AN: I do not own or profit from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This story takes place before the Triceraton invasion of Earth in the 2k3 series. The photographs are canon and can be viewed in the Season Four episode "Bishop's Gambit." The rest is an effort to fill in some of Agent Bishop's past…
"When are you going to finish school, Gabriel?" is the question people usually ask first. It's generally followed by "How long have you been doing this, anyway?"
When you're a PhD student in history, you have to answer these questions a lot. Trouble is, most of the time I don't have an answer to the first question and the second one gives me a headache.
I feel as though I have been in this library forever, just hanging in stasis. My head throbs most nights. My roommate, Merritt, blames my glasses. The frames are heavy and brown and square, not unlike me. She may be right—they do seem to be the cause of the nasty pinching sensation between my eyes. But without them, I'm blind as a bat. And I can't afford to go blind right now, because my work in the archives finally seems to be paying off.
They all laugh at me behind my back, I know. They think that research on the history of extraterrestrial encounters in America isn't "legitimate scholarship." Most of the senior professors avoid me, and the other grad students call me "alien boy" and worse. About the only two people who support me right now are Merritt and my thesis adviser, Dr. Sarah Rollins.
But this time I've hit it big—I haven't even told Merritt yet, and I tell her everything. I've found something major. And it's going to change history as we know it.
To: Sarah Rollins
From: Gabriel Villere
Subject: I've found it!
Dear Prof. Rollins,
Last week I mentioned that I had something to show you. To be brief, I was in the Arnold Archives looking for primary sources that referenced the Disturbance of 1815. I finally found what I was looking for: the journal of Captain John Bishop, who fought in the Louisiana militia under Major Villere. I need to talk to you soon! Let me know when we can meet.
When I turned thirteen, my grandfather was hooked up to a lot of machines in a hospital in the city; he couldn't breathe very well and I think we all knew that he was going to die soon. One day I visited him, and he gave me a battered leather portfolio. Inside was a scrap of paper that mapped out my fate.
"This letter," he whispered to me, taking my hand, "is your birthright."
I didn't realize what a big deal it was to him at the time. It was just a letter.
I had always heard the stories of my ancestor, Major Gabriel Villere of the Louisiana Militia; he lead ground forces that helped defeat the British at New Orleans at the end of the War of 1812. My grandfather often reminded me of my heritage.
"You're descended from a great man," he always said. "A hero." I'd heard the "descended from a hero" line a million times, but I still loved it.
But the letter I received on my thirteenth birthday told a different story: the "you're descended from an alien hunter" story. It is dated January 15th, 1815, and isn't very long, but it describes what is known to a select few as "The Disturbance of 1815":
"Captain John Bishop returned to us a week ago with a startling tale. I had thought him among the casualties, but we couldn't find his body on the battlefield. He had been gone for days and looked like a madman—his eyes were wild, his clothes torn, and his face caked with mud and blood.
I took him into my tent and questioned him; I thought perhaps that he was suffering from a grave injury. My own physician helped him out of his coat and shirt. The stench…I cannot describe it, though his skin was clean. Faint lines like scars ran all over the length of his back and trunk, and they glowed like foxfire in the dim interior of my tent.
He didn't speak for two days. On the third, he told me a remarkable story: he had been held captive in the sky. I thought he was still delirious—it was likely that he had been a victim of the British, captured and tortured, only able to find his way back to us after their defeat. But then he showed me a curious device; it fit into the palm of his hand and was made of a metal much lighter and more pliable than iron or even copper. A small red gem in the center of the device twinkled like the Dog Star.
"Captain Bishop," I said, "This device…is it a secret weapon of the British? What does it do?" But he did not answer those questions.
"The ones who took me were not from this Earth," he told me. "And they must be stopped!" The metal glowed faintly in his hand with a red light.
He would not speak any more of his terrible captivity. He could not interpret the shining scars on his body. But I believe John Bishop, and I will aid him in his quest. As John says, we must defend against the threat. The future of the human race is at stake."
The letter stops there, and so did my knowledge of Bishop—until now. My grandfather searched all his life for evidence of extra-terrestrials, dreaming of meeting real aliens.
I am a historian—my quest is for the truth.
The photograph is grainy. I show it to Merritt and she snorts.
"This is your big surprise? It's like the 1866 version of the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot hoax. Where did you get it, anyway?"
I point out to her the clear outline of the Unidentified Flying Object—it's obviously a saucer—and the men gathered around it. I've identified most of them, but I know nothing about their lives after 1870. They seem to have vanished off the face of the earth. No paper trails—heck, they don't even have tombstones. I know. I've looked through more overgrown cemeteries than I'd care to count.
I don't tell Merritt that I swiped the photo from the Willard K. Arnold Library at Louisiana State University on my last trip to Baton Rouge. Well, I didn't actually steal the photograph—I found it after I got back to New York when it fell out of John Bishop's journal, which I did take. In fact, there were a number of other photos and even some letters stuck into the journal's pages. I haven't had a chance to get a close look at it yet, but I can already tell that it's my ticket to academic stardom.
