A/N: this is far from my first fanfic but it's actually the third I wrote in English (the 2 others are not on this website due to their content). English is not my first language so you will probably encounter some silly phrasing here and there. Feel free to point them out in a review or PM, that will help me to improve.
I usually write in French and give an English title to my chapters but I thought it would be fun to reverse that habit this time. The titles will always be translated at the bottom of each chapter.
The story is based on Mirage Comics volume 1 but is technically an AU as the timeline isn't respected. The events takes place nowadays.
Rating: M for adult themes, violence and such.
Que la lumière soit
It was green, to begin with, green with a bit of red, and scaly and freaking enormous. Not like in movies where monsters and mutants were the size of a building but still. Anton had been near this thing while they walked it through the corridors, strangely quietly, and it was roughly his height, a little more than five feet four maybe, but wider than a human. And those muscles! This freak could easily tear an arm off if it wanted to, Anton was sure of it. He had kept some distance from it, as much as possible, and he was glad that a bullet-proof one way mirror was between them now.
It looked like a turtle but not quite. It had a thick shell with scars on it. It had scars all over its body, actually, even on its face, and the recent injuries would probably leave some fresh ones. Its wounds stopped bleeding at some points but they were still red. "Don't touch my blood," it had said. It didn't give any reason but Anton wasn't too keen to touch it anyway. Maybe the blood was poisonous or corrosive like a Xenomorph's. It didn't look like a Xenomorph. It was a human-size turtle, walking like a human and speaking like a human.
It didn't speak much, though, and it was as silent as a tomb since it had sat in the room behind the glass, chains around its wrists and ankles, all of it solidly attached to the table and the concrete. And it was still, so still it looked like some grotesque prop for a movie. Invasion of the giant turtles would have been a good title for an 80's movie featuring those freaks. There was four of them, more or less alike, big, green and wounded. Four giant turtles, speaking English, coming out of nowhere. The poor bastard who had to face the press at some point would have a hard time, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, Anton Bianco was that poor bastard.
Anton jumped when the door slammed open, the big boss storming in, in civil clothes, sleep in his eyes and his short gray hair. It was four in the morning and he must have been comfortably in bed not long ago. Anton was the night liaison officer that day; he didn't have the pleasure to be woken up by a phone call, sounding like a prank. Giant turtles in the streets of New York! No wonder why the captain Sullivan seemed so devastated.
He didn't acknowledge Anton or the other curious policemen in the small room, his eyes automatically attracted by the monster on the other side of the window. Sullivan stared for a long minute at the still green figure and had a small laugh, the crazy kind. Anton knew what it was. There have been rumors about green freaks in New York for the past few years but it came from junkies, homeless people and low scums. Nobody had paid any attention to their delirious warnings – green aliens kicking butts with kung-fu, yeah, sure. The joke's on us, Anton thought.
"Does it talk?" Sullivan asked. His voice was nervous and hoarse. He was sweating despite the air conditioning.
"It did earlier," Thompson answered. He was the officer in charge when they got the call about the strange activities in a warehouse located in Red Hook. Thompson had entered the force right after high school, a millennium ago it seemed. He had seen a lot of crap in his life but tonight was too much for him. He looked pale for a black guy.
"Can we talk to it now?" Sullivan added. "Is it safe?" Nobody answered. Nobody knew. It had had weapons and it had seemed ready to fight for its life earlier but now it looked quiet, almost peaceful but for the strong determination on its face. Its white eyes didn't help. "What did it say?" Sullivan asked when he realized nobody would answer him. Thompson took a notebook from his pocket and searched for the last written page.
"They talk between themselves at first," Thompson said, "in Chinese or something like that. Then, this one got in the front and held his hands up. 'Don't shoot, we surrender', it said. It had a New York accent." Sullivan glanced over his shoulder at the strange detail but it didn't take him long to realize how fucked up Thompson was at this point. The Old Tom could only rely on his notes for now if he wanted to keep his head straight. Sullivan encouraged him to continue. "One of them was barely conscious and it's still recovering, for what I know. They protested when they got separated but this one told the others to 'shut it down' and they obeyed."
"So it's some sort of alpha male or something?" Sullivan asked.
The turtle snorted with a little shrug behind the bullet-proof glass. The crowd in the room froze instantly. It couldn't hear them, right? It must have been a coincidence. But something told Anton that the turtle had heard them indeed. And it looked at them through the way mirror, as impossible as it seemed.
"Screw it," Sullivan mumbled. "I'm going in."
Some policemen tried to make their chief listen to reason but the old man stormed out, disappeared a second in the corridor and opened the door in the little gray room behind the glass. The turtle didn't move. Sullivan didn't at first either. He stayed by the door, ten feet from the alien creature. He just had decided to come closer when the turtle turned its head to face him. Sullivan hesitated but had to make a point: he wasn't afraid of this freak. He shouldn't have been, at least, and he had to show it. He walked to the window, stared at it for a second, as if he wanted to be sure he couldn't see through it, then turned to face the turtle. It moved its right hand to present the chair on the other side of the table welded to the floor, the chains clinging along on the metal.
"Please, sit down," the turtle offered. "You have nothing to fear from me. If I wanted you dead, it would be done already."
Sullivan straightened his back, trying very much like an animal to look bigger in front of its opponent. The turtle, with its stillness and its confidence, seemed more human than Sullivan at this moment and it made Anton uncomfortable.
"You're enchained, boy," Sullivan pointed out.
"Yeah, right," the turtle smirked.
Sullivan hesitated another second before sitting down but he was obviously ready to jump to the door if needed. "What the Hell are you?" he asked out of the blue.
The turtle had the smallest smile, amused. Anton had the impression it was going to recite a story prepared since long especially for this day. "My name is Leonardo," the turtle said. "My brothers and I made a wrong turn somewhere."
The soccer ball flew directly into the dōjō and Leonardo knew at the exact same time it would be on him. They heard the ball hit the staffs rack, the weapons falling on the concrete, the metallic bō before the wooden kind with a marvelous uproar. A fairly tensed silence took its time to make them regret their game. Leonardo exchanged a look with his brothers. Raphael, resigned, already knew they were in for some extra training but Michelangelo and Donatello still hoped Splinter was in a too deep trance to have noticed the material world. Those two hated extra training, even if one of them was often the reason for added push-ups or back-flips. Leonardo tried to reassure them with a confident smile but he lost his grin when he heard Splinter's voice calling his name. Leonardo composed himself and walked to the dōjō through the living room and the small corridor.
