Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987

Whatever Happened to Irma Langinstein?

By Lucky_Ladybug

Notes: The characters from the show are not mine. Cassiopeia and the mad scientist are mine. The original idea was suggested by Retro Mania. 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. This story picks up immediately following my Halloween story Lurking From the Dark.

Irma, still clad in the flapper costume she had worn to the Channel 6 Halloween party, headed down the street towards the apartment complex where she and April still lived. It had been a fun evening, but now it was late and she was anxious to get home.

"Oh, I wonder why these costumes never look right on me," she sighed. "The superhero costume didn't make me look heroic. And this flapper costume doesn't make me look like a 1920s party girl." She adjusted the blonde wig. "It was fun anyway, though. And I guess that's the most important thing."

The last thing she wanted to do was to follow weirdos into an alley. But when she saw Bebop and Rocksteady lumbering in that direction, she stiffened in alarm.

"Oh my gosh!" she whispered. "I've gotta let the Turtles know! . . . No, I'd better see what they're up to first."

And so she slipped into the alley and followed them in the shadows to the back of an old building.

"What are we doin' here for?" Rocksteady said in annoyance.

"Gee, I don't know, but I'm sure this is the address the Boss gave us," Bebop said.

The back door was open, allowing a mysterious voice to waft out to all of them. "Look into my Personality Alteration Ray!" the voice commanded without warning.

Bebop and Rocksteady couldn't help doing so when the ray appeared right in the doorway. Irma, too, was caught in the strangeness of the ray's twisting, swirling barrel.

"Now," the voice continued, "adopt the exact opposite of your personalities until you are commanded to revert back. If you're nasty, you will be nice. If you're quiet, you will be boistrous."

Bebop and Rocksteady went stiff. "Of course, Master," Rocksteady intoned.

"We will go right away and find some little old ladies to help across the street," Bebop added.

Irma rolled her eyes. "Heh. Well, good luck, boys. I am off to party!" She danced out of the alley, throwing her feather cap into the sky and then catching it again.

Behind her and the mutants, a madman laughed in the open doorway. "It works!" he cheered. "It works! I have changed them all!"

His cackle echoed off the buildings.

Rocksteady peeked back in the alley. "Excuse me, Master, but would you mind keeping it down? You will wake up all the poor people who are trying to sleep."

The scientist started. "Oh . . . of course," he stammered. "Hmm . . . maybe my invention works too well. What is a mad scientist without a raucous cackle? Oh well." He turned and headed back inside. "I will monitor my new subjects' progress with my special nanobots." His eyes gleamed. "This should be very interesting!"

xxxx

Barney started awake when he felt something roll against him in the bed. For a moment the sleep-induced confusion stayed with him and his first instinct was to push it away. But then clarity returned and he relaxed. It was Baxter. His twin was sound asleep and looked so peaceful. Barney just drew an arm around him and settled back into the pillows.

Although occasionally Barney had fallen asleep on Vincent in the living room, this was the first time that he could recall ever having someone else in his bed. It was probably the only time it would ever happen, given Barney's aloof nature and Baxter's discomfort with doing anything childish or childlike as an adult. He had been so shaken from his and Michelangelo's encounter with an unknown, evil menace that he hadn't wanted to be alone that night. And he had trusted Barney enough to go to him about it. . . .

Just a year ago, Barney would have scoffed and sneered at the very idea. He and Baxter hadn't even done this as children, as he had noted earlier. They hadn't been close, and in any case, physical contact had made Barney nervous. It still wasn't something he did much, but he had started to embrace Baxter and Vincent on occasion.

Right now, his feelings were mixed. He wondered how he would move if he wanted to. It was certainly awkward. But at the same time, he was awed and moved at how far they had come. Last year, Baxter had barely trusted Barney with his inner feelings-with good reason, of course. Now, Baxter was happily sleeping in Barney's bed, with Barney. He was completely vulnerable, but he felt completely safe. And of course, he was.

Barney smiled as he finally slipped back to sleep.

xxxx

Baxter awakened slowly, at first not remembering where he was. Then the memories trickled back in-the terror in the old cemetery, his inability to deal with being alone that night . . . going to Barney . . . Barney welcoming him in.

He was in Barney's bed. And he had rolled against something in his sleep.

He went red. Had he really . . . ?

He was about to jerk away in mortification when he realized that an arm was around him. Barney was aware that Baxter had rolled next to him. He had even accepted it.

Baxter started to relax into the pillows, stunned but thrilled and overjoyed at the same time. This never could have happened in the past. Barney's pride wouldn't have allowed it. It still seemed an awkward and childish thing to do now that they were grown, but even if it never happened again, this was a time Baxter would treasure.

"Good morning," Barney grunted.

Baxter jumped and turned to look at him. Barney was awake, smirking a bit but seeming peaceful.

Baxter smiled. "You're not embarrassed?"

"In the past I would have been awkward at the very least," Barney said. "But no, I'm not now." He saw no need to mention his awkward feelings when he had first awakened and realized what Baxter had done. Instead he moved back and started to sit up. "Are you feeling any better?"

"A lot," Baxter said, sitting up as well. "Right now, last night seems like a faraway nightmare. Thank goodness. I hope Michelangelo feels the same."

"Probably." Barney threw back the covers and got up. "I'm sure he enjoyed his time with Leonardo."

"Barney . . ." Baxter followed, but waited for Barney to turn and look at him before continuing his sentiment. "Thank you."

