Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987

The Great Divide

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! ThickerThanLove helped with some plot elements. 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 mood in the Technodrome had been dark and grim for the last several days. Although Bebop and Rocksteady had hoped that Shredder and Krang's anger towards each other would blow over, so far it had not. Every day it seemed to get worse, with each trying to avoid the other and behaving coldly whenever they did chance to meet. Nothing productive was being accomplished. Bebop and Rocksteady escaped to the arcade more and more.

At last Krang had not only had enough, he had figured out what he wanted to do about it. He approached Shredder in the main control room at the transdimensional screen. "Well, Shredder, it would seem that you and I do indeed have different goals these days," he greeted.

Shredder scowled. "We don't, Krang! How many times do I have to tell you that?!"

"You want to focus on revenge and I want to focus on world domination," Krang said. "Therefore, the most logical thing for us to do is part company."

"What?!" Shredder spun around. "You can't be serious!"

"Not only am I serious, I've already come up with some possible ideas for your replacement," Krang sneered. "I'm thinking of giving The Rat King and Leatherhead a try. Maybe even Slash, if I can figure out where he went."

Bebop and Rocksteady exchanged an uneasy look. "Uh, Slash?" Bebop gulped.

"As in, Bebop's former pet Slash?" Rocksteady added.

"Do we know any other Slash?" Krang retorted.

"Well . . . I don't think Slash would like to see us again," Bebop said. "Especially me."

"We'll worry about that later!" Krang said with an impatient wave of a tentacle.

Shredder snorted behind his mask. "You'll regret this, Krang!" he fumed. "None of those idiots have the vision we shared of a conquered world!"

"They also don't have your obsession with revenge," Krang smirked.

"Just wait and you'll want me back!" Shredder vowed. "Only I won't come. I can conquer the world just fine without you! Bebop, Rocksteady . . . !"

"Oh, they're staying here," Krang sneered. "You're going out on your own, Shredder." One robot hand reached and took the comm-link from Shredder's belt.

"Hey! What . . . ?!" Shredder stared.

"If we're parting ways, you'll have no need of this," Krang said.

"But Bebop and Rocksteady are my mutants, as you've said so many times!" Shredder roared. "You have no right to keep them with you!"

"They were actually useful when you broke my android body all to pieces," Krang said, "so I think I'll keep them around for a while. Anyway, they were made with my mutagen."

"You're splitting hairs!" Shredder boomed.

"I don't have any hairs to split," Krang answered. He pressed a button and the portal opened. "Farewell, Shredder!" He pushed Shredder through and immediately closed the portal after him.

Silence reigned for a long moment.

"Gee," said Bebop. "It don't feel right without the boss here."

"It will feel right again soon enough," Krang replied. "Just as soon as I locate our new allies."

"So what's gonna happen to the boss?" Rocksteady asked.

"I sent him to Manhattan," Krang giggled. "If he wants to take revenge so badly, let him do that all the day long! Meanwhile, I want to conquer the world!"

Bebop and Rocksteady still looked unsettled. "I don't know," Rocksteady said. "It's not gonna be the same without the boss."

"Of course not!" Krang cackled. "It'll be better!"

Bebop folded his arms. "Why am I not sure of that?"

xxxx

Baxter came down the stairs slowly, but faster than several days previous. He smiled to himself; it was good to be recovering. He was still bruised, but the sore and tender skin was healing. The last several days, devoid of villains attacking, had been wonderfully peaceful and enabled him and the others to have the proper time needed to begin putting their harrowing experience on the Technodrome past them.

Barney was feeling a lot better, or at least, Baxter hoped so. He certainly seemed more peaceful than he had when he had first been released from Shredder's cruel mind-control. Baxter and Vincent had talked to him a great deal since then, both together and separately, and he appeared to be making peace with what had happened. At least, he could definitely be thankful that he hadn't actually done anything horrible while under the mind-control. He had forced himself to break free before that could happen. Knowing that fact helped a lot, Baxter was sure. He still suffered knowing the things he had done when the fly had started eclipsing his mind. He was so relieved that Barney didn't have a similar burden on his shoulders. Barney had enough things that he still hated himself for already.

Vincent was already in the kitchen when Baxter reached the bottom of the stairs. "Hi, Pal!" he greeted.

"Good morning, Vincent," Baxter greeted with a smile. He sat down at the island.

"You're feeling a lot better today," Vincent observed, pleased.

"It's been easy to focus on recovering the last few days," Baxter said. "Of course, I'm sure the peace won't last much longer."

"That sounds like something I'd say," Barney grunted.

Baxter looked up as Barney entered the room. "I've developed a certain amount of cynicism over the years," Baxter said. "But I've also seen how the pattern usually seems to go."

"True," Barney relented.

"Hi, Buddy," Vincent interjected.

"Hello," Barney said. He sat down next to Baxter.

"Are you alright, Barney?" Baxter asked in concern. "You seem grumpy today."

"I usually am," Barney returned. "No, I'm just wondering if there's going to be any more trouble when I hand back the class's test papers today. It seems like every time there's a test, something goes wrong."

Baxter winced. "Well, hopefully not this time."

"It wouldn't even necessarily have to be something wrong at the university," Barney said. "The first time, what went wrong was Pinky McFingers trying to coerce me into working for him again."

"That ended with us finally convincing Raphael we're the good guys, though," Vincent said as he placed waffles in front of his brothers. "So something finally went right!"

"True," Baxter mused. "That was certainly something wonderful. I just wish Barney and Michelangelo hadn't had to be hurt for that to happen."

"As do we all, of course," Vincent said. "That was a horrible time, when we were waiting for them to wake up."

Baxter shuddered and nodded while pouring chocolate syrup over his waffles. "This is delicious, Vincent," he said appreciatively when he took a bite.

Barney opted just for butter. "It is," he agreed.

"They're not hard to make," Vincent said, but he was clearly pleased.

xxxx

Krang scowled as he stood at the transdimensional screen, observing The Rat King in his sewer lair while the man remained unaware that he was being observed.

"Are you really gonna get that guy to work for us, Krang?" Bebop asked as he approached.

