Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987

Shinigami Shredder

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters aren't mine and the story is! The original idea was sparked by Retro Mania's suggestion of a Super Shredder story. This, however, likely ended up quite different from anything involving Super Shredder. ThickerThanLove helped with certain important plot points. This is part of my Exit the Fly verse. Baxter is human again and an ally of the Turtles. His brother Barney no longer works for Shredder.

Shredder stood by, watching with impatience as Krang tinkered with his latest invention in the Technodrome's main control room.

"Aren't you about finished yet?" he demanded. "You said this new device of yours would give me ultimate power. I can't wait around all day for that!"

Krang grinned. "Patience, Shredder. It takes time to modify what we took from Captain Filch's warehouse. But yes, most assuredly, you will have ultimate power. You will be able to destroy our enemies and bring the city to its knees, all in one fell swoop!" He made a few more adjustments with his blowtorch before stepping back.

"I still don't understand how it's going to work," Shredder objected.

"You will soon!" Krang replied in a singsong voice. "I'm done. Climb inside."

Somewhat wary, Shredder walked up the steps and into the glass chamber at the top. "Are you sure you're not just trying to murder me like your counterpart from the other dimension?" he said.

"I'm sure. Now hold still!" Krang pulled a lever and the chamber lit up with a bright reddish-pink glow that pounded into Shredder's body from all angles.

Shredder's shouts of pain brought Bebop and Rocksteady running into the room. "What're you doing to the boss?!" Rocksteady exclaimed.

"He'll thank me for this when it's over," Krang insisted.

"Gee, he don't look much like he's enjoying it," Bebop frowned.

At last Krang switched off the lever. "Alright, Shredder. How do you feel?"

"I feel . . ." Shredder slowly straightened and suddenly pushed against the glass chamber. It collapsed around him and he somersaulted out from the wreckage, his cape streaming behind him. "I feel marvelous!" His eyes glinted in a dark and deadly way. "What was in that, Krang?"

"A special serum that increases your physical strength," Krang smiled. "What you did to that chamber is just the beginning."

"Marvelous." Shredder made a fist. "I can feel the power coursing through my veins!"

"Hey Boss, why is your armor black now?" Bebop blinked.

"Your cape is too," Rocksteady added.

"To further show that I am not someone to be trifled with!" Shredder spread his arms wide as he turned to face the transdimensional screen. "I know just what I'm going to do-go to Manhattan and wreak havoc with my new powers! Then I will threaten to unleash the same chaos on a highly populated area unless Hamato Yoshi, the Turtles, and the Stockmans come to me for a final battle!"

"Oh boy!" Rocksteady grinned. "Can we come?"

"Never!" Shredder boomed with a fury strong enough to shake the Technodrome.

"Hey, I don't want Barney hurt," Bebop exclaimed.

"You idiotic cretin!" Shredder snarled. "Don't you realize that hurting Baxter or the computer or even the Turtles would hurt Barney too?"

"Uh . . ." Bebop rocked back. "Well, I didn't think about the Turtles part. . . ."

Without batting an eye, Shredder picked up Bebop and threw him across the room. "You never think! And that is exactly why I don't want you along!"

"Hey!" Rocksteady cried. "Boss, what're you doing?! You gone nuts or something?!"

"Hardly. I've gone sane, which is infinitely more dangerous!" Now Shredder lifted Rocksteady and hefted him at the remains of the glass chamber.

Krang watched with a slack jaw. "Why waste time with these morons when you can go to Manhattan and wreak havoc there?" he exclaimed.

"Oh, I'm going to," Shredder replied. "But not until I've rid myself of the deepest thorn in my side." He clomped towards Krang, his eyes dark and merciless.

Krang backed up, shifting his robot body's hands into the mace and axe weapons. "What are you doing, Shredder?" His voice quavered. For once he found himself honestly afraid of his partner in crime.

"I'm doing what I should have done years ago." Shredder lashed out, severing the mace's chain with one swipe of his spikes. The spiked ball fell, narrowly missing Krang's foot. Another swipe took out the axe.

"Shredder, I'm not your enemy here," Krang said. "I'm warning you . . ."

"And I'm warning you!" Shredder dug his spikes into the robot body's chest the same way he had done to Vincent. As Bebop and Rocksteady watched in horror, Shredder lifted Krang and the robot body, suspending them over his head for one long, agonizing moment. Then he flung the android free, sending it crashing across the room while Krang shrieked in terror. Before he could even hope to recover, Shredder had sprung on the robot body and began slicing it to pieces.

"Look out!" Rocksteady yelped as an arm sailed overhead.

"Incoming!" Bebop called moments later as a leg soared by, bonking him on the head as it went. "Ow!"

When the dust cleared, Shredder stood triumphant, Krang and the remains of the android scattered around him.

"Well, now what shall I do with you?" he said menacingly.

Krang stared at him with wide and actually frightened eyes. But just under the fear was a boiling anger. "You're just lucky I can't do anything to you right now!" he snapped. "You ungrateful . . ."

"SILENCE!" Shredder roared. "I was always only using you until it was convenient to break ties. You know you felt the same. And now it's convenient." He started to reach for Krang.

"Boss, no!" Rocksteady cried.

"Don't do it!" Bebop stumbled to his feet and ran forward.

At the last moment Shredder drew his hand back and straightened. "You're right," he sneered. "I have already rendered him useless. I will defeat my hated enemies first, then come back to finish Krang."

"What about us, Boss?" Rocksteady asked.

