The Search for Family

Leonardo

Leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
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Rain. Great. Renald had just got the fire started and already the kindling it burned was getting wet. He hurried back to the relative dryness of his hovel, covered by a tattered cloth roof, and watched as the flames hissed out into smoke. He wrapped the small chicken he purchased for dinner in newspaper and stuffed it back into his icebox, hoping for a reprieve soon. He was low on salt and the ice would only keep for so long, and who knows how long it would take to save up for meat again?

Renald looked down at the end of his alleyway. Sheets of rain fell relentlessly, but he could make out objects moving near the road – headlights heralded the passing of vehicles and black shadows hurrying past on the sidewalk did their best to get out of the inclement weather. His makeshift shack rested against the dead end of the alleyway, flanked on either side by grimy walls with no windows.

He tried to relax, focusing on the calming rhythm of water pattering against the concrete. At least he was alone. The rain should scare off any danger, even if drops of rain fell through the tatters of his cover.

A white umbrella stopped at the entrance of his alleyway. The shaded figure beneath turned and strolled down towards him, heavy boots splashing in the paddles forming along the concrete. Renald’s heart hammered in his chest. Maybe it was someone who got lost and needed directions. It could even be a good Samaritan, seeing a fellow human being suffering in the rain and coming to help.

Oh man, was hunger making him delirious?

A streetlight near the entrance to the alleyway shone some light towards Renald, but it wasn’t much to see by. The figure with the white umbrella stopped just before the overhang of the cloth roof. Renald stared at the boots, afraid of looking up at the face he was sure would be there. After all, how many people would stroll down an alleyway to talk to a homeless man in the middle of the rain?

“Look at me.”

Renald clenched his teeth. The voice removed all doubt as to who it was. He stood and met Locen’s gaze, doing his best to match the intensity. Unfortunately, those fiery cobalt eyes and square jaw turned Renald’s spine to jelly. He took a reflexive step backwards as Locen snorted, water dripping from his long black locks. The intimidating man gripped the umbrella in one hand and a hessian sack in the other.

“Hello, Locen.”

Locen narrowed his eyes. He was in no mood to mess around today. Maybe he would skip the beating as well. “I’ve come for your loose change, peasant.”

Apparently it wasn’t enough to live hand to mouth in the slums of Markov. He had to be bullied, robbed and threatened with physical violence as well.

Renald glanced at his knapsack. There were only his clothes and blankets inside, and Locen had already picked through it, taking what articles he decided were worthy. He had used all of his scrounged money to purchase the chicken, so he couldn’t give him cash. Renald winced pre-emptively for the beating he knew would be coming.

“I don’t have any.”

Locen’s eyebrows furrowed. “You what?”

“I spent it on food,” Renald said, his eyes glancing to his icebox. “And ice, I suppose.”

“You bought food with my money on my pay day?” Locen asked, taking heavy steps towards Renald. “I thought you knew better than that.”

“I’ve got to eat!” Renald said, the desperation of the situation finally sinking in. “I can’t live off bin scraps forever!”

Locen put down his umbrella and rolled up the sleeves on his jacket, ignoring the rain splashing on his skin. “That’s really not my problem.”

A strong wind blew past Renald’s head from behind. Before he could turn to face its direction, Locen let out a surprised cry and stumbled backwards. A dark shadow landed in a crouch before him into a puddle and slowly rose to a stand. The figure reached for two handles extending over its shoulders and a scraping of metal sounded as two swords appeared.

Renald swallowed down a lump in this throat. Who carried swords and leapt out of the shadows like that? Was this another thief, robbing Locen who was going to rob him? And would he turn on Renald as well?

Locen regained his footing and growled. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, bastard?!”

“Bastard?” the mysterious figure rebuked, anger in his voice. “You try to steal from this obviously destitute man and you call me the bastard? Do you have any idea how you sound?”

Locen laughed, a sound so unexpected and strange in the current situation that Renald jumped. “What do we have here? A righteous vigilante watching over the poor and downtrodden? I wouldn’t have thought a shithole like Markov could create something so ridiculous.”

“It didn’t,” the figure said. “But that’s beside the point. Get moving or you’ll have to deal with me.”

A bolt of lightning crackled in the black sky, illuminating the alleyway for the briefest of moments. The sword wielder’s skin was green. His back had an oval shaped protrusion, brown in colour with two sword sheathes strapped to it. He caught a flash of something blue as well but the light died before he could register it properly.

Was he an alien? Or maybe a superhero in some sort of obscure costume? In any case, why would he bother to help a man like him?

The mystery figure’s words had stilled Locen. He rolled his eyebrows as if considering how to react. In a swift movement, Locen reached into his jacket and pulled out a revolver. In that same moment, the sword wielder took a long stride forward and slashed. The blade hit the gun as Locen took it out and tore it from his hand. It clanged against the alleyway wall and dropped into a puddle.

The tip of the second sword touched Locen’s throat. The mystery figure pressed lightly into it, making Locen step backwards to stop the blade from piercing him.

“Get… out… now,” the mystery figure said. “If I ever see you again, I’ll kill you.”

Locen’s fiery glare rested on the swordsman for a moment, then switched to Renald and lingered on him. He could read that glare. You did this, it said. You organised this humiliation. You will pay.

With a furious snort, Locen stepped away. He snatched his white umbrella resting in a puddle and strode away without looking back.

Renald held his breath as the mystery figure turned around, slipping his swords back into their sheathes. The adrenaline ran high as he approached. Renald’s eyes adjusted to the dark after the flash and the shadowed figure grew more detailed. Muscular and naked except for a cloth wrap around the eyes, the figure definitely wasn’t human. It could still be a costume, but the way his limbs moved and the shimmer of water pelting his skin made that seem unlikely.

“Are you OK?” the mystery figure asked. “I hope he didn’t hurt you.”

Renald found his mouth dry as he spoke. “I… I’m fine. You… you aren’t going to rob me now, are you?”

“What?” the figure said, his tone surprised. “No, of course not. I was protecting you from that gang banger.”

“Oh,” Renald said. He tried to calm himself, breathing slower and deeper, but the thought of those two swords kept the heart pumping.

“I’m Leo. Leonardo,” the figure said, extending a three-fingered hand.

Renald took it slowly. The creature’s skin was smooth and cold. “Renald.”

“Do you know that guy?” Leonardo said, pointing a thumb over his shoulder.

“All too well,” Renald said. “There’s a gang that likes to pick on those of us… less advantaged than others. Which, to be fair, is a large portion of Markov.”

Leonardo nodded his head. “I’ve encountered a lot of members of the Red Serpents in my time here. They’re everywhere, like cockroaches. And no one stands up to them.”

“Stand up to them? There’s not much we can do,” Renald said, shrugging. Talking to Leonardo eased his nerves. Maybe he was being genuine about not wanting to rob him. “There’s so many of them. If you aren’t a poor person on the streets, you’re a poor person working for the Red Serpents.”

“Have you ever thought of rising up against them?”

“How would we do that? They’re armed and co-ordinated. And well resourced. We are none of those. Plus a lot of us aren’t fighters. We just fell on hard times. Or for the lucky ones, born into it.”

Leonardo’s face grew stern. Strangely, Renald couldn’t see any pupils or irises through the mask he wore over his eyes. “A discussion for another time. I’m glad that you’re alright.” The green skinned creature started to walk off but stopped and turned. “Actually, do you want me to stay with you? That creep might come back if he thinks I’m gone.”

Renald gulped. He still didn’t trust this Leonardo yet, but he had so far shown him nothing but kindness. It could be a ruse to gain his trust and rob him, but what did Renald have left anyway? Besides, with those mean looking blades strapped to his back, Leonardo could have taken whatever he wanted by now. Trust was not something easily given on the streets, and Leonardo wouldn’t get it entirely, but it was definitely better for him to remain than having to wait out the storm alone.

“Sure,” Renald said. “Come get out of the rain.”

Leonardo jogged back to the makeshift shelter, pressing what looked like a shell on his back against the alleyway end. The tattered sheet above them was damp and dripping with rain where it didn’t let it through a hole. A fire was out of the question, but maybe when the rain ceased it would be possible.

“So, uh… I probably shouldn’t bring this up but… why aren’t you scared of me?” Leonardo asked.

Renald eyed him. “You stand out, for sure. But Markov isn’t just populated with humans. There’s plenty of aliens here.”

“Well I’m not an alien,” Leonardo said. “I’m a mutated turtle. Well technically, I’m from another dimension, but one where humans are the dominant species. So I guess I’m sort of an alien? Just not one from outer space.”

Renald nodded as if he was absorbing what the mutant was saying. “I see.”

“So… have you seen anyone else that looks like me?” Leonardo asked. “Green skin, shell on their back, a different coloured mask?”

“No, sorry,” Renald said. “I’m sure I’d remember if I had.”

“Yeah,” Leonardo said. “I guess we’re pretty striking.”

The rain continued to tumble down. The puddles lining the alleyway walls expanded, their surfaces rippling with every raindrop.

“Are they your family?” Renald asked.

“Yeah, my brothers,” Leonardo said. “Plus my father. Though he’s a mutated rat. We all got separated. I don’t remember how we lost each other, or even how we got here. To be honest, I don’t even know if they’re in this city or on this planet.” He sighed. “I’ve been looking for them for a while. I hope they’re alright, wherever they are.”

“Markov’s a big city,” Renald said. “Cevanti’s even bigger.”

Leonardo stared off into the rain. “If I can’t find them, I have to find a way back home.” The mutated turtle looked at Renald. “Do you know anyone who would know for sure? Someone connected to the gossip throughout the city?”

“If there was anyone, they would be part of the Red Serpents,” Renald said. “There’s no way they wouldn’t know everything going on. I’m sure they were already aware of you before you stood up to Locen.”

“Right,” Leonardo said. “That makes things difficult. I guess I’ll need to infiltrate them, work my way around until I discover someone who knows something. Or start threatening their thugs on the streets until one talks.”

A turtle on a mission. Obviously, his brothers were important to him. “What does your family look like? I might see them later on. I can keep an eye out for them if I know what they look like.”

“Pretty similar to me,” Leonardo said. “They all have tan arm and knee pads and an eye mask, though everyone has a different colour. They all have different weapons, too. Master Splinter is a grey rat with tan robes. Kinda hard to miss, all of them. In fact…”

The sword wielding turtle stood up. “…I think I’ll continue my search. Every moment I waste is another moment my family could be in trouble.” Leonardo placed his palms together and bowed until his upper body was parallel with the ground. “Thank you for your help. I hope fate brings us together again one day.”

With that, the mutated turtle spun on his heel and jumped onto the alleyway wall. He leapt again and the shadows claimed his form. Renald hoped he would see him again. Especially if Locen decided to make a return trip.
 
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Leonardo

Leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Level 2
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Raphael sighed, waiting in the dark. The murmur of the excited crowd made him uncomfortable. Being surrounded by so many people was still such a strange sensation. Raphael had always wanted to walk among humans, to be accepted by the people he had been trained to protect. Yet years of sewer dwelling and skulking high above New York City’s rooftops, dodging any chance of being sighted, bred an unease with walking uninhibited with society.

Sure, this wasn’t Earth society, but still.

