Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987

Shredder's New Movie

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! ThickerThanLove helped with some 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.

The Turtles always enjoyed turning on the television to watch the news either during or after breakfast. April didn't usually broadcast in the morning, but sometimes bizarre things happened early and the Turtles liked to be informed. Splinter was pleased that they had made it a habit.

He wasn't so pleased with most of the commercials. Neither were the Turtles, most of the time. Raphael rolled his eyes as the current break seemed to stretch on and on.

"Seriously, they've been doing this for over five minutes already," he grumped. "I timed it!"

"It has to be almost over by now," Leonardo exclaimed.

"You know, someday they'll probably have a channel of nothing but commercials twenty-four-seven!" Michelangelo said.

"Uh, news flash, they already do," Raphael retorted. "QVC and HSN."

"Yeah, but they're totally radical," Michelangelo said. "It's all live and there's people on there advertising stuff every hour of the day and night! It's kinda cool that we're not the only nightowls around."

"At least you do not clutter up the Lair by actually buying products on those channels," Splinter said.

"Heck no! I'd rather save my money for pizza and comic books!" Michelangelo grinned. "I am considering some of their gnarly cookware, though."

"Oh, Heaven help us," Raphael said, looking at the ceiling. "If he starts shopping, he won't stop."

"You'd thank me for it, bro," Michelangelo said.

The next commercial brought them all to attention.

"Are you looking to break into the movies but don't know how? Don't want to spend time in walk-on parts when you could have it all? The upcoming film The Vengeance of Slicer is now running open casting calls! And the best part is, we are an equal opportunity employer. Humans and mutants are all welcome to try out for roles!"

Michelangelo sat up straight. "Hey, that sounds bodacious! I wonder how I'd look up on the big screen."

"Uh oh, watch it, boys. Michelangelo has just been bit by the acting bug," Raphael snarked.

"Really, Michelangelo?" Leonardo was surprised. "You got stage fright just from trying to be interviewed on TV! How do you think you'd handle an audition for a movie?"

"Easy, Bud," Michelangelo replied. "I won't be auditioning for Clayton Kellerman! Problem solved!"

"I have to admit, there's a certain logic to that," Raphael said.

Splinter didn't look amused. "There is something very odd about this," he declared.

"It's probably just some B-quality slasher movie, Sensei," Donatello replied.

"Yeah, they just don't make horror pictures like they used to," Raphael nodded. "They're probably desperate for a cast, so they resorted to this! They'll get a bunch of amateurs and wannabes."

"Well, I just took down the address!" Michelangelo announced. "I'm gonna go down there and check it out. Anyway," he smirked, "if there really is something totally uncool about the whole thing, we need to investigate! Right?"

"I'm sure it's nothing to worry about," Donatello said.

"Yeah," Raphael giggled. "Drop us a line if you hit the big time, Buddy Boy."

Michelangelo scowled. "Just wait! Maybe it really is legit! Then you'll wish you'd listened to me!"

Splinter watched in concern as Michelangelo headed for the door. "Be careful, my Turtle," he implored. "I sense there is more going on here than meets the eye."

"Oh, I'll be careful, Master Splinter!" Michelangelo waved.

xxxx

Baxter and Barney were both a little surprised when they came downstairs that morning and found Vincent sitting on the couch, watching QVC. He seemed to be fairly intrigued by the current product, a line of shoes.

"Are you actually interested in footwear now?" Barney asked.

"I'm just curious," Vincent said. "I don't think I'd like most shoes. They're too confining. But I was thinking that sandals might be nice."

"They're too open for me," Baxter said. "But I think they would be perfect for you." He looked at Vincent's Hawaiian shirt and olive-green shorts with a thoughtful eye.

"Not flipflops, though," Vincent said. "They're ludicrous. And they look so uncomfortable with that random strap that separates one toe from all the others."

Barney smirked a bit. "On that we agree."

"Could we go to a shoe store so I could try some sandals on?" Vincent asked.

Baxter gently chuckled. "I wouldn't be able to go with you if you do it early. We're doing more on-location shooting for Strange Science today and I'm supposed to be there."

"We can go," Barney said to Vincent. "There isn't a class until later today."

"I'm sure you'll find something fitting," Baxter said. "I'll have to leave right after breakfast. Mr. Thompson doesn't want any foul-ups in getting there on time."

"That shouldn't be a problem unless something goes wrong early in the day." Barney was only half-sarcastic.

"Well, hopefully it won't," Baxter said firmly. "Or at all. Some days are actually peaceful and pleasant all the way through."

"Yes, but not many," Barney grunted.

Baxter had to admit that was true.

xxxx

Instead of going straight to the address of the movie studio, Michelangelo decided to first stop in at Channel 6. He wasn't fully expecting the buzz, yet he wasn't surprised when he walked in and found Irma swooning to April.

"Imagine, a real, live movie that I could get a part in!" Irma gushed. "What if I'm the leading lady? Or at least the second banana! What if I fall in love with a hunky fellow cast member?! What if this movie is my true destiny?!"

"Calm down, Irma," April chuckled. "I'm sure it's not really as easy to get a part as that announcer claims it is."

"Well, I'm going over there on my lunch break," Irma insisted. "I'm taking an early lunch right now!"

"That sounds gnarly, Dudette," Michelangelo spoke up. "We can go together!"

Both ladies jumped a mile. "Michelangelo," April said in surprise. "You're going to try to get a part too?!"

"Sure! Why not? They said mutants can apply!" Michelangelo chirped.

"Then let's go!" Irma said. She marched out from around her desk.

"Irma!" came a familiar whiny voice. "What's all this nonsense about motion pictures? You know Burne isn't going to like that!"

Irma sighed as Vernon came out of his office, Baxter in tow. "Oh, come on, Vernon! What harm can it do?" she retorted.

"You'll be gone all day. That's what harm it'll do!" Vernon shot back, his hands on his hips.

"I'm sure you won't be able to audition right away," Baxter agreed. "Usually that sort of thing is an all-day commitment."

"If I could get a part, I wouldn't even need this job anymore," Irma said. "Maybe you guys are just jealous because you want parts too!" She folded her arms.

"What?!" Vernon snorted. "Me, in a low-quality slasher film?" He closed one eye. "Why on Earth would I have any interest in that?!"

Baxter had gone red. "I'm certainly not interested," he said. "We just don't want you to lose your job here, Irma. I'm sure thousands of people will turn out to audition. The reality is that they might not even get around to seeing you, if they like someone else better."

