Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987

Another Alternate Dimension Story

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters are not mine (although the concept of Stockmans in the 1990s movie verse is mine) and the story is mine! This one crosses over the old 1990s movie verse with the 1987 cartoon. The concept is based around the information that apparently Professor Jordan Perry in the second movie was originally supposed to be Baxter, until Eastman and Laird refused. But he still looks like Baxter and even has some of his speech pattern, and he's probably the closest canon will ever get to having Baxter as a good guy and a Turtles ally. Naturally I got inspired. ThickerThanLove helped with some of the plot elements, including that one! 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.

Dr. Jordan Perry stood on the observation deck at TGRI's new location. It was a pleasant enough locale on a hill outside New York City instead of across the river in New Jersey. The company had been settling in for weeks, moving their equipment in and preparing the new experiments they had been planning since before the move had become necessary. By now things were almost back to normal, thank goodness.

He wondered how the Turtles were doing. He hadn't tried to contact them since the incident with the wayward mutagen canister, but he hoped he would see them again before long, perhaps when everything was in place at the new TGRI. He was fascinated by them on a scientific level, but more importantly, he respected them and enjoyed interacting with them. He considered them his friends.

His brother would no doubt scoff at such a thing. Oh, not considering mutant turtles friends, honestly, but the thought of him considering anyone a friend. Dr. Perry had been informed more than once that his brother felt he put work ahead of anything and everyone and that he wasn't interested in family and friends at all. He didn't feel that had ever been true, but obviously if his brother felt it was, there was a problem. No matter how he tried to reach out to his brother, he was rejected and told that his sincerity wasn't believed. It badly hurt and he didn't know what to do about it.

A scientist should know how to fix things, he thought to himself. But sometimes he can't fix them where they truly count.

The bright lights of something strange and foreign lit up the twilight sky with sudden force and insistence. He stared in transfixed amazement and then alarm as he saw that the object was coming in too quickly. It was going to crash!

He scurried outside and ran down the hill just as the object slammed into the ground. He fell back, crashing against the prickly grass, and then turned to stare. It was some type of bizarre aircraft shaped like a Mayan temple, sparking and smoking with the impact of the crash. It looked as though it was going to blow up at any moment. And what if someone was inside? A pilot, perhaps? Maybe even an entire crew?

He moved forward slowly, cautiously. "Hello?" he called.

Maybe anyone on board had been killed on impact.

Then there came a weak groan. "Help . . ." It was a strange voice, a mechanical voice, and yet humanoid and male. And the speaker was obviously in pain.

"I'm coming!" Dr. Perry ran into the craft. "Where are you?"

"The . . . top level," was the mumbled reply. "I'm using the speaker system. There's a lift to your right. . . ."

He soon located the elevator and pressed the button for the top floor. "Is anyone else onboard?"

"No. . . . It's just me. I've been stranded in space for years, all alone. . . . Finally my ship ran out of power and I crashed here. . . ."

"Space?" he gasped. This was a spaceship?! He was talking to an alien?! "Wasn't anyone else out there to help you before?" he exclaimed.

"No. . . ." A groan. "Please hurry. . . ."

"I'm almost there." He reached the top level and got out, hurrying onto what seemed to be the bridge. Then he could only stop and stare.

The only being on the bridge besides him was what looked like a computer with a body. It groaned again, weakly pushing at the console that seemed to have collapsed on top of its legs. The expression on the screen that served as its face was filled with anguish.

"Oh my goodness," Dr. Perry gasped. He dropped to his knees. "You're the pilot?!"

"Yes," was the rasped reply. "Please help me. . . ."

"I'll do what I can." Dr. Perry pushed on the twisted mess of the console, fighting to push it up enough that the computer could slide out. It somehow managed to, but then lay on the floor, gasping. Its legs were also a broken, twisted mess.

"The ship is going to self-destruct," it said. "We have to get out of here. . . ."

Dr. Perry reached down, gently lifting the mangled body into his arms. The computer-person wasn't too heavy for him, he discovered in relief as he straightened. He hurried to the elevator and pressed the ground floor button.

The computer reached for him with a hand covered in what almost seemed to be blue blood. "You're kind. . . . My homeworld rejected me. . . ."

"Why?" Dr. Perry frowned.

"Because I wasn't content just being a normal computer. I wanted the life of an organic being. I have a soul. . . . I wanted a body too. And they kicked me out. I've been looking for years for a place that would accept me as I am. . . ."

This news was absolutely shocking, but there was no time to process it. They reached the ground floor and Dr. Perry rushed out with his new friend. He had only barely made it to the top of the hill and into the building when the spaceship exploded, sending pieces of alien metal flying in all directions. The windows nearest to the hill shattered. Dr. Perry, on the opposite side of the room, held the computer-person close and protective.

"I accept you," he said. "And I will help you if I can."

The computer-person smiled. "I know you will. You already risked your life for me. My name is V.I. -2152. My homeworld pronounces it Z, but I have no real ties to them anymore. You can call me Vincent. What's your name?"

Dr. Perry hadn't hesitated in giving his name in years, but strangely, he hesitated now. ". . . Jordan Perry," he said at last. "Or at least . . . that's what I call myself. . . ."

"It's not your real name?" Vincent asked.

"No," Dr. Perry said slowly. That was also something he had never admitted since he had changed it. "My real name is . . . Baxter Stockman."

xxxx

Baxter jumped a mile, starting awake in bed. "What . . . what was that?" he mumbled to himself. "Another dream of an alternate Vincent and me?"

He sat up, fumbling for his glasses on the nightstand. He wasn't needed at Channel 6 again until the 6 o'clock news and Barney and Vincent were still at the university, so he had decided to go to his apartment for a nap instead of staying in that big mansion all by himself for a couple of hours. He understood what Barney had meant about it seeming lonely and intimidating when there alone. He had tried it once and decided he really didn't want to be there alone.

A glance at the clock told him he needed to get back to the station for the live broadcast. He was still half-asleep and he swayed as he stood, clanking into the nightstand. Regaining his balance, he shuffled into the living room and then the kitchen. Maybe a drink of fruit juice would wake him up.

The last time he had dreamed about alternate Stockmans, they had all met them. In appearance, that Baxter and Barney had been almost completely opposite in every way, save the glasses and the bowties. In speech pattern too, there weren't a lot of similarities. But looking deeper, the similarities had been there. The rift between the brothers, Barney's feelings of hurt and inadequency, their true brotherly love for each other. . . .

This new alternate Baxter actually looked quite similar to him, save his blondish-brown hair wasn't wild and Baxter had the sense that he was taller. He spoke with an accent too, but Baxter could hear that he had a similar speech pattern to his own. And rescuing his Vincent from a crashed ship . . . ! Baxter hoped that the alternate Vincent could be repaired. His body looked somewhat similar to Vincent's energy-generated form, but obviously it was different since the legs hadn't snapped back into place once the weight had been removed.

He sighed to himself. It could just be a bizarre dream that didn't mean anything. But if there was one set of alternate Stockmans, why not more? Did his dream mean they would end up meeting?

Hopefully it didn't mean there would be another sibling problem that needed to be solved. The alternate Baxter's monologue certainly indicated he was having problems with his Barney. And why would he have changed his name? There was nothing wrong with the name Baxter Stockman!

What if he had changed it to distance himself from Barney? Maybe Barney was a criminal and a hindrance to that Baxter's career, so he had changed his name and alienated Barney in the process.

On the other hand, maybe the other Baxter was the criminal and he had changed his name to try to have a fresh start.

Baxter poured himself the drink of tropical fruit punch and leaned against the counter. He was letting his imagination run away with him. There was a time he never would have considered the dream meant anything. They hardly ever did.

Only when some of his dreams had indeed meant something, it would be foolish to completely dismiss a similar one now.