Splinter had been a lot on his shell lately. For most of their time on Earth, Splinter had blamed Michelangelo more than the others for every little thing, sometimes even when it wasn't his fault, but it seemed to be over. Leonardo was now responsible for his brothers' missteps, all of them. If Donatello overslept because he went to bed at an indecent hour, it was Leonardo's fault. If Raphael was in a bad mood for a reason or another, it was Leonardo's fault. If Michelangelo played too much video games, it was Leonardo's fault. Even the recent broken pipe in the dōjō and the subsequent flooding seemed to be on Leonardo.
It was alright, he could deal with this kind of pressure, at least for now. Leonardo knew he would have to echo Splinter's newest expectations on his brothers at some point to even their behavior but he was pretty sure he could wait a little more. He didn't want to live like a monk, always calm and silent like Splinter had been recently. They were almost twenty, full of energy and tired of being confined in the sewers. Sure, they were authorized to go out, even to the surface, but they had to come back eventually. Sometimes, home felt like a prison.
Leonardo knelt before Splinter. The old rat was in his usual spot, at an end of the dōjō in some sort of a comfortable alcove full of cushions from where he supervised training. Candles were lit around him and one insured his tea-pot stayed warm. He looked old. It wasn't the first time Leonardo spotted it, after all Splinter had always looked old, but his master's fur had more and more white in lately and his body seemed stiffer than before. Leonardo didn't know how old Splinter was exactly. He didn't want to know.
"What did I tell you about ball games inside, Leonardo?" Splinter asked with a tired voice.
"We were just...", Leonardo tried but Splinter interrupted him.
"What did I tell you about ball games inside?" he repeated sharply.
"You forbade it."
It was no use to explain that Raphael had found the old soccer ball in the other room, the one where he, Donatello, and Michelangelo kept all their finds. He had thrown the ball at his brothers and their game had been under control for a while but the ball eventually landed in the living room. Leonardo then entered the game, even if soccer was a stupid sport, and he had been sure everything would be fine – they were highly trained ninja, after all, totally capable of managing a ball with just their feet –, until the ball had hit the microwave and flown to the dōjō. He should have known better. If things could get worse, they did, especially for them.
"And you played inside nonetheless," Splinter continued. "We have rules for a reason, Leonardo."
"I know, sensei."
"Do not interrupt me." Leonardo bowed his head and didn't try to look at his master after. It wouldn't help and he was in for a lecture anyway. "You may think our indoor rules do not have anything to do with our survival," Splinter started, "but it is crucial for you and your brothers to know how to obey and behave. If you let your brothers do what they want inside, in the safety of our home, what will happen outside? Your teamwork depends on their obedience. You have to control them."
Leonardo didn't agree on this point but he knew better than starting an argument with Splinter on the subject. For now, he just had to let the storm flow. It was just a harsh rain but it could easily become hail if Leonardo said anything that didn't please Splinter. So he kept his head down and listened to the usual "you are the leader and have responsibilities" speech. Splinter used it often lately. Leonardo hated what it implied.
Splinter sighted eventually. Leonardo noticed it only because his master stopped his lecture before the end. "You are not listening," Splinter reproached him.
"I am, sensei."
"Do not lie to me, Leonardo. Speak your mind if you need to but do not give me this attitude. You are highly disrespectful at the moment."
"You know what I think, sensei," Leonardo answered. "I do not believe always being on my brothers' asses helps."
"Watch your language, young man."
Leonardo scowled. "I can't boss them around all the time, sensei. They need to relax at some point. I'm sorry we disturbed you with our game and I'll make sure it doesn't happen again but, sensei, it was just a stupid ball."
"They need to be more serious," Splinter counters, "and so do you."
"I am serious."
"Not at this time. You have been preoccupied lately."
"Jeez, I wonder why." Leonardo regretted what he said immediately but it was too late. Splinter looked down at him, his eyes cold as ice. Excuses wouldn't help now.
"Get out," Splinter ordered, "and do not come back until you have cleared your head."
"Yes, sensei," Leonardo mumbled before bowing. He avoided eye contact and walked to the dōjō entrance. His brothers were aligned in the corridor leading to the living room, of course. They would have intervened if things had turned bad, Leonardo knew it. They were a team after all. If one of them got into trouble, they didn't hesitate to help him. Leonardo smiled at his brothers to reassure them. It wasn't that bad. He would have to apologize to Splinter later and behave accordingly for a few days, no big deal. "Come on," Leonardo whispered, "let's go to the surface to blow some steam off."
"It's still daytime," Donatello reminded him. Leonardo shrugged. He didn't care and he knew his brothers didn't mind either. Daytime was a much bigger challenge, after all.
It was one of those days where nothing was right. It had started with the clogged bathtub, something Casey had promised to fix days ago. Every mug April could put her hand on had been greasy. The milk had expired. They had forgotten to buy new coffee filters. Casey hadn't taken the trash out the previous day. The cat had pooped in the plants again. Shadow had wet her bed because Casey hadn't put her in a night diaper. April slammed the door as she left the apartment.
New York could be a pretty lonely place for someone like her. April had few friends in the city and most of them lived under the surface. She would have run to the Turtles, if their daily routine had started earlier. They never were awake before noon and then it was time for training and lessons until the evening. Splinter didn't like when their daily routine was interrupted but he generally let his students free for the night. April had wanted the sun to set badly.
She had killed time with some window shopping in the morning and it turned out quite frustrating. She didn't have the kind of money to clear her head with impulsive buying. Sure, they weren't poor but they had to save for the taxes at the end of the year. Owning a building was pretty expensive. Casey also wanted to save some money for Shadow, for later, for college. That was a nice thing to do for his daughter but April would have liked Casey to find at least a part-time job to finance his dream.
