I do not own TMNT. If I did, this would not qualify as fanfiction. It would be actual fiction.
Behind the wheel of the hauler, Donatello stretched and yawned for the fifth time in as many minutes. One of these days he was going to have to install a coffee maker in this thing.
"I saw that," Leonardo said, sternly. "Did you sneak out of bed again last night?"
"No, Leo, I stayed exactly where you so kindly deposited me. I just didn't sleep much."
"Donnie, you've gotta stop obsessing over that signal," Raphael growled.
"Alleged signal," Michelangelo interjected, one finger in the air.
"Alleged signal," Leo agreed. "Stop driving yourself crazy over nothing, Donnie."
"Nothing!" Donnie huffed in disbelief as he hit a button on the control panel. The main display screen filled with a pulsating static. "This isn't nothing!"
"Looks like nothing to me," Raph said.
"That's the very definition of nothing, Bro" Mikey confirmed as he turned away dismissively and returned to fiddling with his nunchucks.
"It's not nothing!" Donnie chuckled good-naturedly.
"Don, you're so tired you're using double negatives. You've been trying to wrap your head around this for weeks. Let it go, already!" Leo laughed.
Donnie rubbed his chin and shook his head as he stared at the screen. "It's something, then. It's got to be something."
"No it doesn't," Raphael said as he closed the display.
"Hey!" Donnie protested. "I was watching that."
"Not anymore," Raph stated, finally.
"Yeah, Don, that was almost as boring as those science shows you insist on watching," Mikey whined. "Raph, can you put on something with giant robots. Oh! Or explosions!"
"Enough already," Leonardo said. "This is a stakeout, remember. The only thing we're supposed to be watching is that warehouse."
"Donnie's static was more exciting. Can we go back to watching that?"
"No, Mikey. Everyone keep your eyes peeled for signs of gang activity."
"Eyes peeled - what a gross expression," Michelangelo said with an exaggerated shudder. Raph shook his fist menacingly in response.
Everyone returned to watching their assigned entrances, but Leonardo soon noticed that Donnie seemed to be gazing right through his. He knew what that look on his genius brother's face meant. "Stop thinking about it," Leo teased.
Donnie turned to his brother and smiled. "No can do, boss. I'm in too deep."
"So what are you thinking?" Leo asked as he leaned back in his seat and put his arms behind his head.
"It's some sort of transmission, for sure. There's a definite pattern. I just can't figure out who is sending it or where it's coming from. Whatever it is, it's bouncing off of every cell phone tower and satellite dish in town. It's making triangulation impossible."
"Are you thinking that it's alien, or terrestrial in origin?"
"Well, the interference pattern would imply-"
"Guys, we've got activity in the western garage bay," Mikey cut in.
"Finally!" Raph said as he spun his sais.
Donnie activated the exterior camera and panned in. A nondescript van had parked near the far side of the building and a shadowy figure had leapt out and opened the garage bay. The van pulled into the garage, and the bay door closed again. It was impossible to say how many people were in the van, or what it was transporting.
Leo rose from his seat. "Raph and I will get in closer, try to see what's going on. Don and Mike - you guys monitor the situation from here for now. We'll call you in if we need you." With that, Leo and Raphael rushed out of the hauler, silently racing each other towards the garage. Don flipped a switch and activated the parabolic dish, tracking his brothers with it.
Raphael and Leo made it to the garage bay, leaning on opposite sides of the door. Raph carefully examined the door then crouched down and held his hands together, beckoning Leo over with a flick of his head. Leo took the invitation and crept over to his brother, planting a foot in his hand and allowing Raphael to lift him. A small hole was corroded through the metal allowing Leo to peek inside.
"They're unloading a bunch of black plastic cases from the van. Must be heavy. They take two guys to lift."
"Oh, well that narrows it down," Mikey muttered. Donnie shushed him, trying to focus on the transmission.
"Is there any writing on the cases? Do they all look the same?" Raph asked in a harsh murmur.
"Not that I can see. They're loading them into a cargo container. Looks like a lot of identical cases are already inside."
"The cargo container is gray with a white star set in a blue box. I can't make out all of the writing, but it looks like it starts with an M."