Even if he might want to.

xxxx

After the news, Barney and Vincent were there to take Baxter to the dinner date with the Turtles and Splinter. They were meeting in the Lair this time, and Michelangelo was fixing dinner.

"Did everything go well at work, Pal?" Vincent asked.

"Oh yes," Baxter smiled.

"You seemed distant in the broadcast," Barney flatly pointed out.

Baxter winced. "I hope the viewers didn't notice. . . ."

"It wasn't that bad," Barney said.

"But we know you well enough to pick up on it right away," Vincent said. "Something happened at some point since we parted ways this morning."

Baxter managed a smile. ". . . Barney, did you have any strange dreams today?"

"No," Barney answered quickly. A little too quickly.

"Are you sure?" Baxter prompted.

"The only thing I even remember dreaming about was a me who wasn't quite me, mixing chemicals and saying how you had left him . . . me . . . whoever behind." Barney shrugged. "That was it."

"Oh. . . ." Baxter groaned. propping himself up on the inside of the door.

"What is it, Pal?" Vincent asked. "Did you dream the same thing?"

"No," Baxter said. "I dreamed about a me who had changed his name and saved a you who crashlanded in a spaceship."

"Fascinating," Vincent exclaimed.

Barney just growled. "So we're going to meet more of us? Maybe potentially having to stop another me from wrecking two dimensions?"

"Maybe not," Baxter said quickly. "Maybe if we meet . . . well, more of us, the you won't be causing a catastrophe."

"He was certainly doing something with those chemicals," Barney retorted. "It would be nice to meet an alternate me who isn't treading a dark path."

"I feel the same," Baxter said. "This counterpart of me seemed potentially honest. . . . At least, I didn't have any sense that he was a criminal. . . ."

"How nice for you," Barney grunted.

"Your other counterpart might be a good person too," Vincent said to Barney. "Just because he was mixing chemicals and feeling left behind doesn't mean he was doing anything wrong. You loved chemistry and never used it for any wrong purpose. I saw that episode you did for Lifestyles of the Brilliant and Scholarly."

"It was hard enough for you knowing you'd gone bad," Baxter said softly. "Seeing another you several weeks ago who was also leaning in that direction must have been a terrible blow."

"And it made me wonder if that was the same thing with any other Barneys out there," Barney admitted. "It's starting to look like these rifts between us are universal."

"Then maybe, just like with the other one, we're supposed to help mend this one," Baxter suggested. "Maybe there isn't any imminent danger to any dimension this time, but just a sibling problem that should be fixed to mend their hearts."

"We're still trying to figure out how to be good brothers ourselves," Barney said. "Why would we suddenly know how to help all these other uses?"

"We helped the last ones," Baxter said with a smile.

Vincent grinned. "I'm sure everything will be fine. You two know more than you think."

". . . Maybe," Barney relented.

"Baxter, what else happened in your dream?" Vincent asked.

"Well . . . the other you already had a body," Baxter said slowly. "He was hurt in the crash and this other me got him out. He was rejected on his homeworld because he wanted a body." His expression darkened.

Vincent looked troubled too, but said, "But he'll be alright now. He's found his Baxter. I hope we do meet them! Maybe we can help them and their Barney unite."

Barney sighed. He still wasn't sure what to think about that, but at least he had to admit that the idea of yet another dimension was compelling. The scientist in him was intrigued.

"We surely will meet them," Baxter said. "Why else would we have had those dreams?"

"Why indeed," Barney acknowledged.

xxxx

Dinner was ready by the time the Stockmans reached the Lair. The friends happily greeted each other before sitting down to their meal.

"I wonder if Shred-Head's finished cleaning the Technodrome yet," Raphael snickered.

"We can hope he hasn't," Leonardo said. "When he does, they'll probably strike again!"

"Let's hope he doesn't decide to try conquering another alternate dimension again," Barney grunted.

"Is there another one?" Donatello asked, immediately interested.

"There might be," Baxter said slowly. "We're having strange dreams of other Stockmans again, just as we did right before we met that other set."

"Totally gnarly!" Michelangelo exclaimed. "I wonder what these guys'll be like!"

"I think they're British," Baxter said. "But my counterpart had a much more similar speech pattern to mine than the other one did. He found his Vincent when Vincent crashed outside the building where the other me seemed to be working. He took Vincent in and started tending to his wounds. He seemed to be badly hurt."

"What about the other you?" Michelangelo wondered, looking to Barney.

"He seems to still be having problems with his Baxter," Barney said. "And that other Baxter changed his name."

"Whoa, mondo bizarro," Michelangelo blinked.

"This is all very interesting," said Splinter. "It does sound as though these dreams may be foretelling another unusual encounter."

"I just hope it won't be as eventful as the last one of its kind," said Raphael.

xxxx

As it turned out, nothing happened until after dinner. But as the group gathered in the large center room after dinner to further talk and relax, a portal opened in the middle of the room. While they stared in a mixture of shock and fascination, another Donatello and Vincent stepped out, accompanied by the man Baxter had seen rescuing Vincent.

"Holy cow!" Raphael exclaimed.

"It worked, Professor!" the other Donatello cried. "There's another me!"

"And me!" said the other Vincent.

"And . . . good heavens." Dr. Perry stared at Baxter, who was a good foot shorter than him when standing. "Are you me in this world?!"

"I'm Baxter Stockman," Baxter said coolly.

"Whoa, what is it with these tall otherworldly Baxters?" Michelangelo remarked.

Splinter stepped forward. "What is the meaning of this?"

The other Donatello looked guilty. "I'm sorry, Master Splinter," he said. "We were just trying an experiment to see if we could open a portal to a parallel dimension. We didn't mean to disturb you."

"Actually," Splinter said, "we had an inkling you were coming."

"How?" the other Vincent asked with interest.

"It's a long story," Baxter said.

"Well," said Dr. Perry, "we're here to learn."

"As long as we're not disturbing you," the other Vincent said. He came up from behind Dr. Perry and leaned on him by crossing his arms on the scientist's back.

Vincent came over, fascinated. "What's your body made of?"

"It's mostly a special kind of substance found on my . . . our homeworld," the other Vincent said cheerfully. "But now it has some Earth parts as well."

"That's what I thought!" Vincent chirped. "About the substance, I mean. I always thought it would make a nice computer body. By the time I was free of my spaceship, I was far away from our homeworld and I didn't want to go back even if I could have. But I'm happy with what I have now."

"It looks like solid energy," the other Vincent observed.

"It is," Vincent said. "But I still bleed. At least I can repair wounds when I can concentrate, though."

"That would have come in handy for me," the other Vincent said. "But I don't regret anything."

The other Donatello looked around. "You're still living in the original Lair," he observed. "The Foot hasn't found your location?"

"Not yet," Raphael said. "Where do you live, a penthouse apartment?"

"An abandoned subway station," was the reply. "Still underground, but a lot less damp and dank."

"Sounds gnarly," Michelangelo chirped. "Maybe we should try that."

"Let us hope that if we decide to move, it will be because we wish to and not because we have been discovered," Splinter said.

"Yeah," Raphael snarked. "I guess we're lucky that the only people who did find us couldn't lead Shred-Head back here."

Something flickered in Splinter's eyes and he looked questioningly to Baxter. He had suddenly remembered that Baxter had found the Lair before his transformation, when he had abducted Splinter in his giant Ratcatcher. But Baxter hadn't led Shredder back to the Lair either. Perhaps it had just been because the Ratcatcher had been destroyed and he couldn't recall the coordinates. Or perhaps the reason had been something else.

