Hey everyone! I am so very sorry how long it has taken me to get this update finished. Real life has been taking too much of my writing time, but here it is at long last. Thank you to you all for patiently waiting for me to get this story rolling again, as well as those who like, follow and leave wonderful reviews! You all are so wonderful and I hope that you enjoy the chapter!
A special thank you is in order to the lovely Andrea O'Down for beta-reading this chapter for me.
Donnie vigorously scrubbed his brother's blood from his hands under the hot tap. He was exhausted and his nerves were about shot to hell, but the mission had been successfully accomplished. The entire procedure to reset the bones in Raph's arm had taken several hours, much longer than he had first expected. However, since he was basically working out of the pages of a medical textbook, he probably could be excused for going slowly.
He hadn't killed Raph, at least. That had been his biggest fear through the entire operation. One wrong slice with his scalpel, and he could have cut an important artery and his brother might have bled out on the table. Thank God for small miracles.
His thoughts were interrupted abruptly when April cleared her throat from behind him. He quickly moved aside for her with a murmured apology. Offering him a smile of thanks, she dropped a handful of bloody surgical instruments into the sink and began to carefully wash them under the scalding water.
When she turned her head away from him to yawn into the crook of her arm, Donnie could see the purple bruises on the back of her neck contrasting darkly against her white skin. He felt his blood boil at the thought of the man who had hurt her. He was glad that Raph had killed the son of a bitch and that he wouldn't be able to hurt anyone else, though he deserved a lot worse than the quick death he had gotten. Swallowing his anger, Donnie turned back to check on his patient.
Raph slept peacefully on his carapace on the examination table. The stark white bandage that swaddled his shoulder seemed nearly florescent under the bright lamp that hung over the table. Painkillers would keep him from feeling any more than discomfort, but he was still going to be sore when he woke up.
"Way to go, Doctor," April said as she came up behind him and laid her hand on his shoulder, distracting him from his reverie. Glancing back at her, Donnie beamed, forgetting his fatigue for a moment.
"Thanks," he replied, "And thank you for all your help, Nurse April. I don't think I could have done it without you."
She chuckled, punching him lightly on the shoulder. He took the teasing blow with a equally teasing grin.
He hadn't been flattering her with his compliment. April had been a godsend in pulling off the operation. She had made sure that everything he needed was on hand, checked Raph's vital signs diligently, and continually kept him from throwing down the instruments in frustration.
"Casey would have pushed me out of the hospital if he could have when you called," April said as she slowly eased herself down into the rolling office chair. "He knew that I could be more help here, putting Raph back together, than sitting in his hospital room worrying over him."
"How's he doing?" Donnie queried with polite concern. April tucked a strand of hair behind her ear before replying.
"He's doing as well as can be expected. He lost a lot of blood before the ambulance got to him and the doctors worked on him for a long time, but otherwise he's going to be okay. He'll have a nasty scar, but he thinks it will look really badass."
Donnie laughed in spite of himself. Typical Casey to be more concerned about the cool looking scar he had gotten than the fact that he had almost bled out on his own living room floor.
"And what about you? How are you feeling? Is the baby okay?" He flushed at his flustered questions, feeling like he was coming across as a real dork. April tenderly rubbed her belly, giving him a timid smile.
"Both mother and child are doing well, thank you."
There was a soft knock at the door before either of them could say another word.
"Come in," April called, rising uncomfortably to her feet.
Master Splinter entered the lab, followed closely behind by a tottering Emma. She was dressed in her lavender onesie, sprinkled with silver stars and was dragging her teddy bear behind her by one leg.
As the old rat strode across the lab, Donnie noted the way his ears drooped slightly, betraying how tired he really was from keeping vigil over Leo and Mikey as they slept.
"How is Raphael?" Splinter asked gently as he stood next to April.
"We've gotten the bone repaired and he's sleeping comfortably, sensei," Donnie replied, gesturing toward Raph. Splinter's warm brown eyes followed his hand, relief brightening them a fraction.