The spotlights switched on with a loud bang. The low hum of the crowd escalated to cheering and hollering as the dusty ring was lit up. The rubber ring ropes were faded with age and stained with bodily fluids long since dried, as was the ring floor itself. The metal posts once held padding but most of it was ripped out – hitting that with any force would smart, as he learned in his earlier match.

Raphael rolled his head around his neck, cracking bones. Soon the announcer would whip the crowd into a frenzy and it would be his time to shine.

“Lllllllaaaaaaaaaaaaaadies and gentlemen!” the announcer’s voice boomed in the dingy room. “It’s time to begin tonight’s match!”

The crowd cheered. Raphael could see their faces as they roared for bloodshed. Not the place he ever thought he’d be, but desperate times called for desperate measures. He would do what was necessary and move on, and no one would stop him.

“First into the ring is a fresh-faced newcomer, having decimated his opponent in his first match. The green skinned fighter moves with agility and power, but was his last match just beginner’s luck? Only time will tell! Everyone welcome back the shell backed rookie for this next tussle in the ring, Raphael!”

A new spotlight blasted on Raphael and blinded him momentarily as the crowd both cheered and booed him – those with money on him and those who had lost money against him voiced their opinion on his next performance. The mutated turtle was told to play it up to the crowd in any way he could think of – flexing, blowing kisses, flipping them off – but Raphael wasn’t here to entertain. He strode down the corridor amidst the cheers and jeers straight-faced, arms swinging by his side, gaze on the dinky ring. Ducking under a flying drink, Raphael slipped through the ring ropes and stretched, waiting for his opponent.

“Buncha ingrates,” Raph muttered under his breath.

The announcer’s voice boomed again through the tinny speakers. “And his opponent… tall, dark and brooding, this mohawked bruiser has dominated the competition in ten straight matches because... well, just look at him! No one has stood up to his brute strength and brutal fighting style. Will today be win number eleven? Let’s find out! Here comes Russell!”

A new spotlight shone upon Raphael’s opponent. The announcer hadn’t exaggerated Russell’s size at all – at a quick glance, he must have been close to seven feet tall with huge muscles enveloping his body. Tattoos lined his arms all the way to the shoulder, where one detailed tattoo of a coiled red snake sat. A knife displayed brazenly, hanging off his belt. Raphael knew this ring involved winning at any and all costs, but his previous opponent didn’t bring a weapon with him. Luckily his trusty sais rested in his belt as well.

Russell stepped over the ring ropes and slammed a fist into his open palm. “This is gonna be a breeze! What are you, some sorta lizard?”

"Yeah, you got it brainiac,” Raphael said. “All us lizards have shells.”

He expected the street thug to charge him, letting his anger guide his decisions, but instead he laughed. “A smart mouth! That always makes the beat down all the more fun.”

I’ve always found it more fun,” Raphael said, grinning.

“And now... fight!” the announcer yelled.

Russell stampeded forward, throwing a punch. Raphael rolled to the side, sprung up and landed a solid kick to Russell’s side. The thug grunted and swung a backwards fist, but Raphael ducked it and punched him in the stomach. The mutated turtle hopped back, his hand throbbing.

“Ow, you’re damn solid, aren’t ya?”

Russell had lost his composure. Gritting his teeth was his only reply.

“Eh, not so talky now, huh?” Raphael muttered.

Russell revealed a machete he had hidden behind his back, brandishing it before Raph. It reflected the spotlights poorly thanks to a layer of grime and what appeared to be dried blood. Unfortunately, there were no rules in these fights. Either one opponent was knocked out of the ring, knocked out entirely or... knocked out permanently.

Raphael’s blood raced. Russell slashed with the bulky knife but his movements were slow and strong – easily predictable by a trained ninja. Raphael danced under and aside of the blade, grinning at the frustration mounting on the thug’s face but finding his own anger rising to the surface. He didn’t expect to be killed in this dinky ring. It was time to do something about it.

Unhooking his sai from his belt, Raphael skid backwards and waited for Russell to attack overhead. Eventually the thug did, and Raphael struck. He raised his weapons upwards, catching the machete blade in the crossguard. The other sai slid behind the machete handle and Raphael heaved it free of Russell’s grip, launching it over the ring ropes and out of bounds.

Raphael felt his anger peak. How dare this street thug try to slice him with a machete? This was just to make some damn money so he could survive. Why did it have to possibly involve mutilation? His fingers tightened around his sai as he stared at that stupid face, his eyes surprised and locked onto the machete freed from his grasp.

One jab, Raphael thought to himself. One jab into his throat and the fight is over.

The thought quickly turned to action. Raphael pulled his arm back and threw it forward, the tip of his sai aimed squarely at Russell’s exposed throat. The look in the thug’s eyes betrayed the knowledge that he couldn’t react in time to save himself.

That fear, that terror… it was enough to put the brakes on Raphael’s mindless hatred. His sai halted in mid strike. There was no need to kill him. What would Master Splinter have thought?

It must have shown in Raphael’s face, because the fear drained from Russell’s. He slammed a powerful kick into Raphael’s stomach with enough force to fling the turtle across the ring and into the corner post. Both sai fell from his hands and clattered onto the ring floor. Raphael slouched, groaning from the power blow. He left an opening and Russell capitalised on it.

From another hidden spot, the street thug pulled another machete.

“You should’ve finished me when you had the chance!” Russell shouted, charging Raphael with his new wicked blade.

Raphael rose to his feet. His chest throbbed and he sucked in air, his breath still not replenished from the hit. Russell was mere steps from slashing him.

Raphael looked to the ring floor. One of his sai had fallen out of the ring. The other was within reach but parrying a blow from a man as muscular and looming as Russell would be difficult even if he had both sai. Not to mention his chest hurt every time he flexed his arms.

An idea shone in his mind. Instead of plucking the sai from the floor, Raphael kicked it, sending it spinning across the ring floor. Russell ignored it, but Raphael had timed it just right. The ninja turtle bent at the knees, preparing the next move.

“Come on big fella… come on…”

Russell stepped on the spinning sai, breaking his sprint. His eyes bulged as he lost his footing and stumbled forward, arms flailing to keep balance. Raphael ran forward and slid on his shell, planting his feet into Russell’s chest as he staggered, and flipped him over him and over the ropes. The thug roared as he sailed into the out of bounds area with a heavy thud.

Raphael leapt to his feet amidst a hushed crowd. The silence quickly shattered thanks to the announcer.

“And victorious by ring out… Raphael!”

The announcer’s voice seemed to shake the audience out of its stunned reverie. A mixture of cheers and boos filled in the quiet, much like when he entered the ring. Raphael raised his arms in triumph anyway, hollering like a fool, relishing in his win. A moment passed where he remembered his moment of bloodlust, where he almost let himself give in to his anger, but he let it wash over him. He won the fight fair and square. That’s all that mattered.

A few minutes later, Raphael stood with arms crossed as the manager counted out his money. His eyes flicked up to the turtle every now and then, displeased, before returning to the cash.

“You know, no one expected you to win this match,” he said, chomping on his cigar. “We all thought your first win was lucky.”

“Yeah? And how do ya feel about my second win?” Raphael said.

The manager glanced once more.

“Heh. Thought as much.”

“Here,” the manager said, handing over Raphael’s winnings. “Take it and get out.”

Raphael snatched the money out of the waiting hand. “Pleasure doin’ business with ya. Till next time.”

The manager said something under his breath as Raphael pushed open the door and walked out into the grimy streets. Rain fell in sheets, making it harder to see in the night. His new Shell Cycle sat drenched beneath a flickering street light.

“Just my luck,” Raphael said, hopping onto his motorcycle and taking off.

The keys jingled as Raphael jammed one into his door. The apartment hallway was quiet for this time of the night, save for water dripping endlessly from the roof and saturating a small portion of the grimy carpet. His prize money hung from his belt in a small hessian sack. The lock clicked and Raphael pushed into his apartment.

The fight had been less than ideal. The first fight was simple; some skinny fool looking for what he assumed would be easy prize money. He didn’t pull a weapon. He went down easy.

Raphael threw his sack onto the kitchen counter and opened the fridge, fishing out a can of cola. The seal broke with a satisfying hiss and he slumped down onto his couch, grabbing the TV remote and switching it on. The bright light in the otherwise dark room stung Raphael’s eyes for a moment, but they adjusted and he started mindlessly switching channels.

The second fight... those machetes. Why was that bothering him so much? Raphael had fought plenty of enemies trying to kill him and a lot of them were much deadlier than that worthless street thug. Some had almost been successful, too. Unlike Russell.

He remembered the elation he felt after tossing that bozo out of the ring and winning the match. But on the ride home, under sheets of rain through black and empty streets, that elation drained away like water in a cracked glass. The more he tried to convince himself of how great the win was, the more it felt hollow and pointless.

It’s nothin’, Raphael thought. Just havin’ a bad night, that’s all.

The mutant turtle glanced at the sack of money and his fist reflexively tightened on his can of cola, spilling the sticky drink over his hand and onto the couch like a fountain.

“Dammit!” Raphael shouted, throwing the crushed can at the wall.

My brothers would know what to say.

That thought came out of nowhere – or perhaps it was hidden beneath the surface, waiting for his rage to subside enough to be heard – but it stung him. He collapsed back into the couch, avoiding the sticky cola staining the fabric, and sighed deeply.

The fighting, the failed bouncer job... none of this felt right. None of this felt like he was being truly himself. His ninja training wasn’t for financial gain – at least, that’s what he was sure Master Splinter would say. But what else would a teenage mutant ninja turtle do to make some cash? The only reason he did it was for the money, so he could finally live like... like he always wanted.

Free. Unafraid. No longer judged because he wasn’t human.

He and his brothers always wished to coexist with the human world. But Master Splinter had said that they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, understand Raphael and his family. And he was right. But it always burned him up, and he suspected it affected his brothers too.

Yet now, stuck in this new world, his appearance wasn’t strange. Well, it wasn’t the usual, but people here were accustomed to the strange. It didn’t scare them or make them angry. Raphael could actually hold down an apartment without raising many eyebrows.

But what was that dream without his family to share it? Raphael had no idea where any of his brothers were, nor Master Splinter. He didn’t even know if they were on the same planet as him, let alone the same city. This wasn’t their first foray into interdimensional or interstellar travel, and neither had been consistent or reliable in how and where they all ended up.

He sighed again. There wasn’t much for it until he could find his family or get a one-way ticket back to New York City.

But that didn’t mean he had to sit around and mope about it. Raphael threw his bag of money in the kitchen cabinet and ran to the window. Sitting on the sill, he watched the rain fall over the night draped city before leaping out towards the rooftop across the street.

His brothers were out there somewhere, and he would find them.
 

Leonardo

Leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
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Leonardo landed into a silent crouch as rain fell upon him and the rooftop. He peered into the glass skylight before him, its surface streaked by rivulets of water. Darkness consumed the warehouse within save for swaying beams of light, shining forth from torches. The light would often wash over those working inside, unveiling muscled men, many with a red snake tattooed on their shoulder. With the stars hidden by grey cloud in the black of night, none below would see him even if they looked straight up.

Creeping to the lip of the warehouse, Leonardo watched as the gang bangers loaded crates into an idling truck outside. Seems the intelligence he ‘acquired’ from other gang members was accurate. Munitions stolen from the police and various militant sources had been stored in this warehouse, and now the Red Serpents were ready to arm their members more heavily than before.