"What do you think?" Shredder hissed. He ran to the console and activated the portal. "All will fall before the might of Shinigami Shredder." He vanished inside.

"Shinny-whatsis?" Rocksteady blinked.

"Death God," Krang mumbled.

Bebop turned and hurried over to him. "Are you alright, Krang?" Gently he lifted the alien brain out of the mess.

"Do I look like I'm alright?!" Krang retorted. "Quick-put me in my bubble walker."

Bebop complied. "Gee, this sure is a mess." Gingerly he picked up a piece of the robot body's chest.

Rocksteady nodded in agreement. "Who would've thought the boss would flip out like that?!"

Krang scowled. "That wasn't supposed to happen. But I should have taken the possibility into consideration. Apparently beefing up Shredder's physical strength also increased the sadistic side of his personality. He truly might destroy the Turtles at long last, but then he'll be back for us. I've created a monster."

"Just like Frankenstein!" Rocksteady remarked.

"Nevermind! Start picking up these pieces!" Krang gestured to the remnants of the robot body. "You two and the Foot Soldiers will have to help me rebuild my body!"

Bebop and Rocksteady hurried to comply. "How much time have we got?" Bebop asked.

"Only until Shredder dispatches of our enemies," Krang said. "While you work on that, I'll have to put together a portable version of the strength enhancer that will reverse the process and return Shredder to his normal, bumbling self."

"Really, Krang?" Bebop blinked. "You want the boss to go back to his usual self?"

"Well, at least I know he won't try to squash me like a bug, even if he feels like it," Krang snapped. "What good is defeating our enemies if we're not around to enjoy the victory?"

"You've got a point there," Bebop said. "But maybe we can turn him back to normal before he hurts Barney?"

Krang glowered at him. "Work faster and we'll see."

xxxx

Breakfast at Barney's mansion was a quiet, pleasant affair. Barney was glancing through news stories as Vincent showed them on the laptop screen, while Baxter went through his emails on his phone.

"Anything interesting, Pal?" Vincent asked Baxter.

"A cute email from a child, asking how I thought of the Mousers," Baxter said. "A teenager wondering about some simple engineering designs he could practice with. . . . Oh dear." He set the phone down. "A crank wondering how many fly children I have." He groaned.

"There are always going to be idiots like that," Barney said flatly.

"I know," Baxter sighed. "But it's still disconcerting. Especially when that was one of the few things I didn't do wrong."

"What do you do with the crank messages?" Barney wondered.

"I just delete them. Or forward them to April," Baxter said. "I don't respond to them."

"Good," Barney nodded. "That would only make it worse."

Vincent switched the screen back to his face and reached to pat Baxter on the shoulder. "At least you know the truth, Baxter. And we do. That's the most important thing."

"I know," Baxter relented. "But I have that pesky problem that I don't like to be misunderstood by anyone. I hated not being recognized as a genius."

Barney cracked a smirk. "And I hated not being recognized. Now we're both starting to have what we wanted, but there will always be some people who won't agree."

"And some people like to be contrary just to be annoying," Vincent said.

"True. Like these cranks." Baxter hit Delete. "I don't want to bother April with this nonsense. Usually the only messages I pass on to her are the venomous ones."

"You haven't had anyone else threatening your life, have you?" Barney frowned in concern.

"Not since that stalker was arrested," Baxter said. "As much as I dislike the cranks, I can know they're relatively harmless." He finished eating and got up. "I'd better be off to Channel 6."

Barney nodded. "We'll be at the university all day. Meetings." He grimaced.

Baxter chuckled. "Good luck. I'll see you both tonight."

"Have a good day, Pal," Vincent said with a wave.

He looked to Barney once Baxter had departed. "I wonder if people will ever stop torturing Baxter through email."

"Unlikely," Barney replied.

"They haven't really bothered you, even though you have your email on your university profile," Vincent said.

"I was never as notorious," Barney said. "Strange, isn't it? I was the one who was willing to do anything I had to for recognition, while Baxter was the innocent stumbling into a horrible situation. And it's Baxter whom everyone remembers and bothers."

"I guess it's hard to forget a giant fly threatening to take over the city with flies," Vincent said. "Or turning people into giant insects. . . ." He held a hand to the top of the laptop. "I wish I'd never encouraged him in that. He wanted revenge on the whole world and I wanted to be helpful. . . . There wasn't anything else I could do for him at that point. . . ."

"We all know better now than we did in the past," Barney said. "And every now and then, even I get a stupid message." He scowled. "But I'm more likely to get spam."

"Like this?" Vincent flipped to the email screen and showed him the subject line of a dirty message that had just come through.

Barney glowered at it. "Of all the idiotic junk mail that slips through, that kind has to be the worst. What could be more useless for an asexual slash aromantic?"

Vincent deleted it. "Given the choice between spam or crank emails, which would you rather have?"

"At least I can tell spam from the subject line," Barney said. "I don't have to open it."

"True," Vincent mused. "It must be awful for Baxter, hoping it will be a nice email and finding it isn't."

"But he knows he has to expect the bad to come in too," Barney said. "It isn't a complete surprise."

"It's still a disappointment regardless," Vincent said. "I wish I could do something for him so he wouldn't even have to see the nasty emails."

"You could screen everything he gets," Barney said. "But you'd have to find out if he would want that."

Vincent perked up. "I'll ask him!" he said. "Maybe tonight at dinner."

Barney gave a bit of a wry smile. "There's a lot of meetings between now and then." He took his empty plate to the sink's counter. "We'd better get going."

