Michelangelo's voice bounced off the sewer pipes as he sped though the sewers of New York City. The teenage turtle couldn't help but smile as he sped through the concrete tubs and soared over chasms where they dove down towards the deeper bowls of the city. Every so often he would pass a moving train car or get a glimpse of the city above him, which would light up his imagination with a thousand possibilities.
Mikey loved humans. Well, he technically didn't know any humans, but he loved the idea of them. He watched them on TV. He watched them from sewer grates. He marveled at how many of them there were, and how different they all were. He wanted to meet them. He wanted to be friends with them. He wanted a real life.
Of course, he also knew they could be dangerous.
He still had nightmares about the night his sister was taken. The night the van sped up next to his family as the scrounged for food and scraps in the city. The men inside tried to take all of them, but Father had managed to fight them off. But he wasn't fast enough to save Artie. The scene plays out in his head nearly every night. He missed his twin more than anything in the world. The two of them were the youngest of the family, and were the only two that were related by blood.
Of course, the departure of their adopted sister had hit him hard as well. Leo and Raph had been butting heads more and more lately. Donnie seemed more closed off than ever.
Mikey just wanted his family back.
He sighed as he reached their lair, pulled the false pipe by the otherwise unseen door, which then swung open, revealing the cavernous chamber on the other side. Old, dark, wooden walls lined the main room of their home. Donnie theorized it had once been the hideout of bootleggers during the age of prohibition, and that hypothesis definitely fit. The main room was like an ornate meeting room, full of old books and furniture. Above them, a system of mirrors reflected light all the way from the river down into their home. The turtles had made it their own, of course. Donnie updated the electronics, and TVs and video game consoles were now interspersed with the turn of the century woodwork.
The lair had been boxed in by construction, and it was more than likely no one knew it was there. The walls around it were thick. There was always a chance that humans would find them, but Donnie was doing his best to make sure that wouldn't happen.
Branching rooms came off the main chamber, featuring bathrooms, the boys' bedrooms, a full kitchen, a dojo, and their father's room. There was even a big space that was blocked off by a cave in, which Donnie and Raph used as a workshop."Anyone home?"
Mike called out, receiving no response.
He shrugged and plopped down on the old, Victorian couch before turning on the old Super Nintendo they had managed to salvage. If no one wanted to hang out, he was at the very least going to beat Link to the Past.
The sound of fists hitting a heavy bag echoed dully through the dojo, as the lone figure struck the training tool over and over again.
His hands were taped up from above the wrist all the way down to his knuckles, but the repeated punches still bruised and broke the green skin underneath the protection. He was in the training room too much. He knew it, Leo knew it, and Master Splinter definitely knew it. He wasn't even training. Not really, anyway. He was just in here taking out his frustrations.
He had too many frustrations.
He was mad that they barely ever left their home. He was angry that Master Splinter, after all these years, still would not tell them why they were training in the ninja arts. He was pissed off because Leo never asked the questions he needed to. He was frustrated that he wasn't allowed to do more to help the humans above.
But most of all his was furious that his father ignored the fact that their sister had been missing for the better part of a decade.
It was all getting to be too much.
His brothers shared some of his concerns. They were all better at hiding it, in different ways. Mikey pretended to be dumb, aloof, and a clown to mask the fact that he's torn up about Artie to this day. Don threw himself into his tinkering and reading to mask the fact that he's uncomfortable with all the combat Splinter seemed to be preparing them for. Leo focused on a mission he doesn't know the goal of in order to pretend that he had a purpose. They were all broken in some way.
How could they not be. They were mutant turtles gifted human intelligence and amazing abilities by a random accident. They were bound to be fucked up in the head."You are troubled, Raphael."
The soft, almost melodic, tone of Splinter's voice carried over the relative silence of the dojo. It was a sound none of the turtles had heard in days. Ever since the red moon, Splinter had been alone in his room meditating. Over what, they didn't know, but here he was.
Raphael turned to see the tall, slender, human-like rat standing in the door, leaning on the cane he always had with him. These days, his dark, chestnut-brown fur was tinged with more and more grey. He may not have been as fast as he once was, but he was still wise beyond his station.
He made his way to the center of the room, and sat cross-legged before motioning for Raphael to join him.
As the young turtle did so, he asked, "Master, it's been a while."
The rat sighed, and the fur around his mouth ruffled, "There was much to think on, my son. Too much. For too long I have kept our family here. For too long I have believed we were safe. That we could be happy cut off from the outside world whenever possible. I believed I was training you, but for what I was never sure. Until the blood moon. Until I remembered."
Splinter trailed off, staring into the dark corner of the dojo. Raphael, on the other hand, had a chill run through him. He had never heard Splinter talk as he was. It was almost as if he was scared. Even when they lost Artemisia, he kept his calm about him."Master?"
