XIII. THE SHREDDER

MICHELANGELO

We'd been over the plans for the main HQ several times. It was an old factory or slaughterhouse or something. The main floor was huge - took up about a quarter block. It wasn't really broken down much. A few partitions, but mainly it was just this huge space. The next four floors up had metal catwalks that overlooked the main floor, and led into side rooms. That's where the Foot soldiers lived. The top floor was just a half floor - not even half, really. The elevator emptied into this lobby-like thing, and you could either go out onto the roof or into this small area, which ended up being where the Shredder lived.

DONATELLO

Our plan of attack was basically the same. Cut the power, start from both entrances, and work our way inward. Of course, this time, we had to work our way upstairs, as well.

MASTER SPLINTER

I warned my sons not to take on the Shredder one-on-one. I did not believe they could defeat him in single combat. In fact, I was worried that even our combined strength might not be enough.

MICHELANGELO

Splinter armed himself with an old pair of nunchakus - they were practice ones, kinda lightweight. I asked Splinter if he wanted to switch. I mean, I'm pretty good with the chucks, but Sensei's the expert. He said no, though. He said I was already used to the heavier ones, and so he'd make do with those. (smiling) He did, too.

CASEY

I pulled up a block away, and saw them getting ready to leave in the rear-view mirror. Even I could tell they were pretty tense. They told me, again, to wait for them. I promised myself if I hadn't seen them in half an hour or so, I'd go in after 'em.

DONATELLO

The building got their power from a connection to the next building, which was fortunate. I just had to cut the power between the buildings rather than getting up on the roof of the HQ.

RAPHAEL
Donatello hadn't had great luck cutting the power the first two times. Once, it didn't matter much, since a street light kinda spilled into the building anyway. And earlier that night, he'd been ambushed right afterwards. I'd started thinking that maybe cutting the power wasn't worth it. But this time, man, it couldn't have been more perfect.

DONATELLO

Ends up I cut the power at precisely the best moment. The Shredder had been consulting with his second-in-command - Juntaro, I think his name was. I'm not sure if he had sensed that we were on the move, or maybe he just randomly decided it was time to rally the troops or something. In any event, he got in the elevator, and had only gotten about half a floor down when I cut the power. They were stuck between floors, and out of the picture.

LEONARDO

Michelangelo and I took the back entrance, while Donny, Raph and Sensei took the front.

MICHELANGELO

We got into the building, and moved in a bit, out of the way of the doorway. It was dark enough that I couldn't see the guys coming at us too well. But that was fine - I knew if I was having trouble seeing them clearly, they were probably have trouble seeing us at all. As they approached us, it was hard to tell if they were attacking or just trying to run out. (shrugging) It didn't really matter, I guess.

RAPHAEL

We took out a few folks waiting for Donny to come back round, then we started making our way in, taking out Foot soldiers as we went along. Sensei told us to steer clear of the center of the floor. He was afraid that someone up on another floor would pull a gun. I wasn't really worried 'bout that - I mean, it was dark as hell in there. Most of the guys we ran into didn't even put their weapons up before we smacked them down. Even if someone had a gun, they'd be shooting into the void, just guessing.

DONATELLO

We kept close to the wall, just knocking out Foot soldiers one after the other. I slipped back into that "selfless state" - not much thinking, just reacting. Twice I sensed a presence to my side, but didn't attack. I couldn't see, but I knew it was Splinter pulling even with me.

MICHELANGELO

(smiling) I kinda wish I could've sat this one out, and just watched Splinter. A good chuck battle's something worth seeing, and Sensei makes it look...well, with him, it's almost like dancing. He's so graceful with the things, even when he's smacking people in the face with them.

LEONARDO

Our plan was to make for the two stairwells - both groups more or less heading for the one to our right. At that point, we'd climb the stairs, take a right, circle halfway around to the opposite stairwell, and start climbing again. We had decided that it didn't really matter if the two groups got to the stairwells at the same time. But as it ended up, we more or less did.

MASTER SPLINTER

We had perhaps two goals that night - the Shredder was the most important target, but at the same time, I wished to cause as much damage as I could to the Foot. The more Foot soldiers we immobilized, the more that would hopefully be persuaded to leave their employ. I hoped to plant seeds of doubt in them. If they knew knew they were being targeted, that simply being a Foot soldier was not a guarantee of safety, perhaps they would be persuaded to leave.

