Hello! I am foolishly attempting another adventure! I've gotten so used to writing Chibi that I fear any attempt at "older" turtles, but I'm giving it a shot anyway! I am trying to stay away from the TV show, but I will borrow a few things, like the fact that the Dragons are very high-tech now, as well as the fact that Karai is going to be after the guys.

TMNT, Hun, Karai, etc. are the property of Mirage. I triple-checked my stocking at Christmas, but I didn't find anything in there that changed the ownership to me. Sigh.

Conditions

Mikey sat on the ledge of the abandoned building, staring at the various city lights from the surrounding buildings that were shining down on and being reflected by the water of the river. He watched as they danced and shimmied and blurred in his vision. Tears of cold as well as depression occasionally added to the brilliance of the sight, but he stared nonetheless, watching as if it were the greatest show around.

It was pretty cold out, but he'd put on coat, hat, mittens and such to help keep him warm. At least it wasn't snowing. The sky was clouded up with a coming storm, but so far it had held off.

He shifted a bit; his right leg was going to sleep from sitting for so long, yet despite the biting tingling that began to coarse through it as it came "awake", he wasn't ready to head home just yet.

It had been several months since Leo and Raph had nearly died from their final battle with Bishop. Both were getting stronger, but both were also not 100 yet. That, coupled with the bone-numbing cold winter that had settled in had kept his brothers undergrounded, and they were feeling the effects of enforced imprisonment. They were convinced that Crime was rampant because they could not get topside, no matter how much Don or he told them that things were pretty quiet due to the long cold snap. It was true; crime seemed to be down, affected by the freezing temperatures.

Yet things were happening.

The Dragons had become something more than just another street gang. Hun had managed to take his years of experience of working with the Shredder and had built a going concern-- a profitable going concern, one that was beginning to rival the mob and the Foot for sheer profitability. He had even managed, despite the number of high-profile capers, to build and maintain an aura of respectability-- another lesson that Shredder had driven home to this former pupil.

As for the Foot-- Karai had been hard at work rebuilding her father's image to the point where a memorial library bearing Oroku Saki's name had been dedicated with great fanfare. April and Don had scoped it out-- very fancy, very extensive, very culturally "correct"-- the section on Japan alone rivaled anything that was produced in Tokyo itself. Yet they all knew it for what it was-- another "front" for the Foot. Good little dutiful daughter Saki Karai had, over the months and despite the "permanent truce" she had declared, steadily taken more and more control of the organization both in New York as well as "back home". They were profitable once again, and even more "stealthy" than they had been under the Shredder.

Mikey, staring at the water, knew that he was going to have to confront Leo over recent developments. He and Don had come across one of the more recent Foot activities, and despite the "truce" there had been a battle. Mikey and Don had been victorious, but they knew that no real "truce" existed, if indeed it ever had. They had told Splinter of this, but they had kept the news from Raph and Leo-- especially Leo.

Mikey sighed again, absently fingering the paperback copy of "Frankenstein" that he carried deep in the pocket of the heavy jacket he wore. He'd been given it by April to replace the other copy. She had offered to get him a really decent hardcopy, but he'd insisted that a paperback would be better suited to his needs. As the brothers had slowly recovered, as their lives had started getting back to normal, Mikey had more and more brooded over the unfairness of what had happened to Victor.

Created-- created for a specific purpose-- never wanting the life that had been designed for him-- Mikey still could not get over the unfairness of this poor guy's fate. Splinter had tried again and again to comfort him, to explain to him, to bring understanding to him (and, hopefully with it, peace of mind), but Mikey would always come back to the fact that Victor had just wanted to live. He had rebelled against the plans and machinations of Bishop, he had taken control of the life that had been created for him-- and had lost it in the end.

He remembered overhearing Don telling Raph once about the fact that Bishop had managed to come upon the secret of regeneration of vital organs, but had died before he'd fully realized it or developed it. For a brief moment he wondered if Victor could have survived! After all, he was Bishop's clone! If Bishop could have escaped (Don reasoned), he may have recovered. Since Victor was his clone, perhaps he, too, could have regenerated the damaged part of his brain.

"No, he was dead," Mikey whispered hopelessly, remembering that night. "He was dead. You can't come back from the dead."

His feet were becoming numb in the protective boots; it was time to head home.

As he made his lonely way back into the familiar, sour-smelling, shiveringly cold tunnels of his home, he remembered with shame that he still had not properly mourned for Victor. He should give him some sort of memorial, after all. He should do something to honor the memory of this tragic fellow being. He needed to do something...

He reached home without remembering the walk. Inside he could hear the sounds of Leo "working out" and the reprimands of Splinter as he did so. For a moment he smiled, shaking his head, memorials and tragic lives lost forgotten in the knowledge that once again, Raph had tried to sneak out and once again, Leo had tried to distract Splinter so he could!

"You are not ready to go above ground," Splinter was sternly admonishing both Raphael and Leonardo as Mikey entered. He didn't need to see Raph all bundled up to know that he had tried to escape and go topside-- Leo, as usual of late, had been in on it, and had tried to distract Splinter with "over-training". Mike still couldn't believe that proper, rule-following, big brother "Splinter, Jr." would attempt to help Raph in anything like this, but it was true nonetheless. Leo had also tried to escape topside-- many times he and Raph had managed to gear up and almost reach the surface, only to be cut off from their final goal by the parental wrath of Splinter.

"You guys are lucky you don't have ears that stick out," Don had commented the last time Splinter had marched them home. "Otherwise Sensei may have hauled you both in here by them."

