Title: Follow the Leader, 1/2
Author: Stormy1x2 (travelingstorm)
Notes: LJ's fanfic100, prompt 48: diamond
Warnings: Violence, angst,
Summary: Two are gone. One is dying. One is left in the hands of the enemy. A tale of the Dark Turtles. Takes place after 'DNA is Thicker than Water' and goes slightly into AU territory from there.
Additional: Well, I pleaded for a beta but no one apparently wants to tackle the Dark Turtles. I've re-read it about 4 times since finishing chapter one, but I never catch everything. Feel free to point out any errors – I've no doubt there are a couple left.
It had taken massive upgrades of the battle drones and complete upload of a New York city schematic circa 2006 to make him happy, but Raphael was finally enjoying the holographic dojo Cody had designed for them to use. All around them, scattered across the moon-lit rooftop, were wave after wave of weapon-wielding foot Ninja. Raph crouched low to the ground, an eager smirk on his face. "Let's do it!"
"Attack!" shouted Leonardo, and the four brothers leaped into action. He dodged to the right, flipping over a Foot squad, and immediately entered into a one-on-one duel with a drone made to look like one of the Elite. His swords gleamed in the artificial moonlight as he drove his opponent back.
Mikey spun his 'chucks with deadly speed, cracking two Foot skulls at once and revealing the metal circuitry underneath. "This is more like it!"
Donatello flipped out of the way of a curved sword strike, and batted away his attacker. "Glad you approve, Mikey!"
Raph cackled as he leaped into the air, twisting and coming down sai's first. But just as his weapons were about to decapitate the battle drone, everything disappeared and the lights went on overhead. "Hey!" The dojo doors slid open, and Serling walked in. Deprived of his normal outlet for anger, Raphael snarled and stalked over to the robot, poking his finger into its chest. "What's the big idea buttin' in on our practice session?"
"My apologies for disturbing your little ninja games," Serling said disdainfully. "But Master Cody asked me to summon you right away. Police Constable Biggles is here, and he brought some... news, to share with you all."
"What is it?" Leonardo asked, coming up to stand next to Raphael. He slid his swords back into their scabbards. "Is anything wrong?"
Serling shook his head. "I'm sorry sir, but this is something you simply must see in order for you to believe."
Mikey looked at Donnie. "Well, I'm intrigued."
"So am I – at the fact that you used that word properly in a sentence," Donatello said, smiling at his sibling. "But joking aside, I think we'd better get out there and see what's going on."
"Agreed." Leonardo led the way out of the dojo at a run, his brothers right behind him.
"Naturally, no one waits for the robot," Serling sighed, and finished shutting down the system. "Such is the story of my life."
In the living room, Police Constable Biggles was seated primly on one of the long couches. A data pad was in his hand. Master Splinter had been summoned from his rooftop garden, and was seated on his meditation mat when the turtles arrived. Cody turned around to greet them.
"Hey guys," he said quietly. He looked pale, and a bit shocky. "Sorry for interrupting your practice."
"Not a problem, Cody," Leo told him, watching the littlest ninja with concern. "Are you okay? You don't look so good."
Cody bit his lip, and then shot a pleading glance at Constable Biggles. The robotic Peace Keeper immediately stood up, bowing his head once at the gathered group.
"Allow me to explain," he said calmly. "There was an incident at O'Neil Tech this morning, and as Darius Dunn is currently unavailable, it fell to young Cody Jones here to be the recipient of my report. It was a rather shocking occurrence, actually."
"What happened?" Raph asked in a growl. As a sign of silent support, he and Mikey had moved up to flank the young heir on either side. Cody seemed to relax fractionally at their appearance.
Constable Biggles held up his data pad. "It started this morning at oh'eight hundred hours. A disturbance was reported on a lower level of O'Neil Tech – a level that was not included in the buildings original blue prints. It only registers as a sort of storage area on the security system. Not one of the O'Neil Tech guards even knew it was there, as it did not even have a button marked for it on the transport systems."
"So how did it get reported?" Leonardo asked, wrinkling his brow in confusion.
"It was reported after the 'disturbance' broke through to the lower sub-basement levels,"said Biggles. "The levels that are patrolled and watched via the security system."