MICHELANGELO

It's weird how many Foot soldiers we took out, one after the other. I remember quite a bit about that night, so I guess that means I wasn't really in that "selfless state". But apparently I didn't need to be. Leo and I were kinda side-by-side, moving forward at pretty much the same rate. We reached the stairway at about the same time. Leo began heading up, and I turned around and guarded his back, stepping back up the steps one at a time. Once we reached the top, we turned right and kept going.

LEONARDO

On every floor but the first, there wasn't room for us to fight two abreast. So I took the lead for Michelangelo, and Splinter took it for the others, and we just made our way forward.

DONATELLO

Once we hit the second floor, my fighting was pretty much done. A few stragglers came up from behind, and I took them out, but mainly it was Splinter's game. (pausing) Come to think of it, even he wasn't fighting that many Foot soldiers by that point.

LEONARDO

I guess most of the Foot was on the first floor. It thinned out quite a bit by the time we started climbing.

RAPHAEL
Donny thinks all the Foot soldiers were on the first floor waiting for the Shredder. He was stuck in the elevator, after all. But I'm thinking there was probably a couple just hiding in their rooms.

DONATELLO
Our two groups met up on the fourth floor, and we were about to climb the steps to the top. Finally, for the first time, we faced an organized attack - a bunch of Foot soldiers swarmed up the steps from below, weapons drawn.

MICHELANGELO

Splinter and me were near the back, so we held them off while everyone else kept climbing. After taking out two guys, I was pretty much in the stairwell, so I started up, too. (shaking his head, sighing) Mistake. That left Splinter down there alone, while us four went up. Completely the opposite of what should've happened. I shoulda stayed down there and let Splinter squeeze up past me.

MASTER SPLINTER

I was not in any immediate danger, holding off the attack from the rear. However, I could not turn and climb without exposing myself to attack. I needed to verify that nobody would follow us up. Just as the attack began to thin, a senior Foot soldier pressed the attack. He was quite skilled, and I was in a rather awkward position in the stairwell. This stretched out that duel quite a bit longer than I wished.

RAPHAEL

We reached the top floor, and there's this sort of lobby where the elevator is. There's a couple suits of samurai armor set up there, holding spears. And there's two main doors. One's locked, so we try the other one. It's a glass one that spit out onto this half-roof. Se we're there, trying to get our bearings. And trying to figure out where the hell the Shredder got to.

LEONARDO
I was thinking maybe the Shredder wasn't there, but the second I thought that, the elevator doors slowly slide open. The flood light from the next building was pretty bright, and we could see Shredder and his second-in-command, Juntaro, climbing out. It was then that it hit me - he'd been stuck in the elevator the entire time.

DONATELLO
We got into attack positions, and the Shredder just sort of stared at us through the windows. Finally he turned to Juntaro and said something to him, and Juntaro nodded and headed down the steps.

MASTER SPLINTER

At last, I landed a solid blow on the senior Foot soldier, and as he collapsed, he pushed a few other Foot soldiers to the base of that stairway. I assumed this would buy me the time to climb the stairs and rejoin my sons. But I had only gone up a step or so when I saw Juntaro descending the stairway. I now was forced to fight him in order to reach the roof.

LEONARDO

I assumed the attack position, but I wasn't exactly sure if I was doing the right thing. Sensei had warned us not to try to take on the Shredder by ourselves, but it didn't look like we had much choice in the matter.

RAPHAEL
I don't think Shred-head would've listened if we said, "Look, can you wait 'til our sensei gets here?"

DONATELLO

The Shredder looked us over for a bit, then he walked over and grabbed a spear from one of the suits of armor in the lobby. He kind of casually pushed the door open, stepped outside and just stood there.

RAPHAEL

The Shredder didn't seem worried at all. I noticed my upper arm shaking a bit, and I realized I wasn't centered - I was letting my fears guide my actions, as Splinter would say. I tried to center myself, like Sensei taught us, but it's tough when your already in attack position and your opponent's standing right in front of you.

DONATELLO

Finally, he said, "You freaks have bothered me enough. Who's first?" and Raphael said, "It may as well be me."