She could find a job to get out of the apartment, she thought during her afternoon at the cinema. The rents she collected from the building were enough to make a living but it wasn't about money. She always was inside, with Casey and Shadow, not seeing anyone but four green teenagers who liked pizza and fist fights too much. It wasn't the best environment. She loved her boys, and she loved Casey and Shadow, but she needed more than them in her life. She would be thirty-two next fall and April felt like she didn't have a life at all.
She did have some adventures a few years ago but the city was at peace now. The truce between the Foot and the Turtles prevented pretty much anything crazy that could have happened. The worst situation April had had to face recently was Michelangelo's disappearance last Halloween – three days of nightmares. Leonardo and Raphael had been unbearable with their big brothers act and Donatello almost went crazy with his search through every camera in the city. He had seen things, he'd said later with his terrible blank face. It turned out the little pervert had found a girl not afraid of him and they had fucked for most of those three days. Of course, he had lost his cellphone somewhere during Halloween's night and he hadn't think to call his brothers to reassure them. Michelangelo had been grounded until Easter, forbidden to go out without supervision.
April spent some time in a coffee shop with a book borrowed from the nearest library. She waited until seven to text Donatello. She would have liked to write something like "need friends" but that would only bring questions. Donatello never was a fan of Casey and April didn't want to hear him listing again why that brain-dead hairy monkey wasn't a good life partner for her. Donatello had been kind of an ass lately with Casey but it was April's fault. She shouldn't have told him she had troubles in her relationship. A teenager couldn't help her, even if said teenager often killed time with virtual dates through adult chat rooms. Too often. April probably should tell Leonardo about his brother's hobby but she wasn't sure he would do anything about it. It would make him laugh, probably.
"Want pizza?" April wrote and hit the 'send' button. Simple, efficient, no subtext. Perfect. Donatello responded almost immediately, which was strange because they usually finished training at eight. "I like when you talk dirty to me, girl", the text said. Yep, April was going to tell Leonardo about Donatello's flirting sessions. His answer made her smile anyway.
"Naughty boy. Your place?" This could lead to questions but Donatello didn't catch the subtext.
"Uh, not a good idea. Rat situation, I'll tell you later. Is your place okay? We'll clean after, don't worry." April hesitated a minute and a new text from Donatello arrived in between: "Raph wants beer," it said. Of course he did. Splinter didn't allow alcohol in the lair but the boys had developed a taste for it. Raphael and Michelangelo usually drank a bottle each while Donatello and Leonardo shared one. It was never enough for them to get drunk and it wasn't often so April let them have their little secret. They needed it. That wasn't exactly good parenting but she had been a teenager herself and she knew freedom was important at this age. It was better to let them drink once in a while under control than letting them do God knows what just for the thrill of breaking rules. They tended to do that too often already.
Several texts later, the beer's brand and the pizzas' toppings were decided and April headed back home. She stopped by the grocery store to buy the beer, some sodas, popcorn and candies before the pizza place and ended up with her hands full at the door of the building. Fortunately, she lived on the first floor and didn't have to carry all of it up stairs but she had to struggle a little with the apartment's door anyway. Casey was in the kitchen, feeding Shadow. He didn't say a word but his eyes spoke for him. April put the pizzas in the oven and the beer in the fridge before telling him the guys would be there in a moment. Casey shrugged and April disappeared in the bedroom.
Someone knocked at her door ten minutes later and April immediately knew it was Donatello. He was more delicate than his brothers and he usually waited to be allowed to enter before risking a look inside. April closed her book and jumped out of bed to welcome him with a kiss on the cheek. Donatello hugged her back, his hand very light on the middle of her back. She knew they all paid attention not to hurt their fragile human friends, even if they could be pretty brutal between them. There wasn't a day without a punch, or something else, thrown at a brother with them. It was generally between Raphael and Leonardo or Raphael and Michelangelo but even Donatello could use force against his brothers occasionally. Non-violence prevailed, though. Donatello was kind of a utopian, believing everybody could listen to reason and use some brain and logic. Poor kid.
"You look tired," he said, his hand still on April's back.
She tried to give him a convincing smile. "Bad day, is all." Donatello turned his head just a little to indicate the light from the living room. That meant Casey. Donatello suspected something, of course. April couldn't fool him long, he knew her too well, so she decided to gross him out to avoid any further question. "My uterus is killing me," she said with a smirk. Donatello retreated at a respectful distance, hands in the air, as if she was contagious. April couldn't help but laugh.
They got out of the room and found Casey on their way to the kitchen, Shadow in his arms, heading for the child's bedroom. The little girl was calling for her uncle Mikey but Casey seemed pretty determined to put his daughter to bed. It was eight already, bedtime for the two year old.
"Donatello," Casey saluted coldly. Said Donatello merely nodded to acknowledge Casey's presence. "Could you guys go outside?" Casey asked. "Shadow has to sleep."
"With pleasure," Donatello responded. Casey frowned and April poked Donatello in the arm. "It's such a lovely night," he added innocently then walked to the kitchen where his brothers were certainly raiding the fridge already. April would have liked to avoid speaking to Casey but he grabbed her by the arm.
"What's wrong with you?" he asked, concern in his voice.
You didn't fix the bathtub, April thought, but it seemed to be a pretty ridiculous reason to disappear an entire day. "I needed some air," April confessed.
"Air, huh? You could've called me or something, I was worried, y'know?"
"You didn't call either."
Casey frowned and shook his head. "Say goodnight to April, sweetheart," he told Shadow and the little girl complied before asking if uncle Mikey could read her a story. Casey said no and closed the bedroom's door behind him, leaving April in the dark. It was just a bad day, she kept repeating herself as she walked to the kitchen, nothing of importance. April composed herself and could wear a smile on her face when she welcomed the other Turtles. Each of them gave her a kiss on the cheek and Raphael bragged a little because he was now the only one who had to bend down for that. They all had grown up in the past years but Raphael had taken the lead recently. He almost was five feet seven when his brothers stagnated around five feet four. April was just glad they didn't have their eyes at breast-height anymore.
They took all of their victuals and went for the rooftop. From there, they had to climb on a taller building to avoid being seen from above and they made sure the door to the roof was locked. There was their usual spot, hidden between cooling towers. The fans' buzzing was a little loud but it was still better than standing in plain sight.
