What Is Intelligence?
So, this 1987 one shot is based on the aftermath of "Donatello's Duplicate." It was one of my favorite episodes as a kid but I wanted a little more follow-up to it. I haven't written the 1987 turtles a whole lot so here's hoping I got them right. I personally see more family in this group than most people, just limited by what the TV show was. The Archie comics touches on this aspect a little more. So, I consider this to be 1987 cartoon/Archie universe with the assumption that the turtles grew from childhood to adulthood much like the 2k3 turtles did. The cartoon was…inconsistent on that factor but I personally follow the canon that mutated as babies/toddlers and Splinter raised them to their current age. The comic series seems to follow this path as well so I went with it. I hope you enjoy it. All characters are copyrighted to their original owners, no infringement intended.
Splinter frowned, his furry brow scrunching up as he tried to focus. He had gone to his room to meditate, as was his custom before retiring. The Lair was quiet for the most part, save the occasional rustle from Donatello's lab. The wise sensei gave a half sigh to himself. Donatello had a bad habit of becoming obsessed over some of his projects and it seemed the day's events had not changed that. Well, no, he supposed that was an unfair assumption. After the disaster in which his intellectually minded son had cloned himself, Donatello became far more accepting of the ways that he contributed but his other sons had also been quick to apologize for taking such skills for granted. It always did Splinter's heart well to see lessons learned, even if they weren't learned easily. Such was life and life as a teenaged boy was hard enough, let alone adding a mutation on top of it. So, to see appreciation and regret expressed for past actions, on both sides, gave a swell of pride to his spirit.
However, that did not change the fact that something was amiss. He could faintly feel Leonardo and Raphael sleeping soundly, and Donatello would be in his lab at least a few more hours and no amount of threatening would convince him otherwise. Even a father had limits on what he could get his child to do. That left—
"Sensei?" the voice was spoken softly but firmly from the doorway to his chambers.
Opening his eyes, the rat master spied his youngest child, Michelangelo, peering in from the doorway, slowly. He had been trying not to disturb him yet it appeared by the look on his face that he desired his counsel. That was a bit unusual. Typically, it was Leonardo who sought him out and Michelangelo, if he needed advice, usually went to his eldest son. Given the time of night though, his carefree son would not have wanted to disturb the leader. Michelangelo was always trying to make things easier for him, as much as possible and if Leonardo had been asleep, he would not have bothered him. All his students knew that Splinter would occasionally be up late in meditation and self-practice.
"Michelangelo…come, my son." Splinter gestured him in with a hand and the orange banded teen obliged, entering and settling on one of the tatami mats with Splinter's nod. "What troubles you?" The elder mutant frowned to himself. He usually could feel or sense his pupils without issue. Now, however, Michelangelo was kneeling right in front of him and he was having a hard time getting a lock on his spirit. The only reason behind that was if the teen was suppressing it. That happened, often, if one was experiencing emotions that were upsetting but they felt guilty about addressing. It happened occasionally with the others but it was far more common with his youngest student. Truthfully, Splinter suspected that Michelangelo had no idea he had such command over his spiritual energy. In any event, it would explain the deeply troubled expression he carried.
"I…well, it's…" Michelangelo sighed as he stumbled over his words, feeling a little embarrassed. After all, here he was, disturbing his master and he couldn't even spit out the words. Totally uncool. "I…couldn't sleep." He finally stumbled out. Biting lightly, the turtle lowered his head, "Mondo sorry to be buggin' you, Master Splinter."
A light chuckle and the nin-jitsu teacher reached out and squeezed his son's hand, "It is not a bother, Michelangelo if you are in need of me. I am here." He eyed the teen, "However, for all my skills, I am not a mind-reader," he added gently.
"Right. Duh. Well, I've been thinkin' 'bout what happened today. With Donatello's clone." He frowned. "It was totally nutso. Lucky for us that Donatello is a good guy, right? Not some totally rude-dude.."