For what purpose? That was a side note, though. Whoever was running this raid had the real information Leonardo wanted. If he didn’t know about any sightings of his brothers, then he would be able to point Leo in the right direction.

Leonardo balled his hands into fists. It’s been so long. I’m almost at the end of the tunnel. Soon I’ll know about my brothers.

Dropping down onto a thin window ledge, Leonardo waited as the van was loaded up with more crates, leaving one last gang member to shove his unceremoniously into the back while the others moved back into the warehouse. The mutant turtle took a deep breath and steadied his nerves, counting the seconds the last man had been left alone – the further away they were, the less likely they would hear his move, especially with the rain.

The man turned to follow his companions. Leonardo leapt from the windowsill, cloaked in darkness, and fell upon the gang member, grabbing him and rolling him behind a stack of oil drums outside the warehouse. Leonardo’s hand slapped over his prey’s mouth as he struggled to break free from the ninja’s grasp.

“Keep quiet and this will work out fine for you,” Leonardo said in a low voice. He checked over his shoulder; no one had exited the warehouse yet, or noticed this one missing. “I’m looking for your boss here, the one orchestrating this raid. Tell me where he is, and do it quietly.” Leo unsheathed one of his ninjaken and twisted the steel, letting faint light dance along its length. “Or else.”

The man nodded with wide eyes. Leonardo gently removed his hand, all the while ready to make good on his promise. He didn’t yell or scream. “He’s here... in the back. He’s wearing a black leather jacket with a red serpent on the back. Bald head, full beard.”

Leonardo frowned. He could be being played right now and he wouldn’t know – was there a man inside that fit that description? Or were there plenty of gang members that looked like that? And could he even identify a man in the dark to that degree without getting lucky and having a torch shine directly on him? It didn’t matter. One way or another, he would get the information he needed. He had come too far to turn back now.

A solid punch knocked out the gang banger. Leonardo slipped his sword into its scabbard and snuck up to the window, staying low and out of the swinging torch light. He stole a glance through the water streaked glass.

Around ten men wandered about, chatting quietly, lifting crates and shuffling them outside to the truck. Beams of light indicated a man holding a torch, but Leonardo could hear the clomping of boots where there was no light – perhaps extra security, lurking in the dark. None of the gang members that he could see had a weapon on them, with the exception of an occasional knife hanging from a belt. Still, he wondered about those sequestered in shadow – were they holding guns, ready to mow down anyone foolish enough to stop them?

Leonardo had to operate on the assumption they were until he could find out more. Waiting for the opportune moment, Leo snuck in through the open doors and stuck to the wall. Crouched and taking every step as quietly as possible, he skulked around the perimeter of the building. Torch light would sometimes swing near him but it never landed directly on him. Between distant positioning and using crates and shelving to his advantage, Leonardo managed to penetrate deep into the warehouse without raising the alarm.

The darkness had drawn thinner as Leonardo’s eyes adjusted to the interior of the dim building. A wave of torch light would render his vision helpless for a moment but it would return. He couldn’t make out fine detail, but he could see the black smudges that made up the outline of gang members, especially when they moved. But picking out a black leather jacket and a bald, bearded head in this situation was almost impossible. He scuttled to another crate as a beam of light washed past him, squinting as if it would help pick out the man he searched for.

This wasn’t going to work. He needed an errant torch to illuminate the man. That was assuming he even fit the profile Leo was given.

“Hey!” a voice rung out.

Leonardo ducked lower behind the crate, his heart hammering, before realising he wasn’t being singled out. He peered back over the lip of the box.

“How full is the truck?” the voice said. There was something familiar about it.

“Probably fit another three or four boxes in it,” another voice said.

“Alright. Fill it up and take it away. We’ll do maybe one more load tonight.”

Leonardo’s eyes widened as realisation settled on him. It was Locen. And he was commanding the men in the warehouse. Damn it. That gang banger Leo knocked out earlier was feeding him false information. Locen was clean shaven with long hair. He was running this show.

Zeroing in on his location, Leonardo crept behind Locen, making his movements as the gang members trundled the crates outside to the truck. Sneaking up behind Locen, Leonardo grabbed the gang leader around the mouth, stuck out his leg and pulled Locen over it, bringing him to the ground. Leo’s free hand withdrew a sword, the point gingerly pressing against Locen’s throat.

“This seems familiar,” Leonardo whispered.

Locen shook off Leo’s hand by rolling his head violently. “Except this time I didn’t go looking for trouble.”

“What do you call looting a warehouse full of stolen arms?” Leonardo said.

Locen furrowed his brow. “Looks like there are a few leaky holes on the Red Serpent ship.”

“That’s beside the point right now. I’ve been searching for someone who can tell me where my brothers are, and word on the street is that you can.”

“What’s stopping me from yelling out and having you turned into Swiss cheese?”

So there were gunmen. Great.

Leo pressed the tip of his ninjaken a little harder into Locen’s skin. “This.”

“Hmm. I get the point. So are you going to make good on your promise and kill me?”

“That’s entirely on you and what you tell me.”

“So… what do you want to know?”

“My brothers,” Leonardo said with quiet intensity. “They must be in Markov. The Red Serpents know everything that happens in this city. You must know. Tell me where they are.”

“I wish I could help you out here, freak, really I would,” Locen said. “But if there are more of you out there, I don’t know about them.”

Leonardo snarled, tightening the grip on the hilt of his sword. A thin line of blood trickled down Locen’s neck, originating at the blade tip. Locen winced.

“I haven’t searched this far to come up empty handed,” the ninja turtle said. “You must know something. Tell me!”

“I can tell you what you want to hear, but it wouldn’t be the truth,” Locen said. “But the look in your eyes tells me maybe I should lie.”

Leonardo swallowed a lump in his throat. Locen was confirming everything he didn’t want to admit to himself. If he was really alone in this alien city, in this alien world, what was he going to do? How would he find his brothers? How would he get home?

Donnie always knew the answers to those questions.

Was Locen lying, even at the point of his sword? He seemed like the man to call another’s bluff. There was nothing more he could do now. If Locen didn’t know, or refused to reveal the information, Leonardo wouldn’t uncover it. Not from him. Not here.

“Who else might know?” Leonardo said.

“No one,” Locen said. “I’m the spider at the centre of the Serpent’s information web. If I don’t know, no one does.”

Locen could see the doubt in Leo’s eyes, he was sure of it, as the criminal smirked. In a swift motion, Leonardo sheathed his sword and took off at a sprint.

“Torches on me!” Locen yelled. “We got a do-gooder in here!”

A plethora of torchlight converged on Leonardo. He dashed at top speed across the warehouse floor but the light stayed steady on him, lighting him up. Gunfire filled his ears, flashes of light blasting from barrels in the dark. Bullets struck the concrete floor near him and popped splinters of wood into the air as they slammed into the crates. Leonardo slid behind a crate, crouched down beneath a hail of projectiles.

“Cease fire!” Locen shouted. “You hit an explosive, this whole place goes up in flames!”

The instant the gunfire stopped, Leo bounded back to his feet and jumped through a window. Glass shattered and spun in shards around him as he rolled up and continued sprinting. He rounded a corner and climbed up a drainpipe, reaching the top of the roof, panting. He looked down into the street – no one had followed him.

The loaded van drove off into the distance.

Leonardo stood and stared down the street, watching the stolen armaments traveling away with wanton criminals, wondering what his next move was.

---

Locen sat in his chair, legs straight and crossed over his desk, fingering the band-aid slapped over his throat. Last night wasn’t the first time his life had been in another’s hands, but he managed to survive again, albeit with a small reminder of the encounter. This sword wielding creature needed to be cordoned down, especially if there were more of its kind. Who knows how much trouble they could prove to the Red Serpents going forward? After all, he managed to sneak into a fully guarded warehouse and take him down without anyone else knowing. His network of informants would have a new assignment soon.

The door to his office swung open violently. In trudged Russell, holding his side, his face bruised. Locen smiled. Seems like his fight last night didn’t go as smoothly as they normally did.

“The other guy got a few lucky hits in, did he?” Locen said. “Ah well, they can’t all be flawless wins.”

Russell looked away. “It wasn’t a win at all.”

Locen frowned. “What?”

“I lost, boss,” Russell said, looking ashamed. “I lost.”

“So… there’s no money?” Locen said. “I’ve already spent your winnings!”

“I’m sorry!” Russell said. “This little guy was a trained fighter. I’ve never seen anything like it in those underground fights! Normally someone with skills like that would be too good for it.”

Locen sighed. “Who could’ve beaten you?”

“He was this little green thing,” Russell said. “A lizard – no, a turtle, he said – really fast. He ringed me out.”

Locen sat up in his chair. “Wait… green? As in, green skin?” He hadn’t seen his assailant properly the first night when threatening Renault, but at the warehouse, the torches shone directly on him. Green skin, a shell-like protrusion on his back, a blue bandana. A humanoid turtle with a mask. Could it have been the same creature? Locen referred the description to Russell.

“Yeah, exactly like that,” Russell said. “Except a red mask instead of blue.”

A red mask? Locen’s brow raised. Could it be… a brother?

“This fighter,” Locen said. “Does he still participate in these contests?”

Russell shrugged. “He beat me. I don’t see why he wouldn’t fight again.”

Locen smirked, rubbing his throat. “Don’t worry about your loss, Russell. You might have just given me something worth more than money.”
 

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Another lousy fight, another lousy dollar.

Raphael stood in the dark amidst the low chatter of the crowd once again, awaiting his announcement to return to the ring. The previous night yielded no results, but what did he expect? Jumping out into the rain and running around looking for his brothers, with no clue about where to find them? It still burned him up, despite all logic, that he hadn’t been more successful. They had to be out there.

Fighting in stupid shady fights wouldn’t help find them faster, but he needed the money. Markov was an expensive place, even in the dive apartments. Still, just standing there waiting for his next turn in the ring made him twitchy and restless. Plus the frustration at not finding his brothers made his muscles tense and primed for action. At least he could harness that energy and put it towards the fight.

Raphael was called out to the ring for his third tussle. The air smelt staler somehow as he walked out, enduring the majority of the audience booing him. Perhaps the unwashed masses of Markov thought that muscle-bound brute Russell was a sure thing simply because of his size and bet accordingly. Raphael sniggered at that thought. Serves ‘em right for not believin’ in me.

Leaping into the ring, the mutated turtle flexed a little, swinging the ends of his red bandana around by whirling his neck. He might have hated being there, but with the right attitude, he could banish this bad mood by beating the life out of his opponent.

The spotlight scared away the darkness at the other end of the dinky stadium. A man in an immaculate tweed suit strolled casually up towards the ring, head held high, eyes disregarding the noisy crowd jeering his presence. The spotlight made the grey in his black hair shine and cast shadows behind his fleshy cheeks. The spindly man climbed into the ring and placed his hands in his jacket pockets. The crowd showed its lack of support for the newcomer, hurling bottles and cans at him, much like they had done to Raphael in his second appearance here.

Raphael cocked an eyebrow. Was this some sort of joke? The man looked more out of place than a ninja turtle. Regardless of his appearance, his placid facial expression and rigid posture didn’t speak to a man who came to fight, or who had ever thrown a punch in his life. An easy win, then? Raphael shrugged. Best not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

“Good evening, Master Raphael,” the man said with a refined British accent. “It has been difficult to track you down.”