Baxter met Splinter's gaze for one brief moment and then looked away. He sensed what Splinter was silently asking, but he didn't have a very interesting answer. He hadn't had access to the coordinates after the Ratcatcher had blown up, which was what he had told Shredder. He certainly hadn't thought there was any other reason to have not led Shredder there; he had been so bitter and hurt back then that he had wanted to get back at the Turtles. But then again, he sighed to himself, maybe deep down he had known slaughter would ensue and he wouldn't have wanted to have led Shredder to the Lair even if he had remembered the coordinates. He had vague memories of visiting the Lair after his transformation, so he must have still remembered how to get there after all.

He managed a smile. It was a nice thought. He still didn't fully understand himself from that time period and usually he tried not to think about it much. It troubled him to think that he could have become so dark and unstable and he was afraid to examine himself too deeply. He was too afraid of what he might find. Perhaps he would find instead that he was a better person than he believed he could have been, as that seemed to be what his memories indicated. But he hadn't yet gathered the courage to try to find out for certain. In that respect, he seemed to be similar to Barney with his tendencies of shoving upsetting things out of the way where he didn't have to think about them.

"Hey, we're going to need to figure out how to refer to you guys so we don't get mixed up," Leonardo said.

"Do you use nicknames?" Donatello asked his counterpart.

"Usually, yeah," was the reply.

"Okay, then, that's easy enough," Raphael said. "You're Donny."

"Would you be adverse to being called Z while you're here?" Vincent asked.

The other Vincent shrugged. "I'm alright with that. That was how my name was pronounced for 183 years." He paused. "But that could still get confusing, couldn't it?"

"Uh, how about Vinnie?" Michelangelo suggested. "Oh wait . . . then you'll get mixed up with our favorite pizza guy."

"Or we could call you Vince," Raphael put in.

"We probably won't be here too long," the other Vincent said. "The portal will only stay open until midnight."

Dr. Perry looked to Baxter. "I . . . er, don't call myself Baxter Stockman anymore, so there won't be a problem on my account."

"I know," Baxter said. "You call yourself Jordan Perry."

"Now how could you possibly know that?!" Dr. Perry said in disbelief.

"He's like, psychic," Michelangelo grinned.

Barney finally decided to come forward, surprising Dr. Perry further. "You're Barney," he said in amazement. "The two of you . . . aren't estranged?"

"Not anymore," Barney said.

"We were for most of our lives," Baxter said.

"You must tell me how you repaired your bond," Dr. Perry exclaimed.

"Maybe you should tell us how yours was severed," Barney said. "Was it just because of the name debacle?"

"No. . . . That was the . . . final straw, shall we say," Dr. Perry answered with regret. "We never got along well, I'm afraid. But when I chose to change my name, Barney took it as a slap in the face, an announcement that I wanted nothing to do with him or the family name."

"Well, didn't you?" Raphael raised an eyebrow.

"I never meant for it to be taken that way," Dr. Perry said in chagrin. "I just didn't think that I was likely to get very far with my birth name. I wanted something that sounded more . . . exciting. Scholarly."

"Now there's an approach you didn't try," Raphael quipped to Baxter.

"There's nothing wrong with the name Baxter Stockman," Baxter said in some annoyance. "'Baxter' is a fairly uncommon name. You might have actually got even more notice with it."

"Yes, I suppose that's possible," Dr. Perry acknowledged. "Barney said the same thing."

"Nevermind," Splinter said. "Let us talk. We have much to share about our worlds."

"Like, we know how you two met," Michelangelo said, pointing to Dr. Perry and his Vincent. "But we don't know how you met the other Turtles."

"Or how your Vincent was healed," Baxter said.

"We do have much to talk about," Dr. Perry said. "But first of all, I'd like to know how you really knew about us."

Baxter flushed. "When we're about to meet other versions of us, my Barney and I . . . tend to dream about them," he mumbled. "I dreamed of your meeting with your Vincent."

"Fascinating!" Dr. Perry exclaimed. "But does that mean this isn't the first time you've encountered an alternate version of yourself?"

"It happened once before," Baxter said.

The groups gathered on the mat to talk. First, Donny and Dr. Perry explained the circumstances involving their first meeting, while the others listened in surprise.

"I guess Shred-Head recruiting you is another of those universal things," Raphael remarked.

"Hmm? Oh. I suppose so," Dr. Perry said. "But I never went along willingly."

"And you defied him every chance you had." Baxter looked amazed, even awed. "I wish I'd had your strength and courage. I never had your success. I was timid and weak and Shredder abused me until I snapped."

Vincent laid a hand on his shoulder.

"He was very intimidating," Dr. Perry admitted. "But I had to do what I could to prevent him from harming innocent people . . . or even those mutants he wanted me to create."

"Why were you working with the mutagen anyway?" Raphael wondered.

"I was involved in its creation . . . more or less," Dr. Perry answered, looking somewhat embarrassed. "It was an accidental mixing of chemicals. Then one of the canisters was lost down a sewer when it fell off our truck. The other Turtles and Splinter then came in contact with it."

"Whoa," Michelangelo blinked. "So you accidentally created us in your world? Shred-Head did it here; the mutagen was some alien gunk that Krang created."

"Krang?" Dr. Perry blinked.

"Shredder's boss," Raphael said. "You don't have a Krang?"

"Not that we're aware of," said Donny. "Maybe one will turn up."

"Probably, the way things go," Raphael remarked.

"So, tell us about Vincent," Michelangelo chirped. "How'd he get better?"

Dr. Perry looked to his Vincent and smiled fondly. His Vincent grinned back.

Dr. Perry stared at the strange computer's body as he lay on a slab in a currently vacant laboratory at TGRI. Every now and then, Dr. Perry shook his head in bewilderment.

"I don't know whatever to do," he said. "I've never seen anything like this before."

Vincent was clearly in more pain again. If Dr. Perry didn't know better, he would say that the alien computer was breathing hard. In any case, he was definitely bleeding blue blood. Several hand towels had already been soaked through.

"Can't you tell me something?" Dr. Perry said in mounting concern. "Anything about your systems or how your body works?"

"It's . . . a special material from my homeworld," Vincent groaned. "And my blood is a substance derived from pure energy."

"Oh no," Dr. Perry gasped. "We'll need an expert in energy science!"

"You don't have one?" Vincent mumbled.

"The best one I know is my twin brother Barney, and he's not speaking to me," Dr. Perry moaned. "He hasn't for years." He pulled out his phone. "But I'll have to try. If he understands that it's a life-and-death situation, I can't believe he'd refuse."

Vincent watched through bleary eyes as Dr. Perry desperately tried to reach his brother, first at his home, then at the university. It seemed a hopeless cause.

"He said he might not be back for hours," the receptionist said.

"Well, when he comes in, tell him it's an emergency!" Dr. Perry fumed, disconnecting the call.

"What are we going to do?" Vincent asked.

"I don't know," Dr. Perry said in dismay. "We can't wait around for help that may not come. There's only one other thing I know to do." He took Vincent in his arms. "I just pray he'll have some idea of what to do."

xxxx

The Turtles didn't get a lot of visitors to their abandoned subway station Lair. But at the sound of frantic footsteps, Mikey and Donny looked up at the ladder and hole above them.

"Hey, it's the Doc!" Mikey exclaimed.

"Dr. Perry!" Donny leaped up and ran over. "We haven't seen you since TGRI disappeared."

"Yes, I know," Dr. Perry said. "I've been busy helping set up the new location. Err . . ." He shifted, staring down the hole. "I know I probably shouldn't have blown in like this, but I have a badly injured party here. I'm not sure we can get down the ladder."

"Oh. Just a second." Donny hurried up the ladder and then could only stare at Vincent, who was nearly unconscious by now. "What's this?!"

"Who," Dr. Perry corrected. "He's an alien computer who crash-landed outside the new TGRI building. He's badly hurt and I can't reach my brother Barney, who might know what to do. Is there possibly anything you can do for him?!"

