I'm not dead….I think that's it.
Brrrrrp! Donatello reached forward to smack his little brother upside the head, and Raphael did not object. Both of them had warned the little buttmunch not to have chilli for dinner but he hadn't listened and now they were all paying the price. While the stench was bad enough, it was more the potential indignity of being caught because one of the supposedly trained ninjas couldn't stop breaking wind that irked the middle brothers.
Mikey winced and mouthed a "sorry". He knew he'd screwed up, and they weren't even halfway into this rescue op yet. Not to mention that everyone's nerves were already a little frazzled after 5 days confined to the crowded interior of their bus coupled with anxious anticipation of getting Leo back.
April and Casey were parked a few blocks away, leaving enough distance so that when the Zoo discovered their "theft" in the morning, they weren't likely pop up on the authorities' radar. Casey was ready near the wheel, in case the brothers needed a quick getaway. April was at the hub, in full contact with the team, monitoring the Zoo's security and feeding her boys info as necessary. The turtles had entered the facility and were slowly making their way to their brother's enclosure, Splinter ghosting behind them, keeping a watchful eye on his sons.
They were all a bit on edge. The Zoo had unfortunately increased their security after an incident just two days before. April and Casey had visited Leo, the legal way, so as to better determine his condition, "case the joint", and to give Leo a head's up that his family was there and coming for him. They'd succeed on all counts. It was all April could do to keep a straight face when Leonardo had looked up and made eye contact with her. His own obsidian pools had been comically wide in his face, his breathing stuttering for a moment. Then he'd closed down and very deliberately turned away, settling down into the turf to take a pseudo nap, ensuring that no one noticed their brief contact. They needn't have worried.
Leo didn't have to fake napping for long. His attention was grabbed by the sound of his enclosure's door opening. He wasn't expecting it. Normally the keepers only came in to check his food, water and the cleanliness of his habitat. This generally kept to the same schedule each day, and it wasn't the usual time. Leo looked up, and was startled to see a new face. She was almost painfully thin, with stringy hair, and a hollow face. She was wearing the appropriate uniform of a zoo worker, but looked very ill at ease. Leo's experienced eyes instantly pegged her as an intruder, and not a very good one. How on earth did she get this far?
Leo slowly edged toward the water, even with his bad leg, a human would have a hard time wrangling him in there. She didn't angle for him though. The stranger gave him a long look, walked to the centre of the habitat, and ripped off her top shouting "Freedom for all Gaia's Children!" while punching the air.
Amid the din of yelling parents, screaming children and various catcalls, all Leo could think was, Those are not fit for public viewing. He then shook himself and sunk into his pool. Security could deal with this.
And deal with it they did. The protestor eventually had to be full body tackled before they could haul her away. The downside was that a hole in security had been revealed, and the Zoo administration had plugged it with a vengeance. The cyber security hadn't changed, but there were a lot more bodies for the ninjas to dodge on their way in.
Splinter and his sons creeped around another corner, rat ears keeping careful track of the guards in their area. Eventually they reached the service corridor that led to the back of Leo's enclosure. Straight, barren and brightly lit, it was a ninjas worst nightmare. No shadows, alcoves, furniture or rafters to hide in, they were totally exposed. April would keep the cameras fooled, but if someone walked in on them they were screwed.
"Ok guys, there's no one nearby. Go for it."
They outright sprinted down the hall, bare feet scaled and padded slapping the smooth concrete. Donnie got there first, quickly descending on the digital lock. His brothers skidded to a stop next to him, Mikey nearly vibrating in anticipation. Raphael had a white knuckled grip on his sai, watching one end of the pearl hallway as his father monitored the other. One beep, another, the door buzzed and popped open. Donatello grabbed it before it could close again and gestured Splinter and his emerald brother forward. Don and Mike would watch the door.
Raphael took a deep breath as he entered, then almost immediately froze. There, watching the door, was Leo. He was still a bit thin, definitely scarred, but his smile was blinding as he rushed to his family. The father and immediate younger were caught in a crushing bear hug that they returned with interest.
"Leo." Raphael whispered, barely containing a sob of pure joy. He pulled out of leaf green arms with regret. "We'll do the sappy reunion thing later. Right now, we gotta go." The tears he blinked away sealed his promise. Leonardo nodded, and they were off.
He was slower. Leo had known this for awhile, he'd been partially crippled after all. But suddenly needing all his speed to try and keep up, drove that fact home like a smack in the face. His brothers caught on pretty fast too. Without a word, Splinter took the lead, Donnie right behind him working in concert with April to guide them all out past human obstacles. Mikey assumed position of rearguard, as stalwart Raphael loaned his nearly limitless strength to his hobbled older brother. Honestly, it was all the dark green turtle could do not to simply pick Leo up and whisk him to safety. He managed to restrain himself somehow, and eventually they reached the outer walls. With two turtles boosting, one more and a rat catching, they got Leo over the fence, and out to the street where they descended into the unfamiliar sewers of San Francisco.
A couple wrong turns later, Michelangelo heaved a manhole out of the way in a dark alley conveniently blocked by a large vehicle. April flung the door open then throwing herself out of the way as they all piled inside. Once Casey got the all-clear, he eased the bus into gear, driving out of the city. If he hadn't been stuck behind the wheel, he would've joined the dogpile in the back as the Hamato clan fairly smothered poor Leonardo in their enthusiasm to welcome him back. He didn't mind though. Finally. I'm home.
Caroline was devastated. Ayotl was gone, stolen in the night by who knows, likely black market dealers or some such. His enclosure was crawling with police, searching for clues as to the culprits.
All Caro could do was sit on a rock and silently cry. She'd become deeply attached to the strange reptile, losing him was a terrible blow. The news crews were everywhere again, but this time they were far from welcome. Vultures. I just… HOW did they get in? There was no sign of anything amiss when she'd arrived that morning, except of course for one turtle too little in the habitat. After a frantic search they'd called the police while the heartbroken keeper had parked herself in the last place she'd seen her rare charge.
She sniffed wetly and stood up. I can't be in here anymore. One last mournful look around the carefully naturalized space and she made for the door. Only, something caught her eye. One of Ayotl's unique footprints, except…not. It was bigger, set firmly in the substrate, which Ayotl's bad leg made impossible. She bent lower and spotted another. That's Ayotl's, but what about that one? There was yet another, smaller than the other two. But that would mean…. Caro's eyes all but engulfed her face as her agile mind raced, making connections, drawing seemingly impossible conclusions. She glanced behind herself, at the forensics team still gathering evidence, then casually slid a boot forward and wiped the footprints away.