"I don't know," Krang replied. "It just occurred to me that if we bring him onboard here, his rats will be all over the Technodrome." He looked disgusted. "And if we actually win, he'll want to make a Ratropolis out of the city and eventually the world. I don't want those icky things running loose all over my city! Anyway, his schemes have never had a great deal of success over the Turtles anyway, save for that mind-control flute of his. And I've had enough of mind-control to last me a lifetime!"

"Why don't you just forget about him then?" Rocksteady said.

"I'm strongly considering it," Krang admitted. "Then I finally located Slash. After his failed team-up with the rest of the Rogues, he apparently left New York and went South." He brought up an image of Slash relaxing under a palm tree on a beach.

"Gee, he finally got his binky," Bebop said.

"I'll make the transmission two-way and try to talk to him," Krang determined. He pressed a button. "Good morning, Slash!"

The turtle jumped a mile. "Who said that?!"

"I did," came Krang's voice. He opened a portal and stood in the doorway. "How would you like to come and help me conquer the world?"

Slash scowled. "No thanks. I already tried that, remember?"

"We could plant palm trees all over New York," Krang said.

"I already live with the palm trees and I'm not leaving," Slash insisted. He got up and advanced on Krang. "Go suck an egg!"

Krang yelped as he was pushed back through the portal and fell over, the robot's arms and legs waving in the air. "Well, don't just stand there! Help me up!" he shrieked at Bebop and Rocksteady.

Quickly they came to do so. "Whatcha gonna do now, Krang?" Bebop wondered.

Krang pressed the button and the portal closed. "I'm not going to bother with Slash, that's for sure," he grumbled.

"Maybe you should just get the boss back," Rocksteady pleaded.

"No!" Krang insisted. "We don't need that revenge-crazed moron! There has to be someone else."

"You also mentioned Leatherhead," Bebop said slowly.

Krang's eyes gleamed. "Yes, that's right! I still have to locate him!" He went back to the transdimensional screen and started typing. Soon an image came up; Leatherhead was back in Florida as well. "Oh great."

"Do you want us to go get him?" Bebop asked. "He knows us."

"I'd rather make my own sales pitch," Krang said. "Wait a minute. What's that?" He pointed to a strange mutant fish creature that had come up out of the water and was talking to Leatherhead.

"Gee, we've never seen him before," Bebop said.

Krang adjusted the sound to hear their conversation.

"What you be doin' in my swamp?" Leatherhead frowned.

"I was just swimming by," said the fish with a shrug. "I'll leave. I'd rather be alone anyway."

"Then you'd better git before I decide to make a new fish salad out of you, boy," Leatherhead growled.

"I'm going already." The fish started to dive under the water.

"Hmm." Krang looked fascinated. "Let's go see if we can recruit one or both of them, shall we?"

"That fish guy probably won't want to work with us," Rocksteady said.

"There's no harm in trying." Krang opened the portal and walked through. After exchanging an uneasy look, Bebop and Rocksteady followed.

"Now what?" Leatherhead looked over in annoyance. "Oh, it be you two." He frowned at Bebop and Rocksteady.

"Yes," Krang said. "We're recruiting members for my army to help me conquer Earth."

"I've done and conquered my swamp and that be all I care about, I guarantee," Leatherhead retorted.

"What about your new acquaintance?" Krang pointed at the water.

"Take him with you for all I be caring," Leatherhead replied.

The fish rose out of the water and regarded the newcomers with suspicion. "Why would I want to help you?"

"Well, if nothing else, it's a change from whatever you've been doing," Krang said.

"Eh. I already tried to help a guy conquer the world once. It was boring." The fish folded his arms. "He wanted to make a whole race of fish-people. I'd rather be one of a kind."

"I have no interest in a race of fish-people," Krang said. "Just you."

"And I could go back to what I was doing after we're done?" The fish stared at Krang.

"If you want," Krang said smoothly. "Maybe you'd decide you liked being a supervillain."

"It wasn't bad," was the apathetic reply. "But it wasn't good either."

"Don't you like anything?" Bebop had to ask.

"My privacy," said the fish.

"I think we should just get going, Krang," Rocksteady whispered.

"Maybe you're right," Krang said in irritation. "No one here seems interested in opportunity when it drops in their laps."

"Hey, I'll help you conquer the world. Maybe." The fish came out of the water. "It's not like I have any other plans for today."

"Excellent," Krang's eyes gleamed. "Do you have a name?"

"The mad scientist who created me called me Ray," said the fish. "I still think it's a stupid name."

"Oh, so finally we've found something you're not apathetic about," Krang remarked.

Leatherhead warily watched them as they headed for the portal. "When you conquer the world, you're gonna leave my swamp alone, ain't you?"

"Of course. I have no use for it," Krang said.

"Maybe I just come along with you and make sure of that," Leatherhead decided. He trailed after them through the portal.

Bebop looked to Rocksteady in concern. "Do you really think this is gonna work?" he worried.

"Who knows," Rocksteady shrugged. "It's not like we really have any say in it."

"I wish the boss was here," Bebop mumbled.

"I wonder if he does," Rocksteady mused.

xxxx

Michelangelo was busy making a breakfast pizza. He was in quite a good mood; no enemies had attacked for several days. It was a relief to have even that much of a break after Shredder's cruelty in mind-controlling Barney and forcing him to work on the Technodrome again. He sang Pizza Power with relish as he worked.

"Michelangelo, do you have to keep digging up that song from the other dimension?" Raphael sighed.

"Why not? It's totally gnarly," Michelangelo grinned. He sprinkled granola on the pizza.

"That's one Turtle's opinion," Raphael muttered.

"Cool it, Raphael," Leonardo sighed. "We have more important things to worry about. Like when we're going to hear from Shredder and Krang again."

"Oh please, Fearless Leader," Raphael sighed too. "Let's worry about that when it happens. It's been several days of peace and quiet. Keeping it that way is A-Okay with me."

"That's just it, though," Donatello said. "The longer we go on without hearing from them, the more likely it is that they'll attack soon."

"I guess I can see the logic in that argument," Raphael said. "I just choose not to."

"Whatever anybody throws at us, we'll be able to overcome it," Michelangelo declared. He placed the pizza in the oven and turned it on.