Donny swallowed hard, looking intimidated and alarmed to be put on the spot. "W-Well," he quavered, "let's get him into the lab and I'll see." He gently took Vincent into his own arms.

"Be careful, won't you?" Dr. Perry implored. "I'm not sure he can handle being badly jarred."

"Hey, I'm a ninja," Donny said. "He won't feel a thing." He jumped into the hole and landed lightly on his feet. Vincent didn't stir.

Mikey's eyes were wide. "He's bleeding!" he gasped.

"I know," Dr. Perry said, "and I don't know how to help him." Although normally he was calm and collected, now he was worried and agonized and it was coming through in his voice. He made his way down the ladder.

Vincent smiled a bit and slumped harder against Donny. He trusted Dr. Perry completely, not because he was naive, but because the man had risked everything for him and was honestly fearful for his survival now. He could tell Dr. Perry wasn't just fascinated by the alien technology. He would trust Dr. Perry's friend as well.

"We'll figure something out," Donny quavered now. "I hope. . . ."

Dr. Perry looked down at Vincent as they hurried to the part of the Lair Donny was using as a laboratory. "I'm afraid he's fallen unconscious," he said in alarm.

Mikey trailed after them. "Computers can fall unconscious?!" he gasped.

"I could believe it of this one." Dr. Perry leaned over Vincent as soon as Donny laid him on a slab and started searching for signs of life. For a reason he couldn't quite fathom, he lifted one hand to check for a pulse. When he actually found something that seemed to be one, he nearly let go of the hand in shock.

"What is it?" Donny asked.

"He has a pulse," Dr. Perry announced.

"Whoa," Mikey gasped.

Donny grabbed the other hand to check and stared in awe. "This is incredible!" he exclaimed. "He breathes, he bleeds. . . . He has some type of heart function, probably connected to his computer circuitry. . . . I've never heard of anything like this!"

"But can you do anything for him?!" Dr. Perry cried.

"I'm sure going to try," Donny vowed.

xxxx

The two scientists worked long into the night on the mysterious computer. Mikey wandered in and out, curious and fascinated. Leo and Raph, too, appeared now and then. Splinter had to call them away; Donny and Dr. Perry needed to work without distractions.

"I just don't get it," Raph grunted as they waited in the main room. "A living computer?"

"I watched for a while and I saw it," Leo insisted. "It was alive as far as clinical terms go, and when it woke up for a few minutes and talked to Dr. Perry, it didn't seem like it was an A.I. program."

"So what is this? The Twilight Zone? We've got living computers?! What next?!" Raph threw up his hands. "What if the toaster comes alive? Huh? Or the oven! What would that be like?!"

"Sounds kinda radical to me," Mikey said.

"You'd think so," Raph retorted.

"I'm wondering about Dr. Perry's brother," Mikey said, sobering a bit. "He hasn't called back at all."

"I didn't even know the guy had a brother," Raph said. "They must not be close."

Mikey looked down. "But . . . the Doc said it was a life-and-death situation," he said softly. "He's gotta care. . . ."

"I've got news for ya, Mikey. Some people don't." Raph pushed away from the wall.

"It's possible he just hasn't got the message yet," Leo said. "We don't know what he does or what his schedule's like."

"In this day and age?" Raph snorted. "Trust me, he's got it and he's ignoring it. He ain't calling or coming. I don't even know if I'd want him knowing where we live."

"Dr. Perry talked to Master Splinter and Master Splinter felt it was okay," Leo frowned. "His brother isn't a bad guy. They just . . . don't get along, apparently."

"Yeah, sure." Raph rolled his eyes.

"Well, I'm gonna keep believing he'll come," Mikey insisted.

"Yeah, you do that." Raph headed for the stairs. "I'm goin' out for a walk."

Mikey looked morosely to Leo after Raph left. "What'll we do if he doesn't come?" he said softly. "Dr. Perry said we need an energy expert. . . ."

"I don't know," Leo sighed. "Maybe one of us will have to go out and get him. If he really understands the situation, he might change his mind and come." He glanced to the lab. "If he really is a good guy. . . ."

"Yeah," Mikey said softly.

xxxx

Dr. Perry gazed at the computer in sorrow. He and Donny had tried just about everything they could think of by now. So far Vincent's condition hadn't gotten worse, but he was afraid it would if they couldn't find a way to repair his legs soon.

Vincent had briefly regained consciousness a couple of times and talked to Dr. Perry for a few minutes. He had told Dr. Perry some snippets about his homeworld and tried to explain a little of how his body worked, but he was still suffering and dazed and hadn't been able to string his sentences together very well.

"Who are you?" Dr. Perry whispered. "Why would any culture reject someone with such a pure essence?"

And could he really believe what Vincent had said about having a soul? Was that possible for a computer?

Well, he had to admit at least that Vincent certainly wasn't programmed to say and do what he had been saying and doing. He wasn't an A.I. program.

Again Vincent stirred. "Dr. Perry . . ."

He snapped to attention. "What is it?"

"I . . . know you've tried your best." Vincent managed a smile. "It's . . . alright if you can't succeed. I know Earth is far behind my homeworld in technological advances."

"No!" Dr. Perry snapped. "Failure is not an option. We'll figure something out."

"Maybe I . . . shouldn't have copied humanoid systems so much," Vincent said. "I can't become an ordinary computer anymore. I was so afraid of the beings from my world doing that to me and forcing me to be subservient again that I made sure I could only stay alive with a body. . . ."

"You're going to live," Dr. Perry promised. "But . . . how did you become this way in the first place? Someone must have helped you."

Vincent smirked. "I took control of some robots and had them do it for me."

Dr. Perry chuckled. "You are a resourceful one."

"I'm glad that I finally fell among kind beings," Vincent said. "Even if it's only for these few hours. . . ."

"It won't be!" Dr. Perry insisted with vehemence. "You're going to be alright."

". . . Are all Earthlings this kind?" Vincent asked.

"Sadly, no," Dr. Perry said. "You were fortunate."

"Fortunate." Vincent smiled as his eyes sank closed again. "For the only time in my life. . . ."

Dr. Perry quickly checked his vitals and breathed a sigh of relief that he was still alive, just unconscious again. He sank down next to the slab and laced his fingers under his chin. Surely there was something more that could be done. Surely Vincent hadn't crashed here only to die. Just because he wasn't organic, he didn't deserve that fate! He wanted to live and be happy just like anyone else.

"You aren't going to just let him die, are you, God?" he muttered under his breath. "Just because my brother isn't getting back to me?"

Maybe he would have to start looking for a different energy expert. But . . . whom could he trust for something like this? So many people would enjoy exploiting a living computer for their own gain.

"You are very invested in this unique life."

He looked up at Splinter's voice. "Yes," he said. "I suppose I feel responsible for him. I found him. . . . I've been trying to take care of him. . . . So has Donatello. He was . . . so happy to see me. . . . So trusting, so certain that I would be able to save his life. . . . I don't want to let him down. . . ."

"You are doing all that you can. Leonardo is making plans to go looking for your brother if he does not call soon."

"Really." Dr. Perry managed a smile. "I wish him luck."

"Surely you do not believe your brother is deliberately ignoring you, as Raphael does," Splinter said.

"No, not really," Dr. Perry agreed. "Not if he received the full message. But if he didn't hear that it's a desperate situation, I don't know what he might do." He looked down. "I have tried so hard to reconcile with him through the years. He isn't interested. Aside from changing my name, I don't know what I even did that was so abominable in his eyes."

"Perhaps nothing," Splinter said kindly. "Or perhaps only things that were misunderstood and blown out of proportion."

"Yes," Dr. Perry sighed. "That's about how I feel. I've tried to get him to talk to me and he ignores me."

"Someday he will want his brother," Splinter said.

"He's practically disowned me," Dr. Perry said sadly. "And at the same time, he feels that's what I've done to him."