Barney nodded as they each took their glasses from the nightstand. "Today it's back to business as usual. I hope you won't get any flack for not attending the Channel 6 party last night."

"I'm sure it'll be fine," Baxter said. "April and Irma and Vernon understood it was because I had the chance to celebrate with you and Vincent for the first time. They'd tell that to anyone who complained."

"That, and you weren't sure what you were going to do about the masquerade part of it," Barney remarked.

"That too," Baxter conceded, rubbing the back of his neck. He walked away and looked out the window at the overcast autumn day. "I really don't like doing things like that anymore. But I know a lot of adults do." He sighed, placing his hands on the windowsill and leaning forward. "Does the fact that I don't mean I'm a wet blanket?"

"No," Barney frowned. "It means you and I have different interests than a lot of people. And that's alright."

"It shouldn't surprise me that you see it that way," Baxter said. He smiled as he turned back. "Thank you, Barney."

Barney nodded. Baxter meant it for many things. "Shall we go see how the others fared through the night?"

"Let's." Baxter followed Barney to the door.

Michelangelo was just coming out of another room, stretching and holding his Turtle-Comm in one hand. "Oh, that was a mondo good sleep," he proclaimed.

"That's great, Michelangelo, but what about Irma?!" April exclaimed. "She never came home last night!"

Everyone in hearing range stiffened. "What?!" Baxter gasped.

Michelangelo immediately sobered. "When's the last time you saw her, Dudette?!"

"When she was leaving the Halloween party," April said. "I've tried calling her, but she doesn't answer! I thought she was in her apartment until I came to get her for work and found that her bed hasn't even been slept in!"

"This is not a good way to start the day," Barney frowned.

"It certainly isn't," Baxter exclaimed. "We'll be there as soon as possible, April." He leaned into the Turtle-Comm's viewscreen.

"Yeah, and we can like, trace Irma's path going home from Channel 6," Michelangelo said. "Maybe we can figure out what happened that way!"

"I sure hope you can figure out some way," April moaned. "Irma wouldn't just disappear!"

"No, she wouldn't," Leonardo agreed as he came out of the open bedroom Michelangelo had already emerged from. "But I promise you we'll find her, April."

"I hope so," April sighed. "I just don't understand where she could have gone! There's no reason why she wouldn't have come home!"

"Unless she was kidnapped or something," Michelangelo gulped.

The other Turtles, Splinter, and Vincent were starting to gather in the hall now. Although confused, they quickly picked up on what was happening and became worried as well. With Barney in the lead, they all headed downstairs and out the door.

Vincent fell back to talk to Baxter. "Hi, Pal," he greeted. "How was last night?"

Baxter gave his friend a genuine smile. "It was wonderful," he said sincerely. "You were right, Vincent-Barney was willing to let me stay the night under the circumstances. I think we both enjoyed the show of brotherhood."

"I knew it," Vincent beamed.

"I'm really worried about Irma now, though," Baxter said. "Something really must be wrong!"

By now the group was outside and climbing into the Turtle Van. Donatello climbed into the driver's seat and revved the engine. As Vincent remotely opened the gate, they drove down the driveway and out into the street.

"It does seem strange," Vincent consented. "And very unlike Irma."

"Exactly." Baxter's eyes shone in concern. "Where could she be?!"

"We'll find out," Vincent soothed.

xxxx

On the Technodrome, Shredder and Krang awakened to a very bizarre sight. The transport module had not returned to its place, but Bebop and Rocksteady were standing in the main control room.

"Well?" Shredder demanded. "Did you two get the fuel you were supposed to get last night?!"

The mutants exchanged an alarmed look.

"Why, no, Boss," Rocksteady gasped. "That would be stealing, and we just couldn't."

"WHAT?!" Shredder boomed.

Krang was staring. "You have got to be kidding me."

"Oh, we wouldn't do that either," Bebop hurried to say. "That isn't very nice."

"We parked the module up above, too, because it also isn't nice to keep punching holes in this beautiful landscape or into the Earth's crust," Rocksteady added.

Bebop nodded. "We came down the tube without the module instead."

"I can't believe I'm hearing this!" Shredder gripped his helmet with both hands. "Krang, what's going on?!"

"It's like they're acting completely opposite to their normal selves," Krang blinked. "Like when you became so nice you put Mr. Rogers to shame."

"Don't remind me!" Shredder groaned. "But if that's what happened to these two lummoxes, how did it happen?! And how do we fix it?!"

"I'll have to run some tests," Krang said. He glowered at Bebop and Rocksteady. "Will you hold still for that?"

"Of course," Rocksteady said.

"We won't disappoint you," Bebop nodded. "That wouldn't be nice at all."

"And I guess you didn't wake us up when you came in last night because that wouldn't have been very nice either," Shredder said with dripping sarcasm.

"Ooh yeah, that's right!" Rocksteady exclaimed. "How did you know, Boss?"

". . . Just a lucky guess," Shredder flatly intoned.

xxxx

When the Turtle Van pulled up outside the apartment building, April was standing on the sidewalk and wringing her hands. "She's still not here!" she exclaimed.

"So hop in and we'll start retracing her steps," Raphael said, gesturing to the back.

April was just coming over to get in when brash laughter from down the street made her pause. "Irma?" she said in disbelief.

Everyone peered out of the Van. Irma, still dressed as a blonde flapper, was moseying down the street towards them. Cassiopeia was walking beside her.