"Emma has been quite concerned for his wellbeing for some time," he said, a small smile twisting his lips as he glanced down at the top of Emma's curly head. The little girl looked around the lab curiously until she saw Raph asleep on the examination table. Her eyes widened to the size of saucers and she waddled forward.
"Da da?" she asked, her high voice sounding very confused. When she came to the table, she dropped her bear in a heap and attempted to crawl up the side like a mountaineer. The slick surface didn't give her any handholds and she fell backwards on her seat. She pouted with a prominent lower lip before pushing herself up and trying to scale the table again.
"Would you permit for her to stay with you for a short time?" Master Splinter suggested "It may do Raphael's spirit well to have her close."
"Of course!" April answered before Donnie had the opportunity to respond. She bent down with some difficulty and scooped Emma up, snuggling her in a warm bear hug.
"Well…," Donnie hedged, looking tentatively toward Raph. Huffing impatiently, April glanced up at him, her blue eyes shining with determination.
"Come on, Donnie. She's not going to hurt him. She just wants to see him for a little while."
He knew that he couldn't talk April out of anything once she had her mind set on something. Sighing, Donnie hung his head in defeat and nodded.
With parental tenderness, Splinter lay his hand on the top of Raph's head. The sleeping turtle seemed to relax under his father's touch and his face softened a little.
"I feel the need for meditation after all that has happened, my son," he said, addressing Donnie. "If you need to take Emma out of the lab, would you take her to Michelangelo? He is sitting with Leonardo in his room."
"Hai, sensei," Donnie said, quickly ducking his chin in a respectful gesture. Splinter nodded in acknowledgement and silently glided out of the lab.
There was enough space on the table top for Emma to sit comfortably, so April set her down close to Raph's head. Emma gazed down at his face, peaceful in sleep, her own clouded with concern. Placing her little hands on his cheek, she shook him gently at first, then more aggessively.
"Da da?" she asked again.
Raph's eyes stayed closed and he did not stir at her touch. Emma's lip trembled violently as tears pooled in her big green eyes. She covered them with her hands and began to cry.
Sympathy gripped at Donnie's heart at the sound of her terrified weeping. Pulling up his stool, he sat close to the table, mere inches from the little girl. Emma lowered her hands and gaped up at him, her face working as she hiccupped through the rest of her sobs. He attempted a brave smile, but it felt weak on his lips.
"Hey. It's okay, Emma," he soothed. "He'll be feeling a lot better when he wakes up from his nap."
She sniffled as she tugged dejectedly at the tails of Raph's mask. Gathering the little girl up in his arms, Donnie held her close, stroking her curls with his long fingers comfortingly. Emma clung to the leather strap across his chest and buried her face in his plastron.
"Nee… Da da," Emma said miserably, her voice muffled against his chest. Donnie didn't need to understand baby-speak in order to know what she had just said.
"I know you miss him, but he will be back soon. I know he can't wait to see you."
A soft groan turned his attention immediately back to the table. Raph stirred uncomfortably as his green eyes slid open sluggishly, dazed from the aftereffects of the sedative.
"Emma? D-Donnie, I 'eard 'er... Why's she cryin'? I-is she...?" His voice slurred slightly as he struggled to rise from the table. Donnie placed a soft hand on his plastron, nervous that moving around too much too soon would jar the bone pieces loose.
"Easy, Raph," he consoled. "She's fine. She's right here."
He held Emma up so that she would be within Raph's line of sight. The little girl began to wriggle in his grasp as she reached out for his brother.
Raph's lips spread into a lopsided smile at her excited exclamation.
"'Ey baby girl."
Emma tried crawling up onto the table, but Donnie firmly held her back. Whining petulantly, she reached out to Raph again, all ten fingers eagerly grabbing the empty air between them. Raph's eyes were filled with dismay as they flickered between Emma's and Donnie's faces.
"Es okay Donnie… C-cen I jest hold 'er fer… fer a second? Please?"
Donnie struggled with this request for a moment before setting her down next to his brother. Unsteadily, Raph lifted his hand and clumsily jostled Emma's coarse hair. Tears trickled down his cheeks as he traced her features with his fingers: her hair, her face, her hands and feet.