Vincent hopped down from the stool to follow.

xxxx

Michelangelo was reclining on the couch in the Lair's living room, happily placing a slice of pizza in his mouth. "I'm telling you, Dudes, this is totally the life!" he proclaimed. "No attacks from Shred-Head, we're all safe and sound, Mona Lisa is getting back into college . . ."

"Barney's helping her too," Donatello interjected.

"Yeah," Raphael remarked. "Who would have ever thought of that?"

"You sure wouldn't have in the past, Raphael," Michelangelo said.

"Well . . . things are different now," Raphael said. "Barney's a good guy. Even I know that now."

Leonardo smiled from where he was polishing his katanas. "It's nice to have this harmony among us."

"Oh, you said it, Leonardo," Michelangelo declared. "It's what I wanted for ages!"

He jumped when his Turtle-Comm suddenly went off. When he opened it, both April and Baxter were on the screen.

"Michelangelo, something horrible is happening!" April wailed.

"What is it?!" Michelangelo gasped.

"Turn on your television set and see!" Baxter said.

Michelangelo reached for the remote control and clicked on the television. It was tuned to Channel 6, as per usual, and the sight on the screen brought all the Turtles to the set in utter shock and horror.

"What the heck?!" Raphael gasped. "Tin Grin's got a costume upgrade!"

"Worse than that, he's knocking down that condemned building just by pushing on it!" Michelangelo cried.

"What? That's impossible," Leonardo objected. But he looked up to see and promptly gasped.

"I'm afraid it's happening even though it is impossible," Donatello said. "Maybe he planted explosives to knock the building down so it would just look like he was doing it."

"In any case, there it goes!" April moaned.

"And that's the second building he's felled," Baxter added. "Vernon is out there with a news crew right now."

"Vernon?!" the Turtles chorused.

"He sure didn't want to do it, I can tell you that," April said. "But Burne made him!"

Now Shredder turned, facing the wobbling camera. "Hold that still, you pathetic worm!" he snarled at Vernon.

"Y-Yes, Sir," Vernon stammered offscreen. The picture straightened out . . . marginally.

"I know you're watching, Turtles," Shredder hissed. "Bring Hamato Yoshi and the Stockmans and meet me on top of the Channel 6 building at twilight tonight. If you refuse to appear, tomorrow morning Central Park is doomed. I will go there and begin felling trees the way I have destroyed this building. And I will make sure to do it when the park will be filled with people!"

"That sleaze!" Raphael cried.

"This time he's gone too far," Michelangelo declared.

"He seems . . . different, somehow," Leonardo frowned. "Not just this supposed super strength, but . . . I don't know, I can't place it."

"It's probably just that he doesn't usually show this sadistic side of him in full force," Donatello said.

"But he sure did the other day when he beat up Vincent," Michelangelo scowled.

"Oh, and just to give you an added incentive . . ." Shredder reached and grabbed Vernon, pulling him into camera range in spite of his protests. "I'm taking a hostage until then."

"What a scuzzbucket!" Michelangelo cried in disgust.

"Or should he be a hostage?" Shredder mused. "Maybe instead I should use him as an example to show you just how serious I am about this." He held Vernon by the back of his shirt while teasing the points of his spikes to Vernon's chest.

On the Turtle-Comm, Baxter gasped. April cried out.

Leonardo leaped to his feet. "Oh my gosh!"

Even Raphael was shaken. "He wouldn't. Would he?"

"He did it to Vincent," Michelangelo said. He didn't want to watch, but he couldn't look away.

"Only Vernon can't heal himself like Vincent did!" Donatello exclaimed.

Vernon was quaking so violently that if Shredder wasn't holding onto him, he would very likely drop to the ground. "Oh please," he sobbed. "Please don't hurt me!"

Shredder dragged his spikes the length of Vernon's shirt, ripping it in two parallel lines. Vernon didn't even wait to see if Shredder had ripped his skin at the same time. He fainted.

"You see?" Shredder hissed at the camera. He threw Vernon to the ground like a broken toy. "Twilight, Turtles!"

The picture went dead.

"Where was that broadcast coming from, April?" Leonardo demanded.

April shakily gave the address. "He didn't really . . . did he?" she choked out.

"I don't know." Leonardo was grim. "He didn't leave Vernon up long enough to tell. But we're going out there right now to try to find him."

"We're going out too," Baxter said angrily.

"And like, it looks like we've got no choice but to face Shred-Head tonight," Michelangelo said.

"The only problem is, if that power is for real, I'm not sure we'll win," Leonardo said.

"We must try, my Turtles," Splinter said, suddenly appearing in the doorway. "I will go with you to see if Vernon is alright. And I will come with you tonight, as Shredder has ordered."

"I'll be there too," Baxter vowed.

"And we know Barney and Vincent won't stay away," Raphael frowned.

"But it's suicide!" April cried. "How can you possibly hope to take Shredder down now?!"

"I don't know, but we have to try," Leonardo said. "He didn't leave us any choice."

xxxx

Irma was practically in hysterics as she joined April and Baxter for the drive out to the broadcast location.

"I should have been there!" she sobbed. "What if Shredder really did . . ."

"I really don't think he did, Irma," April tried to say, even though she wasn't sure herself. "If he'd done that, we would have seen the blood."

"Unless it took a moment to show up," Irma sniffled.

"It's possible Vernon won't even be there," Baxter said. "Shredder really might take him along, especially to keep us guessing about his fate."

