The Way Home

Chapter 7

Mona Lisa sat on the couch amid the gathering of friends and family, largely alone. The event was fairly crowded in her parents’ modest apartment and she was technically squished into the middle of the couch as it was more than packed to capacity, given the shortage of chairs.

Her parents were bustling about being good hosts and while everyone had greeted her upon arrival, they were all, for the most part, busying themselves with other guests. For once she didn’t mind the dance of awkward avoidance that most people went into around her. Her parents were too busy to hover and her friends were giving her space, figuratively if not literally.She appreciated the much needed time to think.

After her talk with Tyler a few days ago, he was unsurprisingly not present now, she’d slowly come to a decision. After the party, she would say her goodbyes to her parents and move out. Back to her original home in the sewers, near the Turtles’ lair.

This time though, she would keep in touch with calls and email. Assuming she hadn’t completely blown her friendship with them, she was pretty sure Donatello could hook her up with whatever she needed. But her most important goal was setting things right with the Turtles, with Raphael. She needed that more than anything else. She wasn’t sure how long it would take to repair the damage, but she’d spend a lifetime on it if she had to.

Perhaps, if she trained hard enough with Splinter, she could even rejoin helping them out. She knew they sometimes worked with that wacko Casey Jones and he was human. Maybe. Regardless, it was the life she wanted and she was determined to find her way back to it.

She could only hope her friends and family would understand. She couldn’t be the only one who was aware of how badly she was acclimating back into her old life. Because there was no going back. Time didn’t reverse itself. You could only keep going forward and hope you didn’t lose anything important along the way.

The door opened and she looked up to see what new guest was arriving this time, surprised to find April O’Neil walking through her parents’ door. She immediately unwedged herself from the other people on the couch and pushed up to her feet. “April?I didn’t know you were coming.”

April gave her an easy smile, something she hadn’t had a good long while. It was nice to finally be around someone who knew her secrets. “Well, your parents invited me and I thought it’d be rude to skip out.”

Finding herself unconsciously grinning, she asked. “How are the guys? I’ve gotten a few letters back…”She trailed off, not quite willing to mention that she hadn’t gotten the one she’d been waiting on most.

April rolled her eyes and pouted. “They’re busy with something and keeping it all to themselves. I know there’s a story in there somewhere and they aren’t telling me.” As almost an afterthought, April flushed in apparent embarrassment. “I almost forgot, Raphael gave this to me to send out a few days ago and it sort of got lost in the shuffle. By the time I found it again, I realized it would just be faster to hand deliver it your party.”

She could see her name on the envelope and Raphael’s sharp, choppy handwriting as April drew it out of her bag. Knowing on some level that she was being horribly rude, she snatched the letter out of April’s hand and made a dash for her room, noting as she did so that April looked more amused than anything else.

Closing the door behind her in relief, she rushed to the desk and tore open the envelope. The letter was short, just a single line, but resonated with her. I miss you. She missed him too. More than anything. The words blurred as her eyes filled with tears.

Then a sharp sound pulled her out of the moment. She looked around the room to identify the source. Another small thunk and this time she saw the little rock hitting her window. Curious, she pushed it open and looked out.

To her amazement, Raphael stood in the alley below with a handful of small stones. Smiling despite her watery eyes, she gestured for him to come up. Stepping back, she made space for him to slip into her room.

For a second her seemed genuinely happy to see her, before his expression turned uncertain and he looked away. “I probably shouldn’t have come. "Tonight’s for your family and friends, but I…it feels like it’s been a really long time.”

Her heart clenched and without thinking she closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around him. “You are my friend and my family and I’m glad you’re here.”

Letting out a long, deep sound of contentment, he returned the hug. She wasn’t sure whether or not he was doing it intentionally, but he began stroking her smooth, brown hair. Finding the contact soothing she rested her head against his chest to give him better access, listening to his heartbeat through his plastron. Steady, if a bit fast.

After a moment, he spoke. “Are you ok? You didn’t say anything in your letter, but you sounded…”

She pulled back to see the concern in his eyes as he looked down at her. Right, the letter. Of course, he’d been worried about her. She’d sort of been counting in him picking up on her sadness when she wrote it, though she wished he was here for more than the worry she must have caused him.

Sighing, she pulled away and plopped down on her bed. “Yeah. I’m not the same person I used to be and I…can’t seem to fit back into the way things were.”

He sat down beside her. “Can I help?”