Raphael frowned. “Master? Wait, you’ve been lookin’ for me? What for? How do you know my name? What are you doin’ here, of all places?”

“Allow me to introduce myself,” the man said, the crowd growing restless and forcing him to speak louder. “I am Mavlock. I am here to deliver a warning.”

“A warnin’? Heh, you obviously don’t know me very well. I can handle myself.”

Mavlock shook his head. “I have no doubt you can, Master Raphael. But the threat may be more than you can overcome on your own. My employer is hunting you and your brothers, Leonardo and Michelangelo.”

“What?” Raphael shouted. “Huntin’ us? What for?”

“He believes you could prove useful to a project he’s conducting research on,” Mavlock said. “And he intends to force your compliance.”

“I’d like to see him try.”

“You wouldn’t. Trust me. But you will in due time.”

Raphael’s mind raced. He hated that. So his brothers were here somewhere. But how did this guy know that in the first place? There was something odd about something Mavlock said too.

“Wait! You said your boss is huntin’ me, Leo and Mikey. But what about Don?”

Mavlock smiled. “Perceptive. I didn’t mention Donatello because he already has him in custody.”

Raphael’s eyes widened. “What? My brother is bein’ held captive?” His hands snapped to his sai and he withdrew them from his belt, pointing one tip at Mavlock like an accusatory finger. “You tell me where he is now!”

“Would that I could, Master Raphael,” Mavlock said. “But his location is kept secret even from me. The best I could do was to sneak out and warn you in person.”

The crowd was getting more agitated the longer they talked. “You could’ve waited till the fight was over. Why get in the ring to tell me?”

“I don’t have much time,” Mavlock said. “I had to deliver the message as soon as possible. Simply know that someone, or something, will be coming for you soon. Be prepared. Find your other brothers and you may be able to reach Donatello in time.”

“In time? In time for what?” Raphael said, but his words were drowned out by the audience’s aggressive jeering.

Mavlock turned and left the ring without another word. Beer bottles and food scraps came raining down into the ring, where the bottles shattered into sharp glass shards that flew through the air. Raphael turned and ran out of the ring, avoiding the storm of debris.

That was a lot to take in, while also not being enough information at the same time. At least he knew Donnie was in Markov somewhere, and likely his other brothers too. But this employer of Mavlock’s... dammit, he forgot to ask his name! He turned around but Mavlock was long gone.

Raphael stopped by the exit to the musty building. The manager sat behind a table, reading a newspaper. The dim glow of the light bulb above them reflected in his bald scalp. Raphael cleared his throat and he put down his newspaper. “Yes?”

“Just wantin’ my pay and I’ll be on my way,” Raphael said.

“Pay? For what? You didn’t throw a single punch!”

“Yeah but my opponent forfeited! That means I win, and that means I get paid!”

The manager shook his head. “You get paid for winning a fight. No fight, no money. I don’t care if he forfeited. The crowd came to see blood and you didn’t deliver, so no money for you.”

Raphael sucked in a deep breath and thought about throwing a punch at the manager but he held himself back. No point wasting his only meal ticket over something where the manager was technically in the right. Still felt lousy, though. It’s not like Raphael planned that to happen.

“Fine,” Raphael said, walking to the exit. “Just put me down for tomorrow night.”

The manager looked at him pointedly and returned to his newspaper.

Sighing, the ninja turtle exited the building. No rain tonight, at least.

A figure in a trenchcoat approached him, a fedora angled down that cast the face in shadow. “Excuse me sir, do you have the time?”

Raphael turned in time to see a metal pipe slam into his face.
 
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Leonardo sat on a square Markov rooftop, watching his legs dangle over the edge. A streetlight directly below him lit up the people as they passed beneath him on the pavement, visible at one end of the bright circle and vanishing back into the black at the other end. Clouds above obscured some starlight but enough gaps were there for him to see the dazzling twinkling through the gaps.

He stared at those stars, wondering if his brothers were staring at them as well.

He had found no trace whatsoever of their whereabouts. Perhaps that should have been expected; the mutant turtles had spent their whole lives flying under the radar, never drawing attention to themselves. That worked excellently when they were all together, and needing to stay invisible in a world that didn’t understand them. Here, however, things were different. They could walk about like regular people without fear of drawing the authorities or the news crews. So even if they were out and about in the city, they likely weren’t making an impact on the people. They were simply green skinned creatures going about their business. Hiding or out and proud, Leonardo had little chance of finding them.

Not to mention he was running out of ways to locate them. The Red Serpents didn’t know about any of his brothers. The people of the streets hadn’t seen them either. It was rapidly becoming obvious that searching for them would never yield results. If they were here, they didn’t want to be found or they blended in so well that they didn’t stand out.

Assuming they were even here in Markov.

And that was the realisation Leonardo had been fighting for months. The instant he thought it, he shoved it deep down into his mind, ignoring it as he combed the city. Days and weeks rolled by and still that thought niggled at him, growing stronger every time a lead grew cold. Now, as he sat on the rooftop, the cool night breeze gliding over his skin and ruffling the long ends of his mask, he couldn’t refuse it any longer.

They weren’t here. There was a worse situation even than that, but Leonardo would not entertain it.

The ninja turtle stood, his toes curled around the edge of the rooftop. Was he really giving up on his search? Even as he accepted the obvious truth, his stubbornness still clung to the slim possibility that he was wrong. Perhaps he could find a way back to New York City, and from there, the search for his brothers might be simpler. Leatherhead, using his ingenuity, might be able to locate them.

Yes, that would be his next goal. But how to get back to his world?

“There you are.”

Leonardo spun, swords in hands in a flash. A man in black stood behind him, arms folded, everything but his eyes obscured by a black cloth mask. He had no weapons drawn, but a rolled piece of paper hung at his waist. An embroidered red serpent had been stitched to his left breast.

Leonardo took a steadying breath.

“You’ve been quite tough to find,” he said.

“Ninjas don’t tend to draw attention to themselves,” Leonardo said. “I would hope I would be hard to find.” A quiet moment passed between them. Leonardo was sure he could see the man smiling beneath his cloth mask. “So what do you want from me? Or should I ask what Locen wants from me?”

“No need for hostilities,” the man said. “I haven’t come here to fight you. Unless you’re in the mood to?”

He dropped into a fighting stance. Leonardo’s gaze hardened. The Red Serpent straightened suddenly and laughed.

“No, no. I’m just here to deliver a message.”

“Which is?” Leonardo asked, fingers tight around the handles of his ninjaken.

He took the paper at his waist and stepped forward. Leonardo levelled his blades at the man.

“Fine,” he said, setting it down. “Read it at your leisure.”

The black clad man leapt off the other side of the roof.

Leonardo waited a silent moment, wanting to ensure he wasn’t attacked suddenly; the last person he trusted was a member of the Red Serpents. The night wind lifted a corner of the paper and threatened to blow it away. Leonardo sheathed his weapons and grabbed the paper before it took off.

We have your brother, Raphael.

Leonardo’s heart skipped a beat.

Come to the warehouse on Steilern Street. Alone.

He scrunched up the paper in his hand, struggling to deal with both anger and relief washing over him in equal measure. Raphael was here and he was captured? Leonardo narrowed his eyes. Whoever was holding him was going to pay. He threw the paper into the wind and sprinted across the rooftop, hurling himself into the air and landing on the next building below. And yet finally, a lead! The rage steadily rose inside him, but he was also ecstatic that he, after all this time, was heading towards one of his brothers.

Although, this was a message from the Red Serpents. Locen knew that Leonardo was searching for his brothers. This could all be a ploy to lead him into a trap, to make him suffer for his attack on the warehouse.

No, Leonardo thought. He mentioned Raphael by name. I never said any names to him. He must have him.

Still doesn’t mean it isn’t a trap, though.


If Raphael was here, maybe the rest were here too. Maybe Raph knew where they were. Maybe soon, all of this searching would be finished and they would be reunited.

He knew where Steilern Street was. Months of scouring the city for traces of his family gave him a strong knowledge of the city layout. It wasn’t far away, but Leonardo couldn’t run fast enough to satisfy himself. He pushed himself harder, his lungs burning, his legs aching, the fabric ends of his masks flailing about wildly behind him.

Launching off the roof, Leonardo landed on the roof of a van and hurdled onto the cold pavement. There he stood at the front of the warehouse on Steilern Street. Its windows were boarded up. The huge double doors were closed, dotted with holes where the wood had rotted away. The closest streetlight was across the road, leaving the warehouse in darkness, although there were dim lights poking through the gaps of the wooden planks on the windows.

This is surely a trap, Leonardo thought as he withdrew his blades, raising his leg and priming a kick to blow the doors wide open. But I don’t care.

Either Raph is here... or Locen is going to pay.
 
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Raphael’s mind was a fog as his eyes opened. Darkness seemed to envelop him except for rectangular beams of light firing through worn leather shutters against a window. Pain swiftly cut through his jumbled thoughts, his face burning with a dull ache.

That’s right, Raphael thought to himself. Some punk sucker punched me.

He went to rub the sore, pulsing sensation on his face but his arm stopped short. Something cold and heavy was clasped around his wrist. He shook it, jangling a chain. Raphael forced the remaining confusion from his mind and realised what was happening.

Metal manacles had been fastened around his wrists and ankles. Those were attached to chains which were then affixed to the wall behind him. There wasn’t enough slack to let Raphael touch the ground, so he dangled from his shackles, his head drooping forward. He looked to his waist; his belt was still on but his sais had been removed.

Raphael grimaced. What the hell had happened? His first instinct was to rattle his binds and shout, letting out his fury, but chained up and stripped of his weapons, what was that going to do but draw attention to himself? For once he had to calm down and survey the situation since Donnie and Leo weren’t here to do it for him. Besides, he could always store his rage away for later venting.

He lifted his gaze, squinting to further along his eyes’ adaptation to the dank light. He made out a tall, steepled roof above him. Thin gaps in the wooden planks let in some light, though it wasn’t sunlight. Was it night? He could make out the shadowed silhouettes of people in the building with him, shifting from foot to foot but otherwise quiet and still. The darkness prevented him from seeing much else.

Raphael couldn’t help it. He hated doing nothing. “Hey! The hell is going on here?”

Raphael felt a plethora of eyes fall upon him, but the silhouettes didn’t move. He heard footsteps clomping on the wooden floorboards growing closer to him. A click to his right sounded and a bright hanging bulb above him switched on, blinding him to the figure stepping up to him.

“Awake at last, eh?” a voice said to him.

“No thanks to you, I bet,” Raphael said. “Mind tellin’ me why you got me all chained up? Did I wipe the floor with ya in one of the fights? Did I do somethin’ to you? Come on, give me a clue here!”

“No, you didn’t do anything to me,” the man said. Raphael’s eyes grew accustomed to the glare and he stared at a square jawed man with long, black hair. His blue eyes were filled with a fire, as far as Raphael understood, undeserved for him.

“Then who? Why smack me in the street and abduct me if I didn’t do anythin’ to you?”

“You’re going to see soon enough, Raphael,” the man said.

Raphael looked around. His pair of sai rested on a folding table a short distance away from him, the light bulb above him shining light along its silver prongs.