Raph asked with a quiver in his voice.
His father looked down, his warm, brown eyes meeting his adopted son's. He smiled, "I'm sorry, my son. It is time for us to have an increased presence on the surface. We have hid for too long, and I fear it may have allowed our enemies a foothold we could have prevented. Now we must ensure they do not get more.""Enemies, father?"
Raphael asked, almost with an intense hunger. He had been training for so long. It was time to show what he could do."I will explain later when Leonardo returns,"
his father smiled calmly. "He is visiting your sister in her new home.""Alopex,"
Raphael said, his eyes narrowing.
The clicking of keys going up and down echoed through Donatello's room as he idly surfed the internet. Everything that came across his screen sent him slumping deeper and deeper into his chair. The humans were fighting. The humans were killing each other. The humans were polluting. The humans were persecuting some of their own kind.
The world they had been born into was dangerous and deadly, and all Donnie wanted to do was help them. Yet he was stuck below the surface, unable to really use his scientific knowledge in any meaningful way. The internet helped. He could reach out, but he was only so believable over the internet and not in person.
His father believed they would help protect the world from some unknown threat. They were training in combat by the time they were able to walk. He drilled them nearly every day. They were masters of hand-to-hand combat, or very nearly at that level.
Don hated it with all his heart.
He didn't want to fight. There was enough violence in the world. He had better ways of helping, yet all Splinter wanted to do was hone his fighting ability. He was tired of it."Donatello,"
the voice of his father came from behind him. "When Leonardo returns, we will meet in the dojo. There is much to discuss.""Understood, father,"
he responded, more coldly than he intended. But his father knew of his frustrations.
He watched from the shadows of an alley as the cars stream down the street like an endless stream. At least, what he saw from streams on TV. He had never seen one in real life. If he spent the rest of his life in the city, he probably never would see one. That was an odd thought. Spending his entire life in this humongous, sprawling organism of concrete and steel. It didn't feel right, deep down. He was an animal, after all. Or at least he was. He still wasn't sure what he was.
Still, staying here forever, never getting out, seemed weird.
New York was his home, and up until that part of his life, it was his entire world. He rarely saw the surface, as Master Splinter decreed it off limits outside of the times they needed to scavenge.
As the torrent of traffic continued to flow, he looked to the sky. There the moon shone big and bright above the city like a spotlight. It had only been weeks ago when the moon was as red as fresh blood. The color made the face in the moon turn from a benign old man to a wicked, sneering demon ready to devour the world it watched over.
Some said the red moon was an omen, a sign of the ends times. He wasn't sure about that, but he had noticed his father acting strangely ever since that night. So maybe people weren't all that far off the mark.
The cars stopped, and he peaked his head out of the alley to make sure no more were on their way, and that the street was clear of pedestrians. When he was sure he was alone, he dashed across the street with surprising speed. On the other side, he kicked off the sidewalk and sailed over a fence, landing on the other side in a junkyard.
He had been here many times before to visit his sister. She had been living here for the better part of a year under the watch and care of her new family. Thinking about it still brought a bitter taste to his mouth, but if she was happy and safe, he couldn't be too mad. She'd come back to them when she was ready. He was sure of that.
What he wasn't sure of, totally, was her new protector. Hob was a mean son of a bitch, and his motives had never really been clear. But he kept Al safe, so he was tolerated.
He weaved his way through the rows of garbage, following the path he knew by heart at this point. The mountains of junk were something to awe at. Him and his brothers often sifted through it, looking for anything they could use in their home. It was a treasure trove, and they were thankful for it.
It was an odd space in modern New York. Something left of a bygone era, somehow untouched by the city's changing face.
Before long, he came across his destination. Rising up in the middle of the junkyard, hidden from everything around it, was a sprawling shack. Built out of pallets, plywood, and corrugated steel, it stood like something out of the Mad Max movies he watched with his brothers. While they lived underground, this is where his sister now resided.
He approached, and before he reached the front door, a squawk rang out in the night above him. He looked up to find Pete, a large, anthropomorphic pigeon perched on the roof, "Hi! I'm Pete!""Holy shit you can talk now?!"
the interloper asked with surprise."Hi! I'm Pete!"
the pigeon replied."Okay...,"
the other one look at him sideways. "I'm gonna go inside.""Hi! I'm Pete!""Okay, pal,"
he chuckled. "You stay Pete."
The door to the shack, an old door to a shipping container, creaked loudly as it swung open. The warm, orange light poured out into the rubbish. As he stepped inside and closed the door behind him, he heard Pigeon Pete call out that he was, indeed, still Pete.
The door slammed shut, and an old, upside down dumpster popped off the ground. From the opening came a tangle of red, armored limbs, before a face with stalk eyes and crustacean features."Ah! Private Leonardo!"
the huge hermit crab Herman snapped a quick salute. "Good to see you, soldier."