"I hear a comment that protects a question." Splinter stated matter-of-factually.
Caught, Michelangelo heaved a half-choked breath of exasperation. "Well, kinda…sorta. I mean, I know my bro is good. He's cranky sometimes but he's good. But…that clone said something earlier. It's totally bogus I'm still worrying about it but…"
"What was said, my son?" Splinter inquired simply.
Still hurting a bit from the words, Michelangelo repeated, "He…came into the living room and was totally gettin' on Raphael's case. Making all kinds of uncool cracks about his brain. So, I tol' him to ease off, that Raphael's smarts were as good as mine." Silence for a moment and Master Splinter merely waited. Michelangelo was grateful for that; his sensei had such patience. He didn't deserve it sometimes and yet sensei always gave it. It was totally bizarro but this was eatin' at him! "He…said that "compared to you, he's a rocket scientist."" The teenaged ninja went quiet after that. Leonardo had jumped to his defense and that eased his heart some of the hurt but it had still cut and cut deep.
"Hmm." Splinter mused a moment, "And yet, I sense something else, my son." He admitted to his child, squeezing his hand tightly. "What is the deeper hurt that keeps you in pain?"
"Well…" he thought a long moment before replying, "I guess…I mean, I know the clone WASN'T Donatello but…well, he was based from him, right? So…doesn't that mean that…Donatello…thinks that about me? Least…a little?" Michelangelo carried so much hurt in his voice that Splinter thought he would begin crying at any moment. Not that he was against such a thing but he hated to ever see any of his sons so hurt. Especially Michelangelo. It wasn't just a matter of him being the youngest but he was also the most emotional, the most sensitive. He always had been.
"My son," he stated finally, "I do not think your brother thinks that of you. Despite their teasing, your brothers respect you for your own gifts and talents." Splinter finally stated, though he knew it would not carry much weight. Michelangelo could tolerate Raphael's teasing because as much as he teased, there were also times when he was sincere and genuine despite how he would deny this. He and Raphael tended to stick together more, as they were both non-leader types. Michelangelo had always desired to impress and respect his two other brothers, the ones who carried the trait of leadership. "However," Splinter felt inclined to add with a gentle hand to his son's head, "Your heart may need to hear it from Donatello to fully believe it."
Michelangelo drooped his head a little further. Deep in his gut, he had a feeling that was going to be the suggestion. He suspected that had Leonardo been awake, he would have said the same. Raphael, in his own sarcastic way, would have told him to "go ask the brainac yourself." He knew it and he knew that Splinter was right. He would go over all kinds of scenarios and possibilities in his head about what his brother thought until he talked to him. Sometimes, being right was such a drag. "Guess you're right, Sensei. But…how do you ask someone if they think you're brain-dead and not have it go totally wrong?"
With a simple clearing of his throat, his father responded, "I have found that a simple 'can we talk?' is an excellent beginning."
"…right." The teen remarked as he stood, stretching his cramped legs a little, "I…guess I'll talk to Donatello in the morning…"
"Your brother is still working in his lab, despite my suggestion to get some rest," Splinter interrupted. "I suggest you speak with him now."
"I was afraid you'd say that."
The knock at his lab door caught Donatello off guard, causing him to jerk upward, slamming his skull against the metal hanging over his head. "Ow!" he cursed under his breath, his fingers immediately going to massage the tender skin. Taking a moment to gather his senses, he stood, pushing his latest invention aside a bit, suddenly more than a little annoyed with it. Shifting his eyes to the door, he called, "I'm not stopping just yet! Soon but not yet." He tried to get the intruder off his case. Leonardo had tried to encourage him earlier but he wanted to finish a few things first. It was late, about one in the morning but him pulling a late night was hardly new. Once his clone had been dealt with, he had devoted most of his time to fixing and repairing what the others had asked him about earlier in the day. He felt he owed it to them, given all the trouble he had caused by not addressing it. So, after dinner, he wanted just a little time to look over some of his newer inventions—no attempts to short cut this time though!
