Cricket…cricket…wow, it's quiet in here.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything to do with TMNT or its characters, properties, locations or, well anything. However, the random teenager named Vox, the mutated alligator Tanner, Cameo Jones, the concept of The Lair and its citizens in general belong to me, so don't touch 'em with asking first, okie-dokie?
Chapter Two: Broken Clocks and Tea
Donatello frowned a bit, focusing all of his concentration on the tissue sample under his microscope. Or at least, he would have liked to be concentrating on the sample, but the mismatched and slightly awkward lenses of his second-hand tool were making that difficult. He adjusted them yet again and leaned back, rubbing his temples.
Leatherhead looked up from his workbench on the opposite side of the lab and chuckled slightly. "Having difficulties, my friend?"
"Constantly," Don sighed, sitting up again to examine the sample once more. "At least Ms. Noriko's cells are looking fine. All of the reactions seem normal, for the A-six mutagen at least."
Leatherhead nodded and recorded the information in his records. It was one of their more important duties, not only as the Lair's primary caretakers, but as the only two of the residents well-versed enough in mutant tissue to properly study the progressing effects. With so many mutants in a contained area, it was important for them to keep track of the various mutagens that had caused them all to be in the first place. If one had some how mixed with another, or came into contact with an already mutated creature, it could cause secondary mutations or effects that would put the entire Lair at risk. And so, as a precaution, they went through a decent sampling of the Lair's population every three months, just to be sure.
Generally, like this time, it took them about a two months to go through them all.
"That does it for the A-group this go around," Don sighed, leaning back in his chair to look at his alligator friend. "Care to move on to the B's and C's or just take a break for now?"
Leatherhead grinned, showing all of his sharp teeth. "I believe that a small rest would be quite fortuitous."
Donatello grinned, looking tired. "I agree."
"Ow! Hey, watch it!"
The turtle jerked automatically, his old training kicking in at the unfamiliar voice that echoed through the closed door. He reached for the wooden bo that rested beside his workbench, but relaxed when another, more familiar sound followed it: "Quiet, Topsider! I told you not to touch anything!"
"But I was just looking…"
"Look with your eyes, not with your hands, thief!"
There was a swiping noise and a crash, followed by a feminine shriek. "Oh, now look what you've done!"
"What I've done? You're the one who broke it!"
Donatello straightened calmly, quirking a brow at Leatherhead inquisitively. The alligator was just returning the gesture when they heard a gentle, hollow knock from large, scaly knuckles. "Come in."
The door cracked open, pushed the rest of the way by the head of a relatively small, just barely adult mutant alligator with dusty grey-brown skin and big brown eyes. He glanced into the room, then met Leatherhead's eye and glanced at the ground. "Um…Hi, Pops. Donatello."
"Tanner," Leatherhead smiled a bit seeing the boy he'd been raising the last 20 years, but his mind quickly switched to the noise once more. "What's going on out there?"
"Well, you see…" Tanner shifted from one foot to the other anxiously. "See, Cam…"
Don sighed and shook his head. "Who did she attack this time?"
"She didn't actually…"
"I thought that we made it clear the last time," the turtle scowled, pushing away form his desk in annoyance. "Running outsiders off is one thing, but trying to get them killed is another. Doesn't she know that anybody could see what's going on down here if they looked hard enough?"
"It's really not Cam's fault!" Tanner insisted, though his enthusiasm disappeared when the older mutants looked to him again. "I…I was looking for some new egg cartons, those plastic ones, to put the seeds in? And I wasn't looking where I was going and ran into this kid…he's some kind of Junker, I think. I didn't see him, but he saw me and freaked out. He ran, like he was going to go get someone, and Cam just…well, we panicked."
Donatello sighed. He couldn't exactly blame them for that… "So what did you do with him?"
"Why you miserable little…!"
"I didn't do it! I didn't do anything!"
Tanner winced again. "We…couldn't agree, so we just brought him…back here…to see if you knew what to do."
Once again, Donatello glanced at Leatherhead, who shrugged even as he attempted to hide the rather amused expression on his face. There was nothing amusing about this. If this new boy was friendly, there would be little problem…perhaps he could even become a much-needed contact to the outside world, as Cameo's grandparents were. But if he was hostile - which was far more likely - he would instantly become a danger to the Lair and everyone in it.
Which meant that there was only one thing that they could do…
"All right then, Tanner." Don sighed, slipping his bow back into place over his shell. "Send him in."