"The guys have some good points," April said.

"Well, I still want to try anyway," Irma said. "And I'm sure you do too, right, Michelangelo?"

"Totally!" Michelangelo declared. He grinned at Baxter. "Hey, Bud! I'll let you know how things turn out!"

Baxter gave him a weak smile. "Alright. I sincerely hope it will work out the way you and Irma want it to, but I don't think I would put much faith in it either. And if it is a cheap horror film the way it sounds, you might not like it."

"Hey, maybe it'll be one of the only modern horror flicks I like!" Michelangelo replied. "I like the ones that guy makes that are like the classics from the 1950s." He wiggled his fingers. "The Lost Skeleton Returns Again is mondo gnarly!"

"As long as there's a cute guy, I'll be happy," Irma said.

Vernon rolled his eyes. "Oh, of course."

April looked to Vernon in a bit of amusement as Michelangelo and Irma headed for the elevators. "It couldn't be that you're jealous, could it, Vernon?" she chuckled.

Vernon snorted. "Jealous?! Don't you start that too, April! Why on Earth would I be jealous?!"

"Because Irma's off squealing about every cute guy around again," April said.

"Please," Vernon said in irritation. "Irma and I are friends. I don't care if Irma gushes about men. Except for how she just makes a fool of herself."

"Oh sure," April said. She walked on to her office, shaking her head.

Baxter sighed. "It's probably going to be a busy day," he said to Vernon. "But I would like to try to keep myself available, just in case something goes wrong at that movie."

"I'm sure something will go wrong," Vernon huffed. "Irma just isn't very cautious about anything. Neither is that Turtle."

"Michelangelo is still a teenager," Baxter answered. "He's allowed to behave like one. He'll snap to when it's time to be serious."

"Hmph," said Vernon. But then he sighed and amended, "I suppose you're right."

xxxx

Baxter was right about the casting call being crowded. When Michelangelo and Irma arrived at the studio lot, cars were backed up down the road and the people seemed to be crowded in more tightly than sardines.

"Whoa," said Michelangelo. "It looks like the whole borough turned out to audition!"

"No kidding," Irma scowled. "Vernon's probably right that they won't even get to us!"

"Well, there's no harm in trying," Michelangelo resolutely responded. He walked up to the guard. "Excuse me . . ."

"Oh!" The guard peered down from behind a clipboard. "You will be just perfect. Join the group over there and the b-err, the producer will be with you shortly."

"Thanks," Michelangelo said. But he frowned as he turned away. "There's something familiar about that voice," he muttered.

Irma was already walking in. Michelangelo hurried after her. But before he could speak, the door of a darkened building opened.

"Come in," a deep voice intoned from the shadows. "The auditions are in here."

The immense crowd marched toward the door.

"No way!" Michelangelo gasped. "All of these people are going to audition at the same time?!"

"Well, I want to be first!" Irma exclaimed. She stayed to the side and marched with them, only crowding as they reached the door.

"Yes," said the deep voice. "Come in! Gather around! Show me your talents."

"This is mondo bizarro," Michelangelo frowned. He ran up to the doorway but couldn't push past the crowd to enter. "Hey! Let me through!" he cried.

No one paid him any heed. A bright light lit up the building and the people who had made it inside grunted and groaned. When the light faded, they began to stagger off in all directions.

Michelangelo caught Irma when she swayed out. "Irma, what the heck happened?!" he gasped.

"I just auditioned. I think," Irma mumbled. "I need to go lie down. . . ."

"Irma, you didn't audition!" Michelangelo retorted. "You just stood there and some totally wacko light zapped your energy!"

"Oh yeah?" Irma fell forward into Michelangelo's arms. "I wonder if that means I get the part. . . ."

"Oh man." Michelangelo looked from her to the next batch of people, who seemed unsure of what to do now. Most of them were trying to run. But the light struck them even as they did. They collapsed all along Michelangelo's path.

"Forget the part!" he said now. "We've gotta focus on keeping your life!" He scooped Irma into his arms and ran.

"Don't let him get away!" the producer's voice boomed behind him.

"I know that voice now," Michelangelo gasped. "That's Shredder!"

He wasn't expecting many of the collapsed bodies to get up, their eyes vacant, and try to grab for him. "Yikes! Zombies!" he yelped.

Irma blankly reached for him too. Her hands started to curl around his neck.

"Gah!" With no choice, he dropped Irma at the side of the building and ran. Soon, with the help of his grappling hook, he was on top of the building and pulling out his Turtle-Comm. "Come on, answer. . . ." he fretted.

"What is it, Michelangelo?" Donatello asked when he answered. "Are you a big star yet?"

"I sure am!" Michelangelo wailed. "The star of 'Everybody but Michelangelo gets zombiefied and everybody is out to get him!'"

"Gee, I don't know that one," Raphael said in the background. "I wonder if it'll be a hit."

Donatello ignored him. "Michelangelo, how did it happen?!"

"It's Shredder!" Michelangelo informed him. "He's got some bizarro camera that makes everybody weak! I think he's draining their energy! . . . Only I don't get how they can get up and act like zombies without their energy. . . ."

"How did you manage to not get affected?!" Donatello exclaimed.

"I couldn't get in the building!" Michelangelo answered. "The crowd was too thick. There's thousands of these guys, Donatello!" He jumped a mile as a hand reached for him at the edge of the roof. "No way! They're climbing up here! I can't hurt them when they're just innocent people! I've gotta find a way to boogie out of here and reverse what happened!"

"Okay. Calm down, Michelangelo. We're leaving right now." Donatello got up and started walking while holding the Turtle-Comm. "We'll call Barney and Vincent too; they might be closer and they might have some idea of what to do."

"I'm much closer," Baxter suddenly cut in on his Turtle-Comm. "I'm several blocks away. Michelangelo, I'll be there as soon as I can!"

Michelangelo relaxed. "Thanks, Bud. I'll be waiting for you. And you guys too," he added to Donatello. "Right now I've gotta get off this roof!" He hung up and used his grappling hook to swing into a tree.

"You can't escape forever, Michelangelo!" Shredder boomed from below. "My energy zombies will get you! Then you'll be one of them! Imagine-a Ninja Turtle serving the forces of evil!" He sneered behind his mask. "I'm so wretched I surprise even myself."

"Totally uncool, Dude!" Michelangelo snapped from the tree. "All these people thought there was a real movie they could be in!"