"Thank God… thank God you're okay… Thank God."
His voice was choked with emotion,. The painkillers that Donnie had given him were pretty strong and they would keep Raph on his back for a while. Donnie was sure that Raph wouldn't remember much of this later, and Donnie respected his brother enough not to breathe a word of it to anyone outside this room.
"How are you feeling, Raph?" Donnie asked, carefully grasping Raph's wrist to check his pulse.
Raph blinked away his tears and looked up at Donnie, as if he had just remembered that he was standing there.
"Tired," he croaked, "and kinda like I… like… I got hit a truck… Did I? Wha...happ'nd?"
"I fixed your arm, Raph. You got shot last night and I reset the bones."
Raph glanced over at his bandaged shoulder, his perplexed expression almost completely fading away.
"Oh yeah… Yeah, that's right…," he squeezed his eyes shut for a moment before blinking rapidly, as if he were struggling to stay awake. "Damn, these fuckin' drugs… makin' me... fuckin' loopy. Wha'dcha... gimme?"
His eyelids dipped, almost closing. Donnie thought for a moment that he was going to fall asleep again, but he opened his green eyes and focused.
"Where's Leo 'n Mike?"
April answered this time, gently grasping his hand and drawing his attention to her.
"Leo's still resting, Raph. His head wound's pretty serious, but Mikey's watching him."
"That's… that's good. I'm… I'm glad... they're okay..." His eyes roved the lab, not focusing on anything in particular. "God, I'm so fucked up… Can't hardly… think straight…," he muttered. Suddenly, full comprehension returned to his face and he stared squarely at Donnie. "Did s-someone… change Emma this mornin'?"
Donnie and April shared a small smile. Even drugged up on painkillers, Raph was still concerned about Emma being clean.
"I think Master Splinter did," April assured him, "Don't worry about anything like that for now. We've got everything under control. I promise."
"O-okay… ken ya… make… make shhhure… t-tha..."
As Raph's speech slurred even more, his eyes became steadily unfocused. Carefully, Donnie lifted the little girl off the table and cradled her securely in his arms. She protested with a shrill whine, but he didn't surrender to it.
"Come on, Emma. Let's let Da get some sleep."
"Da!" Emma complained sulkily.
"Es okay... baby… Da jest needs... ssssome...," And with that, Raph was out like a light once more, snoring like a diesel engine.
Emma looked puzzled as she glanced first at Raph, then back up at Donnie. He bounced the little girl a couple of times in his arms, trying to distract her momentarily.
"You wanna go play with Uncle Mikey for a while?"
Her face brightened at the mention of Mikey.
"Kee!" she cried as she flapped her hands excitedly in his face.
Donnie turned to April a little sheepishly.
"You going to be okay here for a while? I don't want to leave Raph by himself until after the sedative wears off."
She smiled genially as she waved him away.
"I think I can handle this. We should be fine until you get back."
With a little wave, Donnie and Emma walked away from the table toward the door to the lab. As he closed the door behind them, his mind reverted back to all the work he was going to have to do before he could get any real rest.
There was the file he had to sort through for one thing. He needed to find out exactly what had happened to her in that lab and just how the chemicals they had introduced into Emma's system were affecting her. He had skimmed through some of the documents, enough to get a general idea, but he needed to know more. Though he was curious to find out exactly what was happening here, he was apprehensive about what else he would discover within those files and what that information would mean for the little girl he held in his arms.
April stretched her arms over her head, loosening the cramped muscles in her upper back. The adrenaline that had kept her going through the operation had run its course and she felt utterly spent. All she really wanted to do at that point was curl up in a ball and hibernate for the rest of the winter.
Most of her fatigue could be blamed on the fact that April had passed a nearly sleepless night at Casey's bedside, nearly sick herself from worry. But after several hours of surgery and a blood transfusion, he had pulled through and the doctor seemed to think that he would recover fully.
She had been nervous when Donnie had called her early that morning and asked that she assisted in repairing Raph's arm, but it turned out that there was no need. Donnie had been brilliant. He'd sweated and fretted over Raph, but he'd pushed the bones back into place with no problem. She was impressed with all that he had done, and that he continually had put his brothers' well being above his own.