She shook her head with a weak smile. “No. I have an idea for how to handle it.”

He let out a relieved breath.“Good. Being down doesn’t suit you.”

She tried for another smile, knowing that it probably didn’t reach her eyes. Would he leave now that his concerns had been allayed? She didn’t want him to go.

Hoping to forestall the inevitable, she hopped up and gave her dress a little twirl. “What do you think?” She gestured to her ensemble, basically the same outfit she’d sent him a picture of almost a week ago.

He shook off the shock of her abrupt action and smirked. “Looks good. I kind of thought pink might be your color.”

Her smile was genuine now. “Did the neckerchief give it away?”

He laughed. “Nothing gets passed me. Got a mind like a steel trap. Always wondered what humans used earlobes for.” He stood to give one her dangling, gold earrings a little tap.

She could feel her cheeks heat up and she shrugged. “Well, it’s nice to be pretty again, I mean, not that I’m an objective judge…ugh that sounded really narcissistic. Can I start over?” As she flailed around for something to say that didn’t sound so vain, she realized his expression had fallen into a deep frown.

“You’re always beautiful.”

Her jaw fell open as her brain refused to process the words sensibly on the first few attempts. Did he…?

As if realizing what he’d just said, his eyes widened in panic. “I mean, I…don’t freak out.”

Before she could respond, her mother’s voice came muffled through her door. “We’re cutting the cake now, honey.” Wincing at the poorly timed interruption, she turned and called back. “Ok. In a minute.”

By the time she returned her attention to Raphael, he was already partway out the window. Refusing to let the moment escape her, she dove for him and latched onto his arm. “Wait!”

He looked back at her in surprise and confusion.

“I…”Words failed her as nothing that came to mind sounded right. Screw the right words. Fully in the moment, blocking the past and all possible futures, she reached out with her right hand to cup the back of his head and pull in towards her.

He yielded willingly, still looking as though he had no idea what was going on. Giving in to something she’d wanted to do since he’d mentioned thinking she was cute at the yacht costume party where they’d met so long ago, she pressed her mouth to his and lost herself in the sensation of the kiss as her left arm intertwined with her right around the back of his neck.

After a brief instant of stiff shock, he melted against her, arms hooking around her waist, pulling her flush against him as he returned the kiss with enthusiasm.

An annoying ringing noise pulled her back to reality and Raphael released her lips with a groan as he rested his head on her shoulder and pulled out his phone. “The world had better be ending.”

With her cheek pressed against his head, she could hear Leonardo’s voice through the speaker. “It might. Donatello was able to track the reactor’s signature and it’s active. We need to move out now. Meet us on the Queensboro bridge. The Shredder’s probably bringing the Technodrome up through the East river.”

Raphael sighed. “I’ll be there.” With the press of a button he ended the call and pulled back to look her in the eyes.

The moment she heard the words ‘Shredder’ and ‘Technodrome’ she knew he was off to do something dangerous to protect them all and had never wished so badly that she could go with him and help. But what could she do as a delicate little human?

His expression looked genuinely torn. “I have to go…”

She nodded. “I know.” Reaching up, she caught his cheeks in her hands. “But afterwards, I expect you to come back to me.”

She pulled him close again and locked her mouth to his, trying put everything she was feeling into their kiss. Moaning into her, he pressed her back against the wall, not breaking off the contact until they were both breathless and gasping for air.

“Count on it.” His voice sounded rough and husky as he whispered into her ear and then he was gone, a slight breeze ruffling her curtains was the only evidence of his presence.

Weak and shaking, but happier than she could ever recall being, she turned with the intention of wobbling over to her bed for support. That’s when she saw Monroe standing in her open doorway, eyes bulging, jaw hanging loose, reminding her a bit of a fish, stunned to find itself out of water.

They were frozen in that tableau for a moment before her little brother found his voice. “Mom wanted you to come out for cake.”

Cheeks burning, she could feel her fists balling up at her sides. “How long were you standing there?”

His cheeks flamed red and he looked away. “Long enough. Something you need to tell the rest of us?”

His abrupt return to sullen indignance was the last straw of what had been an emotional roller coaster in the last ten minutes.“Yes. I’m friends with the Ninja Turtles and have been since they helped me take down Filch. More than friends with Raphael. I belong out there with them, not here, playing at being human.”

He blinked at her in shock. “Playing at being human?”