RAPHAEL

I volunteered. Which showed I wasn't thinking. First off, I wasn't mentally prepared. I guess I just decided action would be better than standing there. And worst of all, as Leo pointed out later, I had basically agreed to the Shredder's condition that we'd fight him individually. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

DONATELLO
Raph didn't do so well his first round. About fifteen seconds in, he got smacked in the side by the brunt of Shredder's spear. He fell down, but Leo jumped into the fray before the Shredder could follow up.

RAPHAEL

That hurt bad. And the worst thing is, I shoulda seen it coming. I don't mind losing to a better opponent, I guess, but not with a shot that easy.

LEONARDO

I couldn't be sure that the Shredder wouldn't just finish Raphael off right away, so I leapt in as soon as he was hit, to give him a different target, and hopefully give Raphael time to get to safety.

DONATELLO

Leo did the best of all of us. He kept the Shredder fighting intently for a couple minutes. Eventually, though, Shredder found an opening and kicked Leo right in the plastron. Knocked him on his tail. I decided Leo's plan was the best one - don't give him a chance to strike what might be a killing blow - so when he went down, I stepped up. I tried to stay completely on the defensive, sort of play him to a draw, but then I spotted an opening and I instinctively went for it. That's when I found out the Shredder was stringing me along. He knew I'd be suckered in by his supposed "opening" - and that's when I fell to the ground, face first. It hurt, but I was alert enough to roll out of the way as Michelangelo stepped up.

MICHELANGELO

I watched everyone fighting as close as I could. I was sure I could find a weak spot in the Shredder's fighting style. When Donatello went down, my instincts pushed me forward, but I still hadn't spotted any weakness. I was holding hope that I'd find one while I took him on. But he blocked everything I sent his way - even though I was swinging my chucks pretty far apart - and my hope was sinking fast. Eventually, I got desperate, which is always dangerous. I pulled the chucks too far apart, which left an opening right up front. He took it, got me right in the plastron, and I fell down on my tail.

RAPHAEL

I saw Michelangelo go down, so I assumed it was my turn again, but Leo jumped up before I could react.

LEONARDO

Raphael had taken the biggest hit of us four, and I didn't know if he was really in any shape to go another round yet. So I stepped up instead. We fought for another couple of minutes, and again, I couldn't find an opening. This guy truly was a master. Finally, I managed a backstroke with my katana that just barely got him in the shoulder. It wasn't very deep, but it drew blood. He didn't say anything at first. He just kept fighting until he'd knocked me down again. As I rolled away, he sort of growled and said, "Your skills are quite admirable. Pity they will be insufficient to save you".

RAPHAEL

I figured it was definitely my turn now. I leapt up and engaged him. Leo's hit gave me hope. He wasn't invincible. I was kinda hoping that his bleeding shoulder would slow him down a bit. It didn't. At least I was more centered this time, and I fought him to a draw for a while. But finally he brought the middle of his spear down on my shoulder, and I ended up on my back. My eyes clouded over for a second. And before anyone could step in, he stepped forward and put one foot on either side of me.

DONATELLO

I knew he was going to drive that spear right through him.

RAPHAEL
He had me pinned. I was desperately trying to think of a way out, but I was still kinda groggy and I couldn't think of a thing. Then I heard Splinter's voice.

MASTER SPLINTER

I arrived on the roof just as Raphael was hit and went down to the ground. As Saki changed his grip to prepare to strike a final blow, I announced my presence.

DONATELO

I didn't see Sensei show up - shows you how intent we were on the task at hand. Sensei just said, "Let him go." He doesn't have a very loud voice, but he can project it when he needs to. All of us kind of whirled around.

RAPHAEL

I couldn't see Splinter from my position, but I could see the Shredder was distracted. If I'd been a better ninja, I'da knocked him down. As it was, I just escaped - ducked, rolled, and sprang back up a few feet away.

LEONARDO

Sensei once said the battle begins not when the weapons meet but when the eyes meet. That night was the first time I saw that. Sensei was near the door to the stairway, arms at his side. The Shredder was still spread-eagled, with his spear pointed down towards Raphael - or where Raph used to be, anyway. They just stood there for about a minute. They didn't speak, didn't move.