Soldier. That's what Hob saw his family as. Soldiers in the inevitable war between mutants and humans. None of the mutants knew where they came from, really. Hob thought their "births" were providence. He thought they were destined to come about. That they were part of a new, natural order of things. He also assumed that meant a clash between their kind and the humans. Leonardo was young, but he was a solid strategist. He knew of about ten mutants in New York. Even if there were five times as many, there were millions of humans to every mutant. That wasn't going to end in a victory for Hob.
Plus, Leo had no desire to fight the humans. They were flawed, sure. Many lacked the honor he valued so much. But they were good, deep down. That much he was certain of. Even if they didn't always show it, there was good in them."I'm not a soldier, Herm,"
He rolled his eyes at the crustacean. "Just Leonardo.""Whatever you say, Private,"
Herman responded. "The time will come when you see your mistake!"
Moving further into the hovel, Leonardo came across the kitchen, where he found Old Hob, the leader of this band of mutants, as well as Alopex, his estranged sister, sitting at the table. When he entered, Hob turned to face him with his good eye, the other hidden behind a patch. The old alley cat had lost the eye before his mutation. He snarled at the turtle, bearing his sharp teeth, and ruffling his greying orange fur, "Turtle.""Hob,"
Leo nodded. The turtle never understood why Hob hated the humans so much. Maybe it was from his time before the mutation, when he was living on the street. But whatever the reason, it was intense. "My sister said she wanted to talk to me. Mind if we do that alone?""She ain't your sister no more,"
he growled and stood. He stood a head taller than Leonardo, but while the turtle and his brothers were built short and powerful, Hob was tall and lithe. His muscles constantly tensed, as if he would strike at any moment. Leonardo always felt uncomfortable around the cat. "She's a member of the Mutanimal Liberation Army. She has a purpose now. A real purpose.""Whatever, Hob,"
Leo grunted. "Just let me talk to her.""Or what?"
he smiled meanly."Back off, Hob,"
Alopex finally spoke up. "I told you he was coming. You said it was fine."
The arctic fox's white fur waved as she moved between the two mutants. She was as tall as Hob, but looked bigger, mostly because of the puffed out fur. She was the quickest fighter Leo had ever encountered. She may not have been as strong as him and his brothers, but she could hold her own with her speed.
Hob mumbled something before leaving.
Once he was gone from the room, the two mutants took a seat at the table. Alopex looked down before meeting Leo's eyes, "He's right, you know. I'm not your sister.""Oh come on, Al,"
Leo rolled his eyes. "Not this nonsense again. Of course you are."
Her face turned angry, her sharp teeth showing, "No, I was just a fill in for your real one. A replacement for Splinter to try and make amends for his failings. Nothing more."
Leo's eyes narrowed, "You can tell yourself that all you want. But deep down you know it's not true. We miss you. We want you to come home. You don't have to believe me, but it's the truth."
She shook her head before changing the subject, "Whatever. That's not why I told you to come."
Alopex shifted uncomfortably in her chair as she continued, "I was scouting the city the other night for Hob. We're trying to track gangs, the mob, and other criminal organizations. Just to get a lay of the land. See who we could use on our side if things go south. Well, last night I came across a fight club in the Bronx. Kids, not much older than us, fighting in a ring. Not a huge deal, I thought at first. A lot of the gangs have initiation fights. But this was different. It was being overseen by ninjas."
That got Leonardo's attention, "Ninja? Your sure?""Yea,"
she nodded. "A large group of them. Stoic as they watched the fights. Probably twenty or so in their shozoko. Five more had kasa and special markings on their uniform. Maybe elites or an honor guard. Those were situated around a dias with three...well for lack of a better term thrones. Two young women in the same elite garb sat in the lower chairs. They looked like they could have been sisters. But above them...above them was the one that was clearly in charge. This dude radiated bad. He was garbed in both shozoko and armor, with bladed claws attached to his forearm armor. His helmet looked like a cross between a buzz saw and a samurai. There was just an...intensity about him. Gave me the creeps."
Leo took the information in. A group of ninjas in New York City was about the last thing he ever expected to see. Could this be why Master Splinter was hold up alone? Could it be related to the red moon?"I also ended up fighting one of them,"
Al admitted next, reaching into a band on the floor and tossing Leo a mask. "I took that off of him. I wasn't paying attention and he got the jump on me. Probably a lookout. Didn't stick around to see if there were any more. Whoever these guys are, Leo, they're smart. They're talented, and they're recruiting for something big.""Yea...we'll look into it,"
Leo nodded and looked down at the mask, running his finger over the emblem on the forehead.
It was nothing more than a red foot.