Leonardo took a twenty from a pocket at his belt and gave it to April without a word. The thought was good, even if he didn't have to pay her back. Money wasn't really a problem for them. They occasionally found bills on the pavement and used them only for their pizza when they ordered "old style" – but many restaurants now accepted payment through the Internet. They didn't have to pay for groceries as they usually found what they needed in the dumpsters of the city and Donatello had an online bank account in case they needed something specific that they could buy on the Internet. April knew some of his money came from donations – he had created some software and he also was an active member of the Linux community – but that couldn't possibly cover the expenses of his new servers delivered at April's each month. She had no idea what all this hardware was for but she certainly suspected some illegal activities to get that kind of money. Knowing Donatello, he was probably virtually robbing banks, one cent at a time, or investing in some stock options. It was equally possible with Donatello, depending on his boredom.
"How come you guys were out so early?" April asked, taking a slice of the less crazy pizza they had. The Turtles exchanged a look between them. That meant Splinter had thrown them out. "Guys, what did you do this time?" April sighed.
"Nothing!" Michelangelo claimed, offended. "We were meditating, like any other normal day and stuff, I swear!"
"With a soccer ball," Raphael smirked.
"Duh, it was obvious, I said any day!"
"We were supposed to meditate," Leonardo corrected, "and we got distracted, that's all."
"Usually, Splinter gives you extra training from Hell for that," April remembered.
"Yes, yes he does," Michelangelo nodded vigorously. "My thighs still hurt from last week's session."
"Mine too," Donatello mumbled. Leonardo poked him on the thigh and Donatello slapped his brother's hand, not amused by his mocking gesture. "I remember you suffering from cramps all night so please, don't patronize me, brother."
"I'm not," Leonardo laughed. He opened a bottle of beer and gave it to Donatello as a peace offering. Donatello frowned a little but still accepted the beer. He took a sip before giving the bottle back to Leonardo. The guys could be real assholes to each other from time to time but they also shared some cute little moments like this one. It made April smile a little.
"And you went topside before nightfall," she noted. "That's risky."
"C'mon, April," Raphael grunted, "we're big turtles now, we know what we're doing."
"We were careful, don't worry," Leonardo added. "Besides, Don has this scrambler thingy for cameras." Between him and her, Donatello rolled his eyes.
"A scrambler?" April repeated.
"Well, technically, it's a WiFi scrambler," Donatello explained as he popped out a small black plastic box from his belt. "Most of the video surveillance cameras nowadays are connected to their server via WiFi, it's more economical and easier to install than kilometers of wire everywhere. Those cameras just watch, they don't have an internal memory for recording. So, if the WiFi lags or is interrupted, no footage is saved on the servers. This scrambler connects itself to every WiFi spots around and overloads the bandwidth to prevent the cameras from sending anything and tadaaa! No footage of ninja Turtles."
"Yeah, what he said," Michelangelo smiled, his mouth full of pizza.
"Okay big guy, you got me on this one," April admitted, "but not all cameras in the city are wireless. And what do you do for cellphones, hmm?"
"Take a picture of us," Donatello proposed with a confident grin. April took her phone from her back pocket. When she looked again at the guys, they already were all together in position, smiling like big dorks. April was definitively using that picture as her wallpaper from now on, screw security and caution. She hit the camera button, the flash briefly illuminated the brothers, but all she got on her screen was black.
"The scrambler?" she asked.
"Yep," Donatello responded as he sat back at his place, proud of himself. "It works in a one hundred meters radius, though, and the battery doesn't allow us much time out but, you know, we're ninjas and all so it's okay."
"And the wired cameras?" April insisted.
"I've got a software running for that," Donatello started to explain but Raphael interrupted him.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're a genius, we know, stop bragging."
"That's rich coming from you," Donatello replied. Raphael threw him a gummy bear on the head but Donatello didn't bother to catch it, staring at his brother for several seconds before digging aggressively into the pop-corn.
"Casey seemed pretty pissed," Michelangelo said to change the subject. "You guys had a fight or something?"
April stopped her motion and immediately felt four inquisitorial looks on her. Breathing suddenly became harder when Raphael gave her his full attention. It was so obvious she didn't want to talk about it that Michelangelo apologized, his big blue eyes traveling from her to the ground multiple times. "Sorry, not my business."
"It's okay," April said with a poor smile, playing with her soda can. "It's just a bad day."
"I should have brought my bad day blanket," Michelangelo joked. April welcomed the diversion.
"A big guy like you has a bad day blanket?"
"It's pink with white bunnies on it," Leonardo smirked. "Well, it was, back in the day."
"It's more beige now," Donatello confirmed. "And it stinks."
"It's more beige now," Michelangelo repeated mockingly on a high speech tone. "Dude, you're just jealous of my blanky."
"I never had to rely on a blanket, or a teddy bear, for comfort," Donatello replied. Raphael winced.
"Nah, you ran to Leo for that," he retorted sharply behind his bottle of beer.
"See, April, I'm having a bad day too," Donatello sighed, falsely resigned. "We should start a club."
"With blanket forts!" Michelangelo shot. "Everything is so much better with blanket forts."
"Bad Day and Blanket Forts Anonymous," Leonardo resumed. "Where do I sign up?"
"More like Depressed Anonymous," Raphael snorted. "C'mon, cheer up, Fearless. It ain't the first time Splinter got mad at us for a stupid reason and it ain't gonna be the last." April appreciated that Raphael didn't include her in his bad attempt to light up the mood. He was Casey's best friend and he had had a hard time accepting the couple his two human friends had made but now he was comfortable with the situation. If April and Casey broke up, it would make things complicated and awkward again.
"I know," Leonardo said, lost in his thought for a second and April knew he had a lot on his mind at the moment too. He couldn't talk freely about it, though, not to his brothers. The boys weren't comfortable with sharing their inner struggles. It had taken them a full winter to accept their defeat against the Foot Clan some years ago and the rest of the year to rebuild their confidence and team. However, Splinter had been alongside them in this difficult moment. Now, the master seemed to be giving the prodigal son a hard time. April hadn't often seen Splinter lately, even if the old rat was fond of the little Shadow and came to the apartment to see her on a regular basis, and he had been preoccupied each time. April knew why: his students were too cocky and reckless lately, too confident. That wasn't a good mix with secrecy.