“Oh you won’t be able to reach those from here,” the man said. “Just dangle here for me and soon your role in all of this will all be revealed.”

“You just wait until I get outta this,” Raphael seethed. “I’ll give ya a few extra breathin’ holes in that dirty neck of yours!”

The man smiled in a condescending way. Damn, that was infuriating. “You’re much more different to him than I would have thought.”

“Different to who?” Raphael shouted, pulling his chains taut.

As if to punctuate his yelled question, the doors burst open, swinging so hard that they slammed against the wall.

And striding through the door, his twin ninjaken drawn, was Leonardo.

“L-Leo?!”
 

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The doors swung forcefully and slammed into the walls, the sound reverberating through the dark warehouse. Motes of dust swirled around in the dim light as Leonardo stepped forward, fingers gripping his two swords. The warehouse was long and largely empty, not something he was expecting. He had considered that the building would be full of armed gunmen, training their weapons on him as he made himself known. Looking around, there were barely any features inside, as if it had been gutted before being abandoned, so there were no readily obvious ambushes in the works. Even the windows had been boarded up.

This wasn’t the way of the ninja. Bursting into a warehouse he was certain to have enemies in was not in the spirit of stealth or espionage. But Leonardo didn’t care. He was tired of his long and fruitless search for his brothers. Frustration had clouded his training. He just wanted results. This was the fastest way to get them. Luckily the place was abandoned.

Still, something felt off, like he was being watched. Leonardo strode forward, his footsteps quiet and light, scanning the environment. It put him on edge to know something was wrong without it being easily identifiable. Perhaps his emotions were getting in the way of his insight.

At the far end of the warehouse, a single light bulb shone. It illuminated a figure chained to the wall, arms and legs in shackles, and another standing before him, arms behind their back. The unrestrained man had turned at Leonardo’s loud entrance and the ninja turtle knew exactly who he was. That black hair, the square jaw, those fierce eyes…

“You,” Leonardo said. “You’re that man who tried to rob Renault. What… what are you doing here?”

“Perhaps it’s time I introduced myself properly,” the man said. “I am Locen, and I am the one who lured you here.”

“L-Leo?”

Leonardo frowned, focusing his vision past the Red Serpent leader and to his captive. The green skinned figure had pulled the chains taut, staring incredulously at him through a red mask.

“Raph?!” Leonardo said, his breath catching in his throat. “Raphael, is it really you?!”

“Leo!” Raphael shouted back. “Man, am I glad to see you!”

Finally. Leonardo felt the mixed relief and joy swell in his chest, threatening to overtake him. He was finally reunited with one of his brothers. If Raph was here, then surely the others were as well. The frustration, the anger, started to melt away.

“So you are related, aren’t you?” Locen said, tearing Leonardo from his thoughts. “It wasn’t much of a gamble to think so. The family resemblance is strong.”

“Let him go, Locen,” Leonardo warned, pointing a ninjaken at him.

“You think I lured you out here just to give away the prize?” Locen said. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Why did you do this?” Leonardo said. “What’s the point to all this?”

Locen spread his arms wide. “I thought that was obvious. To get revenge, of course.”

Leonardo tightened his grip on his ninjaken. “If you lay a finger on my brother, I’ll-“

“Oh, not in that way,” Locen said. “I’m not much into torture. I’m going to kill you, and your brother is going to watch. Once he’s seen enough, I’ll kill him too. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

“Loosen these chains and we’ll see if you’re still so tough,” Raphael seethed through gritted teeth.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Leonardo said. “All this because I stood up to you in that alleyway? Because I stopped you from robbing a poor homeless man in the rain? That affected your pride so much?”

Locen glared at the blue masked turtle. “I am one of the Red Serpents. Whatever I want, I take. If anything gets in my way, I crush it.”

“And you guys say I have anger issues,” Raphael said.

“You won’t be standing between me and my brother,” Leonardo said. “It’s just you against me. I’m armed, and you’re not.”

Locen produced a pistol from behind his back and aimed at Leonardo. “I hope you’re watching this closely, Raphael.”

Raphael chuckled. “You don’t know my bro very well if you think this is gonna end well for you.”

A bullet burst from the pistol. Leonardo turned in place and swung his ninjaken diagonally downwards, deflecting the projectile into the concrete floor. Dust popped from its impact, embedded into the ground.

“We ain’t no ordinary mutant ninja turtles,” Raphael said with a grin. “You’re gonna need more than bullets.”

“Good thing a Red Serpent is always prepared then,” Locen said, raising a hand.

The air around the walls of the warehouse shimmered. From the ether, members of the Red Serpents appeared, their outfits varying wildly but all featuring the image of a red serpent somewhere. They stepped forward, pointing laser rifles at Leonardo, their barrels glowing softly red. They all wore chunky rectangular devices on their waists where a bright white light gradually faded away.

Leonardo grimaced, looking from side to side. This is what his instincts were trying to tell him, though a horde of gang members wearing cloaking devices was not something easily predicted. Around fifteen people surrounded him. Not good odds, especially when he had to cover ground to reach any of them, and they could shoot him from range.

“Remember that warehouse robbery you tried to stop a while ago?” Locen said. “These cloaking devices were the prize, and thanks to your ineptitude, we got away with them.” He dropped his upheld hand. “Take him down.”

“Leo!” Raphael yelled.

Laser rifles fired, filling the room with crimson light. Leonardo spun his swords in circles, rolling his wrists, creating a fan-like effect on either side of him. Laser bolts deflected from his spinning defence, flying off in random directions, scorching the wooden walls and concrete floor. Several reflections found their mark in Leonardo’s enemies, striking several of the Red Serpents that fired incessantly on him.

Even still, Leonardo couldn’t keep this up indefinitely. Each bolt that struck his sword jolted his wrists and arms, wearing his strength down. The constant whirling of his blades fatigued his muscles also. Plus, the deflection of each laser so far had been incredibly lucky; the spinning ninjaken were not shields and eventually the odds of a projectile sneaking through his defences increased.

But his enemies didn’t know this, apparently. The Red Serpent gang members held their fire as they realised the ostensible futility of their attack. Leonardo silently thanked their confusion, finding his wrists loving the downtime.

“You’re more skillful than I anticipated,” Locen said. “You can deflect bullets and lasers. Not many of my victims could do that.” Locen walked over to Raphael and jammed the pistol barrel into the shackled turtle’s temple. “But I bet your brother here can’t.”

“Locen!” Leonardo shouted, feeling despair claw at his chest. “Don’t do it!”

Raphael bared his teeth. If he was feeling any fear, he didn’t show it. “What a big man! Shootin’ a turtle while he’s tied up! I bet you steal candy from kids too!”

“You want him to live? Put down your swords,” Locen said.

“Don’t be stupid, Leo!” Raphael yelled, ignoring the pistol pressing against his skin. “You put down your weapons and they’ll make Swiss cheese outta ya!”

Raphael was right. But what choice did he have? He couldn’t strike Locen before he pulled the trigger, not from such a long distance. If he could buy his brother even a few more seconds of life with his sacrifice, then that seemed worthy to him.

“All right,” Leonardo said. “All right, Locen. You win. I’m putting them down. Just don’t shoot him.”

“Leo! No!” Raphael shouted.

Leonardo slowly lowered onto one knee, placing his ninjaken gingerly on the ground, and rose to standing again. His gaze darted between Locen in front of him and the Red Serpent gang members to either side of him. His heart hammered nervously in his chest. Without his blades, he was defenceless against them all.

“All right, Leonardo,” Locen said, moving away from Raphael. “I’ll keep my word. I won’t shoot him. While you’re still alive.”

Raphael raged against his chains. “Locen, you stupid son of a-“

“Shoot him!” Locen yelled, pointing at Leonardo.

Laser rifles hummed as they charged on either side of Leonardo. He thought of deftly reaching down and throwing a ninjaken to Raphael. If his aim was true, he could break one of the chains and embed the blade into the wall, letting his brother pull it free and shatter the rest of his bonds, giving him at least a chance to get out alive. It was a slim chance – Locen could easily shoot Raphael while he was still chained – but it was better than giving into hopelessness.

An explosion rocked the warehouse, tearing the wall to Leonardo’s left into wooden shreds, consuming it in a fiery cloud. The resulting shockwave slammed the Red Serpent gang members to the floor and barrelled Leonardo over as well. The Red Serpents to his right stumbled but managed to keep their footing, aiming at the new hole in the warehouse. Flames and choking black smoke blocked the view to outside.

“What the hell was that?” Locen roared. “Find out!”

Leonardo shook his head, finding his vision a little fuzzy and a fast fading ringing in his ears. Heavy metal footsteps clanged on the wooden debris and concrete floor, and Leonardo forced his eyes to refocus on the flaming hole rent in the warehouse wall.

Through the smokescreen, a lumbering robot entered the warehouse. Angular, armoured green plates covered most of its frame, with yellow plating over its chest and abdomen. A huge rocket launcher was attached to its right forearm, its barrel smoking.

Over its white eyes, it wore a purple mask. Just like Donatello’s.

“Now that can’t be a coincidence,” Leonardo said.

“Someone wanna tell me what the shell is goin’ on?” Raphael shouted.

Leonardo grabbed his ninjaken from the floor and stepped backwards as the robot took big, heavy steps inside. Was this one of his brother’s inventions? If so, he had so many questions. If not, probably more.

“Ice it!” Locen yelled. He turned back to Raphael. “This isn’t over.” He sprinted out the back entrance to the warehouse.

The Red Serpents opened fire, sending a salvo of crimson lasers into the robotic intruder. It raised an armoured arm to block the blasts. Leonardo ducked low and sprinted for the far end of the building, feeling the heat of the bolts pass over his shell. With Locen gone and a new attacker in the picture, the Red Serpents ignored Leonardo.

In moments he made it to Raphael. “Bro! Am I glad to see you!”

“Hold still,” Leonardo said. He raised his blades and slashed at the cuffs around Raphael’s wrists, shattering them. Another two hits broke his ankle cuffs and Raphael was free.

A small table nearby had Raphael’s sais resting on them. He quickly dashed over and snatched them up, sliding them into his belt. “There. Felt naked without these things.”

“Are you OK?” Leonardo said, scanning his brother. “Did he hurt you?”

“Nothin’ I haven’t dealt with before,” Raphael said. “So, do you wanna book it while these bozos are shootin’ the big robot?”

Leonardo turned back. The robot seemed relatively unfazed by the plethora of laser bolts smashing into it. It took a long stride forward and ploughed his foot through the Red Serpents. Several of them yelled as they were scooped up and thrown, tumbling through the air like ragdolls.

“I would. We have a lot to catch up on, I’m sure,” Leonardo said. “But Raph... see that mask that the robot’s wearing?”

“Yeah,” Raphael said. “Just like Don’s. Shell, it’s almost the spittin’ image of him as a robot. Er... if he were nine feet tall, that is.”

“That’s got to mean something,” Leonardo said as the robot fired another rocket, blazing a new fireball inside the warehouse. Red Serpents were launched and smashed into walls. “What are the odds that we would both be saved by a robot, something Donnie would know how to build, while it wore a mask just like him? Just like us?”

“Pretty low, I’d say,” Raphael said, rubbing his chin. “But Don’s the one that’s good with numbers. What do you think we should do?”

