April crouched in the dark basement of what remained of the building. Trapped. Or so it seemed.
She was done running. Done hiding. She’d sent the others away, because this one was her fight. Hers and hers alone.
Pulling her hands away from her head, running them across her short, prematurely graying hair as she did so, she slowly lowered them to her biceps, gently grazing the ragged, worn and, in some cases scorched, fabric tatters tied there.
Her right held orange, red and…blue. Her left supported purple, black with an overlaid with a pattern of white, and maroon. Drawing her hands in, she closed them on her father’s wedding ring, dangling from a chain around her neck. It was time. She’d lost so much in this deadly war of attrition and there was nothing left to give. Nothing left but this.
For a moment her mind drifted back to the start, so many years ago. Back when there had been so much hope, idealism and confidence. The memory left a bitter taste in her mouth as she considered how that faith had been slowly eaten away by one crushing loss after another as the invasion had dragged on. Everything had always been so focused on New York, no one had even considered the possibility that their enemy would strike elsewhere, many elsewheres, and converge on them like a nightmare tide. They didn’t even know until it was too late.
Dwelling on what could not be changed wouldn’t undo the past. All she had the power to alter was the future. And she would. No matter what.
The simple wooden door to the basement shattered into splinters as the enemy soldiers, a mix of Kraang and human, flooded the room. Rising from her crouch, she showed no fear. Because there was none. With nothing left to lose what could there possibly be to fear?
She scanned the room, taking in the empty, soulless eyes of the human guards, knowing that their mental subjugation was made possible by her own treacherous blood. She hadn’t had the will to feel guilty over that in a long time. There was too much else to regret to have anything left for these unfortunate strangers.
Taking a risk, she made a move for the large duffle bag behind her. Too slow. Several soldiers tackled and bound her before she could reach it. Another scooped up the bag and threw it over his own shoulder. She lay still on the cold, cement floor, feeling the muzzle of a rifle pressed to the base of her skull.
“Halt. The one who is known as April O’Neil is to be delivered to Kraang Prime in a state of life.”
At the Kraang’s command, the soldiers frisked her for weapons before hauling her to her feet and dragging her back towards the stairs. She marched willingly to Kraang Prime, who no doubt awaited the pleasure of killing her himself.
The building might have been a science fiction castle, molded from that smooth, fluidly-shaped Kraang metal and filled in with nearly indestructible glass, Kraang Prime’s tower sprouted from the ruins of what had once been New York’s city hall. After conquering the city that had given him so much trouble in the past, he felt the need to set up headquarters here to celebrate his victory. The eyesore was visible from almost anywhere in the beleaguered and broken city.
She followed her escort willingly, though they could have dragged her, through the twisting corridors and hallways, up and up until she stepped into the throne room, spacious and sterile as all things Kraang were. Several Kraang lined the sides of the room, either floating on their little hover platters or encased in robotic armor.
Her human escort stopped a good ways distant from the steel steps that lead up to Kraang Prime’s raised dais, centering him at the far end of the cathedral-tall room against a backdrop of massive windows, the night dark against the harsh interior light. Kraang Prime looked smugly down at her, safely separated from her by space and his elite guard.
She took some satisfaction in noting Kraang Subprime’s absence, one the sweetest victories of the entire war, a single bright speck in a sea of dark misery. Utterly confident in this moment, Kraang Prime would not allow her closer, even to watch her life end, paranoid even in the heart of his stronghold. He should be.
Her human captors, much less vigilant than their master, were not as attentive to her as they should have been, a dulling effect of the mind control. In a single swift motion, she slid her hands, encased completely in solid metal cuffs, from the loose grip of the men holding her and cracked them hard against her belt buckle, activating the device concealed there, one of many parting gifts from Donnie.
Not waiting for the specialized, electro-magnetic pulse to flood outward from her, she leapt into a split kick, driving the balls of her feet into the solar plexus of the guards on either side of her as she spun to crack open the head of the man behind her with her solid hand-restraints. The first two doubled over, fighting to breathe while the third, the one holding her duffle, dropped like a rock.
As the pulse echoed through the room, her cuffs and power-restraining collar sparked and fizzled, unlocking and dropping away. Likewise, the Kraangdroids froze and the hover platters clattered to the floor.
Knowing that things would happen fast now, that every second counted, she didn’t hesitate to grab a handful of shruiken out of the duffel with one hand, ignoring how the points gouged into her unprotected palm, while drawing a hockey stick with the other.
In adrenaline-induced slow motion, she spun back as the remaining guards shook off their shock and began to raise their rifles. Unleashing her first salvo of shruiken, she darted into their midst, forcing them the to readjust their aim as each projectile tore unerringly into the flesh of their hands, severing tendons and dropping weapons to the ground.
Swinging the hockey stick, she shattered delicate wrist bones, disarming the last few who had not previously been accessible by shruiken, effectively taking the firearms out of the fight. Not much time left. The real fight would be fast approaching.
Jabbing with the handle and bringing the wide-fanning blade around, she crunched knees and ribs, loosing more shruiken with each backwards leap, wave after wave of deadly projectiles, lethally burying their way into their fleshy pink distant targets before the little parasites could escape.