"Please go on," Master Splinter told him.
"An explosion was reported, and a security guard noted the large hole in the ground after the dust settled. As he called for back up, something – or should I say, someone came out, followed by a second perpetrator. I believe you might recognize them." Pressing a button on the data pad, four holographic images suddenly hovered in the air above them, two of them highlighted. Gasps broke out from the group, and a low growl escaped from Raphael.
It was the Dark Turtles.
"It was all rather strange," Constable Biggles continued. "But two of them were attacking the other two. We know this because just over an hour ago, our criminal science investigation team finished their preliminary inspection and retrieved a security tape from the closed circuit monitoring system. The four creatures were essentially watched twenty-four hours by these cameras, which were encrypted so securely no one in the building ever suspected they existed. The feed was traced to only one other location in the entire O'Neil Tech building – the former office of Mr Darius Dunn."
"Darius again," Raph muttered. "Why am I not surprised?"
"So the Dark Turtles lived under O'Neil Tech," Donatello said quietly. "Wow, think of the irony."
"I don't get it," Mikey said with a shrug.
"Consider this," Donatello urged him. "We live here in a time where we can finally walk around outside like everyone else, and our dopplegangers, a product of this time, are trapped, living underground, essentially in the sewers." He shook his head. "Kinda sad, when you think about."
"So what happened?" Leonardo asked the Peace Keeper.
"I'll show you the video I showed Mr Jones," Biggles said, and pressed another series of buttons on the data pad. A large holographically-projected screen spread out before them, and suddenly a large dark room was shown. The only lights were from the various monitors set up around the area. The clip started.
A large shape burst though the walls. It was Dark Leonardo, and he looked badly wounded. His body was covered with deep scratches and entire gouges of flesh slashed away. Blood flowed freely down his ripped and torn body. Still, he wasn't wholly beaten; he struggled to get his arms underneath himself, straining to get to his feet.
A second figure appeared in the swirling dust, and as it drew nearer, they could see it was Dark Raphael. The large red reptile was grinning evilly, and as he stomped through the hole Dark Leo's flying body had made, he reared back and kicked his former leader hard. Dark Leo sailed across the room, landing into a bank of computers with an audible crunch. He slid off them slowly, leaving a trail of blood behind.
"I thought you'd put up more of a fight than that!" roared Dark Raph. Dark Leo coughed up dark globs of blood, and tried to turn over. "You've become such a wimp, I can't even look atcha!"
"He has become rather frail," came another voice. Dark Donatello stepped lightly through the whole, watching the display with obvious amusement. "He's gone soft. All this talk of working together, being so weak as to share the food when we all know that only the strongest survive." He shook his head, lashing his tail slowly from side to side, like a viper waiting to strike. "You disappoint me, oh fearless leader."
Dark Raph laughed and clomped across the room. Reaching down, he grabbed Dark Leo by the throat and lifted him bodily into the air. "Pathetic!" he snarled, and spat in his brother's face before slamming one ham-sized fist into Dark Leo's head, rocketing him back to the ground.
Suddenly there was an blur of movement, and Dark Mike was there, pulling at Dark Raph's arms. "Stop this!" he hissed. "We're supposed to fight the others, not each other!"
"You're just as bad as he is," Dark Donatello said, rolling his eyes. "You've always been the weakest and stupidest one of us all. It's no wonder really, that you've fallen for our Mighty Leader's idiocy. You would have been dead long ago had he not taken pity on you and forced us to do the same."
Dark Raph threw Dark Mike across the room. The yellow-skinned mutant crashed into the wall with the sound of breaking bones. A weak whimper drifted up from his semi-conscious form. Dark Donatello stood over him, tisking, before delivering a vicious kick that sent the smaller form rolling along the floor headfirst into a support beam. Vibrations traveled up the pole, and cracked the ceiling; chunks of the roof fell to the floor, pounding the smaller mutant's body. Dark Donatello laughed, a cold cruel sound. "How have you managed to live this long?"