"Oh, that was really a trip!" Irma giggled.

"No kidding," Cassiopeia smirked. "I didn't know either you or April really knew how to cut loose. Especially you. I thought you were just really milquetoast."

"I have a lot of surprises!" Irma declared.

"Irma!" April burst out. "What is going on?! Where were you all night?!"

"Yeah, Dudette," Michelangelo frowned. "Didn't you know April would be worried?!"

"Pfft. She shouldn't have been." Irma dismissively waved her hand. "Halloween is a time to kick up your heels and party!"

"Amen to that," Cassiopeia smirked.

"I called and called!" April cried. "You never answered!"

"Oh." Irma took her phone out of her purse and looked at it. "I must have turned it off. Sorry about that."

Baxter was deeply frowning. "This isn't you, Irma. What happened when you left the Channel 6 party last night?"

"I walked home," Irma shrugged. "Oh, and I followed Bebop and Rocksteady into an alley and we all got brainwashed by some guy's ray gun."

"WHAT?!" everyone shrieked.

"Yeah," Irma shrugged, as though it wasn't anything to be concerned about. "So he made Bebop and Rocksteady act like squares and I got to be hip."

April ran over and gripped Irma's shoulders. "Where was this, Irma?! Could you lead us back there?!"

"Probably," Irma said. "But I don't want to. I'm going in to crash now so Cassie and me can party again tonight." She let loose with a large yawn.

"Irma, you have work right now!" April protested.

"Wrong! I have sleep right now," Irma countered.

"You'd better let her go, April," Donatello said. "She won't be any help in her condition."

April stepped back. "I guess you're right, but . . . what are we going to do?" she helplessly whispered.

"Is it really so bad?" Cassiopeia snorted.

"She's not herself!" April exclaimed. "You're having fun now, but it's all a lie. Irma doesn't act like this! She'll be devastated when she comes back to herself."

"We'll just have to look for this guy's place on our own," Donatello said.

"Or look for Bebop and Rocksteady," Raphael snorted. "If everybody's acting completely opposite, what does that mean for them?"

"I think it means they're gonna be mondo repulsioso," Michelangelo said. "Only they won't be pretending to be nice-they'll really be brainwashed to be nice!"

"Now there's some horror material for you," Raphael intoned.

"But just imagine how Shredder and Krang must be feeling," Barney giggled.

"Probably the one high spot in this whole mess," Raphael smirked. "Barney, you do have a dark sense of humor, just like Vince said."

Vincent smirked too. "It is a pleasant picture."

Sobering again, Barney sighed and said, "It's too bad it wouldn't make Bebop and Rocksteady want to break with them in their right minds. But I'm sure they'll be happy to go back to their usual behavior."

"Probably," Baxter agreed.

"Well, come on, everyone," Leonardo said. "Let's start looking."

Again everyone climbed into the Turtle Van. "It can't be too far away," Baxter said. "Channel 6 is near here."

"Yeah, but do you have any idea how many alleys there are?" Raphael groaned.

"Let's think about this scientifically," Donatello said. "Who would be most likely to invent a brainwashing ray?"

"A mad scientist," Raphael retorted. "Who else?"

"So I'll look up all the addresses of scientists in this specific area," Donatello said.

"And just hope the guy wasn't brainwashing them from the back door of a business or something instead of his home," Raphael said.

Donatello froze. "Good point."

"I thought so," said Raphael.

"Hey, maybe when Irma wakes up, she'll lead us to the dude's pad," Michelangelo suggested.

"I don't think so, Michelangelo," April moaned. "Now Irma's into rocking around the clock. When she wakes up, she'll probably want to party some more, like she said."

"Life is too short," Cassiopeia said. "She should get out and party."

"But not at the expense of her friends and her job!" April countered. "And not when she's not even in her right mind! Who knows what could happen!" She glowered at Cassiopeia. "Don't you have any sense of responsibility at all?!"

"Hey, I helped you stall that Technodrome thing, didn't I?!" Cassiopeia frowned.

Not listening, April barreled on. "And didn't you think it was strange when Irma showed up wanting to party?!"

"At first I thought she was just getting into character," Cassiopeia said. "Then I thought she'd wised up and taken my advice! I told her at the Channel 6 party that she should cut loose and have a ball!"

"Well, she's sure doing that," April said. "And what if I can't smooth it over with Mr. Thompson so she can keep her job?!"

"Then she can party all the time!" Cassiopeia exclaimed.

"Grow up, Cassiopeia!" April yelled. "No one can party all the time! We have to live in the real world. We need to have jobs to support ourselves!"

"Some of you do," Cassiopeia spat. "No one will hire a mutant, not even as a waitress. We have to learn how to support ourselves without jobs."

Dead silence fell over the Van. It was only broken when Cassiopeia spoke again.

"If I have to be a second-class citizen, okay. But is it so terrible to not want to be a second-class citizen alone?"

". . . Well, hey," Michelangelo said at last. "We could all be second-class citizens together, Dudette."

"Yeah, but you're teenagers," Cassiopeia said. "You're too young to get into the places I want to go. There aren't any other party-loving mutants my age. Irma was finally someone to hang out with, even though she's not a mutant."

"I can't argue with that," Raphael said.

"But we still have to save Irma," April insisted. "She's not just someone for you to go clubbing with; she's my best friend!"