( - ) ( - ) ( - )
Cameo Jones stood over the outsider, the sharp blade of her naginata pointed directly at his chest. Her teeth were gritted together fiercely, her blue eyes set in a stern glare. She was not going to fall for his stupid grin or his slipshod attitude. She knew better than to trust people like him. Dirty, selfish, money-grubbing topsiders…
"Dude, girl, just calm down," he was saying, raising his hands in a useless defense, almost as if he was trying to surrender. "I'm not gonna touch anything or go anywhere, I swear. I just wanna know where this place came from, and who exactly this Dona…"
Cam pushed the blade a little closer, effectively shutting him up, though she controlled herself just enough to keep from cutting him. She took a deep breath through her gritted teeth, trying to regulate her breathing and calm her mind.
She couldn't let him aggravate her - she was better than that. Her family was better than that. Her mother and grandmother had both been trained by the original ninja master of their clan, Master Splinter, and she had been trained by both of them and Donatello. Through them and their teachings, she had a long line of ninjas to make proud, and she wasn't going to waste it all on a pompous little piece of junk like…
"Cameo, what exactly are you doing?"
The girl let out a sharp "Eep!" of surprise, her weapon dropping sharply. Vox, with his quick reflexes, rolled out of the way at the last minute, so the total damage was really just a large slash in the wooden floor, where the blade had sunk in less than two centimeters.
Cam winced at the sight, and at the fact that it was her slip of the hand that had caused it. Hesitantly, she slipped her weapon back into place and turned back to the mutant turtle that had addressed her. "I…I was just…"
"Giving into a frustrating impulse that resulted in the destruction of two pieces of fine china and an old clock," Donatello finished for her, taking in the half-destroyed little room. "You should know better than that."
Another wince. Cameo lowered her head in shame. "I…I know. I'm sorry."
Again, the turtle sighed lightly. Then he flicked one of this three large fingers at the door which lead to the building's main hall. "To the dojo with you, then. Fifty flips and five laps, then come back."
"Yessir!" The girl shot up right, almost at a kind of attention, and shot out the door.
The mutant turtle clicked his tongue and shook his head as she went. Behind him, the large of the two alligators chuckled in amusement at the sight, while his son watched somewhat awkwardly. Vox eyed the group from his place on the ground, not sure if he wanted to get up. Getting up could get him noticed, and being noticed could get him eaten….
But that idea was scrapped quickly as the turtle's brown eyes shifted to him. Vox stiffened, automatically reaching for something, anything that could be used as a weapon.
"Nice reflexes," the turtle noted, reach down to catch his wrist in one swift motion. "But you won't be needing them now. Just relax."
Vox couldn't help it - he laughed. "Relax? Now? Sure."
"Well, if you want to be that way." The turtle shrugged, making his way over to the bench where Vox had carefully placed the broken clock, which actually had been his fault. Donatello lifted one brow curiously to find that the cogs that had fallen out were laid flat and relatively neat, given the circumstances. "Interesting. Are you familiar with kind of clock?"
"It's clock," Vox shrugged. "What's there to know?"
"Enough," Donatello smiled. "Not a lot of people would keep track of its broken parts so well unless they knew how to put it back together again."
Another shrug. "I'm a Junker. Finding the parts for the broken crap is what I do. Somebody else puts 'em together."
"I see." Donatello put the cogs back onto the table and turned back to the boy. "What is your name?"
The Junker shifted a bit, moving into a slightly more dignified 'Indian style' position before he answered. "Vox. I don't got a last name."
"Most Junkers don't."
Absinthian green eyes watched the turtle wearily. "What about you?"
"My name is Hamato Donatello," the mutant bowed automatically, years of training and habit kicking in. "Most just call me Donatello.
Donatello motioned to the two crocodilian mutants standing in the doorway to his lab. "This is my associate, Leatherhead…"
The larger alligator nodded his head politely. "How do you do?"
"…and I believe you've already met his son, Tanner."
"That's your dad?" Vox blurted. Tanner's olive-green skin turned slightly red with a kind of blush, and he nodded awkwardly.
Another grin. The boy was starting to relax a bit. "It's certainly nice to see that you two are getting along, at least."