Dark Raph was still laughing. "We should'a done this months ago." He reached out and roughly nudged Dark Leo with one clawed foot. The blue-tinted mutant didn't move, didn't flinch. He looked like he was barely breathing. "He's done for." Stepping away, he rejoined his violet-skinned sibling.
"And the pleasure of disposing of this worthless brat is mine," spat Dark Donatello. "After months of putting up with his mind-numbing drivel and imbecilic behaviour, I am certainly going to enjoy this." He stepped back and whirled around, obviously intending to rip his sharp-edged tail across the other's vulnerable neck.
Dark Mike had managed to regain consciousness, and at the sight of his brother's familiar stance, he seemed to lose all hope. He closed his eyes, head bowing. Waiting.
Dark Donatello snarled and spun around. His tail flew in a wide arc, the razored tip homing in on his target. But then there was a blue flash of movement, and he struck not Dark Mikey – but Dark Leo, who had somehow managed to get to his feet for one last desperate lunge, placing himself in front of the smaller form of Dark Mike. Flesh cleaved, blood splashed in a high arc along the wall, droplets spraying across Dark Mike's face.
"What..." Dark Mike looked to be in shock, his eyes wide open, a horrified expression on his face."What d-did... why?"
"B-brother," gasped Dark Leo, and he slowly collapsed to the floor. His eyes slid shut.
Dark Raph took a step forward to finish off the youngest of their former group, but Dark Donatello suddenly gripped his arm. "We need to go," he hissed. Pointing at the ceiling, they could hear someone shouting. "We've alerted the security guards to our existence down here. No doubt they'll be summoning the Peace Keepers!"
"So let's go," Dark Raph snarled, and leaped for the hole in the ceiling. Dark Donatello followed, digging at the rubble with his talons to pull himself up, and the clip ended with a burst of static followed by a broadcast signal.
"That's when a large slab of the ceiling fell onto the camera," Constable Biggles said somewhat ruefully. "All of the other video we have is from the normal monitors. The two of them were apprehended by my crack Peace Keeping staff utilizing tranquilizers and restraining collars minutes after exiting the lower levels."
The group was silent, still in shock by what they'd seen. Donatello swallowed hard, and put a comforting hand on Cody's shoulder. "That explains the look on your face from earlier," he said quietly. "Cody, you should have waited for us."
"I didn't know it was going to be something like that," Cody protested faintly. "If I'd known, I would have! Honest!"
Leonardo glared at Biggles. "What's the big idea of showing that to a minor?" he snapped hotly.
Constable Biggles shrugged. "As I told you, without any other guardian, Cody Jones is currently the head of O'Neil Tech and is rightfully the one to view my report. Particularly since he now needs to make a decision."
"Decision?" Raph scowled. "What decision?"
"What to do regarding the offenders." Constable Biggles adjusted his hat. "You see, the purple and the red-skinned mutants were arrested. They attacked the Peace Keepers in an attempt to escape, and we've just witnessed on video their murderous actions. They are currently being held and are slated for a psyche-diving session in the next few days. What the psyche-divers discover will determine how they are to be handled – imprisonment, or permanent stasis - but as they are considered a threat to society, they have been confiscated from O'Neil Tech."
"Confiscated?" Donatello was confused. "That's an odd term to use for a living person."
"Bio-generated organism, actually," Biggles corrected him. "They were registered as a creation of O'Neil Tech. We tracked their serial numbers online and confiscated them as deadly property."
"Property?" Donatello's eyes narrowed. "Registered?"
"Indeed." Constable Biggles continued, seemingly unaware of the anger he was generating in the other mutants in the room. "Now, the decision of what to do with those two are out of Mr Jone's hands. But the remaining two are a different case." Two more windows popped up – streaming live-feeds from a camera operating in two different rooms that looked sort of like hospitals. The first one was Dark Mike. "This one was badly hurt, but is expected to eventually make a full recovery with time." The second window was highlighted. Dark Leo was floating in a regenerative chamber. "His wounds were so extensive and severe, that he actually temporarily expired on the way to the hospital. He was revived, but it took nearly four minutes to do so. The doctors are concerned that between the injuries he sustained, and his lack of oxygen, that he may not completely recover. At this point, it's a complete toss-up whether or not he'll last the night."