"Maybe after seeing what it's like to have fun, she'll prefer that to the daily grind," Cassiopeia said.

"Then you'll still be able to have fun with her when she's in her right mind," April said firmly.

"Uh, Compadres?" Michelangelo suddenly interrupted. "I know we need to find the mad scientist dude and all, but could we at least run into that Little Caesar's over there and get a couple of pizzas to go?" His stomach rumbled, loudly.

Baxter chuckled. "I'm sure we can. That shouldn't take more than five minutes at the most."

Barney nodded. "None of us have had breakfast. Although I don't know about the advisibility of pizza for breakfast. . . ."

"Oh, we do it all the time," Michelangelo said.

"Sadly true," said Splinter.

xxxx

Irma frowned to herself as she stood in her darkened bedroom and slowly removed her flapper hat and blonde wig. Halloween was over; she couldn't dress up in character to party that night. But maybe she could do something to make herself look more exciting.

The blonde wig could certainly stay. And maybe she could replace her glasses with contacts. She probably should have done that to begin with. Who ever heard of a flapper wearing glasses?

She smiled when she sank into bed a few minutes later. She would also need something appropriate for partying in. She could easily pick up a new dress after a good, long rest.

Maybe this brainwashing was really a good thing, she thought to herself. I haven't had that much fun in a long time, if ever.

But just before she fell asleep, she frowned. It's not really me, though, is it?

xxxx

It was after retrieving breakfast that the group saw a bizarre and yet amusing sight. A portal opened in the parking lot of Little Caesar's and Shredder and Krang got out.

"Alright, you morons!" Shredder barked. "Come on!"

"After you," Bebop gestured.

"Oh no, I insist, after you," Rocksteady replied.

"Morons!" Krang shrieked. "Just come out!"

Frightened into acting, Bebop and Rocksteady hurried through together and stumbled all around.

"Oh, I am so sorry that I stepped on your toes," Bebop said.

"Pardon me for crashing into you," Rocksteady said.

Raphael cackled. "I can't decide if this is a comedy or a horror flick!"

"It's sure a horror for Shredder and Krang," Leonardo laughed.

Shredder raised his fists to the sky. "Forget about your blasted brainwashing and just show us where it happened!" he roared.

"Certainly, Boss." Rocksteady headed out of the parking lot and the others followed.

"How about that?" Raphael remarked. "They didn't even notice us."

"I'd say that's a good thing," Leonardo said. "Maybe we can follow them and see where it happened."

"Yeah, and just hope and pray that the guy who did it is still there," Raphael said.

April just shook her head. "This would be a lot funnier if poor Irma hadn't been affected too," she said.

Baxter gave her a sad and understand smile. "That definitely makes a difference."

Donatello didn't speak, instead staying focused on keeping their enemies in sight. When they turned down an alley, he stopped. "Pay dirt." Quickly he got out and slipped into the alley behind them.

"It was right here, Boss!" Rocksteady insisted, indicating a cream-colored door at the back of a brick building.

Shredder tried the door. "Locked." Without even trying to knock, he jump-kicked the door in and walked inside. "Hello?!"

"Gee, Boss, that wasn't nice at all," Rocksteady exclaimed. "You broke the guy's door in and now you're trespassing!"

"Will you shut up?!" Shredder snapped.

"When we find who did this, we're going to do terrible things to him," Krang vowed as he followed Shredder inside.

"Oh, because you care about us?" Rocksteady asked.

"No, you dunderhead!" Shredder retorted. "Because this is wasting valuable time!"

"But we can't do anything with you and Bebop like this," Krang added. "So we have no choice but to look for the man."

"Actually, his invention might be useful," Shredder muttered.

"Ohh no!" Krang immediately exclaimed. "I've had enough of brainwashing attempts to last me several lifetimes! When we find that scientist and his invention, we're going to fix Bebop and Rocksteady and then destroy it!"

Donatello decided he now had to make his presence known. "You'd better turn it over to us instead," he said.

The rest of the group came up beside him. "That's right!" Leonardo nodded.

Shredder turned and looked at them gathered in the doorway. "Wretched reptiles! What do you want with a brainwashing device?!"

April stepped forward. "Irma was hit with it too! Now all she wants to do is party!"

Shredder found that supremely hilarious. "It sounds like an improvement," he cackled.

"That isn't nice to laugh at their troubles," Bebop said.

"And it ain't nice to destroy the thingamajig neither," Rocksteady added.

"Unfortunately, I don't think anyone's going to be doing anything here." Barney pushed ahead of all of them and surveyed the room. "This building is deserted."

"WHAT?!" Shredder rushed past him and stared at the empty space. "No! He must be using another room! Maybe he's upstairs! He has to be here! I won't put up with Bebop and Rocksteady acting like Jiminy Cricket another moment!"

"You'll have to," Barney retorted. "He's gone. Maybe he only came here to use his device."

"But how would he know anyone would go in the alley?" Baxter looked doubtful.

"He could have been planning to go out the front door with it until he heard them wandering into the alley," Barney said.

"I still refuse to believe he isn't here!" Shredder boomed.

But a thorough search proved Barney right. The building was completely empty.

Krang looked hard at Bebop and Rocksteady. "You're absolutely positive this is where you were?!" he demanded.

"Of course," Rocksteady said.

"Then let's ask the neighbors," Vincent suggested. "If he wasn't here just for the night, someone should know who he is."