The door opened a little and Donatello was rightly surprised when Michelangelo stuck his head in, "I'm not Sensei or Leonardo, dude." He announced, "I know you're, like, mondo busy but can…we…talk?" his last few words were stalled, as if he were shy about asking.
Blinking once then twice, Donatello put down his wrench on workbench, "Sure…come in." he went back to looking over some of his notes to see where he was having such trouble as Michelangelo slid into the nearby seat slowly. For a good ten minutes, he just sat there, watching his brother work and read. He tried to find the right words, the best way to approach this. After all, he knew his brother already felt horrible for the incident with the clone. Last thing he wanted to do was bring that guilt up again.
"Michelangelo…" Donatello finally commented as he marked on his blueprint, "Talking, usually involves a conversation of some sort. Last time I checked, silence was not a conversation. Especially from you." True enough that. Normally, especially if Michelangelo was initiating it, you couldn't shut him up.
"I…could you look at me while we talk?" came the simple reply.
Startled, the genius paused then set down his pen and shifted, so he was gazing at his younger brother. He looked nervous, staring at his hands and seemingly wanting to memorize the wood grain of his work table. "…okay. You have my attention."
Letting out a deep breath, Michelangelo began, looking down at his folded hands occasionally, "I…I really dunno how to even say this, dude but…it hasta do with that clone…about earlier today."
Guilt crashing onto his shoulders again, the purple banded fighter groaned aloud, "Oh, Michelangelo, come on. I already said I was sorry. How bad do you guys have to rub it in…"
"It's not about that!" Michelangelo said sharply, suddenly. It was enough to make Donatello snap his mouth shut. He could count on one hand the number of times Michelangelo had raised his voice. It just wasn't in his nature. Judging by the way his brother hissed under his breath and grabbed hold of his head, it was surprise to him too, "I mean…it is about it but it isn't!"
"Michelangelo, logically, that makes no sense."
"I know, I know it doesn't!" he stated before calming his tone and saying, "Your clone insulted Raphael and me earlier," he blurted out, "Called Raphael an idiot and then said he was a rocket scientist compared to me." He didn't feel like repeating the entire scenario word-for-word. That was the gist. "It's been…bugging me," he eyed his brother, waiting for a response.
A moment passed with the entire room so quiet that anything could have sliced the air. Donatello finally remarked, "Look, it's not like I controlled what he said and did. _I_ certainly didn't decide to join up with Pinky McFingers either."
"I…know." Michelangelo responded quietly, his head dipped a little though his eyes never left his brother's. "Not in your nature, dude. You're not a take-over-the-city kinda turtle."
"Thanks." He commented, "But if you knew that then why is it bugging you?"
With the elephant in the room addressed, Michelangelo squeezed his hands into tight fists a moment before he answered, "Because…even if it wasn't you…he was based on you. A clone is copy right?"
"Genetically yes." Donatello admitted, "Like identical twins are genetically the same person. So, copy is a simplified way of looking at it."
"So…" his younger brother went on, "If he's a genetic…copy of you…then what he thinks about me…that means you must think…something like that, right?" He finally got out what was truly getting under his skin, keeping his eyes locked on his brother's. He could feel tears in his eyes. Much as they were different, he did want his brother's respect. The concept that he thought he was stupid…no, that he thought he was _worse_ than stupid, was heart-wrenching. He almost wished he could have forgotten all of this and just went on without ever knowing the answer but Splinter had been right. As much as he hated to ask it, he HAD to know.
"What?!" Donatello leapt up, looking down at his brother, "Of course not! What kind of question is that?!"
Wincing at his brother's anger, the surfer turtle added, "Well, you said he had your intelligence, your memories, your skills…so, if he said that then I thought…" he shook his head, "I know you and the others make cracks about my brain a lot, dude. Can't say that they aren't earned, either. So, I just needa know…if you didn't think that…then why did your copy?"