"There is!" Shredder told him. "Just not the movie they thought they were making. Instead of fighting against the monsters, they're the monsters!"

Michelangelo glowered down at him and used the grappling hook to swing to yet another building. This one had a skylight, which he gratefully opened and dove through. "Looks like an old wardrobe department," he mused to himself. "There's gotta be something here I can put on as a disguise. Then I can slip out and join the other zombies and they won't know I'm not one of them!" He darted between two clothes racks.

xxxx

Baxter was very worried as he hung up the Turtle-Comm and ran for his car. On the way, he passed Vernon loading equipment into the news van and stumbled to a stop. Vernon had a right to know what was happening. "Vernon, there's trouble with Irma!" he informed his friend.

Vernon paused in the middle of winding up a long cord. "What do you mean?" he frowned.

"The casting call was a Shredder trap!" Baxter exclaimed. "Almost everyone there has been drained of energy and turned into some sort of mind-controlled zombie. Michelangelo was the only one who managed to avoid that fate."

"It figures Irma would blunder into something like that," Vernon frowned. "And that the Turtle would escape." Concern flickered in his eyes. "What are you going to do?"

"I'm going out there to help," Baxter said. He unlocked his car. "If you want to come with me, you're welcome."

Vernon looked at the equipment he had yet to put away. Then he grabbed a camera and ran after Baxter. "I'll come with you."

xxxx

Barney was not pleased when he answered his Turtle-Comm and received the disturbing news from Donatello. "Vincent and I'll be there," he promised. "But we're across town, so it could take a while."

Vincent gave Barney a worried look. "Baxter won't want to hurt any of the zombie people either," he said. "Do you think he and Michelangelo will be alright?!"

"I don't know," Barney growled. "At least I can assume the people won't be able to do much in their current state. I'm more worried about Baxter and Michelangelo running into Shredder and his mutants. And Shredder turning his invention on them."

"That's definitely something to worry about," Vincent shuddered.

"With any luck, maybe they'll actually be able to reverse the machine," Barney said. "But there's something else to consider. Will Shredder really leave 'thousands' of zombie people on that movie lot to chase Michelangelo and Baxter?"

"I doubt it," Vincent said. "He'll probably send them over the entire city!"

"Exactly," Barney nodded. "Who knows what kinds of delays we'll run into while trying to get over there."

xxxx

Michelangelo had finally settled on a simple costume for his disguise. After all, he wanted to blend in, not stand out, and most of the victims were wearing simple, casual clothing. He slipped out, joining the group and mimicking their limp, swaying motions.

"Man, I never thought I'd be playing a zombie instead of the zombie fighter!" he exclaimed to himself.

Then Shredder's voice boomed over the loudspeakers, and what he said was horrifying. "Spread out over this entire city! I don't need an entire army to catch one mutant Turtle. Fifty will stay behind, including Irma Langinstein. The rest will move on!"

"Oh no," Michelangelo gasped. "Totally bogus! Everybody else will probably run into them while they're trying to get over here! And how the heck will we get this reversed on everyone if they're everywhere?!"

People poured out of the gates from every angle. Only fifty remained, in addition to Michelangelo. He looked around desperately, soon catching sight of Irma near another studio building.

He also caught sight of a familiar station wagon. His eyes lit up; Baxter was here! Trying to stay in-character, he swayed over near the gate.

"Michelangelo!" Baxter exclaimed as he got out.

"Good Heavens!" Vernon gasped. "He's been affected?!"

"No, Dudes, I'm okay," Michelangelo said. "But Irma's sure not. And somehow we've gotta get Shred-Head's creepy camera and throw it in reverse!"

Vernon swallowed hard. "Well, if we must . . ." His knees knocked. He looked around, soon focusing on Irma's blank appearance. "Irma . . ." He stared at her. "She doesn't even see us. . . ."

"She sees us," Michelangelo said. "It just doesn't have any effect on her."

Baxter shuddered, chilled to see her vacant expression. "We'll help her, Michelangelo. And the rest," he assured his friend.

"Yeah, and now they're spreading out everywhere!" Michelangelo exclaimed. "Shredder's plaguing the whole city!"

"He must have drained enough energy from them that they lost their free will," Baxter said in horror. "Then he can gather energy and gain a new army all at once."

Vernon was barely listening. He had gone over to Irma and was gripping her shoulders. "Irma! Surely you have some reaction to seeing me!" But he only received the same blank look in response. "Irma . . ." He fell back. "You saved me the last time. Isn't there anything I can do for you?"

"You can help us get the camera, Dude," Michelangelo said.

Vernon swallowed hard. "I meant anything that wasn't dangerous." He shuddered. "You have a plan, I hope."

"Act like zombies until we get to the right studio?" Michelangelo said with a weak smile. "Hey, it got me all the way over here."

"Yes, but you're in disguise," Vernon sniffed. "We'd be spotted immediately!"

"Shredder's coming!" Baxter exclaimed. "Quick, let's go behind this building."

Vernon grabbed Irma's wrist and dragged her with them. Without a specific command to attack Vernon, Irma did not react at all.

Baxter stared at Irma with haunted eyes. It was hard enough to see anyone in this state, but far worse for it to be a friend. And it was dredging up unhappy memories from his life. "So many people tricked by Shredder's cruelty," he said sadly. A bit of anger flashed through his eyes. "He never stops."

"He never does," Michelangelo agreed. He was also angry. "Man, they all thought there was a real movie here! We've gotta find a way to help them! And after we get it reversed . . ." A gleam came into his eye.

Baxter looked to him in surprise. "What are you thinking, Michelangelo?"

"Just wondering if there's a way to maybe get everybody into a real movie after all," Michelangelo said. "It probably wouldn't be substantial parts, but maybe it'd be something. . . ."

"What on Earth," Vernon sniffed.

Michelangelo just smiled. "I'm gonna talk to Rondo when it's all over, see if he'll let them all be in his movie as extras or something."

Baxter smiled too. "That's very thoughtful, Michelangelo."

"Oh, and I suppose you'd try to get yourself a part too?" Vernon said.

"Nah," Michelangelo said. "I don't think Rondo 9 is ready for a mutant Turtle. All the non-human characters are the bad guys."

Now it was Baxter who looked thoughtful. But he said nothing, instead waiting and hoping Shredder would soon depart.

"Where are those idiotic mutants?!" Shredder was grumbling to himself. "Bebop! Rocksteady!" He stormed around another building.