She didn’t get a chance to answer. A sharp, intense pain in her side stole her breath and the next thing she knew she was doubled over in agony. The fire in her abdomen spread to the rest of her body causing her to feel as though she were burning alive from the inside out. She was barely aware of falling to the ground or her brother yelling her name.

When the pain finally subsided, she realized that she was lying on her back on the carpet with Monroe cradling her head in his lap. Reaching up to rub her face, she gasped at the scaly sensation beneath her fingertips. Holding her hand out in front of her, she could see that she was now sporting four green digits.

“The antimutagen must have worn off.” Her words sounded mumbled and distant to her own ears. Forcing her body upright, she saw that her pink dress and shoes were in tattered ruins all around her, no longer able to fit her mutant body. Her earrings had simply fallen off with no ears to hold them and her wrist bangles were too tight, no longer fitting her more muscled arms. Wincing in pain, she pried them off and tossed them to the ground beside her.

“Mona Lisa?” Hearing her brother’s voice quickly brought the situation home to her.

Worried that he was moments away from screaming and fainting, she drew her knees to her chest and looked away. “I didn’t want you to know.”

He swallowed hard, his eyes still wide with disbelief. “How long have you been this way?”

Still refusing to look directly at him, she answered. “Since shortly after Filch got me. Now you know why I couldn’t come home.The Turtles took me in after we stopped him.”

To her surprise, her brother wrapped his arms around her. “You could have told me.”

Fighting back tears, she leaned her head against his. “I wish I had. It’s just like Tyler said. My own expectations have been screwing everything up.”

Monroe barked out a laugh. “Did you just say Tyler was right? Now I know the world is ending.”

World ending? The Turtles! Raphael! She could finally do something useful again!

Pulling out of Monroe’s grasp, she jumped to her feet and rushed to her closet, digging around for the old belt and pink neckerchief she’d originally brought home with her.

“What are you doing?” At the sound of her brother’s voice, she turned to face him as she buckled the belt in place.

“The city is in peril and I can help the Turtles save it.” She hurried over to her dresser, pulling out her headband and tossing it down as she tied her hair back in ponytail.

“So what, you’re a superhero now?”

She smiled and looked over at him. “I’ve have been for a while.”

Tying the neckerchief in place, she felt her necklace, still dangling around her throat. It didn’t belong in battle. Unlatching it, she removed it and set it gently atop her dresser.

“You’re not coming back are you?”

Her heart sank at Monroe’s stricken expression.“No. I’m not meant to be here anymore. I need to be out there keeping the world safe for everyone. For you.”

He looked away, his expression bitter.

“But I’m not losing touch this time. After we win this tonight, because we are going to win, I’ll let you know where I’ve been living and maybe you could come visit me.”

He looked back at her in surprise, his eyes lighting up. “Really?” She nodded. “Just because this is what I need to do now, doesn’t mean I’m missing out on any of the people I care about anymore.”

His expression turned earnest. “Promise?”

She smiled. “I promise. Tell mom, I’m sorry for skipping out on my own party.”

He laughed. “Sure, give me the hard job.”

She raised an eye ridge. “Someone’s gotta do it.”

He gave her a quick nod and started for the door, turning back just before he crossed the threshold. “Go kick some butt, sis.”

“You know it.” Feeling lighter than air, she all but flew out the window. She was finally who she was meant to be.

Leonardo paced impatiently across the top of the Queensboro bridge while Michelangelo lounged against one of the top metal supports playing paddle ball and Donatello was fiddling with a small electronic device, an array of small tools spread out in front of him.

“Where is he? The battle could begin any moment.”

“Well somebody’s got his shell in a bunch.”

They all looked up to see Raphael land atop the pinnacle of the bridge’s decorative support, grinning down at them with a confident cockiness they hadn’t seen in a while. Leonardo let out a breath of relief he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.Whatever Raphael had gone to do, obviously went well. Now he had his brother back and not a moment too soon.

Raphael jumped down to the platform on which the rest of them waited. “So have we got a plan or are we just gonna wing this, because I’m fine either way.”

Leonardo rolled his eyes at the return of Raphael’s flippant attitude. “We draw everyone else’s attention, while Donatello dismantles the Shredder’s reactor.”

Raphael snorted. “Well if that’s all…”

“I have some tools that might help.” Donatello interrupted.

Raphael raised an eye ridge. “Stuff you’re sure works or are we testing it out for you?”