Leonardo turned back. The Red Serpents had given up their assault and fled, pouring out the warehouse doors. “Well, it looks like it won the fight. Maybe we can go talk to it? If it’s Don’s, it probably has some sort of communications device built in to it.”

“OK, but stay on your toes,” Raphael said, taking out his sais and spinning them in his hands. “We don’t know what we’re dealin’ with here. We just think we do.”

Leonardo nodded. “Good point.”

The ninja brothers walked towards the robot. It turned its head, spotting them. It straightened up and approached them also, its stance unthreatening. The fact that Leonardo and Raphael had their weapons still drawn didn’t appear to perturb it.

They met in the middle of the ruined warehouse. Smoke still lingered in the air amongst the chunks of blackened wood and unconscious Red Serpents strewn about the floor. The Donatello robot peered down at them, as if assessing them quietly.

“Don?” Leonardo said, lowering his swords. “Are you in there? Can you hear us?”

It had to be Donatello’s handiwork. It was designed from the ground-up to look like a mutant turtle, and even included their iconic masks. Why else would it look like Donnie unless he wanted his brothers to identify a machine of his from afar, or with little information? No one else could stumble into this aesthetic. No, it had to have been a purposeful choice.

The robot remained silent, tilting its head.

“Come on, Donnie!” Raphael said. “Say somethin’!”

The robot’s arm moved with ridiculous speed, its fist flying towards Raphael like a piston. With wide eyes Raphael bounded backwards as the punch blasted through the concrete floor. Having missed its mark, the robot swung its extended arm at Leonardo, who bounded out of its arc.

“Something tells me this isn’t being controlled by Donatello,” Leonardo said, keeping a sharp eye on the robot.

“Really? What gave it away?” Raphael said. “The fact it didn’t talk or the fact it nearly turned me into turtle paste?”

The robot turned with creepy, artificial movements, too smooth and precise, and sprinted towards Leonardo. The mutant turtle’s eyes scanned the robot for weak spots or anything he could take advantage of. Its armoured plating protected most of its body well, and he doubted his ninjaken could cut through it with any efficiency. There were small gas uncovered by armour – gaps where the legs joined the torso, and at the elbow joints – exposing the metal framework beneath. Even those targets seemed unlikely to take sufficient damage should Leonardo attack it. But there were little other choices.

Leonardo put weight on his heels, bending at the knees. The robot charged forward, cocking a fist. Leonardo tensed, ready to strike, picking his moment.

From the right, Raphael vaulted into the air and landed on the robot’s shoulder. It ignored him even as he raised a sai into the air.

“Tryin’ to use my bro’s looks to trick us, huh?” Raphael said. “Then take this!”

Raphael jammed the point of his sai into the robot’s left eye. The ocular panel shattered, exposing the metal and wiring beneath. Raphael yanked on his embedded sai but it was stuck fast. Even though the robot’s vision had been abruptly compromised, it continued on its path, though it stumbled. Raphael grasped at the robot’s head and missed, falling from its shoulder. Leonardo leapt away as the robot tripped and ploughed into the concrete where had just been standing.

The sai spun free from the robot’s sparking eye socket and slid over to Raphael. He plucked it from the ground. “It’s down! Let’s take it out!”

Leonardo nodded, running to the downed robot. He slashed at the exposed parts of its skeleton at the elbow joint with his blades, but it did little other than produce a wave of sparks. Raphael struck at the hip connection with quick stabs of his sais, but it seemed his attacks were as ineffective as Leonardo’s. How were they going to take this thing down?

The robot spun all of his limbs around, forcing the turtles to leap to safety. It jumped back to its feet and aimed its arm mounted rocket launcher at Raphael.

“Raph!” Leonardo shouted. “Look out!”

The rocket burst forth with great speed, spewing smoke in its wake. Raphael dove out of its path, hitting the ground chest first. The wall where he had been chained up disappeared in a bloom of flame and smoke. The whole warehouse shook like a deck of cards in the wind.

“That thing’s crazy!” Raphael shouted, hopping to his feet. “It’s gonna bring the whole warehouse down around our ears!”

Leonardo looked around at the shaking wood structure. “Then perhaps we should let it.”

Raphael looked to his brother with a quizzical expression. Leonardo stared back until the cogs turned in Raphael’s head. “Oh.” Raphael grinned. “Let’s do it!”

The two ninja turtles took off in opposite directions. Leonardo ran to the closest support beam and swept his blades through the wood. Raphael delivered a pinpoint knee to another beam on the other side of the warehouse. The roof shifted and creaked.

Two rockets left the bazooka on the robot’s arm, one for each turtle. Leonardo fell to his knees and slid across the concrete floor as the rocket passed over his chest and slammed into the wall, blowing a new fiery hole in the side. Raphael somersaulted out of the way as his rocket obliterated another support beam in a shower of fiery splinters.

“Keep going!” Leonardo yelled over the ringing in his ears. “One more each!”

The two turtles sprinted for the last two struts holding up the warehouse. The robot fired two more winding rockets after them. This time they were much more accurate. Leonardo pushed himself harder, running as fast as his legs could take him, but the explosive projectile was right on his back.

The warehouse creaked, its walls slanting to the sides. Even without the last of the support beams holding it up, it was going to fall. The front doors were tilting, the space of their exit becoming a parallelogram instead of a square. They had to get out.

On the ground in front of him, Leonardo spotted a discarded laser rifle. An idea popped into his head.

“Raph!” Leonardo shouted. “You’ve got to throw something into the rocket! Set it off before it hits you!”

“Way ahead of you,” Raphael said back, stabbing a piece of broken wood from the floor with his sai.

Leonardo grabbed the laser rifle from the ground with the tips of his swords as he sprinted past it, juggled it for a moment, then hurled it backwards at the pursuing rocket. Raphael tore the wood from his sai and threw it backwards.

Twin explosions filled the warehouse with expanding flame. Leonardo and Raphael were launched off their feet and thrown forward, smashing through the last two support beams and tumbling through the collapsing front doors. They rolled onto the pavement and onto the feet, looking back at the warehouse. Without the last supports, the roof shuddered and caved in. Leonardo watched through the crumpling doors as the robot ran for the exit before it was shrouded by dust and wooden planks crashing on top of it. A moment later, all that was left of the warehouse was a misshapen mound of broken wood.

Raphael coughed at the spreading plume of smoke. “You think we got him?”

Leonardo sheathed his ninjaken. “Hard to say. I think we have slowed him down, at least. Do you have somewhere we can go? Somewhere safe?”

“Yeah, I got an apartment further in the city,” Raphael said. “We can hide out there while we plan our next move.”

“Wow, an apartment, huh?” Leonardo said. He knew that the humans didn’t fear him in Markov like they did in New York City, but he hadn’t considered the other perks of their new arrangement.

“It ain’t much, but it’s mine.” Raphael slapped a hand on Leonardo’s shoulder. “Well, ours now.”

Leonardo smiled for the first time in a long, long time.
 

Leonardo

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Leonardo followed Raphael down the bland corridor of his apartment complex. They passed a few human inhabitants, their eyes down, shoving keys into their doors and entering their rooms without a second glance at them. He shook his head. Would he ever get used to being ignored, to being treated like another human? Largely so far that meant indifference, but that was better than fear and contempt.

“Here it is bro,” Raphael said, digging a finger beneath his belt and producing a key. “My home away from the sewer. Yours now too.”

He unlocked the door and stepped through, his brother following close behind. The apartment was quite cramped; a small kitchen to the left of the entry way and a lounge chair and TV making up the distance to the wall-sized windows, with a hallway to his right leading to the bedroom and bathroom. It was quite the downsize on living space compared to their home in New York, but it was above the surface. Not to mention that such a small, inconspicuous living space would leave the turtle brothers safe from anyone chasing them. They had lost more than one home to enemies back on Earth.

“So, what do ya think?” Raphael said, spreading his arms. “Not bad, huh?”

Leonardo tried to think of something nice to say. “Yeah, it’s... cozy.”

Raphael nodded, as if agreeing to the unspoken criticism Leonardo was too kind to mention. “Yeah, but you kinda get used to it. I mean, don’t get me wrong! Give me our old lair any day of the week. But this is what I can afford. And I’m livin’ with other humans too! Not stuck down under the ground. There’s somethin’ about that that makes up for the small livin’ space.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Leonardo said with a smile. He walked over to the couch and sat down. “So this is my bed?”

“Yeah bro, one bedroom apartment.” Raphael turned his back on Leo to open the fridge. “You want anythin’?”

Now that he thought about it, he was thirsty after that whole ordeal. “A water.”

Raphael threw a bottle of water blindly behind him. Leonardo caught it easily and unscrewed the lid, taking a sip. “So… I take it you haven’t found Donnie or Mikey yet?”

“Not a peep of ‘em,” Raphael said, rounding the kitchen with a ginger beer in hand. “Findin’ you has been the best luck I’ve had so far. Well, not the best circumstances, mind you, but at least we found each other.” He sat down next to Leonardo, opening the can with a hiss.

“Well, we know Donnie must have some connection to that killer robot, “Leonardo said. “There’s no way it could look so much like him and have nothing to do with him.”

“Yeah but surely Donnie didn’t send it after us?” Raphael said, sipping his soft drink.

“Too many unknowns right now,” Leonardo said. “We need to find more information.”

Raphael burped. “So where do we start lookin’? Maybe pick through the warehouse, pull some parts off the robot, see if we can find a lead?”

“If anything survived the collapse of the building,” Leonardo said. “Or wasn’t hauled away by the authorities. But yes, that’s where we should start.” He put his bottle of water down on the carpet, and a thought struck him from nowhere. “Hey Raph, how are you affording this place? Are they letting you live here for free?”

“Ha! Nothin’ for free in this town, Leo. Not much different from home.”

“So… how are you making money to pay for your rent?”

“I’ve been fightin’ in an underground fightin’ league. Full of bozos, street thugs, that kinda thing. None of ‘em can hold a candle to my trainin’. Gets a little dull sometimes, but hey, I gotta make a livin’ somehow.”

Leonardo frowned and shot a dark glare at his brother. “You’re doing what?”

“Huh?” Raphael said. “What’s the problem?”

“You’re using the skills we’ve honed as ninja, to help the defenceless, to make money?” Leonardo said, leaping to his feet.

Raphael mirrored his brother’s angry expression. “What am I supposed to do, Leo? All I know how to do is fight! I ain’t Donnie! I can’t be buildin’ robots or fixin’ computers!”

“That’s no excuse,” Leonardo shot back. “Master Splinter taught us the way of the ninja to temper our spirits, teach us truths, and keep our city safe. But what you’re doing… profiting off it... it’s wrong.”

“Oh come on Leo! In case you hadn’t noticed, this ain’t exactly New York! Master Splinter ain’t here, and neither is the lair! I had to make a home somehow!”

“So the ends justify the means, is that what you’re saying?”

Raphael shook his head, baring his teeth. “Good old Leo, always perfect, always knowin’ the right thing to do! I tell you what, I definitely didn’t miss this.”

“Miss what?”

“You always tellin’ me off, like I’m some stupid kid who needs to be told what to do!”

“I’m just trying to-“

“Oh, I know what you’re just tryin’ to do! Well I don’t need it! I was doin’ fine until you came along! And unless you have some secret way of makin’ some cash that don’t involve punchin’ thugs, then put a sock in it!”