Michelangelo, who was munching on his third piece of pizza by now, nodded in agreement. "That's about all we can do," he said. "I'm sure something'll turn up."

Baxter smiled, happy to hear Michelangelo being cheery and optimistic again.

xxxx

The neighbors were mostly small businesses that were not happy at the thought of a mad scientist in their midst.

"Hey, I've got enough trouble tryin' to get customers as it is," a tailor said in alarm. "Now you're telling me that if anybody comes here, they run the risk of some screwball poppin' out and changing their personality with a brainwashing gun?!"

"I hope not, Sir," Leonardo said. "But so you don't know about anyone renting the building next-door?"

"It's been vacant for months," the tailor insisted. "That nut must've just showed up as a Halloween prank or something."

"Unfortunately, it's no prank," Leonardo sighed. "If anyone does show up, will you call Channel 6 and ask for either April O'Neil or Baxter Stockman?"

"Sure thing," the tailor shuddered. "I don't want any mad scientists moving in next-door!"

As Leonardo left the tailor shop, the others started to come over to him from all directions. They had received similar stories. No one knew of anyone using the vacant building, and no one wanted a mad scientist for a neighbor.

"Ohh . . . what are we going to do now?!" April cried, digging her fingers into her hair. "This was our only lead!"

"Bebop and Rocksteady aren't great with directions," Raphael said. "Maybe we're on the wrong block."

"That's possible too," Leonardo groaned.

"Maybe we'll have to wait for Irma to wake up and try to get her to take us to where it was," Baxter said.

"I bet she won't," Cassiopeia snorted.

"I'll beg and plead with her!" April declared.

"Hmph! Well, I'm not waiting around for that frumpy fool to give you directions," Krang said. "We're going back to the Technodrome and I'll come up with something to cure Bebop and Rocksteady. Of course, you won't be welcome to use it when we're done," he sneered.

Raphael rolled his eyes Heavenward. "Oh, of course not," he said with heavy sarcasm.

"But that isn't nice, Krang," Rocksteady protested.

"Will you be quiet?!" Krang shrieked. "Let's get going."

"Bye, guys," Bebop waved as the portal opened and they started through.

"Yeah!" Rocksteady nodded. "Maybe we can go out for lunch or tea or something sometime."

Everyone gave a collective blank stare.

"Tea?" Raphael finally said. "Are they turning British or something?"

Then Shredder and Krang were through the portal as well and it closed after them, leaving the good guys standing stunned on the sidewalk.

"Yeah," Michelangelo said at last. "They are mondo weird when they're being nice."

April sighed. "Well, if you guys can take me to the apartment building, I'll try to get Irma to agree to show us where she was brainwashed." She headed for the Turtle Van.

"Works for me," Raphael shrugged.

xxxx

By the time they made it back to the apartment building, Irma was awake but definitely still not willing to make the trip to the alley.

"What would I want to go back there for?" she objected to April. "Then you'll have him put me back to normal. And I've barely begun to live!"

"But Irma, this isn't you!" April protested. "If you really want to go out nightclubbing, you can still do it after you change back. I know the real you would be responsible about it, instead of staying out all night and not getting in to work the next day! I had to call Mr. Thompson and say you were sick as an excuse for why you're not there!"

"You could have just told him I was sick of the rat race," Irma shrugged. She stood at her dresser and adjusted the blonde wig.

April groaned and leaned against the wall while propping herself up with a hand. "I wouldn't want to tell him that!" she objected. "He'd probably fire you on the spot!"

"So?" Irma reached for a deep red lipstick.

"Irma, you know you don't want to lose your job!" April exclaimed. "Maybe it's not the best job ever, but it's not the worst, either!"

"Yeah, I guess." Irma straightened and headed for the door. "Well, I'll see you later, April."

"What?! Where are you going?!" April pushed away from the wall.

"I'm going to get some happening clothes for tonight," Irma said. "And switch out my glasses for contacts." She flung the door open and marched into the living room.

April chased her in desperation. "But Irma, you never liked contacts!" she protested. "You always said how they fell out at the worst possible times! If you're wildly dancing in clubs, it'll probably happen for sure!"

"Hey, there's gotta be some way to keep them in," Irma shrugged. "I'll ask for tips when I get them."

"They always find some way to fall out," Barney said flatly. He and the others who had been waiting stood.

"So you're really not going to help us, Irma?" Michelangelo said with sadness.

Irma frowned, looking from him over to Cassiopeia. "Should I?"

Cassiopeia stiffened to be put on the spot. "It should be your decision," she said. "But . . ." She heaved a sigh. "Yeah, you probably should."

Irma regarded her in surprise. "Well, if you really think so . . . okay."

Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

xxxx

As it turned out, Irma led them to an address a block away from where they had been searching.

"Oh, seriously?" Raphael rolled his eyes. "I knew we couldn't rely on Bebop and Rocksteady to give us the right place!"

"Actually, none of them are great with directions," Cassiopeia grunted.

"But I'd trust Irma more than the mutants," April frowned.

"Unless, of course, she's lying about the place because she still doesn't want us to find the guy," Raphael said. "But this place looks pretty deserted too."

"Like, let's wait until we go inside to see for sure," Michelangelo said.

The building definitely wasn't occupied at the moment. But there were plenty of objects and parts and tools strewn all around to show that someone was still using the space.

"It looks like Baxter's workshop," Barney remarked.

"Yeah, it does," Donatello agreed. "A scientist has definitely been using it."