Donatello smiled. “Both.”He held up a small, single-button remote control. “I’ve been working on these for a while, ever since the Shredder used Stockman’s tech to link up the Foot soldiers like Mousers so that they could work more collaboratively.The wireless connectivity, opens the door to using a debilitating jamming signal, if you know the right frequency. The Shredder will probably fix the security flaw after it’s revealed, meaning it’ll likely be a one-time use weapon, so I’ve been waiting for a special occasion.”

Raphael chuckled. “I guess the end of the world counts as the rainy day you’ve been saving them for.”

Donatello pulled out from his duffle bag, a white, egg-shaped object, about the size of a baseball. “These I specially designed for Krang’s rock soldiers. Just hit them with one of these babies and it should end the fight pretty quickly.”

Michelangelo reached for one and Donatello jerked it out of his grasp. “They aren’t edible.”

Michelangelo pouted. “Major bummer. They look like they’re made of mozzarella.”

Donatello shook his head. “Trust me, they aren’t, so unless you want to ruin your sense of taste for the next month or so, I suggest you contain your curiosity.”

“Okay, let’s gear up.” Leonardo retook control of the conversation and began distributing the remotes and projectiles as Donatello handed them over to him until he, Michelangelo and Raphael each had one of the former and several of the latter.

Raphael looked out from the top of the bridge. “I hope you waterproofed these if we’re supposed to be looking underwater for the massive alien base you guys insisted was going to be here.”

Donatello huffed. “Well of course they’re waterproof. We live in the sewers. I…”

Before he could finish, the bridge shook, nearly knocking the four of them off their feet and a massive whirlpool appeared in the river beside them.

“Never mind dudes. Looks like the party is coming to us.” Michelangelo pointed out.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Raphael muttered in response as they watched the Technodrome rise up from the surface of the water.

Leonardo crouched at the edge of the platform. “It’s now or never. Team attack!” He leapt off the bridge towards the top of the Technodrome crying out “Turtle power!”

Raphael stifled a laugh. “Very stealthy.”

Donatello shrugged. “You guys are the distraction.”

“Cowabunga!” Michelangelo leapt down to follow the leader.

Raphael rolled his eyes. “Next time, it’s your turn to be expendable.” Then he turned and jumped into the fray.

The Shredder had been monitoring the Technodrome’s power levels, pleased with all the surplus energy waiting to be used as the base rose to the surface world when the security breach alarms began blaring.

“What’s going on?”Krang’s blubbery voice threatened to interrupt his focus as he called up the security cameras. Three of those wretched turtles were boldly invading his battle station. “Those blasted reptiles again? Throw everything at them. Wipe them off the face of this planet.”

Despite his first impulse, which annoyingly matched Krang’s reaction, he knew better. The three he could see were making no effort to hide their presence and the fourth was nowhere to be found. The missing one was the smart turtle. It didn’t take much guesswork to figure out where that one was going, but he didn’t want any irritating allies backing the interfering little nuisance up.

Activating his voice command for the Foot soldiers to send an order that would spread through the entire force once one knew what he wanted, he spoke through the intercom. “All nonessential units, destroy the intruders.”

Krang crossed his tentacles, tapping the ends in irritation. “You think your toy soldiers will be enough? They’ve failed before.I want you to handle this personally.”

Resisting the urge to jam his blades into the compartment containing the little pink blob, scrambling him into oblivion, he managed to respond in an almost neutral tone of voice. “I intend to. In the meantime, Granitor and Traag should guard the primary corridor to the control center.”

The rock soldiers shared a glance. “We do not take orders from you, only Lord Krang.”

Krang appeared to be rolling the idea thoughtfully through his mind.“Fine. You two go. Don’t let them get to me.”

General Traag and Sergeant Granitor bowed. “As you command, Lord Krang.”

“You wants us to do anything, boss?” Bebop asked hopefully and he sighed internally, wishing for the millionth time that he hadn’t turned a pair of idiots into his primary minions. Even Traag and Granitor had more tactical sense, which literally made the two mutants dumber than rocks.

“In case one or more of those turtles makes it into this room, you are to protect the weapons array at all costs.”

Rocksteady clapped gleefully. “Got it boss. You can count on us.”

Krang’s tentacles balled into tiny fists. “What about me?”

Shredder couldn’t help smiling behind his mask as he intentionally misunderstood the little alien. “You can defend the weapons array too. I don’t intend to lose it while I’m off shelling myself a meddlesome turtle.”