"Vernon's not cut out for this kind of thing," Irma protested.

"We know," Baxter said.

"All too well," April added.

When they arrived at the location of the shoot, they found Vernon cowering on the ground, trembling violently. The rest of the news crew was standing around, not sure what to do. Perhaps most disturbing, the news van had become an accordion.

Irma leaped out of the arriving news van and over to Vernon. "Vernon?! Are you okay?!" She laid a hand on his shoulder.

"No, I'm not okay," Vernon whimpered. He knelt up. "That horrible Shredder terrorized me! Look what he did to my shirt!" He pulled the tattered garment away from his body to more clearly accentuate the rips. "And I fainted on national television!"

"Oh Vernon," April sighed, but it was exasperation mixed with relief.

Irma relaxed. "Honestly, who wouldn't faint, with the way Shredder was acting?" she retorted. "Or at least shake all over like they were going to faint."

Baxter was also relieved that Vernon was relatively alright. "Shredder clearly wanted to leave us a message," he remarked, indicating the first news van. "Did he do that with his bare hands?!"

"Yes!" Vernon exclaimed. "It was horrifying!"

April looked to Baxter in distress. "There's no way any of you will last against Shredder!" she cried.

Baxter trembled, the fear definitely in his eyes. "Obviously this super-strength is something new," he said. "If we could find a way to get him back to normal strength, we might have a chance."

"I don't know how you'll do that," Vernon objected. "But I don't want you going to face off against him and getting killed for it!"

"I have to say, I'm desperately looking for another solution myself," Baxter retorted.

"And there has to be one!" April declared. "I won't rest until we find it!"

"Well, there isn't much time to look," Vernon frowned, stumbling to his feet. "And I've got to go home and change shirts."

"We'll take you, Vernon," April sighed.

"The rest of you guys had better come too," Irma said to the news crew.

They gratefully climbed into the new van, leaving the destroyed one behind.

xxxx

Donatello was hard at work in the Turtle Van as they drove. "I think I've figured it out," he said. "Well, maybe."

"Like, what is it, Dude?!" Michelangelo demanded.

"Shredder's super-strength could have also triggered something in his brain that made him more sadistic," Donatello said. "If we could reverse that, it would get him back to normal."

"Everything he's done so far is what he'd be capable of doing in his right mind," Leonardo frowned.

"True, but for one reason or another, he doesn't usually do it," Donatello said.

Raphael's Turtle-Comm went off and he answered it. "Raphael here."

"Raphael, we just wanted to let you know that Vernon's alright," April said. "Well, relatively."

"Bodacious!" Michelangelo exclaimed.

"Great," Raphael said. "And Donatello thinks he might know what's up with Shredder, but it's not pretty."

"I might have known," April sighed. "Is there any hope of fixing it?"

"Knowing Donatello, he'll try," Raphael replied. "Now, whether he'll succeed is another matter."

"Baxter's still trying to get in touch with Barney and Vincent," April said. "They're going to be at the university all day, with meetings in between their classes."

"Well, what pleasant news for them to come back to," Raphael grunted. "A fight to the death."

"It had better not be!" April burst out. "I don't want to lose all of you guys!"

"We're not too crazy about the thought either," Raphael said. "I'm sure we'll work something out. . . . I hope. . . ." He gulped.

xxxx

Barney was not in a good mood. He swept his hair away from his face as they emerged from the first of their meetings. "This is one of those days where my tolerance for living honestly is very low," he said to Vincent.

"And yet you wouldn't decide not to," Vincent said.

"No," Barney relented. "I wouldn't."

Vincent smiled, but just as suddenly gasped. "Barney! Baxter's been trying to contact us! Shredder's on the rampage with some strength-enhancer and he's basically ordering all of us to a duel at twilight or he'll go after innocent people in Central Park!"

Barney stiffened. "Well, then we don't have much choice, do we," he grunted.

Vincent looked at him with fear. "Barney . . . this could be it," he said softly. "Baxter says he knocked down two buildings and crushed a news van, all with his bare hands."

"What?!" Barney scoffed in disbelief. "It must be a trick!"

"It could be, but what if Shredder really did get a strength-enhancer that strong?" Vincent worried.

"Then we've got a huge problem," Barney growled. "Even for the Turtles, it will be a challenge. We couldn't hope to last against Shredder at all."

"I know," Vincent said. "But you know Baxter will show up. And of course we won't abandon him. But . . . then what will happen to us?"

"As long as we manage to take Shredder out, that's the most important thing," Barney said. "But naturally we'll try to preserve our lives if at all possible."

"Naturally," Vincent said. He peered at Barney, who wasn't meeting his gaze. "Barney?"

Barney clenched a fist. "If we only knew more about how Shredder accomplished this, maybe we'd know how to reverse it."

"Baxter said Donatello's trying to come up with something based on a theory," Vincent said.

"Good for him," Barney grunted. "Vincent . . ." He looked up at his friend. "If it turns out that we don't survive this encounter, I hardly want to spend our last hours in meetings."

Vincent smirked a bit. "You're thinking of playing hooky?"

"Under the circumstances, I think we might be excused to try to come up with a way to reverse Shredder's heavy advantage over us," Barney said, smirking as well. "Shredder's threat was made over national television, so it can easily enough be verified. Let's spend the day with Baxter and our friends."

"I'd love to," Vincent said.

Somewhat to his surprise, Barney linked arms with him. "Let's go tell Dalton."