She probably should talk to Leonardo. He would listen to her concerns more willingly than to Splinter's, even if the ideas were the same. Leonardo considered her as a sister, not as a parental figure. Her advices would be more welcome than Splinter's.
"Anyway," Leonardo sighted, "it's a bad day, not the end of the world. We should be grateful to live another day, even if it sucks."
"Amen to that," Michelangelo agreed, raising his bottle of beer. Raphael, Leonardo and April clanged their respective drink all together and Donatello mimicked them with his scrambler. They didn't talk again about those subjects for the rest of the evening and it felt good. April was in a much better mood when they started to collect their trash, part from the alcohol and part from all the stupid things they had talked about. Sometimes, hanging out with the guys reminded her of college, when she smoked pot and drank alcohol all night long with her roommate and her girlfriend, while coding programs for the morning classes. April kind of wanted to see her boys under the influence for good, at least once. She was certain it would help Leonardo to relax but Raphael would have to be well guided for this kind of experience with his temper. A bad trip wasn't a good experience and she was pretty sure it could become a nightmare with one hundred kilograms of turtle well known for not being optimistic.
It was out of the question anyway because Splinter would probably scold her for days and she wasn't eager to endure that. April was on good terms with the old master, she somehow considered him as a father figure since the death of her dad and he was always there for her when she needed advice. Maybe she had to talk to Splinter about her matrimonial situation but it seemed awkward. Splinter was a rat and he never had had a lady in his life, to April's knowledge – just thinking of it was weird and kind of disgusting, actually, like imagining her parents having sex. How could he help her if he had no experience at all in relationships? He wasn't some sort of wise monk who had an answer for each question, he was just a big rat struggling to temper his adoptive sons' attitude. He had enough on his plate already, April thought while Raphael and Michelangelo fought loudly over the last pizza slice.
They jumped on April's building's roof and took the stairs to go to the first floor, absolutely serious and silent, as if someone had activated a switch somewhere. They kept quiet when they entered the apartment, knowing that Shadow was asleep, and cleaned as promised. Donatello even proposed to take the trash out on their way because Casey hadn't done it yet. April suddenly felt the urge to cry, her good mood blown away. Before she knew it, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael got out of the kitchen and Leonardo had taken her in his soft embrace, his arms just pressed enough around her to make her felt protected but not crushed.
"It's okay," he whispered gently at her hear. "Please, don't do that to yourself, dear April. You can share your troubles with us. That's what family is for, right?" April nodded, her eyes burning from tears. Leonardo put a lock of her red hair away, his gesture more tender than any of Casey's lately. "We have lots of blankets if you need to retreat to a fort," he added and April laughed a little. She passed her arms around Leonardo's neck to hug him back. He didn't exactly smell good but his scent was comforting. "Actually, I'd let you sleep on my bed and I'd take the couch," he said pensively. "I think we still have a fresh set of sheets, somewhere, if Don didn't burn it with his soap experiments."
"That's a serious offer if you are willing to change the sheets," April laughed.
"I am serious indeed. You are always welcome in our home."
"What about Splinter?"
"What about him?" Leonardo grunted.
"Maybe he doesn't want a feminine presence to distract his young students."
"Nah it's okay, we don't pay attention to your female attributes anymore."
"Female attributes?" April repeated, amused. She had to put an end to the hug to meet Leonardo's gaze.
"Some of my brothers would have chosen a different vocabulary," he admitted.
"Speaking of," Michelangelo interrupted from the living room, "you got mail, Leo."
The warm and brotherly Leonardo disappeared in a second, becoming someone cold and focused again. Splinter didn't have to worry about his sons' seriousness, April thought while following the Turtle to the living room. They may be searching for action and thrill but they were well aware of the dangers surrounding them.
Leonardo delicately took the letter and smelled it from a distance. It seemed too light to contain any explosive but a volatile poisonous powder couldn't be ruled out. Leonardo inspected the envelop for a minute before opening it with caution. It contained only a sheet of paper with kanji written on it. April knew two groups speaking Japanese around: the Turtles and the Foot. Leonardo frowned as he read the letter then looked at the mural clock behind him in the kitchen.
"Shit," he hissed for himself before addressing to his brothers. "Karai wants to see us tonight at one AM. She says she needs our help."
"Ain't that practical," Raphael grunted. "I don't trust the bitch and I ain't gonna walk in her smelly Feet trap."
"We have a truce with the Foot Clan," Donatello reminded his brother. "We should at least listen to what she has to say, with extra caution." One point for each team. Leonardo turned his attention to Michelangelo.
"I don't trust her either," he admitted, "but Donnie's right. The truce stipulates we have to help each other in case of great need or something like that."
"Then it's decided," Leonardo concluded. "And yes, we will be careful," he added before Raphael, visibly not agreeing with this decision, could say anything. Leonardo then turned to April and smiled at her. "I'm sorry April, we gotta go. I can call Splinter if you want to..."
"No, it's okay," April interrupted. "You will be very careful, guys, right?"
"We will," Leonardo confirmed. He kissed her goodbye on the cheek then walked to the kitchen to jump by the window into the backstreet alley. Raphael and Michelangelo did the same, with more or less enthusiasm, then Donatello took his turn but he held out his cheek for April to kiss it instead of the other way around. She obliged, amused by his childish selfishness, and Donatello hugged her back.
"I'll text you when we get home, okay?" he offered.
"You better do that or I'll kick your green ass, young man."
"I might consider that offer seriously," Donatello smirked. "You know I like my butt being kicked, especially by a pretty woman." April laughed and let go of Donatello who followed his brothers. He was half-way through the window when he froze, got back on the linoleum, took the trash under the sink, waved goodbye and jumped effortlessly outside. She closed the window behind him with a sigh and headed for the couch in the living room.
It was twenty past one when the Turtles stopped on the edge of a rooftop dominating the rendez-vous point. Leonardo didn't bother to hide, Karai knew they were coming, but he took a minute to observe the scene from above nonetheless. Karai was standing, looking around, her back at Leonardo at the moment. He could see five Foot soldiers but Donatello, scanning with his infrared binoculars, told him five more men were nearby. Ten guys weren't a problem for them if they could put some of them down quietly but they wouldn't have this opportunity. Knowing Karai, she had chosen well trained soldiers, if not elites, and that would be a difficult battle if the Turtles had to face them without a little bit of preparation.