"Let's go," Michelangelo said. He led the way out from their hiding place and they ran for the building where the camera was kept.

Then Rocksteady dropped into their path, holding the very object they sought. "Well, lookie here," he sneered. "Three more subjects for the boss's army."

Vernon shrieked and fled, still dragging Irma with him. Michelangelo and Baxter stood their ground.

"We're not gonna be zombie slaves for ol' Shred-Head!" Michelangelo insisted.

"Oh yeah?" Rocksteady mocked. "And how are you gonna stop me?"

"Like this!" Michelangelo swung his grappling hook and it caught on the camera. He gave a sharp pull forward and it jerked out of Rocksteady's hands.

"Hey!" the rhino cried with indignation.

Baxter lunged and caught the camera, stumbling as he pulled it to him. "I've got it!"

"Gnarly!" Michelangelo grinned. "Now, just until we figure out how to reverse it, how about we put Rocksteady out of the way?"

Baxter smirked. "Gladly." He pointed the camera at their nemesis.

Rocksteady backed up. "Aww, come on," he protested. "I don't wanna be a zombie!"

"With any luck, it will only be for a few minutes," Baxter said. He found the right button and pressed it. The bright light shone forth, catching Rocksteady in its mesmerizing beam. When it faded, he was standing and staring blankly ahead, just like Irma.

"Alright, Bud! You did it!" Michelangelo high-fived Baxter. "Now, can you figure out how to throw it in reverse?"

"I think so." Baxter studied the controls. "But I'll need some time to more properly examine it. Where did Vernon go?!"

"Uh . . . uh oh." Michelangelo looked around. "It looks like he totally split! And he still has Irma with him! I hope Shred-Head won't suddenly give her the command to attack him. . . ."

Baxter heaved a sigh. "Well, we can't leave without them. Let's start looking."

"I think I saw them go this way," Michelangelo pointed. "Can you try calling Vernon or something?"

"I'll try texting him," Baxter said. He set down the camera and took out his Channel 6-issued phone.

Vernon, where did you go? We have the camera.

Michelangelo watched as Baxter quickly tapped out the text and sent it. "Do you ever do any of that shorthand text speak stuff?" he wondered out of curiosity. "Like letter U for 'you' and number 2 for 'to' and that kind of thing?"

"Certainly not," Baxter sniffed. "It takes a little longer, but I'd rather have proper typing."

"Yeah, I didn't think you were the type," Michelangelo said.

"I've seen a great deal of sloppy typing on the Channel 6 website, though," Baxter said. "Viewers can comment on articles and they don't always have the best writing. Some of them do that 'text speak,' while some others just misspell words and don't care."

"Huh. You think they'd feel embarrassed to do the latter!" Michelangelo said. "Text speak is kind of cool to type messages fast and stuff, but misspelling stuff is a whole other thing again."

"Well, Vernon's not replying," Baxter said in concern. "We'd better just go down the path you thought you saw him take. He could be hurt."

"Yeah, I guess he could." Michelangelo reached for the camera. "I can take this."

"That's alright," Baxter said. "You should probably have your hands free." He started to lift the camera again and winced. It was heavy. It certainly wasn't like April's mini-cam. He could walk a short distance with it, but trying to go very far would definitely wear him out.

Michelangelo swept it up onto his shoulder without any effort. "I've got it," he said. "Anyway, I don't wanna hurt any of these zombie people if I can help it."

"Neither do I," Baxter agreed, "but we might not have any choice but to knock them out if they get vicious."

Michelangelo still looked uncomfortable. "We'll see."

xxxx

The other Turtles stopped to pick up April before continuing towards the movie studio. April was definitely not happy.

"I knew something didn't seem right about that casting call!" she exclaimed. "I didn't want Burne to run the ad until I could check it out some more. Of course, he didn't think there was anything to me being worried! Now Irma's hurt and Michelangelo and Baxter and Vernon are in danger!"

"I don't think the city as a whole is doing too great either!" Donatello gasped.

Everyone came to attention. People were wandering up and down the streets, swaying and staring with blank, glassy eyes.

". . . Yeah, this is going to live on in my nightmares for a long time," Raphael declared.

"Shredder's turned the people loose on the city!" Leonardo cried.

"What was your first clue?" Raphael shot back.

"What are we going to do?!" April said in alarm. "We can't fight them!"

Several of them surrounded the Turtle Van and began to rock it back and forth. The occupants were likewise jostled hither and thither.

"We can't do anything!" Donatello burst out.

"Then we'll just have to leave and go the rest of the way on foot!" Leonardo insisted. He pressed a button and jumped on the elevating platform as the roof opened. Raphael and April joined him. After a brief debate with himself, Donatello did as well.

As they emerged onto the roof, Leonardo grabbed April in his arms and the Turtles jumped over the people and to the sidewalk. The blank-eyed people didn't even seem to notice until they were more than half a block away.

"How could Shredder do this to them?!" April exclaimed. "I don't get how he can drain their energy but they can still get up and do this!"

"Krang's probably the one who did it," Raphael said. "Same difference. We can always ask Shredder when we see him."

"No thanks," April said flatly. "He'd probably decide to give us a personal demonstration!"

"These people are everywhere!" Leonardo gasped at the next corner.

He was right. The mind-controlled people wandered among cars, other people, and through doors, never changing their expressions. No amount of horn-honking or angry yelling made any difference.

"I'm going to call Barney and find out what's happening where he is," Donatello said.

It was Vincent who answered. "Hello, Donatello," he greeted. Horns honked in the background.

"I was hoping you guys were having more luck avoiding the zombie people than we are," Donatello sighed.

"Not really," Vincent said. He turned the Turtle-Comm so Barney was visible. He was gripping the steering wheel and staring ahead, his teeth clenched behind tight lips.

"How close are you to the address Michelangelo gave?" Donatello asked.

"We're still twenty to thirty minutes away. Maybe more in this crowd." Vincent frowned. "Traffic has been stalled for sixteen minutes already."

"We had to just abandon the Turtle Van and start walking," Donatello said.

"Of course, those zombies didn't give us much choice," Raphael added.

"I guess whoever gets there first should let the others know," Vincent said.

"Sounds like a good plan," Donatello agreed.

"I wonder whether we should call Baxter or if that would make it worse for him," Vincent mused. "I think I'll send him an email."

