"Donny!" His brothers roared, gasping as their purple-banded brother seemed to be swallowed by the robot. Mikey and Leo immediately ran towards the robot and began to thrash and slash at it wildly.
"No, guys! Stop!" Both Raphael and Splinter pulled them back.
"But it ate Don!" Mikey cried in confusion, struggling to free himself from Raph's strong grip. "Lemme go! We gotta get him out!"
"He's gonna get himself out," Raph promised him through gritted teeth as he continued to restrain his brother. A nod from Splinter, who had a reassuring hand on Leo's shoulder, confirmed what Raphael said.
"Your brother is conquering his nightmare," Splinter told them sagely.
"But then why is that thing still here?" Leo demanded.
"The robot is not Donatello's nightmare," Splinter explained. "His fear is failure – failure to solve the puzzle presented to him. He is trying to overcome this fear with a clear head, and once he attains this, he should be able to find the solution to the problem."
One factor Donny had not taken into account, when he hastily gave himself up for the robot's lunch, was that it was pitch dark inside. "Maybe this is what it's like to be canned tuna," he muttered to himself, wincing as his voice echoed sharply around him. "Then again, tuna doesn't have a can-opener inside the can," he added. He felt for a smooth piece of metal in front of him, and used the sai to pierce it. For a moment, light projected through into the robot, giving Donatello the advantage of vision. But only for a moment. No sooner had he speared the robot, Don could faintly hear the grim sound of the robot rebuilding itself, before the puncture was mended.
"No," Donny murmured to himself in disbelief. He'd thought it through, rationally! He hacked at the robot's thin, metal plating, and gasped in horror as it knitted back together before his very eyes.
"But this was supposed to work," Donny grumbled dejectedly. In a louder voice that boomed around the small shell he was in, "why can't I make this work!"
Outside the robot, the others heard Donny's shout, and looked at each other. "He needs help!" Leo snapped, swords prepared for a second onslaught before a gnarled hand on his shoulder stopped him in his tracks.
"Only when he is in danger will we help him," Splinter said firmly.
"But he's inside that thing!" Mikey persisted. Even Raph looked doubtful that his brother was safe.
As they watched the robot, he suddenly made his next move. Before their wide eyes, he inverted his face, which seemed to swallow itself into its body.
"That can't be good," Raphael muttered.
"It gets worse," Leo said, anxiously pointing his sword at the sides of the robot's body, which were now sprouting additional arms. The six long, gangly arms, extended towards the three turtles and rat, who were stood to defend themselves.
Inside the robot, Donatello gasped when he felt the area shift a little, and shielded his eyes as two bulbs seemed to switch on, out of nowhere. After a second he became used to the light, and saw that the two yellow bulbs were the eyes of the robot, and that his face was inexplicably inside-out, and hanging inside the robot's stomach by its neck.
"So, Donatello," the robot spoke in a slow, monotonous, tinny voice. "I am beyond your mind."
"Fine, I admit it," Donny said, folding his arms. "I can't figure you out. There are things I can't figure out. I get that. Nightmare over. Now let me out."
"So you concede defeat? What will your brothers think of you now? And your Sensei, who has taught you to fight to the finish?"
Then again, I don't have to come out, Donny thought to himself, it's cosy in here, I like the dark, maybe a throw or two and...
Donny could have sworn the robot's hollow bulbs narrow just a little, and the corners of his square mouth turn up just slightly, as though in a wicked smile.
"No, that's what you want," Donny said forcefully. "I won't admit defeat! I'll solve this puzzle!"
"For one so bright, you do not catch on very quickly," the robot told him.
The two bulbs flicked off, and all of a sudden, Donny felt like he was in a washing machine on fast spin. He landed with an ooph on the ground, and took a moment to regain his senses. When he looked up, he saw the robot standing tall above him, now with six arms. In four of those arms, there struggled a member of his family.
Donny gasped. The stakes had been raised, and his family were the prize. As he watched them helplessly tussle in the robot's clamp-hands, Donatello felt his stomach drop. "How do I solve this puzzle?"
"I don't care – just get us outta here!" Mikey hollered back through gritted teeth.
In that instant, everything changed. Donatello stopped looking at the robot as a puzzle, and started seeing it as an enemy, putting his family in danger. With a roar, he used his bo staff to crack the thin telescopic arms that were holding the four others. One by one, he broke the arms away with his weapon, and the four family members dropped to the floor.
The robot did not rebuild itself.
As his family prised themselves out of the grip of the hands, Donny did not stop to assess the reason why the robot did not knit itself back together, as it had done before. He dived straight in without hesitation. Wielding his bo, he thrashed at the robot, denting and compromising the metal. Taking Raph's sai, which was still stashed in his belt, he slashed at the already-weakened metal, fully focused on destroying the robot.
Once Donny had finished the offensive, the robot swayed and staggered for a moment, before falling to the ground with a deafening crash. Donatello leapt onto the metal carcass and sneering, stared into the robot's vacant bulbs. "Even if I can't figure out how you work, I am not useless."