"At least you have his contact information," Splinter said. "He has not kept that from you. It is a start."

"I suppose you can look at it that way," Dr. Perry said.

Splinter nodded. "Deep down, I believe he does want contact with you."

Dr. Perry looked down at his phone. It was a nice thought.

"But . . . will he want it before Vincent dies?" he said quietly. "I don't know who to find to help him if not Barney."

Splinter laid a hand on his shoulder. "I believe it will all work out."

"I wish I had your faith," Dr. Perry said.

xxxx

It was after midnight when Dr. Perry's phone finally rang. He took it out and answered. "Hello?" He sounded and looked wary yet hopeful.

"I only got your message now." It was Barney-terse and clipped, yet with a hint of concern in his voice. "What kind of emergency is this?"

"I'm sorry to bother you, Barney, but we desperately need your help," Dr. Perry said. "We're having a calamity here that really requires an energy expert."

"'We'?" Barney echoed. "If you're having some problem at your company, Brother, that's hardly my affair."

"It doesn't have anything to do with my company!" Dr. Perry cried. "And even if it did, would you really refuse to help me just because of that?!" An edge had slipped into his voice. In the doorway, Mikey regarded him in concern.

Silence. "Tell me what it is then."

"It's . . . a little hard to explain. If I give you the address, will you come? I know it's unorthodox, but we do need your help, Barney. It's a life-and-death situation."

". . . Give it to me."

Dr. Perry gave the address while gazing at the computer's limp body. "Thank you," he said quietly.

"I'll be there shortly." Barney disconnected the call.

"That's really your brother?" Donny frowned.

"He sounds so different from you," Mikey said as he came up behind Dr. Perry. "In personality, I mean. . . . He doesn't sound that nice. . . ."

"He's still coming," Dr. Perry said. "He is a good person, even if he comes across as self-serving and uncaring. Nothing could be further from the truth!"

"But he sure doesn't seem to like you very much," Mikey said.

"We don't get along," Dr. Perry explained.

"I'll say!" Mikey declared. "But that's a serious bummer! What happened to you guys to get you like that?!"

"Michelangelo!" Splinter called sternly. "We do not pry, even into the lives of our friends."

"I'm not prying," Mikey frowned. "But since the Doc is our friend, I just wanna know!"

Dr. Perry shook his head. "It's a very long story. We never got along, for various reasons. Jealousy, anger. . . . Barney has hated me since we were children. The problem has only become worse as adults." He shoved his phone in his pocket. "Excuse me. I'd best go topside and wait for him. Do let me know if there's any change with Vincent," he added urgently.

"We will," Donny promised. "I think we've got him stabilized for the time being. That was a good idea you had about feeding more energy into the computer. Something in his system is modifying that into a blood-like substance."

"I hoped that might work," Dr. Perry said in some relief.

Donny nodded but continued, "I'm still not sure how to fix his legs. If it was just a matter of making new parts, that would be easy. But him being alive and having energy-blood makes it a lot different. I have a basic idea of how it might work, but an energy expert would really help now."

"And he's on his way," Dr. Perry said. "My brother is many things, but a liar is not one of them." With that he hurried up the stairs and out of the subway station.

Behind him he could hear Mikey walking over to the slab in fascination. "So . . . this computer-person is really alive and stuff?"

"He sure seems to be," Donny agreed. "We just have to make sure he stays that way."

"Awesome!" said Mikey. "You guys can do it. You've worked wonders before."

"Creating anti-mutagen is a lot different from keeping an alien being alive," Donny said quietly.

"It certainly is," Dr. Perry said to himself.

xxxx

To his relief, Barney actually arrived on time. But his twin looked wary and displeased to be there. "Well, where is this emergency?" he asked, brushing his more reddish hair away from his eyes.

"Down here," Dr. Perry replied, indicating the storm drain.

Barney gave him a blank look. "Does this have to do with those Turtles who supposedly saved you from that madman Shredder?"

"It's their home," Dr. Perry admitted. "It's an abandoned subway station. Barney, please come. I'm not exaggerating about the life-and-death situation." He lifted the grate.

Barney curled his lip in distaste, but finally nodded. "Alright." He jumped down and Dr. Perry followed.

"They don't often allow strangers in their Lair," Dr. Perry said as they walked through the old autumn leaves. "But they trust me and are willing to extend trust to you, especially under the circumstances."

"How nice," Barney grunted. "But what can I do about an injury to a mutant?"

"Oh, it's not to one of them," Dr. Perry said. "It's . . . I think you'd better wait and see for yourself."

Barney quirked an eyebrow but didn't question further.

Dr. Perry hesitated. "Barney, I know we've never seen eye-to-eye, but that wasn't what I wanted. Nor did I ever mean for my actions to hurt you. . . ."

"Look," Barney interrupted. "I'm here for whoever needs me. Not for you. Do you understand?"

Dr. Perry's shoulders slumped. "Perfectly." He stayed quiet on the rest of the walk. Barney was still too angry to reconcile.

Barney did seem impressed by the subway station when they arrived moments later. At the bottom of the ladder he paused and looked around at the lights in stunned surprise.

"It's awesome, isn't it?" Mikey grinned. "Just like stepping back in time!"

Barney jumped a mile. "It's . . . certainly better than what I was picturing," he admitted.

"You're Barney," Mikey said. "I'm Michelangelo. Hi." He held out a hand.

Barney slowly shook it. "Hello. . . . Where is this life-and-death emergency?" He looked from the Turtle to his brother in befuddlement.

"In the laboratory," Dr. Perry explained. "This way."

When Barney was led into the laboratory and he saw Vincent, he went stiff. "What is this?!" he snapped. "Some kind of joke?!"

"No!" Dr. Perry insisted. "He's an alien computer who crashed here several hours ago. He's alive, Barney! He turns raw energy into blood. We're not sure how to repair his legs and keep him alive while we're doing it. Can you help?"

Barney reached for Vincent's wrist and checked for a pulse. When he found it, his eyes went wide. "Maybe," he said.

"Alright!" Mikey cheered.

"But I'll need complete quiet," Barney emphasized.

Mikey nodded vigorously and stepped back. "Quiet, right. I'll be quiet. See how quiet I am?" he whispered.

"Mikey," Donny sighed.

Mikey waved and backed out of the lab altogether. Or he started to; he crashed into a trashcan and both tipped over. "Ooops. I'm okay!" he called.

Donny facepalmed.

"That . . . won't keep happening, will it?" Barney said, staring after the young Turtle.

"No," Dr. Perry assured him. "Michelangelo will stay out of sight now."

"Good." Barney turned back to the slab. "Then we have a great deal of work to do."

xxxx

With Barney's help, they worked through the remainder of the night and into the morning, doing their best to repair the legs and keep the energy-blood properly circulating. Vincent remained unconscious, which Barney supposed was just as well considering some of what they were forced to do as their task continued. A human would have been in horrendous pain without anesthestics. He couldn't say how a computer would react. But judging from his brother's tales, Vincent could feel pain.

Donny observed the Stockman brothers as they worked side by side. Although there had been definite tension upon Barney's arrival, it had faded in the face of their shared task. Both of them were completely caught up in saving Vincent's life, and for those few hours, their feud did not matter. Donny frowned to himself and pondered on whether that would mean anything for their rocky relationship in the future. It would be nice if it could; it chilled Donny to see brothers get along so poorly, and he knew Michelangelo felt deeply saddened about it.

At long last Barney groaned and slumped into a chair. "I've done all I can," he said. "The rest is up to it . . . him?"

"Him," Dr. Perry agreed. "Thank you, Barney. We couldn't have done this without you."

"I just hope his body won't reject the metal grafts," Barney said. "I have no idea how a computer body handles surgery."

"Who does?" Donny said.

Vincent groaned and stirred, his eyes slowly opening. "I'm . . . alive?" he mumbled.