"Well, you're sure in a good mood," Raphael remarked. "Especially considering how upset you were the other day."

"Baxter said things tend to look better the next day, and they've been looking better and better since then," Michelangelo said.

His Turtle-Comm rang at that moment. When he opened it, both Baxter and April were on the screen.

"Michelangelo, I'm afraid we have problems," Baxter said.

"Oh yeah?" Michelangelo frowned. "I guess Leonardo jinxed us."

"Shredder's been spotted in the city!" April moaned.

"But that isn't all," Baxter added. "Someone reported seeing a mutant alligator."

"Oh great!" Raphael cried. "Leatherhead!"

"So what was ol' Leatherhead doing?" Michelangelo asked.

"Stealing some machinery parts!" April said.

"Mondo bizarro," Michelangelo frowned. "And what about Shred-Head?"

"He was just walking around sulking, which is pretty weird all by itself," April said. "I didn't see any sign of Bebop and Rocksteady."

Leonardo leaped up from the table. "I've heard enough. Let's go, Turtles!"

Michelangelo grabbed the pizza out of the oven. "We'll take this to go," he said.

"Are you crazy, Michelangelo?!" Raphael shot back. "We can't fight on full stomachs!"

"Well, then we'll have it after," Michelangelo insisted. But he couldn't resist taking a piece right then. "Oh, mondo deliciouso." He smiled in bliss.

"He never listens," Raphael grunted, looking to the ceiling.

xxxx

Shredder trudged down the street, shaking his fists to the sky.

"Krang is going to regret this!" he snarled. "He won't get anywhere without me! But I can certainly get somewhere without him! He found when he cast me to Earth with no support before that I can actually be quite resourceful." His eyes glinted. "I'll conquer the world and get my revenge! I just need to find a minion or two, like before."

But he paused, frowning to himself. He had manipulated that idiot dojo owner and his students, but they hadn't served his purposes for very long and then he had wound up with only Baxter. That definitely wasn't an option anymore.

No matter. There had to be someone in the city he could use. Maybe he could go find what was left of Bebop and Rocksteady's old gang. They had all worked for him in the past. It was worth looking into, at least.

Anyway, he didn't have any other ideas at the moment.

xxxx

Barney was not pleased when the mutant alligator suddenly appeared in the path of his car on the way to work. He growled, slamming on the brakes. "What the . . . !"

"That must be the Leatherhead character the Turtles have talked about," Vincent observed. "Unless there's more than one mutant alligator by now."

Leatherhead turned and glowered at Barney. "You watch where you be goin, by gumbo!" he cried, shaking a fist.

Barney's lip curled. "You're the one who stepped in front of the car," he said. "Be grateful I'm as good a driver as I am."

"You be grateful I'm not in any mood to wreck your car," Leatherhead answered. "I've got . . . ha ha . . . bigger fish to fry." He sneered at Barney and walked on.

Vincent stared after him. "Leatherhead has always been trouble, according to the Turtles. He never comes up from Florida unless he's plotting something, usually revenge against them."

"Wonderful." Barney frowned. "I'm sure he'll notice if we try to follow him."

Vincent pulled out the Turtle-Comm. "I'll just let the Turtles know his current location." He opened the device and pressed the button.

"Hello, Vincent," Leonardo greeted in some surprise. "What's going on?"

"Well, I'm not sure exactly," Vincent admitted. "We just saw a mutant alligator whom we assume is Leatherhead." He gave their location.

"We just heard about him stealing machinery parts!" Leonardo exclaimed. "That was blocks away from where you are now."

"He wasn't holding anything now," Barney frowned.

"We're totally coming out there, Dude," Michelangelo interjected.

"Fine," Barney said. "I'll try to catch up to him again."

"Be careful," Leonardo pleaded. "Leatherhead is dangerous!"

"We got that impression," Barney deadpanned.

xxxx

Everyone seemed to converge on Leatherhead's location at the same time-the Cadillac, the Turtle Van, and a Channel 6 news van. But as they arrived, they could only stop and stare as Leatherhead met with a fish creature in front of what seemed to be a portal.

"Whoa, it's Ray!" Michelangelo said in disbelief.

Baxter raised an eyebrow. "Ray?"

Next to him, April shuddered. "That better not mean that Dr. Polydorius is nearby!" she moaned.

Overhearing, Ray looked over at her. "Oh. You're the fish lady," he said boredly.

"Thanks to you and your boss!" April retorted.

Baxter stared. This was a story he hadn't heard yet.

"Well, you don't have to worry," Ray said. "Pop is still behind bars. I checked."

"Then what are you doing with Leatherhead?!" Leonardo cried.

"Wouldn't you like to know," Ray yawned.

"I'm a-gonna take this stuff back through the portal," Leatherhead interjected. "If you wanna visit with old friends, that's up to you."

"I'm coming," Ray said. "They aren't any friends of mine. But I don't have any quarrel with them either."

"Yeah, what's with that portal anyway?" Michelangelo blinked. "It looks like one of Krang's!"

"You'll be findin' out soon, I guarantee," Leatherhead smirked, "and you ain't gonna like it. I'll have my revenge on you shellbacks yet."

"Oh, I get it!" Raphael said. "Now it all makes sense. Shred-Head and Krang are having problems. That must be why Shredder's off sulking. Aww, isn't that just too bad? And I bet Krang doesn't know you're obsessed with revenge too."

"You had better shut your mouth if you know what's good for you, by gumbo," Leatherhead snarled. Before anyone could make another move, he and Ray lifted the mysterious machinery parts and vanished through the portal, which closed after them.

"Oh great!" Raphael exploded in frustration. "As if we didn't have enough things to worry about! Now Krang's gone and got himself two more mutants!"

"You're probably right that he doesn't know Leatherhead wants revenge too," Leonardo said. "He probably thinks he's found some helpers who will stick to what he wants."

"Maybe we could use that to our advantage," Donatello mused.

"Like, it's too bad we can't get Ray on our side," Michelangelo said. "He just helps the bad guys because he doesn't have anything else to do."

"Which is a seriously inane reason," Barney retorted. "If he's that apathetic, why would you want him to fight on your side?"