"And he's coming back, as far as he knows," Baxter said quietly. "A scientist would never abandon so many things he held dear."

"So what do we do?" Raphael said in frustration. "Sit around and wait?"

April looked to Irma. "Think, Irma! Does anything here look like the ray gun that was used on you?!"

Irma frowned. "No . . . I don't think so," she said slowly.

"He most likely took that with him," Baxter said.

Barney nodded in agreement. "Even if he didn't plan to use it on anyone else, it's his pride and joy right now. He wouldn't leave it behind."

"That figures," Raphael grumbled.

"I think we should leave something here to monitor the situation," Donatello said. "I've been creating nanobots for just this kind of scenario! This would be the perfect time to test them out."

"Wait!" Vincent had froze and turned half-around, glowering into the sky.

"What is it, Vincent?" Leonardo demanded.

"I think I know," Cassiopeia frowned. "There's something here. I can hear the audio frequency."

"I'm picking up on a very small device, probably a nanobot, speaking of them." Vincent looked to Donatello and then away.

"What the heck?!" Raphael burst out. "What's something like that doing here?!"

"Maybe it was set up by the scientist to watch his victims," Donatello suggested.

"That's possible," Vincent said. "I don't think it was here before we were with Irma. I'm going to try to lock onto it and find out where its home base is."

"What if the home base is right here?" April moaned.

"Then either the scientist will be back soon or there's a secret room we haven't discovered and he's already here," Vincent said.

The group waited while Vincent attempted his remote hack. It was only a few minutes later when the computer perked up.

Baxter did as well. "Did you find it?"

"Yes," Vincent said. "The nanobot is under orders to follow Irma and send reports back to this address." He flashed it on the screen. "There's also nanobots following Bebop and Rocksteady."

"Boy, won't Krang love that," Raphael snarked.

"That address isn't far from our neighborhood," Barney frowned. "That scientist must be wealthy." He turned to head back to the Van. "Let's go."

"I just thought of something," Irma said. "If he starts getting a report that I'm coming to him, maybe he'll pack up and leave."

Leonardo paused. "That's actually a good point," he had to concede. "Okay. Cassiopeia, why don't you go with Irma to do whatever shopping she wanted to do? The rest of us will go try to get the ray gun back."

Cassiopeia gave him a thumbs-up. "Sounds good to me."

April wasn't as sure. "Maybe I should go with you. . . ."

"You don't trust me to look after Irma?" Cassiopeia retorted.

"Not when you're a party girl and you're not that anxious to get her turned back," April frowned.

"Hey, I'm not that anxious to get turned back," Irma said. "But I guess that's the brainwashing talking. Maybe once you use the thing on me, I'll be happy about it. I'll be fine, April. You go with the Turtles, Splinter, and the Stockmans to get the ray gun."

April finally sighed in resignation. "Well, okay. . . ."

"Let's boogie, Dudes and Dudette!" Michelangelo called. He ran past the group and leaped into the Turtle Van.

Everyone else, minus Irma and Cassiopeia, were quick to follow.

xxxx

The mood in the Van was tense as they neared the address Vincent had found in the nanobot.

"I hope this isn't a wild goose chase," Barney frowned. "Maybe the man programmed a decoy address into his nanobot in case it was discovered."

"Do you really think he would?" Raphael frowned too.

"It depends on who he is and how far he's thought this thing out," Barney said, folding his arms. "It's something I would have done with great relish."

"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Raphael said with a roll of his eyes.

Baxter stared out the window. "I've been in this area on walks. Maybe I've even seen the scientist before."

"Yeah! I was with you at least once," Michelangelo noted. "It's a real gnarly neighborhood."

"And there's the house." Leonardo pointed to a mansion on the corner. Poplar trees surrounded the edges of the property on every side, shielding the house from prying eyes. They were bare now, but in the summer it would only be through occasional breaks in the trees that the house would even be visible.

"Yep, that looks just like the kind of place a mad scientist would love," Raphael remarked.

"How are we even going to get in?" April moaned.

"How do the nanobots get in?" Donatello asked Vincent.

Vincent was silent as he reviewed the information he had taken from the nanobot. "There's a nanobot door," he reported with a blink.

"Oh, instead of a doggy door," Raphael quipped. "Why didn't we think of that?"

April slapped her forehead. "We're probably all too big to fit!" she exclaimed.

"These are the dimensions." Vincent flashed some figures across the screen. "It really is a modified pet door. It looks like it was originally for large dogs."

Baxter looked both thoughtful and unsettled. "Barney, I, or April could probably fit," he said slowly. "And Splinter. . . ."

"Well, I know I'm going," April said in determination.

"I will too," Baxter said with a weak smile.

Barney grunted. "You wouldn't think it would take more than two people to subdue a scientist, but considering all the possible inventions he has at his beck and call, two might not be nearly enough."

"We're all going in," Leonardo insisted. "Whoever's going through the nanobot door can open the normal door for the rest of us." He looked to Vincent. "Is the gate around the property electrically charged?"

"No," Vincent reported after a moment.

"Alright," Leonardo nodded. "Then we're all going over."

"Just be careful of the security cameras," Vincent cautioned. "They're positioned at the corners and at the middle of the front and the back."

"That dude sure doesn't want people spying on him," Michelangelo blinked.

"Well, that's not unusual for a mad scientist," Raphael said.