The room was still quiet. Leonardo's fists were clenched. Raph looked like he wanted to be angry, but couldn't quite manage it completely. Mikey stared wide-eyed at Dark Mike, one hand partially raised, as though reaching out to the other through the vid feed.
"What's the decision Cody needs to make?" Donatello asked in a rough voice, gripping his bo tightly.
"What to do with them," Biggles responded promptly. "They are also registered as creations of O'Neil Tech. If you want them returned, they will need extensive, specialized – and expensive – healing, and that's even if the blue one survives. If not, they will be taken off life-support and will likely perish. Our agency does not have funds set aside to pay for the care of other company's creations. If you decide to relinquish ownership, as they seem less violent, they will be sent to prison. If they survive, following a successful psyche-diving check, they will likely be sorted into the system for manual labor or some other such program."
"Stop referring to them as property!" Donatello snarled. "They're living creatures, no matter what else they've done. You can't just take them off life support – you'll kill them!"
"We do not have the funds or technology to take proper care of them, and frankly, no government agency would foot the bill for a criminally-inclined lab specimen unless they could use it for a weapon." Biggles held up his radio. "I could ask my superiors to submit a proposal turning over the creatures to the government if you sign away all rights to them--"
"NO." Leonardo cut him off. "We've dealt with government agencies and how they treat creatures like us and the Dark Turtles. Your leader, Bishop? Ask him one day all about his own experiments on mutants." He turned to Cody. "Cody, I know it's up to you, but my opinion is that we bring them here."
"Your shell must be cracked," Raph stated flatly. "We did this before, remember? And your evil twin let his buddies in to try and kill us all, even after we tried the 'nice' approach. It was a bad idea then, and it's a bad idea now."
"But this is different!" Leonardo protested. "Look at them! In government hands they'll die, and if by some miracle they don't, they'll be made into weapons, or experimented on. I won't stand by and submit anyone to that kind of treatment ever again!"
"And he tried to save me—well, the dark me," Mikey added, speaking for the first time since the video ended. "Didn't you hear what was going on? Leo got through to him! That stuff about sharing, and looking out for each other – he was trying to get them to listen. That's why Dark Raph called him weak!" Mikey folded his arms and stood next to Leonardo. "I'm with Leo. They need help. No matter what, they don't deserve the government's kind of help."
"I say, I'm really starting to get offended about the lack of trust you have in our beloved President," Constable Biggles said with a frown.
"We know a side of him that you don't," Donatello said darkly. "And I'm with Leo and Mikey. This talk of 'ownership' and 'registration' is repulsive. They are living, sentient creatures."
"Yeah, that tried to kill us." Raph looked at them pleadingly. "Can't we just send a check or something to cover their medical bills and then dump 'em in jail?"
Three united turtles looked back at him, calmly. Raph turned to Master Splinter. "Master, you can't feel the same way!"
"But I can," Master Splinter said calmly. "Raphael, from the video, it is plain to see that some of the seeds we attempted to sow have indeed taken root in Dark Leonardo. Perhaps with more time and healing, he can redeem himself in the eyes of society."
"And Dark Mikey might be receptive too," Leonardo continued. "He tried to protect my 'twin' from harm. A selfless act from a member of a group known for their selfish and cruel deeds."
"They can't be trusted," Raph growled, a tad desperately.
"It's my decision," Cody spoke up suddenly. He turned to Raphael. "Raph, I'm sorry, but I agree with them." He looked back at Constable Biggles. "I'll take full responsibility for them. Can you arrange for their transfer?"
"Certainly," Constable Biggles said. "I must say, the paper work for a return of property is much easier than the forms I'd need to fill to confiscate them, process and deal with them in our system. This makes many lives much easier."
"Except ours," Raphael bit out. "And when those two snap and turn on us, I'll be right there to say 'I told you so.'" Spinning on his heel, he stalked out of the room.
Mikey looked like he wanted to follow, but Splinter held out his arm. "Let him go, Michaelangelo. Give him time to calm himself, and perhaps he will see things more clearly. He only speaks in anger because he fears for the lives of the ones he loves."
