Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: A Dark History

Author: Georgina Ann Price AKA Hannurdock

Rating: R

Disclaimer: All TMNT characters belong to Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. No disrespect is intended by writing these stories.

1: City of Terror, Prologue

A solitary scream pierced the foreboding darkness of a city that was renowned for its violence and fear. That sound was not unusual, accompanied only seconds later by urgent police sirens. Violence and lawlessness was an everyday factor of life. People in the drab and foggy city knew the curfew times and abided by them because if the didn’t, they could be mugged, raped for even murdered.

There was another cry in the dark alleyways. It was almost predictable, yet, this time no sirens accompanied it. The screams came again, louder this time, full of fear. The person crying out was a middle-aged woman. Her eyes were wide open in fear and wet with tears. She looked around herself despairingly as only a moment ago she had been running. The alleyway swallowed her fragile form in its misty darkness. She heaved a sigh of relief followed by panicked breathing as she saw her tormentors return, five young street toughs, hardened by the city’s cold. Their evil thoughts were fixed upon the handbag she was holding which contained less than five dollars. Then, one of the young men brought out a gun from a concealed pocket within his moth-eaten old coat. The woman opened her mouth to scream again, but the gun exploded. She dropped to the ground and her heart ceased to beat. The young men snatched away her purse, yanking it from the head that, even in death would not let go. They laughed together and ran off with their prize that has been bought so dearly, unaware of how little this prize will actually serve them.

A moment later a siren echoed as a police car rolled into view. The woman’s dead eyes, open and still wide with fear, reflected the siren’s headlights. The car stopped and two men emerged clutching their guns. They turned away when they saw the body before them, one was violently sick, and muttered in a horrified whisper "My God!".
The other man knelt over the body and felt for her pulse in vain.

"Anything?" asked the first man to the latter.

"Nothing. Call Sterns and tell him what’s happened, if he cares that is!"

"What happened here Bill? Do you think its The Monsters?" The first man asked of the other called Bill, recollecting in his fear the terrible stories he had heard as a young man.

"Monsters, Dave?" Bill scornfully replied to his shaken friend. "The only monsters are the street gang’s this city is plagued with. This is another one of those damned murders. What did Sterns call it? ‘A Silent Murder Spree’! No clues are ever left. Its an almost supernatural kill, leaving no evidence. How can anyone commit such a crime...."

Dave looked away. "Helpless" he muttered, more to himself than his comrade "Utterly helpless!"

Suddenly a noise distracted the two men from their morbid thoughts. It sounded like a youth laughing. Dave and Bill looked around themselves but in truth both men knew exactly where the noise had come from. A storm drain beneath their feet. Bill shone his torch down the drain but revealed nothing except slime.

"Its probably rats Bill" Dave nervously said.

"Has a rat ever sounded like someone laughing?" responded Bill, logic still prevailing over fear.

"I don’t think it sounded like a laugh" David lied, his fear cresting in his pale blue eyes, rimmed with wrinkles from his years in the force. “More like a squeak”.

Bill knew David lied through his teeth when he was afraid, but more so, he knew it was the perfect excuse to call for back up. He wasn’t about to venture down into a dark sewer with a guy who shook in fear.

"Please lets go call for back up" David pleaded, his voice torn.

"But the radio to the car’s out. We’d have to go to the station directly. And the body, we can’t just leave that poor girl lying there!”

"She’s not going to go anywhere. Besides, we won’t be long, will we? A few minutes that’s all. What can happen in a few minutes?” David insisted.

The two men abandoned the corpse for the warmth and safety of their vehicle. They drove away, both secretly relieved that they were away from the scene of the crime, and leaving to get help.

Less than half hour later Bill and Dave returned with five other policemen from their precinct. Bill blinked in amazement as he scoured the alley for the body. It had gone.

An angry man, known and despised by all at the precinct shook his head as he looked into the dimly lit, empty alleyway. This man was called Chief Sterns. He was a cruel and unkind man to the officers beneath him. Bill knew he was in trouble.......

2: Tale of the Sewer Monsters

The most revolting mixture of unimaginable muck and slime made the sewers the most avoided place on Earth. The only unfortunate people that had to work in the dark and empty tunnels are workers. No one else in their right minds would venture even one step into the gruesome murky depths. There are all manners of creatures that make homes for themselves in this place, rats and spiders and on occasion even the odd alligator or two.

Such encounters with unwelcome guests were the driving force behind the inevitable rumors that sewer workers spread. Even city dwellers that had nothing to do with the sewers knew the rumors, and one rumor more than any other received the attention of almost every New Yorker. ‘The Tale’ (as it was referred it in New York) revolved around a worker who managed to get lost one day and in doing so caught sight of a slimy green reptilian monster ambling around a distant corner. The worker followed this ‘thing’ through a number of tunnels until he reached a manhole cover. He looked around himself, then back at the manhole cover confused. Where had the monster disappeared to? Yet, he was not about to risk life and limb following it, so he made his way out via the manhole.

When he clambered out of the sewer he found himself directly in front of his house in fifth avenue. This ‘Tale’ was backed up by numerous members of the public who claimed, late at night, to see a green monster emerging from manhole covers. Unfortunately, these reports lacked proof - the photos that had been hastily shot were either too blurred to see or too ridiculous to be taken seriously. The credibility of the claims were next to nothing as green monsters had been seen all over the city, not to mention the variations of green monsters that had been seen. Some monsters were tall, some were short and dwarf-like. Some were possessed of evil spirits and haunted the living, others were alien monsters attempting a hostile world takeover. Some had bug eyes and some look liked insects enlarged. There was really no real connection to any of these stories, except for one main fact - the monsters were always green. One person even said she saw one skateboarding around Central Park late one night, looking like some youthful hooligan, bandanna and all.

A photo had been hastily taken, but its authenticity had been eliminated by the police force. In short like aliens, the monsters became for New Yorkers an unbelievable hyped-up conversational topic that obtained as much skepticism and criticism as alien abductees. No one really believed the wild tales spun by locals, yet there was somehow a unity between the occupants of the vast city with this one story.

Barely two days after the murder and disappearance of Jennifer Davis rumors were already circulating about the manner of her death, and whether the monsters were involved. The two policemen had been on television, much to the chagrin of Chief Sterns, explaining about the body and how they thought it had disappeared. Bill, taking immediate advantage of the situation to secure his job, recounted his adventure and did not forget his Police Chief in the hope of obtaining a raise.

Chief Sterns was furiously chewing the end of his cigar. A man almost twenty-seven years old, looked fifty, and was rapidly losing his hair.

Sterns was not a pleasant man, and definitely not a man to get on the wrong side of. Few people challenged him without terrible repercussions. Sterns looked out of the window at the rain and the dull clouds which mirrored his foul mood at that moment. The two policemen on television were giving the precinct a bad reputation. Sterns chewed harder on the end of his cigar until it was totally shredded, then he spat out the remains into a small dirty ashtray on his desk. Then he concentrated on what was being said on the television.

"So the woman was shot in the head?" asked a young reporter. Sterns head dropped into his hands, concealing his face. He knew that particular reporter far too well, and with disgust he uttered her name, "April O’Neil!"

"Yes" replied Dave. "We think that the murderers work inside the confines of the city. A secretive group who are committing serious crimes all over. We must warn the public to look out for these criminals and report anything suspicious".

Sterns took a deep breath of relief. At least there were no monsters in their story. Perhaps, now Sterns was calmer, he would not fire them after all.

"However......" Dave added "The City Monsters also have not surfaced for a while and this could be another incident involving them."

Sterns face became red, and then deathly pale. He stood up and walked out of his office, forgetting in his haste to switch off the television.

"City Monsters?" April pondered "The people in this city want fact. Not rumors. You either have the proof or you don’t. People need to know straight what’s going on, and if the police force are chasing phantom rumors then who are we, the normal citizens, going to rely upon?"

"I’m sure our Department will uncover this mystery, Miss O’Neil" came a voice from the shadows. Chief Sterns emerged, bright red from the run he had only just endured and flashing warning glances upon Dave and Bill who looked bemused at him.

"How long will it take you to uncover these culprits? Will you wait until there’s been another murder?" April asked, her voice as strong and determined as her spirit.

"We are doing the best we can with our current facilities, Miss O’Neil. Now if you will excuse these two men and myself, we have work to do." Chief Sterns pushed roughly passed April, leading Dave and Bill away from the television cameras. When the three men were out of hearing range Sterns turned to his two men.

"Your both fired!" Sterns softly said, then walked off, leaving Dave and Bill speechless.

3: Introducing April O’Neil

The Channel 3 News Building towered ominously above Fifth Avenue, opposite City Hall. A grim building with a large double-doored entrance stood next to the Police Precinct. Gray clouds rolled by, rain slashed the closed windows like daggers.

A figure emerged from the doors sheltering from the cold and rain, and making a sudden dash for a news van parked nearby. However, before the figure completed its hurried journey, another figure blocked its path. The first figure sighed whilst the latter placed his hands on his hips and looked angrily upon the face of a woman who was known by the all the City’s population. Her name was April O’Neil.

The other figure, that of a man, was quite small and almost feminine. He moved with a awkward stride yet his face was open and soft. His name was Charles Pennington, April’s boss.

"April" the man said in a low voice, his tone most serious. "I’ve warned you several times about upsetting Sterns. He’s a cruel man with a hidden agenda and I don’t want any of my reporters putting themselves in needless danger"

"Come on, Charles. Don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy watching that rat try and squeeze his way out of trouble on camera" April grinned and opened the van’s door with rain-drenched keys. She turned to Charles and he shook his head and an exasperated gasp escaped his lips.

"Did they find the woman’s body? The one that went missing?" Sterns asked, eager to change the subject. April was very determined and any sign of weakness on his part would make April even more determined. He admired her spirit, but resented her open stubbornness.

"Find the body?" April sarcastically said "and ruin the perfect record of inefficiency this city’s precinct has. Not a chance" April laughed and got into her van.

"Just watch what you say about this man" Charles warned. April looked at him wearily.

"Sterns annoys me Charles. He know something about this crime wave and he isn’t doing anything about it" April said, her tone angry.

"Stay out of it April!" Charles warned again, his voice raised - which was unusual for him.

"Your The Boss, boss!" April laughed, with no intention of doing what he asked, she just wanted to close the door against the beating rain and cold slicing wind. She closed the door and drove away, leaving Charles shaking his head. He knew too much about his number-one reporter to be suckered into believing a lie like that. She wasn’t about to let Chief Sterns off the hook so lightly. This attitude put her in danger, and it bothered him because he could not guarantee her safety. He respected her conviction and admired her stamina, but she wasn’t thinking of the consequences. He returned slowly to his office, taking time with the stairs until he reached his office at the summit of the building. He saw the window open, and closed it quickly for it was letting it the wind and rain. However, he didn’t realise he had opened it.

Charles didn’t see the black clad figure emerge from a dark shadow and make for the door, but what he did see was a newspaper lying on his desk. He hadn’t remembered putting that there either. His eyes felt sore, and a headache was forming. Perhaps he was working too hard, and needed a vacation. He looked at the newspaper and read the title scornfully aloud.

"Monsters Spotted By Early Morning Workers At Murder Site" Charles the lifted the paper to inspect the small print and an A5 folded paper fell from its folds. It fell onto the desk, and Charles opened it to see what had been written.


Charles Pennington,

Stop April O’Neil from reporting on this case.

We know where you live and we know about your young son Danny.
He goes to school at Riverway Park Secondary School.
He attends from 9:00am to 4:30pm.
He catches the Number 5 bus back home.
He walks unguarded for five minutes before he reaches the safety of home.
On Saturday, he leaves his home at 2:30pm for The Mall.

We know about your wife, Melissa.
She is left all day at home doing housework.

We know all these things, and more.

Stop April, or we will take alternate measures to secure our anonymity.


Charles paled. His hands shook, and he looked for a signature but there was none. There was only a small icon in the right hand corner of the paper which looked like a foot with a dagger running through it.

Then Charles picked up the receiver of his office telephone and dialed April’s home number. She had not yet arrived home and he hung up. His hands barely managed the effort of replacing the receiver.

He had to stop her before it was too late.

