergency?”
Don scowled at him as he barreled past and out a different door than they’d come in. “I need to free Mona. You can help Raph with Maul.”
April took slow, controlled breaths to minimize the throbbing pressure in her head. Linking to Raph had been nothing. But when he’d opened up and connected to whatever else was out there it felt like the universe was on fire and burning through her brain. She was going to have to create some sort of mental filter before trying anything like that again. They’d gotten the answer they’d needed, but it had almost put her out of commission. Not that she’d allow a little headache to sideline her.
They’d picked their way through several empty hallways and rooms, making a surprisingly effective pair. Despite the throbbing pain in her head, her instincts still blared alarms the instant before danger, usually in the form of automated weapons and explosives, struck and Ahsoka dealt with each threat efficiently and effectively, proving herself to be extremely capable. April suspected that normally Ahsoka would be able to sense the danger on her own, but there was something about this place. Something…wrong. Though she couldn’t say exactly what.
A fresh spear of pain lanced through her skull and she gasped, pressing her palms to her temples as though that would somehow smother the fire in her brain. And yet all that was secondary to the certainty than now flooded her.
Ahsoka was looking down at her in concern.
“Raph’s in trouble. We need to get to him now.”
Ahsoka didn’t question her assertion as she helped her up from her knees, a surprise as she didn’t even recall falling to them.
April pointed onward. “Two more rooms. We need to move.”
Leo’s ship exited hyper speed, right in front a spaceship hanger and he yanked violently back on the controls to slow the ship before it smashed through the far wall, landing roughly as the vessel collided with the hanger floor, tearing into it as he skidded to a halt. On the up side, he’d narrowly avoided clipping the Fugitoid’s main ship in the process, so at least there was less to fix later.
He couldn’t worry about that now. He needed to get to Raph. He could suddenly feel his brother’s need. Although this place was shrouded in something he couldn’t name, his connection to his family remained strong, like bright, vibrant cords burning through a fog.
Charging out of the ship, he called on all his newly discovered speed to close the distance between him and Raph. His surroundings disappeared into a blur as he ran. Avoiding the myriad of obstacles on instinct, he started skidding to a halt as he caught sight of Mona, trapped within a glowing barrier and Mikey staring in dismay at something deeper in the room that he could not yet see.
Sliding along the curve of the hallway, he caught sight of Raph flying back onto his shell and skidding into one of the cylindrical columns populating the room. Maul was closing on him and Leo realized that, even with his enhanced speed, he wouldn’t make it in time. Then he caught sight of the doorway on the far side of the room.
Leo watched Casey and Donnie charge into the lab. Casey threw a handful of photon pucks into the air and leapt up, somehow managing to strike and launch them all as he flew towards Raph’s opponent.
Maul, having already spun to face him, raised his swords and all of the photon pucks spontaneously exploded in the air between them. But Casey sailed through the heat and flame, intending the brain Maul with his hockey stick. Unfazed, Maul sliced the wood into pieces before bringing his leg around and slamming his shin into Casey’s side with a sickening crunch that made Leo cringe, sending the boy sprawling past him.
During Casey’s ill-fated assault, Leo noted that Donnie had used the distraction to dart past the fight and get to work on freeing Mona. As though tagged in, Mikey rushed into battle the instant Donnie made it by Maul and Raph, right into Casey’s trajectory.
As Leo breached the threshold of the lab, he could see the impending collision as though in slow motion. Mikey tensed, as though to dodge, with that preternatural danger sense he sometimes displayed, but he seemed to notice at the same time Leo did that Casey was going to slam head first into another one of those metal columns. Casey had a hard head, but there was no way that was ending well.
Instead of dodging, Mikey shifted to catch Casey, falling back into a roll and shielding their friend as he slammed shell-first into the column that had been Casey’s original destination. Neither had landed a single blow on Maul. But they had bought precious time.
Leo darted into the gap between Maul and Raph, who was forcing his reluctant body back to his feet. His blue and purple sabers drawn and ready, he crouched to strike. This time he was ready to defend his family.