Mikey nodded. He sent one last, worried look in his older brother's direction, before returning his attention to the group. "So now what?"
"I'll arrange the transfer of the yellow one tonight," said Biggles briskly. "His wounds, while painful, are somewhat stabilized, and he can be brought here easily. The other one will require special transferring if you want him returned alive."
"As soon as possible," Donatello said firmly. His opinion of the officer was sinking steadily. "And if you're done for now..." he looked pointedly at the door.
"I'm just doing my duty," Biggles said stiffly. "There's no need for attitude. Mr Jones, I shall contact you with the transfer details later. Good day to you all." Tipping his police hat, he nodded at Cody, turned and left.
Donatello watched the officer leave with clenched fists. Leo nudged him gently. "Don? That wasn't like you at all."
"He made me so mad," Donatello said angrily. "The way he talks of our clones, as though they're nothing more than lab specimens. That could have been us back in our time! Experimented on, branded with serial numbers. I won't stand for it!"
"And you won't have to," Leo said soothingly. "They're coming here, and we'll do what we can to help them. You have my word."
"And mine," Mikey put in.
"Me too," said Cody. "They can't be all bad, if they tried to save each other."
Serling looked from face to face, his optics drooping as he came to a realization. "We're going to have two more reptiles joining us?" He raised his arm, pressing one digit to his temple circuit. "Why do I suddenly feel the urge for a therapeutic system reboot? Ignorance is bliss, they say..."
The first thing he was aware of was warmth. And softness. Warmth and softness. It felt good. Weird, but good. Nice, even. Wrapped in warm, soft things.
Wait a minute...
There was no such thing as warmth or softness in the dungeons. He struggled to move, shouting silent orders to his body to do as he said. Eyes refused to open, body refused to move. Was his mouth open or closed? His ears were working. That would do. He strained, listening as hard as he could. Sounds. Beeps. Whooshes. More beeps. More whooshes. A rattle of some kind. A drip. Another drip. Was it raining? If he could just open his eyes, he could look.
Open, open, open, open, he chanted inside his head, focusing on making his eyes respond. Bad eyes, bad bad eyes. Open, open!
He was rewarded with a slight cracking of his eyelids. Light filtered in, harsh and bright, sending pain spiking through his head. Close! Close! Abort!
"I think he's waking up," said a voice. A familiar voice. Yes, yes, he knew that voice. Sort of. It was softer. Gentler. It was wrong. Right but wrong. Something moved nearby – he could sense it. He flinched. "Can you hear me? Can you open your eyes?"
Hear, yes. See, no. Light was bad. The only light he could see/sense was the filtered rays through his eyelids, glowing red. Then the glow dimmed. The light? It was gone? He tried to open his eyes again. A sliver. Light crept in again, but it was muted. Tolerable. He forced them open a bit more. Everything was blurry. The green thing standing over him was blurry. Green and purple. Wait – purple thing?
Memories slammed into him, and suddenly he was wide awake, a terrified whimper escaping him. He squeezed his eyes shut, feeling wetness, water, pressing out against his will. Weak... he was weak. He was showing weakness again, and he'd hurt him again. There was a high-pitched whine in the air, and he realized dimly it was coming from himself. Get away, must get away, yes yes yesyesyesyes.
"Calm down!" Same voice. Sharp voice. Don't hurt me, he pleaded. He'd raise his hands if he could, but they were stuck. Trapped. He was trapped. Trapped with warm, fuzzy things and a right but wrong voice. He was so very, very confused. Maybe he was as stupid as everyone said he was. "No one's going to hurt you. Calm down and open your eyes."
No hurting? No pain? What madness was this? He opened his eyes again, blinking furiously against the muted light. The blurry green thing was coming into focus, slowly. Purple. But mostly green. It was... it was...
"You..." he rasped hoarsely, quietly. His throat hurt. His head hurt. His everything hurt. "Not him..."
"I'm not Dark Donatello, no," said the purple and green thing. "Just regular Donatello. You've been badly hurt. How do you feel?"
"Hurts," he said, and didn't care that it came out as a whine. "Hurts, hurts, hurts..." his voice gave out, and he whined again, a high-pitched noise that sounded like a dying animal. Which he supposed he was. Funny.