4: Darker Than Midnight, A Friendship Born

April reached the security of her home without incident. As she got out of the van, and ran to her front door she fumbled for her key in the small handbag cursing the darkness for inappropriate vision. She found it and shoved it into the lock.

Something caught her vision from the corner of her eye....

She stopped and turned. The darkness betrayed nothing around her, she was alone. Yet, she had learned from her Ninjutsu lessons that all was not always what it seemed.

She called out into the foreboding darkness. No response.

She turned to her door and finished unlocking it. A person or thing grabbed her from behind, gagging her mouth and pinning her to the porch with a swift sudden gesture without noise.

April quickly scanned the assailant, her right hand reaching for the nunchaku she kept hidden in her bag. He was dressed in black, a ninja’s outfit she ascertained immediately. She pulled out the nunchaku in a fluid motion from her handbag, but he reacted more quickly than she - and grabbed the weapon from her grasp before she had enough time to defend. Then he closed the chain of the weapon around her small throat.

April gasped for breath as her knees buckled. She fell to the floor and her assailant dropped with her, the nunchaku still squeezed tightly around her throat. Her face paled, and her eyes blurred with tears. Unable to react in the face of a certain death she could only manage a few choked words for help. Her eyes picked out more blurred figures emerging from the darkness.

Then she became unconscious. Her assailant viciously grinned beneath his black mask and then rose from the ground. He raised his foot to deliver one final blow to the back of her neck.

Before he struck her, another figure emerged from the darkness, arms outstretched.

His sudden arrival, totally surprised the Ninja who were more used to delivering silent surprises themselves. They knew from the moment he was there he was a superior Ninja than them. He sauntered into their circle, breaking it instantly. April’s assailant faced him, viciousness bristling from him like static.

"Ninja warriors" The new arrival addressed the ninja’s in front of him. He was dressed in black, but that could not disguise the aura that surrounded him like the plague that could destroy all that it comes into contact with. He moved between the vicious Ninja threatening the reporter, like a barrier and continued to address the ninja’s comrades.

"I too am Ninja. We can learn from each other. First I demand to know why you take the life of the reporter" The stranger asked, his voice deep and sure.

"Who are you? How dare you demand to know our business." The vicious one snarled, his voice rising.

"I am Ninja, I am a Student of Hamato Yoshi’s Principals in Ninjutsu and the Eastern Martial Arts." The stranger answered without hesitation, glancing at the sunken figure of April.

"I am Janaek Oseeb Master Ninja of Oroku Saki’s Principals of Ninjutsu" The vicious one said with pride. "She threatens our Ninja clan, and we must destroy her."

"Really?" The stranger said, glancing again at the sunken figure of April. A tone of mockery crept into his voice as he continued "This woman is not experienced in the Martial Arts and you consider her a threat. Did she hold a gun to your head and say ‘Stick ‘em Up!’?"

The vicious one was visibly struck by these words. He backed away from the stranger.

"You take her side?" He asked, and waited for a response.

The stranger remove his black disguise and the Ninja gasped as they saw the green monster before them.

The creature looked at the fallen nunchaku below him, it looked degraded and broken, unable to defend its owner. Then he hooked the chain onto his toe, with a swift, steady movement, then flicked the weapon to his hand. The chain glistened in the single light of a lamp post which distracted the snarling Ninja for one second.

A single red bandanna flapped uncaringly in the slight breeze as the monster stepped forward, the nunchaku within his hands. The Ninja surrounded the green creature, unsure of what to do in such a situation - and in a single instant they had betrayed all of their training through a moment of fear. The green creature knew the battle was over before it had began and raised its arms to plead with the Ninja.

It was too late. They rushed towards it as one force, and the creature was forced to apply the most deadly techniques to survive. One false move would bring death to itself and the reporter who was totally helpless beneath it. The creature lashed out with its right fist, felling the vicious Ninja in a single strike. A roundhouse kick threw another Ninja from it as the creature moved from Ninja to Ninja felling them all. The Ninja gang grew careless in their fear and anger and the creature had soon defeated them all.

Then it quickly knelt beside the reporter, her eyes fluttered and she tried to see the gallant stranger who had rescued her. Her eyes were raw and tired, she could not see him. She asked him in a small voice

"Who are you?"

The creature gazed upon her face, memorising her details in the dim light, looking at the wounds and assessing her condition immediately.

The creature picked her up as gently as it possibly could. She was still murmuring, and the creature could see dim shapes approaching from the distant. More Ninja. It looked about itself for an escape route for it dared not endanger the reporter any more. The manhole cover was the only possible escape route, and the red bandanna creature slid off the cover and in an instant it was gone into the murky depths.

The creature held the reporter close to its breast which was warm and comforting. April felt safe, yet she also felt fear. Where was this stranger taking her?

April tried to open her eyes, but the pain was too intense and made her eyes constantly water. She again asked the name of her savior, but he said not a word. She cried out in frustration, she was totally helpless and dependent on him, yet he was talking to her now. He was whispering reassurances to her, trying to quiet her. She could not make most of his words out, and this made her cry more. In desperation she asked his name again and distinctly heard his ensuing answer like a blade in the dark catching the light. Raphael.

The name quieted her considerably. She was thinking of Renaissance, and the paintings and the times as a child she had been to galleries where the greatest Renaissance painters masterpieces had been housed. She had loved the vivid colours and the people. Her eyes had been so wide when there, and her mother had been delighted with her curiosity and love of artwork. When she had entered her teen years, her mother had sent her to an evening art class each night until she could sketch and paint with creativity. Her mother, believing her capable of fame through her brilliant sketches had died when she was five of breast cancer.

April moaned, long and fatigued. She could see light and figures above her but their shapes only. She reached out to them and one grasped her hand tightly and sat beside her. The hand felt like a claw, with long fingernails and furry skin.

Raphael looked around his ‘Lair’ at the others before him as they took charge of the casualty. There were two others, like himself in the ‘room’ - one was wearing a blue bandanna around his arm, and the other an orange bandanna. They were obviously muscular, male and reptilian, just as Raphael was.

The blue-bandanna Turtle glanced at Raphael, making him feel uneasy for an instant and then shook his head with a slow and graceful motion. The orange-bandanna Turtle did the same, but in a more casual and youthful way, and Raphael looked at the floor in disgrace.

The last was a large rodent, about 4ft high. His fingernails were like long claws yet his face showed compassion and trust and betrayed intelligence. His features were old and his fur was gray, but he looked kind and wise.

The rodent turned to Raphael "Why?" he asked in a gentle manner, scanning the Turtles features for information as Raphael struggled to find the appropriate answer.

"She was attacked by Ninja, Master Splinter" Raphael answered, unable to say anything else than the truth due to his Master’s wise eyes exploring even the Turtle’s soul.

The Turtle with the blue bandanna laid a hand on Raphael’s shoulder, unafraid like most people of this physical gesture of intimacy so uncommon with the image of the ‘tough Martial Artist’. Raphael turned to his brother, his twin and found himself staring at a mirror image. The only difference in appearance was their coloured bandanna’s, yet there was a more intense difference in personality between them.

"Leonardo, I couldn’t do anything else" Raphael explained, anger clouding his voice for one moment.

Leonardo looked at the other, the orange bandanna clad Turtle and smiled at Raphael.

"It’s OK Raph. Any of us would have done the same." Leonardo’s voice was soft and gentle. It had a deep edge to it, a commanding edge which was his most useful asset. His eyes were uncommonly bright and as blue as the bandanna he wore around his arm. His facial expression was of harmony and contentment, but had no idleness sown into his most perfect features. His whole aura felt disciplined and secure, his was the reason he was the most popular of his brothers - and was practically worshipped by Michaelangelo.

Michaelangelo was the orange bandanna Turtle, standing the least tall among the Turtles at only 5ft. His whole adoration of Leonardo stemmed from early childhood when Leonardo had been the mature and educated perfectionist which had so irritated Raphael. At only eighteen years of age, each Turtle had his own personality and maturity, even though they were teenagers.

Raphael was the least liked among his brothers, and with reason. He was a loner and an outsider who could never communicate his feelings so openly like Michaelangelo or physically like Leonardo. He preferred all his time to himself and lived like a hermit, constantly on his own. His deep and brooding nature irritated Leonardo who believed they should have more communication and this in turn irritated Raphael. A great gulf was between these two brothers, only held together by the fact that they were each other’s only companions. For all their misunderstandings of each other, they had a very special relationship which perhaps exceeded the others’. They were bound by a feeling of separateness and estrangement to each other.

Michaelangelo being the youngest, was extremely spoilt. His youthful ways were laughed at by Splinter and his childish tempers were never taken seriously. His bond with his brother, Leonardo angered Raphael who secretly envied the love and adoration for Leonardo. He would be constantly copying Leonardo’s ways and movements, and would constantly be at his side.

A passage door in the murky sewer opened as yet another reptile emerged, this time wearing a purple bandanna around his arm. His name was Donatello, and even though a human female was amidst his brothers and Master - he didn’t take much notice. Donatello was a deep-thinker and concentrated on science studies which greatly intrigued him. As a scientist, he was enthralled by questions regarding the physical world. He was entranced with quantum physics, cloning and mutations - the latter obsessed him more than the others. He was constantly trying to discover more about himself and his brothers, and Michaelangelo was often the unwilling guinea pig of many scientific tests.

None of these hurt Michaelangelo, yet they were designed to gauge his reactions to situations. He was more interested in his brothers feelings and emotions generally than with their anatomy, but he had a very logical mind which screamed for answers.

He watched his brothers and Splinter crowd around the sightless April, and grunted.

"Donatello!" his Master called as a pillow was placed beneath April’s head. "Come over here and help!"

Donatello obeyed with a lazy stride over to the couch where Splinter held April’s hand still. Splinter gave Donatello April’s hand as he moved off the sofa to bring some water for their guest.

Donatello looked at the hand within his own -a delicate nail-varnished five-fingered hand. He sat beside the reporter and brushed his large four-fingered green hand along her cheekbone hearing her sigh as his cool, cold-blooded hand moved to her forehead. It worked better than any cooling rag, and April’s vision began to clear slightly.

April saw Donatello, his green bulky reptilian figure, his gray eyes and smiling reassuring mouth - and screamed. Splinter whirled around from what he’d been doing, and raced to her side. Her face was a perfect expression of fear as she promptly fainted once again.

Splinter reached the sofa, and pulled Donatello aside. Her mouth was twisted with her fear, and her eyes were wet with tears. Beads of sweat had begun to form on her forehead.

Splinter knelt beside her, ushering away the laid-back Donatello who swiftly made use of this opportunity to leave the room for his bedroom, where he could read some of his educational books.

Leonardo poured some water into a large bowl he had obtained from the kitchen. The kitchen and lounge were interwoven, as the largest room in the sewer hideout was a gym or ‘Training Room’ as the Turtles called it. Life was basic for them all, and the only luxury allowed was the television. It was located in the Centre of the lounge by the wall. The couch, where April was lying was facing the television.

April’s eyes began to flutter, as she tried to regain consciousness. Splinter, now extremely cautious of what her reaction would be like sat with her, waving away Leonardo, Raphael and Michaelangelo as her eyes opened. Seeing only the blurred figure of Splinter relaxed her slightly, until her vision cleared again.

April looked at the rat, her worst nightmare, and screamed and screamed until she was breathless. Splinter stayed where he was, very still. The other three Turtles didn’t move. April began to cry, and sweat formed upon her brow. Her eyes were wide-open and filled with tears. Splinter took a rag from the bowl of luke-warm water that Leonardo had filled and wiped her brow.

April was too tired to scream again, her voice had choked her and she stared warily at the rat that had frightened her so much. She began to feel a tingle, still very much afraid yet curiosity was beginning to overwhelm her. She reached out with her left hand and touched the rat’s face, ready to draw back her hand if there was any sign he would bite her. Yet he was very calm and still, and his calmness began to affect her. She sighed and felt his left ear, which was quite long and had a furry, fuzzy bit of hair at the very end. She raised herself up and looked directly into his eyes, very kind eyes that hadn’t a hint of malice.