"Let's," Vincent grinned.

xxxx

Baxter was also excused from further work that day in order to work on the plan. When Barney and Vincent arrived at the Lair, Baxter and Donatello were arguing rather loudly about what angle to take in preparing their assault on Shredder.

"Well, everything seems to be normal here," Vincent remarked. "Those two rarely agree on what to do where science is involved."

Barney went to the doorway of the lab and looked in. "The problem," he said, loudly enough that the other scientists started and looked up, "is that we don't know exactly how Shredder achieved this alleged super strength. Nor do we know if it really has any direct bearing on his behavior. Maybe being given more strength just enabled him to feel bolder, enough so that he started on this rampage."

Baxter smiled. "Barney! Vincent! I didn't think you'd be able to get away!"

"Under the circumstances, it was allowed." Barney walked farther into the room, Vincent following.

"What angle do you think we should follow?" Donatello wondered. "We've only got enough time to come up with one invention, if that."

"Maybe," Barney said. "Or maybe there'd be time for at least two, if we work together instead of arguing about it."

Donatello and Baxter both looked slightly embarrassed.

"And you can probably think better on a full stomach," Michelangelo said, peeking into the room. "I'm whipping up some pizzas in the kitchen!"

"Thank you, my friend," Baxter smiled.

"As to what angle I think we should pursue, both of your ideas have merit," Barney said. "Therefore, I think we should come at the problem from both directions. We'll try to create things that would each reverse Shredder's strength, depending on what brought it about."

"And pray that the truth isn't a third angle," Vincent exclaimed.

Barney nodded. "Especially since we only have hours to work." He settled down at the nearest work bench. "Let's begin."

xxxx

Krang snarled and muttered to himself as he worked on his own device to reverse the super-strength process on Shredder. Foot Soldiers lumbered around and brought him the pieces and parts he felt he needed. He barely noticed, instead focusing his energy on working with the pieces and parts as they appeared.

"Hey, Krang, I think we did something wrong," Bebop announced presently.

"I don't doubt it for one minute," Krang snapped. "But what . . ." He trailed off, his eyes going wide as he turned to stare at his robot body. Somehow they had managed to attach an arm where a leg should be and the head was upsidedown.

"We couldn't find the other leg," Rocksteady explained.

"I can't use it like that!" Krang shrieked. "You'll have to either find the other leg or cobble another one out of something else! And get the head on straight!"

"Right, Krang," Bebop said. "But uh, how are we gonna make another leg?"

"I don't care," Krang retorted. "Take one from a Foot Soldier if that's the only possible solution. Just do it! The afternoon is almost gone; Shredder is going to be meeting with our enemies before long now!"

"We'll hurry," Bebop said. He tried to dash off, but he ended up tripping instead. Rocksteady fell on top of him.

"Morons," Krang said in disbelief. "I'm surrounded by morons. And these are my technicians! It'll be a miracle if I can get out of here in the robot body at all!" In his mind he started making plans for fortifying his bubble walker and leaving in that, if worse came to worse. At the moment, that seemed wiser than thinking the robot body could possibly be repaired by Bebop and Rocksteady.

"Oh, what are you going to do to the boss after we get him back to normal?" Rocksteady wondered.

Krang scowled. "I know what I'd like to do, but we might still need him, unfortunately."

"You was the one who gave him the super-strength in the first place," Bebop pointed out.

"Don't remind me!" Krang snapped. "Just get back to work!"

At last Bebop and Rocksteady got up to do just that. Krang continued to mutter to himself as he worked.

xxxx

"Well, we really did it," Donatello said in amazement. He stepped back to survey his and the Stockmans' collaborative efforts on the laboratory table. "Two different inventions to target Shredder's super-strength in two different ways."

"Not to mention the device Barney came up with to immobilize him if all else fails," Baxter said.

"You've done a good day's work," Leonardo said as he came to stand in the doorway of the lab.

"And now it's almost zero hour," Raphael gulped. "We'd better start heading to Channel 6."

"You have done all that you can," Splinter said. "I believe that we have a fair chance of winning against Shredder now. But if we do not, I want you to know that I am proud of each and every one of you. Even though we are all going into uncertain danger and may not come out again, you are all willing to do what must be done to stop Shredder from harming innocent people."

"Which doesn't mean we like doing it," Raphael interjected. "Just that we're willing, for the innocent people's sake."

"And that is what shows such great courage and unselfishness," Splinter said.

Michelangelo shifted. "What if . . . only some of us come out of this?" he said softly.

Baxter laid a hand on his shoulder. "Then whoever is left will have to try to go on," he said. "And I know that sounds hollow and cold, but it isn't meant to be. I certainly know how it feels to believe that a loved one is dead." He looked to Barney. "It is the most soul-crushing thing. Moving on from it feels almost impossible. But when one is alive, there is no choice but to try to go on, to live for their loved ones because they know that's what they would want. Even so, there will always be a hole without those they love."

"Yeah," Michelangelo nodded. "There would be."

"Well . . ." Raphael shifted. "If something does happen . . . to any of us . . . I want you all to know that you're all swell. And . . . I love you. All of you."

Everyone fell silent, moved and touched.

"Gnarly notion, Raphael," Michelangelo smiled. "And we all feel the same way."

"Yes," Baxter said. "We do."

"Well, then, let's go out and do our best against Shredder," Leonardo said. "We'll beat him with Family Power."

Raphael didn't even groan about the cheese.

xxxx

April looked at her beloved friends with sorrow and sadness as they arrived at Channel 6. "You're all ready for what could be your last battle," she said.