“Enough, Raphael! We should be out there, looking for Donnie!” Leonardo said, pointing out the wall sized window. “The longer we leave the scouting mission for the warehouse, the smaller the chance that we’ll find anything salvageable.”

“We?” Raphael said, grimacing. “Why do we have to go? I don’t need you! I can find Donnie myself! All you’ll do the whole way is remind me how wrong I am for havin’ my own livin’ space for the first time in my life!”

Leonardo groaned, staring his brother down. Raphael’s temper was legendary, and it was stupid of him to tread on it. But the last few months hadn’t been easy on him, either. Why couldn’t Raphael see his side of things for a change? Why was he always the one who had to capitulate?

“Fine!” Leonardo shouted back, throwing his hands in the air. “If you want to find him yourself, be my guest! It’s better than us standing here having a shouting ma-“

Leonardo caught movement in the corner of his vision. He looked to the window. A cylindrical object raced forward, a plume of smoke billowing behind it.

“Raph! We got to go!” Leonardo grabbed his brother by the arm and yanked him away, towards the apartment door.

“Huh? What are you-“

Before Leonardo could open his mouth to answer, the missile penetrated the window, showering the apartment in jagged glass. It erupted in a huge boom, unleashing a hellish fireball that tore through the walls and consumed the living room. The two mutants were blown out of the apartment and through the door, crashing into the hallway wall. They scrambled to their feet as the flames hungrily spread beyond the apartment, blooming into the hallway in a tide of red and orange. Leonardo felt the heat from the explosion wash over his skin despite the flames missing him.

“My home!” Raphael said, climbing to his feet with the aid of the wall. Smoke poured out of the huge hole rent in the walls, filling the hallway. “Guess I ain’t gettin’ my deposit back now. What the hell was that?”

The Donatello robot’s hulking frame burst out of the decimated apartment, the rocket launcher on its forearm smoking.

“I’d say that!” Leonardo shouted.

“The shell?” Raphael said, grasping his sais. “A warehouse collapsed on it and it’s still kickin’?”

“No, Raph! Our weapons can’t penetrate its armour!”

“So what are we supposed to do? Run?”

The robot spun its head, spotting the two turtles.

“Either that or end up like your apartment!”

The metal aggressor sprinted towards them through the hallway, its swaying arms tearing the walls apart.

Raphael slammed his sais back in his belt. “Dammit!”

The two mutant brothers reached the end of the hallway and hurtled onto the handrail of the spiral staircase, sliding down. The robot barrelled down after them, its feet crumpling the stairs, right behind them.

“I don’t like this Leo!” Raphael said as they wound down to the ground floor, leaping off the handrail and launching into a run. “Runnin’ from a fight! This ain’t right!”

The Don robot crashed and somersaulted at the base of the stairs, rolling back to its feet in a fluid motion, and resumed its pursuit. People had descended from their rooms after the explosion and scrambled away from the turtles and their robotic nemesis as they charged through the lobby.

“I don’t like it much more than you do!” Leonardo returned. “But we have no chance of fighting it inside! We have to get it away from people!”

The automatic doors started sliding as the turtles approached, but not fast enough. They jumped and spun, their shells smashing through the glass. The Don robot exploded through the doors and part of the roof, debris shedding from its metallic frame like waves of sand.

Headlights washed over Leonardo as they ran out onto the road. He planted a hand on a car’s bonnet and jumped past it as another vehicle came to a screeching halt in front of him. He saw Raphael flip over a motorcycle that almost cut through him.

“Leo! This ain’t exactly gettin’ away from people!” Raphael said, spreading his arms out to the traffic bunched around them, their horns honking and filling the night air.

“I know!” Leonardo said, his eyes darting around. “I’m trying to find a way out of here, but we’re in the middle of a huge city!”

The Don robot didn’t care about the congested traffic. It grabbed cars beneath the bumper and flipped them away like pieces of cardboard. Other vehicles reversed away from the rampaging machine, opening up the road, making its approach easier.

Leonardo wracked his brain for a solution. Surrounded on all sides by skyscrapers and buildings, with roads overloaded with traffic, there was nowhere nearby that was safe for bystanders. The Don robot had already proven its indifference to destruction of property and that wouldn’t change, judging by the flaming hole in the apartment complex where Raphael’s home used to be, and the cars lying on their crumpled rooves.

Raphael armed himself with his sais. “Out of options, Leo! We gotta try somethin’!”

Ninjaken blades slid out of their sheaths on Leonardo’s back. “I guess so. But the robot’s armour has already proven to be too strong for our weapons.”

“It must have a weak point somewhere!” Raphael said. “Everything always does!”

The Don robot’s heavy footsteps left cracked chunks of bitumen in its wake. Leonardo watched as it drew closer, the cracks spreading out in all directions.

“Wait!” Leonardo said, pointing with the tip of his sword. “There!”

A sewer cover sat between them and the charging machine. If they could get in fast enough, they might avoid the wrath of their enemy; so far it only attacked them, and any injuries or damage were the result of the robot attempting to subdue the turtles, not the surrounding populace. Beneath the city, the robot couldn’t follow. The people would be safe for now, and Leonardo and his brother could regroup and plot their next action.

“Gotcha! Go!” Raphael shouted, and the two took off at breakneck speed. The Don robot didn’t act surprised at their sudden reversal of action; in fact, it bent its back, widening its arms as if preparing to snatch them up from the ground.

They were cutting it close. They were going to reach the sewer cover in time, but they also had to pry it open and get down. That would cost precious seconds that they didn’t have. Leonardo narrowed his eyes. If it came to that, he would distract the enemy, giving Raphael the time he needed to escape. If he was lucky enough, he would follow soon after.

The sewer cover burst open a few strides away from Leonardo, flipping through the air like a coin and smashing into the bitumen of the road. A dark figure leapt out through the sewer, its form illuminated momentarily by the criss-cross of headlight beams from the vehicles all around them. Leonardo didn’t need to see any details to know who it was, though. The movement was indelibly familiar. But he couldn’t believe it.

Donatello stood up from his landing crouch and gave his two brothers a thumbs up over his shoulder. “Don’t worry guys. I got this.”

Ignoring the charging robot bearing his mask, Donatello turned his attention to a metal band that took up most of his forearm. He pressed a few buttons and looked up. The robot’s legs stiffened and it dropped to the ground mid stride, grinding to a halt just before Donatello. It didn’t move.

“Donnie?” Raphael said in awe. “Is it really you this time? Not someone dressed up as you?”

“Raph,” Leonardo said with a chuckle and a hand on Raphael’s shoulder. “It’s him.”

“I’d love to stop and chat but right now, we have to get out of here,” Donatello said. He crouched by the lip of the sewer hole. “I’ll explain on the way. Let’s go!”

The purple masked turtle hopped back into the sewer from whence he came. Raphael gave his burning apartment one last look and shrugged his shoulders. “Ain’t got any reason to stay here anyway.”

Leonardo smiled and the two brothers took off after Donatello, diving beneath the busy streets of Cevanti.
 
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Leonardo

Leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
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Leonardo walked along the narrow concrete pathway of the sewer. Thankfully the channels to his left were empty. They must have been storm sewers, like the ones he and his brothers lived in back in New York City, but there mustn't have been rain here for a long time. Donatello led them, waving a torch ahead to cut through the shadows that enveloped the subterranean tunnels. Motes of dust floated in the beam of light, swirling as they passed through them. Raphael brought up the rear, still gripping his sais and turning backwards every now and then.

Leonardo couldn’t believe it. He had been searching Markov for months for any signs of his brothers and found none, and in a single day he met up with two of them. And to think he was ready to leave the mega-city and look somewhere else. Still, Michelangelo and Master Splinter were with him when they made the ill fated teleport, so the search wasn’t over. At least with Raphael and Donatello by his side once more, his confidence that Mikey and Master Splinter were in Markov somewhere grew. Karai was probably somewhere too, but Leonardo cared less about her than his own family. Perhaps they would search for her once everyone had been assembled and he could make assurances for their safety.

“So Donnie, I’d like to talk about where you’ve been and what you’ve done for the past three months, but I think the robot that looks like you chasing us and trying to murder us needs some explanation first,” Leonardo said.

“Got that right,” Raphael said, glancing over his shoulder.

“Don’t worry Raph, that thing can’t fit through the sewer hole,” Donatello said. “But sure, I’ll tell you. Just be aware that I might have to cut the story short. I’m sure we’re still being followed.”

Leonardo frowned. “What? How?”

“All part of the story,” Donatello said as they rounded a corner. “So when I first landed in Cevanti, I looked high and low for you guys. But like you all found, it’s hard to look for a ninja turtle in a city as massive as Markov. And since this world accepts non-human creatures without freaking out, I decided to get a job while I searched. Sure, there was technology just laying around that I could salvage, but I thought it might be nice to pay for it for a change. That way, it wouldn’t be second-hand tech either.”

“I get it,” Raphael said. “Bein’ able to walk up here on the surface... it’s nice. Also the not bein’ chased with fires and pitchforks thing.”

Leonardo didn’t really share his brothers’ enthusiasm for the human world. Perhaps it would be pleasant not to need to live beneath the city just to survive, but he had grown accustomed to it. Fleeing the protective cloak of anonymity, leaving the shadows to be exposed by the light... it was a difficult sentiment to come to terms with. Especially for a ninja, whose major combative advantage rested in staying hidden and undetected.

“So did you find a job?” Leonardo asked.

“I did. At a little place called Peal Industries.”

“Wow, really?” Raphael said. “I see their logo over all sorts of junk!”

“Robotics and medical, mostly,” Donatello said. “Branching out into weaponry and ordinance. I’m thinking Walter is hoping to crack into the market that keeps the mechs armed, the ones that patrol outside the city barrier. Unfortunately, it’s not as clear cut and above board as it should be.”

“I figured, after dealing with that robot,” Leonardo said.

Donatello glanced at his wrist mounted device and continued on into the dark sewers. “It all started when I met Walter Peal, head of Peal Industries...”

---

Donatello sat in the reception room outside Walter Peal’s office, sweat rolling down his face. The room was huge but was barely used for anything. A row of chairs lined the wall, where Don waited, and behind him was a huge glass window, displaying the stark, skyscraper strewn landscape of Markov, the lights twinkling brighter than the stars in the inky black sky. The receptionist sat behind a tall mahogany desk, its surface dotted with piles of business cards neatly organised in plastic holders. The floor was constructed of white marble with black flourishes streaked through. A huge surreal landscape painting of a beach shorefront hanging behind the receptionist helped give the room some life, some colour.

Other than the receptionist, Donatello was the only other living thing in the room. The dull whirr of the air-conditioning and the clicking of the receptionist’s keyboard echoed loudly in a room otherwise devoid of sound. It was late; the work day had finished hours ago. Why had he been called up here? He had never seen the head of the company before today. Why now? Had he done something wrong?

“Donatello?” the receptionist said, her voice shattering the peace abruptly. “Mr. Peal will see you now.”

Donatello stood with a smile and a nod, trying to find the saliva to swallow. He strode up to the huge double doors beside the receptionist desk, placed a hand on the golden handle, and pushed.