Then she looked around herself, her eyes as wide at the three turtles who hadn’t moved. Splinter took her by the shoulders and raised her into a sitting position on the couch. Then Raphael drew forward and sat on her right. She looked at him for an instant and then saw Leonardo do the same, except he sat at her left. They were not sitting on the couch, but on the floor at a respectable distance away from the terrified woman.

Michaelangelo sat by Leonardo on the left and they waited for April to speak, the kind and gentle rat who had her within his arms, and the three turtles by the couch.

"Who or what are you all?" April asked, her voice still tearful.

Splinter held her arm reassuringly as he introduced the three turtles to her and himself, but when he mentioned Raphael’s name, she looked faintly surprised.

"So you were the one who saved me from those Ninja?" April said, looking directly at Raphael. Raphael said nothing but nodded his answer to her and looked at Splinter.

"You know about Ninjas?" Splinter asked, his whole posture relaxed and calm.

April drew her eyes away from Raphael to look at Splinter again. What a truly deep and beautiful voice he had, very, very serene.

"Only the clothing. I knew what jumped me." April answered. "I’m also at Martial Arts night class, and we’re studying Ninjutsu at the moment".

Splinter smiled casually and took her hand, which was shaking less.

"I think we have a fellow Ninja here, my students." He affirmed, turning towards the three turtles. They smiled reassuringly at April.

"I wondered where you got the ‘chuck from." Raphael said, snapping his fingers as if he had worked out the answer to an enormous question that he had been searching for the answer to for ages.

"You use nunchuks?" Michaelangelo asked excitedly, moving a little towards the reporter. April started, and moved back into the couch. Michaelangelo moved back disappointed beside Leonardo.

"Not really." April smiled for the first time. "I thought they looked quite good and that if I were to be attacked, when they saw the nunchuks they’d run. They got the better of me this time though, didn’t they?"

"You mean the attackers?" Leonardo asked, shocking April with his clear, deep voice. "That was an unfair contest. Those men that attacked you tonight have been training in the Martial Arts since they were three or four years of age. To test your skill would require another of equal skill, not a street fight with Ninja’s like that. I train with my brothers, who are of equal strength. Master Splinter gauges our ability through our sparring together."

"True." April sighed. "But tonight, he fought them, and he won!" April pointed towards Raphael, her confidence soaring now the Mutant animals had began to talk.

"Raphael has been training since birth" Splinter said "Tonight he did what he has been trained to do all his life. That is all. All of the turtles here have been trained in Ninjutsu all their lives. If they weren’t getting good at it by now, I’d be very worried" Splinter smiled, and April laughed.

"You mean there’s more of you down here?" She asked, her mind opening with the possibilities of what this could mean.

"I have another student, Donatello, who is in his room studying. I will introduce you to him later" Splinter said.

"Wow!" April exclaimed, dropping her head in her hands suddenly. "I can’t believe this is happening"

"I know" Splinter said reassuringly. "You don’t have to believe it as yet. The truth will sink in far too quickly, anyway".

April stayed for two hours, chatting with Leonardo - whom she was infinitely impressed with his soft and gentle ways, she enjoyed joking with Michaelangelo - whom she found irresistibly charming, she loved listening to the wise and calm reasoning of Splinter (even though he was trying to get her not to feature a story about them) and thanking Raphael again and again for his support during the Ninja attack. She even glimpsed Donatello for a few short moments, but he was shy and retired to his room soon enough.

"Donny is not normally as shy" Leonardo assured. "But remember, we’ve never seen a woman before. Except on TV, you’re the first one we’ve ever seen or spoken to. You’re like a star to us because we’ve also seen you on TV!"

"Yeah!" Michaelangelo agreed. "We love you!"

April blushed and Splinter laughed, the three turtles joined in laughing heartily.

"Now, my turtles it is time for you to see April home" Splinter said, his voice becoming authoritative and instructive. April rose instinctively, as if she had no power to disagree with the wise voice that was commanding her.

Splinter waved to her, and she waved back feeling more at ease with a species of half human animals she had never before known existed.

The turtles were masters of the sewer environment, and within twenty minutes of roaming the city sewer tunnels April was safely outside her apartment building door. She watched Leonardo, Michaelangelo and Raphael talking merrily amongst themselves and felt a loyalty already that would ensure she would never print a story about them.

They said simply "Goodnight April!" and walked to the nearest manhole cover and disappeared.

5: Outcasted Family

Whilst Leonardo, Michaelangelo and Raphael were escorting April back to her home safely, Splinter stayed behind to talk with Donatello.

It worried Splinter that Donatello had closeted himself in his room all evening without saying much. All April had heard from Donatello had been a brief and shy "Hi" before he had disappeared to his room.

Opening the door to Donatello’s room, Splinter saw him reading on his bed. It wasn’t a science text book or biography on his favorite scientific personas as was his custom. It was a paperback fictional novel.

"Donatello" Splinter called softly, startling the turtle who hadn’t known he’d been there.

"You shouldn’t do that, Master!" Donatello sighed, closing the book carefully, placing a book mark in the page he’d been reading.

"What is that, my son?" Splinter asked, reaching out for the book. "Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice. I have never read this. What is it about?"

Donatello smiled at Splinter and looked at the cover of the book thoughtfully. "Its about a group of evil creatures that are outsiders and have no real place in society."

"Donatello, we may be outsiders, but there is nothing evil about us. Yet, I can understand why you admire these creatures, as simple as the reason is. They have many qualities which are in their favour." Splinter said.

"Its so unfair. Why are we so different that we can’t even pass for human beings and see the outside world! Why do we have to live here like beasts that can never see the light of day!" Donatello cried out. "When April was here tonight she was afraid of us, even though she knew nothing about us! I felt angry!"

Splinter nodded, and placed an arm about his sons shoulder "Angry at whom? April or yourself?"

Donatello looked at the floor "Myself".

Suddenly the front door was smashed in. Splinter and Donatello moved swiftly behind the bedroom door so they wouldn’t be seen.

A group of Ninja entered the room, and started warily searching the lounge and kitchen.

"They must have followed Raphael!" Splinter swore through gritted teeth. "Such folly!".

The Ninja had finished the search of the main room and were now checking each bedroom in turn. Splinter signaled Donatello to lie low and wait, as he could feel the turtle was anxious to fight them now.

"Wait!" Splinter ordered, and Donatello obeyed. The Ninja had searched his brothers rooms and were pushing open the door to Donatello’s bedroom silently.

Leonardo, Michaelangelo and Raphael were returning from escorting April home, when they heard a slight shuffling from inside their ‘Lair’.

Leonardo motioned the others to be silent, thinking how odd it was that there was movement but no talking from their Master and brother. He knew in a second that all was not right, and decided on a simple course of action - that was to wait and try to communicate with his Master...........

Splinter saw the door opening to its extent and hid himself behind the bookcase. Donatello braced himself onto the ceiling’s wooden beams with great difficulty and waited.........

Leonardo saw two Ninja on guard at their front door and motioned Raphael and Michaelangelo to the left and right of the door ready to jump them at a moment’s notice.........

The Ninja piled into Donatello’s room, knocking over the tables and equipment as they searched the room. Donatello felt his hands moisten and begin to slip.........

6: Fire!

Leonardo crouched, just in front of the door, ready to race into the room and waited.........

Donatello felt his hands slip and he screamed as he fell onto the floor, narrowly missing the Ninja who dodged just in time to avoid contact. He hit the floor and he lost sight. As he lost consciousness he felt the huge crack of the shell on his back and the Martial shout of his Master before he felt or heard nothing at all......

Master Splinter charged out from behind the bookcase, startling the Ninja who quickly regained composure. However, a second was all Splinter needed. He double-kicked two Ninja sending them reeling into the wall. This placed himself before the Ninja and Donatello, yet there was too many. He felt himself moving backwards, and the Ninja were prevailing. Desperately he fought to keep them away from Donatello.

Leonardo heard the commotion from inside their ‘Lair’ and gave the signal to Raphael and Michaelangelo to attack the two Ninja. Raphael kicked his opponent with crushing force in the ribs. The Ninja flipped backwards and drew a shining Katana sword from his belt. Raphael, undaunted, drew his two sharp Sai’s from his own belt and the two faced each other threateningly circling each other, sizing their enemy’s up. If the Ninja had been surprised when Raphael had appeared it didn’t show. He was a more experienced Ninja that the others who had attacked April, and it was with a calm confidence that he now faced Raphael.

Michaelangelo attacked his opponent in the same manner, but another Ninja waiting by his comrade surprised the turtle with a sai slash to the face. Michaelangelo recovered quickly, and dodged the next sai thrust and the ninja’s comrades kicks. He back-flipped out of the ‘Lair’ and the Ninja followed, unaware of Leonardo waiting outside.

Leonardo punched the first Ninja that emerged after Michaelangelo with such force it drove him into the sewer wall. The other Ninja, the one with the sai, opposed Leonardo who drew his sword. Michaelangelo ran back into their ‘Lair’ and into Donatello’s bedroom where he was suddenly overwhelmed by five Ninja attacking him simultaneously.

Splinter was given a little time when Michaelangelo entered the room to begin a fresh assault. He drew a short knife from his belt and began to strike at the unarmed Ninja in front of him. However, two more Ninja surrounded him with broad swords and he was forced to leave Donatello and move back towards the front room to dodge all their thrusts.

Michaelangelo was hit viciously in the face by a short jo staff, and fell at the Ninja’s feet only his shell protecting him from the terrible blows on his back from the jo. He caught the Ninja’s foot and tugged hard on it, making the Ninja lose balance and fall hitting his head on the table behind him. He lost consciousness and Michaelangelo was just standing again when a nunchaku caught him around the throat and pulled him back into the lounge.

Raphael avoided a sword thrust narrowly, and threw the sai with perfect accuracy which hit his adversary in the forehead. A small trickle of blood flowed from the Ninja’s head as he fell dead to the floor. Raphael grabbed his own blood soaked sai and used the flat handle end to knock down the Ninja who was choking Michaelangelo. However, another Ninja had crept up behind Raphael and hit him with the flat of a sword just as he was helping his brother up. Michaelangelo followed through with a kick to the groin as Raphael fell unconscious but was too choked and dazed to see clearly the five Ninja surrounding him.

Leonardo faced his opponent with a killers fury and an assassins calm. He felled the Ninja after three sword thrusts of his own deadly katana, and then ran back inside the ‘Lair’. There he saw Michaelangelo outnumbered and faring badly and Raphael was unconscious. Leonardo had no idea how his Master and Donatello were doing, but he had no choice. Michaelangelo and Raphael had to be the first to aid else they would be killed.

Michaelangelo had always suffered slightly with asthma over the years, but now he couldn’t breathe. He kicked out blindly at one Ninja to be hit viciously in the face by another. He fell wheezing over the battered body of Raphael as Leonardo charged towards the five Ninja. They turned just as his katana sliced the throats of the first three Ninja, and Leonardo faced the other two with rage as he saw Michaelangelo wheezing.

Splinter simply could not hold the Ninja off. There were six left, not including the Ninja in the lounge that Leonardo was facing. A nunchuku swept his legs from behind and as he fell two of the Ninja raised him by his arms as a sword was placed under his throat.

"Come with us or die" Said the Ninja with the sword. Splinter was led outside where Leonardo was solely holding back three Ninja, and as Splinter was taken from the ‘Lair’, he cried out one name "Leonardo!!"

Leonardo fought on bravely as he watched helplessly the Ninja take his Master away. Tears still welled up in his eyes, yet he would not give up. His brothers lives depended on that.

The four Ninja that were left in Donatello’s bedroom looked at the turtle, at his broken shell and seemingly lifeless form.

"Let’s go. He’ll never have survived." One Ninja said, and the three left the room. They stepped into the lounge and saw Leonardo facing three Ninja. One drew a match and lit it, producing a single flame, and dropped it on the ground by Donatello’s bedroom door. The flames engulfed the one side of the room, and trapped Donatello.

Leonardo had managed to kill one of the Ninja but four more had surrounded him. He felt all hope abandon him as the six Ninja continued their assault.