Donatello was dead silent a long moment, much longer than was comfortable. The two turtles, one sitting looking at his lap and one standing with his hands at his sides, Donatello's mind was whirling and for once, no answer came out of the thoughts. The logic in his mind was screaming that his brother was right. If his clone was a true copy, and all evidence pointed to that fact the experiment had been factual in that manner, then what he had stated to Michelangelo was based on some deep rooted thought in his own mind. "I suppose, logically,…it must have been based on some of my thoughts regarding intelligence…"
Michelangelo let his head drop completely, trying to hide his tears and failing miserably as Donatello's gut twisted. He felt like he was going to be sick. He…did not think so lowly of his brother! Granted, he was annoying at times but he was hardly stupid. He just wasn't smart in the same ways…
"That's it!" Donatello declared suddenly, snapping his fingers.
His excitement made his younger brother look up, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, "W-what's it, dude?"
Donatello ran over to his bookcase, pulling out book after book, tossing them haphazardly on the floor. That in itself was weird enough to keep Michelangelo glued to his spot. Donatello usually treated his books with such reverence that to see him pushing them aside like he was angry at them for not giving him what he wanted. After about five minutes, Donatello finally gave a sound of victory and rushed back to his workbench, taking a seat right next to his sibling, slamming a medium-thick book on the table. Flipping through the pages with the gusto that Michelangelo usually thumbed through a new comic book, he stopped about mid-way through, pointing to a chapter, "Here! This is it! This is what my clone didn't understand. He had my intelligence but not my understanding, not completely. THIS is what he missed."
Frowning, Michelangelo sounded the title out, "Multiple Intelligence Theory?"
"Exactly," Donatello declared, his heart suddenly lighter. THIS was the truth. It had been a theory to him before, as all things were until he was given enough evidence against it or for it but with his younger brother's heart piercing question, there was no doubt in Donatello's mind…this was FACT. "Howard Gardner proposed this theory just a few years ago so it's fairly new but all evidence tells me that it's true. He stated that there isn't just one intelligence, there are several! Eight to be exact though Gardner said there may be a ninth. See…" he paused, thinking. "Michelangelo, what IS intelligence?"
"Uh." What a weird question! "It means being smart."
"But what makes you smart?" Donatello pressed, taking hold of his brother's hand, locking sights with him. He was GOING to make his brother understand. His clone's words were NOT going to kill their connection. No, they would not! His clone was WRONG! "Can you guess?"
"Well, I guess," Michelangelo tried, squeezing his brother's grip back a little, "means you can figure out problems and take care of yourself."
Smiling widely, Donatello praised, "Exactly. It means that you have a biological and psychological means to process information and solve problems. Plain and simple, right?" It took Michelangelo a little time to figure out exactly what that meant but his brother, for once, didn't interrupt or press onward. He waited until he gave a nod of understanding before he continued. "My clone had tunnel vision. He was only thinking about logical-mathematical intelligence because that's what I use all the time." Here, he pulled his brother close and squeezed him tightly, "But that's just ONE of the intelligences."
"So…you mean, there's other ways to solve problems and stuff?" Michelangelo inquired, a bit baffled. "I thought that logic was the way you did that."
"In a lot of cases, yes." Donatello agreed "Especially if you're an inventor like I am. You have to know figures and theories and things like that. So, in that sense, I am smarter than you and Raphael. Leonardo too and maybe even Sensei to some degree." He hated saying that. Man, it made him sound vain but he needed to make a point. "So, that's what my clone was referring to but he was wrong because that's not the ONLY way you can be intelligent and solve dilemmas." He frowned, thinking then said, "Like, take Leonardo. He moves and does those katas and exercises like he was hatched doing them."
"Probably did them in the egg," Michelangelo quipped, with a shadow of a smile starting.