Another huge room greeted the ninja turtle as he strode in as confidently as he could under the circumstances. Books lined the walls on either side of him, not a spot left vacant in the beautifully crafted shelves. Another huge glass window took up the far wall, and in front of it was another expensive wooden desk. Holographic displays projected screens and data to a man sitting behind the desk, his silver fingers moving at an inhuman pace. He looked to the door as Donatello walked in, pressed a button, and the holographic displays blinked out.

“Please, come in,” Walter Peal said, gesturing to a handsome leather chair situated in front of his desk.

Donatello had never seen Walter before. He was an older man, his hair black and short with a smattering of silver, a thick white moustache and glassy grey eyes. Perhaps what stood out most about him were his limbs – his arms were made of a silver metal, sleek and rounded in design. It made sense that someone like Walter, rich and in possession of a robotics company, would own such marvellous prosthetics. The nature of his arms was obvious, since the man only wore a black shirt, fully exposing the steel beneath.

The mutant turtle lowered himself slowly into the chair as Peal did the same. “Nice to meet you, Donatello.”

Donatello nodded anxiously. “Yes, you too, sir.”

“You must be wondering why I asked you here tonight,” he said, lacing his fingers together. “Well, I... good lord, are you all right?”

The ninja turtle cocked his eye until he remembered why Walter’s response was justified. “Oh, yes fine sir. I ran into some street thugs last night. They got a few hits in but I dealt with them.”

The truth was, Donatello hadn’t been doing much training lately. His job absorbed so much of his time, and then he still worked on his own projects after hours. So when he was attacked, his moves were sloppy and his reaction time had increased. His innate skills and base level of training was still far superior to the rough-and-tumble brawler style of combat that the thugs used on him, but he still copped some punishment for neglecting his ninja studies. Donatello had planned to begin again tonight, but this late night call with Walter Peal had interrupted those plans.

“Are you sure?” Walter said. “That looks like a stab wound!”

“I promise you, I’m fine,” Donatello said. “I heal up pretty fast thanks to my mutation.”

Walter’s eyes sharpened. “Mutation?”

“I’m a turtle that was mutated by a special chemical,” Donatello said. “It gave me human level intelligence and faster recovery from wounds, among other things.”

“Fascinating,” Walter said. “Markov truly is a melting pot of incredible life forms. To think such genius and engineering skill could rise from a humble turtle.”

Donatello smiled. “Thank you, sir.” This was going better than he had expected.

“I asked you up here to thank you personally for these.” Peal rose his arms and wiggled his prosthetic fingers. “I’m told you were the lead designer on them.”

“That... they were for you? I was told there was a competition to design the best prosthetics for a big business partner. I didn’t think I would win!” Donatello had been so engulfed by his apprehension that he hadn't even recognised the arms he had created.

“And I’m sure you didn’t expect that the ‘big business partner’ was the head of the company?”

“No sir. So does that mean you’re also...”

“Wearing the legs? Yes I am, and they’re just as great as the arms. I think you’ll have a very bright future here at Peal Industries.”

Donatello let himself feel the pride of his accomplishment. Working at Peal Industries only for a month and already he had designed robotic prosthetics actually used by the boss!

“I’m flattered sir,” Donatello said. “Truly.”

Walter repositioned himself in his chair, relaxing. “Since you’ve done so well, I’m hoping you’ll accept a new position as the lead designer of a series of robots I want to develop. Something along the lines of the mechs that guard our great city, but on a much smaller scale. Robots that can tackle the small zoids without the requirement of those expensive and bulky mechs to go out and stomp them. Would you head up this team for me?”

“Yes!” Donatello said enthusiastically, his trepidation all but melted away. “That sounds like a great opportunity!”

Walter stuck out his mechanical hand and Donatello shook it. “Then it’s sealed. You start tomorrow. You better get to bed.”

Donatello stood and bowed. “Thank you sir! You won’t be disappointed!”

The mutant turtle left the office, jubilant, all thoughts of his ninja training vanished from his mind.

---

“Heh, that’s our Donnie,” Raphael said. “Always outdoin’ yourself.”

“Don’t congratulate me just yet,” Donatello said. “I let Walter’s praise get in my head. It blinded me to an important fact, one that I should have picked up on my next meeting with him.”

The air was stuffy in the sewers, and Leonardo longed for a breath of the surface. Donatello had been leading them for a while, reminiscing about his meeting with this Peal character, when it dawned on him that he didn’t know where they were going. He voiced his concern.

“There aren’t many places we can go,” Donatello said, kicking over a cardboard box in the way. “The technology I helped developed sort of... makes it almost impossible to stay hidden.”

“Even underground?” Raphael said.

“Well, I assumed some of you might have made a new home in the sewers, so I calculated for that possibility.”

“Wait,” Leonardo said. “So they’re tracking us right now?”

“I couldn’t calibrate the tracking protocol to search efficiently underground,” Donatello said. “It works, but it’s far less precise than if we were above ground.”

“I don’t get it, Donnie,” Raphael said. “Why were you makin’ tech to hunt us down?”

“For that,” Donatello said, his voice heavy with regret, “I need to tell you the next part of the story.”
 
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Leonardo

Leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
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Donatello’s fingers danced on the keyboard. His eyes jumped between readings that glimmered on his holographic screen display. Surely it would work this time. A few more adjustments and…

“OK Mavlock, hit the power!”

A nine-foot tall metal replica of the ninja turtle stood rigidly against the cold steel wall. A plethora of wires plugged into the arms, legs and torso of the machine. Donatello hunched over a terminal, its screen projected from a light emitter embedded in the machine. A thin man in a tweed suit stood next to the robot, gripping a large lever currently pointing upwards. He grabbed it and slammed it down.

A low hum filled the room as Donatello’s subordinates all rose from their chairs, staring at the robot. Hope buoyed in the scientist turtle’s chest as the blank eyes of his creation flickered. System startup checks flashed on his screen, and everything was executing successfully.

The white of the eyes went solid. Power was flowing to his metallic doppelganger, the proof of concept for his design of zoid hunting robots. He fought the urge to jump up out of his seat and cheer. Things were travelling surprisingly well; he was ahead of his project timeline by two weeks. This wasn’t the first time he had engineered such a machine, but with Peal Industries’ seemingly bottomless resources and money, it was hard to not to be achieving so much so fast. Certainly it was a world away from salvaging disused components from the storm sewers of his old New York home.

Clapping broke Donatello from his introspection. His employees applauded him, smiling at him. Donatello smiled back.

“Thank you, thank you all,” he said, placing his palms together in a prayer gesture. “This is a victory for all of us. I’ll make sure to mention all of your contributions to this project to Mr. Peal himself. Go home, we’ll pick this up tomorrow.”

A few employees stuck around to congratulate Donatello further, or discuss parameters of the project briefly, before leaving for the night. Donatello smiled as he stared at his newest creation. The basic software and power systems were functioning perfectly; the robot would be powered on overnight while further diagnostics were taken, but so far things were looking promising.

“Excellent work, Master Donatello,” Mavlock said, placing a hand on Donatello’s shoulder. “Mr. Peal will be most pleased.”

Donatello stood and shook Mavlock’s hand. An unassuming man, but an expert in robotics and genteel manners, he was a credit to his staff and an obvious choice for the assistant manager of the project.

“Field testing begins in a week, if all tests come back positive,” Donatello said. “But I need to speak to Mr. Peal about further… customisations. Things that weren’t originally in the scope of the project.”

Donatello sighed as he gazed at his robot. His brothers should be here, enjoying his success with him.

Mavlock nodded his head shallowly, most likely expecting the topic to be raised. Donatello had spoken furtively to him about his further aspirations for the project. “I know, Master Donatello. And I was so sure of your success tonight that I invited him to see you. I think now would be an excellent time to raise the matter.”

“You invited him?”

“Yes, he did.”

Donatello turned. Walter Peal strode casually into his laboratory, dressed in a sharp black suit, his silver hands the only thing hinting to his prosthetic limbs.

“Mr. Peal!”

“So it seems my faith in you wasn’t misplaced,” Walter said, folding his arms over his chest. “Mavlock invited me to see how you were going and I’m glad to know things are progressing nicely.”

Mavlock gave Donatello a thumbs-up out of Walter’s view. “Well, I best be going. Another big day ahead of me tomorrow.”

Once Mavlock was gone, Donatello cleared his throat. Walter had walked up to the robot and ran his metallic hands over the frame. “It looks like you.”

“Well, since I constructed it, it makes sense,” Donatello said. “A little vain, perhaps. But I wanted to see more robotic turtles! There are plenty of human ones.”

Walter chuckled. “It certainly is unique. It will stand out on its looks, if nothing else.”

Now was the time to ask him. “Mr. Peal, I have a question for you.”

“Yes?”

“Well… the robots… they will be tracking zoids. I’m developing the technology to detect them from further distances than is currently possible. But…” He sighed. “This is personal…”

“By all means, Donatello. Let me know how I can help.”

“I’m not from this world.”

“Yes, ‘mutant turtle’ didn’t seem like an indigenous lifeform of Cevanti, considering most creatures are made of steel and wires.”

“And neither are my brothers, who have been missing for months. I was… hoping I could use the technology I’m developing to find zoids to also find my family.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your separation from your family.” Walter considered. “How would it work?”

“I’m unsure. I have ideas, but I think I’ll need to somehow identify their blood, or DNA, from a distance. I’ll take a sample from myself to use in testing.”

“Interesting,” Walter said. “Could this be extended to other lifeforms as well?”

Donatello shrugged. “Possibly. It will depend on my initial findings. I’m thinking that my brothers will be easier to find due to the unique mutations.”

“And I’ll assume you’ve exhausted all other avenues of finding them?” Walter asked.

“Yes,” Donatello said. “Markov is too big of a city. Everything I’ve tried has ended in failure. I need a more precise solution.”

“Then so be it,” Walter said. “Keep up this sterling work and I’ll provide the necessary resources to make this vision of yours a reality.”

Donatello breathed deeply. “Thank you, sir. This makes me feel a lot better.”

“I’m glad,” Walter said. “Keep me updated on that sensing technology, won’t you?”

Mr. Peal left the laboratory. Donatello looked at his robotic doppelganger with pride. Not only was he achieving excellence with his genius, but it might just bring his family back together.

---

“That doesn’t seem so ominous,” Leonardo said, running his hand along the cold grey bricks of the sewer walls. “It sounds like this Mr. Peal was the reason you found us. I mean, you worked out the technology to track us, right?”

“Yes,” Donatello said. Light streamed in through the circular seal in the manhole cover above, shining down in a halo. “The very technology we’re trying to evade right now. I guess it’s only really obvious with hindsight that there was a problem with his almost compulsive desire to provide me with whatever I needed.”

“So you’re sayin’ this Walter guy has some sorta ulterior motive for lettin’ you make this tracker?” Raphael asked. “I mean, why else was a killer robot chasin’ us all over the city?”

“The next three weeks, everything continued to run smoothly,” Donatello said, leading his brothers to a dead end. Metal rungs were stamped into the wall. “After that, well… it all went south. And it could’ve ended up worse.” Donatello stuck the flashlight in his belt and grabbed the rungs in the wall. “We’re here. We should be safe enough up here.”

Leonardo climbed after his purple masked brother. “So, what happened after those three weeks?”

Donatello reached the manhole cover and pressed against it, shifting it to the side. “Well…”
 
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