"I'll increase the painkillers you've been given." The green and purple blue – Donatello, his mind reminded him – moved over to the thing by the bed. There was a bag with not-water in it and it was attached to a needle which was – in his arm?!
"Out!" he whimpered. "Out, out, take it out!" Donatello looked at him. There was pity in those eyes. He didn't care. Didn't care about pity, didn't care about being weak. Needles were bad. Needles meant experiments. Needles meant even more pain. "No 'speriments, no, no, please, no."
"No one's experimenting on you," Donatello said patiently.
They say that now. They always change their minds later. Donatello raised his arm, and he flinched, shutting his eyes again. No, no, he chanted again, and then froze as the hand came down on his shoulder. What? What was this? A touch. A touch with no pain. What is he doing?
"Calm down," Donatello repeated, and he moved his hand again. Patting. He's patting my shoulder. Why? He's the enemy. Those hands should inflict pain.
But the pain was going away. Numbness. Coolness. Bliss. Spreading down and around and all through his body. The urge to give in, to sink, was strong. In the back of his mind he knew it was wrong, but he didn't care. It felt good. He relaxed into the warmth. He opened his eyes again and took another look around.
The softness, the warmth. It was a blue blanket. A big, thick, fuzzy one, with stars and planets outlined in gold thread. It smelled like flowers. He raised his eyes, ignoring the look Donatello was giving him, and studied the room. A big room. Big windows at the end. Lots of machines, full of beeps and whistles and flashing lights. He flinched again and looked away, his gaze coming to rest on a small table by the bed. On the table was a tree. A small tree. He knew that tree. He'd been told about it, hadn't he? By someone. By--
He gasped. "Leader!" He tried to sit up but pain exploded in his midsection and he nearly passed out, collapsing back to the bed with harsh, pained breaths.
"Calm down!" Donatello said again. "He's alive. He's hurt, but he's alive. For now."
For now. He was alive. Alive for now. "Where?" he half-gasped, half-moaned. "Where...?"
"He's in another room. He requires more care than you do, at the moment." Donatello was studying him like a bug under glass, and he couldn't help but squirm. His 'twin' liked doing that – studying the bugs in the dungeons. Seeing how long they could live without food or water, frying them with light through glass, crushing them slowly under his talons, plucking wings and antennae with smirks and giggles. "He's... in bad shape."
"Wanna see..." he groaned. The thought occurred to him that he should find it strange and wrong that apparently he was getting medical care from a hated enemy, but he hurt, and he was scared, and he was weak, just like his other brothers said. But Leader... Leader had saved him. Leader had shared food with him when the others would beat him and take his share from him. Leader kept the Crazy One from killing him. He wanted his Leader. "Leader...?"
"You can see him later," Donatello said gently. "You need to rest."
Darkness was coming. It was there, at the edge of his vision, and coming quickly, filling in the corners with shadows, blurring everything. "Leader..."
He tried. But he was weak. And so he slept.
Donatello watched as Dark Mike sank back into unconsciousness. He had to resist the urge to touch the mutants hand, to offer some form of comfort. When he'd come to check on him, he'd tried to anticipate different kinds of reactions from the mutant – anger, rage, hostility. But this.. this was just sad.
The fear... the pain. The panic. Dark Mike had been crying, trying to get away from him, flinching at what was supposed to be a comforting touch. "Then again, that's something he's probably never experienced before in his life," Don murmured. The whines and whimpers reminded him of the time Klunk had hurt his paw. Mikey's kitten had made the same noises when Donnie wrapped the tender little foot with bandages. It had been the closest Donnie had ever come to crying over his brother's pet.
Dark Mike in battle was a fierce warrior with an equally fierce grin on his face, fighting with an exuberance Donnie easily recognized in his own sibling. But this wasn't a battle ground, and the warrior was no where to be found. This was a broken soul, a damaged child, and he was suddenly fiercely glad he'd argued for them to stay there.
The door slid open, and Leo stepped in. "How's he doing?"
"He woke up. In pain, and terrified. He wants to see his leader." Donatello looked at his brother sadly. "I just feel so sorry for him. For them."