RAPHAEL
I was wondering if I was missing something. Like, maybe Splinter was distracting him, and one of us should make a move. But then I realized the battle had already begun. And this was gonna be their fight.

MICHELANGELO

Sensei was the one that finally spoke. He said, "You may remove your mask, Oruku Saki. We know who you are." And slowly, the Shredder took off his mask and helmet.

LEONARDO

The Shredder finally said, "You appear to have me at a disadvantage. You might know me, but who are you...freaks, and why do you attack my domain?" with this...well, it was somewhere between a smile and a sneer. Sensei said, "These are my sons," and we all sort of bowed. "They know me by the name Master Splinter, but long ago, in a previous life, I was known as Hamato Yoshi."

DONATELLO

I could see the Shredder sort of flinch at that. I thought he knew, or at least had guessed. But apparently he never really believed it was Yoshi behind all those attacks. And he certainly didn't guess Yoshi was this rat.

MASTER SPLINTER

His eyes registered panic, fear, confusion. But only for a moment. Afterwards, they were impassive and cold. But I had seen the opening. I knew then that this duel would not be impossible to win. But Saki simply said, "You have inconvenienced me greatly these past months. Let us decide this once and for all." Saki was never one to waste words if it wasn't necessary.

LEONARDO

(pausing) I never told anyone this. (pausing) Sensei came over and asked for one of my katana. As I handed it to him, he said, "Should something happen to me, have Casey take you to Mitako's." Before I could react, he had walked away and got into position. (pausing) That moment hasn't ever left me. Not for a second. I guess I'd never really considered the idea that Sensei might die, and if that happened, then we'd be all alone. Since then, I've always felt fortunate to have Sensei with us.

RAPHAEL
I was kinda surprised by his choice of weapon. I mean, Splinter's good with everything. He could fight with a banana if that's all that was around. But he's an absolute monster with nunchucks, and I was assuming that's what he'd use. Maybe that's part of the bushido code or something - like you've gotta duel with spears and swords, not chucks. (shaking his head) There's a lot about that night that seemed...weird, though.

MICHELANGELO

Sensei held his katana up, eye level, waiting, and the Shredder brought his spear around into position. And then, again, they froze. Just stared at each other. Splinter used to read us this book he loved - Musashi, it's called. At one point in the book, two guys are having a duel in the snow, and they stand so still that snow builds up on the blades of their swords. Well, it wasn't snowing, but if it were, it woulda happened up there on the roof, too.

DONATELLO

Shredder finally made the first move, and after that, it was almost a blur.

MASTER SPLINTER

We were well-matched in our duel. I may have been somewhat smaller and weaker in my mutated state than I had been previously, but training my sons had honed my skills further. We fought to a standstill for several minutes. Every attack was parried, which led to a counter-attack, which was also parried.

RAPHAEL

Watching Sensei and the Shredder go at it, I realized how completely outclassed we were.

LEONARDO

As I saw the duel take form, strike-parry-counterstrike, I was completely absorbed by it. Ever since I'd begun studying under Splinter, I'd wanted to become a master swordsman. In my battles with the Foot, I had deluded myself into thinking I might be one. But watching this duel, I realized I had a long long way to go.

RAPHAEL
I remember thinking, "I tried to fight him? What was I thinking?"

MICHELANGELO

Splinter finally got a move up on the Shredder. And it was brilliant.

MASTER SPLINTER

A few strikes and defenses had brought us close together, with our weapons between us. I noticed that his feet were somewhat close together, so I brought my tail around and wrapped it around his lower legs. It wasn't enough to bind him, but it was enough so that when I pushed forward with the flat of the katana, he lost his balance. I immediately unwound my tail and pressed the attack.

DONATELLO
Splinter basically tripped him. With his tail. It was like, wow! None of us were expecting that, but least of all Shredder. He fell backwards over the edge of the roof, and just barely managed to latch his spear onto Sensei's katana.

MASTER SPLINTER

It was a stalemate. I tried to pull up on the katana, to bring him back up to the roof. But when I pulled up, his spear would begin sliding down the length. I couldn't not guarantee that it would slip off before I got him up to the roof. (pausing) Perhaps he was aware of this. In any event, he decided to make one last move. He was strong enough to hold on to the spear with one hand. He reached to his side, withdrew a knife, and threw it. (pausing) I could not quickly find a way of dodging the throw without dropping the katana. So I dropped it.

