Chapter 8

They emerged topside in a small corner of Washington Square Park and began to make their way towards SoHo. The air was noticeably cooler than it had been lately, and a stiff breeze slithered around their legs as they traveled. Leonardo and Raphael were carefully attired in full topside regalia: pants, coats, and hats, their weapons artfully concealed beneath their clothing. Miranda, who had also opted to dress against the chill of autumn, had thrown on some sneakers and a zip-up hoodie over her t-shirt and cargo pants. As they walked, lights from buildings and vehicles sprang into being around them, illuminating the final vestiges of twilight. Soon night had fallen, though it seemed as though Manhattan was only just waking up.

Leonardo made sure that Miranda walked between himself and his brother, while ensuring that every sense was on the alert. Needless to say, he was not feeling particularly chatty. Raph and Miranda, however, seemed to be hitting it off quite well, and Leo was trying very hard not to let jealousy cloud his thoughts at the easy flow of their conversation.

"So, how's life in the music biz?" Raph's question sounded uncommonly pleasant, and Leo bit his tongue to keep from snapping at his brother to focus on the mission.

His brother.

Raphael had never made anything easy for Leonardo, or anyone else for that matter. I can't even fall in love without him trying to sabotage everything, Leo thought bitterly as Miranda laughed at some comment that Raph had made. He stopped walking suddenly. Falling in love?

"Hey, what's up?" Miranda asked, pausing to put a hand on his arm. But Leo was thankfully saved from answering. Instead he indicated the building across the street.

"We're here."

A decade ago, the Five and Dime had been one of the most popular pool halls in SoHo. Now, the formerly shining oakwood floors were scuffed by the stumbling feet of thousands of patrons. Rows of once immaculate burgundy-topped tables were now stained and tattered beyond repair, and the odor of stale sweat and vodka lingered in the air. The patrons themselves seemed to be a mix of aging hipsters and white-collar misfits, all of whom gave the impression of having an excess of both money and leisure time. Tonight, the place was considerably crowded with such ilk, making it relatively easy for the Turtles and Miranda to slip in unnoticed. As soon as they entered, Leonardo began carefully scrutinizing faces and figures, hoping for something or someone he might recognize. He was so engrossed in his examinations, he nearly jumped in his shell when Miranda suddenly appeared before him with a glass of dark liquid.

"Are you crazy?" he said incredulously. "I can't drink now!"

She rolled her eyes and thrust the beverage at him. "Relax, it's soda." She held up her own glass. "As is this, as is what I got for Raph, to his obvious disappointment. And you're welcome."

"Thank you. Where is the hothead, anyway?" Leo glanced around, sipping his drink. "There don't seem to be any members of the Knights here right now." A sudden disturbance in the far, rear corner of the bar caught his eye.

"Oh no."

"What?"

Leo moved in front of her, withholding the urge to draw his katana in the crowded room. "Whatever happens, keep out of danger, but within my sight, got it?"

Her reply was cut off by Raphael's voice, raised sharply in anger at the scene of the disturbance.

"Is that so? Listen pal, if you and your friends here think your little threats scare me...." Raph's taunt was halted as he dodged a shot fired towards him. It missed, but the sound sent the Five and Dime's patrons screaming towards the exits. In the chaos, Leo lost sight of Miranda, but before he could find her, Raph's voice rose again. The fight was starting.

"Damn him," Leo murmured as he approached his brother and the five men in black trench coats facing off next to the rear exit. He glanced around one last time to spot Miranda when.....

"Another!"

A strange voice cracked like a whip, and Leo was suddenly surrounded by three more of the Knights.

"Thanks for coming to my aid, big brother," Raph said snidely.

Leonardo addressed the man facing him. "What do you want with her?"

In response, the man cocked his handgun, not at Leo, but behind him. Miranda.

"No you don't!" The Turtles sprang to intercept, but failed to stop the man's finger on the trigger. The shot fired, but went wide. Instead of her heart, Miranda's left shoulder was grazed deeply as she was attempting to dive beneath a pool table. She cried out and stumbled to her knees, even as Leo and Raph simultaneously fell upon the gunman. The other Knights rushed to his aid, and soon the brothers were fighting for their own lives.

The quarters were close, the Knights fought dirty, and Leo found that he and Raph were hard-pressed to handle all eight of them. As if on some silent command, four of the Knights broke off, and as Leo spun in in roundhouse kick aimed at a particularly tall Knight, Raph suddenly pointed to the door. Leo knew what he was going to say before he said it.

"They've got her, Leo! They've got Miranda!"

With a final thrust at the Knight in his way, Leo somersaulted over a table and was out the back door, determined to rescue her. I must not fail her, he thought. I will not fail her.

Though injured, Miranda did not appear to have let the Knights take her without a struggle. Leonardo emerged from the Five and Dime and followed the four men as they half carried, half dragged the writhing young woman down the alley. They ducked into a building and Leonardo followed, relentlessly pursuing his enemies to the top floor. The group emerged on the roof, and finally paused, glancing uneasily around and above. They appeared to be waiting for something, and Leo noticed a way to approach them unseen across the building's ledge. Miranda was shoved to her knees, clearly in pain and out of breath; though Leo once more noticed the glint of anger in her eyes, and smiled inwardly. She's bruised, not beaten.

His attack was swift and fierce, but miscalculated just enough to keep from being deadly until Leo finally managed to drop two of the Knights with a few well-placed slashes of his blades. He knocked the other two aside and seized the opportunity. He hauled Miranda to her feet and guided her across the rooftop. They were higher up than he'd realized, and when she saw the view, Miranda turned away and retched. In her eyes, anger had been engulfed by pure terror, and Leo recalled her intense acrophobia. That can't be helped right now, he decided. There was only one way out of this that he could see, and he could tell that Miranda would not make the same deduction. So he did the only thing that he could think of to distract her long enough to let them get away unseen.

He kissed her. Hard. When they pulled apart, she simply gaped at him, and at once he felt irrationally foolish and pleased.

"What...." she whispered.

Leonardo shook his head, and indicated the Knights, approaching hastily. Guilt washed through him like a strange tide. "I'm so sorry," he said quietly, even as he sensed weapons being drawn.

"For....what just happened?"

"For what's about to happen," he replied, and promptly grabbed her waist tightly and threw himself off of the building, gripping one of his hands around a power line to lessen the fall. As he did so, he noticed with relief that she'd passed out completely. Her dark hair streamed out behind her and into his face, blocking out most of his field of vision.

As the night sky spiraled above and the lights of Manhattan rushed to meet them, the woman and the turtle plunged into the darkness.

End of Part One!