Donatello counted down the seconds for the time he estimated it would take his brothers’ entry to be detected. The whole Technodrome should’ve noticed their presence by now and would be reacting to it. In theory, he could now sneak in unnoticed.

Jumping down after his brothers, he carefully slipped through the entrance they’d already forced open. Once inside, he went straight for the nearest control panel.

Given their past experience with the Technodrome and their enemies’ limited options for customization without compromising the design, he had a general sense of the layout and some suspicions on where the Shredder would be most likely to construct his power source. Still, it didn’t hurt to be certain.

A cursory examination of the maintenance window revealed the lines of energy converging exactly where he thought they’d be.This mission was going to be a piece of cake.

As Raphael charged after Leonardo and Michelangelo through a seemingly empty hallway, he wondered if they even knew where they were going or if they actually had a destination in mind, since the object was clearly to make noise and get everyone to attack them.

After he’d used his sais to pry the lid off the top entrance for them get inside, he’d mostly just trailed along after his brothers. Sure the world was at stake with Shredder wanting to conquer it and crush away all hope and freedom with his iron fist rule, but stopping the megalomaniac kind of felt like an annoying chore that he needed to get done. There were other things he’d rather be doing right now and the Shredder’s schemes were cramping his style.

Where were all the enemies? He wanted to get this over with already.

Which naturally resulted in a reinforcing lesson of the old saying ‘be careful what you wish for.’

Foot soldiers beyond counting flooded the wide hallway both in front and behind them. Time to cross his fingers and hope Donatello’s confidence was well-founded. His brother’s untested, new toys could always be a little hit or miss. Following Leonardo’s lead, he and Michelangelo, clipped their remotes to their belts.

Here goes nothing.

He pressed the button and waited. Nothing happened. The Foot soldiers continued to advance. Leonardo shared a grim look with him and Michelangelo before drawing his swords. Pulling out his sais, Raphael hoped that whatever Donatello needed to do, he could do it fast because they weren’t going to last against these odds.

“Turtle power!” Leonardo charged head on to the soldiers approaching from the front while Raphael turned to guard against the ones approaching from the rear and Michelangelo seemed to be bouncing everywhere at once, his nunchucks spinning in robot-shattering arcs.

Raphael didn’t mind a good fight. He took pride in his skill and its use, maybe a little too much as he couldn’t seem to help taunting the many enemies they faced that simply weren’t as good. But this was just exhausting and tedious.

Yes, the Foot soldiers didn’t have the skill to outdo him and his sais were efficiently taking the Shredder’s toys apart, but for each one that fell, two more seemed to take its place. This was endless and he would tire eventually. Leonardo would need to call a retreat soon or they were going to be overwhelmed.

Then he made a misstep and one soldier got past his guard, plowing a steel fist into his chest and knocking him off balanced.The rest took the opportunity to swarm him. No chance for defense now. He cringed and waited for the blows to begin raining down on him.

But they never came. Cautiously opening the eyes he’d been squeezing shut, he was surprised to see all the Foot soldiers around him frozen in place, twitching and sparking.

Shoving his way out of the cluster around him, letting them fall like broken dolls as he knocked into them, he sought out Leonardo and Michelangelo. His brothers were grinning in exhausted relief as their opponents were similarly deactivated.

Michelangelo surveyed the scene, nudging a nearby soldier with one of his nunchucks to watch it topple. “Whoa dudes, Donatello really needs to work on the timing of these.”

Raphael laughed. “Better late than never.”

Leonardo sheathed his swords. “We need to keep moving.”

The heady relief faded into plain old exhaustion as Raphael sighed. “Because there is somewhere we actually need to be?”

Leonardo frowned. “Because our enemies need to think that. Besides, it will help if we can cause as much critical damage as possible.”

Michelangelo grinned. “Well let’s start breaking stuff, then.”

Mona Lisa had been planning on heading towards the bridge and deciding on her next move from there, but as she came closer to her destination, it became fairly obvious what needed to be done. The Technodrome was right there hovering on the surface of the water. And one of the entrance hatches at the top had already been broken open, a better invitation than she could have asked for.

Several graceful leaps later, she was lowering herself through it and into the heart of the enemy stronghold. A quick examination of her surroundings soon led her to a control panel that had already been hacked by Donatello. Fortunately for her, he’d left it open, clearly more interested in moving fast than covering his presence.