"That's a good compromise. Whoa!" Donatello yelped as a blank-eyed person nearly plowed into him. He stumbled and backed up, but the man stretched his arms and grabbed for Donatello's throat. "Gotta go!" Donatello shoved the Turtle-Comm into his belt and grabbed the man's wrists, swinging him halfway around and onto a bench.

"Nice move," Raphael commented.

"But how are we going to fight off a dozen of them without hurting them?!" April wailed.

Leonardo stared in horror as said dozen approached from all angles. "We're surrounded!"

"Oh great," Raphael scowled. "Recreating Night of the Living Dead was exactly how I wanted to spend my afternoon."

"Me too," April muttered.

xxxx

Vernon's heart was still racing as he hid in a darkened building with Irma. "I wonder where on Earth we are," he said aloud. "And if those horrible mutants will follow us."

Irma said and did nothing.

"Oh come on," Vernon said, fighting to hide his anxiety. "Normally you can't stop talking. Even if it's just to put me down for being a coward, won't you say something?!"

The continuing silence prompted Vernon to take out his cellphone and shine it on Irma. She didn't even blink when the light hit her eyes. Quickly Vernon lowered it.

"This is too eerie," he gulped. "Irma . . . !"

"Find those renegades!" Shredder bellowed from outside. "Don't let any of them get away! Destroy them!"

Suddenly Irma came to life. She lunged at Vernon, her hands outstretched and curled.

Vernon shrieked, falling backwards to the floor. "No! No, Irma, don't! Please!" He grabbed her wrists, squeezing tighter than he really meant to.

Irma ground her teeth, fighting to pull her wrists free. But even as she did, the light from Vernon's cellphone caught something else. Tears were running down her cheeks.

Vernon stared at her. "Oh Irma. . . ." He let her go and grabbed his phone, backing up on the floor. When he reached the opposite door, he got up and ran for it.

Irma lunged again but fell to her knees in a fit of clumsiness.

Vernon looked at her with regret and sorrow as he dashed outside and shut the door behind him. He leaned against it, breathing heavily, but he knew he couldn't stay. He pushed away and ran as fast as he could.

It was only when he hid inside the saloon on an old Western set that he noticed Baxter's text. He ducked behind the bar to answer.

I'm on a Western set. I had to leave Irma. She kept trying to attack me even though she didn't want to. All of these people must still be aware of everything! They're prisoners in their own bodies!

He set the phone down next to him and dug his hands into his hair. All of his life he had been a coward, running from every possible danger to his life, big and small. He had only recently started trying to be a better person, thanks to Baxter's influence and encouragement. He had worked on not abandoning his friends even when he was terrified.

Today he had run twice, first in a fit of cowardice and second, to keep Irma from doing something that they would both regret. He had felt forced to run away then, and even if it had been necessary, he felt horrible about it. Irma's tear-streaked face kept playing over and over in his mind.

As did the accusing thought that he had just left Baxter. Of course, Michelangelo had been with him and Vernon supposed he had believed that the Turtle would keep Baxter safe, but that didn't make him feel much better about it.

For a long time, he just sat there and sobbed.

xxxx

Michelangelo looked over Baxter's shoulder as a reply from Vernon came in at long last. "Whoa, a Western set?!" he exclaimed. "What the heck is he doing there?!" Then he read the rest of the text and he immediately grew sober. "Oh no. . . ."

"I was afraid of that," Baxter said quietly.

"Well, maybe if we get to that Western set, you'll be able to settle down and rewire this thing?" Michelangelo hoped.

"If we're not followed." Baxter glanced nervously over his shoulder.

"Man, this place must have been abandoned for a long time," Michelangelo frowned. "I wonder why we didn't know about it."

"Maybe it wasn't abandoned," Baxter said. "Maybe the people who actually belong here are also part of Shredder's army."

Michelangelo's eyes widened. "Oh wow! I didn't even think of that! But I guess it'd make a sick sense. Nothing really looks old and run-down."

"We've reached the backlot now," Baxter noted. "This looks like an inner city set." He eyed the building fronts, fire hydrants, and curb benches.

"I wonder how far away the Old West is from here," Michelangelo remarked with a bit of a twang.

Baxter chuckled and opened a door. "Things seem to be fairly deserted around here. Let's hope it stays that way."

Michelangelo followed him through. The doors, of course, opened not into buildings but simply behind the sets. And so far, it was indeed still silent.

"You know, as glad as I am not to see zombie people for a while, it's kind of creepy with nobody around," he said. "Maybe it's because I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."

"Shoes. . . . That reminds me, Vincent decided he wanted to try wearing sandals," Baxter said.

"No kidding! I bet that'll look totally gnarly," Michelangelo grinned. "They'll go with the rest of the outfit."

"Yes, they will," Baxter said in gentle amusement.

"Vincent sure is happy here." Michelangelo turned a corner and wandered into a scene where a spaceship had landed in the middle of the road. "And this sure is appropriate right now. . . ."

"And the complete opposite of what we're looking for," Baxter sighed. "You're right, though, Michelangelo. Vincent is very happy. He loves being able to move and work and play."

"But most of all, he loves you and Barney," Michelangelo said. He ran his hand across the hull of the fake spaceship as he walked past.

"And we love him." Baxter kept pace with his friend. "Maybe we're getting close. That set up ahead looks like it could be the residential part of an old town."

"Gnarly!" Michelangelo chirped. "Hey, I wonder if this spaceship is part of the Western flick. Maybe it's like Cowboys and Aliens."

"I wouldn't be surprised," Baxter said wryly. "It's probably a cheap ripoff."

"And hey, it won't be too long now and it'll be a whole year since you were turned human again!" Michelangelo remembered.

That gave Baxter pause. He had known that, but to hear it spoken definitely sobered him. "That's incredible," he said softly. "It doesn't seem possible that so many good things could have happened in the space of less than a year. . . . That I'm human and sane. . . . That you and I are friends. . . . That Barney and I are a family at last. . . . Sometimes it still seems like a wonderful dream that can't possibly be real. But then I know that somehow it is real, that we're finally happy, that everything we deeply longed for finally came true."

"And that will always be mondo awesome, Bud," Michelangelo smiled. "I never thought I'd ever be best buds with Baxter Stockman or his brothers, but here we are. Maybe it makes a kind of weird sense, though. . . . I get along mondo well with Donatello. I guess scientists and me just click."

"Michelangelo, you 'just click' with everyone," Baxter said. He felt a surge of relief at the sight of an Old West main street past the house fronts.