Swivelling the chair toward the desk, April saw Donnie's laptop standing open. The screen was on sleep mode and a screen saver of Bohr's model of the atom bounced around on the screen, the electrons whizzing around the nucleus like bees around a greenhouse.
Donnie had told her a little about the files he had stolen from Genetech, at least what he had seen of them. That those monsters had created Emma to be a genetically modified super human, and that she was going to be trained to kill innocent people. The thought made April sick to her stomach.
Yet, along with the revulsion, curiosity gnawed at her like a hungry wolf as she stared at the busy screensaver. Donnie won't mind if she peeked at the files. He was going to show her anyway... It's not that she was invading his privacy... Was it? She shook the guilty feelings from her head.
She rolled the chair in front of the laptop and juggled the mouse slightly. The screen saver disappeared instantly, replaced by a smiling photo of the Hamatos sitting on the sofas in the den. Raph sat with Emma on his knee next to Master Splinter, while Mikey had one arm draped around Leo's shoulders as he held up his slice of pizza with his other hand for the camera to catch. Donnie wasn't in the shot, so April assumed that he had snapped the picture. She couldn't help but smile at how happy they all looked; so composed as a family.
Raph looked very confident holding the small girl, like it were something that he was born to do. She hoped that Casey would do just as well with their son.
Focus, April. That's not what you're looking for.
She didn't have to look very far for the file. It sat there, clear as day, in the middle of the home screen: Project Rebirth. When she double-clicked on the file folder, a screen popped up with a number of subfolders, each neatly titled in bold letters.
April scanned the folders, looking for a good place to start. She quickly bypassed test logs and clinical trials and settled on a file folder that she found quite interesting.
As she opened the file and skimmed through the contents, she thought that she could get through most of these fairly quickly and understand exactly what was going on. April pulled up the most recent of the sub folders: Test Trial 9. Each of the documents inside was written like a short journal entry in a very scholarly tone. Clicking on the first entry, April set her elbows on the table and started to read.
Today, we begin the ninth trial of the effects of the PX397 serum on human embryos. In order to optimize our chances for success, we have chosen eighty human embryos, each at approximately six weeks of age, to be the subjects for the tests. As can be seen from previous trials (see index A), more success has been observed from fetuses exposed to the serum before the end of the first trimester, but not before three weeks of gestation.
This entry offered her no more usable information, so April exited the document and opened the next one. When she read the first line, her blood froze in her veins.
Forty-three of the embryos expired within twelve hours of the initial administration of the PX397 serum. Twenty-five more appear to be declining significantly after the second administration and are expected to expire within the next twenty-four hours. Twelve of the test subjects are responding very well to the treatment, and I have high hopes that these embryos reach complete development.
"Oh my God…" she whispered, horror-stricken. April did the math in her head and felt a chill run down her spine at the number of embryos that must have been used during the experiment trials. She shivered and wrapped her hands protectively around her unborn child.
She couldn't help imagining what kind of effect this serum had on the fetuses, and the mental images that went through her mind made her want to throw up. Swallowing the bile that was collecting in her throat, she opened a few more similar looking posts, scanning the first lines until she came across one that made her stop. The tone was excited rather than coldly indifferent like the previous entries.
There has been success with one embryo from the GE0900 test group! Test Subject GE0932 is the sole remaining embryo from the test group. According to the test subject data (see index G), GE0932 is female, and was part of the outlier group of embryos of mixed racial origins. These factors maybe be instrumental in isolating a genetic combination that will accept the serum without complication. Mr. Kinder himself has expressed great pleasure at this development and we will continue treating this embryo with the predetermined regimen plan (see index I). I will continue to document her developmental progress personally during the next months and record my observations until the birth.
April slowly skimmed through about twenty of the following entries, choosing to skip most of them when she realized that they mostly contained monotonous details about Emma's prenatal development. They reminded her a lot of what her OBGYN had told her when explaining how her own child was developing inside of her. Somehow, she had expected something completely alien, but what she read was perfectly normal for a human baby. Genetically modified or not.