"Don, it would have been better than feeling that walking stick sting our backsides every now and then on the walk home," Raph had glowered, absently rubbing his tail from the humiliating experience.

"Sensei, we're both healed! We're both training full-time, we're both more than ready to resume our patrolling," Leo was arguing respectfully, but his words were falling on deaf fatherly ears.

"Until you can defeat me in the dojo, you are not ready to go out of the sewers!" Splinter was adamant.

"But Sensei, NONE of us can defeat you in the dojo!" Raph pointed out truthfully! "Not one of us has ever defeated you! If that's the condition, Leo and me are gonna spend the rest of our lives down here! Please! Just a brief trip to Casey's!"

Splinter, arms crossed, tail slowly lashing, was not to be moved.

"It is too cold," he said, whiskers twitching with subdued anger. "You will come down with some illness. And I know you, Hamato Raphael-- a 'brief trip to Casey's' will turn into a 'let us go bash some skulls'. You are not ready. And I refuse to tend to either of you should you become sick or injured!"

Mikey laughed to himself. Yep, the same old argument! Splinter was convinced that Leo and Raph were both still too weak to venture far from home. As he hung up his coat and put away the rest of his gear, he tried to remember if this was one of the seventeen punishments that Splinter had devised all those months ago.

"Sensei," Don, who had been watching with growing amusement (eating popcorn as if at a movie, no less!) from the couch, interrupted, "Raph has a point. None of us can defeat you in the dojo. May I suggest that they have to defeat both Mikey and me before they can go topside?"

Leo and Raph both looked suddenly hopeful. Both of them gazed longingly and respectfully at their father, and mentally crossed fingers.

"Hmmm," Splinter mused, giving it serious consideration. It was true; he knew that his condition for their being allowed topside was almost impossible for them to surmount. He had known for quite some time, though he also knew he simply could not just change his mind-- after all, his authority as a Sensei, indeed as a Parent was at stake! He could not be perceived as "weak". Donatello, with his timely suggestion, had provided Splinter with a face-saving way around his unreasonable rule. "Yes. Yes, perhaps that would be fairer. Until you can defeat both of your brothers-- in the same session-- you cannot go topside. Thank-you, Donatello. That is an excellent suggestion. You must defeat both of them in the same session."

And he dared either one of them, merely with his glare, to reject this offering.

Leo and Raph exchanged glances-- how hard could it be? After all, they usually dominated in the bouts; it shouldn't be too hard to beat them both in one session-- and then, sweet, sweet freedom!

Leo had missed going topside almost as much as Raph. Of the four he had always preferred remaining below ground, but even he was feeling the claustrophobic effects of not seeing the night sky, of not feeling the biting wind as he raced and leapt from rooftop to rooftop, of not smelling the countless odors of the crowded city as he trained! He would even gladly love a chance to go with Raph and Casey to 'bust some skulls', he was so longing for some real action. He felt that he had grown flabby and careless and was losing his abilities pinned up underground, doing the same katas and exercises and lessons over and over and over.

His left arm was still not up to strength, and sometimes during sword practice he would suddenly drop the katana on some relatively simple move; but he was better! He knew he was better! Splinter just worried too much.

Raph was in better shape than Leo, and had managed to regain his former strength quicker; yet he, too, suffered from unexpected "weakness" every now and then. His body, working beautifully in the dojo, would suddenly remind him with a painful, sharp, unexpected stab or twinge or twitch that he, too, was not completely healed, that he had subjected it to a brutal fight, and it still had not completely forgiven him for doing so.

"Can we start now?" Raph eagerly asked. If he could whip Don and Mikey now, then he'd be able to get to Casey's before the game started, and they could spend some time in front of the tube, drinking beer and planning how many skulls they were gonna bust!

"Tomorrow," Splinter said firmly, and something about the look on the rat's face, the tone of his voice, convinced Raph to not push the issue any further. "Now, it is time for your medicine. And then, to bed!"

Leo hung his head and sighed. Though they were better, they still had to take what the Master Healer had called a "Strengthening Potion" three times a day. It was black, oozy, and smelled like a combination of licorice, gasoline, cotton candy, and garlic. The taste was NOTHING compared to the smell-- it was worse. The texture was thick, oily, and coated their tongues and throats with a film of aftertaste nastiness that stayed with them until just before the next time they had to take it.

Mikey laughed even as he headed to his room. He never could get enough of watching the two of them try to swallow that stuff in one go (and the various faces and exclamations and gagging sounds and bodily contortions always entertained him, even after all these months), but tonight he still felt a bit down, and decided to turn in early.

He had dug out the copy of "Frankenstein" before hanging up his coat. Now, cozy in his bed, one light on, he once again started reading it from the beginning. It comforted him for some reason. It made him think of Victor, and though the thoughts were sad, it still comforted him in some strange way.

Klunk, appearing from one of his favorite napping places (one of the many stacks of comics), with little effort jumped up to Mikey's bed and proceeded to make himself comfortable on his Master's pillow, purring and looking for all the world as if he, too, were reading the book with him.

Mikey absently raised a hand and scratched his cat around the ears, and was rewarded with an increase in the volume of the purring.

"A memorial," he said to the cat out of the blue. "I should plan some type of memorial for Victor. But what?"

"Purr-rrr-rrrrrrr-rrrrrrrr."

"Hmm, you're not much for suggestions, are you, Klunkers?" he smiled, still reading. "Oh, well, I'll think about it later. But yes-- Victor needs a proper memorial. I owe him that much."