"How's Burne taking it?" Leonardo asked.

"Probably ready to dance on our graves if it happens," Raphael muttered.

"Burne's going through the ceiling about Shredder insisting on having this fight on the roof," April commented.

"Hoo boy, I can imagine," Raphael said, shaking his head.

"He wanted someone to film it from the Channel 6 helicopter," April said. "At least then he could get something out of it, he said. And a story like this would be really big news!"

"I'm sorry, April," Leonardo said. "It's just too dangerous."

"Yeah," Michelangelo said. "Even in the helicopter, you might not be safe. Shred-Head might throw something at it!"

"Burne will just have to settle for the footage on the roof's security camera," Donatello said. "If it doesn't get knocked out by the fight."

April's shoulders slumped. "This could really be it, guys," she said. "What Shredder's capable of now is horrifying."

"We know," said Donatello. "We have several possible methods for defeating him. Hopefully at least one of them will work."

"If they don't . . . the world is doomed," April said softly.

"Oh yeah, encourage us, why don't you?" Raphael grunted.

April ignored that. She ran forward and embraced each of them in turn, even Barney and Vincent. "Come back from this," she said firmly.

"Believe us, April, we want to," Leonardo said. "And we're going to do everything in our power to make it happen."

"Yeah, so like, keep a pizza warm for us. Okay?" Michelangelo chirped.

April brushed back a tear. "Two pizzas," she said.

"Hey, no arguments from me!" Michelangelo grinned.

He kept his brave face on until they got in the elevator to go to the roof. Then his resolve crumbled. This Shredder was unlike any they had ever faced before. Maybe they really wouldn't make it.

Leonardo laid a hand on Michelangelo's shoulder. The future was more than a little uncertain, it was true. But they would do what they had to do.

Baxter caught Barney's eye. They were both praying in their hearts. Baxter was sure that the others were as well. On a mission like this, they needed all the strength and help they could get.

The roof was ominous and deserted when they pushed open the door and stepped out. "Like, maybe we're early?" Michelangelo suggested.

"Or maybe Shred-Head decided to forget this whole thing and go home," Raphael quipped.

That hope was swiftly dashed when Shredder dropped down into their midst. "Foolish Turtles," he sneered. "And their foolish friends. And of course, Hamato Yoshi, the most foolish of them all." He bared his spikes. "Now we shall fight to the death."

Splinter stepped forward. "Perhaps, Shredder, but whose death?"

The Turtles spread out around him at the center, leaving the Stockmans to fill in at the sides. Barney tensely gripped his immobilizing invention. It was tempting to use it now, but it was a last resort. They would see if something else would work first.

"There is no way you can ever hope to defeat me!" Shredder boomed.

"Well," said Leonardo, "there's only one way to find out." He charged.

Shredder responded by leaping in the air and slicing both katanas as he came down. "Let's see what else you've got," he taunted.

"Gladly, Tin Face!" Raphael lunged next. Before he quite knew what had happened, he was sailing several roofs over to crash into a billboard. "Whoa!" he screeched.

"Raphael!" Baxter cried in horror.

Donatello wasn't about to wait and let anything more happen. "Okay," he said low. "Let's see what this baby can do." He turned on the invention he had designed and pointed it at Shredder.

The briefest glow surrounded the warlord for a short moment. Then he burst free, shoving his spikes into the machine Donatello held. It sparked and smoked, rocking in Donatello's grasp. He gasped, forced to drop it to the roof before it exploded.

"Is that the best you've got?" Shredder mocked.

Vincent suddenly shocked him while he was distracted. "Hardly."

Shredder flew backwards into the satellite dish. Electricity leaped from his armor and into the dish before traveling back to him. He yelled in pain before tumbling out of the dish to his knees.

"Alright!" Michelangelo cheered. "Mondo move, Bud!" He sent a nunchunk spiraling towards Shredder. It whipped around Shredder's right wrist, tearing the spikes free and burying them in the roof.

"Excellent strategy, Michelangelo," Splinter said. He lunged at his arch-enemy. "Now, Oroku Saki - !"

Shredder recovered just in time to seize Splinter by the tail and send him painfully flying into Raphael as the Turtle finally made it back to the Channel 6 roof. They slammed into the railing.

"Ow!" Raphael yelped. "Sensei, it's hopeless! We don't stand a chance against this new and improved Shred-Head!"

"There is still hope," Splinter insisted. "Although I admit it's growing dim."

Baxter stepped forward. "And now it's my turn." He switched on his invention and pointed it at Shredder.

Pain filled Shredder's eyes for another fleeting moment. Then he rose, dangerous and deadly. Without warning he tore the satellite dish free of its standing and threw it at Vincent. The computer barely had enough time to blast it away before it would have hit him. In that amount of time, Shredder had kicked Donatello to the roof, picked up Leonardo as he tried to deliver a kick, and sent him crashing into Michelangelo. Then he advanced on Baxter.

"You pathetic little worm," he snarled. "You have been in my way since the day you came into my life!"

"You're the one who brought me into your life," Baxter spat, even as his knees quaked.

Shredder ripped the invention out of Baxter's hands and lifted him by his vest, suspending him out over the railing. "That matters not," he hissed. "What matters is finally being rid of you once and for all!"

"Baxter!" Michelangelo screamed. He struggled out from under Leonardo.

Vincent started to run forward, but he knew there was little he could do. If he tried to attack, Shredder might drop Baxter for sure. He could only watch in horror and pray that their final method of attack would work.