"He has a lot of mondo awesome abilities," Michelangelo said. "And hey, one less bad guy could mean one more bud, and that's always cool."

Baxter gave him a sad smile. "Unfortunately, not everyone wants to be friends."

Michelangelo sighed. "Yeah, I know."

"Well, so what do we do now?" Raphael said in irritation.

"There's not much we can do until Krang makes his move," Leonardo said. "Maybe we'd better try to find out what Shredder is up to."

Raphael didn't look pleased. "I guess that's the only option left."

Everyone headed back to their respective vehicles. "Where was Shredder spotted?" Leonardo asked April and Baxter.

"That's some more bad news," April sighed. "It's a really bad part of town. I think it's where Bebop and Rocksteady's old gang had their turf."

"Wonderful," muttered Barney.

xxxx

Shredder's mood was growing worse and worse. Not only could he not locate the gang, no one else seemed willing to tell him where they were. As he stormed down the street, his expression a dark cloud, even the animals ran in fear of him.

"They will pay for defying me!" he snarled. "Just like everyone else who defies me! No one must be allowed to get away with this!"

He stumbled to a halt as the Turtle Van pulled up right in front of him, followed by the Cadillac and the news van. "No!" he growled. "I'm not ready for them yet. I don't even have an evil revenge scheme in mind!"

Raphael was the first to get out. "Aww, Shredder, I'm so sorry to hear that you and Krang are splitting up. Who gets the house and the kids?"

Shredder's eyes flashed. "Insolent reptile! How dare you . . . wait a minute. How do you know Krang and I have parted ways?" He shot the Turtle a suspicious look.

"Oh, why, everybody knows, Shred-Head," Raphael couldn't resist saying.

"WHAT?!" Shredder boomed.

"Yeah! Like, Krang's got some new help," Michelangelo chimed in. "Anybody seeing them gets the picture right away."

Shredder rushed over to him. "Who has Krang found?!" he demanded. "Tell me!"

Michelangelo looked back to the others. "Should we tell him, Dudes and Dudette?"

"Why not." Barney folded his arms and smirked. "He has a mutant alligator and a mutant fish working for him."

Shredder rocked back. "Leatherhead I understand, but a fish?! What fish?! What insanity is this?!" He stomped about and shook his fists to the sky. "I've been replaced by a fish?!"

"Whoa, watch it, Shred-Head, or you'll blow a gasket," Raphael giggled.

"I will not stand for this outrage!" Shredder roared. "I will prove to Krang that he never should have sent me away!" With a swirl of his cape, he turned and stomped off.

Everyone stared after him for a long and silent moment.

"Does anyone think maybe we made a little mistake?" Raphael said at last.

"He would have found out anyway," Leonardo said, not wanting anyone to feel guilty.

"Maybe with any luck, they'll take each other out," Vincent remarked, folding his arms.

Barney scowled. "I should have known he'd react badly. Who knows what he'll do now."

Raphael sighed. "I started it," he pointed out. "I couldn't resist either."

"It doesn't matter who started it," Baxter said. "The important thing is that now we'll have threats from two directions. We have to be alert to combat both of them."

"And we will be," Leonardo vowed.

"And I want to be on hand to get the scoop!" April insisted.

"Well, I'm sure there'll be plenty to see," Raphael said. "Especially when Shredder and Krang see each other and start yelling."

xxxx

Bebop and Rocksteady stood by, watching as Krang assembled his new invention.

"Things sure go a lot faster with four of us collecting stuff," Bebop remarked.

"I know," Krang said in delight, "and there wasn't one foul-up! Even when Leatherhead and Ray encountered the Turtles, nothing happened."

"Only because the Turtles were too surprised to fight," Bebop said. "Then our mutants were gone before it could happen."

"And what's the boss gonna say when he finds out what's going on?" Rocksteady worried.

"Let him find out," Krang said with a wave of a tentacle. "Who cares? There's nothing he can do about it!"

"I wonder," Bebop muttered.

xxxx

It was nearing evening before the Turtles and company learned what Krang was planning. While the Turtles were eating pizza and watching April and Baxter on the 6 o'clock news, Krang suddenly cut in on the transmission.

"Good evening, good people of New York City! And mutants too," he added with a smirk. "This will be the last television broadcast you will see before I conquer the city as its new emperor. Even as we speak, my food magnet is powering up to bring all of the city's edibles to me! You will only have a decent meal ever again by agreeing to accept my rule!"

The Turtles gawked.

"Is he nuts?" Raphael said in disbelief. "A food magnet?!"

"Hey, Shredder had a weird device that could bring everything from antiques to toys to his location," Donatello shrugged. "Krang must have built his food magnet on the same principle."

"I think he's finally flipped his taco," Michelangelo exclaimed. "Did you scope out how maniacal he looked?! His eyes were all bloodshot and stuff."

"Nevermind that!" Leonardo retorted. "Donatello, can you track Krang's location?"

Donatello was already running to the lab. "I hope so!" he exclaimed. "If I can't, maybe Vincent can!" His eyes brightened as he returned with the device. "I'm getting a signal!"

"Alright!" Raphael cheered. "Let's go!"

"Totally," Michelangelo shuddered. "I don't even wanna think about what'll happen once Krang fires up his food magnet! The city probably really will surrender to him!"

"We won't let that happen," Leonardo vowed.

Splinter watched as they hurried to the exit. "Be cautious, my Turtles," he warned. "I am afraid Krang has indeed become most desperate."

"We can take him," Raphael insisted. "Heck, maybe this time we'll finally defeat him once and for all!"

"At least we have to stop his evil, insidious, nefarious plan," Leonardo said. "See? This time I remembered nefarious."

"You forgot diabolical," Raphael deadpanned.

"Like, nevermind all that, Dudes!" Michelangelo interrupted.

"Go Green Machine!" they all yelled in unison.

Splinter sighed as he watched. "I have a feeling they are in for quite a strange battle," he said.

xxxx

April thoroughly concurred.

"I can hardly believe this!" she exclaimed to Baxter as they watched Krang's broadcast from the station. "What's going on here?!"