"Probably Maersk," Donnie whispered to Mikey. "That's a likely dead end. They're one of the largest shipping companies in the world. Their cargo containers are all over the place."
"As always, you are a bottomless well of unneeded information, Donatello," Mikey grinned as he grew bored and returned to fiddling with his nunchucks.
"Enough out of you," Donnie said as he returned the smile. "And quit messing around, we're supposed to be providing backup support."
"You're doing a fine job of that on your own. Besides, that little tidbit about shipping containers is sure to crack this case wide open."
Donnie swatted at the air dismissively as he returned to watching his brothers. Leo seemed to perk up all at once.
"They're opening one of the boxes!"
Mikey hit the transmit button on his headset. "Leo, try and see if you can figure out who manufactured the box. Don's dying to know!"
"Huh?" Leo whispered.
Raph's gruff voice cracked across the speaker, "Don, since I'm not there I need you to whack Mikey upside the head for me."
Donnie rose and rubbed his hands together threateningly, grinning maliciously as he moved in on Mikey. The lighthearted moment was interrupted by Leo's frantic voice. "Weapons! It's weapons! Maybe some sort of grenade launchers"
"A whole shipping container full?" Don called in alarm as he spun on his heels.
"At least," Leo said. I think there's more containers in there."
"Switch places," Raphael said as he lowered Leo back to the ground.
Raphael confirmed everything that Leonardo had just observed, which meant that it was time to regroup. The four brothers reunited and crouched behind a cluster of dumpsters located near the warehouse's main bay of loading docks.
"So, what's it gonna be, Fearless? Do we fight'em, or do we track'em?"
"Guessing I know which one has your vote, Raph," Leo said with a grin.
"Shell yeah. It's been too quiet around here lately."
"Well I'm on team track'em," Donnie yawned. "I know it looks bad, but we don't even know who these guys are yet."
"You just want to go the safe route because you're sorely lacking in beauty sleep these days, Don." Mikey interjected as Donnie rolled his eyes. "Besides, grenade launchers, mysterious evil-doers, a creepy warehouse - sounds like the start of a fun Saturday night."
Everyone turned to Leo. "Don's right that we shouldn't go into this half-cocked."
"Awwwww," Mikey moaned.
"Hear me out," Leo continued. "On the flip side, we can't just sit back and do nothing if this is an arms transfer. That's just not our style. Besides, we all know that if we leave Raph will just sneak back here later tonight anyway, right?"
"You know me so well."
Knowing that he was outnumbered, Donatello was already busying himself downloading the building's blueprints and ownership information. He didn't really mind, though. Such was the life of the family pacifist.
"Why don't we return to the hauler and continue surveillance. And Raph, I know you wanted to check this place out because of the recent increase in trouble on this block, but now that we know something is definitely going on, I'd like a more detailed rundown of what exactly you've observed out here the past few weeks."
"Sure thing, Fearless."
Just as the brothers were turning to leave, a tractor trailer turned in and headed straight for the loading docks. "Quick, into the dumpsters!" Leo commanded. He leapt into the nearest one, and was followed immediately by Raphael.
"No, not the dumpsters," Mikey whined. A rattling behind them signified that someone was opening the loading dock door. Donnie grabbed Mikey by the wrist and pulled him into a second dumpster, the lid closing just as the loading dock door opened.
"Mikey, did you see the license plate number on the truck?"
"Sure, it was FTN4643."
"New Jersey," Mikey said in a mockingly terrified tone. Donnie could barely see him wiggling his fingers in the air through the darkness that enveloped them.
"Knock it off with your New Jersey prejudice. It's a beautiful state. The meadowlands are pretty cool, and did you know that the world's largest water tower is located in New Jersey? Supposedly you can see it from the Empire State Building!"
Mikey stared at Donatello dumbly. "Fascinating. Now back to the ARMS TRANSFER that's going on directly behind us at this very minute!"
"Shhh, shhh, don't yell! I'm running a query on the truck now. It just takes a little longer since it's after dark and the DMV is closed."
"So help me, Don, if you start spouting off more Jersey facts I'm getting into the other dumpster, arms dealers or no."