Baxter clawed at Shredder's hand, his own hands shaking. The ground far below made him dizzy. He looked away, back to his long-standing enemy.

Shredder sneered behind his mask. "I know what I'm going to do with you," he said. "Just dropping you is too simple, too quick." He started to bring up his left hand, the one that still bore spikes.

"No!" Leonardo yelled.

Barney stepped forward. "You forgot about me, Mr. Shredder." With a turn of a dial, he pointed the immobilization device at the villain. Shredder froze with a shocked cry.

"Get him!" Leonardo ordered. He and Michelangelo and Vincent ran forward, pulling Shredder back from the edge. Raphael pried Shredder's hand free from Baxter's vest, and, shaking, Baxter dropped to the roof.

"Thank you," he quavered.

Barney relaxed. Baxter was safe. Something had finally worked.

"Well," Raphael frowned, "so now we've got Shred-Head. What are we going to do with him?"

"Set him up as a statue in Times Square?" Michelangelo snarked. "Or Central Park?"

"Or die at his hands!" Shredder tore free of his position and turned to face them. "You may have saved Baxter, but your inventions can't hold me for long!" He took a menacing step forward. "Now you will all perish."

Raphael swallowed hard. "That was our last defense. Guys, I'm afraid this really is it."

"Then we'll go down fighting with honor!" Leonardo insisted.

Michelangelo shuddered. "I wonder if they have pizza in Heaven?"

Baxter gave him a weak smile. "Probably more varieties than even you could think up."

"I wonder if they let mutants into Heaven," Donatello muttered.

"All who are worthy should be allowed entry," Splinter said.

Barney and Vincent exchanged a look. "Leonardo's right," Barney said. "There's no choice left but to fight until we can't anymore. Maybe at least we can take him down with us."

"Then that's what we'll do." Electricity sparked in Vincent's hands.

The door to the roof flew open. Everyone looked over with a start. Krang stood there in a lop-sided android body, with one Foot Soldier leg and arm in addition to the ones that belonged to the creature. Duct tape was plastered across the cracked chest. In his hands he held a ray gun.

"Oh great!" Raphael moaned. "Now instead of just death by a super-charged Shred-Head, we get death by a super-charged Shred-Head and a second-hand Krang!"

"Whoa, Dude," Michelangelo said to Krang. "What happened to you?"

"Shredder happened to me," Krang sneered, "and now he's going to pay."

"NOOOO!" Shredder roared. He lunged to stop Krang, but it was too late. Krang's invention powered up and surrounded Shredder in a deep pink glow. When it faded, he collapsed to the roof.

"Hey, his armor's silver again," Bebop commented.

"And his cape's purple," Rocksteady added.

"When I get done with him, he'll be black and blue! Pick him up and we'll take him with us," Krang growled.

Bebop and Rocksteady complied.

"So, uh, you're not gonna cream us?" Michelangelo blinked.

"Oh, your time will come," Krang said darkly. "But tonight I'm going to be having too much fun creaming Shredder instead." With that he turned and limped through the door on his mismatched legs. Bebop and Rocksteady followed, dragging Shredder between them.

For a long moment, everyone stood in stunned silence.

"Whoa," said Michelangelo presently. "Like, how weird was that, Dudes?! Saved by Krang!"

"I thought the day would never come," Raphael remarked.

"We sure have to be glad he came," Leonardo said. "He knew exactly what had been done to Shredder and how to reverse it. Apparently none of us quite figured it out."

"We all did our best," Splinter said. "Now, Shredder is defeated and we are all alive."

"And I would love to see what Krang puts him through as punishment for this," Raphael smirked.

"I can think of something I'd like to see a lot better!" Michelangelo said. "Those pizzas April promised us! Come on, let's get back down there and show her we're all okay!"

"Oh." Vincent stared over the edge of the roof. "I hope Mr. Thompson won't be too angry about that satellite dish. . . ."

Raphael draped an arm around his shoulders. "He probably will be, Vince, but you had to do what you had to do."

"And we'll all be sure to tell him that," Leonardo said.

He smiled as he looked over the group. Suddenly the full magnitude of what had just happened washed over him. They had all fought a super-charged Shredder and survived. There was definitely a miracle in that.

"Good work, everyone," he said. "I'm glad we're all here, alive and well."

"You said it," Raphael declared.

"And I'm glad that you were able to rescue me," Baxter said. "The immobilizer may not have worked permanently, but it worked long enough that I wasn't killed."

"That is what I'm the most grateful for," Barney declared.

"So am I," Vincent said.

"It was mondo awesome!" Michelangelo declared.

"I just wish I knew what really was done and why Krang's invention worked," Donatello said.

"You could always call Krang and ask him," Raphael smirked.

"Uh, thanks but no thanks," Donatello retorted.

They had almost reached the door when it burst open and April, Irma, and Vernon were standing there. "Guys!" April cried. "You're all here?!"

"You're all alive?!" Irma exclaimed.

"We all are," Leonardo smiled.

"Oh, thank goodness," Vernon said. The sight of Baxter alive and well particularly thrilled him.

"And here's the big news," Michelangelo said. "We were all saved by Krang!"

". . . Are you serious?" April just gave them a blank stare.

"We are, actually," Donatello said.

"Come on," Leonardo said. "We'll all go inside and talk about it . . . over pizza."

xxxx

Baxter laid back on the couch in the employees' lounge and gazed up at the ceiling. The victory celebration had been going on for some time and seemed likely to continue for a while. He wanted to sit it out for a few minutes and ponder while the happy sounds continued in the background.