Alarms blared but she didn’t care. The doors wouldn’t open until the damage Donnie’s device had done could be repaired. More than enough time for her purposes.
Breaking her hockey stick on the skull of the soldier between her and her duffle bag in a spray of blood and brain matter, she abandoned the weapon, rolling towards her weapon cache to pull out a green cane and wooden bo staff, extending the naginata blade with the press of a button.
The rest of the human guards charged after her. Dual wielding the staffs, she spun and blocked, sweeping her opponents legs with one weapon while skewering them with the other. It didn’t matter that they were innocents. The world as it was had no room for that kind is idealism anymore. She’d learned that the hard way.
The final surviving guard came at her from the side, fist coming down in a hammer strike meant to smash in her collarbone. Instead it smashed the wooden bo staff, affording her time to evade as she rammed the pointed end of the cane so deeply through his throat, it nearly decapitated him.
No time to pry the weapon free. Her next two opponents were almost down the steps and a third was zooming in from the back corner, originally too far to be hit with the pulse.
Efficiently tucking the next and final round of weapons from her now empty bag into holsters built into her belt, she braced herself for the mental blast that was coming, catching it easily.
Even with his augmentations, Dr. Rockwell was no match for her fully-mastered, raw power. In his defense the, mind-control mutation dulled his abilities a great deal, but even without that edge, she was out of his league. Cutting through his telepathic assault, she countered, tearing his mind asunder and leaving an empty shell in its place.
Without bothering to react to her victory, she pulled out the nunchaku, just in time to catch Karai’s tanto on the chain, twisting the blade free Karai’s grasp while smashing in her teeth with the weapon’s mate. April shouldn’t have been able to land that hit so easily, but the sacrifices Kraang Prime had made for control came at a price to skill, keeping his pawns from accessing their full potential.
Without batting an eye, Karai morphed into a serpent as April flipped back away from her. The shimmering white snake charged forward as April converted from nunchaku to kusari-gama, launching the curved blade straight into her opponent’s brain through her open mouth. Jerking back violently before dropping, Karai tore the chain to pieces.
Tightening her grip on the remaining nunchuck, April deftly leapt aside as Slash’s mace dented in the floor where she’d just been standing, his empty eyes holding no hint of recognition. Roaring, he swung again and she flung her open tessen into his face, embedding it into his vulnerable eyes, even if his skull was too thick to penetrate that way.
With a howl of pain, he swung blindly, but her intuition warned her of where his swings would go. Ducking and sidestepping, she evaded his blows, converting her remaining nunchuck into a kusarigama. With a graceful leap, she landed on the haft of his mace and rushed him, breaking off the blade of her weapon on his rock-solid spine as opened his throat.
Relinquishing the kusarigama, she flipped off of him, sensing him drop behind her in a gout of blood. Pulling her final weapons, a pair of sais, from her belt she grimly started up the steps, steeling herself against the last impediment between her and Kraang Prime.
No not Leo. He hadn’t been Leo for a long time now. The Leo she knew was dead, his mask on her arm. The blue-eyed turtle before her was a garish mockery and desecration of what he’d once been.
There wasn’t much room to maneuver on the steps. He’d planned it that way, not coming down to face her. Even in this limited state, he was the deadliest of opponents.
With a deep, calming breath, she drew on her power to read him. To know his strategy, where each blow would land, attacks and counters, the fight in his head before it even began. Though murky, she could see it.
Summoning all her speed, knowing that he was still faster and stronger, she rode her intuition into battle, barely maintaining the defensive as she parried and dodged. This would not do. He could outlast her many times over in a battle of stamina and she’d already burned too much energy in her earlier confrontations. She could only win this by being bold.
Coming straight at him, she caught one katana with a sai, snapping the blade off at the hilt with a twist that cost her the weapon, both sai and ruined katana tumbling over the side of the stairs. She saw the fall as she, to his surprise and consternation did not evade, allowing him to bury his remaining katana in her chest, enabling her to get close enough to thrust her last sai up through his throat and into his brain.
His grip on the handle of his sword loosened and the light faded from his already dim eyes as he toppled backwards over the edge of the stairs. Pain that she’d thought she couldn’t feel anymore lanced through her soul as she tried to shield her mind from what she’d just done. She’d thought herself long beyond such suffering, but apparently there was always more. The well never ran dry.
Only Kraang Prime’s squeal of fury broke through her paralysis. With an animalistic cry she once would not have thought herself capable of producing, she closed the distance, taking the steps three at a time.
Kraang Prime’s massive tentacles swung out at her, but she blasted them off course, pouring all of her new pain and grief into the telekinetic strike. Momentarily off balancing, Kraang Prime was defenseless. Screaming, she tore Leo’s katana from her own chest and rammed it hilt deep into Kraang Prime’s forehead, straight through his mutagen crown.
Too far gone to feel satisfaction, she experienced his death with him, using her powers to ensure that he was well and truly gone. Prying her stiff fingers free from the sword handle, handle she staggered passed him and fell to her knees in front of the large window.
Blood ran down her chest. Too much blood. Watching a new dawn breaking through the thick, tinted glass and her own rapidly dimming vision, she was at peace for the first time in forever. It was done.