Splinter stayed serious and concerned as the group slipped out of the Van and over to the gate. "I fear there will be much to worry us as we journey inside," he said. "If this man truly used his weapon on three people without warning, there is likely very little he won't do."

"Actually, that sounds a lot like Professor Willard," Donatello realized. "But this isn't his house. . . ."

"Oh, just what the world needs-a second Willard W. Willard," Raphael scowled.

The Turtles scaled the gate first, then Splinter, then their friends. On the other side, the bare poplar trees did little to conceal their arrival, although the close proximity of each tree to the next helped somewhat.

"The dude needs someone to rake his leaves too," Michelangelo said. "Hey, maybe after we stop him, you think he'd let us do it?"

"Michelangelo!" Leonardo scolded.

Baxter had to admit he was amused. But he quickly sobered as the nanobot door came into view. To be a gentleman, he supposed he had to go first and not let April be immediately exposed to whatever danger was on the other side. He gulped.

April, on the other hand, really wasn't concerned with letting Baxter be a gentleman. "I'm going in!" she declared.

"April, wait!" Leonardo exclaimed.

But April was determined. She hurried onto the back porch and bent down, crawling through the nanobot door with very little difficulty.

". . . Well," Raphael said after a moment of awkward silence, "I guess that means it's your turn, Baxter?"

"I guess so," Baxter shivered.

But as he took a few steps forward, the back door opened and April smiled at him and the rest. "The coast is clear," she reported. "Come on!"

Relieved both that April was safe and that he didn't have to be the only one in there besides her, Baxter relaxed and headed for the steps. Everyone else followed right behind him.

"He could be watching us on a hidden camera," Donatello worried.

"I'm not picking up on any in here," Vincent mused. "Unless he's disguised the frequency from even me."

"Which is always possible," Raphael drawled. He sobered and scowled as they wandered through the kitchen and into a dining area. "Going through mad scientists' homes always makes me nervous."

"Oh, I'm totally cool with it, Bud," Michelangelo said. ". . . Until we run into the actual mad scientist." He shuddered.

"And here I am!"

Everybody jumped a mile. A little man with wild gray hair was standing in the doorway and holding up a strange ray gun.

Leonardo stepped forward with katanas bared. "You'd better not be thinking of using that on us," he frowned.

"Oh, I was going to give it to you with my blessing," the scientist smiled.

"What?!" Raphael scoffed. "As if we'd fall for that!"

"No, I'm serious!" The man held it out. "I want you to take it and test the next phase of my brainwashing: seeing whether the subject is willing to be un-brainwashed!"

"Is this guy for real?" Raphael snorted.

Barney slowly reached for the ray gun and turned it around in his hands. "How does this thing brainwash people?" he asked.

The inventor launched into a long and winding explanation that only the Stockmans and Donatello could keep up with. Everyone else started to either grow impatient or fall asleep standing up.

"Okay, already!" April suddenly exclaimed. "What does any of this have to do with getting Irma back to normal?!"

"I wanted to see if the principles involved were sound," Barney said. "They are."

"But surely you know that if we take this, we won't give it back," Baxter said.

"I have ways of making more," the scientist grinned. "I just need to find out how thorough the brainwashing really is!"

"And that's something we all want to know," Donatello said.

"But like, how can we be sure this gizmo won't blow up or kill Irma or something?" Michelangelo frowned.

"I'm not a murderer," was the reply. "You can look up everything about me on the news: Cecil W. Angstrom. Now, hurry and take it and go! I'll even tell you where to find the subject. I'm still watching her on my nanobot."

"We'll take your information," Leonardo said, "but we're going to have to leave you tied up for the police."

"Like, totally." Michelangelo brought out his grappling hook and swirled it around Angstrom, who was completely unbothered.

"As long as my research is proven true, I don't care if I go to jail!" he exclaimed.

". . . Yeah, this guy is disturbing," Raphael remarked.

"Scientists are a strange bunch," said Barney.

"Well, I guess it takes one to know one," Raphael quipped.

xxxx

Angstrom's information proved correct. Irma and Cassiopeia had finished their shopping and now were dancing up a storm at a club. When the group caught up to them, they could only stop and stare in disbelief.

"Oh no!" April moaned. "Just look at Irma! She's given herself a complete makeover!"

"She sure doesn't look like our flighty little secretary anymore," Raphael mused.

Irma was still wearing the blonde wig. But as promised, she had switched her glasses for contacts. She was also wearing a new pink dress that was very low-cut both in front and back. And the brainwashing had seemed to cure her of her clumsiness; she didn't trip once, even in the extremely tall heels she had bought.

"Irma!" April ran forward, pushing her way past other dancing patrons. "What are you doing?!"

"Having fun," Irma retorted. "What's it look like?"

Cassiopeia looked over. "Did you get the brainwashing gun thing?"

"Yeah, we did!" April nodded. "Come on, Irma, we need to get you back to normal now." She reached for her friend's arm.

Irma jerked it away. "I've changed my mind," she shot back. "I don't want to go back to the old me. I like the new me better."

"Irma, that's the brainwashing talking!" April moaned. "You can't stay like this!"

"Why?" Irma sneered. "Because it's not the Irma you know?"

"Because it's not the Irma you want to be," April insisted. "I can't let you waste your life like this!"

"And I wasn't wasting my life before?" Irma countered. "When I kept waiting for a man who wasn't ever coming?"