A particularly long entry caught her eye. Most of the entries weren't more than one or two paragraphs long, but this one filled up about half of the screen. Stopping at the date stamp, she read the log carefully.
There have been unforeseen developments with GE0932. The child was born three days ago, healthy and with no defects, but this morning, Nurse Verona, one of our resident CPNs, discovered that the child had developed a high fever as well as symptoms of influenza. The lab technicians ran several tests and scans on her, and the results indicated that her internal organs had begun to shut down. Her liver and kidneys had nearly stopped functioning altogether, and her lungs were growing weaker. After a test of her blood, I concluded that her immune system had become dependant on the enzymes in the serum in order to function properly. Without those enzymes, GE0932's immune system will slowly shut down her organ systems and she would expire in approximately one week by my calculations.
Acting on my conclusions, I administered the prepared serum injections that were supposed to be given next week, and within three hours, the child was recovering. Nurse Verona is closely monitoring GE0932 for any change in her condition, but I hypothesize that the child will completely recover from this occurrence. I will recommend to Mr. Kinder that injections of a gene stabilizer as well as a solution of the PX397 serum be given to the girl every three days. I would recommend that amount of time because that is when the symptoms of sickness arose.
This a slightly alarming turn of events, because this was a side effect of the serum that we had not anticipated. I am concerned that this dependency will affect the child's physical and mental development. We will have to observe and monitor the child carefully as she grows.
April felt a soft hand on her shoulder, startling her from her perusal of the log. She spun quickly around to see Donnie standing over her. His face changed drastically, panic and worry replacing the mild annoyance she had seen there a moment before.
"April, are you okay? What's wrong?"
He knelt in front of her and tenderly wiped away the tears that were silently pouring down her face. She hadn't even known that she had been crying.
"Have you seen this, Donnie?" She gestured toward the laptop with one hand. His eyes left her and stared at the log for a long moment. He nodded grimly, his lips pursed together as he returned his gaze to her flushed face.
"Does Raph know?" April asked, glancing over at Raph's sleeping form on the table.
"Not everything," Donnie said pensively. " I told him about the basic information I found last night. I just happened to read that a little while ago, so I haven't told him. It's going to freak him out, especially the part about her dying without that serum in her blood, so I wanted to wait until after the operation was over to tell him."
"Did you take any of the serum when you left the lab?"
Donnie sat down hard on his stool and massaged his temples with his fingertips.
"No. I don't think that I would have had the opportunity to take some even if I knew then. I'm going to have to recreate it. According to these notes, I don't have much time before Emma starts getting sick from withdrawal."
"Can you do it in time?"
Donnie nodded, staring at the buzzing screensaver, which had returned and covered the document.
"I think so. Luckily, it wasn't just their notes that I got when I downloaded the file. I got everything: records, logs, even the formulas for the serum itself."
Hope rose in her chest like a bird released from captivity. With reckless abandon, she threw her arms around his neck and squeezed him tightly, nearly knocking him off the stool.
"Oh my God, Donnie! That's amazing!"
She felt him start to return the hug, hesitate, then fold her into his arms. She'd almost forgotten how nice his hugs felt.
"We've got to get the chemicals somehow," he continued, "but I think that I can synthesize the serum before she deteriorates too much."
"Then we'd better get started!" She untangled herself from his arms and picked up a steno pad and a pen off the desk. "What do you need?" she asked, poising the pen over the paper in anticipation. Confused, Donnie looked between her and the pad in her hand.
"But how are you planning to get those things?" he asked quizzically.
"I'll find a way. I'm a trained kunoichi, remember? Now, what do you need?" she asked impatiently, tapping the paper with the tip of the pen.
Donnie slipped into the vacated swivel chair and tapped a dozen keys in quick succession. He hummed a thoughtful tune under his breath as he opened a half dozen documents from the master file.
"Got that, that and that…," he said softly to himself, scanning through the ingredients lists on his screen. "Okay. Okay, first up is ammonium oxalate…"