LEONARDO

We just saw Sensei struggling with the katana over by the edge of the roof, but suddenly he dropped the katana, moved to the side and caught this knife that the Shredder had thrown. In doing so, the Shredder fell to the alley below.

DONATELLO

We saw Splinter drop the katana, and all of us immediately ran forward. I can't speak for the others, but I was sure the Shredder would land on his feet and run off.

MICHELANGELO

I got to the edge first, so I saw him hit. (pausing, then shuddering) I wasn't expecting that.

RAPHAEL

There was a dumpster in the alley there, and it had these projections on the side, so the garbage truck could lift it up, y'know. Well, Shredder's head slammed right on the end of one. Busted it wide open. He was probably dead before he hit the ground.

DONATELLO

When we saw what happened, we immediately leapt onto the fire escape and began running downstairs.

MASTER SPLINTER

When we reached Saki, it was obvious there was nothing to be done. He was already dead.

MICHELANGELO

I'd never seen anyone die before. We'd come across people who were already dead, and we'd seen some people beaten up pretty bad. Heck, sometimes it was us doing the beating. But the Shredder was the first one to die while I watched. (shaking his head) I didn't like that. At all. Had a really hard time sleeping the next week or so.

RAPHAEL

I kept looking over at the Shredder's body. His head was split open, there was blood and stuff all over the alleyway. (pausing) It kinda excited me, to be honest. My blood lust coming to the front. Kept it in check, though.

DONATELLO

We all just stood there staring as Sensei knelt down to see if there was anything he could do. There wasn't, of course. (pausing) I don't know. That wasn't the ending I was ready for. Looking back, I wasn't sure what I was expecting to happen that night. Maybe Splinter and us would just beat the tar out of the Shredder, and he'd go straight. Or we'd get him arrested. I didn't expect him to die. I don't think any of us did.

LEONARDO

Finally, I looked up, and there were a bunch of Foot soldiers gathered around, some limping in from the building, some arriving from elsewhere. I picked up the katana and started getting into position, but I saw Splinter waving me down from the corner of my eye. He didn't want any more fighting.

MICHELANGELO

Sensei finally looked up from the Shredder, and he had tears running down his face. But when he talked, he still sounded calm, like he always does. He just turned to the Foot guys who were gathering around, and said, "The Foot is no more. It is finished."

RAPHAEL

I was thinking, c'mon, these guys aren't gonna give up that easy. But they looked at Splinter, looked at Shredder - what there was of him - and they just walked away.

DONATELLO

A couple guys said something - like they still wanted to fight, but the others sort of lead them away.

MASTER SPLINTER

I believe I was in shock. (pausing) I did not ever intend to kill Oruku Saki. But I no longer believe I killed him. His own actions, his own decisions, led directly to his death. (pausing) However, it took me much time, and much meditation, to forgive myself for what had happened.

RAPHAEL

After the Foot dispersed, we just sort of stood there. Sensei just said, "The battle is over, my sons. The war is over. Let us go home" and we walked back to Casey's truck. None of us said anything.

MICHELANGELO

I didn't do my victory scream. It...didn't seem appropriate. Haven't done it since, actually.

CASEY

I knew this time they were gonna need my help. I was sitting in the truck, chomping at the bit, waiting for the Foot to come running by. Finally, some Foot guys came by. But they were walking. Slow. They'd all taken off their masks, and some had taken off their uniforms. I was like, what the hell? I didn't feel right attacking them - it looked like they were quitting the Foot, something I heartliy approved of - so I let them go. I waited some more, and just about the time I was thinking I should go see what's going on, the turtles and Splinter show up. By the looks on their faces, you'd think they lost, but none of them look that hurt or beat up or anything. I said, "What's the matter?" and Splinter said, "Nothing. It's over. The Foot is finished." (shrugging) I figured there was more to the story, but it didn't look like he was in the mood for talking. So I just had them jump in the back and I drove them home.

DONATELLO

We'd only gone about a block when I turned to Sensei and said, "So what happens now?" And he said, "Nothing, my son. Only the rest of our lives." I watched the city go by and thought about that the rest of the way home.