"Krang is apparently determined to prove that he can do better without Shredder," Baxter said. He pulled out his phone. "I wonder if Vincent can track his location."

He found an email from Vincent already there.

Baxter, Krang's broadcasting from right here in town! He's on top of the tallest building. Barney and I are driving out right now.

Baxter cringed. "Oh no." He showed the message to April and reached for his Turtle-Comm. "I have to let the Turtles know."

"And I have to get the Channel 6 helicopter!" April declared. "I'm not missing this scoop!"

xxxx

Michelangelo immediately answered his Turtle-Comm when Baxter called. "Hey, Baxter Dude! What's up?" he asked. "Mondo bizarro about Krang, isn't it?"

"It certainly is," Baxter agreed. "Vincent just sent me a message saying that Krang is on top of the city's tallest building."

"Uh oh," Michelangelo gulped.

"Aww, and I didn't get to finish tracking it," Donatello lamented.

"Well, why not keep trying just as a second opinion?" Raphael retorted.

"We'll be there as soon as possible," Leonardo said.

"April and I will too," Baxter said. "She wants to film it from the helicopter."

"Oh great," Raphael sighed. "And there won't be any stopping her."

"Barney and Vincent are coming too, of course," Baxter added.

"Then the gang'll all be there!" Michelangelo chirped. "Totally gnarly! We'll be there in a few minutes, Bud."

Baxter smiled. "We'll see you there."

xxxx

Shredder was passing the T.V. Vision store when he caught Krang's broadcast. "A food magnet?!" he snorted in disbelief. "That ganglion's lost whatever he had left of his mind! I'm tempted to go watch just to see what happens."

"Hey," came a nasally voice from right behind him. "The word is, you're lookin' for me and the gang."

Shredder spun around and found himself looking at Jersey Red. "Why, yes, that's right," he said, immediately putting a smooth tone into his voice.

"What for?" Red gave him a suspicious look. "None of us want to be your new test subjects. Bebop and Rocksteady are even more idiotic as animals than they were as humans. We don't want our intellect to go down. And you kept some of the other gang members with you to experiment on even after you got those two losers mutated! The rest of us ain't gonna let that happen to us."

"Oh no, you have it all wrong, Jersey Red," Shredder insisted. "I don't want new test subjects. I merely want new hired help. Humans are fine! I just want somebody."

"Eh. And what happened to Bebop and Rocksteady?" Red retorted. "And that talking brain thing?"

"Well, the talking brain thing is just about to unleash a food magnet on the city," Shredder replied, pointing at the television sets through the shop window.

"A food magnet?" Red raised an eyebrow. "What's that?"

"It's supposed to draw all the food in the city to it," Shredder chortled. "I can't believe he's really reduced himself to trying something asinine like this."

"So you're not involved with it?" Red still looked disbelieving.

"Not at all. My plan will be something much different," Shredder insisted.

"Lay it on me." Red folded her arms.

Shredder hesitated. He really didn't want to admit he didn't actually have a plan yet. "Why don't I tell the entire gang at once?" he suggested. "That would be far more productive."

Red looked him up and down. "Okay."

Hopefully, Shredder thought to himself, by the time we reach the rest of the gang I'll know what I'm going to do. But just about anything would outclass Krang's plan! That moronic megalomaniac truly does need me. Maybe when I triumph over him, he will finally realize that.

Wait. Why do I care if he realizes that? It's not like I'd go back now even if he begged me.

He scowled to himself as he followed Red down the street.

xxxx

Krang cackled maniacally as he adjusted dials and levers on his newly-completed food magnet. "The people of this pathetic city won't know what to do when breakfast, lunch, and dinner all get swept to this machine and on into the Technodrome!" he exclaimed. "Not to mention all their snacks!"

"Uh, Krang, are you sure this is the right way to go?" Rocksteady frowned, scratching his head.

"Of course I'm sure!" Krang shot back. "No population can withstand losing their food supply! They'll have to bow before me! I've given them no choice!"

"This plan be completely loony, I guarantee," Leatherhead declared.

"Eh. Let's wait and see what happens," Ray retorted, leaning against the wall.

"I hope Barney's not gonna show up," Bebop worried.

"He probably will," Rocksteady hissed.

Leatherhead shot them a look. "Who be this here Barney?"

"Oh, he was a traitor Bebop still idolizes," Krang said in annoyance. "And I'm sure he's coming."

"If he be a traitor, then shouldn't we pound him into fish bait?" Leatherhead sneered as he demonstrated by slamming a fist into his palm.

"No!" Bebop exclaimed. "Please, just leave him alone."

Ray sighed in annoyance. "If a whole bunch of people are coming, how will we know which one is him?"

"He's a little guy, about so high, with glasses and long red hair," Bebop said. "But he's got a twin brother with brown hair."

"And a living computer with a body," Rocksteady added. "They think of it as a brother too."

"Then I met that there Barney and the computer," Leatherhead said. "I'll recognize them again, but I can't guarantee I won't hurt them."

Krang had listened to the entire exchange without a word or a reaction. Finally he said, "Leave them alone unless you have no choice. I'm willing to go that much out on a limb for Bebop." He smirked. "Only I'm sure it will end up that you won't have a choice."

"Oh, thank you, Krang!" Bebop cried, clapping his hands. "It's better than nothing!"

"Now, get downstairs and monitor the situation there," Krang snapped. "The Turtles will no doubt be coming."

"Right, Krang." Bebop headed for the door. The other mutants followed.

xxxx

All four mutants were in place by the time both the Turtle Van and the Cadillac drove up. The groups eyed each other with wariness.

"So, we meet again, Turtles," Leatherhead grinned. "I been waiting for this, I guarantee."

"Oh, we believe you, Leatherhead," Leonardo said. He took out his katanas. "We knew this rematch was coming."

"Why do you guys want to help Krang with his food magnet?" Raphael snorted. "You won't have anything to eat either!"

"Sure we will," Ray yawned. "It's all going to the Technodrome. We'll have more food than we know what to do with."

"Well, that makes sense," Donatello mused. "Naturally Krang wouldn't waste all that food."

"Yeah! Like, seriously," Michelangelo said. "Wasting food is a mondo crime."

