AUTHOR NOTES

I've never written a story in this style before. Hopefully, it has the desired effect.

Legal blah-blah-blah. I quote a posting from Wikipedia in chapter three, but made some alterations to fit the storyline better. Hope you all can forgive me. I also quote the back of an action figure box in chapter one. Copyright Playmates, used without permission, etc etc.

I didn't have a beta-reader for this story, but I do need to thank kayalizzie. I ran the story idea by her, and based on her enthusiasm, went ahead with it. She was invaluable at providing feedback on several key plotpoints, as well. Thanks, kl! "Across the vast emptiness online..."

"Shut UP, Gerald!"

-----

It was a top-of-the-line office chair, which is probably why it simply groaned under Bebop's weight rather than collapsing. Bebop tossed his huge bag of Xtremely Hot Doritos to the left of the monitor, and clunked down his large mug of Mountain Dew Code Red to the right. He had earned himself a bit of free time, having finished his chores before Rocksteady finished his. Of course, that wasn't much of a surprise on this particular day. Rocksteady had drawn the worst job of all – power-washing the Technodrome exterior. That was a job that usually took all day. Assuming either of them could focus on the task that long. As it was, Krang was satisfied if they could finish it the same week they started.

Until recently, Bebop spent every second of his free time vegging in front of the TV. That was before Shredder had introduced him to the wonders of the Internet. Well, not all the wonders - just the fact that new episodes of DumDum Dog were posted online every week. Bebop loved DumDum Dog. He could watch him all day. He was so dumb. And so funny.

He grabbed the mouse and clicked opened the Internet browser. While waiting for the main page to load (something Krang created which displayed current conditions in and around the Technodrome - BORING!), he reached into the bag of chips, pulled out a handful, and shoved them in his mouth. Yow, those were hot - xtremely so! Bebop lunged for his drunk, but his fist clumsily struck the mug and tilted it backwards a bit, sending a small cascade of red soda over the rim and onto the back of the computer. There was a short sizzling sound, a sudden flash of light...and then all was calm again, save for a tiny wisp of white smoke coming up from the back of the computer.

Bebop pulled his glasses down his nose and looked around. Nobody was there. And nobody appeared to be coming. Apparently, nobody had noticed. He quickly scurried to the opposite side of the room, and began fumbling around the small workbench. He dug up a small rag, ran back to the computer, and mopped up the soda the best he could.

Geez, he thought, when Master Shredder finds out about this...

But, much to his surprise, the computer seemed fine. The monitor was still on. The website was open and running. Hesitantly, Bebop moved the mouse around, and watched as the arrow moved around with it. Everything still seemed functional. He breathed a huge sigh of relief, then chose "DumDum Dog" from the list of "favorites".

404 - File Not Found

Bebop stared at the screen, confused. He tried selecting the link again, but got the same result. Thinking back, he remembered Shredder telling him that this happened sometimes with websites, usually when the website was getting updated. That thought didn't exactly lift his spirits, though. He wanted his DumDum Dog fix! Well, he'd try again in a little bit. What could he do in the meantime? What else could he look at on the computer?

Well, he could do an image search for his name. He had tried that once before, but the results had been disappointing. Not a single picture of him, but lots of old musicians. And no good musicians, either - they were all old black-and-white photos of jazz guys named Charlie and Miles. Who cared about that sort of stuff? Still, maybe he'd get lucky this time. Using his pinky finger, and typing really carefully (his big fingers weren't exactly ideal for typing), he entered "bebop" into the search engine, then hit the return button.

Bebop's eyes grew wide. There he was!

Oh was it? He flipped up his glasses and leaned in close to get a better look. Well, it didn't look precisely like him. It wasn't a photo - it was a drawing. But it certainly was a mutant warthog, with glasses, mohawk, and everything. And right beneath it, it said "Bebop".

Bebop grinned - he was famous! He clicked on the picture, and another drawing came up. Hey, this one was of him and Rocksteady. Neat! That'd look really cool on the door to their room. Remembering what Shredder had taught him (nine or ten times), he clicked on the picture and printed it out. He got up, grabbed his chips, drink and picture, and headed out the door, whistling.