Michelangelo blinked. "You really think so?"

"Of course," Baxter said. "Michelangelo, that's why you make friends wherever you go. So many of your allies are your allies because of your kindness."

"Aww, shucks. Most of them are our allies because we all helped them as a team," Michelangelo said.

"That's true for many of them," Baxter agreed, "but you underestimate your own influence."

"Hey, Leonardo's the leader, Raphael's the wiseguy, Donatello's the inventor . . . what am I?" Michelangelo countered. "The wacky Turtle who consumes mondo amounts of pizza?"

"The loving Turtle who believes in everyone, even those who don't believe they deserve it," Baxter said softly. "Maybe those who really don't deserve it. But that unconditional love transforms them and they become more than they ever thought they could."

Michelangelo turned and looked at him. Baxter was completely sincere.

The Turtle slowly smiled. "Okay, maybe I can help bring out their true selves, but they've already gotta be good deep down for it to work."

"You believe just about everyone is good deep down," Baxter said.

"Yeah, I guess I do," Michelangelo mused. "Except Shredder. Guys like him are just rotten to the core."

"No arguments there," Baxter shuddered.

Michelangelo stopped and looked around. "So . . . where do you think Vernon is?"

"Someplace where he could hide," Baxter mused. "Maybe the saloon?" He walked through the swinging doors. This time, there was an interior set on the other side. "Vernon, are you here?"

A sniffle. "Yes . . . behind the bar. . . ."

Baxter hurried around the bar and found Vernon still slumped against it in despair. "We have the camera," he assured his friend. "I'll figure out how to throw it in reverse and then we'll save Irma and all the rest." He sat down and immediately set to work opening the camera.

Vernon watched him with dull eyes. "I left you," he said. "After everything you've done for me, I just turned and left you!"

"I'm sure you either thought we were right behind you or that Michelangelo would look out for me," Baxter said. "And maybe you hoped that you could get Irma far enough away so that she wouldn't obey Shredder's commands. In any case, I don't blame you. I'm not angry with you."

"You would feel that way," Vernon remarked. "But then I also had to leave Irma. All my life I've wanted to run when I shouldn't have. I didn't want to run then, but I did anyway."

Michelangelo leaned over the top of the bar. "Hey, if she was attacking you and she couldn't stop herself, what could you do?" he said quietly.

"Maybe I should have stayed and tried to encourage her to fight it," Vernon said. "But I know she was trying with all of her heart and soul and she couldn't seem to succeed." He looked to Baxter, his eyes clearly haunted. "She was crying. . . ."

Baxter stiffened. "How horrible. . . ." His hands shook slightly as he finished unscrewing the camera and examined its inner workings.

"Do you know what to do, Baxter Dude?" Michelangelo asked.

"I think so," Baxter said slowly. "Since it obviously affects the mind, Barney would probably know better. But I understand engineering. . . ."

Vernon watched as he exchanged various wires and turned components upsidedown. "Was that how it was for you?" he wondered. "Helplessly watching your body say and do things without your permission?"

Baxter paused. "I wish I could say it was," he said. "There were some times when I felt like I was finally breaking free of the fly's hold on my mind, but then I was pulled back down again. Usually, however, my mind was so hopelessly tangled up with the fly's that nothing made sense to me anymore. I didn't know what was my mind and what was the fly's most of the time."

"I'm not sure what sounds worse," Vernon lamented. "To know what's happening and not be able to stop it or to be so out of it that you don't even realize you're not yourself anymore."

"Oh, I realized that," Baxter said. "But even knowing that didn't help me."

"You've been mind-controlled too, Dude," Michelangelo said to Vernon. "You'll be able to relate to and comfort Irma because of that."

"I'm not a comforting person," Vernon exclaimed in sudden alarm. "What would I even say?!"

"Tell her you understand," Michelangelo said. "Tell her it's okay."

"It won't take away that she attacked me," Vernon said. "Even if I feel it's okay, she might not agree."

"And from her point of view, it may never be okay," Baxter said softly. "Those who have a conscience never do fully get over such behavior."

Michelangelo looked down. "I guess . . . I don't really know what it's like," he said. "But I have to admit, I don't think I'd get over it if I couldn't stop myself from attacking my loved ones. Or anyone else who didn't deserve it. . . ."

"And I hope you will never have to experience such a thing," Baxter said with a sad smile. "You're too innocent, too good, to have to have your life marred by that sorrow." He looked to Vernon. "As for what to say to Irma, only you can really know that. And I believe you will, when the time comes."

Vernon could only nod.

Michelangelo sighed and turned his attention to what Baxter was doing. He was definitely skilled at his work. He finished the job with ease and set about screwing the camera back together. Instead of turning it one way or another to get to each side, he shifted the screwdriver from one hand to the other while keeping the camera in place. He was equally adept with both hands.

At last he leaned back. "I think I have it," he said. "It should restore the stolen energy and free the hold over the mind. Of course, the only way to really know is to try to use it on someone. Maybe first I'd better make sure I haven't rewired it to be dangerous. . . ." He aimed at the wall and pressed the button. A seemingly harmless light emerged and then faded without leaving any mark on the wall.

"Looks good," Michelangelo said. ". . . And just in time too!"

The men looked up at the boy's yelp. The fifty mind-controlled people had found them and were converging on the saloon.

Baxter swallowed hard. He thought he had thrown the camera in reverse, but he really wasn't sure. Now he had little choice but to try it and see. He prayed that he had done it right and wouldn't bring more harm to these hapless people.

As they started to pour through the doors, he focused the lens on them and pressed the button. The bright light flowed over them and they froze, blinking, their eyes taking on a much more alive look.

"What happened?" said one man.

"Did we ever audition?" a woman wondered.

"Are you the director?" another man asked Baxter, who flushed.

"No," he stammered.

"Hey, they don't remember," Michelangelo said in relief. "Maybe it'll stay that way." Louder he said, "The audition was totally bogus! It was all a scam. But if you leave your contact info with us, I'll see if I can get you a real part in a real movie. It might just be a walk-on, but it'd be something."

Not everyone took him up on it. But most of them decided that one of the city's famed Ninja Turtles and two staff members from Channel 6 wouldn't lie and they gave their contact information before filing out in continued confusion.

"Totally gnarly!" Michelangelo exclaimed. "It works, Baxter! You're helping these people!"

Baxter breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness."