"Precisely. That's bodily kinesthetic intelligence—the ability to use your body, know your body and connect it with your mind to achieve all kinds of feats. Things that even if you and I were to train for days, it would take us twice as long to reach his skill." Donatello gave his baby brother a smile, "You possess it to some degree too. You can out skateboard anybody in this city!"
Ah, there it was, a small smile! "You bet I can, dude. I'm the Master of the Half-Pipe!"
"Because you know your body so well on the board that you don't even have to think about it! Your…body…thinks for it!" Donatello pointed to the book again, "Then there's linguistic intelligence. That means you can manipulate words and understand how to use them well. Make people laugh at a double-meaning. Communicate what you're thinking so that there's no confusion. Who do we know like that?"
"Sarcastic hot-headed brother?" Michelangelo tried. With a laugh, Donatello agreed with a nod and his younger brother added, "But Raphael can be logical and stuff like you. I mean, not to same…level but…"
"See? So he has both too." Donatello explained, adding "But I ALSO know another brother that has it. One that can create pictures in my mind by just writing words on paper. By just describing it so that I can practically be transported there."
Blushing a little, Michelangelo responded, "You mean my stories?"
"Exactamundo, dude." Donatello replied with a thick accent as he imitated his little brother's tone. He cupped his brother's chin, lifted his head "But I think what's most amazing is that you possess interpersonal intelligence in such huge degrees that you could lose half of it and still outrank everyone else in this family combined." He laid his forehead on his brother's which was a surprise. Donatello was hardly touchy feely…but Mike wasn't going to reject. He WAS touchy feely.
Tilting his head, Michelangelo inquired, "Interpersonal intelligence?"
Nodding, Donatello explained, "The ability to connect with people. To know their emotions, to know their moods, to feel what they feel. If this situation had been reversed, I never would have had to come to you. You would have cornered me and asked me what was wrong. You would have known I was sad or hurt without me saying a word. You do it all the time!" The genius turtle suddenly felt very small, "I never have grasped that, Mikey," he used his brother's nickname, despite not using it often, "It's a foreign language to me. It comes…so naturally to you. Even in a battle, you can tell us whether Shredhead is serious or if he's just buying time. If one of us is having trouble, you just KNOW what it is, even without us saying if we're angry or sad or frustrated. You just know."
"Not that hard, compadre." Michelangelo remarked with a shrug. "I just feel it, I see it."
"Not like that for everyone, Mikey." Donatello replied. "Not like that for a LOT of people. Even Sensei is sometimes guessing what we're feeling. Have you ever been wrong?"
Biting his mouth some, Michelangelo thought, and thought hard. There were times he hadn't mentioned what he thought was going on, mainly because he knew the person wouldn't react the best. But, that didn't mean he hadn't felt it, "I…not that I can remember…"
"A perfect batting average," Donatello shook his head with a smile, "Every scientist in the world would surrender all their grants for a year for that kind of record!"
The small smile on Michelangelo's face grew slightly, "Really, dude?"
"I promise you." Donatello replied. "So, yeah, maybe on the logic and mathematics, you get a little lost but…on things that really matter, on other people, on our family…YOU'RE the rocket scientist, Mikey, not me." He went quiet then said, "My clone has never been more wrong."
Allowing a laugh, the surfer turtle replied, "Hey, you taught me this…logic…book smart stuff." He pointed to the open textbook still sitting in front of them, "I betcha I could teach you how to read people better!"
At that thought and more important at the wide grin that had taken his brother's face, the purple banded turtle, let a smile grace his own face, "Not sure how good a student I would be but…I'd like to try that, Mikey."
Standing up with a stretch, Michelangelo replied, "Then your Sensei says the first lesson is to get some sleep." He gave his brother a wink, "You can't read people at all if you're so tired and cranky you don't even know which way is up." He meant that. Sleep was finally starting to crawl into his eyes. With his spirit rejuvenated and his heart relieved, it was time for some major shut eye!
A pause for a moment then Donatello stood as well, left his book on the table and followed his brother out of the lab, arm in arm. There were more important things than inventions, after all.