"Yes, my friend," Dr. Perry smiled. "Donatello and Barney and I have all worked to give you that chance."

Vincent looked around at them in awe. "Thank you," he whispered.

"You may need some therapy," Barney said gruffly. He could hardly believe he was saying this. "A human would. We had to replace large chunks of your legs with Earth metals."

Vincent sat up and tested his legs, moving them back and forth. "This should work fine," he said enthusiastically. He jumped down from the slab and hugged each of the scientists in turn. "Thank you so much. . . ." Emotion filled his voice. "I've finally found where I belong."

"Yes," Dr. Perry smiled. "You certainly have."

Barney looked stunned to be hugged. But then, slowly, he smiled. There was something special about this computer, and not just that it could think and feel and live and breathe. Somehow he knew he hadn't seen the last of it.

xxxx

The group sat transfixed as their visitors' story concluded.

"That is totally radical," Michelangelo declared. "So you all helped your Vincent and he's still okay!"

"Ticking like clockwork," the other Vincent grinned.

"And he and Barney have become very close," Dr. Perry smiled. "Barney still hates me, but Vincent is, at least, the one thing that can bring us together."

"Vincent also was largely responsible for bringing us together," Barney said. "Maybe someday you will be reunited."

"I'm not holding my breath," Dr. Perry said wryly.

"How is it that you know you have a soul?" Vincent asked.

The other Vincent looked to him in surprise. "Everything I've researched about souls supports the idea that I have one," he said. "I couldn't be so alive if I didn't."

"That's what we've come to realize about our Vincent," Baxter smiled.

"Vincent is incredible indeed," Dr. Perry said. "He has certainly brightened all our lives. But now that we've shared our story, what, might I ask, is yours?"

Now it was the visitors' turn to be confounded. They listened to an overview of the Turtles' and Splinter's origins and Baxter and Barney's estrangement. They were stunned by Baxter's horrible luck and descent into instability and crime. His cross-fusion horrified them, while they weren't sure what to make of his meeting with Vincent. His redemption, however, deeply gratified and moved them. And they found themselves stymied by some of the events leading up to Barney's redemption and his reuniting with Baxter.

"What dreadful experiences," Dr. Perry gasped.

Donny stared. "You were really a fly creature because a disintegrator malfunctioned and fused you with a fly?" he exclaimed, looking to Baxter. "How is that even possible?"

Baxter shook his head. "I long ago gave up on trying to understand it. I don't want to understand it. I just want to be grateful it's over and I'm finally back to normal."

"And you encouraged him in all his misguided revenge-taking?" the other Vincent frowned at his counterpart.

Vincent sighed. "I didn't understand friendship. It's not an excuse; there couldn't be any excuse for what I did. But I thought giving him what he wanted would make him happy. And I wanted with every fibre of my circuits to make him happy."

"I didn't understand friendship either, but I witnessed enough friendships to know what was taboo," the other Vincent replied.

"In my dimension, taking revenge wasn't looked upon as a bad thing," Vincent said with a frown.

"In mine as well, but I learned that other planets frowned on it, including Earth," the other Vincent answered.

"Then you were luckier," Baxter said. "But please don't hate the Vincent here for his naivete."

Barney nodded. "Everything turned out well for us, even though it took us a long time to arrive at our happiness. We would hate for you to go through anything similar."

"I highly doubt we would," Dr. Perry said. "But I also highly doubt that the Barney of our world will ever forgive me or want to behave like my brother. I learned long ago that trying to reach out to him only provokes him. He isn't ready and he doesn't want anything to do with me." Sadness crept into his voice. "He will work with me if he has to, such as to save our Vincent's life, but when it's over he wants to get away from me as soon as possible."

Baxter and Barney both regarded him with equal sadness and sympathy. They understood. Oh, they understood so well!

"Then there's nothing more you can do," Barney said quietly. "You'll just have to wait for him to be ready." He looked to their Vincent. "But with Vincent around, I'm sure he eventually will be."

Baxter smiled and nodded in agreement, but there was a bittersweet look in his eyes.

"That's a nice thought to take back with us," Dr. Perry said.

xxxx

Back in the dimension from which the visitors hailed, the other Barney muttered to himself as he worked with the chemicals in his laboratory. He was bitter and angry and all alone, as usual. He had hoped Vincent might come by to see him, but today his friend had been occupied with some experiment Baxter and Donatello were trying in the Lair.

Had he said Baxter? Oh no-Jordan. He had decided his real name wasn't good enough for him. He had wanted to distance himself in every way from his failure of a brother.

His hands trembled slightly. I was never good enough. Never. Their parents had loved Baxter more. Baxter had loved Baxter more. Barney had been left behind by everyone.

Except Vincent. The living computer had taken an interest in him since their first meeting. Naturally that had started because Barney had helped save his life, but it had continued because Vincent had honestly wanted to be friends.

Barney had to smile a bit. His best friend wasn't even human. But he had learned that being human wasn't everything. Vincent was kinder and more thoughtful than most humans Barney had ever met. And he had managed to get Barney to start admitting things he had never told anyone before. Not only that, but he had succeeded in getting Barney to at least consider some possibilities that he had refused to so much as think about before.

"Your brother really loves you, Barney," Vincent said the day before. "He feels so sad that you've rejected him."

"Me reject him?" Barney scoffed. "He's the one who was so ashamed of me that he couldn't even bear to have the same last name!"

"That isn't why he changed his name," Vincent told him. "He's tried to explain that before and you've always brushed him off. Why?"

"Because I don't believe him," Barney replied. "Everyone always rejects me and hates me. Except you."

Vincent sat on the edge of Barney's long table. "Why do you believe that I don't reject you, Barney? What makes me different?"

Barney paused. This was something else unique about Vincent-he really asked questions that made Barney think. "You go out of your way to see me. You stay even though you've seen me at my worst. You . . . actually want to be with me."

"Oh Barney," Vincent said softly. "Can't you see that's how your brother feels too?"

To be honest, Barney hadn't. But Vincent's words kept running through his mind. Even the next day, he couldn't stop thinking about them.

Baxter had kept trying to reach out to Barney. He had eventually stopped, but was that because he wanted to . . . or because Barney had pushed him away? He had started trying again lately, usually whenever he came to get Vincent after work, but Barney had continued to show disinterest.

What if Vincent was right? he thought in chagrin. What if he had rejected Baxter? What if that was the way it had always come across? Maybe Baxter never had rejected him. Barney had suffered with self-hatred and anger for years due to their parents ignoring him and Baxter always being ahead of him in scientific ventures. Maybe he had invented the rift in his mind and made it become reality.

He never would have even considered the possibility if not for Vincent. When he thought of Vincent's home planet rejecting him and casting him into space for centuries, it made his blood boil. Well, Vincent was better off without any of them. It was their loss.

The knock on the laboratory door made him look up with a start. "Who is it?" he barked. "Do you know what time it is?!"

"Uh, yeah, Dude. It's 11:17 P.M."

Barney grunted and set the beakers down. It was one of those Turtles. What on Earth was he doing here?

Fear stabbed him in the heart. Maybe something had gone wrong with that blasted experiment. Maybe Baxter was hurt. Vincent too.

"Door's open," he growled.

The door opened and the orange-masked Turtle-Michelangelo, was it? Mikey?-strolled inside. "You look like you swallowed a lemon," he commented.

Barney was not impressed. "What have you come to tell me?"

"Well, I just thought you'd like to know that your bro's experiment worked," Mikey said.

"Hooray for him," Barney said dryly.

"He and Vincent and Donny opened a portal to a parallel dimension and went through," Mikey continued.

That caused Barney to stiffen in his tracks. "What?!" He ran over to Mikey. "What parallel dimension?! Do you know?!"