"It could be a trap," Leo reminded him gently.
Donnie gave him a mild glare. "There's no way he could have faked the response I just saw," he said firmly. "I know he's dangerous, but I want to help both of them. I blame Darius for this – Darius made them who they are today." After transferring Dark Mike, Constable Biggles had shown them additional information they'd discovered about the underground lair. When Donatello had realized the reason for the large robot, the lab tables, and the dissection tools in one of the other rooms, he'd nearly exploded with impotent rage. "If I could get my hands on him--"
"Easy Donnie, you're channeling Raph." Leo rubbed the top of his brother's shell soothingly. "I'm on your side, remember? I just want to be cautious, for now."
"I know," Donatello said with a sigh. "It just makes me so angry."
Leonardo moved forward, looking down on the yellow-skinned mutant. "He looks younger when he's asleep," he observed. "Like our Mikey."
"But they're very different." Donatello shuddered. "Or are they? Maybe our clones are how we'd act, if we'd been raised by someone like Bishop, instead of Master Splinter. They've got those rough exteriors, but maybe, deep down inside, there's something worth saving."
"A diamond in the rough?" Leonardo gave him a tired smile. "Don't you think that's being overly optimistic?"
"Possibly. But I'm just saying, maybe our clones aren't that different from us after all." Donatello frowned as he thought that over. "Though if that's true, what does that say about me and mine?"
"Your clone is a vicious, sadistic, arrogant animal," said Leonardo flatly. "Actually, it sounds like he's your complete opposite."
Donatello gave him a weak smile, but didn't look entirely convinced.
It had been six days since they'd arrived. Raphael had yet to set foot in the rooms housing 'the enemy' and had been putting in a record number of hours in the holo-dojo. Leonardo wasn't sure what to say to him, other than to reassure his sibling that they were aware that it could be a trap, that they weren't taking it lightly. But Raph didn't want to hear it, and so Leo let it go for the time being. He had other things to worry about.
He opened the door and moved inside slowly. In the three days he'd been awake, Dark Mike had flinched away from any and all sudden movements. They were separated by a forcefield, as they had the first time they'd had Dark Leo in their home, but it seemed to make the other mutant more at ease if everything was nice and slow and telegraphed. "How are you doing?"
"I wanna see Leader," said Dark Mike. He was curled up on the floor in a ball, arms wrapped around his legs and his tail around his feet. There was no trace of the manic energy they'd come to expect from him during their previous encounters. Even his long tongue was tucked away securely inside his mouth.
"I know," Leo said quietly. "I'm here to take you to him now."
Dark Mike's head shot up, his orange eyes zeroing on Leonardo as though checking for lies. "You'll let me out?" He gave him a strange look. "Are you nuts?"
Leo shook his head, unable to completely stifle his grin at the candid admission. "No. But your legs have healed enough that you can walk, and so I'm changing the static field to a kinetic one. It will read your body's energy flow and move with you." As he spoke, he pressed the buttons on the remote. The wall of energy swirled, and reformed itself in a cylindrical form around Dark Mike. "This is what we did for your brother, when he was with us before."
"Before..." Dark Mike stood up slowly. Leo watched, wincing in sympathy at the pained movements. His legs were nearly healed, but his right arm had been completely crushed, and his ribs shattered. Despite advanced healing tanks and auto-docs, Donatello had calculated that it would still take another week or two for him to be at one hundred percent. "You guys were the ones that made him think those strange things."
"Caring. Sharing." Dark Mike tilted his head to the side. "That first night when he came back, Darius gave him a piece of meat. He shredded it into pieces, and gave us all some. That doesn't happen in the dungeons." He scowled. "You made him weak! You made me weak!"
Leonado blinked. "How did I make you weak?"
Dark Mike hissed at him, throwing a punch with his good arm into the force field. He stayed there, knuckles pressed against the energized barrier, eyes squeezed shut. "You made him different," he insisted tiredly. "You made him start to care. And that made the other two angry."
"But not you," Leonardo surmised, watching the clone of his brother shake, obviously still exhausted by the extensive healing he'd been through.
"Well, I'm the stupid one," Dark Mike muttered crossly. "Go figure."