She sifted through a few systems before tapping into the security cameras. Most feeds were redirected to focus on Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, charging their way deeper into the Technodrome.

Her heart rate sped up and her stomach did a little flip flop upon catching sight of Raphael and she immediately wanted to rush to his side, but it didn’t appear that her assistance was immediately necessary. Somehow, as they went, the Foot soldiers fell like rag dolls whenever they got too close and all the automated laser turrets seemed to glitch and fail whenever they tried locking onto to any of her friends. She should really be checking into what Donatello was up to.

Sighing in disappointment, she kept searching, scanning the source feeds of the camera system running in the background behind the prioritized alerts. She eventually discovered the missing turtle in a large room at the center of the Technodrome, his duffle bag at his side, tools spread out around him as he worked to safely deactivate what appeared to be a highly experimental and dangerous reactor system. He seemed to have things under control too.

She kind of found that disappointing. Unsure of what else to do, she started closing out the video feeds until she caught sight of one that stopped her in her tracks. It was the Shredder. And he has heading straight for Donatello. She needed to get there pronto.

Donatello was completely focused on what he was doing, systematically shutting down the reactor, careful not to trigger an uncontrolled chain reaction or ignite the custom-made hydrogen-based fuel that the Shredder had created to power his mini-sun.

Once it was safely shut down, he could sabotage the most crucial and difficult to replace place pieces to ensure that their enemies couldn’t easily get it back up and running again. There were a few parts the would be very hard to reacquire, especially now that he knew what to keep an eye on to prevent the Shredder from swiping what he needed in the future.

One minute he was hard at work, undoing the delicate systems in front of him, the next a hand clamped down on his shell, throwing him backwards into a metal wall hard enough to see stars bursting in his vision. It cleared just in time for him to see the Shredder pulling out a blaster, one he hadn’t dared fire while Donatello had been beside the reactor, and aim it at him.

Throwing himself aside, he narrowly dodged a series of laser blasts, briefly wondering if the Shredder was missing on purpose.But why?

The answer came after he’d fully committed to his most recent rolling dodge to avoid what would have been a nasty blast to his leg. Anticipating Donatello’s trajectory, the Shredder fired into the large, heavily filled shelves above him, taking out the supports.

He could only curl up and shield his head as tumbled straight into the waterfall of industrial debris, slamming him to the ground and burying him. Reaching for his communicator, one of the few things he wasn’t too pinned to do, he activated the emergency beacon built into the device, knowing full well that there was no way help could arrive in time to save him.

Fluttering his eyes open as he struggled to stay conscious, he could see the Shredder, smugly taking his time, aiming the weapon at his head, before his vision went fuzzy and his awareness slipped away.

Leonardo followed the too familiar route to where the Technodrome’s control center should be, skidding to a halt and leaping back as a line of fire from General Traag and Sergeant Granitor lit up the area just in front of him. Apparently Krang’s rock soldiers were not tapped into the Shredder’s universal security system that Donatello’s devices fried at every turn.

Shoving his brothers back behind a corner as he ducked another laser blast, they pressed themselves back against the wall.

“Total unwelcoming party, dudes.” Michelangelo gasped.

Raphael huffed out a laugh. “What were you expecting, the VIP treatment?”

Michelangelo shrugged. “Would’ve been nice.”

Raphael shook his head and turned back to Leonardo. “So any plans for pegging these guys without getting lit up, because I would prefer not to end up turtle flambé.”

“Mondo agreement with that.” Michelangelo chimed in.

Leonardo paused for a moment, considering the situation. “Ok, I’ve got it. I’m going to dive over to the other side of the hallway opening. When I give the signal, I need Raphael to run in and across at a diagonal towards the rock soldiers.”

Raphael crossed his arms. “You did hear when I said I wasn’t interested in getting fried, right?”

“Getting to them isn’t important. Focus on dodging and don’t lose their attention.”

“Like that will be a problem.” Raphael muttered.

Leonardo ignored the unsolicited commentary and kept going. “Once Raphael moves out, Michelangelo will come out and unleash on them.”

“Hey, why does he get to attack while I’m playing decoy?” Raphael asked indignantly.

Leonardo sighed. “Who always wins the water balloon fights?”

Raphael huffed. “Point taken.”

“Good. Let’s do this.”

Leonardo didn’t wait for a response, before throwing himself across the hallway as Traag and Granitor let loose another barrage of laser blasts, exploding all around him. Rolling to a stop on the other side and taking a second to catch his breath, he caught Raphael’s eye, seeing him crouched and waiting on the other side.