"Oh, and trying to conquer the world isn't?" Raphael shot back.

"Now he's trying to do both at the same time!" Michelangelo exclaimed. "What could be worse than that?! He'll be taking all of our pizza too!"

"I have to admit, I can't think of much worse than that," Raphael conceded.

Barney stayed to the side as the two groups of mutants charged each other. Vincent watched with him as each group got in some good hits. "For once they're evenly matched. Are we going to get involved?"

Leatherhead swung out with his chain and trap, which Donatello knocked away and sent spinning around the gator. "Hey!" came the indignant cry. "You are gonna pay for that!"

"Credit or debit?" Donatello shot back. He smirked. "Hey, I'm actually making a funny."

"I think they can handle it," Barney replied.

Ray suddenly shot a plethora of sharp quills at the group. Vincent blasted some of them off-course and tackled Barney out of the way. "That fish has dangerous abilities!" he gasped.

Barney was a bit shaken, but he tried not to show it. "To put it mildly," he agreed. He reached to straighten his askew glasses.

Suddenly a rope ladder descended near them and Baxter came down, his hair windblown and his eyes filled with worry. "What's going on here?!" he exclaimed.

"The Turtles are fighting Krang's new mutants in addition to Rocksteady and Bebop," Barney reported. "I thought you were going to stay in the helicopter with April!"

"I couldn't when I saw this," Baxter retorted.

"Anyway, I want to film this!" April said, coming down the ladder after Baxter. "Usually the fights I record are just with Bebop and Rocksteady. This is something new!"

"Oh yes, this is a perfect spectator sport," Barney said with dripping sarcasm.

"It makes for great news," April shrugged as Rocksteady flew past the camera.

Baxter looked around and saw Ray about to attack Michelangelo. "Michelangelo, look out!" he exclaimed.

The Turtle leaped away with a shriek just as a new flurry of quills rained down.

Ray turned to Baxter in annoyance. "You guys are really starting to bug me." Electricity crackled in his hands.

Vincent promptly got in front of Baxter. "If you're going to shock someone, make sure he doesn't have a friend who can shock right back," he smirked.

"Oh yeah?" Ray frowned. "I bet my electricity is more powerful than yours."

"I bet it isn't." Vincent fired at the same time Ray did. The blue and yellow blasts collided in mid-air and negated. "Stalemate."

Ray scowled.

The Turtles, meanwhile, were getting the better of Bebop and Rocksteady. Baxter kicked a fallen soda can along the ground to trip Leatherhead, who was then overpowered by Raphael. When Ray started to prepare for another quill attack, Barney knocked him down from behind.

"Alright!" Raphael crowed. "That's all of them. Now to stop Krang's food magnet!"

"Uh, Raphael?" Michelangelo was pointing at something above them. "I think he's already activated it."

"Huh?!" Raphael looked up, staring as hamburgers, French fries, pizza, and every other kind of food and ingredient floated past on its way up to the machine on the roof.

Baxter's jaw dropped. "This is incredible. How is such a thing possible?!"

"I don't know, but I sure think we'd better find out!" Raphael declared. "Better yet, let's just reverse it and send everything back to where it came from!"

"We couldn't, like, glom on to some of that pizza instead of sending it back, could we?" Michelangelo stared after it longingly.

"It already belongs to someone, Michelangelo," Leonardo scolded.

"Oh yeah, that's true," Michelangelo said. But he still stared after it as he backed up towards the front doors.

"We can get pizza after we defeat Krang," Baxter said.

Michelangelo's eyes lit up. "Bodacious! Then everything will be right with the world!"

"If only it were that simple," Baxter chuckled.

"For Michelangelo, it is," Raphael quipped.

Leatherhead shook a fist after them as they ran inside the building. "You won't be celebrating your victory indefinitely, I guarantee," he snarled. "Next time I'm-a gonna get you good!"

"Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath," Raphael shot back.

Together the group got on the elevator and went up to the top floor. When they burst onto the roof, Krang was most displeased.

"Even with four mutants, I can't beat you!" he cried.

"Like, of course not!" Michelangelo retorted. "Because we fight for love and justice!"

Raphael facepalmed. "Michelangelo, seriously?"

"Well, corny speeches aside, we do," Leonardo said. "And you're going down, Krang! We're sending all of this food back where it belongs!"

"You'll have to figure out how to throw my magnet in reverse first!" Krang countered.

"Oh, that's no problem," Donatello smirked. "Not for three scientists and a computer who can talk to your machine."

The group spread out and came at Krang from all angles, forcing him away from the machine. Then, while Donatello and the Stockmans gathered around it, the other Turtles began fighting Krang, who wasn't about to go down easily. He exchanged the robot's hands for two deadly weapons and swung at the nearest Turtle.

Leonardo dodged and sliced at a weapon with his katana. "Face it, Krang, you're all alone now," he said.

"Yeah! Like, all your mutants are all washed up downstairs," Michelangelo added.

Raphael jumped on Krang's back and plunged both sais into the android, then jumped away as it sparked and sizzled. "And now like it or not, you're going to join them," he declared.

Krang shrieked and stumbled, crashing through the door to the roof and tumbling down the first flight of stairs. The robot landed on its side and lay there while Krang sprawled, dazed, in his compartment.

"I can't believe I'm thinking this, but I really wish Shredder was here right now," he mumbled to the walls.

On the roof, the Turtles high-fived in enthusiasm. "Alright!" Raphael exclaimed.

"Like, we totally cleaned his clock!" Michelangelo grinned.

"And we've just figured out how to throw this machine in reverse," Donatello announced.

Baxter pulled a lever while Barney pressed a button. Donatello and Vincent adjusted the angle of the beam. As everyone watched, the food began to flow back in the opposite direction.

"Totally gnarly!" Michelangelo proclaimed.

"There's just one question," Vincent said. "How are we going to get back downstairs with Krang blocking the way?"

Leonardo looked through the door and saw Krang stagger up. "I don't think that's going to be a problem. He knows when he's beat!"

"And so do I, Turtles!"

Everyone jumped a mile. "Shredder!" Leonardo exclaimed in alarm.