"But Baxter helped you appreciate the things you do have," April said. "Don't you remember? You were learning to find your life fulfilling even without the romance!"

"That was still the old me," Irma said. "I don't want to change." She danced away from April and over to a wild-looking man.

"Hey, Baby," he grinned. "You know, you're not bad."

"I know," Irma smirked. "And I'll be happy to show you all my moves, both on and off the dance floor."

April's jaw dropped in horror. "Irma!"

Cassiopeia shrugged. "She's just flirting. She doesn't mean it."

"That guy will think she does!" April exclaimed. "I can't let this happen!"

Irma and the guy were starting a new dance now. And as everyone gaped, the guy pulled her close and started to pass his hand along her back. Irma just smirked and didn't pull away, instead running her hand over her dance partner's hair.

"Oh, this has gone too far." April whirled and grabbed the gun from Barney. "I'm using this now!"

Irma looked over with flashing eyes. "No!" She leaned in to kiss the strange guy.

"Irma!" April wailed.

Cassiopeia frowned, debating with herself as she looked from Irma to April and back again. This really wasn't Irma at all. And as Irma's best friend, it was no wonder April was so distraught. Who knew what Irma might try next. Even as much as Cassiopeia wanted a friend to party with, did she really want to see this happen to a nice girl?

"Hey," Cassiopeia said at last, "your friend knows what's best for you, even if you don't think so right now. Don't fight it."

Irma paused, blinking in surprise. "You . . . want me to go back the way I was?"

"I want you to be yourself," Cassiopeia said. "I know you're not really like this. I was just fooling myself because I wanted a party girl to hang out with. But we're both living a lie."

"Hey, what's going on here?" the guy interrupted.

Irma looked down. ". . . I'm really not myself," she confessed. "I've been brainwashed."

"And you know it?!" the guy said in disbelief.

"It's a really unique brainwashing," Irma shrugged. She looked to April. "But okay. I'll go back to being Irma Langinstein again."

"Thank goodness," April breathed. "And thank you, Cassiopeia." She looked to the mutant bat before pointing the ray gun at Irma and pulling the trigger.

A bright light lit up the dance floor. When it faded, Irma stumbled on her high heels.

"Oh my goodness," she gasped. "What am I doing here? And . . ." Her eyes widened in mortification. "What am I wearing?!"

Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.

"Welcome back, Irma," April smiled, handing the gun back to Barney before hugging her friend. "I think you've got some returns you'll want to make."

A bit of sadness flickered in Cassiopeia's eyes. But then she smiled. She was glad Irma was the way she wanted to be, even if she wasn't interested in nightclubbing anymore.

xxxx

Everyone had gathered in April's apartment for a nice, relatively quiet party. The Turtles had brought pizza, while April provided music. Irma, awkward yet back to her usual cheeriness and sweetness, seemed to be enjoying herself.

Baxter went over to her. "How are you feeling, Irma?" he asked.

"Pretty embarrassed, honestly," Irma said. "All the crazy stuff I was doing . . . ! And I even remembered about the brainwashing while I was under it! How could I have been so nuts?!"

"The mind can play strange tricks," Baxter said. "Everyone here understands."

"It figures that it happened while I was trying to be helpful and follow Bebop and Rocksteady," Irma sighed.

"Actually, even though you got affected by the ray gun, it was very important to find out what that madman was doing," Baxter said.

"It was?" Irma blinked.

"Of course," Baxter said. "Who knows what else he might have done with that thing. He might have had some even more serious plans for it. Thanks to you, we found out about him and stopped him before he could get that far."

"Well, that's a nice way to look at it," Irma said. "At least this time Vernon didn't see me. But everyone else did. And they're all really okay about it?"

"Yes," Baxter insisted. "We all know you, Irma. And some of us even know what it's like to be brainwashed. I'm sure Vernon would have been too," he added.

"Yeah. . . ." Irma finally smiled. "I'm glad none of you gave up on me. April especially was determined."

"Well, you are her best friend," Baxter said with a kind smile.

"And she sure proved she's the greatest friend I could have," Irma said. "Cassiopeia ended up being pretty neat too, though. She didn't want me to keep living the lie of being somebody else."

"She really came through for you," Baxter agreed. "In your current state, you might not have willingly agreed to have the brainwashing reversed if Cassiopeia hadn't encouraged you."

"That's a scary thought," Irma shuddered. She frowned. "And I feel kind of guilty. I mean, I like Cassiopeia, but we're not really close. And I listened to her above everyone else."

"Only because of the brainwashing," Baxter said.

"Yeah," Irma said slowly.

"But hey, like, it's all over now," Michelangelo chirped. "Everything's okay!"

"And thank goodness for that," Irma declared.

"A toast!" April suddenly said, holding up a cup of punch. "To our party girl, Irma, and how she came back down to Earth!"

"Aww." Irma blushed. "And down-to-Earth is where I want to stay. Even if that does make me boring to most guys."

"Just wait, Irma," April smiled. "When your Mr. Right comes along, he'll love you for who you are. Everything will be okay."

Cassiopeia nodded. "On that, I'll agree. You won't have to change yourself for any man who really loves you."

"Well said," said Splinter.

"Hey, I wonder if Krang ever got Bebop and Rocksteady back to normal," Michelangelo blinked.

"Oh, let's hope so," Raphael shuddered. "I couldn't take any more of them acting polite."

"I don't think Shredder could, either," Leonardo laughed.

Everyone clinked their punch cups.