Maul actually seemed amused as he shot forward, but brought his own weapons to bear only a fraction of a second before Leo’s blows landed. Leo was gratified to see Maul’s eyes widen in momentarily surprise as he forced him on the defensive under a barrage of strategic slashes. Maul’s face became a mask of rage and hatred as he struggled to regain the upper hand, but Leo was completely immersed in the fight and responded as to each attempt as though the whole thing had been choreographed and rehearsed.
And then, to Leo’s amazement, the alien woman they’d rescued from the auction house was suddenly there, twin white sabers glowing fiercely as she savagely assaulted Maul from a second front.
Flanked now, Maul was fighting a losing battle as Leo and his new ally, working in perfect tandem, they drove him back. Unable to fend them both off, Maul soon left an opening, by which Leo and his mysterious comrade simultaneously plowed kicks into his chest, with all lightsabers locked above Maul’s head, sending him soaring backwards hard enough to actually smash through one of the control panels that lined the far wall. But Leo knew better than to assume the battle was won.
Almost immediately shaking off the collision and bits of ruined technology that clung to him, Maul clawed his way free, clearly noting his opponents closing on him for the conclusion of an unwinnable battle. Instead of showing dismay, to Leo’s concern, Maul smiled and, rather than going for his weapons, he pressed a button on a device attached to his belt.
Almost within reach of landing the finishing blow, Leo and the alien woman faltered at the sound of a wet explosion and Raph’s heart wrenching scream. Time seemed to slow as Leo’s head swiveled back. He could see the shocked expression on Donnie’s face and Mona, now free of her cell, falling backwards, thrown in reaction to the gory blast that left a gaping hole in her upper torso.
Raph was tripping over himself, trying to get to her, screaming. “Help! Somebody help!”
On some level, he was aware that Maul was escaping, an event that, if allowed, potentially held grave consequences for his family. If he gave pursuit now, maybe he could stop him.
Time caught up and Leo made his choice, running towards Raph and Mona instead, sensing the alien woman keeping pace along side him. By the time he made it, Mona was down, in Raph’s arms, looking either dead or seconds away from it.
“This is more than I can fix.” The alien woman’s voice broke as she spoke.
Raph looked up frantically from him to Donnie and Leo knew by Donnie’s expression that this was beyond him too. They wouldn’t be able to get her to the Fugitoid’s med bay before she was gone if she wasn’t lost already.
As Raph let out another agonized scream, Leo could feel the now familiar energy of the Force flare up with blinding intensity in his brother. Without thought, Leo reached out his senses and connected with him to be nearly burned. As Raph grasped for Mona’s fading thread of life, he’d summoned so much Force energy it was as though he were holding onto an exploding sun.
Acting on pure instinct, Leo stretched out his conscious towards Mikey and Donnie drawing them in and linking the four of them together simultaneously. Mikey flowed with it, though Donnie resisted for a microsecond before fully connecting with Raph’s pain. United in purpose now, they now focused everything on Mona.
Donnie’s intellect spread out, highlighting her body like a diagram of operational and broken parts. As Mikey’s intuition flared to life, a map of jagged, broken red lines illuminated the ethereal picture like a road map of the critical points of her injury. Raph poured in the sum total of his gathered power, barely directed into the heart of Mona’s injury.
Leo tried not to scream out in pain as he fought to control and direct the searing tide of power into something useful. Raph’s will steadied and enveloped him as he molded the raw energy into guided purpose based on Donnie and Mikey’s insight. The glowing red lines straightened out and reconnected taken the broken shards of the picture before them and sealing it back together into a singular, perfect whole.
Dazed and reeling, Leo slowly and carefully disengaged, gently releasing the link to each of his brothers. Mikey’s seemed to break off faster than the others, but he had no energy to spare on wondering about that now. Thoroughly burned out, he barely heard the alien woman’s gasp of shock. The fuzzy picture before him slowly faded back into focus, as he returned to conscious awareness.