"I'll go first," Leonardo decided. "Mike, you'll be my backup and we'll deal with Karai and her guards. Raph and Don, you'll have to take down the others around, from a distance would be the best."
"Then we'll come to help you," Donatello added. Leonardo nodded and smiled to his brothers.
"I bet you my money we won't have to fight, tho." Raphael grunted, still not convinced by Karai's words, but he didn't say a word as they parted. Leonardo landed without a sound and rolled to a deep shadow, unseen. He evaded the attention of a hidden Foot but soon had to walk out of the shadows. Karai's guards were surprised to see him so deep into their formation already but the kunoichi seemed more amused than anything else. She knew how talented the Turtles were and she would never underestimate them. It would have been a stupid thing to do.
"Leonardo," she greeted him with a nod. She still had a little bit of Japanese accent and didn't pronounce the r like an American. A kunoichi of her level was perfectly able to fake any kind of accent but that wasn't necessary between them. Leonardo didn't make any effort in his pronunciation when they were speaking Japanese after all.
"Karai," he responded the same way. "Sorry for being late, we got your letter only an hour ago."
"The Post is really not efficient in this country. I sent it three days ago." Leonardo smiled a little, knowing Karai's tricky sense of humor. They had meet for practice a dozen of times since the beginning of their truce and they knew each other a little. None of them had wanted to tell too much about them but they had revealed glimpses of their respective lives while sparring. Karai knew Leonardo was the only one to like pistachio ice cream in his family. He knew Karai had had a cat named Hiyoko when she was a kid. It really wasn't crucial information.
"Where are your brothers?" Karai inquired. Leonardo shrugged. She rolled her eyes at the unnecessary precautions. It wasn't a trap, Leonardo was sure of it now. Well, as much as paranoia authorized it.
"So, what happened?" he asked as he came closer to the kunoichi.
"Six of my men have been attacked."
"I don't recall kicking your soldiers' butts recently." Even with the truce, the Turtles occasionally fought the Foot. The clan still had thieves and scums in its ranks, even if Karai's goal was to have a legit business, so Leonardo and his brothers had the pleasure to right the wrong from time to time among Karai's side kicks.
"I know you stupid teenagers didn't do it," Karai snorted. "My men were eaten."
"Yep, definitely not us," Leonardo confirmed. He was surprised though. Unless a new gang of cannibals was in town, it seemed hardly believable. "What did the bites look like?" Karai took her cellphone from a pocket to show Leonardo. The jaw line was short and wide, the teeth marks were profound and dirty and the skin around had turned black with clear signs of infection. What the Hell, Leonardo thought.
"You don't know what caused that either," Karai realized. "Where is the smart one?"
"I doubt Donatello will know," Leonardo admitted but he signaled the gathering. His brothers arrived shortly after, making the guards nervous. Freshmen, Leonardo understood. Few of the Foot knew their existence after all and Leonardo had to admit his appearance could easily impress someone.
Donatello stared at the screen for a long minute while Raphael tried to appear more dangerous than he was. "I've never seen that," the resident genius said, "but I'm no expert. Animals and stuff aren't my field." Michelangelo looked over his shoulder, standing on tiptoe.
"A croc bite?" he offered.
"It would be longer and with a U shape in the end," Donatello nodded. As he pointed the details on the screen, his finger touched it and swept the picture. Donatello and Michelangelo arched an eye ridge in unison but Karai took her phone back before they could have a good look.
"You have a mutant alligator friend," she said sharply. "I want you to go ask him some questions."
"Didn't your mama teach you to say 'please'?" Raphael grunted. Karai gave him a cold look but he wasn't impressed at all. She was smaller than April and leaner too. They all knew Karai was a serious opponent but they now had their weight and height as advantages against her. Karai wasn't stupid and had made the same conclusion during her secret meetings with Leonardo. She wouldn't pick a fight against any of them if it wasn't necessary but she still had to be respected. Unfortunately for her, Raphael didn't respect a lot of people and she wasn't one of the Chosen Ones.
"We'll go talk to Leatherhead," Leonardo promised as he waved to his brother to calm down. "Don, do you know where he is?"
"I haven't seen nor called him since last fall. He's not very active during winter."
"Maybe he went to Florida," Michelangelo mused. "Why don't we go to Florida for winters? Don't get me wrong, I love the snow and stuff, but the floods in the sewers? Nope, no thank you."
"What would we do with Master Splinter?" Donatello asked, his focus already lost to Michelangelo's silly idea. Leonardo had to glance at them to make them stop talking. Karai seemed a little baffled by the brothers' dynamic. She hadn't dealt with the four of them at once since their team-up against the Shredder's elite and the Turtles had been more focused at the time. They had been younger, less confident in their capacities. Leonardo knew Donatello and Michelangelo would be as serious as needed at the right time but he was still a little annoyed by their attitude and he knew why: he wanted to impress Karai. Bad habit of his, driven by youth, but he couldn't help it. He wanted to see envy in her black eyes.
"We'll find Leatherhead and ask him some questions," Leonardo insured once more. Karai nodded and was about to go on her way when an eleventh soldier arrived on the rooftop, causing the Turtles to draw their weapons out of surprise. The sudden adrenaline rush electrified Leonardo. He knew instinctively he had to go on his left to take down the four soldiers there, startled for now but soon to be ready for battle themselves. Donatello would follow him and go around to the right to rejoin Michelangelo while Raphael would attack Karai directly. That was a good plan, he just had to give the order to attack quickly but Karai roared to her men to stay down. Leonardo didn't move, surprised by her command. She slowly turned to face him and looked at him in the eyes.
"This is not what you think it is, Leonardo," Karai calmly asserted.
"Yeah right," Raphael growled, sais already in hands.