Vox's cheeks colored a bit darker than before, making him look a bit like a bruised tomato. He turned his head to the side with a scowl, gripping and ungripping his gloved hands. "So, what's the deal? You guys, like, in charge of this freaky place?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes." Donatello nodded toward the other mutants again. "Leatherhead and I make sure that everything works the way that it was meant to work, both with the residents and the utilities. We do sort of keep things in order."
Vox turned his eyes without turning his head. "So…are you gonna eat me?"
Leatherhead laughed at that, and the sound was strange enough to anyone who wasn't familiar with him that Vox nearly crack his skull in an attempt to get away. It took a moment to calm the frazzled boy down, during which time Cameo reappeared, looking sweaty and disgusted, and Tanner managed to retrieve a pot of tea and several cups to it serve in.
"To answer your question," Donatello continued as soon as the tea was poured and everyone had just about calmed into a reasonably controllable state, "no, we are not going to eat you. Despite appearances, mutants do not eat people. That rumor got started when someone came across a young mutant finishing off some friend chicken, and the remaining bones were misinterpreted."
"Ah…" Vox's hands shook a little bit around his cup, uncertain. He was eyeing Cameo across the table as though she was rabid wolf, which she responded by glaring at him in a very territorial manner.
Vox yanked his eyes away from her and turned back to the gathered mutants, feeling vaguely like the new kid in kindergarten that all the kids were only paying attention to because the teacher told them to. He hated that feeling, so he tried to draw on what Tanner had told him on the way in…something to make him seem smarter than he was. "So…This place. It's, like, a place for mutants, right? A place to hide?"
"Indeed," Leatherhead nodded, sounding much more like a cordial gentleman and less like the blood-thirsty animal his laugh had made him out to be. "The Lair is a community for those who have nowhere else to go. It is a refuge for those that cannot exist in a normal society…mutants more so than any other." He glanced over at the turtle with a small, knowing smile. "Donatello's…family…established this place several years ago, in a similar manner to their own home."
Vox glanced down at his own reflection in the tea, completely missing the thoughtful expression that passed over Donatello's face. "Sure seems…cozy."
"Yes," Leatherhead sighed. "Cozy and safe, as it has been for years. Which now leads us to the issue of your fate, young man."
Vox nearly spat out his tea. He quickly set the cup down before he could drop or break it, holding his hands up in a symbol of surrender. "I won't tell anybody about this place, really. You don't have to worry about me."
Cameo scoffed. "Of course we don't."
Vox glared at her in distaste. "What good would it do me to sell out a town full of mutants livin' in the sewers? For that matter, who would believe me even if I wanted to?"
Cameo stood sharply, knocking over her chair and slamming one hand down on the table. "There is no way in hell that we can trust this guy!"
"You don't know that!"
Donatello coughed once in order to get their attention, quickly silencing the two teens. "The fact is that we don't know whether you can be trusted. Not really. And we can't afford to take that risk. So, there's only one thing that we can do."
The bottom dropped out of Vox's stomach, anticipating the proclamation of his own death sentence. Expecting the same thing, Cameo grinned, reaching for her weapon eagerly. Leatherhead and Tanner glanced at each other, knowing that Donatello wouldn't say what they thought he was going to say, but not being able to help thinking: what if he did…?
"You'll have to stay here, under surveillance, until we're absolutely sure that it's safe for us to let you return to the surface."
Both Tanner and Vox sighed in relief. Leatherhead grinned. Cameo, on the other hand, was just shocked. "But…But Donatello, there's no place for him! Who's going to be able to watch him for all that time, huh?"
A mischievous kind of grin slipped across Donatello's face as the plan began working itself out in his mind. "Well, Cameo, since you're so eager to keep him in line, I think that you should do it."
This time, Vox did drop his cup. "You gotta be kidding!"
Cameo looked horrified as well. "But Donatello…!"
"No 'buts,'" Donatello sighed, looking over at the other mutants. "I think that it's for the best. Don't you agree, Leatherhead?"
"Indeed," the alligator smiled slightly. "I think that it's an excellent idea."
And that, as some people would say, was all there was to it.
Uh…yeah. My chapter endings continue to suck as much as they do in the Digimon section. But at least I got Donnie and Leatherhead back into their proper roles. The Lair and how it came about, along with exactly what happened to the rest of the Hamato clan, will be explained in about two chapters, so just hold on for a little bit.
As a random bit, Tanner is the Lair's primary gardener. He keeps track of the greenhouses that provide them with fresh oxygen and food. And he's a mutant alligator. It's just something I felt like throwing it.