Coming the other way in the hallway was the Shredder. His mask was off, displaying his obviously peeved expression to the world. Bebop decided he'd try to cheer him up.

"Hey, boss," he said. "Lookit this pitcher!" He held up the picture for Shredder to see.

Shredder rolled his eyes. He was having a bad enough day. Krang had been breathing down his neck, wanting him to come up with yet another grand scheme to get the turtles out of the way. Now he had to take time out to play "good-job-son" to his hapless henchman? He glanced down at the picture, and was somewhat surprised - it was a lot better than he thought Bebop could ever do.

"You drew this?"

"Nah, it was da computer."

"You drew it on the computer?"

"No! It was on da Innernet."

He handed the picture back, and started walking away when a tiny pang of worry fired in his brain. There was a drawing of Bebop and Rocksteady online? Why? And if there was a picture of them...might there also be other information on them? And maybe on Krang and himself? This might not be good. "Wait," said the Shredder, pulling up short. "Show me."

Bebop nervously took him back into the computer room, and once again did the search for "bebop". "See?" he said, pointing at the screen. "Right here." Shredder stared at the picture for a second, then waved Bebop away from the keyboard. He sat down, clicked into the search engine, typed "shredder" and hit return. Once the results came up, Shredder stared at them, his jaw slowly dropping.

Drawings. Photos. Pencil sketches. 3-D renderings. All of him.

Bebop finally broke the silence. "Hey," he said, pointing. "Dere's even a Shredder doll!"

Horrified, Shredder clicked on the link. And once the page opened, he felt his blood chill. Which was worse? The fact that the page said, as clear as day, "Oruku Saki is the Shredder!"? Or the fact that his action figure was packaged in a bright green box with a picture of the four turtles above, and the words "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" emblazoned below?

Shredder finally tore his eyes away from the page, and grabbed his communicator. "Krang!" he bellowed into it. "Get into my office! Now!"

Throwing his head back, Shredder drained the last of his coffee, then blearily stared at the computer monitor. He had been camped out in this room for almost twenty-four hours. As he and Krang had checked out website after website, one thing became clear - this computer had somehow linked somewhere else, to some alternate reality. The search results never matched the ones on Shredder's laptop, or any of the other computers in the Technodrome. And wherever this thing was linked to, they had tons of information on not just him, but on the turtles as well. Shredder had been determined to tap this information source for all it was worth. If ever there was an opportunity to find out something about the turtles, this was it. But after almost an entire day of web-surfing, taking notes, and occasionally throwing things at the wall, he felt whipped. This wasn't turning out the way he had hoped.

He sighed, then, glancing quickly at the door to see if anyone was coming, went back to the first website he had visited. After staring at the picture for a minute, he reached for the phone and dialed.

"Hello, Toys R Us?" he said, quietly. "I was phoning to see if you had any of those stunning Shredder action figures in stock...Shredder...S-H-R-E-D-D-E-R...Yes! Like the office tool!...It's manufactured by Playmates." Shredder winced as he said that last word. "Yes...Well..." He paused, then set his teeth. "It's part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle line." He suddenly hardened and looked down at the receiver. "Never heard of it? Well, see if I patronize your establishment again!"

Shredder disconnected the line, then gave a start, as he saw Krang standing in the doorway, smirking. "Uh, just...seeing if it's...real."

"Suuuuure." Krang entered the room and indicated the computer. "Have you found out anything?"

"Too much."

Krang looked confused. "What do you mean, Saki?"

Shredder leaned back in his chair and rubbed his face. "Look, you saw how much information there was on the turtles here. So I figured I'd try to find out something simple - the location of their lair."

"And you still haven't found out?"

Picking up his notepad, Shredder glanced over it. "Well, I've gotten it narrowed down. They either live in an abandoned warehouse, an abandoned subway station, an unused section of the sewer system under the city, an abandoned floor of a skyscraper, a refurbished Victorian house, or in a fortress built on top of the Empire State Building which is kept hidden from view by supernatural means."