"Shut up, Raph," Leonardo hissed. "Explain yourself, Karai." She waved at the new entrant to approach and he did it with caution, making a big detour to avoid being near Donatello and his bō staff, ready to strike. The soldier whispered something into Karai's ear that Leonardo could barely hear but he understood what was going on when he saw the kunoichi's expression hardening. Another attack. "Where?" Leonardo asked as the soldier withdrew to a safe distance.
"A warehouse in Red Hook, on Gowanus Canal," Karai said. Leonardo sheathed his katanas. Red Hook was a few blocks south but they had to cross the expressway to get to the canal. Low structures, lots of people around.
"Send me the address and tell your men we'll be there in ten minutes," Leonardo ordained. He didn't wait for an answer and took the lead, his brothers following him with a little bit of reluctance. Raphael spoke his mind when they were sure Karai's soldiers weren't following them.
"You know we're going straight to a trap, right?" he asked, acid as ever.
"Would be a pretty elaborate trap then," Leonardo responded. He landed easily on a flange of a roof and kept running. Donatello accelerated on his left to get to his level.
"She has your number," he said coldly. Leonardo tried to smile at his brother but Donatello wasn't going to let that one slip by. He wanted an explanation.
"Don't be jealous," Leonardo joked to avoid the confrontation.
"I am not jealous, you stupid idiot," Donatello snapped. "It's a question of security. She can trace your cellphone and know your position at any time if she has your number, dammit!" Such colorful language from Donatello was a clear indication of his disappointment. Leonardo knew he shouldn't have been amused but he couldn't help it. Donatello saw his smile and clouted him on the shoulder.
"Karai knows where we live," Michelangelo resumed. He had to catch Raphael's arm to slow him down and avoid a fratricide.
"What the fuck is wrong with you, Leo?" Raphael howled.
"Keep your voice down," Leonardo ordered. "We're ninjas, remember? Besides, it's been years and she never tried anything. Isn't it the proof Karai can be trusted?"
"Do you have her number?" Donatello asked before Raphael could find something else to yell at his brother.
"'course I have it." They had exchanged their phone numbers to facilitate their trainings. It wasn't like they were texting or calling each other all the time. Sure, Leonardo often flirted with Karai when he was asking for a meeting but it was more to disconcert her than anything else. Karai had been clear on the subject anyway. She had no interest in a teenager the age of her lost daughter.
"Why did she send a letter to April's?" Donatello carried on.
"It's the... huh, official channel," Leonardo assumed. Karai had to keep their meetings secret too so she had had to contact Leonardo the only way the Foot Clan knew how and that was through April's mailbox. "Look, guys," Leonardo sighed, "now is not a good time for that. I'll explain later, I promise."
"You better, bro," Michelangelo said. It wasn't a threat, just a simple statement, but it sounded like it to Leonardo's ears. His brothers would know, fine, but they wouldn't tell Splinter about Karai. If their master knew, Leonardo would have to seriously consider this Florida option as a permanent residence.
Smith Street was made of low buildings and warehouses but was practically uninhabited. The Turtles stopped on top of the storehouse in front of the address Karai had sent. It was made of old sheet metal, rusted where the gutters had broken, the gray paint slowly peeling off, attacked by the salt of the nearby sea. Some plants had pierced the sidewalk around, giving an "end of the road" look to the place. The streetlights weren't all working, giving them a lot of space to progress on the ground. Nobody around. They jumped down to the street, silent as shadows.
Leonardo and Donatello went left while Raphael and Michelangelo took the right. They circled the warehouse made of four buildings attached together, one of them giving directly on the canal. Karai's men were nowhere to be seen but the smell coming from inside couldn't trick the Turtles. Fresh blood. They were most likely all dead already.
They found a door on the southern side of the warehouse and entered without a sound, spreading between the metallic shelves full of plastic supplies of all kind. There wasn't only the smell of blood inside. Something acid and sour floated in the air, something warm and animal. Something was chewing in a corner poorly lit. Leonardo first saw a long and heavy tail with small dark scales – dark red, brown or black, he couldn't tell with this light. The hind legs were short but muscular, with long claws scratching on the concrete. The rest of the body was in a too deep shadow or hidden by the corps it was feeding on to be seen. It looked like a lizard from what he could catch, only three to four meters long.
"You know what it is?" Leonardo asked Donatello with signs. His brother shook his head. Fortunately, discretion didn't leave him room for complaining about what he knew and what he didn't. Donatello had been very fond of any kind of knowledge as a child but he had focused on fewer subjects for the past years. It included computers, mathematical, mechanic, physics and chemistry, but mostly computers. He still loved anecdotes and could tell some about an impressive number of topics, mostly when they were unwanted. Leonardo was resigned about his brother's strange habit and he even convinced himself it was part of his charm.
Donatello took Leonardo's place at the end of the row and bent a little to watch properly the beast but he straightened quickly. "It's gone," Donatello signed and they were on the move in the second, climbing on the shelves to get above ground. They found refuge between two piles of big yellow plastic tubes. "All I know is, it's a very big lizard," Donatello kept signing, "but it doesn't make sense. Why on Earth would Karai be afraid of a lizard?"
"I don't know," Leonardo responded. He took a few seconds to look around. "Can it be a mutant, like us?"
"Very unlikely. The ooze is a byproduct of Utrom technology but they left Earth and we destroyed the TransMat right after. They seemed pretty concerned by their impact on Earth so I doubt they left pools of mutagen in the sewers behind them."
"A genetic...", Leonardo started but he had no idea how to explain what he had in mind with signs. "Something?" he still tried. Donatello rolled his eyes.
"Experimentation," he said. "I don't know and we can't know. If Karai wants us to deal with this lizard, fine, let's do it and she'll have the pleasure to figure out what that thing is."
"Maybe it's controlled by someone else," Leonardo proposed. Donatello stared at him for a second this time.
"Not our problem," he signed and his decision was final. Leonardo couldn't argue more with his brother, even if the thought of this giant lizard being controlled bothered him. Killing a foe who knew what he was doing was a thing. Killing someone unaware of what was happening was another. Leonardo wasn't a fan of the second but Donatello was right. They had a better chance to get that lizard down than Karai's men.