"Wanting someone to care about you does not make you stupid or weak."
"Oh, what do you know?" Dark Mike glared at him. "You have siblings who don't try to kill you on a daily basis. Who share food instead of taking it from you. Your Donatello doesn't play 'sample extraction' with the laser scalpels on you, does he?"
Leonardo wasn't sure he wanted to know. "Your leader tried to make things better."
"And he nearly got killed for it." Dark Mike straightened, his fists clenched. "I wanna see him. Now!"
"Fine." Leonardo turned, and gestured for Dark Mike to follow him down the hallway. Two doors down, he stopped, knocked on the door, and then unlocked it with the remote. Then he stepped back, and let Dark Mike go through. He didn't follow, but he didn't close the door either, not with Donnie in there doing a check on the machines, forcefield or no forcefield. Instead, he leaned against the door, folding his arms and watched silently.
"Leader?" Dark Mike stepped slowly into the room. The purple-green one was in the corner but he was reading a data pad and checking readouts on the monitors. No longer as confused as his first day, he could see the huge differences between his Donatello and this one, and so it was much easier now to just ignore him.
He moved closer. His leader, the one who had tried to save his life, was floating in a large cylindrical container. An oxygen mask was strapped to his face, and small, metallic auto-docs clung to his skin, sending repairing nanobots into his body. Bubbles floated in the jelly-like serum, popping gently. He moved as close as the forcefield would allow, placing a clawed hand on the barrier. "Leader..."
He swallowed hard. Something was wrong with him. He was scared. That in itself wasn't unusual, but he wasn't scared for himself. He was... he was... scared for him? For his Leader? "Don't die," he hissed, rage welling up in him so suddenly it took him by surprise. "I didn't ask you to save me! I didn't ask you to share the meat! It's not my fault!"
His leader didn't answer. Only floated. Was he listening? Could he hear?
"Are you even alive?" he wondered out loud. "You look dead. You can't be dead. You're Leader."
"He's not dead."
Dark Mike whirled around, hissing automatically at the approacher. Donatello held up his hands as a sign of peace. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"I'm not scared!" Dark Mike snapped sulkily. "You startled me."
"I didn't mean to startle you either." Donatello smiled, and nodded at the cylinder. "I just wanted to reassure you that he's not dead." The smile disappeared. "I won't lie to you. He's still very badly hurt. He's in a state of suspended animation – a coma. He might not wake up for days yet. Maybe weeks. Or even months."
"Yeah, yeah, or longer," Dark Mike said sullenly. "I know what a coma is. I may be the stupid one, but I know that much."
"I never said you were stupid," Donatello told him calmly. "In fact, I know you're not. You're cloned from my brother, and none of my brothers are stupid."
Dark Mike stuck out his tongue, and turned back to his leader, ignoring the other. He pounded his fist lightly on the forcefield, listening to the strange, electric-sounding hiss it made. It made his skin crawl. His eyes were hot and itchy for some reason. It had to be Leader's fault. "I want you to wake up," he growled softly, after a few minutes. "If you die, I'll be all alone. You said we were brothers, that we didn't have to hurt each other. I believed you." He scratched lightly at the barrier. "I believed you even when the others tried to kill you. That's why I tried to stop them. If you die, I think it'll hurt me. I don't know. But you promised." He glared at the still form. "Don't you die!
Bubbles popped. The auto-docs hummed.
"You stupid, jerky, son of a Klaxon."
His Leader's eyes stayed closed.
"I hate you."
Dark Mike's eyes closed, and he slid down the barrier to his knees, scratching his talons all the way down. His tail automatically curled around his legs, and he clutched it like a lifeline. "Don't die."
Mikey watched silently as his doppleganger rocked back and forth inside the containment field. He turned to Raphael, who had been watching the monitors with him, raising an eye ridge. "Still think he's playing us, bro?"
Raph watched Dark Mike with a blank evenness. He didn't answer.
End Part 1.
I'd really like to know what people think - the Dark Turtles were harder to characterize then I thought they'd be. C&C greatly appreciated. :D
!-- page size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in P margin-bottom: 0.08in --