Raphael’s eyes opened weakly and he saw Michaelangelo shaking violently as if in a fit. Lying his brother down quickly he assessed the situation and saw the six Ninja attacking Leonardo, now penetrating his defense. Launching a fresh assault, despite the choking heat of the flames and the smoke, Raphael charged them, bowling four over. Leonardo thrusted his sword at a Ninja, and felled him with a deadly strike. Then he swung the sword around to the other Ninja and cut off the opponents head. Raphael lashed out with his sai into one of the Ninja’s heart turning the blade as it entered, a torrent of blood spilling from the wound as the Ninja’s legs buckled and gave way. The Ninja fell dead upon the floor as the other three Ninja, sensing defeat raced to the front door. Leonardo ran after them, but when he reached the door they had disappeared.

Raphael stood shakily, and knelt beside Michaelangelo.

"We’ve got to get him out, Leo" Raphael said, a tremor of anxiety and fear in his voice. "Where’s Splinter and Donny?"

"They got Splinter, Raph. I don’t know about Donny." Leonardo looked towards Donatello’s bedroom, the flames licking up the door and the wall. "I have to get in there to make sure Donny’s OK"

"Are you crazy Leo? You’ll never get in there now - look at the fire!"

Leonardo remained undaunted. "I have to go after Donny!!!"

"I know. Leo be careful, I’ll get Mike out" Raphael gave his older brother a quick hug, and then dragged Michaelangelo outside the ‘Lair’.

Leonardo kicked open the bedroom door and felt the heat of the fire on his leg for an instant. He tried to see through the flames into the room, but it was no good.

Finally, in a desperate attempt, Leonardo somersaulted through the door, over the flames and landed with a sickening crash on the carpet. Leonardo looked around and saw Donatello sprawled on the ground, his shell broken in half. He looked dead as his lips were blue and he wasn’t moving or crying out in pain.

Leonardo gathered his brother to him, unable at that moment in time to do anything about his physical condition except get him away from the fire. The shell was loose on Donatello’s back, but it was still attached to the skin. Both parts of the shell were causing blood upon Donatello’s back, especially with Leonardo moving him, but Leonardo had no choice. Leonardo was choking on the severe fumes of the flames, yet he could hear Raphael calling to him from outside and he looked up to see Raphael waving to get his attention.

Leonardo pulled Donatello up to his feet so they were almost standing side-by-side and raised him up above the flames with both hands. Then, with all his strength, Leonardo threw the body of Donatello over the flames and into Raphael’s arms.

Leonardo saw Raphael immediately leave with Donatello. Knowing his strength had all but evaporated and this was his only chance left Leonardo jumped over the flames.

He miscalculated badly and the fire caught hold of his skin, but Raphael had come back and was hitting the fire on Leonardo’s left arm and left leg with a wet rag. Badly scalded on his left side, Leonardo struggled to his feet, grasped Raphael by the arm and together they left what had once been their home, blazing.

Outside the ‘Lair’ Leonardo closed the front door as all they had ever held precious went up in flames. He looked at Donatello, and knelt by his side.

Donatello had suffocated due to the intense smoke of the flames. His lips were blue and his face was purple. His shell was cracked and he had no pulse. Leonardo and Raphael immediately recognised the situation as Master Splinter had taught them, and began desperately to resuscitate their brother. Michaelangelo rocked himself, crying steadily, as the two elder brothers continued their laborious task.

Raphael breathed into Donatello’s mouth, trying to breathe life back into his brothers lifeless form. Leonardo, the stronger of the two, pounded Donatello’s chest.

For three minutes this continued, the flames coming dangerously close to the front door, yet Leonardo and Raphael would not stop. They traded places once Leonardo became too tired to continue, and Leonardo began frantically to talk to Donatello, as if this would somehow wake him from the dead.

"Come on Donny!! Don’t leave us!" Leonardo cried, breathing once more into the mouth. Yet, even as he said this, their came a faint choking from Donatello, and then a small cry. The pain of his broken shell was making his eyes water, and his whole body was shaking with shock.

"Thank God!" Leonardo cried, kissing Donatello on the forehead as Michaelangelo drew near. Raphael, looked away as he asked: "Was Splinter in there too, Leo?"

"Of course not. Do you think I would have left him there if he had been?" Leonardo snapped. “They took him, I told you that."

"So, how are we going to find him now?" Raphael asked, his back turned so Leonardo couldn’t see the tears in his eyes.

7: The Retreat

The three turtles, carrying their brother Donatello carefully made a quick retreat across town till they came to April’s apartment building.

Michaelangelo had recovered from his asthma attack and was under careful observation by Leonardo. Donatello had passed out once more, due to the intense pain.

When they arrived at April’s home, she stood at the door amazed as they brought in their injured brother. He had woken once more and was softly gasping as the pain came in spasms.

Leonardo turned Donatello over gently, so that he was on his front, then began to examine the damage of the broken shell.

Michaelangelo began to tell April what had happened, using quick, brief yet descriptive speech as Master Splinter had taught them all to use during similar circumstances.

Raphael guarded the door.

For two days and nights they remained the same, Raphael keeping a silent watch and Leonardo trying to ease the pain of Donatello’s broken shell. Michaelangelo took to roaming the streets at night and the sewers by day. He always went by himself, and didn’t want to ask the others’ for company. After he’d failed so badly on the night of the Foot attack he didn’t want to be near his brothers who reminded him of Splinter and their home.

Often he sped with silence through the sewer tunnels on a skateboard and it was on the second day of their failure in battle that he stopped his skateboard abruptly when he reached a certain manhole cover. He climbed up so that he could see the world outside, see the sun burning on the roofs of the flats and sparse trees. This was not the first time he had stopped at this particular manhole cover and recognition showed clearly upon his face as he looked out of the drain and into the world above. He could see the children playing in this sunlight, unafraid. He had always marveled at the courage of children, they feared nothing. They were only filled with wonder and questions at the world that surrounded them. Fear had not begun to blossom its evil head into their innocent minds.

A young girl skipped over the road to the manhole cover and stopped as she saw something move beneath the drain. She froze, but there was no fear, only curiosity.

Michaelangelo relaxed when he saw her face soften, and he called to her gently.

"Melissa. You shouldn’t come here now. Your mother has forbidden you to do this, thinking you’re talking to the sewers She thinks you’ve gone mad"

The child gave a pretty laugh, full of energy and delight. She sat beside the manhole and slipped her warm hand into the drain. Michaelangelo caught it, and held it.

"My mother wouldn’t understand. I love you, Mikey. But why haven’t I ever seen you?" Melissa said.

Michaelangelo turned away his head, more moved than he could express in words. He held Melissa’s hand. The child with no fear, only a child’s love. A love she felt for him.

Had anyone ever loved him? This monstrous being that he was? He felt too choked to respond.

"Maybe one day, Melissa. But not now. My appearance would only startle and confuse you. But I have to go now. I’ll see you sometime soon, I promise." Michaelangelo let go of the little hand held in his and walked away back down into the murky depths of the sewer.

No one had ever touched such a deep emotion with Michaelangelo before. He called Melissa by the name of Shadow. When his brothers and he talked seriously about their futures he always had said if he were to have a child, he’d call it Shadow regardless of its sex. Yet, he knew how unlikely this was, for him to have a child was very unlikely. Yet, Melissa rung from him more love than he cared to admit. He felt almost paternal when that little hand grasped his, regardless of his hand’s texture.

Melissa knew he wasn’t human. She knew and she didn’t care about his mutancy. She cared only about him as an individual. He felt more human with Melissa than deep in the sewers with his brothers.

She could never have handled the truth about him, that he was sure of. And whatever he felt, no matter how great the urge became to reveal himself to her, he would never give in. For it would only pain her to realise how humankind turned on those different than themselves. Also, they had a new problem to contend with first - a foreboding fear of absolute failure.

8: The Decision

The third day after their defeat Raphael walked further from April’s home and his brothers. Weary in body and soul he tried to see his future, but he had no vision, nothing. His future was like a dark prism of glass, reflecting the light but never emitting or receiving any. His life was nothing, he had tried to do everything, but tonight something had broken inside him. His love and his idealists way of looking upon the world had been forever stripped from him. He realised that his ‘Kind’ could not go on after himself and his brothers died. That made him feel very vulnerable and almost unable to cope. Suicidal thoughts, and protective thoughts concerning his brothers, flooded his mind in a way they never had in the past. Survival was nothing to them. Their species was doomed to extinction - and yet he knew how ridiculous the idea of a female Turtle would be. Perhaps he had got used to them as four brothers only, and could never really accept a female in their midst unless she was his and his alone.

Issues of dominance would tear them all apart, of that he was sure. Yet, he could not help but feel ultimately alone and afraid of a dim and hopeless future. He was also feeling very afraid now that the security of his Master had been taken away from him. All he had ever known had evaporated in the cruel defeat.

Leonardo, as was becoming his habit, followed Raphael closely. His constant protectiveness was his only way to deal with the hopelessness of everything. With Donatello so ill it seemed fitting that he protect the other two.

Leonardo could sense everything that Raphael was brooding about. They were outsiders. They would never fit into normal society. Never have a girlfriend. Never go to disco’s or nightclubs. Never marry. Never bear children. Never life a normal life.

Leonardo felt the loneliness so keenly, his eyes moistened. Raphael trudged on regardless, not giving an indication that he knew Leonardo was following. Then he sat where he was and drew up his knees to his chest battling the cold of his inner darkness, trying to kindle what little warmth his spirit had left. Leonardo moved soundlessly from his shadowy corner to join Raphael and sat beside him, fearlessly leaving his legs outstretched, determined no matter how cold and lonely he felt never to give in to despair and to his own feeling of worthlessness and personal failure and curl himself up like Raphael was doing.

Then he moved his hand and placed it on Raphael’s shoulder. Raphael looked up and saw Leonardo sitting beside him. Then he smiled and shook his head as if he was over his despair, but Leonardo knew this act far too well. His brother was suffering inside and he was powerless to prevent the pain. He would have given his life to ensure his brothers happiness, but the darkness inside them all was too painful to ever forget or abandon. Leonardo’s own warmth that he emitted so often was just a front, like Raphael’s was.

"If only ........" Leonardo began, his voice choked to a whisper. He turned away from Raphael, his eyes tearful and unusually bright because of the tears. Leonardo wanted to say ‘If only I could take the pain away’, but the words didn’t come.

Raphael smiled and looked at Leonardo who was facing away from him, hand still on his shoulder. He rose and brushed aside Leonardo’s hand, and walked away. When he reached the first bend in his direction, he stopped and turned.

"Leo, I ....." He stopped. Leonardo was gone. Raphael’s eyes shone with his tears and he acknowledged this gesture of love, this physical intimacy of the hand on the shoulder so common from his brother yet so meaningful, this deep warmth. He smiled and blinked, clearing his vision slightly. Then he walked away, his mouth whispering two words of sincere gratitude for this affectionate affirmation of silent understanding. Those words would not have been heard by anyone even near him, but he knew Leonardo was not near. He said: “Thank you”.

Leonardo made the momentous decision on the fourth day. Donatello was not recovering well at all, and Michaelangelo had withdrawn from both Raphael and Leonardo to spend all his time alone by himself. Raphael was constantly tearful, and tried to stay out as much as possible to hide his own pain.

April did the best she could for them, yet even she was tiring. Nursing one physically sick turtle and three wearied and mentally strained turtles was too much even for her enthusiasm and spirit.

Leonardo gently sat her down and sat beside her as he explained his plan.

"April, I think we ought to go away for a while, to sort things out."

"What?!" April exclaimed. "Where would you go?"

"The countryside, maybe. We need something to do, somewhere to go - and perhaps the change would be better for Donny too" Leonardo explained.

"But how would you get there? I can’t just leave my job to take you to the country!" April reasoned

Leonardo shook his head gently "We need the time together to get things sorted out - in our minds, and plan what we’ll do to reclaim Splinter"

"I can’t leave my job. My boss is getting suspicious about my recent absences through looking after Donatello. If I left on a vacation now he’d sack me" April said, exasperated.

Leonardo looked downwards, feeling desperate. He’d always counted upon April being there for them all, but this time she really had no choice but to stay in New York.

April sighed. She looked at Leonardo’s worn expression and felt despair more keenly than she ever had before. This was a trained Ninja, whose emotions were like steel, yet he was merely a teenager. His adolescent phases were so apparent, yet he commanded his team with a wise man’s authority.