With that, Donny jumped off of the robot and looked on as the remains of the robot began to unfold and refold, until it was once again back in its original, cube form.
Donny wordlessly picked up the cube, and placed it into his bag of tricks, which he had discarded near a tree during the fight. He turned back to his brothers and said, "I'll figure out what to do with it. Later, in my own time."
"You did pretty good already, Don," Raphael commended as Donny handed his sai back.
"And we've never thought you were useless, even if you can't fix something," Mikey added.
"Thanks," Donny said genuinely. "I guess I know that a little better now. I thought my fear was not being able to figure out how something works. But, it was thinking that if I couldn't figure out how something works, then I couldn't succeed at anything."
"My son," Splinter began, addressing a now-solemn Donatello, "the island not only helps one to conquer their fears, but also to educate. You cannot solve every puzzle in the world, no matter how hard you try. This you must accept. And when you cannot mend something, you must never think you are worthless. Fixing devices is not your sole purpose, and it is not the only thing you are good at. You have many more qualities, some that use your mind, others that use your heart."
Donny smiled. "Something to remember for the future, huh?"
"Indeed," Splinter said, also smiling. "Perhaps something for your brothers to remember, as well?"
The other three turtles took a sudden interest in the ground at that moment, before a sharp cough from Splinter diverted their attention. "We'll put less pressure on you to mend stuff," Raph said.
"And help you if you need it," Leo agreed.
"And we'll keep Raph from breaking it in the first place," Mikey added with a smirk.
"I'll break your face in a minute," Raphael threatened, waving his fist to enforce the warning.
"Come on guys," Mikey changed the subject quickly. "Time to get going. Two down, two to go!" He skipped ahead, whilst his family followed, shaking their heads in amusement.
"Three," Leo corrected. "Master Splinter hasn't had a go yet."
"Sheesh, Leo, this ain't a theme park ride," Raph said flippantly.
"'Sides, Master Splinter ain't afraid of anything," Mikey said with conviction.
Splinter hesitated for just one second before continuing behind his sons. How wrong you are, my son, he thought to himself with a sad shake of his head, I fear many things. And right now, I fear this island is about to rob you of your innocence.
Following the episode with the robot, the family of five continued to walk through the jungle, which gradually became steeper and steeper, until they broke through the dense trees and long grass to an open, lush ridge. From up here, they could see for miles around. Behind them, they could see the vast stretch of jungle they had trekked through, and in front of them, the meadow spread until it came to an abrupt halt and dropped into a sheer cliff face.
The only sight beyond the cliff edge was that of the vast, aqua ocean, gently rippling until it faded away over the horizon. The turtles expected that, high on the cliff, the wind would be whipping around them, but there was no breeze at all.
"Perhaps we could rest here," Splinter suggested, settling himself upon a patch of the verdant meadow. "We are safer to do so here, in the open space, rather than in within the trees."
The turtles nodded in agreement. Michelangelo, not content with sitting with his brothers and Sensei, strolled over to the cliff edge, to see what was below. The tide, which appeared much stronger than at the beach they'd first landed on, crashed against a cluster of sharp rocks, sending spray bursting up into the air.
"Heh, pretty steep drop," Raph said, sidling up to where he brother peered over the edge.
Startled, Mikey jumped back from the edge. "Dude! Do not sneak up on a turtle when he's near the edge of a cliff!" He said indignantly.
"Guys, come away from there," Leo said from where he sat with Splinter and Donny.
"Yeah, because if you guys fall over and end up as turtle shish-kebab... Hey, Leo," Donny said, interrupting himself, "you think that's your fear?"
"Fear? Mikey going over the edge, now that's a dream come true," Raphael said, with a grin that told his glaring youngest brother he was joking.
"I don't know," Leonardo admitted. "One of my fears was heights. Maybe that's why we're here. And then another fear is, well, you guys getting hurt," he added, looking away and absently scratching the back of his neck.
"We all fear that, Leo," Donny said softly. "The fears this place finds in us, they're more personal. And, speaking for myself here, they're more subconscious. My one, it really caught me surprise."
"Leo, do you think your fear could be..." Mikey began, before he was cut off when his Sensei held his paw up.
"My sons," Splinter addressed, "I advise you not to speculate on your possible fears. If you come to expect one, and a different one is presented to you, then you will be caught off-guard and will be more vulnerable. You must try to have an open mind until you are shown your challenge."
"But if we figure out what our biggest fear is gonna be before we see it, then won't we be prepared and be able to defeat it better?" Mikey suggested.
"No," Splinter told him firmly. "For one, the island does not select your darkest fear, whatever it might be. It selects merely one of several fears. Secondly, the fear the island does hone in on may be one you are unconscious of, as Donatello said. You cannot prepare for something you are unaware of. All we can do is wait, until the island is ready to test us."
"Grr! I hate waiting," Raph moaned, folding his arms.
At that moment, Leonardo sensed something behind him, and whatever he sensed sent a shiver down his spine. In the blink of an eye he was on his feet and his swords were out, poised and ready for anything. His narrow, focused eyes widened the minute he saw what he had detected.
"The Shredder," he breathed in disbelief.