"That won't be necessary. The truck is registered to Peterman Transit Services out of Hoboken. Can you text the others while I look into them?"
"Sure, but you should know that I'm sitting on something that's a disturbing combination of spiky and squishy over here."
"Duly noted." Donatello didn't glance up as his fingers continued to fly across his phone.
In the other dumpster, Raphael and Leonardo were jockeying for position when the text from Mikey arrived. Leonardo used his feet to ward off Raph as he read the text aloud. "The truck is from Peterman Transit," Leo read.
Raphael pushed down his brother's head mid-sentence and attempted to use the resulting gap to slide behind him. Something smelled on the other side of the dumpster, and the two most competitive brothers were bound and determined to push each other into it. Naturally, Leonardo occasionally stopped to pull rank and claim that they were being too loud, only to resume the wrestling match immediately thereafter. Leo was playing dirty and Raph wasn't going to put up with it.
The phone pinged again. "Donnie says that they're a small upstart company. Only been in business a year. Could be something there." Leo dodged a piece of debris headed for his temple. "Okay that's enough clowning around. If Mikey and Don are the research dumpster, we need to be the observation dumpster. What do you see?"
"You're just trying to flush me from my position. Why don't you tell me what you see?" Raphael countered.
"Fine," Leo said pointedly as he moved to the lid and cracked it open a quarter inch. "The truck is docked. Sounds like they're loading it. I can't see if anyone is in the cab."
"Let's just get down to business," Raphael grumbled. "One of us should try to get back to the hauler and continue full surveillance. Then we can just feed the info to the others. We're probably just hanging around in these dumpsters for nothing." The phones pinged again.
"Warehouse blueprints and other building info from Don," Leo said. "He and I can stay here and sort through this while you make for the hauler. We'll ask Mikey to watch your back. Just be careful."
"Aren't I always?" Raph said as he texted the plan to the others. Once he received the all clear from Mikey, he slid out of the dumpster with the liquid smoothness of a cat. Silently hurrying to the nearest wall, he then disappeared into the shadows.
"That was so cool," Mikey said. "I wonder if I look that good doing that?"
"You are a sight to behold, Mikey," Don said, his eyes remaining trained on his phone. "The building owners seem clean, but the current leaseholders look a bit shady. I wonder…"
A loud bang arose from inside the building. Mikey had inadvertently began turning his attention to Don as he spoke, and snapped his eyes back to where he last saw Raphael. Raph was fine, but appeared to have frozen in his tracks. Don and Leo quickly gave up their research and joined Michelangelo in keeping vigil over Raph. With the dumpster lids cracked open, they were able to whisper to one another.
"What happened, Michelangelo?" Leo hissed.
"Nothing! I don't know. It was just a bang. Was it a gunshot? It sounded like a gunshot!" Mikey's words and sentences blended together in his panic.
Donnie put his arm around Mikey's shoulders to calm his brother's rapidly fraying nerves. "It's okay. Raph is fine. He's just being cautious."
"He must see something we don't. Why else would he have stopped moving?" Leo added.
"I don't know, but I'm heading to the corner." Mikey said. "I'm supposed to have his back." Without leaving room for argument, Mikey immediately slipped out from Don's arm and followed the path Raphael had taken. It was a few hundred feet from the loading bay to the corner of the building, and another hundred feet or so to where Raph was crouching, partially hidden by a bollard. Mikey peered around the corner of the building, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. He caught Raph's eye and shrugged his shoulders. Raph returned the gesture. Mikey turned and gave Don and Leo the a-okay sign.
There was another loud bang. This one close enough that Mikey slunk down and covered his ears. Yelling was coming from inside the building, and it sounded like a lot more people than they had anticipated were inside. The sound of multiple engines starting echoed from the garage area.
Raph stayed in place, but repeated the shrugging gesture. Mikey looked at Leo with panic. That last bang had sounded unmistakably like a gunshot, and the yelling seemed to be increasing. Leo hopped out of the dumpster and ran off to join Mikey. Donnie rose to follow but Leo waved him back down as he passed.