In an instant, April knew she could not let him down. His commanding presence had always demanded its way, yet he hadn’t persisted with this favour. She looked at his gentle and tired expression and couldn’t say No. "Very well" She said and walked away.

April’s boss, Charles had been looking for just the right reason to sack his best reporter. Relations between himself and The Foot had all but crumbled, and her announcing this sudden vacation was the reason he told her now she was fired. The telephone in his hand shook as he gave her the bad news.

April’s mouth opened aghast. What?" She asked into the receiver of her telephone, too amazed to say anything else.

"Your fired April. Summary Dismissal for anauthorised absences. However if you decide to come into work.."

"Forget it Charles" April said angrily, her voice rising in rage "We can’t have The Foot suspecting you are on the side of the people now, can we?"

"April you don’t understand my position" Charles explained, his voice quiet and strained. "If I don’t do this, I could me in more trouble than its worth"

"Fine Charles, just turn your back on me and what I know. You’ll be sorry, I promise" April slammed down the receiver in disgust. Leonardo stood at the door to the bedroom where April suddenly started pacing with mouth slightly ajar, a look of deep concern on his face.

"This is our doing, isn’t it?" Leonardo said softly.

"What?" April asked softly, turning to face him, her features forcing themselves into a fake smile.

"That you’ve lost your job" Leonardo finished.

April smiled, and looked at Leonardo’s fretful countenance, the first signs of mature leadership formed in tiny lines on his forehead which had deepened with his expression and with his characteristic frown. The worry and anxiety of this one far exceeded the others as he was expected to lead them into battle.

"No, of course not" April assured. "This is a setback, that’s all. And my boss is a wimp" April laughed suddenly, the pretty mouth widening in a huge girlish grin. Leonardo, for an instant forgetting his worries, laughed too.

April borrowed an old van from a distant cousin by the name of Casey Jones. He was a strange man, with a talent for sport and for vigilantism. When Casey first met the Turtles, he was genuinely taken aback, although after five minutes, when the awkward conversation veered onto the subject of The Martial Arts, Casey Jones became totally at home with the three turtles. Raphael was his favourite, because they shared an interest in Kumite and war. Raphael loved the idea of unarmed combat, to the bitter end, in a deadly arena as did Casey Jones. Casey found Leonardo much harder to get on with as he would always talk of teamwork and meditation, whereas Casey was a loner and cared only for full contact martial arts and had no knowledge whatsoever of different styles of Zen meditation. Michaelangelo was hiding in Leonardo’s shadow a little, so Casey formed no opinion of him then.

Casey helped April load the injured yet recovering Donatello into the back of the van and Leonardo climbed into the front passenger seat next to April. The other two turtles got in the back of the van with Donatello. They drove carefully out of a secluded garage, waving goodbye to Casey and made their way through New York.

The traffic was a steady stream of yellow cab’s and car’s. The van made its way seemingly unnoticed among the traffic jam’s and Police stopping vehicles for various reasons. Then Leonardo began to feel uneasy and his senses told him something was wrong. An instant later a siren sounded from behind the van, and Leonardo scrambled quickly into the back of the van to avoid being seen.

A Police car lazily drew alongside the van signaling for the van to pull into a side road. April complied, and drove into a small side street and waited for the policeman to emerge.

Chief Sterns appeared from the car, and April got out incensed, and shouted at him angrily.

"What the hell do you think you’re doing, pulling me into a side street" April swore.

Chief Sterns seemed unperturbed, and casually retreating to his car drove off without a word or gesture. April looked at the police car disappear from view and went back to the van where Leonardo, afraid for her safety had climbed back into the front seat to watch her progress.

His eyes darted from one side of the alley, to the other and April froze, sensing something very wrong. Leonardo opened the door of the van and moved slowly towards her, signaling the other two Turtles to remain inside the van with Donatello. He walked very softly towards her, seemingly unaware that he was in plain view of any passer by, an reached for her hand. The moment she grasped his hand, he yanked her behind him, gesturing for her to get into the van, quickly.

Behind her, not yards away, black clothed figures emerged from the shadows, moving stealthily towards the figure of Leonardo. April opened the door to the van and got inside, closing all the windows and locking all the doors. She scrambled into the back where Raphael and Michaelangelo were sorting their weapons. Opening the rear van door, Michaelangelo told April in a hushed whisper to lock the rear door behind them, which she did.

Leonardo took a step back, quickly retreating to his brothers, without taking one eye off the advancing Ninja. Raphael handed him his Katana swords, which glinted off the light of the sun through the alleyway. Michaelangelo and Raphael prepared themselves also, in a stance, ready for combat.

Inside the van, April handed Donatello his staff, weakened as he was by his spinal injury, he vowed he would not let the Ninja touch April. He was sat by the door, ready if the rear door should be opened by force. April climbed back into the front seat and watched the Ninja advance on the three Turtles, all weapons now brandished by both sides. Suddenly, with a force that shook the van and made Donatello wince with pain as his body moved with the blow something hit the van. A single Ninja stood on the roof of the van, as with a roar, the black clad Ninja with weapons drawn, charged the three Turtles.

The Ninja on the van roof drew a small pistol from his belt, which seemed out of place for martial artists and fired through the roof. The bullet narrowly avoided April’s forehead and grazed her arm. Dazed with shock April covered her face as shards of glass came towards her. The windscreen had been kicked in, and the Ninja stood above her, his evil eyes glaring from behind the dark mask.

The Ninja about to strike with a deadly sword came down on to his knees, blood gushing from his head, with a sudden gesture that frightened April more than his sudden arrival. Raphael took the sai blade from the man’s head as he continued to battle, protecting the front of the van as best he could.

Recovering slightly from her shock, April realised that the three Turtles had formed a close knit circle, Raphael protecting the front of the van, Michaelangelo the rear and Leonardo, using height as a advantage with his long swords was on the roof.

Donatello shouted to April from the back, and she scrambled over to him. He looked concerned at her arm wound and face bleeding from the shattered glass, but his mind was that of a warrior now his battle instincts had kicked in. The battle was everything now, and casualties would be taken care of later. April accepted this, and Donatello opened the rear door of the van to monitor his younger brother’s progress.

Michaelangelo was fighting considerably well. Desperate to make amends for his recent failure, he fought like a demon, mustering all his reserves of strength against four Ninja. The first Ninja’s defense was easily broken as Michaelangelo attacked with a torrent of killing blows, and the man fell, his head split with the force of one nunchaku brought down hard against his skull. The other three Ninja attacked him then simultaneously, yet he fought well parrying each sword thrust and managing a good offense as well.

Leonardo, using his van roof to his own advantage, brought blows to the Ninja as they hurried by, eager to attack Raphael and Michaelangelo.

Raphael fought with savage animal ability, his sai daggers slicing his foe’s when they came too close. He fought to make up for the failure he had endured, and made his resistance all the more deadly. All three Turtles, determined not to fail again, became desperately aware that they were heavily outnumbered. Their defenses were becoming sloppy as there was just too many Ninja to avoid each blow, and some thrusts began to get through the Turtles defense and wound them. April watched helplessly as all three turtles were now fighting desperately, trying to protect each other and failing.

It was their recent failure repeating itself, and their spirit was beginning to fade. Donatello cried to them to get back into the van, and even as they did and April floored the accelerator into the Ninja, their spirits vanished and they became three broken teenagers.

Behind them they left a burning blaze, and April saw in horror her own flat burn up in a fearsome blaze. The ninja had set alight her home and had torn her life to pieces.

The van sped south, away from the city, and into the countryside. Arriving at an old farmhouse that had once belonged to April’s father, they all began the slow recovery of mind and body.

9: The Farmhouse

The sun rose slowly, greeting the animal inhabitants of the woods and forests with a fiery light. Everything came alive with this warm glow, an energy spreading worldwide. Streams reflected the light like a ripple of gold upon the water’s surface, making the eyes of the one that glanced at the river momentarily squint, then close in a deep meditation.

Leonardo sighed, contented with the world for once. It was as if nature welcomed this strange cross-mutation with open arms. If only the human inhabitants of this planet could not do the same. He was propped up against a tree, its leafy branches swaying in the gentle breeze, his legs were crossed and his arms held up as if carrying an object. His mind was of pure peace, the battle forgotten in this state of serenity. Michaelangelo has startled him last evening, when he had, as soon as they had arrived at the house immediately phoned Casey Jones, his only friend, in the dead of night. The chat went on for hours, and when Michaelangelo came off the phone he was almost in tears. Casey had been kind on the telephone when he had heard of the previous battle, but what could be really say that would be of help?

To meditate correctly, one must clear one’s thoughts of all previous occurrences and thought, Leonardo reminded himself as his thoughts carelessly wandered to Splinter and his wounded brothers. Yet, the concern could not be put out of his mind easily, so Leonardo rose with one quick, graceful and fluid movement and walked away from the sighing tree to the Farmhouse where April had bought them.

The battle had taken its toll on all of them. As Leonardo entered the decaying abode, he noticed Michaelangelo sprawled across the swing-chair on the porch, snoring heavily, blood seeping through the bandages on his head and arm. Donatello had been placed on the sofa while Raphael had slept on the chair. Leonardo had no intention to wake any of them, so he contented himself with just glancing briefly at their injuries, and then trudging upstairs to the bathroom.

When Leonardo arrived at the bathroom, he looked into April’s room quickly, and when he was finally satisfied that all inhabitants were perfectly safe, closed the bathroom door, effectively locking himself away from the rest of the house. Then Leonardo fell to the floor and wept.

Michaelangelo woke with a start on the porch chair after a heavy sleep and a bad nightmare. Blood and sweat mixed together to sting his wounds and he winced as he tried to get up. His limbs were tired and his wounds required another bandage. He tiptoed across the room where Raphael and Donatello still slumbered and found his way to the kitchen. Once there, he applied the bandage but he realized his hands were shaking. His vision suddenly blurred, and Michaelangelo realized he was on the brink of crying.

Raphael awoke and immediately went outside the Farmhouse. He stood looking at the country view, anger welling up inside him threatening to unleash itself at any second. His attention was diverted suddenly to something glinting in the sunlight. It was one of Leonardo’s Katana blades, the deadly double-edged sword seeming no less deadly with its trained master not wielding it. Raphael picked up the sword, left carelessly on the porch area and held it aloft, then he placed the blade at his breast and held it there, his hands quivering. Finally, it dropped from his grasp, and his hands covered his face as he fell to his knees on the dusty floor.

Donatello, the fourth to wake lay just where he was, his eyes open, his ideals completely broken like his shell. His body shook with the guilt of failing and the pain of his back and his half choked sobs alarmed Michaelangelo who emerged from the kitchen. Michaelangelo looked around the room, but was fairly sure Donatello was still asleep until the restrained gasps became too much for Donatello to bear and his sobs became all too apparent. Michaelangelo sat beside his brother, too full of his personal grief to say a word, and placed an arm on his brothers shoulder.

April awoke from a restless night’s sleep and looked around herself fearfully. Her fears were increased when the bathroom door opened, and she sighed with relief when Leonardo emerged looking as pale as death. Leonardo managed a restrained smile as he saw April awake, and ventured over to her bed, sitting beside her and brushing her hair from her brow with a gentle gesture that served to calm her. She closed her eyes, and Leonardo sat beside her with the vigilance of a lover.

Raphael collapsed onto the porch, unable to hold back his grief any longer in a fit of sobs. His usually hardened nature and his disregard generally for emotion of any sort left him, and he felt his pain intensely, perhaps more than his brothers altogether. He became a broken teenager, an outcast and a individual facing his own fears, and who has never done so before. He had never before confronted his emotional side, his fears embracing him as an all-consuming force that threatened to destroy him.

Leonardo walked down the stairs slowly, his mind more at ease, although his body was worn and bruised. He suffered the least because he needed to be there for those around him and tended to block out his pain on the account of being the oldest, the one his brothers could depend upon. He saw Michaelangelo, his arm on Donatello’s shoulder. Then he walked outside and saw the broken figure of Raphael sobbing on the floor, his fingers wound around the handle of the katana. Overcome with pity and grief, Leonardo picked up his brother from the floor and wound his arms around Raphael’s shoulders, closing the distance between them.