Michelangelo came over to him after a moment. "Are you okay, Bud?" he asked.

Baxter smiled. "Yes, Michelangelo, I'm fine. I just wanted to think. What happened tonight was very frightening. Shredder would have likely killed every one of us if Krang hadn't decided he wanted the old Shredder back."

"No duh," Michelangelo shuddered. "We were all mondo lucky."

"And I was thinking how it used to be after I was first changed human again," Baxter continued. "Shredder and Krang always turning up with a new wild scheme. . . . Barney a part of things. . . ." He shuddered.

"Yeah. There were a lot of days of worrying about Barney," Michelangelo said.

"There still are," Baxter said wryly. "And there's still worry that he will be hurt by Shredder and Krang's evil plots. But now, at least, I don't have to worry about Barney walking the same dark path I did and suffering for it."

Michelangelo gave him a thumbs-up. "It's gnarly having him on our side," he said. "Vincent too."

Baxter smiled. "And they're both so happy to be fully accepted now. So am I. We're just starting to explore what it's like to be a family with all three of us and with all of you as well. There's so many things to discover. And all of you are so young yet, Michelangelo. You've just barely started to live, really. It would have been tragic if all of that had been cut short by the death of one or more of you."

"You and Barney are just barely starting to live too, actually," Michelangelo said. "I mean, you guys weren't really happy before. And you had to go through so much bummer stuff. But now you're finally finding out that life and people can be good."

"That's true," Baxter mused.

"I, at least, squandered most of my life up to this point," Barney said as he appeared on the scene. "Vincent, meanwhile, had little choice in what happened to him for 483 years and Baxter tended to be the brunt of everything that went wrong."

"And then we met and wreaked havoc," Vincent remarked, popping up on the side of the couch near Baxter's head.

"Let's say it was the blind leading the blind," Baxter said with a sad smile. "You were trying to be a friend even though you didn't know how and I was too bent on revenge to see straight. And maybe I wouldn't have even if I hadn't been fused with the fly, judging from what happened when I got hold of the Eye of Sarnoth."

"Maybe not," Vincent said, "but I'm sure you wouldn't have been anywhere as destructive in your right mind."

"The point was that I deserved what unhappiness I got," Barney said. "Vincent and Baxter really did not."

"Maybe that's true up to a point," Michelangelo said, "but you didn't deserve the unhappiness from your childhood. And hey, that's probably what caused you to be unhappy as an adult."

"The nature versus nurture argument?" Barney mused.

"I don't believe anybody's born bad," Michelangelo said. "And you sure couldn't have been or you wouldn't have really been good deep down. I say that all of us deserved to come through the battle with Shred-Head alive so that we could keep enjoying life and nothing's gonna make me think something different."

"I actually agree with you on why I was unhappy," Barney said. "I'm just angry at myself that I wasted so many years I could have spent openly loving Baxter and accepting his love and support. There was no call for my behavior towards him."

"And now you've finally realized the error of your ways," Michelangelo said. "Even if it was your choice to waste those years, now you wanna spend the rest of them being with Baxter. And I say you deserve mondo years to do that! Not to mention, Baxter deserves mondo years to be with his brother! That was his dream all through his life!"

Baxter sat up straight and smiled. "And since we've come through that battle alive, we still have more chances at that."

Vincent hugged him from behind. "And that's going to continue being great, old pal."

Barney finally smiled too. "I have to agree with you on that."

"Bodacious!" Michelangelo exclaimed.

"We all agree," Leonardo said as he and the others started over as well. "And we're all looking forward to continuing to get to know all of you better."

"Even me," Raphael said.

"And being able to do so is more than enough reason to celebrate," said Splinter.

"I'll drink to that," said April.

"Even better," Michelangelo said. "I'll eat another piece of pizza to that!"

Everyone laughed.

xxxx

"A little bit higher, Shredder."

Krang smirked as he looked up at a very disgruntled Shredder suspended on pulleys near the top of the Technodrome. In one hand he held a roller, while the other held a bucket of water.

"Oh, this is ridiculous!" Shredder fumed and whined. "Why should I have to clean the Technodrome up and down?! I wouldn't have even found my super-strength if it wasn't for you, Krang!"

"Yes, but I never gave you permission to betray me," Krang sneered. "When you're done with the Technodrome, you can start rebuilding my missing arm and leg. I'm not going to go around with these Foot Soldier parts any longer than I have to."

Standing to the side, Bebop and Rocksteady giggled.

"Boy, it's not every day we see the boss have to work like us!" Rocksteady remarked.

"Especially while we get a break," Bebop added.

"Don't expect it to happen again," Krang retorted. "But you did well today. Or at least, as well as can be expected. Enjoy it while it lasts!"

"Oh, we will," Bebop declared.

"Yeah!" Rocksteady said. "And we'll take a picture for the family album!" He held up a camera and snapped a shot of Shredder cleaning the eye missile launcher.

"You mutant morons!" Shredder roared. "Don't you dare print out that picture! When I get down from here, I'll . . ." The roller slipped out of his hand.

Krang caught it and tossed it back up to him. "You're not getting out of this that easily, Shredder," he smirked. "There's still a whole lot left to wash."

Shredder caught the roller in furious dismay. "Krang . . . !"

Bebop and Rocksteady continued to laugh.

"Shut up, you maggots!" Shredder boomed. The pulleys rocked and he was forced to catch himself. "This is so humiliating," he muttered.