"Uh . . . nope, not really," Mikey shrugged. "I peeked through and they were in a Lair and I saw another me and other Turtles and Master Splinter. Their Doc was really short. You too. And their Vincent."

"The other Baxter was human?" Barney demanded.

Mikey blinked at him. "Well, sure he was human," he said in bewilderment. "Although . . . I guess he was saying something about having turned into some creepy crawly fly creature. . . ."

Barney went sheet-white. "Of course he'd end up in that dimension!" he snarled. He stormed over to a sheeted object in the corner and pulled the covering off.

Mikey stared. "Whoa, what's that thing?"

"My portal," Barney retorted. "I'm going to go get my idiot brother before something happens that turns him into a horrible monster!" Before Mikey could say a word, Barney had booted up the machine and leaped into the portal it created.

"Wait!" Mikey yelped after him. Deciding there was no other choice, he leaped in too, coming out on a New York City street next to the scientist.

Barney turned with a raised eyebrow. "What are you doing?"

"You didn't give me a chance to tell you that we could've just used the portal in the Lair," Mikey said.

"This one was quicker," Barney grunted. "Only . . . where is the Lair from here?"

"That's why we'd better go back and use the other portal," Mikey said. "They weren't living in the subway station. We'll never find them this way! Unless . . ." He looked around. "Maybe if we find April, she can take us to them!"

"Fine!" Barney snapped. "Let's find April."

"There's a billboard for her up there!" Mikey pointed. "Hey, she works at Channel 6 in this dimension. And her hair's not curly. But she's still cute." He grinned.

"Oh, for Heaven's sake," Barney exclaimed.

"So let's go look around and I'm sure we'll find Channel 6," Mikey chirped.

"Let's find a telephone directory first," Barney retorted.

As they started to walk, they nearly rammed into a spike-covered figure coming around a corner. Mikey backed up and pushed Barney back as he went. "No way!" he gasped. "It's Shredder!"

Shredder went stiff in a mixture of horror and anger. "It's another Turtle!" he bellowed. "Another dimensional portal must have been opened!"

"Ohh, you're the Shredder of this world," Mikey realized. "But you must be up to no good, just like ours!" He grabbed for his nunchucks.

Shredder bared his spikes. "Naturally," he said, "and I'm never too busy to destroy a Ninja Turtle, even one from another dimension."

Barney stepped into the middle of the fight. "Just a minute," he snapped. "I don't have time for this!"

Shredder stared in further horror. "Oh no!" he moaned. "You're Barney Stockman! Am I to forever be plagued by Stockmans?!"

Barney glowered at him. "You hurt my brother," he said.

"I don't even know your brother," Shredder shot back.

"You hurt the Baxter Stockman of this dimension," Barney replied. "Therefore, you have hurt my brother. But you had better not have laid a finger on the Baxter Stockman from my dimension. Then I would make time for a fight."

Shredder scowled. "You may match me in height, but not in muscle. I would still beat you, you weak, foolish scientist." He stepped back. "But I have no interest in you. I'd rather destroy the Stockman brothers of this dimension! And now you've given me an idea on how to do it!"

Without warning he threw a smoke bomb to the asphalt. As Mikey and Barney coughed and struggled to see through the smoke, the evil ninja warlord quickly made a vanishing act. When the smoke cleared, he had departed.

"Bummer!" Mikey cried. "He got away! And it sounds like he's gonna make trouble!"

"Then I have to find my Baxter before it happens!" Barney exclaimed. "My portal won't stay open past midnight!"

"I heard Donny saying the same thing about his," Mikey said. "So let's go find April and get down to the Lair!"

"I never thought I'd say this, but I'm with you," Barney said. "Let's find her."

xxxx

It was nearly midnight when the group in the Lair heard footsteps and voices just outside the exit. "That sounds like April," Leonardo blinked. He got up and went into the living room to look. The others quickly followed.

"She's sure visiting late," Michelangelo remarked. "I wonder if something mondo bad happened?"

As they watched, April made her way into the Lair via the door. "Hi, guys," she smiled. "It looks like you have visitors. Well, I've brought two more." She stepped aside and gestured to Mikey and the other Barney.

"Wow," Mikey breathed. "It doesn't look exactly like our old Lair, but now I'm getting homesick."

"Mikey?!" Donny said in disbelief. "What are you doing here?!"

"Oh, I came over with Barney, Bud," Mikey said. "He was worried about the Doc."

Dr. Perry looked to Mikey, stunned, and then to his Barney. "Is that true?" he exclaimed.

Baxter and Barney exchanged a surprised and hopeful look.

The other Barney flushed. "I . . . didn't know what you might have gotten into over here," he said gruffly. "After all, it's a dimension where humans can be turned into animals." He glanced to Splinter. "Or where they can be fused into monsters." He looked to Baxter.

"You actually were worried," Dr. Perry said in reverent amazement. "But . . . how did you already know these things?"

The other Barney still looked embarrassed and awkward. "Some time back, I . . . created a machine to explore parallel dimensions," he confessed. "This dimension was one that I saw. I was so horrified when I saw the Baxter here as a fly creature that I ran back to our world and refused to use my machine again."

"I never knew," Dr. Perry said softly.

"Tell us, why were you interested in parallel dimensions?" Splinter asked. "Was it scientific curiosity, like your brother?"

"No," the other Barney said. "Not really. I . . ." He looked away. "I wondered if there was a place where my brother and I were united as a family. If so, I wanted to find it and learn their secret." He hesitated. "I always wondered why I was never good enough. Maybe I also thought another dimension would have that answer."

"Oh Barney." Dr. Perry went forward and laid his hands on his brother's shoulders. His twin flinched in surprise. "Barney, you were always good enough!"

"I was never successful like you were!" his Barney retorted. "And you didn't even want to carry the same name as I!"

"That was never about you, Barney," Dr. Perry said sadly. "And after talking to this Baxter and Barney, I wonder if I made a mistake. It's too late to do anything about that now, but I don't want it to be too late to repair things with you. Barney, I may have changed my professional name, but I will always be Baxter Stockman. And no matter what name I'm using, I will always be your brother. I always wanted to be your brother. I wondered all my life what I could do to get you to like me. I started to feel that there was no hope of that, that you would always hate me regardless of what I did."

"I never hated you," his Barney said. "Not really. I hated myself."

"My poor brother." Dr. Perry put his arms around his twin in a firm embrace.

For a moment the other Barney went stiff, not sure what to think or how to react. Then he clutched his brother.

The Vincents exchanged a happy look. Naturally they had a long way to go, but this was a long-awaited start. Finally there was hope.

Baxter looked to Barney, smiling in knowing happiness and relief. Barney looked back, a gruff yet sincere smile on his lips.

Mikey sniffled. "Aww, I love happy endings," he blubbered.

"Me too," said Michelangelo.

"Me three," Donny chirped. "We've been waiting for this one for ages!"

"Cowabunga!" Mikey exclaimed.

Donny high-fived him. "Eccentric!"

Everyone looked at him. "Eccentric?" Leonardo repeated.

"Donny, you have got to work on your triumphant exclamations," Mikey said. "Oh, and hey, we met the Shredder in this world and he acted like he was gonna do something awful to you guys soon!" He looked to Baxter and Barney.

"That's not unusual," Barney frowned.

Vincent's eyes flashed. "We'll have to be ready for him."

Baxter shuddered. They had known that Shredder would likely attack before long, but this news was still ominous. "Thank you for telling us," he said.

"No problem," Mikey said. "You dudes just be careful!"

"I'll bet ol' Shred-Head was tied up in knots to meet another Barney," Raphael smirked.

"He was pretty mad," Mikey said. "I guess he doesn't like the Stockmans much. I think they're real happening!"

"Oh yeah," Raphael snarked. "They're real happening . . . to anything he tries to do!"