"Oh great. Who invited him?" Raphael looked around for the source of the voice and soon found it.

Rising into the sky was a hot air balloon shaped like Shredder. The villain himself was in the basket, along with what looked like several rough and tumble types.

"I have no words," Barney commented, folding his arms.

"What on Earth are you doing, Shredder?!" Baxter yelled.

"Finding a way to get my revenge and conquer the world all at once!" Shredder declared. "None of you will dare to pop this balloon. Inside it is a deadly gas that will spread over the entire city if it refuses to surrender to me! We are the only ones who will survive!" All the occupants held up gas masks.

Baxter took a step back. "Oh my goodness."

"Shredder, you're despicable!" Leonardo cried.

Shredder cackled. "I know! And there's nothing any one of you can do to stop me!"

Leonardo looked to the others. "He's right that we can't risk popping that balloon," he said in horror. "We'll have to find some other way to bring them down!"

"Would you mind enlightening us as to how, O Fearless Leader?" Raphael snapped.

"I will . . . as soon as I know," Leonardo moaned.

"There's no way the city will refuse me now!" Shredder bellowed. "I have delivered the ultimate ultimatum!"

"I've got to say, he's got a point," Raphael said. "He's got the whole city over a barrel now. Or is that, over a balloon!"

"Maybe you could cut the basket and let the balloon float away forever?" Michelangelo suggested.

"It would come down eventually," Barney said, "most likely leaking gas all the way."

"Or it might get popped," Baxter shuddered. "We just can't risk it."

"What we have to do is get the balloon under our control," Vincent said.

"Oh, that's all?" Raphael snorted. "And are we going to walk on water too?!"

"Maybe I've got an idea," Donatello said. "Turtles, get your grappling hooks!" He pulled out his.

"Like, what are we gonna do, Donatello?" Michelangelo blinked.

"I think I know," Leonardo smiled.

"Everyone hook the basket now!" Donatello yelled.

In complete unison, the Turtles twirled their grappling hooks and caught the edge of the basket.

"What?!" Shredder yelled. "This is impossible!"

"This is stupid," sneered Jersey Red. "I thought you guys could do better than this." She and the other gang members came over to remove the hooks.

Before they could, the Turtles all gave hefty pulls. The basket jerked and swayed. The gang members yelped and fell backwards. Shredder crashed into the other side of the basket with an angry yell.

"I think we're doing rather well," Leonardo smiled.

"Give us a hand, guys!" Donatello called to the Stockmans.

They were more than willing.

With seven beings pulling with all their might, the basket both came towards the roof and tipped over. "NOOO!" Shredder roared as he and the gang tumbled out onto the roof.

"Like, cowabunga, Shred-Head," Michelangelo smirked.

"Oh, you guys are going down," Raphael declared. "Again."

Jersey Red glowered. "We'll just see about that."

As a full-scale fight broke out, the Stockmans righted the basket and leaped into it to examine the controls for the gas.

"Thankfully, it's off right now," Barney said.

"And I can permanently lock the controls," Vincent said.

"Then we can leave the disposal of it to the government," Baxter said in relief.

"AUUUGH!"

They all looked up with a start as Shredder fell through the open door and tumbled downstairs. Meanwhile on the roof, the gang members were strewn every which way.

"Another victory for the forces of green," Raphael grinned.

"Ahem?" Baxter raised an eyebrow.

". . . And white, and blue," Raphael added. "Oh heck, the forces of good."

"Much better," said Baxter.

"And what a story!" April squealed from the helicopter. "Mr. Thompson will be thrilled!"

The group on the roof started, then looked to each other. The Turtles and Baxter started to laugh.

xxxx

When Krang limped down to the ground floor and outside, he found Leatherhead and Ray stumbling up from the mutant heap and moving to walk away.

"Stop! Where are you going?!" Krang demanded.

"I be goin' back to my swamp," Leatherhead said. "I only came along to make sure you wouldn't try to take it over, and you can't even take over this city. I'll get my revenge on those Turtles some other time."

"Wait. You want to take revenge on them too?!" Krang wailed.

"Sure. They beat me but good. But ol' Leatherhead knows when he's licked. It'll be a long time before he comes back here, I guarantee." Leatherhead walked off.

Krang looked to Ray. "What about you?!"

"Eh. It was an okay way to pass the day, but I've got other things to do now. See you around." Ray headed off in the other direction.

"I can't believe this!" Krang cried. "I failed again and now all my forces are depleted!"

"You've still got us, Krang," Bebop said.

"Yeah! We're not leaving," Rocksteady nodded.

"Well, good. At least that's something. I think." Krang frowned. "And now Shredder's been defeated too. . . . Go on through the portal. I'll be along in a few minutes."

"Whatcha gonna do, Krang?" Bebop asked.

"Nevermind that! Just go!" Krang snapped.

Rocksteady jumped a mile. "Okay! We're gonna go already!"

A Foot Soldier opened the portal upon comm-link command and the mutants hurried through.

Muttering to himself, Krang disappeared around the side of a building.

xxxx

Once the proper authorities arrived to deal with the deadly gas and the gang, the group headed down to the ground level.

"I wonder what kind of mess we'll find there?" Raphael mused. "We left the mutants in a nice, dazed heap too."

"Well, I don't see anyone there now," Leonardo declared as they arrived. "I'll bet Leatherhead and Ray cut out for sure."

"Or Krang fired them," Raphael laughed.

"Speaking of Krang, there he is," Michelangelo noted. He pointed to where Krang was cautiously coming out from between two buildings. At the same time, Shredder was coming from the opposite side of the building.

"So that's where Shredder went," Raphael remarked. "I wonder why they both stuck around."

The supervillains also both looked incredibly awkward.

"Well," Krang spoke at last, "fancy meeting you here, Shredder. I thought you would have had the city in the palm of your hand by now."

Shredder kicked the ground and twisted the edge of his cape. "I . . . er . . . no." He looked away with a scowl. "I failed."

Krang also refused to meet Shredder's gaze. "So did I." He grimaced. "Leatherhead only cares about revenge on the Turtles."

"I could have told you that," Shredder said, in spite of the fact that he hadn't said a word that morning.