As Leo reached Mikey, a third shot rang out. Leo maintained his cool and put a hand on Mikey's shell. "You go back and wait with Donnie, he said in a hoarse whisper. I'm going to meet up with Raph and we'll get to the hauler. Once you see the hauler moving, you and Don make a break for it and meet us at the South Gate. This is getting too heated for my liking. Once we're moving we'll call 911 to report the gunshots and leave all of this to them."
"Okay," Mikey said with a shiver. "We really ought to just call 911 more often."
Leo took off in a low trot towards Raphael, and Michelangelo turned back towards the loading dock. He hadn't made it more than a couple of steps before the entire loading bay area exploded in front of him. The docked tractor trailer was thrust forwards and quickly set ablaze, its contents spilling out and pummeling the nearby dumpsters where Donnie had been hiding. Its payload must have included some sort of flammable liquids, because it only took seconds for everything to be fully engulfed in flames.
"Donnie!" Mikey shrieked, frozen in place as Leonardo dashed by him. Leo was covering his face with the inside of his arm as he ran, as though it could protect him from the heat and smoke that was rolling off of the rapidly building fire.
Five-foot-high flames were bursting out of the dumpsters when Raphael crashed onto the scene in the hauler. Leonardo was still trying desperately to find a path towards where he had last seen his brother. "Donnie was still in the dumpster!" he yelled, his voice breaking. Raphael processed this for a second. There was no way to make it to the dumpsters on foot, and the whole area was quickly being obscured by smoke. Raph did the only thing that he could think to do, and charged the hauler directly into the dumpsters, sending their flaming contents spilling to the ground. He made a quick visual scan on the debris, but saw no sign of his brother. He then quickly reversed, out of fear that the hauler was about to catch fire as well.
"Into the hauler!" Leonardo yelled to Mikey. "We'll scan for any signs of Donnie from inside."
Mikey didn't need to be told twice. They were sitting ducks out here. There was too much smoke to see Donnie, and the fire department would be here any moment. They couldn't risk being seen by anyone, and the hauler offered the best odds of searching out Donnie while also hiding them from sight.
Since Raphael was behind the wheel and Leo was choking on smoke from his attempted rescue, Michelangelo took the seat usually reserved for Don and brought up the shell cell GPS signals. A satellite image appeared on the main screen. The blue, red and orange dots were together, with the purple dot nearby. It showed Donnie exactly where they had left him, next to the now-destroyed loading bay. Mikey toggled through more controls. The infrared was useless due to the fire. He switched on the area-audio scan, but there were no sounds coming from the warehouse anymore, aside from the creaking of structural supports beginning to react to the heat.
Raph turned to his brothers. "I'm gonna drive us back to the dumpsters and we'll spray the area down as best we can with the fire suppressant foam. We have to act fast, though. Those flames are gonna spring back in no time." Raph didn't wait for feedback before taking off. Leo leapt to the control for the suppressing agents and disbursed the chemicals as best he could. Still no sign of Donnie. The wail of a fire engine could be heard in the distance.
"He's not here!" Leo shouted. "We've got to go!"
Raphael glared back. "We're not leaving a brother behind!" he growled.
"He isn't here. He must have made it out before the explosion."
"But his phone signal!" Mikey cried. "Donnie never would've left his phone behind."
"Guys, he's not here or we would've found each other by now. Regardless, he wouldn't have survived this long in the heat and smoke. We've got to go before someone catches us here."
He hated it, but in Raph's heart he knew Leonardo was right. If Donnie was here, there was no way that he had survived. Furthermore, Donnie would never forgive them for getting themselves captured on his account. Raphael hit the gas and pulled out, heading towards the opposite end of the building. As the hauler began to move, Mikey did the simplest thing he could think of and called Donnie's cell. He knew that the GPS said that the phone was nearby. Maybe they'd hear it ring. Maybe Donnie would even pick up and tell them where he was hiding!
The call never went through. All Mikey heard was static. Even in his desperation, he noticed something familiar. This wasn't ordinary static. Something was pulsating behind it. He realized in horror that it was the signal - The same one that Donnie had been fixated on these past few days. The one that everyone had tried to convince him was nothing.
As they debated their next move, all three brothers were overcome by the same thought, although none of them dared to voice it. They were never going to see Donatello again.