With a nod, he ran out into the fray again, this time with Raphael shooting out from the other direction at the same time. As they each darted through crosswise, confusing their opponents with a mix of opposing targets, Michelangelo jumped out into the middle and pegged both rock soldiers with Donatello’s custom projectiles.

On impact, each one exploded into a thick cloud of white, marshmallow-like fluff. When the dust settled, Traag and Granitor appeared buried up to their necks, each in his own sticky, white mound, barely able to move before the elastic substance jerked them back into place.

Traag tried firing and the mound holding him, momentarily expanded like a balloon before snapping back and ramming all the force into Traag’s trapped body. Donatello had come through again with a perfect trap for the otherwise seemingly-indestructible warriors from Dimension X. Being relatively impervious to harm wouldn’t get them free any faster.

“Looks like someone’s found themselves in a sticky situation.” Raphael laughed as Michelangelo poked Granitor’s mound.

“Dude I could totally go for some s’more pizza right about now.”

Leonardo smiled. “When we get home. Right now, we have a control center to take apart.”

Mona Lisa made it the reactor room, just in time to see the Shredder using Donatello for target practice. Not good. She needed to do something. But what?The Shredder had her at as much of a disadvantage as Donatello. Only the element of surprise was on her side.

Scanning the room, she noticed something that made her eyes light up. Perfect.

Willing Donatello to hang on just a little bit longer, she crept into the room, keeping the Shredder’s back to her as she slunk around the far side of the reactor. Once she reached her goal, her breath caught in her throat as she saw the Shredder take aim at a now pinned and unconscious Donatello in front of him. Now or never.

Slamming her palm into the nearby button, she opened one of the nuclear reactor vents, positioned just above the Shredder’s head, grateful that he hadn’t had either the time or incentive to manage the safety measures properly.

Dropping his blaster, he howled in pain as the radioactive heat poured down on him. Realizing immediately what must have happened, the Shredder fled the room, probably to get the radioactive exposure cleaned off of his body as best he could before the damage became irreversible.

Now the whole room was technically contaminated, but that was a risk she’d have to take. Rushing to Donatello’s side, she quickly unburied him, gently laying him on his shell. Other than a possible concussion and some bruising, he seemed ok. But he was in no state to finish his task.

Eyes roaming over the reactor, unfamiliar as it was, she could make sense of how it worked. Yes. She could figure it out. The mission wasn’t a failure yet. She had this.

The doors to the control center opened with a hiss and Leonardo led the charge into the room. Rocksteady and Bebop jumped to attention and Krang, in his exosuit, spun away from a control panel.

“You loathsome reptiles again? Get them!”

Rocksteady and Bebop cracked their knuckles as they readied for the fight and Leonardo circled the edge of the room, positioning himself strategically, using hand signals to indicate his brothers take similar action.

“What are you waiting for horn head, some brain cells to sprout, because if that’s the case, we’re going to be here a while.”At the sound of Raphael’s taunt, Rocksteady turned towards him and charged.

Meanwhile, Michelangelo caught Bebop’s attention. “Dude, did you get even uglier?” The warthog roared and took a running swing at the source of the insult. In both cases, Raphael and Michelangelo either side stepped or ducked, leaving Rocksteady to bury his head in one console while Bebop put a fist through another.

“You idiots! Destroy the turtles, not my Technodrome!” Krang howled.

Raising his mechanical arm, a blaster opened up from just behind his wrist and he took aim at Leonardo, who flipped out of the way. The energy blasts flew into the wall of electronics behind him.“No! My weapons array! My beautiful weapons! Get them! Get them all!”

Rocksteady tugged his head out of the computer guts it was buried in and searched for his target. “I’m comin for you toitles!”

“Yeah, you’re gonna get it now.” Bebop chimed in as he yanked his fist free.

Meanwhile, Krang reached out to grab Leonardo, who ducked his hands and rammed his sword through the android’s computerized chest, pinning him to the control panel behind him. Electricity sparked from it, overtaking the whole wall which was mostly made up of a large screen which came suddenly to life. Leonardo rolled back and away from what appeared to be an opening portal.

“No!No!No!” Krang cried out as the screen stretched out in the form of viscous hands grabbing him and pulling him in.