Raphael and Leonardo cried unashamedly together.

10: The Farm house, Part 2

The next week was hard for all four Turtles as they were discovering a dark side of their nature none of them knew existed. Michaelangelo sparred alone, driven on by a demonic strength which threatened to destroy his reason. In an old barn at the back of the farm house he practiced the most devastating moves of Ninjutsu repeatedly, never resting, until they were perfected. However, his constant sparring with no rest began to affect him, and he was steadily growing weaker. His asthma plagued him, and his practicing began to become dangerous to himself. The constant training was keeping his mind off the terrible events that had happened so recently, but his body was suffering.

Donatello had been moved from the couch, to the bedroom where he lay in constant pain, unable to sleep. The shell on his back was hardening and brittle, and a film of hard skin had formed on his back, like a nail that is broken off and forms itself once more. The pain was excruciating. At times it was so unbearable Donatello would only wish for his life to end. At other times he would suffer paralysis and become terrified that he would lose all feeling in his body. The feeling left though, and he would be in pain once more.

Leonardo had taken to wandering further and further from the farm house. Unable to comprehend there was nothing he could do to ease Michaelangelo’s mental state, Donatello’s constant pain and Raphael’s reclusiveness he’d become like a hermit, often traversing steep hills and long fields. He was gone for days at a time, and would eventually return with a distant and miserable expression. He had lost all faith in his leadership capabilities, and he’d become very, very alone.

Raphael had completely sealed himself off from the outside world. He would become like a statue and not respond to discussions or questions. He would often lie on his bed with his Walkman trying in vain to drown out the cries of Donatello. He had lost interest in the world around him, and had taken to reading in the evenings. Most of the books he read were about outcasts from society that ended very badly.

April had become a mother to Donatello, nursing him through the worst moments. She constantly fed him different remedies in the hope that one would take effect, yet his condition still pained him terribly. She had never been so close to losing a close friend before, and Donatello had frightened her with his screams. He would call to her sometimes, and she would just be scrunched up on the floor, her hands to her ears trying to forget for one instant the agony Donatello was going through.

All of them were wounded and scarred both physically and mentally. In need of each other they could only, in their despair, turn each other away. It was only a matter of time before one of them reached a breaking point.

11: The Farm house, Part 3

Two weeks after their battle with The Foot Clan, Donatello was feeling much better. The thin layer of hard skin had become a shield around the delicate flesh of his back and had forced the broken shell off completely. He was no longer in pain, but he was uncomfortable, and he could walk again. He would accompany Leonardo on walks often and the two would confide in each other and talk as they never had before.

"Its so peaceful here" Donatello said, sighing as a slight breeze brushed his face. The country side was a mass of yellow flowers blooming almost ferociously, blocking out all the other flowers. The greenness of the grass surpassed their imaginations and the sky was as blue as the water on the distant lake. The two brothers stopped walking by the lake and sat on the grass, crushing the delicate strands beneath them.

"Yes it is" Leonardo replied, leaning back against the trunk of a large tree, and stretching his arms out in an extravagant yawn.

"There’s nothing like this in New York." Donatello continued, marveling at the landscape before them.

"Of course not. Its countryside, nothing but sky and grass for miles"

Donatello laughed. "Maybe one day we’ll live out here, where we can be ourselves. What do you think?"

Leonardo smiled. His brother’s gaiety was revitalising his spirit.

"Maybe one day. I reckon you would miss city life too much though." Leonardo smiled, watching his brother, so different from the wrecked being two weeks ago, with shell broken and face ashen. In contrast, a deep attractive blush had covered his cheeks, obviously with the strain of walking so far. Donatello’s back had formed a temporary shell to replace the one broken, which was softer and much easier to move in.

"Not me!" Donatello snorted, his face all smiles, and full of delight with knowing his brother was finally himself again.

"We’ll see" Leonardo said, and looked away, sighing contentedly when he saw Michaelangelo walk with his back to them along the lake. "Hey, Mikey!" He shouted.

Michaelangelo turned and waved, but his face was full of misery and despair. Both himself and Raphael hadn’t yet recovered, and whilst Leonardo and Donatello sought to make the best of their current situation, the other two had fallen into a foreboding silence.

Leonardo sighed again, this time a sigh of concern. He rose and helped Donatello to his feet as they moved towards the lake. Michaelangelo had gone by the time they were near the place he had been walking, and both walked away, returning to the farmhouse, both not realising a trail of blood was trickling into the lake from behind one of the large hedges.

Raphael returned later that evening. He had been wandering, selfishly locked within his own private thoughts, and Michaelangelo still hadn’t returned.

When midnight came and went Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo and April sat up waiting for him, each concealing from the others their concerns until the silence was broken by Leonardo.

"Let’s go out and look for him" Leonardo said. Without protest, the others rose, a deep foreboding feeling making them all feel sick to their stomach’s.

"Where can we look for him?" Raphael objected. "We don’t know where on earth he was today!"

"Donatello and I saw him at the lake earlier, he may still be there" Leonardo confessed, the feeling of something very wrong was becoming worse and his thoughts springing into action.

They all took along with them torches and walked to the lake, and circled it once without luck, fanning out around the lake creating some distance between themselves. Leonardo had brought along with him some sheets and blankets, fearing Michaelangelo was attempting to ‘rough it’ in the cold.

No trace, and anxiety was visible as they decided to again circle the lake. Raphael dived into the water and began to check the lake. Although not deep, no sign of Michaelangelo was found.

Leonardo was the first to glimpse a dried trail of blood leading to the water’s edge. He called Michaelangelo’s name softly and when there was no response he dropped the pack he was carrying and moved behind the hedge.

What he saw there caused a small scream to come from his lips ending in one word loud enough to attract the others attention from all over the lake. April ran towards the sound, and Donatello made his way as fast as he could, just as Raphael made his way, swimming quickly back to shore. The word that emerged from his lips as he knelt beside a figure covered with blood shocked the others with the despair in his tone. That one word was ‘Mikey’.

12: The Sai Daggers

Leonardo looked at the form below him, it was Michaelangelo, sprawled on his belly only the shell visible apart from the bandanna flapping in the wind and his head sideways, his lips parted.

Acting without even thinking, Leonardo quickly got a blanket from his pack and put this over the seemingly lifeless figure. Then he turned Michaelangelo gently, so that he was still on the blanket, and examined what had caused the blood trail which had stopped at the lake. Michaelangelo had tried to commit suicide, his wrists slashed upwards and blood clotted against his wounds. There was no visible signs of life and Leonardo automatically began CPR, even though after hours of his attempted suicide there appeared no hope of reviving his younger brother. However, a strangled noise came from Michaelangelo even as Leonardo was about to try and breathe back life into his brother, and Leonardo listened as the others came towards them, stopping in horror when they saw Michaelangelo wounded.

Michaelangelo’s heart was beating, but it was dangerously slow and his face was more ashen than Donatello’s had ever been. His hands folded around Leonardo’s as his eyes opened and he gazed at his brother.

Too full of anguish to do anything except lift Michaelangelo and carry him back, not allowing the others close, Leonardo quickly found his way to the farmhouse where he took Michaelangelo to the bathroom and bathed his wounds by lamp light.

Raphael pushed open the door of the bathroom, and just as Leonardo was about to slam it shut to get rid of him so that he could see to his wounded brother, he noticed a despairing look on Raphael’s face, more deeper than any expression he had seen in his life. Rising to his feet, Leonardo approached Raphael who did not conceal the steady flow of tears from his eyes.

Leonardo waited until Raphael spoke, in a choked whisper:

"I didn’t take them with me today ...... I left them here, and thought nothing more of it. Splinter warned me so much of leaving them lying around, and I didn’t take any notice" Raphael babbled, his tears increasing with every word. "He warned me that I had a responsibility to safeguard them from misusers, but I left them, I left them here and he took... he took them!"

Suddenly it became all too apparent what Raphael was so upset about. In his hands were his own sai daggers, covered with blood. Not the blood from the Foot encounter, but his own brother. In revulsion, Leonardo backed away and looked at his katana’s in the corner of the bathroom. Always taught by his Master that the katana was the most prized of all weapons, respected and looked after so thoroughly by the ancient samurai, suddenly this seemed so unimportant. His own brother was most probably dying because he had taken Raphael’s weapons, and used them against himself. Raphael blamed himself because he had been trained to keep his weapons close to him. In a sudden rage, Leonardo flung his two swords away from him. The swords clattered to the floor, and Raphael watched this in terror.

"Get out!" Leonardo roared at Raphael and slammed the door in his brother’s face. Then he took Michaelangelo by the rim of his shell and pulled him up to face him.

"Why did you do it!" Leonardo cried. Michaelangelo sobbed, unable to form words, and for the first time Leonardo realised that his younger brother’s despair had proved too much for him. Michaelangelo had believed this was the only way out.

He pulled his brother to his breast and held him there, gently rocking him, sobbing as Michaelangelo was sobbing. Together they sat crying, both at last confronting their fears and finding comfort in one another.

After a while, when the sobbing had stopped, Leonardo dressed Michaelangelo’s wound and bathed him so that he was free of blood. Then he tucked his brother into his bed for the rest of the night and did something totally unfamiliar to him. His Master had did this when they were small to say goodnight, and the gesture had been very comforting. He kissed Michaelangelo’s forehead and then switched off the light and closed the door.

Leonardo checked Michaelangelo every hour of that night, but it seemed as if he definitely would recover. His wounds have closed, although they were weeping slightly. His face was white still, and he was very weak from lack of blood, yet he seemed to be recovering well.

Raphael had been brooding over the whole affair. Unable to face either Michaelangelo or Leonardo he had been very saddened and had not been able to sleep at all. His weapons he had washed many times, yet he was sure in his despair that his brother’s blood haunted the blades like a phantom in the night.

Donatello had said very little. Unable to move far, and unable to comfort anyone in his own state, he had merely shut himself off from the affairs of the World by burying his head into a book by Barbara Hambly, his favourite author of the moment and her book Immortal Blood. This he read over and over till he could recite parts of the text and often did to April and his brothers. Not that the book had any significant value to his life or to his brothers lives, yet the subject matter was vampires and outsiders.

April had been numbed by Michaelangelo’s attempted suicide. In her despair she suddenly reached a terrible conclusion, and that conclusion was that she felt nothing.

Each of these individual’s were crying out to each other in there own hopeless despair, yet was too afraid to comfort the others in case the despair was not reciprocated. Yet, in this solitary state of mind they had truly learned to become independent. The only challenge left for the Turtles now was their battle training which would prove more difficult than they could have ever thought possible.

13: The Lost Souls

Leonardo realised that it was time he and his brothers had more focus to their lives. Without Splinter to guide them all, his brothers had naturally turned to him, the eldest and by far wisest of them all.

Leonardo had devised a training program, but he found it terribly hard to keep his brothers attentions as each was too busy in his own selfish world of self pity to concentrate deeply.

In the face of such a terrible adversity, he found this training became de moralising, and lost interest himself. Instead, he wandered even further from the Farmhouse to find peace alone among nature. Among the great tree’s and the flowers, he would sit and meditate for hours.

Michaelangelo was steadily recovering from his suicidal episode. He had even returned to his form of training, with his wounds not yet completely healed, his self destructive cycle had begun once more.

Donatello and Raphael did not want to practice their Ninjutsu, as each move reminded them of their Sensai and their failure to retrieve him twice. They had also failed to kidnap one of the black masked Ninja that attacked the van in a botched assault. This grated upon the two Turtles, and they sought to make a meaning of their own lives without any success.

April had become withdrawn, falling into the Turtles trap of despair. She had become very lonely and wanted to return to New York. So great this desire had become, that all agreed she should leave and head back to her home. April agreed, leaving the only true friends in her life in pain, and she knew she was powerless to help them. The power for recuperation of the soul was in their hands, and she couldn’t make anything any better.

She left early one morning, after a tearful goodbye to her friends, and had left without another word, and relief spread through every muscle in her body as she began the long drive back to New York. She was free at last, and yet with that freedom came a terrible price. She had to leave four friends she might never see again after that moment.