Krang tried to process that, but failed. "Huh?"

"Believe it or not, those are the more believable ones." Shredder tossed the notebook down next to Krang and sighed. "To be honest, Krang, I'm starting to believe we're being had."

"What makes you say that?"

"Because it doesn't make sense, that's what." He started idly clicking through pictures again. "I must have seen thousands of pictures - of them and of us. I've seen children's drawings, animation cels, even movie clips."

"I'm in a movie?" said Krang, trying not to sound too eager.

"I am. You're not."

"I'm not?" said Krang, now abandoning all attempt to sound disinterested. "Why not?"

"Not sure. Maybe they had trouble casting the role of the disembodied brain from another dimension?" On seeing Krang's reaction, he quickly added, "Don't feel bad. I think they hired some sushi chef to play me - he couldn't beat the lowest Foot soldier in hand-to-hand combat. The guy's puny. And from the looks of his costume, you'd think he was headed to a low-rent S&M disco." He tapped his fingers on the desk and shook his head. "You know what? I don't think we exist."

"What?"

Shredder waved his hand at the screen. "There. Wherever we're tapped into. I don't think we exist there. Look at it - comics, movies, cartoons...but no us. Not a single photo of us or the turtles anywhere. Not a single news item about the Foot, or the mayhem we've caused. Nothing."

"Then what's all this stuff?"

"No idea." He shrugged. "Maybe we're fictional characters. Maybe in this world, a couple dorks dreamed us up. Wish we could sue them for royalties - they're probably loaded." He slapped the desk and painfully got to his feet. "I'm done. No more." He headed for the door.

"What do you mean?" Krang look peeved. "There must be important information in there somewhere."

Shredder jerked his thumb over his shoulder, careful to avoid the blades there. "Well, if you think you can dig it up amidst all the Ninja Turtle birthday party kits and Ninja Turtle bike reflectors, by all means, enjoy yourself. I'm going to bed."

Krang watched him leave, then turned back to the computer. Maybe Saki was right. Maybe it wasn't worth it. Krang shook his host body's head. No. No, this was too good an opportunity to pass up. Certainly, there had to be something of worth on here. And Krang was resolved to find it, even if it took all day.

------

It took more than all day - it took five.

It wasn't exactly a smoking gun, either. No huge damning piece of evidence, no huge flashing arrow pointing at some turtle Achilles heel. Just a little nothing he read in a story. He hardly even noticed it. But it gave Krang the slightest hint of an idea, which took seed and began growing, until suddenly, it all seemed clear.

Yes! Of course!

"Saki!" Krang commanded into his communicator. "Get in here!"

It took some time - he was at the other end of the Technodrome - but Shredder finally arrived in the room. "So?" he asked. "You finally ready to admit defeat?"

"Not in your lifetime, Saki," said Krang. He indicated the chair in front of the computer. "Sit. Read."

Shredder sat down, tried to get comfortable (his cape tended to bunch up when he sat in office chairs), and began reading. It took about three sentences for a frown to appear on his face. It took about three paragraphs for the frown to turn to an expression of disgust. He managed two more paragraphs before turning to face Krang.

"This is nauseating," he said simply.

"Keep reading," ordered Krang.

Slowly, almost painfully, he turned back to the monitor and willed himself to continue. From time to time, he'd squirm uncomfortably in his chair, or mutter something under his breath. Finally, agonizingly, he finished. He turned slowly once again to face Krang.

"So?" asked Krang. "What do you think?"

"Well," he said finally, "I guess I'm grateful for the spelling mistakes, because they helped take my mind off the wretched story. Now why, in the name of all that is evil, did you make me read that monstrosity?"

Krang scanned the screen, then tapped a finger against one word. "This."

"That was the worst part."

Flashing a grin even more evil than normal, Krang said, "Yes. I know."

Shredder didn't see where this was going. "Well, what about it?"

Again tapping the screen, he said, "There's more where that came from. Hundreds more."

"Yeah? So?"

Krang rubbed his tentacles together in glee. "You'll see, Saki. You'll see."