Michelangelo and Raphael darted into the middle of the room, dropping into slides to trip each other’s opponents, sending Rocksteady and Bebop tumbling forward into the open portal.

“Let’s make turtle tracks!” He called out, gesturing towards the door. Michelangelo complied immediately, but Raphael paused before lobbing his complete set of sticky grenades at the edges of the portal wall, temporarily sealing it in a layer of white goo.

“Not bad.” Leonardo complimented with a smile.

Raphael grinned. “What?I get ideas too sometimes.”

“Uh, dudes, mondo problemo.” Michelangelo held out his phone, showing off Donatello’s distress signal.

Leonardo’s mouth compressed into a thin line. “I know where he expected to go. Follow me.”

Mona Lisa admired her handiwork. The reactor was ruined beyond repair with its most essential components completely destroyed.Drained, she sagged against the contraption, grateful that the threat was over. Now she needed to figure out a way to get Donatello back to his brothers. It would sure be a lot easier if he’d wake up.

As if he’d heard her thoughts, Donatello groaned and began to stir. Before she could move to assist him, the other three turtles burst into the room and surrounded him.


“Are you ok?”

“Dude, your bombs gave me a major case of the munchies. Can we go home and get something to eat?”

Leonardo looked over at the reactor, unable to see her through the veil of ruined technology that shielded her from view. “It sure looks broken.”

“Great job, Donatello. We’re done then, right?” Raphael clapped a hand on his brother’s shoulder as Donatello gazed at the remains of the reactor in puzzlement.

“But I didn’t do it. The Shredder showed up and stopped me.”

She watched as Raphael stared at Donatello in confusion. “But if you didn’t take it apart, then who…?”

She pushed off the reactor and out into view. “You do remember that nuclear physics is my specialty, right?”

At the sound of her voice, his head snapped towards her and his jaw fell open in shock. “Mona Lisa?”

She felt the slightest twinge of worry that she might not be as pretty now, but it was quickly alleviated when he ran to her, scooped her up by the waist and twirled her around.

Gasping in shock, she clung tightly to his torso until he set her down. Momentarily releasing him, she wobbled a bit as her brain struggled for equilibrium. Then he clasped one hand around the back of her neck and pressed the other to the small of her back between her belt and the base of her tail, drawing her in.

When his lips connected with hers, she’d swear she felt electricity shooting through her nervous system, lighting up all her nerve endings with pleasant tingles. As though it had a mind of its own, she felt her tail wrapping around his midsection and twining down one of his legs. Hooking her arms under his to reach up and grip his shoulders, she pulled herself closer until she was pressed tightly against him as she melted into the deepening kiss.

Behind her, Leonardo cleared his throat, dragging her back to reality. Grateful her lizard skin didn’t show her blush, she pulled back sheepishly, though Raphael, grinning madly, didn’t completely relinquish his hold.

Leonardo was studiously looking anywhere but at them. But Michelangelo wasn’t shy, wearing his best ‘aww, that’s cute’ expression.

Leonardo shifted uncomfortably, “so, uh, I guess you guys are…”

“Together!” Michelangelo enthusiastically finished for him. “It’s about time. I totally thought you guys were gonna dance around each other forever.”

As Raphael rolled his eyes at his brother, it occurred to Mona Lisa to wonder at Donatello’s reaction to their very public announcement of their new status. She scanned the room to find Donatello, by the reactor, removing and collecting pieces into an old duffle bag.

Leonardo followed her gaze and groaned. “You know we need to return that, right?”

Donatello didn’t even look up. “It’s all radioactively contaminated. We can’t safely return it.”

They all immediately took a step back away from him and his collection. “So naturally you want to bring it all home with us.”Raphael muttered.

“Dude, as awesome as the idea of glowing pizza is, I think I’m already as mutated as I want to be.” Michelangelo added.

“Isn’t there some kind of decontamination process, people can use on them?” Leonardo questioned, eyeing Donatello’s bag cautiously.

“Not as thorough as mine. They won’t be able to make it safe, like I can. Don’t worry, I’ll put them to good use. Humans would just be forced to throw it away, and by that I mean store it in a facility approved to contain radioactive waste for several decades. Although we all might want to take some potassium iodide as soon as possible to mitigate the damage from our radiation exposure.”

Mona Lisa threaded her fingers through Raphael’s. “Let’s go home.”

His eyes lit up as he looked at her. “Home?”

She nodded.

His face split with a smile. “Home sounds great.”

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