Leonardo had lost all faith in his skills and his life. He believed that all of them were never going to resume their full training, and he felt lost. The despair had reached a summit, a peak, and he knew this state of mind had been allowed to go too far. He was losing his own sanity, and desperately needed a fresh challenge, something through which to channel all his energy instead of regretting past failures. His mind drifted to Splinter often as he meditated alone, and one day the most amazing event happened. It was the event to change all of their lives from that moment on for all their lives.

14: The Vision/ Training

It happened suddenly when Leonardo was meditating by the lake, calmly emptying his mind into the state of serenity needed for absolute concentration. He had lost all his random and fluctuating thoughts, his constant flickering mind had become silent and he had closed his thoughts, as if someone were trying to read them. His mind was void.

Yet, even in this state he realised a presence was near to him. It was a soft and glowing presence omitting an aura of serene wisdom that Leonardo knew well. In this presence he felt the memory of all those years he had grown up together with his brothers, forever guided by their Master. It had no shape, this presence, only a spiritual essence, that seemed to cover his own within its own immense power of mind, as if sheltering his young and weak spiritual self within its own.

He heard the voice, calm and clear through a thousand memories, breaching his own mind without consent. It only said one word, and that one word was his own name, Leonardo, yet he knew the voice belonged to his own beloved mentor, Splinter.

Whatever fate had dealt this suffering mutant had become irrelevant and unimportant, the triumph of this moment far exceeded any failures. His soul felt suddenly cleansed from all his guilt and regret, and as he stood up and his mind became the cluttered mess of thought and reason once again, his mouth opened and he called out Splinter’s name.

Michaelangelo, Donatello and Raphael were playing Trivial Pursuit in the old barn near the Farmhouse. Raphael and Donatello were keeping a steady eye on their younger brother while Leonardo had disappeared to meditate, and in their own concern for this younger one, had forgotten their own selfish despair. It seemed as though Michaelangelo, through his botched suicide attempt had actually served to strengthen them all. In his cry for help, they again found a reason to live, realising he did not have the strength he needed to overcome his own guilt, as they had all once been so sure.

Leonardo came through the barn door with the speed of a tornado, knocking aside the game, all the pieces went flying in all directions. Both Raphael and Donatello glared at him, and Michaelangelo just looked in astonishment as Leonardo kept repeating

"I heard Splinter, he came to me this day while I was meditating"

Raphael got to his feet, took Leonardo by his shoulders and shook him gently, as if trying to wake him from a bad dream. "Stop it Leo" he said with constrained anger, fearing this would affect Michaelangelo, who was watching Leonardo with awe struck expression.

"I know this sounds crazy, Raph" Leonardo continued, undeterred. "But I heard his voice and felt his presence surround me. He called to me, and I didn’t imagine it"

Raphael sighed, very much out of concern rather than weariness. He had finally had enough, and was driven to a near state of despair. He looked at Leonardo as if through blurred lenses trying to distinguish the figure of a brother he used to know.

"Then if you don’t believe me, let me prove it" Leonardo cried, his hands flew to his head in desperation.

A half hour later, due to the repeated cries of Leonardo which were slowly driving Raphael to breaking point, they had all agreed upon a single course of action. They sat together around a camp fire, as the night was very cold, and meditated deeply. Raphael was not concentrating at all, but soon his mind drifted, losing each and every conscious thought. They had reached a pivotal moment, a moment in which all their minds were locked together without thought or reason, as if waiting for a signal, a command or a disturbance.

Nothing came. They continued to meditate falling into deeper and deeper realms of their subconsiousness. There mind’s eye became misted and blank. In unison they had become one, a single force or aura which they had never accomplished before. In this state of nothingness they were not divided by the desperation of their own failures, but were freed by the state of serenity, of pure strength of mind.

They heard a voice, faint at first, breaking the absolute nothingness. Suddenly, all four minds became focused on this voice, and as if there collective focus magnified the voice, it became louder until they could hear the words clearly and they recognised the voice.

It was Splinter who had reached out to them, in a weakened state of torture, to communicate with those who had made such a united effort to hear his commands. His pupils had achieved something he would never have believed possible at such a fragile time of their lives. They had mastered the art of meditation, and had gone beyond, breaching the astral plane until they had reached him through all the distance that separated them.

They had become solid figures within their own minds, and Splinter stood among them. They were not longer sitting by a camp fire amongst the swaying trees, rather they were standing in their own minds talking g with their leader.

Splinter continued to speak, drawing them closer to him. "My sons, how proud can a father be when his children achieve all the ambitions and hopes he has set for them from the day they learned to walk? How pleased can a father be when his children understand all the values of his lessons, and use the knowledge he has taught them in ways even he would not have believed possible? Tonight, I have become the proudest father of all, and with such joy I have heard your collective spirits call me and summon me from all the pain and torment I have endured to speak with you all. Ah, my children, you must no longer fear about what has happened in the past. You now have the ability, all four of you, to put all these fears and regrets behind you and start afresh. Whether I will live or die now is irrelevant as you have shown me that you can survive and draw all the strength you need for ever adventure from each other. Look at what you have accomplished here together. This is the finest day for any teacher, when his pupils learn as much and perhaps more so than even he himself. You have become all I have ever envisioned you would become and I leave you now with three words, spoken from my heart to my sons - I love you"

Splinter vanished from their minds, but as each Turtle opened their eyes they realised one thing - they weren’t afraid anymore.

The next morning, just after dawn, Leonardo and his brothers silently walked along the bank of the river, looking at the cool still water reflect the first day’s rays. Each ray was broken into thousands of different segments as soon as it touched the water, and looked like a broken puzzle upon the water’s surface.

"I think we all know what we have to do" Leonardo said, his voice commanding and soft. His tone was patient and commanding once more.

Michaelangelo nodded his head, and said "We have to get ready to go back to New York, don’t we?"

Leonardo smiled, and continued to walk, his face bright and his expression thoughtful. "We need to train hard, harder than we’ve ever done before, so we can get Splinter back again"

The other three Turtles agreed as they walked behind their brother, who seemed to have formulated a plan already.

The next three days all four Turtles devoted themselves to a rigorous training schedule which was both grueling and exhausting. On the fourth day Leonardo gave his brothers a half day to do whatever they desired, as long as what they did not conflict with their training. Another four days passed, and after this terrible week, the four Turtles were almost prepared to go back to New York and face the enemy who had taken their Master from them.

15: April

April was extremely worn and totally exhausted. Returning to the farmhouse because she was too afraid to re-enter the city, her mind was drifting as she lay on her bed at night dreaming nothing but bad thoughts.

Leonardo entered the room quietly, yet she started and sat up trying to make out which Turtle it was in the foreboding darkness.

"Leo" she sighed after a minute.

Leonardo smiled and walked towards her. He sat at her side, and touched her face with his fingers. The cold sweat from a bad nightmare glistened on her forehead and he wiped this with his hand. She closed her eyes and embraced him tightly. He returned this timid gesture with a warm embrace, full of kindness and love.

"We have to leave here soon, April" Leonardo whispered.

"Why?" April asked. Her voice was so distant and worn, Leonardo felt the burden of his failure to shield this woman so keenly, suddenly all he wanted to do was cry. Yet, he was far too strong to let this moment overwhelm him when important decisions were to be made.

"We have to go back to New York" Leonardo explained gently, watching her reaction. Her expression was of fear, but Leonardo knew she was strong and would return with them.

April nodded, and lay against Leonardo’s breast and closed her eyes. His heartbeat was slower than she had expected but it was rhythmic, powerful and lulling as she drifted in and out of sleep.

Leonardo also closed his eyes. In his loneliness he tried to concentrate on the warmth of April, so close to him, and he knew this tenderness was as much female love he would ever have.

16: Back to New York

The unpleasant cold sliced through the old van as it made its way to April’s apartment in New York. April had been driving without a break for four hours and the bitterness of being back was almost too much to bear. The Turtles huddled in the back, watched flickering lights pass the windows warily, anticipating any attack.

April looked at a pile of rubble which used to be her flat and sighed. She got out of the van and made her way through the devastation and picked at a few belongings which had once belonged to her. The fire had taken most of her valuables, but those valuables that had survived the fire had been destroyed by the vicious rain. A single Police ribbon cordoned off the area, yet Chief Sterns had ensured that the area was not inspected too thoroughly in case a link between himself and the Foot be discovered.

April picked out a small photograph which had been immaculately kept by herself of her late father. She brought it back to the van, the rain disguising her tears, and sat at the drivers seat. Leonardo strained to see what she was looking at and suddenly realised the connection.

"Your father?" he asked, moving beside her and looking at the wind-torn, burnt picture that had meant so much to her. A young man, barely twenty-five in Army uniform.

April nodded briefly. "He went to Vietnam and was killed in action."

Leonardo sighed. "I’m sorry"

April shook her head. "I’m not. My father died a hero, saving other people’s lives. I don’t regret that for one moment. I just wish I hadn’t been left behind by him. Memories fade and this picture is all I have left of him. If I didn’t have this I wouldn’t remember what he looked like."

"What happened to your mother?" Leonardo asked.

"She died having me. My father left for war and I was looked after by my grandparents. It was a terrible time for all the families back then. I still feel the agony of separation, even though this happened so long ago."

Leonardo smiled, but the smile was full of sadness. "I can relate to that"

Donatello shifted uneasily in the back of the van. Overhearing all this talk of family and war made him nervous.

"Come on, guys - we need to find somewhere to live for the moment" April said, stirring herself from the memory of her father, and starting the van.

Chief Sterns looked at the rain beating against his window with annoyance. Why did it always have to rain in this fucking city, he thought, trying to concentrate on the reports in front of him. He snatched up the report on the fire at April’s apartment and lit it with his lighter in a sudden rage.

The tapping at the window became louder and as a sudden burst of lightning shook him and he looked up, he saw a figure outside the window. Dressed in black the figure smashed the glass and leapt inside the room without making a sound. Sterns sat, rooted to the spot as the black clothed figure advanced towards him.

"My friend, welcome" Sterns stammered as he felt inside his pocket for the small sidearm he always carried.

"Shut up" The ninja replied.

"Any news from Saki?" Sterns asked as the ninja finally stopped approaching and sat opposite Sterns on a visitors seat.

"The Shredder wishes to inform you that you are becoming a liability, Sterns." The ninja said. His voice was cold and cutting and it broke through any bravado Sterns could muster.

"What do you mean - I covered the fire, no one suspected the Clan" Sterns muttered as he held his small gun in his pocket ready to raise and fire if necessary.

"You forgot the reporters, Sterns. They buzzed about the fire scene for some time. Remember what happened last time when somebody got too close"

Sterns winced as he pictured April screaming in the burning building.

"You shouldn’t do stupid things like setting building alight, its a risk to your Clan and to me" Sterns said, his courage returning slightly as he tried to take command of the situation.

The ninja nodded slightly and rose. "Very well, but remember your responsibilities."

Sterns smiled and stood also, releasing his hand on the firearm to shake the ninja’s outstretched hand.

The ninja’s grip was strong in the handshake, but he wouldn’t release Sterns hand. Becoming fearful once more Sterns reached for the gun. The ninja’s eyes glistened as he saw Sterns raise the gun shakily.

He let go of Sterns hand and walked to the window. Sterns put down the gun again, annoyed that he had shown this ninja he was afraid.

"Sterns" the ninja called from the window.

Sterns looked up as the ninja drew his sword and advanced towards him once more. As Sterns reached for the gun the ninja’s blade sliced across his throat, and a torrent of blood soaked Sterns clothes.

"The Foot does not accept cowardice" the ninja said as the body of Sterns dropped to the floor.

17: A New Plan

The new hideout for April and the Turtles was dark and damp in the slimy sewers of New York. April paled as she was led by Michaelangelo to their old den. The forehead blackened their once vibrant and warm home and left it useless. The Turtles looked at the place in sheer horror. Their expressions of regret and remorse were indescribable as they wandered through the wreckage of their den.

April saw the depressed states of them all, yet she said nothing. Her loss had been as great as theirs in this respect, yet she felt sympathy for them all.