"And Ray just does things out of boredom." Krang shifted. "At least you want to conquer the world, even if you do get too caught up your revenge. . . ."

"And at least you have more intellect than common street thugs," Shredder said.

"Erm . . ." Krang addressed the sidewalk as he spoke. "Do you want to . . . that is, would you be willing to . . ."

At the same time, Shredder was saying almost the same thing. "Would you possibly consider that we could . . ."

"Work together again?"

Finally they turned to look at each other. "I'd be willing," Shredder said.

"It's worth considering," Krang said.

"But I don't want to clean the Technodrome again," Shredder said.

"And I don't want to put up with your crazy revenge plots when we're trying to rule the world," Krang said.

"Crazy revenge plots?!" For a moment it looked like Shredder would explode with typical anger. Instead, he relented. "It's a deal."

Krang relaxed. "Then let's go home. I'll have Bebop and Rocksteady open the portal."

"They're already back on the Technodrome?" Shredder gave him a suspicious look. "Then why were you still lurking around here?"

"Why were you?" Krang retorted.

Neither wanted to answer. So they compromised by saying nothing. In a moment, the portal opened and they went through.

"Aww, isn't that touching?" Raphael snarked. "They've patched things up."

"Not to mention they're going 'home,'" Leonardo chuckled.

"I guess the Technodrome would seem like home to them, after all this time," Donatello remarked.

"As much as they don't want to admit it, they are the only ones with similar enough goals to successfully work together on this project," Barney said.

"Question: do you think they actually care about each other?" Michelangelo wondered.

Again everyone looked at each other.

"Nah!" the Turtles said in unison.

The Stockmans shrugged.

"We'll probably never know," Vincent said.

"And I doubt it matters," Baxter added. "Because unlike Shredder, we wouldn't try to use someone's loved ones against them."

Vincent noticeably cringed. "I can't say I didn't try that," he said. "I encouraged you to do that to draw out the Turtles."

Baxter cringed too. "Oh. . . . We did, didn't we. . . ."

"Hey, you were bonkers and Vince was . . . actually, I don't know how to explain what Vince was," Raphael said. "You believed in love, Vince. You thought it was something beautiful. Why did you do that?"

"Because I have a dark streak, as you well know," Vincent said. "I saw cultures where love was used against them. I saw love in all its contrasting forms-strength, weakness, beauty, ugliness. . . . And I remembered that after meeting Baxter. I felt that love was beautiful, yes, and that what I felt for Baxter was beautiful. But I also felt that revenge was a good thing. Maybe the abandonment and the long years of loneliness twisted me too, because I felt that doing what we did to the Channel 6 crew and using your love for them against you was alright as long as it was part of helping Baxter get his rightful, honorable revenge." He sighed. "I don't know how to explain it better than that."

"That's good enough." Raphael looked a little shaken and definitely troubled, but he didn't berate Vincent. It was obvious from the way the computer spoke that he felt badly about what he had done.

"I'm sorry," Vincent said softly.

"We know, Vincent," Leonardo said. "We're sorry too, since if we'd listened and helped Baxter in the first place, it might not have happened."

"And I might not have met Vincent," Baxter shuddered.

Barney frowned. "Yes, you would have," he retorted. "We both would have."

Baxter was surprised by Barney's vehemence. "Barney . . . ?"

"Look at all these other dimensions!" Barney sounded impatient. "Somehow, some way, their Vincents always find their way to their Baxters and Barneys. As much as I dislike the theory that our lives are all planned out for us and there's nothing we can do about it, I do like the offshoot from that which states that certain people are supposed to meet. Vincent is supposed to be with us. You would have met him whether the cross-fusion had happened or not. I don't know how or when or why, but I know it would have happened. So don't go thinking that you had to suffer in that wretched state or you wouldn't have found Vincent."

"But . . ." Baxter reconsidered his answer and shook his head. "Nevermind. You make decent sense, Barney. A beautiful, comforting sense." He smiled.

"Good," Barney growled.

Vincent beamed. "Seeing those other dimensions really is encouraging," he said. "And the rifts between you two are always mended as well. You're meant to be close. Maybe what you had to go through to get there makes your eventual bond all the more deep and special. In one way, you never had that natural closeness that most twins have. In another way, you always have. Barney always loved you so much in spite of his anger and hurt, Baxter. And Baxter likewise, Barney. He never stopped loving you and seeing the good in you no matter how he was hurt. It takes a special bond for that to be the case."

"Mondo notion, Dudes," Michelangelo said.

"I'm sure we all agree," Leonardo said. "Your bond is invaluable and deeply special, to each other and all of us too. It was largely your example that inspired us to want to try to be more open and really think of each other as the brothers we are."

"And I'm still humbled by that," Baxter said quietly. "To think that a relationship as flawed and dysfunctional as ours could actually teach something to the Ninja Turtles!"

"We don't know everything," Leonardo said. "We may have always been more stable or normal than your relationship, but we still had a lot to learn. I'm sure all of us still do."

"And now we're all a family together," Michelangelo declared. "Brothers, uncles, and most importantly, best buds!" He beamed.

Barney raised an eyebrow. "I'm your uncle?"

"And me?" Vincent blinked.

"Well, sure!" Michelangelo said. "Why not?"

Baxter chuckled. "Yes, why not?"

Barney finally gave a gruff smile. "I guess I can live with that."

The Turtles whooped and high-fived while Vincent hugged his brothers close. Truly, their bonds were special indeed.

xxxx

Bebop and Rocksteady perked up in delighted amazement when Krang and Shredder came through the portal together. "Boss, you're back!" Rocksteady exclaimed.

"Yes," Shredder grunted. His gaze shifted uncomfortably. "Krang and I . . . decided to put our differences behind us and try again."

"Oh, that's beautiful!" Bebop declared.

"Welcome back, Boss!" Rocksteady ran forward to glomp Shredder and tripped. They both fell over.

"You mutant moron!" Shredder screamed.

"Yep, everything is back to normal now," Bebop said.

Krang laughed in spite of himself, but turned away before anyone could see the toothy smile. He would never admit to how much he had missed the normalcy.