A shuriken flew in their direction and ricocheted on a steel beam over their heads. Donatello and Leonardo plunged, each one on a side of the shelf just before an enormous lizard fell where they stood seconds ago, another throwing star deep in its neck. Leonardo twisted round to land on the concrete and ran to the origin of the shuriken while Donatello was going to the opposite. There, on the third level of a shelf, was Michelangelo, thumb up. Leonardo smiled at his brother and unsheathed his outer katana. With a sudden jump, he changed direction and quickly arrived at Raphael's level, facing another lizard. They attacked together but the reptile was fast and he stood up on his rear legs. It was taller than them now but bipedalism wasn't its forte. Raphael went to the right, his sai aimed to the lungs, while Leonardo took the left, sliding on the ground to slice the belly. His katana ripped on the hard skin and the lizard's tail whipped his legs before he could dodge. Leonardo rolled on the ground, tibia on fire, but he was more preoccupied by Raphael. His brother had stopped. Leonardo jumped to his feet and saw the long claws through Raphael's left thigh. He lifted his katana to strike the lizard from the back but the edge of the blade was shattered, completely useless.
By the time Leonardo had unsheathed his second sword, Raphael had kicked the lizard upward and broken free of its claws. His leg was bleeding but that wasn't something that could stop him. Raphael also had to abandon his sai, bent by his own force against the skin of their cousin.
"What the Hell is that?" Raphael grunted, keeping his distances from the lizard. It turned awkwardly to face them, still standing, and tasted the air with its yellow and freaking long forked tongue.
"I don't know!" Donatello yelled from a distance.
"Not talking to you!" Raphael barked back.
"I don't know either," Leonardo responded, his eyes on the lizard. "And I thought you were the ugly one of the family."
"Oh shut up, Leo." Raphael took a short knife from a pocket on his belt to replace his sai. "That bastard's skin's too strong."
"Nothing pleasant, I fear."
"Great." Raphael took a high guard and breathed deeply to calm down. Leonardo knew what his brother was going to do and his own role would be to distract the lizard. He took a step to his right, both katanas in hand in a low stand. The beast was quick but Leonardo was well aware of that now. He wouldn't make the same mistake twice.
Leonardo attacked suddenly, fast as lightening. His already shattered katana went again for the belly in a cross movement while the other stroke the claws. Both blades resisted and Leonardo stood solidly, without folding under the brute force of the lizard. It opened its mouth wide and Leonardo could see shark-like teeth coming for him. He always had thought Death's smile would be prettier.
Raphael chose this moment to plunge on the lizard, sai first, aiming for its eye and the brain behind, but the beast swiftly turned its head and gulped Raphael's entire arm. Thanks to a rush of adrenaline, Leonardo managed to kick and throw away the lizard but it had already started to close its mouth. Raphael pulled his arm out of the deadly trap, his skin shredded deeply all the way, but at least he had kept his limb. They both retreated a few meters while the lizard fell to the ground on his back, wiggling in all directions, his tail whipping the air.
"You okay?" Leonardo asked, his right cheek on fire. The lizard had had him with its claws, somehow.
"It ate my sai," Raphael grumbled. They didn't have the luxury to elaborate. Michelangelo flew through the air and rammed head first into a shelf. He fell without trying to hang on something to break the fall and that was when Leonardo knew his brother was unconscious. He exchanged a look with Raphael, who nodded. He would take care of the lizard while Leonardo would go to Michelangelo. They had seen two of those ugly butts so far but there may be another one. Leaving a brother unconscious on the ground wasn't an option.
Leonardo sprinted to Michelangelo's location and narrowly escaped a bite from above by skipping on the ground. Leonardo grabbed his brother by the shell and tossed him away just before a third lizard fell from the shelf. This one stayed on the ground while Leonardo stood up, its tongue smelling the air. Leonardo cautiously stepped back until he reached Michelangelo. He knew the lizard was waiting for him to open his guard. It was smart and terribly predatory.
An explosion shook the ground just before a wave of heat hit Leonardo. The lizard blenched and panicked, his tongue whipping the air in search of information, and Leonardo took his chance. He flung Michelangelo on his shoulder and started running for the door but he saw a lizard, one of the three or another one, he didn't know, blocking the way out. Sliding in a tight turn, Leonardo almost rammed into Donatello.
"Not that way!" they yelled at the same time. They had no choice but to get on higher ground. Donatello jumped higher and led the way on top of the shelves. Leonardo could see bone deep holes on his back, bleeding a lot, together with bites marks. His bō staff was half shorter than before and chewed at both ends. Karai can go fuck herself, Leonardo decided. He wouldn't risk his brothers' lives again, not like this.
The explosion Donatello had produced had started a fire with all the plastic around. A dense acrid smoke was rapidly invading the space. There wasn't a single window or opening on the roof so Donatello and Leonardo had to rejoin the ground. They landed near Raphael, overawing two lizards on his own but the price for this feat hadn't been cheap. He had been bitten several times on the legs and arms and cut on the head. Donatello took another homemade grenade from his belt and threw it between the lizards. Raphael jumped as far as possible but it only was a light bomb. It was a good choice considering their proximity to the explosion site but it didn't have much effect on the monsters. At best, the Turtles had gained a handful of seconds but to go where? The door was blocked and it was the only way out they knew. There wasn't even a window in those freaking sheet metal!
Sheet metal, Leonardo realized. They didn't need a door or a window to get out. He gave Michelangelo to Donatello and ran to the nearest wall, quickly followed by Raphael who had understood what Leonardo was going to do. They rammed into the thin metallic wall and made their way out in one blow, falling hard to the ground. "Oh shit," Donatello mumbled behind them.
Leonardo raised his head but was blinded by the lights surrounding them, white, red and blue. He stood slowly, protecting his eyes, and counted more than a dozen of police cars and at least thirty men in uniform, their guns pointing in his direction. Leonardo didn't have time to freak out or curse or anything else. He had to ensure his brothers' lives, it was his duty. As long as they were alive, they had a chance. A chance to what?, he thought as he turned to his brothers. "I'm sorry," Leonardo said, deeply repentant. They had talked about this possibility but it was still a hard decision to make. Leonardo let his katanas fall to the ground and raised his arms. "Don't shoot, we surrender," he yelled, and it easily was the hardest thing he ever had to say in his life.
To be continued
Title: Let there be light
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this first chapter. Next one in a month.