Donatello felt relieved to be back, yet his soul ached with sadness for the loss of his home. Raphael felt anger, a desire for revenge which he had never felt more strongly before now. Michaelangelo felt very tired and distraught from the loss of his home. Leonardo felt the others’ burdens and his own bitterness as consuming as it had ever been.

Yet each had a newfound strength in each other. This strength was the bonding that kept them all together.

As they all sat, absorbed in their individual thoughts, Leonardo’s mind was alive with strategies and plans to regain their Master. They ignored this state as Leonardo often consumed himself with these thoughts.

"We have little time" Leonardo said rising from his seat and pacing the room. "We have to prepare. The Foot will be back, and soon. They will send out a watcher to this sewer to observe and warn of our return. We must be ready to seize this watcher when he steps through into our Den. Once we have him, he will question the fiend until we know where our adversary’s are. When we have this knowledge we will put a plan of action to destroy our enemies and regain our Master."

"How will we do that, Leo?" Raphael asked, his voice strained to keep anger under control. Michaelangelo looked up at Leonardo, his admiration of his older brother not diminished from the ordeal he’d suffered.

"Don’t worry, I have an idea" Leonardo smiled at Michaelangelo and Donatello and winked at Raphael who sighed and put his hands to his head.

Two hours later, just as Leonardo had predicted, a Foot scout made his way into the blackened remains of the Turtles hideout. The Turtles and April were however nowhere in sight. As Michaelangelo gave a tremendous cry and leapt upon the intruder who buckled under the weight of the Turtle and sprawled on the ground. Donatello snatched the shining blade from the Ninja’s hand and shoved him roughly against the wall. Still winded from Michaelangelo’s sudden attack the Ninja was powerless as Leonardo pulled the mask from the face to discover ........... a young boy!

April gasped.

"Who are you?" Leonardo snarled as he intimidated the young man by coming close and staring him directly in the eyes.

"My name is Danny" The boy stammered, flinching as he saw the katana blade in Leonardo’s hand.

"Wait!" April cried, finding her tongue at last and moving Leonardo aside. "Danny Pennington! My bosses son!"

Danny looked towards the floor, his face reddening.

"What the hell do you think you’re doing here Danny! What is your father thinking of!" April fumed, watching the boy shrivel at her anger.

"My dad’s dead!" Danny said suddenly. "He knew too much and the Foot decided he should be killed."

The four Turtles were as confused by this dialogue as April was as baffled with Danny’s involvement with the Foot.

"Tell us where he is Danny" Leonardo said, undeterred by April’s dialogue.

"Who?" Danny asked confused.

"The four foot rat you took hostage. Where is he?" Leonardo continued.

Danny’s eyes were wide with fear. He had before seen the rat Leonardo mentioned but was reluctant to give the strange mutant any information at all. He had been confronted with his worst nightmare, but was not about to yield.

"I don’t know" Danny muttered closing his eyes tightly expecting a blow which never came.

Leonardo sighed wearily and sheathed his katana, much to Danny’s surprise. Still wary, Danny’s bewildered glances at each of the Turtles continued, while April came towards him and sat by his side.

"Danny we have to know this because a lot of people will get hurt if we don’t stop these criminals. There is so much injustice, why be a part of it?" April said.

Danny put his hands to his head out of desperation. Perhaps he knew deep inside they were right about the Foot clan. If they didn’t stop them, who would?

18: The Fight

Danny told them everything. The Foot had a secret warehouse which was their hiding place for all the stolen goods and murder weapons. Most of the clan’s members and new initiates were hiding in this warehouse doing illegal activities like taking drugs. The older members of the clan concentrated on refining their techniques in the Martial Arts.

Splinter was right at the back of the warehouse, in chains. Danny hadn’t been too sure if he was still alive after being brutally whipped and beaten by the Master of the clan - The Shredder.

The Turtles prepared themselves for the battle that lay ahead. Leonardo and Raphael sharpened the blades on their swords and daggers as Donatello and Michaelangelo simulated the battle that lay ahead in order to compare tactics. As Danny led them to the warehouse where the Foot Clan were hiding, Leonardo felt a terrible foreboding.

"One of us is going to die tonight" He said suddenly, turning to his brothers and looking at them intently. I don’t know who but I know that will happen.

The other three Turtles who, just a few weeks ago would have been terrified by this revelation, nodded briefly, three warriors ready to do battle no matter what the cost to their own lives.

They entered silently with Danny leading the way. Three Foot soldiers barricaded the way inside, but Leonardo fought all three as his brothers and Danny slipped inside. They walked through the warehouse without waiting for Leonardo towards the place where Splinter was kept a hostage.

They kept low and as they approached a small grate surrounded by boxes and stolen goods, they heard the metallic voice of a stranger. They knew from the tone of that voice that this person was evil and as they drew closer they saw their Master in chains, with the most demonic of all beings standing over him.

This man was clothed in metal as ancient soldiers were once, he had metal gauntlets hanging from his arms and legs, and his hands were covered with scars. The Turtles knew at once he was the Master of this vicious group of criminals. He wore a mask of metal and his face was completely hidden. The Turtles listened to the dialogue between their Sensai and this villain.

"Tell me about these reptiles that talk?" The evil one asked Splinter, his arms folded.

"I will tell you nothing Shredder" Splinter said, his voice weak and fragile as he made his stand.

Shredder sliced Splinter’s face with his gauntlets and repeated the question again.

"I will tell you nothing, you who became evil when you took the life of your best friend for a woman who didn’t love you" Splinter cried out. Shredder’s eyes gleamed.

"How do you know of my history?" The Shredder said in a controlled and bitter voice.

"I know more of your history because I have tried to track you down and issue a challenge since the day my Master was killed. Only you found me first. He was my Master before this mutation befell me and I became this creature. You tried to destroy me with those toxins but I became stronger. Remember, I was Master Yoshi under my Master, Asuka Dimahi! You cover you’re face with a mask. How fitting. Tell me, is the mask because of the katana scar that my Master left on you so many years ago?"

Shredder drew his sword and placed it at Splinter’s throat. "Everyone who ever knew this has been killed. You shall not be the exception."

The Turtles leapt into action and confronted Shredder before the sword found its mark in Splinters heart. Shredder turned and found the three Turtles advancing towards him. He knocked down Raphael who was the first to reach him with a single strike from his arm dagger. Raphael fell with blood seeping from the gash on his face. Donatello then confronted Shredder who broke Donatello’s staff with a roundhouse kick and then punched him in the neck. Donatello fell, gasping to the floor unable to breathe.

Michaelangelo tried to attack Shredder, but Shredder was too fast and caught Michaelangelo by the throat and was about to break his neck when Leonardo entered the scene, charging towards the Shredder with both swords drawn. Shredder let go of Mikey to face this new opponent who had taken him off guard, but Leonardo had acted fast, seeing the surprise on the face of his enemy.

The Shredder found himself pierced with Leonardo’s katana blade and fell to his knees. He muttered two words to Splinter before his eyes because dull and he died.

"Hate you"

Leonardo helped Michaelangelo up, who was recovering from the fight and Raphael got up himself, his hand to the wound Shredder had made to staunch the flow of blood. Leonardo quickly ran to Splinter and his katana sliced through the chains easily as he helped Splinter to his feet.

"Donatello" Splinter whispered as Leonardo himself looked around for his missing brother.

Leonardo found him, fallen face down on a sharp gauntlet that had broken loose from the Shredder’s armor. As he raised his dead brother Leonardo felt one thing that he had never allowed to come forth so freely ever.

As he desperatly and in vain searched for a pulse on his brother’s wrist, and heartbeat his tears for his dead brother fell onto the sharp and deadly wound on Donatello’s forehead.

There was no way this time of reviving his brother.

Splinter knelt by Donatello and his hand ran along the peaceful features of Donatello’s face. His fingers moved over his open eyes and closed them.

Bending down, Splinter kissed his sons forehead.

"Safe journey, my son"

April watched the news report she had completed that afternoon repeated on the late night news show in her new apartment. She was huddled on the sofa and didn’t hear the door open and the three turtles enter with their Master.

Suddenly she turned and smiled at them all as they walked dismally towards her.

"I got my job back and more. I am now the highest paid reporter in the business!"

As the Turtles didn’t reply, April felt a familiar foeboding feeling.

"Where’s Donny?" She asked, a mixture of fear and anxiety in her voice.

"He didn’t make it" Leonardo replied in barely a whisper.

April began to cry and her tears shed was the pain she had kept hidden from the Turtles, the frustration of the defeats they all had suffered and the loss of one of her closest friends. They came forward and all put their arms around her, seeking to shield her from her own pain. They remained there in that single united position, April, The Turtles and their Master mourning for the death of Donatello. This was the release they all needed from the desperation and loneliness they had felt at the farmhouse.

19: Rebirth Of Soul

Michaelangelo, the next day went to a familiar manhole alone. He saw the young girl emerge from her house with friends in tow, and Michaelangelo tried to guess what made her look so bold. Was it the tiny braids of blonde hair that fearlessly hung around her shoulders or the commanding expression as she led her friends along.

Melissa skipped over to the manhole, and stared down between the bars which made it seem so much like a prison.

"I can see you" Melissa murmured as she saw Michaelangelo for the first time. At first she was taken aback, and then she smiled.

"I thought you might be different looking" She said, as if that reason was logic enough. Perhaps it was. "You’re not bad looking though. I thought you would be all yucky and slimy"

Michaelangelo smiled, but Melissa suddenly looked away, saddened.

"What’s wrong?" Michaelangelo asked, alarmed.

"I know why you’ve done this. You’re saying goodbye, aren’t you? Like my father did when I was four years old - he went away from us." Melissa began to sob.

"Not at all. You’re the only human being who’s ever given me a chance to be a real friend. I’ll be back to see you, so don’t think I’m going away for good. I’ve grown up since we last met, Shadow. I’ve become a lot more stronger than I was. I know a friendship is too valuable too lose by saying goodbye. I’ll be back." Michaelangelo reached his hand through the cover and Melissa grasped it to her heart.

"I love green" She said suddenly. Michaelangelo blushed, and removed his hand from Melissa’s grasp.

"I do too" He said , suddenly overwhelmed with her innocence and sweet accepting nature. As he drifted back into the shadows of the sewer, Melissa called after him with grace as easy as only a child’s can be and adult wisdom that even elders cannot even sometimes grasp.

"Mikey, have you ever given them a chance?"

Michaelangelo stopped, and moved back to her. Her face lit up.

"What do you mean, Shadow?"

"Have you ever been out among people? They’re not that bad, you know." Melissa smiled, she had tears in her eyes.

"I’m sure you’re right, Shadow. But, one wise person I have known said something to me that I will never forget: Even our allies would not understand, you must strike hard and fade away without a trace" Michaelangelo grinned as he caught sight of Melissa’s puzzled expression. "For a Ninja, Shadow its all we understand!"

"It means defend people with Honour. But never allow yourself to be seen, because they simply wouldn’t be able to comprehend" Michaelangelo explained.

"But you’ve shown yourself to me?" Melissa said.

"You’re different" Michaelangelo said, and disappeared from the storm drain, away from her probing and wondered eyes, back to the depths of the sewers which he knew his home would always be. Yet, something charmed him about people like Melissa. There was something very indiscriminate about the way she was. Children are always indiscriminate. Their hearts open to the unknown like flowers in the day.

Yet, he also knew, with sadness that he couldn’t trust anyone else. Splinters words kept forming in his mind They could never understand. But Melissa did! She didn’t reject him. She was special, a girl with an ability to see people’s interiors rather than their exteriors, something lots of people never really accomplish.

As he wandered slowly home to his brothers he felt himself aged, as if this experience had taught him to be a matured person. He would never know what its like to be a youth again. Not after this horror.

Perhaps he had one more obligation. That he defend with honor his brothers and mentor, the ones he loved most and the innocents of the world who had slept during the Foot encounter with no idea what was happening. That was for the best after all.

His obligation, his final obligation was to make everything he could out of this life and if possible teach others to do the same. For Michaelangelo, his two remaining brothers and mentor, their life would always be an outcasts existence. But, deep inside, each of the brothers knew how much they meant to the world.

That would always mean far more to them than any recognition.

The End
1999, Georgina Price