He used the camera on the remaining people as they swayed in. Irma was among the last. After a pause, he handed the camera to Vernon. "You do it," he said quietly.

Vernon was surprised. "Me?" But he quickly warmed to the task and pressed the button.

Irma swayed into the wall before straightening. "Whoa. . . ." She turned, looking up at Vernon. "Vernon, hey . . . did you come to audition after all?"

"Hardly," Vernon said in relief.

Baxter looked to Michelangelo and smiled.

"Epic, Dude!" Michelangelo grinned. "Now we've gotta help all the other people all over town!"

Baxter shuddered. "That . . . is not going to be easy."

xxxx

Barney and Vincent were just finally getting out of the traffic jam when the Turtles and April ran up to them. "Well, it's a small world," Raphael remarked.

"It's sure good to see you!" April declared. "We've been having a horrible time!"

"So have we," Barney grunted.

"What happened when you hung up so abruptly?" Vincent asked Donatello.

"We were being surrounded by a dozen of them," Donatello sighed.

Barney raised an eyebrow. "How did you get away?"

"Well, they weren't prizefighters or anything," Raphael said. "We managed to push our way through them without hurting them."

"Of course, then they kept following us," April sighed. "They're probably behind us now!"

The Turtle-Comm rang and Vincent answered. "Hi, Baxter," he greeted. "We're almost there now."

Baxter looked a little embarrassed. "Actually, we've helped the people on the movie lot," he said. "But there's thousands all over town! It's going to take ages to round them all up and use the reversed camera on them!"

"Not necessarily," Barney mused. "I had to do something while we were stuck in traffic, so I came up with a way to help everyone at once. I'll need you and Donatello and Vincent to help me. And maybe Vernon Fenwick."

Baxter blinked in surprise, then smiled. "Just tell us what you need."

xxxx

Before long, the entire group had reunited at the movie studio and set to work on Barney's plan. While Donatello assisted, the other Turtles stayed on patrol. Shredder wouldn't let them get away with this without trying to stop them. And sure enough, he, Bebop, and Rocksteady approached soon enough.

"So, you think you're going to reverse the effect on my army, do you?" Shredder snarled. "Think again!"

"Give it up, Can-Head," Raphael rolled his eyes. "Your army won't even do you any good if you don't have the energy stored in the camera."

"And there's still more than enough there to help the Technodrome!" Shredder declared. "We're going to get that camera back. Bebop, Rocksteady, attack!"

Rocksteady sneered. "This is gonna be fun."

"Yeah. This is just what I wanted to work up an appetite," Bebop said.

"The only thing you guys'll be eating is crow!" Michelangelo informed them.

The groups charged each other.

Barney ducked as mutants started flying overhead.

"How can you work under these conditions?!" Vernon whined.

"Because I have to," Barney shot back.

Rocksteady soared too close to their position. Vincent blasted him to the side before he could fall on the equipment.

"I've got it!" Donatello announced.

"Good. Then all we have to do is connect this." Barney reached for another cord. "Lights . . . camera . . ."

Four enormous spotlights lit up the overcast sky, each connected to the camera.

"Action," Donatello smirked.

"NOOO!" Shredder wailed.

"Face it, Shredder, you're all washed up," Leonardo declared. "All of the stolen energy is flowing back into your victims, wherever they are in Manhattan. You don't have a prayer."

Shredder regarded his hated enemies in outrage and turned to run. "Krang, open the portal!"

Krang glowered at him on the comm-link. "Unbelievable! We use a flawless plan and still you manage to fail!"

"What do you expect when you use ideas from Japanese anime?!" Shredder snapped as the portal appeared. "It didn't work for that villain on Sailor Moon and it didn't work for us!" He dashed through, followed by Bebop and Rocksteady, and the portal closed as the Turtles ran up to it.

"Oh, so that's where I've seen the 'tricking people and stealing their energy' plot before," Raphael smirked, sticking his sais back in his belt. "Somehow I never pictured Shred-Head as a Moonie."

Barney turned and gave a completely blank stare. "A what?"

"A fan of Sailor Moon," Leonardo said. "Although it sounded like Krang was the Moonie."

Barney was still staring. "They're using plots from cartoons now?"

"It's anime, not a cartoon!" Michelangelo protested. "Err, I mean, anime is a lot deeper and stuff than most Western cartoons. I never thought interdimensional villains could use it for scheme ideas, though. . . ." He blinked.

"You see, Michelangelo really took Leonardo's advice to heart," Raphael remarked. "After we met Creepy Eddie the first time and they got trapped in a world based on Michelangelo's nightmares, Leonardo told him to rent kiddie cartoons instead of horror. So he started doing that and eventually got hooked on anime that way. Now we all know much more about Sailor Moon than we ever wanted to know."

"And I found some horror anime too," Michelangelo said. "Most of it's just gory like modern live-action horror, though." He made a face. "But I did find a few that are better than that."

Baxter chuckled. "Well, at least everyone should be getting back to normal now."

April hung up her cellphone. "They are!" she said in relief. "People are calling in to Channel 6 about it. And my live footage of Barney's spotlight plan is a big hit! This will probably give us the best ratings of the night!"

"Good for you," Vernon grunted.

"Jealous, Vernon?" April playfully asked.

"Hardly." Vernon turned away and walked back to the news van.

April shook her head. "Some things never do change."

Baxter wasn't as sure. Frowning, he followed Vernon to the van. "What's really the problem, Vernon?"

Vernon leaned on the top of the open door with a scowl. "I suppose I'm just being a hypocrite, but it bothers me that April seems more excited about her big scoop than about the fact that something horrible happened to a lot of people, including her 'best friend.' I guess it's always seemed like she was more interested in the story than anything else. But then I was always interested in my personal safety more than anything else."

"I'm sure April doesn't mean to come across that way," Baxter said. "You surely know she really cares, especially after what happened to us with the Ghostbusters' equipment."

"Yes, I suppose so," Vernon said slowly. He sighed. "Maybe I'm still shaken about today myself. April didn't see Irma looking so blank, or lunging to attack me, or crying because she couldn't stop herself. . . ."

"I'm sure you're still very badly shaken," Baxter said. "Has Irma started to remember any of that?"

"No, and I hope she won't," Vernon declared. "But I'll remember. I'll never be able to forget."

Baxter laid a hand on his shoulder. "Any time you want to talk, I'm here."

"Thank you," Vernon said quietly.

xxxx

Both Michelangelo and Baxter had plans when the calamity wrapped up.