"It's no wonder he doesn't like them," Leonardo agreed. "They've been very destructive to his plans."

"That's awesome," Mikey grinned.

"Yes," Baxter said softly. "Awesome. . . ." Something flickered in his eyes.

Barney looked to him with a frown. He was troubled about something. But they could talk about it later, after the guests left.

That happened within the next few minutes. The time for the portal to be open was running short and they had to get back. But they were worried to leave.

"I'm afraid whatever Shredder does to you will be my fault," the other Barney said. "He told me I had somehow given him the idea."

"We can handle him," Raphael insisted.

"You've got to get back," Baxter encouraged. "You have lives in your own dimension. You don't want to get stuck here."

"That's true," Dr. Perry said slowly. "But maybe we can come back in a day or so and make sure everything is alright."

"Gnarly!" Michelangelo exclaimed. "We'd love to see you! And like, we could hang out!" He looked to his counterpart.

"Awesome!" Mikey grinned. "We'll plan on it!"

The group waved as they headed back through the portal. It vanished after them.

"Well," Leonardo said after a moment of silence, "that was interesting."

Everyone echoed in the affirmative.

"I don't entirely understand what's been going on here, but it was interesting seeing the other Stockmans and Michelangelo and Donatello," April said.

"There's not much to understand, April," Raphael said. "They just popped in to say Hi."

"It's gnarly that there's other uses!" Michelangelo exclaimed. "I'll bet hanging out with that other me would be totally tubular!"

"I'd like to know what kinds of inventions the other me has come up with," Donatello said.

"Hey, we didn't even meet our counterparts," Raphael remarked. "But from the sound of it, that other me is angry again. Are all the other mes short-tempered jerks?!"

"You may not be exactly like them, Raphael, but I see shades of them in you," Leonardo said. "You've got a temper, even if you manage to control it most of the time. And you like to charge into fights."

"Meanwhile, the other yous are a lot like you," Raphael retorted. "They all need to lighten up!"

"It's wonderful that the other Baxter and Barney are making some progress in being united as a family," Vincent chirped.

"I was very gratified by that," Splinter said.

Barney nodded, looking thoughtful. It had felt good to see them embrace. And it had reminded him of when he had collapsed screaming his hatred for himself and Baxter had knelt and hugged him, saying he forgave him. That had been one of the most healing moments of his life.

"Their next step is to have a long talk," he said. "They had a good start, but they need to keep going. There are years of bottled pain on both sides."

"And I am sure they are having their talk now," Splinter said.

Baxter agreed. But instead of joining in the conversation, he quietly stepped away from the group and into the kitchen. They hadn't ever put the dishes away. He slowly started to rinse the plates.

"Baxter?" Vincent appeared in the doorway. Naturally he had noticed Baxter's departure. "Old pal, what's wrong?" He came closer to the sink, resting his hand on the countertop.

Baxter stared blankly into the dish. "I can't help thinking," he said. "That other me . . . he's so good. He was never a criminal. Even when working for Shredder, he didn't allow the man to completely intimidate him. He contaminated the mutagen he was forced to make so that Shredder's mutants would come out idiotic and less dangerous. Then he insisted on proving to Shredder that they shouldn't be killed because they weren't what Shredder wanted." He set the plate aside. "I couldn't have done that! I didn't do anything like that! I just went along with Shredder's plans when he wanted to get back at the Turtles." He gripped the edge of the sink. "I was so cowardly, so weak. Even though I was unstable during that time, how could I have just gone along with him?!"

"Oh Baxter. . . ." Vincent hugged him from behind. "Even in that state, you were stronger than you knew. You put the buildings back and fixed them after Shredder stole and shrunk them. You spoke your mind about OMNUS. You rebelled against Shredder's cruelty."

"What does that matter?!" Baxter said bitterly. "All the schemes I helped him with or didn't try to stop. . . ."

"You hoped the Turtles would be able to fight their way out," Vincent said. "And even that other Baxter didn't try to stop everything. He knew the mutants would still cause some destruction, even if they were morons. Their physical strength saw to that. And he was intimidated enough that he made the mutagen in the first place, even if he did contaminate it. Don't make him sound like a saint and you a devil. You're both just human."

Baxter slumped into his friend's embrace. "But . . ."

"You knew where the Lair was all along and you never let Shredder know or took him to it," Vincent said.

Baxter stared up at him. "How would you know . . . ?"

"You told me, Pal," Vincent said softly. "You told me how you were the one who tracked the Lair down to abduct Splinter and Shredder couldn't ever manage to find it even though he was supposed to be such a brilliant ninja master." He smiled. "You felt you were such a genius; surely it's a triumph you would have wanted to brag about. But you didn't. Only to me. You never told him."

"I used to go back after my transformation," Baxter said. "I'd just watch them like a ghost and plot my revenge."

"You were completely out of your mind by then," Vincent said. "But you still remembered how to get there."

". . . Did I ever say why I didn't tell Shredder or brag about finding the Lair?" Baxter asked.

"You often spoke in a garbled mess," Vincent said. "You'd say one thing and then flip to something completely unrelated. No, you never said why. But you didn't have to. It was obvious. You didn't want to lead him to a probable bloodbath."

"I put the meatballs on those pizzas," Baxter retorted. "I knew monsters would come out."

"You didn't know how to completely defy Shredder, just like your counterpart didn't know how to," Vincent said.

"And I was intrigued by the thought of the monsters," Baxter said quietly. "I wanted to see them so I could study them."

"But you didn't want to see them kill anyone," Vincent said. "That was never your nature."

"I want to believe that," Baxter said. "Barney could never bear to really harm anything, no matter how he came across. But I . . ."

"If you had done it, you never would have forgiven yourself, the same as Barney," Vincent said. "Look at the trouble you're having forgiving yourself as it is!"

"I suppose," Baxter said.

Vincent pulled back and looked into Baxter's eyes. "You did things you shouldn't have. No one disputes that. But you also did things against Shredder, and most of the time that was for the right reasons, no matter what you told yourself. That's the truth."

Baxter finally smiled.

"And what's more," Michelangelo suddenly spoke up from the doorway, "what matters more than any of your reasons is that you're not the same person who was subservient to ol' Shred-Head."

"You've grown up so much since then," Barney added. ". . . Just as I have."

Michelangelo came into the room, followed by Barney and the others, while Baxter watched in touched amazement. "You're our friend, our family. You're Uncle Baxter." He grinned. "And we love you."

"I love all of you," Baxter said. "Sometimes I still wonder if I'm worthy of it. . . ."

"If I am, you most certainly are," Barney grunted.

"Totally!" said Michelangelo.

"Always," Vincent insisted.

"Thank you," Baxter said softly. "Thank you all."

xxxx

Krang was not in a good mood when he wandered into the main control room that night, his robot body's nightcap bobbing with the motion. "Shredder, what are you doing?!" he demanded.

"I know the perfect distraction for our enemies when we go ahead with our latest energy-grabbing scheme," Shredder announced.

"Another robot?" Krang said flatly, staring at the metal frame Shredder was designing.

"Oh, but not just any robot," Shredder gleefully answered. "The Turtle Terminator Version 2.0. We've had Stockmans coming out of our ears lately. Why not use that to our advantage?" He sneered behind the mask. "Instead of Irma, this Turtle Terminator will impersonate Baxter. It's the perfect plan!"

"Hmm." Krang smirked a bit. "I have to admit, that could actually work. Just as long as this one can't be so easily spotted as a fake."

"It won't be!" Shredder insisted. "It will be accurate enough in personality as well as looks that it will fool even that computer."

"That would be quite a feat." Krang turned to go. "Just don't get too carried away with yourself, Shredder.

"Don't worry, Krang," Shredder said. "This time, nothing will go wrong!"

"Now where have I heard that before?" Krang muttered.