It was Mona’s moan that caused him to shake off the last of his disorientation. There she was, gripped tightly in Raph’s arms, seemingly unharmed beyond the blood-soaked hole in her iridescent body suit.
Casey staggered up and, though not fully functional himself, Donnie managed to catch him before he pitched forward onto Raph and Mona.
Leo cleared his throat. “We’d better get her back to Fugitoid immediately, just in case. Everyone to the ship.”
Without a backward glance, he led his team back to their temporary home.
As the sentimental fools rushed away from him, Maul started to make his escape, when he noticed the odd girl he’d seen with them before. She staggered back clutching her head in pain as his apprentice screamed. Her inexplicable power, so like the Force, but fundamentally different, flared brightly inside her. Interesting.
He considered the contingency plan, he’d been hoping to avoid. He’d wanted to wait until he had something to show, but that seemed impossible now. This girl and her strange abilities, might prove useful.
Darting behind her, he was surprised to find that she’d sensed him, but was in no condition to do anything about it before he struck her hard on the back of the head, causing her to collapse limply into his arms.
Throwing her across his shoulder, he surveyed the room once more, finding the orange-masked turtle in something of a trance, not far from the semi-conscious fool who’d dared to take him on earlier. If he was ever to achieve any of this goals, this band of interlopers would need to fall first. And he now had a good idea of how to destroy them.
Rushing forward, just as the turtle appeared to be coming out of it his fugue state, he cracked his robotic knee into the creature’s temple before it had a chance to react, despite just noticing his approach before the blow landed. Scooping up its unconscious body, he tossed it over his free shoulder.
Not wanting to wear out his welcome, he dashed out the doorway behind him and veered right at the first intersection. If he cut through the center engineering room, he’d make it to the hanger and be gone before any of them knew what had happened. They’d rue their victories up to this point. He’d see to that.
Y'Gythgba slowly blinked her eyes open, recognizing the Fugitoid’s med bay. She’d woken up here once before, after a disastrous encounter with Lord Dregg. Unable to help herself, she smiled up at Raphael’s worried face, filling her entire field of vision. At least until Fugitoid shoved him aside.
Waiting patiently as the little robot ran his scanner over her, she tried to piece together her memories. She’d just gotten out of that cell and, unarmed or not, had been ready to charge in and avenge her dishonor. There’d been a loud wet pop, pressure in her chest. Then nothing.
“I can’t explain it, but she appears to be in perfect health.”
Raphael knocked the robot out of the way as he reached down and pulled her up right.
“Are you really ok?”
She’d never seen him look so distressed.
“I am well, my noble Raphael.”
He sighed, sagging in relief against her. Warmth spread through her being and she pressed her snout to his, feeling the world fade away as he seemed to melt against her side.
“Yeah, cuz the rest of us weren’t there at all.”
Hearing Casey’s sarcastic tone, she looked up to see him, bare chest wrapped in bandages, sitting on one of the spare beds, holding an icepack to his head. Yes. He had shown great courage in battle. She respected that. With a nod, she acknowledged his participation.
Her eyes roamed the room, seeing Donatello, Leonardo and some unknown woman also in attendance. With a frown, she asked “where are Michelangelo and April?”
Everyone tensed up and looked around as she realized that no one else had noted their absence.
Leonardo fixated on Fugitoid. “Maul’s ship?”
The robot tapped his fingers together thoughtfully. “It left moments before all of you returned.”
“It what? Why didn’t you stop him?” Raphael bellowed, turning his head away from her to direct his volume at the unfortunate robot.
Despite her Raphael’s intensity, the Fugitoid appeared unfazed. “His ship is too manually controlled to be operated remotely and I wasn’t about to risk leaving my ship to sabotage his. He could have returned at any moment and stolen my vessel, which I might add is unquestionably the superior piece of technology. Besides, I needed to tractor in the wreckage Leonardo made of the shuttle.”
Donatello shifted a bit, obviously on the verge of panic. “What do we do now?”
Leonardo’s eyes narrowed. “Start tracking them now. We’re taking back what’s ours.”
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