True to his word, Michelangelo went to the studio where Rondo was still filming his upcoming movie to speak with him about getting Shredder's human victims walk-on roles.

Baxter, on the other hand, quietly slipped away to journey to the Lair and speak with Splinter before any Turtles came home.

"Hello, my friend," Splinter greeted as he entered the living room just in time to see Baxter come in. "I saw your and the Turtles' victory on the news. I was very glad to see that Shredder's latest evil scheme has been stopped."

"Yes, it's certainly a relief," Baxter said. "Now Michelangelo wants to give all the people who innocently came to audition a chance to still be in a movie, even if they don't get large parts."

"Michelangelo is always very thoughtful," Splinter nodded.

"I wanted to do something for him, but I thought I should have your permission before I tried," Baxter said.

"Oh?" Splinter regarded him curiously.

Baxter explained his idea while Splinter listened.

At the conclusion, the old rat gave a thoughtful nod. "I did not stop Michelangelo from going out today when he thought there would be a real film to try out for. Things are much different than they were when we were first mutated. Public opinion of the Turtles has turned much more in their favor, although of course there are still those who dislike and distrust them. Yes, Baxter, you have my blessing to go ahead."

Baxter smiled. "Thank you. I know it would make Michelangelo happy."

"Yes," Splinter agreed. "It would."

"And he deserves it for all the times he's thought about others over himself and changed lives for the better," Baxter added.

Splinter smiled. "You have been a true friend to Michelangelo over the past year, just as he has been for you. It has warmed my heart to see the good it has done for the both of you."

"This friendship has made me so very happy," Baxter said. "I can never repay what Michelangelo has done for me."

"Nor would he want you to," Splinter said. "Friends do not keep score. But simply as a gesture of friendship and kindness, Michelangelo will appreciate your actions whether or not you suceeed."

"I know," Baxter said. "But I hope I will succeed."

"I hope you will as well," Splinter said.

xxxx

Michelangelo wanted to have a celebration in honor of the defeat of Shredder's scheme. Barney was agreeable to hosting it at the mansion, so that evening everyone gathered for dinner prepared by Michelangelo and Vincent.

"Where's Baxter?" Barney frowned. "Everyone's here except him."

"He said he might be a little late," Vincent said.

"Mr. Thompson's probably overworking him again," Irma sighed. "Like he does to all of us." She had locked arms with Vernon, who didn't mind.

"Well, I hope he gets here soon," Raphael said. "The smell of the food is starting to drive me a little crazy."

Vincent perked up as the security cameras outside recorded new movement. "He's just driving in now," he announced.

Only Splinter sat quietly with a knowing expression. And when Baxter entered looking happy, Splinter leaned back and smiled.

"Hello, everyone," Baxter greeted. "I hope you haven't been waiting too long."

"The food just got done a few minutes ago," Barney said.

Michelangelo bounded over to him. "How'd everything go, Bud?"

"Just fine," Baxter smiled.

"Rondo agreed that anybody who wants a part in his movie can have one!" Michelangelo beamed. "I mean, of the people Shredder tricked. It took a little talking, but he gave in because of how we've helped him a couple of times now. He talked to the director and the producer of the movie and they said Yes!"

"That's wonderful," Baxter said.

"Me too?" Irma exclaimed with wide eyes.

"Of course, Dudette! I know it won't be like a starring role, but it'll be something!" Michelangelo continued enthusiastically. "They're going to put out the announcement tomorrow so that all the people will see it."

"Good thinking," Raphael remarked. "Since you couldn't possibly track down all of them with a personal invitation."

"Are they going to use Channel 6?" April asked.

"Probably," Michelangelo said.

"Burne will love that," April said.

"You did exactly what you said you'd do, Michelangelo," Baxter smiled.

"Well, I did my part and Rondo and his crew did theirs," Michelangelo said. "I couldn't have done it if they hadn't said Yes!"

"You still would have tried," Baxter said. "And had they said No, I know you would have kept trying other options until you found one that worked."

"That's Michelangelo, alright," Leonardo agreed.

"I also spoke to Rondo," Baxter announced. "That's where I was now; I wasn't at work."

Everyone except Splinter looked to him in surprise.

"So what'd you see that wimp for?" Raphael wondered.

"Well, Michelangelo just got through saying that Rondo agreed that 'anybody' Shredder tricked who still wants a part can have one," Baxter said. "I wanted to make sure that included Michelangelo, as the first non-human good guy in a Rondo film."

Everyone stared.

". . . But the producer hates mutants," Michelangelo finally stammered, too stunned to even think what to say.

"I reminded him that his most profitable property would be dead if not for the Ninja Turtles," Baxter said. "He finally agreed." He smiled at Michelangelo. "You will have a role in Rondo 9, if you want it."

"Oh wow," Michelangelo choked. "You know, I think I've got something in my throat. . . . Baxter, you know I said I wouldn't try to get a part for myself. I just wanted to make sure all of Shredder's victims got one."

"And I know you had your heart set on a part just as much as the others did," Baxter said. "You removed yourself from the equation because you wanted everyone else to be considered ahead of you. You didn't want to spoil it for any of them. I wanted you to have a part as well as them."

Michelangelo pulled Baxter into a warm hug. "I don't know what to say except . . . thanks. For this and everything."

Baxter returned the hug. "I feel the same about all that you've done for me," he said softly.

"You know, there'll be no living with him once he's a movie star, even if he's only onscreen for five minutes," Raphael cracked. But he was smiling.

Leonardo and Donatello were as well. "I think this is one Rondo film we'll happily watch," Leonardo said.

"I agree," Donatello nodded. "Maybe we'll even buy it."

"This is wonderful, Michelangelo!" April beamed. "I hope I'll get to cover the story."

"Totally," Michelangelo grinned. "I wouldn't want anyone else to do it."

Barney went over to Baxter as everyone was heading into the dining room for dinner. "So how long did it take you to get Rondo, the producer, and the director to agree to cast a mutant as a good guy?" he said low.

"Not as long as it could have taken," Baxter replied. "But it was all time well worth spending."

"I think it's very thoughtful that you did this for Michelangelo, Pal," Vincent said.

"It is," Barney nodded.

"I'd do much more if I could," Baxter said. "But it will make Michelangelo happy, and maybe it will help in some way to make acceptance of mutants even more widespread."

"I wouldn't be surprised," Vincent beamed.