I feel a little bit bad, though, because Merritt hates it when I steal historical documents. She's a waitress with a strict sense of honor. She also ends up paying most of the bills around here, but she never complains about that. She knows grad students make less than the kid working the register at McDonald's.
Merritt studies the photo more closely. "Who's that guy in the front, Teddy Roosevelt?" She points to a tall man dressed in a post-Civil War-era U.S. Army uniform. He's gesturing toward the UFO, a mixture of hatred and triumph on his face.
I sigh. "You missed on the dates by about 30 years, Mer. I believe that is John Bishop's son, Isaac."
Isaac Bishop, Civil War hero. I'd found his grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery—the only one whose life had come to an end, at least as far as historical documents can show.
Merritt pushes a lock of her long brown hair out of her eyes. Her hair always seems to get in her eyes when she's thinking hard about something. "Gabe, does all this mean you're gonna finish this dissertation soon?"
The dreaded question.
"Better than that. It means I'm going to finish the dis and become an instant celebrity.
I already have the History Channel documentary planned out in my mind; Ken Burns could direct. But that dream needs to wait. I have to read Bishop's journal before I can write my masterpiece.
24 December 1814
I was overjoyed to hear in your last letter that Isaac is cured of the whooping cough. My dreams of him keep me warm on the frozen nights; I count the minutes until I can take my boy in my arms, until I can look again upon your lovely face!
General Jackson is bold; we have begun putting his plans in action. For two days now we have been throwing up earthworks, defenses against the redcoats; the work is hard and muddy, with much digging and moving heavy earth and rocks. I reckon not even their largest cannons will break our lines.
I cannot write more now for fear that our enemies will find this letter; the battle is near at hand, but I do not want you to worry for me, love. The stockings you knitted me are warm and my powder is dry. Suffice to say that I am safe for the moment, and I am thinking of you and of our beloved son.
If only I could hold you in my arms at this moment, my darling!
1 January 1815
Redcoats are defeated. Wounded in leg, side. My men fought valiantly, but the enemy was too many for our unit. They are scattered or dead; I must try to gather those who are left and report to Major Villere.
I only pause to write this now because I have seen strange things on the battlefield: small, thin men with large dark eyes and grey skin. And yesterday I heard a sound like a great waterfall, right in the middle of the camp. I thought at first that it was a mortar, but the sound was so strange…like no mortar shell I've ever heard.
These may be tricks of the British to frighten us, but they little realize how stouthearted are the men of Louisiana! We will regroup and fight to the death for our motherland—our proud Nation!
To: Gabriel Villere
From: Sarah Rollins
Subject: Re: I've found it!
Bring me what you have, tomorrow, 10:30 am, at the Java Spot. I'll buy.
25 January 1815
I am home.
I cannot stop looking at my son's face. Even now, while he sleeps, I watch.
I had almost forgotten what beauty was in the muddy floodplains of the Mississippi; when I killed, I kept my thoughts on Helen. Her face drove away the blood and filth, the shriek of mortar shells, the agonized screams of my enemies, the pain of my own wounds. Helen was my anchor.
But when they took me, Helen's face did not come to save me. When they pinned me to their table and shined their lights into my eyes, when they opened me, I tried to bring her shining eyes, her lovely lips, her fair cheeks, into my mind. I begged her to save me. But I could not remember….
Now I am home, and I watch him. Isaac. He is beautiful.
30 May 1815
Chilled. I still can't seem to shake the cold. I can feel it flooding through my veins some nights, like rage…or love. In my veins, I can feel it—yet it does not reach my heart.
I cannot bear to touch Helen or Isaac; not when I can still feel their hands on me…their instruments cutting into my body…my organs…their black eyes roving over my naked skin.
I tried to tell my wife about the grey men; I can feel her fear when I am near her. I know that she does not want to touch me, either. She thinks I have gone mad, but I would never hurt her. I could never hurt my Helen.
The marks have faded, thank God, but I can still trace them on my flesh. At night I lie awake, running my fingers over invisible lines. The lines that they cut into me, ruthlessly. In my mind they are always there…I beg for mercy; from my lips, only screams issue. Unending screams. I cannot stop them.
24 June 1815
They must be stopped.
Villere believes me. He has offered aid in the fight against this new menace; his plantation, his slaves, and his weapons are all at my disposal. He will serve me well.
Villere has been valuable in other ways. His contacts among the Cherokee scouts have reported rumors of grey-skinned "ghost men" roaming the great Western deserts. I have chosen a team of worthy and proven fighters to follow me there and engage the invaders. But difficult choices must be made.
This war will break my wife. I look down upon her sleeping face, so fragile and beautiful, and I accept that she will be broken beyond recognition. Her body has already been weakened by illness, by the long winter, by war and loneliness. She will not survive the journey to the Western wastelands. The boy, too, may die.
The cold—the cold is nigh unbearable. But my purpose now is clear.